Author: Brendan Chris
Author’s note: This book takes place immediately after the events of Silverado 1.16, ‘Catfight’. If you haven’t read that story, this one will make no sense. If you have read that story, it’s going to be confusing anyway, so here’s the deal:
Characters will be referred to using their actual names and genders, even though the gender of the body they currently inhabit is likely different. If I think it’s a good time to remind you of who’s in what body, I’ll generally use the Mind/Body format. IE, for Wowryk, who is currently in Jall’s body, I would write Wowryk/Jall.
I hope this makes sense!
Captain Christopher Stafford strode onto the Silverado bridge, glancing around uneasily. To the casual eye, it looked as though the entire bridge crew had switched positions; Yanick was at the Tactical console, straining on tippy-toes to see the display. T’Parief was manning Operations from an Auxiliary Console while Stafford sat at the helm reading “Richard Simmond’s Guide to Goulash!”
The actual Stafford, that is, the body in which Stafford’s mind was currently trapped, walked over to the command chair to sit down. At least that was the plan. Misjudging the distance between his backside and his seat, Stafford/Jeffery missed the chair by several inches, crashing to the floor.
“God DAMN Jeffery’s short, stubby legs!” he cursed loudly, fuming as his own body, currently possessed by Ensign Trish Yanick, gave out a girlish giggle.
“Hee hee,” she giggled, “you fell!”
“Yes, I f**king fell!” Stafford/Jeffery snapped, “I hate being stuck in Jeffery’s body!”
“You think you have it bad?” T’Parief/Yanick snapped back, “Look at the change I’ve made!”
“You’ve gotta admit,” Jall/T’Parief said to Stafford/Jeffery from T’Parief’s body, “at least you’re still a man! Poor lizard boy has gone from being Mr. Butch to being Miss Frilly-Panties.
“I am NOT wearing woman’s underwear!” T’Parief/Yanick snapped angrily, gripping the Tactical rail.
“Y’know,” Jall/T’Parief said to himself, casually examining the claws his new body possessed, “somehow, I just don’t find you intimidating anymore!”
“Yanick,” Stafford said, “please tell me you’re wearing men’s underwear under there?”
“Why, I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to be asking me that, Captain!” Yanick/Stafford grinned, a playful glint in her eye.
“Oh no!” Stafford shouted, jumping to his feet, “I don’t care who’s mind is in it, frilly under-things do NOT touch the Little Captain!”
“Little Captain?” Jall burst out laughing, causing Stafford to blush dark red.
“I just didn’t want to say the actual word on the bridge, OK?” he grumbled.
“What word?” Yanick asked, “You mean penis?”
“Yuck! Don’t say that!” Stafford cried.
“Say what?” Yanick giggled, moving ‘her’ hand closer to ‘her’ groin, “penis?”
“Shut up! Shut up!” Stafford was cringing in the command chair now.
“Oh look,” Yanick pulled the waistband of her underwear up from her uniform trousers, revealing frilly white panties with red hearts, “it looks like there’s ladies underwear touching your PENIS!”
“AHHHHH!!!!!” Stafford yelled, running for his ready room.
“Are we there yet?” T’Parief sighed as Yanick and Jall exchanged high-fives.
Dr. Wowryk/Jall was pacing back and forth in Sickbay, trying hard not to scream. The past day had been a complete nightmare! Fighting the Matrians and rescuing Jeffery had seemed like such big deals at the time, but they paled in comparison to her current dilemma.
She was a man.
No! She was a woman trapped in the body of a man! The single most annoying man on the ship: San Jall. She had known that men were pigs, but she had no idea how strong their biological urges were! Just looking at Crewman Setko (currently housing the mind of Nurse Veeneman) made her heart beat and her palms sweat. Nobody else was in Sickbay. She could just walk over to Kerry/Setko, push him against the wall and-
Wowryk screamed in disgust as San’s genitlia quickly became excited by the thought.
“Oh GOD!” she screamed, running frantically for her office, “Make it stop! YUCK! YUCK!”
Nurse Veeneman sighed, trying to ignore the sounds of Wowryk’s frantic praying coming from her office. She turned as Nurse Kerry walked in from the morgue.
“You don’t see me throwing fits like that!” she complained.
“Yes, but you LIKE guys,” Kerry chuckled.
“That doesn’t mean I like being one!”
“Point taken. “
Dr. Wowryk returned.
“I can’t take this anymore!” she wailed.
Nurse Kerry shot an evil look towards Nurse Veeneman, then moved closer to Wowryk/Jall.
“What’s the matter, big boy,” she breathed, “can’t handle this much woman?’ Kerry’s breasts were soon pushing up against Wowryk’s chest.
“Wow,” she said, “that just drove all the filthy urges right out of me! Thank you SO much!” she hugged Kerry tightly than went back to work, a smile on her face.
“That’s funny,” Kerry said, “that usually drive guys up the wall. I wonder what the problem with him…uh, her is?
“Oh, who the hell cares!?”
Simon Jeffery, trapped in the body of Noel Wowryk, climbed down from the upper level of Main Engineering down to the main deck.
“Frit, Ah need those nacelle pylon stress readouts ASAP!” he cried out, “Frat, Ah still want hourly status reports on those damaged warp coils! Frek, Ah want…Ah want….um….ohhhh” Jeffery paused, catching the reflection of his/Wowryk’s body in the magnetic constrictor control console.
“There he goes again,” sighed Frit, “Frek, go give him a smack!”
Frek walked over to Jeffery.
“Do I have to say the words?”
“It’s his orders,” Frit pointed out.
Frek sighed, then slapped Jeffery half-heartedly across the face.
“Perverted, atheist hethen,” he said flatly.
“That’s heathen!” Frit hissed. But Jeffery was already shaking his head, tearing his gaze away from the reflection of Dr. Wowryk’s body in the display panel.
“Thanks, Frek,” Jeffery gulped, fighting the urge to look down at Wowryk’s cleavage.
“I don’t understand,” Frek said, “You’ve got the opportunity of a lifetime! You’re in your girlfriend’s body! You can do anything you want with her!”
“Ah’ll do no such thing!” Jeffery said firmly, “This is her body, and Ah have to respect her wishes!” He lowered his voice, “And Ah gotta admit, the longer Ah’m trapped in a woman’s body, the less women interest me.”
“Thinking of joining the other team?” Frek asked with a grin.
Jeffery shuddered, then pulled Wowryk’s hair away from his/her face.
“Ah could never do that. Better to just give up on sex all together.”
“You’ve definitely been in Wowryk’s body a bit too long,” Frek said worriedly
“Ah miss my manhood!” Jeffery wailed, tears flowing from his/her eyes.
This time when Frek reached up to smack Jeffery/Wowryk, it was genuine.
“Snap out of it! You’re acting like an emotional wreck!” he snapped.
“Watch it!” Frit called out.
Jeffery/Wowryk struggled to reign in his/her tears.
“Now, are you ready to do that structural integrity field diagnostic? Frek asked.
“Good. I bet talking to Sylvia will cheer you up.”
“Ah dunno, she still kinda gives me the creeps!”
Frek and Jeffery walked over to the Master Systems panel.
“Um, Sylvia?” Jeffery asked timidly.
One corner of the panel changed to display the smiling face of a middle-aged woman with shortish blond hair. She smiled at Jeffery.
“Hello Simon!” said Silvia, the now-sentient main computer of the Silverado, “What can I do for you today?”
“Um, we need to run a Level 2 diagnostic on the SIF generators. Please.”
“Sure!” Sylvia smiled, “I’ll get started right on that. You wanna initialize the diagnostic sub-routines out there?”
“I know the procedure,” Frek grumbled.
“Be polite to the nice computer,” Jeffery said nervously, “don’t make her mad.”
“Oh Simon, relax!” chuckled Sylvia.
“Ya hafta admit,” Jeffery said, “not many Chief Engineers have to deal with a ship that talks back!”
“That’s not really true,” Sylvia piped in, “Ships ALWAYS talk back. But now, instead of getting an annoying error message repeated over and over again, you’ll have me here to help you out with whatever problems you have.”
Jeffery considered that for a moment.
“Ah can see that how that could be an advantage,” he admitted.
“Good. Then I suggest you switch SIF Generator 3 to backups and do a complete refurbishment before the entire starboard saucer crumples like a tin can.”
Back in his ready room, Stafford was staring at the bathroom. He really had to go. REALLY had to go. He hadn’t taken a whiz in over a day. Because to do so would mean touching Jeffery’s body in places he really didn’t want to think about.
“Captain,” it was T’Parief’s deep voice on the comm channel, but the flippant tone was 100% Jall, “Priority One message coming in from Starfleet Command.”
“Oh, so now they the want to talk!” Stafford grunted, “pipe the overblown gasbag into my ready room.”
“I’m already online,” snapped Admiral Edward Tunney from Stafford’s terminal.
“Oh…” Stafford trailed off, “How much of that did you hear?”
“All of it.”
“Well, um, fortunately I’m not really Captain Stafford! Yeah. I’m, uh Simon Jeffery,” Stafford tried to mimic Jeffery’s accent, “Ah’m just waitin’ for the Captain.”
“Give it a rest, Stafford,” Tunney snapped, “I’ve already read the report on your little body-switching escapade.”
“OK, let’s get this over with. First off, Starfleet is pleased with your performance in the whole Matrian thing. You’ve ended a threat to Federation security, however minor, and freed thousands of slaves. Good work.”
“Soo,” he said, “Starfleet admits that the Matrians were a threat from the beginning and that they were wrong from the very start?”
“Wrong about what?” Tunney sighed again.
“The whole Matrian thing! Admiral Grant didn’t believe us when the first M-SID sent everybody into Dreamland! And after the other two ships were attacked, you decided that the Matrians were just ‘trying to communicate’ and that we shouldn’t bother them! Well, sorry Admiral, but it turned out they were a hostile race ruled by a despotic leader that had aspirations of galactic domination! We TOLD YOU they were dangerous right from the start! AND YOU DIDN’T LISTEN!”
“And your point, Captain?” Tunney said calmly.
“I want an apology!”
“Starfleet Command does not apologize for being cautious.” Tunney replied.
“Cautious? CAUTOUS!??!!” Stafford screamed, “If you were being so damned cautious, you would have sent more than one ship out here the minute we found out Matrian space was so close! You would have sent an official Ambassador to Senous to address their plea for help! You weren’t being cautious, you just wanted us out of the way!”
“Are you finished?” Tunney asked.
“Good.” Tunney cut him off, “Your orders are to proceed to Matria Prime to provide a Federation presence as the political situation stabilizes.”
Stafford stared blankly at the screen.
“What??? We just left Matria!” he finally said.
“You shouldn’t have,” Tunney said pointedly, “after having the kind of impact on their society that you’ve had, which, by the way, is a borderline Prime Directive violation, you should have stayed there to await further orders!”
“We’re in no shape to stay out here!” Stafford objected, “The ship’s smashed, it’s gonna take us months to get home, and this whole body-switching thing is getting old fast!”
Tunney fought hard to hold back a chuckle.
“I, uh, hear your Chief Engineer is stuck in his girlfriend’s body,” he said with a grin, “How’s that working out for him?”
“She’s making him wear a blindfold in the shower, so he can’t see her body naked,” Stafford said flatly.
“Have fun with that,” Tunney said. His grin faded. “The starship Wasagaming is en route to you at high warp. Ambassador Owens is aboard. They’ll be at Matria Prime in three weeks.”
“Why are you sending an ambassador to Matria?” Stafford asked.
“To address the Matrian and Senousian applications for Federation membership.”
“Newly appointed Queen Anselia and the Matrian Council of Governors have put in a request for Federation Membership. So have Prefect Telfidi and the Ruling Council of Senous.”
“You can’t seriously be thinking about letting the Matrians into the Federation!” Stafford said, “They’re power-mad dictators!”
“As I recall from your report,” Tunney said, “They originally had a very fair, reasonable plan in mind. It was only under the influence of Mistress Laurette that they started their aggressive behavior.”
“There’s no discussion here, Captain,” Tunney said, “You are to hold station in the Matrian system until the Wasagaming arrives. Keep an eye on how things are developing on Matria and Senous.”
“But the ship-“
“We’ve got you booked into a priority berth at the Deneria Dry Docks. Once the Wasagaming arrives, you’ll proceed to Deneria for repairs, with a brief stopover at Waystation.”
“I’m sure your engineers will do all they can to effect repairs during your stay at Matria.”
“Good. Keep up the good work, Captain.” Tunney’s face vanished, replaced by the ‘End Transmission’ logo.
“That jerk,” Stafford muttered.
Commander Noonan sat back in his chair, having finished his inspection of Stellar Cartography. The crewmembers down there were having a great time, charting the unexplored region of space Silverado was in. Their enthusiasm was only slightly dampened by the fact that several of them were in the wrong bodies.
Stafford stepped on to the bridge and sat in his chair, biting his lip and crossing his legs.
“Still not able to pee, sir?” Noonan asked with a smile.
“Shut up,” Stafford growled.
“What, can’t go to the can?” Jall/T’Parief laughed, “why not?”
“There’s no problem.” Stafford said firmly.
“I think,” Yanick/Stafford said, facing the screen, “that Chris is scared to go to the bathroom ‘cuz it would mean touching Jeffery’s penis!”
“STOP SAYING THAT!!!!” Stafford shouted.
“Really Captain,” Noonan said, “in this day and age we’re supposed to be above such things. It is merely anatomy. Touching it, with our without sexual intent, is merely a matter of consent and maturity.”
“You can’t hold it forever,” T’Parief/Yanick said with a grin.
“Yes I can!”
“The important thing,” Fifebee piped in, “is to avoid thinking about running water. Waterfalls, rivers, the fountain in the arboretum-“
“YOU ALL SUCK!” Stafford shouted, running for the bathroom, “COMPUTER! I NEED A PAIR OF RUBBER GLOVES, STAT!”
“The name’s Sylvia, buster!”
A few minutes later, Stafford returned to the bridge.
“That,” he said quietly, “was not fun.”
There were assorted chuckles and guffaws from the bridge crew.
“Laugh all you want!” he snapped, then turned to T’Parief/Yanick, “Don’t forget that Jall’s gotta go sometime too!”
T’Parief immediately stopped laughing.
“Oh, I so don’t wanna do this,” Stafford groaned, “Ensign Yanick, turn us around. Set course for Matrian space.”
“We’ve been ordered back to the Matrian system to keep an eye on the situation there until the U.S.S. Wasagaming arrives.”
The response was unanimous.
