Author: Brendan Chris
Captain Christopher Stafford stretched as he climbed out of bed. He felt terrific! Full of energy, full of pep. It was great to be alive! He was just reaching for his comm-badge to call his best friend and Chief Engineer Simon Jeffery to meet him for breakfast when the realization hit him:
He had arrested Simon and had him thrown in the brig.
Not that Simon didn’t deserve it. He had gotten Dr. Wowyk pissed drunk against her will, to the point where she had injured herself. Stafford was fairly loose as far as regs went, he wanted his ship to have a relaxed feel. But he had to draw the line somewhere. And something like this? No. The line had been crossed by leaps and bounds.
He dressed and stepped into the corridor, bound for the dining hall. He greeted Ensign Dar’ugal enthusiastically as the huge, furry Barudan passed by. Dar’ugal gave Stafford a nervous little smile and bow then went on his way.
Stafford stepped into the dining hall and walked over to the replicator.
“Raisin Bran cereal, 2% milk and supplement Z-71,” he ordered.
“Here you are, dear,” the computer responded.
Stafford sighed and found a seat.
As he ate, he noticed that none of the other officers seated in the dining hall were looking in his direction. The various ensigns and lieutenants were carefully avoiding his gaze. Nobody was sitting near him either…there was an empty ring of seats surrounding Stafford. It was almost enough to make him think somebody was trying to give him the cold shoulder…
“Morning, Ensign,” Stafford said to Ensign Day as he passed the bridge Operations station.
“Good morning, Captain,” Day replied.
Stafford paused for a moment, taken aback slightly at the forced formality of the response. He recovered quickly then sat in his command chair.
As the chrono ticked closer to 0900h, various other senior officers trickled in, sending their night shift counterparts off-duty.
“Hey Trish,” Stafford said warmly to Ensign Yanick, “Did you enjoy the party last night?”
“Yes, sir. It was …fun,” she said coolly, “Until you started tossing people in jail!” she muttered, too softly for Stafford to hear.
“What did you think of the ‘Jall vs. T’Parief’ show?” he asked, oblivious to her remark.
“It was entertaining,” she replied, refusing to face Stafford, the tone of voice somewhere between Antarctica and liquid nitrogen.
Stafford squirmed in his seat.
“Something wrong?” remarked Noonan as he settled into his seat next to Stafford.
“No…” Stafford said slowly. He looked around the bridge. 0910h. Lt. Jall was late for duty. Again!
0915h. The turbolift doors opened and Lt. Jall stepped out.
“Good morning everybody!” he announced as he took his post.
“Lieutenant, you’re fifteen minutes late for duty!” Stafford said, annoyed, “Explain!”
“It was a late night, SIR, I was organizing an event for the crew, SIR, so take a chill pill, SIR!”
Stafford’s mouth opened and closed twice before Noonan jumped in.
“It is something you must work to improve, Lieutenant,” he said smoothly.
“Got it,” replied Jall, sounding less than sincere.
“Captain, we’re being hailed,” replied Fifebee.
“Jall, communications should be your job. Fifebee, on screen.”
“Whatever,” muttered Jall.
A long-haired youth appeared on screen. His blond hair hung down to his shoulders and his clothes were badly wrinkled.
“Yo dudes!” he said, “What’s up?”
“I’m Captain Christopher Stafford of the Federation Starship-“
“Yeah, yeah,” the young man cut him off, “I’m Craig from Galactic Express. Courier number 2743024. I’ve got a shipment of parts and supplies for ya,”
“What?” asked Stafford, shocked, “I just spent a hellish day dealing with you people, and they told me the best they could do was a week from now!”
Craig shifted uneasily.
“Yeah? Well, you make one innocent little stop to check out a bikini babe contest, next thing you know your company has declared you dead, your cargo lost and they’re working to cover up the fact that you ever worked for them in the first place!”
“Right,” Stafford said slowly.
“Captain,” T’Parief broke in, “we’re receiving a recorded message from Galactic Express.”
“On screen!” Stafford snapped before Craig could protest, “Jall get on the f**king ball!” Jall stuck his tongue out in response.
“Captain Stafford,” said a dark-haired woman on the screen, “My name is Karen from Galactic Express. I’m pleased to tell you that due to a recent upgrade on our tracking system, we’ve discovered that your order was not in fact delayed at Waystation, but is en route to your location. You should be receiving your shipment within the next twenty-four hours. Sorry for the inconvenience. We appreciate having you as a Galactic Express customer, and hope to have the pleasure of serving you again soon. Galactic Express out.”
“Not likely,” Stafford muttered as Craig appeared on the screen. Before he could say anything, Jall hit the ‘Mute’ button and spoke up.
“Text-only message from Waystation,” he reported, “A Galactic Express ship showed up twenty minutes ago, retrieved our shipment and headed back into Federation space.”
“What the HELL is going on??” growled Stafford.
“Apparently,” said Fifebee, “when our delivery person stopped to view the bikini babe contest, Galactic Express mistakably declared him dead and our shipment lost. They sent a duplicate of our original shipment to Waystation and covered up the original shipment, but could not find an armed transport to deliver it until the Captain called in to complain. They have evidently learned that the original pilot is in fact still alive and so they have removed the duplicate order from Waystation and are attempting to explain the whole thing away as an equipment malfunction. Not an uncommon practice for many corporations.”
Craig was still on mute, waving one hand in an effort to regain attention.
“That was an excellent summary,” said Noonan.
“Thank you!” Fifebee said with a small smile, “I received an upgrade on my deductive reasoning program last week,”
“Really? How did that go?” Noonan asked.
Craig was now waving both hands over his head.
“It went quite well, thank you. My projection subroutines and joke library were also updated. Have you heard the one about the Ferengi, the Klingon and the bottle of soy sauce?”
“Nobody told me about this,” interrupted Stafford, annoyed.
Craig had removed his shirt and was twirling it over his head.
“Captain…” rumpled T’Parief, gesturing to the screen.
“It wasn’t really important,” explained Fifebee.
“You’re the only hologram on board,” objected Stafford, “What if something had gone wrong?”
Fifebee was about to reply when Jall started shouting.
“Yeah baby! Take it off!” he hollered.
Everybody turned to the screen where Craig was now dancing around in his underwear, apparently singing.
“Jall, shut up and take him off mute!”
“…too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my-oh! ‘Bout f**king time! What does it take to get through to you people!”
“Yeah, whatever,” signed Stafford, “look, just beam the stuff over and we’ll be happy.”
“No can do, bro. My transporter got a bit flutzed up transporting a, uh…radioactive squirrel. You’ll have to beam everything over yourself.”
“Radioactive squirrel,” Stafford said flatly.
“Ok, I accidentally dumped a mickey of vodka on the pattern buffer. Ya gonna beam this stuff over or not?”
“We would,” Stafford said tiredly, “except somebody dumped a mug of coffee into our transporter sensor controls.”
“Dude!” shouted Craig, “No s**t! That is, like, so f**king hilarious! What dips**t was dumb enough to-“
“You’re one to talk!” interrupted Jall.
