Author: Alan Decker
Star Traks: The Vexed Generation
“The Human Condition”
by Alan Decker
Lieutenant Kristen Larkin detected J’hana’s quickened rate of breathing the moment that the Aerostar’s security chief entered the room. Larkin concluded that this was most likely due to a heightened state of emotional agitation. Considering the current evidence, the emotion on the rise was anger.
“What have you done to my weaponry, android?” the very angry Andorian demanded.
“I have improved phaser emission power 0.7 percent,” Larkin replied turning away from the exposed power conduit to face J’hana. J’hana shoved Larkin aside and stared at the device attached to her beloved phasers.
“What is this?”
“A power transfer amplification device I have been experimenting with, but please be careful. This power transfer conduit is still very hazardous.”
“I am fully aware of the dangers, Lieutenant.”
Ensign Zachary Ford furtively watched as Lieutenant Tilleran talked to Commander Conway. The Betazoid was just one of the many females on the Aerostar Ford lusted after. Just a simple touch would be a victory, however; Ford had something much better in mind. The Aerostar was cruising alone in unoccupied space, so Tilleran would not be expecting anything out of the ordinary.
Tilleran finished her conversation with Conway and started walking past Ford’s helm console on her way back to the science console. Ford put the ship into a sudden starboard roll, sending Tilleran falling right into his lap. Perfect!
“Yes!” Ford shouted.
Tilleran calmly slammed her elbow into Ford’s crotch, then scrambled out of his lap. “If you ever try anything like that again, your penis will be the victim of a horrible accident.”
“Richards to Bridge,” the chief engineer’s voice said urgently over the comm system.
“Conway here,” Commander Conway said, stifling a laugh. “What’s wrong?”
“You’d better get down to the port phaser control room. There’s been a horrible accident.”
“Have their genitals been found?” Conway asked laughing. He couldn’t help it.
“Never mind. You had to be here.”
“Sir,” Tilleran said, having returned to her console. “There’s been some kind of power surge and explosion in that control room.”
“Explosion. Hold on, Richards; I’m on my way. Have Captain Baxter meet us down there.”
Conway and Richards were already standing outside the phaser control room with Doctor Janice Browning when Captain Baxter arrived.
“What have we got?” Baxter asked.
“Nobody’s sure,” Richards replied. “There was an explosion, but we haven’t been able to scan inside for lifesigns or anything.”
“Bleed-off energy from the power conduit in there is scrambling the sensors. We’re just about to deactivate the containment field now,” Conway added.
“Well, hop to it,” Baxter said.
Richards worked at the controls beside the door. “Stand back,” he said. Everyone got out of the way as he hit the door controls. As the doors slid open, a blast of greenish fire leapt out into the corridor but was quickly taken care of by the fire suppression systems. In a few moments, all was quiet.
“What the hell happened?” Conway asked walking in and surveying the damage. The entire room was a blackened mess. Computer console had been reduced to bizarre melted shapes. On the far side of the room, a green plasma fired burned in the exposed power conduit.
“Someone had to be working in here,” Richards said as he cut the power flow to the conduit and extinguished the fire. The wall panel was purposefully removed.
“So who was it?” Baxter asked.
“Uh…them,” Browning said, looking down at the bodies of Larkin and J’hana laying behind one of the melted consoles. “And they don’t look so good.”
“Actually, they suffered surprisingly light injuries,” Browning said.
“Other than the obvious,” Conway said.
“Well, yeah. There is that.”
“So who gets to tell them,” Conway said.
“I’m their doctor. I’ll do it,” Browning said. “I’m going to bring them around now.” One hypo spray and one flick of a power switch later, Larkin and J’hana regained consciousness.
“What happened?” J’hana said.
“The conduit exploded,” Browning said. “From what I could tell, the ship’s sudden dive tossed Larkin into the conduit and you into her. You’re lucky it happened that way or things could be a lot worse.”
“What do you mean worse?” Larkin asked. Something was definitely not right. Her self-diagnostic program wasn’t responding at all.
J’hana also knew that something was very wrong, although she did not have enough information to decide exactly what yet.
“Well, we aren’t sure how, but you both were altered,” Browning said.
“Define altered,” J’hana said.
Browning grabbed J’hana’s arm and yanked it right off revealing a blinking joint connector underneath.
“She’s an android!” Larkin shouted in alarm. Wait a second. The realization of what she just did almost caused her to faint. One, she screamed. Two, she felt alarm. And three, she used a contraction.
J’hana was also experiencing a great lack of comprehension of the available data.
“So, I am…” J’hana began.
“An Androidian?” Conway offered. “Andorian on the outside, a mess of wires and circuitry on the inside.”
“So, what am I?” Larkin asked feeling dread for the first time in her existence. At least, if she had to put a name to it, she would call it dread.
“As near as we can tell,” Browning began. “You’re human.”
“NO! Not that! Anything but that!”
Counselor Kelly Peterman paced Captain Baxter’s ready room while he sat at his desk and Doctor Browning sat on the sofa.