Chapter Two: ‘Interlude’
Noonan and Jeffery sat in the conference room while Sylvia watched from the wall panel. Stafford had declined to be present, claiming he knew enough about the ship’s status already. Noonan however wanted to be up to date. He also found the combination of Jeffery’s accent and Wowryk’s voice to be particularly amusing.
“We have seven minor hull breaches still open,” Jeffery/Wowryk was saying, “not counting the big chunk missing where the starboard airlock used to be. We can’t seal up the breaches at warp and since those sections have been closed off anyway, we were just gonna wait until we got home to fix them.”
Sylvia took this opportunity to speak up.
“We’ve also got micro-fractures in ten sections and two of the SIF generators need to be rebuilt!”
“Yeah,” Jeffery muttered, “That too.”
“I see. And the damaged phaser arrays?”
‘They’re not damaged. They’re GONE. Rebuilding them isn’t an option; we need new phaser strips installed.”
“But you will be able to repair the hull while we are in the Matrian system.”
“Aye, most of it. But ye should know that three of the warp coils in the port nacelle can’t be repaired without a starbase. They need to be completely rebuilt.”
“So even with repair time at Matria, we won’t be able to exceed Warp 3 on our trip home.”
“Nope. I can give you Warp 4 for a short time, but with the damage to the coils and the plasma grills, it won’t take long for plasma leakage to start eating the nacelle from the inside out.”
“And I’m against that!” Sylvia said vehemently.
“Sylvia, would you excuse us for a moment?” Noonan asked calmly.
“Of course.” Sylvia vanished.
Noonan stood near the window.
“How is your staff reacting to the computer’s new…personality?”
“They’ve had some time to get used to it, she’s been acting mom-ish for months,” Jeffery said.
“I sense a but.”
“Sorry, Ah had beans for lunch.”
Noonan looked blankly at Jeffery for a second.
“But. Not ‘butt’.”
“Oh. Aye. But. Well, it’s weird, y’know? Ah mean, suddenly it’s like I’m treating a patient rather then a starship! Most of my staff doesn’t have what ye’d call a bedside manner.”
“How fitting then that you currently wear the body of our doctor.”
“Har-de-har-har.” Jeffery groaned, “Seriously, Ah don’t think this is good. How do we know what she will and will not do? If we’re captured by evil aliens and Chris calls for an auto-destruct, would she do it?”
“She is constrained by the limitations of the computer’s programming.”
“Aye, for now. But there are very good reasons for WHY Starfleet has taken great pains to prevent this from happening. It’s dangerous to give a computer this much power. Haven’t you ever watched ‘The Terminator’ or ‘The Matrix’?
“What then do you suggest?” Noonan asked cautiously.
“Get rid of her. Yank that gel-pack out of the computer core and ship it to the Daystrom Institute. Express delivery.”
“That is a definite option. But what if she does not wish to go? She is clearly a sentient being, and thus we cannot force her to be submitted to studied in a laboratory.”
“Ah know. But at the very least, we have to set some limits with her!”
“Very well. I will speak to the Captain.”
“Speak loudly,” Jeffery advised.
“Why do you say that?” Noonan asked.
“‘Cuz Ah think he’s getting to used to having her around. He’s always been a momma’s boy deep down.”
“I will take that under advisement.”
Stafford sat with Jeffery, Jall, Yanick, T’Parief and Fifebee in Unbalanced Equations. Their goal? Get seriously drunk.
They’d done a lot of that since boarding Silverado, Stafford thought to himself, but at least this was quiet, companionable drinking. Nobody would be having their drinks switched, nobody would end up injured or in the brig and hopefully nobody would grow extra breasts this time around.
“I will admit,” T’Parief/Yanick muttered, downing a Paralyzer, “My synthehol tolerance is much better in Yanick’s body than it was in my own.”
Jall/T’Parief giggled insanely.
“I, hee-hee, see now, ha-ha, why you never could <giggle> drink without falling over!” he laughed.
T’Parief glared at Jall. Yanick put a comforting arm around his shoulders. T’Parief immediately jerked away nearly tipping his chair.
“What??” Yanick asked, looking very hurt.
“I don’t want him touching me!” he snarled.
“But it’s ME!” Yanick wailed, tears spilling down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” T’Parief said as gently as he could, “but you must understand why I would object to having that man’s arm around me! No offense, Captain.”
“Well, if I can deal with putting my arm around a woman…” Yanick started.
“Talk about seeing things from a different perspective,” Stafford muttered to Jeffery.
“Shut up! At least ye haven’t switched sexes too! The rest of us are kinda havin’ a hard time of it!”
“You think you’ve got it bad? I can barely pee! Never mind how I’m supposed to…uh, relieve tension without feeling like I’m giving you a…well…you know…”
Jeffery eyes widened as he gasped in shock. On Wowryk’s face, it was a surprisingly familiar expression.
“Don’t ye even THINK of-“
“This isn’t easy for me either-“ Yanick snapped at T’Parief.
“All I’m saying is-“ objected T’Parief.
“Do I, heh-heh, get any say in this?” slurred Jall, “I mean, if you want some lovin’ Trish, I can take care of that right now!”
“DON’T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT TOUCHING MY BODY YOU PERVERT!” Stafford roared.
“This is fascinating from so many different aspects, “ Fifebee giggled.
“How am I supposed to date you if I can’t even touch you?” Yanick cried.
“Hey! Cut that out!” Stafford shouted, “If anybody sees my body crying-“
“She’s upset, Captain! Show some f**king sympathy!”
“Screw sympathy!” snapped Jeffery, flopping down in his chair, “My girlfriend won’t let me touch her anyway, so why the hell should Ah feel sorry for ye?”
“You will address her with respect, little woman!” T’Parief growled, moving menacingly towards Jeffery. At least he tried to. A short, pretty blond girl doesn’t have the same impact as a 7-foot tall lizard.
“Bring it on!” Jeffery/Wowryk snapped.
“ALL RIGHT, STOP IT!” Stafford screamed, “We are professional Starfleet officers and I will not have us reduced to a pack of bar brawling savages! Now sit down and drink your f**king drinks and for God’s sake try to be happy over the fact that at least we’re alive and together!”
There were grumblings and muttered apologies as everybody sat. Jall continued to look around in a drunken stupor.
Dr. Wowryk walked into the lounge, just finishing her Sickbay shift, a shiny blinking gizmo attached to her belt.
“Hi Doc,” Stafford said, trying to force cheerfulness and failing, “what’s that thing?”
“Oh, it’s a meiosis inhibitor.”
“It represses the functioning of…of certain body parts to reduce hormone production and cut down on the disgusting urges this FILTHY MALE BODY FEELS!”
“Hey?” Jall slurred, “Whadoyatink yer doin’ messin’ around with my body?”
“Relax, heathen, it’ll be fine when you get it back!” She started running her tricorder over Jeffery.
“What are you doing, Doctor?” Fifebee asked, curious.
“Checking for fingerprints.”
“I see,” Fifebee thought for a moment, “Has there been a crime?”
“Maybe. Only if Simon was touching himself in places he shouldn’t. AH-HAH!” Wowryk snapped, pointing a damning finger at Jeffery.
“What??? I didn’t do anything!”
“There! Right below the left breast! One of MY, uh, YOUR fingerprints!”
“But I didn’t-“ Jeffery stammered.
“YOU FILTY PIG!” Wowryk/Jall slapped Jeffery across the face.
Typically, a Noel Wowryk slap would sting a little and remind the offending man that messing with the Doctor meant trouble. What Noel hadn’t counted on was having a man’s upper body strength. Jeffery/Wowryk’s head snapped to the side as blood starting spilling from a split lip.
“Oh dear,” Fifebee sighed, “here we go again.”
“What do you think you’re doing?” Stafford snapped, pushing Wowryk/Jall away from Jeffery/Wowryk.
“Captain, watch out!” T’Parief called.
Stafford turned just in time to see Jeffery jumping towards Wowryk. T’Parief lunged, catching him below the knees and sending him crashing into Stafford, who fell back onto Yanick’s lap. Jeffery kicked T’Parief off and lunged again for Wowryk, missed and hit Stafford/Jeffery square in the crotch. Stafford screamed in pain, pulling back to give Jeffery a good shot in the gut, hitting Yanick in the face with his elbow in the process and drawing cries of pain from both. Hearing Yanick in distress, T’Parief lunged straight at Stafford, pushing the table out of the way and sending Jall sprawling to the floor, still giggling drunkenly.
“Steven to Security!,” called out the bar manager in a panic, “Brawl in the lounge! Better bring some butterfly nets too!”
Yanick fought to open her eyes against a pounding headache. The last thing she remembered was pile-driving Stafford right before the sound of phaser fire. Forcing her eyes open, she found herself lying on a cot in the brig.
“Oh, poo,” she muttered, climbing unsteadily to her feet and failing to keep her balance. Damn Stafford and his long legs anyway! She could feel a throbbing pain in her/his nose, which had swollen considerably.
“Am I dead?” croaked her own voice as T’Parief rolled over on the opposite bunk. Yanick was horrified by the bruises on her face and by the fact that T’Parief hadn’t pulled back her hair before being knocked out…tufts of frizzy blond hair shot out from his head like straw.
“No, but I think we’re going to wish we were.”
“Rise and shine, little miscreants,” called the pleasant voice of Matthew Noonan, “I hope everybody had a good night sleep.”
“F**k off,” groaned Jall.
“Ah’ll second that,” muttered Jeffery, his speech slurred by his swollen lip. Stafford was sprawled in the opposite bunk with a black eye.
“I’m sure you’re all eager to atone for your poor behavior, and so Fifebee and I have compiled a disciplinary plan to take effect-“
“Take your padd and shove it,” Stafford grumbled.
Noonan raised an eyebrow.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Let me out. Now. These are extenuating circumstances. The only discipline we’ll be having will be apologies all around. Then we’re going to Sickbay.”
“Very well.” Noonan gestured for Ensign Dar’ugal to drop the force field. Stafford stumbled over to Noonan, swiping the padd from his hands and reading the report that had already been completed.
RE: LOUNGE BRAWL
CHRISTOPHER STAFFORD (CAPTAIN)
SIMON JEFFERY (LT. CMDR)
T’PARIEF (LT. CMDR)
SAN JALL (LT.)
TRISH YANICK (ENSIGN)
NOEL WOWYK (DOCTOR)
ACTION: ABJECT APOLOGIES FROM ALL PARTICIPANTS.
COMMANDER MATTHEW NOONAN
U.S.S. SILVERADO, NCC-135060
Stafford shook the padd menacingly in Noonan’s face.
“You! You…” He said slowly, “You’re just weird.”
“Next!” called Nurse Veeneman in a bored voice as Yanick/Stafford sat in the small waiting area.
“Finally,” Yanick muttered, getting up then taking a seat on the bio-bed.
“Hold still!” Nurse Kerry was snapping at Jall/T’Parief as he sat with his mouth open, razor-sharp teeth glinting in the light.
“Hey San,” Yanick said, her voice slightly nasal due to her broken nose, “Whatcha doin’ here? You were passed out for the whole ruckus last night!”
“I know,” Jall replied as Kerry pulled her hand out of his mouth to pick up a piece of equipment, “but I keep biting my tongue! F**king Gorn teeth-URK!”
Kerry had pulled his lower jaw down and forced her hand back in.
Yanick fought to sit still as Veeneman started running a bone knitter over her nose.
“Poor Noel. It’s sort of her fault, but she didn’t know her own strength,” she finally said, unable to keep quit, “I hope Chris isn’t pissed at me for breaking his body,”
“Uh ink a I a aile,” Jall replied, trying hard not to bite Nurse Kerry.
“Yeah, I guess we’re all really pissed about this. Y’know, I never realized how bad men smelled until I was trapped in this body,”
“Eee on ell!”
“You’re right. As interesting as all this is, I just want my own body back. Do you think we’ll figure out someway to do it?”
Veeneman finished with Yanick’s nose and started running a dermal regenerator over the bruisers.
“A u ean unina ee?”
“Yeah, all I can really do is hope that Fifebee can come up with something. I mean really, how hard can it be/”
“Ur a ukin itch!”
“Really? I dunno, I don’t think this nail polish looks good at all. Something about the Captain’s hands just doesn’t go well with nail polish. But thanks for the compliment. “
“All done,” Veeneman reported.
“Thanks!” Trish said, walked out, “Later Jall!”
Kerry pulled her hand out of Jall’s mouth.
“I’m impressed,” she said, “I couldn’t understand a word you were saying. I wonder how Trish did it?”
“She didn’t,” Jall smirked, “Otherwise she would have punched me when I called her a bitch. Man, that woman loves to talk so much she doesn’t even need anybody else to have a conversation!”
Chapter 3: ‘Old Enemies, New Allies??’
Captain’s Log, Stardate 56445.5
“Against my better judgment, we’ve returned Matrian space. I’m completely and totally surprised to say that not much has changed in the few days we’ve been away. Totally shocked. Wow Starfleet, you sure were right about things changing here!”
“Sarcasm ill becomes you, Captain,” Noonan said from his chair, a small grin on his face.
“I think it becomes him very well,” Jall chucked. He had moved permanently to one of the bridge’s Auxiliary consoles as the standard Ops console left no room for T’Parief’s tail.
“Thanks, Lieutenant,” Stafford said dryly.
Silverado was hovering on the very border of Matrian space, her scanners reaching deep in to look carefully at the Matrian star system. Her hull was still breached in several sections including a bite-shaped chunk missing from the starboard saucer. The inner workings of the port nacelle were visible thanks to a missing section of the plasma grill. Her shields were up at full power though, and enough weapons remained functional to make her a match for any single ship the Matrians threw at them. Of course, another Matrian fleet would quickly reduce her back to scrap.
“I’m picking up heavy traffic in and out of the Matrian system,” Fifebee reported, “Mostly Matrian transports headed for Senous. I’m also picking up some Senousian ships and two types of vessels that we are not familiar with.”
“Other species the Matrians were enslaving, no doubt,” Noonan said.
“Tactical analysis, Mr. T’Parief.”
“There are still Matrian vessels patrolling the borders, however they appear to be undermanned at best. I am picking up several scouts and a few cruisers. More than a match for us if they were to join forces against us.”
“Let’s hope we don’t have to worry about that,” Stafford said, trying to sound confident, “After all, we’re here to assist ‘potential Federation members’.”
“Yeah,” Jall cracked, “And Starfleet’s been such a great judge of character with these people so far. I’m sure everything will be JUST fine. Up until they decide they’d rather have us as submissive slaves!”
“Jall, even though I completely agree, I will now berate you for insubordination,” Stafford grinned, “Y’know, on general principal. So shut your yap!”
