Author: Cory Parker
Star Traks: Next Frontier
“Fluffy Takes A Holiday”
By Cory Parker
The bridge crew of the U.S.S Haymaker was absolutely and completely bored. Halloway was continuously checking the time, LaCroix had her head buried in a beauty magazine, Halvox and Gabriel were playing a computer game, and both Benn and Bannon seemed to be asleep. “Anything new?” yawned Halloway as he checked the ship’s chronometer.
“Nope,” replied Halvox with a quick glance at her station. “Aside from those prank distress calls, and those bizarre energy spikes, nothing has happened in days.”
“Well, you know this crew. Something always happens,” stated the captain with a half-smile. The bridge was silent for a moment. Halloway quickly lost his grin; his dream of instant adventure dashed to smithereens.
“Nothing happened,” noted LaCroix as she continued reading.
“Thanks for the update, Commander.”
“That was sarcasm.”
“I know.” Halloway sighed and drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair as he checked the clock again. There was still fifteen minutes left on their shifts.
“Well, maybe there will be a distress call or something tomorrow…You can all leave early today.” Everyone uttered words of thanks and quickly left the bridge. Halloway was going to go with them when he remembered that the bridge would be unmanned if he left. “Dammit.” he cursed under his breath as the last of his shift left. He then checked the clock again and sighed as he watched the viewscreen.
Lt. Comm. Gabriel sighed with relief as he entered his quarters. “What a day,” he murmured to himself. He let his bulky frame fall onto the re-enforced bed (he had broken it twice already from his tossing and turning while asleep). “Computer, review schedule for tomorrow.”
“0800: Report for duty. 1200: Department meeting/lunch. 1800: Get off-duty.”
“Wonderful.” Gabriel rolled onto his stomach and passed his hand under his bed as he searched for the two things that would bring him a peaceful end to an otherwise dull day. “Come on…you couldn’t have slid that far underneath here.” Frustrated, Gabriel slid to the edge and peered underneath. He was immediately greeted by the realization that he could not find his teddy bear and blue blanket because they were not there. It was at this time Gabriel panicked. It was a discomforting feeling, one that grew by the minute. He began to search his room franticaly. However, since the room was so spartan, it didn’t take very long. Gabriel growled and thought for a moment. There was only one explanation for his beloved bear’s disappearance. “Whoever took Fluffy is a dead man…” he mumbled before he stormed out of his quarters to find his teddy bear.
“Is there something that I can help you with?” asked Ensign Pratt with an anxious smile on his face. It wasn’t often that people visited him way down on Deck 15. In fact, this was the first time. Ever. And from a senior officer, no less.
“I…wish to report a lost item,” rumbled Lt. Comm. Gabriel. Pratt’s grin widened as he grabbed a PADD and set it in front of Gabriel.
“That’s great!” Gabriel glared at him. His smile faded. “I mean, not for you, for me…No, wait, I don’t mean that either…”
“Forget about it.” Pratt swallowed nervously and placed his attention on the job at hand. Gabriel completed the form and handed it back to Pratt.
“I don’t get many visitors to the Department of Absent/Misplaced/Missing Items and Things. Dammit.” said Pratt as he looked over the PADD. Gabriel raised an eyebrow in confusion.
“You have a problem?”
“No, I was asking if you had one.”
“No, what makes you think that I do?” The security chief sighed deeply.
“You swore.” Pratt thought for a moment, then laughed.
“DAMMIT. Department of Absent/Misplaced/Missing Items and Things. It’s an acronym.”
“I see.” Pratt turned his attentions back to the PADD.
“It says here that you are missing a piece of blue fabric approximately one square meter, and a…” Pratt started laughing as he read the next item. “A teddy bear??? You own a teddy bear??? That’s the funniest thing I have ever…ERKK!” With a sudden burst of speed, Gabriel lashed out his right arm and lifted Pratt up with his claw wrapped around his neck. As the ensign gasped for air, Gabriel began to speak slowly.
“If you wish to walk out of this office at the end the day, with all of your limbs, appendages, and extremities intact, I suggest that you take that comment back.” Pratt nodded as best he could. Gabriel let him drop back into his seat. “Good. Now, how long should it be before I get Fluffy back?” Pratt started to laugh at the mention of the bear’s name, but wisely kept his mouth shut.
“Well, I have to process the form, and then the computer will do a passive deck by deck search. Since the…items in question are so small, a complete scan of the entire ship is in order.”
