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

“Interlude of Insanity”

by

Alan Decker


STARDATE 52569.3

FEDERATION PSYCHIATRIC REHABILITATION FACILITY TANTALUS V


“Stop touching me.”


“I’m warning you. Do NOT touch me again.”


“If you touch me one more time…”

“Clive, please stop invading Samantha’s personal space,” Dr. Rell Calandra scolded gently. “It’s time to listen to Rebecca.”

“That’s AGENT Dallas,” Samantha Dallas, recently of Starfleet Intelligence, said firmly, crossing her arms and leaning back in her chair.

“You’ve been with us for six months now, Samantha,” Dr. Calandra said to the woman sitting across the small circle of chairs from her. “It’s time to dispense with the formalities and get at who we really are.”

“I am Agent Samantha Dallas. Starfleet Intel. You will refer to me as Agent Dallas. And the rest of these psychos aren’t to refer to me at all.”

“Really, Doctor,” the black-clad man known only as Zero protested. “How long are we to suffer the continual abuse spewed forth by this wretched woman?”

“And it’s MY turn to talk,” Rebecca Singer, the woman seated next to Zero, insisted.

Dr. Caladra ignored them for the moment, focusing on Dallas. “Samantha…”

“Don’t push me, Trill, or I’ll rip that symbiont right out of you,” Dallas warned.

“Agent Dallas…”

“Hey!” Clive Barrow, the fifth and final member of the therapy group, exclaimed. “If she can be Agent Dallas, I demand to be CAPTAIN CLIVE!”

Dr. Calandra rubbed the bridge of her nose. Some days she wondered what she’d ever done to get assigned to the Delusions of Starfleet therapy group. “Rebecca,” she said. “Please go on.”

“Okay,” Rebecca Singer began, taking a deep breath. “I know some of you don’t like me. And that’s okay.” Zero wrapped his arm around Singer’s shoulders as her bottom lip began to tremble. “But there’s more to me than Starfleet! I thought I was a dog once. It was the drugs talking, but still. I’m more than a Chief Medical Officer. And my Alex is coming to see me! He is!”

Dallas groaned. There Singer went again. Evidently a year earlier Singer and Zero had escaped Tantalus V in order to find a Starfleet captain they were both obsessed with. Singer thought she was in love. Zero just wanted to hold him prisoner back in his Enclave or Neighborhood or Suburb or whatever the hell the nutjob called the place. In any case, they were both captured and returned to Tantalus V, but Singer was convinced that this captain was going to come visit her any day now. Right.

Clive, meanwhile, had this overwhelming belief that he was a starship captain. He went so far as to try and take a brand spanking new Sovereign Class starship from Utopia Planetia. Dallas vaguely remembered the incident, since Starfleet Intel was brought in to figure out how he’d gotten onto the bridge of the ship in the first place. Clive never did explain it, which was enough in itself to make Dallas wary of him.

And then there was his other quirk.

“Dammit, Clive! If you poke me one more time…” Dallas snapped, turning on the grinning man.

Clive extended his arm once more, this time pressing his index finger into Dallas’ left breast.

“Poke,” Clive said giggling.

Dallas moved like lightning.

SNAP! SLAM! CRACK!

Clive’s screams echoed throughout the facility.


Agent Dallas sat stiffly in her chair, staring straight ahead as Dr. Kevin Warren, the Chief Administrator of Tantalus V, sat in his large leather desk chair and looked over the incident report on the padd in front him, shaking his head disapprovingly.

“They can’t even use the bone knitter yet,” Dr. Warren said finally. “Did you realize that, Agent Dallas?”

Dallas smiled slightly. “That was the plan.”

“Attacking patients…”

“I was provoked,” Dallas interrupted.

Dr. Warren sighed. “I had so hoped you were making progress.”

“Progress?” Dallas snapped. “There isn’t anything wrong with me.”

“Come now, Agent. You think a circus is somehow plotting against the Federation.”

“It is!”

“Uh huh,” Warren said. “Starfleet Intelligence gave me access to a few of your case files. These are not the words of a stable individual.”

“My partner, Agent Batyn, can verify every single one of those claims.”

