Star Trek is owned by Paramount. Specter (not Spectre, that William Shatner novel) is owned by B.J. Babcock. Star Traks, the Secondprize and its crew, and the Joegonots are on loan from Alan Decker. You too can get a loan from Decker Mutual at a reasonable 37.6% interest rate. Call now.

Author: B.J. Babcock
Copyright: 2002

Star Trek: Specter

“Just Add Water”

by B.J. Babcock



PROLOGUE


Lieutenant Commander Josira sat in the captain’s chair and watched stars streak pass on the main viewer. Although she served primarily as Specter Tactical Officer, at the moment the black/white skinned Cheron was currently in command of the Ambassador-class starship while the captain and first officer were on their respective rest periods. As the normal Cheron day was twenty nine hours, Josira didn’t mind taking her turn in the center seat prior to her normal tour of bridge duty and viewed it as a chance to exercise her leadership skills.

“Commander.” spoke up Lt. Sekar from the science officer. Like Josira, the half-Vulcan science officer often reported early for duty, “extended sensors detecting a vessel adrift bearing three one zero.”

“Vessel identification, Lt. Rudd.” ordered the Cheron. From over her shoulder at the tactical station a human looked up in response.

“Ferengi shuttle, Commander, id’s as the Fool’s Latinum. Detecting three lifesigns, all in a weakened condition.”

“Hail them, Loren.” Josira instructed.

“No reply,” said Rudd after a moment, “it’s possible they’re communications aren’t operable.”

“Bridge to Captain Lutkins.” Josira said in cool efficient breaths. She noted the chronometer above the main view screen read 0600. The Captain would probably be awake anyway.

“Go ahead, Commander.” answered Lutkins’ alert voice.

“We’ve detected a Ferengi shuttle off the port bow, Captain.” explained Josira, “Adrift, with three life signs and suffering significant power loss. Request permission to tractor it to the main shuttlebay.”

“Proceed, Josira..” replied Lutkins, “Have Commander Grant head up a rescue team to the shuttle bay to greet our guests. I’ll be along to the bridge shortly.”


********************************************************


Commander Grant watched as the burnt umber colored shuttle was maneuvered into landing position in the vast main shuttle bay. Somewhat larger than the Federation’s standard passenger shuttle, the Ferengi vessel was conical in shape with twin nacelles and pincer-like external arrays.

A brawny man from New York City, Grant had been accompanied to the shuttle bay by the ship’s chief medical officer, Dr. Helen Frost. When the two had arrived they had moved to join Commander Bruce Babcock, Chief Engineer, and Lt. Randy Ritchie, Assistant Chief Of Security.

“Quite a few discharge streaks covering its hull.” commented Babcock, looking over the odd shaped vessel with a practiced eye, “similar to the ones on the Hemmingway after that ion storm.”

“That’s not from an ion storm.” commented Grant, pointing toward a blackened smear in the shuttles aft, “That’s a blast mark from an energy weapon. I’d say this ship was fired upon.”

“Shuttle secured, hanger deck pressurization complete.” came Lt. Maxine McQueen’s voice over the intercom, “You may approach when ready, Commander Grant.”

At Grant’s nod, Ritchie motioned for two of his security team to deploy to either side of the shuttle’s entryway, each with a drawn phaser pointed at the hatch. Grant spared a look to Dr. Frost.

“Life signs weak,” she said watching her medical tricorder intently, “I think they’re unconscious.”

“Babcock, open the door,” instructed Grant, looking to the security detail, “keep him covered.”

Moving to the hatch, Babcock reached for the door controls. After keying in a series of commands, the bearded engineer stepped back out of the security details line of fire.

No sooner had the doors opened fully when a human male staggered from within to fall onto the hanger deck, gasping for air. As the portly man gulped in air, Grant issued a disparaging sigh of recognition as he looked at the man on the shuttle bay deck.


CHAPTER 1


“Lawrence B. Water.” stated Grant in a tone that summed up his feelings upon recovering from the shock of seeing a man he thought he’d never see again. “Damn.”

It was no more than a year ago that Lawrence B. Water was transferred to the Specter for delivery to Starbase Eight and incarceration. During the trip, Water managed to escape from the brig and avoid the ship’s security forces for nearly half a day before arraigning his escape. Escape aboard the very same Ferengi Marauder commanded by a DaiMon wanting Water’s head, whether attached to the body or not was Lutkins’s choice. And when he did volunteered to leave peacefully with the Ferengi, Water managed to take with him medical supplies bound for delivery to a colony world.

All that passed through Grant’s mind as he watched Frost kneel beside the portly man and waive her tricorder over Water’s body. Lt. Ritchie moved past the three of them to disappear into the shuttle as Grant cleared his throat.

“Not yet, Commander,” interposed Frost crisply, moving to apply a hypo to Water’s neck, “he’s suffering from oxygen depravation and malnutrition. You can talk to him in sickbay.”

Grant considered arguing the point with Frost but decided against it when Water’s eyes fluttered closed and the conman collapsed to the deck unconscious.

“There are two more in here, Doctor,” announced Ritchie, popping out the shuttle hatchway, “A Ferengi and a woman. Both like him.”

“Transporter Room,” said Frost, tapping her badge, “beam the two in the shuttle to sickbay.”

There was the briefest of pauses before a voice replied over Frost’s communicator.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Frost, but the Ferengi shuttle has a dampening field preventing me from establishing a transporter lock.”

“Then lock onto the human at my location and beam to sickbay,” instructed Frost. As the plump Water began to fade away in a wash of transporter energy, the physician stood up and headed toward the shuttle, “I’ll stabilize the other two for extraction.” As Frost followed the brawny Lt. Ritchie into the Ferengi shuttle, Grant turned to Babcock.

“I want you an’ McQueen to go over every inch of this shuttle and find out what happened. Pull the logs and send ‘em to Haston and Fletcher for review. The Cap’n’ll want answers.”


********************************************************


Soft light and whispers greeted Lawrence B. Water as he returned to the waking world. He let out an involuntary groan as his eyes fluttered open. The groan became a moan when he recognized the face looking down at him. It had an unassuming jaw line with brownish hair and intense dark eyes.

“Don’t tell Me.” insisted Water, closing his eyes once more, “Rescued by Captain Jay Lutkins and his merry band of officers aboard the USS Specter.”

“I see introductions won’t be needed.” returned Lutkins in a flat voice, “Now, perhaps you’d be kind enough to tell me what you were doing adrift in a Ferengi shuttle? Is it one of Quist’s?”

“Believe it or not, Captain,” answered Water, opening and closing his eyes once more, “I come to be aboard that shuttle by honest means.”

“You’ll excuse me if I doubt your claim at the moment, Mr. Water.”

The cherubic faced man licked his lips to moisten them. Turning his head, Water could see a lovely woman with shoulder length chestnut-brown hair. She was carefully watching a diagnostic display above Water’s head. She saw him gazing at her and offered a warm smile.

“I don’t believe I’ve had the honor of meeting you, Madam,said Water, mustering as much charm as he could while lying on his back after his near-death experience.

“Dr. Helen Frost.” she replied, “How are you feeling, Mr. Water?”

“Better now, Helen.”

“If we could get back to the matter at hand.” said Lutkins pointedly.

Turning back to face Lutkins, he noticed another man standing behind the captain. Though not as tall as the captain, he was big and wore the gold of security and the scowl of a security officer.

