Author: Alan Decker
THE REJECT’S TABLE
Book Three of Five
“Trials of Youth”
By Alan Decker
The Reject’s Table Concept by Anthony Butler and Alan Decker
Captain Lisa Beck looked up from her illicitly gained beer as she heard the sounds of fighting from inside The Captain’s Bathroom grown louder. Captain Rydell had been chased in there by a young and miffed Captain James T. Kirk not five minutes earlier.
The door of the bathroom burst open, allowing Kirk to go flying into the “alcoholic’s table” a short distance away from the table Beck and the others occupied. Kirk groaned a bit and lay still. He looked like he’d had the hell beaten out of him. His uniform tunic was ripped, revealing a long, thin blood scratch stretching across his chest. Both of his eyes were almost swollen shut.
“Jim, what happened?” the older Kirk in the bar exclaimed, rushing over to his fallen alternate self.
“You’re me! Don’t you remember?” young Kirk said angrily.
“We’re outside of time, you moron,” the elder Kirk snapped back. “When we leave, none of us are going to remember this!”
“Now don’t you start with me too!”
About that time, Captain Rydell emerged from the bathroom without a mark on him. Whistling, he strolled back over to the table and sat down.
“You want to explain how you pulled that off?” Beck asked.
“Talent,” Rydell said, snatching his beer back from Beck. A Gorn, a Klingon, and Romulan then walked out of the bathroom looking very pleased with themselves.
“And Kirk ran into some old friends,” Rydell added.
“Unbelievable,” Baxter muttered.
“Hey, there’s something to be said for dumb luck. You should know,” Rydell replied.
“It’s kept me alive this long,” Baxter said. “And got me to captain.”
“Speaking of that, when did…uh, will…you get promoted, Lisa?” Rydell asked.
“What stardate did you leave?” she asked.
“Just about a year after that,” Beck replied.
“Well, congratulations, both belated and in advance.”
“Thank you very much.”
“Well, since you’re the new captain on the block, why don’t you tell us about your first time in the big chair?” Vorezze said.
“Actually, I don’t really have a chair in the ops of Waystation,” Beck said.
“You know what I mean. Tell us about your first time in command.”
“And we know all about your first day at Waystation,” Rydell said. “Go earlier than that? When was the very first time you had to take command?”
“Very first time, huh?” Beck asked.
“Yep,” Rydell replied. “Time for you to be in the hot seat for a while.”
“I don’t know if it’s that interesting,” Beck said. “It was a long time ago.”
“Who cares?” Baxter said.
“Commence relating your tale, or we will never be allowed to leave,” 4 of 8 said.
“The Borg’s got a point,” Rydell said.
“You don’t understand. It was a REALLY long time ago.”
“Just tell the damn story,” Baxter said.
“Okay. But you asked for it,” Beck said. She swiped a beer back from Rydell and took a long drink, preparing herself and hoping that the alcohol would some how clear up the memories from all those years ago. Of course, they were still pretty damn clear on their own.
“When I was eleven…”
“Eleven!” Baxter exclaimed. “I thought this was supposed to be about Starfleet command experience!”
“It is,” Beck shot back. “Sort of. In any case, it’s all about Starfleet.”
“Her age is irrelevant,” 4 of 8 said. “Children are considered useful members of the Borg Collective. Are humans not the same?”
“Don’t tell me we’re going to let the Borg make us look bad,” Rydell said.
“All right. She can tell her story,” Baxter said. “But this had better be about something serious.”
“Oh, you mean like playing imaginary football games in fantasy worlds created by sex goddesses out for your body,” Beck retorted.
“Never mind, Baxter,” Beck said. “Anyway, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted…”
When I was eleven, I was already fairly set on the road that would eventually lead me to Starfleet Academy. I’d been watching holovids of Kirk and Sulu since I was born. Actually, I kind of had a thing for Sulu, but we’ll get to that later. Anyway, this would have been fine and all if I’d been the one with the Starfleet obsession. As it was, I wasn’t. My mother was the chief force behind this whole thing.
Mom was just one of those people who didn’t make the cut. She wasn’t stupid, she wasn’t physically unfit, but she also wasn’t quite up to the standards of the Academy. And that had devastated her. She’d spent her whole childhood dreaming of the day when she’d be out there exploring the stars, commanding her won ship.
Life just hadn’t worked out that way, though. Sure, she could have enlisted like anyone else, but she wanted to be an officer. Instead, she regrouped from her defeat, started a family, and almost found fulfillment of her dreams in the private sector. She got a job working for Astro-Tech designing spacecraft systems. In time, she was promoted to the team that did contract design work on Starfleet vessels. Hell, she probably spent as much time on those ships as a member of the crew, but that was only when they were in spacedock. Other than the occasional test run, she never traveled on them.
