Author: Don Rae
Star Traks - Secondprize: The New Adventures
By Don Rae
“Second Officer’s Log, Stardate 51380.3, Lieutenant Commander Jaroch reporting. The Secondprize is currently engaged in a maintenance overhaul to accomplish repairs that weren’t addressed during the recent refit of the ship. Captain Rydell has given Commander Dillon the responsibility of commanding the maintenance schedule to its completion. Because of this factor, I severely doubt the maintenance schedule will ever be completed on time. Our extremely slow progress has been, so far, owed to Dillon’s natural ability in complicating routine matters, completely in total opposition to common sense.”
“Despite the continuing problems and the threats to Dillon’s continuing existence, the Captain has allowed to let Dillon proceed in his own way in the faint hope this experience may prove to be a learning exercise for him. Although I admire the incredible amount of optimism displayed by the Captain, I would not personally advocate its chances of success. I’m certainly not enjoying all the double shifts I’ve had to pull in an endless attempt to compensate for Dillon’s unceasing, relentless incompetence. J’Ter has been showing up a lot lately as a result of Dillon’s constant badgering, and I’m not enjoying that much at all.”
Captain Alex Rydell woke up, with great reservations. He was not used to taking extra shifts at all. In a very weak moment, he had humored his first officer’s request to cover a bridge shift, since Dillon had wanted extra time to deal with an increased load of administrative matters concerning the ship’s maintenance schedule.
It was a mistake he regretted very badly this morning. Groaning, he rolled out of bed, and bleakly regarded the replicator.
“Coffee, French Vanilla, hot,” said Rydell.
A cup materialized in the slot, and filled itself with a brownish liquid.
Rydell took a drink, and winced. “Sure tastes like crap. Even the replicators aren’t working right anymore.” He gave up, tossing the cup into the incinerator.
Rydell pulled on his Captain’s uniform, attaching his commbadge upside down. He shuffled out his quarters and stumbled into the turbolift.
“Bridge,” Rydell said.
The turbolift accelerated, eventually arriving at the bridge, just in time to begin his obligatory duty shift. He fully expected to have a hard, busy day of catching up on some sleep in the Captain’s ready room.
He stepped onto the bridge, hoping that no one was going to notice. Dillon had his back turned. If he could just sneak past everyone, without anyone noticing…
Dillon turned around, and spotted Rydell tiptoeing across the bridge.
“Captain! I have an important matter to discuss…”
Bleakly and without real hope, Rydell picked up his pace to the ready room in a frantic, desperate charge to escape. Dillon stepped neatly in front of him before he could stumble through the open doorway.
Having spent all his limited energy on this futile exercise, Rydell slumped against the wall console, tripping the communications array open for a ship-wide broadcast channel.
All over the ship, people flinched when they heard Rydell’s question.
“What is it, Travis?”
“Sir, I have reviewed the maintenance inspection progress reports. I am sorry to report that the maintenance task manifest is over two weeks behind schedule, and we’re not really making much progress at all right now. This is despite my standing order to maintain double duty shifts for everyone until the entire schedule has been completed.”
Rydell waited expectantly for a moment, then sighed, wondering why he made the mistake of giving Dillon the command of the maintenance schedule in the first place. Independent action wasn’t one of Dillon’s strongest suits. He always had a tiring way of forcing everyone else to instruct and guide him through all of life’s little problems, all the time, just like right now.
Rydell often wondered how his first officer ever managed to learn how to clothe and feed himself without someone telling him how to do it. But at the moment, there was just no escaping the established routine of offering the carrot to the jackass.
“What is it, Travis?”
“Counselor Webber came in to see me this morning. She informed me that we might have a severe morale issue with the crew. Since Starfleet regulation 4563 Subsection Three Paragraph 7 specifies a formal command staff review of morale problems that come to the attention of the ship’s counselor, I spent the entire day interviewing members of the crew for signs of discontent. Honestly though, I personally didn’t see any real reason for this at the time. After all, we’re all Starfleet officers…why anyone would even have the time to develop a morale problem while they were working double duty shifts, seemed highly unlikely to me. But sir….”
Dillon waited for acknowledgement, and it was plain to Rydell that Dillon was going to milk this for all it was worth.
“What is it, Travis?” Rydell was really too tired for this.
“Sir, after talking to several officers at random, I did happen to notice that all of them were, uh, well, kind of snappish and short-tempered, to say the least. They yelled, they made rude gestures, and they cursed me in languages the universal translator couldn’t comprehend at all. On top of this, I asked Jaroch to consider working triple shifts, since his contributions were so important to the maintenance schedule completion…and J’Ter took over again for the fifth time this week. Today, J’Ter threatened to grind my bones into dust, and feed my entrails to the Ynnsian dark gods. Captain, I really did want to propose some kind of a useful course of action upon consideration of all this, even though I do not really know what can be done about it.”
Rydell didn’t really understand what his first officer was getting at. Everything seemed relatively normal, since the crew’s behavior towards Dillon was still more or less consistent. Okay, it was definitely more, but at least it was still consistent.
“What is it, Travis?”
“Well, Captain…” Dillon lowered his voice. “Captain, permission to speak freely, if just for a moment?”
“What is it, Travis?” Rydell wanted to record himself saying those words, and play them back whenever Dillon approached him for any kind of reason. He doubted that Dillon would notice the difference.
“Based upon everything I’ve seen, I really do think it might be a morale problem after all, and it’s affecting everyone. No one really wants to work hard at anything anymore. I think it’s beginning to have a negative impact on the majority of the crew. I’ve even noticed this phenomenon myself, very recently, in my own personal life.”
Dillon frowned, remembering last night’s events.
“What is it, Travis?”
Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins was sitting down in Seven Backward lounge, also listening to the bridge conversation with sixty other people in the room. The blood drained out of her face, dreading whatever Dillon was about to say next.
She prepared herself as best she could. She buried her head inside her arms.
“Well sir, just between you and I - Patricia hasn’t really been herself lately. She has not been able to enjoy her off-duty hours at all. Lately, she has been complaining that she feels completely worn out from the workload resultant from her current duties. She has been cranky and irritable every day this week. She won’t even play footsie phaser battle with me anymore, and that’s her favorite game!”
Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, sipping a coffee at the science console, blew it back out his nose.
Ensign Andrea Carr whooped and slapped the helm in glee.
The howling, hooting and jeering crowd surrounded Hawkins in Seven Backward, pounding her back, and whistling as loudly and as obscenely as possible. Hawkins buried her head further inside her arms.
“I’m - going - to - kill - him,” she said.
Oblivious to the giggling, snorting, and the sight of Jaroch coughing and holding his nose in agony, Alex considered his first officer’s unusually observant observation for a moment.
Maybe Travis actually had a point to make, after all. It wasn’t as if Lieutenant Hawkins wasn’t generally obstinate about something or other on any given day…but it did seem to him that this kind of consistent attitude seemed unusual, even for her. Even though Dillon was the source of this information, Rydell considered the possibility that maybe the work stress was getting to her. She was a tough character mentally…and she pretty much had to be. After all, she was going out with Dillon.
Did she really like to play footsie phaser battle with him?
Perhaps there was something more to all of this than Dillon’s normal effect on the crew. It was highly likely they were really experiencing the effects of work related stress. And Dillon certainly wasn’t helping them any with that.
The more Rydell thought about this and of his own lack of meaningful sleep in the last few weeks, he finally decided that it had been quite a while since everyone had a real break. They deserved it, even though the maintenance schedule wasn’t completed as of yet. Hell, he knew he needed and deserved some rest, especially after putting up with all of Dillon’s annoyances over the past few weeks. And those extra duty shifts had made it so much harder for him to find enough time to nap.
“Travis, I think that everyone on the maintenance roster should be made eligible for an immediate shore leave. Mr. Dillon, I want you to issue the order, quite frankly because I really think the crew should be able to feel positive about following your orders once in a while.”
All ship decks erupted in a loud cheer.
Rydell noticed he was leaning on the communications panel. He hastily pulled himself off the wall, and the broadcast cut off with a crackle.
“Captain, with all due respect - may I still have a full duty crew available for the completion of the maintenance schedule?”
“Anyone who wants to take shore leave, gets it. Pick a suitable place, and get us there. That was an order, Mr. Dillon.”
Satisfied that he sufficiently took care of Travis for the day, and before he could get another word in edgewise, Rydell dove into the ready room. The doors slammed shut.
“Computer, lock the doors securely!” he shouted. There was a loud SNAP as the latch closed.
“Yes sir,” Dillon finally managed to say to the door.
The hooting and jeering followed Hawkins as she got up and stormed out of the door. Imagining a very large knife firmly buried in Dillon’s forehead, she marched straight to her quarters.
She threw her suitcase on the bed, and packed ferociously.
“It’s about f***ing time we got a break,” Baird said. He threw his task manifest down on the engineering deck, and stomped on it until it broke apart into a pile of electronic shards.
He grabbed his bike off its rack to begin a long-neglected tune up job.
In her personal quarters, Vaughn started to look through her entire closet, finding nothing at all to wear.
“Mmmm….good,” she said.
In her chambers, Counselor Webber hugged her brand new teddy bear with glee. The bear’s stuffing burst from the seams.
Dillon hadn’t expected that kind of response from Rydell. He sure wasn’t feeling too supportive of the whole idea of shore leave, since he was still really worried about getting the maintenance schedule completed on time. But, orders were orders…and Dillon did know how to follow orders. He just wasn’t always sure he knew how to give them in a way that others would actually listen.
Dillon turned on the ship wide communications channel.
“Commander Dillon to crew. All maintenance teams are eligible for shore leave, effective immediately. We will be setting course for an available facility to commence short leave. End announcement.”
The deafening roar of continued celebration all over the ship drowned out Dillon’s entire speech.
“Ensign Carr, set a course for…for…ummm…” Dillon really had no idea where to go at all. He just didn’t understand why shore leave was always such a big deal to everyone else, nor why anyone would even want to take a holiday when there was so much important work to be done? Even if you needed a break now and then, you could spend one’s recreational time just as easily inside a holodeck if you really wanted to, so what did it matter, anyway?
“I see you’re attempting to make a decision. Did your brain lock up again?” Jaroch asked.
Dillon hastily decided that anyplace would do…since it wouldn’t really matter to him anyway. If he just went to the nearest available place, then he could get the ship’s routine back into order as quickly as possible. Besides, it might give him some extra time to spend with Patricia, since everyone else would be leaving the ship.
