Star Traks: Boldly Gone... was created by Alan Decker and Anthony Butler. It's based on Star Traks, which in turn is based on Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry. Paramount and Viacom have lost their grip on the Star Trek franchise. Now they want it back.

Author: Paul Cloutier
Copyright: 2002

Star Traks: Boldly Gone

“A Stacked Deck - Part One: Two For His Heels*”

Prelude 1: A secret laboratory, somewhere in Sector One

“The weapon is finally nearly ready. We can begin our operation as soon as final testing is complete,” said mysterious figure #1.

“Your timing is perfect. With the current unrest in our target zone as well as the disrupted communications and logistics, the weapon will be even more effective. You are certain it will only affect our targets”? inquired mysterious figure #2.

“Absolutely. Based on the work that had been done previously, it was but a minor matter to swap a few gene strands to achieve our desired results. The difficult part was finding the original sample in the first place,” assured mysterious figure #1.

“Fantastic!” exclaimed mysterious figure #2. “Now we can return our people to the correct path. I wonder what the late, unlamented Dr. Lenik would think if she were to know what we are doing”?

“I’m sure she would be most displeased to see her life’s work being used to kill her own people!”

“All too true,” chortled #2. “All we need to do now is to field test our little bio-weapon… and I know just how to do it.”

Prelude 2: The Breen/Federation border

The planet Mirach Beta-Andromedae 6 was a green-brown mote of matter, orbiting an insignificant star on the border of Breen/Federation space. The Breen had established a small farming colony there and the bucolic inhabitants neither knew nor cared about galactic politics. They were unaware of the recent Vulcan problems, in fact most of them had never even heard of the Vulcans. Or the Federation, for that matter. The planet’s temperature was just about ideal for Breen and the simple colony was filled with happy, Breen who cheerfully went about their business of helping supply the Breen Empire with much-needed foodstuffs. Suddenly, without warning, a subspace conduit opened just outside of the planet’s atmosphere. A warship emerged from the conduit and headed for the planet at maximum polaron speed. Weapons blazed forth from the intruder and the peaceful Breen farming colony ceased to exist! The intruder then shot a lone torpedo which spiraled lazily down to the planet, where it impacted, breaking apart amidst the rubble. As suddenly as it had come, the visitor re-entered the conduit, which closed behind it.

Stardate 177797.56

USS Anomaly - in orbit around Vulcan

Reginald Bain relaxed in his Captain’s Lounge, a snifter of fine brandy held casually in one hand while the other swung randomly through the air, only occasionally in time to the symphony that was playing. The captain was as fine a tactician as Starfleet had ever produced, but his skills as a musical conductor were somewhat lacking. Bain’s orchestral ambitions were interrupted by the BEEEEP of the comm system.

“Sir, incoming comm traffic from Starfleet Command. Admiral Larkin on priority channel”, announced Lieutenant Bre’zan Brazzell, who was currently manning the Anomaly’s Tac-Ops console.

“Put her on, down here”, replied Bain, pausing his music.

The viewscreen in the Lounge flared to life displaying the never-changing countenance of Admiral Kristen Larkin - never-changing, that is, until now.

“Krissers! You’re bald!” exclaimed Bain.

“I’m attending a masquerade ball this evening. I am planning on dressing like a Deltan.”

“But, but, your hair…” stammered the shocked Captain.

“I can easily reverse the effect with a follicle stimulator after the ball, Reggie”, the android replied.

“Wish those blasted things worked on normal human hair!”

“Ah, Reggie, your thinning hair just adds character” Larkin assured the Captain, without any trace of deceit on her face.

“Of course it does”, sighed Bain. “At my age everything adds character. But, I’m sure you didn’t call me to discuss hairstyles, what’s on your mind? Are we finally through with this idiotic debriefing?”

“Now, Reg, the Vulcans are our oldest allies. We can spare some time to help them out after the recent turmoil, wouldn’t you say?”

“I couldn’t agree more,” agreed Bain. “Why not send that ridiculous popinjay Dax out here to preen for them so that I can get back to doing some real work?”

“Very well, I think I have just the thing for you,” Larkin replied.

“Finally!” huffed Bain.

“The Breen Imperial Government is demanding an explanation for our attack on one of their border colonies. The only problem is, we don’t have any ships anywhere near where the attack took place.”

“So, you want the Anomaly to hop over there on our anti-sings and straighten those helmetted twits out?” guessed Bain.

“Yes, since we don’t have any ships nearby, only the Anomaly can travel the distance quickly enough to satisfy the Breen Leadership Council. They are actually threatening to completely sunder relations with the Federation unless a reasonable explanation is forthcoming within 24 hours. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the Federation doesn’t need another war on its hands so soon after this recent conflict with the Vulcans. Although it appears that that is exactly what someone is trying to provoke.”

“Well, that’s just not cricket!” exclaimed Bain.

