Author: Anthony Butler, Alan Decker
AUTHORS’ NOTE: Um…well…really we don’t have anything to say this week. How are you?
SURVIVOR TRAKS III By Alan Decker and Anthony Butler
DAY SIX: Jeff was going to make some annoying commentary here, but we just couldn’t take listening to him any more than absolutely necessary.
The force of the growls coming from his stomach awakened Captain Andy Baxter. Six days of subsisting on little more than rice, fruit, and the various fish he and Captain Bain had been able catch was starting to wear on him, so the smell of cooking meat snapped him to full alert status very quickly. He dashed out of the hut (stepping on Conway’s sleeping body in the process) and made a beeline for the cooking pit where Reginald Bain stood over a makeshift rotisserie on which had been mounted a small mammal of some sort.
“Morning, my boy!” Bain said brightly.
“Meat,” Baxter said, almost openly salivating.
“Yes yes it is. Trapped it myself. Quick little bugger, but I nailed him with a rock before he got too far away from our refuse pit.”
“It was eating the trash?” Baxter asked, his stomach suddenly rethinking the idea of consuming this particular animal.
“I hope it’s had something more than that,” Bain replied. “Not much there to put any meat on its bones.”
Baxter smiled weakly. Bain was quiet for a moment, and then clamped his hand down forcefully on Baxter’s shoulder.
“I’m not sure why, but I like you, Baxter. Beneath that downtrodden, no-self esteem exterior lurks the heart of a lion. I can feel it. I want you to come hunting with me this afternoon.”
“You do?” Baxter asked in shock.
“Assuming we’re both still here, of course.”
“Of course,” Baxter said. It was Captain’s Council day. He’d almost forgotten.
“Right! So who’s hungry?”
Captain Lisa Beck groggily regained consciousness and spat out the leaf that had somehow migrated into her mouth. That was about the time she realized she was sleeping in the jungle rather than on the beach or in the castaways’ hut. The throbbing pain in her head came her a pretty good idea why she didn’t remember going to sleep here. Damn that Andorian lager.
She rolled over in her bed of leaves and immediately collided with a body. Captain Alexander Rydell’s body to be exact.
“Mmmrph…morning,” he muttered.
“Okay, just how much did I drink last night?” Beck asked turning to face Rydell as she searched her fragmented memory for any recollection of how she and Rydell had ended up in this position.
“Enough,” Rydell replied simply.
“Good thing I was sober,” Rydell continued. “Someone else might have been tempted to take advantage of your condition.”
“So I offered?”
“After you finished running through the jungle screaming Tarzan calls and had the decency to collapse here, yes.”
“You missed your big chance.”
“Not on those terms.”
“I would have been fun.”
“It can still be.”
“Once in a lifetime lapse of reason, Captain,” Beck said with a warm smile. “We have other complications to deal with.”
“I seem to be interrupting,” Commander Prosak said coldly as she stepped into the small clearing.
“Case in point,” Beck said, standing up.
“Something we can do you for, Commander?” Rydell asked.
“I had hoped that we could repeat our morning walk of yesterday, but I see that you had other plans.” The Romulan’s stare locked on Beck.
“He’s free this morning,” Beck said, walking past Prosak. “I’m sorry that he may be a little tired, though. Guess I wore him out last night. So long, you two.”
“Thanks a lot!” Rydell shouted as Beck disappeared into the jungle, leaving him alone with a none-too-pleased Prosak.
Beck returned to camp to find the place practically deserted. Morales and Conway seemed to have been in the middle of a somewhat animated conversation, but they both clammed up the second she approached.
“Did you and Captain Rydell sleep well?” Commander Conway asked.
“Just peachy,” Beck replied flatly. “Where are Bain and Baxter?”
“They went hunting,” Conway said.
“Baxter hunts? That’s a laugh.”
“Maybe Bain’s using it as an excuse to kill him.”
“Good plan.” Beck turned her attention to Morales. “What’s the matter, Walt? You haven’t said word one.”
“I didn’t sleep well,” Morales muttered.
“I certainly didn’t have that problem. After last night, I practically fell into a coma. Now what have we got to eat around here?” Beck moved off toward the makeshift-kitchen, leaving Conway and Morales alone.
“After last night, she says,” Conway whispered as Morales watched Beck walk away. She looked back over her shoulder at him and smiled. Morales forced a smile and waved back.
“Just shut up about it,” Morales said.
“No problem. But remember, we can deal with this at the vote.”
