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


“For My Next Trick”


Alan Decker

STARDATE 51423.5


Lieutenant Cynthia Sweeney’s eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the darkness as the turbolift doors opened and she stepped out onto Deck Six of the small space station floating in a desolate section of space along the border of the Alpha and Beta quadrants.

Gradually, she was able to make out the soft glow of the banks of consoles and monitors that formed the heart of the station’s subspace relay system, a system that was responsible for receiving, boosting, then sending out again the hundreds of thousands of subspace messages zipping across the Federation.

At the center of all of these computers, leaning back casually in his chair, headphones on as he strummed on a steel guitar, sat Lieutenant Mickey Caveccio, the self-described “Lord of Subspace.”

Sweeney slowly moved over to him, carefully watching out for any possible obstacles on the dim floor that she just couldn’t make out yet. She tapped Caveccio on the shoulder, drawing a glance and a smile from him as he finished up the last few notes of his song. Finally, he set the guitar aside gently and pulled off his headphones.

“Uh oh. Here’s trouble,” Caveccio said with a grin.

“You know it, honey,” Sweeney said. “I’ve come to make your life miserable.”

“No more so than Starfleet does on a daily basis, I’m sure. Let me hear it.”

“Paula’s finished the latest test. We need to increase the load on the new relay system for the next run. Can you switch over all of Starbase 219’s traffic as well?”

“We do have that technology,” Caveccio replied, sliding his chair over to a nearby console and pulling up a screen of what to Sweeney seemed to be complete and utter gibberish. Caveccio was one of those true tech-heads who preferred to work with raw code rather than the nice, slick interfaces provided by most Federation computer systems. “Let’s see if the darned thing can…”

And then right before Sweeney’s eyes, Caveccio blipped out of existence.

STARDATE 51428.4


“Well isn’t this the dark end of the reef?” Starfleet Intel Agent Batyn muttered unhappily as his bulging eyes looked out of the runabout’s front viewport.

The runabout’s pilot, Agent Samantha Dallas turned on her partner, ready to slam him for the remark, but then stopped, her face screwing up into a look of puzzlement as she realized she had no clue what Batyn just said.

“It’s a fish thing,” Batyn replied. The Antidean’s gills vibrated slightly as he exhaled with a soft sigh.

“What’s it mean?” Dallas asked, still trying to figure out if Batyn’s comment had been an insult aimed at her or not.

“That we’re in the middle of nowhere.”

“If it were somewhere, they wouldn’t need a relay station,” Dallas said, an unspoken “duh” hanging in the air.

“I still don’t see what the big deal is. You’d think the crew of this place would be grateful for a few disappearances. It breaks up the monotony. And it’s not like they stayed missing.”

Dallas glared at her partner. “You’re telling me that if you suddenly vanished, then reappeared a few hours later with no memory of being gone, you wouldn’t want to know what had happened to you?”

“It’s space. Weird stuff happens. No one got hurt, so let it go and move on.”

“For a guy with a science background, you sure seem to be lacking on the whole scientific curiosity thing,” Dallas said.

“Curiosity hooked the fish.”

“I thought it killed the cat.”

“Then it shouldn’t have been playing near the fish,” Batyn said firmly.

Dallas’ brain slammed into a metaphysical brick wall trying to get a handle on that one. Fortunately, the possible on-coming headache was averted by the appearance of Subspace Relay Station 208 at the edge of sensor range.

“There it is,” Dallas said, turning her attention to the helm.

“Tiny,” Batyn said, looking at the small, cylindrical station against the vast starscape beyond. Dallas had to admit that Batyn was right. The place looked so…insignificant. What possible reason could there be for a rash of disappearances and reappearances in a place like this?

“Runabout Pee Dee to Relay Station,” Dallas said after activating the comm system.

“Are you the folks from Starfleet Intel?” a woman’s voice asked in reply.

“Yes, ma’am. Agents Dallas and Batyn.”

“Well, we’re certainly glad Starfleet sent you our way. Beam over and we can…”

The line suddenly went dead.

