Author: Brendan Chris
Captain Christopher Stafford stood on the bridge of the U.S.S. Silverado. On the main screen was the old box dock in which his ship had taken on new life. Soon, another ship would occupy that berth. Silverado had returned to Earth to deliver the U.S.S. Stallion, a Constitution-class starship that was to be recycled by ‘Operation Salvage’, much like Silverado herself had been. The hygienically challenged former inhabitants of the Stallion had already been transported down to Starfleet Medical.
“All right, Ensign,” Stafford said to Ensign Yanick, “Take us through nice and easy.”
“Gotcha!” replied Yanick with a grin. She slowly guided the ship into the box dock. On screen, the girders and supports passed by as Silverado entered the dock.
Stafford stopped, looked at the screen and cocked his head. It looked like the ship was heading a bit too far to the right. Naw, he was just being paranoid.
“We’re inside the dock,” reported Lieutenant Jall.
“Good, keep going,” replied Stafford. He looked back at the screen. Now things were DEFINATLY too far to the right, “Trish!” he said, panicked.
Yanick looked up from where she had been diligently focusing on her console, chewing on a strand of hair, “Oh sh**!” She tapped at the console, overcompensated and sent the ship towards the opposite wall. Missing the girders by mere meters, she straightened the ship out and glided out the other end of the dock.
“All stop,” ordered Stafford as he collapsed, sweating, into his command chair.
Hanging behind the Silverado, locked in a tractor beam, was the Stallion, now perfectly centered in the box dock.
“Box dock control reports that the Stallion is secure, we can release our tractor beam,” reported Jall.
“Acknowledged,” said Stafford,
“They also wish to commend us on our excellent maneuvering capabilities,” Jall added with a smirk. “
Yanick looked back at Stafford, “I’m sorry,” she said in a small voice.
Stafford walked over and took a look at her console. The course schematic showed that the Silverado had flown on a perfect course until suddenly careening through the port wall of the dock and continuing off at a bizarre angle.
Stafford frowned, “Funny, I don’t remember us crashing,”
“Me neither,” piped up Jall, “And I am VERY sure I would remember it if we did.”
“Shut up,” said Stafford, “Our sub-light navigational systems must have malfunctioned. Jall, Fifebee, you better look into this. Before we really do crash into something.”
“Understood,” replied Fifebee from the science station.
“Fine,” groaned Jall.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 56206.4
“Well, here we are again. Right back where we started. Literally. At least we’re moving up in the world. We’ve been ordered to report to slip 4-D in Spacedock, which is one hell of a step up for us. Now we just need to fix this little navigational problem.”
Lieutenant Fifebee stood atop the saucer section of the ship, running a tricorder over the upper sensor platform. Directly behind her was the bridge dome. Jall was again at the starboard auxiliary console. The large wall panel display of the L-shaped panel provided a more specialized workstation than the Operations console at the front of the bridge.
“Do you have any idea how f**ked up this is?” said Jall. Displayed on his screen was an image of Fifebee, walking around outside the ship - without a spacesuit!
“I don’t need to breath,” Fifebee reminded Jall, “And the range of my holo-relay does extend a short distance beyond the saucer hull.”
“It still looks weird,” Jall muttered, “Have you located the problem?”
“Not yet,” responded Fifebee.
“It’s gotta be one of those sensor units,” Jall insisted, “Everything else checks out fine!”
“I’ve already checked the…oh…you agree. Good. Fine. Swell. I’ll just shut up then.” Jall sat back to monitor Fifebee’s tricorder readings.
“Please do,” she replied. Walking towards the edge of the sensor platform she started picking up strange readings from one of the sensor clusters.
“Are you seeing this?” Jall’s voice asked, piped directly into her program (there’s no sound in space after all, except for really cool special effects).
“Yes,” she replied, annoyed, “This sensor cluster is malfunctioning, and causing the computer to incorrectly compute our position.”
“Stop talking like a f**king Vulcan,” snapped Jall, “It’s driving me crazy!”
“Your never ending profanity is having a similar effect on me!” Fifebee snapped back.
“Hey, I can recall YOU using a few choice words before!”
“There’s a time and a place for everything, including kicking your ass!”
“You wouldn’t have the guts!”
“Silence, you filthy p’tak!” Fifebee screamed. Klingon cranial ridges had suddenly started growing out of her forehead. She took a deep breath, focused, and the ridges disappeared.
