Author: Alan Decker
by Alan Decker
“Captain’s log. Stardate 50299.4. The Secondprize in en route to Vadax Prime to deliver supplies to the colonists there. Unfortunately, our course is taking us just a short distance away from Starbase Thirty-seven, the post commanded by Admiral Peter Colby, who has demanded my presence at a social gathering for a group of delegates from the Mindax system. I personally believe that officers should not be ordered to attend boring diplomatic functions. Starfleet regulations, however, see things differently. In any case, I will be travelling to the starbase by shuttlecraft while Commander Dillon continues the Secondprize’s mission.”
“Do you have clean socks?” Commander Travis Dillon asked, as he and Captain Alexander Rydell walked down the corridor to the main shuttlebay. Rydell stopped and glared at his first officer.
“All my clothes are in the replicator program. Do you think I would program in dirty socks?” Rydell said.
“Just checking,” Dillon replied. “These things are important. Now, have you reviewed the regulations on state dinners?”
“Sir, pardon my frankness, but your table manners are atrocious. Remember that dinner on Kaldor last month? I was worried you were going to ruin the entire peace treaty negotiations.”
“What are you talking about?” Rydell demanded.
“You used your dinner fork for your salad and your dinner spoon in the soup. My god, sir. It was completely wrong,” Dillon said. “You’re just lucky there were no admirals there.”
“I’m not listening to this anymore,” Rydell said, walking off down the corridor.
“I put a copy of the dinner regs in your travel case,” Dillon called after him. Rydell didn’t respond. “Have a good trip.” Rydell waved back without turning around. At least Dillon hoped he was waving back. He thought he saw Rydell’s middle finger extended into the air. Must of just been a trick of the light. Rydell was a bit unorthodox, but he’d never violate regulation 4699.4, sub-paragraph six.
Ensign Andrea Carr was waiting in the shuttlebay when Rydell entered.
“We’re all ready to go, sir,” she said brightly.
“I don’t suppose I could send Dillon in my place,” Rydell mumbled.
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s get out of here.” He and Carr boarded the shuttle and prepared for departure.
“Shuttlecraft Consolationprize is requesting permission to depart,” Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins announced as Commander Dillon stepped out of the turbolift onto the bridge.
“Give them the go-ahead, Lieutenant,” Dillon said, walking down to the command chair and taking a seat. “Lieutenant Sullivan, as soon as they’re away, continue on course to Vadax Prime.”
“Aye, sir,” Lieutenant Commander Emily Sullivan said from conn.
“They’ve cleared the shuttlebay,” Hawkins said.
“Acknowledged,” Dillon said. “En..”
“I am detecting three life-signs on the shuttle,” Lieutenant Commander Jaroch said suddenly from the science station at the rear of the bridge.
“What? There’s only supposed to be two of them,” Dillon said. “Did Carr take along her dog or something?”
“Negative, sir,” Jaroch replied. “All life-signs are human.”
“What the hell?”
“Estimated arrival at Starbase Thirty-seven in three hours,” Carr said, looking back into the passenger area of the shuttle from the cockpit.
“Thank you, Ensign,” Rydell said, looking up from his padd. “Find some music will you.”
“Aye, sir.” Carr turned back to the shuttle controls and started scanning through the music files. It never hurt to score a few points with the commanding officer by impressing him with her knowledge of his musical tastes. Now what was the name of the guy the captain liked so much? It was something royal. Duke? King? The King! Elvis! That had to be it. She punched up an album of Elvis’ greatest hits. Soon, the gentle strains of Hound Dog were filling the shuttle.
“Yes, sir,” Carr said, looking back.
“What is this?”
“Elvis, sir. I thought you liked the King.”
“It’s Prince. I like Prince.” Although, Rydell had to admit that this was pretty decent. He needed to do some investigating when he got back to the Secondprize.
“And I like Mozart. So what?” an unfamiliar voice said from behind him. Rydell whirled around and came face to face with a young man holding a phaser. “That’ll be all for now, Ensign.” He fired, sending a stun bolt slamming into Carr’s chest before Rydell could react. The man kept his phaser leveled on Rydell as he walked up to the cockpit, shoved Carr out of the way, and pushed a few buttons on the controls.
