Author: Brendan Chris
“Osmotic pressure pump?”
“Standby to open the valves”
A short crewman in a dingy uniform twisted on the valve, which turned open with a groan. The relative silence of the jeffries tube was shattered by a heavy banging.
Bang…bang…BANG! BANG! BANGBANGBANGBANG!!!
“I’m reading elevated oxygen levels in the conduits!”
“Compensate! Close the aeration injectors to 30 percent!” The banging slowly subsided and was replaced by a quiet hiss.
“Rookes to Jeffrey,” said Crewman Rookes, the ship’s plumber, as he closed his tricorder. “Running water has been restored to Deck 12.”
“Good work,” came the accented reply from Engineering, “Carry on.”
Lieutenant Commander Simon Jeffrey yawned as he tapped Rookes’ report into his engineering log. Jeffrey’s normally reddish hair was dark with soot. He wore a tired, haggard expression and his uniform was covered with bits of insulation after an encounter with a nest of Rigellian zorniks in jeffries tube 26-28C.
Jeffrey had been working double shifts for the past week, ever since Silverado had returned from her accidental trip to the past. The trip had only aggravated the poor condition of the ship. Jeffrey had made repairs in Main Engineering top priority: The piles of junk were gone, the damaged panels and missing displays had been replaced. Only the grungy walls betrayed the true age of the compartment. That, and the fact that most of the displays showed error messages, warnings and failure reports. Checking his chrono Jeffrey realized it was time for his report to the Captain. Captain Stafford wanted to be kept informed of the progress being made on Silverado’s refit.
“Jeffrey to Stafford,” he said as he tapped his commbadge.
“Stafford here. What’s up?” came the reply.
“We’ve finally restored life support to decks 15, 16 and 17. Ensign Buck figures his team will be done overhauling impulse reactor 4 in another 5 hours. Replicators will still be at least 4 days and Crewman Rookes just restored water on deck 12.”
“Good job,” said Stafford, “Once Buck is finished with reactor 4 he can move on to reactor 5. Has Rookes checked out the toilet in my ready room yet?”
“He took a quick look. He thinks it’s a problem with computer controls. Ah think it’s the flow regulator.”
“So who’s going to fix it?’
“We’re still working on that sir.”
“Well hurry up!” snapped Stafford, “This thing is driving me crazy!”
Captain Chris Stafford was on his office shift. Between getting his paperwork in order and helping out with the refit, he was working as much as Jeffrey. He had been starting his day filling out paperwork for Alpha shift then reporting down to Engineering to help out Beta shift. He leaned back in his chair and tried to stretch the knots out of his tall, wiry frame. He turned back to his report for the Department of Temporal Investigations, wincing as he heard his ready room toilet flush on its own. He grabbed another padd from his cluttered desk and added a line to the tally labeled “Toilet Flushes”. The total was somewhere around 950. On the bright side, the work was helping. The anger he’d felt over being assigned such a…unique ship was blunted, and the sense of accomplisment with each completed task was having a definite effect on his mood. His musings were interrupted by the comm.
“Yanick to Stafford.”
“Yes Ensign, what can I do for you?” Stafford replied. Yanick was quickly becoming Stafford’s favorite officer to deal with. Sure she made a few mistakes, but those were mostly caused by her not paying attention. As long as she was focused on her duties, she was fine. And her cheerful attitude was like a warm beam of sunshine. Especially when he compared her to her frigid best friend, Dr. Wowryk.
“I just wanted to remind you that Commander Noonan’s shuttle is due in 15 minutes. Also we have a group of civilians waiting at the starboard airlock,” Yanick reported.
“Thank you Ensign,” replied Stafford. “That would be our lounge staff. Why don’t you greet them and show them to what’s left of the officer’s lounge? I’ll head down to the shuttlebay.”
“Gotcha! Have fun!” Yanick closed the channel.
Yanick walked past Lieutenant San Jall on her way to the rear turbolift. Jall was hunched over the port auxiliary console. The console was set into the port wall of the bridge with displays on the panel and on the wall allowing for a much more detailed display than the standard Ops panel at the front of the bridge. Jall had dark bags under his eyes and a mug of black coffee sitting in front of him.
“How ya doing?” asked Yanick on the way by.
“No talk, must finish. Pretend not to hear her, she’ll go away,” muttered Jall to himself. He’d been working almost non-stop for the past week on getting Silverado’s outdated computer core software up to date.
“Ok, well, have fun!” Yanick said happily. She stepped into the turbolift. “Starboard airlock please!”
“Sure thing!” replied the computer.
“You’re welcome!” With its customary screech (Jeffrey was planning to fix that tomorrow) the turbolift jerked to a start. It came to a stop on deck 8 and the left door opened. The right door sort of jerked a bit then froze. Yanick’s shoulder crashed into the door.
“Owww!” Frowning back at the turbolift Yanick made her way through the busy corridors toward the airlock. As more of the ship became habitable and more crewmembers arrived, the ship was starting to take on new life. Sure the corridors were still filthy and tons of stuff didn’t work, but Yanick was pretty sure Jeffrey would take care of that. All she cared about was having more people around.
Yanick arrived at the airlock to find a tall, thin man with brown hair leaning against the wall. He looked pretty young. He was very handsome, too. Chatting amongst themselves nearby was a group of 4 civilians, 3 women and one man.
“Hello, welcome to Silverado,” Yanick beamed as she shook the man’s hand, “I’m Ensign Yanick, pleasure to meet you all.”
“Steven Stieger,” replied the man, “Thanks. We’ve been waiting down here for a while; I was starting to think you’d forgotten about us.”
“Sorry about that,” Yanick said with a laugh, “If you’ll follow me I’ll show you to the lounge. We’ve just been so busy here! Just yesterday I was telling the captain how hard everybody’s been working and how much we need a good place to unwind. There’s a bar over on Spacedock but those starbase guys are pigs and too many of our people were getting into fights. And I was also just saying-“
“Well, that’s what we’re here for,” Steven interjected, “We’re kinda rushed, we usually have more notice than this, but we’ll do what we can.”
“Oh yeah, sorry about that too,” said Yanick, “We originally had somebody from Guinanco coming in but they took one look at the place and left.”
Steven’s face darkened at the mention of Guinanco, the corporation that was taking over more and more starship lounges and putting hard working people like Steven out of business. “Well don’t you worry ma’am, you’ll find we’re much easier to deal with than they are.”
Yanick had led them to the back of the saucer section and to a pair of scratched doors with wood finish and circular windows. One of the windows was shattered. “And here we are! The officer’s lounge is right here, the crew lounge is just down that corridor, and your quarters are one deck up. I need to get back to the bridge but you can call me on this if you need any help,” she handed him an old style flip communicator. “Unfortunately I don’t think the commpanels in there work yet. Anyway, it was great meeting you!” She gave Steven a bigger than normal smile then walked away.
Steven peered into the lounge…saw the cobwebs in the corners…the battered tables and torn carpeting…the gaping hole in the wall where the replicators should be. He turned to one of his waitresses.
“Do you have that synthehol request form for Starfleet Supply?” he asked.
“Yeah, it’s right here.”
“Whatever we’re asking for, double it.”
There was a sudden shrill scream from the direction Yanick had gone. Steven rushed down the corridor.
Ensign Yanick was sitting on the floor, a large bucket on her head and a thick green goop oozing down her shoulders. Up above was an open ceiling panel.
“Are you OK?” asked Steven.