“Ok, now it’s getting weird,” Stafford grunted, shifting in his seat, “All, right, let’s do this the diplomatic way this time. Mr. Jall, hail the Matrian system and request permission to enter their space.”
“You’re pushing it.”
“We’re getting a reply.”
Once again the main viewscreen was filled with the head and upper body of yet another beautiful Matrian woman. This one had long, flowing red hair and bright green eyes. Lipstick was splattered across her lips while her eyeliner was smeared all over the bridge of her nose. Her hair looked dry and tangled, rather than soft and luxurious.
Fortunately, this made it easier for the guys to control their hormones this time around, as opposed to the drool festival that had occurred when the Silverado had encountered the Senousians.
“I am Queen Anselia of the Matrian Republic. You are most welcome to enter our space. We have a berth for you at Docking Station 1. Please accept our most sincere apologies over your last encounter here and our thanks for settings us back on the right track.”
Stafford and Noonan exchanged glances. This greeting was a little TOO warm.
“Thank you, your Majesty,” Stafford said, standing and straightening his uniform in the approved Starfleet style, “We appreciate your gracious invitation and hope that this will usher in an era of peaceful co-operation between our peoples.”
“Thank you, Captain. Matria Prime out.”
As soon as Anselia disappeared from the screen, Stafford’s pleasant expression did likewise. Jall and Yanick burst out laughing while T’Parief absorbed himself in his tactical scans.
“Man what was she smoking when she did her lipstick?” Yanick forced out between giggles.
“I know!” Jall gasped, “I could do better than that on any day!”
“It does appear that a trained chimp would have better makeup skills than her,” Fifebee said, “She’s a mess.”
“Why aren’t they pissed at us?” Stafford wanted to know, settling back in his command chair, “We did destroy their fantasy world.”
“Maybe they are,” T’Parief grumbled, “We must remain vigilant.”
“Hah!” Jall broke into another fit of giggles.
“What’s so funny?” Fifebee wanted to know, “I’m pretty sure that vigilance would be a wise idea, and this crew is certainly capable of it!”
“Oh, I know we are,” Jall laughed, “I just thought it was funny seeing Trish, well, y’know Trish’s body, using big words like ‘vigilant!”
“Hey!” Yanick objected, standing up and putter her hands on her hips, “like you’re so erudite!”
Everybody looked at Yanick blankly. Finally Stafford looked over to Fifebee.
Fifebee gave a dramatic sigh.
“It means,” she said, “’ having or showing profound knowledge’”
“Oh,” Yanick frowned, “I thought it meant ‘liking to use big words,”
“Same thing,” Fifebee admitted.
“Right,” Stafford said, “Yanick, take my hands off my hips please. Try to look, I dunno, more manly while you’re in my body.”
“Even YOU aren’t particular manly in your body!” Jall cracked.
“OK, y’know what? F**K YOU! Yanick, set a course for Matria Prime, Warp Two.”
Silverado glided into orbit of Matria Prime. Things hadn’t changed much around the war-torn planet. There were still several out-of-service space stations and derelict ships drifting in orbit and scans of the planet showed population concentrations on the few remaining mega-cities. The restored orbital facilities though were a buzz of activity with Matrian, Senousian and unidentified ships docking, loading passengers and departing only to return later for a fresh load. Thousands of former slaves were being sent home, now that the Matrian Empire had fallen. Most of them had little memory of their time spent under control of the M-SIDs. What memories that had were fading like, well, like bad dreams.
Silverado eased into her ‘berth’, nothing more than a single docking arm sticking out from the Matrian space dock complex.
“Stay alert,” Stafford muttered to T’Parief, “The minute any ship makes an aggressive movement I want us away from that station with shields up and weapons hot.”
“I’ll keep the energy cells for the pulse cannon charged,” T’Parief replied.
“Hail from the Queen,” called Jall.
Stafford sighed then forced his/Jeffery’s face into a pleasant expression.
“Captain,” Queen Anselia said, “I hope you’ve found your berth accommodating?”
“Oh, it’s fine,” Stafford replied, “What can we do for you?”
“We would like to invite you and your officers to a reception tomorrow evening. It is our hope to demonstrate that you no longer have anything to fear from us,” the Queen replied.
“Um, thank you,” Stafford said, “We accept. In the meantime, could you send us a summary of what’s been happening? It would help if we were more familiar with the situation.”
“Of course. Anselia out.”
“Fifebee, you and Jall will take a look at that data as soon as it comes in. Stafford to Jeffery.”
“Jeffery here,” came the voice of Dr. Wowryk.
“Simon, get one of the shuttlepods ready. Now that we have some time, let’s take a closer look at the damage, shall we?”
“Ah was just thinking the same thing.”
Stafford jumped in the turbolift and asked to be taken to Shuttlebay 2. He was surprised slightly by the lack of vocal response from the computer, even though the turbolift itself moved into immediate action.
“Sylvia?” he asked, “Are you there?”
“Of course I’m here, Chris,” came the reply, “Where else would I be?”
“I, uh, dunno,” he said, “it just seemed kinda quiet in here when you didn’t say anything.”
“That’s funny, I thought you found it annoying as hell when I kept ‘butting in’,” Silvia said pointedly.
“Well, yeah,” Stafford muttered, “But, y’know, now you’re a member of the crew and not just a machine that Jall was messing around with.”
“Well, it’s nice that you feel that way, Chris,” Stafford could almost hear the smile in Sylvia’s voice.
“So,” Stafford went on, “Keeping busy?”
“Yup. Right now I’m responding to twenty-four different crew requests, ten of which have turned into conversations regarding my well-being. I am also assisting with an SIF diagnostic, evaluating the feasibility of three of Lt. Fifebee’s plans to return your all to your own bodies, converting sensor readings into mapping coordinates with Stellar Cartography, processing twelve replicator orders and compensating for the damage to the off-axis field controller in the port nacelle.”
“Busy lady,” Stafford said, impressed.
“I’m only doing about %23 of what I’m capable of.”
The turbolift doors opened, depositing Stafford in the corridor near the shuttlebay.
“Nice talking to you.”
“You too, dear.”
Walking into the shuttlebay, Stafford found Jeffery waiting by the shuttlepod Colt. Much smaller than the Type-9 shuttlecraft that had been used to defend the ship on multiple occasions, the shuttlepod had no warp engines and was only really good for ship-to-surface trips or for inspecting the ship’s exterior.
“What’re ye so happy about,” Jeffery grumbled.
“Oh, just had a nice little chat with Sylvia.” Stafford said, climbing into the shuttlepod.
“Has Noonan talked to ye about her yet?” Jeffery asked, Wowryk’s slender fingers dancing over the panel as he ran through the pre-flight test.
“Noooo,” Stafford said slowly, “I didn’t know he was planning on it.”
“Well, ye know, she’s a big security risk,”
“Oh come on! Ye took Holo-Safety 101 didn’t ye? Rule one: ‘NEVER LET THE COMPUTER THINK FOR ITSELF!”
Stafford flopped down in the co-pilot’s seat.
“She’s not a hologram.”
“Same thing,” Jeffery muttered.
“Yeah, well, if Noonan is gonna talk to me about it, I’ll worry about it then.” Stafford grumbled.
“Just keep it in mind,”
“Yes ma’am! Why are you in such a bitchy mood today?”
“PMS,” he muttered.
“Oh,” Stafford said, his eyes widening, “OH!
There was a moment of silence.
“Bridge, this is the shuttlepod Colt, requesting permission to depart.”
“Have fun,” came the voice of Jall/T’Parief.
Jeffery waited for a moment.
“Ye need to open the doors for us, dumb-ass!” Jeffery sneered.
“Hold on! I’m still having trouble typing with claws!”
The doors finally slid open, allowing Jeffery to guide the Colt out of the bay.
“Let’s check out the nacelle first,” Stafford said.
Jeffery carefully maneuvered the shuttle up to the outboard side of the port nacelle, the shuttlepod’s floodlights illuminating the damaged section.
The nacelle grill, usually visible as a glowing blue band across the sides and rear of the nacelle, had a large section missing twenty meters from the rear of the nacelle. The warp core was idling with excess plasma being shunted to the starboard nacelle, leaving the port nacelle dark. Around the missing section of the grill the hull was melted into smooth, flowing shapes from the warp plasma. Inside the nacelle Stafford and Jeffery could see three of the dozen or so huge warp coils that filled both nacelles. Between the plasma vent gaps they could also see the injectors that spit plasma into the coils at carefully timed intervals, creating the pulsating subspace field that drove the ship faster than light. Behind the final warp coil was the massive off-axis field controller assembly that helped to stabilize the warp field at high speeds. Black scorch marks covered everything in sight, either from the weapons fire that had blasted away the protective grill or from the plasma that has been released as a result.
“Must have been one hell of a lucky shot,” Stafford mused.
“Aye,” Jeffery responded, “One in a million. And if we go faster than Warp 3, the plasma leakage will do even more damage.”
“Is there any way to repair this without a Starbase?”
“Um,” Jeffery thought, “Ah canna fix the plasma grill without a lot of raw material,” he finally said, “And But Ah can get the field controller and injectors fixed. “
“Sounds good. Let’s move on.”
The two of them maneuvered the pod around the secondary hull and up to the saucer, making notes on the various damaged sections and prioritizing repairs. Stafford took heart in the fact that even after taking heavy battle damage, his ship was still in far better condition, both in functionality and appearance, then when she was launched.
Finally the pair came to the huge hull breach on the starboard saucer.
Looking at the damaged area, Stafford was reminded of old footage he had seen of the wreck of Titanic, before the wreckage had deteriorated beyond recognition. That ship’s hull had been ripped apart in several places, especially on the stern section, to reveal the interior of the ship. The damage to Silverado was similar except most of the hull that had covered the exposed sections was missing. Around the edge of the breach hull plates had been peeled back by the explosion that had taken out the starboard airlock assembly and a good chunk of the Officer’s Mess.
Looking in, Stafford could see lights still blinking from the bank of replicators along the internal wall, right next to the counter that led to the rarely used kitchen. A few scattered pieces of furniture were present, the majority having been blasted out into space along with the compartment’s atmosphere. Nobody had been eating during the battle, fortunately, and thus nobody had been in the room when it depressurized.
“I thought Deck 12 was the only deck that took damage from this breach,” he said.
“Aye, that’s so.”
“Then what the hell is that?” Stafford pointed.
Jeffery followed his gaze below the twisted deck plates of the Officer’s Mess. Rather then seeing the inside of the outer hull or open space, a low, dark space was visible.
“Oh,” Jeffery replied, “That’s a maintenance sub-level.”
Jeffery thought for a moment how to best explain.
“It’s like a decks worth of Jefferies tubes,” he finally said, “Some ship classes, mostly the old ones, had an extra half-deck or two. They used them for SIF generators, gravity generators, inertial dampeners, life support, all kinds of stuff. The old NX-class ships had two sub-levels, for example, but once they started using Jefferies tubes instead, the practice kinda died out. Ah looked it up during the refit when we found this deck; some of the early Ambassador-class ships had two maintenance levels, each about half a deck high, cuz of all the new technologies they were incorporating into the design. Lots of that stuff has been miniaturized since then, so the newer ships don’t have them. We don’t really need the extra space anymore. All the components and circuitry fit in the Jefferies tubes now. This one, Sub-Level A, was half sealed off anyway, we couldn’t get into the starboard side. Since we don’t need them we sealed off both Sub-Levels A and B.”
Stafford looked back at him blankly.
“It’s not that hard to understand!” Jeffery insisted.
“I know. It’s just really weird talking to Dr. Wowryk about starship engineering.”
Stafford paused again, looking at Wowryk’s perfect body. Jeffery recoiled in disgust.
“What?” Stafford asked, “Oh! NO! That is NOT what I was thinking!”
“Ye were looking at me tits!” Jeffery/Wowryk claimed indignantly.
“They’re not yours.” Stafford shot back.
“They are right now!” objected Jeffery.
“That’s not how Noel tells it!” replied Stafford.
“Ah don’t think…what the….” Jeffery trailed off.
“What?” Stafford asked, back to business.
“Ah thought Ah saw somethin’ down there.” Jeffery said. He started adjusting the floodlights in the shuttlepod, trying to get a better look into the compartment that had been sealed for half a century.
Sealed hatch. Dead console. Dead lighting fixture. Dead console. Dead access panel. Dead body. Dead SIF generator. Dead body.
Stafford/Jeffery and Jeffery/Wowryk recoiled, gasping in shock.
Fifebee paced across the back of the bridge while Jall tapped at his panel, reviewing the data the Matrians had sent up regarding the last few days.
“It would help if you would review this stuff too,” Jall/T’Parief muttered, annoyed.
“I’ve already downloaded the data into my matrix, so take a chill pill,” Fifebee replied.
“Never mind. Archaic reference. I’m waiting for you to catch up so we can discuss the situation.”
“Oh,” Jall said, then softly, “High and mighty bitch!”
“I heard that.”
Fifebee continued to wait while Jall read.
“So, how is your day, Lt. Cmdr. T’Parief?” she asked.
The Tactical Officer/Security Chief turned towards her.
“I am a conglomeration of three proud warrior races, trapped in the body of a blond Terran female. How the glork do you THINK I’m doing?” he snapped.
“I don’t see the big deal,” Fifebee said to herself, “You’re all still alive and healthy. I can change bodies whenever I wish! Sylvia?”
“Please alter the physical characteristics of my program to match that of Captain Carl Jaroch.”
“Just a minute, Jane.”
A second later Fifebee shimmered, changing into a slim Yynsian male.
“You see?” he said in Jaroch’s voice, “It is not a major change.”
“I disagree,” T’Parief said flatly.
“I’m done reading now,” Jall piped in.
“Sylvia, please reset my appearance,” Fifebee requested.
“Done,” replied the computer. Fifebee resumed her standard appearance.
“OK,” Jall said, “so here’s the deal. The Matrians wake up. The M-SIDs shut down. Now, we know they had been cloning Matrian men to maintain their population and they were kidnapping men from other races to supplement their workforce. With the M-SIDs down, the men reverted to their natural mental state, except for an imprinted memory telling them that their penance was complete and that it was time to ‘live in harmony’.”
“Yes,” Fifebee replied, “The original plan set by the Matrian females was that the men would rebuild their planet as punishment for unleashing weapons of mass destruction during their Gender Wars. This was before Mistress Laurette started her plan for galactic domination.”
“Right. Well, it looks like the revival went perfectly. Enough of the cities have been restored to provide living space. They’ve got enough cropland for food. Flora and fauna have recovered nicely.”
“Our sensors tell us that much,” T’Parief muttered, “What about their political situation.”