“Who are you?” Rydell said, trying to sound friendly.
“You don’t recognize me?”
“Should I?” Rydell replied, studying him. He couldn’t be any more than twenty.
“I’ve been on the Secondprize for the last two years. I just thought that you might recognize my face or something.”
“Sorry,” Rydell said, shrugging his shoulders.
“My name’s Michael Rennicks. Now, are you remembering anything?”
“Well…there’s a Lieutenant Rennicks in Engineering, I think. Are you her son?”
“Bingo. I guess that quick thinking is why they put you in command of a starship, but they couldn’t give me what I wanted. Oh no! Not little Mikey.”
“What was it that you wanted?” Rydell said, hopeful that he could talk his way out of this.
“You’ll find out soon enough. Now just sit there and be a good hostage for the moment. We’re just going to sit tight a minute and let your crew get worried.”
“Any response to our hails?” Dillon asked, pacing the command area. Dillon was worried. Jaroch had detected a phaser blast a few moments earlier, and then some sort of energy field went up around the shuttle, preventing Dillon from beaming Rydell and Carr out of there. Now, the shuttle wasn’t responding to any hails.
“Nothing, yet,” Lieutenant Hawkins replied.
“What about that energy field?”
“The shuttle’s engines have been reconfigured to produce distortions,” Jaroch said. “They appear to be occurring randomly, preventing us from finding a pattern.”
“Have they altered course?”
“No, the shuttle is still headed towards Starbase Thirty-seven,” Hawkins said.
“Stay behind them.”
“What do you propose to do?” Jaroch said.
“I don’t know yet,” Dillon replied.
“Then I recommend that you let me handle this.”
“Why you?” Dillon said.
“Look at the facts,” Jaroch said walking down to the command area by Dillon. “There is a third person on board that shuttle who presumably has a phaser. The phaser has been fired, but all life-signs are still present, indicating that this person wants Captain Rydell and Ensign Carr alive.”
“So they are now hostages,” Jaroch said. “Not to belittle your…abilities, but hostage negotiations are extremely delicate. I do not know if you are capable of handling them successfully.”
“What are you trying to say?” Dillon demanded. “That I’m going to get Captain Rydell killed?”
“To put it bluntly, yes.”
“Those are strong words coming from a borderline psychopath, nutboy,” Dillon said.
“You did not just say that,” Jaroch said quietly.
“Oh, yes I did,” Dillon said. “You’ve got at least ten weirdos living inside that skull of yours, and you think I’m going to get the captain killed. I’m sure J’Ter, the prince of subtlety, will do a much better job.”
“Excuse me, Commander Incompetence. How many times have I saved your ass from oblivion?” Jaroch said.
“I’ve never needed your help,” Dillon said. “And if I did, I’d go find a real scientist. Somebody stable.”
“They’d tell you the same thing I’m about to.”
“And what’s that?”
“Fuck off, you overblown, egotistical moron! The only ship of your own that you’re ever going to command is a bathtub toy!” Jaroch shouted.
“That’s it!” Dillon took a swing at Jaroch, which the science officer easily dodged. He dove in, grabbing Dillon by the neck and started choking him.
“Boys! BOYS!” Hawkins shouted. Jaroch ignored her. She leapt over the tactical console to the command area and threw Dillon and Jaroch apart. The two men started to move towards each other again, but were floored by quick boots to the genitals. “Now, are you two going to behave?” Hawkins said. “The captain’s life is in danger here!”
“You’re right,” Dillon gasped.
“Absolutely,” Jaroch squeaked.
“Good,” Hawkins said. “Now, don’t make me do that again, or I’m going to kick your testicles into your eye sockets.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Dillon and Jaroch grunted in unison.
“I’m sure they’re sufficiently worried by now,” Michael Rennicks said, stepping over Carr into the cockpit. Rydell gradually leaned down, grabbed Carr’s leg, and dragged her back into the passenger area.