“2 to 6 weeks.” Pratt was hoisted up into the air again.
“2 to 6 weeks!?! I CAN”T WAIT THAT LONG!!!” Pratt tried replying, but as his air supply was being blocked off, not much was coming out. Gabriel tossed him back down again. After a brief coughing fit, Pratt took in a deep breath, and checked the PADD.
“I’ll mark the form `URGENT’,” he said as he tapped the PADD.
“How does that help?”
“It doesn’t, really. It’s supposed to make you feel better.”
“It doesn’t. Contact me the moment they are found.” Gabriel started to walk off. “And Ensign Pratt?”
“Do me a favor, and keep this quiet. Am I clear?”
“Good.” Pratt let a sigh of relief go as the security chief left his small office. He then turned to the computer and began processing the form.
“Do I even want to know?” asked Halloway as he and Commander LaCroix sat in his office.
“Well, tell me anyway.” LaCroix sighed and repeated the message that had been sent earlier that day.
“‘In desperate need of large quantities of attractive females and alcoholic beverages. Send help quick, signed, the Guys,’” she quoted.
“The fraternity again?”
“The one on Lampara IV, correct. They seem, to use an old Earth term, `to have our phone number’.”
“And they’re using it for prank calls. This is the fourth message since last Tuesday?”
“Fifth message. We would block them, except that’s against regs.”
“Isn’t everything?” grumbled Halloway as he stared out his window. “Well, as long as they don’t really have an emergency, we’ll just try our best to handle them until they get tired and stop.” LaCroix nodded in approval. “Anything else, besides the frat and those strange readings we have been receiving?” The commander coughed and shifted position. Halloway’s ears peaked with interest as he turned his head to face LaCroix. “Oh, this should be good.” She nodded aloofly and slid a PADD towards the captain. “What’s this?” he asked after looking it over for a moment.
“Look, all I did was ask. No need to get snippy.”
“No, it’s from the Department of Absent/Misplaced/Missing Items and Things.”
“We have a Department of Absent/Misplaced/Missing Items and Things?”
“Apparently so. Ensign Pratt runs it.”
“No kidding.” Halloway sighed and read the form.
“Lt. Comm. Gabriel has lost something, eh? A blue piece of cloth and a…you have to be sh*tting me.”
“I sh*t thee not, Captain. Gabriel’s lost his teddy bear.” LaCroix giggled and a wide grin grew on her angelic face. She produced a mirror out of her uniform and began studying her hair meticulously.
“He’s the last person I would expect to have a teddy bear,” remarked Halloway through a grin of his own. “Why are we even looking at this form? It looks like Pratt has the authority to do this scan of the ship it mentions.”
“It’s marked URGENT,” said LaCroix, pointing to the flashing word on the PADD.
“Needs captain’s approval for a more intense, detailed scan.”
“That’s all URGENT means?” asked Halloway. “Nothing else? Hell, I’ll sign it.” The captain pressed his thumb on the PADD and tossed it back to her. He then grinned and looked out his window. “I hope he finds his teddy bear soon. The mere fact that he has a teddy bear says that it is important to him.” The smile suddenly dropped from Halloway’s face. “God help us all if he can’t find it.”
Gabriel clenched his teeth as he took his station. He was NOT handling the loss of Fluffy well. To make matters worse, word was beginning to spread. Apparently, after confronting Pratt about it, he discovered that both Halloway and LaCroix had to review the form once it was marked `URGENT’. Halloway was probably keeping his mouth shut, but Gabriel was willing to bet real money that LaCroix wasn’t. He shook away his thoughts and tried to concentrate on his duties. He pulled up the file concerning the somewhat unusual readings the Haymaker had been registering for the last week. As he stared at the screen, he noticed his reflection. Only it wasn’t his face he was looking at.
“Gabriel, help meeeeeee!!” yelled the small, brown face.
“Flu…Fluffy?” stammered Gabriel in disbelief.
“Gabriel, please! I’m so scared!” said the voice of the teddy bear. Its little beady bead eyes glistened as his mouth trembled.
“Where are you?”
“They have me, Gabriel! Don’t leave me here!” Fluffy faded from view, replaced by Gabriel’s own face.
“Don’t leave, Fluffy!” yelled the security officer as he reached out at the screen in a vain attempt to rescue his beloved companion and friend. He sighed as he lowered his claw. The bridge crew erupted into laughter. Gabriel looked up to discover that the entire bridge crew had been privy to his conversation with his own imagination. He grunted and refused to acknowledge their joviality. Halloway sighed and looked at LaCroix, who pretended not to notice.