“Hey man, that’s not cool!”
“Look, could you just dock with us and transfer the stuff over?” asked Stafford.
“I could,” said Craig,” but that would take forever! I think you’d like our ‘express delivery’ option way better. Much faster, dude.”
“That sounds OK,” Stafford said.
“Cool, dude! Thanks for choosing Galactic Express….and all that bulls**t.”
The screen returned to its standard starfield view.
“He’s opening his cargo bay doors,” reported T’Parief.
“On screen,” ordered Stafford with a frown.
The freighters doors were indeed opening. Suddenly, a dozen large cargo containers were ejected from the cargo bay. The freighter spun around and jumped into warp.
“I suppose that is one method of express delivery,” Noonan commented.
“That little bastard!” snapped Stafford, “T’Parief, get tractor beams on those things and bring them into Shuttlebay 2!”
“Unable to comply, sir,” said T’Parief.
“What? Why not?”
“Because they’re coming right at us!
Indeed, the twelve containers were moving rapidly towards the Silverado.
“They’re already inside the shield perimeter!”
Outside, the cargo containers had each latched onto the Silverado with tiny tractor beams, pulling them towards the ship. As they neared the hull the beams reversed, slowing the containers before they could crash into the hull. Powerful magnetic clamps engaged, attaching the containers firmly to the hull with a series of dull <THUNK>s.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 56275.6
“We’ve finally received the parts needed to fix the Silverado. Horray! Even sooner than we thought, due to some bizarre circumstances. Unfortunately, the parts have clamped themselves to the outer hull and we’re not sure how to remove them. Even worse, our Chief Engineer is in the brig. This leaves me with the task of finding a temporary replacement.
The senior staff had gathered in the conference lounge.
“Yanick, Jall,” Stafford was saying, I want you two to take the Assessippi out to retrieve our cargo.”
“Ok,” sighed Jall.
“Yes, Captain,” Yanick replied, saying ‘captain’ like the title left a bad taste in her mouth.
“Problem,” stated Fifebee, “I scanned the clamps attaching the containers to the hull. They will not release without a security code, which our delivery person neglected to provide. I attempted to contact him, but I’m not receiving any response.”
“F**k,” muttered Stafford.
“Captain, I should remind you that such language is not appropriate on a Starfleet vessel.”
“Moving on,” Noonan interrupted, “we should send an engineering team to solve the problem.”
“Since you tossed our Chief Engineer in the slammer you’re gonna have to pick somebody else to go!” chuckled Jall.
“Rightly so,” muttered Dr. Wowryk.
“He’ll be back in a couple weeks,” objected Yanick, “you can’t just replace him!”
“Mr. Jeffery’s logs show that he is very pleased with Ensign Frat Naketh’s performance,” said Noonan, “I’ve also observed that Ensign Sage has been doing very well heading up the engineering night crew.” Noonan didn’t mention that Sage’s habits of chasing after anything with a firm backside (and a willingness to consent) had caused the crew to refer to him as ‘The Rear Admiral”.
Stafford pondered his options for a moment before remembering that it was Naketh who had accidentally trashed engineering the previous morning.
“Promote Ensign Sage to Lieutenant and put him in charge of engineering until Jeffery gets back.”
Yanick crossed her arms with a grunt and glared at the table.
“Mr. T’Parief, what ‘s our tactical situation?”
The nightmarish officer spoke up in his deep voice:
“Everything is fully functional, except for the pulse phaser cannon. Mr. Jeffery had started implementing a brilliant plan to properly power it, but that project has been placed on hold for some strange reason.”
Stafford was momentarily taken aback at the sarcasm underlying the normally respectful officer’s voice, but let the comment slide.
“I’ve picked up several strange readings on long-range sensors. Very subtle spatial distortions that indicated that the Mistress’s spatial interphase devices, or SIDs, were once in use. There is no indication of any activity more recent than six months ago, with the exception of the vessels that attacked us.”
“We should investigate once repairs are complete,” T’Parief added, “We may be able to use these distortions to track down the Mistresses.”
“Our orders are to explore, not to go on a witch hunt!” Stafford joked.
“Anyway,” Stafford went on, his smile fading, “Starfleet has given explicit orders that we are to proceed with our original mission of exploration, making contact with the Mistresses only if the opportunity presents itself.”
The uproar at the table was immediate.
“What the HELL is Starfleet-“
“-attacked us THREE times now-“
“-threat to the Federation-“
The babble of voices continued, the senior staff ignoring Stafford’s repeated calls for silence.
Everybody looked in stunned silence to the source of the overpowering voice. Commander Matthew Noonan was hunched over the table, the surface of which had cracked under the force of his grip. Dark blood was seeping where the glass had sliced his palms, and his eyes held the first glint of anger anybody could ever recall seeing there.
He took a deep breath.
“Thank you,” he said, wiping his bloody palms on his trousers, “I’m sure the Captain was about to explain before he was so rudely interrupted.
It took Stafford a moment to find his voice.
“Um, yes, thank you,” he cleared his throat nervously, “According to the latest communiqué from Admiral Tunney, the ‘experts’ at Starfleet Command feel that there is a significant chance that the placement of the Dream Machines, or SIDs,” he added with a nod to Fifebee, “were in fact failed attempts to communicate, and that the attacks on us were in response to our failure to, um, respond.”
The senior staff exchanged glances and were on the verge of another outburst. A cold glare from Noonan quickly silenced them.
“I never said they were right,” Stafford muttered as he took his seat.
Noonan stood and began issuing orders.
“Fifebee, T’Parief, you will continue your current activities; maintain a heightened alertness for anything out of the ordinary. Jall, you will work with Lieutenant Sage to retrieve our cargo and begin repairs. I will notify him of his promotion after this meeting. Dr. Wowryk, please review the material compiled by Lieutenant Fifebee on the SIDs and add any additional information you can,” Dr. Wowryk was about to protest, but Noonan continued speaking, “I am aware you have already done so, but I would appreciate it if you would take another look.” Wowryk nodded. “Dismissed.”
The senior staff, with the exception of Stafford and Noonan, filed out of the room.
Stafford started pacing in front of the conference room windows. Finally, he turned to Noonan.
“What the HELL was that???”
“I apologize for my outburst,” Noonan said softly, “it won’t happen again.”
“That is NOT what I meant, and you f**king know it!” Stafford snapped, “What the hell is wrong with everybody today! I don’t expect perfect adherence to Starfleet protocols, but when the high point of my morning is dealing with an incompetent civilian, you know there’s a problem! Putting this bunch in one room is usually a recipe for chaos, but they’ve never been so…so…”
“Out of control?” guessed Noonan.
“Permission to speak freely?”
“Why bother asking? You’ve never had to before! All morning it’s been ‘Sir’ this and ‘Captain’ that, but with all the sincerity of Jall saying he wants to feed the starving children of the galaxy!”
“You have had a fairly relaxed attitude in regards to crew behaviour. And it has worked fairly well for you, up until now. The saying goes: ‘It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.’”
“Or breaks an arm,” added Stafford.