“It’s in my hair!” cried Yanick, “Yuck! What is it???”
Steven took a quick smell. “Lime jello.”
“Yup. Looks like you’re the victim of a practical joke. A pretty funny one actually…but still completely uncalled for!” Steven quickly backtracked when he saw the glare forming on Yanick’s face.
“It’s NOT funny! If anybody comes looking for me, I’m in the shower!” she said as she stormed off.
Captain Stafford stood in the control tower of the main shuttlebay, watching Commander Noonan’s shuttle enter the bay. It wasn’t actually a tower, just a compartment up at the ceiling with windows look down, but who was he to argue with tradition? The force field used to contain the atmosphere was functional, but Stafford preferred not to take any chances. Once the bay doors were closed he entered the bay and walked towards the shuttle where a tall, very pale man with dark, shiny hair was emerging. He looked so young! Stafford knew cadets were being rushed through the Academy to replace crew lost in recent conflicts, but a first officer should have some tempering, some maturity. Oh well, nothing he could do about it now.
“Commander Noonan?” Stafford inquired.
“Yes. Commander Matthew Noonan, reporting for duty,” Noonan extended his hand. Stafford shook it. Noonan’s hand was smooth and cool to the touch.
“Captain Christopher Stafford. Welcome aboard.”
“Thank you Captain,” Noonan said with a small smile. His voice was mellow, soothing. “I would like you to meet Lieutenant Jane Fifebee and-“
Noonan was cut off as the lights in the shuttlebay died.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” said Stafford, “Our Operations Officer is just doing another system reboot. We’ve had a lot of that lately.”
“I see,” said Noonan, “As I was saying-“
Noonan was cut off again as the lights came back on and loud, tinny music began blaring out of the comm system.
“It’s raining men! Alleluia it’s raining men! AMEN!”
“Stafford to Jall, what the f**k is going on???” Stafford tried to shout over the horrible music.
“I don’t know! It just came on when the computer restarted! I can’t shut it down! The interface is frozen!” came the reply, “Comm systems all over the ship are locked in.”
“Well shut down the computer!” roared Stafford, “Switch us to backups!”
“Are you sure? It’s really not that bad….”
The music (and lights) cut out. Silence rang in the shuttlebay as emergency lights came up.
“You’ve had a lot of that lately?” inquired Noonan with a grin.
“Ah.” Noonan seemed unperturbed, even amused. “Anyway, this is Lieutenant Jane Fifebee and Dr. Luis Zimmerman.
Lieutenant Jane Fifebee was a slender, average height woman with jet-black hair pulled back into a severe bun. Her face was extremely pale, her eyes dark. Stafford smiled as he shook her hand.
“Welcome aboard Lieutenant Fifebee,” he said, “I hope your voyage was comfortable.”
“Thank you captain,” her voice was cool, with the faintest hint of distain. “Jane 5-B actually. This gentleman here was ‘humanizing’ it. He claims it will help me fit in better.”
“I see. Excuse me, but are you an android then?”
“Hardly,” said an older, balding man as he stepped out of the shuttle, “She is the Holographic Starfleet Officer Mark 5, an offshoot of the EMH program. I’ve spent the past 3 years designing her and you people are going to field-test her. If your ship doesn’t break apart when you leave dock.”
“This is Dr. Zimmerman,” said Fifebee. (Stafford found it easier to think of her that way.) “He created my program at Jupiter Station and has been looking for a ship to place me on. It’s part of a study done by the Federation to see how well sentient holograms can integrate into society.”
“Interesting,” said Stafford, “And just FYI, we’ve already left dock without breaking apart.”
“Yes,” stated Zimmerman flatly, “I do watch the holo-vision now and then. Your little escapade isn’t exactly something to be proud of.”
A pair of crewmen had started unloaded cargo from the shuttle. One was guiding a cylindrical contraption about the size of a 20th century hot water heater. The device hovered on antigravs and had a control console and display screen on one side. It was topped with a subspace transceiver array and encircled by a rail-like handgrip. As the crewman guided the thing out of the shuttle it banged into the hatchway. Lieutenant Fifebee flickered.
“Careful with that!” snapped Zimmerman and Fifebee together. Fifebee turned to Stafford.
“My holographic relay,” she explained.
“I was kinda wondering about that. I had no idea we had perfected mobile hologram emitters.” said Stafford as he walked over to examine the device.
“We haven’t,” said Zimmerman, “It’s a holographic RELAY. Fifebee’s program is currently running back on Jupiter Station. They transmit commands to the relay telling it what she’s doing, what she’s saying and so forth. The relay generates the image and sends her surroundings and input back to Jupiter Station. The effective projection range is 100 to 500 meters, depending on obstructions and conditions. It’s really a clever system I’ve designed. True mobile emitters are centuries from development, but this works very well.” Zimmerman was sounding very smug.
“Wow,” Stafford muttered.
“It’s very impressive technology,” said Noonan, “Artificial beings, free of restraint.”
“Almost,” stated Fifebee.
“Right, but last time I checked Silverado didn’t have any holographic systems. Do you plan to project her from Jupiter the entire time?” Stafford asked.
“No, my team will be arriving next week to install holographic systems. Modern-,” Zimmerman stressed the word ‘modern’, “-Ambassador-class ships replaced superfluous recreational facilities with holodecks when the technology was perfected. We will attempt to bring this…vessel…up to current standards.”
“Goody for us,” said Stafford. The idea of having holodecks aboard was a relief. The ship’s bowling alley, Hopscotch room and Parcheesi lounge didn’t appeal to him, so he didn’t mind having them converted. This Zimmerman was a condescending bastard though and Stafford was getting annoyed. “Thank you so much for all your help Doctor. I hope your ‘HSO’-5 is more successful than your EMH-2. Call somebody else if you need anything.” Stafford left the shuttlebay with Noonan following. Jall had finally gotten the computer back up so Stafford was able to use the turbolift.
“That was rude, captain,” said Noonan.
“Yeah well, he was being an ass,” replied Stafford, “you better get used to it on this ship.”
“So what brings you to this assignment?” Stafford asked.
“It looked interesting.”
“That’s one way of putting it.”
The next morning Stafford was awakened by the computer alarm. He groaned. He’d been up later than usual going over personnel and ship status reports with Noonan. Noonan kinda creeped him out, if he was honest. The guy was smart. Really smart. And calm. And polite. And unlike most of the Silverado crew he had actually CHOSEN this assignment. What was up with that? And that look of perpetual amusement that never left his face was grating at Stafford’s nerves. Still, he considered as he walked into the shower, Noonan wasn’t THAT bad to work with and his skills were badly needed.
Stafford hadn’t seen Fifebee or Zimmerman since he’d left them in the shuttlebay. Presumably they were doing hologram stuff.
He climbed out of the shower and sat down to his breakfast ration pack. His peaceful morning was shattered by a loud roar. Stafford bolted into the corridor in his red Starfleet housecoat. The sound was coming from T’Parief’s quarters. Stafford hit the comm.
“Stafford to T’Parief,” he barked, “Are you all right?”
“DO NOT ENTER!” roared T’Parief.
Too late. Stafford had already keyed the door. What he saw taught him more about the mixed-breed officer’s anatomy than he ever wanted to know. He was distracted from that however by the fact that T’Parief was now a blinding shade of hot pink.
“I HAVE BEEN SABOTAGED!” roared T’Parief, swiping at the wall of his quarters. His claws left deep gashes. “MY ENEMIES WILL PAY FOR THIS!”
