Author: Paul Cloutier
Star Traks: Boldly Gone
“A Stacked Deck - Part Two: The 19 Hand*”
by Paul Cloutier
Historical Aside 1: How the Orions Came to Become Environmental Activists
During the latter part of the 24th century and into the middle of the 25th, the Orion Syndicate was a force to be reckoned with. Their constant predation upon Federation, Breen, Cardassian, Romulan and non-aligned territories created a need for constant vigilance by their would-be victims to safeguard against the ferocious raiders. While the proper authorities were, by and large, successful in derailing the Syndicates more elaborate schemes, their low-level criminal activities were ubiquitous enough to generate considerable wealth for the Syndicate. With this wealth came considerable perks - the crime lords soon got used to living in their comfortable, custom-designed planetoids. Some of these crime lords soon realized that while crime, indeed, did pay, it was nowhere near as lucrative as, say, politics. Eventually, the most powerful crime lords banded together and petitioned the Federation for membership. Once these ‘upstanding’ citizens were officially recognized, it was an easy matter to turn the entire Syndicate towards the more socially acceptable income generation of graft, kickbacks, extortion and free market manipulation. And so, the Sector’s most nefarious criminals became comfortably bourgeois - the robbers became robber-barons.
The children of this new, Orion middle-class reacted as had most spoiled children throughout the history of humanoid development - they rebelled against the comfortable lives that their parents had worked so hard to provide for them. It seemed that the entire youth of the Orions turned to mind-altering substances, loud music, free love and environmental concerns. Rallying around the historically significant mantra “turn on, tune in and drop out”, it was as though the Orion Youth had almost become an different species from their parents. Some bright leader of the movement, early on, realized that OY wasn’t much of an abbreviation so it was decided that the movement would go by the name “Orion Environmental Movement” since OEM seemed to have a much nicer ring to it. The youngsters then moved out across the Sector, desperately trying to find some cause or another to get behind. Most of the movement soon rallied behind the newly discovered Uranus Deathbeetle. This horrible creature was only about a millimeter long, but its curious habit of hiding in foodstuffs so that it could take up residence in a victim’s intestines, laying its eggs which would eventually hatch and devour its hapless host, made it universally despised. The OEMs, however, overjoyed to find a creature even more universally reviled then themselves, soon championed its cause. Soon the OEMs were flooding the holovision channels (using daddy’s money of course) with public awareness campaigns. The first such campaign - Save The Uranus Parasitic Intestinal Deathbeetle wasn’t very successful, but, undeterred, the OEM soon had another campaign - the Committee and Legislation to Incarcerate the Terrible Organism and Reform it Into Society. This new campaign was, initially, quite successful, but then people realized what it really was, and interest tapered off. Taking their failure as evidence of the public’s bias against them, they turned to more mainstream methods of getting their point across. Reasoning that, since pretty much all of the Federation was ‘comfortable’ as the Syndicate had become, and, reasoning further that this would also be producing unrest among the Federation youth, they turned their efforts towards recruiting new membership from within the ranks of their fathers’ former enemies. It was here that the Movement found its first, admittedly minor, successes. Federation youth had been familiar with the comforts afforded by a stable society for a much longer period of time than the Orions and were, by and large, much more content to exist in that comfort. Occasionally however, a disaffected youth or two would show their independence by joining the OEM. Curiously, most of the new memberships were young computer scientists who, after hearing about the “free love” portion of the Movement and seeing the Orion girls who were already part of the OEM, were quick to sign up.
This state of affairs continued until 2495 when a radical splinter group formed inside the OEM. The members of this offshoot decided that, after twenty years of being grubby, smelly outcasts that they were ready to get back to the comforts that they had forsaken in their youth. The problem was, their parents had long ago washed their hands of any involvement with their rebellious offspring and the exOEMers had no place to go. Deciding that they needed some money to regain respectability (not to mention hot water and real beds), these ex-rebels decided to return to their roots. They would become pirates, again. They had, after all, listened to the exploits of their grandparents when they had been too young to know any better, so they knew all that there was to know about piracy. What these young entrepreneurs failed to take into consideration was that their now-respectable parents had not only listened to the stories of their forefathers, but they had actually BEEN pirates, themselves. No sooner had the exOEMers started their raids then they were ruthlessly hunted down by their own parents, who had come to enjoy their peaceful ‘retirements’. This setback brought into sharp focus the two problems that faced the exOEMers. First, operating in current Orion or Federation territory would be difficult if not impossible and, second, exOEMers was a really stupid name. Deciding that what they really needed was some sort of territory to call their own, the exOEMers looked around to see whose territory looked attractive. The Breen Empire’s icy wastelands didn’t look too inviting. Neither did the Vulcan’s dry, hot deserts. Since they had been severely routed by their own relatives, Orion space was out of the question. They thought briefly of invading the Federation, but rumors that Starfleet had in its employ a demon, code named “The Butcher of Breen”, soon dispelled that ambition. That left only two major powers with distinct space of their own - the Borg and the Romulans. Nobody really wanted to tangle with the Borg and the advertising division pointed out that if they attacked the Romulans they could use the really cool name of Revisionist Evil Destructive Romulan Usurpation Movement. And so, REDRUM was born.
The first successful operation carried out against the Romulans netted a great prize. A small, D’Mynus Class scout vessel was left unguarded at a galactic rest area and REDRUM got itself a fully functional Cloaking starship. The crew of that ship, too embarrassed to admit that they had left the keys in their starship at a rest area, reported the ship as being destroyed by a rogue asteroid.