“Exactly. You cracked down on Mr. Jeffery. That’s led to confusion among the crew over what is and is not acceptable. Most of them are playing it safe by falling back on protocol, the way a puppy who has been spanked will hide in it’s basket.”
“Interesting analogy,” grumbled Stafford, “you think I was wrong to arrest Jeffery?”
“Absolutely not,” Noonan said firmly, “His actions, unlike dumping jello on somebody or cursing profusely, were illegal, blatently disrespectful and resulted in injury.”
“Then why is everybody so pissed off at me?”
“Many of them are surprised,” Noonan explained, patiently, “And not just by you. Who would expect that Jeffery would behave in such deplorable behaviour? Are they angry at you, or at him? They may not know. But the fact that you are here and that your best friend is in the brig muddies the matter. Indeed, it makes you something of the tyrannical villain and he the martyr, as preposterous as that seems”
“I had to-“
“I know. There is also the matter of you getting Dr. Wowryk drunk two weeks ago. Yet you are not in the brig.”
“The waiter got our drinks wrong,” Stafford objected, “I just didn’t tell her about it.”
“That is a very shaky argument,” Noonan pointed out, “Although you technically did nothing to violate any regulations, that behaviour was not becoming a starship captain and very much makes you look like a hypocrite.”
“I can see that,” Stafford said reluctantly, “What do I need to do?”
“Give everyone time to settle down,” Noonan advised, “Once Jeffery is back, things will start to return to normal. Also, avoid getting the good doctor drunk again.”
“Done and definitely done,” Stafford said with a smirk. He clapped Noonan on the shoulder, “Thanks, Matt. I dunno what I’d do without you.”
“We’re not done yet, Captain,” Noonan said with a sigh. Stafford wasn’t going to like this part.
“I have been asked to deliver this to you,” He handed a padd to Stafford and watched the colour drain from the Captain’s face.
Captain Christopher Stafford
RE: Incident Report
Please report to my office at 1500h this afternoon to discuss your handing of the situation pertaining to Lieutenant Commander Simon Jeffery.
“HR?” Stafford squeaked as he collapsed into the nearest chair. He gestured weakly for Noonan to leave.
“You better…um…get Sickbay to look at those cuts,” he said in a strangled voice.
Noonan nodded and left. Had Stafford been paying attention, he might have noticed that the cuts on Noonan’s palms had long since healed.
Trish Yanick walked into Unbalanced Equations and grabbed a light lunch from the replicator. She looked quickly around the room, which was packed with the Alpha shift lunch crowd. A few members of Beta shift had also wandered in for a late breakfast. Everybody was still drained from the previous night’s party, but a constant, low buzz of conversation was present as everybody recounted the fight between Jall and T’Parief or Dr. Wowryk’s encounter with the mechanical bull.
“Are you sure you’ve got enough to eat?” asked the computer, returning Trish’s focus to the task at hand.
“Oh!” she giggled, “Yes, thanks, I’m not that hungry.”
“I’ve just received a new replicator file for Antosan Flekar pasta salad that would go really well with that sandwich!” insisted the computer in the universal tone of a mother convinced her child isn’t eating enough.
“Well, OK,” Trish said. The replicator hummed and she retrieved the dish.
“Come back when you’re ready for dessert!”
Trish quickly located Dr. Wowryk in a quiet corner and sat down.
“Good morning!” she said cheerfully, “and how are we feeling today?”
Noel looked blankly at her for a moment, shrugged, then looked back down at her soup.
“That was quite the meeting, huh?” Trish went on, “I’ve never seen Matt get upset before! Did you see how he busted the table? He must be pretty strong, for such a slim guy. Did he come by Sickbay to get his hands fixed up?” She took a big bite of her sandwich.
“No,” Noel said softly, “I haven’t seen him.”
There was silence as Trish chewed. Now that the obligatory ice-breaker was out of the way, it was time to move on to the juicier stuff.
“I can’t belief Chris’s replacing Simon,” Trish declared, “I mean, I get that Simon did something wrong, but haven’t things gotten a little out of hand?”
This got a reaction. Wowryk’s eyes flashed as she slammed her spoon on the table.
“He got off light!” she snapped, “Twenty days solitary confinement! What he did was vile and despicable and a violation of my person! I could have been killed!”
“Well-“ Trish started. Wowryk kept going.
“I can’t believe he’d do such a thing! I’m just shocked! He seemed so harmless! He’s like a little boy! I have to tell him what to wear, what to do, how to behave…and he seemed so sweet and innocent!”
“You mean you had him wrapped around your little finger and now he’s bitten back!” Trish said with a giggle.
“Well I liked him there!” Wowryk said firmly, “Men are senseless, crazy beings who need to be kept on a short leash!”
“Is he your boyfriend, or your pet?”
“Is he your pet?” Trish repeated.
“No, before that. You said-“
Noel leaned back in her seat, a confused look on her face.
“Boyfriend,” she said slowly, “I never…I didn’t think…”
Yanick brought her hand to her mouth and gasped.
“OH MY GOD!” she squeaked, “You’ve never had a boyfriend before! I don’t believe-“
“Oh come on!” Wowryk snapped, “That’s enough!”
Trish dropped her hand and wiped the shocked expression from her face.
“Yeah, I’m not surprised,” she admitted.
“We were just dating,” Noel said, holding her head in her hand “I never thought of him in any kind of romantic sense.”
“No wonder he tried to get you drunk,” Trish muttered.
Wowryk started to tear up.
“Have I been that horrible?” she asked, “I’m trying to be a good, Catholic girl! If he was that miserable-“
“You weren’t!” Trish assured her, “Simon adores you! He just wants you to have fun. And you’re right, he was wrong. He never should have done that. He probably wouldn’t have even though of that stupid stunt if Stafford hadn’t given him the idea.”
Wowryk shot up.
“Y’know, a couple weeks ago. The waitress gave you his drink, he noticed, you didn’t, you got a bit tipsy,” Trish noticed an unhealthy flush was coming over Wowryk’s face as a snarl broke her porcelain features, “and you had absolutely no idea, and I just opened another big can of worms,” Trish finished dejectedly as Noel stormed out of the room.
“Dessert is sounding better and better,” she sighed.
Stafford was sitting in his ready room, contemplating his upcoming meeting with Ms. Lydia Thompson when Dr. Noel Wowryk stormed in.
“You son of a bitch!” she snapped.
“This really isn’t a good time,” he sighed.
“Too damned bad!” Wowryk paused to cross herself.
“What’s this about?” Stafford asked.
“Like you don’t know,” she replied haughtily, “Simon is down in the brig while you sit up here scott-free!”
“I didn’t do anything!” Stafford protested.
“You gave him the idea!”
Stafford was quiet for a moment.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t find out about that,” he admitted.
“Yeah, I bet!” Wowryk snarled, “Because you knew that if I found out I’d want you down there too! And I’ll get you down there! After I have a talk with Commander Noonan-“
“He already knows,” said Stafford, “Everybody knows!”
Wowryk looked at him.
“And??” she asked, expectantly.
