Author: Brendan Chris
Captain’s Log, Stardate 56195.8
“Well, I’m proud to report that we’ve spent several days flying around aimlessly in interstellar space without having anything blow up or go catastrophically wrong. Yet. Knock on wood. Damn, I wish I hadn’t said that. Anyway, Starfleet has ordered us to go to the Rigel VI Supply Depot where we will receive further orders. Strangely enough, Rigel VI is the junkyard where the Silverado was kept before this whole ‘Operation Salvage’ crap.”
Captain Chris Stafford sat in his command chair on Silverado’s bridge. His senior staff were manning their stations as they set out for their first assignment. The ship was cruising along at a steady warp 5 and Jeffery had finally gotten the worst of the vibration out of the engines. Aside from the slight jolt every time the navigational deflector kicked, in he could almost believe his ship wasn’t the oldest ship in the fleet.
“Count down, Ensign Yanick?” Stafford asked.
“30 seconds, Captain!” Trish Yanick said cheerefully. Yanick was the ship’s helm officer. The refit had been especially boring for her and she was enjoying her chance to finally do some flying. Although Stafford had been forced to make a strict rule against pulling donuts at half the speed of light, everything else was going well.
“5…4…3…2…1…” counted Yanick.
“5.75 LIGHT YEARS!” shouted the bridge crew. In her former life, Silverado had experienced severe structural and systems failures 5.74 light years from Earth. In an effort to improve crew morale (after they had battled each other literally to the death) Stafford had decided to make a minor celebration of overcoming that hurdle.
“Yes!” said Jeffery happily from the rear engineering station, “Ah told ye, she’s got her second wind now!”
“Good work, Jeffery,” said Stafford, “Keep it up. I’m hoping to go much further than this!”
“You bet!” Chief Engineer Jeffery was one of the few people who wasn’t that upset about being assigned to the Silverado. From his point of view, getting a ship as old and dilapidated as Silverado back into service was a challenge. One that he was rising to nicely.
“All right everyone,” announced Stafford, “Drinks are on me after shift!”
Silverado flashed through space on her way to Rigel VI. She was an Ambassador-class starship, a design often overlooked by modern-day Starfleet. Although Silverado was smaller than Galaxy-class ships like the Enterprise-D or the Explorer, it was still pretty darned big, dwarfing many of the current starship classes. It was also a very economical ship, able to travel greater distances on less fuel than its larger cousins. Although Silverado looked to be in pretty rough shape on the outside, as evidenced by her mismatched and pitted hull plating, lots of hard work had gone into refitting her for service. After a successful shakedown cruise, (successful other than the crew being trapped in a bizarre nightmare world) she had been upgraded from “Flying Deathtrap” to “Pig in Space” around the Starfleet Headquarters water cooler.
The flight to Rigel VI was the first real flight of Silverado that was actually taking them somewhere, and without chaotic nightmares to keep them busy the crew was getting bored fast.
“So exactly what is our repair status, Jeffery?” asked Stafford for the third time in the past two days.
“Well,” replied Jeffery, “not much different from the last time ye asked! Inside, we’re doing pretty good. All the damaged equipment’s been replaced. We are having some trouble getting the new systems to work properly with the older stuff. Our computer software is outdated, but working-“
“Don’t forget that half the decks are decorated differently!” piped in Lieutenant Jall from the Ops console.”
“And my ready room toilet is still flushing out of control,” added Stafford.
“Hey,” said Jeffery indignantly, “Ah never said we were done, just that we’re doin’ pretty good!”
“Ahh,” said Stafford, “And our paint job?”
“Gonna take awhile. Ah’m having trouble finding people willing to work on the outer hull when we’re traveling at hundreds of times the speed of light.”
“Well hurry up!” said Stafford, “Starfleet is NEVER going let us represent the Federation to new civilizations if we look like an escapee from the junkyard!”
“Actually sir,” piped in Lieutenant Fifebee, “we ARE-“
“Don’t say it!” groaned Stafford as he fell back into his seat.
Fifebee allowed herself a small, private smile. As the first sentient hologram designed to serve as a full-time Starfleet officer, she was still getting used to dealing with humanoids. But she was learning well. Some members of the Silverado senior staff seemed to take a perverse pleasure in annoying one another, an activity that Fifebee was not above indulging in. It was all the more fun for her since everybody just assumed it was hologram naiveté.
“-we doing on weapons?” Stafford was asking T’Parief.
The large (2XGorn+Andorian+Klingon=Big Scary Lizard) officer grunted. “No change since yesterday. Standard phasers remain at 80% efficiency. Shields are at 90%. Our torpedo launchers are ready to go, we just don’t have any torpedoes yet.”
“What about the pulse phaser cannon we got?”
“It’s installed on the ventral saucer, but we have no idea if the power conduits can run it.”
“Hey,” said Stafford, “you never mentioned that before! Any why not? Doesn’t this thing have a brand new, top-of-the-line warp core?”
“Aye,” said Jeffery.
“Then what’s the problem?”
“The problem” said Jeffery, “is getting enough power from the core to the damned cannon. Think of it as being like trying to swallow a whole watermelon - without chewing!.”
“Oh,” said Stafford, “Ouch. Well, see what you can do.”
Jeffery walked down the corridor into Main Engineering. As he entered the compartment he tripped over something and tumbled to the ground. Looking back, he saw Ensign Frit Nekath, one of his short-statured engineers, crouched over a panel.
“Oops,” said Jeffery, “sorry about that Ensign.”
“I’m getting used to it,” signed Nekath. Ensign Nekath and the rest of the engineering team were Nicondii. Aside from being much smaller than most humanoids (about 3.5 feet tall) they had a very closely woven family structure. Multiple births of 6 or 7 babies was the norm, with the siblings spending their entire lives together, following each other into the same line of work and working in the same location. The entire Alpha shift engineering team represented a single Nicondii sibling group. Jeffery couldn’t imagine spending that much time with his brothers without going insane. On the other hand, trying to keep track of six people with the same last name wasn’t helping his mental health either.
Jeffery walked into his office and sat down at his desk. He started tapping through some different simulations he had come up with to properly power the pulse phaser. Given the number of hostile races in the galaxy, pulse phasers were becoming really popular with Starfleet. But they sucked a heck of a lot of juice. Jeffery looked out the office window into the engine room. He’d never noticed that Ensign Nekath had the same hair colour as Dr. Wowryk. Hmmm….Dr. Wowryk. What a woman. So powerful. So confident!
Jeffery shook his head and focused back on his console. He was thinking of Queen Wowryk, not Dr. Wowryk. The woman in his mind didn’t exist anymore. Had never existed, except in an artificial dream world. Plus, his feelings for the Queen had been artificially generated by the Queen anyway. Right?
Jeffery wasn’t so sure.
Captain’s Log, Supplemental
“We’ve arrived at the outskirts of the Rigel system and are making our way under impulse power to the Rigel VI Supply Depot. Starfleet has finally transmitted our orders. To say they’re stupid is an understatement. Um, computer, better delete that last sentence. Anyway, we are to hunt through the hundreds of derelict ships for the wreck of the U.S.S. Stallion; a Constitution-class ship decommissioned years before Silverado was even designed. We are then to tow that ship back to our old box dock where it will be repaired and reconditioned. That wreck is over 70 years old! Whose bright idea is this anyway?”