She decided that her eldest daughter, though, would be different. I was going to Starfleet Academy. I would make it to the stars. And she would live her dreams through me. Now, she never did any of this overtly. I was never commanded to join Starfleet, but the presence was there from my childhood. I’ve always said that my parents never pushed me; I came to this myself. That’s technically true. Even though I’d seen all the vids, heard the stories, and spent time in the Starfleet Scouts, I wasn’t sure that that’s what I wanted to be.
Of course, that didn’t mean I wasn’t enough of a kid to be inspired by it. I played starship practically all the time with my best friend, Stephanie Hodges. And this is exactly what we were doing when the whole mess started.
“Captain’s log. Captain Lisa Sulu recording,” I said into my Junior Starfleet log recorder as I sat under one of the big trees in the woods behind our neighborhood. “Dr. Hodges and I have captured one of the vicious snarl-beasts of this planet and are about to begin our study of it.”
About that time, Steph was waving my Junior Starfleet tricorder around in front of her older brother, Joel, who we had tied to a nearby tree trunk. Joel was four years older than us, but always a good sport about letting us play with him. I can’t say I minded. I never would have told Steph this, but I had a bit of a crush on her brother.
“Body temperature 98.6,” Steph called over to me, once the tricorder bleeped that it had completed it’s scan. “He’s alive.” Now those Junior Starfleet tricorders couldn’t tell you too much, but if you needed to know the temperature, they were great. They did some internal scanning, but not enough to really be useful. Mostly, the gimmick was that you could scan through walls to some extent. A life sign here, a heat signature there. That was about it.
“Good work, Doctor,” I said to her as I got up and approached our captive.
“Can I go yet?” Joel asked. “This rope is starting to hurt.”
“No talking!” I said. “Snarl-beasts just snarl.”
“Rrrar!” he suddenly bellowed, causing Steph, who was doing a close scan of his teeth, to let out a high-pitched scream and jump back right into me. We fell in a heap to the ground.
“I’d say the alien is mean, Captain,” Steph said.
“And you’re on my foot,” I replied. We picked ourselves up and faced our captive. “But we’ve got to do something to teach this creature that it can’t do things like that to Starfleet Officers.”
“Like what?” Steph said, her eyes mirroring the evil glint in mine.
Two minutes later, we were running through the forest towards my house at top speed, dragging Joel’s pants along behind us.
“Ooh, sounds kinky,” Baxter said.
“It was completely innocent,” Beck said. “We were eleven for god’s sake. He still had his underwear, and I knew what male genitals looked like. I had no interest in seeing any more of them.”
“You can look at mine!” Rydell, Baxter, Vorezze, and 4 of 8 all said in unison. Beck looked around the table angrily, finally fixing on the Borg.
“Them, I expect it from, but you?” Beck said.
“I could not help it. The power of their one single-minded thought was so powerful that it was like being in the collective again,” 4 of 8 explained.
“No, man! A real man!” an annoyingly familiar voice said from behind Beck. She turned around to face Redbeard the Pirate. He looked a bit battered from his earlier run-ins with Rydell and Beck, but he was back for more. “Come dance with me, my lovely.”
“There’s no music, pal,” Beck said.
“Oh, there will be,” Redbeard said. “Come take a twirl.”
Beck turned back to the group. “Looks like he wants to dance,” she said. The group exchanged glances and shrugged. “Evens and odds?”
“Good enough,” Vorezze said. Redbeard watched confused as the five captains set about pointing even and odd numbers of fingers until all but one person had been eliminated. Captain Baxter stood up and walked over to Redbeard.
“What do you want?” Redbeard growled menacingly.
“I’m your dance partner,” Baxter replied. “Watch closely.” He clenched his fists together in front of Redbeard’s face.
“Here’s the church.”
Baxter then formed his forefingers together into a point.
“Here’s the steeple.”
He put his fingers back down, then rammed his joined fists up into Redbeard’s face and hit him with two more quick blows.
“I smash your head in. And now you’re feeble.”
Redbeard staggered back, trying to focus on Baxter as he lost consciousness.
“That was…a really…bad rhyme,” Redbeard mumbled, then fell backwards into blissful oblivion.
“I’ve got to hand it to you,” Beck said. “You fellas sure know how to show a girl a good time.”
“We haven’t gotten to the real good time yet,” Rydell, Baxter, Vorezze and 4 of 8 said.
“Would you three please stop that?” 4 of 8 said.
“Hopeless. Completely hopeless,” Beck said. “Can I continue?”
“Absolutely,” Rydell said smiling. “We’re all ears.”
“Among other things,” Beck muttered.
Having done this sort of thing to Joel several times before, Steph and I knew that he’d get loose and probably catch us before we had a chance to get back to the house, so, as soon as we were sure we were out of sight, made a detour up the mountain.