“Ma’am? Ma’am?” Dallas called, her voice growing louder.

She heard soft voices, then a bit of shuffling on the other end of the line. Finally, a man’s voice broke in. “This is Commander Joxon, station commander. Lieutenant Sweeney seems to have gone missing at the moment, but I’m sure she’ll return shortly. Permission granted for beam over. Joxon out.”

Batyn groaned softly. “Oh, he sounds like lots of fun.”

“You haven’t even met the man.”

“But I know his type. You give him a command, no matter how small, and he’s suddenly the most important person in the cosmos…except for his superiors he’s constantly trying to suck up to.”

“Just give him a chance,” Dallas said.

As it turned out, Batyn didn’t really need to, since he was absolutely right. As soon as Batyn and Dallas beamed into the command deck of the relay station, Joxon, a somewhat short Benzite, was on them in an instant.

“I’m Commander Joxon.”

Dallas took a step forward before Batyn could say anything. “Agent Samantha Dallas. This is my partner, Agent Batyn.”

“Let’s talk in my office,” Joxon said, ushering the agents up a short flight of stairs to a small deck overlooking the main command center. Joxon had put a desk up there as well as a Japanese-style folding screen emblazoned with the Starfleet delta to create the fourth wall for his “office.”

“Please have a seat,” Joxon said, as though giving them permission. Batyn, however, had already planted himself in the nearest chair. Joxon stared at him a moment, as though we wanted to protest. Batyn stared right back, his huge eyes unnerving the commander to the point that he quickly retreated to the security of his own, overstuffed, faux-leather chair.

“Now what I see as our main action item is that we resolve this situation as discretely as possible,” Joxon said. “While I’m grateful that Starfleet sent the two of you out here to look into our little events, the last thing I want is for this station to become known only as a place where people vanish. We do good work here, and I manage good people. Nothing should tarnish that.”

Throughout his speech, Joxon’s breathing had become more and more rapid from the stress of the whole situation. As the mist-emitting breathing apparatus mounted under his face struggled to keep up, his whole head gradually became encased in a small fog bank.

“We will try to disrupt your operations as little as possible,” Dallas assured him.

“Right,” Batyn said. “Keep breathing like that, and you’ll never even know that we’re here.”

“I don’t think this is an appropriate time for humor, Agent Batyn,” Joxon replied.

“Depends on the joke,” Batyn said, rising from his chair as Dallas did the same.

“We’ll keep you informed of our progress,” Dallas said.

“Or lack thereof,” Batyn muttered as he and Dallas headed down the stairs.

To Dallas’ relief, Commander Joxon remained at his desk rather than shadowing every step of the agent’s investigation. Now there was just the little matter of figuring out what the hell was going on. She stood for a few moments in the center of the command deck, just taking in her surroundings. At a console on the far wall near the station’s lone turbolift, an exceptionally thin human woman sat huddled over her readouts.

“So how do we start this dive to the depths of misery?” Batyn asked from beside her, somewhat echoing Dallas’ thoughts…well other than that depths of misery part.

“I think we can safely say that one of two things is going on here,” Dallas replied.

“Oh do tell.”

Dallas continued on, ignoring Batyn’s lack of enthusiasm. “One: a member of the crew is, for reasons unknown, briefly kidnapping and returning his colleagues. Or two: enemy forces have designs on this station for reasons we do not yet understand.”

“How about number three? Space is weird. Get over it.”

“I’m not going to let this get swept under the rug, Batyn. Who cares if this is a god-forsaken vole hole in the ass end of nowhere? I WILL help them!”

“Are you going to be in crusade mode for this whole case? If so, let me know, so I can go back to the ship. There’s only so much zealousness I can handle in an eon.”

“Oh shut up and go scan something,” Dallas snapped, storming off toward the thin woman, a young ensign, seated near the turbolift. Batyn shrugged, pulled his tricorder out of his pocket, then set about scanning Joxon for any sign of higher brain functions.

Dallas, meanwhile, wondered if the ensign she wanted to interview was ever going to look up from her work. Instead, she just typed furiously at her console as though her life depended on it.