“J’hana seems to be adjusting quite well,” Peterman said. “But I’m very worried about Kristen.”
“She’s not taking this very well then,” Baxter said.
“Not at all,” Peterman said. “As far as Lieutenant Larkin’s concerned, her life is over.”
“But why should I talk to her?”
“Because you’re the captain,” Browning said. “Besides, you knew her on the Secondprize.”
“Only in passing,” Baxter said. “Ensign Ford knows her better than I do.”
“Would you want him trying to talk to her?”
“Point taken. Where is she?”
“Holodeck One,” Peterman said. “Take a jacket.”
Baxter entered Holodeck One and immediately cursed Counselor Peterman. She said take a jacket, which he did. She should have told him to bring arctic survival gear. It was freezing in there.
About that time, Baxter realized he was balanced precariously on a small, floating chunk of ice in was appeared to be a vast sea of freezing water and ice drifts. On the largest ice chunk, a flock of about forty penguin were loudly chirping at each other. At least he assumed at first that it was chirping. Soon, the sounds resolved themselves into English spoken with a think accent. If he had to identify the accent, Baxter would have said New York. He would have been right.
Farther out to sea, Larkin sat alone on an ice drift in her penguin suit. She definitely did not look happy.
“Computer, give me arctic gear and a kayak,” Baxter said. The computer quickly complied, and Baxter set out to see his operations officer.
Larkin did not even acknowledge his presence and Baxter rowed up by her ice drift.
“So, kind of cold out here, isn’t it?” Baxter said, trying to start a conversation.
“I never felt cold before this,” Larkin mumbled.
“Kind of neat, though. Right?”
“I had no desire to ever feel cold. Or feel anything for that matter.”
“But you’re human now. You can laugh and love…”
“And cry and feel pain. Pardon me if I’m not thrilled. I never wanted this.”
“Don’t you understand the exciting new universe that has opened up to you?” Baxter said.
“No. I understand that I am no longer what I was. My penguins won’t even come near me now. They said I smell like people.”
“Well, you are a people. I guess you’re going to smell like it.”
“Disgusting. Captain, if you have any respect for me at all, you’ll find a way to get me back to normal. I’m sure J’hana would agree with me.”
“Conway to Baxter,” the comm system said suddenly.
“Baxter here. What is it?”
“We just detected a Flarn warship headed this way. We’re pretty sure they’ve spotted us.”
“I’m on my way. Baxter out.”
“How soon until they catch up to us?” Baxter asked as soon as he stepped onto the bridge.
“Well, Nanuck, ETA is one minute,” Conway replied. Baxter glared at Conway, threw off his eskimo coat, and stormed over to the command chair.
“All port phaser systems are off-line,” J’hana reported from tactical.
“Are you sure you’re up to this?” Baxter asked concerned.
“Captain, I am functioning at optimum capacity. It would be an error to allow anyone but me to handle tactical.”
“All right. I’m going to trust you on this one. Baxter to Richards.”
“I need the port phasers now.”
“Not a chance. Every power coupling and transfer relay was blown out in the power surge. It’s going to be another twelve hours at least.”
“You have thirty seconds.”
“Well, then you don’t have phasers. I can’t just make them work again.”
“That line always works when other captain’s say it.”
“Other captains usually try to work within more reasonable time frames,” Richards replied.
“Uh, I hate to cut this off,” Conway said. “But they’re here.” Baxter looked up at the enormous Flarn warship approaching on the viewscreen.
“How long until they’re within weapons range?” Baxter asked. The Flarn ship let loose a barrage of phaser fire which rocked the Aerostar.
“Now,” Conway said.
“J’hana, return fire,” Baxter ordered.
“Acknowledged. Ensign Ford, would you please turn helm control over to me?”
“What for?” Ford demanded.
“Stop arguing and just do it!” Baxter said. “They’re not going to sit there quietly while you two sort this out.”
“Okay,” Ford said, transferring control.
J’hana steered the Aerostar up out of the Flarn’s flight path and banked the ship so the starboard side faced their attackers. Then she fired several controlled phaser shots and one photon torpedo. The Flarn ship shook, then all of its lights went out.
“The Flarn are showing no power,” Tilleran said. “They’re dead in space.”
“Excellent work, J’hana,” Baxter said astounded.
“One shot hit 0.3 millimeters away from my intended target,” J’hana replied. “I will have to run a level one diagnostic on the entire tactical system.”
“J’hana, you just wiped out a Flarn ship in eight shots,” Conway said.
“What happened to that warrior’s pride in fighting a glorious battle.”
“I performed adequately,” J’hana stated. “If you will excuse me, Captain, I am going to begin the diagnostic.”
“Go ahead,” Baxter said. “Ford, get us back on course.”
“I liked her better when she was violent,” Conway said. “At least then she had some personality. If we wanted this, we could have the damn computer handle all of our battles for us.”
“Let’s see,” Baxter said. “Larkin’s miserable. J’hana’s annoying.”
