Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: THE TRAKS FILES
“My What Big Teeth You Have”
CREBIUS CLUSTER THE DELTA QUADRANT
Akrok clung to the wall of the corridor as once again the mighty Flarn battlecruiser Jendak rocked under the vicious assault of the maelstrom outside. Overmaster Granok had ordered the Jendak into the Crebius Cluster in hopes of passing through the portal into the fabled region of space where that tasty snack known as humans resided. But that simple plan had quickly disintegrated.
The Jendak was now screaming under the strain of the forces within the portal, and, to make matters worse, the humans from the USS Aerostar that Akrok was supposed to be helping to cook had escaped. Moving up through the culinary ranks just wasn’t worth this kind of stress. Akrok wanted to perfect his saute technique, not end up as a crispy bit of space debris. He had to get out of there.
Three Flarn officers stopped him in the corridor as the ship jerked again. “Have you ssssseen the humansssssss,” the lead officer hissed.
Petrified that he was about to be blamed for their escape, Akrok shook his head quickly. “I wassssn’t even in the kitchen when they esssssscaped,” he replied. “I was in the supply pantry looking for ssssssssssiklot sssssssssauce.”
The three Flarn officers’ eyes glazed over dreamily for a moment. “Mmmmm…human in sssssssssssiklot sssssssssauce.” They wandered off, licking their lizard lips as their brains danced with visions of the human captain and his female subordinate properly basted and spinning on a rotisserie.
Before Akrok could move on himself, he was violently tossed across the hall and slammed into the opposite wall, something that didn’t happen all that often to a species as bulky as the Flarn. Despite the protection of his hard outer covering (skin wasn’t really the word to describe the black outer layer of the half reptilian, half insectoid Flarn), getting thrown into a metal wall really hurt!
Once again, his thoughts turned to getting out of there. As a cook, he didn’t have access to most of the more military aspects of the ship, such as the escape pods, but there was one place he could go: the Overmaster’s Porta-Galley. Docked at the front of the Jendak so closely that it just appeared to be another section of the Jendak’s hull, the Porta-Galley was a five deck vessel consisting of little more than a large kitchen/dining facility and a few decks of quarters. Overmaster Granok would take out Porta-Galley, staffed with a full compliment of chefs, on those occasions when the Jendak came upon a world full of lesser-developed humanoids and the Overmaster felt like taking his officers out to eat. They’d land, grab several members of the terrified populace, then cook them up and eat them right there while enjoying the ambiance of whatever world they happened to be visiting. Ah, how Akrok loved those times.
But now he saw the Porta-Galley as his one hope for escape. As a kitchen ship, the cooks always had access. He didn’t know much about flying a spaceship, but he’d been in the Porta- Galley’s command deck once during launch (he was serving appetizers to the Overmaster and his staff). He was fairly sure he could pull it off.
As the Flarn battlecruiser bucked and squealed, Akrok made his way to the fore of the ship, passing fewer and fewer other Flarn as he went. By the time he boarded the Porta-Galley, no one was in sight. He quickly raced up to the command deck and pressed the large button labeled “launch,” just as he’d seen the pilot of the Porta-Galley do before.
The sound of the massive clamps releasing from the Jendak echoed through the Porta-Galley as the viewscreen in front of Akrok flickered to life, revealing a swirling mass of clouds and vapor. Angry streaks of energy flashed back and forth between the clouds and at the Jendak, walloping the ship with each impact.
Finally, the Porta-Galley lurched forward away from the Jendak. Frantically, Akrok looked around the helm panel, searching for the button labeled “turn around and go home.” His body went cold with panic as he realized no such button existed. Just then, a powerful blast of energy struck the Porta-Galley, tossing Akrok backwards as consoles exploded all around him. He was pitched into blackness.
Feeling his way along the deck, he crawled quickly out of the command deck and raced toward the Overmaster’s Private Dining Lounge. This had all been a huge mistake. Just massive. He never should have left the Jendak.
But surely they’d noticed by now that the Porta-Galley had launched. Anytime now, they’d been pulling him back in.