“Ma’am?” Dallas ventured finally after breathing heavily, hovering too close, and tapping her foot didn’t work. The woman’s head shot up with a quick jerk, her eyes wide with anxiety.

“Y-y-y-yes?” the ensign stammered.

“Agent Samantha Dallas,” Dallas said, whipping her ID out of her pocket and sliding over its silver case. “I’m here about the disappearances.”

“I-I know.”

“What do you know?” Dallas said, leaning in conspiratorially.

“That you-you’re here about the disappearances.”

“Well that’s no help,” Dallas said, straightening back up. “Who are you, Ensign?”

“P-Paula Willis.”

“And what do you do here?”

“I…I’m doing performance testing on the SRS7. We’re the only station in the galaxy that has one.”

Dallas rolled SRS7 around in her mind for a moment. A military project perhaps? Testing it out here would be the last place the Dominion and their ilk would expect…unless the disappearances meant they’d already found out about it.

“It’s our new subspace relay system,” Willis added.

So much for a secret weapon. But it was still new technology. Perhaps it was such a quantum leap forward that it had military applications Starfleet hadn’t even dreamt of yet.

“It’s not much,” Willis continued. “We can increase transmission speed and capacity by 25%. B-but it’s still important.”

“Of course it is,” Dallas said distracted. She was having a harder time fitting this SRS7 into her enemy infiltration theory. She would have to return to that later. Time to press on for more information. “So how many times have you disappeared?”

“Um…um…I d-d-d-don’t know,” Willis replied nervously. “Maybe three. I guess it could be more.”

“And where did you go?”

“I-I don’t know.”

“How long were you there?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Could you give me a guess?” Dallas asked…but then everything shifted in the blink of an eye. Willis was gone. The command deck lighting had dimmed. Dallas spun around and quickly realized that Batyn and Joxon were gone too. Had the whole station been emptied.

“Dallas to Batyn,” she said urgently, activating her wrist communicator.

No response.

“Dallas to Batyn.”

A low-pitched, gurgling moan burst forth from the communicator. The sound was so disconcerting that Dallas’ first instinct was to rip the communicator off of her wrist, toss it across the room, and vaporize it. Fortunately, a voice took the place of the moaning before she could claw it off.

“So…<snort> <cough> you’re back, eh?” Batyn’s tired voice said over the commline.

“I’m back?” Dallas demanded. “I never left. Where the hell are you?”

“Trying to sleep,” Batyn replied. “It’s 0300 hours.”

“Wait a second,” Dallas said, trying to piece this together. “You’re not missing?”


“So if you didn’t vanish…I VANISHED!”

“Get that woman a scallop.”

“Where’d I go?” Dallas said, practically shouting.

“You tell me.”

“I don’t know!”

“Must not have been too interesting then,” Batyn said, quickly following it up with an audible yawn. “You can tell me not all about it tomorrow. Night.”


The commline was already closed. Dallas quickly checked herself over, just to make sure nothing was missing or had been added, then ordered the runabout’s computer to beam her back aboard. After two more scans, one from a tricorder and one by the ship’s internal sensors, just to verify that nothing had been implanted in her, she climbed into bed and drifted off into a fitful sleep.

During the night, she disappeared two more times.

Dallas was back on the station early the next morning ready to take the offensive in this investigation. She had no intention of standing idly by while some unseen maniac swiped her and others off of the relay station.

Batyn, much to Dallas’ surprise, was already on the station when she beamed into the command deck. The Antidean walked over to her just as Ensign Willis scurried by followed by an elderly Tellarite who seemed to be in no hurry.

“What’s going on?” Dallas asked, watching Willis and the Tellarite step through a door out of the command deck.

“In the great tradition of leaders everywhere, Joxon has called a meeting,” Batyn replied.

“Really? I’d actually wanted to have a meeting with everyone myself.”


A striking human woman walked by, a lieutenant commander according to her pips, and gave Batyn’s upper arm a squeeze. “Morning, honey,” she said with a smile, turning her head in such a way that sent her shoulder-length chestnut hair moving ever-so-gracefully.