“You must think me a dangerous criminal, Captain.” said a chagrined Water, nodding to the pair of security guards flanking what he presumed was the only way out of the recovery ward.

“Dangerous?” repeated Lutkins shaking his head, “No. But a criminal…”

“Nonsense, Captain,” Water assured him, a friendly smile on his face, “if you’ll check your records you’ll see the statute of limitations has run out on every crime I’m accused of.”

“Not every crime.” returned Lutkins, “there is the matter of the medical supplies you stole during your last visit. A crime punishable with a trip to the Auckland Facility.”

“Forgot about that one.” sighed Water, laying back upon the bio-bed with a grateful look on his face, “Thanks for rescuing us anyway. Even Auckland’ll seem a paradise after the last few days.”

“You’ve been adrift for days?” asked Ritchie curiously.

“Er,” stammered Water, “yes. Most of our systems were hosed by the storm.”

“Which leads us back to the original question of how did you come to be on that shuttle?”

“Please, Captain,” stalled Water, “we know each other well enough for you to call me Larry.”

“The shuttle.” returned Lutkins sternly, adding as an afterthought, “Larry.”

“Ah, yes,” replied Water, “the shuttle. After we went our separate ways, I managed to turn my misfortunes into advantages and make a deal with DaiMon Quist. Those pillows you let me take, though not as profitable as medical supplies, are in demand on some of the worlds controlled by the Ferengi. In any event, DaiMon Quist thanked me and let me go on Ferenginar.”

“A human on Ferenginar?” asked Frost, moving to hand Lutkins a PADD containing her report. “That’s almost unheard of. Ferengi’s guard the location of their homeworld jealously.”

“Well,” said Water modestly, “I did need to get Quist to sign an official Ferengi Dismissal of Crimes parchment. Anyway, I met a delightful Ferengi merchant named Zorm, who owns the Fool’s Latinum. A most resourceful and pioneering fellow, we went into the shipping business together…”

“Most species call it smuggling, Mr. Water.” corrected Ritchie.

“Don’t you need to polish a phaser or something, Moose?” Water tossed back caustically.

“Go on.” directed Lutkins placing a restraining arm in front of a flustered Ritchie.

“Well,” continued Water, “we picked up a passenger on Inferna Prime. She booked passage to the Argosian Sector and while en route, we were caught up in that ion storm.”

Lutkins nodded thoughtfully. Then looked over the PADD Frost had handed him. The report on each of the passengers was uneventful. It was a notation next to the woman’s name that caught his eye. He looked up at Frost. The CMO nodded ever so slightly, confirming the information on the PADD.

“According to Dr. Frost,” said Lutkins, handing the PADD back, “you and your passengers will recover in a few days. Until then, you’ll remain in sickbay, under guard. Is that clear, Larry?”

“Of course, Captain.”

“There’ll be a staff meeting in an hour, Dr.” Lutkins said, turning to leave.

He was stopped when Water spoke up.

“Not to seem ungrateful, Captain, but what’ll happen to us now?”

“You and your Ferengi friend will be handed over to Federation Officials once arrangements can be made. As for your passenger.” replied Lutkins, heading toward the exit, “that will be decided in our staff meeting. Good day, Mr. Water.”

As the door hissed closed and Frost moved out of his sight into the ward next door, Water considered the results of his conversation with Lutkins. The con man had already known he faced charges for stealing that damn tissue regenerizer. He also knew he would more than likely be returned to Auckland to be reunited with his friends in the Rehabilitation Center.

All that didn’t bother him. He had told Lutkins the truth earlier. A stay at Auckland was far preferable to dying aboard Zorm’s shuttle. No, what bothered the man was the looks Lutkins and Frost exchanged when the captain had reviewed the doctor’s report on the patients. A report that Water knew contained some very interesting data on the woman passenger. He could tell in Lutkins’s posture that something had been turned up by Dr. Frost’s wondrous machines.

That and Lutkins’s cryptic response to the woman’s fate were enough to tell Water that the identity of his passenger was at least suspected, if not already known. Although every part of his body screamed for him to rest, Water forced himself to sit up. He had to find a way to talk to Zorm and the woman. Find out what they said, if anything, and what they should do from this point on.

That’s what the pudgy man knew he should do, but the pounding in his head and the wave of nausea decided otherwise for him. With an audible groan, Water collapsed back onto his bed.


CHAPTER 2


“There wasn’t much left of the shuttle logs, Captain.” reported Lt. Pauline Fletcher from her seat in the Conference Room, “Zorm wasn’t very diligent about making entries. What was left was unshielded and contaminated from the ion storm.”

“Was there anything to support Water’s story of transporting a passenger?” pressed Lutkins.

“Not from the logs, Captain,” returned Fletcher, “and Inferna Prime is under Dominion control so there’s no way to confirm Water took off from there.”

“Could Water and his group be Dominion agents sent to infiltrate Specter?” asked Josira.

“That shuttle was pretty beat up,” responded Babcock, “and wouldn’t have lasted another day.”

“I know Zorm.” spoke up Ensign Zared Haston, looking to the captain, “During my ‘defection’ to the Outcast Society, he was my cabin mate on the Jolly Roger. Served as the ship’s helmsman.”

“Could Water be hooked up with that band of pirates?”

“Doubtful, Lt. Fletcher,” Lutkins answered his sister, “The information Haston extracted pretty much took care of the pirates. Although I wouldn’t rule out the Orions.”

“What about the blast mark on the shuttle?” asked Grant.

“According to analysis,” stepped in Sekar. The Vulcan was seated beside Babcock, “those marks were a result of the shuttle being subjected to a near miss pulsed energy beam. There are a number of species that employ the type of weapons indicated by the residue. Only one reasonably close to where we found the shuttle.”

“The Joegonots.” supplied the captain trying to suppress a smile at the non-verbal responses of those at the conference table, especially from the usually reserved Sekar. He shoved aside his need to gloat and addressed those assembled, “Dr. Frost conducted a thorough examination of the shuttle passengers. Doctor, perhaps you’d like to share your conclusions with us.”

“All three were suffering from early stages of oxygen degradation and nutrient retardation, so I’d have to agree with BJ’s assessment that this wasn’t a planned event.” Frost started. She took a deep breath then went ahead with the rest of her report, “A scan of the female passenger shows Joegonot DNA. On the outside, she seems human, but on the inside, she’s pure Joegonot.”

Ripples of anxiety flowed about the conference table. At her seat, Counselor Verin Katz felt the rush of emotions as a stinging headache. She massaged her temples to ease the pain. A movement that didn’t go unnoticed by Lutkins.

“I understand the feeling this brings,” commented Lutkins, drawing his officers attention from their own thoughts to the matter at hand. As the anxiety level tapered off, Katz gave him a gratifying look, “but we must focus on the problem at hand. Counselor Katz, my understanding is that Joegonot society was converted from its belligerent behavior not too long ago.”

“That’s true, Captain.” responded Katz, who also served as ship’s cultural officer, “A result of being exposed to a genetic altering device created by Dr. Robert Tulson. Uglious then applied for membership into the Federation. But the application was withdrawn several months later when the effects of the device wore off. Since that time, little has been learned of Joegonot behavior.”