If there was a time in his life that Andy Baxter had felt more uncomfortable than now, he couldn’t think of it. As it was, he was stripped down to his underwear and coated in dry mud as he crouched in the middle of a spiky bush that he was sure was giving him one hell of a nasty rash. Baxter shifted his makeshift spear (actually just a pointy stick) to his right hand as he looked over at Bain, who was crouched next to him appearing to be having the time of his life as the pair waited silently for…who knew what?
Baxter finally had had enough. “Are we…”
“Shhh…” Bain replied quickly.
“Good god, man, will you be quiet?” Bain snapped.
“But nothing’s out there,” Baxter said, standing up and pushing his way out of the bush.
“Hunting is about patience. You have to stalk your prey.”
“Fine. Then let’s stalk. I’m sick of sitting in that damn shrub.” He reached back and yanked a thorny leaf out of his rear end, then waved it at Bain. “And these things hurt!”
“That’s the problem with humanity now. We’re so bloody lazy and comfortable. No one knows how to rough it anymore.”
“I haven’t slept on a pillow in days, I’m getting a nasty sunburn, and not one fruit on this blasted planet remotely resembles a grapefruit. That’s rough enough, thank you,” Baxter said, shaking his spear towards the sky. “I HAVE HAD IT!!!”
He tossed his spear in the air angrily, sending it sailing into the branches of the tree canopy above them.
“Incoming,” Bain shouted a half second later, pushing Baxter out of the way as the spear fell back to earth, a badger-sized mammal pinned on the end of it.
“Good show!” Bain exclaimed. “That’ll show those tree dwellers who’s at that top of the food chain.”
Baxter looked at the creature’s cute dead face and could only think about the tongue-lashing he’d get from his wife if she found out what he’d just done.
As evening fell, Bain and Baxter returned to camp, their prize in tow. Bain seemed ecstatic. Baxter, and everyone else in camp for that matter, just looked tired.
And in a sudden flash, the camp was gone.
“I bloody hate that!” Captain Bain exclaimed as he found himself suddenly transported to the torch lit wooden deck where Jeff waited to hold the Captain’s Council. All around them, bugs chirped in the darkness as various creatures moved through the foliage, rustling leaves as they went.
“Here we are at our second Captain’s Council,” Jeff began. “Does anyone have anything they’d like to discuss?”
“Not unless you’ve got a schedule of flights off this rock,” Rydell said.
“I’m afraid not. But let’s look back over the events of the last couple of days.”
“Why? We were all there,” Beck said.
“Can we just vote and leave?” Baxter said. “I haven’t even had dinner yet.”
“Right you are, my boy,” Bain said. “We’ve still got to skin and gut that bugger we nabbed before we roast him.”
Baxter fought down a fit of nausea. “Honestly, I was thinking about maybe just having some rice tonight.”
“How about the rest of you?” Jeff continued. “Captain Rydell, you seem to be popular with the women on the planet.”
“What? All two of them? Lisa and I are friends.” He turned to Prosak. “JUST FRIENDS. And the commander and I are forging a new relationship as we go.”
“Alex and I are friends. Nothing more.”
“Well, I think you’re all a bunch of lying backstabbers,” Conway said forcefully. “You’re hurting others just to make things better for yourselves. Right, Walt? Walter? MORALES?”
“Can we vote now?” Morales asked.
“All right,” Jeff said. “Commander Conway, since you have such strong feelings about this, why don’t you go first?”
“Gladly,” Conway said, giving Morales a quick glance as he headed for the voting area.
CONWAY: I vote for Lisa Beck. If Morales is going to help me get to the end, he needs to be focused, and he can’t focus with her around. Pathetic really.
BAIN: I hate this part of the game, but I have to vote for that Conway. The fact is that skiing into him bloody hurt!
PROSAK: My initial vote was going to be for Captain Beck; however, in light of recent revelations about her lack of a relationship with Captain Rydell, I am changing my vote to Commander Conway because he is still creepy.
BAXTER: Conway. It’s him or me, and I choose him! Wait. I choose me! To stay that is, and I choose him to go. Oh forget it. You know what I mean!
BECK: I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but I don’t like the way Conway seems to be trying to plant ideas in my first officer’s head. Conway’s got to go.
RYDELL: Hmmm…I still can’t vote for myself, huh? Okay…eenie meenie minie moe, one potato, two potato, three potato…Conway. Sorry, pal. That’s just where it landed.