Unfortunately for the REDRUMers, that one great success was pretty much their only success. REDRUM found itself outgunned, out manned and outmaneuvered. It appeared their movement was doomed before it ever really got going. Then, early in 2498, an incident occurred that changed the whole outlook of the Movement. Most of the members of REDRUM had gone to visit the Green Borg Collective of Bargains with the hope of trading some of the parts from their one captured Romulan ship for anything useful. They had not been able to reach an agreement with any of the Borg vendors (who drove hard bargains in their relentless pursuit of perfection), and so had left the Flea Market even more depressed than they had arrived. Wishing to avoid detection (they were still being hunted by the Orion authorities), they had taken a roundabout route away from the Flea Market. Passing through the rarely-traveled backwater that their departure required, they detected a nearly inaudible distress call. Having nothing better to do, they decided to investigate. Locating a small asteroid, they explored further and discovered a Borg escape capsule with 12 Green Borg inside. Figuring ‘what the heck’ they brought the Borg aboard and continued on their way. The Borg, after initially trying to assimilate their rescuers and being stymied by the Federation style neck shields that the REDRUMers wore, told their sad tale. Apparently, these Green Borg had decided that the best way to ensure that there would always be available salvage to sell was to steal it. While trying to capture a particularly valuable giant brain, they had been tricked into destroying their ship by none other than the dreaded ‘Butcher of Breen’, himself!
The REDRUMers sympathized and the two groups realized that their philosophies fit fairly well together, and so the two groups merged. Thus was reborn the REDRUM, not as a bunch of dissatisfied exOEMers, but as a legitimate force for Evil. From records extracted from their D’Mynus, they learned of the research of a disgraced scientist who had been secretly working on a virus which would kill all Vulcans. The scientist had been rescued by a Federation officer and returned to Romulus after an accident which had destroyed her lab and her research. Since the Romulans were now allies of the Federation (and since the Federation had, in fact, never learned what that scientist had actually been working on), the planet’s location was available in the D’Mynus’ databanks.
Getting to the planet, Ogakuchakor Three, had been relatively simple. Their small ship and Cloaking capabilities allowed them to reach it without being detected. The Borg beamed down and began searching the wreckage of what had once been a complete bio weapons research lab. Since the Green Borg had been, originally, scavengers supreme, it didn’t take them long to find what they were looking for. Buried deep in the charred rubble was one small, intact vial. Taking the vial on to their ship (which had by now been rechristened ‘Death Knell’), they quickly analyzed it in the D’Mynus’ rudimentary medical lab. Sure enough, they had discovered the deadly bacillus. They now had a Cloaking ship, powerful allies and a deadly bio weapon. As so was born The Plan!
The Plan required the splitting up of the Movement for a while. Several of the REDRUMers had had some experience with manufacturing various chemical compounds which had been near and dear to the hearts of the OEMers, so they remained on Ogakuchakor Three to start work on converting the bio weapon to their needs. The rest of the Movement, including all of the Borg, started a series of surgical strikes against Romulan and Federation targets - outposts, transports and other lightly defended, valuable targets. The Death Knell’s access to both Romulan and Federation datasystems made these raids possible. With new Borg being assimilated from the living booty and money to purchase ship upgrades and laboratory equipment from the mechanical booty, The Plan now kicked into high gear. In orbit around Ogakuchakor Three the Borg constructed a new ship from parts purchased at the Collective of Bargains. Integrating Borg, Federation and even Breen technologies, the REDRUMers now had a ship like no other in the galaxy. Of course, the fact that it was built primarily by Borg meant that the ship was cube-shaped, so it, in fact, LOOKED like many other ships in the galaxy. In recognition of their Collective’s separation from the main body of Green Borg, the REDRUM Borg went with a nicely subdued striped pattern on their hull, however. And so, the ‘Maximum Carnage’ was created with just about the least threatening exterior ever seen on a starship. Just about the time the ship was being completed, the work on the bio weapon was finishing up. The introductory stages of The Plan were now concluded. The deployment phase had just begun…
Security Officer’s Log;
Stardate 177813.1 - it would be Christmas morning on Earth. If I were at home we would be unwrapping presents about now. Today’s present will be the interrogation of Thot Phul and, hopefully, some answers as to who is stirring up trouble at present.
The smell of bacon and eggs cooking woke Natalia Kasyov from her sleep that morning. Stretching, she hopped out of bed and slipped on a light robe. Walking out of the cabin she had been using since she and Tovar had left on this mission, she headed towards the galley where she found Toflay preparing another sumptuous feast. Seeing his traveling companion, Toflay allowed Tovar to surface long enough to give Kasyov a quick ‘Good Morning’, before taking over again. Oddly enough, Kasyov actually found herself enjoying her conversations with Toflay. Even though Toflay wore Tovar’s face and body, he offered a decidedly different point of view. Not to mention his delicious meals!
Soon Toflay was finished with breakfast and Tovar re-surfaced to enjoy it with Kasyov. As the two of them stuffed themselves they discussed their interview strategy for later that day. As had been decided, back on board the Anomaly, Kasyov would get to approach Thot Phul, first, in her ‘bad cop’ persona to soften him up for Tovar, who would be the one responsible for actually getting the needed information out of him. She was looking forward to dealing a little payback to one of the ones responsible for nearly killing her best friend, Shelly Marsden. Thot Phul had been a member of FOBBER, a gang of criminals who had sworn eternal enmity towards Captain Bain. As part of their plan to destroy him, they had created a clone of Bain and insinuated him into the lives of the crewmembers of the Anomaly as Marsden’s boyfriend. He had stabbed Shelly and left her for dead as the last part of the gang’s plan was put into motion. Of course Bain and the rest of the Anomaly crew had thwarted that plan, resulting in the deaths of the clone, a deranged Ferengi and the mad Romulan biochemist, Dr. Lenik. Thot Phul had been one of four survivors from FOBBER, and was the only criminal Breen that they knew of.
Stardate 177813.3 - Doctor Nooney has informed me that Vioxx and Zantak have slipped into comas and he is no closer to finding a cure for the virus that seems to be the cause of their illness. I hate feeling so helpless while my people are in danger, but I can’t very well phaser a bloody damn virus! Larkin and Nooney assure me that everything that can be done is being tried as some of the Federation’s best medical minds are working on a cure. Meanwhile, apparently to get my mind off of this spot of bother, I am to proceed with the Cribbage Tournament, as scheduled. It seems that after this latest trouble with the Vulcans and the Romulans the entire Federation will be tuning in to watch this ‘spirit of peaceful competition’. What bullocks! I enjoy playing cribbage admittedly more than most, but even I have to agree that its bloody boring to watch!