“My apologies Lieutenant,” she said, calm and cool again, “That was the personality of P’Tang, a scientist for the Klingon military.”
“Well I never would have figured that one out!”
“I have pinpointed the malfunctioning components,” Fifebee reported. She knelt on the hull and pulled open an access panel, revealing a mess of fried components covered in a thick, gooey sludge.
“So let me get this straight,” Stafford said as he paced the conference lounge, “Somebody at the manufacturing plant takes a snack break, accidentally seals a jelly-filled donut in a sensor control module, which just happens to get sent to us and then functions properly for several weeks before dying right in the middle of delicate maneuvers?
“That’s correct,” stated Fifebee.
“Why me,” muttered Stafford.
“Because you were mean to me?” asked Jall.
“No,” said Stafford, “Being mean to you doesn’t count. You’re always asking for it! Fifebee, is everything fixed now?”
“I checked the other modules on that sensor platform. There were no more donuts.”
“Good. Co-ordinate with Ensign Yanick, run a couple of tests. If everything is working properly make arrangements to dock.”
“I’m taking my break,” said Jall, “All this talk of donuts has made me hungry!”
Some time later, Stafford was pacing across the bridge as Ensign Yanick guided Silverado towards the massive hanger doors of Spacedock. Yanick was again chewing on a thick strand of hair, but this time her attention was divided between her console readouts and the image on screen. Stafford didn’t have the heart to tell her that Spacedock tractor beams were doing most of the work at this point.
Silverado eased carefully into the hanger and began to float towards her assigned berth.
“Now arriving at slip 4-D, U.S.S.Silverado, NCC-135060,” announced the Spacedock computer. Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Vens were dining in one of Spacedock’s more upscale restaurants. Huge observation windows looked out into the cavernous hanger. Mrs. Vens turned her head towards the incoming ship and took in the dented, mismatched hull plating.
“Disgraceful, the appearance of that one,” she said, nose uplifted.
“Quite so, my dear,” replied her husband, “Most undignified.”
“She really should be put out to pasture, a vessel of such obviously poor condition.”
“I quite agree.”
Stafford released a held breath as the ship settled into its slip. Immediately a series of umbilicals reached out to various airlocks and connection points all over the ship’s hull.
“Ok, so here we are…now what?” Stafford asked.
“Captain Stafford, report to Admiral Tunney’s office. Deck 23, section B4.”
Stafford shrugged, “That was convenient.”
Stafford walked into a large reception room. An attractive young brunette was sitting behind the desk.
“Hey,” he said, “I’m Captain Stafford, I’m supposed to see Admiral Tunney.”
“Of course Captain, go right in,”
“Don’t I wish,’ Stafford muttered.
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“Um, never mind!”
Stafford walked through the door into the inner office. It was pretty standard as offices went. A desk. Walls. Things hanging on walls. And a middle aged man with a goatee and admiral’s insignia sitting behind the desk. The man stood to great Stafford.
“Greetings Captain, I’m Admiral Edward Tunney,”
“Admiral,” Stafford said as he shook Tunney’s hand.
“Have a seat,” Tunney turned to look out his office window, “So, you’ve had your ship for a few weeks now. How is she doing?”
“We’ve…had our challenges,” replied Stafford cautiously.
“I understand you had a ‘challenge’ this morning delivering the Stallion.”
“Yes, but we fixed the problem.”
“And what was that problem?”
“Well…whoever manufactured one of our sensor control modules left a…umm…a fruit-paste-filled, high-carbohydrate snack food inside.”
“You mean a jelly donut?” asked Tunney.
“Um, yeah,” answered Stafford, “Anyway, Fifebee, Um Lieutenant Jane 5-B tells me that when we came out of the Earth’s shadow and direct sunlight hit the hull, the heat melted the jelly, which shorted out the circuitry in one of the guidance sensor modules.”
Tunney turned to face Stafford, “You’re kidding, right?”
“I have her tricorder data right her,” Stafford said, handing over an isolinear chip.
“I see,” Admiral Tunney sat down facing Stafford, “I will cut straight to the point, Captain. You have been transferred to my command while Admiral Grant continues to oversee Operation Salvage. Now that you are under my flag I have to figure out what to do with an outdated, recycled ship and a crew that is sorely lacking in experience.”