“Nice job, Commander,” he stated quietly after no response.
“Thank you, Captain.”
“That was sarcasm, Commander.”
“So was the `thank you’, Captain.”
Ensign Pratt was well underway with his first official assignment, scanning the ship, deck by deck, room by room. He wore a pleasant smile on his face, and as the scanners focused on Lieutenant Benn’s room, his grin widened. “Computer,” he ordered, sliding his chair closer to the screen, “enhance Grid 18-Beta. I.E., the sonic shower. Real time stream.” The computer beeped and began to display the shower, which just happened to be in use at the time. Just as Jenna appeared in all her glory on the monitor, a clawed, dark red hand placed itself over the Commander. Pratt yelped in surprise as he looked up into Gabriel’s frowning face.
“Busy looking, I see.” Pratt quickly changed the scan to another part of the ship.
“I…uh…I’m using a multiple scanning technique to…cover more ground, and speed the process up…sir,” he finished stammering out.
“Have you found him yet?”
“Who? Oh, yes. Your bear. Unfortunately, not yet. I have only scanned 15% of the ship, and it has been two days since the captain approved of my scan.” Gabriel sighed and walked off. “I’ll be sure to call you when I find Floppy!” he yelled after him. “His name’s Fluffy…” muttered Gabriel through clenched teeth as he continued walking away. Once he was out of sight, Pratt sighed in nervous relief. He turned back to his screens and was about to revisit the Trill when a screen behind him brought up an alert. He swiveled around to check it out, and his brow immediately wrinkled. One phrase popped into his head, the first phase taught to Starfleet cadets for use when encountering the new and unexpected.
“What the hell is that?”
“So then the guy goes back up the mountain a third time, and the goat’s still there, so he pulls out the tongs…” Chief Monty’s joke was cut off by the sudden arrival of Ensign Pratt into Main Engineering.
“Chief, look at these readings!” he stammered between breaths. Monty quickly snatched the PADD out of Pratt’s hands and began to look it over. The crewmember to which Monty was addressing his joke to took this opportunity to be elsewhere.
“Ensign, are you aware that I was in the middle of one of the funniest jokes ever conceived on Rigel IV? Timing is every…Ensign, these are those strange readings we’ve been seeing since last Tuesday. Most likely a sensor glitch.”
“But, sir, they’re more than just a glitch!” Monty folded his arms and smirked in amusement.
“This should be good.”
“My theory, Chief, is that an intelligence of some sort is on board the Haymaker, hidden from our sensors, but not completely, because we can get these strange readings from it, and…”
“And this thing stole Gabriel’s teddy bear and blanket? For what possible purpose?” Pratt swallowed hard and gave his answer.
“As a hostage…sir.” The hologram’s laughter could be heard a deck above and below. Pratt turned as red as Gabriel’s hide and laughed nervously.
“A hostage…that’s one for the record books. Hehehehehehehe…” The hologram stopped laughing when Ensign Pratt shoved another PADD in Monty’s face. “What is…oh, dear.”
“See? That’s definitely something! My teddy bear hostage theory isn’t so far fetched, is it?” “Time to go see an expert in this sort of thing,” said Monty, as he grabbed the ensign and left Main Engineering.
“Is there a reason why I’m back down here again?” asked Halloway as he stared at the Haymaker’s only prisoner, Mennol.
“Nice to see you too, Captain,” muttered the Betazoid from inside his cell. “Have you figured out a suitable reward for my last efforts?”
“Still working on…stop doing that!!!” yelled Halloway as he felt Mennol scanning his mind. “You know I don’t like that!”
“Sorry. What do you want now?”
“Ensign Pratt thinks he saw a bogeyman during a sensor sweep,” stated Monty.
“Hey! It’s not a bogeyman, it’s real!”
“Your ensign is correct, Captain. I am detecting a presence on board that wishes to remain hidden. He’s using some sort of cloaking field to conceal his movements…it’s similar to those employed by the N’Bari, and are.” Mennol was about to continue when Gabriel stormed into the brig. “Don’t worry, Commander. I’m on top of returning your stuffed animal.” The security chief skidded to a halt and scowled at Ensign Pratt, who was now cowering in fear behind Halloway. “Oh, for cryin’ out loud…HE didn’t tell me! I do happen to be able to read minds, you know! Jeez.” finished Mennol as he pinched the bridge of his nose and sat down. Gabriel continued for a moment, then turned to face Mennol, his scowl still on his face.