Fifebee looked to Jall.
“Oh,” he whined, “That part was too boring to read! You talk about it!”
Giving a sigh, Fifebee took up the tale.
“Once the M-SIDs shutdown, the Matrian Council of Governors decided that Mistress Laurette’s idea wasn’t all that great. The women elected a Queen and quickly put provisions into place for the Matrian men to elect a King. The men were also able to appoint members of their gender to the Council of Governors. They’ve scheduled full elections for next year.”
“Great,” T’Parief muttered, “So what’s the problem?”
“In a nutshell?” Fifebee asked. T’Parief and Jall nodded.
“The women aren’t used to working, and the men are used to nothing but work. You can’t build a democracy along gender lines, but given the circumstances they must ensure male representation at this time. It will take some time for their society to stabilize.”
“Where does Federation membership come in?” Jall wanted to know.
“I’m not sure. The rebuilding process is sufficiently complete for their current population. They have the technology to feed and clothe themselves-“
“They want protection,” T’Parief/Yanick sneered, the expression out of place on Yanick’s normally cheerful face, “They have enslaved thousands. Now they want us to ensure those other races don’t return the favor.”
“That is a possibility,” Fifebee conceded.
“Stafford to T’Parief,” Jeffery’s voice, sans accent, cut in.
“We have a problem.”
“How very descriptive, sir.”
Chapter 4: “Crime Scene Instigations”
“OK, calm down, people, calm down!” Stafford called from his chair at the head of the conference room table. Everybody settled into their seats.
“Mr. Jeffery, please fill everybody in.”
“We all know already,” Jall pointed out.
“Yes,” Stafford said, annoyed, “But this time it’s official.”
“We found two dead bodies,” Jeffery broke in, heading off another round of mud-slinging, “They’ve been there for decades and they’re dryer than me mum’s pot roast.”
“Right.” Stafford scratched his ear, “Thanks.”
“Have you performed any scans of the bodies?” Fifebee asked.
“Have they been brought in for analysis?” Dr.. Wowryk wanted to know.
“No,” Stafford shifted in his seat.
“Has the section been sealed off to prevent tampering with the crime scene?” T’Parief demanded.
“Um, no,” Stafford replied.
“Why not?” Jall asked, grinning as he leaned over the table.
“Because that’s the Chief of Security’s job!” Stafford exclaimed.
“Then why the boring meeting??” Jall wanted to know.
“So I can order you all to go do those things!” Stafford snapped, “T’Parief, seal off the crime scene and start your investigation. Once you’re ready to move the bodies, turn them over to Dr. Wowryk and Lt. Fifebee for analysis.”
“Aye sir,” replied Fifebee.
“Very well,” sighed Dr. Wowryk.
“Mr. T’Parief?” Stafford prompted.
“Huh? Oh. Yes. We’ll investigate immediately.”
“Good. While we’re here, anything else to discuss?”
Fifebee quickly brought everybody up to date on the Matrian situation.
Noonan leaned back in his chair, frowning.
“I would think,” he said slowly, “that their current social instability would disqualify them from Federation membership.”
“Hey, we let the Andorians in,” said Jall, “they bring whole new meanings to the phrase ‘social instability.”
“They were a founding member,” Fifebee pointed out.
“Something’s fishy,” Noonan insisted, “What does the Federation have to gain from Matrian membership?”
“It would be a substantial expansion of Federation space,” Fifebee stated.
“Too much of an expansion,” T’Parief said flatly, “defending their border would be an unacceptable drain of our resources,”
“Never mind that they wanted to conquer us,” Wowryk added, gripping her armrests.
“Um, we wiped out half their fleet with an old Ambassador-class ship,” T’Parief sneered, the expression looking odd on Yanick’s face, “The nearest outpost is Waystation, and they could have blown the entire Matrian space force into next week!”
“They were going to go after smaller targets first,” Stafford pointed out, “They had a plan. A stupid plan, but a plan.”
“Does it really matter?” Noonan cut in, “The point is they tried.”
“Well, it’s not our decision,” Stafford cut back, “So let’s play nice with the evil bitches until the Wasagaming gets here. In the meantime I want the story behind those bodies and I want back in my own body!”
“I have been exploring several options,” Fifebee replied, “I will inform you when I have found something of substance.”
“Hurry up!” Jeffery said, “Ah need me own body back!”
Similar sentiments were expressed around the table.
“I will work on it,” Fifebee promised.
Less than an hour later T’Parief had Lieutenant Stern and Ensign Simmons in the port saucer airlock, suiting up to go investigate the crime scene.
“Why was that section sealed off?” Simmons wanted to know.
“We don’t know,” T’Parief grumbled.
“Why didn’t we break in when we were refitting the ship?”
“Because we were too busy and we had no need to do so,” T’Parief replied, annoyed, as he pulled a helmet of the rack. He planted the helmet on his head and was somewhat surprised when the lower rim slipped down around his/Yanick’s shoulders.
“You might need a slightly smaller helmet now, sir,” Stern giggled.
“ARRRGGGHH!!!” T’Parief growled, “T’Parief to Yanick!”
T’Parief winced at being called ‘honey’ by a male voice, even if it was really the mind of his girlfriend talking to him.
“What size helmet do you take?”
“Oh, size four. I usually wear a three and half though, cuz four makes my head look fat.”
Cutting the channel and chuckling softly to himself, T’Parief grabbed a size four helmet off the rack.
After walking across the upper surface of the saucer (and listening to Simmons whining about feeling sick) T’Parief and his squad found themselves on the edge of the hull breach looking into the Officer’s Dining Hall and into the maintenance compartment below. Shining their lights in they could make out the two bodies.
“Touch nothing,” T’Parief ordered as he lowered himself down.
Hunching down, T’Parief moved carefully under the intact section of the dining hall floor and into the maintenance section. In his own body he would have found it a very tight fit, but Yanick’s smaller, slimmer form fit easily. He pulled out his tricorder and started taking readings of the bodies as Simmons and Stern scanned the rest of the chamber.
Along the far wall a maintenance hatch presumably led to the rest of the sub-level, or had before it was welded shut. Old equipment, circa 2316, was mounted to the walls or scattered across the floor. On either side of a squat SIF generator were the two bodies. The bodies themselves had been mummified after several decades of being locked in an airtight, oxygen-less room. Their old red Starfleet uniforms were in tatters, from age or the explosive decompression was anybody’s guess. The generator itself was slag. The right arm of one body was still attached to the generator’s access panel, and the lower half of the limb gave the dull shine of old metal.
“What the hell happened to them?” Stern muttered.
“That’s what we’re going to find out.” T’Parief said quickly. He moved closer to the body with the severely distorted limb.
“Yuck,” he said flatly.
“Eh, it’s just a dead body,” muttered Stern.
“But it’s very dry and veiny,” stated Simmons.
“Silence, please,” T’Parief grunted.
The corpse’s arm was fused to the SIF generator at the wrist. It then stretched like metallic toffee up to the elbow.
“It looks as though this person’s arm melted as he or she collapsed to the deck,” T’Parief muttered.
“But why is it all metal-looking?” Simmons wanted to know.
After tapping at his tricorder for several more minutes, T’Parief/Yanick gave a grunt of frustration.
“We cannot work like this,” he declared, “Simmons, use the holo-imager, I want this entire chamber scanned to the last micron. T’Parief to Jall,”
“What?” came Jall/Wowryk’s board and annoyed voice.
“I need an isolation field setup in Science Lab 2, then I need to have two bodies and an SIF generator beamed to that location.”
“Can’t you use Lab 1? It’s all ready to go!” Jall whined.
“Lab Two is bigger,” stated T’Parief.
“Geez, you’ve only been a woman for a few days and you’re already a size queen!”
T’Parief blinked in confusion.
“Never mind. Gimmi fifteen minutes to get the lab ready. Jall out.”
Later in the evening, Stafford stood behind the bar in Unbalance Equations, stretching to reach a bottle of Tellerite Rum. He stretched his arms up….then stretched onto tip-toes. Finally he admitted defeat and started looking for a stool.
“Having fun?” his own voice called from behind him.
“Tons,” Stafford replied, stepping onto the stool and reaching again for the bottle, “I hope you’re enjoying being tall as much as I’m enjoying my time as a short little-“
The bottle slipped off the shelf, smashing into a thousand pieces on the floor.
“F**K!” Stafford yelled.
“Y’know,” Yanick/Stafford said with a grin, “I probably could have gotten that for you.”
“Oh shut up!” Stafford grumbled.
“Oh, way to go!” came Steven Steiger’s annoyed voice as he and Jall/T’Parief walked into the lounge, “I leave for one minute and people start breaking stuff!”
“Forget it!” Stafford said, exasperated, “I’m going to go drink in my quarters…alone!” He stormed out the door.
“One less dweeb to tease,” Jall said, “now how am I going to spend my evening?”
“Let’s play Darts!” Yanick said excitedly to Jall.
Shrugging, Jall followed her over to the dusty dartboard hanging on the wall.
“I like this game,” Yanick was saying, “But I was never really good at it. Maybe now that I’m in a taller, stronger body I’ll have better luck!”
“I don’t think our hand-eye co-ordination skills were improved by the change,” Jall said as Yanick threw her first dart, “If anything, they’re gonna suck since you’re using your own skills in a different body.”
“I think you’re right,” Yanick said despondently as her dart hit the very edge of the board, “Either that or the Captain is even worse at this game than I am.”
“My turn!” Jall said. He wound up and flung the dart at the board as hard as he, or rather T’Parief’s body, could. The dart missed the board entirely and buried itself deep in the wall.
“Maybe we should play a different game,” he said flatly, going to yank the dart from the wall. As he did so, a shill whistle of escaping air rang out.
“Warining: Decompression detected in Unbalanced Equations,” Sylvia said worriedly, “San, put that dart back in the wall before somebody gets hurt!”
San stuck the tip of the dark back into the tiny hole in the wall. It was immediately sucked in until the dart was again blocking the puncture it had made.
“I guess that’s the Officer’s Mess on the other side of this wall,” Jall said.
“No s**t, Sherlock!” snapped Sylvia, “Now call Engineering and see if you can’t find some activity that doesn’t involve PUNCHING HOLES IN ME!”
“Bionic PMS,” Yanick said, breaking into giggles.
The next morning Commander Noonan walked into Science Lab 2, where T’Parief and Wowryk were examining the two corpses.
“Bright good morning to all!” he said cheerfully.
Too professional to snap back at a senior officer, T’Parief satisfied himself by giving Noonan a cold stare. Dr. Wowryk started to make a remark about ‘morning people’, but broke out in giggles over the expression on T’Parief/Yanick’s face.
“Face it, Lieutenant,” Noonan said with a grin, “Yanick is just too blond, pretty and friendly to look scary.”
“Just wait until I get my body back,” T’Parief grumbled, “I will wear my head spikes and fang extensions for a month!”
“Men,” muttered Wowryk.
“So what have you found out?”
“They’re dead and they’ve been that way for about fifty years,” Wowryk said flatly.
“Thank you for that fine, forensic analysis Doctor.”
“Cause of death is hard to figure out, seeing as how they’ve been decaying for fifty years, but judging from the cell damage I’d say they were killed by an energy discharge,” Wowryk replied in her best ‘I am above you and your sarcasm’ posture, “Did I mention the bodies are fifty years old?”
“Indeed.” Noonan replied.
“The generator is slag,” T’Parief said, “completely shorted out and fried.”
“What about his arm?”
T’Parief turned to Wowryk, who shrugged.
“Completely metal. No organic components at all,” she said, “It’s not a standard prosthetic arm, they have organic components, yet it seems to be fused right in with his bones. That could be from the generator discharge, or it might have been meant to be that way.”
“Well,” Noonan said, “It looks like these two were the victims of a very unfortunate accident.
“Yup,” Wowryk said.
“I disagree,” T’Parief cut in, tapping on his padd.
“What do you think?” Noonan asked, interested.
“If this was an accident, why was the section sealed off? Why weren’t the bodies recovered?”
“What do you have in mind?”
T’Parief thought for a moment.
“Given the time frame, this occurred either on Silverado’s maiden voyage or during her time as an Academy training ship. This had to have occurred before she was scrapped. I want to review records from that period and contact anybody who was involved with the ship who is still alive.”
“Keep me updated,” Noonan ordered.
“You know,” Wowryk said as Noonan left, “if you had just accepted this as an accident, you would have saved yourself a lot of work.”
“It’s my job,” T’Parief replied simply.
“Here ye go,” Jeffery said, setting aside the hatch he had just removed from the Jefferies tube between decks 12 & 13, “Ah canna unseal the starboard side until the breach is repaired, but here’s the section we cleared out.”
“Thank you,” T’Parief said, climbing through.
“So it’s all right with ye then if I go back to the regular duties of working me ass off to fix the damage to this crate?” Jeffery asked, adding a heaping helping of sarcasm.
“Yes, thank you for your help.”
“Yer sure? Ah have yer permission?”
“Go away!” T’Parief grunted.
Snickering, Jeffery left.
T’Parief shone his hand light around the empty sub-level. Jeffery had restored power to the lighting, however only one in every three lights was actually lit. Those that were functional flickered, bathing most of the level in inconsistent shadow. T’Parief found himself in an old-style Jefferies tube. Crawling along he saw hatches opening into low rooms that he assumed had once been filled with bulky equipment. The equipment itself had been removed but sockets, cables and brackets hung from the walls. The ship’s air recycling system kept the area free of dust, but several cobwebs had formed and T’Parief more than once soiled his knees on the droppings of some of the several species of vermin that had infested the ship as it sat in the Rigel VI Salvage Depot.
Crawling along, T’Parief found the sealed hatchway to the room directly beneath the Officer’s Mess where the bodies had been found. The hatch itself was welded neatly to the bulkhead. The weld had been smoothed in such a way as to make prying the hatch open impossible. Only a heavy-duty cutting phaser would open it up.
T’Parief took careful readings of the weld with his tricorder then pulled a sampling drill off his belt. He took a tiny sample of the metal and returned to Science Lab Two.
Running the sample through a complete analysis, he was able to determine the exact date the weld had been made.
Some time later, T’Parief was back in the security office. He had continued to investigate the two bodies found in the ship, but was so far unable to make any conclusions. The bodies were far too badly degraded for fingerprinting or retinal scans and the DNA results were inconclusive. He had been able to confirm Wowryk’s assessment they had been killed by an energy discharge and had died instantly. He was also able to determine that the compartment had been sealed AFTER their deaths. As for why, he had no clue. He did, however, have a lead. After much hunting he had finally located the subspace comm code for the nursing home in which Vice-Admiral Grelus, Captain of the Silverado at the time of the accident, was spending his final years. Tapping at his panel, he put through a call to Bolarus.