“Then why hasn’t he?” Warren pressed.

“Probably because he doesn’t want to end up here just for telling the truth!”

Dr. Warren leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers as he did so. “Is it possible that your perception of truth is at fault?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Not even concerning the flying broomsticks.”

“No,” Dallas said darkly, her eyes narrowing.

“For someone assigned to investigate the unusual, you’re awfully closed-minded.”

“I know the truth.”

“You think you know what you believe is the truth,” Warren countered.

Dallas took a moment to sort through that jumble of doublespeak. “You weren’t there. I know what I saw.”

“Here’s what I think,” Dr. Warren said, rising from his chair and pacing the office. “By placing you at Tantalus V, we’ve effectively cut you off from everything you knew in your life. Therefore, you’ve clung all the more firmly to the dangerous delusions you started to develop on the outside. As much as we try to help people here at Tantalus V, sometimes the environment can reinforce the very problems we’re trying to resolve. I’ve come to the conclusion that what you need is outside contact to bring you back some perspective.”

“Great idea,” Dallas said. “You, me, and Agent Batyn. He’ll confirm these case files, and I’ll be on my way.”

“Do you have an emotional attachment to Agent Batyn?” Dr. Warren asked.

“He’s an annoying giant fish!”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“NO!” Dallas shouted.

“Exactly. That’s why we’ve selected someone closer to you.”

“Who?” Dallas asked warily.

“Jeffrey Howe…”

Dallas winced as Dr. Warren finished his statement.

“…your ex-husband.”


The orderly opened the door to the visitor’s lounge without a word and gestured for Dallas to enter. She stepped inside, brushing past the Nausicaan, who promptly closed and locked the door behind her.

The lounge itself was cozy enough, with a holographic fireplace crackling away against the far wall, while various cushy sofas and chairs sat around a long coffee table.

Captain Jeffrey Howe was already there, seated, legs crossed, in one of the arm chairs in his nicely pressed Starfleet uniform. Dallas swore that the four pips on his collar almost glowed on their own.

“Sam,” he said with a curt nod.

“Great to see you, too,” Dallas muttered, taking a seat on the sofa across from him. They sat in silence for several moments.

“So did you divert your entire starship just to visit little old me?” she asked finally.

“I was on leave,” Howe replied. “The Kissinger is currently mapping Sector 785-D.”

“And you’re missing that for me?” Dallas mocked. “I’m touched.”

“I didn’t have to come here, Sam.”

“I sure didn’t ask for you.”

“Of course not. You’d never ask for anybody,” Howe shot back derisively. “No one messes with the almighty Samantha Dallas.” Howe smirked. “Until now, that is.”

“You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?”

“Not really.” Howe chuckled softly. “Okay. Maybe a little.”

“Jeff…”

“You’ve always been so damn obsessed. Getting into Intel. Your Intel training. Your cases.”

“I’m not going to apologize for being focused. You knew that about me long before we got married,” Dallas said.

“We both can lay plenty of blame for what happened to us, but that’s not the point. I’m here about you.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’ve gone completely off the deep end, Sam!” Howe snapped. “Look around! This ain’t Risa!”

“You think I don’t know that!” Dallas shouted. “Do you think I want to be here! I was set up!”

“Listen to yourself. Set up? You’ve been so blinded by whatever obsession you’ve latched onto now that you’ve lost sight of the rest of your life. I don’t know what you’ve claimed to see. Dr. Warren couldn’t tell me due to doctor/patient confidentiality and all, but he hinted it was some pretty bizarre stuff.”

“Some of it was,” Dallas said.

“Fine. But is it worth this? Is what you think you saw worth being institutionalized?” Howe demanded.

“So what? Do you want me to lie to them and myself? Should I just say these things didn’t happen?”

“I want you to accept the possibility that sometimes a circus is just a circus.”

“You heard about that, huh?” Dallas said.

“Unfortunately. Ted and Dana Murphy were at the circus on Vega Two and recognized you.” Dallas nodded. The Murphy’s had been their neighbors in Philadelphia during the 18 glorious months Dallas and Howe had been married. “They said you were beamed away by a giant fish,” Howe finished.