I guess I should stop to explain the setting we’re dealing with here. Steph and I grew up at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. Our houses were in a neighborhood that sat about halfway up a fairly significant hill. At the top of the mountain, was a conference and resort center. Since we lived in the area, the owner of the center knew us and let us play up there when she didn’t have too many guests. This was not one of those times.
Steph and I burst out of the woods onto the patio behind the main building of the conference center and found ourselves in the midst of a couple of hundred beings of various shapes, colors, and sizes. Most of those gathered were wearing robes of some sort.
A group of reddish-skinned scaly aliens gathered by the pool fell to their knees as soon as they saw Steph and I.
“Oh, the Sacred Sisters have come! Prepare the sacrifice!” They grabbed one of the other members of the group and stuck his head into the pool.
“They aren’t sacred anythings,” I heard Janet Stone, the owner of the Stone Mountain Resort and Conference center, shout. She pushed her way through the crowds and grabbed Steph and I. “Get that guy out of the pool!”
“Yes, goddess,” the scaly aliens said, bowing deeply. They yanked their “sacrifice” out of the water and dropped him to the deck.
“Sorry about the, Y’Krecht. False alarm,” one of them said, his voice filtering through the universal translator he was wearing.
“No problem. Gotta be prepared for these things.”
“Who are these people?” I asked. I couldn’t help staring at the strange dances and chants being performed by various groups scattered throughout the patio.
“Coffee and prayer break,” Janet replied. “It’s a conference group. Federation Tax Law and Your Cult.”
“Icky,” Steph said.
“Nah. These guys are harmless,” Janet said. Just then, two men in drab grey suits stepped out of the building onto the patio. “They scare me.”
“Who are they?” I asked.
“The Sacrificial Tax Deductions seminar will be commencing shortly,” one of the men said. Janet suppressed an involuntary shudder as the various cult groups began to file back into the building. A sudden rustling in the bushes around the patio drew my attention away from the oddly-robed cult members.
“What is it, Lisa?” Steph asked.
“What?” Too late. Joel dove out of the bushes and grabbed his sister, reclaiming his pants in the process.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA,” Steph screamed, drawing the attention of a group of passing Andorians. They gave us a cursory glance, but, when they saw Joel, all of their antenna shot straight up.
“Yeah. Yeah,” Joel said, quickly putting his pants on. “I’m putting my Z’arkbelst away.”
“Why are you out here in your underwear?” Janet asked.
“Captain Incredible there stole them while I was tied to a tree,” Joel said, pointing at me.
“That’s it,” Janet said, covering her ears. “I don’t want to hear anymore! I’m going back inside.” Meanwhile, the Andorians had pulled out knives and were starting to slice their palms open.
“What the hell are you doing?” Janet shouted.
“We give our blood to the Z’arkbelst so that he may grow strong and eat many world,” one of the Andorians replied.
“But could we make it quick?” another said. “We really need this seminar so I can finish out W-700 form.”
“Silence, N’herhd!” the lead Andorian snapped.
“No blood on my patio!” Janet said, snatching the knife away from the leader. “Go inside!”
“But the Z’arkbelst…”
“He’s not a Z’arkbelst! He’s just a kid. Go!”
“We will come for you, Great and Merciless Z’arkbelst,” the leader said, bowing to Joel.
“Great. Looking forward to it,” Joel said sarcastically.
“You guys had better get home,” Janet said, looking up to the sky. “I think we’ve got some rain scheduled for this afternoon.”
“Okay. Bye!” I said, racing off into the forest. “Come on, Dr. Hodges! The snarl-beast has escaped!”
“Aye, Captain!” Steph said, following right behind me. Joel let out a vicious snarl and tore off after us. We ran, laughing and screaming all the way back to my house as Joel chased us.
“Uh, this is sweet and all, but please tell me you don’t consider playing Starfleet as a kid command experience,” Vorezze said.
“I’m getting there. Just hold on,” Beck said. “If I have to tell this damn story, I’m going to do it right.”
“Uh oh,” Baxter said.
“You could dance with me instead,” a shaky voice said from behind Beck.
“Redbeard?” Beck said.
“Yup,” Rydell, Baxter, Vorezze, and 4 of 8 said.
“I danced last time,” Baxter said. Without another word, the remaining four captains did another quick round of evens and odds until Vorezze was the only one left.
“I’m really not wearing my dancing shoes,” Vorezze said, as he stood up to face Redbeard.
“You aren’t going to try and hit me again, are you?” Redbeard said angrily.
“I won’t lay a hand on you,” Vorezze said, his hands clasped behind his back. Slowly, one of those hands reached back and grabbed one of Rydell’s empty beer tankards.
“You’d better not.”
“I sense that you are in great pain,” Vorezze said.
“No kidding,” Redbeard said, pointing to his two black eyes and swollen nose.