“Ensign Carr, where is the nearest designated shore-leave planet?”
Carr consulted the star chart. She grimaced.
“The nearest place is Lars Landing. But sir, there’s a much better vacation spot just a few more light years away….”
Dillon cut her off. “It’s good enough, ensign. Set a course for Lars Landing and engage.”
Carr groaned. Lars Landing was infamous for gangland activity, cheating casinos, seedy nightclubs, and pickpockets and thieves of the worst varieties. Carr noted that nearly all of the available travel ads were very specific in advertising tours that avoided this place by several hundred parsecs, and bragged about this fact throughout the sales pitch.
“I just know I’m going to hate this,” she said, and punched the course in savagely.
Ah, peace and quiet at last. Rydell glanced at his desk, and looked for the most important item that immediately required his devoted attention. The Captain’s easy chair urgently beckoned him to action.
Rydell gracefully turned and plopped himself down, lifting his tired leg muscles up on the Captain’s desk. Finished with this gravely important item on the agenda, he settled himself back for his morning nap. He stretched and yawned.
“Oh, that feels so good. Computer, play some nice music.”
“Please specify additional parameters.”
Rydell considered this for a half-second. “Just give me a lullaby.”
“Please specify form and type.”
The damned computer was just as annoying as Dillon. “I don’t care!! Anything! Just play something, will you!?”
Rydell settled back into his chair, finally allowing his eyes to shut themselves, relaxing, comfortably….
MOK PAHLEK TOK
Rydell’s eyes snapped open, heart beating frantically.
“Computer! What the hell was that!?”
“The lullaby is entitled: The Warrior’s Afterlife Bedtime Sonnet for Klingon Children”.
Rydell wondered if any day in particular would become his day.
Manny was feeling more than nervous. He hadn’t quite come up with enough take for the month, and he was feeling a bit mortal at the moment. Would the Boss give him a break? Waiting outside his office, he wasn’t feeling particularly confident in his ability to stay alive over the next few minutes.
“The Boss will see you now, Manny.”
He walked in. The Boss was sitting at his desk, and still he towered over Manny. His pet Geelat was wallowing in comfort on his desk. Manny always felt extremely nervous with that thing around - its appearance being mostly a nasty, furry, fat ball of teeth. Swallowing hard, he beamed with a self-confidence that was entirely and completely false.
“Hey Boss, how are ya? Heard you made a bundle on that race last week, sure would like to see some of that action myself! So, uh, how’s everything holding up, Boss?”
The Boss regarded him blankly, and ran his fingers through the Geelat’s fur. Its teeth gnashed together again and again and again with a steady chopping sound - not unlike a Klingon Bu’Qech trap, Manny noticed.
“Where’s the money, Manny?”
“Uh, I was going to tell you about that. You see, uh, I’m a little short this month…”
“I see.” The Boss’s eyes could bore holes through duranium. Manny tried another desperate tactic.
“But hey Boss, I have a big score on the way! Sure, yeah, I’m planning on making this one a record take! But, you know, I just need a little bit more time to get it together, that’s all.” Manny could almost feel the sweat in his voice.
The Boss smiled grimly.
“Do you know what I will do to you if I do not receive your take, plus an extra one half in accumulated interest, in one day’s time?” The Boss patted what might be thought as the head of that thing.
The Geelat’s tiny single eye leered hatefully at Manny, and it drooled all over itself until the wet spot underneath spread to the edge of the Boss’s desk, splattering drop by drop to the floor.
Manny swallowed audibly.
“I see we understand each other. I have no real desire to feed you to my precious. You would probably give him a very bad case of indigestion, and I do generally prefer to care for my pet much better than that, if possible. However, you must not test my patience, otherwise, there won’t be enough left of you to satisfy dear Geelat here.”
The Geelat grinned, its fangs protruding from its mouth in all directions.
“I understand perfectly, Boss.”
“Good. One day, Manny. Now get lost, before my pet decides to take a significant liking to your taste.”
“Yes Boss, right away Boss,” Manny said, cautiously backing up toward the door and nervously eyeing the creature.
“GRONNK!” the Geelat screamed, all of its teeth instantly snapping open at once.
Manny backpedaled quickly out the door, tripping on the doorframe. He landed on his angular organ, and the doors slammed shut in front of him. At least now there was something between him and those teeth.
“Whew,” Manny breathed.
Now what he needed to do was find some kind of sucker to exploit before the day’s end. And preferably, sometime before he was invited for dinner.
Carr regarded her readout. “Approaching Lars Landing”.
“Standard orbit,” Dillon said. “Hailing frequencies open.”
“Lars Landing, this is Commander Travis Dillon of the Federation Starship Secondprize. Our crew wishes to disembark for shore leave on your planet. Do we have your permission to begin transport?”
“Granted, Secondprize. May lady luck favor your crew during their stay with us! Be sure to check out the Liquored Lars Lounge, and enjoy every known mind altering beverage in the galaxy! Be sure to experience the thrill of playing in the Lucky Dabo Jackpot, prevailing against overwhelming house odds! Make yourself instantly rich while wagering at the Lars Landing Raceway, or sample the erotic pleasures of our galaxy acclaimed Lapdance Holosuites…where all of your most exotic dreams are likely to become an intense, hot reality…if you dare!”
“Uh…yes of course. Secondprize out,” Dillon swallowed.
Jaroch regarded Dillon with extreme distaste, since there was no other way possible.
“I suppose you’ll be needing some sort of staff available to continue the maintenance schedule while everyone else is on leave,” Jaroch said.
“Yes, I’m still going to need all the help I can get, if the schedule is to be completed on time,” said Dillon.
“That goes without saying,” said Jaroch.
Dillon flushed. “What do you propose?”
“Since I have no real desire to deal with the eventual results of your incompetence, I propose that I shall forgo my own shore leave, and volunteer to stay on board to help with the repairs,” said Jaroch.
“I appreciate your volunteering, but I think I could do without the sarcasm. It is against regulations to insult a superior officer!”
“You simply outrank me, which really isn’t the same thing at all.”
“Get on with it, Jaroch,” snapped Dillon.
“All right. I am very sure that I can assemble a small skeleton staff to finish the necessary repairs while the rest of the crew are on leave. I will accomplish this by calling in some favors I have with select members of the crew,” said Jaroch.
“You would actually do that for me? Really?” asked Dillon.
“Of course, the sole condition of obtaining this level of co- operation and help from me, is that you will agree to leave the ship’s operations entirely to me, unconditionally. I will conduct, supervise, and complete the remainder of the repairs, while you do us all a favor and get lost,” smiled Jaroch.
Dillon knew he was losing control of the situation, not really understanding why this always seemed to happen to him all the time.
“Jaroch, I would think that some kind of administrative supervision may be required from myself while conducting the remainder of the maintenance schedule.”
“Then with respect to the Captain’s orders, I think I shall spend my shore leave time playing Dabo and sipping on martinis, while you figure out how you’re supposed to fix everything on time without my help at all. Is this okay with you?”
Dillon felt completely lost. He wondered, for the thousandth time, why he never seemed to have much influence over much of anything or anyone under his command.
“Well, uh, maybe I should also use this opportunity to spend some time on vacation myself…I suppose I could use a break too. Lieutenant Commander, you have the bridge,” Dillon said. He reluctantly entered the turbolift, and the doors closed behind him.
“Finally, I might be able to get some real work done without the essence of stupidity hovering all around me. Ensign Carr, you are dismissed, I’ll take care of everything from here,” Jaroch said.
Carr started to think that shore leave might be somewhat salvageable after all.
Rydell stepped into the transporter room, and found Vaughn, Carr, Webber and Hawkins waiting on the transporter pad. Everyone was dressed in civilian clothing. Well, maybe except Vaughn, who was barely wearing anything at all. Rydell couldn’t figure out how those tiny bits of cloth were staying attached.
“Hello Captain…are you looking for some intense, wild fun while you’re there?” Vaughn purred.
“Actually, Monica…I think I just want to catch up on some needed sleep for awhile,” said Rydell as he stepped out of her grasp.
“Oh that’s really too bad sir…I was really looking forward to finding something nice and sexy to wear, and then taking it all off again…” Vaughn’s eyes glazed over dreamily.
“Maybe next time, Monica,” Rydell gulped.
Hawkins turned to the transporter chief. “Well? When the hell can we get off this damned ship?”
“In a moment Lieutenant, we are just waiting for the arrival of one more.”
“Well, you’d better not waste much more time with this, or I’ll be beaming your remains into space,” Hawkins snapped.
“Lieutenant Hawkins, you’re not waiting for Commander Dillon before going on shore leave?” Rydell asked.
“I would hope so, for f*** sakes…we wouldn’t want her to miss a single f***ing game of footsie phaser battle,” said Baird as he walked into the transporter room, pushing his bike along beside him.
Vaughn giggled uncontrollably while Hawkins flared at Baird.
“With no due respect sir, stuff it up your a**.”
“Is that the new way of playing that game?” replied Baird, picking up the bike easily and placing it gently on the transporter platform.
“Oh Lieutenant, all of this must be extremely stressful for you. Be happy and cheerful!” Webber grabbed Hawkins in a bear hug.
“UGH,” gasped Hawkins. “Counselor, you will unwrap your arms from around me, or I will rip them off for you.”
Webber released Hawkins and reached into her travel bag, looking concerned. She pulled out a teddy bear that was looking slightly worse for the wear.
“If you’re still feeling embarrassed about the public revealing of certain social games you have shared with Commander Dillon, perhaps I can help.”
“Don’t even think about it,” said Hawkins.
“It is often much better therapy to give a hug rather than to receive one, especially when one is feeling surrounded by ridicule. Perhaps you would like to hug my new teddy bear? It will eventually help you get over your associative feelings of anger and hostility,” Webber said, offering the bear to Hawkins.
“Someone do me a favor, and please kill me now,” Hawkins said.
Rydell felt the need to get the hell out of here, and quick.
“I think I get the picture, and I don’t think I really wanted it to begin with. Sorry I asked. Energize,” he said.
They disappeared in a bright flare of transporter light.
Manny knew he had very little time to act, so he would have to choose a target carefully. With his influence and connections on Lars Landing, he knew he could get some kind of action going quickly, but he knew it had to be something short, sweet, and simple. The Boss was not known for granting further extensions. And the thought of those Geelat teeth were more than enough incentive for conducting careful, planned action.