MORALES: This is a tough call. I wanted to vote for Rydell, but he may not be the biggest threat on this planet. Conway’s trying to use me, and I definitely don’t like that at all. I can handle Rydell without his help, thank you!
“Let’s tally the votes,” Jeff said, bringing the vote jar back to the group. “The first vote…is for Beck.”
Conway couldn’t help smiling as the first piece of his plan fell into place. With Morales voting his way and the other votes fragmented, Beck was sure to go.
“That’s impossible!” Conway shouted, jumping to his feet. “This has to be rigged. That’s not fair, is it Jeff? They formed an alliance against me.”
“I’m sorry, David. The Council has spoken,” Jeff replied.
“So long, loser,” Baxter shouted as Conway began to dematerialize.
“You wait, Baxter!” Conway cried, his voice fading. “You won’t have a ship to come back tooooooooooooo!”
“Two down, five more to go until we have a winner,” Jeff said ominously. “We’ll send you back to camp.”
And in a flash, the castaways returned to their beachside dwelling.
DAY SEVEN: With Conway gone and one less mouth to feed, morale in the castaways’ camp actually improves. At long last, Commander Prosak is able to get together a Survivor Talent Show. Prosak’s presentation of Ophelia’s insanity monologue from “Hamlet” is well received, but it’s her rendition of “Summer Lovin’” from “Grease” with Captain Rydell that really brings down the house. We’d show all this to you, but this isn’t a TV show. Sorry.
DAY EIGHT: As dawn breaks across the castways’ camp, a lone figure moves along the shoreline, walking slowly through the gently lapping surf.
Once again, Walter Morales had found himself unable to sleep. At first this whole Survivor situation had seemed like a great opportunity to get closer to Captain Beck on more of a social level. But the reality of the situation had been jarring. So far Lisa seemed far more interested in spending time with Alex Rydell.
And why shouldn’t she? Rydell was charming and funny and a captain. Hell, Beck seemed to talk to Baxter more than she talked to Morales.
Morales found himself asking one question: “Am I really that boring?”
His conclusion was that yes, unfortunately, he was. On Waystation, he generally would just work his shifts (sometimes more than one a day. He didn’t have much else to do), eat, then go read in his quarters. He didn’t design ships like Porter, go out on dates like Russell, or spend time in the holodeck like Yeoman Jones. Dr. Nelson was always doing research in her off hours, but Morales did nothing. Why in the world would Beck be interested in a guy who did nothing?
She wouldn’t. So Morales needed to find himself some interesting hobbies…and fast. Maybe he should pick up painting again.
In the meantime, he had to get thorough whatever today’s challenge would be. Maybe at the very least he could help Beck win again.
“You’re up early,” Beck’s voice said from beside him. With a jolt, he looked over and saw that she was walking beside him through the surf, the morning sun causing her red hair to almost glow.
“It’s hard to sleep in that hut,” he said.
“Tell me about it. But maybe we can win some more beer today. That sure helped me sleep the other night.”
Morales just nodded.
“We’re going to get back to Waystation. Don’t worry about it,” Beck said after a couple of moments of silence.
“I know,” Morales said. She thought he missed home. Even after he kissed her during that mission in Multek space, she still seemed oblivious to what was going on in his head. The thought made him almost want to laugh.
“Do we have another romance brewing on the island?” Jeff’s voice said suddenly as he appeared in front of them.
“My fist would really like to get intimate with your face. How’s that sound?” Beck said.
“Tensions are high as we begin day eight on the planet,” Jeff said to no one in particular. “With that in mind, we’ll dive right in to today’s challenge.”
“Now?” Beck demanded.
“Why not?” Jeff replied. In an instant, he, Beck, and Morales, as well as the sleeping forms of Bain, Prosak, Rydell, and Baxter, appeared on a floating wooden platform in the middle of the ocean. No land was anywhere in sight, but three large box-shaped compartments bobbed in the water next to the platform, their hatches open.
“Everybody up!” Jeff said, clapping his hands. Bain suddenly executed a flawless roll, smoothly jumping up into an attack stance as Rydell and Baxter yawned lazily and rolled over, straight into each other.
“So much for that,” Rydell muttered, removing his head from Baxter’s stomach and sitting up. Commander Prosak finally stirred, sitting up while her eyes remained closed.
“We thought we’d start early today since this could take a while,” Jeff said. “Today’s challenge is all about endurance. Enduring confinement, enduring hunger, and enduring each other. The rules are simple. Two of you will enter each of these floating compartments, which will then be closed. You can leave at any time, but once you do, you lose. The last person in each compartment will then go with the other two winners into another compartment. Last one inside wins today’s reward.”
