Author: Brendan Chris
Chief Engineer Simon Jeffery sat in his office adjacent to Main Engineering, tapping angrily at his terminal. The U.S.S. Silverado had been stuck in the middle of nowhere for two weeks now due to a damaged navigational deflector. Without the deflector, travel at even a fraction of light-speed could send space junk flying through the hull like bullets through cheese. Unfortunately, the damaged components couldn’t be replicated and had to be shipped out to them from the nearest station, a trip that took several weeks. Why they didn’t have a spare on board was beyond Jeffery.
Typically, a starship with a damaged navigational deflector could use its defensive shields as a substitute. In an emergency anyway. But defensive shields were meant to deflect weapons fire, not space junk. Hitting a chuck of rock while traveling faster then the speed of light would punch a good sized hole through any shield, which was where the high-powered deflector beam in the navigational deflector came in very handy.
Jeffery established a connection to the Galactic Express Shipping Company. Starfleet was pretty busy these days, so they were outsourcing some of their shipping to private companies. Galactic Express had a great record, with hardly any customer complaints.
THANK YOU FOR USING GALACTIC EXPRESS. FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE, WE HAVE AUTOMATED OUR PACKAGE TRACKING SYSTEMS. PLEASE ENTER YOUR TRACKING NUMBER TO LOCATE YOUR PACKAGE.
“Tracking number?” muttered Jeffery. “Oh! Right!” He started rummaging through the drawers of his desk, coming up with padd after padd. There was a memo from Captain Stafford, again requesting that additional personnel be assigned to holodeck installation. A memo from Dr. Wowryk, ordering him to accompany her to dinner tonight. Rough draft of a love letter to Dr. Wowryk. Pictures of Dr. Wowryk. Copy of an article Dr. Wowryk had written for the Starfleet Medical Journal. Copy of the Christian Bible, provided at a nominal charge by Dr. Wowryk.
Jeffery continued stacking padds on his desk as he rummaged through his drawers. Finally, he found the tracking number.
“Ok,” he muttered, “let’s see…”
SKDJSLDJEKCH38R63947EJFDNASE8O4OUSFSLKNFS08HO I32UASDF08HLSDFINASDFOISDOIYFDG987B4WO87GASD8 FVADSSD9873Q4BIUSYDFGIU347696EUYBSDFGOIYHERL KDSUBODSIUSDFGOIBSDFG
“Oops, that was supposed to be an ‘H’, not a ‘G’.
Jeffery was focused so hard on typing in the absurdly long code he didn’t notice a soft creaking in his office ceiling.
With a rain of insulation, wires and various metal bits, Ensign Frat Naketh fell through the ceiling, landing with a loud THUD on Jeffery’s desk. Padds skittered across the floor while a cloud of dust wafted down.
Jeffery blinked in surprise.
“Is there something ye need, Ensign?” he asked, surprisingly calm.
“How about a chiropractor!” gasped Frat as he struggled to sit up.
“What the hell just happened?”
“I was, ouch, that is REALLY going to hurt tomorrow,” Frat winced, “I was between decks, tracing some faulty circuitry. I guess I found a rotten spot in the floor,” he looked up, “or ceiling, I suppose.”
“Well, ye’ve made a lovely mess of me office now, haven’t ye?” Jeffery said, annoyed, “Jeffery to maintenance, cleanup in my office!”
“Is this a dry-vac engineering mess kinda cleanup,” came the annoyed voice from maintenance, “or did your frigid girlfriend finally give you some loving and you need the wet-vac kinda cleanup?”
“Belay that!” Jeffery snapped, “Dry-vac! And Ah’m telling her ye said that!”
The voice became very nervous, “Please, sir, don’t do that!”
“Have this mess cleaned up in fifteen minutes and Ah might change my mind.”
“Yes sir, on my way!”
Jeffery settled back in his chair.
“Once yer done with the circuitry ye can do something about the gaping hole in my ceiling!” Jeffery said angrily, “Dismissed!”
“Later, sir,” Frat said. He turned to leave, stepping on a padd as he did so. The padd shot out from under his foot, sending Frat sprawling to floor. The padd shot out the door, bounced off a wall and skittered onto a nearby console, knocking a cup of coffee into an open access port. The console started to sizzle as hot liquid seeped through unprotected circuits. Sparks flew from the console and a four foot high tongue of flame shot out, setting fire to the padded chair sitting nearby. The fire suppression system kicked in, showering the entire compartment in flame retardant foam. (Most modern ships had force-field containment systems for fire, but as we all know, Silverado hasn’t reached ‘modern’ status yet!)
“Warning,” announced the computer, “the transporter sensor control system is experiencing severe malfunctions. Use of transporters prior to repair can lead to mutation, pattern degradation and/or forming.” The computer abandoned its pre-programmed monotone. “And if you two don’t quit horsing around I’m going to bang both your heads together!”
“Oh f**k me!” Jeffery yelled as he stepped out to assess the damage. The transporter control circuits in the panel were seriously fried. Like he needed more repairs stacking onto his already enormous workload. “Nice f**king move!”
“Hey,” Frat objected, “it wasn’t MY fault!”
“Nay, ye just kicked the padd that dumped the coffee that fried the circuits that started the fire THAT KILLED THE CAT THAT ATE THE RAT THAT LIVED ON THE SHIP THAT SIMON BUILT!!!!”
Frat gave Jeffery a funny look. “Are you feeling OK? Maybe you should take some time off…”
“And do what, exactly? Twiddle my thumbs in my quarters? Play video games until my eyeballs blister? Take part in the riveting Twister competition taking place in the lounge?”
“Ok, ok, I get your point! Geez, I’m just trying to help!”
“Well thank ye, but if ye could call everybody back to Engineering to start cleaning up this mess, that would be all the help Ah need!”
“And what will you be doing, sir?” asked Frat.
Jeffery looked around at the drenched compartment. The foam coating every surface made it look like two feet of snow had fallen. The warp core thrummed away, oblivious to the fact that it was now the centerpiece of a Starfleet Christmas Village.
“Ah’ll be on the bridge, trying to figure out where my parts are!”
“I’m sure the good Doctor would be willing to help you find them,” Frat quipped, “Well, actually, no. She wouldn’t be!”
“Have fun with your new double-shift today, Naketh!” Jeffery snapped on his way out.
Jeffery stalked through the corridors on his way to the bridge. As the turbolift passed Deck 8, Madame Schoonbaert and a gaggle of children crowded on board.
“Bonjour, Monsieur Jeffery,” she said with a grin, “‘Ave you met the Grade 4 class?”
“No,” Jeffery grumbled, “Ah haven’t had the ‘pleasure’ of meeting the little bast….um, angels.”
“Well,” Schoonbaert beamed, “children, this is Lt. Cmdr. Simon Jeffery. He fixes the ship’s engines!”
One of the kids pointed.
“My mommy sez it’s his fault we’re stuck out here!”
“Well, yer mommy has a face like a skelped erse!” snapped Jeffery. The little boy jumped back.
Madame Schoonbaert glared daggers at Jeffery as the turbolift doors opened and she led the children out.
“Like Ah have time for this BS!” Jeffery called out.