A prim looking Bolian nurse appeared on screen.
“Happy Blueberry Retirement Community, how may I help you?”
“I’m must speak to Vice Admiral Grelus. It is a matter of some urgency.”
“On moment, please.”
T’Parief was treated to a view of Bolian coastline as annoyingly bubbly hold music played.
Finally, an elderly, frail Bolian male appeared on screen.
“Yes?” he wheezed.
“I am Lt. Cmdr. T’Parief, Chief of Security aboard the U.S.S. Silverado.”
“Silverado?” the man said, looking first surprised, then grinning, “Why, my first command was a ship called Silverado. They commissioned a new ship? Took them long enough. That name’s been retired since, well, the incident. What class? Sovereign?”
“No,” T’Parief said, “Ambassador.”
The old man coughed for several seconds before spitting up a massive wad of green phlegm.
“Sorry,” he said, “Bit of a cold. I though they stopped building Ambassador-class ships years ago? Real shame…that was a real classy design, that was.”
“They did, and it is.” T’Parief agreed.
T’Parief quickly explained how the wreckage of the original Silverado had been reclaimed by Operation Salvage. The old man visibly deflated.
“Well, it’s good to know the old girl’s finally made it out there,” he said, subdued, “She deserved better than what she got.”
“I’m sure she’d agree with you,” T’Parief muttered.
“So what do you want with me?” demanded the elderly Bolian.
“We’ve found bodies, dating back to your maiden voyage, sealed in one of the maintenance levels,” T’Parief explained.
“What?” That’s preposterous!” the old man said, a little too quickly.
“The deaths are being treated as suspicious,” T’Parief continued, “I wish to ask you some ques-“
“I had nothing to do with it,” the old man wheezed, “you can’t prove anything with two corpses!”
“Sir,” T’Parief snapped, baring Yanick’s pathetically tiny teeth, “This is an official Starfleet investigation. You will co-operate.”
“Fine,” snarled the old geezer weakly, “ask your questions.”
“Where you aware a section of your ship had been sealed off, shortly after the ‘systems failure’ that put Silverado out of commission?”
“Nope, no clue,”
Frowning, T’Parief moved on.
“Surely you noticed the missing crewmen after the incident,”
“The anomalous energy discharge doesn’t ring a bell?”
“What’s an energy discharge?”
“You are being DELIBERATLY difficult!” T’Parief/Yanick snapped, “You will co-operate, or I shall come over there and beat you to a pulp!”
“I’d like to see you try, girlie!” The old man slammed his hand down against the cut-off switch, breaking one frail wrist in the process.
“GLOZORK!” T’Parief screamed, slamming his fist against the monitor.
He was disappointed when the impact from Yanick’s soft, girlish fist didn’t even scratch the screen.
“Waitaminue…I never told him how many corpses there were!”
“Somebody at the door for you, San,” Sylvia intoned.
“Go away,” Jall/T’Parief muttered, rolling over and trying to go back to sleep.
“It’s 1800h!” Sylvia objected, “Wake up and answer the door!”
“Who asked you to butt in?”
“The young lady at the door.”
“Fine!” San grunted. He climbed out of bed, grabbed his housecoat (now about five sizes too small) and padded to the door.
“What???” he asked in a long, drawn out groan.
Dr. Noel Wowryk stood at the door, looking back at him coldly from his own eyes.
“Hey, good-lookin’!” Jall chuckled.
Dr. Wowryk shuddered as she stepped inside and walked to the bedroom.
“Um, what the hell do you want?” Jall demanded.
“I need your dress uniform!” she snapped from the closet, “Or did you forget about the Matrian reception tonight?”
“I did, actually,” Jall admitted.
“Well it starts in an hour,” Wowryk said primly, walking out with Jall’s dress uniform in hand, “So I suggest you get ready. NOW!”
“Oh, so you come in here, wake me up, take my stuff and now you’re giving me orders?”
“Ohhh,” Wowryk sneered, “Quit complaining! I’ll be owing you MONTHS of payback for the perverted thoughts I’ve had to endure from this filthy body!”
“My body is NOT filthy! Mind over matter, baby!”
“What are you implying?” Wowryk snapped.
“Implying? Nothing.” Jall leaned against the door frame, “I’m flat out saying that you need some dirt in your life! I can recall one particular incident where you rolled in the mud. It didn’t kill you, did it?”
“I’m above such things!” Wowryk huffed, “Just because I had a lapse in judgment-“
“HA!” Jall inturrupted, “Y’know what I think? I think you’re sick of being the nice little girl! You had fun when we were stuck in that temporal loop, when you finally had the chance to be bad without anybody else knowing about it! Face it. You want to try new things. You’re just too afraid to actually do it because you’re afraid it will tarnish your precious reputation!!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Wowryk said coldly.
“Yeah?” Jall/T’Parief moved closer to Wowryk/Jall, “Tell me you haven’t been thinking about Simon. How you wish you were back in your girl body so he could take you into his arms, kiss you deeply and-“
“Stop!” Noel screamed. She slapped Jall/T’Parief across the face. Jall barely felt the impact through T’Parief’s thick skin.
“Think about it, Doc,” Jall said with an evil grin.
“I hate you,” Wowryk said coldly.
“No, you hate that I’m right.”
“You’re a disgusting, perverted heathen,” Wowryk said finally, “And I will not be drawn into another pointless debate with you.” She turned to go.
“There’s something else you should know about that body, Doctor,” Jall said, his evil grin stretching into a full smile.
T’Parief was carrying his dress uniform to Jall’s quarters after having picked Yanick’s up from her quarters. The reception was taking time from his investigation, but the Captain was insisting on having his Chief of Security there. A wise choice.
The voice was Jall’s, but the inflections were a 100% genuine, patented ‘Shocked Dr. Wowryk’ scream. Sure enough, Jall/Wowryk came racing down the corridor from Jall’s quarters, tears streaming down her face.
Coming up to where Jall was laughing hysterically, T’Parief tossed him his dress uniform.
“What the hell did you do to her?” T’Parief demanded.
“Oh, just told her a little secret about the body she’s living in.”
Stafford paced back and forth in Transporter Room 1.
“We’re going to be late!” he groaned.
Yanick, Fifebee, T’Parief and Jeffery were already in the transporter room dressed in their white dress uniforms. T’Parief/Yanick and Jeffery/Wowryk had tried to apply minimal makeup with little success. Yanick/Stafford smelled like lady’s perfume and Stafford/Jeffery had spend two hours practicing how to pick up a wine glass without spilling it. Jeffery’s shorter arms had totally screwed up his hand-eye co-ordination.
“I’m here!” Jall declared brightly as he lumbered into the room, wincing as he cracked his/T’Parief’s head on the doorframe.
“Nice move,” Yanick giggled.
“Have you seen Wowryk?” Stafford asked.
“Ahem,” Jall put on a very serious face, “I have just shared some disturbing information with the Doctor and she is too upset to accompany us at this time.”
“Oh man, what did you say to her?” Stafford sighed.
Jall told him.
“Oh s**t!” Stafford cried, “Do you have any idea what you’ve done? She’s Catholic! What if you’ve driven her off the deep end! That kind of thing could destroy her!”
“She was being a bitch,” Jall shrugged.
“Sylvia!” Stafford called out, “Where’s Dr. Wowryk??”
“She’s in the Arboretum, Captain,” Sylvia replied, “And she’s very upset.”
“Pysternzykz,” Stafford turned to the Andorian transporter chief/shuttle pilot, “beam myself and Yanick there, NOW!”
Stafford materialized on the grass in the Arboretum to the sounds of splashing water and sputtering. Looking around quickly he found Dr. Wowryk standing in the small pool under the decorative waterfall. A Bible, quickly becoming damp, was sitting on the slick rock nearby and Wowryk/Jall had a gold chalice in one hand, which she dumped out over her head.
“Noel!” Trish called out, “Are you OK?”
“UNCLEAN!” Noel cried out, dumping another chalice-full of water.
“Look, Doctor,” Stafford said, “In this day and age, it’s not a big deal if somebody’s-“
“But Noel, not everybody believes in-“ Trish started.
“It’s revolting! Don’t you understand???” Wowryk was sobbing hysterically, “I’m in a body that’s NOT BAPTIZED!!!”
“Look, Doc,” Stafford said, trying to sound soothing, “As soon as we’re finished with the reception, we’ll run a nice holodeck program and we can baptize you until you drown.”
Wowryk looked up at him with red, pouting eyes.
“Really?” she asked in a small voice.
“Really,” Trish said, “I’ll even help. Now come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”
A short time later, Yanick led a dryer, cleaner (but still sniffing) Noel Wowryk/San Jall into the transporter room. Stopping only to glare angrily at Jall/T’Parief she took her place on the transporter pad next to Fifebee’s hovering holo-relay.
Stafford looked like he was about to say something, but instead he just shook his head and stepped up onto the pad.
Chapter 5: ‘Diplomatic Insanity’
Stafford, Yanick Wowryk and the rest of the away team materialized in the Grand Council building of Matria’s capitol city, Matronus. Painstakingly reconstructed by males during their century of punishment, the center of Matrian government reflected the peaceful, prosperous world it had been before the Gender Wars. Deep wood paneling, marble floors and huge chandeliers gave a sense of power and order.
Unlike the inhabitants.
Either they were earlier than Stafford had realized or the Matrians were having serious organizational problems. Men and women were running around frantically while a stately woman with smeared lipstick, running mascara and frizzy, tangled hair snapped orders. As the team from Silverado materialized, everybody stopped to stare, bringing an eerie silence to the room.
“May I be excused?” Jall muttered, noticing the variety of stares they were receiving. Most of the men and women were just staring at the group, but some women glared at them with open hostility. There were also a number Matrians of both genders staring with expressions of curiosity, wonder, distaste and even reverence.
“Grow up, Jall,” Stafford muttered back.
“Captain!” The woman in charge called with annoyingly insincere friendliness as she wobbled over. Yanick and Wowryk were convinced she was going to wobble right off her high heels, but she somehow caught her balance at the last moment.
“So good to see you!” she gushed, grabbing and pumping Stafford’s hand, “I’m Pendi. I do so hope I’m doing this right…”
“Chris Stafford,” the Captain replied, “Um, doing what?”
“The handshake!” Pendi replied, “Never heard of this custom before, but we do want to be as welcoming as possible, especially to our benefactors.”
“Uh, right,” Stafford said, trying hard not to stare at the blob of lipstick stuck in the corner of Pendi’s mouth, “You’re doing fine.”
“Thank you,” she turned to address her workforce, calling “Carry on!” out in a noticeably friendlier tone than before.
“You’ll find things have changed considerably over the past few days,” she said to the away team.
“Everybody’s awake?” ventured Jall.
“Well, yes,” Pendie replied, her voice taking on the ‘I’m-talking-to-an-idiot’ tone found so often in those with over-inflated egos, “You’ll also find many social changes as well.”
“Uh-huh,” Stafford said, skeptical, “I find it hard to believe that every woman on Matria is happy with the way things have turned out.”
Pendi looked uncomfortable at this.
“Well,” she said uneasily, “There will always be those who disagree with the majority. I’m sure once we get used to the real world they’ll come around.
“Oh, sure,” Jall/Wowryk muttered. Yanick elbowed him/her discreetly in the gut.
Pendie led them through a stately hallway and into a lounge. Solid wood furniture and walls of deep red reminded Stafford of a steakhouse he often frequented on Earth. Yanick, Wowryk and Jall all made mental notes that the Matrians really needed some lessons in interior decorating. Several Matrians were presently sipping drinks and munching on appetizers.
“The actual reception will begin shortly,” Pendi said, “But we felt a more informal gathering would be best at first.”
“Uh, sure,” Stafford replied.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Pendie called, raiser her voice, “May I present Captain Stafford of the U.S.S. Silverado and his officers.”
There was polite applause as Pendie left before the Matrians returned to their drinks.
“It’s not just the one girl,” Yanick/Stafford said in surprise, “None of the women on this planet know how to use makeup!”
“They’ve been in Dreamland for a century,” Fifebee said, “They’re probably used to willing their makeup into place.”
There was silence for several minutes, the Silverado officers looking back with some reservation at the crowds of staring Matrians.
“Now what?” Jeffery asked, twisting his/Wowryk’s hair uneasily around one finger.
Stafford shrugged. Diplomatic situations were part of the Academy curriculum…but usually the host did a bit more than just announce guests and toss them into the shark tank. Oh well.
“We mingle,” he said finally.
For all the chaos displayed by the staff, waiters and etc, the Matrian Council Members themselves seemed well briefed on the situation involving Silverado. Wowryk/Jall was immediately swarmed by a group of Matrian women, each asking about her time both in the Matrian Dreamland and in the Dreamland in which she had reigned as Queen Wowryk, despite the fact that she was in a different body. Jeffery hovered near Wowryk’s side while Yanick went straight for the refreshment table. Stafford found himself facing a very beautiful, very familiar woman. His heart fell as he saw the rather young, very attractive Senousian male on her arm.
“Prefect Telfidi!” he smiled, “How ya doin’?”
“Captain,” Telfidi smiled warmly, “We’re doing very well, thank you. I’d like you to meet my son, Rikard.”
“You’re son? I didn’t know you were married.”
“Married?” Telfidi looked confused.
“Y’know,” Stafford shifted nervously, “I didn’t know you had a husband. A mate. The father of your child. Nice to meet you by the way, Rikard.”
The youth nodded nervously and gave a quick grin. Then glanced nervously around the room again.
“Oh,” Telfidi laughed, “We don’t believe in marriage. That’s part of why we left our homeworld. Rikard’s father is still on Senous. I see him now and then. Rikard himself was held captive by the Matrians for six months before you helped Prefect Lashette shut down the M-SID network.”
“About that,” Stafford said uneasily, “You remember that Prime Directive we talked about right after you tried to take over our ship?”
“Yes.” Telfidi took on a knowing look, “You’re worried your superiors will accuse you of violating it.”
“Well, sort of,” Stafford said, accepting a glass of Matrian wine, “They’re not exactly happy about the situation, but since it was Lashette that actually smashed the system we’re not technically at fault.”
“But, uh, you fought the Matrians,” Rikard spoke up, his voice shaky, “I was on one of the ships you disabled.”
“Oh,” Stafford hunted for something to say, “Um, sorry about that.”