The FCC officials had finished placing their additional monitoring devices throughout the Briefing Room as Bain arrived at the door. In addition to the standard anti-cheating paraphernalia, several holovision cameras had also been installed. Apparently the tournament would not be shown in realtime, but the ‘exciting’ parts would be compiled into a special presentation for the viewers at home. Bain remained sceptical. Krib walked up, just behind Bain, and the two entered the room. The chief official took up his position inside, as well and the Tournament began. Krib and Bain took seats on opposite sides of a small table. Between them, in the center of the table, was a Federation Standard 52 card deck and a small, acrylic board about 15 centimeters wide and 35 centimeters long. The board contained numerous tiny holes placed in long rows where each of the two opponents would keep track of their scores. This would be accomplished by the use of pairs small pegs which would be moved to indicate both total score and scoring made on the last hand. Each of the players was very familiar with the game, so Krib, accepting first deal from Bain as a courtesy, dealt out six cards to each of them. The latest Federation Cribbage Congress Tournament had begun!
Second Officer’s Log;
Stardate 177813.4 - I am still on extended duty helping the New RommaVulc Emissary to the Vulcan government settle into her new position. Since this is the logical course of action, my activities coincide with the needs of the Federation, the Vulcans and the Romulans, all at the same time.
“Darling that sounded so official! My little girl is so grown up!”, Eudora, the aforementioned RommaVulc Emissary to the Vulcan government and, incidentally, Prosak’s mother, gushed from the other side of the breakfast table that she was sharing with her daughter.
“Mother!” yelled Prosak, aghast at her parent’s emotional display.
“Now, what have I been telling you, my dear?” Eudora answered. “Unification doesn’t mean that you give up being a Romulan and try to be a Vulcan. It means that you try to blend the best parts of each culture into a more complete cultural outlook.”
“Yes, mother. I know, but you must understand that I was purely Romulan for so long that I have been compensating by trying to be fully Vulcan.”
“Now dear, you know that you can’t make up for lost time. You must accept that what has happened in the past, is in the past and try to be the best you can be now.”
“Yes mother, I’ll try,” assured Prosak, who could certainly see the logic in her mother’s argument.
“Wonderful,” replied Eudora, not believing a word of it. “What is on today’s itinerary?”
“Today we have been invited to an audience on Mount Selaya with the High Priestess Sharona,” came Prosak’s quick reply. She couldn’t keep a slight touch of awe out of her voice.
“Sounds boring,” the voice of her mother shot down her delusions of grandeur.
“Mother!” the shocked Prosak shouted.
“See - emotion is a good thing,” her mother grinned back at her.
“So, you were just provoking me to see what my response would be?”
“Oh no, it DOES sound boring. Think about it. Trudging for who knows how many hours up the steps to the High Temple. Sitting in the hot sun listening to some high muckety-muck welcoming us and hoping to usher in a new era of peace and under- standing between our two peoples, blah, blah, blah…”
“Well, when you put it that way, it does sound a bit boring,” Prosak conceded.
“Oh I’m sure it will be just fine,” Eudora argued”
Chief Engineer’s Log
Stardate - Stardate 177813.4 - With Bain in the middle of his Tournament, Vioxx unconscious, and Tovar off of the ship, I am in command, once again of the Anomaly. Whoopie! Here we are, sitting in the middle of nowhere waiting to see where the next attack might be taking place so that we can zoom over in time to clean up the wreckage. Bain must be rubbing off on me <<shudder>> because I’m finding it extremely difficult to just sit here doing nothing.
“Lieutenant, incoming message from Starfleet Command,” Brazzell called out from Tac-Ops.
“On main screen,” said Marsden, standing.
The main view screen switched from the passing starfield (or screensaver, Marsden was never sure which), to show Admiral Larkin at her desk.
“Lieutenant Marsden, has there been any change in the conditions of your crew?” Larkin asked without any preamble.
“Admiral, two more have gone into comas and Doctor Nooney has made no further progress. Has there been anything new discovered on your end?”
“I’m afraid not. However, a specialist in virology happens to be on one of the scientific ships that has been assigned to your investigation. I am sending the coordinates to that ship so that you can rendezvous with it and take Doctor Umpaloompa on board to assist Doctor Nooney.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” Marsden replied, and to her surprise she found that she really did feel gratitude. Considering the fact that Marsden had hated Larkin since the Admiral had given Bain command of the Anomaly, either she was mellowing out or this virus thing was really worrying her.
Larkin signed off and Ensign Yonk set the heading for the science vessel carrying their new, albeit temporary, crewmember. At a nod from Marsden, Yonk sent the ship zooming towards the location indicated by Larkin’s coordinates. Twenty minutes later, they had arrived. After establishing communications with the small science vessel and verifying the Admiral’s orders had, indeed, also made it to the other ship, Marsden had the Anomaly’s transporter control computer beam their new addition to the Bridge. In a flurry of sparkles, what, at first glance, appeared to be a blob, materialized near the, currently vacant, Science Station. Actually, at second glance it appeared to be a blob, too. This may have been explained by the fact that Doctor Umpaloompa was a Velvattian. When this fact sank in to the people on the Bridge, Marsden quickly jumped for the Tac-Ops console. She was, unfortunately too late. Lieutenant Brazzell stood at the console, his eyes wide in absolute terror. Foam dripped from the stunned Mezzakkan’s mouth and, as Marsden watched, his eyes rolled up in his head and he fainted dead away. Concerned, Doctor Umpaloompa oozed over and started examining the felled Security Officer. Marsden knelt down on the other side of Brazzell and explained to their new arrival,
“Sorry about that. Brazzell is an obsessive/compulsive neat freak. Your sudden appearance must have been too much of a shock for him.”
“Oh the poor boy,” the surprisingly cultured tones of the Velvattian showed deep concern as it used a tentacle to gently slap the unconscious man.
With a groan, Brazzell slowly came back to consciousness. Seeing Marsden starting down at him, he exclaimed,
“Oh, I just had the most terrible nightmare!”
Brazell frowned as he suddenly realized that he was being supported and that Marsden was too far away to be doing it. With obvious hesitation he turned his head and came face to, well, tentacle, with his nightmare. Screaming again he clutched his chest and passed out again.
Sighing, Marsden called out,
“Transporter control computer, please transport Lieutenant Brazzell and Doctor Umpaloompa to Sickbay.”