He stood at the orbital notice board, checking over the recent ship arrivals.
“Let’s see…a Tellarian vessel is currently in orbit….no…they’re a bit too unpredictable. Blood oaths are bad for one’s long term health, just in case something happens to go wrong.”
He checked the next listing.
“There’s a Ferengi ship up there as well, but you might as well try to squeeze granite out of a rock when attempting to graft anything out of them. Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #47 says: ‘Never con a con artist.’ Sounds like wise advice to me.”
He scrolled to the next listing.
“Now there’s some Klingons, but I’m not feeling particularly suicidal today, any more than I want to be a Geelat treat tomorrow.”
Manny suddenly spotted what he was looking for.
“A Federation starship…the Secondprize? Well well well…it looks like I just might find a few suckers to hook up with after all,” Manny smiled a grin of relief. All he had to do was sit tight, and wait for the right opportunity.
He knew it wouldn’t take long. Federation officers were usually so gullible, it was like shooting the entire barrel of fish.
Dillon went over to Hawkins’ quarters, with the idea of trying to put a positive spin on the day. Despite Jaroch’s very efficient use of blackmail, he supposed he could make the best of the situation anyway - maybe he could spend all his free time with Patricia instead. Besides, it was her turn to wear the Klingon Bird- of-Prey toe ships. He rang her door chime, but there was no answer. He rang it again, still no answer.
Dillon tapped his commbadge. “Dillon to Hawkins.” “Lieutenant Hawkins is not aboard the Secondprize,” the computer replied.
She had left the ship without even telling him? Dillon was hopelessly confused. Why did she leave the ship so suddenly, and without so much as a “see you later”?
“Computer, is Lieutenant Hawkins available on an outside frequency?”
“According to transport records, Lieutenant Hawkins beamed down to the planet’s surface without a standard communicator.”
That was against standard procedure, so she really must have been angry. Dillon knew that whatever this was all about, it probably didn’t mean anything positive for him. He wondered what he might have done wrong, and why she would run off like that without even saying anything to him? What had he done this time? Dillon honestly didn’t have any idea at all.
These thoughts circled around and around in his head, over and over again, as he bleakly wandered back to his quarters to pack.
The shore leave party materialized on Lars Landing, in the main transport reception area.
The carpets were lavishly red. The walls were garishly purple. The ceiling glittered with lights that flashed every color in the visible spectrum. Neon and ancient style LED lights flashed adult oriented advertising on every post, chair, table, and facilities staff member that happened to walk by.
“How tacky,” commented Rydell. This was Dillon’s idea of a suitable spot to spend shore leave?
“Judging from these surroundings, I think I’m going to need a drink, and fast. Anyone want to come?” asked Carr.
“A drink! What a wonderful idea! Oh thank you so much for asking!” exclaimed Webber. Carr barely avoided Webber’s arms as they threatened to envelop her.
“Anyone else?” Carr asked.
“I’ll go, just as long as no one else mentions the name ‘Dillon’ to me again,” panned Hawkins.
“Do you think we might find us some handsome men as long as we’re at it? If so, I’m yours for the drink, and theirs for the taking,” said Vaughn.
“Thanks, but no thanks, Ensign…I think I’ll take a rain check. I’m just going to find a nice, quiet room in a hotel, and take a long nap. I might catch up with all of you a bit later, so have fun all,” yawned Rydell. He wandered off down the promenade.
“How about you, sir?” Carr asked Baird.
“No f***ing way you’d catch me spending my free time indoors, after being cooped up in engineering every f***ing day for weeks on f***ing end. I’m just going to ride on the outdoor tracks here, where none of you s***heads are likely to bother me. Later, morons.” Baird turned and pushed his bike, heading for the entrance.
“Suit yourself,” said Carr, “Come on, let’s go find a place that might have clean glasses. Antimatter Gargles for the first round, ok?”
Manny watched as Baird stomped past.
“Hmmmmm…” he said.
Baird sniffed the rich morning air, a very sharp contrast to the recycled sludge he would normally breathe on the Secondprize. The air on Lars Landing was oxygen rich, completely invigorating him in a clean, natural way. It was almost enough to put him in a good mood, but not quite.
“Should be able to ride like the wind in this kind of f***ing environment,” Baird said to himself.
Lately, he had been working on getting in decent shape for endurance racing…and on this planet, he figured he might even be able to achieve a level above what he might normally be able to do, otherwise.
He had quite a few bike paths to choose from, but one in particular appealed to him - a timed track that extended over several kilometers, an endurance run with many challenges for the above average rider.
Baird rolled his bike to the starting indicator, next to the course timer. He climbed onto his bike, and counted to himself…one two three…
Exerting all of his strength, Baird quickly accelerated to top speed. He poured himself into the course, up hill, down hill, around corners, accelerating through the straights, and then came charging down for the finish. Straining with everything he had, he pushed himself harder and harder, his legs pumping in a blur as he crossed the line…
Breathing heavily, Baird rolled the bike to a stop. He looked up at the course timer. It registered 17 minutes, 36 seconds. Underneath his time, the words “Commander Scott Baird” and “World Record Time For This Course” were flashing over and over again.
Baird was pleased and was even considering a grin, if it wasn’t for the short, squat-looking humanoid that stepped onto the track in front of him. Baird, who was finally beginning to enjoy his peace and solitude, felt his mood revert to average.
“What the f*** do you want?” scowled Baird.
“A fantastic time you posted, sir. A fantastic time, indeed. Do you realize that this particular course record hasn’t been broken since it was set twenty years ago? Commander Scott Baird is it? Of the Federation starship Secondprize? How fortunate it was that I ran into you here, of all places!” the humanoid grinned a very flashy smile.
“What are you, a moron with no one else to f***ing bother? Do you need some help in f***ing off?” suggested Baird.
“Quite the opposite. The name is Manny, and considering your very remarkable prowess on the track, I just might have an interesting proposition for you.”
Dillon didn’t bother to change. He packed a few extra clean uniforms, since he never really felt comfortable in civilian clothes. Dillon also felt that it wouldn’t hurt to wear his commander’s rank while having to deal with the locals, who were likely to be very impressed by his credentials as second in command of the Secondprize. At least, that’s how he imagined it might be like.
But right now, Dillon couldn’t care less about the planet and what it might have to offer in terms of relaxation and enjoyment. He really just wanted to find Patricia, and find out what was bothering her. He didn’t know what he had done to push her away, and he just wanted her comfort right now.
He walked into the transporter room, and instructed the chief to use the same beam down coordinates that Hawkins had used.
“Energize,” he said.
“Commander Dillon is no longer aboard the Secondprize,” the computer announced.
“YES!!!” the maintenance crew cheered.
“All right people, we have some meaningful work to do now,” said Jaroch. “Just report your progress directly to me once you have completed your objectives, instead of carrying out Commander Dillon’s standing order of having to provide a full report on the hour, every hour, to your immediate superior officer. Consider that order nullified, for good.”
“Finally, a task manifest that makes sense,” offered a voice from the back.
A quiet chant of “Jaroch, Jaroch” started up.
“Without Commander Dillon around to screw things up, I’m very sure that everyone will be able to get in some shore leave before we have to leave. In the meantime, all the time spent you spend working on the maintenance schedule will count as double shore leave time during our next stopover.”
“Jaroch, Jaroch, Jaroch,” chanted the crowd.
“Allright everyone, let’s go to it, and just do it!” said Jaroch.
“Jaroch! Jaroch! Jaroch! Jaroch!” they sang as they resumed their posts.
“Why am I here again?” asked Sullivan.
“Because you still owe me several bridge shifts from our last poker game, and I’m generously giving you an opportunity to pay it all off in full,” answered Jaroch.
“Thank you for clarifying that one for me,” sulked Sullivan.
All morale problems solved, Jaroch concentrated on the maintenance task manifest.
“Easy as Yynsymple pie,” he said to himself.
“Let me get this straight, you want to be my agent, and sponsor me in a bid to defeat the local planetary champion in a bike race? Why the f*** would I want to do something as moronic as that?” Baird asked.
“Because of the sheer challenge and enjoyment of it?” asked Manny.
“Screw that. Who the f*** do you think I am?”
“You’re the first person I’ve seen that might have a chance of winning.”
“Hurray for me. You could also just f*** off and leave me alone, since I’m trying to have a vacation here.”
“If you win, you stand to make a lot of money.”
Baird stopped to think about it.
“How much f***ing dough are we talking about here?” he asked.
The ladies eventually found a watering hole just off the promenade. This particular place was more presentable than some of the other dives they passed by, which really wasn’t saying much. To compliment the overwhelming stench of body odor, the lighting was terrible, which Carr figured was just as well anyway. If she could actually see the color of the stains on the barstools, she would probably throw up.
She lifted her shooter in a salute of resignation, and a toast to the situation at hand.
“We’re stuck in this festering dump, so let’s get drunk!”
“Hear hear,” scowled Hawkins.
Carr, Hawkins, Webber and Vaughn clinked their glasses, and they slammed their shooters down. They repeated this process a few more times for good honest measure, since there wasn’t much for good honest taste.
Carr watched as Vaughn and Webber wasted no time in attempting to feel more attractive, in the time honored tradition and ritual of all women who were in direct competition with each other for men’s attention.
“Lovely hair, Claire. I bet that took you a whole ten seconds to prepare,” said Vaughn.
“That’s some outfit, Monica. It leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination,” said Webber.
“That’s the whole point,” purred Vaughn.
“Not everyone wants overt sexuality thrown in their face, Monica. Sometimes a man just wants attention and affection, like a nice hug.”
“That’s all they’ll get from you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“How dare you, you slut!”
Hawkins stared at her empty glass. Carr decided it was time to venture into the radioactive waters.
“Want to talk about it?” Carr asked.
“Not particularly, but it looks like I’m going to anyway,” said Hawkins.
“I think I understand.”
“No, I don’t think you do. You have no idea what its like, being with someone who can be counted on to do exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time, all of the time,” complained Hawkins.
“Sounds like all men to me,” commented Carr.
“Yes, but you would think that Dillon would eventually learn from all of his mistakes, but he always seems to manage to screw up everything he lays his hands on. Including me! So how the hell should I deal with this? Do you think he’ll ever learn how to be respectful of others and their feelings?” asked Hawkins.
