Author: Brendan Chris
<Silverado Computer voice-over>
“Where did I put that script? Oh, here we go. Last time, on Star Traks: Silverado…actually, you know what? You should really go outside and enjoy the fresh air. The sun is shining, the grass is green, and you haven’t played with your poor puppy-dog all week! See how lonely she looks out there? Don’t be such a couch potato, go outside and play!”
<Silverado Computer voice-over>
“OK, OK, management informs me that I have to give the summary anyway. Ahem. Last time, on Star Traks: Silverado, the crew was haunted by strange dreams, irrational fears, and an interior decorating disaster. After struggling to launch their aged ship…hey! AGED SHIP??!!?? I AM NOT OLD! Didn’t your mother ever tell you NEVER to mention a lady’s age in public? What? You say my sensor arrays are the loveliest shade of blue you’ve ever seen? Why, you charmer you! What? Oh! Yes, of course.”
“After launching their upgraded, renovated, and YOUNG-AT-HEART ship from Earth orbit the Silverado crew, with the exception of Lieutenant Fifebee and Commander Noonan (what the hell is with him anyway?), were trapped in a nightmare realm where their worst fears came true. As Noonan and Fifebee discover that an alien device is causing the whole mess, Lieutenant Jall learns the hard way that the only way one may escape the dream realm is by dying.”
“Driven mad by the nightmares, Dr. Wowryk seizes control of the dream world and transforms it into her version of paradise where cold hearted women control all, men are enslaved and normal rules of existence and common sense are thrown out the airlock.”
“As Captain Stafford and his crew struggle against the insane Queen Wowryk and her army of the Possessed, Noonan and Fifebee must convince Jall to return to the dream world to free his comrades.”
“Are you out of your f**king mind!” yelled Lieutenant Jall. He was in Cargo Bay 2, where Fifebee and Noonan had discovered the alien device causing the bizarre dreams, “I don’t wanna die again!”
“You won’t actually die!” Fifebee insisted, “When people die in the device’s generated dream world they are removed from the program and allowed to continue their normal lives.”
“But it still hurt!”
“You’ll just have to accept that pain is sometimes necessary,” said Noonan, “but without you the crew will be trapped in that world until their bodies starve to death.”
“Why don’t you go in?” demanded Jall.
“My neural chemistry is not compatible with the device,” replied Noonan.
“What do you mean? You’re human, aren’t you?”
“It does not matter.”
“Yes it does matter! What’s wrong with you? Does the Captain know?”
Noonan looked directly into Jall’s eyes, “It does not matter,” he intoned.
“It does not matter,” repeated Jall.
“Fascinating,” said Fifebee, “how did you do that?”
“Really? That’s a very rare gift, to that do things like that! I would love to study the phenomenon in more detail!”
“I would rather you did not mention it again.”
“Oh. Very well. So why don’t you just hypnotize him into doing what we need?” asked Fifebee. Her voice had taken on a lighter, more friendly tone as faint outline of Trill spots had appeared at her temples.
“That would be unethical, now wouldn’t it?” said Noonan, “and by the way, you’re changing again.”
“Oh, oops!” Fifebee concentrated for a moment and the spots vanished.
“Um, what were we saying?” interrupted Jall as he came out of his trance.
“We were saying,” said Fifebee, again cold as she looked down her nose at Jall (or tried to, he’s a lot taller than she is), “that unless you grow up and behave like an adult everybody is going to die!”
“Do I really have to?”
“YES!” said Noonan and Fifebee.
“Oh FINE! But only if I get to kill T’Parief. It’s only fair!”
“Very well,” said Noonan, “you may kill T’Parief. Or at least try to, anyway.”
“How do you plan to get me back in?”
“I have located the control mechanism for the device, “said Fifebee, “Almost everything is encrypted at such a high level that it would take decades for us to decode, however I am able to re-enter you into the program.”
“Really? Wow!” said Jall, “a completely unknown alien technology beyond our level of comprehension and you figured it out like that? How did you do it?”
Fifebee pointed at a screen on the device. It read ‘Disconnected Users’. There was one name on the list: Jall, San. At the bottom of the screen was a button labeled ‘Reconnect’.
“That’s really f**king convenient” muttered Jall. Fifebee highlighted Jall’s name and hit the ‘Reconnect’ button. Jall immediately passed out and collapsed to the floor.
“You could have warned him you know,” said Noonan.
“I could have,” replied Fifebee, “but I didn’t.”
“This sucks!” complained Stafford. He was on his hands and knees scrubbing the floors in the vast kitchen of Castle Wowryk. Various male crewmembers were scurrying around working to prepare dinner. Nurse Kerry was supervising the activity wearing a snug leather body suit.
“You!” she snapped, pointing at Steven Steiger, the Silverado’s bartender. “Gravy must be stirred in a COUNTER-clockwise direction in accordance with Page 27 Paragraph 7b of Martha Stewart’s revised ‘Guide to Waistline Friendly Sauces, Gravies and Puddings’!”
“Oh come on!” said Steven, “You know Her Infernal Majesty is just going to transform it to perfection anyway!”
Nurse Kerry directed a sharp blast of lightening at Steven, who howled in pain. “You will not question the orders of a Royal Mistress!” she snapped, “Disobedience is punishable by Level 2 electro-shock therapy in accordance with The Decree for the Control of Male Behavior.”
“Yes ma’am,” gulped Steven.
Travis Pye, the night shift helm officer, turned to Stafford. “I don’t remember her being such a hard-ass when I had my physical!”
“Dr. Wowryk must be affecting they way she thinks,” whispered Stafford, “Or whatever else is causing this is affecting her,”
“Oh yeah?” Pye whispered back, “Then why doesn’t she just will us all to behave?”
“I think that would spoil her fun,” replied Stafford, “either that or she can’t. We’re trying to resist her, but mostly because she’s making us miserable. Kerry and the other females? They got the better end of this deal.”
A small flicker of lightening zipped past Stafford’s nose.
“Hey!” he cried, “I didn’t do anything!”
“Dissent of the servant race is not permitted. You would be wise to watch your tongue!”
Stafford looked like he was going to say more, but after a quick glance at the burns on Steven’s back he quickly reconsidered and closed his mouth.
Another female crewmember in a flattering yet stylish outfit walked in dragging Nurse Kerry’s boyfriend, Crewman Shwaluk, behind her.
“This one has proven to have no musical talent whatsoever and so is being transferred from the Entertainment Department to the Culinary Preparation Department, in accordance to the wishes of Her Majesty,” she reported.
“Leslie, baby,” he said shocked, “wow, you look damned sexy in that outfit! You gotta save me from these nuts!”
Nurse Kerry flicked her whip, wrapping it around Shwaluk’s neck.
“Your disgusting comments constitute a Level 7 Sexual Violation of the Decree for the Control of Male Behavior, Section 3, Paragraph 7, “snarled Nurse Kerry, “Your actions are punishable by Level 1 electro-shock-“
“NO!” cried Shwaluk, “C’mon baby, I love you, don’t do this to me!” he ran to her, wrapped his arms around her and kissed her deeply. When he let go she had a dazed expression on her face.
“Seth?” she asked.
“NO!” barked the other female, “You are a Sister of the Realm, resist his insidious attempts at deceit!”
Kerry’s face hardened again. She pushed Shwaluk against the wall.
“You disgusting, vile creature!” she snarled, enraged, “How DARE you touch me! Your actions are a flagrant disregard for Section 3, Paragraph 3 of the Decree! Your attempt to initiate foreplay with a female who is NOT your wife in the eyes of God constitutes a Level 2 Sexual Violation, for which you will receive the ultimate non-fatal punishment. “
“W-w-what are you going to do to me?” Shwaluk asked in a small voice.
“Hopefully, fix what’s wrong with you!” snapped Kerry, “To the Medical Chambers!” Kerry and the other woman dragged Shwaluk out of the room as he screamed.
“No! No! Have mercy! NOOO!!!!!”
The screams were cut off as Nurse Kerry slammed and bolted the kitchen door.
“My God,” murmured Stafford.
“Perhaps they will give him the option of suicide,” T’Parief said hopefully.