“She’s not that outdated anymore!” objected Stafford, “She’s been equipped with top of the line, um, equipment. We’re just having some trouble making it all work together.”
“So I see. Captain, I am inclined to let you continue to putter around the local star systems doing easy, menial assignments until you get everything straightened out and gain some experience. Unfortunately that choice is not open to me. Starfleet has determined that the best place for you is far away from here. You’re being sent on a tour of exploration in the Beta Quadrant, towards the galactic core. “
“Yes!” hissed Stafford.
“Quite,” said Tunney flatly. “The details will be sent to your ship. You will spend the next week being supplied and outfitted for this mission, which is likely to be long term.”
“How long term?” asked Stafford.
Tunney shrugged, “It depends on what you find out there. You may place your crew on shore leave rotation, provided enough of them are around to assist with loading cargo and supplies for your mission. Oh, and an engineering team will be refinishing your hull. You will be representing the Federation and you need to look your best, not like you’ve been to hell and back!”
“Who-hoo!” called out Stafford as he danced around the office, “We’re finally getting a paint job!”
“Captain, please, behave like a professional,” Tunney snapped.
“Ahem, um, yes sir, sorry sir,” said Stafford as he sat back down.
“You will be receiving an additional 100 crewmen, bringing you up to a full complement. I understand there have been many requests to bring families aboard, which you will of course accommodate.”
“Families?” whined Stafford, “You mean kids? Annoying little brats who are going to run around mucking stuff up and causing overall trouble? I thought the Dominion war ended all that’ families on starships’ crap!”
“The Dominion war was years ago! We’re getting over it!”
Stafford sighed, “Yes, sir. I’m just not very fond of children.”
“Families can be an excellent way to enrich life on a starship.”
“I bet,” muttered Stafford.
At that moment the terminal on Admiral Tunney’s desk started beeping. “Tunney here,” he said.
“Sorry to disturb you, Admiral,” came the voice of the receptionist, “But Gail is online for you.”
Tunney sighed, “Patch her through,”
A middle aged, dark-skinned woman with dreadlocks appeared on the screen.
“Edward!” she barked, “What is taking you so long? I have been waiting for you to show up here for 15 minutes!”
“Um, sorry honey,” said Tunney.
“And other thing, you took my morning news! That is MY news! You keep your grubby paws off of it!”
“Yes, dear,” said Tunney.
“And if I hear of you sweet-talking that attractive young secretary of yours, I WILL kick your ass!”
“Now get down here, now!” The ‘End Transmission’ screen appeared.
“Your girlfriend?” Stafford asked.
“My wife,” replied Tunney, “Not. A single. Word. You have your instructions, Captain. Dismissed.”
Stafford was positively skipping as he exited Tunney’s office. As he passed the receptionist, he paused, took her hand and kissed her knuckles gently.
“You are a beautiful woman,” he said, “Meet me for dinner tonight? I could show you the time of your life!”
She held up her other hand, revealing a gold wedding band.
“Or not,” Stafford finished. He gave her a big smile then danced happily down the corridor.
After Stafford was gone, Tunney’s secretary gave a sigh of relief and pulled the fake wedding ring off.
“What the hell is taking him so long?” complained Lieutenant Jall.
“He’s meeting an Admiral,” Yanick said, “They’re probably doing important stuff!”
“Yeah, but what are we supposed to do? Count the rivets in the hanger bulkhead? He could have let us go off-duty before he left!”
“Regulations require that some crew remain on-duty on a docked ship unless all systems have been powered down and control has been transferred to the docking facility,” stated Fifebee, “As we have not yet been ordered to do so, crew must remain at their stations.”
“Yes,” said Jall, annoyed, “I know THAT! Control has already been transferred. So why didn’t he send us off-duty?”
“He probably forgot,”
“Exactly, he’s an idiot!” said Jall.
“He is also your commanding officer,” said T’Parief, “You should watch your tongue, before somebody cuts it out. Or charges you with insubordination.”
“Again!” giggled Yanick.
The rear turbolift swished open and Stafford jumped gleefully onto the bridge.
“Hello everybody!” he said happily. He gave T’Parief a pat on the back as he passed tactical, gave Fifebee a quick hug, then skipped down to the conn to give Yanick a peck on the cheek. “Isn’t it a wonderful day, my friends?”
“What are you, stoned?” asked Jall.