“Antidean. He’s my partner.”

“Is he here too?”

“No,” Dallas said.

“Maybe you should think about why for a moment,” Howe said, standing up.

“He won’t accept the truth.”

“Or maybe he won’t entertain the fantasy,” Howe replied, walking toward the exit. He stopped and turned back just before he reached the door. “Oh, I almost forgot. Mom asked about you.”

“What’d you tell her?”

“That you’d taken some time off to rest and clear your head.”

“Clear my head, huh? Cute,” Dallas said.

“I don’t know,” Howe said as the Nausicaan orderly opened the door for him. “It sounds like some pretty good advice to me. See you around, Sam…if you ever let yourself get out of here.”

Dallas said nothing as Howe walked away.


Sleep wouldn’t come.

Instead, Dallas stared blankly at the featureless white ceiling of her room as she lay in her standard-issue bed. The therapists at Tantalus V encouraged the “residents” of the psychiatric facility to decorate their rooms to make them seem more warm and inviting. Dallas hadn’t taken them up on their offer. That was paramount to admitting she belonged there. And she did NOT belong there.

Or did she?

Ever since Jeffrey Howe had walked out of the visitor’s lounge, Dallas had been troubled by his words. She could only get out of Tantalus if she “let herself get out.” At first, she’d taken that as attack against her beliefs. If she had to lie and say that she hadn’t seen what she’d seen, then she would stay at Tantalus forever.

But what if Batyn, Admiral Gitt, the doctors, and Jeff were right? What if the Crazy Condor Circus was really just a circus? What did that mean for her other “experiences”? Did she and Batyn REALLY fight against a giant bug-lizard calling itself a Flarn? Did she really ride a broomstick?

Her mind fought against itself. In one moment, the memories would be clear and distinct; the next, they were as hazy as a dream. A dream. A dream.

Was it all some kind of dream?


“You’ve been very withdrawn today, Samantha?” Dr. Calandra said, gazing across the circle of chairs at Dallas as the Delusions of Starfleet group had its next session. “Would you share what you’re feeling with the group?”

Dallas clutched her knees a little closer to her chest, pulling herself into an even smaller ball in her chair. “I don’t know anymore,” Dallas replied softly.

“You don’t know if you want to share?” Calandra replied in gentle, nurturing tones. “It’s always safe to share in the group.”

Dallas looked up at Calandra, the glazed, empty look in her eyes startling the Trill therapist. “I don’t know what I’m feeling,” Dallas said simply.

“Can get back to me now?” Rebecca Singer asked. “I have LOTS of feelings!”

“We know, Rebecca,” Calandra said. “But I was speaking to Samantha.”

“My dear doctor,” Zero said, holding Singer’s hand comfortingly, “Agent Dallas has clearly stated her confusion about her feelings. Why not move on to Rebecca while our esteemed Agent collects her thoughts?”

Dallas shook her head emphatically.

“Samantha?” Calandra asked concerned.

Dallas shook her head harder.

Clive raised his good arm into the air, his shattered one lay in his lap, still encased in a regenerative sleeve. “Does this mean I can break her arm now?”

“No, Clive,” Calandra said.

“I think I will anyway,” Clive said, reaching out to grab Dallas. Dallas’ arm moved in a blur.

GRAB! SLAM! CRACK!

“AAHHHHHHHHHH!” Clive wailed.

“Doctor?” Dallas ventured as the group stared at her in shock.

“Wh…what, Samantha.”

“I know how I feel now.”

“Yes?”

“I feel happy!”

Dr. Calandra buried her head in her hands as Clive continued to scream.


Unfortunately, her happiness was short-lived. The brief joy of inflicting pain on Clive soon gave way to the general oppression of the war being fought in her mind. As each day passed, the clear memories became harder and harder to grab onto.

Was it all a dream?

If only she could access her investigation logs. Even talking to Batyn would help. He’d been with her. He knew about the Flarn. He was THERE!

But what if he didn’t remember? What if it had only happened in her mind?

Dallas’ bare room had become her sanctuary as she struggled with these issues. Other than her daily therapy sessions, she never left, instead insisting that meals be brought to her while she tried to decide once and for all if the hazy memories in her mind were in fact real.