“And,” Stafford replied, his tone suddenly formal, “while it was inappropriate of me to allow you to consume that drink, I did not serve it to you, neither did I force you to consume it. I did not violate any regulations. Simon did, purposefully. End of story.”
“And that’s it?”
Stafford looked down.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I hate that this happened. None of us expected it to blow up like this. For what it’s worth, Simon really adores you. I hope you remember that when he gets back.”
“I have many things to consider,” replied Noel coldly as she left.
Stafford blew out a long breath.
“I didn’t sign up for this s**t.”
[The Author is pleased to announce that the remainder of this story will be presented to you using ‘Sound-O-Vision’! This exciting new concept allows you to use your imagination to add a soundtrack to our story! At specific points, you will be informed of the appropriate music to imagine. Thank you, and enjoy the remainder of this story in revolutionary new Sound-O-Vision!]
“Shaun Sage, I herby promote you to the rank of Lieutenant, with all the rights and privileges thereof,” said Commander Noonan, “and may God have mercy on your soul.” He pinned the new pips to Sage’s collar as the engineering team applauded uneasily.
“Congratulations, Lieutenant,” he finished.
“Thank you, sir,” replied Sage.
“I believe you already know your assignment,” Noonan said coolly, “Carry on.”
As Noonan left, Sage turned to the Alpha shift engineering team. A Nicondii sibling group, the dozen or so short, orange-skinned humanoids were all but indistinguishable from each other.
“So, who wants to fly the runabout?”
[Sound-O-Vision reminder: The following scene is best imagined with the ‘Departure’ track from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. Y’know, where the Enterprise is leaving Earth…]
After fifteen minutes of squabbling, Frit Naketh guided the runabout Asessippi out of the shuttlebay. Ensign Sage looked out the window at the Silverado. The outer hull had been repaired since their last battle and was looking almost brand new. The only abnormality was the dozen cargo containers scattered over the upper surface of the saucer, looking like metallic acne. Lieutenant Jall was at the bridge Operations console, waiting to assist Sage.
“Let’s try a tractor beam,” suggested Frat.
The bluish beam shot out of the runabout and locked onto a crate. Nothing happened, then the tractor beam started to flicker.
“I’m getting some strange feedback,” reported Frat.
“Up the power,” ordered Sage.
“You idiots are gonna cause a hull breach,” came Jall’s bored voice from the comm, “Turn that thing off!”
“Cut it,” sighed Sage, “We’re gonna have to do this the hard way.”
“The hard way?” Frat asked, nervous.
“We’re gonna have to go out there and disable the magnetic clamps.”
[Sound-O-Vision reminder: The following scene is best imagined using one of the following themes: ‘The Throne Room’ from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi or ‘Emperor’s Theme’ from the same movie.]
Stafford tugged at the collar of his uniform as he sat in the small reception room outside Lydia Thompson’s office. Starfleet protocol generally called for the First Officer of a ship to handle personnel problems. Humanoid Resources operated offices out of major planets and Starbases to help with the overall personnel situation and to ensure that all personnel decisions were handled in a way that conformed to Federation labour laws. That was the official story anyway. Because they were civilians, the HR reps were outside the Starfleet chain of command, reporting directing to the Federation’s Secretary of Humanoid Resources. This gave each rep a staggering level of authority. Fortunately, most HR reps would only ever intercede when things were going horribly wrong.
Silverado was one of the very few starships that actually had a representative from Humanoid Resources on board. Since she was also the flagship of President Dillon’s Operation Salvage project, it didn’t take much imagination to realize that Dillon (or one of his toadys) had probably planted her there to keep an eye on Stafford.
Stafford had only met Lydia Thompson once, shortly after taking command of the Silverado. Only later had he learned that her pretty features and pleasant manner hid a steel-hard core and the willingness and ability to crush any who stood in her way.
“Ms. Thompson will see you know,” voiced the computer at exactly 1500h, “and honey, if you know what’s good for you, don’t make her mad!”
“That’s reassuring,” Stafford muttered. Obviously he had somehow gotten on Lydia’s bad side already.
He stepped into Lydia’s office, then came to a stop, shocked.
The cool grey-blue colours of Deck 5 had been painted over with a flat black. Low rows of filing cabinets lined the walls, topped with dozens of tiny candles. Dark paintings hung on the walls and a thick, blood red carpet covered the floor. Behind a high desk of deep mahogany were two tall windows, typical of the ship’s upper saucer. Blood-red velvet drapes framed the windows. Outside, Stafford could see several figures in environmental suits working on one of the cargo containers stuck to the ship’s outer hull.
<Noonan would be right at home here,> Stafford thought to himself. Before he could figure out why that thought had come to him, his attention was drawn to the figure behind the desk.
Ms. Lydia Thompson was a striking woman with distinctive features. She was maybe 30, though it was hard for Stafford to tell. Her long blond hair fell halfway down her back, framing her pale face. She had applied black lipstick, and her long fingernails had likewise been painted black. She wore a spotless, immaculately pressed black suit that flattered her slender figure. She stood as Stafford approached the massive desk.
“Captain Stafford,” she said coolly, “thank you for coming. Please take a seat.”
“Do you understand why we’re here today?”
Stafford gulped. Why was he here today? Did he do something wrong when he arrested Jeffery? Was it because he arrested Jeffery? Was it because of the crew’s reaction to the whole thing?
Evidently, Ms. Thompson was tired of waiting for a reply.
“Well, we’re here to discuss the events of recent days, obviously. However there are other matters that I would like to bring to your attention.”
“Other matters?” Stafford asked nervously. He could feel sweat breaking out all over his body.
“Yes,” Ms Thompson smiled, “but we’ll get to that later. First off: I have noticed that there has been a substantial uproar regarding the arrest of Simon Jeffery for,” she consulted a padd, “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer.”
“Well yeah,” Stafford choked out, “but they’re really over-reacting, I think.”
“I agree,” stated Lydia, “You were absolutely right in arresting him. In fact, it was your legal obligation and you are to be applauded for it. It couldn’t have been easy to take action on somebody that you have such a close friendship with.”
“I was?” Stafford asked, “I mean, I was! That’s why I did it!” He could hardly believe it! She wasn’t going to skin him alive after all!
“That’s not to say that you’ve handled the situation properly,” Ms. Thompson added, her smile never leaving her face, “Indeed, there are several way in which this could have been handled better. Can you think of any?”
Sweat again broke out across Stafford’s face.
“Um,” his brain froze, “maybe I should have brought security with me, instead of calling for them after?”
“Actually,” Thompson said coolly, “it is preferred that security only be brought in once they are needed, as having them present during any coaching or disciplinary discussions will only increase the level of tension.”
Stafford was finding himself having a very hard time meeting Lydia’s eyes. Her calm, cool demeanour was everything that a professional HR person should have, but there was a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach that something was WRONG! The woman in front of him absolutely radiated a sense of menace, regardless of her big smile. He looked out the window at the figures working on the cargo container. They were gone! Well, some good news! At least the parts were getting moved into the ship.