“This is Dillon we are talking about, remember?”
“He is always an obstinate idiot.”
“He doesn’t have any natural command ability at all.”
“His brain exists in a null vortex, devoid of any grey matter whatsoever.”
“ALLRIGHT. You’ve made your point,” said Hawkins.
“Patricia, if this troubles you so much, why do you go out with him?”
“I have no idea. He has a certain kindness and sensitive nature about him, buried underneath all that stupidity. Believe me, it’s so damned frustrating to have no control over who you end up being attracted to.”
“You love him?”
“Like a cat in heat.”
“I’ll get you another drink. You’re going to need it.”
Rydell found the nearest hotel, and walked in the door. He instantly dematerialized in a transporter effect, and found himself standing in a reception area.
“That’s a neat kind of entranceway,” Rydell commented, impressed. It must cost the hotel a lot to expend energy in that way all the time, just for the sole purpose of making a positive impression on a potential guest. Rydell was sure looking forward to relaxing in such luxurious accommodations.
Rydell stood at the reception desk, and waited for a long time. No one paid any attention to him. He pinged the bell on the desk several times. A short green-skinned man in a flaming red bellhop outfit came over.
“I would like a room please,” said Rydell.
“For how long?”
The bellhop’s three fingers raced over the reservations console.
“That will be ten thousand five hundred and two credits, payable in advance.”
“WHAT?” exclaimed Rydell.
“We charge all of our room rates by the second here.”
“How can you do that? At that kind of rate, how is anyone supposed to afford a night’s sleep?”
“Sleep? As in hibernate? Why would anyone want to do that in one of our rooms?” the bellhop asked.
“To my knowledge, that’s what humans would normally use a room for.”
“And not to engage in mating rituals involving thousands of exotic positions? We at the Hotel Rank Lars take pride in the fact that our rates are completely complimentary to the erotic needs of the average human male, all of whom would normally engage in such rituals for an average of 2 minutes, give or take a few seconds. This average is, of course, determined by our own trend analysis - we always price our rooms in accordance to the consummate needs of the species.”
“I see,” Rydell stammered.
“But if you like, we can quickly do a performance test on your mating prowess, and precisely determine your staying power to within 5 seconds, thus avoiding any potential unwanted cost of unusable time in our rooms…if you could just bend over for me sir…”
The bellhop held up a cylindrical tube, which began beeping and flashing lights in a colorful display sequence. The tip end of the tube rotated at a high velocity, making a WHIRRRR noise.
“I think I’ll pass for now,” said Rydell, beating a hasty retreat.
Dillon materialized in the transport reception area. He looked around, seeing no one from the Secondprize at all. Not really sure what to do next, he examined a tourist terminal. Lars Landing was a very large entertainment facility, filled with several hotels, nightclubs, casinos, and adult oriented entertainments of several varieties.
It was going to take forever to find Patricia, if he was going to find her at all. Where to begin?
“Excuse me Commander, but would you like to buy a flower to help support the Holy Return of Elvis…uh huh huh?”
Dillon turned around to see a strange looking man dressed in a white jumpsuit and long flowing robe, which was decorated in some kind of multicolor glitter specks that twinkled brightly as the light reflected off of them. He had dark hair, and large hairy sideburns. The man struck a pose, tilting his hips while extending his index finger into the air, waving the flowers under Dillon’s nose.
“You have the look of someone in love, but you’re feeling the blues, uh huh huh. Did you rub her the wrong way, buddy? But of course you did! Well, this here’s a little somethin’ to help get you out of heartbreak hotel, my friend. All you have to do is give me a small donation, to help the Holy King Elvis come back to all of us. Please, don’t be a hound dog and give generously…uh huh huh!” The strange man looked at Dillon, hopefully.
“How much?” Dillon asked.
“How much is your lady love worth to you?”
“I’ll buy them all,” said Dillon, and gave him a hundred credit chip.
“Praise the King for your generosity. At this rate, I should be able to buy Elvis out of that Ferengi cryogenic suspension bank in no time at all. Only 155 million credits left to go…uh huh huh! Thanks big spender, and remember, if you’re ever in trouble over love again…just remember: don’t be cruel to a heart that’s true…uh huh huh.” The strange man gave Dillon a friendly pat on the shoulder.
Dillon stared at the flowers in his hands, and thought about it. That must be the answer - Dillon needed to become more of a supportive man for Patricia, and to be someone who could be counted on, no matter what the circumstances. Even circumstances like this one, right now. He knew where he wanted to be, and who he wanted to be with. Dillon felt a whole lot better - it was a kind of enlightenment he had never felt and understood before now.
“Thanks for the flowers and the advice, mister…”
Dillon looked up, but the strange man was gone.
And apparently, so was his credit pouch.
Manny led Baird to a small oval-shaped stadium, chattering on and on about the upcoming race and the prize money for the taking. Baird honestly thought he had a very good chance at winning it, since he was feeling in such great shape. Manny was sure f***ing annoying him, but Baird could put up with it. Compared to Dillon, Manny was an amateur.
The doors opened, and they walked in, Baird pushing his bike down a long corridor. Manny ushered Baird into a large waiting room. Baird looked around him, and noticed the rather unusual décor - many kinds of very sharp looking weaponry hung on several racks all around the room.
“Hell…it looks like a f***ing armory in here,” said Baird.
“I’ve already issued the formal challenge for you, and it has been accepted on the basis of your excellent track time. This is the challenger’s preparation room. You will race this evening against the Lars Landing local champion, TX-429.” said Manny.
“Hmmm…that sure doesn’t sound like any kind of f***ing name I’ve ever heard!?” wondered Baird.
“Of course it isn’t. TX-429 is the most recent model battlebot in existence! Believe me, it is an extremely rare occasion for any living creature to challenge this particular series to a battlebike race. They are quite deadly, you know. The odds aren’t exactly in your favor.”
“What? Battlebike race! Battlebots! What the f***! You never said anything about this!”
“You didn’t ask,” said Manny as he slipped out the door. A force field sprang into place in the doorway.
“Let me out of here, you insane p****!” hollered Baird.
“Now now, why not just think of all the credits you’ll rake in if you win? Of course, I wouldn’t bet on it. In fact, I’m not, since I’m betting on the favorite. You should make me a nice tidy sum indeed! Do me a favor and at least stay alive long enough to qualify the spread, ok?”
Baird slapped the commbadge on his chest, only to find out it wasn’t there. He looked up at the door, and saw Manny dangling it from between his fingers.
“Oh, did I mention anything to you at all about my sleight of hand skills? Apparently not. Forgive me, but I just wanted to make sure you wouldn’t leave so soon, especially before you help me earn a huge pile of money! But of course, you’re not likely to leave once TX-429 gets through with you. At least, not in one piece anyway,” chuckled Manny.
“F*** you, you f***ing son of a b****!!” yelled Baird, and pounded on the force field.
“Nighty night until then,” said Manny.
There was a hissing sound as a blue mist seeped into the room.
“F*** me,” murmured Baird sleepily, as he fell unconscious.
Jaroch, toolkit in hand, crawled through Jeffries Tube 143-B, destination being the transporter circuitry conduit junction. One of the major maintenance tasks was to achieve some kind of secondary redundancy in the transporter circuit pathways - something that had been completely overlooked during the initial construction of the Secondprize.
Truth be told, this particular design issue was never addressed at all. All of the staff at the construction yard figured this ship would never leave dry dock due to all of its faulty design flaws. So why should they bother to finish the construction of the transporter system, since the whole ship was likely to be condemned by the inspectors as a floating piece of junk, destined for the scrap yard anyway? When the Secondprize actually passed inspection and launched, it had caught them all by complete surprise - so the engineers involved in this particular screw up ended up rewriting a large portion of the Secondprize specifications to “soften the impact” of their inattention to this matter, calling this issue a “minor design specification alteration” that was unique to the Secondprize itself.
What this “minor design specification alteration” meant in reality was an important enough matter to Jaroch. If the ship were to experience any kind of lock up in the transporter control functions, or if there was any kind of interruption in the power flow, all of the transporters on the Secondprize would shut down their control circuits simultaneously. If this ever happened, it would mean big trouble to anyone who was unfortunate enough to be caught in the transporter beam at that time…eventually materializing into something that looked like a large pile of steaming yogurt.
Jaroch arrived at the transporter circuitry junction, and discovered he had more than enough headroom available to stand up and perform the necessary alterations. It had an unusually high ceiling for a control junction, this was because the empty space would have normally housed a fair amount additional transport circuitry and secondary conduits - that of which, for the reasons already known to him, were not there. He tapped his commbadge.
“Jaroch to Engineering.”
“Ensign Walker here.”
“Shut down power to the transporter circuitry conduit junction.”
There was a descending noise as the power shut off, and the lights went out. Jaroch felt his feet lift up off the floor, and he floated to the ceiling.
“HEY!” Jaroch yelled.
“Is something wrong, Lieutenant Commander?”
“You shut off the gravity in here!”
“Whoops! Sorry about that! Here, I’ll fix it!”
“WAIT!!” yelled Jaroch, too late. Gravity restored, he plummeted to the floor, smacking his head against the control console.
“Lieutenant Commander, are you allright? Sir?” Jaroch’s eyes glazed over, and a scowl formed on his lips. He leaped back on his feet in pure rage.
“J’Ter will make you pay for this attempt to kill him! What manner of prison is this? Answer, puny being!” bellowed J’Ter, the ancient Yynsian warrior prince of ages past.
“Uh oh…” Walker’s tinny voice squeaked over the commbadge.
“Fight for freedom, and to the death! Your blood shall spill the ground before nightfall!” screamed Jaroch/J’Ter.
Jaroch/J’Ter grabbed a hammer from the toolkit. He howled ferociously in an Yynsian battle cry, and brutally smashed all of the transporter control circuitry into tiny little isolinear pieces.
“J’Ter shall revenge upon you all!” Jaroch/J’Ter yelled as he lunged for the Jeffries tube. Jaroch’s commbadge ripped off his chest as J’Ter scrambled through the tube in his mad, desperate attempt to escape.
Abandoned, the commbadge broadcasted Walker’s concerned voice.
“Sir? All of the transporters are now offline. Sir? Are you still there sir?”
“Claire, you really need to change your wardrobe,” said Vaughn.
