Long ago, a cabal of wizened old men decided to align themselves with the power known as Roddenberry. These men are called Paramount, and now they own Star Trek. They will stop at nothing to prevent you from knowing that Star Traks is owned by Alan Decker.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 2004

STAR TRAKS: THE TRAKS FILES

“The Cruelest Cut”

by

Alan Decker


STARDATE 51337.8

TELLAR VII ECHUVAK SPACEPORT


The light from her wrist beacon was the only thing penetrating the darkness as Samantha Dallas moved stealthily through the massive cargo bay on one of the lower levels of the Tellarite spacedock. She shone the light on a cargo container and read the ID number, then matched it up with the manifest on the padd she pulled out of the small supply pack on her back.

ORION EXPRESS

Most likely it contained some kind of contraband being smuggled by the Orion Syndicate, but that wasn’t really Dallas’ concern at the moment. She moved on to the next stack of crates and check a random crate’s ID number.

THE CRAZY CONDOR CIRCUS

“Bingo,” Dallas said softly. She unlatched the crate, swung open the lid, and aimed her wrist beacon inside, revealing several segments of plasma conduit.

“If you want to see the circus, you should wait for an actual performance,” a gruff, female voice said from behind Dallas. Dallas swung around, her wrist light shining directly onto a massive, curly beard. She cursed to herself. It was Matilda, the Waltzing, Weightlifting Bearded Lady of The Crazy Condor Circus. The hulking, muscular and follicly-prolific woman could probably snap Dallas in half without breaking a sweat.

The smart thing to do here would be to apologize profusely, make up some story about being lost, and run like hell. Dallas, however, decided that getting answers was a little more important than saving her skin.

“And just what kind of performance needs an entire crate of Starfleet issue plasma conduit?”

Matilda cracked her knuckles. “How about a private show?” Dallas barely managed to duck out of the way as Matilda swung. Dallas popped back up, and, after a lightning-quick consideration of Matilda’s possible weak points, she grabbed onto the bigger woman’s beard and yanked.

Matilda screamed and doubled over, clenching her pained chin, as Dallas hurdled her and sprinted down the aisle of crates. Suddenly, banks of lights switched on one by one as voices filled the room.

“She’s here!” Matilda cried, her voice pained.

“Fifis, sic her!” a man with a thick French accent commanded. A cacophony of high pitched barks sped toward Dallas’ position. An instant later, a half dozen perfectly quaffed French poodles, complete with puffy tails and bows in their fur, rounding the corner down the aisle in which Dallas was hiding. Great. It was Claude, the dog trainer, and he’d brought in the Fifi Brigade.

Spotting Dallas, the poodles circled her, each hopping on its hind legs and yipping excitedly. Dallas made a move to get out of the circle, but was met by a chorus of growls as each poodle bared a set of tiny sharp teeth. She jumped back, looking for another way out as she heard human voices getting closer.

Ding! An idea burst into her head. Dallas snatched the supply pack off of her back and reached inside, pulling out a handful of spherical impact grenades. “Stay,” she said firmly as she approached a poodle and placed a grenade on its snout. The dog bounced in a circle, keeping the device perfectly positioned on its nose.

“Good doggy,” Dallas soothed. She quickly moved to the other dogs, placing grenades on each of their noses. Once the circle was complete, the poodles started tossing the spheres to each other, catching each gingerly with their snouts. It was impressive, really, but Dallas wasn’t about to stick around to watch. She leapt over one of the poodles and scrambled up a stack of crates just as Matilda, Claude, and three of the Flying T’Falls rounded the corner.

“Where did she go?” Matilda demanded.

“Never mind her,” Claude said. “What has she given to my darlings?”

“Those would be grenades,” Dallas called from atop her stack of crates, tossing her padd idly from hand to hand. “I wouldn’t do anything to startle them if I were you. Particularly like this…” She let the padd fall, leaping over the adjoining aisle to the top of another stack of crates as the padd fell. Several yips and booms later, Dallas dropped to the floor and raced toward the exit.

Before she reached the end of the aisle, two brown bears in tutus stepped into view, blocking her escape route. Somewhere in the distance, music started to play. The bears immediately reared up on their hind legs, grasped each others paws, and advanced on Dallas in time to the beat of the music.

Tango, Dallas observed.

Fortunately, it was a fairly slow one, giving Dallas plenty of time to turn and run in the opposite direction. Reaching the main aisle, Dallas turned left and skidded to a halt just before running into a very crispy looking Matilda and friends.

“You have boomed my darlings!” Claude cried, spotting Dallas.

“What? You don’t like Fifi Flambe’?” Dallas called back as she took off the other way, narrowly missing a swipe from the tangoing bears who had finished their promenade down the other aisle. Before the bears could get another swing in, Dallas dove to the ground, rolled past them, sprang to her feet, and ran as hard as she could down the aisle toward the exit.

Leaving the circus freaks behind, Dallas charged out the doors of the cargo bay and right into the waiting arms of a squad of Starfleet security officers.

