Author: Alan Decker
by Alan Decker
“Captain’s Log, Stardate 51017.3. The recent transfers of Ensigns Kristen Larkin and Zachary Ford off of the Secondprize have left the bridge crew a bit on the short-handed side. Specifically, we now don’t have an operations officer. Needless to say, I’m a bit concerned. Starfleet has been plucking people off of my ship like we’re some kind of galactic temp agency, and I’m sick of it. Commander Dillon has been kind enough to lodge a formal protest through the proper channels. I fully expect to get a response to this protest sometime around the twenty-eighth century. Cynicism aside, I have an empty chair on my bridge that I need to fill. I have someone in mind. Now, I just need to see if she’s ready.”
Ensign Andrea Carr ran out of her quarters at top speed, inducing a confused bark from her dog, Morgaine le Fur. Ignoring her beloved pet, Carr raced towards the shuttlebay.
“Computer, what time is it?” she asked as she ran.
“The time at the tone will be seven hundred hours and six minutes…BEEP.”
“Damn.” She was supposed to have left the Secondprize six minutes ago to pick up Admiral Cooper for his inspection tour of the ship.
It took her two more minutes to get to the main shuttle bay. She burst through the doors completely out of breath and collapsed at the foot of a shuttle. Lieutenant Linda Kaplan, the shuttlebay control officer, walked over to her prone body.
“Running a little behind, aren’t we?” Kaplan said, giving Carr a soft nudge with her boot. Carr rolled over to look up at her.
“I…overslept. Are…they…mad?” Carr gasped, trying to catch her breath.
“They don’t know,” Kaplan replied. “I told the bridge your departure was delayed by a mechanical failure, but that you’d be ready to go at any time.”
“I love you,” Carr said thankfully, hugging Kaplan’s knees.
“That’s nice, but I don’t think my husband would approve,” Kaplan said, helping Carr to her feet. “Now, your pre-flight check is all done, so get out of here.”
“I owe you big for this,” Carr said.
“Just go before Dillon calls again to tell me how behind schedule you are,” Kaplan replied smiling. Carr ducked into the shuttle and sat down at the control console.
“Shuttlecraft Consolationprize to bridge. I am ready for departure.”
“That’s good to hear, Ensign,” Commander Travis Dillon’s voice replied. “Your problems have put you ten minutes behind schedule.”
“Aye, sir. Clear me for departure, and I’ll try to make up the time on the way.”
“You’re clear. Dillon out.” As always, the Secondprize’s first officer was charm incarnate.
“Opening shuttlebay doors,” Kaplan’s voice said. A moment later, the giant grey barrier separating the shuttlebay from the vacuum of space opened revealing the void beyond.
Carr lifted the shuttle up gracefully from the deck and guided it out into the blackness.
Four hours later, Carr looked up from her padd as the shuttle’s proximity sensor flashed to life. She checked the sensors. A vessel was approaching rapidly. Carr reached over and activated the comm system.
“This is the Federation Vessel Consolationprize to approaching ship. Please identify yourself.”
“This is the U.S.S. Horizon. Prepare to receive Admiral Cooper,” the voice replied. Between Dillon and the Horizon, it obviously wasn’t a great day for conversation.
“Acknowledged, Horizon,” Carr said as she watched the Nebula class starship approach. “Energize when ready.”
A moment later, she heard the whine of a transporter behind her. The Horizon shot into warp as soon as transport was complete. Carr turned to face the new arrival. He was an older man, about sixty, with straight black hair that was starting to show streaks of grey.
“Coffee,” he said, sitting down in the co-pilot’s seat beside Carr.
“The replicator is in the back, sir,” Carr replied as she set the shuttle on a course back to the Secondprize.
“Andrea Carr, sir.”
“Ah. Ensign Carr, you haven’t quite grasped how this works.”
“Excuse me?” Carr said.
“You see, I am an Admiral. You are an Ensign. That means when I say I want coffee, you go get me coffee. It’s that whole chain of command thing.”
“Yes, sir,” Carr said. She put the shuttle on autopilot and went to the replicator in the back. For once, Carr kind of wished that she had Dillon around. He’d know whether Cooper really could order her to get him coffee. In any case, he definitely hadn’t made the best first impression.
“Since you didn’t bother to ask, I like it with cream and lots of sugar,” Cooper called from up front. He wasn’t doing anything to improve Carr’s opinion of him. That was the problem with being an ensign. They got all of the abuse. Captain Rydell and Commander Dillon never had to fetch coffee for people. Neither did Lieutenant Commander Jaroch or Lieutenant Hawkins or Lieutenant Sullivan or…
“And I’d like it before we reach the Secondprize,” Cooper said, breaking into her thoughts.
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir,” Carr said. “Computer, coffee, cream, extra sugar.”