One afternoon a little over a week since Jeffrey Howe’s visit, her internal struggle was interrupted by the facility’s comm system. No doubt it would be reporting today’s cafeteria specials or maybe Dr. Warren had an announcement for all of Tantalus V.

She was surprised when the next words were directed specifically at her.

“Miss Dallas,” Dr. Warren’s voice said.

“Y…yes?” Dallas replied hesitantly.

“You have a message waiting…from Starfleet,” Warren said. He did not sound at all pleased about it.

“I can see it?” Dallas asked surprised. Other than the visit from Jeffrey, Dallas had been effectively cut off from all contact with the outside.

“Yes…against my wishes. You can refuse to view it, though, which is what I would recommend.”

“I want to see it,” Dallas said firmly.

“I had a feeling you would. It is being transferred to your monitor. If you find the contents troubling, please contact Doctor Calandra or myself immediately.”

“I will,” Dallas said impatiently as she stood up in front of the blank monitor screen dominating the wall of her room. Most patients displayed pictures, landscapes, or the few holovision shows approved for viewing inside Tantalus V on their screens. Dallas hadn’t activated hers even once.

Her blank screen switched on, displaying the familiar blue and white Federation logo on a plain black background. The image then shift to show an older human male in an admiral’s uniform seated behind a desk. The smoke billowing out of the cigar clenched in the man’s teeth almost made him impossible to recognize. It took Dallas a full five seconds before she realized it was Admiral Harlan Baxter, the man who had sent Dallas and Batyn on the mission that led to their run-in with the Flarn.

“Sdsngon,” Baxter grunted through his cigar to someone off screen.

“Could you repeat that, sir?” a woman’s voice off-screen asked.

Baxter yanked the cigar out of his mouth. “Is this thing on?”

“Yes, Admiral.”

“Good.”

Baxter smashed the cigar into an already full ash tray on his desk, then turned his full attention to the screen.

“Agent Dallas. Admiral Harlan Baxter here. I just spoke to Admiral Gitt today. Heard about your situation. I don’t know what all you’ve got wrong upstairs there, but I wanted you to know a couple of things.

“First, I got my boy back. Aerostar made it back home about six months ago. It was beat to hell and eventually blew up, but they came home. Last, you were right about those Flarn things. They showed up about the same time and caused a hell of a lot of damage. Sorry I didn’t listen and called you a damn fool when you first told me about them. Enjoy your rest. Baxter out.”

The Admiral popped a new cigar into his mouth and lit it, sending a new plume of smoke into the air. “Shtdsdmntngff,” he snapped.

“Excuse me?” the woman off-screen asked.

“Frgtit,” Baxter said, slapping his hand down on his desk. The message abruptly cut off.

Dallas collapsed into her bed, her mind reeling. The Flarn were real. Baxter just told her so. She was right about them. She’d been right all along.

And if they were real…

…all of it was real!

And that mean one thing:

She had to get out of Tantalus V. NOW.


Dallas remained in her room until fifteen minutes before lights out. The higher-functioning patients were allowed free time to visit each other during the couple of hours before lights out when they would be secured in their rooms for the night. It was time that Dallas had never used. Until now, she had no one to visit, and no one who wanted to visit her either.

Dr. Warren fell in step beside her almost as soon as Dallas stepped out into the corridor. “Waiting for me, Doctor?” Dallas asked amused.

Warren eyed her suspiciously. “I simply want to make sure you are all right.”

“Just fine.”

“Your message…”

“I’m sorry, Dr. Warren. I’m afraid that’s classified,” Dallas said firmly.

Warren scowled. “I see.”

“If you’ll excuse me, I wanted to visit someone.”

“Yes…well. I’m happy to see that you’re trying to settle in a bit more. If your message helped in that regard, I suppose that I don’t need to know what was in it.”

“Classified is classified,” Dallas said. “Good night, Doctor Warren.”

“Good night,” Warren replied distractedly turning off down a side corridor toward the administrative wing.

Dallas continued on her way through the increasingly-sparsely populated corridors until she reached her destination.