<The author would like to take a brief moment to laugh manically. MWA-HA-HA-HA! Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.>
On the main screen sat a medium sized space station. Tugs and workbees flitted in and out of the docking bays bringing in salvaged equipment from the massive depot. Rigel VI Supply Depot consisted of two such stations at opposite ends of a massive field of shipwrecks. Each wreck was placed in a careful orbit. The whole thing hung between the planets of Rigel VI and Rigel VII, where it was shielded from solar winds that might disrupt the carefully arranged orbits.
“Make sure you’re driving carefully,” Stafford said to Yanick, “I don’t want to scratch the paint!”
Lieutenant Fifebee looked up from the science station. “But sir,” said the holographic officer, “aren’t we trying to remove the remaining paint?”
Stafford looked blankly at Fifebee. “It’s an expression!”
“Oh, well pardon me for trying to help!” Fifebee muttered under her breath.
“Lieutenant Jall, open a channel to the station.” There was a pause.
“Jall! Open a channel!”
“Huh? Oh, channel open,” replied Jall with a start.
“Who is this?” came a dry, crackling voice over the comm..
“Um, Captain Chris Stafford of the U.S.S. Silverado.”
“Silverado huh? MHA-HA-HA!’ laughed the voice, “I knew you’d come home! They ALL come home….eventually! Come my sweet, your place is waiting, just where you left it!”
“We’re not here to give you this ship back!” said Stafford, “We’re here to pick up the U.S.S. Stallion.”
“Oh,” the voice sounded disappointed, “well, I can’t just let anybody walk in here and leave with one of my little beauties! I’ll need to verify this with Command first.”
“Fine, verify away,” said Stafford, “We’ll be right here. Silverado out.”
“Wow,” said Jall, “what a weirdo!”
“I noticed,” said Stafford, “Jall, check into the station’s personnel files and see who that was.”
Yanick was staring at the main viewscreen. Behind the station dozens of shipwrecks could be seen. Some were decommissioned vessels, mostly intact. Others were just a few chucks of metal floating around.
“It’s kinda sad, isn’t it?” she asked.
“I suppose it is,” said Stafford, “but they’re just ships. It’s not the technology, it’s the people.”
“I resent that,” said Fifebee flatly.
“Sentient technology excluded,” Noonan cut in smoothly.
“I’m sure,” she said.
“It is kind of sad though,” Noonan continued, “how many people died on those ships? What about the ships themselves? So much potential, rotting away.”
“Well,” said Yanick, “at least one girl got a second chance.” She patted the helm console.
“Yeah, goody for us,” said Stafford.
The comm channel opened again.
“OK, OK,” came the voice, “Admiral Grant says to let you take the Stallion. You’ll have a hard time doing it though! It’s parked near the center of the debris field. We’ll have to clear a path before you can get her out.”
“How long will that take?” asked Stafford.
“Oh, a day or two.”
“All right. You get started on that, we’ll send a team over to the Stallion to prepare her for towing,” said Stafford.
“You do that,” came the voice, “but be warned: nobody who has gone to take salvage from that ship has come back, and there are radiation leaks in some of the nearby wrecks. Transporters will be useless! Ha-ha-ha!”
“Gotcha. Silverado out,” said Stafford, “Wow, what a whacko!”
“Commander Jostec Krak,” read Jall, “from Alpha Centauri. Found guilty of three counts of lewd and disturbing behavior, spent five years in the New Zealand penal colony before being assigned to this junkyard.”
“Oh,” said Stafford in a sarcastic, falsely cheerful voice, “we’re dealing with a deviant felon! Isn’t that just great! Yanick, get in touch with station operations and find out where those delightful people want us parked.”
“Sure thing Captain!” replied Yanick.
Yanick carefully piloted the ship around the edge of the debris field. As she maneuvered around an old Miranda-class wreck there was a sudden jolt and the sound of scraping metal. Stafford cringed in the command chair.
“What was that?” he asked, hunching his shoulders and looking around.
“A minor brush with somebody else’s warp nacelle,” reported Fifebee, “No damage, just a small dent in the port engineering hull.”
“I told you not to hit anything!” said Stafford.
“Sorry!” said Yanick, “Won’t happen again…just hit the wrong button…”
Stafford signed, “Carry on!” He remained hunched in his chair, digging his fingernails into the armrests until Yanick finally reported that they had reached the designated co-ordinates.
“I have located the Stallion,” said Fifebee, “It is approximately 3.4 kilometers into the debris field.”
“Onscreen,” ordered Stafford. He smiled, “You know, I just love saying that!”
“Glad you’re having fun,” muttered Jall.
Fifebee tapped at her console and a ship appeared on the main screen. It was old all right. Refit-Constitution class, with rectangular nacelles and a narrow, flimsy looking neck connecting the saucer and engineering sections. Mostly intact, except for several hull breaches in the lower engineering hull. The hull had been seriously abraded by interstellar dust. The navigational deflector was missing as were the phaser banks and the bridge module.
“Wow,” muttered Stafford.
“Makes Silverado look pretty good, doesn’t she?” commented Noonan.
“Yeah. I’m sure glad I was the first captain in this program, not the second!” replied Stafford. “Well, actually, I didn’t want to be in this program at all, but you get what I mean.”
“Captain,” interrupted T’Parief, “radiation is preventing me from scanning the Stallion. Krak was correct in stating that transporters will not function.”
“Fine,” said Stafford, “Let’s go take a look. T’Parief, you’re with me. Have Mr. Jeffery and Dr. Wowryk meet us in Shuttlebay 2.”
“Why do you need a doctor?” asked Jall, “I doubt there is anybody there.”
“Because,” Stafford explained, “after out last adventure I want to include her in our mission and help her feel like part of the team again!”
“Well, what if I don’t feel like part of the team?”
“Then I promise that next time we need to confront a mob of angry, hostile aliens you can come with us.” Stafford walked into the turbolift. Noonan followed.
“Captain,” started Noonan after the doors had closed, “I really don’t think you should be going.”
Stafford groaned, “Is there where I get the whole ‘First Officer goes on the missions, Captain stays on the ship’ speech?”
“Yes,” said Noonan.
“It’s an easy mission! We take a look, then we leave.”
“I don’t agree,” said Noonan, “we’re going onto a derelict vessel in the middle of a radiation field, with no hope of transporter rescue.”
“Fine!” said Stafford, “You can have this one, but I’m still the captain. If I decide I wanna go, I’m gonna go.”
The turbolift deposited them in Shuttlebay 2 at the rear of the engineering hull. Shuttlebay 1, up on the saucer section still smelled like eight different varieties of feces and would be undergoing decontamination for the next month. The shuttlecraft Avalanche was being prepped for departure. Wowryk and Jeffery were already waiting.
“OK,” said Stafford, “change in plans. Commander Noonan will be taking you over to the Stallion. Check the condition of the ship. Jeffery, figure out what has to be done to get her ready for towing. T’Parief, you’re gonna check out the overall status of the ship.”
“And why am I here?” asked Wowryk.