Chris Stafford sat in his ready room, reading ‘The Nephew of the Sister of the Cousin of the Great-Great-Granddaughter of the Queen of the Damned’ by Anne Rice. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he kept getting the weirdest feeling of déjà vu reading about Anne’s vampires. He’d been working on the book for some time, but frequent interruptions were making it really hard for him to finish it.
The doors to his ready room snapped open and Trish Yanick stormed in and collapsed on the couch.
“Ever get the feeling you’re stuck in a rut, and that if you don’t do something to move forward you’re gonna go crazy?” she asked.
Stafford tossed his book on the desk.
“Every time I look out the f**king window!” he complained, “But our parts have to come in sooner or later, then we’ll be back on the go.”
“Um, I was talking about me and T’Parief!” Yanick said.
Stafford frowned. “Oh. Stuck in a rut?? You’ve only been dating for a couple weeks!”
“I know!” Yanick whined, “but we haven’t done anything new in days! If we don’t find something to do soon, I’m going to have to start having sex with him! And then Noel will kill him! Unless she’s in a good mood. She might just neuter him instead.”
Stafford rubbed his temples.
“Look, Trish, first off, everybody on this ship is bored silly. It’s not you, it’s not your relationship, it’s a burnt-out deflector and a complete lack of holodecks! Second, anything involving the words ‘sex’ and ‘T’Parief’ in the same sentence is NOT something I need to know about.”
Yanick gave Stafford an evil grin. “So after we do it, I shouldn’t tell you about how he-“
“Stop right there!” Stafford interrupted.
“I just need to find something fun for us to do!” Yanick said.
“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” Stafford said. “What did you do when you were a teenager?”
“Cow tipping, horseback riding, beer bashes, barn dances, getting seriously drunk at the bar, swimming…pretty much all stuff that we’ve already done or that you need a holodeck for!”
“Oh come on,” Stafford said, “you just need to improvise! Figure out how to do it without the holodeck.”
Yanick thought for a moment.
“Oh! I’ve got it! Wait, no. We don’t have any horses onboard,” she frowned, then jumped up, “Oh! Oh! Wait…no.” She started pacing.
Stafford reached for his book. “Well, when you think of something, let me know.”
“Are you hinting that I have to leave?” Trish asked. Tears started forming in her eyes and her lower lip started to tremble.
“Yes,” Stafford said, “I’m halfway through this book and I’m having trouble putting it down. And don’t try the fake crying routine on me, Noonan already warned me about that little trick.”
Trish giggled, “Crap! He didn’t tell T’Parief, did he?”
“Now go away and let me read my book!” Stafford said, not unkindly.
“Yessir, Captain Grouch!” answered Yanick in the same tone.
Stafford gave a sigh of relief. He walked over to the replicator.
“Cheese and crackers with a glass of tropical blend fruit juice.”
“We’ve got 241,698 varieties of cheese on file, Chris,” replied the computer, “We’ve also got 586,476 varieties of crackers and 2,936,192 different blends of fruit juice.”
“You’re the one who thinks you’re my mother!” Stafford snapped, “shouldn’t you know what kinds I like?”
“Well pardon me!” the computer snapped back, “If you’re going to be that way, I just might make you fix your own snack!” The lights on the replicator shut off.
“No! Wait! I’m sorry!” Stafford whined.
“Well, all right,” The replicator powered up again, then hummed. “Breton crackers, mild Cheddar cheese and V8 Tropical Splash.”
“You’re the best, Mom!” Stafford said, “Computer! I mean computer!”
“I’m wearing you down, sweetie!”
“I already have a mother! One’s enough!”
Stafford carries his snack to his desk, leaned back in his chair and picked up his book.
BE-DEEP! His door chime rang.
<Crap!> thought Stafford, <I’ll just pretend I’m not here!>
<They’ll go away soon…>
“C’mon Chris!” came Jeffery’s voice, “Ah know yer in there! The computer said so!”
“Oh fine!” snapped Stafford. The doors opened, and Jeffery walked in. He was covered with dust and bits of insulation were stuck in his hair. Stafford threw his book down on the desk. “What do you want?”
“Well somebody’s in a bit of snit!” snapped Jeffery, “Especially when ye consider that nobody’s dropped anybody through his ceiling or drenched his workplace in two feet of foam!”
“Having a bad day?” asked Stafford.
“What gave ye that idea?”
“Well, I just have no f**king idea! So how some you’re up here bugging me rather than down there fixing the problem?”
“Because, oh Mr. High-and-Mighty, Ah was trying to track our parts before the whole mess happened. Ah thought ye might want to help me with that so ye can see where everything is!”
“Ah. Right. That actually sounds like a decent idea.” Stafford said, grudgingly. He frowned. “But snap out of that angry mood before I bury my boot up your ass!”
“All right then,” Jeffery took a deep breath, calmed himself and sat across from Stafford, pulling the terminal towards him. He connected to Galactic Express and punched in the tracking number.
“Let’s see…” muttered Jeffery, “Two quantum flux oscillators, shipped from Altair VI to Starbase 285 to Starbase 290 then out to Waystation.”
“Two?” asked Stafford, “I thought we just needed one.”
“Ah decided we should have a spare this time,”
“Thirty-two sections of size three plasma conduit, fourty-five EPS regulators, five EPS manifolds and fifteen EPS taps. All manufactured at Starbase 290 and shipped to Waystation.”
“Can’t we replicate that stuff?”
“Aye. But I used our spare parts inventory instead, since we had to get a delivery anyway. No point wasting replicator power and material.”
“500 square feet of Intrepid-class carpet for Deck 11 and 200 square feet of Galaxy-class carpet for Deck 10. Shipped from Dillon’s Supply Depot’s manufacturing plant on Crocus III to…Waystation.”
“Are you ever going to fix that decorating problem?” Stafford asked.
“Ah can do it before we start on the holodecks, if ye like!”
“It looks like everything is here!” Jeffery said angrily, “Why’s everything sitting at Waystation??”
“Why don’t you call Galactic Express and ask them?”
“Yer the Captain…ye can call!”
“Exactly. I’m the Captain. You call!”
“Crap,” Jeffery starting tapping on the terminal.
“Thank you for calling Galactic Express!” came a pleasant, female voice; “If you would like to purchase services from Galactic Express, press 1. If you are inquiring on the status of your delivery, press 2. If you have a complaint regarding our service, press 3, and our special Andorian Complaints Specialists will visit you in the comfort of your own home.”
Jeffery and Stafford exchange a glance.
“Let’s stick with two,” Stafford said.
“You can check the status of your delivery using our convenient automated online system, accessible on subspace channel 28439. Press 1 to be transferred to this system. If you would like to consult on your order, press 2. If you have a problem with your order or wish to cancel, press 3 and our Andorian-“
Stafford hit the ‘2’ button.
“Please hold. Your call may be recorded for quality and/or training purposes.”
Horribly annoying Spanish music began to play while a pastel pattern was displayed on the terminal.
“How long is this gonna take?” asked Jeffery.
“Shouldn’t be long,” replied Stafford.
Ten minutes later:
“Got any twos?” Stafford asked.
“Go fish,” replied Jeffery, gesturing at the pile of cards in front of him.
Ten more minutes later:
“No, I don’t think Lt. Church was interested in you!” Stafford said, “And what do you care? She’s still on the Exeter! You’ve got your own frigid companion now!”
“She’s not frigid!” objected Jeffery.