“Quite” replied Larkin. “I have already downloaded the navigation data to your computer. The Breen sector governor is named Thot Abuttet. Please contact him once you have reached the colony. Larkin out.”

Bain activated his commpip. “Bain to Bridge.”

“Yes, sir,” came the quick reply.

“Set a course to the Breen border based on the navigational data that Krissers sent us. Engage at Warp J.”

There was a brief pause while Brazzell conferred with Sub-Lieutenant Zantak, who was currently manning the Helm.

“Course set and engines engaged. We will reach our destination in 6.5 hours,” came Brazzell’s response.

“Understood. Please ask Dr. Kasyov, Lieutenant Marsden, Dr. Nooney, Centurion Nortal, Sub-Commander Remax, Commander Vioxx, Commander Prosak and Lieutenant Commander Tovar to join me in the briefing room in 30 minutes,” requested Bain.

“Yes sir”, came Brazzell’s clipped reply.

Bain closed the comm channel and turned his attention back to his brandy and his symphony, wondering just who was playing silly buggers now.

Approximately 36 minutes later;

“That about sums up what we know at this point.” concluded Bain. “I want Remax and Kasyov to scan the site for residual radiation traces so we can try to determine just what kind of weapons were used. Lieutenant Marsden, you will remain on board the Anomaly and scan the Mirach Beta-Andromedae system for any traces of ionized plasma, deuterium or other propulsion system residue. Dr. Nooney will offer medical assistance to any survivors and Tovar and Nortal will provide security for the investigative team. Make sure to wear your long-johns, its bloody cold on the surface of this bugger! Any and all data we come up with will be trans-linked to the Breen Regional Governor, Thot Abuttet. Questions?”

“You seem awfully anxious to try to avert a war with the Breen, sir”, said Lieutenant Commander Tovar, the Anomaly’s Chief Tac-Ops officer and, incidentally, Bain’s adopted son. “That hardly seems appropriate for the ‘Butcher of Breen’”.

“Somebody out there is trying to provoke a fight between the Breen and the Federation, my boy. Those are the ones we should be getting ready to fight. We’ve already given the Breen a good ‘what for’, now its time to find some new enemies to fight!” Bain thundered.

“Of course, sir”, replied Tovar, “its just that you have always just pounded away at the target in front of you, sir, and now you seemed to be, I don’t know, more introspective, I suppose.”

“Well, Tovar, the recent fight with the Vulcans just seems to have tuckered me right out. Fighting against old allies just doesn’t have the bang I’m used to. Maybe I’m getting old, but for some reason I’d like to fight against a real enemy this time.”

<<What’s wrong with Reggie>>, thought Tovar. <<He’s never felt old before, even after destroying much of the Breen homeworld that time, he was still gung-ho about the war.>>

“Oh those poor people!” moaned Dr. Fred Nooney, the Anomaly’s Chief Medical Officer. “I’ll prepare a trauma kit, reference all the library files on Breen physiology and replicate a whole bushel of lollipops!”

“Good show, man”, approved Bain, thinking that this would at least distract Nooney from thinking about the crew’s upcoming physicals.

Sir, I request permission to return to Vulcan. A Federation officer who is also a RommaVulc will be invaluable to the reconstruction effort, here,” spoke up Prosak.

“Want to spend some more time with mommy, eh my girl?” Bain guessed, shrewdly.

Prosak bowed her head and nodded.

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Bain said, smiling. “There are plenty of ships in this part of space heading there to assist with the reconstruction. Hail one and catch a lift before we get to far away.”

Prosak’s head shot up with a huge grin on her face, “Thank you, sir!” She jumped up from her seat and headed to her quarters to pack, comming Brazzell to have him contact an appropriate ship, as she did so.

“I think that I should remain with Cabral while we are in Breen space” offered Dr. Natalia Kasyov, the Anomaly’s resident brain specialist and Chief Science Officer. “If we come under attack he will want me nearby.”

“Doctor, I need your eyes on the ground so that we can determine our next step. If we can find out who has done this we can go after them. The best defense is a good offense, after all. Cabral can send his hovercam down to the planet with you if it will make you feel better, but we need to have a Federation Scientist down on the planet to show that we are taking this seriously. Remax is a fine scientist, but the Breen won’t accept anything less than Starfleet’s best working on this.”

“Very well, Captain”, affirmed Kasyov. “I suppose you’re right.”

“Splendid!” exclaimed Bain, clapping his hands to signal the end of the briefing. “We’ll be in orbit of this Mirach Beta-Andromedoodle 6 in about six hours. Everyone should try to get a few hours rest so that they’ll be fresh when we arrive. Once we’re there, gather whatever equipment you’ll be needing and coordinate your activities through either Commander Vioxx or myself. We will be in touch with Thot Abuttet as soon as we have any solid information for him.”