“PUT SOME PANTS ON!” Stafford wailed.
T’Parief snatched at a towel. Unfortunately his claws were still extended, shredding the towel to pieces. “GET OUT!” he shouted.”
“I’m gone!” Stafford said and bolted out the door.
The morning staff meeting wasn’t called, it just sort of happened. Jall came rushing into Stafford’s ready room bitching about the computer sabotage from the day before. T’Parief came storming in, still pink despite numerous attempts to wash off the paint. After Yanick beeped the door chime Stafford moved the whole bunch to the conference lounge and called Jeffrey, Noonan and Wowryk up. Fifebee arrived with Noonan.
“That song was broadcast to the entire Sol system!” Jall said, “You should see some of the messages that came in overnight!”
“This is NOT acceptable!” said T’Parief, “We’ve been made fools of! “
“My hair is still green!” wailed Yanick.
“Your hair??” shouted T’Parief, “LOOK AT ME!”
“Looks cute on you,” said Jall smirking.
“Are they always like this?” Noonan muttered to Stafford.
“-king virus f**ked up the entire entertainment database! All we have left is ‘I Love Lucy’ and something called ‘Vengaboys’!” Jall finished.
“People! Quiet down!” Stafford ordered. The arguing officers paid him little attention.
“Allow me, Captain,” said Fifebee. A bullwhip materialized in her hand. She snapped it across the table. Conversation was cut off as everybody turned to look at her.”
“Ahem. Thank you. If you haven’t already met her, this is our new Science Officer, Lt Fifebee. Anyway, do we have any idea who did this?” Stafford asked.
T’Parief spoke, “Internal sensors are still spotty. I have not been able to detect anything unusual around my shower, Computer Core Control, or the corridor in which Yanick had her little accident.”
“Little?” Yanick said, screwing up her face.
“Whatever,” T’Parief said. “I believe it was either a member of the crew or one of the Spacedock technicians.”
“I would think it would be a member of the crew,” interjected Dr. Wowryk, “They know who to go after and they know the ship better than Spacedock.”
“Ah don’t think so,” said Jeffrey, “The Spacedock boys were over here working on the warp drive and computer core long before we were. Ah know nobody on my staff would do anything like that to Mr. T’Parief, they’re all too terrified he’ll step on them as it is. “
“I concur,” said T’Parief, “And although everybody hates Jall, Ensign Yanick has done nothing to warrant this treatment. There is no motive.”
“Awww!” Yanick sniffed back a tear “That’s so sweet!” She rushed over and gave T’Parief a big hug. Stafford swore he saw T’Parief redden slightly. On the other hand, that could just be the paint.
“Yeah, thanks,” muttered Jall.
“Anything in the computers, Jall?” asked Stafford.
“I dunno. I haven’t looked.”
Everybody glared at him.
“Why the hell not?” shouted Jeffrey. “Are ye daft?’
“I’ve got better things to do.”
“Not anymore,” said Stafford, “Somebody is toying with us, and I want it to stop!”
Fifebee followed Stafford onto the bridge. Stafford saw that her holo-relay had been parked in a corner by the main viewscreen.
“You have a very interesting crew captain, very unique,” she said.
“I’ve noticed. I’m sure Dr. Zimmerman programmed you to be the perfect Starfleet officer, but I’m afraid you’ll find that may make it difficult for you to fit in with them.”
“Really? Why not?
“It was felt that as a sentient being I should develop my own personality. I have the knowledge of dozens of the quadrant’s top scientists including their personality profiles, but I have no defined personality of my own.” Fifebee looked a bit sad at this.
“I’m sure it will come to you,” Stafford reassured her, not really sure what else to say, “Just let it happen naturally.” Right. Preaching to a hologram about natural development. Smooth Chris, very smooth. He walked over to his ready room. Noonan was waiting inside.
“That was interesting,” Noonan said.
“Yeah, your first staff meeting aboard Silverado. How did you like it?” Stafford said tiredly.
“I rather enjoyed it.”
“Captain, I requested this assignment because I was bored. Map this, catalogue that. Everywhere you have rules and protocols and the same cookie cutter officers. Quite frankly I had tried to get assigned to the Secondprize or the Explorer, but they didn’t have any open slots for me,” Noonan explained.
“Really,” said Stafford dryly. “You mean you rate us as being below the Secondprize.”
“I can’t really say,” Noonan replied, “The Secondprize is famous for its unique approach to things. Your ship is an unknown. I intend no offense.”
“May I ask what you plan to do about these incidents?”
Stafford thought for a moment. “Find out who’s doing this, report them and let Starfleet deal with it.”
“I have a suggestion,” said Noonan. He slid a padd across Stafford’s desk. Stafford picked it up. It was the personnel file for one of the night shift security officers, one the Starbase engineers had probably never met. Stafford felt an evil grin spreading.
“What did you have in mind?”
Captain’s Log: Stardate 56160.8
“Lieutenant Jall has finished his check of our computer logs and detected an unauthorized access. He’s managed to track it to Garroth Lynch, foreman of Spacedock Engineering Team 17, currently assigned to the Silverado Refit Project.”
“It’s suspicious,” rumbled T’Parief, “It was too easy to find, even for somebody of Jall’s skills.”
“Hey, I didn’t see you come up with anything better!” Jall shot back.
“Well I think it makes sense!” Yanick piped in from where she was working on the helm console.
“Any why is that?” inquired Lt.Fifebee with an arched eyebrow.
“Well, jokes aren’t any fun if your victim doesn’t know who did it! I remember this one time at home, I locked my brother in his shuttlepod when he and his girlfriend were making out, then I short circuited one of the thrusters. They were stuck spinning in that thing for hours! It was soo funny!” Yanick started giggling to herself.
“Right,” said Jall, “and your point would be?
“Oh! Uh…I forget.”
“Ah think she’s right!” shouted Jeffrey from within the guts of the rear turboshaft. (Stafford had decided he couldn’t take the racket anymore) “It’s much more fun when they know who did it.”
“Fine,” said Stafford, “Here’s the plan…”
Garroth Lych and his team were boarding the construction vessel Caterpillar. Soon they’d be leaving the lower engineering levels of Spacedock and making the short trip to Silverado’s box dock. He was getting a real kick out of messing with the Silverado crew. He’d been intercepting their message traffic after the little song broadcast. He thought the invitation for ‘coffee and scones’ from the United Duraniam Workers of Titan was particularly amusing. He was feeling a bit bitter towards Starfleet, if he was honest with himself. The Silverado refit would have kept his boys in work for months if it weren’t for this ‘Operation Salvage’ bulls**t. But now they were doing half the work, then it was boredom and monotomy until the next job came around.
Still lost in thought, Lynch stepped into the Caterpillar’s locker room and started stripping down to change into his EV suit. Most modern spacesuits were worn more like jackets or ski-pants, but if you were going to spend 8 to 10 hours in your suit you needed to go the full mile, support systems and all. You couldn’t just unzip your fly to take a leak while EV after all. He heard a sudden creak. Somebody was already here! “Hey guys, I’m trying to change, what do you think you’re doing-OH GOD!!!!!!” he screamed in terror, cringing against the rear wall.
The beast was terrifying! It was huge! Almost 7 feet from toes to shoulders and covered in thick, red fur. It had no head, rather its large eyes were where a chest should be, with a gaping, toothless mouth right below.
“RAARRRRRR!!!!!” the creature roared.