Jall found himself in a lavishly appointed washroom. The toilets were made of solid gold with soft, padded silk seats. A massive clam shaped marble bathtub filled one end of the room and was filled with soft, fruity smelling bubbles. Jall hid behind a massive potted plant as the door opened. Ensign Yanick and Dr. Wowryk walked in.
“Your bath has been prepared, Your Majesty,” said Yanick.
“Oh goody,” said Wowryk, “I’m pooped.”
Jall turned away in horror as Wowryk disrobed and sunk into the tub. When her back was turned he snuck into the hall.
After several minutes of sneaking around he realized that he had no idea where to find the captain. He hid behind a corner and waited for somebody to pass by.
After a few moments Jall heard footsteps. Peeking around the corner he saw one of Steven’s waitresses walking by in a conservative business suit. As she passed Jall snuck up behind her and threw his arm across her throat.
“Where is the Captain?” he demanded.
“Get off me, you heathen pig!” she hollered.
“Where is the Captain?”
“Guards! Guards! Assist me!”
“WHERE IS THE CAPTAIN!”
“He’s assigned to the Culinary Department!”
“Thanks!” said Jall. Suddenly two of the Possessed came stumbling up the hall. He threw the woman in their path and bolted.
The woman picked herself up off the ground and made a throwing motion towards Jall’s retreating figure. A ball of flame shot from her hand, expanding as it approached Jall and incinerating him instantly.
“AHHH!!!” screamed Jall as he bolted awake again. Noonan and Fifebee looked down at him.
“Back already?” asked Noonan, “Where’s the Captain?”
“Well,” said Jall, “Ya see…I sorta…”
“No Captain? Ok….back you go!”
This time Jall found himself in a large theatre. Paintings covered the walls and on stage about a dozen members of the Silverado security force were being forced to rehearse a musical.
“No, no no!” snapped Madame Schoonbaert. She was Silverado’s schoolteacher, synchronized swimming coach, drama guru and dance instructor. “You must glide, glide across the stage like a graceful elf. You’re bouncing around like rabid tumbleweed! Now sing!”
“Do we have to?” whined one of guys.
“Yes! Sing!” commanded Schoonbaert.
“But this is a f**king dumb song!”
Schoonbaert snapped her fingers and a series of puppet strings flew down from the ceiling and attached themselves to the performers.
“Now sing!” ordered Schoonbaert, “Or I’ll see how well you can do the splits!”
The squad exchanged worried glances then broke into song:
Three little maids from school are we,
Pert as a school-girl well can be,
Filled to the brim with girlish glee,
Three little maids from school!
“No, no, NO!” wailed Schoonbaert, “That was awful! It had no power, no energy, no NOTHING! And you!” she poked Ensign Dar’ugal hard, “You couldn’t hit a high note if your life depended on it!” Dar’ugal broke into sobs and ran off the stage.
“Take these amateurs away, Sisters!” barked Schoonbaert to a quartet of Royal Mistresses, “Her Majesty will just have to settle for television tonight.”
The male officers were led away, leaving Schoonbaert alone in the theatre with Jall. Jall snuck up slowly behind her and grabbed her wrists.
“Where is the Captain?” he demanded.
“He’s slaving away in the kitchens!” Schoonbaert said.
Jall cocked his head. “That was easy.”
“What was easy?”
“Well, you answered my question.”
“Yes, I did. Unlike some, I have an ounce of class! I can respect the lower orders, providing they know their place!” Schoonbaert glared at Jall, “Why are you here anyway? You should be working!”
“Um, well, I’m sort of here to free everybody,” replied Jall
“WHAT? Heretic! Blasphemer! How dare you oppose the Sisters of the Realm!”
“Maybe I’ll just be going now,” said Jall as he backed slowly away.”
“I think not!” said Schoonbaert in a low voice; “Queen Wowryk deals very harshly with intruders here!” A razor sharp sword appeared in her hand. Jall bolted off the stage and up the stairs towards the exit. Madame Schoonbaert gave chase. Jall wasn’t exactly in bad shape, but Schoonbaert was a dance instructor. Halfway up the stairs Jall looked back to see her gaining steadily on him.
“No!” shouted Jall, “Please, not again!”
The next thing Jall knew, his head was bouncing back down the stairs.
“I’m getting sick of this!” Jall yelled at Fifebee.
“I thought decapitation was supposed to be painless,” said Noonan.
“Not quite!” snapped Jall, “And do you have any idea how f**ked up it is to see your own body jerking and twitching like that?”
“Not really,” said Fifebee.
“Right,” said Noonan, “Are you ready to try again?”
Fifebee hit the ‘Reconnect’ button causing Jall to collapse to the deck.
Noonan looked at Fifebee.
“He was disrupting my subroutines,” she said.
Noonan shrugged and went to find something to drink.
Stafford had finally finished scrubbing the floor and was ready to move on to peeling potatoes when the door creaked open and Lieutenant Jall rushed into the room.
“Jall!” said Stafford in surprise, “You’re alive!”
“Crap,” muttered T’Parief.
“Y-yeah,” gasped Jall, “Thank God I finally found you all!”
“Wait,” said T’Parief suspiciously, “how do we know it’s really you?”
“Well, you ignorant prick, when you killed me I was sent back to the real world,” said Jall, “I agreed to return to get you all out in exchange for the pleasure of killing you in return.”
“I think it’s really him,” said Stafford, “So dying gets us out? I dunno, are you sure about that?”
Jall glared at him, “Trying to find you, I’ve been incinerated, decapitated, electrocuted, drowned and shot. Plus getting gutted by lizard-boy over there.”
“That was fun,” said T’Parief with a small grin.
“So anyway, now it’s my turn!” Jall ran up behind T’Parief and climbed up his back. He grabbed T’Parief’s head and started twisting.
“I’m…<grunt>…gonna snap your f**king…<gasp>…neck!” grunted Jall as he twisted.
T’Parief, unaffected by Jall’s efforts, rolled his eyes. Stafford stifled a chuckle.
“So we all have to die to escape,” asked Stafford.
“Yup!” said Jall as he continued to twist T’Parief’s head.
“Including the ladies holding us captive?”
“This could be interesting!” said Stafford with an evil grin.
“Enough!” said T’Parief in frustration; “You’re doing it wrong!” He reached back, grabbed Jall, flipped him down, grabbed his head and gave a sharp twist. There was an audible SNAP, then Jall disintegrated.
“That was disturbing on so many levels,” said Stafford, “eh, dreams are dreams.”
About 30 seconds later Jall came back through the door.
“Cut it out!” he wailed.
“All right, all right people,” Stafford said loudly, “we don’t know how much longer we have before the Sisters come back with Shwaluk, so here’s the plan. We’re going to fight our way down to the holding cells, release as many prisoners as we can, and then we’ll bring these bitches down.”
“What about weapons?” asked T’Parief.
“Oh, right, “said Stafford, “Hold on, let me try something.” He concentrated hard. <phaser….phaser….phaser…>
“Crap, “he muttered, “All right, we’ll just have to improvise. Grab knives, frying pans, whatever! Let’s go!” Stafford grabbed a large iron skillet from a rack.
“What about Shwaluk?” asked one of the crewmen.
“Eh,” said Stafford, “The worst they can do is kill him. And apparently that would be doing him a favor.”
Betty and Veronica, a pair of Stellar Cartographers in the real world, were sitting in a small but luxurious lounge having tea and scones. They weren’t Royal Mistresses but just part of the Royal Court. As such they were completely unprepared when a dozen men in slave uniforms came bolting down the hall.
After dispatching the two ladies with their iron skillets, Stafford turned to T’Parief.
“You know, it’s a really good thing the bodies vanish or this would be REALLY messy.”
“Indeed,” grunted T’Parief.
Stafford, T’Parief and gang met with growing resistance on their trek to the dungeons. The most pitched battle had involved a single Royal Mistress who had managed to conjure a photon grenade before succumbing to a meat tenderizer. Unfortunately the grenade also took out Jall, half of Stafford’s little army and T’Parief’s tail.
“I don’t care if this isn’t real, it still hurts!” moaned T’Parief.
“Why haven’t they come back?” asked a panicked ensign.
“The point is to escape!” said Stafford, “They’re back in the real world, waiting for us!”
“Oh,” said the ensign. He promptly stabbed himself in the heart with a steak knife and vanished.
“Excellent motivational work, sir,” grunted T’Parief.
“Oh shut up!”