Just over 6 more hours later;

“Sir, these Breen meanies refuse to let me administer to the poor, injured people down here”, came the petulant voice of Dr. Nooney over the comm system. “They insist that I return to the ship and stop trying to gather information about them!”

“Alright Doctor, this is their planet, after all”, replied Commander Vioxx from the Anomaly’s bridge. “Please beam back to sickbay, Doctor.”

Vioxx, the Anomaly’s Romulan First Officer, scowled at the view screen at the front of the bridge. The Anomaly was not the first ship to arrive at Mirach Beta-Andromedae 6, several Breen ships had reached the planet before them. According to the Regional Governor, Thot Abuttet, one of the ships was a medical cruiser, so Nooney was most likely, superfluous, anyway. Not that there were many patients to administer to, in any event. The information provided to them by Thot Abuttet had indicated that the colony had been home to just over 12,000 Breen farmers and their families. So far there had been only 80 or so survivors discovered. Whatever had hit the colony had nearly completely obliterated it. Fortunately, Breen colony worlds were required to report in to the Regional Governor’s office daily, or it might have been some time before the atrocity had been discovered. At least this way the survivors had some chance of being helped. Vioxx tried to turn away from these decidedly un-Romulan thoughts. He forced himself to examine the data from a military point of view, and was forced to admit to himself that this was an almost textbook example of a hit-and-run border assault. The colony had never even managed to send out a distress call. The enemy had attacked quickly, brutally and, above all, effectively. The initial findings from the Anomaly’s investigative team even suggested that the weapons used had left residual radiation in the fields. There would have to be some serious terraforming (Breenaforming?) done on the planet before a new colony could be established. Vioxx’s thoughts were interrupted by the comm system again.

“Away team to Anomaly,” came the voice of Lieutenant Commander Tovar.

“Acknowledged,” responded Vioxx.

“Sir, we have concluded our preliminary investigation. We are ready to beam aboard to more thoroughly analyze our data. Please inform Thot Abuttet that our initial scans have failed to find any match with the radiation residue found here and any known Federation weapon.”

“Affirmative, Lieutenant Commander, Vioxx out.”

“Lieutenant, open a channel to the Regional Governor’s office,” Vioxx commanded.

Lieutenant Bre’zan Brazzell, the Anomaly’s second highest ranked security officer, was currently stationed at Tac-Ops. He quickly complied (although he did pause, briefly, to apply an antiseptic spray to the comm controls).

“Channel open, sir.”

Thot Abuttet appeared on the viewscreen. This Breen was actually relatively easy to identify because his armor was sparkling clean. The glare reflecting off of it made the image on the viewscreen difficult to look at, in spite of the anti-glare filters which automatically engaged to try and fight against the sudden illumination. Even Brazzell was impressed.

“What do you have for us,” he asked, without preliminary small talk.

“So far the radiation signatures on the planet’s surface do not correlate to any known Federation weapon systems. We are now further analyzing the data, but it looks as though someone else has been stirring up trouble”, reported Vioxx.

“I see”, responded Thot Abuttet, thoughtfully. “You will send over this preliminary data and keep me informed as to your further progress. Thot Abuttet, out.”

“Well, that was rude”, muttered Brazzell, closing the channel.

“Well, he HAS just had a colony destroyed. I’m sure he has a lot on his mind”, offered Vioxx.

BEEEEP went the comm system.

“This is Lieutenant Marsden. Will the investigative team and the command staff please meet me in the briefing room. I’ve discovered something.”

Interlude 1: The Breen/Federation border

Tau-Piscium 4 (or, as it was known locally, the planet Luffa) was a world whose surface was 95% water. Intelligent life had developed here which was at home both above and below the waves. The planet’s natives (known as Loufahs) had evolved from simple sea-sponges to their current form millennia ago. This ultimate form most closely resembled beige colored, one-half meter tall, terrestrial cucumbers with countless holes in their surface. The Loufahs were a completely pacifistic race who were only of use to the Breen Empire because of their remarkable technical abilities. The Loufahs’ tiny hands, with their long, dexterous fingers allowed them to produce amazingly complex electronics in incredibly small packages. A standard Federation commpip would have seemed an immense waste of space to them. So far the Breen Empire had utilized the Loufahs’ technical prowess to produce doorbells which could instantaneously determine if the person ringing the bell was actually a salesman. Remarkably enough, this process could be carried out even through the ubiquitous Breen body armor. Since the introduction of the new doorbells, the door-to-door sales industry had practically collapsed throughout the Breen Empire. Luffa had high-tech manufacturing facilities scattered over the planet, built wherever there was sufficient land mass to allow construction. Nearly 100,000 Breen were also stationed on the planet to facilitate shipping, new product development and, recently, security (those salesmen were surprisingly persistent), even though the planet’s tropical climate was incredibly uncomfortable for the cold- acclimated Breen. Wearing body armor over a sunburn was a seriously unpleasant sensation!