Waving as it was dematerialized, Umpaloompa left the Bridge, along with Brazzell.
“Call Lieutenant Gworos to the Bridge, Yonk.” Marsden said as she retook the central seat. Maybe having Bain in command wasn’t such a bad thing, after all!
Security Officer’s Log - Supplemental;
Stardate 177813.6 - We have assumed a standard orbit around Gulag, the Breen Prison world where Thot Phul is being held. The planetary officials have verified our authorization and given us permission to beam down. We have been given coordinates to an interview kiosk. Thot Phul will be beamed to the kiosk by the planet’s security system. Apparently each prisoner wears some sort of locking collar containing an ID chip for identification purposes. Apparently, such a measure is necessary because the prisoners are allowed to keep wearing their armor. This may be the oddest prison that I have ever visited.
Tovar and Kasyov beamed down to Gulag and found themselves in a tastefully appointed living room, which was, for some unknown reason, missing a ceiling. Over- stuffed couches and rich wood furniture decorated the room, while rich, ankle-deep carpet covered the floor. The two were wearing heavy Starfleet survival gear, since the Breen-compatible world was bitterly cold by Human (or Yynsian) standards. They found Thot Phul sitting nervously on an aluminum folding chair in the center of the room. Seeing no one else around, the pair decided to commence their interrogation. Kasyov quickly stepped forward and slapped the prisoner across the face. This didn’t have the desired effect, however, due to the previously mentioned armor. As the Doctor danced around the room, holding her hand between her legs, she noticed a beautiful vase on one of the end tables. Grinning, she picked it up and approached her target, again. The fear on Thot Phul’s face was palpable, (which was amazing considering, again, that aforementioned armor) as the obviously terrified Breen screamed and held up his hands to ward off the blow.
CRASH! - Kasyov brought the vase down on her quarry’s head.
As the tinkling sound of the destruction of fine porcelain died away, Tovar for some reason imagined that he could hear a sound much like thunder, in the distance. Since Gulag was such a bitterly cold planet, thunderstorms were almost unheard of. Thot Phul suddenly burst out sobbing, which puzzled Tovar. Surely Kasyov couldn’t have hurt him through his armor? Then Tovar realized two things; first, the ‘thunder’ had a peculiarly regular rhythm, and, second, that it was getting louder! Apparently, Thot Phul shared these observations, as he jumped off of his chair and dove under a beautifully finished cherry coffee table. Kasyov and Tovar shared a glance and shrugged their shoulders. They could think of no explanation for their companion’s actions.
An explanation offered itself to the pair not long after, as a huge hand dropped down from above and picked up the terrified Breen prisoner. Tovar quickly estimated that if the hand were attached to a body, that body would be approximately 25 meters tall! His guess was some proven to be far too accurate, as the hand lifted Thot Phul up to a gargantuan face. The entire figure came into view and, although it was wearing the ubiquitous Breen body armor, Tovar couldn’t help get the impression that the behemoth was, somehow, female.
“What has Mommy told you about playing in the fancy sitting room!” the monster roared. “You’ve been a bad, bad boy again! You must be punished!”
This chilling announcement was immediately followed by the appearance of the beast’s other hand which approached the struggling figure of Thot_Phul with its fingers extended. As those fingers touched the captive Breen’s armor, electrical discharges arced across it, sending the prisoner into a paroxysm of spasms.
“Misbehaving in front of guests, no less!” the amazingly maternal monster lowered the sobbing man back to the ‘living room’.
“Sorry you had to witness that, dears,” the monster now took a more conversational tone and explained, “I’m Mommy. I enforce the rules here on Gulag. Most of the time my little charges are perfect little gentlemen, but sometimes they act up and must be reminded of why they are here. I’m so sorry you had to witness Thot Phul’s little outburst. Please continue your business. I’ll be just over here if you need me.
“Actually, it wasn’t Th <OW!>” Kasyov was suddenly cut off by Tovar’s boot coming down of her foot.
“What she means is it wasn’t any of our concern, Mommy. I’m sure you know what’s best,” Tovar spoke quickly.
Kasyov, annoyed, only nodded as the gigantic apparition faded from view. After it was out of sight, she turned to Tovar angrily,
“What was that for?” she demanded.
“You were about to tell Mommy that it was you who broke the vase, weren’t you?”
“Well, yes,” she confirmed.
“Would you rather she electrocuted YOU?” Tovar asked.
“Well, since you put it that way, thanks for squishing my toes.”
“Any time,” Tovar grinned.
“Hmmm, Kasyov mumbled, deep in thought, “that gives me an idea.
Turning her attention back to the miserable looking Thot Phul, she walked over to another end table, on which another exquisite vase stood. Picking up the decorative piece she began idly tossing it back and forth from hand to hand.
The effect this had on Thot Phul was amazing. Diving from his uncomfortable chair, the once-proud Thot dropped to his knees and began sobbing,
“Please, I beg you! You’re supposed to be Starfleet - the good guys! Please, please just ask of me what you will and then leave. I’ll tell you anything you want to know, only please, please don’t make Mommy mad at me!”
“First,” Tovar spoke up, “what is ‘Mommy’?”
“Mommy is a holographic representation of Gulag’s security system. For the most part, inmates are left to their own devices on the planet, but whenever we are required to submit to a physical or are needed for a interview or anything like that, we are transported into the House Zone. In the House Zone we are required to be on our best behavior or else we have to deal with Mommy!”
Tovar swallowed heavily, taken back momentarily to his own boyhood. A shudder passed through the Security Officer as he felt a pang of pity for the Breen. Shaking this off, he resumed his questioning,
“I see. That sounds, somehow, amazingly appropriate. However, the reason that we are here is because we are investigating several attacks on Breen colony worlds. During these attacks, Breen technology, as well as Borg and Federation, was utilized. Our main question for you is: who, outside of the Breen Empire, would have access to Breen technology?”
“No one,” responded Thot Phul, simply. “We have always been quite careful to keep outsiders from gaining access to our technology. The only time in recent memory that I can even think of where any equipment has gone missing was about three years ago when we had a ship experience a total system’s failure and ended up dead in space. Before we could get a recovery team out to it, a group of Green Borg had claimed it as salvage. We tried to get it back from them, but they, apparently have a strict ‘No Refunds’ policy.”