“Come in!” an excited voice called after Dallas pressed the door chime. Dallas stepped forward through the doors into a room plastered with pictures of Excelsior-class starships and Starfleet Officers.

“Samantha!” Rebecca Singer, who was seated at the room’s small desk, exclaimed upon seeing Dallas. “I’ll be with you in one second. Just let me finish with this patient.” Singer turned her attention back to the male officer’s picture displayed on the padd in front of her. “Now you drink plenty of fluids and call me if that nose starts dripping again.”

Singer switched off the padd and got up from her chair. “What brings you my way?” she asked warmly.

Dallas checked the door to make sure it was closed securely, then leapt at Singer, pressing her lips almost right against the former-doctor’s ear. “You got out. How did you do it?”

“Got out of where?” Singer asked innocently.

“Here, you…” Dallas stopped herself before she insulted Singer. “You said in group that you and Zero escaped a year ago.”

“That was silly of us. We like it here now. We just need Alex now.”

“Yeah yeah. Whatever. How did you get out?”

“Do you want to leave us?” Singer asked, her bottom lip starting to quiver. “But but but but…”

“I need to get something from the outside,” Dallas lied. “If you help me, I’ll pick up this Alex guy while I’m gone.”

“Really?” Singer said hopefully.

“Yeah sure,” Dallas said.

“Okay. I went out to the landing field through the janitor’s tunnel.”

“What tunnel?”

“Come on!” Singer said brightly. “I’ll show you.”

“All right, but you aren’t coming with me.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

Singer led Dallas out of her room and through several hallways to a dead-end corridor off the main hall near the rear of the residential level she and Singer had been assigned to. At the end of the corridor was a small Custodial Access Hatch leading into the tunnels running underneath the various structures of the Tantalus V complex.

“I can take it from here,” Dallas said, opening the hatch. “Get moving. And don’t say a word to anybody, or NO ALEX!”

“Mum!” Singer said.

“Huh?”

“That’s the word,” Singer said, just before spinning on her heel and strolling away, humming happily to herself.

“Psychopath,” Dallas muttered to herself as she climbed into the tunnel and closed the hatch, covering the evidence of her exit.

Almost instantly, she realized the gravity of her mistake.

“UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS DETECTED. CUSTODIAL PERSONNEL MUST WEAR IDENTIFICATION BADGES AT ALL TIMES IN THE ACCESS TUNNELS. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY, OR YOU WILL BE TRANSPORTED TO SECURITY.”

“Wonderful,” Dallas muttered to herself. Singer made it sound so easy. Of course, after her escape, Tantalus V must have tightened security a bit.

Dallas was about to dive back out of the hatch when she heard voices in the distance down the tunnel. She ran in their direction just as one male voice said, “I’ll check it out.”

Dallas flattened herself against the wall of the dimly lit tunnel as best she could and waited until a red-jumpsuited member of the Tantalus V janitorial corps strolled by on his way to investigate. As soon as the man passed, Dallas pounced, leveling the custodian with a quick chop to the neck. She rolled the man over and ripped off the ID badge clipped to his jumpsuit just before the Tantalus V computer started in again.

“YOU HAVE FAILED TO LEAVE THE RESTRICTED AREA. TRANSPORT WILL COMMENCE IN FIVE SECONDS.”

That wasn’t Dallas’ problem anymore. She clipped the badge onto her Tantalus V standard-issue blue top and continued down the tunnel as a transporter sounded behind her, quickly coming upon another male custodian seated in front of a small cargo crate upon which sat a couple of drinks and several playing cards.

“You find anything, Joelle?” the custodian asked without looking up at Dallas.

“Just me,” Dallas said, charging forward.

“Hey!” the custodian cried, leaping up from his seat on an inactive scrubber-bot. He got his hands up just in time to deflect Dallas’ attack.

“Give me that!” he demanded, snatching the ID off of Dallas’ shirt.

“UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS DETECTED. CUSTODIAL PERSONNEL MUST WEAR IDENTIFICATION BADGES AT ALL TIMES IN THE ACCESS TUNNELS. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY, OR YOU WILL BE TRANSPORTED TO SECURITY.”