Well, y’know,” Stafford searched for reason, “because it’s better to not need a doctor and have one, then to need one and not have one. Besides, there’s radiation in there. Better safe then sorry.”
“All right,” Wowryk replied. She was still looking a bit depressed from her little stint as royalty. She couldn’t bring herself to so much as look at Jeffery.
“All right,’ said Stafford, “have fun.” He turned and walked back into the turbolift.
T’Parief, Jeffery, Noonan and Wowryk looked at each other.
“Wow,” said Jeffery, “our first mission off the ship.”
“Irrelevant,” grumbled T’Parief, “let’s go.”
An Andorian stepped out of the Avalanche. Unlike most of his race his white hair was cut extremely short and he had a piercing in one of the two antennae sticking up out of his head.
“Ahh,” he said in a dry, whispery voice, “I’m Ensign Pysternzykz, your pilot for today’s flight. To what honorable death may I deliver you today?”
“No death, please!” said Noonan, “Take us to the U.S.S. Stallion. In one piece please.”
“My mother told me never to fly with Andorians,” said Jeffery, “she said it’s safer to just jump out the airlock!”
“How dare you!” snapped Pysternzykz, “I am an excellent pilot! I should rip out your spleen and force it down your throat for suggesting otherwise!”
“Um, never mind, it’s all good,” squeaked Jeffery.
“Better,” grunted Pysternzykz, “Come! Death and glory await!”
Noonan shrugged and followed him into the shuttle.
“Shuttlecraft Avalanche is away,” reported Jall.
“Thank you,” said Stafford. He mentally reviewed what just happened. “Jall, ready room, now.”
“What did I do!?”
Stafford stalked into his ready room with Jall following. Stafford walked around his desk and turned around.
“OK, what are you up to?”
“You haven’t refused any orders, your comments have been only mildly sarcastic, and you just now provided me with useful information without even being asked! That’s not like you at all,” Stafford said, “Now I want to know what evil little plot you’re scheming before it becomes an enormous headache for me!”
“I’m not scheming anything!” Jall objected, “I’m just doing my job!”
“I thought you hated your job!”
“Well, Starfleet IS voluntary you know,” said Jall, “has it occurred to you that maybe I like it?”
“Your file states that you were demoted from First Officer of the Sutherland for ‘behavior unbecoming an officer’,” said Stafford.
“Well, I was a bit upset over that,” said Jall, “but I’m getting over it.”
Stafford looked at Jall suspiciously, “I’m going to keep a close eye on you! Dismissed.”
Jall walked out onto the bridge with an evil smile on his face.
“I’m really starting to love this job!” he said as he sat back down at his station. Fifebee and Yanick looked at him in amazement.
Stafford sat in his ready room. Jall was driving him crazy! He was up to something, Stafford just knew it! Nobody on board was really close to Jall, he hadn’t exactly been making a lot of friends since he had come on board. Hmmm. Yanick was friendly with everybody. Maybe she could figure it out. Stafford was about to call Yanick into his ready room, but realized that could look suspicious. He needed to catch Jall unaware. He’d talk to Yanick later. There was a sudden WHOOSH as the toilet in the ready room bathroom flushed again.
“Stafford to Rookes,” he said, “enough is enough, come and fix this thing…NOW!”
The Avalanche glided carefully into the debris field. True to his word, Pysternzykz was an able enough pilot. So far.
“All right,” said Noonan, “now if we come to heading 54 mark 3 we will find one of the access pathways.”
“Pathways?” asked Wowryk.
“Areas relatively clear of debris that allow salvage teams easy access to the ships,” replied Noonan.
“Good idea,” Wowryk nodded.
“Boring!” said Pysternzykz, “I know a better way!” He spun the shuttle around and dove into the debris field. Wowryk screamed as he darted between two ancient wrecks. “Fasten your harnesses!” he called back, “We fly to a glorious death!”
“I told you so!” wailed Jeffery as T’Parief dug his claws into his armrests.
The shuttle continued to duck and weave through the wreckage. Pysternzykz skimmed the hull of an old Excelsior-class saucer before darting up between the nacelle pylons of an Oberth-class wreck. Noonan gripped his panel, a feral grin on his face. “There!” he pointed. A Galaxy-class wreck drifted in front of them. Once nacelle had been so totally gutted it was completely hollow. Despite protests from T’Parief, Wowryk and Jeffery Pysternzykz pulled the shuttle through a barrel roll then aimed right at the front end of the hollow nacelle.
The shuttle flew into the nacelle and did another barrel roll before screeching to a halt, spinning around and shooting back out again. Darting past a smashed Intrepid-class ship Pysternzykz skirted the hull then spiraled around the remaining long, thin nacelle of another Excelsior-class ship.
“I’m gonna be sick!” moaned Jeffery as he watched the stars and assorted debris spiral around outside the viewport.
“Weakling!” Pysternzykz called back, “For the safety and convenience of our more pathetic passengers, you will find vomit bags located beneath the seat on which your cowardly a** is seated! Now, how about some more fun?” Pysternzykz suddenly dialed the inertial dampers down to 90%. As a result the shuttle occupants not only had to suffer through the spiraling debris outside, but they were also to feel some of the gut-wrenching moves the shuttle was going though. As the shuttle pulled a tight loop de loop Jeffery and Wowryk grabbed for their vomit bags. Not wanting to be left out, T’Parief grabbed for his as well.
“Hey!” complained T’Parief, “I have been cheated! There’s nothing in here!”
“Strange human custom!” Pysternzykz called back.
T’Parief noticed Wowryk and Jeffery heaving into their bags. “Oh,” he said, “gross!”
Stafford left the bridge at the end of his duty shift, leaving Lieutenant Kintaine in command. He rode the turbolift down to deck 12 and walked into Unbalanced Equations. As usual, Steven was behind his bar mixing up anything from a chocolate milkshake to his infamous Klingon Martini. Various officers were relaxing in the lounge. The lounge itself was a very mixed atmosphere. Dark wood trim framed cream coloured walls and the ceiling supports had been given the look of heavy wooden rafters. Towards the bar and the walls were a number of tables and chairs. Large observation windows looked out between the ship’s warp nacelles. A number of large, comfortable armchairs sat facing the windows. Stafford grabbed a stool at the bar.
“Hey Steven,” he said as he sat down.
“Captain,” Steven nodded.
“So what’s new?”
“Commander Noonan has requested that I start holding Cartoon Night on Tuesdays,” replied Steven, “I was pretty sure you’d be OK with that so I gave him the OK.”
“Cartoon night?” asked Stafford, “That was my idea! Well, sort of. Whatever.”
“And Crewman Shwaluk wants to hold a ‘naked limbo’ night on Friday.”
“Absolutly not!” said Stafford.
“Oh come on,” said Steven, “it wouldn’t be that bad. There are plenty of female crewmembers I’d like to see participate!”
Stafford mulled that over for a minute, then shook his head. “Nope,” he said, “ideas of modesty may have changed in the past few centuries but I draw the line at rampant nudity on my ship!”
“You’re the captain,” said Steven.
“So how about Jall?” Stafford asked, “Have you noticed anything strange about him lately?”
“No,” replied Steven, “why would I?”