“AHHHHHH!!!!!!” Lynch screamed again. He bolted for the door wetting himself along the way.
Back on Silverado’s bridge Stafford and his officers were watching the main viewscreen anxiously. Noonan and Fifebee had tapped into the Spacedock security grid. After a few wrong turns (Stafford hadn’t realized that Spacedock had a Risan Bordello on board) they had managed to display the view from the security camera in the Caterpillar’s docking bay.
“Any second now,” said Stafford shortly after the last engineer had walked up the ramp into the ship. Sure enough, seconds later they saw a rush of figures bolting from the ships hatchway and out of the docking bay.
“Run! Dear God, RUN!”
“It’s after me!”
Everybody on the bridge burst into laughter as Lynch followed his team in the mad rush for the exits wearing nothing but a strategically placed helmet.
“Nice legs baby!”
Ensign Dar’ugal, AKA the hairy red beast, jogged out of the Caterpillar and gave one last snarl in the direction of the departing workers. He had agreed to take part in the revenge against Spacedock in exchange for extra water shower privileges.
“Stafford to Dar’ugal,” Stafford forced out between fits of giggles, “Well done Ensign! Take a bow!”
Ensign Dar’ugal obediently bowed towards the camera then waved.
“Silverado to Asessippi, beam him out of there before Spacedock Security shows up.”
Dar’ugal vanished in the shimmer of the runabout’s transporter.
Stafford turned to Noonan. “Man, I so needed that. The only thing that could make this moment better would be a stiff drink.”
“We’re just lucky that the Baruda are new to the Federation or they might have recognized him,” replied Noonan.
“Yeah well, they didn’t. I think we’ve taught them not to f**k with us.
Steven was working in the officer’s lounge. He’d removed all the cobwebs and debris and determined that the existing furniture was a total loss. Normally he’d start replicating new stuff as soon as he had decided on a theme, but the replicators were still offline. His synthohol shipment had arrived from Starfleet Supply and he was in the process of cleaning all the shelves below and behind the bar. He had a strong feeling that the crew of this ship was going to need to get seriously drunk sooner or later, furniture or not.
The doors opened to admit a petite brunette officer dragging what looked to Steven like the quadrant’s biggest beer can. (The quadrant’s biggest beer can was in fact on Caggar 7.)
“Can I help you with something ma’am? Steven asked.
“Yes. I am Commander Jane Fifebee. I am looking for the officer’s lounge,” she replied.
“Well, you found it. Name’s Steven,” he took her hand and kissed her knuckles as she raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, but we’re closed.”
“Unfortunate. Where is the crew socializing?”
“Um, they’re not. Which is probably why they’re all being such bitches.” Steven replied.
“Bitches?” Fifebee inquired.
There was silence for a moment. “What’s that thing?” Steven finally asked.
“My holo-relay. It allows me to move around the ship without holo-emitters.” Fifebee replied.
“You’re a hologram?”
The conversation died again. This time Jane broke the silence.
“It was a pleasure meeting you Steven. I am sure we’ll see more of each other in the future.”
“Uh, yeah,” Steven replied as she walked back out pulling the holo-relay behind her. “Man, what will they think of next?”
Captains Personal Log: Stardate 56163.4
“The past couple of days have been relatively uneventful. Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey ‘accidentally’ jammed the bridge bathroom door, leaving Lieutenant Jall trapped inside for over an hour. Lieutenant Commander T’Parief has gotten most of the paint off, although he’s still looking a little colourful. He spent most of yesterday morning in sickbay with Dr. Wowryk. Apparently he developed a nasty rash in sensitive areas after using a can of Dillon’s Miracle Paint Remover. Dr. Wowryk and Ensign Yanick have been giggling about who knows what ever since he left sickbay.”
Stafford walked out of his ready room and onto the bridge.
“Our supply freighter from Utopia Planetia has arrived.” Jall called from his console.
“Great. Advise Jeffrey to start unloading. Remind him to double check the manifest, we don’t need to get short changed.” Stafford ordered.
Stafford settled into his command chair and started tapping at the small console built into his armrest. Jeffrey had just gotten the damned thing hooked up this morning. He was trying to figure out how to adjust the lumbar support when there was a loud humming sound. Suddenly his command chair leaped off its pedestal and started swooping around the bridge.
“What the hell’s going on!” yelled Stafford as he held on tight.
“Hey, why doesn’t my chair fly?” asked Jall.
“None of the bridge stations are SUPPOSED to fly, simpleton,” stated Fifbee.
“Simpleton??” asked Jall.
“Yes. I am attempting to emulate the other crewmember’s behavior by insulting you.”
“Don’t give up the day job!”
“Excuse me?” yelled Stafford. He was now hovering just below the transparent dome at the top of the bridge ceiling. He clung for dear life as the chair wobbled slightly. “Could somebody get me down if it’s not TOO MUCH TROUBLE!!!”
“Hold on!” said Jall. He rummaged beneath his console. “Found it!” He came up with a small hand phaser. He took quick aim then blasted the antigrav off Stafford’s chair. Chair and captain came crashing down.
“What the F**K is wrong with you?” Stafford shouted at Jall as he picked himself up off the floor. “We’re in f**king Starfleet! We don’t solve all our problems with phasers!”
“Maybe we should! It’s a hell of a lot more fun.”
Stafford stalked over to T’Parief’s tactical console, grabbed T’Parief’s phaser and stunned Jall.
“He’s right. That was more fun.”
“Nice shot sir,” said T’Parief.
Fifebee was examining the remains of the antigrav.
“I can determine nothing unusual. It’s a standard antigrav, set to trigger when the chair’s comfort level was changed,” she said.
“It was Lynch. It has to be.”
“Most likely,” she replied, “evidently you did not teach them not to f**k with us.”
“Oh goody, now we have the Federation’s first cussing hologram,” muttered Stafford.
“I aim to please, sir.”
“I’m going to Sickbay to have my head examined,” said Stafford, immediately wishing he hadn’t said anything. Silence. He looked around. “What? A golden opportunity and you’re just going to let it pass by?”
“Jall is unconscious sir,” rumbled T’Parief, “Finally.”
“Oh. Right. Well, just leave him there.”
Stafford walked into sickbay. Sickbay was actually starting to look like it was in pretty good shape. Starfleet might have a lot of crackpot ideas about the Silverado but at least crew health was still a priority. He looked around for Dr. Wowryk and heard a faint muttering coming from her office.
“Dr. Wowryk?” he asked? He found her kneeling in front of a small altar. The smell of incense filled the air and several candles were burning. She held up a hand to silence him. Once she had finished she blew out the candles and turned around.
“Yes? What is it?’ she said in a carefully measured tone. Stafford and Wowryk were trying to be civil to each other, despite their frequent arguments.
“There was a small accident on the bridge.” Stafford said.
“A real accident, or a contest-of-the-male-ego accident?” she asked.
“Part contest, part Jall.”
“I see,” she started running a tricorder over Stafford, “You know that stupid joke on those engineers was really unprofessional. I hear one of them is still hiding in a closet.”
“They started it.”
“You should have ended it!” she said firmly.
“Well, we did.”
“Obviously not!” she closed the tricorder. “You’re fine, other than a few bumps and bruises. Now I think you should comm Spacedock and apologize for your behavior before anything else happens!”
“My behavior? Number one, THEY STARTED IT! Number two, I’m not the only one involved!” Stafford was getting worked up again, something that apparently happened frequently around Noel.