“I think we’ll have to presume the Joegonots have returned to their previous level of belligerence.” offered Lutkins. “In the meantime, unless Water is more forthcoming in providing us the truth, we will proceed on our original mission. During that time, the responsibility of keeping Water and his people under control falls to you, Commander Josira.”

“Understood, Captain.” the Cheron said solemnly.

“Now, as to our original mission…”


********************************************************


Randall Ritchie’s career in starfleet had spanned nearly twelve years. And in that time, the burly security officer had seen just about everything. But the brawny Assistant Chief of Security wasn’t prepared for the sight he encountered when he barged into the recovery ward adjoining the slumbering Water’s where the female passenger had finally awakened and was raising hell.

“I don’t care what the friggin’ schlag your Captain ordered,” she snarled, “I want out of here NOW!”

Seated on the edge of her bio-bed, a woman of remarkable beauty was busy hurling a steady stream of vulgar and descriptive comments at the two security officers standing watch over her. Standing across the room, Dr. Greg Farmer was trying in vain to get close enough to sedate the woman.

“What’s going on here!?” demanded Ritchie.

“Who are you!?” demanded the woman, getting down from the bio-bed to stand toe-to-toe with Ritchie. The patients uniform she wore did nothing to hide her voluptuous figure. Her hair was a lush flow of flaming red and her eyes were magnificent pools of amber.

“Lt. Ritchie aboard the Federation starship USS Specter,” returned the redheaded security officer, just as loud, “now, who the hell are you?”

“I -“ she started to snap back, but stopped. She swallowed hard then looked him in the eyes. “You say I’m on a Federation vessel?”

“That - “ replied Ritchie in a half shout. Realizing she had reduced her voice to a conversational level, he did the same, “That’s correct, Mamn. We found your shuttle adrift and brought it on board. Now, would you mine settling down.”

“Of course.” she replied, eyes looking the redhead up and down. “I’m sorry. It’s just I didn’t know where I was. You’re human, aren’t you?”

“And you’re Joegonot.” returned Ritchie deciding this woman was just as attractive in a calm state as she was when he first lay eyes on her. He looked to Farmer, “Is she all right, Doctor?”

“Pretty much like the others, Lieutenant.” replied Farmer, returning the hypo he had grabbed to the medicine cabinet. “Water is still resting but the Ferengi is awake, though not as violent.”

“I said I was sorry.” the woman said shooting the young physician a withering look.

“You haven’t told me your name yet.” pressed Ritchie gently.

“No,” she replied looking away from Ritchie. There was a flushing of her cheeks as she said in an embarrassed voice, “I haven’t. It’s Ghaztly.”

“Such an unusual name,” commented Ritchie, the warmth of his voice drawing her eyes back to him, “for someone so beautiful.”

The last seemed a harsh slap across the woman’s face for her eyes rekindled and her brows furrowed in anger.

“I don’t need you’re pity, Redhead,” hissed Ghaztly wrathfully, “I am the daughter of the Grand Leech and will not tolerate it.”

“You’re the Leech’s daughter?” a stunned Ritchie stammered. When she said nothing in return, he tried to apologize, “I’m sorry if I offended you, Mamn. It - I just didn’t know.”

“And don’t placate me,” snarled Ghaztly, “I hate being toadied to because of my father. It’s enough I have to put up with this hideous body, I don’t need to be patronized as well.”

Ritchie cast a look at Farmer who simply shrugged his shoulders right back.

“I’m sorry,” replied Ritchie helplessly, “I don’t think I’ve handled this discussion very well.”

“I do have my pride, Redhead.” said Ghaztly tartly. Then, seeing genuine apology in Ritchie’s eyes she softened her features and uttered a sigh. “Don’t worry, Lt. My father probably doesn’t even know I’m alive. I’m the youngest of twenty three heirs to his throne. Not exactly odds on favorite to take over.”

“Still, I’ll have to let Captain Lutkins know so we can arrange VIP quarters for you, umm…” said Ritchie momentarily at a loss for words. He cleared his throat before asking, “Is there a title that you use as the Daughter of the Grand Leech?”

“Well,” responded Ghaztly thoughtfully, “my brother, Hugh, used to call me a pain in the ass, but I don’t think that’s what you had in mind. Just call me Ghaztly.”

“Any way, Ghaztly, I’ll have to notify Captain Lutkins. Get you a suitable place to stay.”

“I want my friends Mr. Water and Zorm nearby.” the Joegonot added quickly, “We’ve been through so much together…”

Ritchie gave a slight nod as he said, “I’ll see what I can do. I’ll be back shortly.”

With that, he exited sickbay.


CHAPTER 3


Samuel Grant watched the daughter of the Grand Leech of Uglious walk about the VIP quarters.

Upon being informed by Ritchie of Ghaztly’s political status, Captain Lutkins had insisted Grant offer one of Specter’s luxurious VIP suites for her use. In addition, the First Officer was to treat the young woman with all the respect due a visiting dignitary. In response to that, Grant had dragged Katz, the ship’s lone resident Joegonot expert, along with him.

“I hope you will find these to your liking.” offered Grant warmly.

“Oh yes, Commander,” gushed the redheaded woman, looking away from Grant, “better than my room on Uglious. But, I asked Ritchie to have Zorm and Mr. Water moved in here.”

“You seem pretty taken with those two.” observed Katz.

“They’re my friends.” replied Ghaztly simply. Then, she added, “You share a doomed vessel with people, you can get real close, y’know?”

“Of course.” allowed Grant, “Both Water and Zorm are still recovering in sickbay. As soon as they do, they may join you. Until then, I’d like you to spend some time with Counselor Katz.”

“No offense, Counselor, but I’d rather be with that dreamy Ritchie.” sighed Ghaztly.

“None taken.” replied the Martian, “At the moment, Lt. Ritchie is busy. For now, though, let’s talk. Privately.” the last was for the benefit of Commander Grant, who graciously bowed then exited the VIP quarters.


********************************************************


“You can’t be serious, Admiral.” accused Lutkins, staring at Admiral Allen Thompson’s face on the desktop monitor.

“You better believe I am, Jay.” returned Thompson, “Although no formal agreement exists between the Federation and Uglious, neither is there one between the Dominion and Uglious. If there’s a chance we can better our standing with the Joegonots, we have to try. Rescuing the Grand Leech’s daughter is a step in that direction.”

“I agree so far, Admiral,” argued Lutkins, “but ever since the effects of Dr. Tulsan’s transference ray have partially worn off, Uglious has become a dangerous system to visit. Our presence could trigger even further hostilities between our governments.”

“Regardless, Jay,” pressed Thompson, ignoring Lutkins’s resistance, “times being what they are, we can not afford to pass up an opportunity to gain an ally. Not when so many Alpha Quadrant cultures are willing to let the Dominion walk all over us.”

For a moment, an uncomfortable silence settled between Admiral and Captain. It was softened by a wane smile on the face of Thompson as he spoke anew.

“I understand your reservations, Jay,” empathized the elder officer, “and, I’ve arraigned for another ship as back up. Just in case the Joegonots go into one of their testosterone induced rages. I have every confidence in you and your ship, Captain. Take care.”

With that, the connection to Starbase Eight was severed.

Lutkins had only scant moments to reflect on Thompson’s orders before his comm badge beeped for his attention. He tapped it to find it was Helen Frost calling to let him know Water was awake enough to answer questions. After telling Frost to notify Josira to meet him there, Lutkins severed the link and stood to leave.