He noticed a small, moving speck darting towards the ship. Squinting, he tried to figure out what the heck it was. As it moved closer to the ship, he realized it was the missing cargo container, the engineering team still attached. Before it could crash into the hull, it slowed with shocking speed, then immediately flew back into space like some insane yo-yo. Stafford struggled to return his attention back to Thompson, but his eyes kept flicking out the window as the crate came back again, then rebounded back into space.
Lydia Thompson was still speaking.
“-so then Captain, what could you have done to better handle the situation?”
Stafford shook his head.
“Very well. Let’s explore that, shall we?” Thompson’s eyes flashed, “I have here thirteen different interactions with thirteen different crewmen and officers this morning that should have ended in reprimands over their behaviour. That doesn’t include the entire senior staff, each of which displayed some of the most unprofessional behaviour I have EVER seen on a Starfleet ship at this morning’s meeting!”
Stafford was shocked that she had heard about the morning meeting. Evidently his shock was apparent to Thompson as she paused to smile sweetly.
“You’ll find that very little happens on this ship without my knowledge. Captain! Ensign Yanick, Lieutenant Commander T’Parief, Lietuenant Commander Jeffery and Dr. Wowryk should all have been firmly reminded that personal relationships among senior officers are inappropriate at best and must NEVER interfere with their duties.” Thompson’s voice was becoming sharper, her words increasing clipped and harsh, “You acted very poorly in the lounge regarding Dr. Wowryk. Ensign Yanick was never properly disciplined for the damage inflicted at Waystation. Ensign Naketh was never properly disciplined for the damage he caused to engineering! Lieutenant Jall should be in the brig for insubordination and reckless endangerment!” Thompson stood and gestured out the window. “This chaos behind me with the cargo crate? Should NOT be happening! YOUR ENTIRE SHIP WAS STRANDED BECAUSE OF A PLUMBING ACCIDENT!”
Stafford started stammering out a reply.
“Not so easy without Commander Noonan to help you, hmmm? Thompson asked with false sweetness.
Stafford felt a flash of anger.
“I-I can’t argue that there have been some problems,” he said, “but what about our results? We had this ship ready for launch on time. We escaped from Dreamland. We retrieved the Stallion successfully, and we took down the pirate that attacked Waystation.”
“Any of which could have been accomplished with greater ease by a more professional crew!”
“I’m starting to think you have a problem with us!”
“I feel that many of your decisions regarding the crew of this vessel need to be re-evaluated.”
Stafford leaned back, shocked.
Thompson composed herself and sat down.
“You have thus far shown yourself to be lacking in many of the coaching and disciplinary skills needed by a starship Captain.”
“Is this Starfleet’s opinion, or yours?”
“That is not important.”
“I think it is!”
“I want to know,” Stafford snapped, “Now.”
To Stafford’s increasing surprise, Lydia smiled.
“That’s better,” she said, “Notice how you shifted from the defensive to the offensive. That is something you really should incorporate into your leadership style.”
“You were testing me??” Stafford was even more confused.
“No. I just wanted to see if you had any backbone.”
Thompson clasped her hands in front of her.
“Captain, I think it’s obvious to both of us that this crew is not up to Starfleet standards. The skills and abilities are there, for the most part, but the proper attitude is missing.”
“We’ve got the urge to explore,” Stafford pointed out, “according to the recruiting poster, that’s good enough!”
“I disagree. There is also professionalism, integrity, proper deportment, respect-“
“Does Starfleet know we’re having this discussion?”
“That doesn’t matter.”
Stafford was becoming furious.
“What do you mean ‘that doesn’t matter??’ You’re a civilian! You have no authority to discipline me! Your job is to ensure that we follow Federation law in the dealings with our crew, and you’ve already said that we’ve done that!”
“You’re absolutely right, Captain,” Lydia leaned back in her seat, “But I report to the Secretary of Humanoid Resources, who would only be too happy to recommend your removal to Starfleet Command.”
“Starfleet doesn’t demote people without just cause! And if ‘bad attitude’ was a just cause, half the captains in the fleet would be out of work!”
“Maybe so,” Thompson checked her chrono, “but now is not the time to argue that point. I have another appointment in five minutes, “she leaned forward to regard Stafford seriously, “Captain, this whole conversation comes down to one point; you’ve reached a crossroads in your command of this ship. We both know that there are certain crews in the fleet that do things…differently…from everybody else. Suffice it to say that we don’t have many people requesting assignment on those ships. To be blunt, Silverado is becoming the latest addition to that list. If you want to become a ship of the line rather than an embarrassment, this is your last chance to turn things around. You’ve drawn a line, and that’s good. But you need to keep the pressure on everybody to shape up, or things will never improve.”
“And if I would rather do things differently?” Stafford asked.
“Then you can deal with the same chaos you’ve experience for the past several months, until somebody crosses the line again. Next time you might not be so lucky,” Thompson stood again, “Thank you for your time, Captain. If you’ll excuse me…”
Stafford left the office, deep in thought.
Lieutenant Sage and his team were also getting further away from Lydia Thompson’s office, but HR was the last thing on their minds.
“Make it stop!” wailed Naketh.
Fifteen minutes earlier:
[Sound-O-Vision reminder: For optimal experience, use ‘Hungarian Rapsody’]
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” asked Frat Naketh.
“Of course I’m sure!” chided Sage, “We reverse the polarity of the magnetic clamps to detach the crate from the hull then catch it with the runabout!”
“What if the magnets clamp onto the runabout?”
“They’ll be set to repel Starfleet hull metals, not clamp!”
“But how are we gonna get the crate into the shuttlebay with the magnetic clamps active?”
“We’ll worry about that later.”
Sage started poking around the open access port.
“Can’t we just shut them right off?” asked Frek Naketch.
“No, the security system won’t let us.”
“But they’ll let us mess around with the magnets?”
“It wasn’t my idea!” Sage reached up to rub his temples, his hand smacking up against his helmet.
“What’s under here, anyway?”
“This area of the hull.”
“Oh. Um, Secondary Life Support on Deck 6, Dr. Wowryk’s Office and Sickbay on Deck 8 and HR on Deck 5.”
“I guess we better be careful then.”
“No kidding! We do anything to knock out Life Support, we’re gonna be in BIG trouble.”
“Who cares about Life Support?” he said, “I’m more worried about HR or Dr. Wowryk. Do you have any idea what those people could do to us if we made them mad?”
“Can we get back on topic, please!” objected Sage, “I’m ready to reverse the polarity. Frit, are you ready?”
“Ready, sir,” came Frit Naketh from the runabout.
[Sound-O-Vision: At this point, you should fast forward to the section of Hungarian Rapsody that is most often heard in animated cartoons such as ‘Tiny Toons’ and ‘Who Framed Rodger Rabbit”. ]
The cargo crate, propelled by the reversed magnets, launched off of the Silverado’s saucer and straight at the runabout. Ensign Frit Naketh barely managed to move the runabout out of the way as the cargo container rocketed by.
“TURN IT OFF!” wailed Frek.
Sage reached in and returned the magnetic polarity to normal.
The crate slowly started to decelerate.
“Phew” sighed Frat.