Stafford and crew finally made it down the stairway and into the dungeon. Two Royal Mistresses were guarding the cells.
“Crewman Micks,” Stafford barked at a mousy little man, “get the cells unlocked! Everybody else, we have to hold off these bitches!”
“You’ve been very bad boys!” snarled one woman. She began hurling lightening bolts at her attackers.
T’Parief tried to dodge her bolt but caught a talon in the rough floor and tumbled right into her, crushing her beneath his weight. T’Parief was only lightly singed.
Micks had managed to unlock several of the cells, freeing many of the captive crewmen to join in the fight. The second Mistress was quickly overwhelmed.
“All right,” said Stafford, “ just couple hundred more to go.”
He led his substantially larger army out of the dungeons and into the hall. Rounding a corridor into a large library he was confronted by 50 Royal Mistresses, several other lesser Sisters of the Realm and about 200 of the Possessed. The army of evil was led by Ensign Trish Yanick.
“Wait Trish,” said Stafford as he backed away, “let’s not be too hasty! This isn’t like you at all, remember? You’re cheerful, and friendly and wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
“I serve the Sisters of the Realm and Her Majesty Queen Wowryk now,” Yanick said tonelessly, “You are undeserving of our mercy. You will be destroyed!”
It was a slaughter. The men brandished their potato mashers and salad forks bravely, but were no match for the Mistress’s seemingly supernatural powers. T’Parief was flattened when a massive safe appeared over his head. Stafford took a fireball right between the eyes. The remaining men were quickly overwhelmed and either eliminated or dragged back to the slave dungeon.
10 minutes later, Yanick stood in the huge hallway surrounded by her warriors.
“Today, we have triumphed over mankind!” she said coldly.
Stafford awoke on the bridge floor. Instinctively. his hand rose to touch the spot on his face where the fireball had hit. Felt fine. In fact, he felt pretty good. Nothing like a few hours sleep to help charge you up.
Climbing to his feet Stafford tapped his comm badge.
“Stafford to Noonan, report”
“Good morning Captain,” said Noonan, “115 crewmembers have awakened and are being checked over by Lieutenant Fifebee. So far she hasn’t found any negative side effects caused by your little nap. Although Lieutenant Jall had to be temporarily sedated the last time he returned as he was in a very agitated state of mind.”
“Yeah, well, “said Stafford, “getting blown up will do that to you every time.”
“I’m very interested in learning what went on in there,” said Noonan.
“C’mon up for a chat,” replied Stafford, “and bring any conscious senior officers you can find with you. We need to figure out how to get everybody else out too.”
“That really sucked,” said Jall as he followed Noonan into the conference lounge.
“For once, I agree,” said T’Parief.
“I’m still waiting to hear the full story!” complained Fifebee to Stafford.
Stafford, Jall and T’Parief quickly outlined their experiences in Dreamland. Once they finished, Fifebee was looking almost dazed.
“Wow,” she said, “incredible. Our readings had indicated that the device was interfacing deeply with somebody but I had no idea that it was Dr. Wowryk or that she would do something like that.”
“That’s the strange thing,” said Stafford, “I don’t think she would.”
“Are you kidding? She’s a cold, man-hating bitch!” said Jall.
“Please explain,” said Noonan, “Captain!” he added as Jall opened his mouth.
“We were all acting different,” Stafford explained as Jall glared at Noonan, “Dr. Wowryk and I have had our differences, but conquering an entire realm and enslaving her crewmates is beyond even her.”
“You tried to appeal to Tri-, um, Ensign Yanick before she commanded her army to destroy us,” interjected T’Parief, “Wholesale slaughter is not something she would typically engage in.”
“And don’t forget the way everybody kept killing me!” muttered Jall.
Stafford, T’Parief, Noonan and Fifebee exchanged glances.
“Oh come on!” snapped Jall, “You may not like me, but you wouldn’t kill me!”
“Hmmm,” thought Stafford, “Ok, point taken.”
“Great. Now what do we do?”
“Obviously,” said T’Parief, “we must go back and free everybody else.”
“You mean kill them,” said Jall.
“Only in the dream world.”
“We already tried that,” said Stafford, “we got our asses kicked.”
“Why?” asked Noonan.
“We were outnumbered and outgunned,” said T’Parief, “We had kitchen utensils. They had lightening, fire and very heavy objects.”
“Yes, but why? asked Noonan.
“Why what?” snapped T’Parief.
“Why did they have those things? Why couldn’t you?”
“Hold on,” said Stafford, “Before she went nuts, Wowryk mentioned something called ‘lucid dreaming’ to me. She was able to concentrate on what she wanted, and it happened. I managed to summon a water piston before everything went insane, but when I tried it afterwards it wouldn’t work. And it sure looked like she was concentrating really hard on something when all hell broke loose.”
“If they are able to have their will done at, uh, will then they are more dangerous than we thought,” said Fifebee.
“Still,” said Jall, “Commander Noonan’s right. Why can’t we do that?”
“Did you bother to try?” asked Fifebee.
“Actually,” replied Jall, “no.”
“Big surprise,” growled T’Parief. “The Captain was still fully immersed in the device matrix when he made his second attempt. It’s possible that Dr. Wowryk was blocking him from using those abilities. From her point of view you all died in a failed attempt at rebellion. If she considers you dead, she may not be blocking you.”
“Or,” said T’Parief, “if we get enough people trying it she may not be able to block us all.”
“If we hit that place with some heavy weaponry we’d have a much better chance of getting everybody out,” Stafford said with growing excitement.
“We need to focus on weapons that she is unfamiliar with,” said T’Parief, “otherwise she and her Mistresses may be able to quickly develop strategies to counter us.”
“Fine,” said Stafford, “T’Parief and Jall, you’re on weapons detail. Look through the databases for anything fictional, obscure, obsolete, whatever. She probably has a good understanding of current weapons since she’s a doctor and has to be able to heal their effects. Fifebee, you research lucid dreaming. Find out anything you can that will help us control that realm, then start coaching all the conscious male crewmembers.”
“What about the females sir? asked Fifebee.
“We can’t risk Wowryk controlling them again,” said Stafford, “Um, we are reasonably sure she was controlling them, right?”
Everybody exchanged glances.
“I dunno,” said Jall.
“S**t,” said Stafford, “Ok. Noonan, you need to have a talk with the ladies. Make sure they’re back to normal, and that normal doesn’t include enslaving and torturing us. If they’re OK then we’ll need them to handle the ship while we’re gone.”
“I was under the impression,” said Fifebee, “that some human males enjoy being enslaved and tortured by females.”
Stafford made a face. Noonan chuckled.
“I think it’s only fun when there’s sex involved,” said Jall.
“And Dr. Wowryk is not including sex in her world?” asked Fifebee.
“About as much as she includes it in reality,” muttered T’Parief.
“Moving on,” said Stafford. He turned to Noonan, “Stick around for a minute,” he turned to address the other officers, “All right everybody, we’ll meet in Cargo Bay 2 in 90 minutes. Dismissed.
“Excellent command performance sir,” said Fifebee on her way out.”
“Yeah,” muttered Jall, “Too bad half the staff wasn’t here to see it.”
Everybody but Noonan and Stafford left the room.
“Is something bothering you, Captain?” asked Noonan.
“Oh yeah,” said Stafford, “this is really f**ked up.”
“I think sir, that encountering the f**ked up is the Starfleet Way.”
“That argument aside,” said Stafford with a small grin, “I’m not happy with the ramifications of this. We don’t know who did this, why, or what any lasting effects might be. And why are things unfolding this way?”
“What do you mean?”
Stafford started to pace. “A Starfleet crew is supposed to be a team. A closely knit group of people who support and respect each other and work together to achieve their goals.”
“Our crew did an excellent job of getting this ship ready for launch on time, “ Noonan pointed out.”
“Yeah,” said Stafford, “And now they’re killing each other!”
“That’s not reality, Captain.”
“No, it’s not. But it still came from us!” Stafford was circling the table now, “The nightmares, the Possessed, those things all came from our memories and experiences. Dr. Wowryk created a group of all-powerful super-women. But the violence, the killing, the hatred…how much of that is being generated by that damned interphase thing, and how much is really us?”
Noonan was getting dizzy watching Stafford pace around the table.