Some days, he decided with a sigh of resignation, it didn’t pay to get out of bed.


********************************************************


“If you don’t mind my asking, Ghaztly, how did you end up on Inferna Prime?”

“My father thought it’d be a good idea if I traveled the quadrant for awhile.” replied the flame hair woman. She had sat beside Katz on the quarters sofa and the two were drinking glasses of cola. With a sigh, the Joegonot looked into her caramel color drink, “He said it’d be good diplomacy.”

“You say that as if you don’t believe it.” observed Katz.

Ghaztly rose from the sofa and paced to the view port to watch the stars pass by.

“Things’ve changed on Uglious, Counselor,” began the redhead evasively, “when the transference ray wore off, we realized that the true curse was being trapped in these hideous bodies.”

“To humans, yours is a desirable body.” commented Katz.

“We’re not humans!” snarled Ghaztly, whirling to confront Katz. She was a vixen of anger as she continued, “We liked what we were! Then Tulsan’s beam mutilated us. Worse, it turned us into zombies for nearly six months. My people are in chaos trying to merge the way it was with the way it became with the way it is.”

As Katz tried futilely to digest and comprehend Ghaztly’s last sentence, the redhead turned back to the view port and seemed to be speaking only to herself now, oblivious to the Martian’s presence.

“I was the last of twenty three heirs.” she said bleakly, “What life did I have on Uglious?”

“So you didn’t leave because of your father.”

“In a way I did, Counselor, only not for the reason I told you. I wanted something for myself. Something I couldn’t find on Uglious.”

Turning from the window she seemed not a snarling savage woman, but a vulnerable child.

“Does that make any sense?”

“To be honest, Ghaztly,” replied Katz, struggling to decipher what she had learned, “I’m not sure. But I do know one thing, running away from home doesn’t really solve anything.”

“How did you know?” a stunned Ghaztly asked.

“Actually, I guessed.” replied Katz, “So you took off from home to prove a point with your father. How do you think your mother feels about this?”

“Dunno, depends on which one you ask.”

“How many mothers do you have?” asked Katz.

“Eight.” answered Ghaztly, returning to sit next to Katz, “You want to know all about ‘em?”


********************************************************


Water was seated upon his bio bed when Lutkins and Josira entered.

By the look on the Captain’s face, the conman could tell Lutkins was told to do something he found distasteful. And Water smiled to himself as he realized the position he was in was about to give him the chance to come out of all this with a black ledger.

“I trust you’re well enough to talk.” started Lutkins.

“And I gather you’ve learned dear Ghaztly’s true identity.” replied Water pointedly.

“That she is the daughter of the Grand Leech of Uglious?” returned Lutkins, “Yes. The only question that I have now, Mr. Water, is how did she end up in your care.”

“Don’t you really mean, Jay,” replied the pudgy man, “is how can you turn this into a Federation advantage.”

“I’m afraid I don’t follow you.”

“Don’t play coy, Captain, it’s not you.” sighed Water, lying back on the bed with his hands clasped behind his head, “Let’s see if I can put two and two together and come up with four. First, there’s the Dominion. The Federation would love to have another ally besides the Klingons to stand up to the Jem’ Hadar. That’s where Uglious comes in. The Joegonots have no treaty in effect with the Dominion. Although not the best of allies, it’s better than none. How am I doing so far, Jay?”

“Go on.”

“Now,” continued Water, “even if you can’t get the Joegonots to play nice and be our friends, returning the Grand Leech’s daughter to him should at least garner a few positive points in the Federation’s favor. At least enough to keep Uglious on the sidelines. That’s where I come in.”

“How so?” asked Lutkins ensuring to keep a neutral expression on his face.

“Ghaztly trust’s Me.” replied Water with a shrug, “You need me to get her to go home and whisper sweet little Federation nothings into Daddy’s ear. Did I get four?”

“I admit having your help will be useful, Larry. Especially since we arrive at Uglious tomorrow.” said Lutkins, “But as to your loyalties.”

“I’ve too much of the Federation in me to turn my back on her, Jay.” assured Water. He started to scratch an imaginary itch on his ear, “But there’s just one slight problem.”

“The charges against you.”

“Kind’ve hard to stay concentrated on the task with the threat of incarceration over my head.”

“I can’t grant you clemency, Mr. Water…”

“Sure you can, Jay,” replied Water with a smile, “so long as it’s not in a capital offense case, a starship captain has the authority to waive prosecution action against a criminal.” Seeing Lutkins’s surprise, Water put in, “I did do a year at the Academy, remember?”

Lutkins felt himself move further and further toward the point of no return.


CHAPTER 4


Ritchie couldn’t tell which aroma was the more intoxicating in the arboretum. The mixture of over a dozen alien flora or the alluring fragrance of Ghaztly walking along the dirt path beside him.

“I’m glad you could get away for awhile.” Ghaztly said to break the silence.

She looked to the brawny Ritchie whom Captain Lutkins had assigned to act as her escort until Specter arrived to her home world the next day. There was something about the redhead security officer that Ghaztly found interesting.

“To be honest, Mamn,” Ritchie returned nervously, “even if the captain hadn’t assigned me as your guide on the tour of the ship, I’d’ve come to visit you.”

“Oh?” she responded cautiously.

The awkward silence returned. The pair rounded a bend in the path and spied an older man spraying water over a patch of recently turned earth. He had silver hair a deep tan and dark eyes.

“Good evening.” he greeted them in a weathered voice.

“Hello, Commander Greyhawk,” returned Ritchie politely. Indicating the woman beside him, he added, “This is Ghaztly, a visitor from Uglious. Ghaztly, meet Greyhawk, Arboretum Chief.”

“You run all of this?” asked Ghaztly indicating the vast amount of foliage with a vague sweep of her hands. “It must take up a lot of your time.”

“Indeed it does.” nodded the botanist, handing Ritchie the hose. He motioned for the security officer to keep watering, “For the most part it is a labor of love. Except tonight, that is. I’m trying to get this clove of garist to germinate with little success. It’ll need at least two more hours of watering.”

Both Ritchie and Ghaztly made a disgusted look on their face.

“Garist has such an odor to it.” complained Ritchie, continuing to saturate the ground.

“Yes, and its color is so blue.” added Ghaztly.

“It’s interesting that two such diverse cultures as Earth and Uglious share a common dislike of garist.” observed Greyhawk, “But have either of you tasted Holis Tea?”

When both admitted they not only had drank Holis tea but enjoyed it, the wizened man had a smile in his eyes.

“Garist is the main ingredient in Holis tea.” he explained, “So you see, if you overlook the bad, sometimes the good will emerge. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

The elder man turned and left but not before seeing a kind of understanding dawn on Ritchie and Ghaztly’s face. He was well out of range when Ritchie, realizing he had been stuck watering the patch of garist, called out his name.

“We seem to have some time.” said Ritchie when he realized the botanist wasn’t coming back.

“So,” answered Ghaztly hesitantly, “we reach Uglious tomorrow.”

“Yes.”

“And I’ll be returned to father whether I want to go or not.” she said, boring holes into Ritchie’s conscience with a hard stare.

“I don’t understand why you wouldn’t.” admitted Ritchie, turning away from her penetrating eyes to watch the stream of water jet out from the nozzle, “I’d give anything to see my parents again.”