“You’re the bartender! Bartenders are supposed to know everybody and their problems!”
“Um, I haven’t really been onboard long enough for that,” said Steven, “but so far Jall strikes me as being an OK guy.”
“Exactly!” said Stafford, “That’s not him! He’s planning something, or he’s been possessed or something! He’s been too well-behaved lately!”
“Um, right,” said Steven, “so I take it you’ll be drinking decaff today?”
“No, give me a Jolt Cola. I’m going to get to the bottom of this!”
Stafford took his drink over to his favorite chair by the window. As he started sipping he again felt the surge of power and energy that came only from a good caffeine rush. Watching the reflections in the window he finally saw Ensign Yanick walk in. He gave her a wave. After grabbing a strawberry milkshake she headed in his direction. Before Stafford even had a chance to open his mouth she dropped down into a chair and started talking.
“What the heck was with Jall today?” she asked, “He was so…not evil!”
“Oh, really?” said Stafford, “You’re right! I had hardly noticed.”
“What do you mean? You gave him heck for it in your ready room!”
“Um….” Stafford’s brain hunted for an excuse.
“Anyway, he was asking me about my day, and my family and everything! It was so weird!” Yanick cut in.
“So you have no idea what he’s up to?” Stafford asked.
“Not a clue,” she said.
“Wanna find out?”
“Great,” Stafford leaned in, “now since you’re the attractive female co-worker, I think you should try talking to him.”
“Um, I don’t think that’s going to work on him,” said Yanick with a worried look.
“Oh, never mind!” she smiled, “I’ll see what I can find.”
“Good. What do you know about him so far?”
“Well,” Yanick sipped her milkshake, “he’s half human and half Trill. His parents were both in Starfleet. They were stationed on Earth for most of Jall’s childhood, he’s never even been to Trill. He used to serve on the Sutherland before coming here.”
“Yes, yes,” said Stafford as he leaned back, “All that was in his file. I want to know what’s missing. I need to figure him out and stop whatever annoying plan he’s got.”
“Aren’t you going a bit overboard on this?” asked Yanick, “Maybe he’s just in a good mood.”
“His idea of a good mood is shooting somebody!” said Stafford, “He’s planning something evil!”
“Well, I don’t know much else about him, “said Yanick, “he mentioned that his last relationship ended badly, but that’s it!”
Stafford sighed. “Well, that’s not going to help me much. See what you can find. Be discreet.”
Stafford got up and walked out of the lounge. He bumped into Jall on his way to the turbolift.
“Hey Captain,” called Jall cheerfully, “how’s it going?”
“Bite me!” Stafford called back over his shoulder.
“We have arrived!” announced Pysternzykz after what felt like forever. T’Parief pried his claws out of the armrests. He looked over to see Wowryk and Jeffery gripping each other in terror. Wowryk blushed and released Jeffery. They looked out the forward viewport. The aged ship was right in front of them.
“So how do we get in?” asked Wowryk.
“We’ll align our dorsal docking port with the starboard saucer airlock,” answered Noonan, “Radiation levels are still high enough to interfere with the transporter.” He rubbed a hand against his temple.
Wowryk pulled out her tricorder. “Radiation levels are higher than expected,” she reported. She pulled out a hypospray and began injecting everybody; “This will protect you for about 24 hours.”
Noonan shook his head, as though trying to clear it.
“Are you feeling OK?” Wowryk asked, concerned. She started to bring up her medical tricorder.
Noonan pushed the device away. “I’ll be fine,” He starting scanning the Stallion. Something on his panel caught his eye. “Oh my!” he said.
“What?” asked T’Parief.
“I’m picking up life signs!”
“A salvage crew?”
“I doubt it. There are no other shuttles or functional ships nearby. I’m also picking up low-level power readings. Life support is functioning!”
“Trespassers!” snarled the security chief.
“Right, like somebody is going to actually WANT to sneak onto an abandoned wreck,” quipped Jeffery.
“Let’s go find out, shall we?” said Noonan, “Pysternzykz, continue with docking.”
The airlock door creaked open. Noonan, T’Parief, Wowryk, Jeffery and Pysternzykz crept into the dark corridors. Very few emergency lights were still functioning. Jeffery located a computer panel and started tapping.
“The entire engineering section looks dead, except for one jefferies tube leading to Main Engineering. There is minimal power on decks 4 to 8.”
“Jeffery, you and Pysternzykz head down to Engineering and see if she can be towed,” ordered Noonan, “T’Parief, check the general condition of the ship. Doctor, you and I will try to track down the life signs.”
The group split up, heading their separate ways.
Jeffery and Pysternzykz crawled down the dark jefferies tube. They were moving down the neck of the ship towards Engineering.
“Why do I have to check the engines with you!” muttered Pysternzykz, “What chance is there for an honorable death? I should be tracking and obliterating the trespassers!”
“What is it with the Andorian love of death and destruction?” asked Jeffery.
“What is it with the human love of mushy romance novels and the bureaucracy?” Pysternzykz shot back.
“Well, look on the bright side. Maybe a power surge will vaporize you!”
“That would not be an honorable death,” complained Pysternzykz, “but it is a start.”
T’Parief walked through the dark corridors of the Stallion. He came across a door labeled ‘Arboretum’. As the door opened he was blinded by the light. As his eyes adjusted he saw plants growing everywhere. A large light overhead provided illumination and hoses ran everywhere in a crude irrigation system. There was a sudden rustle to his left. T’Parief whipped out his phaser.
“Show yourselves!” he snarled. There was another rustle behind him. He spun around and fired, hitting absolutely nothing. There was a sudden sharp pain at the back of his head and he collapsed to the deck. Before he lost consciousness he heard a voice:
“Hey momma, I got me a ‘gator!”
T’Parief was awakened by a splash of cold…something. Smelled a bit like garlic. He found himself tied to a spit and looking up at the ceiling. Twisting his head around he could see a particularly ugly human preparing to start a fire beneath him. Her skin was horribly blotched and most of her hair had fallen out. One eye was a milky white. She was humming to herself as she stacked sticks and twigs under T’Parief.
“Who are you?” he demanded, “Release me at once!”
“Well I’d be a danged snook!” she exclaimed. She was missing several teeth. “A talking gator! What do ya know?”
“I am not a ‘gator’! I am Lieutenant Commander T’Parief of the Federation Starship Silverado, and you are trespassing on Starfleet property!”
“I don’t know what the heck yous is talking abouts,” she said, “I just know I’m supposed to cook you up for Sunday supper!”
“It’s Wednesday you dumb blarch!” snapped T’Parief.
“Maybe for the gators!” she cackled and walked towards the exit, “I’ll be right on back with the fire starters! Dontchu go away!”
“This is SOO not good,” muttered T’Parief. He strained at the ropes to no effect. He tried to bring his teeth down to bite through them, but found himself unable to reach.
“VERY not good.”
Noonan and Wowryk walked the curving corridor circling the deck. Noonan had his tricorder out and was trying to track the life signs through the interference. He was also feeling terrible, a very unusual experience for him. Wowryk wasn’t saying much, just following along.
“I-I think we need to go down a deck,” said Noonan.
“Whatever you say. There should be a jefferies tube coming up soon,” replied Wowryk.