“And I can’t believe you conned poor Ensign Dar’ugal into helping you! He’s such a sweet guy! Do you know most Baruda are terrified of humans?”
“Well he’s not obviously” Stafford replied.
“And what makes you say that?” Dr. Wowryk asked pointedly.
“He joined Starfleet! We’re 75% humans!”
“Yeah, well….ARRGGHH!! MEN!” Dr. Wowryk threw down her tricorder and retreated to her office.
“I guess I’m done,” muttered Stafford.
The next morning, (morning being relative in space) Spacedock slowly rotated as it passed out of Earth’s shadow. Being an extremely massive station Spacedock actually orbited Earth at high speed every hour and spent about 25 minutes every hour completely hidden from direct sunlight.
As Spacedock swung into the light, passing spacecraft noticed a slight change in the stations appearance. A huge yellow arrow had been painted on the hull pointing towards the Caterpillar’s docking pay. The words ‘I’m with Pakled Posse’ were crudely painted on the hull.
Stafford chuckled in his ready room as he read the news. Apparently a Pakled freighter had docked in the Caterpillar’s bay while the construction ship had been on a job. The article showed an image of the Pakled ship jammed into the docking bay while an engineering team scrubbed the painted message off the stations hull. The article commented that there seemed to be a string of vandalism against Starfleet property. <Hmm…> Stafford thought to himself, <I wonder who else was hit>
“S**T!”” he said out loud as realization struck.
“Bridge to Stafford,” came Jall’s voice, “We’re being hailed.”
Stafford stepped onto the bridge and straightened his uniform with the approved Starfleet maneuver. “On screen.”
“Stop preening yourself first,” Jall said.
“Just put them on.”
A laughing female voice came over the comm. “This is Lt Ezri Dax, Runabout Rubicon. I was just passing by and I wanted to congratulate you on your new paint job. Very festive.”
“Uh, thanks, “said Stafford, feeling cold, “Silverado out.”
“Hey, I’m not-“ Ezri was cut off.
“Jall, patch in box dock sensors. Let’s see the damage.”
Images from various cameras around the dock began to flash across the main screen. A huge happy face had been painted over the navigational deflector. A targeting reticule covered half the upper saucer, with a bull’s eye on the bridge. Splotches of colour splattered the secondary hull and the ship’s name and registry had been changed to U.S.S. Shitbox. PU4-EVER.
Stafford grabbed his padd and scrolled further through the article. Sure enough, there was Silverado in all her painted glory.
“Senior officers, report to the conference room.”
“This cannot stand!” Stafford said. Noonan, Jall, Yanick, Jeffrey, Wowryk, Fifebee, T’Parief and even Zimmerman were crowded into the conference room.
“Jeffrey, how long is it going to take to repaint?” Stafford asked.
“Um, we can’t repaint anything until the entire ship has been stripped down to bare hull metal. And ye said no cosmetic repairs until all the vitals are done. But I’ve got a team out there removing all the crap the Starbase engineers painted on.” Jeffrey replied.
“So you have a team out there, even though I ordered NO cosmetics?”
“Um…Um….” Jeffery stammered.
“No, it’s OK, I was going to order that anyway. Good initiative.”
“Next item: our supply shipment. Has that been tampered with in any way?’
“No,” said T’Parief, “Jeffrey and I have examined the shipment. All items are present, along with an unexpected bonus.”
“Really?” asked Yanick, “I love surprises!”
“Really,” said Jeffrey, “They had some leftover pulse phasers from a salvaged Defiant class ship. We got one of them in addition to the materials needed to bring our weapons systems to current Ambassador class standards, as well as the primary replicator control core and new toilet seats.”
“It appears,” said Fifebee, “that the engineers are not shirking any of their duties in regards to the Silverado. The two crews appear to be engaged in more of a contest of wits than anything else.”
“Wit? From this crew?” asked Zimmerman.
“Ye stay out of this!” said Jeffrey.
“Interesting observation Commander, “said Noonan, “but I believe out main concern is how to retaliate.”
“Ah overheard two of the guys mention a birthday party in the Paradise Lounge over on Spacedock,” Jeffrey said.
“That’s our target,” said Stafford, “Now we need a plan.”
“Exlax in the birthday cake?”
“Yuck! I don’t think so.”
“We could reverse the gravity on that deck,” suggested Fifebee.
“Lieutenant!” snapped Zimmerman, “This is not the kind of activity you should be participating in!”
“Loosen up you old prude!” shouted Jall.
“How about this:” Noonan quickly outlined a plan.
“Absolutely not!” shouted Zimmerman, “I will not allow this!”
“Who asked you?” Jall started to whip out his phaser. T’Parief caught his wrist, grabbed the weapon and crushed it under his foot.
“Thank you, Mr. T’Parief, “Stafford said, “Dr. Zimmerman, your opinion has been noted and ignored. Go do something holographic. We’ll take it from here.”
Spacedock was pretty much shaped like a giant mushroom. The main shaft was topped by a large, domed disc. A smaller but similarly shaped section bulged out halfway down the shaft. Finally, the shaft was capped at the lower end by a sphere barely wider in diameter than the shaft itself. The ship docks themselves were primarily in the upper section, along with repair facilities, station operations, restaurants, offices and the largest shopping deck in 30 sectors. The sphere at the bottom contained the power core and station engineering, while the middle section was dedicated to the ships and engineers that serviced the various stations, platforms and docks orbiting the Earth, including the old box dock assigned to Operation Salvage. The station had been expanded since the 23rd century to accommodate larger starships, but the basic shape was unchanged. Paradise Lounge was a popular nightclub on the lower levels, frequented by various mechanics, engineers and space crane operators. It was laid out like a 1940’s nightclub with dozens of small round tables surrounding a large stage and runway.
Engineering Team 17 had booked the lounge for Scott Stuw, space crane operator of the Caterpillar. Most of them were already halfway drunk and all of them were eager for the show to start. Rumor had it that Forman Lynch had booked the Risan Luv-Goddess for a special performance. The engineers quieted down as the spotlights came up on the stage and “Why Don’t You Do Right” by Alan Silvestri started to play.
A long, slender female leg emerged from behind the curtain and slowly stepped out onto the floor. A veiled woman eased out onto the stage. He dress was slitted to free her gorgeous leg. Her large breasts seemed barely contained in the strapless blue dress. Only her eyes were visible from behind the veil. She moved seductively to the music, singing in loud, clear voice.
<Lyrics are protected by international copyright and have been omitted.>
She circled the birthday boy slowly, then gripped his table and leaned forward towards him giving the guy a clear view of her cleavage. A trickle of drool appeared at the corner of his mouth. She pushed away from the table and leapt back on stage as the music switched to a faster techno beat. She tore the dress off revealing, well, revealing a flattering bikini among other things.
The engineers were all going wild. Cat calls and vulgar offers rang through the lounge as the ‘Risan Luv-Goddess’ finished her performance. The music died out and she walked slowly to the end of the walkway.
“Are you boys ready for the big finale?” she asked in a low voice.
Suddenly the lights came up full as the woman yanked the veil off her head revealing the huge, shriveled ears of an elderly Ferengi woman. Her entire body shimmered until it matched the wrinkled face and the bikini fluttered to the floor. The engineers gasped in horror.
At that moment as the Spacedock techs were retching, gagging or vomiting, Jall, T’Parief, Jeffrey and Stafford ran into the room carrying several dozen small glass vials.