“You’ll need to come with us, ma’am,” the lead lieutenant, an overly-starched Rigelian, said.

“Starfleet Intel,” Dallas said, whipping a small silver case out of her pack and sliding it open to reveal her ID card.

“We know who you are Agent Dallas,” the lieutenant replied. “As I said, you need to come with us.”

“But they’re in there!” Dallas protested, pointing at the doors.

“Now, if you please,” the Rigelian insisted, his right hand resting on his phaser. His left hand held a set of binders. “Or even if you don’t please.”

Dallas took one last look at the cargo bay behind her, then allowed the security officers to lead her away.


Two days later, Agent Dallas shifted uncomfortably as she sat in an office in Starfleet Intelligence Headquarters in Moscow on Earth. Outside, a full-fledged blizzard was in progress, blocking the view of the nearby Kremlin. Dallas wasn’t all that concerned about the scenery at that particular moment, though. She was far more worried about when the office’s owner would be arriving and just what he’d have to say to her.

She didn’t have long to wait. A few seconds later, a thickly built Bolian charged into the office. Dallas jumped out of her seat to stand at attention.

“Admiral Gitt,” she said crisply.

“Oh sit down,” the Bolian ordered in irritation as he did the same in the high-backed, faux leather chair across the desk from Dallas. Almost as soon as Dallas’ butt returned to her seat, Gitt laid into her.

“What the hell were you doing there?” Gitt demanded.

“That circus seemed suspicious. And I was right. They had a whole crate of plasma conduit!”

“Did it ever occur to you that they might use that conduit to repair their ships?”

“It was Starfleet issue conduit, sir,” Dallas added.

“That still doesn’t explain what you were doing there. You were supposed to be on Alpha Centauri protecting the Lilanni Ambassador!”

“Did he get assassinated?”

“No,” Gitt admitted.

“Then no harm done. Look, the Ambassador wanted to go to the circus, so we went. While we were there, I saw two clowns spill a crate they were carrying to their ship, and it was full of what looked like Starfleet console components, which a circus should not have in its possession.”

“You’re starting to sound like a damn Inventory Officer.”

Dallas’ eyes narrowed. “That was uncalled for, sir.”

“Go on, Dallas.”

“I decided to follow the Crazy Condor Circus to its next stop on Tellar…”

“Ditching the Ambassador in the process,” Gitt interjected.

“…where I was able to find another crate of Starfleet property before I was discovered.”

“You blew up an entire troupe of trained poodles! Do you think we have the insurance to replace that kind of thing?”

“The dogs were a threat. I had to do something.”

Gitt leaned over his desk toward Dallas. “That’s it. You’re on suspension until we figure out what to do with you.”

Dallas stood up angrily. “You aren’t even going to look into that circus, are you?” she demanded.

“That’s not your concern,” Gitt said. “You’re excused, Agent.”

“I’m going to get to the bottom of this, Gitt,” Dallas promised as she stormed toward the door. “If there’s a mystery out there, I’M going to solve it.” She exited the office, leaving Gitt to bang his head against his desk a couple of times before he activated his comm system.

“Admiral Sulu’s office,” the image of Lieutenant Radley, Hitori Sulu’s administrative assistant said.

“Is he in?”

“Yes, Admiral. How would you like to be put through?”

“B Channel.”

“Passcode.”

“Flock A, Nest 76.”

“Thank you.”

The image soon shifted to show an older Asian man seated behind a massive desk. “Go ahead,” Admiral Hitori Sulu said.

“We have a problem. Samantha Dallas, one of my agents, has been poking around the circus. She refuses to leave a mystery alone. I wanted to inform you before I had her removed from service.”

Sulu was quiet for a moment, steepling his fingers as he thought. “No,” he said finally.

“No? Admiral, she’s a threat to the whole project,” Gitt protested.

“She could be more of one on the outside,” Sulu said. “She could talk to the press, which would lead to even more people looking into the circus.”

“Then what do you want me to do?”

“Hmmm…she said she won’t leave a mystery alone, so give her another mystery. Surely you have some pesky cases around there that are too minor to send your other agents out on. And find her a partner. Someone not as…enthusiastic as your Agent Dallas.”

Gitt smiled. “Now that I think about it, I may have just what we need.”


STARDATE 51130.4

SHERMAN’S PLANET


Etta Herman took a deep breath, which she then let out as a satisfied sigh as she walked out of her front door into the bright sunshine of yet another beautiful day on the coast of the Sherman Sea. Her palm tree-surrounded beach house sat on a pristine strip of white sand only 50 meters from the lapping surf, a location that had made her the envy of many on Sherman’s Planet. But then she was Etta Herman, descendant of one of the original colonists. If anyone deserved such a spot, it was she.

“Morning, Etta,” Maurice Lehrman called, strolling over to Etta as he stepped off of his front porch. Maurice lived next door to Etta, and his family, like hers, had been descended from the original group of colonists to conquer this new world.