They continued walking. Wowryk marveled at the condition of the ship. When she had first boarded Silverado even she could tell that the ship had been badly neglected during its short time as a garbage scow. Smashed panels, shredded carpet, etc. The Stallion on the other hand just looked old. Panels were intact, just scratched and pitted. The air was a bit odd too, and there was a slight smell of…. foliage? Yeah. It smelled like a garden. How odd. She was turning to comment on the smell to Noonan when she noticed his appearance. He looked tired, drained. There was a slight glisten of moisture on his face. Sweat? She couldn’t tell in the dim lighting.
“Commander,” she asked, “are you sure you’re OK? You look terrible!”
“I’m fine,” Noonan said, “I’m sure the ‘grace of God’ will pull me through!”
“Are you mocking me, Commander?” Wowryk asked, surprised. Noonan had always been very polite.
“Of course not. I actually do believe in God, and the devil. I just don’t agree with the teachings of the church.”
“That’s blasphemous!” said Wowryk, “But much less blasphemous that what most of the crew thinks.”
“People these days have been taught to base everything they believe in on technology and science,” said Noonan, “most of them don’t understand that science doesn’t explain everything.”
They found the jefferies tube and climbed down the deck below. It was much like the deck above, although the smell had diminished.
“I’m picking up one life sign,” said Noonan as he consulted his tricorder. “It looks like it’s in the Impulse Control room. This way.”
Jeffery and Pysternzykz had finally reached Main Engineering. The Stallion’s warp core was a segmented tube stretching through several decks of the ship. Energy swirled faintly.
“Ah don’t believe it,” said Jeffery breathlessly, “the warp core is still online!”
“Barely!” rasped Pysernzykz, “You couldn’t even power a phaser bank with this pile of zzxyytssf!”
“No, but this explains why there is some life support running. At these power levels it could probably run for another 70 years.” Jeffery shined his beacon around. “What the hell??”
Engineering had been…redecorated. To put it mildly. Bed sheets had been hung along the walls. Several chairs had been arranged facing the warp core. A shrine of sorts had been built in front of the core, made from pieces of furniture. Somebody had dragged an old style food synthesizer into Main Engineering and plugged it right into the EPS energy taps.
“Somebody has been here, for a while,” said Jeffery.
“Somebody I’d defiantly like to meet!” replied Pysternzykz.
The Andorian gestured him over. Jeffery gave a gasp of surprise. Pinned to the wall was a human skeleton draped in the remains of an environmental suit.. A large knife was lying on the floor, along with a variety of small animal skulls.
“Jeffery to Noonan!” Jeffery called as he tapped his comm-badge. There was a slight crackle of static. “Must be the radiation. Let’s get our work done and get out of here!”
Tapping away at the engineering terminal Jeffery was able to gather the information he needed very quickly. An active power source would make things much easier, since they could use the structural integrity and inertial dampening fields on the Stallion rather than bringing over temporary generators from Silverado. The hull breaches weren’t good, but since the ship was going to be towed they wouldn’t be a major problem. Jeffery closed his tricorder and gestured for Pysternzykz to follow him back into the jefferies tube.
Noonan and Wowryk came around the corner and into the corridor leading to the Impulse Control room. Noonan could see up ahead that the doors were wide open. He drew his phaser and walked carefully in, motioning at Wowryk to stay behind him.
“Hello!” he called, “I am Commander Noonan of the U.S.S. Silverado. We know you are here. Please identify yourselves!”
There was no reply.
“Maybe they’re shy,” muttered Wowryk.
There was a click from behind them.
Moving with great speed Noonan knocked Wowryk to the deck, spun around and dodged to his right, just as the intruder let loose with his dual-barrel shotgun. Wowryk screamed as the pellets bounced around the room. Noonan grabbed the gun and bent the barrel in half. He didn’t even wince, although the barrel was very hot to the touch.
“You son of a bitch!” complained the intruder, “That was my best shootin’ gun!” He was an unpleasantly fat, balding man wearing overalls and a straw hat. His skin was cracked and reddened and a very unpleasant odor was emanating from him.
“Identify yourself!” snapped Noonan.
“Who are you?”
“Oh!” the man scratched his ample behind, “My name’s Big Jim.”
“And what are you doing here?”
“This here is my home. I live here. What are you people doing trespassing on my property?”
“Yeah!” Big Jim drew himself up to his full height, as though attempting to intimidate Noonan. “I was born and raised in this here country, and you are trespassing!”
Noonan was not intimidated or impressed. “You are not in a country. You are on an abandoned starship, floating in the middle of a debris field!”
“Whatchu talkin’ about, boy?” asked Big Jim angrily.
Noonan sat down at one of the control stations and starting tapping. Finally, he was able to pull up a schematic of the Stallion.
“This is the U.S.S. Stallion. We are here,” Noonan pointed at the rear of the saucer, “It is a ship. We plan to tow it back to Earth and attempt to rehabilitate you so that you may live a productive life.”
Big Jim frowned. “An what is just so wrong with me, Mr. Fancy-Pants?”
“Mr. Jim, I’m sure you’re very happy, but you must understand that there are much better places to live than this!”
“Yes!” piped in Dr. Wowry, “Where there is plenty of food, water and light. And none of the radiation that is making your hair fall out.”
Big Jim mulled this over for a bit.
“I reckon that you just want to steal my property! But I’m a fair man, and so I’ll give you the chance to prove yerselves! But first, I’m a gonna introduce ya to my family.” He turned and ambled out of the room. When no one else moved he turned back and yelled, “Well come on!”
Noonan pulled himself out of his chair, stumbling as he did so. Wowryk caught him.
“You are NOT well, sir!” she said. She could see that Noonan’s skin had reddened and was starting to blister like a bad sunburn, “The radiation shouldn’t be affecting you like this!”
“I have very sensitive skin,” replied Noonan, “It will be OK. Now hurry up, we’ve got to catch up with him.”
“You and I have to have an appointment when we get back!” Wowryk frowned again and hurried ahead.
Noonan pulled a self-heating thermos out of his pack. He hit a button, causing the status light to turn green. Checking that Wowryk was out of sight he took a long drink. As he capped the thermos and followed the others, the blisters on his arms faded and his skin returned to its usual pale colour.
Stafford had gone down to the Silverado’s gym with the hopes of burning off some steam. Although several of the ship’s recreational facilities (such as the Twister arena) had been gutted to make room for the still non-functional holodecks, the gym had been renovated with the rest of the ship. Nobody had gotten around to replacing the aged equipment though.
He changed into his workout cloths and headed to the workout room. After trying for several minutes to free the rusted machines he admitted defeat and moved on to the punching bag. Punching and kicking away. Stafford was completely oblivious to the creaking of the rusted chain that supported the large punching bag. He delivered a hard kick, pushing the bag back. As it swung back towards him the chain let go. The bag flew loose, slamming into Stafford and knocking him to the ground.
“Ow,” he muttered as he pushed the bag off of him.
“Nice form, Captain,” came Jall’s voice from across the room. Stafford looked over. Ignoring the rusted out machines Jall had grabbed some free weights and was in the process of working out.
“Shut up!” snapped Stafford.