“Good morning,” Batyn said, returning the smile (a truly hideous sight if Dallas had ever seen one). A moment later, the woman stepped through the same door Willis and the Tellarite had.

Dallas smirked. “Who was that?”

“Lieutenant Commander Cynthia Sweeney. First officer, security officer, and science officer…if you’d read the personnel report,” Batyn said.

“Uh huh,” Dallas said knowingly.

“What? She likes me.”

“Batyn, just because a woman is nice to you, it doesn’t mean she wants to see your fish stick.”

Batyn glared. “That was uncalled for.” He stalked off into the conference room followed by a chuckling Agent Dallas. Willis, Sweeney, and the Tellarite (who introduced himself as Lieutenant Kresk, station engineer) were already seated around the conference table. Batyn and Dallas sat to join them just as a lanky human with a thick black mustache strode into the room.

“All right. Who called this meeting?” he said jovially. He turned on Dallas and Batyn. “You must be the pair of Starfleet’s finest here to solve our little mystery.”

“Agent Samantha Dallas,” Dallas said, shaking his hand. “This is Agent Batyn.”

“Undeniably,” the man replied, then headed to his seat.

“And you are?” Dallas asked.

“Lieutenant Caveccio,” Sweeney said. “He keeps the subspace relay system running around here.”

“That would be a true statement,” Caveccio said, leaning back in his chair just as Commander Joxon entered the room.

“Morning, troops,” Joxon said in a feeble attempt at light- heartedness. “How is everyone?”

“Lousy,” Kresk said. “I vanished for three hours this morning. This damn well better not push back my retirement date. I was on duty.”

“I’ll have to look into it,” Joxon said. “I’m not sure if unexplained disappearances fall under the union rules regarding alien abductions and other spatial anomalies. We may not be able to count your time missing toward your time in service.”

Kresk muttered a bit under his breath while Joxon moved on with the meeting.

“So other than that, how is everyone this morning?” After asking the question, he immediately started studying the notes on the padd he brought in with him. Obviously he wasn’t real concerned about the answer…not that anyone was providing one.

“Good good,” Joxon continued obliviously. “All right. First order of business, Agent Dallas…”

“Yes?” Dallas.

“Why haven’t these disappearances stopped yet?”

“We just started our investigation,” Dallas replied irritated. “I spent most of yesterday vanished myself!”

“When can I expect this wrapped up?”

“I have no idea!”

“I’m going to need something firmer than that. Have a work plan on my desk by lunch time. Ensign Willis…”

“Go to hell!” Dallas snapped. Joxon’s eyes suddenly bugged out of his head almost as much as Batyn’s did on a regular basis. He coughed several times, sending puffs of mist out over the table.

“Um…” Joxon stammered, obviously flustered. “Ensign Willis, what about the SRS7 testing?”

Willis’ eyes widened as she sunk a bit lower in her seat.

“It-it-it’s going well. We should be able to finish the capacity runs by the end of the week.”

“Let’s wrap it up today instead and put the final report on my desk before you go off shift,” Joxon said distractedly. Willis suddenly let out a soft, fearful squeak.

“The tests take more than twelve hours each to complete, sir,” Sweeney said, jumping in. “Unless you want us to ignore Starfleet protocols and have you sign off on a substandard report, we’ll need the rest of the week.”

“Ahh…” Joxon said thoughtfully, clearly not happy.

“We’ll still be four days ahead of schedule,” Sweeney added.

Joxon brightened. “Wonderful. End of the week it is then. Now next I’d like…”

“Hopefully to let me do my job,” Dallas interrupted, prompting another coughing fit from Joxon. Dallas stood up and began pacing around the table. “My feeling is that these disappearances may be putting us all in great danger.”

“Could you control your partner?” Joxon whispered to Batyn.

“Sure. How about I move her arms while she pummels you?” Batyn replied helpfully.

Dallas continued her speech. “Anyone one of you could be the culprit.” She leaned across the table, staring each of the relay station personnel in the eye. “Anyone here could be working for our enemies. And I WILL find out who it is. You will all submit to immediate blood screenings. Batyn, get the equipment.”

