I'm sure you're tired of hearing this by now, so I'll keep it short. CBS/Paramount/Viacom owns Star Trek. Alan Decker owns Star Traks. Jeff Bezos probably owns everything else.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 1993

STAR TRAKS IV:

Power Trip

by Alan Decker


Chapter One


“He’s in the building!”

“I want him stopped now!” Before the last word had faded from existence, the door of the command center exploded inward violently. Out of the smoke stepped a man clad all in black, a black trenchcoat billowing behind him. He was holding two uzi sub-machine guns, ready to destroy anything in his path.

“You’re finished, McDerkin,” the man said as he moved into the room. One of the henchmen tried to raise his weapon but was cut down in a hail of bullets. The others ran out a rear door, leaving McDerkin and the man in black alone. “You won’t be taking over the world, or even the next room, if I have anything to say about it.”

“Come now, Mr. Dillon,” McDerkin said. “Surely you would not cut me down without a fair fight.” Dillon put one of his uzis down on the computer console next to him and removed his sunglasses slowly.

“Fine, a fair fight.” Dillon put down the other uzi and raised his fists.

“Stupid move, Mr. Dillon!” McDerkin shouted, whipping a pistol out of his suit coat. Dillon dove behind the computer console milliseconds before bullets sliced through the airspace he had just been occupying. He came up with a pistol and emptied it into McDerkin’s chest. The villain hit the floor with a thud.

“Not really,” Dillon said, pocketing his weapon. “I always carry a spare.”

“Rydell to Dillon,” a voice barked from nowhere.

“Dillon here,” he said.

“Report to my ready room immediately.”

“I’m on my way. Computer, end program.” The demolished command center and bloodied corpses vanished leaving Dillon standing in the empty holodeck.


Captain Alexander Rydell spun around in his desk chair idly while waiting for the arrival of his first officer. He found the spinning motion relaxing, and he definitely wanted to relax now. Headquarters could be so aggravating. He pushed himself off the desk again to keep moving around. Maybe he should put a swivel on his chair on the bridge. The old starships had them. Of course, if he did, he’d end up spinning right into Commander Dillon’s or Counselor Webber’s lap. Either that or he’d get around and knock himself unconscious against the tactical console.

Rydell spun himself faster and faster. He could feel his lunch gurgling inside him. All of a sudden, he didn’t feel very well. The door chime sounded.

“Come in,” Rydell said weakly. Commander Dillon strode in still wearing his black clothes and trenchcoat. Rydell wanted to laugh, but his stomach overrode him and commenced forcefully ejecting its contents across the ready room and all over Dillon’s coat. “Thank you, Number One,” Rydell gasped, wiping his mouth and stifling a laugh. “I needed that.”

“Excuse me, sir?” Dillon said. He slipped out of the coat and let it plop to the floor.

“Never mind. Just sit down.” Dillon stepped over his trenchcoat and took the seat across from the captain. “I just received a message from Starfleet.”

“A communique, sir,” Dillon corrected.

“Are you going to listen to me or not?”

“Sorry, Captain.”

“Anyway. Ambassador Fuil Baradda will be coming on board six days from now.”

“Another ambassador?” Dillon said, less than enthused.

“I know. We’ve become a glorified passenger liner. We shuttled Admiral Wagner to the Klingon homeworld, and now this. I’m starting to think that Starfleet doesn’t trust us anymore. I mean after my trial and your thing with the Edsel…”

“What about the Edsel?” Dillon stammered. “The only thing that was wrong was with the ship itself. It’s getting fixed!”

“Right.” Rydell decided he wasn’t going to get into the issue. Besides, why should he have to be the one burst Dillon’s bubble.

“What’s Baradda’s mission?”

“They didn’t tell me. We’re just supposed to wait until he gets here and follow his orders.”

“So basically, he’ll be the captain, right?” Dillon asked a little too enthusiastically for Rydell’s liking.

“Yeah,” he replied hesitantly.

“So you’ll be the first officer?”

“Technically.”

“Great, so you won’t need me.”

Not that we ever do, Rydell thought.

“You’re trying, in your round-a-bout way, to ask to be relieved of duty for a few days, aren’t you?” Rydell asked instead.

“Yes,” Dillon said meekly.

“Granted. But you’re responsible for overseeing preparations for the ambassador’s arrival.”

“Understood, sir,” Dillon said, leaping out of his chair. “I’ll have full hotel protocol instituted by then.” Dillon headed toward the door.

“Good,” Rydell said, swiveling his chair back around to look out the window. “Just make sure that take your coat with you.”

Dillon looked down at the remains of his black leather trenchcoat. He steeled himself, picked it up with one finger, and left the ready room.

At that moment, Yeoman Tina Jones was, unfortunately, heading toward the turbolift next to the ready room. She had just had Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, who was in command for that shift, sign a few materials and personnel requests from the engineering and astrophysics departments. The doors to the ready room opened just as Jones was looking forward to heading back to her quarters and taking a nap. Commander Dillon shoved a heavy, smelly piece of leather into her arms.

“Take care of this,” he ordered and strode into the turbolift. Before she could protest, the turbolift doors closed, and it and Commander Dillon were gone.

“I guess I’m taking the next one,” Jones said, moving the coat to a safe distance from her body.

“Please do,” Ensign Zachary Ford said weakly from the helm console. He was holding his nose with one hand and his stomach with the other. “Otherwise…” Thankfully, the turbolift doors opened. Jones hurried inside and almost shouted her deck number. The doors closed sending a sigh of relief through the bridge.


“Emily Sullivan’s personal log. Stardate 49851.5. Scott and I have been…dating for a little over a standard month, and I can safely say that it hasn’t all been blissful. We’ve been trying though. I want it to work, and I think he does, too. Actually, I’m pretty sure that he does, since he’s agreed to come to the concert in Seven Backward tonight. We’ve agreed to do something that the other person likes, but I know that the classics aren’t his thing. Oh well, I went biking in the holodeck with him; he can go to this concert with me.”


“Oh God,” Commander Scott Baird said with disgusted exasperation as they entered Seven Backward.

“Come on, Scott,” Sullivan said, dragging Baird in by the arm. “I’m getting you some culture. You’re getting the classics tonight.”

“I don’t think that Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton count as the classics,” Baird mumbled as he sat down on one of the hay bales that had been replicated for the occasion.

“What can I get you folks?” Trinian asked as she walked over to the couple. Baird fell over the back of the bale laughing at Trinian’s red plaid flannel shirt, blue denim overalls, and straw hat.

“Two lemonades, Trinian,” Sullivan said as she hauled Baird back onto the bale. She turned to Baird. “Please try to enjoy this.”

“Fine.” The lights in the room dimmed, and Ensign Sarah Krieger, Lieutenant Monica Vaughn, Lieutenant Walter Morales, and Lieutenant Craig Porter walked to the front of the room with their instruments. “Play Puff the Magic Dragon!” Baird shouted just as Hammond and Porter were about to begin playing their guitars. He flipped over the back of the bale again from the force of Sullivan’s fist in his face. Trinian kicked him in the head, knocking him unconscious.

“Oops,” Trinian said smiling. “I hope I didn’t interfere with his enjoyment of the music too much.”

“No, you just made things a hell of a lot better for all of us,” Sullivan replied. So much for him making an attempt to try something she liked.


“Sir, there’s a message coming in from Robin’s Nest,” the intercom barked. The man in yellow walked left the window and walked over to his desk.

“On screen,” he ordered as he sat down. The screen on the desk flickered to life.

“This is Robin’s Nest. Robin Four reporting. We just intercepted a Starfleet message.”

“Communique.”

“What?”

“Never mind,” the man in yellow at the desk snapped. “Play the message.” The conversation between Starfleet command and a Captain Alexander Rydell was shown to him. “What ship was this to?”

“The Secondprize, sir.”

“Is it Galaxy class?” the man in yellow asked hopefully.

“No.”

“Damn. Well, this is an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up. Good work, Robin’s Nest.”

“Thanks, Roost Leader. Robin Four out.” The screen went blank as the Roost Leader swiveled his chair around. He could hear the dull roar of explosions in the distance. Damn the war! Damn the Federation for refusing to help! He, as leader of the Auduban faction, had petitioned for Federation weapons as soon as civil war broke out on Jeral. Well, he’d shown them a thing or two. He turned back to the desk and pressed a switch.

“Get me Myna.”


Scott Baird woke up on Sullivan’s bed. Momentarily disoriented, he attempted to piece together what had happened. He didn’t remember going to bed. He did remember Seven Backward, bales of hay, hitting the ground really hard, and a boot flashing toward him. Scott sat up abruptly. Next to him, Sullivan groaned groggily.

“Wake up,” Baird said.

“Unnnh.”

“Emily.”

“What?” she said, pushing herself up.

“You hit me.”

“Yeah. So. You deserved it.”

“So when you were complaining about the cold when we were biking in the Alps on the holodeck, should I have pushed you off the mountain? You sure deserved it.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Sullivan said, getting out of bed. “It’s just…I…”

“You got pissed and you hit me,” Baird finished. “Just say that. That I can respect.” He climbed out of bed and pulled his uniform shirt back on.

“Where are you going?”

“To bed, Alone.”

“Why?” Sullivan demanded hurt.

“I don’t want you pummeling me to death in my sleep.” He walked out of the room.

“Keep this up, and I’ll do it when you’re awake,” she mumbled.


“Are you sure that they don’t know what Baradda looks like?” the Auduban operative known only as Myna asked.

“No, but it’s a chance you’re going to have to take. The only way you’re going to get onto that ship is if they think you’re the ambassador,” Roost Leader replied.

“I see.” Myna was used to these situations. It was just a part of the job.

“It’s risky, but…”

“Don’t worry about a thing,” Myna told the image of his commander confidently. “The Federation will be complying with your demands within a week.”

“I hope you’re right. A Galaxy class starship would really tilt things in our favor.”

“Consider it done, sir. I’m on my way to the Secondprize now.”

“Good luck. Roost Leader out.” The image of the yellow-clad man vanished. Myna leaned back in the pilot’s chair of the small shuttle he was flying.

“Ambassador Baradda is going to be arriving a bit ahead of schedule,” Myna said smiling. “Then all I have to do is neutralize the command crew, take control of the Secondprize, and destroy it.”


Chapter Two


“Captain, we’re receiving a Priority One message,” Lieutenant Lisa Beck announced from the communications console.

“Who from?” Rydell asked. Priority One messages were reserved for emergencies, and the Secondprize was in the middle of nowhere as far as the Federation was concerned. The closest Federation vessel or outpost was days away. Who could they be close enough to that sending a Priority One message would do any good?

“A small craft about four light years from our position,” Beck replied.

“On screen.” The starfield was instantly replaced by the face of a young man. He appeared to be in his early thirties, by human standards, impeccably dressed, and smiling in a way that immediately set Rydell at ease. This person definitely did not appear to have an emergency. “This is Captain Alexander Rydell of the USS Secondprize. Why are you contacting us on a Priority One channel?”

“Captain. Captain. It’s wonderful to finally meet you. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ambassador Fuil Baradda,” the man said warmly. “I apologize for the misuse of a priority channel, but I wanted to be sure that I talked to you personally.”

“Of course, Ambassador,” Rydell said. “I had no idea that you were you…I mean that this was…that you were the one contacting us.”

“Understandable. I’m sorry that you were misinformed about my arrival time, but it had to be done to make sure that anyone monitoring the communication would be thrown off track.”

“Monitoring?” Rydell asked. “Why would anyone be monitoring the message, and why would it be such a problem? Is someone after you?”

“I’m afraid that I’m not at liberty to discuss that, Captain. You understand. Classified and all. Anyway, I will be arriving within the hour, so do make sure that all is prepared for my arrival.”

“My first officer is preparing your accommodations as we speak. I look forward to meeting you in person.”

“And I you. Baradda out.” Myna leaned forward and closed the channel. They didn’t suspect a thing. Of course, he hadn’t given them any reason to.


“An hour!” Commander Dillon shouted over the comm system. “He’s going to be here in an hour!”

“Or less,” Rydell said.

“We’ll be ready, sir. Dillon out.”

Rydell rested his arms on the armrests of his chair and took a long breath. Baradda seemed nice enough, but Rydell had learned to be wary of ambassadors …especially ones that had command authority.

“Isn’t he a little young to be an ambassador?” Beck said.

“Does it matter?” Rydell said. “He came across as amiable to me. I doubt that he has any problems getting the people he deals with to trust him.” Faintly, Rydell heard a voice in front of him mutter “wow.” He traced the voice to his navigator for that shift, Lieutenant Emily Sullivan. “I take it that you were impressed, Lieutenant?”

“What? Oh, well he was…nice,” Sullivan sputtered.

“Nice? Is that all you can say, Emily?” Beck demanded. “He was…VERY nice.”

“If all of you are dancing around saying that he was attractive, don’t bother,” Rydell said. “Just say he was handsome. The male egos on this ship don’t bruise that easily.” Beck and Sullivan looked at each other and shrugged.

“He was gorgeous,” Beck said.

“Did you see his eyes?” Sullivan gasped.

“And that smile.”

“Beautiful teeth.”

“I bet he’s got a great ass,” Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins said, jumping into the conversation.

“He was most aesthetically pleasing,” Ensign Kristen Larkin, the android helm officer added.

“I wish Scott dressed like that.”

“Emily, you wish Scott would just smile,” Beck shot. As the women on the bridge continued praising just about everything about the ambassador, Rydell decided that maybe his ego did bruise that easily.

“I’ll be in my ready room,” Rydell said, getting up out of his chair and retreating to his sanctuary. “Jaroch, you have the bridge.”

“Just what I have always wanted,” Jaroch commented unenthusiastically.


Myna switched off the monitor and rubbed his eyes. For the last hour he had gone over the personnel files of the Secondprize’s senior officers. He wasn’t sure how Roost Leader had been able to obtain them, but that was part of why Roost Leader was the leader: he could get things done that no one else could. Of course, so could Myna, which was why he was on this mission. Myna’s specialty was Federation procedures, ships, and technology. He could practically build the Galaxy class starship that Roost Leader wanted, given the parts and the time. But the Audubans had neither.

If the files and psychological profiles were right, and Myna was sure that they were, the mission should be a piece of cake. He was going to have to dispose of Rydell, the science officer, and the chief engineer, but that wouldn’t be too difficult. The first officer could also be a problem, but Myna needed to keep him around or things might look too suspicious. Myna could probably draw his attention elsewhere for a while. Other than that, things should go fairly smoothly. The underlings on the Secondprize most likely didn’t care who was in charge. They’d just follow him right to their destruction.

The shuttle was getting closer to the Secondprize. Myna could make out the starship’s shape in front of him. It was an Excelsior class starships. Myna didn’t think that Starfleet was building those anymore, but the Secondprize didn’t look that old. He checked the files that Roost Leader sent him. According to them, the ship was less than three years old. Only three and already obsolete and worthless.

“You should have been a Galaxy class,” Myna said to the ship out in space in front of him. “Then I could have used you.” He activated the communication system. “This is Baradda to Secondprize. I’m ready to dock.”

“This is Secondprize shuttlebay control,” a male voice replied. “You’ll be landing in Shuttlebay Two.”

“Acknowledged, Secondprize.”


Captain Rydell pulled at the neck of his dress uniform. He really hated the damn thing. The neck was so high that he felt like his head was being forced off of his body. Beside him, Commander Dillon stood motionless. His uniform didn’t seem to bother him one bit. Of course, Dillon probably slept in it to get used to it. He couldn’t be uncomfortable while he was trying to suck up. At least, Dillon wasn’t going to be on duty during the ambassador’s visit, so he’d be out of Baradda’s way.

“He’s on final approach, sir,” Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales, the shuttlebay chief, reported.

“Open the doors,” Dillon ordered before Rydell could get a word out.

“Thank you, Number One,” Rydell said irritated. The giant metal door at the shuttlebay’s entrance slowly raised, revealing the blackness of space beyond. A small, greenish ship was slowly approaching the bay. It wasn’t standard Federation configuration, Rydell noted. It must be part of the ambassador’s precautions. Of course, Rydell still had no idea what Baradda needed all these precautions for.