Loufah technical liaison, Porifera, was working in his office on this bright, cheerful day when his comm system suddenly screeched to life.

“Liaison! We are under attack!” came the terrified voice over the speaker.

“Attack? By…”, Porifera’s voice was interrupted by the whine of coalescing transporter beams. Four unexpected visitors arrived in his office and immediately opened fire. Porifera activated his emergency, anti-salesman beamout button and disappeared in a flurry of sparkles. The intruders destroyed his office and then moved through the manufacturing complex blasting electronic equipment, workers, and guards indiscriminately. Within minutes, the planet’s manufacturing ability had been destroyed and thousands of the peaceful cucumber-like people had been killed. Then, as quickly as they had come, the invaders just disappeared.

Lieutenant Marsden stood at the front of the briefing room, a holo-graphic display of the Mirach Beta-Andromedae star system in front of her. The display was currently zoomed in to show the sixth planet and the space immediately around it. A tiny portion of that space was highlighted.

“This”, she said, “is the residual signature of a sub-space conduit. Something came through that conduit using a Deuterium/Anti-Matter/Polaron propulsion system which very closely resembles that used by the Federation. The ship orbited the planet once, firing an intense barrage of energy weapons and destroying the colony before returning through the conduit. The weapons used most closely resembled those of the Breen Imperial Fleet. So we have at least three technologies used in this raid, one of which seems to have been Borg.”

“So some sort of ship appeared using Borg-based subspace tech, then orbited the planet using Federation-style polarons and, finally, destroyed the colony using Breen-based tech. Does that sum up things, in a nutshell”? asked Bain.

“Precisely,” agreed Sub-Commander Remax. “Someone out there has somehow blended the three technologies into one unit and then decided to use it to attack an insignificant colony on the Breen/Federation border.”

“Well, I doubt that the colony was insignificant to the people who lived there, but other than that, that’s a pretty good summation of the situation,” concluded Marsden.

“Well, let’s contact Thot Abuttet and give him the bad news”, Bain decided. “Bridge, open a channel to Governor Thot Abuttet.”

“Sir, you must be psychic”, came Brazzell’s reply.

“Huh?”, responded Bain, confused.

“The Governor is on hold waiting for you.”

“Well, put him through!”, exclaimed the exasperated captain.

“Governor, we have some news for you”, Bain reported as the shiny helmet of Thot Abuttet appeared on the briefing room’s viewscreen. “We have determined that your colony was attacked by a unique blend of technology which even included Breen weaponry.”

“I may be able to offer some partial collaboration for that theory, Captain”, the governor replied. “It seems that another one of our colonies has been attacked… by us!”

45 Minutes later, the Anomaly arrived at the planet Luffa. Bain, Tovar, Nortal and Marsden beamed down to the Liaison’s office where Porifera was glumly surveying the damage done to his office. He was trying not to think about the damage done to his people and to his homeworld.

Hearing the whine of the transporters, Porifera jumped behind the wreckage of his desk, but found that his emergency button had been destroyed in the attack. Timidly, he poked his head out from behind his desk only to see the four Anomaly officers.

“Wh, who are you?” he stammered.

“Captain Reginald Bain, at your service my good, er, man”, Bain announced, heading over to shake the poor Loufah’s hand. “These are some of my crew”, he said, indicating the people with him. “Governor Thot Abuttet asked us to swing by and see if we could offer any assistance.”

“I’m not sure what you can do”, responded Porifera, despondently. “They destroyed just about everything. I just hate salesmen!”

Bain, even more confused, now, could only respond with “What the devil are you talking about, man!” to the battered Loufah.

“It was BOGIEMAN.!”

At this point Bain lost what little composure he had left. Stooping, he picked up the terrified Loufah and shouted into his face, “There’s no such thing as the bogeyman!”

“I believe he is speaking of the Breen Organization for Gainful Industrial Entrepreneurs, Merchandisers and Associated Negotiators, Captain” interjected Tovar, coming over to Bain and helping the frightened Loufah to the ground.

Turning to the small sponge-man he asked, “What can you tell us about the attackers?”

“They looked just like any other Breen”, moaned Porifera. “I really didn’t stick around long enough to get any specific details about them.”

“So, they /were/ Breen!” shouted Bain, a bit ashamed of his outburst.

“Well, they were certainly wearing Breen armor and helmets”, offered Porifera. “You are welcome to any of the automated recordings that might be of use and feel free to interview any of my people. I wish I could do more to help you, but I’m a Loufah, not a fighter.”

Bain beamed back to the Anomaly, leaving the other three down on Luffa to investigate. Back on the bridge, he found Remax bent over the science console.

“Well, old chap, what have you got for me?”

“A ceremonial dagger in the belly if you call me ‘old chap’, again”, Remax muttered to himself before replying, “Evidence of another sub-space conduit opening in the system just before the assault. I think we can safely say that this was the work of the same enemies as the last time.”