Akrok finally reached the Overmaster’s Private Dining Lounge and pulled the powerless doors open, allowing him to entered the transparent domed room. Overmaster Granok liked to have a view of the stars and sky while he ate, so this room had been built at the top of the Porta-Galley to allow a full 360 degree view.
And right now, Akrok was searching that entire view for any sign of his ship…
…but the Jendak was gone.
RUNABOUT PEE DEE VISITING A SCENIC ALPHA QUADRANT BY-WAY
“This is completely ludicrous,” Starfleet Intelligence Agent Batyn said as he stared out the viewport at the spectacle currently occurring in front of the Pee Dee.
“You’re just mad because you can’t explain it,” Batyn’s human partner, Agent Samantha Dallas replied over the music playing over the runabout’s speakers.
The Antidean sighed, his bulging eyes retracting just a tad into his fish-like skull. “All right then. You explain it.”
Meanwhile, the asteroids outside continued to bop up and down in time to the music playing inside the runabout. They definitely seemed to like Yridian funk, but Dallas was in the mood for something a bit different. She changed the music selection to a nice Cardassian waltz. The asteroids slowed, quickly adjusting their up and down movements to the tempo of the new tune.
“Oooh! I bet they’d love to hear a march!” Dallas said.
“They’re giant rocks!” Batyn said uncharacteristically firmly for his usual laid-back nature. “They can’t hear! Sound can’t travel in space anyway. This is IMPOSSIBLE!”
Dallas turn to her partner, staring at him intensely. “That’s why we’re here. We WILL explain the impossible.”
“Explain it yourself. I’m going to my tank,” Batyn replied, getting up from his chair.
“What? Are you afraid of a little mystery in your life!” Dallas called after him.
“The only mystery is why I’m in this line of work,” Batyn said, then left the cockpit for the rear of the runabout.
“Fine! Be that way! I happen to like it!” Dallas shouted. Damn fish didn’t know what he was missing. Dallas cued up something with a bit more of a beat, then turned down the interior lighting to get a better view of the show going on in front of the runabout.
Dallas awoke with a start some time later. Honestly, she had no idea how much time had passed, but the asteroids were still happily dancing along to one of the many marches in the computer’s database.
None of that was really foremost on her mind, though. Instead, she wanted to know where that horrible stench was coming from. She spun around in her chair and immediately found herself peering into a thick, smokey bank of haze.
Through the smoke swirling in front of her, Dallas could just make out a figure. Some sort of apparition. Was this the spirit of some long dead alien here to explain the dancing asteroids? Or perhaps he was here to warn her away?
“Agrndess,” the figure stated.
Dallas held up her arms and spread them wide. “I am sorry, spirit. I do not understand you, but I come in peace.”
The figure yanked some kind of long object out of its mouth. “What the hell are you talking about?” a gruff voice demanded.
Dallas waved her hand in front of her, clearing enough of the smoke away to get a better look at the strange being in front of her. Well, actually, the strange being turned out to be human male in a Starfleet Admiral’s uniform. In his hand he held a smouldering cigar, the source of the smoke and the smell.
“You Agent Dallas?” he snapped.
“Er…yes, sir,” Dallas replied hesitantly.
“Admiral Harlan Baxter,” the man said with a nod, then shoved the cigar back in his mouth. “Srrytrrdrrpnnnlktsss,” he mumbled through the stogie clamped between his teeth.
“With all due respect, sir, I don’t understand a word you’re saying.”
Admiral Baxter let out a sound resembling a growl and snatched the cigar back out of his mouth. “Better?” he said harshly. Dallas decided that no matter what, she should say yes.
“Yes, sir. But if you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing here?”
“As of now, you and your partner are on loan to me…unofficially, of course,” Baxter said, plopping down into the co-pilot’s seat beside Dallas. Baxter could see Dallas was about to ask another pointless question and headed her off. “Admiral Gitt cleared the whole thing…unofficially.”
Dallas shrugged. If her superior officer said it was okay, who was she to argue? “What can we do for you, Admiral?”
“Gitt tells me you and the fish specialize in the unusual…and that you’re the two agents least likely to be missed.”
“Well the first part is true,” Dallas said. As for that second part, she didn’t like the sound of it at all. “Did something strange happen to you?”