“Shut up, San,” replied Stafford with a grin, “Where is good old Noonan?”
“Assisting Mr. Jeffery on deck 10,” replied Fifebee. She paused, then asked “Why are you so happy?”
“I just got our new orders,” Stafford said, “Not only are we getting sent out on a mission of exploration but we get shore leave first and we’re getting a new paint job too!”
“Excellent,” said T’Parief with a toothy grin, “Opportunities for honor, glory and the discovery of tasty new snacks!”
“Exploration?” asked Yanick, “As in really far away?”
“Yup!” said Stafford happily.
“Yippee,” muttered Jall.
“Oh, don’t be so negative! This is great! Except for the having kids part. But we get to meet new civilizations, advance our careers AND we get a paint job!”
“Hold on,” said Yanick, “Kids? I didn’t think giving birth would be part of this assignment!”
Stafford stared at her blankly for a moment, then laughed, “Not you! We’re bringing families aboard. I hate kids, but for a paint job they can give us a f**king nursery school for all I care!”
“So what’s the catch?” asked Jall.
“The catch,” said Stafford, “Is that somebody has to stay behind to help co-ordinate loading cargo and supplies for an extended trip. Somebody who isn’t really a team player and causes unnecessary problems for the rest of the crew.”
“Oh gee,” said Jall flatly, “I wonder who that could be.”
“Have fun!” said Stafford,”Everybody else, you’re on leave for the next week. Advise your departments. Operations and Engineering will retain skeleton crews, everybody else can depart.”
“As I don’t require leave time, I should stay and assist Mr. Jall,” stated Fifebee.
“Nope,” replied Stafford, “Afraid not. You should see some Earth culture before you leave. You’re coming with me.”
“Are you attempting to seduce me?” asked Fifebee with an arched eyebrow.
“What? No!” objected Stafford, “I just thought you’d like to see a bit of Earth!”
“An interesting proposal,” Fifebee said,” where do you suggest we go?”
“Remember that city we accidentally went back in time to?”
“Not really. I was not yet part of the crew.”
“Oh,” Stafford frowned, “Right. Well, anyway, I wanted to see it now. Toronto, in what used to be Canada.”
“I accept,” Fifebee replied.
“Great,” said Stafford, “See you at the starboard airlock in an hour.”
As the other officers piled into the rear turbolift, T’Parief focused on his tactical console. He saw no point in taking shore leave. His family was on a science colony, much too far away for the time he had. And he had taken shore leave not too long ago, on Quo’nos, to attend his cousin’s Age of Ascension and to visit the Klingon side of his family. He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn’t notice Ensign Yanick standing by his station.
“Hello?” she said, “Earth to T’Parief? Anybody home?”
T’Parief gave a grunt of surprise and looked up.
“My apologies Ensign, I didn’t see you there.”
“Obviously,” she replied, “So whatcha up to? Aren’t you heading out?”
“No. I have no desire for shore leave,”
“So you’re going to stay here and help Jall??” Yanick frowned, “Why??”
“I am going to stay here,” stated T’Parief, “But I will not be helping Jall!”
“Ah. Well, look. I thought I’d see if you maybe wanted to do something before we ship out?”
“You,” stated T’Parief, “And me?”
“Well yeah,” said Yanick, “My parents have this gorgeous cattle farm in the prairies. You’d love it! And my parents love meeting my friends and shipmates. You should come by and see us.”
“I see,” replied T’Parief, “Friends.”
Inside T’Parief felt something sink. He had thought for a short time that Yanick was interested in him. But she had been spending a lot of time with Captain Stafford lately. Having her say the dreaded ‘f’ word pretty much sunk his chances with her. On the other hand, he was going to be working with her for some time. Refusing her invitation could be rude. Besides, maybe he could convince her he was the better catch…
“Very well,” he said, “You may inform your parents that I would be honored to attend.”
“Oh, cut the formalities!” Trish giggled, “I’ll comm you and tell you when!”
She started walking, then looked back.
“What do you eat, anyway?”
“Meat,” he replied, “Preferably bloody.”
“OK,” said Trish, “I think we’ll be able to manage that! C ya!” She flashed him another big smile then left.
“Somebody’s gonna get lucky!” said Jall with a smirk.
“Oh T’Parief,” said Jall in a high, mocking effeminate voice, “Won’t you join us for dinner? It would be ever so delightful!”