“Geez,” said Jall, “what’s gotten you so wound up?”
“Nothing! I’m not wound up!”
“Could have fooled me!”
Stafford moved to the second punching bag and resumed blowing off steam. He started imagining Jall’s face in place of the faded ‘Starfleet Sports Equipment’ logo. Finally growing tired he showered and left the gym.
Once he was down the corridor he tapped his comm-badge.
“Stafford to Yanick, he’s in the gym. Now would be a good time.”
Feeling slightly ridiculous, Yanick quickly changed into a pink leotard and hurried down to the gym. Jall had finished with his weights and was running laps around the gymnasium. Yanick fell into step beside him.
“So,” she panted, “how ya doin’?”
“Fine,” said Jall, “That is such a cute outfit! It really shows off your figure.”
Yanick blushed, “Stop it!” she giggled.
An hour later, a panting and sweating Ensign Yanick showed up at Stafford’s door. Stafford wrinkled his nose as she stepped in.
“No time for a shower?” he asked.
“Shower…woman’s locker….not working,” she gasped.
“Oh, whatever. So did you learn anything useful?”
“Orange…is the new…fashionable…workout colour….for women…”
“Um, right. Anything else?” Stafford walked over to replicator. “Water please.”
“Here you are, kiddo,” replied the replicator.
“Thanks,” muttered Stafford.
“I think…he’s…just lonely…“said Yanick.
Stafford frowned as he handed Yanick the water. She drank heavily.
“He hasn’t made very many friends onboard yet,” Yanick said, leaning against the wall.
“Because he’s a jackass!”
“Well, he’s not that bad,” said Yanick.
“Trish,” sighed Stafford, “not everybody is as forgiving as you are.”
“Well, then maybe you should be!”
“Or maybe he should be a little less of a jerk! Y’know, maybe if he were nice once in awhile…”
Yanick looked at him.
“Oh,” Stafford said quietly.
“I though I was supposed to be the blond one here!” Yanick said with a giggle.
“Now I feel bad,” said Stafford.
“And I smell bad,” replied Yanick, “I’m going to have a shower. You should go talk to Jall!”
“Do I have to?” Stafford whined.
“After the way you treated him? You better!”
Noonan and Wowryk followed Big Jim back up the jefferies tube to the deck above. Wowryk had to fight hard not to puke when she looked up the ladder and saw Jim’s ample backside looking back at her. They walked down the dim corridor. Noonan’s ears perked up as he heard a deep roaring sound. It sounded almost like T’Parief, except it seemed to be fading in and out.
“Um, Big Jim, what is that?” asked Noonan.
“What is what?”
“I don’t hear nothing.”
Right. Noonan mentally kicked himself. Human ears wouldn’t be able to detect it yet. A little further…
“Hear it now?”
“Oh yeah,” said Jim with a smile, “I reckon it’s that ‘gator that little Jimmy caught us for supper.”
“‘Gator?” asked Wowrk.
Noonan, Wowryk and Jim burst into the arboretum. T’Parief was still hanging from the spit, yelling his brains out. Fortunately the fire was still pretty small, but a fat lady with mottled skin, a white eye and a few wisps of hair was already cranking the spit. The spinning caused the strange fading effect Noonan had noticed as T’Parief was spun to face the wall, then the door, and then the wall again.
“LET ME GO! Ow! Hot! Hot! RELEASE ME AT ONCE! I AM A Starfleet officer, not DINNER!”
“Good God!” exclaimed Noonan. Wowryk glared at him, then quickly crossed herself.
“Get him out of there!” she yelled.
“Um, I have a slight problem with fire,” said Noonan.
“Fine! I’ll do it myself!” Wowryk stormed over to the spit and starting stomping out the fire. T’Parief gasped in relief.
“Doctor, I’ve never been so happy to see you! Please tell me you brought burn cream!”
Noonan walked over and together the two of them untied T’Parief. He snarled at the woman, causing her to give a little jump back.
“This ‘gator a friend of yours?” asked Big Jim.
“Yes,” replied Noonan, “he is one of my officers. And he is not a ‘gator’. He is, well, that’s a long story.”
“Not a ‘gator?” cried the woman, “Well he sure looks like one to me! But I reckon that if he’s a friend of yers, we better not eat him. Yet.”
“This here,” said Big Jim, “is my lovely wife Bertha.”
“Charmed,” said Wowryk flatly.
“Our youngens, Little Jim, Jimmy, and Daisy-May are probably hiding in that there tree. Come out here, you little varmints!”
Three children emerged from the foliage. The oldest was perhaps 19 with hideously blistered skin, no hair and an extra nose growing out of his forehead. The other two were twins. Their skin was just as blistered, but they still had thinning hair.
“My God,” exclaimed Wowryk. She blushed, crossed herself and pulled out her tricorder, “long term exposure to radiation. Non-fatal, barely! Can cause blistering, baldness, blindness, mutations, erectile dysfunction, reduced life-span-“
“Yes, thank you for that,” Noonan cut her off, “can we get this test over with so we can get you to safety and complete our mission?”
“If ye say so!” said Big Jim.
“What test?” rumbled T’Parief.
“We need to prove to them that we’re not here to steal their ‘property’.
“And how do we do that? Our mission is to reclaim this ship.”
“Yer gonna talk ter the Great Connie Puder! She will decide your fate!”
“She? What is it with us and power hungry females?” asked T’Parief.
Wowryk looked at the floor.
“Sorry,” he muttered.
“Where is this shrine?” asked Noonan.
“Deep within the ground, from where the breath of life comes and only the brave dare to go!” declared Big Jim.
“Oh,” Noonan thought for a moment. “engineering.”
“To the caves!” croaked Bertha.
Pysternzykz and Jeffery were working their way up the jefferies tube from the engineering section. Jeffery was just reaching for the hatch when it opened of it’s own accord and a blistered, fat face looked down.
“AHHHH!!!” screamed Jeffery. He scrambled back down the ladder, stepping on Pysternzykz head and climbing over the Andorian as he tried to escape.
“Watch it, coward!” snapped the Pysternzykz. He looked up into the hideous face.
“We got us some funny critters in here,” said Big Jim.
Noonan peered down the shaft.
“Oh, those are more of my people.”
Big Jim looked strangely at Noonan. “You work with some funny looking things!”
“Well Jim, the Federation and Starfleet include numerous races and cultures, most of which have appearances different from that of humans…” Noonan took in the blank look on Jim’s face, “…and you have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. Never mind. Let’s go.”
“Where are we going?” asked Jeffery from down the shaft.
Big Jim put his hand over his heart. “The Shine of the Great Connie Puder.”
“Main Engineering,” explained Noonan.
“But we just climbed all the way up from there!”
“Weakling human!” snapped Pysternzykz, “I am ready to serve, Commander.”
The bizarre procession of humans, non-humans, humans with severe radiation sickness and Commander Noonan (still feeling terrible) climbed down the jefferies tube through the neck of the ship towards the ‘Shrine of the Great Connie Puder’. Jeffery and Noonan were at the front of the line, talking quietly.
“It sure looks like somebody has been doing something down there,” Jeffery was saying.
“Main Engineering is obviously this shrine,” replied Noonan.