“Good morning, Maury,” she replied. “Out for your morning constitutional.”

The sixty-five year old man took a deep breath of his own and tapped his fist on his chest approvingly. “Wouldn’t miss it. May I escort you into town?”

“That would be very nice,” Etta, who was three years Maury’s junior, said with a demure smile. Maury held his elbow out for Etta, who took it, and the pair stepped onto the wooden boardwalk leading toward the seaside village of Sherdonia.

“You look lovely this morning,” Maury said, watching Etta’s shoulder-length gray hair billow behind her.

“Why thank…AHHHH!”

Etta suddenly froze in place, then bent into a sitting position…even though there was nothing to sit on. Crouching awkwardly over a non-existent chair, she began to spin around, slowly at first, then more and more rapidly.

Maury watched in stunned horror as Etta’s hair seemed to rise up of its own accord. It whipped from side to side, then the sound of snipping sent bits of it flying in all directions. The frenzy of movement grew faster and faster as Etta spun, her hair moving this way and that under the control of some unseen force. A snip here, then a spray there, then another snip, spray, snip, curl, set!

And then it was all over.

Etta spun to a stop and collapsed to the boardwalk, her hair in a perfectly coiffed bouffant.

For a moment, Maury contemplated what had just occurred. “I think I liked it better the other way.”


STARDATE 51141.3

EARTH


On the one hand, Samantha Dallas supposed she should have been grateful. They easily could have kicked her out of Intel for good over the whole poodle business. But, as she walked down the corridor of one of the residence decks in the main spacedock orbiting Earth, she didn’t feel all that relieved.

She’d been taken off the circus case (Not that she’d officially been on it in the first place. Or that it was even a case really) and placed on so-called special assignment to deal with “unique possible threats” to the Federation. Crap cases is what Dallas called it. And beyond that, she been given, of all things, a partner.

Dallas stopped in front of the set of temporary quarters Admiral Gitt had ordered her to report to, then rang the chime.

“You’ve got the wrong room,” a slow male voice said wearily.

“Agent Batyn, my name is Samantha Dallas. You should be expecting me,” Dallas called through the door.

The man inside the room took a long time to reply. “You don’t want to talk to me. Just leave me alone.”

“I’d love to,” Dallas snapped testily. “But we’ve got a mission.”

“I don’t want any more missions,” Batyn said.

Dallas clenched her fists. Just who was this guy anyway? She was tempted to just leave without him, not that she was in a real big hurry to leave, though. Compared to a possible conspiracy of thieves smuggling Starfleet components, some old woman getting a spontaneous haircut didn’t seem all that interesting. But the only way she was ever going to have the tools at her disposal to check into the Crazy Condor Circus was to play along with her superiors for now.

“Please open the door,” she said firmly. “Otherwise, I’m coming in.”

She stood at the door, tapping her foot expectantly. “One…two…”

The doors slid open.

“WOAH!” Dallas shouted, jumping back and slamming painfully into the wall behind her. The giant bipedal fish who’d answered the door just stood there, his bulging eyes moving about lazily.

“I knew you’d do that,” Batyn said. “Everyone does.”

Dallas scrambled to regain her composure. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t expecting…”

“A fish?” the six and a half foot tall bluish alien replied. “Everyone wants mammals.”

“I didn’t mean that,” Dallas said. “Aren’t you a…what are you?”

“Antidean,” Batyn replied flatly. “You’ll forget it by tomorrow, though. Everyone does.” He started to walk off down the corridor.

“Hey! Where are you going?”

“Wherever our ship is. We do have one, I suppose.”

“Docking Slip 103,” Dallas said, catching up with Batyn. For a fish, the guy had really long legs. She’d been under the impression that Antideans (who she had heard of. She just had a hard time remembering their species name) kind of shuffled along, but Batyn didn’t seem to have that problem.

Another memory about Antideans filtered up through her consciousness from wherever it’d been dumped during her training. “Um, Batyn, don’t you Antideans go into comas from the stress of space travel?” This could be VERY obnoxious.

“I’ve been on over two hundred ships. Where’s the stress now. It’s all boring and routine. Clear all moorings. Take us out. Plot a course. Enter the system. Standard orbit. Blah blah blah.”

“Okay. I guess that won’t be a problem then,” Dallas said. “It’ll be just the two of us anyway. We have a runabout.”

“Fine,” Batyn said unenthusiastically. “I’ll just beam my bed aboard.”

“Your bed?”

“You can bring whatever you want too,” Batyn replied, then trudged off a little faster down the corridor.

“Don’t you want to know what our mission is?”

“I’m sure I’ll find out…and I probably won’t like it.”


The pieces just didn’t fit, Agent Dallas thought as she stared at the padd containing her “evidence” against the Crazy Condor Circus, her feet propped up on the flight console of the Runabout Pee Dee (It was a stupid name in Dallas’ opinion, but the supply office at Intel Headquarters assured her it was named after a real river on Earth).