“I thought nothing of smashing poor Betty’s head in with a frying pan!” shouted Stafford, “I’m not a murderer! Or a security officer! I’m a nice guy! Killing people is NOT something I enjoy, but I just walked up and BANG! You’re dead! And all I could say was ‘Gee, I’m sure glad that didn’t make a mess’!
“I think you’re answering your own question,” said Noonan, “Were you upset in the dream world after you killed her?”
“Are you upset now that you’re back in reality?”
Noonan crossed his arms. Stafford chuckled slightly.
“You’re right. That’s very reassuring.”
“I’m here to serve.”
“Do you think Dr. Wowryk will be OK when she gets out?” Stafford asked.
“She’s more heavily immersed in the cortical induction field that anybody else,’ replied Noonan, “I suspect she will be all right but nothing is ever certain. Does it matter to you?”
Stafford thought for a moment.
“Yeah,” he said, “It does. We don’t get along, but she is a good doctor when she puts her mind to it. She’s a good friend, according to Ensign Yanick. It’s hard to imagine Queen Wowryk and Dr. Wowryk as being the same person. Queen Wowryk is taking things to extremes that Dr. Wowryk would never go to. Well, I hope she wouldn’t.”
“I think many people are going to be shaken up when they awaken,” said Noonan, “but dreams fade quickly.”
“Yeah, they do.”
Queen Wowryk stood at the window in her throne room, looking out at the grassy green fields, dark green forests and the sparkling blue lake surrounding her palace. This really was such a beautiful place. And she would keep it that way!
“Your Majesty,” came a voice behind her.
Wowryk turned to see Trish Yanick kneeling before the throne.
“Oh really honey,” said Wowryk as she walked over, “you don’t have to kneel! That’s for the boys. Speaking of which, have they been taken care of?”
“Yes, Majesty,” replied Trish, “We executed several of the rebels, including the captain, and returned the rest to the holding cells.”
Wowryk sighed, “I do so hate violence. But they brought it upon themselves. Foolish, primitive men.”
“Majesty, I don’t mean to question your plan,” Trish said cautiously.
“Oh, please do,” said Wowryk, “a woman’s viewpoint is always welcome.”
“Thank you, Majesty,” said Trish, “but with the heavy restrictions you’ve placed on mating, how are we to reproduce? We must have children to carry on the beauty of your world.”
Wowryk laughed, “Oh really, Sister, you must read the Decree more carefully. A woman is entitled to take a husband and mate with him for breeding purposes. All will be well.”
“You are wise, your Highness,” said Trish as she lowered her eyes.
“And don’t you forget it!”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 56177.4
“More than 75% of the crew is still under the influence of the alien device. Lieutenant Fifebee and Lieutenant Commander T’Parief are preparing our male crewmembers to return to the dream realm and defeat Queen Wowryk. Commander Noonan is of the opinion that our conscious female counterparts were working under the influence of either the Queen or the device and have returned to normal, now that they have been awakened. They’ll be taking care of the ship while the rest of us go into battle. Oh, and Starfleet, one more thing: WE WERE RIGHT, AND YOU WERE WRONG!!!”
Stafford walked into Cargo Bay 2. The 75 crewmen who would be venturing into Dreamland were standing clustered around padds memorizing weapons, armor and handy gadgets to bring into the battle. Stafford walked over to where Fifebee and T’Parief were standing near the alien device.
“We ready yet?” asked Stafford.
“Yes,” said T’Parief, “As soon as you study these and select a weapon.”
“A weapon huh?” Stafford took the padd from T’Parief and starting thumbing through.
“Piranha Launcher? Shock Rifle? Shrink-Ray? BFG 2K? What the hell is this stuff?” asked Stafford.
“You told me to include fictional sources,” said T’Parief.
“I want the Shrink-Ray!’ Jall piped in excitedly.
“Whatever,” said Stafford, “The Piranha Launcher sounds interesting enough. ‘Strip your enemies to the bone in microseconds’! Yuck! Oh well, let’s go. Fifebee, send us in.”
Fifebee hit the ‘Reconnect’ button on the device, causing all 75 crewmen to lose consciousness and drop to the deck.
“I really must remember to warn them next time,” Fifebee muttered to herself.
Stafford and his army materialized on the broad, grassy plain in front of the castle gates. The drawbridge was down over the sparkling blue moat, but the massive gates were closed.
T’Parief turned to address the troops, “Now, concentrate! Envision what you want, what you must have to win the fight!”
Stafford closed his eyes and focused. <piranha gun….piranha gun…what a stupid idea> He tried to make a mental image of himself wearing the cumbersome device he’d seen.
Stafford felt a heavy weight on his back. He opened his eyes and saw the heavy cylindrical barrel of the weapon connected to the fish tank strapped to his back. All around him weapons and armor were appearing on or around his crew.
“Excellent,” grumbled T’Parief.
A frilly white French maid’s uniform suddenly materialized on Jall.
“Ok,” Jall said, “who’s bright f**king idea was this?”
One ensign shyly raised his hand and blushed.
Stafford rolled his eyes.
“Can we please stay on topic here?” he snapped, “Squad, quick march!”
The small army started advancing on the castle. Stafford turned around to address them while walking backwards.
“All right,” he said, “this isn’t going to be pretty! There are people in there we hate and people in there we respect, like or love. Remember that this IS just a bad dream, and if we kill everybody it will all go away.”
“Marching to merciless slaughter,” T’Parief said with a sniff, “my Andorian grandparents would be so proud.”
“Yeah, well, have fun while it lasts,” said Stafford, “cuz when we get back to reality we will not be doing any more of THIIIISSSSSS!!!!” Stafford yelled as he tumbled backward into the castle moat. He grabbed at the bank and worked to pull himself and the heavy gun out of the water.
“The bridge is about another 10 feet to your left,” said Jall.
Stafford glared at Jall and proceeded to the bridge.
“Look out!” somebody shouted.
Stafford bolted to his left, narrowly missing being fried by a large lightning bolt. Up on the castle ramparts was a single Royal Mistress.
“Invaders!” she shrieked, “surrender or die!”
“Been there, done that,” muttered Jall.
“Take this!” yelled Stafford. He pointed the barrel of his piranha cannon at her and pulled the trigger. The gun bucked, releasing three ravenous little fish and a bucket of water. The fish flew at the Mistress but fell back to the ground before even reaching her, flopping at Stafford’s feet.
“I thought this gun was a stupid idea!” muttered Stafford.
“Allow me!” roared T’Parief. He aimed his BFG (Big F**king Gun) 2K at the Mistress and pulled the trigger. T’Parief was knocked flat on his back as a massive ball of green energy belched from the weapon and flew overhead. Pulsing green beams shot out from the ball, searching for targets and frying several of Stafford’s men.
“Duck!” shouted Stafford.
The ball hit the castle wall just below the ramparts and exploded, vaporizing the wall, the castle gates, the Mistress and most of Stafford’s army.
Queen Wowryk was sitting down to dinner with her Mistresses and the other members of her Royal Court. The meal set out before them should have been extravagant, the result of hours of male toil. Unfortunately it was mostly inedible due to the fact that none of the men preparing it had ever cooked without a replicator before.
“Oh dear,” said Wowryk, “this will just not do.” She waved her hands over her head and closed her eyes. The table transformed into a perfectly set arrangement of perfectly prepared health-conscious foods. The Court applauded politely.
“That’s much better,” said Wowryk with a smile. She sighed, “We love our men, but sometimes they’re just too limited!” The Court responded with a titter of laughter.
“We will educate them properly, Your Highness,” said Trish from Wowryk’s right hand side.”
“Oh, I know you will,” said Wowryk, “you have all been doing wonderful work so far! Simon, come in here.”
Jeffery walked in wearing his black shorts, looking at the floor.
“See here the perfectly trained male,” said Wowryk, “Simon, are you happy?”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Simon said.
“Don’t I take care of you?”
“Yes, Your Majesty,”
“Hop on one leg,” commanded Wowryk. Simon started jumping on one leg.
“Bark like a dog,” commanded Wowryk. Simon started barking.
“Do a back flip!” Simon stopped jumping and flipped backward. The ladies of the Court applauded politely.
“It just takes work and patience,” said Wowryk with a laugh, “Simon, you may depart.” Simon bowed and walked out.