“Where…is…he…?” he asked slowly, never taking his gaze off the prisoner. Mennol rolled his eyes, then thought for a moment.
“He just entered Sickbay.” Gabriel nodded, turned, and quickly exited the brig.
“Oh, dear,” murmured Pratt. Monty sighed and prepared to transfer back to Engineering.
“I think that I can disperse the cloaking field by flooding Sickbay with a field of neutrinos. This is going to take a while to clean up, that’s for sure,” he finished as the hologram disappeared. Halloway sighed and looked at Mennol.
“Nothing.Thanks again for the help.” The Betazoid smiled slightly.
“That’s two you owe me.” Halloway rolled his eyes and headed for the door with Ensign Pratt in tow.
“I know, I know. I’m still thinking of something.” Mennol scanned the captain’s mind and immediately frowned.
“I trust that you’ll be replacing that.” The response to Doctor Clinton’s query consisted of a piece of biobed being thrown at him. Sidestepping the projectile, the doctor folded his arms and watched as Gabriel tore apart his sickbay. “And that as well.”
“Monty to Sickbay,” came the engineer’s voice over the comm.
“Clinton here, Chief.”
“Ehhh, what’s up, doc?” Clinton rolled his eyes as the hologram audibly crunched on something hard for several seconds. “Hehehe…Sorry about that, had to do it.”
“Is there a point to all this, Chief? My Sickbay IS being torn to pieces by Gabriel, so I’m rather busy.”
“I’ll keep it brief. Speaking of which, here’s a joke. What kind of underwear does a Vulcan wear?” Clinton ducked as a piece of bulkhead flew in his direction. “Boxers, because they never keep anything brief! Get it?”
“Monty, the reason you called is…?”
“Oh, that’s right. I’m going to flood Sickbay with neutrinos to expose the cloaked intruder. You should start to see him in 10-15 seconds.”
“The what? Nobody tells me anything around here anymore.” Clinton turned his head to see Halloway and Pratt enter Sickbay. The good doctor’s timing was unfortunate, because at that moment, a tricorder thrown by Gabriel connected solidly with Clinton’s forehead, knocking him out and sending him to the floor. “Oww.”
“Lieutenant, stop making a mess, that’s an order!” yelled Halloway.
“I have to find Fluffy!!!” responded the enraged security chief. Pratt began to hide behind Halloway, but suddenly, he shouted and pointed his finger towards the opposite wall, where a faint outline of a person was beginning to take shape.
“Uh oh,” muttered the outline. Gabriel snapped his head around and roared, revealing his razor-sharp canines. The outline quickly ran out of Sickbay, pushing aside Halloway and Pratt, and disappearing down the corridor. Gabriel swiftly dashed after it.
“Halloway to Monty, flood the entire ship with neutrinos, starting with this deck.”
“That’s going to take a while, Cap.”
“Unless you want Lt. Comm. Gabriel to dash into Main Engineering and start tearing up the place, I recommend that you flood the damn ship!”
“Aye, sir. Well, you guys heard the idiot, flood the ship!” There was a low voice in the background. “What do you mean it’s still on…oops. Monty out.” Halloway chuckled and yanked Pratt by the arm. “C’mon, Ensign, we have a teddy bear to rescue.”
Lt. Benn was on her way to the bridge when an unseen force knocked her down. She began to pick herself back up when she was once again knocked down, this time by Gabriel. Checking the corridor, she stood up. “No time like the present, Miss Benn,” yelled Halloway as he and Pratt turned the corner. The captain’s arm reached out and grabbed hers, and Benn found herself being dragged along for the ride.
“May I ask what the hell is going on?”
“What the hell is going on?”
“Gabriel’s found the person responsible for stealing his teddy bear.”
“Oh, really? And who was the dumbass that took it?”
“Why do you think we’re running after Gabriel?” Benn mouthed a silent `ahh’ in reply. “Computer, location of Lt. Comm. Gabriel?” “Lt. Comm. Gabriel is en route to the bridge, via Jefferies tube 6.” Jenna and Pratt were both yanked by the collar and dragged into a turbolift. Stepping onto the bridge a few minutes later, the trio was greeted by Gabriel with his hands around the invisible intruder.
“It’s about time you got back up here,” muttered LaCroix as she checked her hair.
“Shut up. Gabriel, let the intruder go. He’ll be visible in a moment, and besides, he isn’t going anywhere.”