The blue landing tractor beam lanced out from the emitter in the floor of the shuttlebay and locked on to the shuttle. A minute later, the green craft had landed, and the shuttlebay doors were closing. Rydell straightened his uniform and walked over to the ship with Dillon right beside him. Rydell walked a little faster. Dillon increased his pace as well. Rydell broke into a run and headed toward the ship. He could hear Dillon’s boots pounding against the deck behind him and gaining quickly. The hatch of the ship was opening, revealing the figure of Ambassador Baradda. Rydell put on another burst of speed, leaped up onto the ramp extending from the ship, and grabbed Baradda’s hand.

“Welcome to the Secondprize, Ambassador,” Rydell said slightly out of breath as he shook the ambassador’s hand. Rydell turned around and quickly stuck his tongue out at Dillon.

“I’m delighted to be here,” Myna said warmly.

“This is my first officer…”

“Commander Travis Michael Dillon,” Dillon said, sticking out his hand. “I’ve studied your record, Ambassador. It’s quite impressive. I especially liked how you handled the conflict between the Opsikx and Lernas in the Ungali system. It was sheer genius the way that you…”

“There’s no need to belabor trifles, Commander,” Myna said, shaking Dillon’s hand quickly. “But I appreciate you compliment.” He turned back to Rydell.

“Captain, I’m sure that you’re curious about the mission and all, but right now, I’m famished. I would like to get something to eat before we talk.”

“Not a problem,” Rydell replied. “I’ll just show you to Seven Backward, our lounge. I’m sure that Trinian can find something that you’ll like.”

“Oh, I’m not picky,” Myna said.

“Trinian will find that a relief after having to deal with Captain Finicky there,” Dillon joked. Rydell glared at him.

“You can go now, Dillon,” Rydell said through gritted teeth.

“But I was going to come eat with…”

“You’re DISMISSED!”

“Yes, sir,” Dillon said, quickly retreating out of the shuttlebay.

“You’ll have to excuse him,” Rydell said once Dillon was gone. “He gets a little overexcited when we have company.”

“Captain,” Myna admonished laughing. “You talk as if he were a pet.”

“Not even close,” Rydell muttered as he and Myna headed toward the door. “Hitting him with a rolled up newspaper doesn’t do anything,”


Chapter Three


Seven Backward was fairly crowded when Rydell and Myna entered. Alpha shift had just gotten off duty, and most of them evidently decided to have lunch in Seven Backward. Trinian was running the hosts and hostesses ragged, while she sat behind the bar running things like a general commanding a war. Upon seeing the captain enter, she had a table cleared for them in an instant. She walked over to take their orders personally.

“Good afternoon, sirs. What would you like?” she asked, her eyes fixed on Myna.

“I’m sure that whatever you recommend will be fabulous,” Myna replied with a broad smile. Trinian could feel something inside melting.

“It will be my pleasure to make the selection,” she said enraptured.

“And I’d like a Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a cherry Icee,” Rydell said.

“Yeah, whatever,” Trinian said distractedly. She moved off toward the replicator without taking her eyes off of Myna, even when she smacked into the bar.

“You have a wonderful ship, Captain Rydell,” Myna said. “I look forward to…” He broke off as the doors of the lounge opened. A group of four women were coming in, talking and laughing. Normally, the comings and goings of strangers didn’t concern him, but he was transfixed on one of the newcomers. She was about five foot four with shoulder length, straight brown hair, and she was the most gorgeous thing Myna had ever seen: a goddess.

“Excuse me, Captain,” Myna said, getting up from the table. He walked over to the table where the women had sat. “Greetings, ladies.” They all looked up at him and fell silent. He gauged their expressions to be somewhere between shock and alarm.

“Hello, Ambassador,” one of them said flatly. He concluded that she was most likely the android mentioned in the files.

“Hi,” the other three chimed in.

“Would you mind too terribly if I sat down?”

“Not at all,” the tall, red headed member of the group said. “Pull up a chair.”

“Thank you.” Myna grabbed a chair from the next table and sat down between the red head and the android and across from the goddess. He stared into her eyes, both mesmerizing and being mesmerized. “I am Fuil Baradda,” he said softly.

“Emily Sullivan,” his goddess replied just as softly.

“Emily. What a wonderful name.”

“Thank you.”

Lisa Beck, whom Myna knew only as the red head, watched the exchange between Sullivan and Baradda and decided she had better take action.

“I think I feel like eating in my quarters today,” she said, standing up. “Don’t you agree, Patricia and Kristen?”

“Absolutely,” Patricia Hawkins said.

“Actually, I do not really eat, and I would like to ask the ambassador about…”

“Kristen!” Hawkins and Beck snapped.

“Yes, your quarters would be a wonderful idea,” Larkin said, standing up to join Hawkins and Beck. The three of them headed out of the lounge without another word.

“I would offer to buy you lunch,” Myna said smiling. “But I believe that there is no charge here.”

“I appreciate the offer,” Sullivan replied with an equal smile.

“Well, perhaps I could replicate you dinner tonight. I would be honored if you would join me.”

“I’d like that.”

“Wonderful.”


Trinian walked back over to Rydell’s table carrying a tray with their orders on it. She immediately noticed the ambassador’s absence.

“Where’s Baradda?” she demanded.

“Over there, I think,” Rydell replied, pointing behind him. Trinian looked over and saw Baradda and Emily Sullivan ogling over each other. Bitch, she already had a boyfriend. She didn’t have to snap up another one. Trinian slammed the tray down in front of Rydell, splashing gravy and Icee all over the front of his dress uniform.

“Enjoy,” she barked and stormed back to the bar.

“That’s what I love about this place,” Rydell mumbled, wiping up the mess on his clothes as best he could. “Service with a smile.”


Scott Baird walked into Seven Backward lost in thought. He was actually considering apologizing to Sullivan. That idea dissipated real quickly when he saw her sitting with that Baradda guy that just came on board. She was practically swallowing the guy with her eyes.


Emily Sullivan was enraptured to say the least. Ambassador Baradda was intelligent and sweet and gorgeous and debonair and polite and GORGEOUS. What was she doing messing around with Scott Baird when she could have an ambassador who was obviously attracted to her? Baird was so moody. Baird was so vulgar. Baird was so distant. Baird was at the door of Seven Backward looking really pissed and head toward her and Baradda.

“Look, bitch, at least dump me first before you jump onto some other shithead!” Baird said angrily. Suddenly, it was so quiet that nanites could have been heard scurrying across the floor of Seven Backward.

“I will not allow you to speak to this lovely lady or myself that way,” Myna said, standing up.

“Oh, fuck off,” Baird said, lifting Myna off the ground and throwing him into the wall of the lounge. Sullivan leapt out of her chair and, with a swift kick, sent Baird collapsing to the floor in a heap with a severe pain in his genitals.

“Don’t you EVER come near me again, asshole!” Sullivan shouted at Baird. As Rydell rushed over to help Myna up, Sullivan stormed out of the lounge leaving a crowd of stunned crewmen in her wake.


Chapter Four


Myna shifted in the chair in front of Captain Rydell’s desk. It was time to put things in motion. With any luck, he could have everything taken care of in the next twenty-four hours. His mind drifted to Emily Sullivan. This was the last place that he expected to meet the woman of his dreams. Of course, he going to have to blow the ship and her and all of her shipmates to smithereens, but he could try to enjoy things while they lasted. It was romantically tragic in a way: having to die just when meeting one’s true love.

“So what’s the deal?” Rydell asked, breaking Myna’s concentration. Myna turned himself to the business at hand.

“Well, Captain, I cannot tell you too much about the overall mission, but I can discuss your part of it.”

“That would help,” Rydell said. He was liking this less and less. This was his ship, and he wanted to know what was going on. Rydell understood the need for secrecy sometimes, but this was really annoying.

“I need you to take your science officer and chief engineer to the far side of the system. There you will rendezvous will another ship.”

“Why are we doing this?”

“You will be transporting a device there for me. That’s all I can tell you,” Myna said.

“But the Secondprize could…”

“Captain, I hate to pull rank like this, but I am in charge here. You will take a shuttlecraft tomorrow morning. Understood.”

“Got it,” Rydell said reluctantly.

“Very good, Captain. I will see you in Shuttlebay Two at eleven hundred hours then. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a dinner date.” Myna stood up and left the ready room, leaving Rydell alone. He put his elbows on the desk and rested his head in his hands. This definitely was not the way that he liked to operate, but he was an officer. That meant that he knew how to follow orders. Of course, that didn’t mean that he had to like it.


Commander Scott Baird had spent most of the afternoon sulking in engineering. He almost hoped that something would break, so that he could go fix it and keep his mind off what had happened between him and Sullivan. The possibility that he may have overreacted had occurred to him. It wasn’t something that he was very proud of, but he was big enough to admit his mistakes. He decided that he was going to have to talk to Sullivan. He went to her quarters that evening.

“Just a second,” Sullivan’s voice called from behind the door. Baird looked around the corridor uncomfortably. Finally, the door opened revealing Sullivan dressed in a long gown. She looked surprised to see him.

“I came to talk,” Baird said. “I was a bit out of line back at lunch. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, well you should have thought of that then,” Sullivan snapped, pushing past him out into the hall.

“Wait a second,” Baird said, jogging to catch up with her as she headed quickly down the corridor. “I’m trying to patch things up here. Don’t run away from me.”

“There’s nothing left to patch up, Scott.”

“I thought that we were trying to make this work!” Baird shouted angrily as they stopped by the turbolift doors. Detecting people, the doors whooshed open.

“I’m tired of trying,” Sullivan said softly. She stepped into the turbolift. The doors closed leaving Baird alone in the hall.


Sullivan stepped out of the turbolift on Deck Five and headed toward the ambassador’s quarters. The doors whisked open almost as soon as she pressed the door chime. Sullivan almost walked straight into the bouquet of roses Myna was holding out to her.

“For you,” Myna said, bowing with flourish. Sullivan laughed and took the flowers.

“They’re beautiful.”

“I would give you nothing less than the most beautiful things in the universe.”

“Ambassador Baradda…”

“Please, call me Fuil,” Myna said, bowing again.

“Fuil, I really don’t know what to say.”

“There’s no need for you to say anything. I got them for you; I ask for nothing more than your company for the evening. Come sit down.” Myna motioned her to the table. It was covered with food. Two candles glowed at it center. She went and took a seat.


Scott Baird paced like a caged animal up and down the corridors of Deck Seven. He heard footsteps rapidly approaching behind him. Before he could even turn around, he was suddenly grabbed from behind and tackled in a vicious bear hug.

“Hi, Scott!” the exuberant voice of Counselor Claire Webber said. “How are you?” She released Baird, stood up, then pulled him up from the deck.

“I’ve been better,” Baird replied.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not really.”

“That’s your right. But if you want to, I’ll be in…”

“Emily and I are having problems,” Baird interrupted. “She won’t talk to me, and she’s drooling over that ambassador that came on board. I think she wants to dump me for him.”

“Well, what exactly did she say to you?”

“Never come near her again.”

“I see,” Webber said. It sounded like Sullivan had done a little more than just think about dumping Baird. “Have you told her how you feel?”

“I apologized for throwing Baradda across Seven Backward.”

“But you haven’t told her how you feel about her.”

“No,” Baird said. “She knows though.”

“Does she?” Webber asked. “Maybe you should make it crystal clear to her. Talk to her. Be honest and direct. That’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere.” Baird stood silently pondering Webber’s words.

“You’re right,” he said finally. “I’ll talk to her. Thanks, Claire.” He ran off down the hall.

Damn, Webber thought. Sullivan got to Baradda before I did. How many men does she need?


Several hours later, Myna stretched and yawned.

“Well, my dear,” he said. “I have had a wonderful evening, but I’m afraid that I must turn in. We have much to do tomorrow.”

“We do?” Sullivan asked.

“Not you specifically, but you know what I mean.”

“Your mission.”

“Exactly. I wish I could tell you all about it, but…”

“It’s classified. I understand,” Sullivan said. She stood up and headed toward the door. Myna was up and at the door in a flash.

“You did not think that I would be so impolite as to not show you out, did you?” he said smiling.

“Of course not,” Sullivan replied, matching his smile.

“Good night, Emily. I look forward to basking in your presence tomorrow.” Myna couldn’t believe he was saying this stuff…and that he meant it!

“Good night, Fuil,”

He leaned forward and kissed her gently on the lips.

“Until tomorrow, my lovely.” He kissed her again and watched her head down the corridor. Damn, blowing up this ship was going to be hard on him.


Sullivan walked into her quarters ready to go to sleep. The figure seated on her sofa let her know that she was going to be up for a while.

“How’d you get in here?” she demanded angrily.

“I’m the chief engineer,” Baird replied. “I can go anywhere I want.”

“Well, go the hell away!”

“I’m not going anywhere until I talk to you!” Baird shouted back, jumping off the sofa. “I took the trouble to wait around for you! Now, you’re going to sit the fuck down and listen to me!”

“Say what you’ve got to say,” Sullivan snapped. She threw herself down on the sofa. “Not that it’s going to do any good.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?!”

“Just get on with it.”

“What a second! What did you mean? Have you been with Baradda?!?”

“So what if I have?” Sullivan retorted.

“God damn it! I’ve been trying!” Baird said exasperated. “I really have. I wanted to make this work. I thought you did too.”

“You’re not worth the trouble.” Sullivan regretted saying that the second the words escaped her lips. She didn’t mean that. Well, if Baird wasn’t furious already, he would be now.

“You fucking bitch!” Yep, he was furious now. “I can’t fucking believe that you could say that to me considering what I’ve had to put up with from you for the last month!”

“You haven’t exactly been Mr. Congeniality yourself either!” Sullivan screamed.

“Look, I’m sick of you and your shit!”

“Then get the fuck out!” Sullivan shouted, jumping back up off the soda. “Get out!”

“Do you want me out of here? Because if I leave, it’s over!”

“It’s been over, but neither of us have been willing to admit it.”

“Whatever.” Baird stormed out of the doors. Sullivan collapsed on the sofa, not sure whether to be relieved or break down crying.


Chapter Five


“Computer, where is Commander Dillon?” Myna asked as he looked in the mirror and straightened his hair the next morning. Ambassadors had to be well dressed and perfectly groomed at all times. Especially when they were sending unsuspecting saps to their deaths.

“Commander Dillon is in Holodeck Two,” the Secondprize’s female-voiced computer reported.

“Is he alone?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you.”

“You are welcome,” the computer said, a faint hint of surprise in its voice. No one ever said thank you when the computer told them something. Maybe he’d be interested in a little sojourn in the holodeck with a gorgeous computer woman.

Myna checked himself over one more time and headed toward the door. A short talk with Dillon should keep him out of the way for the remainder of the mission. And if Dillon didn’t listen to reason, Myna would just have to use some other way to make sure that Dillon wouldn’t be interfering.

The doors of Holodeck Two opened allowing Myna to enter. Commander Dillon was up on a stage in front of an audience of about a hundred: mostly children.

“And so my fellow classmates,” Dillon rambled. “I stand before you not just as the man with the highest academic average in the sixth grade, but, thanks to your support and votes, as the Greatest Student in Pinehurst Elementary School History. Thank you.” The audience jumped up and started applauding wildly. Dillon noticed Myna at the back of the holodeck. “Computer, freeze program.” The audience stopped in mid-clap.

“Interesting program,” Myna said as he walked toward the stage.

“Just making up for a travesty of justice in my past,” Dillon said, walking down to meet Myna. “But surely, Ambassador, a man like yourself has more important things to do than observe my little holodeck programs.”

“Actually, I came down to tell you that even though Captain Rydell and Lieutenant Commander Jaroch will be leaving the ship, I won’t need you on the bridge. I can handle our half of the mission myself, so there’s no need for you to interrupt your vacation.”

“Are you sure?” Dillon asked.

“Positive.”

“Regulations specify that the chain of command must still function in case you are incapacitated.”

“I won’t be incapacitated. We aren’t…”

“I’m sure you won’t, but you have to have someone to take command if you are. I can postpone my leave, and…”

“That really won’t be necessary,” Myna insisted.