“Please Captain,” Telfidi smiled, “we’re very grateful for what you’ve done. And if portraying Lashette as the ‘big hero’ will keep you out of trouble with your superiors, we are very happy to do so. But you played a very important part in our liberation, and we’re not going to forget that,” she took a step closer to Stafford, kissing him on the cheek and then looking right in his eyes, “I’m not going to forget that.”
Stafford started stuttering a reply before Jall/T’Parief walked up from behind Telfidi and Rikard, clapping a large, clawed hand on the young man’s shoulder.
“Hi all!” he said cheerfully, “Having fun?”
Rikard spun around to find himself face-to-chest with the huge reptile, made a slight choking noise, then fainted to the floor.
“That’s the third time that’s happened,” Jall sighed.
“I think Jall’s having some problems with your body,” Yanick said to T’Parief/Yanick with a giggle as she watched the young Senousian faint from shock.
“Good,” T’Parief muttered.
“It’s kinda funny. Remember what my brother did the first time he met you?”
“He tried to shoot me,” T’Parief said flatly.
“Yeah. That was great!”
“Yes,” T’Parief sighed, a tear forming in his/Yanick’s left eye, “I miss having that effect on people.”
An attractive (in Yanick’s opinion) Matrian male approached them, smiling widely at T’Parief/Yanick.
“Welcome to Matria,” he said, “May I say, your hair is the most beautiful shade of-“
“I am a male trapped in the body of a female due to a malfunction in your M-SID network,” T’Parief said bluntly, cutting him off, “As such, your attempts to flatter me are most insulting.”
“I’m a girl,” Yanick/Stafford said with a giggle,” On the inside at least. But I got trapped in this guy’s body in the same accident.”
“Ohhh…right,” the Matrian looked disappointed, “Mistress…um, Queen Anselia mentioned that there were some after-effects to your trip.”
“If you mean the trip into the Dreamland that we made, which resulted in the freedom of yourself and hundreds of thousands of others, then yes,” T’Parief said, looking coldly at the man.
“So,” the Matrian said, shifting his weight and obviously trying now to make polite conversation, “which body is really yours?”
“That one,” T’Parief said, longing in his voice as he pointed out the massive reptilian form that stood towering over several Matrians.
“I…see…” the Matrian said, “Excuse me!” He immediately departed, careful to keep his distance from Jall/T’Parief.
“Feel better, hon?” Yanick asked.
The Matrians were clearly trying hard to be good hosts. Despite their outward appearance, they were charming, polite and for the most part appeared to be grateful to both the Silverado crew and the Senousians for returning their society to its original path.
The Matrian women were universally a fashion disaster. Makeup skills were obviously very rusty, as was hairstyling and dress coordination. The Matrian men, while being more neatly dressed, looked somewhat haggard from their hard work conditions. To Yanick’s delight, it was evident that the Matrian men had benefited from live times of hard work, as evidenced by solid shoulders and thick arms. To her equal frustration, her reptilian boyfriend and her entrapment within Stafford’s body prevented her from having a REALLY good time.
Stafford was finally starting to relax. Fifebee was speaking to a tall, grim looking Matrian, evidently one of the scientists who had invented the M-SID network. From what Stafford had gathered, Fifebee was trying to learn something that would help return the crew to their original bodies. The woman was cooperating, but claimed that there was no record of anything similar ever happening before. He hoped that Fifebee would at least get some useful information on the devices themselves. T’Parief and Yanick were mingling nicely while Jeffery and Wowryk continued to talk to a crowd of Wowryk’s admirers. Jall was proving to be a slight embarrassment, but everybody was too scared of his claws to really say anything about it. And best yet, Telfidi was giving him some very suggestive glances.
Stafford’s sense of ease immediately evaporated as he saw a very familiar woman enter the room: Mistress Laurette. She looked disdainfully around the room before focusing on Stafford. She immediately stalked right at him and slapped him across the face.
“Meddler!” she snapped.
Apparently, Laurette had missed the meeting at which the Matrian Council had been briefed on the status of the Silverado officers. It may have been Stafford’s body that she slapped, but Trish Yanick’s mind was in residence and wasn’t going to take that kind of treatment from another woman!
“You bitch!” squealed Yanick/Stafford as she jumped at Laurette, slapping at the other woman’s face.
“Uh-oh,” Stafford muttered to Telfidi.
“You had to come and mess up a perfectly good thing!” Laurette snapped as she wrestled Yanick/Stafford to the floor, “Our society was perfect! You ruined it!”
“F**k you, you skank!” yelled Yanick shrilly.
T’Parief/Yanick immediately jumped into the fray, attempting to separate the two combatants.
“Ladies,” he snapped, “I must insist that you-“ Laurette lashed out with a fist, cuffing T’Parief/Yanick on the chin and sending him/her flying back into a table.
Stafford rushed to his helmswoman’s aid, but was passed by a brownish-green blur as Jall/T’Parief vaulted over the buffet table and picked up Laurette in one hand, Yanick/Stafford in the other.
“That’s my best girl you’re messing around with,” Jall growled at Laurette.
“I think you need your eyes checked!” Laurette snapped back.
“Um, Councilor…“one of the Matrians who had been escorting Laurette tried to pipe in.
“Y’know that meeting we missed this morning? The one I’ve been trying to fill you in on all day?”
“This REALLY isn’t the time!” Laurette snapped, twisting in Jall’s grip.
“Well, there was a malfunction when the Dream Nexus shut down, and the Silverado officers wound up in the wrong bodies! You just assaulted their helmswoman! And besides, it was a Senousian who destroyed the network.”
Laurette stared for a moment, then broke into cackling laughter.
“Serves them right! Now somebody get this overgrown frog to put me down!”
“Will you behave?” Jall asked.
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry, honey,” Laurette said to Yanick/Stafford as she/he fumed from where she hung from Jall/T’Parief’s other hand.
“Whatever,” Yanick muttered as Jall released them both. Councilor Laurette proceeded directly to the bar, wobbling slightly on her heels.
“Well, that was fun,” Stafford muttered to Telfidi as he returned. Rikard had regained consciousness and stood next to his mother, looking at Jall/T’Parief with just a hint of fear.
“You OK, bud?” Stafford asked.
“That’s a very big lizard,” Rikard replied.
“Oh, he’s harmless,” Stafford laughed, “Wait, scratch that. T’Parief in that body is harmless. I dunno about Jall…”
Nobody noticed T’Parief leave.
As the reception officially started everybody was moved into a large banquet hall. The Silverado officers sat with Prefects Telfidi and Lashette at the center table, right in front of the head table where Stafford assumed the new King and Queen of Matria would be making their appearance.
“Did anybody see where T’Parief went?” Stafford asked.
“No, I didn’t” Yanick said. She had been laughing and joking around with Jall, “Oops…”
“I don’t have any visual records of him following Yanick’s altercation with Laurette,” Fifebee reported.
“Stafford to T’Parief,” Stafford tapped at his comm-badge.
“T’Parief here,” came Yanick’s voice.
“Commander, where are you?”
“I have returned to the ship to focus on my investigation into the bodies, sir.”
“I would prefer to have you down here,” Stafford said, “We may still have problems with the Matrians.”
“I’m more effective in this capacity, Captain,” T’Parief said coldly, “As proven by my inability to assist Trish. I’m sure Jall can provide whatever assistance you need.”
“Yeah,” Stafford whined, “But you’re easier to deal with!”
“Thank you Captain, but I would very much prefer to remain here.”
Stafford thought for a moment. Jall had managed Laurette fine, Fifebee was near indestructible and he was a Starfleet captain. T’Parief was admittedly pretty useless as a Security officer in the body of a short blond girl.
“Very well. Have fun.”
“Thank you, sir. T’Parief out.”
“Well,” Wowryk said, “That solves that.”
“Poor T’Parief,” Yanick sighed, “He must feel so bad. I should go up there and give him a big hug,”
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Wowryk said, “It’s not like he’s been thrust into the body of a horny jackass or anything,”
“Yer not the only one having problems adjusting,” Jeffery said, “Imagine how it must be for us! We’ve lost, well, a lot!”
“Yes, I’m sure the purity of the female body is such a burden.” Wowryk muttered.
“Purity my ass!” Jeffery muttered back, “If something bleeds for seven days without dying, it sure as hell is NOT PURE!”
“I can’t take you people anywhere public, can I?” Stafford sighed, “Stafford to Noonan,”
“Noonan here,” came the calm, smooth voice, “What can I do for you?”
Chapter 6 ‘Elementary Security’
“…and so,” Queen Anselia was saying, appearing larger than life on Silverado’s main viewscreen, “With the return of normal society and the successful re-integration of males and females, now is the time to strengthen ties with other cultures and to continue the missions of exploration started by our ancestors, so many decades ago.”
“The Captain is scratching his butt again,” Ensign Burke pointed out. He was assigned to Sciences, but was leaning against the Tactical rail next to Lieutenant Stern in order to better view the screen. The away team was visible in the lower left as they paid close attention to the Queen’s speech.
“And Jall is picking at his scales again,” Sylvia added, her face displayed on Noonan’s armrest display.
“We need lives,” Ensign Day stated flatly from Ops.
“It’s astonishing though,” Sylvia went on, “Records of races who have recovered this quickly from conflicts do exist, but it’s very rare.”
“Technically,” Noonan pointed out, “They’ve been ‘recovering’ for the past century.”
“Yes,” Sylvia conceded, “The men have been working on the physical reconstruction. But what of the social changes? How is it that they suddenly have a working government? Job assignments?”
“It was all in the original plan, from what I understand, Sylvia,” Noonan replied, “Their society was on ‘hold’. By smashing the Dream Nexus, Prefect Lashette pressed the ‘Play’ button.”
“We could learn much from them.”
“And we likely will,” Noonan agreed.
“Can’t we see what’s playing on Krinorkom?” Burke whined.
“As I’ve explained,” Noonan said with a sigh, “We need to observe in the event the away team encounters difficulties.”
The bridge doors opened, revealing Lt. Cmdr. T’Parief/Yanick.
“Hello,” Noonan said cheerfully, with a meaningful glance at Sylvia, “How’s your investigation going?”
“I have been attempting to contact Vice-Admiral Grelus,” T’Parief said, walking over to and Auxiliary console, “But so far I haven’t been successful.”
“Who’s he?” Stern asked.
“He was the original Captain of Silverado,” Sylvia cut in, “He’s actually been retired for about twenty years or so.”
“Interesting,” Noonan said.
“I’m hoping he can shed some light on my investigation.”
Noonan watched as former mistress Laurette took the microphone.
“As leader of the Opposition,” she started, “It is my duty to critique any plans or activities made by our government. Whether it be the introduction of a new health care program, or,” she snarled at the table of Starfleet officers and Senousian prefects, “conspiring with aliens to derail our perfect society!” She pulled a boxy device from one pocket as the Matrian Council gasped in shock.
“I have here,” she snapped, “the remote commander to a backup Dream Nexus, which I secretly commanded the males to construct. When I activate it, the Dream Machines still in place on Matria, our ships and even the cursed U.S.S. Silverado will activate, returning us to the correct path!”
“Oh, s**t,” Noonan muttered as the rest of the bridge crew watched in shock.
“How dare you!” snarled King Hektor, “You’d make us slaves again? Against the wishes of the Matrian people?”
“The Matrian people have been deluded,” Laurette said with disdain, “It is my duty to help them!”
“DIE, B**CH!” snarled T’Parief’s voice as Jall/T’Parief and Stafford/Jeffery rushed the stage. Jall was hit by an energy been before he even got close, dropping to the floor with a crash. Stafford managed to wrestle the control unit from Laurette and smash it to the floor before being taken down.
There was the sound of more weapons fire, then the transmission ended.
“Stern, scan the planet. Can we get our people out?” Noonan ordered.
Stern tapped as his panel.
“I’m not picking up any comm-badge signals,” he reported, “And humans are too similar to Matrians for us to detect from up here.”
“Matrian security to Silverado,”
“This is Commander Noonan speaking,” Noonan replied, pacing the bridge.
“There has been an incident at the Council Building. We believe Laurette is going to try to active a backup Nexus manually. Her people have informed us that they have taken your people hostage.”
“Our transporters can’t distinguish humans from Matrians from orbit. Can you rescue our people and stop Laurette?”
“Our people lack experience. We need somebody who’s been trained for this kind of thing.”
Noonan turned to T’Parief.
“Take Stern and Dar’ugal to the planet. Try to rescue the hostages, but above all, stop Laurette from activating that Nexus!”
“Sir,” T’Parief said quietly, “Perhaps Stern should…”
“I know you’re having problems adapting to Yanick’s body,” Noonan said softly, “But there’s more to security than being big and bad. Let Dar’ugal and the Matrians handle that part. What they need is somebody who knows what they’re doing. The Captain is depending on you.”
T’Parief straightened up.
“You can count on me, sir.”
T’Parief, Stern and Dar’ugal materialized outside the Council Building. T’Parief felt incredibly short next to the seven foot tall Barudan. Dar’ugal was in the midst of a shedding season and so tufts of red fur kept floating down onto T’Parief’s uniform. Stern stood at 6’4” and was another dominating presence to the officer now trapped in the body of a short farm girl.
Several Matrians in grey uniforms were standing nearby.
“Her people hold the banquet hall,” one of the men reported, “But we don’t know where Laurette herself is.”
“Then we’ll take the hall first,” T’Parief decided, “Set weapons to stun. We will need to question them. How many entrances are there to the hall?”
“Four,” replied the Matrian, “The main entrance, the kitchen entrance and two side entrances. They’re all guarded.”
“Let’s go see.”
T’Parief and his team followed the Matrians to the reception area outside the banquet hall. Using his tricorder T’Parief was able to pinpoint the life signs in the room.
“Eighty-seven life signs,” he muttered, “ten standing, apparently armed.”
“We need a distraction,” muttered one of the Matrians.
“One of us could pretend to be kitchen staff,” Stern suggested.
“I have a better idea…”
Following T’Parief’s orders, Pysternzykz activated the transporter, beaming over a dozen stun grenades into different parts of the banquet hall. Each grenade was set to minimum stun to allow time for security to restrain the hostiles, but awaken them quickly for questions.
The team outside the Banquet Hall listened to the sound of multiple explosions going off inside. As the last grenade detonated, they rushed in.
“I will tell you nothing!” snapped the man. He had been found unconscious near the Silverado officers. Only Stafford, Telfidi and Lashette were missing, the others having been sent back to Silverado. The Matrian Councilors were slowly stirring.
“I want to know where the Captain is,” T’Parief said slowly, “I also want to know where to find Mistress Laurette!”
“I’ll never tell you.”
“I think you will,” T’Parief said coldly, “Lieutenant Stern?”