“Jolly good!”, exclaimed Bain. “Now all we have to do is figure out who these blighters are”!

“Yes, only that,” sneered Remax, turning back to his console.

Before Bain could reply, the comm system announced an incoming message with its customary BEEEEP. Brazzell turned to the captain, “Sir, incoming message from Admiral Larkin.”

“On screen,” decided Bain as he climbed into his command chair. “Krissers, what’s up”? Bain asked as Larkin’s image appeared on the viewscreen. Bain couldn’t help but notice that the Admiral’s hair had indeed been regrown as good as new.

“Reggie,” responded Larkin, “I have good news and good news.”

“Well, that’s a change,” laughed Bain. “OK, let’s have the good news.”

“The Breen government has been very pleased by our quick, professional response to the situation and have backed down from threatening to disband the treaty. They have agreed to allow several science vessels to help in the investigation. The Anomaly will remain in the area to coordinate the efforts and to provide a fast-response solution in the event of any further attacks.”

“Speaking of which, there has already been another. We are currently investigating that attack as well. So, what’s the other good news”?

“Reggie, when was the last time you played cribbage…”?

Reginald Bain had grown up in a small community in the English countryside. Although most of Earth had undergone numerous advances in technology, transportation and other areas, the Sussex Downs had remained relatively unchanged since the 20th century. Certainly, most homes now had replicators and the occasional shuttle or hover taxi could now and again be seen, but, for the most part, this region was untouched. For many of the residents, this was how they wanted things to be. Young Reggie spent a great deal of time with his grandfather, a curmudgeonly old English gentleman. Much to the displeasure of his mother, a seemingly inordinate amount of that time was spent inside the traditional English pub that his grandfather frequented. His grandfather, Cuthbert, was a very old-fashioned sort and allowed the youngster to have a beer now and then. When he was eight, Cuthbert decided that the boy was now old enough to participate in the bewildering card game that Cuthbert and his equally old cronies couldn’t seem to get enough of (of course, the fact that the recent death of one of those cronies had left them one player short may have contributed to that decision). By long-standing British law, Cribbage was the only card game that could be played for money in a public house, and these old men were certainly not ones to pass up an opportunity to make some money along with their entertainment. Reggie was given a one month training period and was then expected to pay up just like the geriatric gamblers he played with. He quickly realized that his meager allowance would not allow him to lose very often, so he decided that he had better start winning. His obstacles were many - he was competing against men who had been playing the game for decades and he was competing while drinking good English stout (another past-time the old men had engaged in for decades) and his eight-year-old body was considerably smaller than that of the men, so the alcohol was doubly effective on him. It was during these early years that the determination, tenacity and tactical skills which would serve him so well during his Starfleet career were initially awakened. Young Reggie lost 90% of the games he played during his training period. The next month he lost 60%. The month after that, he started breaking even. Within a year, he was losing less than 10% of the time and the old men were desperately looking for a new player! Young Reggie found it amazing that these same old men who had gotten so much entertainment out of watching him lose were now much less entertained by watching him win. After all, it was just a game, wasn’t it?

***** For those who have never played cribbage *****

Cribbage is generally played between two players (variations allow three or four) using a standard 52-card deck and a cribbage board. The board is used to keep track of each player’s points and a game is to 121 points. Each hand consists of a six card deal of which 2 from each player must be put into the “crib”. This results in 3 scoring hands (two for the dealer) of four cards, each. A round also contains a “pointing” phase where each player takes turns laying cards down and scoring points based on what combination of cards have been played. This is followed by a scoring phase where each player counts up the value of his hand. The absolute, best score that a hand can contain is 29, however the odds of ever getting such a hand are about 200,000 to 1 against. The game evolved from earlier card games and was codified in the early 1600’s by Sir John Suckling.

***** and now, back to our story *****

Cuthbert and his friends decided that drastic steps were needed. Without his knowledge, they entered Bain in the United Federation of Planets Cribbage Tournament. Their reasons for doing this were two-fold. First, with Bain now being a “professional”, they would have a reason to not let him play anymore. Secondly, the story of a 10-year-old cribbage phenom was sure to bring around reporters and tourists and surely they could scam a few free beers off of them by offering to tell how they had “taught the boy everything he knows.”

Bain finished in third place, out of a field of over 1200.