“Right, and alligators don’t bite!”
“Oh yeah, and that Hermat you went home with on Kragnos VII was such a catch!”
“Hey, nobody told me Hermats were an intersex species!”
“Aye! It was much more fun to watch ye find out the hard way!”
Ten more minutes later:
Ensign Yanick sat at her post, scrolling through an article entitled “How to keep your man happy, OUTSIDE of bed”. It had taken some time, but she had finally found an article on improving relationships that didn’t involve sex! She was interrupted by loud shouts coming from the Captain’s ready room.
“Are ye daft! Ye think a pack of munchkins running around with wooden sticks is entertainment??”
“OH COME ON! It was a hell of a lot better than watching a bunch of dwarves whine about jewelry for nine hours!”
“That movie was based on a classic!”
“They both were!”
“But mine was better!”
“What are they going on about?” wondered Fifebee.
“Who knows,” replied Yanick, “everybody on board is going space-crazy.”
“I’m right!” shouted Stafford.
“Nay, I’m right!”
“I think we’ll find out in a moment,” commented Noonan.
Seconds later, the door to the ready room opened and Stafford poked his head out.
“What was the bigger movie craze,” he asked, ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’?”
The bridge crew exchanged glances.
“Please leave us out of this,” replied Fifebee.
Thirty more minutes later:
“Thank you for calling Galactic Express, my name is Cathy, how may I help you today?” A pleasant, female face was displayed on the screen.
“ZZZzzzzzzz…” snored Jeffery. He had passed out on Stafford’s couch. Stafford was snoozing in his chair.
“Hello?” called Cathy. Stafford stirred but didn’t wake.
“Caller,” Cathy said, reading from her script, “I am unable to hear you. If you can hear me, please call back at your convenience.” She paused, and then repeated the message. Another pause, then:
“Caller, I am still unable to hear you. If you can hear me, please call back at your convenience. I am now disconnecting this call.”
Stafford bolted awake.
“WHAT? WAIT! NO!!!”
One hour later.
“Thank you for calling Galactic Express, my name is Cindy, how may I help you today?” Another pleasant, female face was displayed on the screen.
“DON’T HANG UP! PLEASE! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!” wailed Stafford.
“Please calm yourself, sir. I am here to assist you with all your shipping needs,” replied Cindy in a confident tone.
“We need to track a shipment,” Jeffery piped in.
“We do have a convenient, on-line-“ Cindy started.
“We’ve already tried that,” Stafford cut her off, “We found out where everything is, but not why it’s stuck there!”
“Stuck there? Hmm. Shipments usually pass through checkpoints at a very rapid rate. May I please have your tracking number?”
Jeffery read off the number.
“Please hold,” <click>
“Whoever invented the hold button really needs to be shot!” muttered Stafford, “How did I end up on this call anyway, I told you to do it!”
Cindy came back before Jeffery could retaliate.
“Yes, Mr. Stafford, I see that-“
“Captain Stafford,” Stafford interrupted.
“Mr. Stafford, I see that your items have been shipped to Waystation and are currently awaiting transport.”
“What do ye mean, ‘awaiting transport’? snapped Jeffery, “We’ve been waiting for those parts for ages!”
“As you are currently outside of Federation space, company policy states that only a Class-7 armed transport can make deliveries to your location. The next available Class-7 armed transport will reach Waystation in two weeks.”
“TWO WEEKS!” exploded Jeffery, “It’ll take them at least that long to get from Waystation to us! We’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, we’ve been attacked twice and ye think we can just sit here for four more weeks? What the hell are ye smokin’???”
“Did I say two weeks?” Cindy smiled sweetly, “I meant two months.”
“YE F**KING B**CH!”
“Simon! Down! Heel!” Stafford snapped.
“I’m sorry about my engineer, ma’am,” Stafford said, trying a charming smile, “he’s a little overexcited. Now, about our parts-“
“I’m sorry sir, but company policy states that only a Class-7 armed transport may depart Federation space, and the next available transport will be at Waystation in two months.”
“But we’re stranded!” whined Stafford, “Look, can’t we just get Waystation to send it on a Starfleet ship?”
“I’m sorry Mr. Stafford, but that is against company policy,”
“Can you divert another ship? Somebody’s gotta be delivering SOMETHING nearby!”
“I’m sorry Mr. Stafford, but that is against company policy,”
“What if we send a runabout to retrieve them?”
“I’m sorry Mr. Stafford, but that is against company policy,”
“Then load the parts in a torpedo tube and blast them in this direction!”
“I’m sorry Mr. Stafford, but that is against-“
“I so don’t care! We’re stranded, we’re going crazy, and we’ve got weird space aliens attacking us! We need those parts!”
“If you have a complaint, I would be happy to transfer you to our Complaints Department. One of our Andorian Complaint Specialists would be more than happy to come to your home and eviscerate, I mean, help you solve the problem.”
Jeffery perked up from where he had been pouting.
“Do ye think he could bring the parts with him?”
“No!” snapped Stafford,” Don’t transfer me! I demand satisfaction! I want to talk to your supervisor! I want this problem fixed!”
<click> Hold music began to play.
“GOD DAMN THAT BITCH!!” screamed Stafford, spittle spraying from his mouth.
The chronometer on the bridge struck 17:00 hours. The ship’s bells rang, signaling the shift change. Ensign Yanick turned her station over to her relief and walked past the ready room door to the turbolift. She could still hear muffled shouting inside. T’Parief joined her in the turbolift.
“Want to grab a bite to eat?” he asked.
“Where?” Yanick asked, dejectedly.
“No, I’m sick of that place.”
“We’ve eaten there all week,” Yanick was paying little attention to T’Parief’s suggestions. She was focusing on trying to find some kind of event to hold. She needed cheering up, badly!
“Your quarters?” T’Parief asked.
“We could go to Sickbay and make wild, passionate love on the main bio-bed.”
“No,” muttered Yanick, “Wait, what???”
“You weren’t paying attention to me!”
“Yes, yes I was! Really! I was paying very close attention to every word you said! I honestly was! I’m just focusing on other things right now. I’m sorry you feel ignored, I really am!”
There was silence in the turbolift.
“You know dears,” the computer said, “I can keep this thing running all day, but unless you make up your mind on where to go, you’re going to be in here for a long time!”
“Deck 5” Yanick said.
Stafford’s head was resting on his desk as the horrible hold music continued to play. Jeffery had left, claiming he had better things to do than fight with power-mad corporations. Stafford again wondered how he had come to be the one sitting on this damned call while Jeffery managed to escape.
Command Noonan entered the room.
“Please kill me,” moaned Stafford.
Noonan felt a quick surge of panic. Did Stafford know about him? What was he asking? There was no way that Noonan could do what he wanted!
“W-why?” stuttered Noonan.
“Because if I have to listen to this hold music for another minute, I’m going to kill myself!”
“Oh, I see,” Noonan breathed a sigh of relief, “You’re trying to locate our missing parts?” His voice was once again soft, smooth and silky.
“Yeah, trying,” Stafford said, “I don’t know how long it’s been. They say our stuff is going to take two months to get here!”
“That’s not acceptable,”
“I f**king know that!” snapped Stafford, “I’m sorry, I’m getting really worked up.”
“Call centers are the den of all evil,” Noonan agreed.