“Not to me. To my boy. His ship went missing in the Bermuda Expanse about 5 months ago.”
“Was it a Starfleet ship?”
“So why isn’t Starfleet handling this?”
“Can’t get a bit of help out of them. Waystation’s swamped with their damn renovation, and every ship I try to divert over there gets called away by Admiral Neilson or Admiral Phillips. Somebody doesn’t want the Aerostar found.”
“But it’s been five months…”
“I’ve already heard this excuse from too many other people,” Admiral Baxter snapped, waving his cigar in front of Dallas’ face. “I know what the reality is, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the rest of my life without a clue as to what happened to my son!”
“Sorry about that,” Baxter said, pulling his cigar off of Dallas’s cheek. “Got a bit worked up there. But I think you got my point.”
“Definitely,” Dallas muttered, cradling her burned cheek.
“Good. Now go find my boy. And don’t let Waystation know you’re poking around out there. If word gets back to Admiral Neilson, she’s liable to find some way to pull you two off the case as well.”
Baxter popped his cigar back into his mouth and slapped his commbadge. “Nnnrgzzz.”
“What was that, Admiral?” a voice asked from the other end of the commline.
“Gdddmmt!” Baxter cursed, pulling the cigar back out of his mouth. “Energize!” A moment later, the only evidence remaining of Baxter’s visit was the cloud of rapidly dissipating cigar smoke, and even that was gone inside of a minute.
Exactly thirty seconds after that, a groggy Batyn stumbled back into the cockpit, his nostrils flaring as they were assaulted by the lingering smell of Baxter’s cigars. “Uggh. What are you doing up here? It smells like roasted slime devil.”
“Oh shut up and get me the dermal regenerator.”
“Sheesh. What swam up your canal and died?” Batyn muttered, heading out to get the medkit.
Just because she felt the need to lash out at someone, anyone, Dallas didn’t tell Batyn a thing about where they were headed or why when she abruptly pulled the Runabout Pee Dee away from the mystifying dancing asteroids and pushed the vessel into warp, taking the runabout in a wide arc to approach the Bermuda Expanse from the rear, careful to avoid both Waystation and the space occupied by the none-too-friendly Multeks.
Batyn, for his part, didn’t really seem to care. He just shrugged his shoulders and went back to his quarters to float in his tank, munch on some of the tiny fish he considered food (At first, Dallas had felt this seemed a lot like cannibalism, but Batyn explained to her that eating another variety of fish was about the same as a human eating a cow. Both were mammals, but they certainly weren’t the same species), or do whatever else the Antidean did to pass the time when he wasn’t moping about or complaining about their current assignment.
At long last, Dallas slowed the vessel to a halt just beyond the swirling mists of the Bermuda Expanse and called Batyn to the cockpit.
“Let me guess,” Batyn said as he looked out at the anomaly beyond. “The clouds come together to form the image of James T. Kirk, and we have to figure out why.”
“This is the Bermuda Expanse,” Dallas said. Batyn’s eyes immediately bulged.
“Have you lost what little sense you had, human? You know what happens to ships here!” the Antidean exclaimed. In fact, Dallas did know about the Bermuda Expanse. In the last year and a half since its discovery, several Starfleet ships and other vessels had gone missing attempting to investigate the phenomenon. The Aerostar was just the latest victim, and, oddly enough, the last. Abruptly after the Aerostar’s disappearance, no other missing craft were reported. Of course, that could have had something to do with the fact that people finally got the hint and stopped sending ships there.
“No, I don’t know what happens to them,” Dallas replied. “I know they disappear, but why? Where do they go?”
“Did you think this assignment up on your own?” Batyn said disdainfully.
Dallas shook her head. “We had a visitor back at the asteroids. Admiral Harlan Baxter. His son’s ship disappeared here five months ago.” She handed Batyn a padd showing the Nebula Class starship and listing the pertinent information. “The USS Aerostar under the command of Captain Andrew Baxter was ordered to locate missing Starfleet property. We know that Captain Baxter, who had just been bumped up to captain from lieutenant…”
“From lieutenant?” Batyn interrupted in disbelief.