“Why are we moving so slowly?”
Sage thought for a moment.
“The ship’s further away,” he said, “the magnetic clamps aren’t as close to the hull, so the magnetic attraction is less. As we get closer, we’re going to speed up.”
Sage, Frek and Frat looked at each other.
As the crate picked up speed, Sage worked at the access panel.
“Hurry up!” wailed Frek as he watched the gleaming hull of the Silverado as they rocketed faster and faster towards it.
The crate lurched to a hard stop less than a foot away from the hull as the magnetic clamps pushed away from the ship. It then reversed direction and shot back into space.
“I’m getting sick!”
“Please don’t puke in your helmet….oh, f**k man, that’s gross!”
“Frit!” hollered Sage, “Get a lock on us!”
A tractor beam shot out from the runabout. It held for a second before fizzling out.
“Feedback!” reported Frit, “Must be part of the security system!”
“Help us!!!” waited Frat.
Up on the bridge, Lieutenant Jall was laughing hysterically.
“Oh man!” he choked out through a fit of giggles, “I haven’t seen anything this funny since…since…I dunno!”
“What’s up?” asked Fifebee, sitting at her station.
“Look at this!” Jall transferred the video feed from the runabout to the main screen.
Fifebee and Yanick looked in shock as the cargo container and the attached engineering team shot away from the ship, only to slow and reverse course, coming within inches of the hull before rocketing back out again.
“Oh my God!” wailed Yanick, “somebody’s gonna get hurt!”
“I know!” giggled Jall, “Isn’t it great! Here, listen to the audio!”
“AHHHHHHHH!!!!!” came the scream over the speakers.
“This is sadistic!” stated Fifebee with disdain, “Fifebee to Sage,”
“I can assist you, just follow my directions.”
Fifebee watched as the container approached the hull.
“Reverse the polarity, now!” she ordered. The container slowed.
“Now reverse it again!”
The container settled to the hull with a THUNK.
“Thank you!” Sage cried over the channel, “Thank you so much! My stomach thanks you! My head thanks you!”
“A simple ‘thanks’ would have done,” Fifebee replied, “But you’re welcome.”
[Sound-O-Vision: The next, short scene is most appropriately enjoyed with the Pirate’s Dirge.]
Stafford stood outside of Thompson’s office for several seconds, trying to settle his stomach. It was hardly the first time he’d been given s**t for something, but it was definately the least enjoyable. Admirals, Captains, ex-girlfriends, his parents…only Dr. Wowryk came anywhere close to scaring him the way Thompson did. The woman was cold, like an ice statue. A sharp, pointy ice statue.
“I gotta get outta here,” he decided.
He headed straight for Unbalanced Equations.
Steve, of course, was waiting to greet him.
“Heya Captain! How’s it going?”
“I just had a meeting with HR.”
“Oh my God,” muttered Steve, “Mary, get the strong stuff. The Captain needs to get seriously drunk.”
“Noonan to Stafford,”
“Crap,” muttered Stafford, “Stafford here. What is it?”
“How did your meeting go with Ms. Thompson?”
“I thought so. Would you like me to cover your bridge shift tomorrow morning? I imagine you will be in no shape to work.”
“Um, sure,” Stafford said slowly, “thanks.”
“No problem. Noonan out.”
Stafford looked at Steve.
“How does he do that??”
“I dunno. Here, let’s get you started off with something good and strong.” He handed Stafford tall glass with wisps of orange mist drifting from the top. “Thanks.”
A few hours later, Lieutenant Sage stood in a small briefing room in front of his engineering team.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he started, “After much thinking and deliberation, Ensign Naketh and I have come up with a plan to get the cargo containers into the shuttle bay,” a hand popped up, “Yes? Question?”
“Which Ensign Naketh?”
Sage regarded his group of short, orange skinned ensigns named Naketh.
“Frat Naketh,” he said, “now-“
“Our shift is over,” one of them pointed out, “are we gonna get paid overtime for this?”
“The Federation doesn’t use money!” snapped Sage.
“What about extra replicator rations or holodeck time?”
Sage clenched his teeth.
“Seeing as how the holodecks are broken, NO! We’re just gonna get through this briefing tonight, then carry on tomorrow morning! Now be quiet and let me finish!”
There was assorted grumbling.
“Look, I know you miss Jeffery, and I know that I was just another team member until today, but I’ve been placed in charge, and I’m gonna get this job done!” Sage seethed.
He waited a moment for everybody to calm down.
“OK, here’s the plan…”
The next morning…
[Sound-O-Vision: For optimal enjoyment of the next XERGER….GRONKS!!!!
The Author would like to announce that he has forcibly discontinued Sound-O-Vision on account of it was DRIVING ME INSANE!!! And now, back to our program…]
Sage and the various Ensign Nakeths were back on the outer hull, hovering around what had been unceremoniously dubbed Crate 1. Sage watched as Frat Naketh affixed a small flow oscillator to the control line leading to the magnetic clamps.
Since they could change the polarity of the magnets, but not turn them right off, Frat had come up with the idea of affixing the oscillator to the line. The desired result being that with the magnets changing polarity quickly enough, the crate could be removed from the hull. A small knob allowed Frat to adjust the oscillator to the point where he could increase or decrease the force applied by the magnets, allowing the crate to hover over the hull surface.
In theory, anyway.
Without useable transporters or a tractor beam, there was still the problem of ‘How the hell do we get this thing inside???’ This time it was Lieutenant Sage to the rescue. Several small thrusters had been mounted on Crate 1 and connected to a small joystick next to the oscillator control knob. In theory, this would allow Sage to guide the crate into Shuttlebay 1.
In theory, anyway.
“Sage to bridge,” he reported, “we’re ready out here.”
“Confirmed,” replied Noonan easily, “Shuttlebay doors are open. Are you sure you want to go through with this, Lieutenant? It may not be as simple as you think.”
“Thank you, sir,” replied Sage, “ but I’m sure we can manage.”
“As you wish,” Noonan sounded amused, “Carry on, but please keep this channel open.”
Noonan sat back in his seat. The main viewscreen was showing the work crew on the hull. He could hear Sage over the comm link, preparing his crew.
“Please mute our end, Lieutenant Jall,” he ordered.
“Getting a hunch on this?” Jall asked with a laugh.
“You could say that. Ah, here they go…”
Sage had taken his position on the crate and had activated the oscillator. As predicted, the crate rose slowly away from the hull. Sage fiddled with the controls, moving the crate closer again. Then further. Finally, he was able to stabilize it. One of the other engineers gave him the thumbs up, and he reached for the joystick.
“Here we go,” whispered Noonan.
“AHHHHHH!!!!” screamed Sage.
The crate had shot off like a large, boxy rocket, heading straight for the raised section of the saucer containing Officer’s Quarters. He twisted the control knob, sending the crate flying further away from the hull. Unable to gain enough altitude, one bottom corner dragged along the hull, sending the crate into a flat spin as it narrowly missed the bridge.
Captain Stafford was awakened by a metallic shriek. He rushed to get out of bed and had almost succeeded in sitting up before the hangover kicked in, sending the world spinning around him as he collapsed back onto the bed.