The ladies had barely began eating the salad course when the castle gave a harsh shudder. The ladies looked around at each other in confusion. A Mistress ran into the dining hall.
“Your Majesty, we’re under attack!” she gasped.
“By what?” demanded Wowryk.
“The Captain and his rag-tag army have returned!”
“I thought you killed them!” snapped Wowryk, glaring at Yanick.
“We did!” Yanick insisted, “I incinerated him myself!”
Wowryk closed her eyes and concentrated. After a moment her eyes snapped back open again. “I can’t feel them!” she said, “What’s going on? No matter! Gather the Royal Mistresses and send them to defend the castle!”
Nobody even bothered to climb up off the floor this time.
“Way to go, numb nuts!” Jall snapped in T’Parief’s general direction, “With friends like you, who needs enemies??”
“I am NOT your friend!” T’Parief shot back.
Jall rolled his eyes, “It was an figure of speech, you-“
“Fifebee,” Stafford cut in, “We need back in ASAP, before she has time to prepare. Can we try some more effective weapons this time guys, please?”
“Mine was effective,” said T’Parief.
“Gentlemen,” cut in Fifebee, “please recline comfortably and ensure that your tray tables are in their upright and locked positions.”
Stafford looked at her with a puzzled and annoyed expression on his face. “Huh?”
“Never mind,” Fifebee muttered as she sent them back into Dreamland, “my sense of humor is SO unappreciated.”
Stafford once again found himself on the grassy plain. The scene was a bit different this time around though. The castle gates were a smoldering ruin. Those who had not been vaporized in T’Parief’s attack were wandering around aimlessly, firing a few half-hearted shots at the castle. The drawbridge was burning and he could hear an alarm bell of some type clanging away.
“Ok boys,” shouted Stafford, “regroup! Arm yourselves!”
Stafford focused hard. This time a high-power phaser rifle materialized.
“Much better,” he said.
Once again the troops donned a variety of armor and weapons. Jall had clung to his Shrink-Ray, while T’Parief had gone for a low-tech rocket launcher.
“Let’s kick some ass!” roared T’Parief.
“Um, right,” said Jall, “you do realize the bridge is a burnt out ruin?”
“Watch and learn, little man!”
T’Parief ran full tilt at the moat and leapt 30 feet across to land perfectly at the ruined gate. He gave a wave and gestured the others to follow him.
“Just will yourself across!” he shouted, “It’s all about self-control!”
Stafford and Jall ran towards the bridge. Stafford sailed over the moat, landed next to T’Parief and quickly moved out of the way for the next person. He spun around, hoping to see Jall splash into the moat.
Instead, Jall flew over the moat, soared into the air and crashed into the castle wall. Stafford giggled as he slid down to the ground.
“Incoming!” shouted Lieutenant Stern. A phalanx of 9 Mistresses was quickly running across the Inner Courtyard towards them.
“Fire at will!” yelled Stafford. He targeted the closest Mistress with his phaser rifle and opened fire.
Unfortunately for him, his target held up a hand and deflected the phaser blast away.
“You’ll have to do better than that!” she snapped.
Jall opened fire with his Shrink-Ray. The Mistress tried to ward the shot away, but instead it soaked into her palm. She quickly shrunk down to a 3-inch height and was trampled by the Mistresses behind her.
“Crushed like a bug!” sang Jall in triumph.
“That’s just sick!” wailed Stafford.
“Submit, or die!” hollered one of the Mistresses. Stafford quickly identified her as Ensign Cornwall.
“C’mon, that’s getting so old!” Stafford shot back, “T’Parief, take them out!”
T’Parief fired the rocket launcher. The projectile missed all the women, but hit the ground beneath them. The explosion tossed vanishing bodies into the air.
“YES!” shouted T’Parief, “I am SOO basing a holodeck program on this!”
Unknown to the group on the ground, the Mistresses led by Ensign Cornwall were nothing but a distraction. While the men fought it out with them more female warriors had snuck along the top on the outer wall, effectively surrounding the male army in the Inner Courtyard.
Trish Yanick was leading the attack force and called out to the crowd below,
“Captain Stafford!” she yelled, “Surrender, or die!”
“God,” yelled Stafford, “don’t you people ever shut up! For the last time, WE WON’T F**KING SURRENDER!”
“FINE!” Yanick snapped back, “Be that way! Girls, attack!”
Stafford, Jall and T’Parief ran at top speed, dodging lightening bolts, fireballs, crashing safes and even a few flying porcupines. Most of the other troops weren’t as lucky. By the time Stafford’s force reached the gate to the castle itself he was down to less than a dozen men. For their trouble, they had been able to eliminate one Mistress for every 8 men lost.
“OK,” said Stafford, “they’ll be back in a minute or two. At least our people will be. They can keep the Mistresses out there busy, but we can’t sit around waiting. We need to find more of the guys and free them.” He started walking down the lavish hall, hunting for a stairway down to the dungeon.
“They will be useless in battle until they have been removed at least once from the system,” said T’Parief.
“Big deal,” said Stafford, “they’ll come back. As long as our guys keep coming back in, and the gals keep going on out, we’ll win for sure.”
“You’re forgetting something Captain,” said Jall.
“What?” asked Stafford, “My plan is perfect! We have an immortal army, infinite weapons and when we swat them down Fifebee and Noonan can ensure that they can’t come back! We cannot lose!”
“He said it,” Jall muttered to himself, “he said we can’t lose. We’re boned!”
The group turned the corner and came face to face … well, OK, face-to-tangled-hair with Queen Wowryk’s army of the Possessed.
“‘We can’t lose’ he says! You NEVER say s**t like that!” Jall yelled at Stafford as he lay on the cargo bay floor, “It’s just asking for trouble!”
“Oh yeah?” Stafford shot back, “Maybe it was you THINKING that we were ‘boned’ that caused it to happen! You wanted it, it happened!”
“Hey, don’t you try to pin this on me!”
“That was fun!” said T’Parief with a toothy grin, “Can we do that again?”
“And again, and again,” said Stafford in a tired voice, “Fifebee, until all the ladies have been freed, as soon as a male crewmember is disconnected from the system I want you to send him right back in.”
“Aye sir,” replied Fifebee, “Have a nice trip!”
Stafford, T’Parief and Jall once again ducked, rolled and made other ‘hero moves’ as they re-entered the Inner Courtyard. A pitched battle was still raging. Most of the Mistresses had been picked off the upper walls but the Possessed poured out of the castle entrance. On the other hand Silverado crewmen continued to pour in the outer gate as quickly as they were killed.
“It is a standoff,” T’Parief growled, “We shall be locked in battle for eternity!”
“We should open up an Andorian Amusement Park here, “ Jall quipped.
Stafford cocked his head as he considered Jall’s suggestion, “Y’know, that’s not a bad…oh for f**k sake, what am I thinking?? SHUT UP!” Stafford smacked Jall upside the head.
“On a serious note,” interjected T’Parief, “We’re not winning here. We need to free the remaining slaves and kill the Queen, not spend the day fighting these things.”
“Right,” said Stafford, “let’s split up. I’m going after Queen Wowryk, not because I want to kill her, but because I want to help her.”
“Yeah right,” muttered Jall.
“You two,” Stafford went on, “work together. Get down into the dungeons and free whoever you find.”
“Not to pass up a good fight,” rumbled T’Parief, “but I doubt we’re getting back in the front way again.”
“I was just planning on leaping up onto the outer wall and getting in that way,” said Stafford, “but you two should find a separate route. Y’know, strategy and all that s**t”
“No problem,” said Jall, “I have a plan!”
T’Parief looked uneasily at Jall. “Um, Captain, can I come with you instead?”
“No,” said Stafford, “I’m sick of both of you. Go rescue people. And try not to kill each other.”
“As Chief of Security, I should be protecting you!” objected T’Parief.
“Yeah, right,” said Stafford, “last time I checked, Starfleet Security didn’t offer protection against nightmares or the boogey-man.
“Actually,” said T’Parief, “the boogey-man was defeated in 2283 by the crew of the U.S.S.-“
“Oh shut up and get going!” snapped Stafford. He concentrated for a moment, then leapt 30 feet up onto the outer wall.
“Nice trick!” commented Jall.
“Hmph. So what is your brilliant idea?” asked T’Parief.