“Which is?” Beck asked.
“The winner will be taken to our private spa where they will receive a full day of pampering. Facial, hair styling, manicure, massage, the works.”
“What the devil am I supposed to do with that?” Bain asked.
“Come on, Bain,” Rydell replied. “You wouldn’t like to have a nice rub down by some lovely young masseuse?”
“I doubt my Rosalyn would approve.”
“Yeah. Kelly either,” Baxter said. “So I won’t tell her about it after I win.”
“Ooooh. I sense blackmail material. Better lose this one, Baxter,” Beck threatened.
“Here are the first pairs,” Jeff said, breaking in before the banter could continue. “Bain and Prosak.”
“Oh come on!” Baxter shouted. “How is that fair?”
“Beck and Rydell,” Jeff continued.
“NO!” Morales shouted, drawing shocked looks from the group. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly.
“And Baxter and Morales.”
“I feel for you, Walt,” Beck said as everyone moved to his or her assigned box. Once everyone was inside, the hatches closed starting the challenge.
“We must discuss strategy,” Prosak said immediately after the box shut.
“Um…no offense to your idea there, Prossie, but I think we’re supposed to be competing against each other here,” Bain said.
“You are my captain, so I am duty-bound to let you win. Besides, I am uncomfortable with the idea of a strange person running their hands all over my body.”
“Too much like Dr. Nooney eh?”
“Yes,” Prosak replied with a shudder. “But if you are going to win, you need a plan. I suggest telling your stories.”
“But I want them to leave,” Bain said. “Not stick around to listen to my exploits.”
“Go with the stories,” Prosak said.
“I guess I could tell the one about that duel with the Magistrate of Galinar Three. He was…”
“Break a leg, Captain,” Prosak said, tossing open the hatch and climbing out.
“You didn’t let me finish!”
“Alone again,” Beck said smiling.
“So it would seem,” Rydell replied. “You don’t happen to have a deck of cards on you?”
“Guess we’re going to have to find other ways to entertain ourselves.”
“What’d you have in mind?” Beck said with a glint in her eyes.
“Now there’s a leading question if I’ve ever heard one.”
“We do seem to end up alone together an awful lot, though. Do you think the universe is trying to tell us something?”
Rydell shrugged. “Could be. It’s hard to deny that we enjoy each other’s company.”
“Well, this is awkward,” Beck said.
“Oh yeah,” Rydell concurred wholeheartedly. “But if we’re going to do this…” He slid closer to Beck, looked deeply into her eyes. Their lips met…
…and both immediately started laughing.
“Foiled again,” Rydell said after regaining his composure.
“At least you can go take some Prosak,” Beck replied.
“True. And you can…um…”
“You see my problem. Other than you, my only option on this planet is Morales, and I am not taking that kind of step with someone under my command.”
“There’s always Jeff,” Rydell offered.
“That’s it. One of us is leaving right now.”
“Rock, paper, scissors?”
“Best two out of three.”
Three rounds later, Beck wished Rydell luck and exited the box.
“I need to win this,” Commander Morales said as soon as the hatch closed.
“We’re all a little tense, Commander, but a massage won’t solve everything,” Baxter replied a bit taken aback my Morales’ intensity.
“You’re married, right?”
“Yep. Very happily.”
“What did you do to get your wife to first notice you?”
“Does this have something to do with the massage?” Baxter asked, trying to keep up with Morales’ train of thought.
“Please just answer the question.”
“Well…I guess the first thing was getting our ship lost in the Delta Quadrant. That one tends to attract attention.”
Morales thought for a moment. “I could…no. Not going to work. Listen, Captain, considering who you are, you may understand this. The woman I’m in love with is no doubt going to get to the next round. She’d never pass up a trip to a spa, and I am not going to pass up the chance to spend time with her in close quarters.”
“But there’ll be another person there.”
“No one important. Now please let me win this, Baxter. Think of it as doing something for someone not as lucky as you are.”
“Me lucky? I never really thought of it that way. I’m going to do it, Morales! For love’s sake!”
Morales tried not to cringe at such a hokey line. “Thank you, sir.”
“And if there’s anything else I can do, let me know.”
“There is one thing.”
“Don’t ever tell Captain Beck we talked. I’d be doomed.”
“Hmm…I can see your point.” Baxter stood up from the bench he’d been seated on and opened the hatch. “Make her yours, Morales.”