“What are you going to do, sir?”
“Have a staff meeting,” Baxter replied decisively.
Baxter entered the conference room where his command crew had already gathered and took his seat at the head of the table. He tried to ignore the presence of Dr. Phillip Kerridan, who Dr. Browning had brought along. Kerridan and Baxter had never seen eye to eye.
“I’ve called this meeting to discuss the current J’hana-Larkin situation,” Baxter began.
“Situation?” Larkin said. “It’s a nightmare.”
“I am not finding it such,” J’hana replied.
“Of course not,” Larkin said.
“Couldn’t we use the transporter to put them back to normal,” Lieutenant Michelle Burley, the Aerostar’s transporter chief, asked.
“Lieutenant, you can’t solve every problem with some cheap transporter trick,” Conway said.
“What do you think, Richards?” Baxter asked.
“No way. The transporter wouldn’t be able to resort the android, andorian, and human structures back to their original places.”
“If I may, sir,” Browning said. “I think Doctor Kerridan may be of some help.”
“Really?” Baxter said unenthused.
“I would have to disagree,” Kerridan said. “My area deals with more theoretical medical and biological applications. I do not deal with everyday medical emergencies.”
“Kerridan, two people basically switched bodies,” Baxter said. “How much more theoretical do you want it?”
“Fine, throw them at another power conduit and hope for the best,” Kerridan said.
“That is the stupidest, most insensitive…”
“That could be the answer,” Larkin interrupted.
“You’re kidding,” Baxter and Kerridan said.
“I was testing a new power transfer amplification device when the accident occurred. Perhaps it was responsible for what happened to us. It would also explain the presence of human DNA, since Commander Richards helped me assemble it.”
“Wait, you’ve got my DNA inside you?” Richards said.
“Unfortunately, yes,” Larkin replied. “No offense.”
“You are going to blow us up again?” J’hana said.
“Does that bother you?” Larkin asked. “The old J’hana would have gone charging toward the conduit in a berserker rage.”
“I am incapable of rage.”
“Yeah, we know. Shut up,” Larkin snapped.
“Captain, I suggest we put this plan into action immediately,” Conway said. “They’re both driving me nuts.”
“Agreed. As soon as you can recreate the accident, let me know,” Baxter said. “Dismissed.”
Baxter, Conway, Peterman, Richards, and Browning gathered outside of the starboard phaser control room as J’hana and Larkin prepared to go inside and get blown up again.
“Do either of you have any bits of wisdom or any insights into life that you wish to share with us after having this experience,” Baxter said.
“No,” J’hana and Larkin said.
“I just want things back to normal as soon as possible,” Larkin said.
“I concur,” J’hana said.
“Well, so much for that,” Baxter mumbled.
“Better luck next time, Captain,” Conway said.
“If were all set, then, we can start,” Richards said. “J’hana, you have to make sure that you hit the conduit at the same time Larkin hits you.
Just touching isn’t going to do it. Your bodies have to be in full contact.”
“How are we supposed to do that?” Larkin asked.
“J’hana’s going to give you a piggy-back ride.”
“Just climb on her back,” Richards said. Larkin complied, and J’hana walked the two of them into the control room.
“I just want you to know that I haven’t enjoyed this,” Larkin said, once the room door closed cutting them off from the others.
“While not being capable of enjoyment or dislike, I must say that I have found being an android to be a most unsatisfying form of existence,” J’hana said.
“And I can’t wait to get back to it. Charge!”
J’hana ran head first toward the conduit.
“F**k you, humanity!” Larkin screamed.
The room exploded around them.
“Captain’s log. Supplemental. J’hana and Larkin were both released from sickbay this morning after remaining there overnight for observation. As far as Doctor Browning can tell, neither of them have suffered any ill effects from the experience.
I have decided not to give Ensign Ford an official reprimand for his actions which caused the incident in the first place. I’m sure he realizes that putting the ship into a sudden dive was wrong. In any case, Larkin and J’hana have requested that I allow them to settle things among themselves. Far be it from me to stand in their way.”
Ensign Ford wandered back to his quarters after a long day on the bridge. Nothing especially exciting had happened, but it was exhausting having to sit there looking like he was doing something while the ship steered itself.
The doors to his quarters slid aside for him to enter, and he ran smack into Lieutenant Larkin’s solid chest. J’hana was standing right next to her.
“Greetings, Ensign,” Larkin said.
“We just dropped by to have a word with you,” J’hana said. “I hope you didn’t have anything planned for the evening.”
“Well, I…” Ford wasn’t able to finish the sentence. J’hana grabbed him by the collar and tossed him to the floor.
“Lucky you,” J’hana said. “You’re getting two women all to yourself.”
“Do keep in mind, Ensign, that as an android, I do not desire revenge or take pleasure from it. However, J’hana has convinced me that I would find this experience educational. Now then, please prepare yourself for great amounts of pain.”
“Help,” Ford squeaked as Larkin and J’hana advanced upon him.
Not surprisingly, no one answered Ford’s plea.