Lieutenant Jall was giggling insanely from Operations. Noonan was sitting in the command chair with a small smile creasing his smooth features. Yanick and Fifebee were aghast.
“Help them!” cried Yanick, “They’re going to be hurt!”
“Commander, this is most improper-“
“They’ll be fine,” Noonan said softly, “Lieutenant Sage is going to rocket around the ship for awhile before coming in for a landing. He’ll decide it was so much fun, the engineering team is going to be fighting over who gets to bring in the other eleven crates.”
“You’re sure?” Yanick asked, uneasy.
“You just know how to take the fun out of anything, don’t you?” he complained.
Sage had not yet decided he was having fun. He’d managed to get control of the crate barely in time to find himself flying off the saucer and onto one of the two massive warp nacelles at the aft end of the ship. He fought to stay in control, loosing only when he reached the series of ridges partway down the nacelle’s upper surface. The crate slid down towards the engineering hull. Sage only avoided a crash by turning the magnets to maximum at the last minute. Sage now found himself looking up at the connector between the engineering and saucer sections.
“Hey, Loot!” called one of the Nakeths, “You OK?’
“I’m fine,” he replied, “I’m on the engineering section. How do I get back up there?”
“Um, I dunno.”
Realizing he would never make it past the impulse engine thrust nozzles, Sage guided the crate around to the bottom of the cylindrical engineering section, then shot out towards the saucer. The crate fell gracefully past the navigational deflector, the magnets pulling it gently towards to underside of the saucer. He skimmed past the lower sensor array then came up and over the edge of the saucer to the upper surface.
Unfortunately, he had come up right into the spot where the engineers had been working. The small figures in environmental suits scattered as the crate barrelled through.
Sage pulled the crate through a wide, sweeping turn across the rear of the saucer before shooting through the open shuttlebay doors, feeling a slight tingle as he passed through the atmospheric containment field. He turned the magnets to full ON, causing the crate to clamp itself to the floor as it skidded to a halt.
He climbed shakily off the crate.
“Oh my God!” he shouted, “That was so much FUN!”
As Noonan predicted, the engineering team immediately started arguing heavily over who would fly the remaining crates in. Tired of the racket, Sage plugged their names into the computer and had it randomly pick who would fly what crate. (Noonan had also requested a turn.) Frit Naketh managed to get the record distance for the jump from the bottom of the engineering hull, over the navigational deflector and onto the saucer.
Finally, once all twelve crates were clamped to the shuttlebay floor, the team reassembled.
“OK, so now how do we open them without the security code?” Sage asked.
“Like this,” replied Frat. He pressed a button marked ‘Open’. The crate obediently unsealed itself.
“What??” gasped Sage, “They put security codes on the clamps, they give it protection from tractor beams, but they didn’t lock the f**king DOOR??”
“WHO IS RUNNING THAT COMPANY???” Sage wailed.
Noonan was back on the bridge, having completely enjoyed his time ‘Crate Skipping’. Once you reached his age, you started running out of new experiences. Piloting a cargo crate along the outer hull of a ship was one of the few things he had never done before.
“How are they planning on getting those crates back out?” wondered Yanick.
“The power cells will die in less than a week,” replied Fifebee promptly, “We will be able to recycle them at our leisure.
“Our bigger worry is preventing crewmembers from flying them out again,” Noonan said, “Once we are back at warp speed, the outer hull is NOT a friendly environment.”
“Amen to that!”
“Noonan to Engineering,”
“How are repairs coming along?”
“They’d be doing much better if we had Jeffery helping us out!”
“You don’t. Status?”
“Deflector will be up and running in a few hours. We’ll be warp-capable at that time. There’s always SOMETHING to fix on this ship, but we’ve had plenty of time to repair everything else damaged by the flood.
“Excellent. Keep up the good work.”
Captain Stafford wandered in to Sickbay on his way to lunch.
“Good morning, Captain,” Dr. Wowryk said, “How are you feeling today?”
“Very badly,” he groaned, “I need a hangover remedy.”
“That will teach you to drink so heavily!” Wowryk said primly, “Alcohol has its place, but I’m pretty sure that drunkenness goes hand in hand with gluttony!”
“You’re probably right,” Stafford admitted, “But I had a meeting with HR yesterday. It didn’t go well. Need I go on?”
“I understand,” she said.
“You’re not perfect. Everyone at some point does something silly or ungodly that they later regret. Just let me grab a hypo. I’ll be right back.
Stafford sat quietly on the bio-bed as Wowryk rummaged around in her supply room.
“Doctor, can I ask you about something?” he asked once she had returned.
“You just did,” she said with a smile, “but go ahead.”
“Aren’t you angry with me? I mean, more so than usual?”
“I just threw your boyfriend in the brig!”
“Everybody is using that word,” Wowryk sighed.
“Brig?” Stafford asked.
“Boyfriend. You must realize Jeffery and I were only seeing each other for a few weeks. That’s not long enough to forge any kind of meaningful relationship.”
“Right. Which is why I said boyfriend, not fiancée.”
Wowryk thought for a second.
“You’re right,” she admitted, “it may not have been deep, but a relationship was there.”
“I am? I mean, I am!”
“You were right to arrest Jeffery too,” she continued, “what he did was wrong. Whether you gave him the idea or not, he was wrong.”
“I know. I just keep feeling really bad about it.”
“Good. If you’re making yourself feel bad, then I don’t have to!”
“Now let me ask you about something else,” he said, “What do you think about the way the ship’s been run so far?”
“You’re asking my opinion on the way you run your ship! Well, grab a seat…we’re going to be here for a while…”
Two hours later…
“And I really don’t think it’s necessary for the bridge commander to go through that whole ‘I relieve you, I stand relieved’ stuff every time the shift changes. ‘Have a good day’ is so much friendlier. But I do like that you allow some flexibility in the way most of those protocols are followed. Also, I feel that Mr. T’Parief should be given a chair. It’s not good for his lower back, having to stand hunched over his console all day…”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Stafford interrupted, “you’ve made some, uh, excellent points. But this is what I need to know: Are things OK they way they are, or do you think I need to work harder on ensuring that proper Starfleet policies are followed all the time? You’re my biggest critic, an honest answer from you would be a huge help.”
Dr. Wowryk looked extremely flattered.
“You might want to watch your own behaviour,” she admonished him, “but as for protocols and policies…bah! We’re managing so far. Although I feel that this crew could benefit from a strong introduction to Christianity, the majority of them seemed to like things the way they were.”
“Yeah…they did, didn’t they? We were starting to come together really well, before all this crap started happening.”
“But there’s always room for improvement!” Wowryk handed him a padd.
“An order for all crewmembers to attend Mass this Sunday. It would be a great opportunity for them to get in touch with the Lord.”
“Um, that would be against the section of the Federation Charter of Sentient Rights that grants freedom of religion.”
“But I thought we were forgetting the more idiotic policies?” Wowryk smiled sweetly.
“Sorry babe,” Stafford smirked, “That’s a law, not a policy.”