“Regulations, Ambassador, cannot be…”

“Is there someone else who could take over…so your much needed leave isn’t interrupted?”

“Lieutenant Beck would…”

“He will be fine.”

“She…”

“SHE will be fine!”

“Okay. But I’ll probably check on things at least once anyway,” Dillon said.

“I’ll be looking forward to it,” Myna lied, plastering on a smile. “Have a nice time. Exit.” The door appeared and Myna quickly left. Out in the hall, he opened up the access panel to the holodeck computer and made a few alterations to Dillon’s program. The Secondprize’s first officer wouldn’t be checking on anyone for a long time.


“Captain, I do not think that this is a wise idea,” Lieutenant Commander Jaroch said as he and Captain Rydell stood in Shuttlebay Two waiting for Commander Baird, Ambassador Baradda, and their shuttle pilot.

“Which part specifically?” Rydell asked with a humorless laugh. “If you ask me, it all stinks.”

“What I mean, sir, is that even though I have the highest regard for the Ambassador’s mission, I believe that leaving Commander Dillon as the only command officer on the ship is…”

“Idiotic, moronic, unwise, not advisable?”

“Stupid,” Jaroch said.

“Believe me, I agree, but there’s nothing I can do.” Rydell sat down on the deck and leaned against the shuttlecraft. “I don’t like the idea of some civilian taking command of my ship while I’m not here either. I don’t care if he is an ambassador, he’s not qualified to command a starship.” The doors opened allowing Ensign Andrea Carr to enter.

“Good morning, sir,” she said brightly, walking over to Rydell with a big smile on her face. “It’ll be my pleasure to be flying the Doorprize for you today.”

“No offense, Ensign, but tone it down. I’m in no mood for perkiness this morning,” Rydell growled.

“Ooookay. I think I’ll just go run the pre-flight check now.”

“You do that,” Rydell said, smiling weakly. Carr quickly entered the shuttle and got to work. Seconds later, the shuttlebay doors opened again revealing Commander Scott Baird. He looked as thrilled to be there as Rydell felt. The scowl on his face probably could have scared off the Borg. “Morning, Commander,” Rydell said.

“Yeah, it’s fucking morning, isn’t it? Yee fucking haa,” Baird grumbled.

“Any particular reason that you’re so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning?” Rydell asked. He already knew the answer. Hell, the whole ship heard Baird and Sullivan fighting last night. Rydell just wondered if perhaps Baird wanted someone to talk to.

“No,” Baird said. So much for that line of inquiry. Before Rydell could turn to another tactic, the doors opened, and Myna entered carrying a black box measuring about a foot square.

“Good morning, gentleman. Everyone ready to go?” Myna asked.

“What’s in the box?” Rydell said.

“I’m afraid that that’s classified information, Captain. You will be transporting it to the ship that will meet you on the other side of the system.”

“Wait a minute! If that’s all we’re doing, why do you need all of us to do it?” Baird demanded angrily.

“Captain, your officer is bordering on insubordination.”

“No, I’m bordering on throwing your ass out into space!” Baird shouted.

“Commander!” Rydell snapped.

“Ambassador Baradda, may I ask what the Secondprize will be doing in our absence?” Jaroch said.

“We will be moving on to complete the other half of the mission,” Myna said.

“And where is that?”

“That’s classified.”

“What will you be doing?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

“What can you tell us?” Jaroch said, getting frustrated.

“I’ve told you everything I can. Just go to the other side of the system and wait. Everything will be explained to you there,” Myna said. He really wished they’d stop asking questions and just get out of here.

“You still haven’t told us why we all have to go,” Rydell said.

“Your expertise will be needed in the near future,” Myna replied. “That’s really all I can tell you. Now, I must demand that you leave. Goodbye, gentlemen.” Myna shoved the box into Jaroch’s arms and strode out of the shuttlebay.

“Captain, permission to speak freely,” Jaroch said.

“Everybody else does it without asking me first. Why should you be any different?”

“Baradda is an annoying bastard.”

“I don’t like him either,” Rydell said.

“I want to rip his fucking head off and ram it up his ass,” Baird said. The three men walked into the shuttlecraft Doorprize, where Ensign Carr was staring out of the front viewport wistfully.

“Problem, Ensign?” Rydell asked.

“No,” Carr said distractedly. “Emerald eyes. Hair, waves of midnight.”

“What is she babbling?” Baird said.

“It would appear that Ensign Carr has a higher opinion of the ambassador than we do,” Jaroch said.

“Well, shut her up before I puke,” Baird ordered.

“Ensign, we’re ready to leave,” Rydell said, tapping Carr on the shoulder.

“What? Oh, sorry. Commencing take off.” Carr’s hands flew across the shuttle controls, gently raising the ship of the deck and off toward space beyond.


“Set a course for the Pilam Cluster,” Myna ordered as he exited the turbolift onto the bridge.

“Aye, sir,” Sullivan replied from the navigation console.

“The Doorprize has cleared the shuttlebay,” Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins said.

“Thank you, Lieutenant. There’s no need for you to continue watching the shuttle,” Myna said. “Your Captain can take care of himself.”

“But, sir, as Chief of Security, it’s my job to…”

“I said stop monitoring the shuttle,” Myna said forcefully.

“Aye, sir,” Hawkins said. She pressed a few buttons aimlessly to make it appear that she’d followed the order. There was no way that she was just going to neglect her duty like that.


“Baird, I want to know what that box is right now,” Rydell said. “Go back to the storage compartment and find out for me.”

“But, Captain, I heard Ambassador Baradda say that it was classified,” Carr said. “We aren’t supposed to mess with it.”

“Ensign, you’re right,” Rydell said smiling. “But since Baradda isn’t here, I’m in command. But, if it will make you feel better, we’ll do this democratically. Should we find out what the box is? Jaroch?”

“I vote yes.”

“Baird?”

“Fuck yeah.”

“Ensign?”

“Well, I don’t know…”

“Yes or no, Ensign,” Rydell said.

“Yes…I guess.”

“And I vote yes, so it’s unanimous. How nice. Get to work, Baird.”

“On my way,” Baird said.


In Holodeck Two, Commander Travis Dillon decided that he’d had enough of living out his fantasies for a while. He finished off the last pirate that was attacking him and put his sword down.

“Computer, end program and exit,” Dillon ordered. The environment around him shifted, but not to the black and yellow grid of the holodeck walls. Besides that, the door didn’t appear or open. “Computer, end program and exit.” Nothing happened. “Arch.” The holodeck control arch didn’t even appear. “Dillon to bridge.” Nothing. He slapped his commbadge a couple of times and got nothing but a dull thudding from it. “Somebody respond!” Dillon shouted.

“Hey, Travis!” an exuberant voice said from behind him. Dillon slowly turned around and screamed.


“Uh, Jaroch, could you come back here for a minute?” Commander Baird called from the small cargo area at the rear of the shuttle. Jaroch got up out of his seat and went back to see what Baird needed. Rydell could hear their muffled voices, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. Then, he heard the hum of a tricorder. A minute later, Jaroch and Baird walked out of the cargo bay. Neither one of them looked very happy.

“Well, we figured out what the box is,” Baird said.

“What?” Rydell asked.

“A bomb.”


Hawkins’s tactical console suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree. She frantically looked at the readings to find out what was going on.

“Sir, there’s been an explosion on the shuttle!” she shouted. Myna leapt out of the command chair, furious.

“I told you not to monitor that shuttle, Lieutenant! You disobeyed a direct order!”

“They’re in trouble!”


“The hull integrity is still intact!” Carr shouted over the alarms and hissings of leaking coolants. “But the engines are down, we’re getting pulled in by the gravity of the nearby planet.”

“Any thrusters?” Rydell said.

“No, we’ve lost just about everything,” Baird said, surveying the damage.

“Is there anything we can do?” Rydell asked.

“I believe that we can crash quite effectively,” Jaroch said.

They all screamed.


“Ensign Larkin, ahead to our destination. Warp six,” Myna said. Hawkins ran down to Myna angrily.

“You can’t just leave them like this! They could die!” she shouted

“They are not our concern. The rendezvous ship will find them and pick them up.”

“If they survive the crash. They’re headed straight toward the surface of some dustball in this system!”

“They’ll be fine.”

“We don’t know anything about the planet they’re landing on. The atmosphere could be poisonous. It could be inhabited. We don’t know,” Hawkins said, trying to appeal to reason.

“Then Captain Rydell and the others will find out, won’t they?” Myna replied with a smirk on his face.

“If you aren’t going to do anything, I’m calling Starfleet.”

“Then, you can try to call them from the brig. Baradda to security. Report to the bridge immediately.”

“You can’t arrest me for calling Starfleet!” Hawkins insisted.

“No, but I can arrest you for insubordination and disobeying a direct order.”

“Fuil…” Sullivan began.

“Emily, you don’t fully understand what’s happening here,” Baradda said. That was true. “You’re going to have to trust me. Everything will be fine.” That part not so much.

Sullivan locked eyes with Beck, who did not look happy, then turned back to her station.

The turbolift opened and two security officers walked out. “Put her in the brig,” Baradda said, pointing at Hawkins. “She is to have no contact with anyone, understood?”

“Yes, sir,” one of them said reluctantly. They led Hawkins away. The bridge was silent except for the soft chirps of the computers.


Chapter Six


Captain Alexander Rydell regained consciousness and was instantly aware of a horrible taste in his mouth. He spat out a clod of dirt and looked around what was left of the shuttle. They had crashed with such force that the transparent aluminum viewport had buckled and cracked, allowing dirt to flood the cabin.

“We are alive, I take it,” Jaroch said softly from the other side of the ship.

“You don’t sound too thrilled,” Rydell said. He could see Baird nearby laying immobile. Rydell scrambled over to confirm that the man was still breathing.

“Sorry, sir, but this is not exactly a pleasant experience,” Jaroch said.

Baird seemed okay as far as Rydell could tell. Just unconscious.

“See what you can do about digging Carr out,” Rydell ordered Jaroch. “I don’t know about you, but I’d freak if I woke up and found myself buried up to my neck in dirt.”

“Excellent point, sir,” Jaroch said as he made his way over to Carr and started to dig.

“I’m going to see about the door.” Rydell crawled up the slanted ship to the side hatch and pulled the manual release lever. The door groaned, opened a little, then stopped. There was now just enough of a gap to let in more dirt and show Rydell that they were partially underground. At the top of the crack in the hatch, he could see daylight. “We’re going to have to go out the back.” He crawled over Baird’s unconscious form and went back into the cargo area. It was a wreck. Scorch marks scarred the walls, which had been buckled outward by the force of the blast. It was amazing that the hull hadn’t ruptured. He went to the very back of the shuttle and pulled the manual release lever for the rear ramp. The door fell inward slamming Rydell down to the deck.

“Sir, are you all right?” Jaroch’s voice called.

“No,” Rydell gasped. Jaroch crawled back into the cargo cabin and tried to lift the door. It didn’t budge. “Hurry up, Jaroch. My rib cage is not enjoying this.”

“I cannot lift it, sir.”

“J’Ter would come in real handy right now,” Rydell said. This was the first time that he’d ever really wished that the persona of the prince Jaroch was in a past life would pop out. Normally, it occurred at really bad times.

“I am inclined to agree, sir. J’Ter would be very handy right now.” Suddenly, Jaroch’s face glazed over then clouded in a scowl. “I will save you, puny mortal!” Jaroch/J’Ter lifted the door with ease, slammed it back into place, and bent the frame around it. “There! It will never attack you again, weakling.” His face glazed over again. Rydell picked himself up, staring at Jaroch in astonishment.

“Jaroch?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What happened? I thought you couldn’t control when J’Ter appeared,” Rydell said.

“I cannot explain it either, sir, but it happened.”

“Yeah. And J’Ter also trapped us in here,” Rydell said surveying the damage to the rear door. “The frame’s been bent, so the door won’t open at all.”

“I can try to call him back,” Jaroch said. “Maybe he will fix the door.”

“Maybe?”

“Well, I never have had much luck controlling J’Ter’s actions.”

“Never mind. We’ll just have to figure something else out. Besides, the Secondprize will probably be here any minute now,” Rydell said reassuringly.


At that moment, the Secondprize was on its way to the Pilam Cluster.


Commander Scott Baird woke up feeling like hell. He was flat on his back looking up at the shuttlecraft ceiling, which was an awful lot closer to his face than it should have been. Baird reached down beside himself and came up with a handful of dirt.

“Fuck,” he mumbled. In the ceiling above him, a small circular portion exploded revealing daylight.

“Fuck!” he shouted in astonishment. The entire roof of the shuttle exploded violently outward. Baird was struck speechless. Jaroch and Rydell rushed back into the main cabin area.

“I believe that solves our problem, sir,” Jaroch said.

“No kidding,” Rydell said. He climbed up the wall of the shuttle and out to the open air. The shuttle had crashed in an open field. In the distance, he could see, on a hill, a city surrounded by a great yellow wall. “Jaroch, see what equipment you can dig out, preferably in working order.”

“Yes, sir,” Jaroch said from within the ship. Commander Baird climbed out to join Rydell.

“What did you do, Commander?” Rydell asked.

“I have no fucking idea,” Baird replied. A three foot square piece of land exploded in front of them, showering them both with dirt. Jaroch climbed out a minute later with a dirty supply pouch over his shoulder.

“We have one emergency med-kit, two packs of rations, one working tricorder, one phaser that barely works, and the commbadges,” Jaroch said.

“Well, it’s better than nothing,” Rydell said. “Start scanning the area. I want to know what the hell’s going on around here.”

“Ow,” Ensign Carr said weakly from inside the ship.

“See what you can do about that phaser,” Rydell ordered Baird. “I’ll see to Carr.” Rydell grabbed the med-kit out of the supply pouch and climbed back into the shuttle. Carr was sitting up with a stunned look on her face.

“My ship,” she mumbled. “What happened to my ship?” Rydell ran the mediscanner over her.

“Well, nothing’s broken, but…”

“But?” Carr asked alarmed, suddenly snapping back to reality with the realization that something may be wrong with her.

“I’m not sure,” Rydell replied. He ran the mediscanner over himself and looked at the results. “Jaroch! Come here!”

“What is it, sir?” Jaroch asked, looking over the edge of the ground into the shuttle.

“Something’s wrong. I’m getting some weird radiation readings off of us.”

“That would be consistent with what I am detecting on the surface,” Jaroch said.

“Are we in any danger?”

“Not from the radiation, but maybe from the band of humanoids approaching our position.”

“Oh great.” The last thing Rydell wanted to deal with was the local populace. He climbed out of the shuttle. A group of approximately twenty people were advancing on them. They were all shouting loudly and gesturing toward them. “How’s that phaser coming?” Rydell asked hopefully.

“It’ll make a nice flashlight,” Baird replied.

“Captain, I think I have an explanation,” Jaroch said.

“Well, make it fast. They’re almost here,” Rydell said.

“The radiation has altered our neural nets, specifically affecting the areas we use the most. These effects are then channeled out through our brain waves to the surrounding environment.”

“Translation,” Rydell snapped.

“Commander Baird, cuss please.”

“Fuck,” Baird said. A small area of ground in front of him exploded.

“You mean he caused that,” Rydell said amazed.

“Yes, sir.”

“Fuck!” Baird said. A bigger area of ground exploded. “FUCK!” Baird gasped in shock. A huge area of the field exploded, causing the advancing horde to draw back for a second. “Fu…” Rydell tackled Baird and clamped his hand over his mouth.

“Don’t say another word,” Rydell ordered. Baird nodded vigorously. “So Scott can blow stuff up with a word, you can summon J’Ter at will…”

“Or any of my other past lives,” Jaroch interrupted.

“Joy. So what you’re telling me is that we’ve all got…powers now?”

“I guess that is as good of a way as any to describe them.”

“So what can Carr and I do?” Rydell asked.

“I do not know at the present time, but I am sure that we will find out soon.”

“Stop where you are!” the leader of the advancing group shouted, waiving a pistol. He fired a shot into the air to show he meant business. A loud boom filled the air.