“It gets better. He used to be an inventory officer.”
“Who decided that was a good idea?”
“Who knows? Anyway, we know the Aerostar chased a smaller craft into the Bermuda Expanse, but neither ship has been heard from again.”
“Which is a fantastic reason for us to stay away from here,”Batyn said.
“Too late,” Dallas replied. “We’re going in.”
Batyn groaned and plopped down into the co-pilot’s seat. “All right. Tell me what we’re looking for, so we can find it and get out of here.”
“Some sign of the Aerostar or one of the other ships,” Dallas said as the runabout began to penetrate the outer layers of the Expanse. The ship jolted slightly as they crossed the phenomenon’s barrier, but otherwise the ride was surprisingly smooth. Somehow Dallas was expecting a ship-eating anomaly to be a lot more nasty.
“Hmm…let’s see,” Batyn said, poring over the sensor readouts. “Nothing…nothing…and even more nothing. Oh well. Too bad. Let’s go.” And then the sensors detected a contact. “Oh barnacles,” he cursed softly.
“Find something?” Dallas asked, sounding far too smug for Batyn’s taste.
Batyn grunted but didn’t reply as he focused the sensors on the contact. Interference from the Bermuda Expanse was making it almost impossible to tell much about the object from a distance. Of course, as Batyn expected, Dallas had no intention of keeping her distance. She read the coordinates of the sensor contact from the readout and immediately altered course to investigate.
“It’s some kind of ship,” Batyn reported finally. “It doesn’t match anything in the computer, though. I can’t tell if there’s anyone alive over there or not. The sensors are having trouble getting through the hull.”
Dallas brought the runabout in close to the larger vessel and carefully watched the image of the craft passing over them. “There!” she said pointing. “That looks like a docking port.”
“Wait! You want to dock?!?”
“We can’t beam in, can we?”
“No, but that means we leave this ship alone.”
Agent Dallas turned on her partner angrily. “Do you want answers or not?”
“Hey, I’m not the one asking the questions,” Batyn replied. That answer obviously didn’t please Dallas in the slightest. She turned back to the controls in a huff and maneuvered the runabout up to the docking port. The port on top of the runabout went through several configurations attempting to interlock with the port on the alien ship. At long last, it found one that worked and sealed the link.
“I gather I’m supposed to come with you,” Batyn said unhappily as Dallas headed to the rear of the cockpit and pulled down the ladder to the hatch. Dallas then yanked open the supply locker and tossed a phaser and tricorder at Batyn. She shot another glare at her partner, then climbed up the hatch and opened it. Batyn sighed, gathered up his equipment, then slowly pulled himself up out of his seat to follow Dallas.
After a quick trip back into the runabout for a couple of wrist beacons because (surprise, surprise) the drifting alien ship was a bit dim inside, Dallas and Batyn began making their way through the corridors of the larger vessel.
“Anything?” Dallas asked as Batyn peered at his tricorder. The Antidean shook his fishy head. “Whatever was messing with our sensors out there is present here as well, which is yet another reason we should not be in the Bermuda Expanse in the first place!”
“Whoever they are, they’re big,” Dallas observed, completely ignoring Batyn’s whining. “Look at the size of these doors.”
“Maybe they just like impressive doors,” Batyn replied as they stepped into a large chamber containing a large long table with huge chairs surrounding it. “And big chairs,” Batyn said, drawing a glare from Dallas.
Dallas moved over to one of the chairs and pulled it out. “Hmmm…that’s interesting,” she said, looking at the large hole in the rear part of the chair where the seat met the backrest.
“It’s a hole,” Batyn said flatly.
“Yes, but look at it. Normal decorative seat holes are just in the backrest, but this hole is also part of the seat.”
“So maybe whatever species built this ship has a tail or something that needs a hole placed there, so they can sit properly.”
“Okay, so now we’re up to giant aliens with tails.”
Dallas nodded. “And possibly claws.” She pointed at the table. “Plates, but no silverware.”
“Maybe it just hasn’t been put out in case people like you show up to rob them.”
Once again, Batyn’s partner ignored him. Instead Dallas turned on her heel and headed through a set of double doors at the far end of the room.