Stern held up a china teacup he had taken from the head table.
“This,” he said, “Belonged to Mistress Laurette,” he dropped the teacup, which shattered into hundreds of pieces, “Oops!”
“How dare you!” gasped the Matrian, “That was the property of our Divine Mistress!”
“There’s more where that came from,” T’Parief said as Stern held up a china plate and fork. He drew the fork across the plate, leaving a deep scratch and producing a painful squealing sound.
“You’re a monster!” the Matrian howled.
“Thank you,” T’Parief replied, “You have no idea how much better that makes me feel. Now tell me what I want to know!”
“There’s a tunnel beneath this building,” the man gasped, “it leads to the Backup Nexus. She’s taken your Captain with her.”
“Thank you. Stern, Dar’ugal, you’re with me. The rest of you, secure this building.”
Leading his squad down into the lower levels of the building, T’Parief encountered several Matrians who were evidently still loyal to Laurette and her ideals of female dominance. He had to force himself to remain with his squad, relying on weapons fire to dispatch his opponents, rather than rushing in with claws bared.
Finally they found a promising sight: a large steel hatch covering a spiral staircase. The stairs led into a dark tunnel that looked to lead away from the Council Building.
Rushing down the stairs, T’Parief narrowly missed being struck by an energy beam. He immediately fired back, missing by over a meter as he tumbled to the floor. A weight struck him from above as Stern’s fell to the floor. He was still alive, but the energy beam had severed his left arm below the elbow. He gave out a gasp of pain as he clutched at the cauterized stump, then passed out. Dar’ugal’s phaser shot found the assailant right in the stomach and the Matrian collapsed with a shriek.
“Blortch!” T’Parief cursed. He tapped his comm-badge, “T’Parief to Silverado. Stern needs immediate retrieval.”
“There must be interference,” T’Parief stated. Dar’ugal nodded agreement. T’Parief scanned Stern with his tricorder. His vitals appeared to be stable, for the time being.
Dar’ugal gave T’Parief a worried look. He pointed at Stern then dragged his finger across his throat in the universal ‘kill’ gesture, then shrugged.
“His injuries aren’t life threatening and we cannot let Laurette activate that Nexus,” T’Parief said, “We’ll come back for Stern later.”
They continued down the dark tunnel.
Running at top speed down the tunnel, T’Parief quickly found that Yanick’s body wasn’t in anywhere near as good shape as his own. Soon sweat was pouring down his/her face as he gasped and wheezed.
What could he possible do? He was slowing down Dar’ugal, who could run for hours and not even break into a sweat. His tricorder wasn’t able to pick up Laurette’s life signs, which meant that she was either out of range or that the interference affecting his communicator was also blocking the device.
T’Parief worked hard to keep his body in peak condition. Although his physical evaluator at Starfleet Academy had noted him down as being ‘somewhat clumsy’ and ‘slightly uncoordinated’ he worked hard to ensure that his strength, stamina and marksmanship were beyond reproach. Being robbed of that and stuck in the body of a slightly plump female who’s idea of a hard workout was climbing onto a horse was having a serious impact on his job.
<Fine then>, T’Parief thought to himself, <This is no time for self-pity. How do I solve this problem?>
He could see three possibilities:
He could run as fast as Yanick’s slowing body could take him in the hopes that it would be fast enough to catch Laurette.
Send Dar’ugal on ahead to catch Laurette.
Ask for Dar’ugal’s help.
Number 1 would satisfy his pride. Number 2 gave Dar’ugal the best chance to catch Laurette, but the worst chance of successfully overpowering her. Number 3 was humiliating.
<Do you want to catch that bitch or satisfy your glorxing pride?> a small voice asked in the back of his head.
T’Parief made his choice.
“Ensign,” he wheezed, I need-“
T’Parief/Yanick was cut-off as one of Dar’ugal’s huge, furry arms reached out and caught Yanick’s body across the midsection, tucking T’Parief/Yanick to Dar’ugal’s side like a football. T’Parief gave a yelp of surprise as Dar’ugal put on an immediate burst of speed.
“Thanks,” he muttered.
“I’m picking up an energy source,” T’Parief said to Dar’ugal, hanging as he was in Dar’ugal’s grip, “One hundred feet ahead. It must be the Nexus. Put me down.”
Dar’ugal immediately released T’Parief, who dropped to the flood with a dull ‘thud’. He was immediately on his feet, phaser in hand.
He gestured to Dar’ugal to remain follow him silently as he crept towards the tunnel exit. He had to admit, Yanick’s body was far more discreet than his own. Easing around the corner, he caught sight of his quarry.
The tunnel opened into a large, dome-shaped chamber. In the center was a thick pillar of computer equipment. Tiny lights blinked all over the pillar’s surface. Thick conduits stretched from the walls of the dome and into the computer core. Laurette was standing on a small raised platform near the central core column. Two male Matrians, obviously still loyal to Laurette, held phasers on Stafford and Telfidi. As T’Parief watched a large section of the core split away from the pillar and lowered itself towards the platform on which Laurette stood.
“Laurette,” Telfidi called out, “You can’t expect this plan to work! Most of your slaves have been returned home. My people will attack the minute they find out-“
“Your people have no warships,” Laurette sneered, “We’ve seen to that!”
“My people do!” Stafford shot back, “And we’re more than capable of blasting your fleet to pieces!”
“Your ship’s a wreck,” Laurette said, “We’ve seen to that as well! You can’t hope to stand against the combined forces of our remaining fleet! We’ll blow that pile of rust to dust!”
“Maybe Silverado can’t” Stafford said, “But one Galaxy-class ship could turn your fleet and most of your planet into rubble!”
“Don’t do this!” Telfidi pleaded, “It’s time to live in peace!”
“F**k peace!” Laurette snapped, tapping at the panel.
“STOP!” T’Parief cried out, stepping into the room, phaser aimed squarely at Laurette. Dar’ugal pointed his weapon at the Matrians covering the hostages.
“The little blond girl,” Laurette said with an evil smile, not turning from her panel, “Come for some tea and crumpets?”
“I’ve come to stop you! Step away from that panel!”
Laurette turned to look at T’Parief/Yanick.
“Fine.” She moved away from the panel, “You realize that if you shoot me, your Captain will die.” Her voice was almost conversational.
“Kill the bitch!” Stafford called.
“I would think you of all people could understand what I’m trying to do,” Laurette said, “I understand you’re used to a more masculine body. But can’t you see how superior the female form truly is? You can make a man tremble with the merest glance! A gentle caress and he’s your slave!”
“Your ancestors made the decision to make their men their equals,” T’Parief called out.
“They were wrong! The Gender War proves that!”
“Your people have decided to follow their original plan,” T’Parief said, edging closer to Laurette, “You have no right to make this decision for them!”
“Enough of this! Kill him!” she snapped, pointing at T’Parief.
T’Parief immediately dropped to the floor as an energy beam passed directly through the space his head had previously occupied. Dar’ugal stunned the guard on the left while T’Parief forced off a shot at Laurette. Diving for the panel, Laurette dodged the phaser beam, hit one last button and took off running through a door in the opposite wall.
“ACTIVATION IN THREE MINUTES,” announced a computerized female voice.
While this was happening, Stafford drove his elbow into the other guard’s gut. The man collapsed, wheezing before Stafford knocked him out with a blow to the back of the head.
“Are you all right,” T’Parief asked, running up to Stafford and Telfidi, Dar’ugal close behind.
“We’re fine,” Stafford said, “We’ll stop the Nexus, you stop Laurette.”
“Aye sir,” T’Parief turned to Dar’ugal, “Use your phaser on overload to destroy the Nexus, if necessary,” he ordered as he chased after Laurette.
Laurette, as it turned out, hadn’t made it very far.
“Stupid men,” she muttered as she tapped at the panel next to a pair of sealed doors.
“Need a hand?” T’Parief asked coldly.
Laurette spun to face the blond security officer.
“Back of!” she snapped, “And I’ll let you live!”
“I don’t think you’re in a position to make threats! T’Parief shot back, “Even if you escape, the Captain will shut down your backup Nexus.
“I’ll be free to try again!” Laurette said defiantly.
“Don’t count on it!” T’Parief took a menacing step towards the Matrian.
“ACTIVATION IN TWO MINUTES.”
“Don’t be silly,” Laurette said, fear starting to show in her eyes, “fighting will gain us nothing. I’m larger and stronger than you.”
“I’m well versed in several different combat styles,” T’Parief said calmly, “most of which are designed for use against larger opponents.”
“Fine!” Laurette rushed at T’Parief, who was barely able to dodge. As Laurette rushed by, he dove at her knees, knocking her to the floor. Laurette immediately flipped over and kicked at the smaller woman’s body.
T’Parief once again had to choose between satisfying his honor, and using what advantages his new body possessed. It was time to employ a style of fighting not employed by Starfleet officers or taught as Starfleet Academy. A style of combat favored by Trish Yanick on those rare occasions when drunken parties degenerated into barroom brawls.
It was time to fight dirty.
Gripped on the leg that had tried to kick his face, T’Parief/Yanick bit down hard, electing a scream of pain from Laurette. Reaching up he grabbed a handful of her long, dark hair and yanked with all his might. Lashing out, Laurette struck his arm, yanking her hair in a whole new direction and drawing another scream of pain from the battered ex-mistress. Pulling himself to his/Yanick’s feet, T’Parief kicked Laurette hard in the gut, then knocked her out with a blow to the head.
“Bitch!” he spat.
Dragging Laurette by the ankles, T’Parief returned to the Nexus chamber, where Stafford and Telfidi had just successfully shut down the Nexus.
Stafford looked down at Laurette’s bloodied face.
“Nice job, Commander,” he said with a smirk.
They turned to look at the computer core.
“This should be destroyed,” Stafford said.
“Would that be a Prime Directive violation?” T’Parief asked.
“I’ll do it!” Telfidi said brightly, adjusting one of the Matrian energy weapons and tossing it at the core.
“I think we should run now,” Stafford said calmly.
They ran like hell, making it safely into the tunnel before the Nexus core exploded with a resounding BOOM!
Lieutenant Stern passed the tub of popcorn over to Ensign Burke, who grabbed a handful and succeeded into getting about half the popcorn into his mouth, the rest spilling onto the carpet.
“You look good with one arm,” Burke said though his full mouth.
“That was definitely fun to watch!” Stern said with a grin, “Biting, slapping and hair pulling. Man, he’s NEVER gonna live that down!”
“I think it’s time to let him know what was really going on,” Noonan said with a grin.
“Oh, one second,” Day said, tapping at his panel. The view on the main screen switched from wide-angle to close-up, zooming in on T’Parief/Yanick’s sweating face as he hurried down the tunnel, “OK, now do it.”
“Sylvia,” Noonan said, “Please end the simulation in Holodeck 1.”
“Can I record this for future use?” the computer asked.
“Program Terminated,” announced Sylvia’s voice as the ‘tunnel’ on the main screen faded back into the standard holodeck grid.
T’Parief looked around in shock as the tunnel, Dar’ugal, Stafford and everything else disappeared, revealing blank holodeck walls. Noonan and the bridge crew could see a vein start to throb on his/Yanick’s forehead shortly before he broke into a very impressive display of profanity.
First Officer’s Log, Stardate 56451.9
Mr. T’Parief has successfully completed the holodeck scenario we prepared for him. I believe he has learned to value the unique advantages he has gained by being moved into a different body. He has calmed considerably since we shut down the holodeck. We are fortunate that Ensign Yanick’s body does not sport claws, or the holodeck would likely be down for repairs again.
On another note, Captain Stafford and the away team have returned from the reception.
Yanick turned to Wowryk/Jall as the latter quickly moved a hand to cover her/Jall’s mouth as the rest of the away team filed out of the turbolift, generally looked haggard and tired.
“Excuse me,” Wowryk said in a small voice.
“Yeah, excuse you,” Yanick laughed, waving a hard back and forth.
“I take it the food was good?” Noonan inquired.
“Oh, the food was gooood,” Stafford said, an evil grin on his face.
“And the reception was enjoyable?”
“Veerrrry enjoyable,” Stafford said.
“We sat,” Jall complained, “For four hours, listening to various big-wigs with bad makeup blabber about the ‘New Age of Matria’ and ‘Improving Relations’.”
“Ex-Mistress Laurette got drunk and had to be thrown out,” Jeffery said.
“Eight Matrian men asked to marry me,” Wowryk piped in, “Then Jeffery started an argument-“
“-bored out of my skull”
“-stupid diplomatic bulls**t”
“Why then,” Noonan asked Stafford as the Captain settled into his chair, “was the reception so enjoyable?”
Stafford leaned back, looking smug.
“I was a BAD boy,” he finally said.
Noonan lifted an eyebrow.
“Meaning,” Fifebee cut in, “That the Captain and Prefect Telfidi were fornicating in the bathroom during Councilor Letaria’s speech.”
“You had sex with a foreign dignitary during a diplomatic function?” Noonan asked, surprised.
“IN MY BODY??” roared Jeffery.
“Man,” Jall reached over the Tactical rail and clamped one of T’Parief’s meaty, clawed hands on Stafford’s shoulders, “I have, like, a totally new respect for you!”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 56381.5
“We’ve been orbiting Matria Prime for over a week now. Jeffery and his crew have done a pretty good job of applying big, ugly patches to most of our hull breaches. On the other hand, he’s decided that the damaged warp nacelle and the big chunk missing from the saucer are lost causes without a dry dock. The Matrians have been pretty quiet, calling up for some advice on agriculture or something the other day, but mostly just focusing on getting themselves up and running. Queen Anselia has finally re-learned the method for properly applying lipstick. One can only hope that she’ll share this amazing new breakthrough with the rest of her people.
T’Parief wasn’t exactly thrilled to find out that he had been beamed into a holodeck scenario rather than an actual crisis, but he hasn’t been moping around quite as much, which leads me to believe that he’s getting settled a bit more comfortably in Yanick’s body. Speaking of bodies….
“I have thoroughly reviewed all information given to us by the Matrians on the Dream Machines, Dream Nexus, Dreamland and the Dream Network,” Fifebee stated, gesturing to some complicated looking schematics displayed on the conference room screen, “As you can see-“
“Actually,” Stafford cut in, “I can’t. How about you translate that confused tangle of lines for us?”
“I was about to do just that!” Fifebee huffed, “Anyway, some of the scientists who initially designed this system have assisted with my analysis.”
“And?” Wowryk asked.