“You’re about to experience more.”
“What? Are you some fortune teller too?” Redbeard demanded.
“Just trying to give you fair warning,” Vorezze replied.
Vorezze swung his arm around, slamming the metal tankard against Redbeard’s head. The pirate flew backwards, landing in a heap on the floor of the bar.
“I didn’t lay a hand on him,” Vorezze said, putting the tankard back on the table and taking a seat.
“I’m sure he appreciates that,” Beck said. “Hopefully, that’s the last of the distractions.”
“And now back to Romper Room,” Baxter said.
“Watch it, pal,” Beck said menacingly. “Or you’re going to end up in nap time like Pirate Petey over there.”
Anyway, back to my story, Steph and I made back to my house before Joel could catch us. Seeing us enter the front door, he immediately veered off and headed back into the woods.
“Another safe return to the U.S.S. Horizon,” I said.
“Just barely,” Steph said.
“Lisa, is that you?” my mother’s voice called from the living room.
“Come in here. You’re dad’s on the line.”
Excitedly, I raced into the living room where my mother sat talking to the image of my father displayed on the comm screen over the fire place.
“There’s my little explorer,” my father said, his eyes brightening upon seeing me.
“Hi, Daddy,” I said happily. “When are you coming back?” My father was a program administrator for Astro-Tech. That’s where he and Mom met. While Mom worked on Starfleet ships, Dad would go to various organizations that did business with Astro-Tech overseeing the installation of Astro-Tech systems on their ships. He spent a lot of time cruising the galaxy. Thus far, I’d only been able to go with him for a quick weekend trip to some privately-owned shipyards on Mars located a ways away from the Starfleet yards. Dad tried to get me into the Starfleet facility, but he just couldn’t get the clearance. Someday, when I was an officer, Mom assured me that I’d be able to go there.
“I should be leaving Rigel tomorrow,” he said. “Are you and Kathy being good for your mother?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Kathy’s with Sharon this afternoon,” Mom said. She pulled me down onto the sofa next to her and tousled my hair. “And this little one’s about to go work on her calculus.”
“All right. I love you guys. See you in a couple of days,” Dad said.
“Bye, hon,” Mom said, then closed the connection. I immediately turned on my mother.
“Mom, it’s June! School’s out!”
“Lisa. You know you have to work year round if you want to wear the uniform.”
“Maybe I don’t want…”
“You do and you know it,” Mom said. “Don’t make some silly decision now just because you want to go play with Steph. She’ll still be around tomorrow…and all the days after that. Right, Steph?” Steph had been standing unobtrusively in the corner while all this had been going on.
“I’ll see you later,” Steph said, quickly moving towards the door.
“Bye,” I said sullenly. Once she left, I got up from the sofa and trudged upstairs to my bedroom. At that moment, sitting at my computer terminal staring blankly at calculus formulas while all my pictures and holos of Starfleet officers and ships stared down at me, I never wanted to see or hear anything having to do with Starfleet ever again.
That night, Mom, Kathy, and I ate dinner in relative silence. I was still pissed about spending all afternoon wrestling with higher mathematics, while my sister got to spend it playing dolls over at her friend’s house. I say the silence was relative because Kathy was more than happy to tell us all about her day.
“…and then her dog, Fluffy got into the room and she grabbed Ken and took him outside and buried him the dirt and we had to dig him up but her was in Sharon’s mom’s garden and she got mad and…”
You can pretty much get the idea. There were times that I forgot that Kathy was only three years younger than me. She seemed so much less mature. Here I was trying to decide which way my future was going to go, and all she cared about was a doll-mangling pooch.
I could see Mom gearing up to ask me something, most likely about how my calculus was going, when the door chime mercifully rang, saving me.
“Who in the world…” Mom said, reaching behind the table and activating the little comm screen in the kitchen. I could see the image of Steph and Joel’s father, Dr. Gregory Hodges, appear on the screen. He was standing at our front door.
“Come on in, Greg,” Mom said, pressing the door control by the comm unit. A moment later, Dr. Hodges was in our kitchen followed by Steph.
“Is everything all right?” Mom asked, immediately eyeing me like I must have something to do with whatever was going on.
“You haven’t seen Joel, have you?” he asked.
“Not today,” Mom said. “Why?”
“He hasn’t come home, and he’s not answering his wrist-comm. Steph says she and Lisa haven’t seen him for hours.”
“And Lisa’s been here all afternoon,” Mom said. “I’m afraid we don’t have any idea where he could be.”
“This is just not like him,” Dr. Hodges said. “Well, we were out scouring the neighborhood, so I thought I should drop by and check.”
“Where’s Sylvia?” Mom asked, referring to Steph’s mom.
“At home trying to get the wrist-comm company to give us a location on his signal. I’m just driving around and keeping Steph out of her hair.”