“Please specify blend,” the computer said.
“Any time now, Ensign,” Cooper said, his voice getting testy. Blend? Carr never drank coffee. How was she supposed to know anything about blends.
“Uh…sir?” she said.
“Are you finding coffee too difficult? What kind of ship is Rydell running over there?” Cooper said. He wasn’t making this any easier on her, but Carr was not about to let the Secondprize look bad…or any worse than it already did. She would just have to handle this herself. It was only coffee.
“What kinds do you have?” she asked the computer softly.
“Amaretto, Barrillo, Bonialia blossom…”
“Stop. Bonialia blossom sounds good. One cup of that with cream and lots of sugar,” Carr said. Bonialia blossom had a nice sound to it. Bonialia. Good word.
The replicator materialized the coffee, and Carr took it up to Admiral Cooper, whispering bonialia as she walked.
“Thank you,” Cooper said, taking the coffee. It was obvious that he didn’t mean it. He put the steaming mug to his lips and drained it in seconds. He suddenly slammed the mug down on the control console and turned to Carr with a huge smile on his face.
“Now that was a damn fine cup of coffee!” he said, then fell backwards against the side viewport unconscious. Carr screamed and hit the controls in surprise, sending the shuttle into a nosedive. After she peeled herself off of the viewport and stabilized the craft, she pulled Cooper into the back and lay him down between some seats.
“Admiral? Admiral? Are you OK? Please wake up.”
She got nothing in response other than soft, labored breathing.
“Computer, can you tell what’s wrong with Admiral Cooper?”
“Admiral Cooper is in a state of impaired mobility to due his complete unconsciousness,” the computer replied.
“No kidding. Why is he unconscious?” Carr asked, irritated.
“The most likely reason is that Admiral Cooper drank an entire cup of Bonialia blossom coffee.”
“Bonialia blossom is highly poisonous to humans,” the computer said.
“You could have mentioned that earlier!” Carr shouted. Oh great. She’d killed an admiral. This was definitely not the best way to get promoted. “How long does he have?”
“Without medical attention, most humans die within three hours of ingesting Bonialia blossom.”
“How did I know?” Carr muttered. It would take her just about four hours to get back to the Secondprize. That was one hour too long…unless she took a short cut. She had looped around a sector that was the home of the Audrianis, but they had a tendency to shoot at visitors and passers-by. Unfortunately, she didn’t have much choice.
Carr sat back down at the controls and changed course. Hopefully, the Audrianis wouldn’t notice one little shuttle.
The door chime of Captain Alexander Rydell’s ready room sounded loudly, saving him from the reports he’d been forcing himself to work on.
“Come in,” Rydell said. Commander Dillon stepped into the room. Dillon wasn’t the most welcome guest in the world, but at least he was better than the reports.
“All decks report that they are ready for the inspection, sir,” Dillon said.
“I hate inspections,” Rydell said.
“They are a necessary part of the military structure,” Dillon replied as though he was reciting regulations.
“Oh yeah? Why?” Rydell demanded, standing up to confront his first officer.
“Well…they…promote discipline,” Dillon replied.
“Doubtful. Try again.”
“Uh…they give admirals something to do?”
“Bingo! That’s it exactly. They give admirals something to do and waste our time.” Rydell sank back down into his chair. “Maybe something will happen to Admiral Cooper on the way here.”
“Not likely,” Dillon replied. “He’ll probably just be cranky after a boring shuttle trip.
Carr banked hard to avoid the phaser blast lancing toward the shuttle. She heard a dull thud as Admiral Cooper rolled into the wall in the rear compartment.
“Sorry, sir,” she called back to the unconscious admiral. Her attention was quickly drawn back to the situation at hand as the Audrianis fighter looped around and made another run at her. Carr increased speed, racing straight toward the other vessel, then pulling up just before the Audrianis ship fired. Cooper fell toward the back of the shuttle, coming to a bone-jarring halt as his body smashed into the rear bulkhead.
“I don’t have time for this,” Carr muttered as she passed over the Audrianis fighter and kept going. On her tactical monitor, she saw the fighter turning to pursue her. Carr really wished that she’d taken a runabout on this trip. Instead, she was in an unarmed, unshielded shuttle with a maximum speed of warp two. Maybe she could talk her way out of it. She reached over and activated the comm system.
“This is the Federation Shuttlecraft Consolationprize to the Audrianis vessel. Please respond.”
“What do you want, Federation trespasser?” an angry voice replied.
“Well, safe passage would be nice,” Carr said. Another phaser barrage seared by the port side of the shuttle. The fighter was gaining on her.
“No,” the Audrianis said.
“I have a very sick man on board. If I don’t get him to medical attention soon, he will die.”
“Then let us kill you, so you can stop worrying about it.”
“Your offer is tempting, but no,” Carr said.