“Agent Dallas!” Joxon shouted, finally unable to take anymore. She stopped, her icy stare boring into him. “Now I’m sure you feel your issues are important, but you’re trampling all over my agenda for this meeting. I’d ask that you please table this discussion for later when…”

And then Joxon blipped out of existence.

“I think that means meeting adjourned,” Caveccio said.

“Batyn, quick!” Dallas cried. “Scan for a transporter.”

The Antidean pulled his tricorder out of his pocket at a frustratingly slow pace, then waved it at where Joxon had been sitting.

“Nope. Not a thing,” Batyn said. “No unusual energy readings at all.”

“Well, nuts!” Dallas pouted.

“Uh-does this mean we still need to give blood?” Willis asked.

Kresk hauled his bulky frame out of his chair and loped over to Batyn. “By all means, get it over with,” Kresk said. “Doesn’t bother me any.” Batyn pulled a blood tester out of his pack and set to work.

“Watch where you stick that, honey,” Sweeney said as her turn came up.

Two minutes later, everyone except Joxon had been screened. “Everybody checks out,” Batyn said.

Dallas was visibly annoyed. “Hmmmph! When and if Joxon comes back, I want him detained!” Dallas stalked toward the door and vanished just before she could step back out into the main command deck.

“Maybe they’re just grabbing the annoying people,” Batyn commented.

Dallas finished stepping out the conference room door three hours later after suddenly popping back into the station. She almost barreled directly into Lieutenant Kresk.

“Back so soon,” the Tellarite said, steadying her with one of his big hands.

Dallas’ head whipped back and forth as she saw that things were not at all as they were a moment ago…or at least what she thought was a moment ago.

“They did it again!” she shouted angrily.

“No point in getting upset about it,” Kresk said.

“Why not?” Dallas asked. “I would think you’d be worried.”

“I’ve made a career of not getting too worked up about things,” Kresk said. “Fifty years in Starfleet, and I’m only a lieutenant. You know why? Because I don’t want the responsibility that comes with going higher. Leave me here until I retire. That’s all I ask.”

“And when will that be?”

Kresk smiled wistfully. “One year, three months, and 14 days.”

“You know, Starfleet has a pretty generous retirement policy. You could have left years ago.”

“True, but I don’t have anything else to do. Besides, my retirement package will be the equivalent of a captain who retires after 30 years.”

Dallas considered Kresk for a moment. Years of Starfleet Intel training experience in the field had honed her ability to get a sense about people after talking to them. And frankly Kresk seemed far too unmotivated to pull anything as elaborate as this vanishing trick.

“You’ve been here a long time, I guess,” she said finally.

“As long as this station has,” he replied.

“Confidentially, do you have any idea who could be behind this?”

Kresk looked around to see if anyone was watching, then leaned in conspiratorially. “No one,” he whispered.


“My guess is space weirdness,” he said.

“That’s exactly what Agent Batyn said,” Dallas replied.

“Smart man…er fish. If you’ll excuse, I need to see to a fluctuating power converted. Nice talking to you.” Kresk gave Dallas a little wave and headed off into the turbolift.

Dallas wandered over to a computer console and had a seat, lost in thought. She refused to just chalk this whole thing up to space weirdness. There was something else at work here. An intelligence.

“Q!!!!” she shouted at the top of her lungs.

Nothing happened. No flash of light. No appearance by a smug omnipotent being.

“Sorry. Just checking,” she said to the open air.

After another moment, she turned back to the console and pulled up a record of the various disappearances hoping to find some kind of pattern in the when, where, or for how long attributes of this case. Caveccio and Sweeney seemed to vanish slightly more often than the others, but not by much. Beyond that, every other factor seemed completely random.

Time to back up. What did she actually know?

1.) People were vanishing.

2.) After vanishing, the people came back.

3.) Um….

Hmm…kind of a short list.