“Yeah, but shrine to what?” asked Jeffery.
“You said there was a small altar,” said Noonan.
“Yeah,” Jeffery replied, “Dr. Wowryk keeps an alter in her office and her bedroom, so Ah knew what it was.”
“Why were you in her bedroom?”
“Ah wasn’t! Not really, anyway. Dr. Wowryk’s office. Queen Wowryk’s bedroom.”
“Right. Confusing. Anyway, where was the altar?”
“Right in front of the warp core,” said Jeffery.
“Oh. I doubt Dr. Wowryk would approve of that.”
Stafford stood outside of Lieutenant Jall’s quarters, mentally preparing himself. Aside from really not wanting to apologize to Jall, Stafford was developing a serious fear of entering another officer’s quarters. So far he had walked in on one nude officer (who had been painted pink) and one officer in a dream-induced coma.
Collecting his wits, Stafford rang the chime.
“Come in!” came Jall’s voice.
Stafford walked in the door, winced and shielded his eyes. Jall was wearing a blue spandex workout suit and dancing to bizarre, fast-paced music as he tapped away at the replicator panel.
“Oh God,” muttered Stafford., “Computer, music off!” He grabbed a housecoat off a nearby chair and tossed it at Jall.
“Look San, I know we haven’t gotten along very well since we started this mission. Mostly because of you.”
Jall pulled a bowl of soup out of the replicator, set it on the table, sat down and crossed his arms.
“But lately because of me,” continued Stafford, “it was wrong of me to suspect you of being up to something just because you were being nice for once. I apologize for not taking you at face value and for treating you badly.”
Jall flashed Stafford a bright smile. “Captain, you just made my day! Jall to Shwaluk. He cracked after 5 hours and 36 minutes! Pay up losers! I win!”
“What the hell?” asked Stafford.
“We had a little betting pool going on,” said Jall smugly, “How long before I could make you break down an apologized to me. I was down for between 5 and a half and 6 hours. I just won 4 extra vacation days! Ha-ha-ha!”
Stafford’s face reddened and a vein on his forehead started to throb. “Why you little son of a bitch! This was your plan from the beginning! You WERE up to something!”
“Yes,” said Jall, “yes I was. And it worked perfectly!”
Stafford reached across the table, grabbed Jall by the ears and slammed his face into the steaming soup.
“Enjoy your vacation, you prick!”
Noonan, Jim and company had arrived at Main Engineering, AKA the Shrine of the Great Connie Puder. Bertha and the kids knelt in front of the dimly glowing warp core, muttered a few prayers then took their seats. Wowryk was aghast.
“Worship of a warp core? Placing an inanimate piece of technology above Our Lord? THIS CANNOT STAND-“
“Quiet,” Noonan said as he slapped a hand over her mouth, “Finish the test first, re-educate later.”
Jeffery slumped against a side panel, exhausted from his multiple excursions through the tubes.
Big Jim walked up to the altar in front of the core, dropped to his knees and spread his arms.
“Oh Great Connie Puder,” he called out, “we are your humble servants. We pay our greatest homage to you, unworthy as we are. We ask ye for our daily bread, and to judge these here trespassers in thy great name!”
“Command unclear, please repeat,” came the static filled voice of a Starfleet computer system.
“Command unclear, please repeat” repeated Bertha and the kids reverently.
“Ye gotta be kidding me,” moaned Jeffery, “the ship’s computer???”
Noonan chuckled. “I asked for interesting,” he said quietly, “I sure got it!”
Big Jim was continuing his ‘prayer’. From the sounds of it, this same routine had been played out several times before.
“I repeat my humble request, oh Great Connie Puder,” Big Jim called out, “please provide us with sustenance, that we may continue to serve you.”
“There are a variety of foodstuffs available at this synthesizer. Please specify,” replied the voice of the computer.
“Please specify,” murmured Bertha and the kids.
“I ask ye humbly for a pot of rabbit stew, in thy great name.”
“In thy great name,” murmured Bertha and the kids.
“Insufficient power levels. Please make another selection,”
“Please make another selection,” murmured Bertha and the kids.
“Might we have a loaf of bread?”
“Working. Order complete.”
The synthesizer door opened and Jim pulled out a loaf of bread.
“We thank ye, mighty Connie Puder,” he said reverently.
“We thank ye,” repeated Bertha and the kids.
Big Jim turned to Noonan.
“The Great Connie Puder is the provider of all things. She gives us the light, the water, our food. But she has found us less than worthy for many seasons. We’ve had to survive from what we can grow, with only the occasional crust of bread from her! If ye can prove worthy of her, we’ll go with ye, and ye can take this ‘ship’ where ye wish.”
“Understood,” said Noonan, “might we have some privacy to determine our plan of action?”
Big Jim nodded, gathered his family and retreated to the jefferies tube access hatch.
“Ah don’t believe this,” said Jeffery, “‘Connie Puder!” Give me a break!”
“Hey,” said Wowryk, “who knows how long these poor souls have been stuck here! They don’t have the education to understand what’s going on!”
“Yes ma’am,” said Jeffery quietly.
“So all we must do,” rumbled T’Parief,” is get a food synthesizer running?”
“Apparently,” said Noonan, leaning against a support strut, “Jeffery, what do you think?’
“Easy!” he said, “Ye just have to know what to do!”
“Excellent. Try to be grandiose about it. The more we impress them, the easier it will be to get them out of here!”
After calling Big Jim and his family back in, Noonan, T’Parief and Pysternzykz were kneeling in front of the warp core. Jeffery finished making adjustments on the only functional engineering control panel then took the center position in front of the altar. Wowryk sat against the far wall, having flatly refused to participate.
“Computer,” started Jeffery. Noonan cleared his throat loudly.
“Oh,” said Jeffery, “Ahem. Oh Great Connie Puder, we come humbly into your presence in the hopes of proving worthy of your gifts.”
“Command unclear, please repeat,” stated the computer.
“Command unclear, please repeat,” murmed the others. Noonan struggled against his nausea and the urge to laugh at the situation.
“We beg thee to increase antimatter flow rate by 23 % and transfer plasma flow to EPS taps 2,3 and 6.”
Big Jim and his family looked at each other in confusion as the Starfleet officers murmered, “By 23%, 2,3 and 6.”
“Procedure complete,” replied the computer.
“We humbly implore thee to adjust the dilithium articulation frame angle by 2.132 degrees on the X axis,” called out Jeffery.
“2.132 on the X axis,” murmured the other officers.
“Procedure complete,” replied the computer.
“Oh Great Connie Puder,” yelled out Jeffery, “I COMMAND YOU! Increase warp core power levels by 14 percent!”
“14 percent” cried out Pysternzykz”
“LET THERE BE LIGHT!!!” screamed Jeffery as he threw his arms back.
Lighting came up to full power in as the energy in the warp core swirled faster, and brightened. Bertha screamed in fear as Jeffery cackled maniacally.
Wowryk rolled her eyes as Noonan walked over to the food synthesizer.
“Computer, T-Bone steak, medium rare with garden baked potatoes and a healthy helping of vegetables,” he ordered. He withdrew the steaming plate from the synthesizer after it dinged, and handed it to Big Jim. The large man was still trembling.