“Damn right he isn’t.”
“No, that’s not what I…oh, never mind.” As the intruder came into view, Gabriel was so startled by his appearance that he almost lost his grip. Almost.
“Let me go!” squealed the man, if he could be called that. He was rather thin, not very strong, and wore a pair of thick glasses. His voice sounded like he lived with a perpetual head cold. All in all, he was not an attractive fellow.
“Where…is…he?” asked Gabriel, his ire growing with each passing second.
“Wh…who?” stammered Nerd Boy.
“FLUFFY! WHERE IS HE!?!” The roar from Gabriel nearly took off Nerd Boy’s head. The security chief’s claws sprang to life as he prepared to take off a chunk of the captive’s face.
“He’s on the ship!!!” he screamed.
“That ship,” responded Halvox, as a ship decloaked directly in front of them. Gabriel dropped Nerd Boy and attended to his station as the red alert klaxons wailed. “They are hailing, Captain.” Halloway nodded the go-ahead and young, athletic-looking man wearing a T-shirt with the letters `ABA’ in green across the chest.
“Like, greetings, Captain Halloway. I’m Bert, captain of the starship Hogshead. We have the bear. If you don’t beam over 20 kegs of Starfleet’s Best beer and a case of Romulan Ale, I’m gonna shove little Fluffy out the nearest airlock.”
“Hey, Bert, what about me?” asked Nerd Boy.
“Oh, right. We want our little dude back, too. He’s so cool. He make this ship and other cool stuff.” Halloway stood and slipped into his `tough guy’ face.
“It’s Bert, dude.”
“Whatever. You have two options here. One, you give us back the bear, and nobody gets hurt. Two, you give us back the bear, and nobody gets hurt.” Bert thought for a moment.
“What was the first choice again?” Halloway slapped his forehead and turned to Gabriel.
“Get back your bear, Commander,” he sighed. Gabriel grinned and looked at the screen.
“Firing all phasers.”
“DUDE! Wait a minute, bro! We just want the booze,” said Bert, waving his hands. Halloway turned back to the viewscreen.
“Well, how about her, then?” asked Bert, pointing to LaCroix, who poked her head out of her magazine to see who they were talking about.
“Tempting, but no. Bear in fifteen seconds, or you’re dead.” Bert looked off screen for a moment, then turned back to face Halloway.
“Deal. Here’s your bear, dude.”
“He came with a blue blanket,” stated Gabriel. The aforementioned blanket was tossed into Bert’s lap from offscreen.
“Halvox, if you would be so kind as to retrieve Gabriel’s teddy bear and send Nerd Boy back over there. Without his personal cloaking device.” Nerd Boy frowned as a security guard confiscated the device from around his wrist. He was then beamed away, and in his place, Fluffy and the tiny blue blanket appeared. Gabriel rushed towards them, snatching them up with joy, and hugged them with all his might.
“Oh, Fluffy! I am so glad to see you again! I missed you so…” The security chief suddenly realized that all eyes were on him. “Permission to return these items to my quarters, sir.”
“Permission granted,” replied Halloway with a small smile. Gabriel nodded and stepped into the turbolift. The second the doors closed, the bridge erupted into laugher.
“Well, another crisis averted,” mumbled Halvox as she got back to her duties. Benn grinned and turned around.
“I suppose we killed two birds with one stone, eh Captain? We got the bear back, and no more prank calls.”
“Hey, did anybody remember to sever communications?” piped up Bannon from his science station, his eyes glued on the viewscreen. The rest of the bridge crew looked and found Bert still sitting there. Halloway quickly tried to repair the situation.
“Oops. Well, I’m glad we got that resolved, Bart.”
“Whatever. Now don’t bug us again or else I’ll unleash Halvox on you. She’s misplaced her favorite punching bag, and she needs to vent.” Halvox smiled and positioned her finger over the photon torpedo button.
“Got it, dude.” Bert and company disappeared, leaving a view of their ship turning tail and running away.
“Well, goodbye everyone. I’m going back to Deck 15. Nice meeting you all,” said Pratt as he entered the turbolift and left the bridge. Halloway nodded and took a seat as LaCroix shot a glare at him.
“I’m sure it was very tempting.”
“Oh, that. I was just kidding, Commander. No need to get your panties in a wad.” LaCroix simply snorted and went back to her magazine. Halloway laughed and rubbed his forehead.
“Well, at least we’re not bored anymore.”