“She can stay here,” Mom said. “I’ll replicate her some dinner.”
“Thanks, Christine. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem. I’ll walk you out,” Mom said, getting up from the table as Steph came and sat down near me. I could tell from the look on her face that she was thinking the same thing I was.
“It was those blue guys!” Steph said.
“They’re called Andorians,” I said.
“I don’t care. They’ve got Joel.”
“Mom, what are Andrecans?” Kathy asked as Mom re-entered the room.
“I have no idea, honey.”
“Lisa’s making stuff up again,” Kathy wailed.
“What is she talking about?” Mom asked me.
“Steph and I were playing Starfleet earlier,” I said. “And we ran into some Andorians at Janet’s place.”
“That’s Miss Stone to you, young lady.”
“But there were some Andorians up there who kept looking at Joel. They called him the Z’arkbelst.”
“Honey, this is serious. Let’s try and stick to real possibilities. Joel was not taken by some aliens,” Mom said, cutting herself a piece of replicated roast. “Steph’s dad thinks he may have just gone to see his friend in Richmond.”
“He didn’t believe me about the blue guys, either,” Steph said glumly.
“You girls just finish eating and don’t worry about it. Joel will be fine.”
As soon as we could, Steph and I raced back up to my room to start planning. We just knew those Andorians had grabbed Joel. The question was what we could do about it.
My first step was to call Janet up at the conference center. She told me that the Andorians had suddenly checked out just about an hour earlier and caught a hoverbus to the spaceport in Raleigh.
“We’ve got to tell my Dad!” Steph said, starting to run for my door.
“Steph, hold on,” I said, pulling her back. “Why should he believe us? We don’t know anything really.”
“But they’ve got Joel!”
“And we’re going to get him back,” I said, grabbing my Junior Starfleet communicator, tricorder, and flashlight out of my desk.
“All right. Finally some action,” Baxter said, leaning forward in his seat.
“I’m sorry. Am I boring you?” Beck said sarcastically.
“No, but you’re breaking my heart,” an all-too-familiar voice said from behind her. The seated group turned and looked at the very-battered Redbeard the Pirate.
“Now, I don’t want any more trouble from you folks. I just want to dance with the pretty lady, and I’m not going to take no for an answer,” Redbeard continued.
Beck, Rydell, and 4 of 8 looked at each other and immediately started another round of evens and odds.
“Oh hell,” Redbeard said as Rydell stood up to face him.
“Don’t worry about it,” Rydell said, wrapping his arm around Redbeard’s shoulder and walking him away from the table. “I don’t feel like fighting you again. But you’ve got to understand that my friends and I don’t really want any interruptions.”
“You don’t know who I am,” Redbeard said indignantly. “I’m the scourge of the seas. Captains everywhere fear my approach.”
“Not these captains,” Rydell said.
“If I want to dance with a lovely lady at The Captain’s Table, I dance with her. That’s just the way it works.”
Rydell stopped Redbeard near a table on the other side of the bar and turned to face the pirate.
“I don’t think so,” Rydell said simply. He looked at Redbeard a second. “You know, you’re standing way too close. Take a step back.” Redbeard did, right back onto the foot of a Nausicaan captain, who immediately stood up and grabbed Redbeard.
“Looks like you’ve got a dance partner after all,” Rydell said, making a hasty retreat back to his table in the back corner of the restaurant.
Redbeard beat him there.
The Nausicaan threw the burly pirate right over the table, smashing him into the wall behind them.
“He okay?” Rydell asked, taking a seat. Baxter looked down at the pile of pirate next to him.
“Good enough,” Rydell said, turning his attention back to Beck. “You were saying?”
Beck laughed and continued her tale.
I knew that Steph and I had to get to the spaceport in time to stop the Andorians, but I didn’t even stop to think how we’d accomplish that. After about five minutes of nagging from Steph, I did try to contact the spaceport security office, but they had no interest in talking to a kid, especially one with some wild kidnapping story.
The way I saw it, Steph and I had one option. Mom was probably going to kill me when we got back, but I had to take the risk. I remember telling Steph at the time it was our duty as Starfleet officers. And this was what Starfleet was about in my mind. Forget the hours of studying; I was about to go try to save a life.
I used Mom’s access code to contact the spaceport transporter room. Mom beamed there almost every week to take a transport up to spacedock, so the spaceport had given her a beaming code. Whenever she needed to get there, she entered the code, and the spaceport computer beamed her over. I quickly entered the code, requested transport for two, then Steph and I ran downstairs to the beam-out coordinates in our foyer.
“No running in the house,” I heard Mom shout from the living room as we flew downstairs.
“Sorry!” I shouted back.
“What are you two doing?”
“Nothing, Mom,” I called out just as my body started to tingle. This was only the second time I’d ever been in a transporter. Steph’s wide-eyed shocked look told me that she’d never done it.