“I had to try.”
“I know. Thank you for being so mature about this, Doctor.”
“You’re welcome,” she waited until Stafford had left.
Nurse Kerry started cleaning up the hypo Dr. Wowryk had administered to Stafford. She looked at Wowryk in alarm.
“Doctor! This wasn’t a hangover remedy, it was a breast augmentation!” she cried.
“It was?” Wowryk put a confused look on her face, “How unfortunate! I do hope this ‘purely accidental’ mix-up won’t affect the captain.” Her efforts to keep a straight face failed as she burst out laughing.
Stafford stepped onto the bridge. His hangover hadn’t faded much during the long conversation with Wowryk. He walked up to Lieutenant Fifebee’s station.
“Any sign of anything strange?” he asked.
“You pectoral region has increased in size. Have you been working out?”
“Yeah, good to know it’s working! But I meant on sensors.”
“I know. Nothing to report.”
Stafford sat comfortably in his chair. Maybe not comfortably, on second thought. His uniform was getting a little tight across the chest.
“Nice to see you, Captain,” Noonan purred, “You realize your shift ends in half an hour?”
“Yeah, I do,” Stafford grinned, “I asked Dr. Wowryk’s opinion on ship operations. ‘nuff said?”
“Have you made a decision regarding Ms. Thompson’s advice?”
“How did you know about…no, never mind. I can’t even act surprised anymore. Yes, I’ve made a decision.”
Stafford pressed the intercom button on his chair.
“All hands, this is the Captain. I would like to declare tonight ‘Back on the Road Karaoke’ night in Unbalanced Equations following the end of Alpha shift. Children under the age of eighteen are NOT permitted to attend, but for everybody else we’ll have drinks, food, music and the worst singers in the sector! Just don’t do anything illegal and we’ll all have a great time! And as an extra incentive to attend, we’ll be raffling off several holodeck time cards! For whenver the holodecks are up and running. Thank you.”
Stafford cut off the intercom, silencing cheers from various decks. He turned to Noonan.
“Does that answer your question?”
Stafford walked into Unbalanced Equations to the sounds of music and slightly off-key singing as Ensign Dar’ugal gripped a microphone on stage. Lieutenant Fifebee approached him.
“Did you find a shirt that fit better?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Stafford said uneasily, “I’m getting a bit worried…I really think something’s wrong. I’m so thirsty! Just hold on while I get a drink…”
Stafford rushed over to the bar and quickly located a flagon of water. He filled and drained a glass. Then another one. Then one more. Finally, he tilted the jug back and drained it dry.
He felt an extremely uncomfortable sensation…almost like the water was being forced up into his chest. He staggered back over to Fifebee.
“Something’s really wrong,” he gasped.
“I was trying to tell you,” Fifebee said, peeved, “that based on my new analysis of the growth, I believe you are developing breasts.”
Stafford gave her an incredulous look.
“Yes. There are several methods of breast augmentation that can cause this. The most common involves a mixture of estrogen and an exotic variant on a Venus drug that helps the body retain excess fluids and shape them into whatever the drug calls for. In fact, after that jug you just drank, I believe your ‘jugs’ will be ready very shortly.”
“Dr. Wowryk!” Stafford realized, “That bitch! She must have mixed up the…ohhh….that BITCH!”
“I guess turnabout is fair play,” Fifebee said with a smile.
Stafford gripped his chest. Yup, he was officially sporting a very nice pair of B-cups.
“I gotta get outta here!”
Stafford started rushing towards the exit. Before he could even get halfway there, the music stopped and Dr. Wowryk climbed on stage.
“Greetings, my brothers and sisters in Christ,” she started, “Thank you all for coming. I would like to thank Captain Stafford for arranged for this evening, and feel that he should be the one to sing the next song.”
There was a cheer of assent from the intoxicated crowd.
“Um, thanks!” Stafford called, hands hiding his chest, “But I really must be going…I can’t sing very well anyway…”
Wowryk gave him an evil smile.
“Please, Captain, I insist!”
Looking around, Stafford realized it was time to accept defeat. He climbed up to the stage, hands still over his chest. There was murmuring and pointing as those closest to the stage realized something was wrong.
“Thank you Captain,” Wowryk reached to shake his hand. Instinctively, Stafford reached out, uncovering his new secret to the whole crew. Hoots of laughter broke out through the lounge.
“I had originally planned for him to sing us something by the Offspring,” Wowryk said with a huge smile,” But given his new condition, I think something else would be more appropriate….Computer! Play ‘Material Girl’!”
Captain’s Log, Stardate: 56276.2
After spending the evening in Sickbay undergoing emergency breast reductions…um, computer, let’s remove that. Better Starfleet doesn’t know.
Anyway, repairs to the navigational deflector are finally complete, and we are at long last ready to resume our mission! Strangely enough though, with all the spare time we’ve had the past few days, nobody bothered to think about where it was we wanted to go.
“I believe,” said Commander Noonan, “That if Mr. Jeffery were here he would start the meeting by advising the Captain that he should have ‘kept the hooters’.”
Jall stifled a giggle.
“Well,” Stafford sighed, “I’m not saying they weren’t fun while they lasted, although in retrospect they really WEREN’T! I’m perfectly happy being 100% man!”
This time it was Yanick and Dr. Wowryk who were trying hard not to laugh.
“What? Anyway,” Stafford grumbled, “Ensign Yanick, would you please explain our options to everybody?”
“Yes, Captain!” Yanick replied with a smile. She was glad to finally have something to do!
“We have three options: Lieutenant Fifebee has found some kinda weird anomalies that could have something to do with those Mistresses things that turned me into a super-bitch. There’s also the course Starfleet gave us, which leads off into unknown space. Since we’re supposed to be exploring, we aren’t really required to follow it exactly, just go in that general direction. And finally, Astrometrics has identified a system fifteen light years away but slightly off our course that might be inhabited.
Thank you, Ensign,” Stafford said, “Thoughts anybody?”
“Investigate the Mistresses,” T’Parief replied immediately.
“That is not in line with Starfleet’s orders,’ Fifebee pointed out, “I recommend we investigate the planet. It’s what we’re out here for.”
“I concur,” Noonan said.
“Me too,” added Stafford.
“But what about the Mistresses?” Jall piped up, “If they’re gunning for us, we need to find out what we’re up against, to hell with what Starfleet thinks!”
“We’ve survived their assaults so far,” T’Parief said, “next time we may not be so lucky!”
The conference room broke out into heated argument.
“ENOUGH!” roared Stafford. Everybody turned to look at him. “Much better. I’ve decided that we’re going to investigate the planet. Any questions?”
“Great. Let’s get to it.”
As the senior staff returned to their stations, Stafford settled into his chair.
“Ensign Yanick, set course for the planet. Hold us at Warp 1 until we’re sure everything’s working, then bring us to Warp 5.”
“Aye sir!” Yanick said with a grin.
Silverado’s engines flared as the ship leapt into warp.
E Next: The Silverado crew encounters a planet where everyone is really, really sexy! What could possibly go wrong?