“Andrea. Andrea,” he whispered, trying to bring her back into consciousness. She stirred a bit, but then slipped back into dreamland. Rydell was going to be on his own for a little bit longer at least.
“The shuttle’s hailing us,” Hawkins said surprised.
“On screen,” Dillon and Jaroch said. Dillon glared at Jaroch.
“Let me handle this,” Dillon said. He turned back to the screen just as the image of the shuttle gliding through space was replaced by the face of a young man. Dillon knew he had seen him before, but he wasn’t sure where. That could wait, though.
He straightened himself and took a step forward.
“I am Commander Travis Michael Dillon of the Federation Starship Secondprize. I demand to know why you’re holding two of our crewmembers.”
“I know who you are, Commander. My name is Michael Rennicks, and I’m holding your colleagues until my demands are met,” Rennicks replied.
“And just what are your demands?” Jaroch asked, stepping forward to stand beside Dillon. Dillon glanced over at Jaroch, then took another step toward the viewscreen.
“But understand that we are under no obligation to meet your demands,” Dillon said.
“And I am under no obligations to keep your captain alive,” Rennicks said.
“Do not do anything that we would all regret,” Jaroch said, taking two more steps and passing between the conn and ops consoles.
“Yes,” Dillon said, running past Jaroch and standing directly in front of the viewscreen. “There’s no need for bloodshed. You are in charge here.”
“Exactly. Now then, I want you to pull the Secondprize back another fifty thousand kilometers.”
Captain Rydell listened to Rennicks’ conversation with Dillon and Jaroch from the back of the shuttle. He moved over in his seat just enough to be able to see the image of the Secondprize’s bridge on the shuttle’s viewer. A quick glance at the shuttle control console told him why he hadn’t been beamed out yet. Rennicks had altered the engines to create a field that interfered with transporter operations. So, the Secondprize couldn’t get him out of there, but maybe he could still get onto the Secondprize. Rydell made sure that he was clearly in view behind Rennicks and set his plan in motion.
On the Secondprize bridge, Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins listened to the dialogue between Rennicks and Dillon with increasing boredom. They were negotiating over how far the Secondprize would pull back. Personally, Hawkins just wanted to takes the shuttle’s engines off-line with a few phaser blasts. With the engines gone, they could easily beam back Carr and Rydell. She could see the two of them on the viewscreen behind Rennicks. Carr was obviously unconscious, but Captain Rydell was fine. Hawkins stared a little harder. It looked like…
Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, also bored, walked by Hawkins on his way back to the science station.
“Jaroch,” Hawkins whispered. “Come here.”
“What is it, Lieutenant?” Jaroch said, obviously annoyed that Dillon, rather than he, was handling the hostage negotiations.
“Look at Captain Rydell. Is his mouth moving?” Jaroch looked at the viewscreen a moment.
“I believe you are right. But I cannot make out what he is saying. Come with me…discreetly.” The two officers unobtrusively moved back to the science console. Jaroch brought the image from the viewscreen up on his monitor and magnified the captain. “He appears to be repeating the same two words over and over.”
“Tractor beam,” Hawkins said softly.
“Of course. The engine distortions may be affecting the transporters, but we will still be able to lock on a tractor beam.”
“But won’t that anger Rennicks. He could kill Rydell or Carr.”
“That is a chance the captain appears willing to take,” Jaroch replied.
“How do we tell Commander Dillon?” Hawkins said.
“We don’t,” Jaroch said. “This is a direct order from the captain.”
“Good point,” Hawkins said, a smile spreading across her face.
“Get ready and wait for my signal,” Jaroch said. Hawkins walked back to her console.
“All right,” Commander Dillon said. “Forty-eight thousand six hundred and twelve kilometers. That’s my final offer.”
“Agreed,” Rennicks said. “Then, we will discuss my demands.”
“Now, Lieutenant!” Jaroch said.
“Now what?” Dillon asked turning around.
“Engaging tractor beam,” Hawkins said.