An instant later, we materialized on the large transporter pad at the Raleigh spaceport. The transporter operator looked slightly surprised to see two unaccompanied kids.
“Thanks,” I said. “We’ve gotta go meet our dad!” I pulled Steph out of the room.
“Th..that was weird!” Steph exclaimed. “It was like bugs crawling all over me, even inside. Ewww!”
“It’s just a transporter,” I said. “Starfleet officers use them all the time.”
“So does my dad!” Steph said defensively. “I’d just never done it.”
“Now you have.”
“Can we do it again?”
“Later,” I said, pulling out my Junior Starfleet tricorder. While, as I said, the thing had limited capabilities, it had a small database of standard Federation member life signs. I could scan for humans, Vulcans, Alpha Centaurans, and the pygmies of Kelsos Twelve. I think the thing was made on Kelsos, actually. That’s the only reason I could figure that they’d be in there.
Anyway, I set the tricorder to show me any life signs it didn’t recognize. I figured there was no way the Andorians could have gotten to the spaceport and off the planet already.
Unfortunately, it detected about two hundred life signs it didn’t recognize.
“Lisa, what are we going to do?” Steph said, seeing the readout.
“Hold on,” I said, typing in another search. “How many Andorians were there?”
“I don’t know. Seven. Maybe eight.”
“Good enough.” I have to admit, the whole situation, despite the fact that I knew we were going to be in so much trouble when we got home, was incredibly exhilarating. I felt like I was really on a mission. I don’t think the true danger Steph, Joel, and I were in really hit me.
“I’ve got a group of seven unfamiliar life signs clustered with one human one about two hundred meters ahead of us,” I said, as I watched the tricorder readout. We weaved our way through the masses of people milling about the main spaceport terminal.
Gradually, we left the commercial flights area and moved on to the private docking area.
“They brought their own ship,” Steph said.
“Looks like it,” I replied. And then I could see them. Eight hooded figures in dark brown robes were walking just a few feet ahead of us. They then turned and entered one of the docking bays.
“Is Joel with them?” Steph asked, trying to pull the tricorder away from me.
“I think so,” I replied.
“Then why doesn’t he run?”
“Maybe they’re pointing a phaser at him or something.”
“In the spaceport?” she said. She had a point. They never could have gotten this far armed.
“They must have hypnotized him,” I said finally, coming to the only conclusion I could think of. “Let’s go.”
We crept into the docking bay where we saw a small, dilapidated freighter. All of the Andorians except the leader had boarded the ship. The leader was conferring with a customs officer.
“Looks like everything’s in order,” the officer said. “Have a safe trip home.”
“The blessings and blood of G’heedol on your bowels,” the leader said, bowing deeply.
“Uh yeah…thanks,” the guard said, heading towards the door. Steph and I ducked behind a cargo loader, so he wouldn’t spot us. The lead Andorian entered the ship and shut the personnel hatch. At the rear of the ship, I could see the cargo hatch start rise up. Soon, the ship would be completely sealed.
“Run for it, Steph!” I said, racing as quick as my legs would carrying towards the rear of the ship. I could hear Steph’s labored breathing right beside me. We jumped onto the closing cargo door and rolled inside just before it clanged shut.
At this point, I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. I could already feel the ship beginning to move. In minutes, we’d be in space and headed back to Andor. I knew we needed to find Joel. After that we could work out the rest of the plan.
As it turned out, though, Steph and I rolled right into the legs of one of the cult members who’d been supervising the loading of materials into the cargo bay.
“Z’hast vaard’l!” he exclaimed. Obviously, he wasn’t wearing his universal translator, and I didn’t speak any Andorian. He grabbed Steph and I by the collars and hauled us over to the ship’s intercom, from which he contacted the leader.
“Lisa, what are we going to do?” Steph said, fear evident in her eyes. For her sake, I tried to remain calm and focused.
“Shh,” I said. “They’re talking about Joel.”
“How do you know?”
“They’ve said Z’arkbelst about six times…no seven.”
The Andorian closed the comm channel and gestured for us to sit down. We did so, and a few moments later, the leader walked in. He switched on the universal translator clipped to his belt.
“You were the ones with the Z’arkbelst,” he stated.
“I’m Lisa Beck,” I said, standing up. “This is Joel’s sister, Stephanie Hodges. You need to take us all home right now.”
“I cannot do that,” he replied. “The Z’arkbelst must come home to his followers. We have waited many years for his coming.”
“But Joel’s just my brother,” Steph said.
“You cannot see into his inner nature as we can. He is the incarnation of the Z’arkbelst on this plain. I even have the pictures to prove it.” He pulled a sketch out of his pocket of a guy who looked a lot like Joel bathed in white light standing over a horde bowing Andorians.