A blue Andorian face appeared on the screen, and a whispery voice spoke.
“Galactic Express Complaints Department, Zinth speaking, how may I punish, um, help you today?” he said.
“I need my shipment, NOW,” Stafford barked, “and you people are telling me it’s going to be two months before you can get a ship to deliver it and that I can’t pick it up or make other arrangements!”
“I see. Only a Class-7 armed transport may deliver to your location. It is against company policy to release shipments to anybody in any location other than the one specified in the original shipping request.”
“I KNOW THAT!” shouted Stafford, “The woman who transferred me here kept repeating that over, and over again!”
“They why didn’t you listen to her, pathetic pink-skin!” laughed the Andorian, “She was right! Now, for your complaint, we can send a Specialist to your home to handle your problem. Now, as you are a very vocal customer, I’m going to recommend here that he severe your vocal cords. You may also choose from evisceration, incineration, or Xxartzzmnekkk.”
Stafford was too stunned to speak. His arms shot out and his mouth opened as he tried to speak, but no sound emerged.
Noonan stepped in front of the monitor.
“The Captain would like to express his opinion that your company is not behaving in a manner appropriate to a business operating under Federation law, and would like to emphasize that it is imperative that we obtain those parts. He also would like to imply that your parents were very closely related and that your gene pool is of very poor quality.”
“However,” Noonan continued, “we do not wish to register a complaint. We simply want to arrange to have this shipment delivered as soon as possible.”
“Nice,” murmured the Andorian, “very well. I will return you to Customer Care, however you must promise not to threaten any of the representatives this time.”
“Threaten??” Stafford asked, recovering his voice, “I never threatened anybody!”
“The account notes indicate that you called her a slut and threatened to bomb her house,” replied Zinth, “I’m impressed. You’re very violent, for a human.”
“I never said that!” objected Stafford.
“Would you like to register a complaint?” asked Zinth with an evil gleam in his eye.
“No,” replied Noonan, “Just transfer us, please.”
Yanick sat in Unbalanced Equations, picking at her chicken soup. T’Parief sat across from her, wolfing down a plate of something unidentifiable. Conversation was non-existent.
Finally, T’Parief spoke up.
“What is bothering you?” he asked.
“Nothing,” replied Trish.
“Yes, something is. You’re not talking.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she replied coolly.
“You talk about everything, “T’Parief chuckled, “why should this be any different?”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it!” Yanick snapped. She stormed out of the lounge, leaving T’Parief sitting alone and confused at the table.
Yanick stormed into her quarters and sank down onto her couch. How could she be so hard on T’Parief? It wasn’t his fault she was bored and frustrated. No, it was his fault too. He was half of the relationship; any rut they were in was partly his fault. Even if he didn’t know it! And sleeping with that holographic floozy really didn’t help, even if his personality had been altered!
A proper, mature Starfleet officer would analyze her feelings, possibly with the help of the ship’s counselor. They would come to the conclusion that she was more disturbed by her boyfriend’s unfaithfulness than she wanted to admit and then address the issue. Being a member of the Silverado crew, Yanick grabbed a beer, her teddy bear and the remote control for her viewscreen instead.
T’Parief hesitated then rang the chime to Counselor Yvonnokoff’s quarters. The door opened and she stuck her head out. Her hair was wrapped in a towel and she was wearing a conservative black dressing gown.
“Yes?” she asked.
“I, um, have a question I want to ask you about,” rumbled T’Parief.
“Oh, really?” Yvonnokoff plastered on a sarcastic smile, “So I can sit in my office, staring at ze walls all day and haff nobody come by at all, but ven I get off duty you people are coming to my door!?”
“I only wanted to ask-“
“Nein! Come back during business hours! Besides, you are ze strongest, largest and most fearsome member of ziz pathetic crew. If you can’t hold in your feelings until tomorrow, zen you need to have your gonads checked!” The doors hissed shut.
“I didn’t want counseling, I wanted advice!” muttered T’Parief. He amused himself by dragging his claws down Yvonnokoff’s door, leaving 4-foot long scratch marks, then left.
“Thank you for calling Galactic Express, you have reached our Billing and Financial Department, I am Togg, how may I help you?” A leering Ferengi face appeared on the screen, framed by massive ears. The Ferengi were a race obsessed with profit. Anything else was irrelevant. Well, profit and females.
“I need to get in touch with a supervisor,” Stafford said, struggling to keep his voice calm and reasonable, “The previous representative was to transfer me to one, however I was placed in contact with you instead.”
“Isn’t that interesting,” Togg said, sounding not at all interested, “I can transfer you back to Customer Care, and they can further assist you.”
“Can’t you put me through to a supervisor instead?”
“Well, officially, no. But for a small fee…” Togg gave a sly grin.
“I’m a Starfleet officer!” snarled Stafford, losing control, “Do you really think I’d have any money, you scum-sucking swamp rat!”
Togg’s smile transformed into an evil frown.
Stafford collapsed onto his desk and started sobbing.
“Thank you for calling Galactic Express, I am Soven, how may I assist you today? A solemn Vulcan face appeared on-screen.
“I NEED TO TALK TO A F**KING SUPERVISOR!” wailed Stafford, “I NEED MY PAAAARRRRTTTSSSSS!!!!!!!!!”
Noonan stifled a chuckle.
“Sir, your behavior is most illogical. I would like to help you, but in order to do so, I must ask that the illogic stop.”
“ILLOGIC?” Stafford kicked his chair, sending it bouncing against the wall, “To hell with logic! I need to get this fixed! I have eight hundred people on this ship, and we’re stranded until you people SEND US WHAT WE WANT!”
“Sir, you’re behavior is most illogical. I would like to help you, but in order to do so, I must ask that the illogic stop.”
“WHAT? There was no illogic in that! I said nothing illogical! That was a perfectly logical statement! You’re crazy!”
“Sir, I apologize, but because the illogic has not stopped, I cannot assist you. I am now disconnecting this call.”
“ENOUGH! I’VE HAD IT! ENOUGH!” Stafford screamed. He reached into his desk, pulled out an unfamiliar hand phaser and pointed it at his head. “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!”
Noonan slowly stood. “Captain, put the weapon down,”
“NO! I CAN’T DEAL WITH THOSE BASTARDS ANOTHER SECOND!”
Faster than the eye could see, Noonan rushed around the desk, pulled the phaser from Stafford’s hand and pushed Stafford back into his chair. In less than a second he was standing back by the couch.
Stafford looked around.
“What the hell just happened?’
“I don’t know,” Noonan lied, “you passed out while you were on hold and started shouting. Must have been a bad dream.”
“Um, right,” Stafford muttered, confused.
Noonan quickly examined the weapon in his hand and suppressed a sigh upon realizing that he had risked exposing his unnatural heritage over a water pistol.
The ready room door chimed.
“What time is it?” Stafford asked, rubbing his temples.
“19:00h,” replied Noonan.
“Dear God, I was fighting with them for six hours! I don’t care who’s behind this door, I don’t want to talk to them!”
Stafford stepped out the ready room door, ending up face to chest with his 7-foot tall security officer. He looked up.
“What do you want??”
“Advice,” T’Parief said, “regarding Yan-“
“She’s bored,” interrupted Stafford, “she thinks you guys are in a rut and that there’s nothing new for you to do except have sex, but she doesn’t want to do that because she’s scared Wowryk will castrate you if she does!”