Tovar considered this news. They had already known that Borg technology had been used, and now they had confirmation that the Borg had been involved with the capture of Breen technology as well. Considering Starfleet’s early, and even recent, encounters with the Borg, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine that they would have some Federation technology, as well. All the evidence so far pointed to an obvious Borg presence involved in these attacks. But why? What could be gained by attacking some outlying Breen colonies? Tovar was sure that, if he could just figure out that ‘why’ all of the other pieces would fall into place. Satisfied that Thot Phul had, indeed, told them all that he knew, he contacted the Raceabout Frinoqua’s computer to transport them back aboard. As they dematerialized, he saw Kasyov drop the vase that she had been toying with. Tovar couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Thot Phul.
Interlude 4: A secret laboratory on Ogakuchakor Three (formerly A secret laboratory somewhere in Sector One)
A silvery-grayish mechanical body sat upon a specially designed chair. The chair was special for two reasons. First of all, it had a specially designed back rest which had a section removed so that the chair’s oddly shaped occupant could sit, apparently normally, while the aluminum canister on its back jutted out behind the chair. Secondly, ‘chair’ hardly did the seat justice as it had been elaborately carved and decorated so much so that it looked more like a throne than like a simple chair. Further, it had been so elaborated modified that it looked like it would be incredibly uncomfortable to sit in. Of course a mechanical body didn’t really need comfort, so the synthibod, now controlled by Subject 241, sat there regally, without the squirming around which would have occurred had the chair’s occupant been mere flesh and blood. 241 had settled into his new role quite comfortably, and was, in fact, currently having an audience with two of his liberators and subjects.
“We have determined that Kasyov has left the Anomaly with its Security Chief and traveled to a Breen prison world called ‘Gulag’, my lord,” announced mysterious figure #1.
“The Maximum Carnage has been sent to intercept them on their return, my lord,” added mysterious figure #2.
OK, OK, that’s enough of that ‘mysterious figure’ crap!” shouted the newly crowned leader of REDRUM.” What are your real names?”
“Oh! Most powerful Tooforone, my name is Percival!” replied the Orion previously known as mysterious figure #1.
“My lord, Tooforone, my name is Poindexter!” came the answer from his companion, the previous mysterious figure #2.
Tooforone (previously known as Subject 241, in case you missed that) considered this for a time and then decided to be merciful,
“Very well, mysterious figures 1 and 2 it is. Bring Doctor Kasyov to me as soon as she has been captured. But remember - she MUST NOT be harmed. Her traveling companion may be added to our Borg contingent. That is all!”
The two, not quite as mysterious as before, figures bowed, and left the audience chamber. Once they were out of earshot of their Most Glorious leader, Lord Tooforone, an old argument started up again.
“Remind me why we needed him, again?” groused (now officially designated) mysterious figure #1.
“We needed someone from the old ways to lead us,” responded his likewise newly official companion.
“I don’t see why, we were doing fine on our own!” argued mysterious figure #1.
“Are you serious?” responded an incredulous mysterious figure #2. “Look at all he’s already done for us. He set up our 401K plan, got us a prescription drug program and even that supplemental insurance!”
“Yeah, but every time I turn around that stupid duck is in my way!” complained mysterious figure #1.
“Hey, don’t worry about that. Once we have succeeded in our plan, we’ll eat that damn duck!”
“Alright! Now you’re talking!”
Chief Engineer’s Log, Supplemental
Stardate 177813.7 - The FCC Tournament has broken for lunch and Captain Bain has asked Doctor Nooney, Lieutenant Gworos and myself to provide him with a brief briefing. Ur, better make that a quick briefing. Though I don’t know, since Bain has been on board I can’t remember ever having a brief briefing. Since they are called ‘briefings’ you’d expect that they would be brief wouldn’t you? What was I saying? Oh computer, delete entry!
Bain, Nooney, Gworos and Marsden had gathered in the holographic mess hall since the Briefing Room was currently being used for the Tournament. Bain had wanted to break away anyway during the lunch break and so the logical place to have their meeting was the mess hall. Unfortunately, the holochef had decided, in honor of the Tournament, to convert the mess hall into recreation of a Las Vegas casino, circa old calendar 2005. Bain had ordered fish and chips and, while the fish appeared to be quite tasty, the chips had been plastic and had come in various colors. Bain had explained that the different colors represented different credit amounts for betting. The four had brought their meals over to a table to eat, only to find out that it was a blackjack table. They ate and had their briefing as a holographic dealer distributed cards to each of them.
“Captain, I’m sorry to report that Centurion Nortal is in a deep coma. In fact, I have had to put her on life support to keep her alive. I’m afraid it doesn’t look good, sir.” Nooney was almost in tears, if Nortal and the other Romulans couldn’t be cured, it would mean that all of the lollipops that he had replicated would go to waste! “In good news, Lieutenant Brazzell is on the way to a complete recovery. He should be fit to return to duty in two or three days! I took the opportunity, while he was unconscious, to give him his annual physical as well!”
Marsden made a mental note to make sure that she had a heart attack just before her next physical was due - unconscious was definitely how she wanted to approach that particular task.
Gworos was the next one to make his report,
“Sir, we have heard from Lieutenant Commander Tovar. He has concluded his interview with Thot Phul and received some disturbing answers. He says that he will give us a full briefing upon his return, but he suggests that we might want to keep neck shielding generators on hand. He seems to think that the Borg may be involved with all of this!”
“I knew he would be able to get to the bottom of this!” Bain responded, doubling down on a particularly good deal. “Marsie, what about you?”
“Not much to report, sir,” Marsden replied, as she lost a hand because a dollop of mayonnaise had fallen off of her sandwich and hidden a spot on her card, making her think that she had twenty-one when she actually had twenty-two. “Since taking aboard Doctor Umpaloompa, we have just been cruising the Breen/Federation border trying to be in position in case there are any more incidents.”
“Good show girl!” Bain shouted, although Marsden wasn’t sure if it was to praise her, or if it was because he had won both of his downed bets.
“What about the Tournament, sir? How are you doing?” Marsden asked, more to make conversation that out of any real curiosity.