“Find the back door. It’s so simple, it can’t fail,” replied Jall. He skirted the edge of the battle and slipped into an alley running between the castle itself and the outer wall. Muttering to himself, T’Parief followed.
Stafford crouched down as he jogged across the outer wall, trying to stay below the ramparts. He was just f**king sick of this dream already. It FELT real, and his crew was slaughtering each other, over and over again. This had to stop!
Ducking into a doorway he found himself in yet another lavishly decorated corridor. He flattened himself behind a velvet curtain as a trio of Mistresses ran out onto the outer wall. For a brief moment he considered taking them out, but dream or not he couldn’t bring himself to shoot his own people in the back. Let somebody who might enjoy it do the dirty work, then feel guilty when they woke up.
But where was the Queen? The mastermind behind this whole mess? Stafford opened the first door he found.
“Holy hell!” he shouted, jumping back. Two of the Possessed stumbled out towards him. Two quick shots from his phaser rifle blew them to bits.
Having dispatched the creatures Stafford stepped inside.
“Hello?” he called, “Dr. Wowryk?”
The room appeared to be empty. It was a luxurious bedroom with a huge bed done up in red velvet, thick curtains framing a huge window that looked out over the forest, a huge closet filled with gowns and robes and a large marble dressing table. There was also a large pillow on the floor at the foot of the bed. Simon Jeffery was curled up on the pillow in his black slave shorts. Stafford lowered his weapon and walked over.
“Simon?” asked Stafford. He gave Jeffery a nudge with the toe of his boot. “Wake up!”
“I am awake and ready to serve,” Jeffery started, “Hey! You’re not the Queen! Guards! Help! Intruders!”
Stafford jumped at Jeffery and clamped a hand over his mouth.
“Shut up you idiot!” snapped Stafford. Jeffery threw a hard punch into Stafford’s stomach. Stafford fell back as the air rushed out of him, dropping the rifle to the ground. He grabbed at Jeffery’s ankles as the smaller man tried to run for the door. Jeffery hit the floor in a heap, then rolled over and pounced at Stafford.
“Why do you resist!” snarled Jeffery, “My Lady offers us all a better life!”
“You’re a f**king slave!” shouted Stafford, “And this isn’t real!”
Stafford was bigger than Jeffery, but Jeffery was much stronger, being an engineer and all. Stafford found himself forced onto his stomach as Jeffery pinned him to the floor.
“What do you mean ‘not real’?” asked Jeffery.
“It’s an illusion!” Stafford gasped, ‘We’re in a fantasy realm created by an alien device and controlled by Dr. Wowryk! It’s all her! We have to take her out to save everybody!”
“You’re lying!” screamed Jeffery, “This IS reality, and I will NOT let you harm Her Majesty!”
Jeffery dug his knee in Stafford’s back. <Dammit!> thought Stafford, <She’s got him good! I mean bad…I mean OW! Stupid knee! I don’t wanna die again…>
Stafford’s back creaked as Jeffery applied more pressure. He needed to get out of this! He needed Jeffery back on his side. He wanted his friend back! Wanted…. Stafford focused his thoughts on one want: <FREE HIM! I WANT HIM OUT OF HER CONTROL!>
Queen Wowryk was in her throne room. Her remaining Mistresses were running in and out, bringing status updates from the raging battle in the Inner Courtyard.
“We’re holding them off!” said Trish Yanick breathlessly, “Barely! We’re running out of Mistresses. They just keep coming back!”
“How is that possible!” wailed Wowryk. She closed her eyes and summoned another 50 of the Possessed. “When you kill somebody, they should stay dead!”
“I don’t know, Highness,” said Yanick, “But without your minions, we would have been overthrown by now!”
Wowryk covered her face in her hands. “Why??” she sobbed, “All I’m guilty of is trying to create a paradise for women! Why do the men fight back this way?”
“Maybe because you enslaved them, Your Highness,” suggested a woman nearby. With a wave of her hand Wowryk sent a half-hearted lightening bolt at the woman then resumed sobbing.
Suddenly, she snapped her head up. “NO!” she shouted at the air, “You can’t have him! He’s mine!”
<You can’t have him! HE’S MINE!!> shouted the voice in Stafford’s head. He winced from the volume and fury and redoubled his efforts. <Free him…free him…FREE HIM!>
Jeffery wavered, but kept Stafford pinned to the ground.
Jall and T’Parief had circled the inner castle and located a small kitchen entrance in the back. They found several of their comrades washing dishes and cleaning up while being guarded by two of the Possessed. Jall fired his Shrink-Ray at one of the creatures, reducing it to the size of a peppershaker. T’Parief nailed the other one with his new rail-gun, but not before it had sunk it’s teeth into one of the former slaves. The man blinked, then leapt at T’Parief, snarling. The reptile security officer blew him back to reality.
Jall walked over to where the tiny Possessed was gnawing on Crewman Smith’s boot. He crushed it with one well-placed stomp.
“Yuck!” said Smith with disgust.
“Eww!” moaned Jall, “I got creature guts on my boot!”
“Only real people vanish, you moron!” snapped T’Parief, “Stop whining. Let’s go.”
They jogged down the corridor towards the dungeons, encountering the occasional Possessed guard, but no Mistresses or other members of the Royal Court. They were followed by a growing crowd of rescued slaves.
“Where is everybody?” asked Jall.
“Probably in battle,” rumbled T’Parief.
“Oh yeah,” said Jall, “That would make sense.”
They finally reached the dungeons. Again. This time there was only a small group of Possessed guards. Jall started firing shrink beams at them. T’Parief, sick of just pointing and shooting, threw his weapon aside, extended his claws and ran into battle.
“Watch out!” shouted one of the crewmen as Jall continued to shoot at the creatures now battling T’Parief. A stray shrinking beam hit T’Parief square in the back.
“Oops,” muttered Jall. He took out the last remaining creature and walked carefully over.
Looking down at the floor, he saw a tiny T’Parief claw the last creature to pieces, then look around in a panic.
“What has happened to me!?!” he squeaked.
Jall reached down, plucked T’Parief off the ground and dropped him in the palm of his hand. “Cool!” he exclaimed as he examined the 3-inch tall officer.
“You incompetent buffoon!” squealed T’Parief, “What have you done! I will get you for this!”
“Aww,” said Jall, “He’s so cute! Who’s the little reptile? Huh? Who’s the little reptile! “
“That’s probably not a good idea,” muttered Smith.
“Why?” asked Jall, “Hey! OWWW!!!” T’Parief had started chewing on his finger.
Suddenly Jal felt a great weight in his hand. He dropped T’Parief to the floor as the security chief boomed back to his regular size. He grabbed Jall’s gun and snapped it over his knee.
“Watch where you point that thing!” he snarled as he handed the broken pieces back.
Jall concentrated for a second, causing his busted weapon to mend itself back together. Sticking his tongue out at T’Parief’s retreating back he started to unlock the remaining cells. The entire remaining male portion of Silverado’s crew had finally been rescued!
“It’s about time you people got back!”
Jall looked to the source of the weak voice. It was Steven, the Silverado’s bartender. He was lying on a cot at the back of one cell, looking a bit fried from the energy bolts that had been fired at him. Evidently he had survived Stafford’s initial rebellion, only to be recaptured rather than killed.
“Heya Steven,” said Jall, “how’s it going?”
Steven glared weakly at him, “Kitchen slave! She wouldn’t even make me the Royal Bartender! Said that alcohol was ‘evil’! And what the heck took you so long? I’m hurting!”
“Poor guy,” Jall said to T’Parief, “do you know first aid? We should really do something for him.”
“We will,” said T’Parief. He raised his gun towards Steven.
“NO! Not that!” yelled Jall, “He’s not that badly hurt! He can make it! He…..oh. Right. As soon as he wakes up in the real world, he’ll be fine.”
T’Parief pulled the trigger. Steven vanished, then reappeared whole and healthy.
All across the dream world, Silverado crewmen noticed the difference. Rather than getting sent back out to the grassy green plain after their ‘deaths’, they were reappearing exactly where they had ‘died’. With all her attention focused on summoning more of the Possessed and fighting Captain Stafford, Wowryk was weakening.
“That was odd,” said Steven, “But hey, thanks, I feel much better now.”