Her attention was drawn away from her notes by the alert that beeped from the console. They were approaching Sherman’s Planet. Dallas reached forward to comm Batyn, who was asleep in one of the small rooms at the back of the runabout, but curiosity got the better of her at the last second. Just what was so great about this bed that Batyn needed to bring it along.

She programmed the runabout to enter a standard orbit above the planet, then, just to prove Batyn wrong, made it an unstandard orbit and slipped out of her chair and moved quietly to the back of the craft. After listening against Batyn’s door and not hearing anything, Dallas opened it and stepped inside.

The room was filled with a deep blue glow, coming from some sort of long light source extended for several feet horizontally above what Dallas assumed was Batyn’s bed. Moving closer, she saw that the bed itself was surrounded by a black drape. Sliding closer, Dallas picked up the edge of the drape, peered underneath, and found herself staring at a hideous, white mass.

“AHHH!” Dallas toppled backwards, taking the drape with her, and fell against a large pile of some kind of flaky substance. She rolled off of it and took another look at the thing that had been covered by the drape. It was a tank, a transparent tank filled with bubbling water. Inside, Batyn lay, sans uniform, his already large eyes magnified by the refraction of the glass.

“You sat in my dinner,” he said blandly, his voice gurgling through the water as his hands idly fidgeting with a plastic castle nestled in the colored pebbles covering the bottom of the tank.

“Sorry,” Dallas replied sheepishly as she got to her feet. “We’re here.”

“Where else would we be?”

“I mean we’re at Sherman’s Planet.”

Batyn’s massive, scale-covered hands gripped the edge of the tank as he pulled himself to a standing position. “I suppose you’re going to want to beam down now.” Before Dallas could reply, he swung his legs out of the tank and left the room, headed toward the runabout’s bathroom.


“Oh thank you for coming,” Edward Sherman, the mayor of Sherdonia, exclaimed, rushing forward to shake Dallas and Batyn’s hands as they were ushered into his office. Dallas was immediately taken with the view out of the picture windows overlooking the coastline. “You have no idea what a stir this has caused in our quiet little town.”

“I’m Agent Dallas. This is Agent Batyn,” Dallas said. “I promise we’re going to do our best to clear up this phantom hairdresser thing.”

“We’re here about a hairdresser?” Batyn asked, a hint of annoyance almost poking through his placidity.

“Oh yes,” Sherman said. “There have been seven attacks in the last week. Sherdonia is the home of several of Sherman’s Planet’s first families, but even they are not safe. My grandfather, Howard Sherman himself, was given a buzz cut just yesterday. Our populace is afraid to leave the house. We live in fear, Agent Batyn.”

“Maybe you should move.”

Mayor Sherman looked positively aghast. “He’s kidding, Mister Mayor,” Dallas said quickly. “Can we see one of the attack sites?”

“Of course, Agent Dallas,” the Mayor replied. “The Vice-Mayor will take you personally.”

“Thank you, Mister Mayor,” Dallas said with a nod.


“What the hell was that?” Dallas whispered harshly as she and Batyn were lead out of City Hall by the vice-mayor, Carol Herman.

“What do you mean?” Batyn replied disinterestedly.

“That crack about moving.”

“Crack? It seemed like a good way to avoid the problem.”

“They don’t want to avoid the problem; they want it gone. You can’t spent your whole life just avoiding things you don’t like.”

“It’s worked well for me so far.”

“This is the place,” Vice-Mayor Herman said, gesturing to a patch of sidewalk alongside the town’s main thoroughfare. “Debbie Kerrman ended up with a beehive when it was all over.”

“Beehive? Yikes,” Dallas said, looking over the spot. Nothing seemed at all unusual about it. Basically, it was just a hunk of sidewalk. She glanced around at the many storefronts lining the street, which was active with foot and hovercar traffic. “And no one saw anything?”

“Just Mrs. Kerrman being lifted into the air and spun around. When it was all over, she had a beehive.”

“Thank you, Vice-Mayor. My partner and I can take it from here. We’ll let you get back to work.”

“All right then. I’ll be in my office if you need me.” Vice-Mayor Herman looked nervously in both directions, then practically sprinted back to her office.

“Are you carrying a tricorder, Batyn?” Dallas asked.

“Scanning and analysis are part of my job description,” Batyn replied sadly as he retrieved a tricorder from the pocket of his coat (One of the perks of working for Starfleet Intel was the ability to wear civilian clothes instead of those uniforms, which has a tendency to be snug in the wrong places). “What am I looking for?”

“Ectoplasmic residue,” Dallas said.

Batyn looked up at her with his bulging eyes. “Funny. My tricorder doesn’t have a setting for ‘ghost.’”

“Do you have any better ideas?”

“No, but I don’t think it’s possible to have any worse ones.”

“So you don’t have any ideas at all, huh?” Dallas said.

“Go home. Watch holovision.”