“They appear to be using projectile weapons,” Jaroch said.

“Bullets and gunpowder. Great, just what I needed to hear. We’ve got a lesser developed society hear folks. The Prime Directive applies. Put the phaser and tricorder in the pouch,” Rydell ordered. “We’ve got to get rid of the shuttle. Scott, see what you can do.” Baird turned toward the shuttle smiling. This could get to be fun if used properly.

“FUCK!!!” he shouted. The shuttle exploded in a huge fireball. The group drew back again, then leveled various pistol and rifles at Rydell and the others.

“Freeze or we’ll blast you to the moons,” the leader of the group demanded.

“We aren’t going to do a thing,” Rydell said soothingly.

“Shut up!” the man shouted furiously.

“I assure you that he is telling the truth,” Jaroch said.

“All right then, nice to see you folks are being reasonable,” the man said. “Now what the hell are you doing out here?”

“We’re travelers,” Carr said, falling back on the regulation story to use in these situations.

“Where from?”

“Up north,” Baird said. “Look, we’re sorry about the commotion. I’m an inventor by trade and something I constructed exploded on the way across the field. I was hoping to sell it to someone in your town in exchange for enough money for food and lodging.”

“An inventor, eh? What’s your name?”

“Scott Baird.”

“And you lead this group?”

“Yes, he does,” Rydell said, backing up his chief engineer’s story.

“You shut up!!!” the man screamed. The others stuck their guns right in Rydell’s face.

“I will take care of him,” Jaroch said, pulling Rydell away from the group. “Captain, it would appear that we have found your ability.”

“We have?”

“Yes, I activated the tricorder inside the pouch while you were talking to them. You were emitting large amount of effected brain waves.”

“So what can I do?” Rydell asked confused.

“Evidently, you have the ability to cause extreme anger in any inhabitants of this planet that you speak to.”

“Wonderful. So what do I do now?”

“Keep your mouth shut, sir,” Jaroch said, walking back over to Baird and Carr. He whispered into their ears briefly. Carr started laughing hysterically. Baird smirked briefly, but quickly regained his composure.

“Well, I’m Hedan Ulster, the mayor of Felsten. You’re welcome to stay at my home until you all decide what to do next.”

“Thank you,” Baird said. “That’s kind of you. We’re very grateful.”

“Glad to be of service. Hopefully, you’ll be of some service to me as well.”

“We will be pleased to help you in any way possible,” Jaroch said. The group moved off toward the city leaving behind only the smoldering remains of the shuttlecraft.


Chapter Seven


“What’s our estimated time of arrival at the Pilam Cluster?” Myna asked, his voice breaking the two hour silence that had fallen over the bridge crew since Hawkins’ arrest.

“Approximately thirty-seven hours,” Ensign Larkin reported from the helm console.

“Good. I’ll be in the ready room if anyone needs me.” Myna stood up and headed toward the door.

“Ambassador Baradda, could I speak to you for a moment?” Ensign Emily Sullivan asked.

“Of course,” he replied, turning to her and smiling. Sullivan followed Baradda into the ready room.

“I really do not like this,” Lieutenant Beck said once they were gone.

“No kidding,” Lieutenant Craig Porter said. He was filling in at the science console in Lieutenant Commander Jaroch’s absence. “I can’t believe we just left Captain Rydell like that.”

“The ambassador does have command authority,” Larkin said. “We are obliged to obey his orders.”

“As hard as this is to believe, I’d prefer that Dillon were in command right now,” Beck said.

“What’s even scarier is that I agree,” Porter added. “Dillon would never have left the captain.”

“True,” Beck said. “The captain might have left Dillon, but Dillon never would have left the captain.”


“Fuil, don’t you think that you were a bit hard on Patricia? She was only looking out for Captain Rydell’s safety. That’s her job.”

“Now, Emily,” Myna said as he examined the Prince statuette on Rydell’s desk. “You know that the chain of command must be preserved or else chaos results. I gave Lieutenant Hawkins an order and she disobeyed it: end of story.”

“So the lives of everyone on that shuttle don’t matter?”

“Emily, they mean as much to me as the lives of everyone on this ship.”

“I’m not really sure if I should find that comforting or not,” Sullivan snapped. “If that’s true, you may end up getting us all killed.”

“I’m not even going to honor that comment with a reply,” Myna said, trying to sound indignant. He really just wanted to start laughing and tell Sullivan that she was right.


Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins walked around the perimeter of her cell for the hundredth time, cursing herself for making sure it was escape proof. Of course, at the time she did that she didn’t expect to ever be imprisoned in one. She had to get out of there and find Commander Dillon. Once he found out what was going on, he’d storm up to the bridge, quote sixty million regulations to Baradda, put him to sleep, and take the Secondprize back to save the captain. But unless she got out, none of that was going to happen. Even if she did try escape, Lieutenant Russell would stop her. Russell! Maybe he’d help her.

“Sean,” Hawkins said. “Could you come over here for a minute?” At the brig guard desk, Lieutenant Sean Russell looked up from the report he was working on.

“I’m sorry, Lieutenant,” he said. “I’m under specific orders not to come near you or talk to you.”

“You’re talking to me now,” Hawkins replied. “You’ve already disobeyed orders. But who cares? They’re orders from a civilian. We’re Starfleet officers. And above that, we’re security officers. We are a group unto ourselves Sean. Think of your loyalty to the group. Now get off your ass and come over here.” Russell leapt up out of his chair during Hawkins’s speech and stood at attention, the pride of being a security officer flowing through him. He charged over to Hawkins’s cell and shut off the force field.

“I may be court-martialed, but I have a higher loyalty to you and security,” Russell said.

“Thanks, Sean,” Hawkins said, stepping out of the cell. “Now, I need you to get in there and pretend to be me.”

“What? I don’t look anything like you! First and foremost, you’re a woman, and I’m a…”

“Just stay under the bed sheet,” Hawkins interrupted testily.

“But my hair…”

“I’ll take care of it. Give me your commbadge.” Russell snapped the badge off his chest and handed it to Hawkins. She took hers off and gave it to him. “Put my badge on and get in the cell. That way, they’ll think I’m still here. I’ll be right back.” She put Russell’s badge on and left the cell block. She returned five minutes later holding a wig of curly, light brown hair matching hers.

“Where’d you get that?” Russell asked as she rammed it onto his head.

“Ship’s stores. Where else? Now just sit in the cell and pretend to be me if anyone comes in.” Hawkins turned on the force field before Russell could protest. “Thanks a million, Sean. I’ll pay you back sometime.” She ran out of the cell block. Russell plopped down on the bed and sighed. He was beginning to wonder if loyalty to security officers above all was such a good idea.


As Rydell and the other Secondprize crewmen approached the city of Felsten, they noticed something: the city was a wreck. Scorch marks raked across the taller stone buildings of the city. Wooden structures were either burned-out hulks or had gaping holes in their sides. Upon entering the city walls, they discovered that this was the least of the city’s problems. Two large, black clad men met the group, grabbed the mayor, and slammed him up against the wall of a nearby building.

“Where’s you entering tax, mayor?” one of them demanded. “You know that Logash demands all of his loving friends pay up.”

“What is this? The Joegonots join the Mob?” Baird remarked.

“Ruffians,” Carr muttered.

“What was that?” the other large man demanded angrily, storming over to Ensign Carr. The man was at least a foot and a half taller than her. She froze in terror, staring up into his menacing black eyes blankly. Something inside her snapped.

“Roses are red; violets are blue,” she babbled, her mind clutching onto an old rhyme she remembered for primary school. “A leghorn is a chicken, and so are you.” The man suddenly squatted and started clucking and strutting around like a chicken.

“What did you do, Carr?” Rydell asked astonished.

“Shut him up before I rip his lungs out!” the other man and the mayor shouted in unison.

“Sorry,” Rydell said.

“SHUT UP!!!” the entire group screamed, barely able to keep from ripping Rydell limb from limb.

“Try another poem, Andrea,” Jaroch said, reaching into his pouch to activate the tricorder. “Make sure that it has a command in it and say it to the other hostile gentleman over there.” Carr walked over to the man holding the mayor against the wall.

“It’s not polite to attack people in the street. Now, hit the ground and kiss my feet.” The man dropped the mayor, fell to the dirt, and began kissing Carr’s boots passionately. “You both are bumbling buffoons. Now, go home or meet your doom.” The two men stood up and ran out of the city at top speed. “That was horrible poetry, but it got the job done,” she said, turning to the group.

“Hey, whatever works,” Baird said. “Hedan, what was that all about?”

“About a month ago, a self-proclaimed lord named Logash took up residence in the mountains in an abandoned fortress left over from the Great Wars. Since then, his minions have rampaged through this city nightly, taking or destroying whatever or whoever they please.”

“And you haven’t been able to fight them off?” Carr asked.

“I don’t think anyone on Mandicor can fight them,” Mayor Ulster replied. “Look, I thank you for helping me, but that only means that tonight they’ll come after my house. Please don’t interfere next time. It will be better for all of us.” The group dispersed noisily, heading toward their individual homes. Mayor Ulster waived for the Secondprize officers to follow him and headed off down a side street.”

“We’ve got to help these people,” Rydell said.

“SHUT UP!!!” voices cried from all around them.

“Agreed,” Jaroch said as the group walked along behind Ulster. “But I believe we should try to be discreet about it.”

“Fuck yeah,” Baird said. A cat on the other side of the street exploded with a violent meow. “Oops, sorry. Anyway, we don’t want these bastards coming after the mayor.” A cloud of smoke exploded into existence, completely blinding them in white. “What’d I say?” Baird demanded.

“Bastard, I believe,” Jaroch said.

“Great.” The smoke dissipated, and they continued on their way. “My point is that if we do anything, we have to make it seem like the mayor has nothing to do with it or else he could get fu…messed up.”

“That could be difficult since we are staying at his house,” Carr said.

“That is unless no one knows that it is us,” Jaroch said.

“How are we going to do that?” Baird said. “Are we going to make everyone close their eyes or something?”

“I do not think that that would be very practical or likely,” Jaroch said. “I had another course of action in mind.”

“What?” Baird said irritated.

“Costumes.”


Chapter Eight


Captain Rydell, Commander Baird, and Ensign Carr all started barraging Jaroch with questions at once. Beyond their shouting faces, Jaroch saw Mayor Ulster enter a house on the right hand side of the street.

“May I suggest that we discuss this at a later time?” Jaroch said loudly. “We appear to have arrived.” The others fell silent and followed Jaroch into the house. Ulster was standing in the foyer waiting for them.

“You can take the two rooms on the third floor,” Ulster said. “I have some business to attend to, so you’ll have to show yourselves up the stairs. Dinner is in two hours. I’ll see you then.” He turned and walked away down the hall leading to the rear of the house.

“That was awfully abrupt,” Carr said.

“He’s probably worried about what’s going to happen to his home when those raiders return,” Baird said. “I’m sure we aren’t exactly on his list of priorities at the moment.”

“Since we have been given a few hours to ourselves, I suggest that we used them wisely,” Jaroch said as he started walking up the stairs. “We have a lot of work to do if we are to be ready for tonight.”

“And you have a hell of a lot of explaining to do,” Baird said as he and the others started climbing.


Lieutenant Hawkins crawled into the nearest jefferies tube access hatch in order to be sure that she was seen by as few people as possible. The last thing she needed was for some cadet, intent on making a good impression on the ambassador, to report her and get her thrown into the brig again. The computer had already told her where Commander Dillon was, so she climbed until she finally emerged on Deck Ten, a few feet down the corridor from Holodeck Two. Approaching the holodeck doors, she noticed that there was a program running, a fact that didn’t surprise her. What did surprise her was that it didn’t appear to be one of Dillon’s usual programs. Figuring that Dillon had just designed some new program to stroke his already over-inflated ego, she walked inside.

Commander Dillon was in a simulated outdoors on what appeared to be a not-so-reputable street on a planet Hawkins couldn’t place. He was standing in front of a gaudy building covered in colored streamers and flashing signs reading “DEALS,” “BARGAINS,” and “SALE.”

“Commander, I need to talk to you,” Hawkins began urgently. Upon hearing her voice, Dillon whirled around, his face filling with relief.

“Thank the Great Bird you’re here!” he exclaimed. “Just don’t let the door shut!” She turned around, but it was too late. The holodeck doors closed and vanished. Dillon collapsed to the ground, putting his head in his hands.

“What’s the big deal?” Hawkins asked. “Computer, exit.” Nothing happened.

“Nothing works,” Dillon said. “I’ve tried. We’re trapped here.”

“Trapped? How? By who?”

“Ambassador Baradda, I think, but I’m not sure why. He came in here earlier, told me that I wouldn’t be needed on the bridge while the captain was gone, then left. A little while after that, I tried to leave, but everything changed and I ended up here.”

“Where is here?” Hawkins asked, looking around.

“I’m glad you asked, my lady,” an overly exuberant voice said from the door of the building. Hawkins looked and saw a man who looked like he should be an evangelist. He had a round face with red cheeks and a smile that oozed friendliness. The heavy-set man walked over to and extended a chubby hand toward her.

“Allow me to introduce my brother,” Commander Dillon said unenthusiastically as he picked himself up off the ground.

“Bradley Dillon,” the man said, taking Hawkins’ hand and shaking it heartily. “Is this your little woman, Travis?” Hawkins jerked her hand back and was about to slap Bradley, but Commander Dillon jumped in and grabbed her arm.

“No, she’s… a colleague,” Dillon said.

“Colleague?” Bradley said knowingly. “Is that what you folks are calling it these days?” Hawkins pulled away from Dillon violently, grabbed Bradley by the lapels of the suit coat he was wearing, and hoisted him up into the air.

“We work together,” Hawkins hissed. “Got it?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Bradley said, the smile never leaving his face. “No need to get excited.” She dropped Bradley and stepped back a few feet.

“What’s he doing here, Commander?” Hawkins asked angrily.

“What am I doing here?” Bradley asked. “You came to me.”

“I’m going to ask this once, and I want a straight answer: where are we?” Hawkins demanded.

“You don’t know who I am?” Bradley asked in astonishment.

“You’re a holographic version of Commander Dillon’s brother, and that was not a straight answer,” Hawkins growled.

“No no no, darling,” Bradley said, an even bigger smile spreading across his face as he put his arms out dramatically. “I am Bradley Dillon, President of the U.S.A. That’s the Used Spaceship Alley.”

“What?”

“Give me a break. It was hell trying to find an A word that would work,” Bradley said. “Now then, I am the answer to your prayers. I guarantee that I can make you a deal because I pledge allegiance to giving you the bargain of your life.”

“Your brother’s a used spaceship salesman?” Hawkins asked Dillon incredulously.

“I’m afraid so,” Dillon said. “He’s been trying to sell me a ship ever since he appeared. If Baradda did this maliciously, he sure picked the right person to stick me with. Bradley and I aren’t exactly on good terms.”

“You two don’t get along? I don’t believe it,” Hawkins said sarcastically.

“Believe it. The scary thing is that he’s Mom and Dad’s favorite.”


Captain Rydell, Commander Baird, and Lieutenant Commander Jaroch took the larger of the two bedrooms and gave Ensign Carr the other one. After they had gotten themselves somewhat settled, they all gathered in the larger room to discuss the situation.

“What did you mean about costumes, Jaroch?” Rydell asked. “I don’t see how playing dress up is going to help us.”

“Well, sir, we have all been altered by this planet’s radiation and now have…abilities that we did not have before. You can make people angry, Captain. Commander Baird’s expletives evidently cause different explosive effects depending on which word is said. I can move at will between my past lives. And Ensign Carr appears to be able to control people with her poetry.”

“Is there a point here?” Baird said testily.

“Yes. I believe that since we cannot take action as ourselves without risk to the mayor, and since we have these powers, the only logical step is for us to take action as people other than ourselves.”

“In costumes?” Carr said.

“Yes,” Jaroch said. “Earth’s literature is full of the phenomena. They were known as…”

“Superheroes,” Rydell finished.