“And she’s angry that you had sex with the holographic Jadzia,” added Noonan.
“Now go away. I’ve had enough people problems for today!” Stafford stormed into the turbolift. Noonan walked calmly to the command chair and sat down, leaving T’Parief standing alone and confused by the ready room door.
T’Parief was back in Unbalanced Equations. Steven had replicated a Gorn-style chair for him some time ago and placed it facing out the large windows after noticing that the senior officers usually liked to sit there. T’Parief’s tail hung out a slot in the back of the solid iron chair.
“So, in the doghouse already huh?” Lieutenant Jall, T’Parief’s least favorite officer, had sat down next to him, “That’s a surprise! I figured it would take much longer than that to piss off a sweet little girl like her!”
“Go away!” snarled T’Parief.
“So what is it this time? She finally get pissed off that you banged that hologram?”
“I don’t want to talk to you!”
“Well,” Jall smiled, “you might want to re-think that! When it comes to relationships, nobody has more experience in pissing people off than I do!”
“I can definitely believe that,” grumbled T’Parief.
“Matter of fact, that’s how I got this lovely demotion. Slept with the wrong Admiral’s dearest offspring. Neither one of them was very happy with me in the end.”
“Great. They must have excellent taste then.”
“Whatever.” Jall leaned over, “So, if she was the perfect Gorn woman, what would you do to make up with her?”
T’Parief looked at him for a moment.
“Why are you trying to help me?”
“Well, I don’t care much about you, but Trish is a nice girl. Mind you, don’t tell anybody I said that!” Jall lowered his voice, “Plus, I know accepting help from me will make you miserable as hell. Or you can sit here and be miserable by yourself all night. Either way, I win. You can either both be miserable, or you can be miserable, but at least make her happy doing it!”
“I hate you,” T’Parief growled.
“And I just love you,” said Jall sarcastically, “now if she was a Gorn woman, what would you do?”
“Leave a dead tlarga-rat on her doorstep and chain myself to her fence,”
Jall started laughing hysterically.
“And if she were a Klingon?”
“I’d punch her out and demand that she permit me to enjoy whatever wench I wish.”
Jall laughed even harder.
“A-and Andorian?” he forced out through fits of giggles.
“I would slay her in honorable combat and marry one of her sisters. How the hell is this going to help me with Trish??”
“It’s not!” Jall wiped at the tears streaming down his face, “but I’m sure getting a good laugh out of it!”
T’Parief stood to leave.
“Wait, wait,” Jall said, “I know how you can help her!”
“Make it quick!”
“She’s bored, right? So let’s do something she’ll really like!”
“Shuttlebay One has finally been decontaminated.” Jall said, “Smells fresh as a…well, never mind, it’s clean now. The shuttles are still in Shuttlebay Two. So we replicate a bunch of straw, get Steve to do some catering, get a sound system, a crate of beer kegs….”
T’Parief sat down to listen.
Stafford slept very poorly that night. In his dreams, he was being chased by hordes of beautiful women, which was a nice start. Once they started growing fangs and chanting ‘It is against company policy’ the dream became less enjoyable.
Finally, after a nightmare in which Silverado was attacked by an army of packing crates while horrible Spanish hold music played in the background, Stafford gave up. He crawled out of bed and sat at his table. He looked around his empty quarters.
“I need a cat. Or fish. Or something!” he muttered.
“You had that really nice dog when you where a boy,” said the computer, “why don’t you get another?”
“OK, number one: I don’t have time to walk a dog three times a day, and I don’t want it crapping in my quarters. Number two: butt out! Even my real mother was never this nosey!”
“Ungrateful brat,” muttered the computer.
Stafford replicated breakfast. After eating he showered and got dressed, the whole time rehearsing what he would say to the next Galactic Express employee he met.
08:30h. Still thirty minutes before he had to be on the bridge. He slipped out of his quarters and began wandering the corridors of his ship.
He really had to admit to himself; Silverado had come a long way from the ship he had taken command of. The corridors didn’t look brand new, but they looked like something you would expect from a ship that had been in service for a reasonably short amount of time. He rode the turbolift down to Engineering, wincing slightly at the abrupt change in the decor. On Deck 2 everything was the warm, creamy colours of a Galaxy-class ship. Deck 29 had the colder grey look of the Intrepid-class. Ok, so everything wasn’t perfect. But it was a step up! Now if they could just make everything work like it was supposed to…
The doors to Engineering opened, causing Stafford to seriously re-consider his opinion of the ship’s improvement. The air stank of burnt circuitry, consoles were open everywhere with half their electronic guts spilling out and he could see bits of firefighting foam the cleaners had missed.
One of the night shift technicians, a very tall man with bright red hair marched over.
“Good morning, SIR!’ he snapped, coming to attention,” How may I assist you, SIR!?”
“Um, just wandering around,” Stafford said, taking a step back.
“I think you’ll find we’re making great progress, SIR!”
“Right, I’m just going to head to the bridge now…”
“As you wish, SIR! Do you require an escort? SIR!”
“I think I’ll manage.”
As he left Engineering, Stafford passed Jeffery in the corridor.
“Simon, what is with your night shift guy? Did he flunk out of the Federation Marines or something?”
“Nay,” Simon sighed, “he hit his head crawling through a Jefferies tube. Thinks he’s an ‘Army Seal’, whatever that is. He’s much more co-operative this way though.”
“Right, whatever,” Stafford rubbed his temples, “Going to come help me face the comm call from Hell?”
“Um, nay. Ah think Ah’ll help with the repairs.”
“Yeah, you do that. We need to be in top shape right now.”
Stafford stepped out of the turbolift and onto the bridge.
“I really don’t want to call those people again,” he moaned.
“It is an excellent opportunity for you to work on your interpersonal skills,” suggested Fifebee with a small grin.
Stafford stared at her, eyebrows raised.
“I was just kidding,” she muttered.
“Outta my chair, Matt,” Stafford ordered. Noonan obediently shifted to his own seat, “I’m going to face them out here. Maybe the sight of a full bridge crew will intimidate these sadistic pigs!”
“Mr. T’Parief, patch us through to Galactic Express please,” Stafford ordered.
“He’s not here,” said Noonan, “he’s working in Shuttlebay One this morning.”
“Jall, open a channel,”
“He’s also in the shuttlebay,” advised Fifebee.
“What are they doing?” asked Stafford, “Never mind, I don’t care. Fifebee, open a channel.”
After working through all the prompts and sitting on hold for half an hour, a slightly nervous but cheery female face appeared on the screen.
“Thank you for calling Galactic Express, my name is Samantha, how may I help you?”
“I’m trying to get a shipment sent,” Stafford said tiredly, “I fought with several people yesterday. My ship is stranded in deep space until we get the parts we need, and your people are telling me that’s going to take months!”
“Oh dear,” said Samantha, “I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having problems, I’ll do my very best to help you with that. May I please have your name and tracking number?”
Surprised, Stafford gave his name and number.
“All right Captain Stafford, I’m looking into the account.”
“Whatever you read in the memos, I didn’t necessarily say it!” Stafford said quickly.
“I see. Well, I see that your order is waiting at Waystation, pending arrival of a Class-7 armed transport.”