Two decks below in the Porta-Galley’s engineering section, Akrok was crouched down, his ears and nose straining for any sign of intruders, having been roused from his slumber several minutes earlier by a metallic clanging on the hull of the ship.
By all rights, Akrok should have been dead after five months alone on the powerless Porta-Galley, but he had a couple of things going in his favor. First, the ship didn’t stay powerless for long. While Akrok had been stumbling around in the dark right after the ship was blasted by the effects of the Bermuda Expanse, the Porta-Galley’s backup systems had been rerouting pathways to restore main power. Akrok had lights again with half an hour. The engines, however, were damaged far beyond his ability to repair. Of course, repairing any damage was beyond his ability. He had managed to ask the computer enough questions to learn how to transfer power from the systems he wasn’t using (engines, shields, weapons) to the systems he did need (life support, lights, doors, turbolifts), but beyond that he’d been on his own for five VERY long months. He wasn’t exactly a popular guy on the Jendak, but at least there were other Flarn around.
The second thing in Akrok’s favor was that the Porta-Galley had a fairly well-stocked pantry of non-perishable items. Of course, that left him with no meat after he went through all of the cans of deviled Maloxian in the first month.
But now there were noises on the hull. Was it the Bermuda Expanse flaring up again? It’d had been quiet after it disposed of the Jendak, but anything was possible. Or had another ship found the Porta-Galley? If the latter was the case, Akrok just hoped they were friendly…or tasty. Actually, friendly AND tasty would be perfect!
With thoughts of some fresh protein to munch on, Akrok headed out of the engineering section to start searching the ship.
The alien ship seemed to get more and more dim as Dallas and Batyn moved farther away from the kitchen and dining room, a fact that had thrilled Batyn to no end. So far, they’d found the ship’s command deck, which had told them very little except that they couldn’t read the language of whoever built this ship. The only other room of note had been another, smaller dining room located on top of the ship. The transparent dome over the dining lounge had provided a very impressive view, impressive to Dallas, anyway. Batyn just wanted to move along, preferably in the direction of the runabout.
A short time later, the pair of agents were heading down yet another corridor on what appeared to be a level of cabins. A slight movement at the end of the hall caught Dallas’ attention. She aimed her wrist beacon farther off into the darkness. Had there really been something there?
“Did you see that?”
“Hmm?” Batyn said, clearly uninterested. Since he couldn’t scan anything with it anyway, Batyn had reprogrammed his tricorder with a stimulating game of Pong.
“I think something moved up there.”
“Then hurry up, say hello, give it the usual Federation sweetness and light speech, and let’s go home.”
“What if it’s dangerous?”
“Oh NOW you’re worried about it being dangerous?” Batyn snapped, shining his light out ahead of them. “I don’t see anything. Where is it?”
“I don’t know if anything was really there,” Dallas replied.
“Then what are you getting me all worked up for?” Batyn headed off down the corridor, his gills flapping in disgust. Dallas sincerely hoped that whatever it was she thought she saw would jump out and eviscerate Batyn as he turned the corner, but it was not to be.
Maybe Batyn was right.
Then again, maybe he was wrong. For the next fifteen minutes, Dallas was almost constantly catching some kind of movement around her. A blur out of the corner of her eye, a dim shadow shifting in the distance, a rustle of wind behind her.
And alerting Batyn had proved to be completely useless. The fish was completely oblivious to anything other than his game of Pong. To be fair, he’d occasionally scan for anything resembling a Federation power signature, but the tricorder was useless beyond about five feet.
In Batyn’s view, the ship was deserted, and Dallas was paranoid. Both of these conditions were fabulous reasons to return to the runabout. Of course, he knew Dallas had no intention of leaving until she’d searched every last nook and cranny of the empty hulk.
A soft tapping noise off to her left made Dallas wonder if maybe she should follow Batyn’s advice. Leaving wouldn’t be that big of a deal. They could report back to Admiral Baxter that they’d found a ship, then he could send in several more, heavily armed officers to investigate.
Or maybe she was just paranoid.