Dallas considered contacting Wally, who she’d turned to for information on a number of occasions, for advice on this one, but, with this little data, he wouldn’t be much help. No. She was going to have to crack this one on her own.

With a renewed sense of determination, Dallas stepped into the turbolift and descended to Deck Six.

Charging out of the turbolift, Dallas found herself in the middle of pitch blackness. She cautiously felt her way forward, inching along until…




“AHHH!” Dallas shouted, immediately leaping away from whatever it was she’d just stepped on and dropping into a defensive crouch.

“I guess rock and roll really is dead,” Lieutenant Mickey Caveccio said with a sigh from somewhere in front of her. Gradually, she made out his shape as he leaned down and picked up some sort of abstract object. As her vision adjusted, she saw that it was…emphasis on the “was”…a guitar.

“Sorry about that,” Dallas said sheepishly as Caveccio leaned back into his chair surrounded by his banks and banks of consoles.

“There is another Stratocaster,” Caveccio replied enigmatically.

“Yeah…right,” Dallas said confused.

“I’m assuming you’re here for something other than wrecking my instruments…unless you think my guitar’s the guilty party.” Caveccio grinned broadly as he rolled over to check a readout on a nearby monitor.

“Actually, I thought you might be able to help me,” Dallas said. “No one remembers anything about where they go when they vanish, but I thought maybe we could attach some sort of small sensor or something on each of us to record where we go when we go. Is that possible?”

Caveccio thought for a moment. “I believe I do have that technology,” he said finally, rising from his chair and heading back to a small workbench in the rear of the room hidden behind one of the massive subspace relay status consoles. He pulled several tricorders out of a drawer in the bench. “We don’t have a lot of call for these things here, so I just keep them for tinkering. Now then, I just need to open the darned things.”

“Oooh. You two enjoying yourselves?” Lieutenant Commander Sweeney asked, walking up behind them. “You seem so…intense.”

“I may have a plan,” Dallas said.

“Way to go, honey,” Sweeney replied with a smile. “But I do have to say, Mickey, that those tricorders are sort of my domain.”

“Well, do you want to help me dominate them into something useful.”

“I suppose I could be persuaded,” Sweeney replied, stepping up to the workbench to help Caveccio.

Dallas stood there for a few moments as the pair worked diligently, joking with each other and completely ignoring her. “In that case, I’ll just head on up then,” Dallas said, slipping back to the turbolift. Caveccio grunted something that may have been a goodbye, but that was the extent of the response Dallas received.

“Investigation Log. Stardate 51430.3. After three frustrating days of searching, I’m still no closer to figuring out what the hell is going on around here. We rigged everyone on board the relay station with sensor units in hopes that they might be able to record where we’re disappearing to. Batyn and Ensign Willis obliging vanished a few hours later, but when they returned, the sensor logs in their equipment didn’t show a thing.

Maybe we’re really going nowhere. Maybe we’re just completely blipping out of existence only to reappear a while later. The next question would then be why? A new Dominion weapon? Weapons leave energy signatures. A spatial anomaly? There’s absolutely nothing out there. Q? He would have shown up to taunt somebody by now.

For lack of any better ideas, then, I have decided to pursue a different method of investigation…something a bit unorthodox.”

“You want to what?” Commander Joxon demanded, rising from his desk chair.

Agent Dallas leaned across the desk, getting eye to eye with the Benzite. “Do you want this thing resolved or not?” she demanded.

“But hypnotizing my crew?”

“And you,” Batyn added from the chair where he’d planted himself, feet resting on the chair across from him.

“Not a chance,” Joxon said. “I’ve been very patient with you two, but I will not allow you to mess around with our heads.”

“Oh please, could I?” Batyn remarked flatly.

“Now you listen here, Joxon,” Dallas said. “I will be reporting back to Starfleet Command about this case VERY soon, and I certainly don’t think you want to be portrayed as a weaselly little man who didn’t respect my authority in this investigation.”

“Um…no,” Joxon said nervously, seeing his hopes from a promotion or a transfer evaporating before his eyes. “I will allow the hypnosis.”