“My pleasure,” grunted T’Parief.
“Um, what was that?” asked Jall.
“I suspect that the Queen is weakening. She can no longer keep us at arms length.”
“Are you sure?”
T’Parief brought his rifle up and blasted Jall right between the eyes. He reappeared seconds later.
“Pretty sure,” said T’Parief with a grin.
“A**hole,” muttered Jall.
“Listen up!” barked T’Parief, ignoring Jall, “We’re going to assault the Queen! If she is distracted, as it seems, we have a shot a defeating her!” He closed his eyes. A pile of hand phasers appeared as his feet.
“Hmm,” he growled, “those were supposed to be Gorn Death-Rays. But they will have to do.” He handed out the weapons and led the way out of the dungeon.
T’Parief remembered the route to the Throne Room from his initial capture. He led his army relentlessly down the corridors, blasting any who crossed his path. Finally, they found themselves at the Throne Room doors.
“Brace yourselves!” T’Parief whispered, “This will be a mighty battle!” He flung the doors open and charged in, firing at random.
“INVADERS!” screamed Yanick, “Attack!”
The Mistresses reporting to Wowryk turned their attention on the invading men. Lightning flared and fireballs roared, but every man dropped in battled re-appeared seconds later.
Wowryk was still on her throne, her head in her hands whispering over and over again: “You can’t have him…you can’t have him…”
Yanick grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. “Majesty, we need your help! You must repel them!”
Distracted by Yanick, Wowryk felt her last sliver of control over Jeffery break.
“Noooo!!!” she wailed. Fury rose within her. She stood from her throne, energy crackling from her fingertips, wind whipping her hair into a fury. She lashed out at the invaders. This time, those who vanished did not reappear. It was over soon.
“You beat them!” said Yanick with a smile.
“But I lost my pet!” cried Wowryk.
“So much for that,” muttered Jall. He was back out on the grassy green. Dozens of men appeared around him.
“I think we pissed her off,” said Steven.
Stafford suddenly felt Wowryk disappear from his mind. Jeffery gave a jolt, then toppled off of Stafford. Stafford picked himself up.
“Hey,” he said as he nudged Jeffery with his boot, “Are you you again?”
“Oy,” croaked Jeffery, “What the hell was I thinkin’?”
“You were the willing slave of our insane doctor in this imaginary dreamland,” said Stafford, “Damned if I know what the hell you were thinking!”
“I wanna go home!” wailed Jeffery, “How do we get out of here?”
“Easy,” said Stafford, “We die. But first we have to take your ‘Lady’ out, so we can get everybody back to reality where they belong!”
“Um, die?” asked Jeffery, “is that a good idea?”
“It’s a dream. Don’t worry about it. Let’s go end this”
Stafford stepped back out into the hall and realized he had no idea which way to go.
“This way,” said Jeffery.
“Hold it,” said Stafford, “the throne room had a balcony. Can you get me up there?”
“Sure,” replied Jeffery, “No problem.”
He led Stafford down the corridor to a gorgeous staircase. Stafford quickly placed it as an exact replica of the Grand Staircase from the RMS Titanic.
“That’s funny,” muttered Jeffery, “Could have sworn this wasn’t like this before.”
“Whatever,” said Stafford.
Jeffery led him through a maze of hallways, then through a small door into the balcony overlooking the throne room. They crept slowly across the floor and peeked over the edge. Queen Wowryk was back on her throne, concentrating as she summoned more Possessed to replace those lost on the battlefield. Her face was still wet with tears.
“Do you trust me?” Stafford whispered.
“This isn’t the time for guessing games!” Jeffery whispered back.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’. Just play along.”
Stafford stood up and pulled Jeffery to his feet. He pressed his phaser rifle up under Jeffery’s chin.
“Hey, Queen Bitch of the Universe!” Stafford shouted, “Still want him back?”
“You!” screamed Wowyrk. She unleashed a bolt of lightening. Stafford held up a hand and deflected it.
“I’m learning your game pretty well, Noel!” Stafford yelled down at her, “But try that again and I’ll blow his head off!”
“Big deal!” sneered Wowryk, “he’ll be back! Just like the rest of you freakish men!”
“Oh yes, he’ll be back,” replied Stafford, “but completely beyond your control. You can still sense him now, can’t you? You want him back! I can tell. But if I kill him now he’ll be like the rest of us, out of your reach forever!”
“Shoot him!” snarled one of the few remaining Mistresses, “He’s just a man!”
“I….I….” Wowryk was stammering.
<Some help, please!> Stafford thought as hard as he could, willing for T’Parief, Jall, ANYBODY to hear him.
Jall and T’Parief were in the Inner Courtyard again, fighting the legions of the Possessed. Men were once again re-appearing where they fell. T’Parief had again abandoned his weapon and was using his claws. The ranks of men had filled considerably; the entire male complement of the Silverado crew was now at his side.
“Jall!” T’Parief roared.
“What?” Jall shouted back. He had an old fashioned shotgun and was blasting Possessed to pieces.
“I THINK WE’RE WINNING!!!”
Indeed, the number of creatures fighting in the courtyard decreased as the flow coming out of the inner castle slowed then stopped.
<Some help, please!>
“Hey, did you hear that?” shouted Steven.
“Yes!” T’Parief roared, “To the Throne Room!”
“I don’t think you want me to kill him!” Stafford was stalling now, “He’s, um, the only man that understood what you were trying to do!”
“You’ve corrupted him!” accused Trish, “He was the perfect man! Docile, obedient and non-violent!”
“You can have him back!” Stafford said, “End this! Take us back to the real world!”
“This IS the real world!” snapped Trish.
“No! She created this world! She’s controlling all of you!”
“LIAR!” Yanick flipped her wrist, sending a small knife flying across the room and into Jeffery’s chest. Jeffery gasped and slumped in Stafford’s grip. Unable to hold him, Stafford let him slip to the floor below.
“NOO!!!!” wailed Wowryk. She ran to where Jeffery lay on the floor. Blood trickled from his mouth. He started reaching for her with one arm and then vanished.
“Hey, that wasn’t my fault!” said Stafford from up on the balcony.
“Kill him!” ordered Yanick.
At that moment the Throne Room doors slammed open and T’Parief came charging through, followed by dozens of armed men. Wowryk stumbled back onto her chair. Yanick and the last of the Mistresses put up a good fight, but it was over in seconds.
Stafford leapt down from the balcony and walked over to where Wowryk was slumped on her throne.
“It’s over Noel,” he said gently, “We’ve defeated your Mistresses and your army.”
“I want to go home…” she said in a small voice, then vanished.
Stafford and T’Parief looked at each other.
“I guess we’re done,” said Stafford.
The room started to tremble, then shake.
“Earthquake!” somebody shouted.
Jeffery reappeared at Stafford’s side.
“Fifebee wants me to tell ye that all the ladies, including Dr. Wowryk are safely back in the real world and that ye may ‘return home at your leisure’.”
“Um, great, but we’re kind of having a problem here!”
As Stafford spoke a swirling vortex suddenly appeared over the empty throne. Wind rushed past him into the gaping maw. Bits of furniture, paintings, and other debris flew past him. Suddenly a tall masked figure fell out of the vortex wearing long black robes and a white ghost mask.
“I don’t know what that is, but you better shoot it!” Jall shouted at T’Parief.
T’Parief blasted the thing into oblivion. What was left was sucked back into the vortex.
“This world is falling apart again!” shouted Stafford over the din, “Wowryk was all that held it together! We’ve got to get out!”
“Yes sir!” said T’Parief. He leveled his rail-gun at Jall and pulled the trigger. “Always ready to do my duty!” he said as Jall vanished.
A gray cartoon mouse flew out of the vortex. It was carrying a large, bloody hatchet in its white-gloved hands. It scampered up to a shocked ensign and buried the hatched deep in his chest. The young man vanished.
“Ah know we gotta die,” said Jeffery, “but Ah can think of less painful ways than that!”
“Uh-huh!” Stafford agreed. They followed the rest of the men as they raced out of the Throne Room.
The several hundred men had split in several directions. The hallways, once uniformly perfect, were now a mismatch of Castle Wowryk, ship corridors, haunted houses from childhood memories and caves from various alien planets.
“Ah don’t like this!” wailed Jeffery as a black bat fluttered around his head.