“Monica, you really need to wear a wardrobe for a change,” said Webber.
“What I have doesn’t need any covering, sweetheart,” said Vaughn.
“You are such a tramp, you….”
“Excuse me ladies, but haven’t we seen you someplace before?” asked the taller of the two pickup artists who walked up to the table.
“Only if the lights were on,” smiled Vaughn as she pulled the tall man’s arm nearly out of its socket, forcing him to escort her to the dance floor.
“Maybe you have felt this kind of emotional warmth before, perhaps,” Webber said, and hugged the other man. His eyes bulged out as all the air in his body left him. Webber dragged the wheezing man onto the dance floor.
“I thought they’d never leave,” said Hawkins.
“This would be an excellent time to ditch them, and find us some real entertainment instead. It’ll help you get your mind off Dillon,” suggested Carr.
“We’re out of here.”
Vaughn and Webber didn’t notice them leave, both wrapped completely around their dates. Over the girls shoulders, both men exchanged a wild eyed gaze in a silent plea for help.
Baird woke up to the sound of claxons.
“Argh! Turn off that f***ing noise!” yelled Baird.
The alarms shut off.
“Two hours till race time!” shouted Manny from the other side of the force field.
“F*** that, I’m not doing it. Go f*** yourself.”
“Do you require more incentives?”
Several wall compartments opened up, all of them containing phaser arrays. A high pitched whine sounded as they pointed directly at Baird.
“Can’t wait until that f***ing race starts!” exclaimed Baird.
“I thought you might feel that way,” said Manny. “You have a few hours to prepare. Feel free to equip yourself and your bike with any of the weaponry you see here, not that it will make much difference. See you on the track!” Manny walked away, whistling cheerily to himself.
Baird looked at the armory and weaponry hanging on the racks. He wheeled his bike up to the low intensity laser torch at the center of the room.
“If I’m going to survive this, I’d better get f***ing cracking.”
Picking up several choice objects from the racks, Baird set to work.
Jaroch eventually arrived at the entrance of Jeffries Tube 143-B. Inside the dark recesses of his mind, J’Ter was still raging on and on about killing, torturing, and maiming his captors. But Jaroch’s consciousness forced itself take control again.
“Oh no,” he mumbled.
He turned around, and crawled back through the Jeffries Tube. He found his commbadge, and reattached it.
“Sir? Sir?” said the commbadge.
“Jaroch here, Walker. I am myself again. Status report.”
“I was just informing you that all of the transporters are offline.”
Jaroch surveyed the damage J’Ter had wreaked. All of the transporter control circuitry was crushed into tiny glass and metal pieces.
“Small wonder,” he said. “Walker, bring a fresh case of isolinear chips to Jeffries Tube 143-B, and inform Lieutenant Sullivan on the bridge that the transporters will remain offline until further notice.”
“Excuse me, but can you tell me where I might find a room for the night?” Rydell asked an attractive female passerby on the promenade.
“Have you heard of the Hotel Rank Lars? They have the best rates in town. Was that a pickup line, handsome?” she purred.
“Uh, not really, but thanks anyway,” said Rydell.
“Call me if you change your mind,” said the female, writing down her number, and giving it to Rydell. She walked away, glancing over her shoulder with a huge smile.
“Am I ever going to be able to find some peace and quiet in this place?” wondered Rydell.
“Captain! Captain! Over here!”
Rydell spotted Dillon running over to him, carrying a massive bouquet.
“I guess not,” said Rydell.
“Captain, have you seen Patricia?” asked Dillon.
“Not since we beamed down.”
“Have you seen a man in a white jumpsuit at all?”
“Oh,” Dillon looked crestfallen.
“What is it, Travis?”
“Patricia is very angry with me, and my credit pouch was stolen by a guy with large sideburns.”
“Life is a real problem for you, isn’t it Travis?”
“Today hasn’t been a very good day, sir.”
“All right, Travis.” Rydell said. It looked like he was going to have to play morale officer, unfortunately. He didn’t normally get involved with the personal relationships of his crew…but Dillon, as always, was the special exception case. He grit his teeth. “Why don’t you and I find something to do, and maybe we’ll run into her eventually. I’ll even try to help you smooth things over, if you want. I just won’t promise to take a phaser blast for you, ok?”
Dillon managed a pathetic smile.
Rydell sighed. It was still not his day.
“Do you have a room, or shall I arrange one for us?” purred Vaughn as her nails raked in a steady rhythm across her partner’s whole body.
“Gulp,” gulped Vaughn’s man.
“I promise I will take care of you…most intimately,” cooed Webber as she channeled her strength into a bear hug around her date.
“Gasp!” gasped Webber’s man.
The lights played patterns along the walls between the casino entrances.
“Want to play some Dabo?” asked Carr.
“Do I look like a Ferengi to you?” said Hawkins.
“That usually depends upon your current mood.”
“Okay, you’re right. This sucks. There’s nothing stimulating or interesting about this place at all.”
“Hey, look at that!”
Hawkins was pointing at a glittering sign above a booth at a stadium entrance. It read:
LARS LANDING BATTLEBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE
FEATURING THE UNDEFEATED CHAMPION
BATTLE RECORD 78-0
VERSUS THE CHALLENGER:
“COMMANDER SCOTT BAIRD”
ODDS 30 TO 1 - FAVORING THE CHAMPION
PLACE YOUR BETS HERE!
ASK ABOUT OUR OTHER BETTING OPTIONS!
“Battlebikes! Those insane track races are usually fatal to humans! What the hell is Baird up to?” wondered Carr.
“Only one way to find out,” said Hawkins.
They went up to the betting booth.
“Can we go in to watch the race?” asked Carr.
“You must place a regular bet on the winner of the competition, and at least one side bet on events that occur within the race,” answered the attendant.
“What kind of side bets?” asked Hawkins.
“There are several to choose from. You can bet on the precise minute of the challenger’s death. You can bet on the section of the track the challenger will meet his demise. There is also a bet on how many separate body parts the challenger will finish with at the end of the race - the average bid is currently ‘seven’, and the potential payout increases greatly with bets that deviate greatly from the determined average.”
“How did Commander Baird enter this race?” asked Hawkins.
“Well, like all contenders, he had an agent that handled those kinds of details.”
“An agent? Hold on a second, something doesn’t sound right here. Andrea, have you ever known Baird to get along with anyone?” asked Hawkins.
“No,” said Carr.
“Right. So I doubt he would be able to negotiate any kind of deal with an agent, even if he tried.”
“Sounds about right.”
“Baird isn’t the kind of person who would enter a battlebike race voluntarily - it’s suicidal, and he’s a coward.”
“He’s in trouble, isn’t he?”
“Andrea, I left my commbadge in my quarters. Contact the Secondprize and get them to get a lock on Baird,” said Hawkins.
Carr touched her commbadge, “Carr to Secondprize”.
“Can you get a transporter lock on Commander Baird?”
“Why the hell would I want to do that?”
“Hawkins and I think that he might be in deep trouble.”
“Good! Serves the bastard right!”
“Sullivan! This is serious! Can you beam him up?”
“We have a lock on his commbadge, but we are not going to be able to beam him up anytime soon.”
“J’Ter managed to destroy all of the transporter control circuits. Jaroch has regained control of himself, and he estimates at least three hours until he completes the transporter circuit repairs.”
“Well, that’s really helpful.”
“Glad to be of service.”
“We’ll be in touch. Carr out.”
“I think we’d better get in there and see what’s going on,” said Hawkins.
“What’s the minimum bet for Baird?” Carr asked the attendant.
“It’s a bit expensive, due to this spread. Minimum 1000 credits for the regular bet, minimum 1000 credits on any of the available side bets,” answered the attendant.
“1000 on Baird to win, and 1000 on him coming out of the race in one piece,” said Hawkins.
“Ditto,” said Carr, reaching into her credit pouch.
“A couple of real gamblers, eh?” said the attendant as he took the bets, and gave them their ticket stubs.
Hawkins and Carr rushed inside the stadium.
“Not only for his own sake, Baird had better win,” growled Hawkins. “I think you’d better call the Captain, and get him over here.”
Carr slapped her commbadge.
“Ensign Carr to Captain Rydell. Sir, I think we might have a big problem.”
The desk communicator beeped for attention.
“Yes?” answered the Boss.
“Boss, I think we may have a small problem at the track.”
“Manny’s running very high odds on the battlebike race. 30 to 1. Should we roll them back a bit?”
“Who’s the challenger this time?” asked the Boss.
“A Starfleet officer of all things.”
“What’s his background?”
“He’s the chief of engineering on his starship.”
“Hmmmmm…is that right?”
“Should I go ahead and cut him back?”
“Not this time. I think I just might place a little bet instead. Manny could use a little extra action to help him out.”
The Boss scratched the Geelat’s fur. “Want to watch a race?”
“GRONNK!” screamed the Geelat, happily. It’s jaws snapped shut with a dull clank.
“Situation understood, Rydell out.”
“Ensign Carr said that Patricia was with her, didn’t she?” asked Dillon.
“Yes, but it appears we have a more pressing problem at the moment,” said Rydell.
“Do you think we will need to come up with some kind of rescue plan for Commander Baird?”
“You have a talent for analyzing the obvious, Travis.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Rydell shook his head and sighed.
“I’m fairly sure the local authorities would disagree with our motives in such a situation. Any ideas?”
“No sir. That’s why I asked you first.”
“I figured as much,” acknowledged Rydell.
“What is it, Travis?”
“We have no weapons, since we are on shore leave,” said Dillon.
“Yes, I know that Travis.”
“The transporters are out for the moment, so we don’t have an option there.”
“Thank you once again for pointing out the obvious, Travis.”
“Maybe we should just go there, assess the situation, and see what can be done when we get there.”
“I guess that’s as good a plan as any at the moment. Let’s move.”
“What is it, Travis?”
“I won’t be able to cover the minimum bet to get into the stadium, since I’m a bit short on cash at the moment.”
“Is there a hotel nearby? I think I need to get a bit more…comfortable,” said Vaughn as she gripped her man by the neck in a powerful, yet sensual grip.
“Uh y-y-yes…the Hotel Rank Lars is c-c-close by,” stammered Vaughn’s man.
“That sounds like a lovely idea to us too, right darling?” asked Webber as she squeezed her date even tighter than before.
“GASP!” gasped Webber’s man.