“And I will write the truth about you in my report,” Dallas said, turning on her heel and headed down the stairs to the main command deck.

“The truth about him?” Batyn asked with glint of amusement in his eyes as he followed Dallas toward the turbolift.

“Yes. That he’s a weaselly little man who didn’t respect my authority in this investigation,” Dallas replied with an evil smile as they stepped into the turbolift, which Dallas ordered to descend to the residence deck.

“Fair enough, but what about this hypnosis thing? Do you know how to hypnotize people?”

“I did some research she replied.” Actually, her research consisted of a late-night call to Wally, who was as thrilled as ever to hear from her. After several minutes of grousing, he finally gave her some useful information about what to do and how to do it. Luckily, the replicator had had “gold pocket watch” in its database.

“I’m so relieved,” Batyn muttered.

As ordered, Lieutenant Kresk reported to the spare quarters on Deck Four that Agent Dallas was using for her hypnosis sessions. He stepped through the doors and immediately found himself in a candle-lit room as soft, vaguely Celtic (not that the Tellarite had a clue what Celtic meant) music played in the background. Agent Dallas lounged on the sofa, her arms stretched out across its back.

“Is this a hypnosis or a seduction?” Kresk asked as the doors closed behind him.

“I’m trying to create a relaxing atmosphere,” Dallas snapped defensively. She pointed at the plush chair catty-corner from the sofa. “Now sit down!”

“All right! Jeeze!” Kresk said, planting himself in the chair. “Now what?”

Dallas pulled out a gold pocket watch and began swinging it back and forth. “You’re getting sleepy.”

“What is that supposed to do?”

“I really don’t know,” Dallas replied, pulling out the Starfleet Medical Hypno-Sys she’d replicated earlier. “You’re just supposed to have one when you hypnotize people. All right. I’ll be hypnotizing you now.”

Before Kresk could reply, Dallas flashed the Hypno-Sys in front of his face, the swirling patterns and colors immediately sending the Tellarite into a trance. “Now let’s go back to your disappearance…”

Kresk moved…or really was moved by a force unseen…awkwardly into position behind a desk. Ensign Willis entered the room…how was unclear…he couldn’t really see a door. As she approached, a voice both his own and not his own left Kresk’s body.

“You’re late with your payments. I’m going to foreclose.”

“And now…and now, I’m crying,” Ensign Willis said, sitting across from Agent Dallas. “I’m moving again. Away from there. How can I possibly earn enough money to save the orphanage? And now I’m a mommy. And my son is coming downstairs. Oh, he’s soooo cute…”

“And mommy made cookies,” Commander Joxon said in a child-like voice, deep in a Hypno-Sys induced trance. “Mmmm. They’re yummy and good and I eat them all and I run outside and raise my blaster to shoot at the hideous drooling Ukivukiek lurking in the darkness of the haunted mansion. I turn to my trusty partner, who is carrying her own weapon and looking around…”

“…but I can’t see anything through the darkness,” Lieutenant Commander Sweeney said, rubbing her palms against her knees as she relived the moment. “It’s out there. I can hear the breathing. Cautiously, I climb the stairs and walk into the master bedroom where Chet has surrounded the bed with candles. The covers are pulled back and rose petals are everywhere. He approaches me with a glass of champagne and holds it to my lips. I drink, but then he pushes his lips to mine, drinking the cool, sparkling liquid straight out of my mouth. Our tongues intertwine as I toss the glass aside and we fall onto the bed, our bodies hungry for each other…”

“I’ve never felt like this with anyone,” Lieutenant Caveccio said, obviously enjoying his regression. “Our clothes are practically coming off by themselves. She rolls on top of me and…I’m in a tuxedo, seated in some kind of fancy restaurant. The waiter brings out a giant covered serving dish on a cart and rolls it over to the table. After refilling my wine glass and carefully placing a napkin on my lap, he lifts the lid off of the dish and…”

“I’m dinner. I’m somebody’s dinner,” Batyn said morosely. “I’m sure he’s going to eat me. He’s picking up a big knife, and I’m sitting in a theater as the lights go down and the curtain goes up. Music starts and onto the stage comes…”

“A dancer! I’m a dancer,” Dallas said in horror as Batyn sat on the sofa bored while the Hypno-Sys did its work. “Oh dear god, I’m in a TUTU. A DAMN TUTU! I’m twirling and spinning, and…oh no, I’m doing one of those jumping split things. Oh the humanity! Make it stop.”