“Now it’s my turn to be confused.” announced the Joegonot.

“The reason I can’t see my parents is because they’re dead.” clarified Ritchie, “Killed in a starship explosion when I was twelve.”

“I’m sorry, Redhead…”

“Call me Ritchie.” he insisted, “Anyway, I don’t think of them all that much. Although, at times I can hear mother calling me for dinner or dad telling me how procrastination would be the death of me.”

Ritchie felt the soft hand of Ghaztly tenderly run along his forearm. When he turned to look at her, the Joegonot gave a reassuring smile.

“So tell me about Uglious.” Ritchie said, gazing into her eyes.

“Which one, Ritchie?” she asked in a bittersweet voice, “The Uglious of the past or of the present.”

“There’s a Bajoran saying ‘to always walk with yesterday is to overlook tomorrow, but to overlook yesterday is to learn nothing.” Seeing her confusion, he shrugged. “Tell me of the new Uglious.”

“Since the Transference,” she said with resentful undertones, “Uglious culture has been in a state of flux. According to Katz it’s a kind of mass identity crises. We always were an aggressive species, but now that has been channeled into a form of belligerent sensuality.” She had fire in her eyes when she looked to him, “Did you know that if my sister desired you as much as I we would be expected to fight for you until one of us submitted? In the Uglious of the past, we would fight because we wanted too.”

“You desire me, Ghaztly?” a stunned Ritchie said feeling a flush on his cheeks.

This time it was Ghaztly who turned away. Her cheeks flamed as deep a crimson as her hair. When she spoke it was in a vulnerable voice.

“It was just an example, Ritchie.”

She tensed as he laid the watering wand onto the dirt and put his hands on her shoulders. He turned her to face him, a longing look in his eyes. A tenderness in the caress of his fingertips across her chin as he tilted her mouth up to his.

“Tell me more examples.” he whispered bringing his lips down to hers.


********************************************************


The door closed behind her as she stepped wistfully into the cabin given her by the Federation people. Although having never truly been in love before, Ghaztly, daughter of the Grand Leech, just knew that what she was beginning to feel for Lt. Ritchie was the genuine article. So wrapped up in her emotion, she was startled when two forms moved to greet her.

“Oh!” she flustered, “Larry! Zorm! I forgot you were here.”

“Enjoy your date?” hissed the Ferengi.

“Forget that, Zorm,” waived off Water, moving to stand before her, “you didn’t tell him about what really happened, did you?”

“Of course not.” she snapped back, moving away from Water, “I didn’t think he’d understand my tricking Daddy into thinking I was kidnapped. It’s not the kind of thing you tell a guy on the first date. Ruins the kiss to say ‘Oh by the way, I’m trying to extort money from my father cause he ignores me’.”

“And your brother’s attack on us?” sneered Zorm, “I assume you omitted that detail as well.”

“Which brings up an interesting point, dear,” said Water tartly, “Why did your father send a warship to the meeting point? You said he’d be more than willing to part with money to get you back.”

“Did I say that?” asked an innocent faced Ghaztly, “I guess what I meant to say was he’d likely part with me. But that’s the past, what about tomorrow, Larry? We’ll be back to Uglious.”

“I know,” sighed Water, “I’m supposed to convince you to return to your father and put in a good word for the Federation.” he sighed again, “This is getting so convoluted.”

“We may yet turn a profit in this.” spoke up a Zorm, absently stroking his right lobe, “After all, our negotiations were conducted via audio only.”

“You’ve an idea, my Ferengi friend.”

“If Ghaztly returns to Uglious with you,” the Ferengi answered Water, “then she can claim you rescued her from Cardassian kidnappers bent on forcing Uglious to align themselves with the Dominion. In this way, we collect a reward and the Federation gets Uglious to stay neutral.”

“Brilliant, Zorm!” laughed Water, “on top of all that, the charges against me are dropped.”

“Just one moment, friends.” interrupted Ghaztly, “What about me? I don’t want to go home.”

“Just because we return you now,” replied Zorm slyly, “doesn’t mean you have to stay. We wait a few days until everything dies down then a quick beam out and we’re on our way.”


CHAPTER 5


The tingling wash of the transporter beam faded away and Jay Lutkins found himself struggling to keep the disgust from his face as he looked about the vast chamber the away team had beamed into. It was as if they had been dropped into an architecturally perfect cathedral decorated by a color-blind idiot.

The high vaulted ceilings were supported by large, Romanesque columns. The floor was in a garishly bright green carpet trimmed in hunter green. The landing coordinates were midway down a main passageway that ran from a double oaken door to an obstentacious throne like chair. Seated in the chair was the Grand Leech himself.

A large man with a sculpted physique, dark hair and dashing looks, he had a confident look on his face. Bracing the sides of his chair were two more brawny Joegonots, each had a please-try-something look in their faces. A shuffling behind the landing party of four alerted Lutkins to the presence of four more Joegonots, each brandishing a holstered energy weapon and each a physical specimen of manhood.

“Welcome to Uglious, Captain Lutkins.” greeted the Leech in a rich vibrant voice.

“An honor, Grand Leech,” returned Lutkins with a polite nod, he indicated the others in his Away Team, “May I introduce Lt. Ritchie and Mr. Lawrence B. Water businessman.”

“I know of Mr. Walter, Captain,” smiled the Leech. It was the smile of the hunter, “My son, Captain Emaciated, will be pleased to see you, Waters..”

“That’s WA-ter, your, um, Leechdom.” retorted the paunchy conman. He made a step toward the Grand Leech but his movement caused the guards flanking the Leech to flex their enormous arms in anticipation. As he shrank back behind Ritchie, the merchant said, “As for your son, he started firing upon my ship before I had a chance to tell him who was aboard.”

Water pointed to the final member of the landing party.

“Hi, Daddy.” said the fiery hair woman, a poutish smile on her face.

“Ghaztly.” sighed the Leech, “So this is where you’ve been the last few days. Gallivanting around the quadrant with humans.”

“I’ve been gone over a month, Daddy!” said Ghaztly with a petulant stomp. She looked to Ritchie, “Now do you see what I mean, Ritchie? As the twenty-third daughter of the Leech, I’m hardly noticed.”

Before the Ritchie could answer, the Leech snapped his fingers and the four Joegonots closed in on the away team. Instinctively, Ritchie reached for his phaser, but Lutkins stopped him with a restraining hand on his forearm.

“What’s the meaning of this, Grand Leech?” asked Lutkins, indicating the ringing Joegonots.

“It’s a matter of exacting revenge, Captain Lutkins.” replied the Leech. He saw the alarm in Lutkins’s eyes and gave a chuckle, “No, no, Captain. Nothing violent. You see, not long ago, Captain Alexander Rydell unleashed a transformation ray upon the populace of Uglious. Prior to that, we Joegonots were an attractive and aggressive species considered a threat in the quadrant. Now, look at us.”

“Your daughter has explained to us how your aggressive tendencies have manifested themselves once more, Grand Leech,” replied Lutkins, “and, to most humans, Joegonots are very attractive.”

“That’s not good enough, Captain,” replied the Leech, “but that’s an issue for another time. For now, let’s talk about revenge. We seek revenge against the USS Secondprize, specifically Captain Rydell.”

“The Federation doesn’t deal with governments that treat guests as prisoners.”