“Five minutes until the race,” said the computer’s voice in the challenger’s preparation room.
Baird had put on a set of chain mail, and a thick metal helmet on his head. He looked at himself in the mirror.
“I look like a f***ing viking in this outfit,” he said. The chain mail was not quite as protective as the plate mail he had found in the armory rack, but there was no f***ing way he could wear plate and still have a hope of winning the race. Not much room for mobility, much less be able to fight in a getup like that. The chain mail would have to do.
He grabbed a spiked club, his weaponry choice for the race. A spear was also attached to the length of the bike, in case of an emergency. Baird almost couldn’t look at his beloved bike, upon which he had to weld a set of spikes and several protective plates of sheet metal - all of it was designed, hopefully, to keep him alive for as long as possible as he fought his way through the battlebike match.
Baird reviewed his handiwork, such as it was. He was still a Starfleet engineer, so at least he had been able to come up with usable arms and armory to help protect himself. His weapons were sturdy and reliable enough. His bike was a set of armory on wheels. He was loaded for bear. Baird reassessed his chances of staying alive long enough to win the race.
“I’m really f***ed,” Baird said.
Carr and Hawkins found plenty of seats open next to the edge of the track.
“The choice seats seem to be available. Let’s go down there, so we can get a good look at what’s going on,” said Carr. They both walked down the stairs, and passed by a peanut vendor, who turned around at them in alarm.
“You’re sitting down next to the track? Are you nuts?”
“What the hell are you talking about?” asked Hawkins.
“Hey, it’s your life. Let me give you a tip. If you really want to stay alive long enough to see the end of the race, just remember to duck when you see the racers coming anywhere near you,” the peanut vendor said. He turned and walked briskly up the stairs.
“Now I know Baird is in real trouble,” said Hawkins.
“Yeah, and what about us?” asked Carr.
“Well, it’s not like we have much choice, we’ve got to help him somehow,” said Hawkins.
“Look who’s here,” said Carr, tapping Hawkins on the shoulder and looking up.
Hawkins turned to see what she was looking at. She saw Rydell walking down the stairs toward them, followed by Dillon, who was carrying a very large bunch of flowers and waving at her frantically.
“Damn it, not him now,” Hawkins scowled.
“Did we make it on time?” asked Rydell.
“The race hasn’t started yet,” said Carr.
“Travis, what the hell are you doing here?” demanded Hawkins.
“Patricia, these are for you. I’m really very sorry for what I’ve done,” said Dillon, offering the bouquet to Hawkins.
“Travis, could you possibly be any more self-absorbed? Commander Baird’s about to get himself killed, and you’re giving me flowers?” snapped Hawkins.
Dillon blemished, and looked embarrassed. He looked down at the flowers, mournfully.
Hawkins stared at Dillon. She reluctantly conceded that Dillon had actually done something right for a change, even though he picked a really stupid moment for it. It was a slight improvement, and damn him for being so sweet and sincere about it. Something inside of Hawkins melted.
“Travis, it doesn’t matter. You’re very sweet. Thanks for the flowers.”
“Really?” asked Dillon.
“Yes, now shut up before you ruin the moment,” Hawkins said and kissed him.
Rydell and Carr exchanged a glance, both relieved that they didn’t have to deal with that issue after all. Carr was certainly glad to be relieved of the burden of the lovers quarrel, while Rydell was just as glad to have narrowly escaped being caught in the crossfire of several thrown objects at high velocity.
“Looks like something’s happening down there,” said Carr.
The lights dimmed, and a human male in a tuxedo materialized in the center of the bike track. A spotlight shone down on him as he picked up a 20th century style microphone. His voice boomed from all of the speakers in the stadium, a deafening loud roar of pompousness and deep bass.
“LADIEEEESS AND GENTLEMEN AND LIFEFORMS OF ALL SHAPES AND SIZES, TONIGHT THE LARS LANDING RACEWAY AND BUD LIARS, THE KING OF SYNTHAHOLIC BEERS, IS PROUD TO PRESENT….TEN WHOLE ROUNDS OF BATTLEBIKE ENTERTAINMENT, FOR THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WOOOOORRRRLLD!”
The crowd roared its approval.
“TONIGHT’S CHALLENGER COMES TO YOU FROM THE USS SECONDPRIZE, A COMMANDER IN STARFLEET, A CHIEF ENGINEER OF THE AGES, A POWERHOUSE RIDER, A TOWER OF STRENGTH, A HUMAN OF INCREDIBLE GUILE, INGINUITY, AND CUNNING…WHO OBVIOUSLY HAS A SET OF VERY HUGE B**** FOR JUST BEING BRAVE ENOUGH TO STEP INSIDE THIS RING WITH THE CHAMPION. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND LIFEFORMS, I GIVE YOU, THE ONE….THE ONLY…THE CHALLENGER……COMMMMMANNNNNDDEEERRRR SCOOOOOOOOOOOTTT BAAAAAAIRRRRDD!!!!”
The spotlight shone down to the corner of the ring. A set of doors opened, and Baird pedaled his sparse looking, custom modified bike onto the track. The crowd cheered loudly, completely drowning out everything else.
”—- —- —- —-“, yelled Baird.
“His mouth is moving. What’s Baird trying to say?” shouted Rydell.
“I think it’s f*** f*** f*** f***,” shouted Hawkins back.
“AND NOW, IN THE OTHER CORNER, COMES THE UNDEFEATED BATTLEBOT OF WHOM WE HAVE ALL COME TO KNOW AS THE TERMINATOR, THE MASHER, THE WIDOWMAKER, THE CRUSHER OF ALL OPPOSITION KNOWN TO LIVE, AND THE CHIEF BENEFACTOR OF ORGAN BANKS THROUGHOUT THE KNOWN GALAXY. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND LIFEFORMS, I INTRODUCE TO YOU THE ALL TIME CHAMPION OF THE LARS LANDING BATTLEBIKE RING, THE UNDEFEATED, UNDISPUTED HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD! I GIVE YOU, THE TERRIBLE, THE INCREDIBLE, THE BONECRUSHING…..TEEEE EXX FOUUUR TWOOOOO NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!!”
The spotlight shone down to the opposite corner of the ring, and rock music began to play a rhythm in a steady thumping beat. At the sound of the first guitar chord, the doors opened, and a humanoid shaped battlebot rode its elegantly armored bicycle onto the track, all of its armor splashed light around the stadium like a properly tuned disco ball. The crowd cheered.
“Hmmmm. That doesn’t look so bad,” said Dillon.
Suddenly, several panels on the battlebot opened up all over its body, revealing a multitude of circular blades and jagged dagger-like knives. All of the sharp objects on the battlebot’s frame started spinning and flashing in a rotating high speed blur, sounding a lot like a jet engine powering up loudly over the THUMP THUMP noise of the rock beat. The crowd cheered even louder than before.
“What the hell are we supposed to do about this?” shouted Hawkins.
“Give Baird a decent funeral,” said Carr.
“Are the transporters online yet?” asked Rydell.
“Not for another hour at least!” said Hawkins.
Dillon was thinking, trying to come up with his own plan of action. Since it wasn’t completely obvious, he wasn’t succeeding at all.
Manny sat high up in the bleachers, thoroughly pleased with himself. All he had to do was wait for the outcome of the race, and he would be in the clear again.
The Boss sat in the bleachers, just a little higher up from Manny’s chosen seat. He had an interesting hunch that this particular race might pay off very big for him. The Geelat’s single tiny eye picked out Manny in the crowd, and it began to drool all over itself again.
Jaroch examined the transporter circuit diagrams and the isolinear chips at his disposal. Based upon his own analysis, he thought it was entirely possible to complete the transporter repairs ahead of schedule. Inspired by his own usual brilliance, he redoubled his efforts.
Baird rode his bike up to the starting line, as did TX-429. Baird glanced nervously at the battlebot, who didn’t show any sign of acknowledgement of him at all. The battlebot’s blades and saws were making an audible whine noise as they rotated at high velocity.
The man in the tuxedo was walking up to them, still carrying the microphone.
“With my luck, he’s coming over here to sell me a f***ing coffin,” said Baird.
“THE RULES OF THE MATCH ARE AS FOLLOWS,” boomed the tuxedo man to the contestants and to the crowd. “THE FIRST CONTESTANT TO CROSS THE FINISH LINE AFTER 10 CIRCUITS OF THE RING, WINS THE MATCH. IF ONE OF THE CONTESTANTS CANNOT FINISH THE RACE DUE TO EXTREME DISMEMBERMENT OR DEATH, THAT CONTESTANT WILL FORFEIT THE MATCH TO THE OTHER CONTESTANT. OTHER THAN THAT, THERE ARE NO OTHER RULES AT ALL.”
“Nice to know I have an f***ing out of this race after all,” said Baird.
“ARE THERE ANY QUESTIONS?”
“Can I get the f*** out of here?” asked Baird.
“ARE THERE ANY QUESTIONS?”
“I guess not,” said Baird.
“THEN MOUNT YOUR BIKES. YOU WILL START THE RACE AT THE SOUND OF THE GONG. MAY THE BEST CONTESTANT WIN! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND LIFEFORMS…LET’S GET RRRRREAAAAAAAAADY TO RUMBLLLLLLLLLLLLLLE!” the tuxedo man yelled, then disappeared in a burst of transporter light. The crowd roared its approval.
Baird’s thoughts raced as he tried to remember everything he knew about battlebike races, and about battlebots in general. He knew that all battlebots were designed to achieve the occasional short burst of acceleration from time to time in order to trap and corner their opponents. Otherwise, they raced at a steady meandering pace. They weren’t designed for maintaining a high velocity at all - this was a design limitation that was mandatory for all battlebots, in order to give any competing organic lifeforms a chance in hell of winning. Battlebots were basically wrecking machines, and they won almost all of their matches through thoroughly maiming their opposition.
“S***,” commented Baird, thinking of that depressing thought.
On the other hand, Baird knew he could maintain a constant speed at a much faster average rate than the battlebot ever could. He would have to rely on a strategy of parrying whatever the battlebot threw at him, and trying to stay ahead of it in laps. Otherwise, he was probably toast.
“A faint f***ing hope is better than no f***ing hope at all,” he said.
GONG! The stadium shook with the force of it.
The battlebot pedaled its bike in a frantic burst of speed directly over to Baird, and bashed him hard on the helmet with a metal fist. Baird fell to the ground as the battlebot pedaled its bike down the track. The crowd cheered its approval.