“Yes,” Stafford said, rubbing his head, “I know. I just can’t wait two months for it to get here!”
“Of course sir, I completely understand. I can have a transport at Waystation by tomorrow. I can see by the number of transfers you experienced yesterday that you have been inconvenienced, so I will authorize the ship to operate in Priority Rush Delivery mode, at no extra charge. They will arrive at your current location in one week.
“No, I don’t want to be trans….what?” Stafford asked.
“The transport ship will reach you in one week. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
“No!” Stafford laughed, “You’re perfect! You’re wonderful! Thank you! My ship thanks you! My crew thanks you! I love you! What’s your secret???”
Samantha blushed, “It’s my first day on the job,” she said.
“Thank you so much!”
“You’re welcome. Galactic Express out.” The screen returned to the image of the starfield outside.
“Oh my God!” Stafford cried, dancing excitedly across the bridge, “We’re getting our parts! Finally! YES!” He spun around then collapsed in his seat.
“Why couldn’t those pricks yesterday do that? She fixed this in seconds!”
“The call center industry is a very demanding, demeaning and stressful occupation,” Noonan said, “I would surmise that she hasn’t been working there long enough to have her gentle spirit crushed. She still actually cares about assisting her customers.”
“Whatever, we’re getting our stuff!”
Stafford sat happily in his chair, reveling in his success. Fifebee was continually scanning the area for any more of those alien vessels that had attacked them a few days earlier. Nothing so far! T’Parief and Jall were still in the shuttlebay, their replacements were going about their duties with looks of bored concentration. Yanick was sitting very quietly at her station, thumbing through an article entitled “Martha Stewart’s Guide to Cross-Species Celebrations”. This in itself wasn’t unusual…the only strange thing was that she was just reading. No chatter, no commentary on the article, no references to how her family would do things differently.
Stafford was about to say something when Jall stepped out of the turbolift and stepped over to Stafford.
“Hey,” he said with a forced air of casualness, “can I talk to you in private?”
“Talk? Us? In private? What, do you need your face slammed into your soup again?”
Jall put his hands on his hips.
“Hardly!” He waited.
Stafford sighed, then walked over to his ready room.
“OK, so what do you want?”
“Complete domination of the galaxy, eternal youth, a harem of hot, sexy-“
“STOP!” Stafford cut him off, “I mean what do you want from me?!”
“Have you noticed how a certain young lady has been a bit down lately?” Jall asked.
“Which one?” Stafford countered, “the whole ship is bored to the point of insanity. The attacks might have spiced things up, but we’ve still been sitting in the middle of nowhere for weeks!”
“Yeah, y’know, we really need a morale officer for times like this. Why haven’t you appointed one yet? Jall asked with a smirk.
“Fine. You are now morale officer. Go away!”
“I’m not done yet! T’Parief and I have a little surprise planned for our special little sad lady.”
“You have a lady?” Stafford asked incredulously, “Oh, you mean Yanick.”
“Took you long enough! We’ve been prepping the shuttlebay for a good, old-fashioned barn dance. With a few modern twists, of course.”
“You and T’Parief…working together? VOLUNTARILY????” Stafford’s eyebrows were somewhere around his hairline at this point.
“Yeah,” Jall giggled, “he f**king hates it! Anyway, we’re just spreading the word now. Steve and his gang are helping out with food…now we just need everybody to show up.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
Jall frowned. “What do you mean?”
“The first time we had a party, Foreman Lynch switched our drinks. Everybody spent the next day wishing they were dead. The last time we had a party, the plumbing exploded, the ship was nearly destroyed and we were invaded by women-worshipping aliens! We’re jinxed!”
“What about the Waystation party?”
“Dr. Wowryk tried to kill their Chief of Security with a beer mug. And that was a reception, not a party.”
“Ah well, third time’s the charm. Be there at 19:00h.” Jall walked towards the door.
“I didn’t dismiss you!” Stafford called.
“I didn’t ask!” Jall called back as he stepped onto the bridge.
Stafford walked to his replicator and retrieved a cup of tea. Sitting down, he massaged his temples as he felt the onslaught of a headache.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” he muttered.
Word about the party spread through the ship like wildfire. There were many groans when people learned it was a barn theme, but they were bored enough that they could deal with it. There were loud objections (from the youths) and sighs of relief (from the adults) when Stafford put his foot down and firmly refused to allow any minors at the party.
Yanick, wrapped in her magazines and clutching her teddy bear, remained in the dark about the whole event until T’Parief dropped by her quarters that evening.
“Oh, hey,” she said calmly as she answered the door, “what’s up?”
“Come with me,” T’Parief rumbled, then walked away.
Shrugging, Yanick followed him.
“Where are we going?” she asked after a few moments of silence.
“Are we going somewhere?” Yanick scratched her head.
They stopped through the thick security doors separating the shuttlebay and surrounding sections from the rest of Deck 3. Seconds later, they were stepping into the shuttlebay.
The huge room was barely recognizable. Cargo containers had been stacked against the walls and covered with replicated straw, giving them the appearance of hay bales. Huge tables were pushed up against the shuttlebay doors, which had slats of wood mounted on them in the ‘Z’ pattern that was typical of barn doors. Piles of food from a variety of worlds were stacked on the tables, which groaned under the weight of everything from asparagus to roast beef to tlarga-rat-on-a-stick. Tables with benches lined the remaining walls. Hundreds of crewmembers were loading their plates, milling around, chatting, laughing and generally having a good time. A dance floor had been setup in the center of the room, although nobody would be doing any dancing until dinner was done.
Yanick looked around the room in shock. The atmosphere was corny, especially with the large mirror ball hanging from the ceiling, but everybody looked like they were having fun. Of course, after being stuck in the middle of nowhere for a few weeks, counting porcupines would have been fun.
Yanick noticed T’Parief looking at her expectantly and plastered a big smile on her face.
“This is really….great!” she said, “I’m going to get a drink now.”
She walked towards the bar, her smile fading as she turned away from T’Parief.
Steve was standing behind a makeshift bar mixing up drinks. He looked up at Yanick’s face.
“Nothing, I just need a drink.”
“One sec,” he turned to Jeffery, who was standing nearby, “One Long Island iced tea, one regular iced tea.” Jeffery grabbed the drinks and rushed off.
Yanick ordered a rum and coke, chugged it, then ordered another.
Lieutenant San Jall walked into the center of the dance floor, a microphone in his hand. Most of the crew was seated at the tables finishing dinner.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” he called out, “Welcome to the first Silverado Theme Party!” He gestured for applause. Three or four people clapped half-heartedly.
“Anyway, the bar’s open all night, and we have several shows for your enjoyment! To start us off, Ensign Pysternzykz and his amazing display of Andorian Darts!”
Pysterzykz came running in the door then sprang into a series of flips. He came to a stop at the edge of the dance floor and released a series of tiny daggers at a target that had been setup on the far wall. At least that was his plan. Unfortunately, he was so dizzy from his acrobatics that most of the daggers missed, one of them implanting itself neatly into a roast chicken still on the food table. There was a moment of stunned silence.
“Um, OK!” Jall called out, “Well, thank you Ensign for demonstrating why you’re a pilot rather than a security officer!”
Pysterzykz bared his teeth and took several steps towards Jall before Jall whipped out a phaser and stunned the Andorian.