“And we don’t care for kidnappers.” shot back the Leech snapping his fingers once more.

“Kidnappers?” asked a bewildered Lutkins as the Joegonot foursome reached out and grabbed Lutkins, Water, and Ritchie. Seeing a look of guilt in the corpulent conman’s eyes, Lutkins said, “What’s he talking about, Larry?”

“Understand, Captain Lutkins,” spoke up the Leech, cutting him off, “we don’t want much. Just a public apology from Captain Rydell. Until then, you three will be put into protective custody. You see, not all of Uglious is as forgiving as I. Take them away.”

“Not Ritchie, father.” cried Ghaztly, moving to stand beside the redhead, looking into his eyes, “he and I have something together.”

“If it makes you happy, Ghaztly,” conceded Leech, “of course you sisters may want you to share.”

Although the prospect of sharing the man she loved with her sisters was unappealing to her, Ghaztly said nothing. As for Ritchie he looked to the captain.

“Captain..”

“Stay with Ghaztly, Lieutenant,” Lutkins ordered as he was forcibly herded toward the oaken doors, “find out what’s going on.”


********************************************************


Grant looked uneasily up at the tactical station as Josira moved to silence the red alert klaxon.

“A fleet of three Joegonot ships have positioned themselves between us and Uglious.” reported Josira from her tactical station. “They are within attack range.”

“Let’s see it.” ordered Grant, settling into the captain’s chair.

The main view screen rippled as it changed viewing angles to accommodate Grant’s order. It showed three conical shaped vessels, each with a glowing red torpedo port and twin warp spheres located to the rear and slightly below the fuselage. It was Fletcher who made the obvious connection.

“Those look like..”

“We’re aware of the, er, phallic-like appearance of the Joegonot ships, Pauline.” cut off Grant, eyeing the trio of starships approaching from the backdrop of the blue-green world of Uglious.

“Phallic?” said an impressed Katz, “I didn’t think you knew what that meant.”

“As a First Officer, you need to know these things.” returned Grant as the central ship began to drop back to let the remaining ships edge forward. It was an obvious defensive maneuver designed to limit Specter’s approach options.

“Receiving a hail from the Joegonot Flagship.” announced Josira.

“On screen.”

At Grant’s request the Joegonot fleet was replaced by the image of a fair hair man with distinguishing features and baby blue eyes. He wore a tight fitting gold tunic that accentuated his brawny physique and his golden hair was wavy. Grant heard Katz sigh beside him and risked a glance at the Martian. She had a subtle look of desire in her vibrant pink eyes.

“I am Captain Emaciated of the Joegonot ship Repulsive,” announced the man in a deadly sensuous voice. He swept the bridge with his blue eyes and his features hardened in reaction to the looks the women gave him, “I would appreciate your not staring at my deformities. It is most disconcerting.”

“Of course, Captain.” replied Grant in a stern voice, breaking the trancelike state the female bridge crew were in. Satisfied the crew was behaving in a respectful manner, Grant confronted the Joegonot commander, “Just as I would appreciate your government returning Captain Lutkins and his landing party into our care at once, Captain Emaciated.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Commander - ?”

“Grant, First Officer of the Specter,” introduced the ebony skin commander, “your holding two starfleet officers and Federation citizen without just cause is threatening the peace between our cultures.”

“Whatever,” replied Emaciated with a dismissive wave of his hand, “after the horror unleashed by Captain Rydell, anything else you have is just body gas in the wind. Rest assured, the only Federation vessel that will pass will be Rydell’s.”

“Captain Rydell is a busy man, Captain,” countered Grant, “and the Secondprize is not in the sector. If you have grievances, your welcome to discuss them at length…once you return the captain.”

“Tell you what we’ll do for you, Commander Grant,” responded the Joegonot leader, “if you turn around and leave, we won’t blow you to atoms.”

Grant was about to respond when Josira cleared her throat. Grant made a hacking motion and the Joegonot face disappeared from the main viewer to be replaced by the three Joegonot ships.

“What’s up, Josira?”

“Extended sensors are picking up an inbound warp signature,” the Cheron replied her face a mask of disgust, “it’s the Secondprize. She’ll be here in five minutes.”

Grant sighed wearily.

First Water. Then the Joegonots. And now this.


CHAPTER 6


The Joegonots had deposited Lutkins and Water in a small cell several blocks away from the palace. Lutkins was laying on a wooden bench watching Water pace the small room like a caged animal.

“Why didn’t you tell us about this supposed kidnap plot before, Larry?” asked Lutkins evenly.

Since their incarceration some three hours earlier, the cherubic conman had spilled the beans about Ghaztly’s attempt to extort money from her father.

“I already told you that.” replied Water, “shouldn’t we be trying to get out of here?”

“How? They took my communicator.”

“Haven’t you people learned by now to carry spares?” said Water peevishly. To add emphasis, he spun around and kicked the cell door. He fully expected to injure his foot so he was more than surprised to watch as the door swung open easily. He looked at Lutkins.

“Think it’s a trap?”

“That would be my guess.” replied Lutkins, cautiously peering up and down the adjoining corridor. He looked at Water, “The hallway’s empty, let’s go. And be careful.”


********************************************************


“Commander, receiving a hail from the Secondprize.”

“On visual, Josira.”

The image on the main view screen changed from the Joegonots to the image of a stout man with dark curly hair seated in an old style captain’s chair. Standing beside him was a thinner serious looking man with short cropped blond hair.

“Greetings, Commander Grant.” the seated man said, tugging the bottom of his tunic to smooth out an imaginary wrinkle in it.

“Captain Rydell, Commander Dillon.” acknowledged Grant warmly. “I’m thankful you could make it to Uglious, Captain, we seem to have run into a problem with the natives. “

“And they appear restless.” agreed Rydell with a smirk at his play on words. “I understand from Admiral Thompson’s message that the Grand Leech has captured your Captain?”

“Yes.” confirmed Grant, “Along with a Federation citizen by the name of Water. In exchange for their freedom, the Grand Leech wants you to issue a public apology for the transference issue.”

“Uh,” spoke up Dillon, a look of trepidation on his face, “Starfleet didn’t agree to that did they?”

“Of course not, Commander,” assured Grant calmly, “the Secondprize was sent to assist us in rescuing our people. At the forefront though is that Joegonot fleet. We certainly don’t want to risk voiding the treaty with Uglious. The Federation has enough problems with the Dominion.”

“Well then,” said Rydell, sounding calmer than he looked, “I’d say the solution is to give them what they want.”

The incredulous look on Dillon’s face matched what Grant was thinking.


********************************************************


“Down this way.” said Lutkins, slipping in between two tall buildings.

He didn’t look, but Lutkins was certain that Water was trailing after him down the dark alleyway. He heard the larger man’s footfalls echo against the concrete walls as the pair jogged along.

As he reached a narrow crossway, Lutkins slowed to a halt and looked down either passage. He saw what looked to be a doorway a hundred meters to the left and, hearing the distant noise of pursuers, tugged at Water’s sleeve and led the con man toward the door. Pressing an ear against the door, Lutkins heard nothing from within. He slowly twisted the doorknob.

It was locked.

And the noise of the jailers was getting louder.

As he looked around for another possible hiding place, Water shouldered his way past.

“Here,” he whispered caustically, “let an expert do this.”

“By all means, Larry.” shot back an irritable Lutkins.