“Son of a b****,” groaned Baird painfully as he picked himself up off the track. He got back on his bike, and started to pedal.
“Baird’s going to get killed out there,” said Carr.
“Yep,” said Hawkins.
“I think I’m tapped for ideas on this one. Dillon, if you have anything useful to say at all, feel free to volunteer it now,” said Rydell.
“Well, the battlebot is a very deadly machine, capable of dealing instant death to Commander Baird,” said Dillon.
“I think we understand that already, Travis,” sighed Rydell.
“TX-429 is heavily favored to win the match,” said Dillon.
“Why not tell him to shut up instead?” asked Carr.
“There are no rules for the race at all,” said Dillon.
“What did you say?” said Hawkins.
“There are no rules for the race at all,” repeated Dillon.
“Captain! You heard what Travis said! What’s to stop us from helping Baird, since there are no rules for the race at all?” exclaimed Hawkins.
“I think you’re right. Dillon, great idea!” Rydell clapped Dillon on the back.
“What?” said Dillon.
“Lap one completed”, the announcer said.
Baird pedaled hard. He was just about caught up to TX- 429, following it up just right behind it.
The battlebot turned around suddenly, slicing a deadly swipe with the circular saw on its left arm. The blade hummed menacingly as it arced down toward Baird’s front tire.
Baird jerked his bike quickly to the right, narrowly avoiding the strike. He swung his club, and hit the battlebot with everything he had. The club bounced harmlessly off the battlebot’s plated body as it turned toward him menacingly.
“S***!” yelled Baird.
The battlebot’s right arm with the spinning knife blades sliced into Baird’s chain mail on his left hand side ribcage. Baird felt the tips of the knives cut through the chain mail, gashing his skin. Baird swerved out of its reach as he began to bleed from surface wounds. He fell back in behind TX-429 once again, staying just out of harm’s reach as best as he could for the moment. The crowd cheered loudly.
“Time for a new f***ing strategy,” groaned Baird, painfully.
Manny smiled to himself as he watched the race. In a little while, TX-429 would go into hyper-combat mode and Baird would have a lot more trouble on his hands…for as long as they were attached to his body. He sincerely hoped TX-429 would separate Baird into 5 separate parts, since it would result in the much bigger payoff from his side bet.
The Boss was mildly amused with the entertainment on the track, and wondered if his hunch would prove itself correct. On the Boss’s lap, the Geelat stared at Manny hungrily.
Jaroch hummed to himself, rapidly swiping isolinear chips through the program burner, then placing them one by one into the transporter circuit junction slots. Another ten minutes and the job would be done, complete with the new redundant circuit pathway enhancements that he had wanted to achieve in the first place.
Then he would call a janitor to clean up the mess J’Ter made. One of these days, he was just going to have to deal with J’Ter, and somehow find a way of preventing him from breaking everything in sight and killing people at random.
“You will never manage to imprison J’Ter for long, weakling!” screamed J’Ter from the recesses of his mind.
“Oh shut up,” said Jaroch.
Rydell watched as the racers circled the track, heading back their way.
“I wonder if we can distract the battlebot enough to let Baird get ahead of it?” wondered Rydell.
“I’ll try it, sir,” said Dillon. He stood up and leaned over the railing next to the edge of the track.
“Travis, what the hell are you doing!?” shouted Hawkins.
TX-429 pedaled closer to their position, followed closely by Baird.
“Yoohoo!!” yelled Dillon, waving the bouquet of flowers directly in front of the battlebot.
BZZZZZT went the circular blade as it sliced through all the flowers near the stem, a mere inch away from Dillon’s fingers.
The battlebot raced past their location, completely oblivious to everything. Baird, who was caught in a tight turn and with no time to swerve, had no way to avoid the newly formed mess on the track.
“S***! F***!” yelled Baird. Baird’s front bike tire slipped on the flowers and he crashed his bike near their seats. The crowd cheered.
“ARGH! F*** ME!” yelled Baird in obvious pain.
“Are you allright, Commander?” shouted Dillon.
“No! With no f***ing thanks to you!” said Baird.
“We are trying to help you!” said Dillon.
“So you want me die even quicker then? How f***ing lovely!” growled Baird as he got back up on his feet.
“We’ll try to come up with something, Scott. Just try to hang on!” said Rydell.
“Don’t take too f***ing long! If you figure there’s no f***ing hope at all, THEN you might let Dillon kill me!” yelled Baird as he scrambled back on his bike. He pedaled away quickly, trying to catch up to TX-429.
“Brilliant display of stupidity, Commander. Yoohoo!!” exclaimed Carr.
“At least he tried something!” defended Hawkins. Then she slapped Dillon’s face. “That’s for ruining my flowers!”
“Dillon, next time, I think we’re going to have to come up with a slightly better plan than that,” said Rydell.
“Sorry sir,” said Dillon, still looking at the flower stems still clutched in one hand, and rubbing his stung cheek with his other one.
“Lap four completed,” said the announcer.
Baird caught up to the battlebot, and it began to zero in on his position. It’s blades and saws seemed to whine even louder as Baird inched his way closer. TX-429 swung its arm, glancing off Baird’s chain mail and staggering Baird, who fought for control of his bike. It viciously swung its arm again, and its blades caught on the plate shields on Baird’s bike. Baird could smell the burning of high velocity steel meeting steel.
He had one chance to get away from this. Baird detached the spear from his bike, and aimed carefully. He threw it at the battlebot’s front tire spokes.
The spear slammed into place as the front tire turned and caught fast on the frame. The tire ground instantly to a sharp braking halt and the battlebot was thrown over the handlebars. It crashed and rolled on the track, bending a few of its many knives. The crowd leaped to its feet and roared its approval.
“Take that, you piece of s***!” yelled Baird as he raced past. He was in the lead, now all he had to do was keep it that way, if he could just stay alive long enough for it.
TX-429’s internal sensors indicated that it was time to shift the odds back in its own direction.
“Hyper-combat mode activated,” it droned in neutral metallic sounding voice.
It walked back to its bike and sawed the spear into several pieces. It got back onto its bike, then began to zero in on Baird’s position on the track.
“The kid is good,” said the Boss. “Manny just might have bitten off more than he can chew this time.”
“GRONNK!” screamed the Geelat, sincerely wishing for the same kind of opportunity as it stared at the back of Manny’s head.
Manny heard an uncomfortably familiar noise above him. He turned around and looked up, just in time to see the Geelat grinning and gnashing its teeth at him on the Boss’s lap. The Boss was waving back at him, cheerily.
“Oh s***,” he said.
The Boss was here? What was going on? Did it matter?
This was supposed to be a sure thing for him, but now he was starting to feel more than a bit uncomfortable. He reluctantly turned his attention back to the race, nervously rubbing his hands together.
Jaroch placed the last isolinear chip into its destination slot, and the circuit hummed to life as it went through its test mode. Success at last. He slapped his commbadge.
“Jaroch to Walker, recycle the power to the transporter circuit junction, and this time, don’t shut off the damned gravity!”
“Aye sir,” said Walker.
“And get someone down here to clean up this mess!”
“Jaroch to bridge.”
“The transporters will be operational in five minutes.”
Jaroch packed up his tools, and crawled his way down the Jeffries tube. His next stop was transporter room three.
“Sullivan to Rydell.”
“Sir, the transporters will be available in four and a half minutes.”
“Lock onto Baird’s commbadge signal and prepare to beam him out of here as soon as the transporters are online.”
The battlebot was back on its bike, and its eyes were glowing a dark red. It began to methodically scan the entire arena, spinning its blades and saws back to life.
“It won’t be in time,” muttered Carr.
“We’re still going to need to do something. I don’t think he’s going to last long out there,” said Hawkins.
“We could all go out onto the track and try to stop the battlebot from winning the race,” Dillon suggested.
“Are you nuts!? Are you crazy!? Wait a minute. Those were stupid questions,” said Carr.
“We’d be fair game then!” said Hawkins.
“It’s the only thing I can think of,” whined Dillon.
“Unfortunately, I think it’s our only option as well. I don’t think there’s any other choice at the moment, and we’ve run out of time. We’re just going to have to try and give Baird the chance he needs,” said Rydell.
“Oh great,” said Carr.
“We’re going to need to find us some kind of weapons then, if we’re going to have a faint hope of staying alive ourselves,” said Hawkins.
“Souvenirs! Get your souvenirs here!” shouted a vendor who was coming down the stairs.
“I think we might have just found what we need,” said Rydell.
“Anyone got any money? I’m broke at the moment,” said Dillon.
“Hey you! Give us the whole lot!” said Hawkins, waving a fistful of credits at the vendor.
“…if you could just bend over for me, sirs…”
The bellhop held up a cylindrical tube, which began beeping and flashing lights in a colorful display sequence. The tip end of the tube rotated at a high velocity, making a WHIRRRR noise.
“Thank you, but I really don’t think we’ll be needing that,” purred Vaughn as she stroked her date’s hair. “I have my ways of keeping things alive, indefinitely…”
“And I have certain charms that will keep my man embraced and warm for a long, long time,” said Webber.
“HELP” chorused both men at the same time.
TX-429 watched as Baird lapped the track. It slowed itself down, and focused its glowing red eyes on Baird.
“Time to impact, three seconds,” it said to itself in a calculated manner. It swerved suddenly into Baird, and activated all of its knives and saws at once.
Baird’s chain mail was neatly severed off his body, bits and pieces of chain littering all over the track. Baird just managed to get out of the way just in time before the rest of his body did the exact same thing. He bled from several open wounds as he braked hard behind the battlebot.
“Primary objective, overcome defenses, accomplished,’ said TX-429 to itself neutrally. “Secondary objective, eliminate competition, standing by for completion.”
“We have to get out there now, if we’re going to do this at all,” said Hawkins as she watched Baird shed the last of his armor.
“Everyone ready?” asked Rydell, holding onto a toy bullhorn.
“Yes sir,” Dillon said as he experimentally waved a souvenir flag, a perfect reproduction of a race winner’s pendant, in a sword like fashion.
“This is pathetic,” said Hawkins as she thumbed through an event program.
“We must be completely insane,” said Carr as she waved a super strength spandex T-shirt that was emblazoned with the inscription: “Be Mine, TX-429”.