“It’s been far too long since I’ve been able to shoot somebody!” he said.
The crowd chuckled.
“Well, that was interesting,” T’Parief said to Yanick, “Most Andorians are excellent when it comes to throwing sharp objects. I wonder if he has a medical problem?”
“You weren’t doing so well trying to throw a basketball!” muttered Yanick.
“Er, right,” T’Parief took another swing of his second Gorn Gutwrencher, “look, what’s wrong with you? We spent all day getting this setup and all you are doing is glowering! Is there another human female thing I need to know about??”
“I just…” Yanick bit her lip, “I wanted to do it!”
T’Parief looked confused.
“I wanted to have a party, and plan it, and get everything ready, and make the crew happy!” Yanick wailed, “I was researching stuff and reading articles, and I really wanted to do something! I then I find out that you guys already did it!”
“But we did it for you!” objected T’Parief.
“I know! I just feel so…useless!”
T’Parief frowned. Now he was really lost.
“First we’re getting refit, and we don’t need a pilot, then we’re back in Spacedock, and we don’t need a pilot. Then I rip a docking arm off Waystation and then we’re stranded here. And guess what? We don’t need a pilot! I’ve been sitting on my ass for the past two weeks with almost nothing to do! And when I try to contribute to the ship, you guys go and beat me to it!” Some of the nearby crewmen were looking over at Yanick as her voice rose. She looked up at T’Parief with big tears welling up in her eyes.
“We thought you’d like it!” he objected, “It was Jall’s idea! He figured after that thing with the hologram-“ T’Parief knew as soon as the words were out his mouth that mentioning the hologram incident was a mistake..
“Don’t even mention that!” Yanick snapped. Crewmen were openly staring now. “I know it wasn’t your fault, and I know she was just a crazy hologram BUT I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR OR THINK ABOUT IT!”
T’Parief’s eyes narrowed as his pride started to kick in.
“I would never dishonor a woman. I’ve done my best to make you happy. If you cannot accept that, you have severely misjudged me!”
Counselor Yvonnokoff stepped in.
“Perhaps I can be of assistance, ya?” she said, “I am a licensed couple’s thera-“
“BACK OFF!” snapped Yanick and T’Parief together.
“Look, I know you didn’t mean to…to do that stuff with the hologram,” Yanick said, “and I know you’ve tried hard to make me happy, but I don’t want to think about you with some other woman! Is that so hard to understand??”
“No,” T’Parief said slowly.
They looked at each other for a moment.
“It’s going to take some time to put that behind me,” Yanick said, “I still want to see you, but you have to realize that some things upset me, and nothing you can do can make it all better right away!”
“I see,” T’Parief said flatly, “and the party?”
“It’s a really sweet gesture, from you and from Jall. I had no idea he was capable of something like that. I’m just disappointed I didn’t get to help plan it.”
They looked at each other in silence again for a moment.
“Did we just have our first fight?” Yanick asked.
“I believe we did,” rumbled T’Parief.
“Cool!” Yanick giggled.
“Redneck Jousting is up next,” T’Parief said, “would watching Jall and I beat at each other with large sticks amuse you?”
“Me and most of the crew,” Yanick said.
“Good. I’ll be right back.”
T’Parief headed towards the center of the room while Yanick turned back to her table. The various crewmembers, disappointed that the argument hadn’t turned ugly, turned back to their respective activities, leaving Yvonnokoff standing by herself.
“So glad to be of help,” she muttered.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” announced Lieutenant Jall, “I’m pleased to introduce our next event of this evening! Redneck Jousting! Each of our two competitors will receive a padded staff. Each competitor will take his or her place on a platform,” a spotlight lit up on six cylindrical platforms. Each one was about four feet across and they were placed in a circle. Each platform was about a foot away from its closest neighbor, “the object is to knock your opponent off the platforms, onto the soft mat below! Ensign Burke, who are our first two entries?” Jall gestured theatrically as Burke handed him an envelope.
“And the first two competitors are: Lieutenant Commander T’Parief and Lieutenant San Jall!” Jall frowned, then turned to Burke, “What the hell? I did NOT agree to participate! I am NOT getting into a fight with that overgrown salamander!”
“Too bad,” snarled T’Parief, grabbing Jall by the scruff of the neck. The crew applauded as he dragged Jall into the ring and handed him a padded staff.
“Absolutely not!” snapped Jall, “There is no way you can force me to do this!”
T’Parief reached down to his ankle, revealing a small hand phaser on an ankle strap. He tossed the phaser to Stafford.
“If he tries to run,” T’Parief said, “shoot him.”
Stafford grinned and threw him a mock salute.
“That’s not fair!” objected Jall.
Crewmembers crowded around the dance floor, vying for the best view of the contest unfolding while Jall and T’Parief climbed onto their respective platforms.
“This should be interesting,” Stafford said to Jeffery. Wowryk and Jeffery were seated nearby.
“It’s a brutal, uncivilized-“ Dr. Wowryk started.
“Yes, yes, we know,” sighed Stafford, “Animal, primitive, God wouldn’t approve. Whatever.”
Wowryk flopped back in her seat, then reached to take a sip of her drink.
“My money is on Jall,” Yanick said.
“Are ye daft?” asked Jeffery, “T’Parief could rip him apart and use his bones as toothpicks! Yeah!” he shouted, “Go T’Parief!”
Dr.Wowyk give a surprising girlish giggle.
“The boys are gonna fight, then the boys are gonna get hurt, then I’m gonna have to put them all back together again! Hee-hee!”
“You Ok, Doc? Stafford asked.
“Oh, I’m just peachy!” Wowryk laughed, taking another swig of her iced tea.
T’Parief and Jall took their places on the platforms. T’Parief bared his teeth at Jall.
“Can’t we just discuss this?” Jall whimpered, “I mean, I know we aren’t the best of friends, but what have I done to deserve this?”
“Remember when you talked me into this party? How I would have to be miserable with or without your help? I have found a way to share my misery with you! DEFEND YOURSELF!” He swung his staff at Jall. It was a light shot (for T’Parief) but Jall was barely able to block it. The impact nearly knocked him right over. He jumped to the next platform, trying to get out of T’Parief’s reach. T’Parief choked up on his staff and swing it like a baseball bat. The far end reached Jall, barely, but he was able to block it with less difficulty. Snarling, T’Parief jumped to the next platform and swung. This time he connected hard with Jall’s staff, sending the operations officer sprawling on his platform. The crowed cheered!
Jall scrambled to his feel before T’Parief could knock him right off and jumped to the next platform. T’Parief jumped platforms again, closing the distance. As he landed, Jall swung at him with every ounce of strength he had. The impact threw off T’Parief’s landing, causing him to stumble to his knees. With a roar of triumph, Jall swung at T’Parief’s head, snapping it to the side. There was a cry of ‘foul’ from Ensign Burke, completely ignored by the contestants as the crowd of Silverado personnel booed and hissed.
T’Parief’s staff snapped out quicker than the eye could see, hitting Jall just below the knees and sweeping him off his feet. Jall landed hard. T’Parief was shaking his head, trying to clear away the stars in his vision, giving Jall time to drag himself up and jump clumsily to another platform, putting as much distance between himself and T’Parief as he could.