Water’s back blocked whatever it was he was doing but the results were almost instantaneous.

Lutkins heard the lock unlatch and the turning of the handle. Water was through the open door with Lutkins right behind them. The large man silently closed the door just as the group of Joegonot captors dashed into the intersection. The humans could hear the cursing of their jailer, Sheriff Heinous, as they looked for any clue as to the fleeing men.

“Gobloe, check that door.” they heard Heinous growl.

Lutkins and Water looked about the room they had entered and found it was a storage room of some kind. It was scarcely larger than Lutkins’s own ready room with boxes piled one atop the other and only the one door. Both men remained motionless as they heard the footfalls of Gobloe near the door.

Lutkins tensed as he prepared to launch himself at the doorway the moment Gobloe started opening the door. He watched as the latch turned first one way then the other as the Joegonot tried to open the door. Finally it stopped moving and Lutkins heard Gobloe shout.

“It’s locked, Sheriff.”

“Then they must have moved on,” returned Heinous angrily, “let’s get back to the jail house. I’ll tell his Leechdom they got away.”

Both Lutkins and Water sighed in relief.

“We should wait a little bit.” suggested Water softly, “Make sure they really lost interest.”

“Agreed. Then we need to find a way to contact the ship.”

“Shouldn’t be too difficult,” replied Water, seating himself on a crate, “the Joegonots still use radio transmissions to broadcast entertainment crap to the people.”

“If we can get to a transmitter we can alter its broadcast frequency.” Lutkins said, looking about the storage room as he tried to formulate a plan of action, “but where is a transmitter located at? If we had a tricorder then we could get our bearings.”

“What about your crewman?” asked Water, “The redhead… Ritchie. Think he might be able to get through to the Grand Leech?”

“I’m sure he’s trying too. But we can’t count on that as our salvation. The Leech didn’t seem too up on the idea of his daughter being attracted to a lowly security officer.”

“I suppose your right.” groused Water bitterly.

Then the door blew in tossing both Lutkins and Water onto the stone floor. Both were dazed as splinters rained down on them and the remnants of the heavy oaken door swung noisily on iron hinges. Finally, the dust settled enough to make out the weapons toting form of Sheriff Heinous standing in the doorway, overcoat whipping in the breeze with a dozen Joegonot deputies with weapons of their own.

Spitting a wad of tobacco juice on to the floor, Heinous made a tsk-tsk noise before speaking.

“Really must think planets staff their security forces with the most ignorant of people, Lutkins,” sneered the sheriff. He turned to his deputies and barked out orders, “Haul their asses back to the jail house. Shame, too. For a moment there I thought this would be a good hunt.”


********************************************************


Chief Monica Vaughn manipulated the transporter controls and watched as two figures materialized on the transporter pad. As they solidified, she turned an appraising eye on the lone male arrival from the Specter.

“Welcome aboard the USS Secondprize. If I can satisfy

your needs in any way.” offered Vaughn in a voice full of invitation as her eyes lingered on the deep blue hued Iridani, “don’t hesitate to ask me.”

“Thank you for the offer.” returned Haston, stepping down from the transporter pad. He tried to keep eye contact with the buxom Vaughn as he positioned himself so that the transporter console was between him and Vaughn, “This is Lt. Sharyl, field medic.”

“Larkin,” Vaughn called out, slowly running a tongue over her full red lips. From a corner of the room, a female with pasty white skin moved toward them, “escort Ensign Haston and his” she exhaled slowly, “staff to Captain Rydell’s office.”

“Follow.” Larkin said, extending a hand toward the door, only to have the appendage fall to the deck with a clank. She bent down and retrieved the hand and placed it back on the stump of her arm.

“Ensign Larkin is an android.” explained Haston noticing Sharyl’s alarmed look.

“Wonderful.” sighed the Bajoran following Larkin out of the transporter room.


CHAPTER 7


“Shields!” called out Grant as the ship shuddered. As Josira entered the commands, Grant looked to the Operations station where Lt. Fletcher was operating the console in Haston’s absence. They blonde woman was clutching the side of the console as she struggled to hold on and read the console display.

“Jem’ Hadar fighter.” reported Fletcher, as the deck shuddered less violently, “Must’ve followed the Secondprize here. It’s coming about on another attack run, ignoring the Joegonots and vice versa.”

Resisting the urge to hurl obscenities at the Dominion ship, Grant quickly figured his options.

“Evasive maneuver alpha, Vuum,” he ordered the Edoan navigator, “then lay in a course out of the Uglious Sector. Vuum, on my mark, warp seven on that course.”

“You’re leaving the captain?” asked Katz as the other officers carried out their orders.

“He’ll be safe behind that Joegonot blockade for now, Counselor,” explained Grant as the Specter vibrated from a glancing blow from the Jem’ Hadar, “right now, we seem to be the target of choice. Josira, prepare a photon spread. We need them really pissed if this is going to work. Ready?” at the Cheron’s nod, Grant issued his commands, “Fire. Vuum, engage.”


********************************************************


Ritchie didn’t know what to do.

After trying unsuccessfully to convince Ghaztly to intercede on behalf of his captain, he was given a tour of the palace by the Joegonot woman. During the course of the tour, Ghaztly had reluctantly introduced Ritchie to another of the Grand Leech’s daughters, Diminisha. The blonde woman took an instant liking to the security officer, and despite his protests to the contrary, challenged Ghaztly for him.

At this point, Ritchie tried to intercede but his efforts only proved disastrous for him as he was tripped up and sent to the floor, banging his head. All sounds of the Joegonot catfight faded into the haze of unconsciousness.


********************************************************


Four beings materialized into the throne room of the Grand Leech.

Captain Alex Rydell, Lt. Commander Jaroch, Lt. Sharyl Nan and Lt. Patricia Hawkins looked about the vast room and took in the surroundings with trepidation. Other Joegonots had gathered in the room anticipating their arrival. Each a visage of sensuality: men brawny and handsome; women well figured and beautiful. In the Joegonots eyes, the Federation team saw unmistakable loathing of them.

The Grand Leech hadn’t moved from his chair, but now a young female stood behind him. She was lean and voluptuous. To Rydell, the woman seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t quite place the smooth tanned skin, the firm, pouting breasts barely contained with in the strapless blouse.

Rydell risked a look to his comrades and took some measure of strength from their presence. It was at this point that he doubted the sanity of his plan to rescue Captain Lutkins. But, realizing it was too late now to turn back, he led his team down the puke green carpet in the center of the chamber.

“Welcome to Uglious, new life-friend of the Joegonots,” stated the Grand Leech, a smile offered to the ridged-nose Sharyl. The smile faded as his attention turned to Rydell, “and to old ones. I’m happy you decided to return to the scene of your crime, Rydell. Take a look at your handiwork.”

The Leech indicated the throng of assembled Joegonots with a wave of his hand. There was a sadness in the Leech’s green eyes when he looked to his subjects.

“Because of your interference, Rydell, we can never regain what was once our beauty.”

At the Leech’s words, the woman standing behind him sniffled loudly. Her gaze settled on Rydell. In her eyes, Fletcher saw adoration and anger.

“Take a look at me, Alex.” the woman demanded, stepping from behind her father’s chair.