Either way, she needed to catch up to Batyn. The Antidean had started walking faster as his Pong game intensified and had just rounded a corner. Dallas was about to quicken her step when a massive, taloned hand (although hand wasn’t really an accurate term for the black appendage) wrapped around her head, covering her mouth, and yanked her back. The creature that now held her lifted her effortlessly off of the deck and quickly moved off in the other direction, a large reptilian tail swishing behind it as it did so.
“I told him they had tails,” Dallas thought to herself just before her mind dissolved into utter panic.
Agent Batyn, meanwhile, had come to the conclusion that he really needed to program a larger database of games into his tricorder. Considering the wild trout chases that he and Dallas were regularly sent on, he’d probably need the games to keep from slipping into a bored stupor.
He glanced up from his game just long enough to realize that he’d reached the end of the corridor and was about to walk into a wall.
“So are we backtracking through each and every room this time, or can we take it that this deck is deserted and move on to the next one?” he asked as he returned to his game.
It took him about two minutes to realize that Dallas hadn’t replied.
“What? Are you not speaking to me now?”
Still no response.
“Fine. I’ll put the game away,” he said, turning around to face his partner…who was not there. Batyn was completely alone deep inside a vessel of unknown origin. “This is not funny, Dallas,” he called out.
“Agent Dallas? Samantha?”
Okay. She was definitely gone. The next question was “What happened to her?” But Batyn didn’t feel like answering that question. Instead, he high-finned it back to the runabout.
The alien (Dallas had stopped thinking of it as a creature once she realized it was of the same species as whoever built this ship) quickly carried Dallas down a level and back to the main dining room that she and Batyn had found earlier. It didn’t seem to have any interest in the dining room. Instead, it took her into the kitchen and set her down on one of the metal food prep tables. Before she could even think of trying to escape, the alien produced a large roll of a clear substance and grabbed Dallas. In a few seconds, the human woman was practically mummified in plastic wrap. She struggled for a few seconds, but quickly realized that she wasn’t getting anywhere. Who knew that plastic wrap could be so strong? At least the alien left her face uncovered, so she could breathe.
“My name is Agent Samantha Dallas. I’m with the United Federation of Planets,” Dallas said, trying to get the tall alien’s attention as it began scurrying around the kitchen gathering utensils, seasonings, etc. “Can you understand me?”
The alien seemed completely unconcerned that she was speaking. Instead, it continued puttering around the kitchen, singing as it did so. Actually, Dallas didn’t realize at first that it was singing. It was only when her universal translator suddenly began spitting out words in time to the music that she understood that fact.
“Can you understand me now?” she asked. The alien stopped in its tracks and turned on her.
“When did you learn to sssssssspeak Flarn?” it demanded.
“In a way, you taught me,” Dallas replied. Flarn? Was that its species’ name? “I am wearing a device that analyzes languages and translates them automatically.”
While the alien considered this, Dallas continued talking. “My name is Samantha Dallas. I work for the United Federation of Planets. Have you heard of the Federation?”
The alien nodded. “Yessssssss. Provider of yummy ssssssssnacks to the Flarn.”
“Snacks?” Dallas said confused. She looked at the apron the Flarn had put on (Although, how it had managed to tie those little ties with its big clawed hands, she’d never know) and got the hint. She was the snack. Okay. No reason to panic. Make a connection with it, so it will know you’re not food.
“That’s nice. What’s your name?” she asked.
“Akrok. I will be cooking you. Do you have a particular disssssh that you’d like to be eaten assss thisssss evening?”
Batyn was all of eight feet away from the hatch leading back to the runabout when he heard the last thing he wanted to hear right then: Dallas’ voice.
He could always just keep going. Just hop in the runabout, detach, and get the hell out of there. No one would ever know.
Dammit. Why couldn’t she have just let him slip away guilt- free? Batyn drew his phaser and charged off to figure out what kind of trouble Dallas had gotten herself into.
Unfortunately, Dallas’ strategy of just not telling Akrok how she wanted to be cooked didn’t work. He waited expectantly for about five minutes, then exclaimed something in Flarn that the universal translator didn’t have a clue what to do with. From the way he started rushing about gathering up more spices and such, she assumed it was a dish…a dish in which she was going to be the primary ingredient.