“I don’t believe this!” Baird said. “You expect me to go running around in tights and a cape saying sh…” Baird stopped himself in mid-sentence. He had no desire to find out what explosion would result if he said ‘shit.’

“Yes, I do,” Rydell said. “I think it’s the best chance we’ve got to save this city without getting everyone in it killed.”

“All right,” Baird said. “But I’ll have to shave my legs before I put the tights on.”

“Wait a second,” Carr said. “I hate to keep bringing the rules into this, but won’t we be breaking the Prime Directive if we do this?”

“Technically no,” Rydell replied. “Our presence caused the problem in the first place, and we aren’t here due to our own actions. Therefore, we have to fix the damage we’ve done. Ulster wouldn’t be in trouble with the raiders if we hadn’t shown up and interfered. And since we can’t protect Mayor Ulster forever, we have to wipe out Logash’s gang to make sure that he stays safe.”

“You’ve been studying the James T. Kirk Manual of Prime Directive Interpretation again, haven’t you?” Baird commented.

“Shut up and go shave,” Rydell snapped jokingly.


Chapter Nine


The Secondprize officers did not want to spend their dinner with Mayor Ulster dodging questions about their origins and their work. In a pre-emptive strike, Commander Baird starting rambling in techno-babble about farm inventions and other things, effectively keeping Ulster busy for most of the meal. It wasn’t until they were done eating that Ulster had a chance to ask anything.

“What the devil are those ugly outfits for?” Ulster said as they took their plates out to the kitchen “You look like some sort of military unit with no fashion sense.”

“They’re…work smocks,” Baird said. “Unfortunately, all of our other clothes were destroyed in the explosion.”

“Well, don’t worry about that. I’ve got a whole trunk of old stuff from my parents and brothers and sisters,” Ulster said. “It’s a bit out of date, but it’s better than nothing.”

“Thank you very much,” Jaroch said. “I am sure that it will be quite adequate.”

“Glad to hear it. The trunk’s in the closet of one of those rooms you’re staying in. Just pull it out and go to it.”

“I’m sure we’ll get lots of use out of them,” Baird said as he and Jaroch left the kitchen.


“Commander, we’ve been in here for hours,” Hawkins said. She and Dillon were seated in the grass outside of President Dillon’s Used Spaceship Alley. Bradley was inside for the moment, giving them a much needed break from his sales pitch.

“I wonder if Bradley would let me use his subspace transceiver,” Dillon said absently.

“What good would that do?”

“I could call Mom and tell her to make him stop bugging me.”


“This is going to take some work,” Rydell commented as he looked at the various scraps and rags that constituted Ulster’s family clothes.

“Leave everything to me,” a voice that wasn’t quite Jaroch’s said from over by the old dresser in the room. “I will have a masterpiece ready in, at most, an hour.” Jaroch pulled a needle and thread out of the top drawer of the dresser and charged the trunk of scraps as if it were some kind of vicious enemy.

“Jaroch?” Rydell ventured.

“No. I am Telsa Tecpa J’Mer the Great Tailor of Yyns,” Jaroch/J’Mer said, sounding offended. “Now leave me in peace. I will have these offensive rags conquered within the hour!”

“O.K.” Rydell said, backing away from the trunk. Conquering cloth, huh? In some ways, this guy was scarier than J’Ter.


Lord Logash was not in what his minions would have termed a good mood. The two men whom Ensign Carr had run out of the city were immediately executed after they told Logash what had happened. He didn’t like failure; he liked opposition even less. How was he expected to be a powerful warlord when people resisted his oppressive rule? It was opposition that had led him to this desolate fortress in the middle of nowhere. The people of Felsten had put up no resistance to speak of until now. Newcomers had arrived to support the weaklings. Well, that wasn’t going to last very long. Tonight, the mayor and the strangers staying in his house would be eliminated. This was his town now, and he was going to keep it if he had to kill every person and burn down every building in it.


“All right, you two,” Bradley Dillon said loudly as he re-emerged from his office. “You have been here for hours and not bought anything. Now, I’m prepared to do everything in my power to change that.”

“Open the doors to the holodeck and bring Captain Rydell back,” Hawkins said.

“What?”

“Never mind,” Commander Dillon said. “Bradley, we don’t have any credits on us. We can’t buy anything.”

“I have easy credit terms,” Bradley replied smiling. “Besides, you’re my brother. I know you’re good for it.”

“That’s nice of him,” Hawkins said in disbelief.

“It’s only the holodeck version,” Dillon said. “The real Bradley would never do that.”

“Now, come take a look at our stock. In my office, I’ve got full holographic representations of every ship in my inventory,” Bradley said, waiving them forward. A strange look crossed over Dillon’s face. If Hawkins didn’t know any better, she’d almost think he was having an idea.

“Sure,” Dillon said finally. “That’d be great.” He followed Bradley toward the building.

“This still isn’t going to get us anywhere, Commander,” Hawkins protested.

“Well, it’s better than sitting out here doing nothing,” Dillon replied. “And who knows, maybe something will come up.”

“Like what?”

“The captain could return and save us.”

“Commander, I don’t think…”

“I know, but I can hope, can’t I?” Dillon said. “Stranger things have happened.” Hawkins had to admit that he had a point. Just about any mission of the Secondprize was proof of that.


Captain Rydell would probably also have agreed with Dillon’s statement, but he hadn’t been through many things stranger than what was happening to him on Mandicor.

“What do you think? They are magnificent, aren’t they?” Jaroch/J’Mer said.

“It’s red,” Rydell said in disgust.

“So’s your uniform,” Baird said. “What’s your point?”

“But it’s a subdued red. This is…”

“Bright and flashy,” Jaroch/J’Mer finished. “That is how it is supposed to look. Put it on.” Reluctantly, Rydell climbed into the bright red bodysuit, pulled the red cowl over his face, and fastened the even brighter red cape around his neck.

“How do I look?” Rydell asked even though he could already see the answer in Baird’s eyes. Baird managed to give Rydell a thumbs up before he collapsed into fits of hysterical laughter.

“Well, I happen to like mine,” Carr said, admiring the long, black dress Jaroch/J’Mer had made for her. She put the ornate, black face mask on and struck a dramatic pose. “It’s very becoming.”

“You got lucky,” Rydell said. Baird was squeezing into the yellow body suit that had been made for him.

“I sure didn’t,” Baird grumbled after he’d managed to pull the cowl over his head. “I look like a fu…” Rydell dove forward and clamped Baird’s mouth shut.

“That’s enough,” Rydell said. “Save the fireworks for the bad guys.”

“But I look like a giant chicken,” Baird protested.

“Oh no,” Jaroch’s voice said. Rydell and Baird turned toward him and saw that Jaroch was back in control. “This was not exactly what I had in mind,” Jaroch said, holding up the bright blue outfit he had made for himself.

“Well, you’re stuck with it,” Rydell said. “So hurry up and get dressed. It’s getting dark, and we have to be ready for Logash.”


Logash stood in front of his throne on a raised platform overlooking his minions. They were a pathetic bunch of brainless thugs, but they generally got the job done. There were only about thirty of them, but they’d managed to control the entire population of Felsten until now, and he was sure that four little travelers weren’t going to put up too much of a fight.

“Destroy them!” he shouted.

“Logash forever!” the men shouted in reply, then charged out of the throne room. Logash sat back down in his throne to wait. He figured that this little raid wouldn’t take very long. In less than an hour, he’d have the corpses of Mayor Ulster and the strangers lying in front of him. Ah, power was so nice.


Chapter Ten


“And this is the Atalanta,” Bradley Dillon said, calling up a holographic projection of a metallic burgundy starship. Commander Travis Dillon leaned forward a little in his chair to get a closer look while Hawkins yawned…again.

“Commander, how much longer…”

“Just a bit more, Lieutenant,” Dillon said, interrupting Hawkins’s whine. “It’s not like we have anything else to do at the moment. How fast is she, Bradley?”

“How fast is she? Is that all you care about?” Bradley asked, pretending to be hurt. “You are looking at one of the finest specimens of spacecraft that has ever existed.” He waved his hand over the image of the sleek craft. It was basically a triangular shaped hull with four warp nacelles mounted in back. “The Atalanta has been modified and equipped with the state-of-the-art in technological innovations. The replicators hold the recipes for more than thirty thousand meals. That’s more than even a Galaxy class starship. Her transporters have a range of twenty thousand miles, and she can sustain speeds of up to warp nine point six with no trouble at all. She beautiful isn’t, she?”

“Yeah,” Dillon replied in awe.

“And she can be yours for just one hundred thousand credits,” Bradley said, flashing a big smile.

“We’ll take it!” Dillon exclaimed, jumping out of his chair.

“What?” Hawkins yelled.

“You two will love it,” Bradley said. The cockpit is a nice, cozy two-seater, so you lovebirds can snuggle and fly at the same time.” Hawkins stormed over to Bradley, right through the image of the Atalanta.

“Look, President Dipshit, I’m NOT dating Commander Bat’leth-Up-His-Ass over there, so drop it, or you’re going to find it a lot harder to smile because I’m going to knock your teeth out and ram them into your skull, got it?”

“Yep. Sure do,” Bradley said, unfazed. “Now, I’ll just draw up a contract.”

“Bradley, do we really need to be here for this?” Dillon said. “You know where my bank is and stuff. I’ll sign the contract, and you can take care of the details.”

“That’s going to cost you an extra thousand credits.”

“I don’t care,” Commander Dillon replied, trying not to lose his temper. “Just take us to the Atalanta, so we can get the hell out of here.”

“I thought we weren’t in any hurry,” Hawkins said.

“I changed my mind,” Dillon said.

“All right. I’ll beam you up there now,” Bradley said. “It’s in orbit around this moon.” He touched a couple of buttons on his desk, and Dillon and Hawkins felt the familiar tingle of the transporter wash over them. “I want the first baby named after me,” Bradley shouted.

“I’m going to kill him,” Hawkins mumbled just before they dematerialized completely.


Transporter Chief Monica Vaughn looked at her console confused. A transporter had just been activated somewhere on the Secondprize, but it wasn’t in any of the transporter rooms. Nevertheless, it had happened. The console detected it. She ran a few quick scans to lock down the beam’s origin. It was in Holodeck Two. Someone must be using a transporter in their program. Nothing to get excited about. She sat back down in her chair and went back to reading her book.


“Commander, I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but what the hell are we doing?!” Hawkins demanded as she and Dillon got into the seats in the cockpit of the Atalanta.

“We’re going to try to catch up with the Secondprize,” Dillon replied, pushing a few switches to activate the engines. Hawkins looked at him in disbelief. Had he completely lost what little mind he had?

“We’re already on the Secondprize,” she said, trying to remain calm. Two Dillons in one day was really taking its toll on her nerves.

“I know that,” Dillon replied looking at her as if she were the stupidest person in the galaxy. “But did you want to sit there with my brother for the rest of the time that we’re stuck in here?”

“Good point,” Hawkins said.

“I figured that since we’re in a holodeck representation of real space, there would have to be a holodeck version of the Secondprize out here.”

“But how are we going to get to it? We don’t even know where we are, much less where it is,” Hawkins said.

“We’re in orbit above the third moon of Alpha Centauri Prime,” Dillon replied. “My brother’s had his dealership there for years. As for the Secondprize, we can just contact Starfleet and ask about its current position.”

“We don’t have to,” Hawkins said, suddenly remembering where Ambassador Baradda had ordered the Secondprize to go. “They’re…we’re heading toward the Pilam Cluster. We’re going to arrive there in another day or so.”

“Perfect!” Dillon exclaimed, punching in a course. “At warp nine point six that’s only twelve hours from here. We’ll get there long before they do and have time to intercept them.”

“Well, then what?”

“I don’t know, but I’d rather be on the Secondprize than here.”

“You aren’t enjoying my company?” Hawkins asked smiling. She was actually getting into a good mood for some reason. Probably because Dillon wasn’t annoying her at the moment. He was showing the decent side of himself again: something he didn’t do very often. Dillon really could be a pretty tolerable person at times. Hawkins had seen that when he’d asked her to be his first officer when he had command of the Edsel. During that mission, she realized that deep down inside the uptight ego-maniac exterior of Commander Travis Dillon there was a fairly nice guy. Too bad he was such a jerk most of the time.

“It’s not that at all,” Dillon replied returning the smile. “But I’d just rather be home right now, even if it is only a holodeck version.”

“I see what you mean,” Hawkins said. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Gladly,” Dillon said. He activated the impulse engines and pulled the Atalanta out of orbit and toward the edge of the Alpha Centauri system. Once out of the system, he activated the warp engines. The fixed stars became streaks of light as the Atalanta jumped into deep space.


Chapter Eleven


Night fell across Mandicor. Outside their window, Captain Rydell and the others could see the town lightsmen going about Felsten to ignite the street lamps. Up in the mountains overlooking the city, fires lit up the fortress of Logash.

“Do we really have to do this?” Commander Baird asked, pulling uncomfortably at his tights.

“We do not have much of a choice in the matter,” Jaroch said. “We are the only thing between the mayor and those marauders. Now, I suggest that we get ready to go to work.”

“Right, Jaroch,” Rydell said as he opened the window. “Everyone down the tree.” Baird grudgingly climbed out to the tree behind the mayor’s house and dexterously jumped down from branch to branch to the ground. Jaroch’s face glazed over then he let out a loud yodel and leapt into the tree. “J’Zan, I guess?” Rydell said, looking over at Ensign Carr.

“Sir, I don’t think this dress is going to hold up going down that tree,” Carr said. Rydell looked at the flowing dress, then out at the tree. She had a point.

“Not a problem,” Rydell replied. “Baird, Jaroch, incoming! Jump, Ensign.”

“But, I…”

“JUMP. That’s an order.” Carr shrugged and leapt out the window. She fell down straight into Jaroch and Baird’s arms. Rydell jumped down to the ground from the tree a minute later.

“Captain, this whole superhero bit would be a hell of a lot easier if we could fly,” Baird commented.

“I concur,” Jaroch added, rubbing his arm painfully. Before Rydell could respond, they heard a dull crashing noise in the distance.

“What was that?” Carr asked nervously.

“The town gate crashing in, I believe,” Jaroch replied.

“Okay, people. Everyone remember your names,” Rydell said.

“We have to use those, too?” Baird said. “I thought you were kidding.”

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather survive to get back to the Secondprize,” Rydell said. “If they find out who we are, the odds of that happening drop significantly. Now let’s go to work.” They headed off toward the city gate, hoping that they weren’t getting in over their heads by pretending to be superheroes. They were going to find out soon enough. Ten armed horsemen rode up on them a few seconds later.

“What the hell are you supposed to be?” the lead one asked after stifling his laughter at the sight of their costumes.

“We are the Star Fleet!” Jaroch announced dramatically. “I am Reincarnotron!”

“I’m the Exploding Expletive,” Baird said unenthusiastically.

“I’m Mad Man,” Rydell said.

“And I’m the Poetess,” Carr said.

“We have come to stop your reign of terror, vile ones,” Jaroch said. The horsemen had broken into gales of hysterical laughter again.

“I don’t think this is working,” Rydell said softly. The laughter stopped. All the horsemen were glaring at Rydell furiously.

“Kill them!!!” the leader screamed, charging his horse forward at them.

“I’m starting to feel like a real hinderance here,” Rydell said.

“If we don’t do something fast, we’re going to feel like a door mat,” Carr said.

“Stand back,” Baird said irritated. He stepped right into the path of the leader’s oncoming horse, a big smile spreading across his face. “Fuck you, pal,” he said almost friendlily. The leader exploded out of existence, surprising the hell out his horse, which ran off frightened. “Who’s next?” The other horsemen came to an abrupt halt and stared at each other in confusion. Suddenly, another crash sounded from behind them.

“That would be the rear gate,” Jaroch said.

“Great!” Rydell shouted. “You and…the Poetess go take care of the newcomers. We’ll take care of these guys.” Jaroch and Carr ran off down the street. Rydell’s words had jolted the horsemen out of their confusion, and they were rampaging toward him and Baird again. “Try not to kill them this time,” Rydell said as Baird prepared to take care of the situation.