Jeffery, arms still outstretched looked around, as though remembering that there were other people in the room. He dropped his arms, hunched his shoulders and blushed.
“Sorry, Ah was really getting into the role,” he said sheepishly.
“Can we go home now?” asked T’Parief.
Noonan, T’Parief, Wowryk, Pysternzykz and the refugees from the Stallion were all crammed into the shuttle. Despite having the air re-circulators cranked, the smell of sickness and body odor saturated the shuttle. Noonan, still feeling unwell, was sitting in the rear. Big Jim was looking out the window at the Stallion.
“Wow,” he said, “it ain’t nothin’ like I imagined,”
“Pysternzykz,” called Noonan, “take us back to Silverado. Nice and easy this time please.”
“Fine,” muttered Pysternzykz. He quickly located one of the access paths and guided the shuttle towards the edge of the debris field.
Wowryk was sitting next to Jeffery.
“That was an interesting performance,” she finally said.
Jeffery looked at his feet,
“Ah used to be in Drama school,” he said, “but Ah was always too shy to get up on the stage,”
“You did pretty well,” said Wowryk.
“Yeah. Ah’ve been feeling very different since…y’know.”
“Since I enslaved you and made you my unwilling consort?” Wowryk said quietly.
“Who said Ah was unwilling?” said Jeffery quietly. He blushed again and looked at the floor.
Wowryk felt…strange. Most men had earned only disdain from her. They were horny, messy, uncouth, loud, boisterous slobs! But Jeffery was a quiet, shy, highly trained, intelligent engineer. Yes, it was Queen Wowryk who had chosen him as a suitor. But maybe that was her subconscious trying to tell her something. She still felt…attracted to him. She gave Jeffery a small smile.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 56197.4
“Our away team has returned from the wreck of the Stallion along with some guests. Dr. Wowryk took the whole group immediately to Sickbay and informs me that while they have suffered serious long-term radiation exposure, she can treat the majority of their maladies. None of them are going to be doing any more breeding anytime soon, but I think we can all live with that.”
“True to his word, Commander Krak and his team cleared a path through the debris and towed the Stallion out of the debris field. Once it was clear of the radiation, Lieutenant Commander Jeffery was able to send his crew over to prepare the ship for towing. They’ve brought back some interesting information.”
“So they were marooned there by pirates??” asked Stafford.
“No,” replied Lieutenat Fifebee,” their ancestors were. Apparently a group of pirates were sneaking into the depot and ‘skillfully acquiring’ parts and materials from the wrecked ships. According to the logs I found there was some kind of argument. The losers of that argument were left on the Stallion to rot, over 60 years ago. Most of them died out due to the radiation, but Big Jim and Bertha were born to the survivors and have been living there ever since.”
“Horrible way to grow up,” muttered Stafford.
“Certainly,” replied Fifebee, “In any event, they will be handed over to Starfleet Medical and rehabilitated once we return the Stallion to Earth.”
“How are they adjusting?”
“You mean aside from praying to the replicators and urinating in the arboretum?”
“Nevermind,” said Stafford, rubbing his forehead, “thank you Lieutenant, dismissed.”
Fifebee exited, and Jeffery walked in.
“We’re all set for towing,” he said as he dropped down on Stafford’s couch, “tractor beams all set, warp field adjustments complete.”
“Great,” said Stafford dryly, “and you had to come all the way up here to tell me this why?”
“Um, I kinda had something else to ask you about,” said Jeffery.
“Oh, OK. Shoot,” said Stafford.
“What do ye think of Dr. Wowryk?”
“Well, she’s kinda frigid,” replied Stafford, “Doesn’t like men very much. She’s a pretty good doctor, if you don’t piss her off anyway. I wouldn’t know, I always seem to be on her bad side. Why?”
“Well, Ah think Ah kinda…think Ah like her,”
“Are you crazy?” asked Stafford, shocked, “That woman will eat you alive and spit out the bones!”
“Oh,” said Jeffery.
Stafford held his breath, “But what am I saying? Maybe you’re seeing a different side of her than I am. Just keep in mind that she’s a bit…different, and that some part of her enslaved this entire ship.”
“Uh, right,” said Jeffery, “well, I better get back to Engineering.”
“Talk to you later,” said Stafford.
Jeffery walked out. Yanick walked in.
<Geez,> thought Stafford, <Don’t these people have anything better to do?>
“So, did you apologize to Jall?” Yanick asked as sat down.
“Oh, I apologized all right,” said Stafford, “and then I kicked his scheming little ass!”
“Because his good behavior was all a ploy!” said Stafford angrily, “He had a bet going on to see how long it would take me to apologize!”
“Oh,” Yanick frowned, “that’s not very nice!”
“No, it sure as hell isn’t!”
“He did,” Stafford grinned, “but in the end, I’m going to be the winner. Dismissed.”
Alone at last, Stafford started filling out his personnel transfer form.
The next morning, Stafford, Noonan, Yanick, Fifebee and Jeffery were all manning the bridge stations. On the main viewscreen was a rear view looking out between the Silverado’s nacelles. The much smaller Stallion floated in space. Jeffery and his repair teams had powered up some of the decommissioned ship’s systems for the trip back to Earth. A single running light blinked forlornly.
“Engage tractor beam,” ordered Stafford.
“Engaged,” replied Jeffery.
On the screen a pale blue beam shot out from the Silverado to gently grip the Stallion.
“Ensign Yanick, set course for Earth, warp 4,”
“You bet! Course set and ready to go!” reported Yanick.
“Lieutenant Kintaine,” Stafford addressed the officer manning Ops, “advise Commander Krak that we are departing.”
“Take care of my baby,” came the sad, dry voice.
“Whatever, sicko,” muttered Stafford.
The two ships leapt into warp.
Stafford was sitting back in Unbalanced Equations, once again enjoying the view out the large windows and sipping a Klingon Martini. He could see the stars streaking by, and the Stallion hanging behind like a dog on a leash. The nacelle grills were glowing a brilliant bright blue from the warp plasma. Jeffery sat down next to Stafford.
“Ah heard about that little joke Jall pulled on ye,” he said, “not cool. Do ye want me to dig up some horrid job for him?’
“Oh, I’ve already managed that,” said Stafford with a smile, “but thanks for offering.”
“Sweet!” said Jeffery, “what did ye do?”
Stafford pointed out the window. A single space suited figure was standing on the upper engineering hull, held in place with magnetic boots. The figure was working to strip off the old paint a section at a time and smoothen the hull in preparation for the new coat.
“How long as he been out there?” asked Jeffery.
“Oh, about ten hours now,” said Stafford as he waved out the window at the Jall. Jall raised one glove and extended his middle figure.
“Stafford to Jall,” Stafford said as he tapped his comm-badge, “That’s good for another hour. Have fun!”
Fifebee and Yanick came over with a tray full of drinks. “Looks like somebody is having a good time!” said Yanick.
“Very much so,” replied Stafford., “Ladies, please, grab a seat, make yourselves comfortable and enjoy the view.”
Next on Silverado: After 5 stories worth of puttering around, Stafford and his crew are finally ready to head off into deep space! They just have to tie up some loose ends first.