“That’ll fix you,” the custodian said triumphantly.

“I’m scared. Really,” Dallas said, just before swiping the custodian’s badge off of his jumpsuit.

“Give me that!”

“Nope,” Dallas said.

The custodian charged at her, but Dallas neatly side-stepped him, snatching Joelle’s ID out of his hands in the process.

“YOU HAVE FAILED TO LEAVE THE RESTRICTED AREA. TRANSPORT WILL COMMENCE IN FIVE SECONDS,” the computer blared.

“Bye bye…” Dallas glanced down at the ID for a second. “Myk. Have fun with Security.”

“Don’t you touch our cards!” Myk screamed as a transporter beam began to dematerialize him.

With Myk conscious and in the hands of Security, Dallas knew she didn’t have a lot of time. After clipping one ID to her shirt and dropping the other, she ran ahead, looking for a route out of the tunnels.

Finally, she reached a ladder leading upward to a hatch conveniently labeled “To Landing Field.”

After scrambling up the ladder and throwing up the hatch, Dallas emerged into the cool night air. As advertised, she was on the landing field just to the side of the facility’s main hanger. Out on the landing field itself, two cargo freighters sat, their running lights blinking steadily, while overhead the force field designed to prevent anyone from beaming into or out of Tantalus V hummed softly.

Dallas took a moment to consider her options. The cargo freighters were convenient, but there were no guarantees that they were currently unmanned. She needed something smaller. Creeping in the shadows around the hanger building, Dallas made her way to the entrance and slipped inside. Several small shuttles used for staff travel sat unused on the hanger deck, their hatches all invitingly open.

She sprinted into the nearest one, crouching to the floor as soon as she entered to wait for any sign that she’d been detected. It was an older model, but fast enough to get to another planet in a reasonable time and spacious enough to allow her some room to sleep once she was clear of Tantalus V and free of pursuers.

Five long minutes later, Dallas felt confident that the Tantalus V authorities were not aware of her presences. She crawled forward on her hands and knees and activated the helm console, sending the shuttle into its automated pre-flight check mode.

“How incredibly undignified,” a male voice said from behind her. Dallas whipped her head around in time to see Zero closing the shuttle’s hatch, a metal canister clutched in his left hand.

“What are you doing here?” Dallas demanded.

“Rebecca informed me of your travel plans, so I thought I would join you.”

“It’s a private trip,” Dallas replied, moving to get up from her hands and knees.

“No no,” Zero said, pointing the nozzle at the top of the canister menacingly in her direction. “I like you just like that. And don’t think I won’t use this!”

“I don’t even know what it is.”

“I picked it up from the janitorial cart in the tunnel along with this,” Zero said, pulling the ID badge she’d discarded in the tunnel out of his pocket. “Thank you for helping me through the security, by the way.”

“You’re welcome,” she muttered unconvincingly. “But your cleaning products don’t scare me,” she added, suddenly jumping to her feet.

“Oh, but they should,” Zero said with an evil glint in his eyes. “This is industrial strength cleaner! One squirt of these scrubbing bubbles, and there’ll be nothing left of you but a glistening white skeleton. Now I am coming with you!”

“What about Rebecca?” Dallas asked. “Are you willing to leave her behind?”

“We’ll return for her once I have retrieved Number 38.2. Once he and Rebecca have been reunited, we will all go to The Suburb, where you will spend the rest of your lives in my domain!”

“All?”

“Yes! That means you, Number 78.4! Sorry about that. I tried to get you 78.3, but it was already taken.”

The shuttle computer chirped, signaling that the craft was ready for departure. Holding the canister on Dallas constantly, Zero inched forward to the helm console and, using his free hand, sent the shuttle flying slowly out of the hanger.

“I’ve got a confession to make,” Dallas said. “I had no intention of getting this Alex or Number 38.2 or whoever he is. You’re wasting your time.”

“Then, Agent Dallas, you have officially become expendable!” Zero smashed his finger down on the canister nozzle, sending a stream of cleaner at Dallas.

She screamed reflexively as the chemicals splattered against her shirt, but stopped as she realized that her skin was not being eaten away. She looked down at the glop of white foam bubbling merrily away on her shirt. A moment later, it splattered harmlessly to the floor.