T’Parief jumped shakily after Jall. Jall jumped to yet another platform. T’Parief kept moving to follow, but Jall was maintaining his distance.
“Get back here you coward!” gasped T’Parief.
“You gotta catch me first!”
T’Parief was very tall, very muscular, very strong and had endurance to rival any Starfleet security officer. He’d also had two drinks over dinner and a full stomach. Jall was lighter and faster. As he chased Jall around the ring of platforms, T’Parief found himself tiring fast. Jall could see T’Parief gasping for breath as he lurched from platform to platform.
“Yeah, not so tough now are ya?” goaded Jall, “What do you think everybody is going to say when I kick your ass, lizard-boy! Three fearsome species rolled into one, and you still can’t beat me!”
“You cannot win unless you face me!” snapped T’Parief, “And when you do, I will destroy you!”
“Then I guess we’ll just dance around all night!”
A plan bloomed in T’Parief’s mind.
“No, we won’t!”
Pushing off his platform hard enough to send it tipping back, T’Parief launched himself across the center of the ring, directly at Jall. Jall barely had time to give a squeak of surprise before T’Parief hit him dead center and sent him flying off the platform and onto the floor below. T’Parief’s arms windmilled as he tried desperately to regain his balance before he toppled off onto the floor, landing next to Jall.
“And it’s a tie!” announced Burke.
T’Parief and Jall pulled themselves to their feet, bruised bodies protesting.
“Well, that was quite the show,” Stafford said.
“It came from the heart,” gasped Jall.
“I bet. Now shake hands and make up.”
“You’ve both had your fun, gotten it out of your systems,” Stafford said, “Now I want you to shake hands and show the crew that despite your negative feelings for each other you are still fellow officers on this ship and will maintain a professional relationship!”
Jall and T’Parief looked at each other uneasily.
Stafford patted the phaser T’Parief had given him.
Jall and T’Parief shook hands.
“Well, that was fun,” Stafford said to Jeffery.
“I sure enjoyed it,” Jeffery said.
“I just hope they didn’t give the crew a negative impression of their command staff.”
“I think that ship has already sailed,” muttered Jeffery.
“Nothing. Have ye seen Noel?”
“Nope. She wandered off. She’s been acting funny tonight. Has she been drinking or something?”
“Um, no. Of course not. Not at all.”
“And now, ladies and…ow…gentlemen,” Jall winced, “our final event before the dance starts: the Mechanical Bull!”
Two ensigns wheeled the bull, which was a modified gymnastics horse from the gym, onto the floor.
“And who would like to go first? Oh, who’s this pretty young volunteer?”
Dr. Wowryk giggled as she stepped up to the bull, a slight wobble in her step.
“S**t,” gasped Jeffery.
“All right, Doc,” Jall said, “The goal is to stay on as long as you can. Given that you don’t have much experience riding things, this shouldn’t take too long!”
Jeffery started pushing his way through the crowd. Stafford grabbed him by the arm and held him back.
“Let her have her fun,” Stafford said with a chuckle, “It doesn’t seem to happen all that often!”
Wowryk climbed onto the mechanical bull, dug her heels into the sides and gripped the top firmly.
“Ready?” asked Jall. Wowryk nodded.
Dr. Wowryk let out a shriek of surprise as the ‘bull’ leapt up on antigravs and started tilting and rotating at random. She managed to cling on fairly well.
“Well, I am impressed,” announced Jall, “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised…I guess all that effort spent keeping her thighs tightly together is finally paying off!”
Wowyk attempted to glare at Jall while Jeffery barked some very impolite words.
“Let’s turn this up a notch, shall we?” said Jall with a grin. He hit a button on the padd he was holding, causing the antigravs to start making quicker, harder turns. Wowryk screamed as her arms came loose and she flailed around desperately.
“Stop it!” shouted Jeffery.
“And we’re going for a new record, folks!” called out Jall, “Well, not a new record I guess, we’ve never done this before, but she’s holding on a lot longer than I would have thought! Let’s kick this thing into high gear!”
The antigravs gave a hard thrust. Wowryk’s legs lost their grip and she was thrown pin wheeling through the air, landing awkwardly on the mat. She gave a cry of pain as her arm was pinned beneath her.
“Um, do we have a doctor in the house?” Jall asked uncertainly.
Four hundred fingers pointed at Wowryk, who was cradling her arm and gasping in pain.
“Do we have another doctor in the house?”
Stafford, Fifebee and Jeffery were hovering over Wowryk in Sickbay. Fifebee was running a medical tricorder and a bone knitter over Dr. Wowryk.
“Hairline fracture,” Fifebee was saying, “Painful, but easily fixed.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant” Stafford said.
“I’m concerned over the large amount of synthehol present in her bloodstream though,” Fifebee said with a frown.
“Synthehol,” Stafford said flatly.
“Yes. She must have been drinking very heavily. That would definitely explain her behavior.”
“I was not drinking heavily!” Wowryk objected. She had made the mental effort necessary to dismiss the effects of the synthehol and was in a less than good mood, “I don’t even drink, except on very special occasions. This hardly counted!”
“I wonder how she got so drunk, considering that she almost never drinks,” Stafford said coldly, looking directly at Jeffery.
“I dunno,” Jeffery said.
“Office. Now,” ordered Stafford. He led Jeffery to Wowryk’s office. Once inside he turned angrily to Jeffery.
“How many drinks did you slip her?” he demanded.
“Ah don’t know what you’re-“
“Don’t give me that bulls**t Simon!” Stafford snapped, “She was drinking iced tea all night! It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you were copying my little stunt from the other week! How many Long Islands did you slip her?”
Jeffery looked down.
“4 or 5,” he said quietly, “tonight anyway.”
“So this isn’t the first time you’ve been doing this,”
“Are you out of you f**king mind??? What the hell were you thinking??”
“I wanted her to have fun!” Jeffery objected, a tortured look on his face, “She’s always so cold and distant! I know that if she could loosen up a bit she’d enjoy herself a lot more!”
“That’s not your decision to make! She’s out there with a broken arm because of what you did! WHAT IF IT HAD BEEN HER NECK?? You damned well know that a big part of drinking is to drink responsibly. How is she supposed to drink responsibly if she doesn’t know what’s going on?”
“I tried to stop her from getting on that bull!” Jeffery objected.
“That’s no excuse!”
Jeffery looked down again.
“No, I guess not.”
Stafford tapped his comm-badge, “Stafford to security, report to sickbay.”
Jeffery looked at him in shock.
“Lieutenant Commander Simon Jeffery. Under Regulation 3-43, Paragraph C: “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer”, I am ordering you to serve twenty days of solitary confinement.”
“What?” Jeffery asked, shocked.
Stafford dropped the official tone.
“I should be demoting you, she could have been seriously hurt! But I guess I planted this stupid idea in your head, so I’m letting you off light.”
The doors to the office swished open, revealing Ensign Stern. He had straw stuck to his uniform in several places.
“Yeah, what’s up?” he asked.
“Escort Mr. Jeffery to the brig,”
“Just do it!” Stafford snapped as he stalked out of the room.
Next: A delivery finally comes through, but now the Silverado crew must make repairs without their chief engineer. Plus, Stafford has to deal with one of the most feared members of the Silverado crew. Tune in next time on Star Traks: Silverado!