“Happy birthday boys!” Stafford shouted, “Courtesy of the U.S.S Silverado!” The four officers started hurling the stink bombs to the floor and bolted out of the lounge followed closely by the hideous Ferengi woman. As soon as the doors snapped shut, Jeffrey starting yanking out chips. The men trapped in the lounge started banging on the doors as the air grew heavy with the scent of rotten eggs and wet Tellarite..
“Excellent job Fifebee,” Stafford said as she resumed her standard appearance, “I swear I didn’t look.”
“Irrelevant. That was not my true appearance. Nor was the previous form.”
“I was just being polite.”
“Ah don’t know about you,” said Jeffrey, “But ah think we better scram.”
Back on Silverado the crew was celebrating their first victory party. Jeffrey and Fifebee had rigged her holo-relay to project the image and furnishings of a 20th century pub complete with jukebox. Unfortunately the holo-relay was only intended to generate a single hologram, which meant that all the old lounge furniture was being used with the relay simply projecting a different appearance onto it. It also meant that Fifebee had to observe the party from the display screen on the side of the relay rather than in person.
“Way to go Fifebee,” slurred Stafford as he stumbled over to the emitter. He was drinking a syntheholic orange juice and vodka. “I think we really needed this. Morale this with help will.”
“Indeed,” said Noonan. He was sipping at a glass of what looked like red wine. “It’s a pity you cannot be with us right now.”
“I am quite all right here captain,” said Fifebee, “I will more properly attend the next gathering.”
“Look it those two,” said Jeffrey as he wandered over. He nodded at the corner of the lounge where a small dance floor had been set up. “They’re getting awfully friendly.” Jall, Yanick and T’Parief were indeed having a good time. Both had made several trips to the bar already. Jall and Yanick were doing pretty good on the dance floor but T’Parief had all the grace of an android. Yanick was pretty much ignoring Jall and trying to teach T’Parief how to dance without stumbling. Stafford grinned, finished his drink and walked to the bar.
“Nice party Steven,” he said.
Steven looked over from where he was mixing drinks. “It looked like you guys needed it. Here, give this a try,” he slid a triangular glass over.
“What is it?” Stafford asked. Something that looked like an olive was floating in the glass.
“Klingon martini,” Steven said, “My own little invention.”
“Hmmm…I didn’t know olives grew on the Quo’nos,”
“It’s not an olive. It’s a pickled targ testical.”
“Ewww,” said Stafford, “replicated?
“This one is.”
“OK then!” Stafford took a sip of the drink. “Holy hell!” he shouted. He banged one fist against the bar, rattling glasses. “That’s got a hell of a kick!”
“You need a good kick!” said Dr. Wowryk as she walked over. “There are more wholesome ways to relax than sex, drugs and alcohol!”
“Ahh!” said Stafford, “Of course. We have a party. Here is our designated pooper. First off, nobody’s having sex. Yet. Second, nobody’s doing any drugs. Third, this is synthohol, not alcohol.”
Wowryk glared at him and went to find Yanick. Yanick and T’Parief had retreated to a corner and were chatting casually. Well, Yanick was chatting. T’Parief was mostly just listening.
“I haven’t done this in forever!” Yanick was saying, “We had a big going away bash when we graduated from the Academy, but the ship I was assigned to was no fun! Their idea of a good time was wine, cheese and classical music! That’s boring! I tried to get them to try beer, but then they got sick. And then there was this time I showed up for my shift hung-over. I was working the night shift, and I hit the wrong button and crashed the ship into some diplomat guy’s ship. That was when they reassigned me here…” she went on, and on.
T’Parief found his vision starting to blur. Whatever he was drinking was starting to mess him up. He tried to focus on Yanick. She was amazing. He felt a pang of guilt at the way he had treated her after he arrived aboard Silverado. He had been stressed! Everybody had short tempers when they were stressed! Except Yanick. That friendly manner, that cheerful voice, those lovely legs….”
“Stop looking at her like that!” snapped Dr. Wowryk as she arrived.
“Like what? “ asked Yanick, “ I was in the middle of a story!”
“Look at him! Typical male! Gazing into your eyes! You know he just wants to ‘conquer your planet’ before heading to the next ‘star system’!” Wowryk was fuming now.
“Huh?” asked T’Parief.
“Noel, we’re just talking! Trying to have a conversation,” Yanick said,” Why don’t you grab a drink and join us. You’re getting upset over nothing!”
“Maybe YOU are just talking! But you know all he really wants is sex! That’s all any man cares about! WELL YOU’RE NOT GETTING ANY FROM MY FRIEND!” Noel snarled at T’Parief, “Not while I’m around!”
“Noel, maybe you should go home and lie down,” said Yanick.
“Fine! Live in sin! See if I care!” Wowryk stormed out of the lounge knocking Jeffrey off his stool as she passed by.
“Somebody’s been into her sacramental wine again!” he giggled from the floor. “Barkeep! Another beer!”
“I can’t believe her!” Yanick pouted. “I mean, it’s great that she cares and all, but it’s MY life!”
“Yes, yes it is,” said T’Parief. He was starting to wobble.
“She can’t just barge in and tell me what to do! We’ve only known each other a couple weeks!”
T’Parief passed out, crushing the table beneath him.
Stafford and Jeffrey looked over at the source of the loud crash. T’Parief was sprawled out on the floor and Yanick was gently nudging his side with her foot. Apparently deciding he was out for the count she walked over towards them.
“Lookit that!” she giggled, “I thought a boy his size would be able to hold his liquor! Heh heh…size,” she giggled.
“Eh,” grunted Stafford, “I guess appearances can be deceiving.” He looked at the dance floor where Jall and a couple other crewmembers were still dancing away. “Who would’ve thought Jall could go to a party without getting beat up?”
“Yet” muttered Jeffrey. He belched. “Man, that Steve guy knows how to mix them! Where did you find him anyway?”
“I dunno,” replied Stafford, “After that prick from Guinanco left I just checked Earth’s bartender listing and a name I random picked.”
“Picked a random name,” Stafford shook his head, “I dunno what’s in this stuff, but it sure is fun!”
“You are all intoxicated,” stated Fifebee’s head from the holo-relay display.
“Yes, yes we are!” shouted Jeffrey as he slammed down his drink and ran off to the dance floor.
Stafford awoke the next morning with a headache like he had never experienced before. He tried to sit up, but a wave of nausea knocked him right back down. He dimly recalled the end of the party, around 0400. Fifebee had shut down for the night since nobody was sober enough to return her to normal. It had taken Stafford, Jeffrey, Yanick and Noonan (all stumbling and giggling like idiots, except for Noonan) to drag T’Parief’s heavy, muscled body back to his quarters. Yanick had stayed behind to make sure he was OK. At the time Stafford had thought that was incredibly sweet of her, but in retrospect he wasn’t so sure. He didn’t want to think about it really. Fortunately Ensign Dar’ugal had been able to stumble home on his own after being offered round after round of drinks.
Stafford made the mental effort necessary to shrug off the effects of synthahol, tried to get up again and promptly fell right out of bed as the world spun around him. It wasn’t working.
“Wowryk to Stafford,” came the voice of Dr. Wowryk.
“Ugghhh…..” groaned Stafford, “What do you want?”
“Nice to hear you’re paying the price for your fun.”
“Yes….nice….is that all?”
“No,” she said, “I think you better come down to sickbay. We have a small problem.