“This sketch was done by our founder over sixty years ago. Now his teachings have come true! The Z’arkbelst has been found!”
“But what about us?” I said.
“You two will be turned over to the Federation authorities on Andor as stow-a-ways as soon as we arrive.”
“But then they’ll take Joel, too.”
“They will never know about the Z’arkbelst. Who will believe two children who’ve run away from home?” He turned to the other Andorian. “Put them somewhere where they will not disturb the Z’arkbelst. He is not to know that they are on board.”
The Andorian bowed slightly, grabbed Steph and I again, and hauled us out of the room. We were thrown into an empty crew cabin which obviously hadn’t been used in ages. The Andorian also grabbed my tricorder, communicator, and flashlight, but, after seeing they were toys, tossed them back to me. I caught the tricorder and communicator, but the flashlight hit the deck and broke open.
The Andorian laughed, then closed the door, locking us in. I could hear him laughing all the way down the hall.
“I didn’t think it was funny,” Steph said, as she sat glumly on the bare bunk.
“Me either,” I said, retrieving the pieces of my shattered flashlight.
“Now we’re going to Andor,” Steph wailed. She collapsed onto the bunk and started sobbing. Suddenly, she stopped and looked up at me.
“You’re communicator! Can’t we call for help?” she said excitedly.
“This thing’s only designed to reach other Junior Starfleet communicators. And it doesn’t have much of a range,” I replied, flipping the small device around in my hand as I looked around the room. “Unless…” I ran over to the small desktop console located across the room. I wasn’t an expert in these things, but I knew enough from my studies and all those Starfleet Preparatory Camps I’d gone to over the years to have a pretty good idea how to navigate the system. Of course, it helped that I realized the ship had an Astro-Tech operating system. I knew those by heart.
Even though I didn’t have a clue what the words on the screen were saying, I was able to get us into the comm net. Fortunately, the Andorians didn’t seem to have any security protocols on their system. I guess they didn’t deal with many prisoners.
“Can we call for help?” Steph asked, as she peered over my shoulder.
“I think so,” I said, punching in the emergency Starfleet frequency I’d memorized from my Junior Starfleet spaceflight survival manual. “Help! Starfleet! Help!”
Okay, it wasn’t the best message, but I was eleven. Give me a break.
“Unidentified sender, please clarify,” replied a crisp, female voice.
“We’ve been kidnapped by some Andorians,” I said. “They’re about to head back to Andor. Please help us.”
“We are receiving your signal from a freighter just passing Mars. Is this correct?”
“I guess so. We’re locked in a room without windows.”
“Ma’am, how old are you?”
“Eleven,” I said. I could almost sense what she was thinking. “Ma’am, I’m really serious here. My name’s Lisa Beck. I’m in the Starfleet Scouts. Look me up. But hurry. They’ve got me, my friend Stephanie Hodges, and her brother.”
Just then, the door opened, and the lead Andorian walked in followed by a couple of his cronies.
“Shut that off!” he ordered.
“Hurry!” I screamed again just before I was yanked away from the unit by one of the Andorians.
“What should we do with them, Z’assy?”
“We should kill them,” the leader, who I now knew as Z’assy said angrily as he looked Steph and I up and down. “But we do not harm children.”
“That’s a good thing,” a voice said from behind Z’assy. Three uniformed Starfleet officers marched into the room, phasers leveled on the Andorians.
“Z’assy, a Starfleet ship has intercepted us,” a voice said urgently over the comm system.
“We’ve noticed,” Z’assy replied flatly.
“Are you ladies all right?” the lead officer, a lieutenant by the pips on his uniform, asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “But there should be another human somewhere on this ship.”
“Check it out,” the officer told one of his team. She exited the room to begin her search. I was in awe. Here they were. Real Starfleet officers doing real Starfleet business. They were quick, organized, and professional. In a matter of minutes, they had the Andorians in custody, the ship under tow, and Steph, Joel, and I on board a patrol vessel.
Joel was a bit confused about the whole fuss. Actually, he was downright upset. Turns out he wanted to go to Andor. He’d gone back to the conference center after chasing Steph and I to see what the Andorians had been talking about. They told him he was they’re god and that they wanted to take him back to Andor where he’d be worshipped and provided for. It sounded like a pretty good deal to Joel.
Too bad for him, we were soon reunited with our families on Earth. Before my parents had a chance to ground me for eons, Starfleet interceded on my behalf. We were all given a personalized tour of Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco and a quick spin around the solar system on board an old constitution class ship, just before the retired it.
Joel was still mad about not getting to be a god, but I was happier than I could imagine. I’d gotten such a rush from trying to rescue Joel and then seeing the real Starfleet in action, that I knew this was what I wanted to do. Mom never had to say anything to me again about my studies or anything else. I was on a mission to get into the academy. Which I did.