The shuttle rocked violently as the beam from the Secondprize locked on.
“NO!” Rennicks screamed. “This can’t be happening.” He turned angrily on Rydell, phaser drawn.
“It’s happening, all right,” Rydell said, kicking the phaser out of Rennicks hand and sending it flying across the shuttle.
“You did this…somehow,” Rennicks said.
“Ding ding ding. You win today’s prize.” Rydell threw a right, catching Rennicks across the jaw. Rennicks staggered, then recovered with a flurry of rights and lefts. Rydell held up his hands to guard his face, but the speed and fury of Rennicks’ blows was taking its toll. Rydell fell back, hitting a chair and flipping backwards. A moment later, Rennicks’ incredibly angry looking form was standing above him.
“All I wanted was to get into the C.I.G., and you had to turn it into this,” Rennicks said. He kicked Rydell in the side, knocking the wind out of him.
“The C.I.G.?” Rydell gasped. “The Culinary Institute of the Galaxy? Cooking school.” Rydell half-laughed and half-wheezed. “All of this because you wanted to go to cooking school?”
“YES!” Rennicks kicked Rydell violently a couple more times. “I WANT TO COOK! DAMN YOU!” He pulled his foot back and took aim at Rydell’s head.
“Don’t do it,” Carr’s voice said from behind him. Rydell could see she was aiming Rennicks’ phaser at him.
“I just wanted to cook,” Rennicks said softly, his voice quivering as tears welled up in his eyes. “They said my beef stroganoff wasn’t good enough.”
“I’m sure it’s wonderful,” Rydell said reassuringly as he stood up.
“It is. Oh, it is,” Rennicks said, his eyes brightening. “So’s my Chicken Marsala. I’m a good chef. I really am.”
“No doubt,” Rydell said. Rennicks faced suddenly clouded.
“Oh god. They’re going to put me away for this. I’m never going to be able to cook.” He looked at Rydell pleadingly.
“Yes, you will,” Rydell replied. After being taken hostage and punched and kicked, he still felt sorry for the kid. “You can cook on the Secondprize. We don’t have a cook.”
“But the replicators…”
“Forget the replicators,” Carr said. “Nothing’s as good as real, expertly-cooked food.”
“As of today, you’re in charge of the ship’s galley,” Rydell said. “No one’s ever used it, so you have some work to do, but if you’re up for it…”
“I won’t let you down, sir,” Rennicks said gratefully.
“Glad to hear it.”
Dillon, Jaroch, and Hawkins ran into the main shuttlebay at full speed, phasers drawn, as the Consolationprize touched down on the deck.
“Get ready,” Hawkins said.
“Yeah, don’t miss,” Dillon said.
“Thank you for that valuable tip, sir,” Jaroch said.
The door of the shuttle opened, and Rennicks leaped out.
“I’m going to be a cook!” he shouted happily. “Beef stroganoff! Pasta primavera! Chicken Marsala! Prime Rib!”
“Drop him,” Dillon said.
“Gladly,” Hawkins said. Three phasers fired, and Rennicks hit the floor unconscious.
“Psycho,” Jaroch muttered.
“Look who’s talking,” Dillon said.
“Do not start with me.”
“Guys!” Hawkins shouted.
“Sorry,” Dillon and Jaroch said.
“Captain’s log. Stardate 50299.9. Due to circumstances beyond my control, namely Michael Rennicks’ timely intervention, I was unable to attend Admiral Colby’s dinner. Damn. On a brighter note, Mister Rennicks has recovered from the warm reception Commander Dillon, Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, and Lieutenant Hawkins gave him. He is hard at work converting the galley into the ultimate kitchen. If he’s as good at manipulating food as he was at manipulating shuttle engines, we should in for some damn good eating.”
“Captain’s log. Supplemental. I was wrong. I have requested an emergency shipment of extra strength antacids from Starfleet, since we used up Dr. Aldridge’s supply after trying Mister Rennicks’ beef stroganoff last night. At least, he didn’t make any dessert. I doubt that any of us would have lived.”