Stafford arrived in sickbay wearing his housecoat. He had bags under his eyes and looked about 15 years older than usual.. “What?”
“Alcohol,” said Dr. Wowryk as she scanned him.
“What you guzzled down last night was not synthohol. It was alcohol. Most of the crew is feeling the effects. “
“Entire crew?” asked Stafford, rubbing his eyes,” What time is it?”
“1300 hours,” replied Wowryk.
“WHAT?” moaned Stafford, “No! I had a meeting with Admiral Grant at 1000! How did this happen!”
“That’s your problem, “she said, “As much as I think you should all suffer for your sins Commander Noonan has convinced me to distribute hangover remedies and advise bed rest for all crewmembers.” She injected him with a hypospray. The headache and nausea faded, but were still present.
“Wow, that guy’s a miracle worker,” Stafford said, “How did he manage to talk you into doing your job without causing pain?”
“He asked very nicely.”
It was the quietest staff meeting on Silverado so far. With the exception of Dr. Wowryk and Commander Noonan, everybody wore the same dazed expression. Nobody was speaking above a whimper. A large pitcher of water had been set out on the conference table. Fifebee was still absent. Apparently Zimmerman was less than impressed with her recent behavior and they were having a ‘talk’.
“Why aren’t you sick?” Stafford asked Noonan, “You must have drunk two bottles of wine!”
“Um, yes, wine,” Noonan replied, “it was from my own private supply and must not have been tampered with.”
“Oh. Well, thanks for taking care of the Admiral for me.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“Well, I think that was fun!” said Ensign Yanick. She looked only slightly down.
“Fun?” groaned Jall, “you’d do this again?”
“Oh, I’ve done it before!”
“In the name of the Great Bird, why?” moaned Jeffery. He had his head resting on the table. T’Parief grunted his agreement.
“Us farm girls know how to drink!” she replied.
“I think we can all agree that we enjoyed the party if not the consequences,” said Noonan. “What shall we do next?”
“Nothing for the moment,” said Stafford, “We’re not getting anywhere. They smack us, we smack them back and they smack us again. We need to focus on getting out of dock so we can deliver the final punch and leave.”
“So basically,” said Jall, “we’re going to kick them in the shins and run away?”
“That’s the plan.”
“It is cowardly,” muttered T’Parief. He was sprawled facedown on the floor, “But I don’t care.”
“Are we sure they’re responsible for this anyway?” asked Jeffrey.
“Oh yeah,” said Stafford, “I talked to Steven on the way here. He showed me the bottles from last night. He had ordered enough synthohol to last until the replicators start working but somebody had emptied the bottles and refilled them with the alcoholic versions. Guess who has access to our shipments other than us?”
“Too much talk….more sleep,” muttered Jall. T’Parief was already snoring.
Stafford walked carefully back to his quarters. He had left Noonan in charge of what repairs were continuing. As he left the turbolift and walked through the corridor he passed through a perfectly restored section with clean, silver sheeting and gleaming black panels then back into the scuffed, dingy corridor that was still the standard on the Silverado. Still, it was nice to know that improvement was possible.
“Having a good time captain?” asked an unfamiliar voice.
Stafford spun around. Garroth Lynch was standing behind him. “What do you want?” Stafford asked.
“Oh, just looking out for your well-being. I’d hate to think that anybody was suffering…unpleasant…side effects.” Garroth said with a smile.
“We’re managing just fine,” growled Stafford.
“Really,” said Garroth, pretending to sound shocked, “haven’t been all that many people up and about today. I wonder what could have happened?”
“How’s your nose doing there by the way?” Stafford asked, “Looks a bit red.”
“It’s just fine,” Garroth snapped, “You people are out of your league. Accept defeat and crawl away.”
“Don’t count on it.” Stafford walked into his quarters leaving Garroth alone in the corridor.
Stafford had barely gotten comfortable when his door chimed. Well, tried to chime. It was more of a static filled buzz really.
“Believe me, I’d like nothing better, but I need to speak with you first,” came the voice of Dr. Zimmerman.
“Fine, but make it quick.”
Zimmerman entered Stafford’s quarters. Fifebee followed with her holo-relay in tow.
“Jane and I have had a long talk regarding her behavior yesterday. I don’t think her personality matrix is stable. She was strongly influenced by a personality in her databanks that had an affinity for Ferengi and so I have decided to terminate this experiment pending further study.” Zimmerman said.
“Oh you have. And what have you decided, Lieutenant Fifebee?” Stafford asked.
Fifebee just looked down.
“Lieutenant, I asked you a question.” Stafford said.
She looked up. “I would prefer to remain aboard.”
“That is unacceptable!” Zimmerman broke in, “These people are clearly influencing your personality profile in a manner that is, is, unacceptable!”
“Oh really,” said Stafford, “So you expect her to define her own personality then you object when she starts to show traces of individuality?”
“Her behavior was inappropriate.”
“It wasn’t her idea!”
“She went along with it!”
“Look, you told me this program was to see how sentient holograms integrate into society, right?” Stafford asked.
“Well, she’s integrating. I say she stays.” Stafford crossed his arms.
“I don’t think she should be ‘integrating’ with you people!” snapped Zimmerman.
“Too damned bad! The key phrase here is ‘sentient hologram’. You have no right to talk to her about holographic rights and getting her involved in our society and then try to yank that out from under her if you see a sign of independence! You’re behaving more like her father than her creator!” Stafford was shouting now.
“Well I am!” snapped Zimmerman, “I created her and do not want her turning into one of you!”
Stafford looked at Zimmerman, “Too bad. She has reported for duty, I’ve accepted her under my command and she’s a member of my crew. Starfleet may not be recognizing rights for all holograms yet, but they commissioned her and that gives her certain rights. You will transfer her program to Silverado as soon as our holographic memory core is online.”
“This isn’t over!” snapped Zimmerman.
“Maybe not. But if she wants to stay, she stays.” Stafford sat back down, “If she’s supposed to be a sentient hologram then let her make her own choice!”
Zimmerman stormed out.
“Thank you captain,” Fifebee said quietly.
“Don’t mention it,” Stafford rubbed his temples, “In fact, don’t mention anything. I need a nap.”
“Understood. I’ll be on the bridge.”
“All right, we need to plan our next move carefully,” Stafford said the next day, “Timing is everything.”
“I thought we had given up,” said Noonan. He was flat on his back underneath the replicator in the Captain’s Mess, trying to get the damned thing working. “Try it now?”
“Chocolate milkshake,” ordered Stafford. The replicator hummed, sputtered then splattered Stafford with chocolate smelling goop.
“Hmm…not quite,” muttered Noonan, “Perhaps the problem is in the materialization sub processor.”
“This stuff is COLD!” complained Stafford.
“You should order a warm beverage this time,” said Noonan,
“I will then! Computer, hot chocolate!”
This time the cup of hot chocolate had actually materialized before exploding all over Stafford. “Nope, try again. And no, we’re not giving up. We’ve got to get them back and make sure we can finish this.”
“Any bright ideas?”
“Yes, actually. Gimme that tricorder, then book us a travel pod.”
Wearing nondescript civilian clothing, Noonan and Stafford had shuttled over to Spacedock’s commercial levels then worked their way down. They shifted to Jeffries tubes along the way to avoid leaving a trail.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” asked Stafford.
“This trip was your idea, Captain,” replied Noonan.
“I meant the part about climbing down about 100 decks.”
“I am sure I can manage.”