“Hmmm, I must be out of practice,” Bain grunted.
“You mean you’re losing, sir?” Gworos asked, surprised.
“Losing! What kind of poppycock is that, man? No, I’m winning, but only 11 to 8. I should be ahead by much more than that!” Bain responded.
“Well, you do have a lot on your mind, sir,” Nooney offered.
“Pah! What I need is a couple of pints of good stout!” Bain complained, as he won another hand.
The briefing concluded about twenty minutes later. Bain had won something over 500 credits while everyone else was broke. Wishing their captain ‘Good Luck’ the other three officers returned to their posts. Gworos stopped on his way back to the Bridge to retrieve neck shielding generators for the Bridge crew. He then sent a mass, intraship email to inform everyone to carry the generators at all times. Then he, Marsden and Yonk settled down for another boring four hours.
Second Officer’s Log - Supplemental;
Stardate 177813.8 - I… I… I just need to catch my breath! We… We… We have just climbed to the top of Mount Selaya. For… For… For some reason my mother seems to have managed the climb much better than I. I… I… I really must get back in shape!
“All better yet, dear,” Eudora asked her slumped over daughter.
Prosak was gasping for breath, bent over and barely supporting herself by holding on to a door frame for all she was worth. <<She’s been on the planet longer, she’s more acclimated to the high temperature and thin air,>> she told herself as she struggled for breath. <<Thank the Praetor that we haven’t had lunch yet!>> Eventually, she regained her composure and was ready to accompany her mother into the private sanctum of the Vulcan High Priestess, Sharona. The history of Vulcan weighted heavily upon Prosak’s shoulders as the two women entered the ancient temple. Two temple guards met them and, without a word, escorted them deep into the depths of the structure. Here, away from the merciless Vulcan sun, it was much cooler and Prosak welcomed the respite from the desert, outside. Finally, the pair made their way into what were obviously private quarters, where they found a table laid out with lunch for three. The meal seemed to consist of, unsurprisingly, soup. Prosak had a momentary pang of bittersweet memory. Sure, authentic Vulcan Plomeek soup was a treat to be savored, but, somehow, she knew, it wouldn’t be as good as her own special, spicy variety.
Sharona rose from a meditation mat and approached her two guests. Prosak was surprised by how young the Priestess was. She looked to be in her late twenties, Prosak guessed. Somehow, Prosak had always associated High Priestesses with older women. Sharona extended her hands to welcome her guests and bade them sit down to eat, before their discussion.
The three took their seats and began eating. Prosak was pleasantly surprised to find that her soup was quite spicy. Noticing her sudden smile, Sharona said,
“Yes, we have heard of your modification to our soup. Since we have you to thank for extricating us from our difficulties, we have decided to follow your recipe, today. To do so is only logical.”
Prosak couldn’t help but smile at this. “Fascinating,” she replied as the three got down to the serious business of soup eating.
Chief Science Officer’s Log;
Stardate 177814.2 - We are headed back to the Anomaly. Shelly can’t divert too much from their proscribed course along the Breen/Federation border, but its not like Gulag was in the heart of the Breen Empire, after all. We should meet up with the ship late tomorrow morning. Which means that I only have two more chances to sample Toflay’s cooking. He is in the galley, whipping up something ‘marvelous’ for dinner. Tovar seems to have been very disturbed by the revelations offered by Thot Phul. I can’t really see why. We have been able to effectively deal with the Borg for some time now and Tovar has had more experience than any of us with them. Still, his nervousness is somewhat contagious. We have both donned neck shielding generators and will wear them continuously until we rendezvous with the Anomaly.
Toflay had some sort of stir fry going on the galley stove. Kasyov could see diced vegetables flying up in the air as he flipped the foodstuffs out of the pan to keep them cooking evenly. She noticed that Toflay was as much a showman as he was a chef and that he was excellent at both jobs. As excellent as her meals had been since coming aboard the Frinoqua, Kasyov would be glad to get back to the Anomaly. She missed Cabral terribly and communicating via subspace was a poor substitute for actually being there with him. She was pulled out of her musings rather rudely as the Runabout’s proximity alarm suddenly wailed. The screens had been completely empty just moments before, so Natalia jumped up to check their sensors. Before she had taken a single step, however, the coalescing lights of transporter beams appeared all around her and Toflay. As the figures inside the beams gained resolution, she recognized Borg! She jumped for a storage locker to retrieve a phaser, but one of the Borg near her raised its arm, discharging some sort of soporific gas from an obviously recent addition to its cybernetic armaments. As she fought a losing battle to maintain her hold on consciousness, she saw Toflay surrounded by four drones. <<That neck shielding will teach them a lesson>> she thought. Suddenly, assimilation tubules shot out of the attacking drones, //into Toflay’s shoulders!// <<Oh great,>> were Kasyov’s last thoughts before the darkness promised by the gas finally claimed her, <<150 years and they couldn’t adapt and NOW they adapt!>>
Acting Chief Science Officer’s Log;
Stardate 177814.25 - While Doctor Nooney and I have made some progress with determining exactly what this virus is and what it does, we are no closer to finding a cure for it. Vioxx, Remax, Nortal, Zantak and Selex are now all on life support and hope is running out for them. What we DO know isn’t good. This virus was artificially created. Somehow it affects the DNA of its victim. First the metabolic processes are reduced and the infected organism lapses into a coma. Then, the metabolism is reduced further and further while the virus writes itself into the very DNA of the infected. Even if a cure could be found, once the virus is in the DNA, the victim would never survive! We have managed to figure out how it got on board. The radiation that was present on Mirach Beta-Andromedae 6 put the virus into a dormant state. Since the virus wasn’t active, the transporter didn’t screen it out. Notal returned to the ship with the dormant virus already in her system and, once the restricting radiation was removed, the virus began breeding at an alarming rate. The vector of contagion seems to include, airborne, contact and fluid contamination components. In short, it is, possibly, the most aggressively contagious virus I have ever encountered. While we were initially hopeful that we could use the virus’ susceptibility to that radiation as a way of combatting it, it was finally determined that the virus isn’t affected by the radiation once it has inhabited a host. This is easily the most incredibly complicated genetic manufacturing that I have ever seen. I have asked this ship’s most unique crew member, a massive, disembodied brain called Cabral to join us in a sort of conference call to see if his input could prove useful.