“Ideas related to the case,” Dallas said. She threw her hands up in frustration. “Fine! I’m going to get to the bottom of this. You can go throw yourself in the ocean for all I care.”

She stormed off down the street, leaving Batyn alone. Swimming, as Dallas had suggested, seemed like too much work, so he ambled down the street behind her. She stopped in her tracks a few moments later, looking back and forth across the street at two shops in particular.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Hair salons,” Dallas replied, all traces of her anger from a few moments ago gone. “Two of them.”

Batyn looked in through the window of the nearest salon. The place was packed. Every chair was filled, and several more people waited for their turn. “All of their stylists seem to be visible,” Batyn said.

“Of course they are. None of them are dead!” Dallas snapped, turning on her heel and heading across the street.

The stylist in the next salon wasn’t dead either, but his shop sure was. As soon as the bell dinged, announcing Dallas and Batyn’s entry into the salon, he came rushing out of the back, an eager smile plastered across his face.

“Good afternoon! Franklin Grange, stylist-extraordinaire at your service. What can I do for you this fine day?”

“We’d like to ask you a few questions, Mister Grange,” Dallas said.

“She’d like to ask you a few questions,” Batyn clarified.

“About your hair?” Grange said, walking around Dallas and examining her straight dark brown locks which stretched about a third of the way down her back. He then gave Batyn a cursory glance. “You I cannot help.”

“What a pity,” Batyn said, planting himself in one of the many vacant chairs as he waited for Dallas to ask whatever it was she wanted to ask.

“I’m not here for a haircut, Mister Grange,” Dallas said. The stylist instantly deflated. “We’re here about the recent assaults in town.”

“What could some crime possibly have to do with me?” Grange asked.

“I noticed your last name is a bit unusual for this area. Have you been here long?”

“Almost three years,” Grange replied with more than a hint of bitterness. “But they refuse to accept me. To these snobs, I will always be that new guy! Instead, they go to that hack Fleurman across the street. Bah!”

“Did Fleurman have any other competition before you arrived?” Dallas asked.

Grange’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”

“Was there ever another stylist in town? Perhaps one who is…no longer with us.”

“She means dead,” Batyn said.

“Ah…I see.” Grange was quiet for a moment, then a strange look crossed his face. “Now that you mention it, this used to be a salon before I arrived as well. From what I was told, the previous occupant also had trouble attracting customers. Supposedly, he was so overwrought that he slit his wrists with his own sheers then drowned in a vat of sterilizing fluid while baking himself under a hair dryer. Tragic really.”

“What was his name?” Dallas asked eagerly.

“Who?”

“The dead stylist.”

“Oh! It was…Berman. Treckle Berman.”

“Treckle?” Batyn said disbelievingly.

“You think I’m making this up?” Grange said defensively.

“Of course not,” Dallas interjected. “You’ve been very helpful. Come on, Batyn.”

Batyn pushed himself to his feet and strolled out the door after an energized Agent Dallas.

“You see!” she said once they were out on the sidewalk. “I was right! It is a ghost.”

“Oh the proof is overwhelming,” Batyn replied monotonely.

“Don’t patronize me, Batyn.”

“Very well. What do you suggest we do about this ghost then?”

“We’re going to have to send it away. Maybe we can appease it somehow. Don’t most ghosts hang around because of some unfinished business in life?”

“No, most ghosts don’t exist because they’re supernatural clap-trap,” Batyn replied as he and Dallas headed down the sidewalk.

“You aren’t…HEY!” Dallas cried as she suddenly was stopped dead in her tracks then was suddenly bent into a sitting position by some unseen force. Batyn noted with complete and utter detachment that this was exactly what the other “victims” had described as Dallas began spinning around, her hair being moved, snipped, and otherwise manipulated.

“Batyn, do something!” Dallas shouted.

“Would you like more tricorder readings? Maybe I can find that ghost setting after all?”

It was actually fortunate that Dallas couldn’t move because right then she wouldn’t have known who to go after first: Batyn or the ghost. Suddenly, she was spinning faster and faster until finally the forces holding her let go, and she went sailing through the air smack into the transparent aluminum window of a nearby restaurant. Several surprised patrons watched Dallas slide painfully down the glass to the ground, then returned unconcerned to their lunch conversations.

“Unnnh,” Dallas moaned as Batyn scanned her with his tricorder.

“At least you haven’t broken any bones,” he offered. “But…”

“But what?” she gasped weakly, fearing the worst.

“You’ve been permed.”


Dallas’s hands reached up and grabbed her now short, curly hair. “NO!!!!!”


“Investigation Log. Stardate 51345.6. After the attack on my person…well, my hair really, I’ve decided that Batyn and I need to gather more information. I’ve sent Batyn to the Sherdonia cemetery to see if he can found out anything else about our dead stylist. Meanwhile, I’ve returned to the runabout to check with an information source of my own.”


“Wally! How’re you doing?” Dallas said warmly.

“Not again,” the annoyed voice on the other end of the commline said. “I thought I told you not to just up and comm me anymore.”