“I’m not worried about you, I’m just not so sure about me! That’s a long way down…and…and…I’m kinda scared of heights!”
Noonan sighed. “We can go back if you wish.”
“No, let’s just get this over with.”
They climbed down in silence for several minutes.
“You really tried to get posted to the Secondprize?” asked Stafford.
“I did. I also requested a posting on the Explorer, but they are not expected to return to Federation space for some time,” replied Noonan.
“So why didn’t they send you there?”
“I’m not sure. I was told that my record was not suitable for any of the open slots aboard the Secondprize. But they would assign me here.”
“Do I need to worry about you jumping ship at the first opportunity?”
“No. I have accepted this assignment and will fulfill my duties to the best of my abilities.”
“Great. How many more decks?”
Some time later, the duo arrived on the target deck. Stafford was panting and sweating profusely while Noonan wasn’t even breathing hard.
They crept through another Jeffries tube (a horizontal one, to Stafford’s relief) until they reached a maintenance junction. “Gimme the tricorder,” ordered Stafford.
“Captain, this is a delicate adjustment. Perhaps I should do it,” said Noonan.
“I know what I’m doing! I was playing with toy circuits while you were still a drooling baby!”
“I doubt that,” muttered Noonan,
Stafford jumped back as a spark jumped through the circuits. “OWWW!”
“Captain, please be quiet.”
“I burnt my fing-“
“What are you two doing?” asked a light, female voice, “I’m the only one assigned to maintenance here right now!”
“I’m sorry Miss, we were just on our way,” said Stafford.
“Civilians are not allowed on this level. I’m going to have to report you,” she replied.
“Some help please!” Stafford muttered to Noonan.
Noonan shuffled towards the woman and started speaking softly to her. Stafford couldn’t make out what he was saying.
“I understand. I will now leave,” she muttered in a dazed voice before leaving the way she came.
“What did you do to her?” Stafford demanded.
“Light hypnosis,” said Noonan.
“Will she be OK?”
“Of course. I would never harm a fellow officer.”
“Rrrrright,” said Stafford, “You know, you are REALLY creepy sometimes.”
“I know. Let’s get finished, shall we?”
The next morning Lynch and crew were filing into their mess hall for breakfast. They lined up at the replicators along the one wall and began placing orders. The meals materialized, then promptly exploded. Lynch stood with the remnants of his bacon and eggs hanging off his face.
“So he still wants to play, does he?”
“We’re positive this thing is going to work?” Stafford asked Jeffrey.
“Positive,” Jeffrey replied.
“I dunno…I have a really bad idea about this,” said Stafford.
“And why is that sir?”
“Mostly because of the sign over there that says ‘Use at Own Risk’.”
“Oh, that’s just there for legal reasons.”
Stafford and Jeffrey were in Transporter Room 1, the only transporter room onboard that had been renovated and repaired. Everything looked OK, but after his experience with the replicators Stafford was a bit nervous about the technology involved. Exploding people would be really messy.
“All right, here we go,” Jeffrey started tapping out commands on the console.
“Run another diagnostic first,” Stafford ordered.
“Ah’ve already done 3!”
“Just do it.”
“Aye sir. Everything checks out.”
“Very well,” said Stafford, “Energize.”
Jeffrey slid his hands down the console. The transporter hummed and Admiral Grant appeared on the pad. Relieved, Stafford walked up to greet the admiral.
“Admiral. Welcome to Silverado.” Stafford wasn’t exactly happy to see the man who had stuck him with this ship, but he knew better than to lip off a higher-ranking officer. Most of the time.
“Captain,” Grant said with his trademark false smile, “I’m eager to see what progress has been made. Especially after the…challenges that have come up.”
“This way please. I thought we’d start with engineering.” Stafford led Grant through the ship, passing pristine, renovated corridors and grimy, scuffed corridors. Compartments where machinery hummed quietly, and compartments filled with useless junk. Grant could see that progress was being made, but that the process was far from complete. Stafford and Jeffrey kept up a running commentary.
“And here you see technicians from Jupiter Station are installing a holographic memory core. And over there work is still proceeding on the phase inducers. We also have crews working throughout the ship replacing or cleaning components as well as shoring up structural weaknesses.
“Very impressive captain. Have you got the paint off the hull yet?” asked the admiral.
“We’re still working on that.”
“You do that. The last thing Starfleet needs is another laughing stock.”
<I bet> thought Stafford. Any time now…
“Anyway captain, if you’d escort me to the transporter room I’ll be leaving…soon?” Admiral Grant trailed off as his voice began to rise in pitch.
“What’s going on?” Jeffrey panicked. His voice had gone up at least an octave.
“Bridge, report!” Stafford squeaked.
“Something’s wrong with the airflow coming from the box dock!” squealed a voice, “We’re being flooded with….helium?”
“Lock down the flow! Switch us over to internal life support and start a purge!” Stafford had jumped in the nearest turbolift. Jeffrey and Grant followed him. He strode out onto the bridge, stopping briefly to marvel at the smooth ride this time around.
“Hail Caterpillar,” chirped Stafford.
“Channel open,” said T’Parief. The helium brought his voice up to human standard.
“Lynch! What the hell have you done now?”
Lynch appeared on screen. “Hey Captain. Sorry, I really can’t think of who would have pulled this nasty prank on you. Very funny isn’t it? You sound like a ship full of chipmunks!”
“Look, you got us good with the paint, but this is ridiculous!”
“The paint was sure fun. I think I should do that again sometime…”
Admiral Grant sharpened up at this. ‘So ‘U.S.S. Shitbox’ was YOUR idea?”
“Yeah. Who the f**k are you?”
“Sir!” Lynch stammered, “It’s so good to see you. I hope you haven’t been injured in this minor…malfunction.”
“Not at all!” grunted Grant. As the helium was filtered from the air his voice was returning to normal. “But your little stunt before caused us some very poor publicity, which I personally will have to answer for in front of President Dillon when he returns! Or at least I would have. I’m pleased to say that you can have that joy now! Now stop f**king around and finish up with this heap!”
“Y-Yes sir! Lynch out!”
“Thank you for handling that so well Admiral,” said Stafford. “That will get him off our backs.”
“Shut up Stafford! I’m sure you had a part in this too!” barked Grant, “You may have given as good as you got, but you’ve caused your share of problems too. Now get this ship running and get out of here!”
Captain’s Log: Stardate 56167.4
“Repairs getting are back on schedule. Our Spacedock crew has finished up their part of the job and moved on. I can’t say we’re really going to miss their charming personalities, but they sure did make things interesting. Dr. Zimmerman has completed the installation of our holographic memory core ahead of schedule and departed for Jupiter Station muttering something about ‘insane, power-hungry tyrants’. Whatever. Nobody has had a chance yet to install any holo-emitters, so the holodecks are offline. Commander Fifebee’s program has been transferred to our memory core but she will have to use her relay until Jeffrey has time to install a more permanent imaging system. That could take a while. “
Captain’s Personal Log.
“I’m still not happy with Starfleet’s idea to transform a wreck into a ship of the line, but I’m becoming more hopeful that it can be done. The war against Lynch has actually been a huge help to moral, although I doubt he intended it that way. Maybe this assignment won’t be that bad after all…
“Nice job with the helium by the way Mr. Noonan.” Stafford commented.
“Don’t mention it sir.”
Next: Is it finally time to get the show on the road? Starfleet seems to think so. But something strange is going on aboard Silverado…