“I’ll try something different. Shit!” The ground underneath the horsemen began to rumble and shake. The horses got scared and threw their riders to the dirt below. As the riders hit, the ground opened up and buried them up to their necks in the dirt. The nine men formed a lovely row of shouting heads sticking out of the ground.

“Nice work,” Rydell said in admiration.

“Thank you. But I’m suddenly in the mood for some soccer.” Baird took a few steps back from the row of heads, readying himself for his kick.

“Please no!” one of them wailed as he realized what Baird was going to do. “We surrender.”

“You heard the man,” Rydell said.

“Are you sure you mean it?” Baird asked the men smiling.

“Yes! Yes!” they all shouted in unison. “Just make your friend shut up!”

“Okay,” Baird said, pretending to be disappointed. “We’ll just leave you here for the townspeople to deal with.” He walked off down the street followed by Rydell. Jaroch and Carr ran up to them a few minutes later.

“How’d it go?” Rydell asked.

“We sent them running to the hills!” Carr said excitedly.

“The ensign requested that they abandon their attack,” Jaroch said, his voice tinged with disappointment. “I did not get to do anything.”

“Maybe next time, Jaroch,” Rydell said, putting his hand consolingly on Jaroch’s shoulder. “I promise that we’ll save some bad guys for you.”

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.” Jaroch turned and walked back toward Mayor Ulster’s house.

“The scary thing is that he actually means it,” Rydell said.


“Baradda to Sullivan,” the ambassador’s voice said from the comm system. Lieutenant Emily Sullivan just sat on her sofa in the darkness of her quarters lost in thought. She wasn’t sure that she really wanted to answer Fuil’s call. He hadn’t been acting like himself ever since Captain Rydell left the ship. Or maybe he was acting like himself now. In either case, she was becoming less and less enchanted with Ambassador Fuil Baradda.

“Baradda to Sullivan,” the comm system barked again.

“What?” Sullivan said finally. It couldn’t hurt just to see what he wanted.

“Are you busy right now?” Baradda asked. “If not, I would be very grateful if you would join me for a late supper.”

“Not tonight, Fuil,” Sullivan said. “I’m really tired. I just want to be alone this evening. How about tomorrow?”

“That will be…fine,” Baradda replied hesitantly.

“Is something wrong?”

“No. I will see you tomorrow. Good night, my dear.” The communication ended. Sullivan sat up straight, her mind racing. Something was definitely wrong with him. Maybe it was just his mission. It was evidently important considering all the secrecy surrounding it. She was being too hard on him. Fuil was under a lot of pressure. That was probably causing him to be a bit uptight on the bridge. She’d try to talk to him about it tomorrow and maybe calm him down some. Until then, she needed to get some sleep.


Myna paced his quarters nervously. The Secondprize would be in the Pilam Cluster and safely away from prying Federation eyes in less than twenty four hours. Then, he could complete his mission. Before then, though, he had to see Sullivan. Myna just couldn’t kill her before they had been together one more time.


“We’ll be at the Pilam Cluster in six hours,” Commander Dillon’s voice said over the intercom of the Atalanta. Lieutenant Hawkins looked up from the game she was playing with the ship’s computer and checked the chronometer.

“Any sign of the ship on the sensors?” she asked.

“Not yet, but we’re on the other side of the cluster from them. We won’t be able to get a reading for a while.”

“Why don’t you take a break for a while then? The ship can fly itself, and you haven’t left the cockpit since we left your brother’s place.”

“I know, but I just feel more comfortable up here,” Dillon replied. “I get nervous just leaving a computer in charge of the ship. Call me paranoid.”

“You’re paranoid,” Hawkins said with a laugh. “The Secondprize computer is generating this ship in the first place, so it’s already in charge. Now get some rest before you molecularly bond to that chair.”

“Is that an order, Lieutenant?” Dillon asked, clearly amused.

“Yes. You’re going to be useless when we get back to the pretend Secondprize if you don’t get some sleep.”

“You’re right, I guess,” Dillon said. “I’m coming back there in a second. Dillon out.” Dillon shut off the intercom.

“It’s about time, you uptight bastard,” Hawkins mumbled. She went back to her game.


Chapter Twelve


The next morning, Felsten was buzzing with tales of the mysterious beings that came in the night to drive away Logash’s thugs. Some said they were people; others called them gods, and no one knew exactly how many there were. Reports ranged from four to forty. In the end, no one really cared about the exact details. All that mattered was that Felsten was finally getting some help.

Mayor Ulster woke his guests up with excited knocking on their doors. Commander Baird opened the door of the bedroom groggily.

“Yeah?” he whispered.

“Have you heard?” Ulster shouted ecstatically. “We’re saved!”

“Great. Whatever,” Baird mumbled and shut the door.

“What did he want?” Rydell said, rubbing sleep from his eyes.

“Something about them being saved,” Baird said. He wandered back over to his bed and fell into it. There was another knock on the door a few seconds later.

“I’ll get this one,” Rydell said, pulling himself out of bed. Ensign Carr was at the door, fully dressed and obviously energetic.

“We’re heroes!” she exclaimed as she bounded into the room. “It actually worked.”

“You act as if you doubted me,” Jaroch said, sitting up in his bed. “You do realize that it had to work?”

“It did?”

“Yes. I devised it.” Rydell and Baird would have thrown something at him, but they didn’t have the energy. “Besides, Ensign, this is not quite over yet. We still have to deal with Logash.”

“Then what are you waiting for?” Carr demanded. “Come on. Get up! Let’s go up that mountain and show this Logash guy what we can do.”

“I can sleep for another couple hours,” Rydell said. “Now leave us alone. That’s an order.” Carr walked out of the bedroom dejectedly. Rydell was back asleep before the door even closed behind her.


Logash looked in disgust at what remained of his followers. Fifteen of his men had not returned from last night’s raid. The ones that did come back were rambling on about something called the Star Fleet and people in costumes. Logash was less than pleased at this turn of events. The time had come to take action.

“We shall spend today preparing for the fight to come. I want the catapults moved into position by dusk. Then the bombardment will commence. Tonight, Felsten will fall to us!”

“Hail, Logash,” the fifteen remaining followers chanted. Somehow it just wasn’t as impressive as it used to be.


“Any luck?” Lieutenant Hawkins asked as she entered the cockpit of the Atalanta. She squeezed herself between the two pilot seats and pushed passed Commander Dillon, ramming him against the side of the cockpit. Finally settled in the co-pilot’s seat, Hawkins looked at the sensor displays. They showed nothing but the nineteen stars which made up the Pilam Cluster.

“Not yet,” Dillon mumbled, prying himself off the side wall. “But if your information was correct, they should show up anytime now.” A large blip appeared at the top of the screen. “See.” Dillon’s hands flew across the command console as he steered the Atalanta toward the ship on the sensors. Hawkins checked the readings coming in from the newcomer. It was the Secondprize all right. No other ship in the galaxy had an engine power signature like that one. Commander Baird had worked for months to make sure that every number in the reading would be a four. Hawkins had never understood why he bothered. Of course, she also didn’t understand why he biked across mountains in sub-zero degree weather.

“This is Commander Travis Michael Dillon in command of the Atalanta,” Dillon said into the commpanel as the Secondprize came into visual range. “Open up shuttle bay two for us please.”

“What the hell are you doing out there?” the angry voice of Ambassador Baradda demanded.

“That’s classified,” Dillon replied smugly. “Now open the doors.” The sensor display in front of Hawkins began to alter alarmingly.

“They’re arming weapons!” she exclaimed.

“What?! They can’t do that!” Dillon said. He could see the red glow forming along the Secondprize’s phaser ring. A sudden calm washed over him. What did he have to worry about? He was in a holodeck. “Don’t worry. The holodeck’s safety program…”

“Has probably been shut down,” Hawkins finished. “If Baradda wants us out of the way, death is a pretty good method to make sure we don’t bother him anymore.” Dillon’s calm vanished. He started babbling incoherently. Hawkins slapped her commbadge, hoping that it would work with the badges of the holodeck Secondprize personnel. “Hawkins to Vaughn.”

“Vaughn here,” Monica Vaughn, the Secondprize’s transporter chief replied. “Where are you?”

“On the ship that you guys are about to blast to bits. Now, get us out of here!”

“Who’s us?” Vaughn asked confused.

“Commander Dillon and I. Energize, dammit!” Hawkins screamed. A phaser beam lanced out of the Secondprize destroying the Atalanta just as the transporter beam grabbed Hawkins and Dillon.

They rematerialized in Transporter Room Three in front of a really perplexed-looking Lieutenant Vaughn.

“What were you doing over there?” she asked.

“Not now, Monica,” Hawkins said, leaping off the transporter pad. “The bridge probably detected the transport, so Dillon and I have to get out of here. Thanks, though. I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you at your court-martial.” Hawkins ran out of the room, closely followed by Commander Dillon.

“My what now?” Vaughn called after them.

“Where are we going?” Dillon asked.

“The holodeck. We have to find a way to shut down this program and get back to our Secondprize. That seems like the best way to do it.”

“Then why are we going toward Holodeck Two?”

“Why not?” she said confused.

“Well, if this is a holodeck representation of our universe, then there are holodeck versions of us trapped in this universe’s Holodeck Two. We’ll just get stuck in there with them.”

“Good point. That could get really complicated.” They turned and headed off down a corridor leading to the other side of the deck.

Holodeck Three was in use when they arrived. Hawkins didn’t want to risk going down to Deck Eleven to get to Holodecks Four and Five, so she decided the direct approach was in order.

Hawkins and Dillon stormed into the holodeck to remove its occupant. They immediately wished that they hadn’t. Dillon and Hawkins fell into a pool of ice cold water. Frantically, they pulled themselves onto a large piece of ice floating nearby. Dillon felt a sharp tapping on his right hand as he lay on the ice trying to catch his breath. He looked up right into the face of a very angry looking penguin.

“Get offa my block!” the penguin shouted in a remarkable approximation of a Brooklyn accent. “This ain’t no hotel.”

“Watch your mouth, fishbreath,” Hawkins snapped as she stood up. The ice shifted under her weight and sent her flying back into the water. The penguin started laughing uncontrollably. Dillon reached over, grabbed the bird, and threw it into the water with Hawkins.

“Geez, bub. Chill out,” the penguin said. He started laughing again and swam off. Dillon reached an arm out to help Hawkins up onto the block again. She tried to pull herself up, but ended up pulling him into the water with her.

“Sorry, sir,” she said, stifling a chuckle.

“It’s alright, Patricia,” Dillon replied with a laugh. “At this point, I should have expected it.” The two of them were suddenly grabbed by the backs of their uniforms, plucked out of the water, and set down on the ice block.

“I am sorry about this,” Ensign Kristen Larkin said. She was dressed in a gigantic penguin suit. “I was not expecting visitors.” Dillon appeared to be in shock. He just gaped at the sight of the android in a bird suit.

“I know I’m going to regret asking this, but what are you doing?” Hawkins said.

“Counselor Webber suggested that I try to get in touch with different parts of myself,” Larkin said. “I am attempting to find the penguin part of my nature.”

“The penguin part?” Hawkins said in disbelief.

“Yes. Is there a problem?”

“Uh…no. I guess not, but Commander Dillon and I really need a holodeck right now. It’s a bit urgent.” Larkin’s face lit up with sudden understanding.

“May I stay and observe. I have never witnessed human sexual relat…”

“We’re not doing THAT!” Hawkins exclaimed.

“I am sorry for insinuating otherwise then. I will just go see if another holodeck is unoccupied. I believe I will check on the toaster part of my personality now. Computer, end program and exit.” The ice and water disappeared and the doors opened, allowing Larkin to leave.

“Try Holodeck Two,” Dillon shouted after her. “I’m sure it’s occupants could use a good laugh.”

“Excuse me, sir?” Larkin asked confused.

“Never mind,” Hawkins said, elbowing Dillon. Larkin walked away as the doors closed behind her. Dillon and Hawkins were alone in an empty holodeck.

“So, now what do we do?” Dillon asked.

“I kind of hoped you had an idea, Commander,” Hawkins replied, laughing weakly.

“Just call me Travis for now,” Dillon said. “I think titles are a bit out of place at the moment.”

“Okay…Travis,” Hawkins said slowly, trying to get used to saying it. She was so used to him being Commander Dillon or sir or moron or… anyway, this was definitely different. It was amazing how just the use of a first name as opposed to a title could make someone seem so much more human. “Do you have any ideas?”

“No,” he said glumly as he sat down against the wall. “But I’m sure we’ll think of something. Either that, or the holodeck Baradda will find us and throw us in the brig.”

“That doesn’t worry me,” Hawkins replied. “I can get out of there. I’m more worried that he’s going to kill us.”

“I bet you’re lots of fun at parties, aren’t you?” Dillon remarked.

“How would you know, Travis? You never get invited to any,” Hawkins shot back.

“Ouch. Not nice…but true. Why is that?”

Hawkins thought about how to answer him without completely hurting his feelings. There really wasn’t any way to do it.

“Well…you never let anyone get close enough to see that there’s a person inside the officious jerk,” she said. “Try loosening up a little.”

“But what about command authority and respect for officers and…”

“Captain Rydell is respected by every person on this ship, and he’s also their friend. I feel I could go to him anytime I had a problem.”

“You could come to me, too,” Dillon insisted.

“I know that now, but before…”

“I wasn’t approachable.”

“Exactly,” Hawkins said. “You can’t change the way you are overnight, but at least try. You won’t regret it, and neither will we. In fact, I’m sure the entire crew would be extremely grateful.” Dillon pictured going to parties, being the guest of honor, and just being liked. Maybe Hawkins was right.

“I’ll give it a try,” Dillon said finally.

“That’s great and all, but it’s not going to matter if we’re dead. We’ve got to get out of this program.”

“Right! Let’s get to work,” Dillon said. They both looked at each other waiting for someone to come up with a brilliant idea. No one did. They just stared at each other in silence. Finally, they both collapsed laughing.


Chapter Thirteen


Rydell staggered downstairs, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Commander Baird, Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, and Ensign Carr were seated around the dining room table in front of empty plates. Baird was putting the last bite of something in his mouth.

“Good morning,” Carr said.

“Unnnh,” Rydell murmured, throwing himself into an empty chair.

“Mayor Ulster has gone to the town hall,” Jaroch said. “Our activities last night created a bit of excitement among the citizens of Felsten.”

“Weirdos in costumes will do that to a place,” Baird said.

“I’m sure that Logash isn’t as thrilled,” Rydell said, waking up a bit. “We’re going to have to finish this fight before he has a chance to retaliate against the city.”

“Well, tonight we’ll…,” Ensign Carr began.

“Tonight may be too late, Ensign,” Rydell interrupted.

“Does that mean we have to go out in those costumes in daylight?” Baird asked.

“I’m afraid so,” Rydell replied. “We won’t put them on until we’re out of the city.”

“We’re going to them?” Carr gasped.

“Well, I wasn’t planning on inviting them here,” Rydell said. “Get the costumes and let’s go.”


“Let’s review the situation,” Commander Dillon said as he paced the empty holodeck-within-a-holodeck. “We’re trapped in a holodeck. And we’ve got a holodeck inside that holodeck. Baradda put us here, so…”

“Baradda!” Hawkins exclaimed. “Computer, create an image of Ambassador Fuil Baradda.” An older man with white hair and a long white beard materialized in front of her.

“That’s not him,” Dillon said.

“Yes, it is. No real ambassador would do the stuff that the guy on the Secondprize has been doing. We’ve got an imposter on board. I can’t believe I didn’t check this sooner. The captain took him at his word, so I did. Stupid!”

“We all believed him,” Dillon said. “But now that we know he’s a fake, how does that help us?”

“It doesn’t, but…wait a second! We CAN shut down the holodeck. We just have to overload its capabilities.”

“Yeah!” Dillon said, realizing what Hawkins meant. “If too many separate elements are requested, the holodeck overloads and terminates whatever program is running.”

“So all we have to do is ask for stuff until it can’t take it anymore. Computer, animate the Baradda image with his real personality.”

“Where am I?” the old man asked suddenly, looking around at his surroundings.