“Come on now, Mister Akrok. Eating me is not going to do anything for relations between our species.”
“The Flarn will conquer then harvesssst your ssssspecies. We don’t care about relationsssssss,” Akrok replied as he worked.
“Ooookay. Well…wouldn’t you like something more along the lines of seafood? My partner…”
“Ahhh! Flarn do not conssssssume ugly ssssssswimming creaturessssssss with those big ugly eyessssss and their flapping gillsssssss and…” Akrok shuddered at the thought.
Dallas cursed silently. So much for feeding him Batyn. Next argument. “Aren’t I a bit thin to eat? I’d hate to ruin your nice meal.”
Akrok stepped over and looked her up and down. Suddenly, his large tongue snaked out of his mouth as he licked up the length of her face. “Mmmmmm…perfect,” he said satisfied. He raised a large claw. “I need the meat to be fresssssh, so please try to ssssssssstay alive assss long assss possible.”
“All right! I’m here. Stop with the shouting,” Batyn’s voice said from behind Akrok. Dallas was able to look over the Flarn’s shoulder to see her partner entering the kitchen. Akrok whipped around, almost smacking Dallas with his bulky tail as he did so.
Antidean and Flarn spotted each other and screamed.
“You’re on your own!” Batyn cried and raced out of the kitchen. Akrok, meanwhile, was speechless. A walking sea monster ripped straight from the nightmares of every Flarn child! And he was allied with the humans! What if there were others like it on board? As distasteful (and downright scary) as the prospect was, Akrok had to kill the fish-man before it could alert its comrades.
“Dinner will be delayed,” Akrok said to Dallas. He scooped up a large fillet knife and charged out of the kitchen, leaving Dallas trapped in her plastic wrap cocoon. She lay back on the prep table Akrok had sat her on and tried to think of a way out of this.
“Good. Now we can talk,” an unfamiliar voice said from behind her. Dallas rolled over and found herself staring at a giant eyeball. Her experience with Batyn had taught her not to jump to conclusions, so she calmly craned her neck to look for the rest of the body the eyeball was attached to. Hmm…there wasn’t one…interesting.
“AHHHHHHHHH!” Dallas screamed.
“Woah! Just relax,” the eyeball said. At least Dallas assumed it was talking. The voice in her head did seem to be coming from its general vicinity.
“We’re the Directors,” the eyeball replied. “Just your run of the mill gang of omnipotent beings overseeing the vagaries of existence.”
“Er…nice to meet you,” Dallas said. What else were you supposed to say to an omnipotent eyeball?
“I can see you’re busy, so I’ll get straight to the point. You and your friends here are mucking about in some very carefully-laid plans that my colleagues and I have been working on for millennia now. We really need you to stop what you’re doing, go home, and don’t tell anyone about this whole Flarn thing.”
“There’s a big nasty race of bug-lizards out here that want to eat us, and you don’t want me to tell anyone? Are you nuts?” Dallas exclaimed.
“It’d really help us out. And if you don’t agree, I might just let old Akrok over there eat you.”
“Hang on. If you guys are so omnipotent, how come you didn’t know that Agent Batyn and I were going to find this ship?”
“We’re watching a whole galaxy here! Do you think we really have the time to continuously watch you and the catch of the day out there? You should count yourselves lucky. If we’d been so inclined, we could have had the Bermuda Expanse transport you somewhere you really wouldn’t want to be.”
“Still, if you’re supposed to be all-knowing…”
“We’re omnipotent, not omniscient, you twit!” the eyeball snapped. “Forget it. Just go rescue your fishy-friend and get out of here. But take it easy out in the Bermuda Expanse. It gets cranky when people do silly things like try to fight against it or jump into warp.”
The plastic wrap encasing Dallas suddenly fell to the floor around her feet. “Now be careful out there, and remember what I said about not telling your Federation buddies about the Flarn. Bye now.” The Director vanished as abruptly as he’d arrived, leaving Dallas alone and unfettered.
“Try and eat me, will you?” she muttered angrily as she drew her phaser, jacked the power setting up to maximum, and charged out the door.