“I’m sorry, Wally, but I need some info.”

“Then go to the damn library. I’m busy here!”

“Doing what?” Dallas demanded.

The line was silent for a moment. “Um…er…STUFF!”

“Sure. Just give me a hand here, pal. The sooner you do, the sooner I let you get back to your ‘stuff.’”

“All right, dammit. You kids just need to learn to leave the elderly in peace. Now what do you want?” Wally demanded.

“How do I get rid of a ghost? Is there a ceremony? Or maybe some scientific way?”

“Give me a break!”

“I’m serious, Wally!” Dallas pleaded. “You’ve got to help me here. There’s a phantom hair stylist rampaging across Sherman’s Planet!”

“Tell everyone to shave their heads. End of problem.”

“You sound like Batyn.”

“Who the hell’s Batyn?”

“My new partner.”

“HA! So they finally saddled the wild Sam Dallas. About time.”

“Can it, Wally. What about the ghost thing?”

“Unless you want to try a seance, I’ve got nothing,” Wally replied.

“Damn. Thanks for looking into anyway, Wally.”

“You’re welcome, but no more unscheduled comms!” Wally cut the phone line abruptly, just as Dallas’ wrist communicator chirped.

“Dallas here,” she said after activating the device.

“It’s Batyn. You should come down here.”

“To the cemetery?”

“That is the here you sent me to,” the Antidean replied.

“I’ll be right down.”


Dallas materialized a few moments later on top of a high bluff overlooking the sea. It was really a spectacular view…except for the gravemarkers scattered everywhere.

“A tomb with a view,” Batyn said placidly. “What a waste for a bunch of dead people.”

“Have you considered therapy?” Dallas snapped.

“I thought this assignment was supposed to be my therapy,” Batyn replied. “Get me back on the horse, not that many fish ride horses…and no sea horse cracks,” Batyn added just before Dallas managed to get the words out.

“Fine. What did you want to show me?”

“Look around,” Batyn said, taking in the cemetery with the gesture.

“What about it?”

“We have Shermans and Derrmans and Kerrmans and Lehrmans and on and on and on, but not one single Berman.”

“So where is he?” Dallas asked.

“That’s the really interesting part,” Batyn said in a voice that implied that he really didn’t find anything at all interesting, especially the lack of a grave for a dead stylist. “According to the custodian of this place, Mister Berman doesn’t exist.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Allow me to clarify,” Batyn said with a tired sigh. “No one named Berman has ever lived in Sherdonia. He’s got the death records to prove it.”

“Then how can he be a ghost if he never existed?” Dallas asked confused.

Batyn’s eyes bulged a bit more than usual as he straightened to his full height. “There is no…woah boy.” In a blur of motion, Batyn was suddenly bent into a sitting position. “Of course this would happen to me. And I don’t have any hair.”

“Hold on, Batyn!” Dallas cried, latching onto Batyn just as he started to spin around. She was quickly pulled off of her feet by the force of the…force that was spinning Batyn.

“My head is getting wet,” Batyn complained. And then it was all over. The two agents slowly spun to a halt and fell down into the soft grass of the cemetery.

“Hmmm…I get a haircut, but you get wet. I wonder if there’s a pattern here,” Dallas said.

“I don’t think…”

“AHHH!” Dallas shouted suddenly, jumping back from Batyn.

“What’s wrong with you?”

Dallas pointed at Batyn’s head in horror. “You’re…you’re sprouting!”

“Now you’re just being mean,” Batyn said, moving his big, bluish hand to his head. His fingers brushed against something stubbly…actually a lot of somethings. He plucked one out of his head and brought it in front of his eyes. Between his fingers he held a small, shiny black hair. “How in the great wide ocean?”

Dallas didn’t respond. Batyn was about to say something to her but stopped as soon as he saw her face. She was gazing off into the distance, lost in thought, as a small grin slowly spread across her face.

“I’m glad you’re amused,” Batyn said finally. “I’ll remember that next time something happens to you.”

“It’s not that,” Dallas said. “Well, actually it is that, but not in the way that you think. I was thinking about it in a totally different way all together.”

“And when you can explain that in the language of normal people, let me know.”

“Come on. We need to gather a little bit more information.”


Batyn wasn’t all that surprised that he and Dallas ended up back at Franklin Grange’s salon. After all, he’d given them the bogus info about the dead stylist, but considering this town’s attitude toward Grange, Batyn guessed someone told Grange the story just to scare him off.

“You two again. How nice,” Grange said unconvincingly as Dallas and Batyn entered the salon. He looked at Dallas more closely. “You’ve changed your hair since this morning.”

“It was changed for me, actually,” Dallas replied. “And my partner was just assaulted at the cemetery.”

“The cemetery! I should have thought to look for you there,” Grange said. “I tried finding you a little while ago when I realized I gave you the wrong name. Treckle Berman is a singer in Sheradelia. I don’t know who I got that confused.”