The village pub, now known as “the home of the ‘boy wonder’” soon became overrun with the sort of low-grade reporters and hangers-on who were generally sent to cover this type of “heart-warming, human interest story.” Such was life in the Federation during peacetime. The pub soon started serving fancy drinks with small umbrellas in them. The old men were soon forgotten and, eventually, sent to live out their days in various retirement homes. Bain was invited to study under the current Federation champion, a soft-spoken Bajoran named Tian Nosuse. The next year he finished second, to his teacher. The year after that, he won the Tournament. He would win the next 35 Tournaments in a row. All through Starfleet Academy and even while serving on ships, early in his career, he always managed to find a way to make it to the Tournament. After 36 straight years of Bain winning, the Tournament was in serious trouble. No one wanted to play against him. The latest Tournament had only managed to attract 5 other players. In desperation, the Federation Cribbage Congress decided to award Bain with a Grandmastership (a new title that they had made up). He graciously accepted the title, but refused to retire. The next year, no one showed up to oppose Bain and he won by default. The FCC decided to suspend further Tournaments until such time that they could find anyone to challenge Grandmaster Bain. That had been over twenty years ago and no one had stepped up to the challenge yet. Until now…

“Cribbage!” exclaimed Bain, surprised, “as you know, Krissers, I haven’t played in the Tournament in over 20 years. I still play against the computer to keep sharp, but that’s not the same thing at all.”

“Well, it appears that the United Federation of Planets Cribbage Tournament is on again, at least for this year. The FCC has found a new rising star, so to speak, and he is on a ship headed in your general direction even now. He is a Klingon named Krib.”

“Well, that should make things confusing,” said Bain.

“I’m sure you can handle it,” replied Larkin.

“But, the investigation…”

“As I said, a full scientific/investigative task force is on the way. You will rendezvous with the Klingon high-speed transport “Hole Pegger” and take Krib and the representatives from the FCC on board. You will then proceed back to the Breen border and maintain station keeping and fast-response readiness. Larkin out.”

“Brazzell, recall the away team,” said Bain, “I assume that Admiral Larkin sent us some course coordinates”?

“Yes, sir, course laid in.”

“Very well, Sub-Lieutenant Zantak,you may engage as soon as the away team has returned. Brazzell, please call Commander Vioxx to the bridge. I will be in the pub.”

“So, what is this ‘cribbage’ thing, anyway?” Lieutenant Shelly Marsden asked Tovar as she, Nortal and Tovar sat down at the campfire. The three had decided to get a bite of lunch after returning from the surface of Luffa. They had walked into the holographic mess hall to find that the holochef had decided that today’s venue would be a rebel camp during the Mexican Revolution. The three had passed through the chow line to receive their plates of refried beans and tortilla shells. Marsden hoped that the ship’s ventilation system would be able to handle the strain.

“Its a card game,” replied Tovar. “You keep track of what points you’ve scored with a board and some pegs, but its just a card game.”

“And Bain is the Federation champion?”

“Has been since I’ve known him. I understand that he’s undefeated in something like 40 tournaments.”

“By Jenichai!” Centurion Nortal interjected, “these beans are good!” as she, literally, dove into her repast.

Marsden and Tovar looked at her for a few moments before resuming their conversation. With the ship off the hook as the lead in the investigation, there was likely to be a considerable amount of free time available and the two lovers were trying to figure out how to best take advantage of that fact. Their planning was soon disrupted as the comm system blurted out, “Lieutenant Commander Tovar and Doctor Kasyov, please report to the Captain’s Lounge!”

Sharing a concerned look, the two quickly finished off their high-fiber lunch and headed back to their respective duties; Marsden to Main Engineering and Tovar to his appointment with the Captain, leaving Centurion Nortal still face-down in her beans.

“Come in, come in!” Bain shouted enthusiastically when Tovar and Kasyov showed up at the door to the Captain’s Lounge. Jumping up quickly from his comfy chair, he quickly ushered the pair in and offered them each a drink. Kasyov accepted a Rigellian Cordial while Tovar joined Bain in a Scotch. Bain motioned for the two to take seats as they drank, while he began to speak,

“As the two of you doubtless know, shipboard scuttlebutt and all that, we have been pulled off of the main investigative team and reassigned to a support role. That may be fine for some, but not for Reginald Bain! I have decided that while all the Starfleet eggheads are running around with their knickers in a bunch, you two are going to be doing some real detective work. I have arranged permission with the Breen government for you to interview our old friend Thot Phul. Since our opponents seem to be using a combination of Federation, Borg and Breen technology, we might as well try to determine where they are getting it from. Since Federation propulsive technology is available from any number of sources and we don’t really have anyone that we can readily talk to among the Borg, Thot Phul seems to be the best place to start. We will be passing relatively close to the Breen prison planet where he is being held on our way to meet with the Klingon ship “Hole Pegger” so I thought that you two could pop over in the Frinoqua and find out if our old friend knows anything.”

“Wait a minute!” Kasyov yelled, irritated that Bain was separating her from Cabral once again, “why on Earth would an scientist be needed to interview a crazy Breen? More importantly, why would THIS scientist want to go interview a crazy Breen who was part of a plot that included STABBING her best friend?!”

Bain seemed to have forgotten that little detail and as he stammered for a suitable reply, Tovar came to his rescue,

“Doctor, interviews of this sort generally take the form of a ‘good cop/bad cop’ exchange. We need two people to pull it off and your obvious involvement with our interviewee makes you a perfect candidate for the ‘bad cop’ position. After you have roughed our friend up for a bit, my questioning will seem positively benign.”