One deck below Dallas, Agent Batyn was discovering that, even set at maximum power, his hand phaser wasn’t doing a hell of a lot to the rampaging lizard-thing chasing him through the ship’s corridors. With that fact in mind, Batyn had reverted to Plan A: get to the runabout and get the hell out of there.
“Go away! Go away!” Batyn cried, firing indiscriminately over his shoulder as he zigged and zagged down the shadow-filled corridors toward the safety of the Pee Dee. The loud footsteps clanging behind him gave him the distinct impression that the monster wasn’t listening.
But soon it wouldn’t matter. Batyn could see the open hatch in the floor just ahead of him. He put on a burst of speed, moving his big, scaly feet as fast as he could, then dove at the hatch, sliding along the deck and going head first into the runabout…
…at least until a giant, taloned-hand snagged his leg at the last instant, leaving Batyn dangling over the floor of the runabout as he was slowly hoisted back out into the alien ship. He looked up as best he could and immediately wished that he hadn’t. The horrifying creature was staring right back at him, its eyes filled with murderous intent.
This was it. Batyn was doomed. And it was all Samantha Dallas’ fault. Damn her for…
A sudden phaser blast slammed into the snarling creature above Batyn, causing it to stagger backwards, and, more importantly, lose its grip on Batyn, who plummeted to the deck of the runabout.
Pushing the pain of impact aside for the moment (Hopefully, there’d be plenty of time to complain about it later), Batyn scrambled to his feet and raced to the runabout control console. He immediately started the sequence to seal the docking hatch and detach from the alien death ship.
“Perfect timing!” Dallas exclaimed, jumping down into the runabout just as the hatch clanged shut.
“Oh, you made it in,” Batyn said.
“You weren’t waiting for me?” Dallas said, growing angry.
“If you hadn’t been screaming so much, I would have left without you ages ago.”
“I wasn’t screaming. I didn’t say…it must have been The Directors!”
“The big eyeball! It led you to me.”
“Oookay. Next stop, Starfleet Psych,” Batyn said as the Pee Dee dropped away from the Porta-Galley. “Hang on.”
“Wait! Don’t engage the warp…”
Too late. Batyn slammed the runabout into warp, sending the craft rocketing away from the Flarn vessel and severely pissing of the Bermuda Expanse. A massive blast of energy rocketed out of the swirling anomaly toward the runabout’s last position, but the runabout was no longer there…
The Porta-Galley, however, was.
“My meat!!!” Akrok wailed unhappily, as he watched the human female slip through his fingers. He didn’t have to worry about it for long, though, since his ship exploded five seconds later.
“For once, something went our way,” Batyn said as the Runabout Pee Dee sailed out of the Bermuda Expanse.
“Our way? We didn’t find out a thing about the missing ships, we almost got killed, and we don’t have a shred of evidence to prove the existence of the Flarn or the Directors,” Dallas said.
“The monster blew up, and we didn’t. That’s enough for me,” Batyn said, leaning back in his seat. Dallas suddenly took control of the runabout from the co-pilot’s seat and altered the craft’s course. “What the hell are you doing?” Batyn demanded.
“We may not have any evidence, but people have to be warned about the Flarn. I don’t care what that eyeball said, we’re going to Waystation!”
FOUR HOURS LATER…
“You two just stay here and cool off,” Lieutenant Sean Russell, the Security Chief of Waystation, said as he activated the force field of the holding cell. Inside the cell, Agent Dallas paced like a caged targ while Batyn settled onto one of the beds. Considering that the cell was hastily thrown together inside a giant cargo module while Waystation was undergoing renovations, the place was surprisingly cozy as far as Batyn was concerned. If only they’d bring him his tank…
“And I hope this will teach you to think before you go trying to cause a panic around here with crazy stories of man-eating lizards and talking eyeballs,” Russell continued.
“I know what I saw,” Dallas said sternly.
Russell took a step back toward the cell, flashing Dallas a smile. “Tell you what, if you want to tell me all about it, I might be able to arrange a little furlough for you to have dinner with me.”
Dallas rolled her eyes and stalked over to the other bed in the cell.
Batyn quickly raised his hand. “I’ll go!”
Russell shuddered and made a quick retreat from the cell block.