Agent Dallas finished listening to the last of the recordings from the hypnosis sessions and rubbed her temples, trying to make some sense out of it. The scenarios were almost dream-like, but people moved in and out of each other’s fantasies…and nightmares in some cases. What did it mean? Who was behind it? Was anyone behind it?

“AHHHHHHHH!!!!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.

“Hurt yourself?” Batyn asked from the chair opposite her as they sat in the spare quarters on the relay station. He didn’t really see much need to be there himself to listen to the recordings. They were pretty much nonsense to him.

“Just frustrated,” Dallas replied, leaning back against the sofa with a big sigh. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this confused. I still don’t even know what we’re up against.”

“Maybe nothing anymore,” Batyn said.

“What do you mean?” Dallas demanded.

“Well, no one has vanished all day. Maybe it’s over.”

“Over?!?! It can’t be over! I don’t even know what it was yet!”

“It’s a tough universe,” Batyn replied with a shrug.

Outside the station, in a plane of reality undetectable by the best of Starfleet’s sensors, the Entity grew bored with her dollies. They’d been fun for a while, particularly after the two new dolls came to play, but now she needed to move on. It was a big multi- verse. Surely, there were other doll houses to visit.

“Investigation Log. Stardate 51444.7. It’s been over a week since the last vanishing incident aboard Subspace Relay Station 208. The phenomenon seems to have stopped; however, we still have no idea what caused it in the first place. But Intel Headquarters feels we’ve done all we can do here, so we’re headed to our next assignment.”

“You’re amazingly quiet,” Batyn said from the co-pilot’s seat as the Runabout Pee Dee sped away from Subspace Relay Station 208.

“Mmmhmm,” Dallas replied distractedly, staring out the viewport as she steered the small craft.

“Something wrong?” Batyn asked, regretting the words almost as soon as they left his mouth. He didn’t really care. Why should he give her the opportunity to rant? Maybe she’d just let it go.

“This whole thing stinks!” Dallas practically shouted, turning on him.

Nope. She wasn’t letting it go.

“How can we just leave it like that? No answers. No solutions. No closure! I need closure, dammit!”

“It’s not happening anymore. Case closed,” Batyn replied.

“Maybe that’s good enough for you, but not for me. When this happens again, and I believe in the depths of my soul that it will…”

“Depths of sole. That’s cute,” Batyn remarked.

“IT WASN’T A FISH JOKE!” Dallas bellowed.

“Jeeze. Sorry.”

“When this happens again,” Dallas continued. “I will get to the bottom of it…if I have to hypnotize the entire quadrant to do it!”

“Dangerous stuff that hypnosis,” Batyn said.

“That’s why you have to trust that whoever hypnotizes you isn’t going to leave in some kind of post-hypnotic suggestion or anything.”

“Absolutely,” Batyn said. “Very important.”

“Well, I’m going to go get some sleep,” Dallas said, getting up from her chair. “Night.”

“Night,” Batyn said. “Oh, Dallas?”

“Yes?” she said, turning back to face him.


“YODEL-AAA-HEE-HOO!” Dallas suddenly called at the top of her lungs. She looked around the cockpit confused.

“Something wrong?” Batyn asked innocently.

“No. I just thought I blanked out for a second. Did anything…?”

“No,” Batyn said.

“Okay,” Dallas said, heading out of the cockpit.



Several thousand light years away, the Entity stumbled upon a funny-looking flying dolly house. It was all strange and cubey, but inside were thousands and thousands of new dollies to play with.

The dollies and their house were really ugly and drab, but the Entity could fix that easily. Some pretty, pink frilly outfits. Maybe lavender for the walls.

And then they could all have a tea party!