“And here I am because of it,” Beck said, gesturing to the room around here. “Because of that day, I get to visit exotic locales like this.”
“Yeah, they should put this in the recruitment brochures,” Rydell said.
“And that’s your command story?” Vorezze said.
“Yeah. What’d you want? I was eleven when it happened,” Beck replied.
“But, what about defeating the Andorians yourself? Cleverly taking the bridge,” Vorezze said.
“I was eleven!” Beck said again. “Little kids at that age do not capture adults by themselves. What’d you want me to do? Booby-trap the entire ship with evil devices that beat the Andorians to battered pulps? That’s ridiculous. I did as much as any kid could.”
“She did manage to translate an alien computer system enough to call for help,” Baxter conceded.
“Exactly. And that’s why I went into communications in the first place. Andorian is such a beautiful language.”
“If you find the sounds of spitting and lisping beautiful,” Baxter replied.
“I’m going to tell Lieutenant J’hana you said that,” Beck said.
“Uh…I take it back,” Baxter said, his eyes widening at the thought of what his Andorian security chief would probably do to him.
“What became of the Andorians?” 4 of 8 asked.
“They were released and sent home. Since Joel went willingly and we snuck on board during takeoff, there wasn’t much to charge them with. Joel never forgot about them, though. As soon as he turned eighteen, he left for Andor to become the Z’arkbelst.”
“How’d that go?” Rydell asked.
“Fine, last I heard. He has a group of devoted worshipers, all the wives he wants, lots of power. He even wrote a book. I Was A Teenage Z’arkbelst.”
“I think my first officer gave me that for my birthday last year,” Vorezze said.
“So, he gets recognized as a god, and now his life is perfect,” Baxter said in disgust. “Some of us have to work for a living.” A hand suddenly reached up behind Baxter, pulling him back. As Baxter screamed and fell to the ground, Redbeard rose up behind him.
“I…really…want…that…dance…now,” Redbeard said, gasping each word weakly. Beck and 4 of 8 looked at each other.
“You take it,” Beck said. “I’ve already knocked him out once tonight.”
“As you wish,” 4 of 8 said. He stood up and pointed his arm at Redbeard. Suddenly, four assimilation tubes lanced out, wrapping themselves securely around the pirate. With a quick flick of the wrist, 4 of 8 sent Redbeard flying into the air, landing with a thud on the other side of the table.
“I didn’t know you could do that with those things,” Vorezze said.
“Trade secret,” 4 of 8 replied. He yanked Redbeard to his feet and prepared to sling him across the room again. Before he could, Beck walked over and put her hand on his shoulder.
“He’s had enough,” Beck said. Without a word, 4 of 8 retracted the tubes back into his arm. Redbeard stood facing Beck as she walked over to him, enjoying the fear in the big man’s eyes.
“How about that dance now?” she said, wrapping her arm around his.
“Really?” Redbeard said in surprise.
“You won’t regret this,” he said, pulling her to a small open space in the opposite corner of the bar. “Hit it!”
As the lights in that corner dimmed, a sparkling disco ball lowered from the ceiling, and Redbeard ripped off his tattered pirate clothes revealing a white leisure suit. He began to gyrate back and forth as bouncy music pumped through the bar.
“What the hell is that?” Rydell asked, as the waiter cleaned up the empty glasses from their table.
“Oh. Some people named Captain and Tanile installed that last time they were hear,” the Bolian waiter replied tiredly. “Redbeard’s quite a fan.”
“I can see that,” Rydell replied.
“Who knew?” Baxter said.
“You should go find some lovely lady in this place to dance with. They love the strong, silent really pale type,” Rydell said, clapping 4 of 8 on the shoulder.
“Dancing is irrelevant.”
“Somehow I knew he’d say that,” Vorezze remarked.
“Don’t you guys ever get down on the cube?” Rydell said.
“Get down?” 4 of 8 asked.
“Yeah. Do a little Borgroom dancing.”
“Or the lamBorgda,” Baxter added.
“Maybe even the Borgerena?” Vorezze said.
“These puns are irrelevant,” 4 of 8 said.
“Yeah, you keep telling yourself that,” Rydell said, as he turned to watch Beck attempt to dance with Redbeard. He had to hand it to the pirate; he had some moves.
“Help me!” Beck mouthed at Rydell, as Redbeard whisked her around the floor.
“You’re doing great,” Rydell replied laughing.
“Captain Beck does not seem to be able to ‘Borgie down,’” 4 of 8 said stiffly.
“Better,” Rydell said. “We may get you a sense of humor yet.”
“Don’t even say it.”
Just how did Jad Vorezze get command of the Banshee? Have we heard the last of Redbeard? Do they let Kazon into The Captain’s Table? Where the heck is Fritz anyway? Find out in the next installment of THE REJECT’S TABLE!