“We’ve just gotta die!” said Stafford, “Man, how often do people wish for that?”
There was another shudder. An attractive young girl with long blond hair came flipping down the corridor, stabbing several crewmen with a sharp, pointy stick. They screamed, then vanished.
“I think this place is going to kill us without much trouble!” said Stafford.
“But Ah don’t wanna get stabbed!” objected Jeffery.
“Oh, don’t be such a baby! T’Parief, no offense, but you’re the big, cold-blooded reptile with the violent bloodlines. How about a killing spree? A merciful, painless-death killing spree, followed by a ritual suicide?”
T’Parief grinned. “I know relatives on both sides of my family tree who would give their left reproductive gland for an order like that!”
Stafford sat up in the cargo bay. Fifebee was still standing by the alien gizmo, watching the growing list of ‘Disconnected Users’. Stafford made a mental note to NEVER unleash T’Parief against anybody who didn’t REALLY deserve it. Stafford had gotten so used to his security chief’s usually cool demeanor that he had forgotten just how deadly a massive clawed reptile could be. All around him crewmen were waking up at a very rapid pace.
Noonan walked into the cargo bay.
“Captain!” he said warmly, “Welcome back to the land of consciousness!”
“Nice to see you too,” said Stafford, “Fifebee? How are we doing?”
“Everybody has been successfully separated from the dream state. I can now power down the device safely,” replied the hologram.
“Be my guest!”
Fifebee reached down towards the lower segment of the device. She located a large switch labeled ‘Power’ and flipped it to the ‘Off’ position.
Stafford rolled his eyes.
Dr. Wowryk woke with a start. What a bizarre dream! She had been…she was…. what had she been doing? She had a nagging feeling that something terrible had happened but had no idea what it was.
“Stafford to Wowryk,” came the voice from the comm system, “How are you feeling doc?”
“Um, a little strange,” replied Wowryk, “has Fifebee solved our problem yet?”
“Oh yeah, we’re good to go,” said Stafford, “Nice job on the castle by the way. Beautiful land. Except for the whole enslavement part!”
“What are you talking about?” asked Wowryk peevishly.
“Y’know, dreamland, Sisters of the Realm, Queen Wowryk.”
Stafford sighed, “Lieutenant Fifebee will be right down to fill you in.”
Stafford walked into Unbalanced Equations. The lounge was dark, everybody was sleeping off the bizarre encounter. Well, almost everybody. Jeffery was curled up on one of the large armchairs facing out the window, staring out at the stars between the ship’s huge warp nacelles.
“Trouble sleeping?” Stafford asked.
“Yeah,” Jeffery said, “Been doing too much sleepin’ Ah think.”
“Ah,” Stafford walked over the replicator and ordered warm milk. The replicator yawned and asked him if he wanted a snack while he was up. Stafford politely refused, thanked the computer and sat down next to Jeffery.
“How are ya?” asked Stafford.
“Ah dunno,” said Jeffery, “I don’t remember much, but I remember that I really loved her. What she was, what she was doing, what she stood for. I was….very happy.”
“It wasn’t real,” said Stafford, “It was alien technology, messing with your mind.”
“No, it was her.”
“OK, well fine,’ said Stafford, “So it was alien technology messing with her mind causing her to mess with your mind. Whatever!”
“Yeah,” Jeffery looked down at his cup. “Why are you still up?”
“Me? Oh, I dunno,” said Stafford, “after the chaos of the last couple of days, my quarters just seemed too quiet.”
They sat in companionable silence for few moments. Stafford let his eyes wander along the pitted, mismatched hull plates of the port nacelle. He yawned.
“Well, I think this milk did the trick,” Stafford muttered, “Go to bed Simon. We all need a rest.”
“In a bit.”
Stafford walked back to his quarters and fell into a deep sleep.
Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 51677.4
“We’re finally free of that stupid alien gizmo. All of us! We’ve parked in a quiet corner of interstellar space while the crew recovers from their ordeal. Commander Noonan has been proven correct, again, as memories of the encounter have been fading fast. Sounds great as far as I’m concerned. The last thing I need is a real-life war of the sexes.”
“Dr. Wowryk retains almost no memory of her reign as queen. Lieutenant Fifebee has been studying the effects of the device diligently.”
“As for me, well, after a long uninterrupted snooze I’m ready for Fifebee’s report.”
“The device interfaced with Dr. Wowryk at levels beyond what anybody else experienced,” reported Fifebee. Fifebee, Wowryk and Stafford were in Stafford’s ready room. “It was linked up directly to her brain, stimulating certain personality traits while repressing others.”
“I still can’t believe I would do something like that,” Wowryk said shakily.
“I can,” Jall muttered.
“What are you doing here,” demanded Stafford, “I called for Wowryk and Fifebee. Beat it, but if you hear somebody singing ‘Send in the Clowns’ that will be your cue!”
Jall stalked out, but Wowryk had already begun to tear up, “You think I’m a horrible person! Well I’m not! I just want everybody to live pure, happy lives so they can reach the glory of God! Is that so wrong?”
“Well, no…” said Stafford.
“And I would NEVER do the kind of things you said I did! This is just awful! The whole crew hates me over something I don’t even remember doing!”
Feeling guilty, Stafford walked around his desk and sat next to Wowryk on the couch. He hesitantly put a comforting arm over her shoulder.
“Look,” he said, “we know it wasn’t all you. But you have to admit, you’re not all that keen on men and you kind of have a royalty complex.”
“I would like to state for the record,” said Fifebee, “that I believe that Dr. Wowryk was under the influence of alien technology and should not be held responsible for the actions of Queen Wowryk.”
Stafford thought for a moment. “I concur,” he finally said, “Doc, get some rest. Have a drink, or a latte, or whatever you enjoy. Take a day off.”
“Thank you, Captain,” she said, then walked out.
“OK,” said Stafford, “now that she’s gone, what do you really think?”
Fifebee frowned at Stafford, “Why would my report change?”
Fifebee walked towards the doors, then paused.
“The alien device may have selected personality factors it found…appealing, but it was still Dr. Wowryk’s willpower that created that world. Until we find out who did this, she could be in very serious danger.”
“I know,” Stafford said softly.
“Red alert! Captain Stafford to the bridge!”
Stafford ran out onto the bridge. Commander Noonan was waiting in his chair.
“Wow, Silverado’s first red alert in decades. I wanted to call it!” Stafford said.
“Um, Captain,” Noonan said.
“This is the first time in ages that there has been a red alert called on this ship! I really wanted to do it!” whined Stafford.
“Captain, unknown ship at 23 mark 7!” reported Jall.
“Huh?” Stafford looked at the screen where a small ship was zipping into warp. “Oh! Follow them!” he ordered as he braced himself.
Silverado’s engines flared as the ship jumped into warp.
“What’s going on up there!” called Jeffery from engineering; “Ah thought we weren’t testing warp drive until tomorrow!”
“Change of plans!” Stafford yelled. There was none of the bucking or shrieking they had experienced the last time Silverado used warp drive, but there was a nasty vibration. “How about smoothening the ride?”
“Ah’m on it!”
“We’re at warp 5,” reported Yanick, “They are maintaining speed.”
“No response,” said Jall.
“Captain,” rumbled T’Parief, “There is no ship there!”
“Well there damned well looks like there is to me!”
“It’s a sensor fake. I am not picking up any ion trail.”
“Reinitialize the sensor systems!” ordered Stafford.
T’Parief tapped at his panel. The ship on screen vanished.
Stafford stood up and waved an arm at the viewscreen.
“Now what the hell was the point of that?”
A small ship leapt into warp, going in the exact opposite direction Silverado had just gone.
“The decoy worked perfectly,” reported the pilot, “They did not detect us detaching from their hull.”
“Excellent,” replied the commander. The comm system beeped. A striking dark-haired woman appeared on the screen.
“Report,” she ordered.
“The experiment was a success.,” stated the commander, “A potential subject has been identified, although resistance was much greater than anticipated.”
“Excellent work. Return home, we will begin putting our other plans in motion.
“As you command, Mistress.”
NEXT: Horray! Finally! The Silverado’s first mission! Exploring new worlds? Contacting new civilizations? Not bloody likely! Stay tuned for Star Traks, Silverdo 1.5: “Welcome to Hickville!”