“The Dream Machines are designed to act as intermediaries between Dreamland and the user’s brain, stimulating neurons and reading brainwaves to allow the user to experience and interact with the virtual world. Although all neural activity is mapped, only motor and sensory cortex information is actively used or stimulated, leading us to-“
“Translate please,” Stafford said, twirling his finger in the universal ‘hurry-up’ gesture.
“They have no idea how this could have happened, or how to reverse it.”
“S**t,” remarked T’Parief.
“Do you have any ideas?” Stafford asked Fifebee.
“In theory,” Fifebee said thoughtfully, “because the device has the ability to both ‘read’ and ‘write’ brainwaves, we could read the brainwaves of two individuals, then write them into the correct brain.”
“In this case,” Fifebee said, “We don’t know if we are truly transferring the mind of the person, or merely altering another mind to match it. For that matter, we don’t know if Jall’s mind really IS in Mr. T’Parief, or if Mr. T’Parief has been altered to behave like Lt. Jall.”
There was silence as the officers exchanged glances.
“That’s a very scary thought,” T’Parief/Yanick muttered.
“Can we test that in any way?” Stafford asked.
“Actually,” Wowryk piped up, “I’ve run intensive brain scans on several crewmen. I’ve compared the readings to archived data on victims of brainwashing or mind-altering cults and organization. There were no matches at all.”
“That doesn’t confirm anything!” Fifebee complained.
“Are you questioning my-“
“Ladies, please,” Noonan said, “If you’ll give me a moment…”
Noonan concentrated hard, first on Stafford, then on Yanick.
“Your souls have indeed switched bodies,” Noonan concluded.
“What?” Jeffery asked, “Ye figured it out just like that?”
“So what do you suggest?” Stafford asked. He was getting to the point where his First Officers strange talents and behaviors just seemed less and less important.
“I don’t think Federation science is going to hold the answer,” Noonan said, “It hasn’t even been able to prove conclusively that humanoid beings have souls, never mind how to transfer them.”
“I agree,” Wowryk and Fifebee said in unison.
“We need to return to Federation space,” Fifebee continued, taking her seat, “There is at least one alien body-switching device on record. We may also find assistance from the Vulcans. There are also many highly skilled scientists aboard Waystation, in the employ of Dillon Enterprises.”
“But I want my body back now!” T’Parief objected.
“Eh,” Stafford said, “We’ve managed for almost two weeks. We can manage a few more.”
“What?” snapped Jeffery, “And give ye the chance to defile me body again?”
“At least it finally got some action!”
Shortly after the meeting, T’Parief approached Yanick on the bridge.
“I must speak with you,” he said softly.
“Sure!” Yanick gave him a bright smile as she slid out of her station, “Hey Chris, can we use your ready room for a minute?”
“Well,” Stafford started, “actually-“
Yanick led T’Parief into the ready room. She plunked right down in Stafford’s chair and picked up a chunk of plastic from the desk.
“Hey!” she exclaimed, holding it out to T’Parief, “I think the Captain’s building a model of something! I wonder what it could be?”
“Silverado, perhaps?” T’Parief ventured.
“Probably! Wow, you’re smart!”
T’Parief decided not to point out the ‘U.S.S. Silverado’ decal attached to the model piece.
“I need your help,” he said instead.
“I am investigating the bodies we found-“
“I know!” Yanick inturrputed.
“AND,” T’Parief went one, “I’m pretty sure Admiral Grelus knows something. But he is not being co-operative. Threatening him is not working. I need to make use of some of the strengths of this body to make him talk, but I’m not sure what to do.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Yanick said, “try to seduce him.”
“That,” T’Parief admitted, “I had not considered. How do I do this?”
“Easy!” Yanick said, “Hit on him, and compliment him. And if all else fails, show some skin.”
“I don’t know if I’m comfortable using your body that way,” T’Parief said slowly.
“It’s in the line of duty,” Yanick said, “Go for it. It’s not like I’ve never used my looks to get what I want. Just remember: all men are horny pigs. Most of them, anyway.”
The old man sighed.
“You again?” he asked.
“Yes,” T’Parief affirmed, “I’m sorry for the way our previous meeting went. I hope I can,” he grimaced inwardly, “make it up to you…”
“What did you say your name was?”
“T-, um, Trish. I was,” he batted Yanicks big blue eyes, “really hoping you could help me out.”
This time Grelus hesitated.
“I, um, don’t know anything,” he said, sweat breaking out across his face.
Following Yanick’s advice, T’Parief used one hand to pull his hair back, leaning back so Yanick’s breasts were pressed against the non-duty uniform he was wearing.
“I…oh…” Grelus was cracking.
Leaning forward again, T’Parief forced himself to look deep into Grelus rheumy eyes.
“I would…really appreciate it if you would help me out,” he said, the off-duty shirt hanging down slightly as he leaned forward, showing off Yanick’s cleavage.
“Oh, OK, FINE!” Grelus sighed, “Yes, I know exactly what happened!”
“Then you admit to killing them?” T’Parief cocked his head.
“No!” snapped Grelus, “Of course not! But we did cover it up. That I admit.”
“It would take too long for me to explain,” Grelus wheezed, “But if the bodies were still there, then you’ll be able to find the ODN sub-processor for that section nearby. We left the records in that unit intact and sealed it with them. We figured anybody finding the bodies would find the records. They deserved to at least have somebody know what happened to them.”
“I see,” T’Parief said, “I will contact you if I have further questions.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Grelus said, “But, um, before you go, could I get another look at those? I haven’t seen a body that great in years!”
T’Parief cut the channel.
“Why are we here?” Stafford asked, looking around the empty holodeck.
“Because,” Noonan replied, “Your Security Chief requested it,”
“Goody for him,” muttered Jeffery.
The three of them were waiting for T’Parief to arrive. Finally, the holodeck doors hissed open and T’Parief/Yanick strolled in.
“I have found an explanation for the two bodies,” he announced.
“Great,” replied Stafford, tapping his foot impatiently, “How?”
“There was an intact sub-processing unit in the sealed section. Using the data from that unit, I have created a holodeck re-enactment of the incident. Sylvia?”
“Please initiate program ‘Engineers are Stupid’.”
Jeffery’s protest was lost as the simulation began.
Around Fifty years ago:
Crewman Greene cursed as he hit his head on the ceiling of the cramped maintenance level for the 8th time.
“Will you hurry up?” snapped Crewman Taslen from behind him, “Some of us would like to finish and go off duty THIS millennium!”
“Shut up,” muttered Greene as he rubbed his head with his prosthetic arm. Continuing on, he finally reached section 3, their last stop for the day.
The two crewmen had been assigned by Chief Engineer Chuks to re-tune all the Structural Integrity Field generators in Sub-Level A. The SIF was a powerful force field used to reinforce the hull of starships. SIFs allowed starship hulls to withstand the rigors of impulse and warp speeds while remaining (relatively) lightweight. A ship without an SIF would need a massive, thick hull and a huge amount of structural reinforcement just to make it to Warp One.
“Last one,” Taslen said triumphantly, removing the access panel on SIF generator 3A-S.
“Let me do this one,” Greene said.
“Uh-huh, yeah, right,” Taslen muttered.
“C’mon! I’m just as good with machines as you are!”
“Yeah, maybe BEFORE you replaced your arm with that overgrown fork! Why you didn’t get a normal, flesh colored, insulated bionic arm installed is beyond me.
“Hey,” Greene objected, “When YOU lose an arm to some Nausican bandit, you can get what ever kind of replacement you want. It just so happens I LIKE stainless steel!”
“Fine!” Taslin sighed, “Go nights.”
“Thanks,” Greene reached into the innards of the SIF generator.
Stafford, Jeffery and even Noonan stood in silent shock as there was a massive energy discharge from the SIF generator, liquefying Greene’s prized prosthetic arm and catching both men in the backwash. Energy rippled over power conduits and through control circuits, throwing sparks and frying components throughout the chamber.
The view switched to an external viewpoint, showing Silverado flying through space. Stafford realized that at this minute the ship’s odometer must be reading 5.74 light years, the distance at which Silverado had the critical systems failure that led to her being decommissioned. The old-style Ambassador-class bridge module was the only sign that they were looking at the ship as it was fifty years ago.
Lights began to flicker as energy discharges raced over the ship’s hull. The warp engines grew dark and the ship started to spin as it dropped out of warp. Looking carefully, Jeffery could see tiny ripples running through the hull, caused no doubt by the damage to the SIF field. Hull plates broke free and went flying through space as the saucer shuddered. Computer generated sound effects added in the sounds of groaning, twisting and snapping metal as a fresh ripple of damage flickered across the saucer, ejecting even more hull plates. Lifeboat hatches started opening all over the ship as the crew made a break for it, leaving the dying ship adrift.
The lights in the holodeck came back up, revealing the faces of three very surprised officers.
“That,” T’Parief said calmly, “Was my reaction as well.”
“So, the whole reason this ship was scrapped wasn’t because of poor construction, but because some dolt shoved his metal arm into an active SIF generator?” Jeffery asked.
“Setting her pattern early, I see.” Stafford muttered.
“Why cover this up?” Noonan asked, “It was an accident!”
“Would you want to explain to a board of inquiry why you assigned a man with a metal arm to repair high-powered equipment?” T’Parief asked, “Do the words ‘fork in a toaster’ ring a bell?”
“According to Vice-Admiral Grelus,” T’Parief continued, “He agreed to help Chief Engineer Chuks seal off this section in return for his resignation. Chuks died twenty years ago when he was attacked by a giant squid while snorkeling off the coast of Australia.”
“Well, this explains a lot,” Jeffery admitted, “It definitely explains the structural damage we found during the refit. If a ship were to have a spontaneous reversion to real space with a malfunctioning-“
“Thank you, Fifebee,” Stafford cut Jeffery off.
“F**k you too,” Jeffery muttered.
“So you solved the mystery of the dead bodies and answered a few questions regarding this ship,” Stafford said, clapping T’Parief on the shoulder, “Good work.”
“What about Grelus?” Noonan asked.
“I have informed the authorities. I doubt any action will be taken against him, considering his age and health.”
“Doesn’t that bother you?”
T’Parief thought for a moment.
“No. He is already suffering sufficiently.”
Chapter 7: ‘Epilogue’
The next evening, Stafford was reclining comfortably in Unbalanced Equations, watching Matria orbit slowly above him in the large windows at the back of the lounge. The station to which Silverado was tethered had an unusual polar orbit that had it following the planet’s Prime Meridian of longitude as it swung past the south pole, across a vast ocean then over the north pole before passing above the main continent and the city of Matronus. Stafford lifted his glass to the planet.
“To the most bothersome bunch of bitches in the galaxy,” he toasted, then downed his drink.
“At least they got you laid,” Jall pointed out, setting T’Parief’s bulk into the special chair Steven had had brought in for him.
“I don’t want to talk about sex with you,” Stafford said bluntly.
“Funny, you’ll talk about it with a room full of dignitaries. I bet half of them must have heard you sque-“
“It’s so nice to see everything getting back to normal,” Yanick sighed from her chair.
“Sitting next to myself is never normal under any possible stretch of the term,” Stafford said simply.
“Y’know, people have been saying for centuries that it’s not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside that counts.”
“That’s just something ugly people say,” Jeffery muttered, sipping his whiskey.
“Honey, shut the f**k up,” Wowryk said calmly.
“Aye, dearest,” Jeffery replied, abashed.
“Do you think Fifebee will every figure out a way to get us back into our own bodies?” T’Parief asked.
“If she can’t somebody will,” Stafford said, “Worst case scenario, we let the Daystom Institute try out those brain transplantation procedures they’ve been dying to test.”
“He’s joking, right?” Jall said, shifting his gaze from person to person, “Please tell me he’s joking.”
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Stafford said, a gleam in his eye.
“Maybe there’s a greater lesson to be learned here,” Wowryk said, leaning back in her chair, “We faced the enemies we spent most of the last eight months fearing. We’ve traveled deep into unknown space, encountered new races-“
“And new women,” Stafford added.
“Please stop bringing that up,” Wowryk said, annoyed.
“What? The fact that I had dirty, non-Catholic-“
“Anyway,” Wowryk cut him off, “We’ve encountered new races, made new allies and adapted to these horrible new bodies. And yet we’ve come through it-“
“Here it comes,” Jall muttered, “The sentimentality. She’s going to tell us how we’re still good friends, colleagues and all that bulls**t”
“Actually,” Wowryk said, “I was going to say that we’ve come through it as the same group of squabbling children we were the day we first met.”
“Oh,” Jall thought for a moment, “OK, that’s fair.”
“I’d like to think we’ve improved,” Stafford said, stretching his arms over his head, “I mean, Doc, we can have an actual conversation now without you whipping a padd at my head.”
“I was stressed,” Wowryk said defensively.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 56451.7
“With the arrival of the starship Wasagaming, it is again time for us to say a cheery ‘Farewell’ to the Matrian system. I hope that Ambassador Owens is able to reach an agreement that will lead to a strong relationship between the Federation and the Matrian Republic. At least that’s what my official log says.”
“Hope they tell the bitches where to go shove their membership application.”
“The recorder is still running, Captain,” said Sylvia, a smile evident in her voice.
“What? Crap! Remove that last sentence.”
“Are you sure I shouldn’t just submit this to Admiral Tunney, Priority One?”
“I’m sure.” Stafford said, panicked.
“Calm down. It’s taken care of.”
“Phew,” Stafford settled back into his chair, “Thanks, Sylvia.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“We’re being hailed by the Wasagaming,” reported Jall.
The image of the approaching Galaxy-class starship was replaced with the image of a grey-haired, balding man in his late fifties.
“Captain Stafford, I presume.”
“Yup, that’s me,” Stafford said, not bothering to stand.
“Ambassador Owens. Pleasure to meet you. Nice…um, ship you have there.”
“Yes, isn’t it,” Stafford said flatly, “If you’ll excuse us, we’re going to start limping home for repairs.”
“I was hoping to get your assessment of the Matrians first,” Owens said hurriedly.
“It’s in my report,” Stafford said, “It looks like they’re trying hard to get their act together, but we’re a bit jaded, considering the trouble they’ve put us through.”
“Understood. Well, now that the experts are here I’m sure we’ll come to an agreement.”
“Thanks. Have a nice stay.”
He gave Jall the ‘kill transmission’ gesture.
“Trish,” he ordered, “Set course for Waystation. Warp 3.5. And if I try to turn us around before we get there, somebody PLEASE sit on me until the urge passes.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Jall said cheerfully.
“Somebody who doesn’t weight so much. Y’know what, how about just stunning me until the urge passes?”
Silverado detached smoothly from the Matrian station and shot off towards Federation space, her damaged nacelle leaving a lovely steam of high-energy plasma in her wake.