“Computer, create London, England circa 2056 on the front wall,” Dillon ordered.

“And Peking, China circa 1134 on the left wall,” Hawkins said.

“And the City of Khannei on Vulcan from this stardate on the back wall.”

“And San Francisco circa 1950 on the right wall.”

“Create a forty piece marching band playing ‘Happy Birthday to You on kazoos’,” Dillon said.

“And a complete performance of Hamlet.”

“And fifty clowns!” Dillon shouted.

“Travis!” Hawkins exclaimed, frozen with fear. She was scared to death of clowns.

“Oops, sorry,” Dillon said weakly. “I forgot. Computer, cancel the clowns, but give me twenty trained poodles jumping through flaming hoops.”

“And tap dancing elephants in tutus.”

“And a partridge in a pear tree!” Dillon shouted. The computer struggled to keep up with the barrage of orders, but was finally overwhelmed.

“Program terminated due to overload,” the computer said. As the elements Dillon and Hawkins had ordered began to disappear, the holodeck door opened and the imposter Baradda charged in carrying a phaser.

“Program terminated due to overload,” a computer voice boomed out of nowhere. The fake Baradda and the Secondprize corridor visible through the open holodeck doors wavered and vanished, replaced with a closed set of holodeck doors and an empty holodeck.

“Exit,” Dillon said. Nothing happened. “We’re back on the real Secondprize.”

“We never left.”

“I know. You know what I mean. We’re in our own holodeck. Now all we have to do is get the door open.” He and Hawkins raced over to the door. Hawkins popped open the access panel by the door and bent down to look in at the circuitry.

“Well, we can’t do it from this side,” she said as she stood up. “Somebody’s going to have to let us out.”

“Lovely,” Dillon said. “That could take days, and we’ve got an imposter on board with unknown intentions.”

“We know they aren’t good,” Hawkins replied. “Don’t worry. I’ll let someone know we’re here.” She leaned back down to the access panel and practically crawled inside as she started to work on the circuitry.


Myna walked rapidly out of the ready room and looked at the stars passing by on the main viewscreen.

“How much longer?” he demanded.

“Four hours,” Lieutenant Lisa Beck replied from the command chair. This trip was taking too long. He should have picked a closer destination, but he didn’t want any prying eyes around when he blew the Secondprize into space dust.

“Fine. I’ll be in my quarters. Let me know when we arrive. You have the bridge, Beck.” Myna headed up the ramp on the right side of the bridge toward the turbolift.

“You already gave me command,” Beck said.

“What?”

“You just said I had the bridge, but you gave me command three hours ago when you went into the ready room.”

“Well, I’m giving it to you again!” Myna shouted. He walked into the turbolift and was gone.

“He’s a bit high strung today,” Lieutenant Craig Porter commented from the science console.

“Tell me about it,” Beck said, settling back into the command chair. “Emily’s in for a tough night.”

“What?”

“She’s having dinner with him tonight,” Beck said. “Well, she said at lunch that he was probably tense about his mission.”

“Well, that’s great, but he doesn’t have to take it out on us. I mean he…” Porter trailed off as he noticed an indicator flashing on his console. At first the flashing seemed random, but soon he recognized it as Morse code. “Lieutenant?”

“What, Craig?”

“Uh…what I’m about to tell you may be a breach of the ambassador’s orders, so if you don’t want to know, tell me now.”

“Like I care about Baradda’s orders,” Beck replied as she stood up and walked back to Porter’s console. “What’s up?”

“Apparently, Lieutenant Hawkins and Commander Dillon are trapped in Holodeck Two. They want us to let them out.”

“Well, call engineering and…no. Wait. We’d better keep this to ourselves. No use risking anyone else’s careers. Can you get them out of there?”

“I’d have to go down there and see exactly what the problem is, but yeah, I can probably do it,” Porter replied.

“Good. Let’s go.” The turbolift doors opened, and Yeoman Tina Jones walked out. “You have the bridge, Yeoman,” Beck said as she and Porter walked past Jones and into the turbolift. Before Jones could reply, they were gone. She looked around at the mostly empty bridge. Ensign Ford and Ensign Krieger were at the helm and navigation consoles respectively, but otherwise the bridge was barren of life. Jones walked over to the command chair and sat down slowly, almost as if she expected it to come to life and tell her to go away or something. She finally sat down all the way and looked at the viewscreen in front of her. She was in command. The Secondprize was under her command. A huge smile spread across her face as she rubbed the arm rests. She was in command!


“What do you think?” Beck asked as Lieutenant Porter pulled himself out of the access panel.

“Well, I can fix it,” Porter said. “But it’s going to take a little while. Whoever did this knew exactly how to make it difficult on me.”

“Yes, I’m sure he was out to make your life a living hell, Craig,” Beck said. Porter pulled the hydrospanner out of the tool kit he’d grabbed from a supply locker on the way down to the holodeck. “I’ll try and make this quick.” He crawled back into the access panel and got to work.


Chapter Fourteen


Captain Rydell and the others got into their costumes about a mile from Logash’s fortress. Rydell had spent most of the trip trying to come up with an attack plan, but he wasn’t having much luck. He didn’t really even know what the fortress looked like, so devising a way to attack it was almost impossible. He finally decided just to wing it and see what happened. That method usually worked better than a plan anyway.

The group arrived at the narrow path leading to the ancient fortress’ front gate and ducked behind a large rock outcropping to discuss strategy.

“How many of them are near the gate?” Rydell asked. Jaroch held his tricorder out and quickly took a reading.

“Three,” he reported.

“How about armaments?” Baird asked. Jaroch took another reading.

“Swords and projectile weapons,” Jaroch said.

“Is there a back door?” Carr asked.

“Could you please decide on everything you want to know now, so I do not have to keep taking different readings?” Jaroch said, irritated. Rydell, Baird, and Carr all started demanding various information from Jaroch about everything from the number of rooms to the location of the kitchen. Jaroch finally had enough and walked determinedly toward the gate, his eyes glazing over as he did so. He knocked on the gate forcefully. It opened a little bit and a guard came outside.

“What do you want?” he demanded.

“Boot to the head,” Jaroch said. His foot hit the guard’s face in a flash. The guard slumped to the ground unconscious. Jaroch calmly stepped over him and entered the fortress.

“I guess this means raiding their kitchen is out,” Baird said.

“Come on,” Rydell ordered. “Jaroch can’t handle that whole place on his own.” They ran forward and entered the fortress. Two more guards lay dazed on the ground just beyond the gate. One of them struggled to stand up when Rydell approached, but Rydell knocked him back into unconscious with another boot to the head.

Two hallways stretched out to their left and right. They couldn’t see Jaroch down either one of them.

“Any idea which way he went?” Carr asked.

“We’re going to have to split up,” Rydell said. “You and Baird take the left. I’ll take the right.”

“But, sir, you can’t do anything useful,” Carr protested. She immediately regretted it when she realized what she had said. “I mean…your power…”

“I understand, Ensign,” Rydell said, suppressing a smile. “Don’t worry about me.” He took a pistol off one of the unconscious guards. “I’ll be fine.” He ran off down the right hallway and turned a corner.

“Come on,” Baird said, pulling Carr the other way. “The captain can take care of himself. They ran off down the other hallway and straight into six guards. The guards didn’t look happy to see them. Baird knocked the one closest to him backwards and jumped back a bit to get some room to work.

“Don’t!” Carr screamed, realizing what he was going to do. “You’ll bring down the whole place!” The guards pulled out their pistols.

“Bastard!” Baird shouted as he dove toward Carr, knocking her off balance. The two hit the ground just as a giant cloud of smoke exploded into existence and surrounded everyone. Bullets whizzed over their heads as they crawled back along the corridor.

“This is not going well,” Carr said.

“No shit,” Baird remarked. The stone underneath them rumbled and ruptured, sending them falling in the gaping crack that had formed. A few seconds later, the guards were at the top of the crack looking down at them.

“Hello there,” one of them said smugly as he aimed his pistol at Baird. “It appears that you have fallen into a bit of trouble.” Baird glared at them angrily. Suddenly, he had an idea. He just hoped his power could be that well controlled.

“Fuck,” he said in a real soft, high pitched squeak as he stared at the guard’s pistol. It exploded right in the guard’s hand. He fell to the ground screaming in pain as the others went for their guns. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” Baird squeaked as he looked from guard to guard. Four guns exploded and the remaining guard dropped his as he screamed and clutched his crotch in agony. “Oh well, one miss,” Baird said as he started climbing up the jagged rocks toward the top of the crack.

“I think that his genitals would disagree with you,” Carr said. She and Baird were finally back up on the floor. “Oh ugly guards of Logash whose asses we did kick. Go surrender in Felsten before you make us sick,” Carr ordered. The guards obediently got to their feet and limped off toward the main gate.


Rydell didn’t meet much resistance as we walked cautiously down the corridor. Jaroch had evidently gone this way. The unconscious bodies of several men littered the hallway. He passed doors leading into small, barracks-like rooms, an armory, and the kitchen Baird had been so eager to find. Finally, the hallway dead-ended at a huge set of ornate double doors. He entered quietly and saw Jaroch approaching the front of the room. There, on a raised platform, sat a large, muscular man on a throne. Two guards were rushing off of the platform toward Jaroch.

“Boot to the head. Boot to the head,” Jaroch repeated quickly. In a blur of motion, he kicked the guards, knocking them out completely. Jaroch advanced on Logash, his eyes locked upon the warlord. No one had noticed Rydell thus far, and he was relieved. Logash was a big guy, and Rydell wasn’t sure he could take him in a fight. Jaroch would have this wrapped up in no time. “I just love that outfit!” Jaroch suddenly exclaimed, throwing himself at the warlord. “That is very good workmanship.”

Great time for J’Mer the Tailor to pop out again, Rydell thought. But wasn’t Jaroch supposed to be in control of his past lives? Logash didn’t give Rydell anymore time to think about it. He clubbed Jaroch angrily, sending the Yynsian into unconsciousness. Logash pulled a dagger out of a sheath at his side and raised it over his head, preparing to stab Jaroch.

“Stop!” Rydell shouted, running forward. Logash’s head jerked upward to see who had spoken. “Don’t kill him.” Rydell’s mind raced. He’d better come up with something fast. Logash probably wasn’t going to pay any attention to lame lines like “stop” and “don’t kill him.”

“Silence!” Logash bellowed fiercely. “You lowly vermin! How dare you order me around!” Logash seemed to be getting pretty upset. Suddenly, Baird and Carr ran into the room. Logash screamed angrily and raised his dagger again.

“Captain, let me…”

“Not now, Ensign,” Rydell said, cutting Carr off. “I’m going to talk him out of it.”

“But you’re just going to make him madder,” Carr said.

“Exactly,” Rydell said. “Get ready to grab Jaroch and get out of here as soon as Logash moves away from him. Make sure to order the other guards you find to return to Felsten.”

“Yes, sir,” Carr said, unsure of what Rydell was up to.

“Ensign,” Baird whispered. “One thing you’re going to have to learn is to trust your commanding officers. They know what they’re doing.”

“Even Commander Dillon?”

“Well, there are always exceptions,” Baird said.

Rydell walked slowly toward the platform, hoping that he wasn’t about to get Jaroch and himself killed.

“Logash, listen to me,” Rydell said.

“I said be silent!”

“Come on now. You don’t even want to talk about this,” Rydell replied smiling.

“No, and especially not with you,” Logash said. His face reddening with fury. “You disgust me!”

“That’s not a very nice thing to say to someone you’ve just met. Why don’t you come down here and discuss things?” Logash screamed with rage and dove at Rydell with the knife. Rydell jumped backward, and Logash smashed face first into the cold stone floor. “You really should try to relax some,” Rydell said, leaning up against a pillar. “You could have a heart attack or something.” “You WILL die!” Logash said, picking himself up off the floor.

“Eventually,” Rydell agreed. “But not today.” Logash let out another battle yell and charged. Rydell side-stepped over to the platform, allowing Logash to plow headfirst into the pillar. “You’re going to get hurt if you keep this up.” Baird and Carr ran up to the platform, grabbed Jaroch, and headed out of the room.

“Hah! Your friends have abandoned you!” Logash shouted triumphantly. “Now, I will destroy you.” He ran at Rydell again. Rydell jumped up onto the platform just before Logash reached him. Logash’s midsection rammed straight into the edge of the platform. He sank to the floor, gasping for breath.

“I’ve been taking care of you quite nicely without my friends help,” Rydell said. He leapt down off the platform and strolled off towards the double doors leading out of the room.

“You…must…die,” Logash said weakly, as he stood up. He wobbled toward Rydell, barely able to even raise his knife. Rydell stopped walking and turned around to face his approaching adversary.

“Give it a rest,” Rydell said. He caught Logash’s arm and took the knife away from him. Then he spun Logash around a few times and let him go. Logash staggered sideways, smacking into the stone wall, and knocked himself unconscious. Rydell walked out of the room whistling cheerfully to himself.


Chapter Fifteen


Myna leapt off the sofa the second his door chime sounded.

“Come in,” he said as he straightened his suit. The doors opened, and Emily Sullivan walked in dressed in a floor-length, red sequined dress. “You look lovely, my dear,” Myna said. He took her right hand and kissed it gently. “I’m so glad you could come.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it,” Sullivan replied. “I’m glad to see you a bit more relaxed.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’ve seemed a bit one edge since the captain left the ship,” Sullivan said. “I guess with your mission and all…”

“What do you know about my mission?!” Myna demanded angrily. Was she on to him? Had she told any of the others?

“Fuil, relax,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t come here to…”

“What about my mission?” he bellowed, grabbing Sullivan’s shoulders fiercely. Acting on reflex, Sullivan slammed Myna in the stomach with her fist, slipped out of his grip, and flipped him onto his back on the carpet. “I will not allow you to stop me,” Myna gasped.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Sullivan said as she walked over to him. In a flash, he kicked upward, catching Sullivan in the head with his boot. She hit the floor unconscious before she even had a chance to register what had happened.

Myna looked down at her limp body. Perhaps he had overreacted a bit. Oh well, now was not the time for regret. He had a mission to complete, and anything that stood in the way of finishing it had to be eliminated. It was unfortunate that Sullivan had crossed him. He was looking forward to spending the last evening of her existence together. He picked her up and looked around for a way to quickly and quietly dispose of her.


“I think I’m almost there,” Lieutenant Porter said from inside the access panel.

“I don’t need the minute by minute update, Craig,” Lieutenant Beck snapped impatiently. “Just get it done.”

“O.K. O.K. That ought to do it.” The holodeck doors slid open. Dillon and Hawkins were seated against the back wall talking to each other. They fell silent in astonishment when they realized the doors were open.

“Thank God!” Dillon exclaimed. He and Hawkins jumped up and ran out of the holodeck, stomping on Porter’s legs that were sticking out of the access panel as they went.

“Where’s Baradda?” Hawkins demanded.

“Help me,” Porter moaned weakly. Beck pulled Porter out of the hatch. He lay on the ground, holding his legs and whimpering.

“Sorry, Porter,” Dillon and Hawkins said in unison.

“It’s alright,” he gasped.

“Now, where’s Baradda?” Hawkins said.

“He’s in his quarters,” Beck replied. Dillon and Hawkins started to run off toward the nearest turbolift. “But I wouldn’t go there if I were you. He’s having dinner with Emily.” Dillon stopped in their tracks, but Hawkins didn’t hear her and kept on going.

“Lieutenant Sullivan is with him?” Dillon said.

“Yeah,” Beck replied confused.

“Oh no.”


Myna pulled Sullivan up to the matter reclamation unit in the bedroom. She was a little bigger than the objects the unit usually handled, but Myna figured that it would break down her molecular structure fairly well. He would just have to stuff her in a little bit at a time. He put her left arm in the slot.

“Computer, energi…” The doors leading out into the corridor whooshed open, and Lieutenant Hawkins charged into the room.

“Put her down!” Hawkins ordered. Myna let Sullivan fall back to the floor and turned on Hawkins. He pulled a small pocket laser out of his coat.

“You should have stayed in the brig, Lieutenant,” Myna said. A smile spread across his face. “And you definitely shouldn’t have come her unarmed.”