They jumped onto the bike track and spread themselves out. The crowd cheered its approval, hoping for more blood.
Jaroch reached transporter room three. He stood at the controls, and waited for the transporter to come online. A few more seconds, and it would be ready.
“Jaroch to Sullivan, standing by to transport in thirty seconds,” he said.
“Lap seven completed,” said the announcer.
Baird was very tired and feeling weak from the exhaustion and his wounds. He dodged back and forth frantically, trying to stay out of the way of the battlebot’s lightning fast reflexes. It’s blades and saws buzzed around him in a blaze of speed.
“I’m f***ing dead,” he thought.
TX-429 turned its glowing eyes toward Baird.
“Secondary objective completion in three seconds,” it said.
Baird shut his eyes for what he thought would be the last time.
Baird opened his eyes, and saw TX-429’s head completely wrapped in the pages of a magazine. He could read the title: “Battlebike Champions and Groupies Index - Volume 94”, along with several ads for men’s baldness cures.
“Got it!” shouted Hawkins as Baird sped past her.
People in the crowd got on their feet, and yelled their encouragement to Baird.
“Hurry up you bum! You won’t make me rich if you’re dead!”
“Bring the money home for grandma!”
“Fall on your face! You’re dead already, and don’t know it!”
Baird wasted no time in pedaling faster and getting out of the battlebot’s way. He swerved around and in front of TX-429, accelerating with a newfound strength.
“F***, yeah!” he said.
The battlebot’s arm tore off the magazine from its head, and threw it on the ground. It analyzed the new situation coldly.
“Third objective, neutralize competition’s helpers,” it said in its neutral voice, and it put on a burst of speed designed to catch up to Baird.
Baird pedaled past Carr, who tied one end of the T-shirt to a post near the track. Just before the battlebot reached her position, she ran across the width of the track, stretching the shirt across the battlebot’s path.
“Good thing for super strength spandex,” she muttered as she stretched it as hard as she could.
TX-429’s bike rammed into the T-shirt, and it crashed as one complete unit to the ground. Carr jumped off the track and back into the bleachers before it could react to her. The battlebot slowly got back up on its bike.
“Emergency annihilation mode activated,” it said to itself. It disengaged the safety locks on its propellant arms.
“Lap eight completed,” said the announcer. The crowd was on its feet, screaming incoherently.
Baird gained as much distance as he could in that time. Up ahead, Rydell was shouting at him through some kind of bullhorn.
“Scott, duck now!” boomed Rydell through the bullhorn.
Baird ducked on his bike, just in time to see one of the battlebot’s arms speed past him where his head used to be, its circular saw blade making a buzzzzzzz sound as it flew past him.
“Holy s***!” breathed Baird.
“Just two laps to go!” shouted Rydell as Baird sped past him.
Manny was on his feet in disbelief. It just wasn’t possible! Baird might just win the race! He thought it might be prudent to sneak away, just in case the end result wasn’t exactly favorable to him…he cautiously began to walk away from his seat, hoping the Boss wasn’t noticing him at the moment…
The Boss noticed him.
“Get him, precious,” he said to the Geelat.
“GRONNNK!” the Geelat screamed, joyfully leaping off his lap and sinking most of its teeth into Manny’s rear end.
“Yaaaaaaahh!” yelled Manny as he danced around, trying in desperate vain to push those snapping jaws away from the more fleshy parts of his posterior region.
“Sullivan to Rydell. Transporters are online. Jaroch is standing ready to transport Commander Baird.”
“Energize!” yelled Rydell.
The sound of the transporter beam sliced through the noise of the crowd. Rydell turned just in time to see a wildly dancing man in the crowd disappear in a flash of light. In that split second, Rydell wondered if he had ever seen any kind of humanoid that had a set of furry jaws on its rear end before. In another split second, he realized that Baird was still on his bike.
“Oh no,” he said.
“Jaroch to Captain Rydell. We did not receive Commander Baird.”
Rydell could hear several loud screams in the background.
“Detain the individual you just beamed up, and put him in the brig. He is going to be answering some questions from me very soon,” said Rydell.
“I will do so, Captain, as soon as the Geelat has finished its lunch,” Jaroch answered as the screams continued to shriek loudly in the background.
“Should I ask?”
“Fine. Rydell out.”
Hawkins and Carr ran over to Rydell.
“What happened?” asked Hawkins.
“Baird didn’t have his commbadge on him. We beamed someone else up instead.”
They all watched as the one-armed battlebot turned its bike around on the track, and began to head straight towards Baird in a headlong rush. Baird was pedaling forward toward it from the other direction. It looked like a jousting match on wheels. They could all see Dillon making his way toward the middle point between them. The crowd was cheering its approval.
“It’s all up to Dillon now,” said Rydell.
“They’re dead,” said Carr.
“Oh no, I can’t watch,” said Hawkins. She buried her head inside her hands.
Dillon stood on the track between the two approaching bikes.
“Get the f*** out of the way, you moron!” yelled Baird, waving his spiked club in the air.
Dillon held up the souvenir pendant in a fencing position, looking very much like a French musketeer ready for battle. He stood his ground, and faced the approaching battlebot with a calming sensation he had never felt before.
“If I never accomplish anything else right, this one is for you, Patricia…my love,” Dillon finished.
“Race objective completion in five seconds,” said TX-429 as it raced towards him.
Dillon held his breath, and at the last second, he thrust the pendant in a quick stabbing motion towards the battlebot’s chest plate, just as Baird reached Dillon’s position from behind.
The battlebot let go of the handlebars, and snatched the pendant from Dillon. It thrust the pendant into the air, waving it aloft above its head. It rode obliviously past Baird with no hand on the handlebars, waving the flag furiously.
“What the f***?” said Baird as he rode past.
“Race objective completed. Race objective completed,” TX-429 shouted again and again, waving the flag as it pedaled around the track.
Baird crossed the finish line. The crowd cheered and booed loudly as the winners and losers identified themselves within the audience. Ticket stubs and debris flew through the air.
“Why am I not f***ing dead?” Baird said as Rydell, Hawkins, and Carr ran over to congratulate him.
Dillon wasn’t about to answer him. He had collapsed in a dead faint in the middle of the track.
“Captain’s Log, Stardate 51381.1. Commander Baird’s battlebike race ended in victory, with help from Commander Dillon. Dillon gave the competing battlebot an exact copy of battlebike competition winner’s pendant…this event automatically triggered the battlebot’s victory lap programming, allowing Baird to win the race. Commander Dillon is hereby commended for his quick thinking in helping to save Baird’s life. On top of this, the maintenance repairs have been completed ahead of schedule, mainly due to Dillon’s clever use of available resources and his delegation of responsibilities to Lieutenant Commander Jaroch. Once again, Commander Dillon is hereby commended for his actions. Both Commander Baird and Commander Dillon have been treated for their injuries, the crew’s shore leave is just finishing up, and there are just some loose ends to tie up. And in one particular case especially, I mean that literally.”
“OW!” yelled Manny as Dr. Aldridge finished sewing the fleshier parts of his bottom back on him.
“Quit complaining. This will heal as soon as I finish you up with the skin regenerator,” she said.
“Can you hurry it up, doctor? I want to kick his f***ing a** when you’re finished,” growled Baird.
“What is this furry, toothy thing in the cage?” asked Rydell.
“It’s the Geelat, sir,” said Jaroch.
The Geelat gnashed its teeth over and over in a snapping motion, and grinned maniacally as it watched Manny through the bars of its cage. It started to drool all over itself again.
“It’s certainly no tribble, that’s one thing for sure,” commented Rydell.
“It’s owner has asked for the safe return of it, and Manny as well,” said Jaroch.
“Can I kick his a** first?” asked Baird.
“Although he might deserve it, we really don’t have any authority over him. It’s a case for the local authorities, such as they are. Once the doctor is finished with him, security will escort him and the Geelat to the transporter, and this ‘Boss’ fellow can take care of his own.”
“No!” shouted Manny, as he tried to scramble off the biobed.
Baird bashed him on the head, and Manny fell back on the bed, unconscious.
“I feel so much f***ing better now,” Baird said, and left sickbay.
“Oh well. Guess I can’t blame him for that.”
“One more item to deal with sir, before we leave orbit. It seems that Lieutenant Vaughn and Counselor Webber are being detained on the planet’s surface. They said their dates managed to escape them,” said Jaroch.
“That was the word they used, sir. It appears that they ran up an incredible bill at the Hotel Rank Lars, and their dates took off on them without settling it. Apparently, there was some sort of violence involved as they jumped through the window of the lobby.”
“How much is the bill?”
“A small fortune.”
“Well, since we’re Starfleet officers who are not supposed to be attached to wealth, and in the interest of maintaining a good relationship with Lars Landing on behalf of Starfleet…just take all the winnings we earned from Baird’s battlebike race, and transfer them directly into the hotel’s account on their behalf. Use all of it except for Baird’s earnings - he’s probably going to want to buy a new bike for himself, since his old one is completely wrecked.”
“That’s it then, I’m going for a well deserved nap. Jaroch, you take command, and get these two creatures off my ship.”
The Boss sat quietly in his office.
Two figures materialized in front of him. One humanoid, and one fat, furry ball of teeth.
“My precious…and Manny,” he said, slowly.
Manny looked up at the Boss, nervously.
“It was a great little race you put on. I made quite a bit of money on it. Now Manny…about that loan repayment…” said the Boss.
The Geelat grinned.
Dillon woke up in sickbay. Hawkins was standing there beside him.
“What happened?” he asked.
“You’re a hero.”
“You saved Commander Baird’s life,” said Hawkins.
“That was a very brave thing you did.”
“And I love you for it,” said Hawkins, and kissed Dillon on the forehead.
“Patricia, I have to be honest with you. I really don’t know what happened at all,” said Dillon.
“Sometimes Travis, despite everything you do wrong…you sometimes manage to do it right. See you in my quarters, as soon as you can walk,” she said with a lusty wink, and left sickbay.
Dillon wondered what she meant by that, hoping for some kind of insight. It didn’t come to him. But then again, he thought, this was really okay for now.
Ah, peace and quiet at last. Rydell crawled into bed. He stretched and yawned loudly.
“Computer, play a lullaby.”
“Please specify form and type.”
“Anything! Just play something!”
“Computer! Just forget it!”
The music shut off.
Rydell’s eyes began to close.
And just for once, they didn’t have to open up again right away.