“Suit yourself.” Four more blasts flew by the shuttle. Carr put the shuttle into another dive and reduced speed. As Admiral Cooper rolled toward the front of the cabin, the Audrianis ship flew over her. She leveled the shuttle off, stopping Cooper’s forward movement and placing herself right behind the Audrianis ship.
“Consolationprize to Audrianis vessel. Surrender or die,” Carr said.
“Yeah right. Shuttles aren’t armed,” the voice replied.
“You folks must be a little behind on your spying. Now, surrender or face the wrath of the…bonialia blaster!”
“You’re joking,” the voice said. Carr hit the mute button.
“Computer, increase power to the replicator by three hundred percent.” She opened the comm channel again. “I’m powering it up now. Do you really think I’m joking?”
“Come on. That stuff makes great coffee, but a weapon?”
“Yes,” Carr replied. “Now, power down your phaser banks.” The Audrianis ship suddenly banked right and made a break for it. Carr took the opportunity to get the hell out of there at top speed.
“Consolationprize to Secondprize. Request permission to dock. Have an emergency medical team waiting for us.”
“What?” Commander Dillon’s voice replied.
“Open the damn door,” Carr said. “Admiral Cooper is dying.”
“Permission granted,” Dillon said quickly. The giant door of the Secondprize’s main shuttlebay rose slowly, revealing the landing area. Carr steered the shuttle in and touched down just as Dr. Aldridge rushed in followed by a couple of nurses with an anti-grav stretcher. They gingerly lifted Cooper onto the stretcher and raced off to sickbay. Lieutenant Kaplan walked over to meet Carr as she disembarked from the shuttle.
“Eventful trip?” Kaplan asked.
“I should have stayed in bed,” Carr replied.
“What? And miss all the fun you obviously had?”
Back in her quarters a few hours later, Carr received the call she had been dreading since arriving back on the Secondprize.
“Rydell to Carr.”
Morgaine le Fur sat up and looked around for the source of the voice.
“Please report to my ready room.”
“Aye, sir. Carr out.” She sighed and got up from her sofa. Her dog walked over and looked up at her expectantly. “You can’t go this time. I’ll take you for a walk as soon as I get back.” She headed out of her quarters toward her impending doom.
“Sit down, Ensign,” Captain Rydell said as she entered the ready room.
“Yes, sir.” Rydell looked at his desk console in silence for a few moments. Carr got even more nervous than she had been when she entered. After about two minutes, she couldn’t take it anymore.
“Is Admiral Cooper all right?”
“Let’s see,” Rydell said, his voice growing louder with each word. “You poisoned him, then sent him bouncing around the shuttle like a basketball!”
“I’m just playing. He’s fine,” Rydell said, a smile breaking across his face.
“In fact, when he regained consciousness, all he did was rave about that damn fine coffee you served him. He was so overwhelmed that he’s decided to forgo the inspection and just say that we passed.”
“Really?” Carr said. Maybe her Starfleet career wasn’t quite over yet.
“I just have one question,” Rydell said, his voice turning serious again. “Now that the Audrianis think we have a coffee weapon, will they be developing a doughnut weapon to soak up our coffee?”
“Once they develop doughnuts, we’ll have to move up to coffee cake. Then, they’ll strike back with danish. My god woman, can breakfast cereals be far behind! Don’t you see what you’ve done? You’ve started an all-out breakfast weapons race!” Rydell shouted.
“You’re playing with me again, aren’t you sir?” Carr said.
“You got it,” Rydell said. “Dismissed.” Relieved, Carr stood up to leave.
“Oh, Ensign,” Rydell said, stopping her exit.
“How do you like your position?”
“It’s fine,” Carr said, not sure what the captain was getting at. “Ferrying people and cargo gets old occasionally, but…”
“How would you like a change of scenery?” Rydell asked. She wasn’t going to get off after all. He was going to send her to a penal colony.
“Like where?” she asked, bracing herself.
“Oh, say maybe…the bridge.”
“The bridge?” she repeated in disbelief.
“Well, we’re kind of short of an operations officer right now, but if you don’t want the job…”
“I want it,” Carr said quickly, running over to hug Rydell. A bridge position! Now, this was a step up. “Thank you, sir.”
“Don’t thank me. You earned it, Carr,” Rydell said. “But there’s one little thing you have to do first.”
“Admiral Cooper has asked that you be the one to transport him to the Starship Truman. And he wants lots more of that damn fine coffee.”
“Is that an order?” Carr asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Rydell replied.
“Yes, sir.” Carr sighed and left the ready room. She looked at the ops chair as she stepped into the bridge. All that stood between her and it was one raving coffee-fiend. Maybe she could find a blend that would just knock Cooper out and not poison him. Of course, it probably wouldn’t have as poetic a name as Bonialia blossom.