“Oh my goodness!” wept Nooney, distraught at the horror confronting him.
“My good fellow, try to keep in control” Umpaloompa tried to be encouraging, but Nooney was inconsolable.
“But, they were cherry!” wailed Nooney, as Umpaloompa waved his tentacles in sympathy.
Nooney had dropped an entire box of freshly replicated lollipops and the beautiful, dark red candy lay scattered across the Sickbay floor. Umpaloompa helped Nooney to his office where the hysterical human collapsed into his chair to wail at the unfairness of the universe.
Umpaloompa, for his part, went back to the genetic analysis programs that were running on the Sickbay computer. The computers had as yet failed to turn up anything even remotely hopeful, but Umpaloompa was an eternal optimist. It was sure that the answer would be forthcoming. Whether or not it would show up in time to save the Anomaly’s Romulan crew members was another question, entirely! If only they could send the Romulans through the transporters with a special filter to remove the virus, but their DNA had already been irreversibly altered. They could always provide fresh genetic material to grow new bodies since the Romulans’ DNA sequences were stored, just like every other crew member’s, in the Sickbay computer, but how could they save their minds?
Second Officer’s Log;
Stardate 177814.75 - Lunch was delightful. What a piquant demonstration of what both our people can gain from Unification. Hey, computer did you get that? ‘Piquant’ - meaning both spicy /and/ interesting. Well, where was I? Oh yes… With lunch over, High Priestess Sharona has been giving us a tour of the Temple and telling us tales of the High Priestesses of old. She’s just finished telling us the story of how Spock managed to transfer his Katra to a human just before he sacrificed himself to save the old Enterprise. Yeah, like I haven’t heard THAT story twenty times before. Before this boring lecture series drives me insane, I think I’d better check in with the Anomaly.
“They’re what?” Prosak asked aghast.
“I’m sorry, Commander, but the rest of the Romulans on board are in critical condition. We even have a specialist on board who hasn’t been able to prevent their deterioration. Things look grim.”
“But what is wrong?”
“Some sort of virus has rewritten their DNA. Doctor Umpaloompa thinks that he might be able to grow them fresh bodies but there is no way to restore their minds.”
“Wait a minute! You need to move their minds out of their sick bodies and into fresh ones?”
“Basically, yes, I believe that is what Umpaloompa suggested.”
“Lieutenant! I have a solution! We can save the crew and prove the benefits of Unification, all at the same time! You must immediately come to Vulcan!”
“Are you sure, Commander?” asked a decidedly sceptical Marsden.
“Absolutely, Lieutenant. I just had lunch with their only hope!”
Chief Engineer’s Log;
Stardate 177814.8 - We have lost contact with the Frinoqua. We had tried to contact them to let them know that there would be a delay in our rendezvous but there was no reply to our comms. There has been was no distress call and I’m not even sure if anything is wrong. If there was some situation that required radio silence, Tovar couldn’t very well call us to tell us that he wouldn’t be calling us now could he. Dammit! I’m doing it again aren’t I? Man, these logs are nowhere near as easy as they look. Any way, we have received word from Commander Prosak about a possible way to save the Romulan crew. On her orders, I have put the ship on course for Vulcan at the best possible speed that Cabral can maintain.
“Yonk what is our ETA at Vulcan,” Marsden asked from the command chair of the Anomaly’s Bridge. She, Gworos and Yonk were pulling extended duty with so much of the crew either incapacitated or off ship.
“Approximately twelve hours, Lieutenant,” came the reply from Yonk’s seemingly empty seat at Helm.
“But it only took us six hours to get here after the first attack!” Gworos protested.
“Unfortunately, we are at the far end of the border and there’s a good sized ion storm between us and Vulcan. By the time we detour around that, even at anti-sing speeds, its going to be a long trip,” Yonk explained.
“Hopefully the Romulans can hold on that long,” muttered Marsden.
“Yeah, and hopefully Prosak’s plan works,” added Gworos.
“That too,” agreed Marsden.
The conversation was interrupted by the opening of the aft turbolift doors. Bain came out of the turbolift like a dead man, walking. It seemed as if all of his seventy-plus years had suddenly caught up to him. Marsden quickly jumped up from the command chair as Bain dazedly sat down, had she been any slower, he would have sat in her lap.
“Sir, what’s wrong?” she cautiously asked.
He turned as if seeing her for the first time,
“I lost,” he whispered.
Marsden and Gworos shared a look before Marsden replied,
“Sir, you’ve had a long day. Why don’t you retire to your quarters and get a good night’s sleep. Things will look better in the morning, sir.”
Moving as though he were a zombie, Bain got up from the seat and headed back to the turbolift. The dazed, uncomprehending look never leaving his face as he requested the ‘lift take him to his quarters. As the doors whooshed shut, Gworos turned back to Marsden and asked,
“Did you see his eyes?”
“Yeah, they looked just like normal eyes,” she replied not understanding the question.
“Yeah, they didn’t look like Bain’s eyes at all!”
Interlude 5: You guessed it - A secret laboratory on Ogakuchakor Three (formerly A secret laboratory somewhere in Sector One)
Kasyov regained consciousness in some sort of audience room, facing a ridiculously elaborate throne. Whoever sitting on the throne had less taste than even one of Russia’s original Czars, she decided. As her vision cleared, she realized that there actually WAS someone sitting on the throne. As her vision cleared a little bit more she corrected her original assessment - there was someTHING sitting on the throne. Then she recognized the synthibod and knew who/what was sitting there.
“Subject 241, what have you done THIS time?’ she asked with the long-suffering tone of a mother who has been summoned to the principal’s office one too many times.
“Oh this wasn’t my doing,” assured the electronic tones of the synthibod. “Although I’m certainly not complaining. You see, these enterprising youths have decided to return to the pastimes of their ancestors. They have asked me to lead them, and who am I to deny assistance to the youth of my people?”