Kasyov went from “full on indignant” mode to “hmmm - this has possibilities” mode in a twinkling,

“You mean I’ll get to slap him around some?” she asked, almost too eagerly. “Actually, sir, now that I’ve had time to think about this some more, a scientist is /exactly/ what the mission calls for. Someone will need to be able to judge if the information that Thot Phul gives us is plausible from a technical standpoint.”

“Jolly good show!” Bain yelled, slapping a knee as he and Tovar shared a wink.

The pair left the Lounge to get ready for their mission.

As they left the lounge, the comm system BEEEEEEP’ed to life and Doctor Nooney’s panicked voice broke up Bain’s good mood.

“Sir we have a medical emergency! Centurion Nortal has been found unconscious in the holographic mess hall!”

Bain walked into Sickbay to find Nooney nearly beside himself. The poor man was almost in tears as he stood, wringing his hands, over the form of Centurion Nortal.

“Blasted holochef and his damned beans! I warned him about this after the last time!” Bain thundered.

“Oh no, sir! Its nothing like that,” Nooney assured Bain.

“Then what’s wrong with her?” Bain asked, concerned.

“There is some sort of foreign virus in her system that I’ve never seen before. It has resisted all my attempts to contain it!” Nooney wailed.

“A virus?” Bain demanded, “Where would she have picked that up? The other members of her Away Teams haven’t reported any problems have they?”

“No sir,” confirmed Nooney. “The ship’s transporters would have filtered out any sort of harmful virus in any event before rematerialization. While you are here, let me run a quick blood sample.”

Before Bain could protest that he felt fine, Nooney had whipped out a hypo and taken his blood sample. As the doctor turned to some analysis equipment, Vioxx and Remax came into Sickbay.

“What’s wrong with Nortal?” Vioxx demanded.

“Dr. Nooney seems to think that it’s some sort of virus, old chap,” Bain replied.

Hearing this, Remax headed over to where Nooney was working. The two conferred for a short time and then Remax took a sample of his own blood. They ran that through the analyzers too and then Remax headed back to Bain and Vioxx. Without a word he stuck a hypo in Vioxx’s arm and took a sample. Grinning at the Commander’s apparent discomfort, he silently handed the sample to Nooney for analysis. The two shared a nod and Remax came back to Bain and Vioxx.

“Well, its no virus that I’m familiar with, either. To make matters worse, it appears that you and I are also infected,” he said pointing to Vioxx. “Nooney is going to decontaminate himself and then go check the rest of the Romulan crew. For the time being we need to stay here behind a quarantine field, while we try to figure out just what’s going on. Captain, you will have to go through the de- contamination process as well.”

Bain grumbled a bit to himself as he disrobed and headed over to the special sonic projectors that would eradicate any traces of the virus from the surface of his skin. His blood test had shown him to be free from contagion, internally. There was just something about Nooney that made Bain extremely reluctant to be naked around him. However, the good of the crew came first, after all.

Tovar and Kasyov had left on the Frinoqua to go interview Thot Phul. Nooney had demanded that they be decontaminated before they left, even though their blood work had proven clean. Unfortunately, every Romulan on board had proven to be infected with whatever this new virus was. So far only Nortal had reached what Nooney was calling ‘second stage’ involvement, which, as far as Bain could determine, meant getting a solid nap. The Anomaly was headed for Klingon space in order to rendezvous with the representatives of the Federation Cribbage Congress and Bain’s opponent in the upcoming Tournament, Krib. Bain found the Bridge strangely lonely. The apparently empty chair at helm was occupied by Ensign Yonk, the Anomaly’s diminutive Ferengi backup Helmsman. Yonk was manning the station because the regular Helmsman, Sub-Lieutenant Zantak was one of the Romulan crew who were being kept behind the quarantine field in Sickbay while Dr. Nooney tried to find some way to combat the virus which was infecting them all. Behind Bain at Tac-Ops was Lieutenant Bre’zan Brazzell an obsessive-compulsive Mezzakkan security officer who was alarmingly concerned with cleanliness. Bain found that he missed Tovar and, oddly, even missed Prosak whom he had gotten used to standing behind him.

<<Damn!>> he thought, <<what’s wrong with me? Getting all maudlin in my old age!>>

Deciding what he really needed was a stiff drink, he headed for his Captain’s Lounge with instructions to be notified when they reacher the “Hole Pegger”.