“Maybe because the dead stylist didn’t really exist,” Dallas said.

“Excuse me?” Grange asked shocked.

Batyn stepped in. “My guess is that you’re the victim of a mean joke, Mister Grange. The residents here most likely told you that story in hopes of scaring you away.”

Dallas stared at Batyn. “Where the hell did you get that?”

“I thought it was obvious.”

“No! Grange is the ghost!”

“Now you’re just being silly,” Batyn said. “Look at him. He’s just a guy who cuts hair. He’s a nobody. He just stands there, holding his combs, now he’s putting his hands into his smock, and now he’s…pulling a disrupter. Oh.”

“How did you figure it out?” Grange said, holding a small disrupter pistol on Dallas.

“The hair tonic,” Dallas replied. “It grew hair on a fish. We humans haven’t even managed to cure baldness in our own species, much less give follicles to a flounder. And then there was the hair itself.”

“So you know what I am.”

“Yes.”

“Then what is he?” Batyn demanded with more emotion than Dallas had ever seen out of him.

“A Romulan,” Dallas replied.

“WHAT?” Batyn said.

“Have you ever seen a bald Romulan?”

“Well no…”

“And don’t they all have nice shiny black hair?”

“Well yeah…”

“I rest my case,” Dallas said, crossing her arms with a humph.

“Don’t tell me she’s right,” Batyn said to Grange.

“Subcommander Frantik, late of the Tal Shiar,” Grange said with a bow.

“The Tal Shiar here?” Batyn said confused. “There’s nothing strategically important on Sherman’s Planet.”

“That’s the one part I couldn’t figure out,” Dallas said. “Why are you here?”

“To cut hair,” Grange/Frantik said. “I decided a few years ago that I didn’t want to be a cloak-and-dagger man anymore; I wanted to cut hair, so I ‘disappeared’ during an assignment in Federation space and set up shop here.”

“But couldn’t you have cut hair on Romulus?” Dallas asked.

“Have you ever seen a Romulan with anything other than straight hair and that damn bowl cut? How boring! I wanted to create hairdos with some style! But then the cretins on this planet rejected me out of hand. If I hadn’t been so worried about being tracked down by my former colleagues, I would have let two years ago. I’d bet Deep Space Nine needs a good stylist.”

“So your frustration led to the ghost,” Dallas said.

“I just wanted to cut hair!” Grange/Frantik cried. “Any hair would do. I had a personal cloak and a force field manipulator from my former line of work. I never expected to have to use them again, but the Sherdonians forced me. They forced me!”

“Just calm down,” Dallas said soothingly. “Everything’s going to be fine. I’m not sure exactly, but I’d bet forced haircutting falls way down on the list of assault charges.”

“But then there will be questions…and the answers will come out as soon as anyone scans me! I don’t want to go back!” To emphasize his point, Grange/Frantik shook his disrupter menacingly at Dallas. Sensing that Frantik was distracted, Batyn took the opportunity to go sit down in a salon chair.

“What are you doing?” Grange/Frantik demanded.

“My feet were getting tired,” Batyn replied with a shrug. All of a sudden, Grange/Frantik was knocked violently backwards as Dallas’ body slammed into his. The two grappled for the disrupter, thrashing back and forth across the floor. To help out, Batyn lifted his feet so they wouldn’t trip.

“You’re…under…arrest,” Dallas gasped.

“Not…likely,” Grange/Frantik seethed. His hand abruptly pulled away from Dallas and slapped a spot on his hip. And just as abruptly, Dallas found herself grappling with empty air.

“He’s cloaked!” she exclaimed.

“You don’t say,” Batyn said.

Dallas down at her own arms, which now cut off into nothingness just past her wrists. “Hey! I still have him!” Outside, several passersby had stop to watch a handless woman inside the salon dance fling herself around the shop in some kind of bizarre interpretive dance. Inside, the fight was definitely still on.

“Just let me take you in!” Dallas shouted, slamming her knee upwards into the invisible Grange/Frantik, who grunted but not quite in the high-pitched satisfying way Dallas had been hoping for.

“You missed the goods,” he said smugly…and then Dallas could see him…and then she couldn’t. “You broke my cloak!” Grange/Frantik cried and with a sudden burst of anger, tossed Dallas to the floor. A half second later, the door was flung open.

“He’s getting away!” Dallas said, leaping to her feet and chasing after the fleeing Romulan. Outside, there was no sign of him. But then she saw a flash of a person running, then he was gone again. Dallas took off in pursuit, shoving her way through stunned onlookers as up ahead Grange/Frantik blinked in and out of visibility. Running past a corner grocery, Dallas grabbed two tomatoes off of an outside display, shouting a promise to come back and pay for them as she did so.

“I think you might be gaining on him,” Batyn’s voice suddenly said from beside her. She glanced over and saw that he was alongside her, riding in the back of a hovercab. “But would you like us to try to slow him down?”

“That…would be…very nice,” Dallas panted.