Kasyov noticed the two other men in the audience chamber. They were undoubtedly the geekiest looking, old, ‘young men’ that she had ever seen. They had to have been about forty and had the sort of complexions that suggested that they had had serious dermatological problems during puberty. The best description that Kasyov could come up with for them was ‘nondescript’. Until their presence had been pointed out, she had been completely unaware of their existence. Suddenly, one of the two, stepped forward and began to proclaim,
“Lord Tooforone will lead us into a new age of glory and power!”
“…and money,” added the second figure, also stepping forward.
“Yes, yes, all that and more!” agreed the synthibod, standing and raising its right fist in a dramatic gesture.
“‘Tooforone’? You sound like an advertisement for a sale at Dillion’s!” Kasyov shouted, incredulous.
“Be that as it may, my dear, you are, once again, in my power,” Lord Tooforone sneered.
“What about Tovar?” Kasyov asked, remembering the last, horrific vision she had had of the Yynsian.
“Oh, I’m sure your friend is just about fully /integrated/ into our organization by now,” the synthibod broke into a peal of fiendish laughter.
“241! You’re insane!” Kasyov shouted.
“Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps I’m insane. Perhaps I’m just a disembodied brain attached to a robot body. But ya know what? I’ve got followers. I’ve got a plan. I’ve got powerful ships and a deadly virus. So, insane or not, I’m a force to reckoned with! And, once I return from completing the final stage of my plan, I’ll have /you/ as my consort! Now,” it said, turning to one of its two lackeys, “take her to her room.” Turing to the other, he ordered, “Meet me on the Death Knell in ten minutes. It is time to finish this once and for all!”
Kasyov was led out of the audience chamber and into what could only be called a cell. A richly decorated, comfortable cell, but a cell nonetheless. She heard the crackle of an activating security field as she sat down on the bed. One thing really worried her. Sure, she was the captive of an insane, brain, a brain which, apparently, was in alliance with the Borg. But, more importantly than that - she had gotten Shelly’s boyfriend assimilated! Shelly was going to kill her!
Interlude 6: The Borg ship Maximum Carnage
As the cube completed its last pre-planned mission for REDRUM, problems began manifesting themselves throughout the newly reconstructed Collective. The fractured remnants of the rebel Green Borg had never really had a purpose. True, they had allied themselves with the REDRUMers and had used that alliance to the benefit of both groups, but their direction there had come from without. There had been no REDRUMers assimilated and, so, the rebel Greens had had to utilize the primitive verbal mode of communication to reach consensus with their allies. They had accepted this inefficiency more out of necessity than out of choice. Their numbers had been too few to have any other course of action open to them. However, their numbers had been swelling, lately. Victims taken in raids on outposts and from ships had increased their numbers to the hundreds. With a sufficient dataspace to create a unified Collective, what the rebel Greens now lacked was an internal purpose. As the nanobots and assimilation equipment integrated more and more of Tovar(Toflay) into the Collective, a purpose was discovered. A new direction by which perfection could be sought was discovered. Perfection through culinary means had never occurred to the Borg. Excited (well, as excited as Borg ever get, anyway) by this new idea, the nascent Collective allowed Toflay more and more control over the dataspace and soon a new Collective was born. Toflay was no more, his mind completely one with the Collective. Now, one would speak for many and that ‘one’ would be - Boy-Ar-Dee of Borg!
Boy-Ar-Dee’s first order of business was to redecorate the cube. That awful green-striped exterior just /had/ to go! Then, the redecorating complete, he turned his attention to the amassing of more recipes for the Collective. Where could more recipes be found? Suddenly he knew the answer. The mental command echoed down the neural pathways of the cube and the newly rechristened, Omnivore, entered a subspace conduit, its destination firmly planted in 312 minds.
Chief Engineer’s Log;
Stardate 177816.25 - Well, a good night’s sleep certainly doesn’t seem to have done Bain much good. He’s currently sitting at Tac-Ops mumbling to himself. Gworos has taken the seat at the Science Console. We still haven’t heard from Tovar yet, so I’m assuming that something is wrong. We are still two hours away from Vulcan. I hope whatever it is that Prosak plans on doing she can do real fast. Doctor Umpaloompa informs me that he doubts that he can keep Notal alive for much more than four more hours. Apparently the virus has rewritten so much of her DNA that there is a real danger of her just dissolving into mush at any moment. Speaking of mush, the holochef made the most disgusting oatmeal for breakfast this morning. It was… Damn! There I go again! And I was doing so well!
“Sir, subspace disturbance forming just ahead of us,” Ensign Yonk suddenly called out.
Seeing that Bain really wasn’t paying much attention, Marsden ordered,
“All stop, Yonk. Gworos, put it on screen.”
The Anomaly glided to a stop as the main view screen switched to a view of a swirly distortion of space. Suddenly, a cube-shaped ship flew out of the distortion, seemingly headed straight for the Anomaly. The most terrifying thing about the cube was that it was painted in the most horrible paisley pattern. The view screen switched to an interior view of the ship.
“Tovar…” slipped from Marsden’s lips as she gazed in horror at the apparition on the screen. It was Tovar, all right, but he had been transformed. His skin was the dead-appearing pasty white of a Borg drone. Re-enforcing this picture was the countless tubules and attachments to his body. A device closely resembling a mixer terminated his left arm while an additional arm seemed to have been grafted on with a set of measuring spoons in place of fingers. Worse by far was the horrible apron that he wore. An apron whose pattern matched that of the cube’s exterior paint job!
Bain, hearing that Tovar was on the screen, returned from whatever private little Hell he was currently occupying.
“Well, we’ll soon straighten…” the words died on his lips as the full force of the image on the screen hit him.
Tovar, seeing that he had the full attention of the Anomaly’s crew, began to speak,
“I am Boy-Ar-Dee of Borg. Your culinary individualness shall be made as one. You will release the entirety of your recipe databases to us or be destroyed!”
TO BE CONTINUED…
************************************************************************** *There are times when a Player is forced to hold a hand with no points. Sometimes he hopes to make up the deficit as the hand is played. Sometimes the proper cut will dramatically improve his hand. In any event, when the hands are counted, a Player with no points will sometimes declare that he has a “19 hand.” It is technically impossible to have 19 points in your hand in cribbage, so the Player is really saying “I have nothing.” A “19 hand” is when everything goes wrong. **************************************************************************