Meanwhile, on board the Frinoqua, Lieutenant Commander Tovar and Doctor Kasyov were getting ready for dinner. Tovar had allowed Toflay to take over to prepare a feast for them. The Frinqua’s galley was set up somewhat like a suburban kitchen/dining room combination with a “snack bar” window opening from the food preparation area into the food consumption area. Currently, Natalia sat on the consumption side of the bar sipping a glass of synthechablis, watching Toflay work. Surprisingly, Kasyov and Tovar had actually found a considerable amount to talk about, although what they talked about was, primarily, Lieutenant Shelly Marsden. Tovar had discovered that Kasyov was a virtual treasure-trove of information regarding his girlfriend and he (and Toflay) made sure to keep the Doctor well supplied with synthe- chablis to keep the information flowing.

Finally, dinner was ready and Toflay re-submerged into Tovar’s mind allowing the pair to enjoy their dinner. Kasyov was delighted to find that Toflay’s cooking was every bit as good as she had been told. She considered this fortunate since she knew that Marsden wasn’t much of a cook. Of course, neither was she, so she decided to enjoy this feast while she could. Tomorrow they would reach Gulag, the Breen prison planet where Thot Phul had been incarcerated after his latest attempt to kill Captain Bain, as part of the notorious FOBBER, had failed. Hopefully, he would be able to shed some light on who was stirring up trouble this time.

Interlude 2: The Brain Research Lab at the Neptune Research Station

The quiet darkness was disrupted by the whine of transporters. Six figures materialized in the lab. After orienting themselves for a few seconds the sextet split up, five of them each grabbed a transparent aluminum jar containing the Lab’s occupants while the sixth quickly dashed to an alcove in the far corner of the room, where, connected by a series of cables to a computer terminal, was a silver-gray biped-shaped body. Scant seconds after their arrival, the figures dematerialized leaving no trace that they had ever been there, unless you counted the missing brains and synthibod. In the morning, Dr. Dennis Pommier would find that he had much less work to do than normal.

Captain’s Log;

Stardate 177807.43 - We have just rendezvoused with the Klingon transport “Hole Pegger” and taken aboard six observers from the Federation Cribbage Congress as well as a young Klingon man who is to be my opponent for the upcoming United Federation of Planets Cribbage Tournament. Since this is the first such Tournament to be held in over a decade, and since Krib and I are the only two playing in it, the Observers have decided that a full-double round will determine the winner. So, the first man to win twenty games will be declared the new Federation Champion. Guess I’ll have to make some room in my trophy cabinet!

“Gentlemen, this is our main Briefing Room. It is large enough to hold everyone comfortably and has recording and monitoring equipment already installed. I propose that the tournament be held here,” Bain said, escorting the FCC dignitaries into the Room. The Observers looked around, some of them going so far as to take out specially designed quadcorders to look over the venue. In the past, certain unscrupulous players had tried to cheat by secreting various transmitters and monitors to be able to observe their opponents’ cards. The FCC had developed some very elaborate countermeasures to prevent such cheating. Bain remembered one particularly entertaining method that had been used during one of the Tournaments that he had played in some thirty years ago. The FCC had sent out a strong electro-magnetic pulse in the Tournament Hall. Four players had had sensitive parts of their anatomy fried as a result of the EMP. The FCC had made some extra money that year selling footage of the injured players hopping around with pants, hats or other garments on fire to several holovision broadcasters. Bain hadn’t had so much fun at a Tournament in years. Finally, the Observers and Krib seemed satisfied with their examination of the Briefing Room. Nodding curtly to Bain the FCC Observers left and returned to their quarters. Krib turned to Bain and held out his hand as he was leaving,

“May the best man win, Captain,” he graciously offered.

“And good luck to you, too,” Bain returned, covering his surprise at the Klingon’s courtesy.

With a final nod to Bain, Krib also headed to his cabin to rest. The Tournament would start in the morning and continue all day. Bain, for his part, decided to relax for a bit in his Captain’s Lounge before turning in.

Interlude 3: A secret laboratory somewhere in Sector One

“All of the pieces are in place,” said mysterious figure #1. “The final stage is now beginning!”

“Soon, all of what was lost will be ours, again. Soon the great Federation of Planets will acknowledge our ur, umm, greatness. Soon we will be in charge of all this ridiculous rabble and the galaxy will tremble at our merest whim!” mysterious figure #2 intoned.

Mysterious figure #1 gave mysterious figure #2 a funny look,

“I thought we were just in this for the money?” he asked.

“Well, yeah, that too,” assured mysterious figure #2.

Mysterious figure #1 just shook his head. <<Good help sure is hard to get these days,>> he thought as he went back to work in his mysterious laboratory. <<Oh well, at least I get to be all ‘mysterious’,>> he thought.


************************************************************************** *To start a hand of cribbage, the Dealer deals 6 cards to himself and 6 to his opponent. Each Player then selects two of the cards they have been dealt and puts them in the “crib.” The non-Dealer then cuts the deck revealing the fifth hand card. If this card is a Jack (of any suit) the Dealer pegs two holes, “for his heels.” These are the earliest points that can be made in a hand of cribbage. **************************************************************************

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