“Okay,” Morales said forcing a smile as the hatch closed again. He’d heard Baxter had a reputation for being overly sentimental, but witnessing it in person was discomforting to say the least. But then again the man was married to a counselor. It probably came with the territory.
“We have our three finalists,” Jeff’s voice said, booming into the box seemingly from nowhere. You will now be transported to a new cube for the final round.
Morales tried to formulate his first statement to Beck as he shifted locations…and found himself facing Bain and Rydell.
“NOOOO!!!” he screamed.
“The lad’s been saying that a lot today,” Bain remarked.
Morales turned on Rydell. “You aren’t supposed to be here! What did you do to her?”
“Uh…I won. She lost,” Rydell said. “No biggie.”
“No biggie? NO BIGGIE?”
“Woah. Calm down there, Morales. It’s just a game,” Rydell said.
“To you maybe. And you’re winning it! She doesn’t even notice me!”
“This is about Lisa?”
“Would either of you gents like to hear a story?” Bain asked.
“NO!” Morales shouted.
“There’s no need for that kind of tone.”
“Listen, Walt. Lisa and I are just friends.”
“Friends? Right. Tell me this then, friend, have you kissed her?”
Rydell froze. “Um…well…sort of. It doesn’t count, though.”
“How does a kiss not count?”
“There was one time Tovar and I were…” Bain began.
“That’s it,” Morales said, grabbing Bain by the collar and hoisting him up.
“Sorry, Reg,” Rydell said, opening the hatch and helping push Bain up. “Morales and I need to talk. Ta ta.”
“No hold on just a sec…” Morales and Rydell shoved Bain out of the hatch and slammed it back shut.
“Now you listen to me, Morales,” Rydell said. “I don’t know what you think is going on between me and Lisa, but frankly it’s none of your damn business. If she wants to be with a guy like me instead of you, I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do about that. But the truth is she and I, as I have said repeatedly, are just friends. I don’t know who, if anyone, she’s interested in. It’s not my problem.”
“Well, it sure is mine.”
“Yeah, unrequited love sucks. And there’s really not a lot I can say that’s going to make it any better for you. But if she’s not interested in you, don’t dwell on it. You’ll only be torturing yourself. That whole ‘She’ll come around eventually’ mindset has hurt more people than I care to think about…me included.”
“It was at the Academy. I learned my lesson, though.”
“Thanks, but I’m not ready to give up just yet. She doesn’t even know who I really am as a person.”
“No offense, Walt, but I don’t think you even know who you really are. Until you figure that one out, I don’t think you have a chance with her. That’s my blunt opinion.” Rydell stood up.
“What are you doing?” Morales asked.
“Getting out of here. You can have the spa day. Give it to Lisa.”
“I’m planning on it.”
“Then take it with my compliments.” And Rydell started to sing…
Happy trails…to me.
Until we meet again…
Rydell exited the cube and closed the hatch. An instant later, Morales found himself standing back on the floating platform with the others and Jeff.
“Congratulations, Commander,” Jeff said. “Your day of pampering will begin immediately.”
“Can I give it to Captain Beck?”
“If you’d like.”
“What are you doing, Walt?” Beck asked surprised.
“I know you’ll enjoy it more than I would.”
Beck smiled. “Is that a crack about my hair?”
“Have fun,” Morales said.
“I will. I owe you, buddy. Jeff, get me out of here.”
In a flash, Jeff and Beck left for her day of relaxation, while the others were returned to camp.
“I best see what I can track down for supper,” Bain said, heading off toward the woods. “Come along, Baxter.”
Baxter winced. “Oh no.”
“Guess that means we’ll need a fire,” Rydell said, looking at Prosak.
“And fires do require firewood,” she replied.
“My thoughts exactly.” The two exchanged another glance, and then took off running into the jungle.
“Baxter!” Bain called.
“Hold on,” Baxter shouted back. “You big blustery Brit,” he muttered. Baxter turned his attention to Morales. “You okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“That’s the spirit,” Baxter replied, moving to follow Bain. “You did good today. Like she said, she owes you.”
“I don’t think I want to be owed.”
“You have to start somewhere.” Baxter rushed off into the trees as Bain called for him again. Meanwhile Morales kicked off his boots and wandered down to the beach.
It was a start.
Of course, if that didn’t work, maybe he could try Baxter’s “get stuck in the Delta Quadrant idea.” Morales smiled and sat down to watch the waves.