Dallas glared at Zero, her hands balling up into fists.

“Well…” Zero said with a smile and a shrug. “I am a mental patient.”

Dallas slapped the canister out of his hands and shoved him toward the rear of the shuttle as she jumped into the pilot’s seat. The shuttle was currently cruising a couple of feet above the landing field, quickly approaching the administration building, the doors of which had just opened allowing several security guards and orderlies to charge outside.

“We seem to have some company,” Zero said glibly.

“Tell them I said hi,” Dallas replied, her right hand quickly tapping a few commands into the console. Zero managed to get out a quick “huh?” just before he dematerialized, only to rematerialize a moment later directly in front of the mass of guards and orderlies storming out onto the landing field.

“Have fun, fellas,” Dallas said, steering the shuttle upwards and gunning the engines. The craft streaked skyward, sailing smoothly through the anti-beaming shield as it rose toward the upper atmosphere of Tantalus V.

Then everything went wrong.

Her commands into the helm console were ignored as the vessel slowed, then made a wide turn to head back toward the psychiatric facility. Dallas slammed her fists against the console in frustration.

“Attacking the shuttle won’t help anything,” an all-too-familiar voice said. Dallas turned to see the image of Dr. Kevin Warren looking at her on the shuttle’s monitor.

“You’re doing this!” Dallas accused angrily.

“It is our shuttle, Agent Dallas,” Dr. Warren replied. “Do you have any idea how upset Inventory gets if a patient runs off with one?”

“I don’t need to be your patient.”

“That statement alone says that you do.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“This is not the time or the place for therapy, Samantha,” Warren said. “And I have to say that I’m very disappointed in you. I thought we had developed some trust. We’ll discuss it when you return.”

“I’m not coming back!” Dallas shouted as Warren closed the channel. She dove to the deck and yanked open the console’s access panel, hoping to find a way to restore manual control. A frightening realization washed over her. She wasn’t an engineer. She didn’t have the slightest idea how to reroute shuttle systems.

Undaunted, Dallas started frantically yanking out cabling and isolinear chips.

For a long time, nothing happened. The shuttle continued its descent back to the landing field.

Dallas pulled out another chip, tossing it back over her shoulder.

The shuttle’s power suddenly shut down.

“Whoops,” Dallas said softly. One second later, the shuttle began to plummet.

It slammed into the landing field exactly three seconds after that.


“Stop touching me….I’m serious, Clive. Clive! Touch me one more time!”

“Okey-dokey!” Clive said, reaching over and poking Dallas.

“Clive,” Dr. Calandra said scoldingly as she once again tried to hold a session of the Delusions of Starfleet therapy group.

Ignoring Dr. Calandra, Clive poked Dallas again. “Not so tough now, are you?” Clive taunted as Dallas sat stiffly in her chair, both of her arms and her torso encased in the regenerative wraps to deal with injuries sustained in the shuttle crash.

“Samantha,” Dr. Calandra said. “We’re almost out of time, but do you have anything you want to say.”

Dallas thought for a moment. At this point, it didn’t realty matter what she said. The important thing was that once again she knew beyond any doubt that what she’d experienced was real.

“I am not insane,” she said finally. “And when I leave here, I’m going to prove it.”

Dr. Calandra just smiled condescendingly, all the while wondering how long it was going to take Samantha Dallas to realize she needed help. They’d seemed so close before the shuttle incident. Now they were back at square one…maybe even farther back than that.

“All right,” Calandra said. “I guess we’ll end there for today.”

“One more thing,” Dallas said.

“Yes, Samantha.”

Dallas’ suddenly kicked upward, catching Clive under the chin and sending the man reeling backwards out of his chair. She followed it up by slamming her foot down on the fallen man’s knee with all of her might.

“She’s surprisingly flexible for being mostly in traction,” Rebecca Singer remarked.

“Oh yes. I’d agree,” Zero said. “Lunch?”

“Sure.”


“I think I’ll join you,” Dallas said, following the pair out of the room.

Clive, meanwhile, decided to skip lunch in favor of screaming his head off.


THE END