Undoing the tie that bound her dress, she allowed the garment to slide off her shoulders and onto the floor. Nude now, she placed hands on well curved hips and thrust her breasts toward Rydell. To Rydell, she was the most gorgeous woman he had ever laid eyes upon. “You may not remember me,” she said with a sigh, “but we were to be wed.”

“Anemia!?” asked an incredulous Rydell, taking an involuntary step forward.

“Put your gown back on.” ordered the Grand Leech, averting his eyes in disgust.

“Not unless she really wants too..” spoke up Rydell quickly.

Sharyl was stunned at Rydell’s reaction to the naked woman bending down to retrieve her gown. The Secondprize captain had to be physically restrained from moving to the naked woman by Jaroch and Hawkins. She was about to say something when she heard a breep from her communicator.

Haston and his team were about to go in.


********************************************************


“Beam us down outside the jailhouse.” ordered Commander Travis Dillon from the transporter platform. The Secondprize First Officer positioned himself behind the muscular form of Haston and the unblinking Ensign Larkin. He checked his phaser’s power level for the twentieth time as he readied himself for the task ahead. If anything went wrong, he would at least be able to duck behind either one of the beings assigned to his rescue party.

For her part, Transporter Chief Vaughn said nothing, her eyes staring at the indigo-hued man standing on the transporter pad. In the brief time he had been aboard the Secondprize, Haston had been a fixture of desire for the voluptuous transporter operator. Haston returned her stare with a roguish smile.

“Energize.” ordered Dillon.

In response to Dillon’s command, the away team began to dematerialize. For Haston, something seemed to be amiss about this beam down. He felt a chill as he watched Vaughn go about the process of beaming them down. Seeing the appreciative look on Vaughn’s face, Haston looked down to see that he was naked. He knew without looking that the other members of the away team had already dematerialized along with his uniform. He looked back to Vaughn.

"”Have a nice trip, gorgeous,” said Vaughn, a hungry look on her face, “I’ll be waiting for you with bells on.” Haston thought he heard her add “and nothing else.” as the transporter took him apart molecule by molecule.

An instant later, on Uglious, Haston found himself back in uniform, surrounded by the other away team members. They looked completely unaware that the transporter process took seconds longer than usual. Or why. One thing was certain, Haston was looking forward to meeting Vaughn again.

“My scans indicate the holding cells are in that direction.” said Haston, pointing a tricorder down an alleyway. No sooner had he spoken then a small band of Joegonots rounded a street corner with Captain Lutkins and Lawrence Water in their midst.

“Who the hell are you!?” demanded Sheriff Heinous recognizing the uniformed officers.

“You’re worst nightmare.” replied Haston, launching himself at the group.


********************************************************


“Holding at warp seven, Commander.” announced Vuum as the Specter shields flared.

“Jem’ Hadar closing within firing range.” announced Josira even as the deck shuddered beneath their feet. She seemed unconcerned as she added, “Just a ranging shot, Commander.”

“Should I increase speed?”

“Let’s not lose them just yet, Vuum,” replied Grant with a slight grin, “We still need them to get past that Joegonot blockade.” the deck shuddered again and Grant looked to the astro-navigation, “That’s far enough. Bring us about on a return course to” Grant inputted some coordinates on the arm of the captain’s chair, “this point on your board. We’ll do a hard drop from warp speed into sub-light there.”

“That’ll be a strain on the inertia dampners, Commander.” cautioned Babcock from the engineering station.

Another jolt ran through the deck letting them all know the Dominion was still in close pursuit.

“Counselor,” responded Grant, looking to the Martian in the first officer’s seat, “get the word out to batten the hatches and secure for hard breaking maneuver.” As Katz turned to make the ship wide announcement, Grant looked to the bearded engineer, “Babcock, on my command, cloak the Specter.”

“I’ll have my pudgy finger poised for your go ahead, Commander.”

“Approaching the drop out point.” declared Vuum, “one minute on my mark. Mark.”

“Josira, when we drop out of warp, the Jem’ Hadar will do the same. Hopefully, not as quickly as us. Just moments before they reappear, fire a half strength phaser shot at the lead Joegonot ship.”

“You’re going to make it look like the Jem’ Hadar attacked the Joegonots.” guessed Katz, “And the Joegonots, an aggressive species ready to fight at the slightest provocation, will fire back.”

“That’s my plan, Commander,” responded Grant, “and while they’re busy firing at one another we sneak into orbit with the Secondprize. Get ready, people, here…we…GO!”


********************************************************


The deck of the Repulsive shook under the impact of something that Emaciated was certain was phaser fire. He whirled to the main viewscreen in time to witness the reappearance of the Jem’ Hadar.

“Sir,” called out a red headed woman at the scanning station, “the Dominion has fired upon us!”

“Alert the Repugnant and Loathsome to move into attack formation,” Emaciated ordered with a gleam in his eye, “looks like we got us a fight after all!”


********************************************************


The fight in the street didn’t last too long.

Haston used his used his phaser to stun nearly a third of the captors before they knew what hit them. Not to be outdone, Larkin, using her left arm as a club, felled a pair of deputies into la-la land freeing up Lutkins to apply a chop to the back of Heinous’ neck, dropping the man to the pavement. That left just one remaining Joegonot and Commander Dillon was doing a terrific job of keeping him busy by blocking the Joegonot’s fists with his face. Haston stunned the Joegonot before Dillon could do any permanent harm to his assailant’s knuckles.

When the dust had settled, Lutkins looked around to find that Water had slipped off during the melee and was nowhere to be seen.

“Leds git out of heer.” suggested Dillon, cradling his broken and bloodied nose.


EPILOGUE


“Captain’s log, supplemental. After dealing with the Jem’ Hadar, the Joegonot task force, returned to Uglious to inform the Grand Leech of the Dominion attack. For his part, the Grand Leech accepted Captain Rydell’s apology and agreed to let Specter and Secondprize depart the system. Although the Grand Leech will not commit to aiding the Federation, he assured me Uglious will not side with the Dominion either. As for Lawrence Water, the Secondprize reports he beamed aboard Zorm’s shuttle by and took off for parts unknown. Hopefully, this will be the last we see of him for some time.”


Her left eye swollen and scratches on her face, Ghaztly looked every inch a beauty to Ritchie. When he woke up in Ghaztly’s bed, there was no sight of her stepsister. Now, lying under sheets of itchy wool, Ritchie stroked the disheveled hair of the woman lying in his arms. She had confessed to him the plan Water and Zorm had concocted but doubted they would return for her now.

“What are you going to do now?” Ritchie asked her, feeling her nuzzling his neck.

“I dunno, Ritch,” she said, nibbling his ear, “I’d like you to stay on Uglious. But Starfleet’s your life and if I tried to take that away from you I’d be no better than Dr. Tulson. So, I applied for starfleet.”

“Really?” Ritchie asked in surprise.

“I liked what I saw on Specter,” she explained, “The friendship. The acceptance. The quarters.”


********************************************************


Lutkins watched the world of the Joegonots recede into the distance with great joy as his ship left orbit. He shifted in his seat to speak to Grant.

“Make sure to delete all Joegonot recipes from the computer core.” ordered Lutkins, feeling the remains of the Fillet of Sea Slug fried in oil and grease trying it’s best to return the way it had come down.

“All ready done.” assured a pale faced Grant, suffering the lingering effects of Maggot Casserole.

As its captain and first officer tried to recover from the celebratory feast, the Specter sailed on.


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