“You killed Emily!”

“Not yet,” Myna replied. “And now it looks like you get to die first.” He leveled the laser at her. The whine of a transporter to his left drew his attention. Commander Dillon materialized in the room, holding a phaser.

“Drop it, pal!” Dillon ordered. “Get Sullivan out of here, Lieutenant.” Hawkins moved past Myna and dragged Sullivan’s unconscious body out into the hall.

“It would appear that I underestimated you, Mr. Dillon,” Myna said.

“I said put the laser down.”

“I’m afraid not.” Myna whirled toward Dillon and fired. Dillon dove to the ground as the beam lanced over his head. He rolled around to return fire, but Myna was gone.

Out in the hallway, Hawkins was attempting to wake Sullivan up when Myna ran out of his quarters at top speed. He pushed Hawkins into the wall and kicked Sullivan in the head again as he ran past toward the turbolift.

“Bridge,” Hawkins heard him say, just before the turbolift doors closed. Dillon ran out into the hall a second later.

“He’s headed to the bridge,” Hawkins said. Dillon slapped his commbadge.

“Dillon to transporter room. Two to beam directly to the bridge,” he said.

“Acknowledged,” Lieutenant Monica Vaughn replied. “Energizing now.” Dillon and Hawkins disappeared in a flurry of molecules, leaving Sullivan alone and unconscious in the hallway.

They materialized on the left side of the bridge just as Myna dashed out of the turbolift to the bridge’s rear. Yeoman Tina Jones leapt out of the command chair in astonishment.

“You’re relieved!” Dillon and Myna both shouted at once.

“This is my ship, Baradda or whatever your name is,” Dillon said. “I’m in command now, Yeoman.”

“Don’t listen to him,” Myna ordered. “As an ambassador, I have full command over this mission. Commander Dillon and Lieutenant Hawkins have been conspiring against this ship and its crew. You will obey my orders.” Jones looked from Dillon to Myna as the two began to argue with each other.

“Hold on a minute!” she screamed suddenly. The bridge fell silent. “I’m not relinquishing command to anyone until I’m sure what’s going on here!”

“He tried to kill Emily…and me,” Hawkins said, pointing at Myna.

“And me,” Dillon added. “And besides that, he trapped us on the holodeck.”

“And what did they do to you?” Jones asked Myna.

“Well, they…” Things were starting to look grim. He had to think of something fast. “They…” He panicked. They were onto him. He was going to have to get down to engineering and destroy the ship from there. He lunged forward and grabbed Ensign Larkin, who was on duty at the helm. Her head popped off as he tried to drag her out of the chair. Trying to remain calm, he pulled his laser out of his pocket and held it against Larkin’s surprised-looking head. “Now, back off, or I’ll kill her.” He backed up toward the turbolift. He didn’t notice the turbolift doors open behind him, or the angry woman in the long, red dress staggering out of it. Before he knew what hit him, Myna was repeatedly clubbed into unconsciousness by a high heel wielded by Emily Sullivan.

“One hell of a dinner date,” Sullivan said weakly. She tried to take another step, but collapsed next to Myna and joined him in oblivion.

“You’re relieved, Yeoman,” Dillon said.

“Yes, sir,” Jones said, who was also relieved to have the situation taken care of.

“Hawkins to sickbay. We need medical assistance on the bridge.” She walked over to Myna, picked up Larkin’s head, and stuck it back on her body. “Are you all right, Kristen?”

“I believe so,” Larkin replied. “Although, I think that Ambassador Baradda was pressing the laser a bit too firmly against my skull.” She reached up and plucked the small laser out of her ear. A young medic stepped out of the turbolift and started treating Sullivan as Hawkins crouched down by the unconscious Myna.

“I’m going to put him in the brig before he wakes up,” Hawkins said. “Besides, I need to tell Lieutenant Russell that he can take the wig off.”

“What?” Dillon asked.

“Never mind,” Hawkins replied laughing. “Hawkins to Vaughn.”

“Vaughn here.”

“Beam me and the unconscious jerk next to me to the brig.”

In the cascade of the transporter, she and Myna were gone.

“Set a course back to the Mandicor system,” Dillon ordered. “Maximum warp. I want the captain back on board as soon as possible. You have the bridge, Yeoman Jones. I’ll be in the ready room.” As Dillon walked off the bridge, Jones sat back down in the command chair. She was starting to get used to this. Captain Tina Jones: now that had a nice ring to it.


Chapter Sixteen


Captain Rydell found Baird, Carr, and the now-conscious Jaroch at the front gate of the fortress. Jaroch was scanning himself with his tricorder and looking concerned.

“Carr, go tell Logash and his remaining guards to surrender,” Rydell ordered. Carr looked at Jaroch worriedly, then re-entered the fortress to follow Rydell’s order. “What’s the problem, Jaroch? We just saved the city. You’re supposed to be happy about it.”

“Hooray,” Jaroch said flatly.

“Your enthusiasm is overwhelming,” Rydell said.

“I am sorry, Captain, but the possibility of death tends to dampen my mood at times.”

“Death? What are you talking about?”

“I was curious as to why I lost control of J’Mer when I faced Logash. After scanning Commander Baird, Ensign Carr, and myself, I have concluded that the radiation levels in our bodies have grown to such a level that spontaneous bursts may now occur at times.”

“I thought you said that the radiation wouldn’t hurt us,” Rydell said.

“The radiation itself will not harm us, but I believe we will probably be killed by an unexpected outburst of one of our powers.” Both men looked at Commander Baird.

“What are you looking at me for?” Baird demanded. “Who says that I’m the one who’s going to screw up?” The ground between Rydell, Jaroch, and Baird exploded. “What did I say? I didn’t cuss!” The ground exploded again.

“I would recommend that you remain silent as much as possible from now on,” Jaroch said. “That will at least reduce the risk of being blown to bits.”

“So, what can we do?” Rydell asked.

“Get off of this planet as soon as possible,” Jaroch replied.


“So, do you want to tell me who you really are?” Lieutenant Hawkins asked as Myna sat groggily on the bed inside his cell.

“I am Ambassador Fuil Baradda, and you have…”

“Oh, give it a rest!” Hawkins shouted. “Baradda’s about forty years older than you are.”

“He is?”

“Yes!”

“Oh.”

“Now who the hell are you?!” Hawkins demanded.

“It really wouldn’t mean anything too you,” Myna replied dejectedly. He stretched himself painfully out on the bed. “You won’t have heard of me.”

“Just answer the question.”

“I am an operative for the Audubans of Jeral.”

“The what of where?” Hawkins asked.

“See, I told you. You have no clue who I am.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, because you are about to be spending a very long period of time in a Federation penal colony, mister.” She turned and stormed out of the detention block. Where the hell was Jeral?


Rydell and the others were met by Mayor Ulster as soon as they entered the house.

“Have you heard?” he exclaimed joyfully. “Logash has surrendered!”

“That is wonderful news,” Jaroch said.

“Yes, I thank the moons that help came. The powers above do watch out for those of us below.”

“They certainly do,” Carr said smiling.

“You must come to the victory feast tonight,” Ulster said. “There you will truly see Felsten’s hospitality.”

“Thank you, Mayor, but I am afraid that we will be unable to attend,” Jaroch said

“We have to be on our way,” Carr added. “Now that Logash is gone, and it is safe for us to travel, we must move on.”

“I understand,” Ulster said.

“We thank you very much for your hospitality,” Carr said.

“It was a pleasure. Come back anytime.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” Rydell said.

“But leave him home,” Ulster growled angrily.


Dillon watched the starfield sail by in front of him as he sat in the command chair. Hours had passed since he ordered the ship back to Mandicor. He was just worried about what he would find once they got there. Dillon had no idea whether the captain and the others were even still alive. At least Hawkins’ information about the imposter had been helpful. The report on Jeral in the ship’s library computer had explained about the Audubans and their civil war. It was not a good situation. He had no idea, though, why an agent would be sent on board the Secondprize. What did they have to do with the Jeralian Civil War?

“Engineering to bridge,” the comm system barked suddenly.

“Dillon here. What is it?”

“Are we going to be slowing down anytime soon? You’re going to overload the engines!”

“We’re only going warp nine point four,” Dillon replied angrily. “According to page two ninety-seven, paragraph four of the Excelsior class operator’s manual, these starships are to have a maximum safe cruising speed of warp nine point six. I am not even out of the safety range yet, so quit complaining!”

“Aye, sir. Engineering out.”

“That’s not exactly a good way to endear yourself to the crew, sir,” Lieutenant Hawkins whispered from the tactical console behind Dillon.

“I know. I know. I just want to get to Mandicor as soon as possible.”

“We all do,” Hawkins said. “So calm down.”

“What’s our E.T.A. at Mandicor, Ensign?” Dillon asked as he settled back into the command chair, trying to relax.

“One point four hours at present speed,” Ensign Larkin replied.

“I just hope nothing happens to them before we get there,” Dillon said softly.


“I have a question, Captain,” Lieutenant Commander Jaroch said as he and the others hiked away from Felsten across the large field that they had crashed into originally.

“What’s on your mind, Jaroch?” Rydell said.

“I was just wondering how you are going to explain our actions to Starfleet Command. You and I both know that we stepped outside of the Prime Directive quite a bit while we were here. I do not believe that our superiors are going to accept the logic that you used to convince Ensign Carr that we were acting correctly.”

“I’m not going to explain anything to them,” Rydell said. “I don’t see any reason why we have to.”

“But we interfered with the course of development of this planet,” Jaroch insisted.

“Did we?”

“Feigning ignorance is not going to work, Captain.”

“This world doesn’t have any kind of planetary communication system. We were just in one small town. How much damage do you think we actually did?”

“We interfered in the development of Felston,” Jaroch replied. “Granted, our involvement may have hastened Mayor Ulster’s demise, but he was bound to run afoul of Logash eventually. We saved him and removed the threat to the entire town, a town that would likely have ceased to exist in the not-to-distant future either through its destruction by Logash or its abandonment by the townspeople attempting to flee him. We stopped all of that from happening.”

“Jaroch, did you, as a Starfleet officer, interfere with the development of Felsten?” Rydell asked. Jaroch thought about what Rydell was saying for second.

“Ah, I see what you are saying,” Jaroch replied.

“I’m just going to tell Starfleet that some unknown individuals saved the town while we, powerless to act, sat in the Mayor’s house and watched.”

“And the fact the these ‘unknown individuals’ had super powers?”

“Who’s going to believe that?” Rydell said. “It’s crazy talk!”

“There are those who would call you a menace to everything the Federation holds dear,” Jaroch said.

“And I’m lots of fun at parties, too,” Rydell said smiling. Suddenly, the ground underneath them began to rumble. Jaroch and Rydell jumped out of the way just before the dirt caved in beneath where they had been standing.

“I didn’t even open my mouth!” Baird shouted. A huge section of ground behind him exploded, sending dirt raining down on them.

“It has started,” Jaroch said.

“No kidding,” Rydell replied.

“May I recommend that we start running? If we keep moving, we may be able to keep a step ahead of Commander Baird’s explosions,” Jaroch said.

“It’s not my fault,” Baird insisted. The ground directly to his left exploded, almost taking Ensign Carr with it.

“Let’s move people!” Rydell shouted. They started running.


“We’re entering the Mandicor system now, sir,” Ensign Larkin reported from the helm console.

“Good,” Dillon said, jumping out of the command chair. “Go into orbit around…” He trailed off and looked at Hawkins questioningly.

“Mandicor Four,” Hawkins said.

“Entering standard orbit,” Larkin reported.

“Beck, hail the surface. Porter, find them now!”

“Aye, sir,” Lieutenants Beck and Porter said in unison.


The area around Rydell, Jaroch, Baird, and Carr had become a war zone. Explosions ripped the ground in every direction. It was so loud that Rydell almost didn’t notice the voice coming out of his commbadge.

“Secondprize to Rydell. Come in please,” Lieutenant Beck’s voice said. Rydell slapped the commbadge forcefully.

“Rydell here. Beam us up now!!!” he shouted above the explosions. “They found us, guys!!!” Rydell screamed joyfully.

“Thank fucking goodness!” Baird shouted. The transporter dematerialized them a second before the ground where they had been standing exploded.


Chapter Seventeen


“Captain’s Log. Stardate 49860.2. Happily, there have been no adverse effects from our experience on Mandicor. Our powers vanished as soon as we were outside of the planet’s radiation field. The last thing I need to deal with is Commander Baird accidently destroying the ship when he gets mad at the engines or something.

In other news, the real Ambassador Fuil Baradda arrived yesterday and filled us in on our real mission. It turns out that we are delivering Baradda to Jeral, so that he may start negotiations between the Audubans and their rivals, the Boirds. Baradda and I are beaming down with Myna, the Audubon operative placed aboard the Secondprize, to discuss the situation with the Auduban commander, Roost Leader.”


“I thank you for coming, gentlemen,” Roost Leader said as he leaned back in his desk chair. “But I do not think that negotiations are going to help us much. We need weapons.”

“That’s why you wanted a starship,” Ambassador Baradda said. He ran his fingers through his long, white beard idlely.

“Yes. That’s why we sent Myna to the Secondprize,” Roost Leader said.

“You were going to steal my ship,” Rydell said.

“No, I was going to destroy it,” Myna replied from the corner he was standing in.

“Destroy it? But why?” Rydell asked. “You had what you wanted.”

“We wanted a real starship,” Roost Leader said. “A Galaxy class.”

“Gee, thanks,” Rydell mumbled.

“Well, you may be surprised to see how much good negotiations can do,” Baradda said. “I will stay here as long as it takes to bring peace to this world.”

“I sincerely hope that you can,” Roost Leader said. “We will set up a meeting tomorrow with the Boirds to see where we stand, Ambassador.”

“I’ll be ready,” Baradda said. He turned to Rydell. “In the meantime, Captain, I’m sure that you would like to return to your ship and get underway.”

“Yes, but are you sure you’re going to be okay here?”

“I’ll be fine, Captain Rydell. I’ve handled situations like this several times.”

“Whatever you say, Ambassador.” Rydell tapped his commbadge. “Rydell to Secondprize. Beam me up.”


Lieutenant Beck, Ensign Larkin, and Lieutenant Hawkins went to Seven Backward for lunch as soon as they got off their shifts on the bridge. Understandably, talk centered around Jeral and the events of the last few days. The conversation had tapered off into a silence broken only by the sounds of chewing when the doors on the right hand side of the room opened and Emily Sullivan entered. At almost that exact same second, the doors on the opposite side of the lounge opened, and Scott Baird walked in. The both stopped in their tracks when they spotted each other.

“Asshole!” Sullivan shouted.

“Bitch!” Baird retorted. They both turned around and stormed out of the lounge.

“I guess it’s really over between those two,” Beck commented.

“Sure looks like it,” Hawkins said.

“I am sorry that they no longer like each other,” Larkin said.

“Trust me, in the end it’s probably better this way,” Hawkins said. She wiped her hands on her napkin and stood up. “I’ll see you two later.”

“Where are you going?” Beck asked. “I thought we’d spend the afternoon playing racquetball or something.”

“Sorry, I’m meeting Travis on the holodeck.”

“Travis? You mean Dillon!?” Beck exclaimed. “What are you doing with him?”

“We’re going to take a little cruise,” Hawkins said smiling. She walked out of Seven Backward toward the turbolift.


“You ready, Patricia?”

“All set, Travis,” Hawkins said.

“Computer, run program Dillon Twenty-three,” Dillon said. The holodeck around them blurred and was replaced by a wooden sailing ship. They heard shouts all around them as the pirates on the vessel realized they had been boarded.

“Shall we?” Dillon asked.

“I’d be delighted,” Hawkins said smiling. They raised their swords and attacked the nearest pirates. As Dillon was fighting, his mind wandered to Hawkins. This whole friendship thing was new to him, but he really liked it so far. It was nice to have someone to share some quality time with. He looked over at Hawkins just as she stabbed the pirate she was fighting and immediately moved on to the next one. She caught him looking at her and smiled.

Yes, Dillon thought, this is definitely quality time.



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