“Onward, driver,” Batyn said. The hovercab darted ahead, then swerved onto the sidewalk just ahead of Grange/Frantik as he blipped into visibility again. He was forced to slow down and change course to avoid the cab, an action that gave Dallas just enough time to wing both tomatoes at him in quick succession. The first squished into the back of Grange/Frantik’s head just before he cloaked again. The second sailed through the open window of the hovercab’s backseat and splattered against Batyn.

“Oops,” Dallas said with a smile as she ran by. As Dallas expected, the tomato residue was hidden by Grange/Frantik’s cloak. However, the excess juice was dripping off of the Romulan, leaving a clear trail for Dallas to follow. With a burst of speed, Dallas caught up to the drips and lunged forward, wrapping her arms around the unseen legs of Grange/Frantik. The invisible man fell to the street, then immediately became visible as the personal cloak smashed from the impact.

Before Grange/Frantik could scramble away, Dallas shot her hand into her inside jacket pocket and pulled out her hand phaser. “As I said earlier, you’re under arrest.”

“Just press the button and kill me now. It will be a lot less painful that what my own people will do to me,” Grange/Frantik said sadly as the hovercab pulled up and Batyn stepped out.

“A just end for a mad hair stylist,” Batyn said unconvincingly.

“What else are we supposed to do with him?” Dallas said. “I can’t just leave him here. He’s liable to do this again.”

“I’m not saying a word,” Batyn replied.

“No, but you’re giving me a look.”

“It’s not a look.”

“All right! I’ll think of something! Just leave me alone!”


“Investigation Log. Stardate 51350.3. After several days of investigation and no new attacks on the residents of Sherdonia, Agent Batyn and I have concluded that there is nothing unusual on Sherman’s Planet. Several townsfolk may report seeing me chasing an invisible man down the street, but that’s not quite what happened. I thought it was a ghost, but it wasn’t. Nothing at all really happened. End of log. Case closed.”


“Personal Log. Stardate 51340.3. I have just filed my first completely fabricated Investigation Log with Starfleet Intel, but, considering the state of my career at the moment, I’m not all that concerned about it. As long as headquarters doesn’t check to see if Batyn and I were really on Sherman’s Planet for the whole week, we’ll be fine. Instead, I pulled a few strings and found a new home for Frantik, a home that I hope he’ll find much more fulfilling.”


Dallas leaned forward and switched off the log recorder as she piloted the Runabout Pee Dee towards Earth.

“Don’t think that just because I helped Frantik out that you get to be my conscience or anything,” she said to Batyn, who was lounging in the seat beside her. “I’m quite capable of deciding who should live or die without your help.”

“The poodles certainly prove that,” Batyn replied languidly.

Dallas choked for a second. “How did you know about that?”

“We do work for Starfleet Intelligence.”

“Well, they had it coming. And so will you if you keep it up…even though I have to thank you for the distraction.”

“What distraction?” Batyn asked confused.

“In the salon when you sat down. That was a clever move.”

“Clever? My feet hurt.”

“So that wasn’t supposed to be a distraction?”

“No.”

Dallas just glared at him.

“What?” Batyn said.

“I don’t want to talk to you right now.”

“Why?”

“Just shut up, gill-boy.”


STARDATE 52044.7

DEEP SPACE NINE


Kira Nerys strolled through the promenade with a smile stretching across her face so broadly that she was almost sure her face was going to freeze in place grinning. What could she say? She couldn’t help it.

Despite the war with the Dominion. Despite Captain Sisko’s continued absence as he stayed on Earth to deal with Dax’s death and the loss of contact with the Prophets. Despite it all, something joyous had happened to Kira.

She stepped through the doors of a particular shop on the Promenade, an establishment she’d been curious to visit but hadn’t really had reason to until today: the new hair salon. Inside, the place was surprisingly empty (Usually, from what Kira had seen walking by on other days, there was a line almost out the door), except for, to Kira’s equal surprise, Garak, who was seated in a salon chair while a human male stood behind him with a mirror.

“We seem to have finished just in time,” Garak said, giving Kira that insanely annoying smile that always seemed to suggest he was up to something.

“Good afternoon!” the stylist said, giving Kira a much more welcoming smile. “Franklin Grange, stylist-extraordinaire at your service. What can I do for you this fine day?”

Kira ran a hand through her hair. “I’d like something…different.”

“Why Major,” Garak said, getting out of the chair. “You’re absolutely beaming. Has something happened? The war didn’t end while I was getting my hair cut, did it?”

“Not quite,” Kira said, taking the seat Garak just vacated. Her smile spread just a bit wider. “But it’s Colonel now.”

“Congratulations. It’s well deserved.”

“I know. And I wanted to do something for myself to celebrate.”

“Fran will take good care of you, I’m sure,” Garak said. “Good day to you both.” With a quick bow of his head, he exited the shop.

“You two seem to have hit it off,” Kira said to Grange once the shop doors closed.

“We’re in similar lines of work,” Grange replied as he began to snip.