“Oh, take me you big lizard you!”
T’Parief stalked off the bridge. Jall chuckled.
“Peace at last.”
Foreman Garroth Lynch stood in the cramped cockpit of the construction ship Caterpillar. The U.S.S.Silverado was visible in the front window. Her nacelles were powered down and most of the windows were dark. If one looked very closely at the tunnels connecting her airlocks to the hanger wall one could see the last stragglers disembarking.
“I can’t believe we got these jerks again,” he grunted. Few were dreading the homecoming of President Dillon as much as Lynch, who would have to take responsibility for a public relations disaster caused by a prank he pulled on the Silverado crew.
“Whatcha gonna do, boss?” asked his construction chief.
“I’m not doing nothing,” said Lynch, “Not much anyway. I’m in enough s**t as it is. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to push the limits of making them miserable though…”
Lieutenant Jall was sleeping peacefully in his quarters; dreaming of warm sunshine, cool lemonade and hot, tanned bodies. His slumber was disturbed by high-pitched, squealing racket.
“Huh? What the f**k?” he mumbled as he rolled over in bed. He struggled to sit up. San was slow to wake on a good morning. In the middle of the night, he was practically comatose.
“Computer, cease wake-up call,” he muttered. The squealing continued. “I said f**king stop it!”
“Wake-up call will not be initiated for 3 hours and 28 minutes,” replied the computer, “And watch your language young man! I don’t want to hear you using that word!”
“Make the noise stop!” Jall moaned. He rolled over again and fell out of bed. The impact gave him enough of a jolt to stagger to his feet. He padded naked over to door and poked his head out.
The sound was less intense in the deserted corridor. As his mind started to clear he noticed that the sound was coming from the direction of the hull. That was ridiculous! Sound didn’t travel in space!
Jall looked out his window into the cavernous hanger of Spacedock. Sitting about ten meters away was a workbee. It had been fitted with some kind of beam emitter, which was being focused on the hull outside Jall’s quarters.
“Silverado to workbee…” Jall squinted at the numbers painted on the tiny ship’s hull,” …2847-8. What the hell are you doing?”
“Hidy-ho Silverado!” came a cheerful British voice, “We’re just using this here particle beam to do some smoothening work on your hull. Once we finish this up and slap on the new paint you’ll be looking good as new!”
“Um, yeah, about that,” said Jall, “You do realize that thing sounds like a cat being hideously tortured?? I AM TRYING TO SLEEP!”
“Terribly sorry, we’re having a small problem with our harmonic modulator.”
“Terribly sorry, we’re on a very tight schedule. But don’t worry; the noise will go down in about 14 hours or so. Nice legs by the way.”
Jall jumped back from the window and grabbed his housecoat. He returned long enough to direct a raised middle finger out the window, then stormed out of his quarters.
Simon Jeffery walked into Engineering the next morning. He was working ‘part-time’, so to speak. Stafford had offered him shore leave, but Jeffery had protested.
“There is way too much work to be done,” Jeffery had said, “We’ve still got enough glitches in the systems to keep me busy for months!”
“We have months,” Stafford had replied, “This is going to be a long trip. You wouldn’t want it to get boring, would you?”
In the end Jeffery had compromised. Like most of the crew he was staying on Earth for the week. He was also coming up to tinker with the ship for a few hours every day. Lieutenant Jall was the only person unlucky enough to be assigned to the ship full time.
Jeffery grabbed his tool kit and started towards jefferies tube junction 23-13B, a major access point for various systems in the rear of the engineering section. One of the EPS power couplings had been fluctuating, causing instabilities in the gravity fields on Deck 24. Several crewmen had complained after being stuck to the ceiling for half an hour.
After crawling through the tube Jeffery climbed out into the junction, tripping on a soft bundle on the floor.
“Ow,” moaned a voice.
“AHH!!” yelled Jeffery. He stumbled back and rummaged around in his tool kit until he found a laser welder. He pointed it at the pile of blankets and called out; “Identify yourself!”
“Take a pill,” said Jall as he poked his head out of the blankets, “It’s just me!”
“You? What the hell are ye doing here?”
“Well Ah kinda figured that part out!” snapped Jeffery, “What I want to know is why!”
“Because,” said Jall, “This is the most heavily shielded section of the ship, and the crew working on the hull is making an unbelievable amount of racket.” Jall was too tired to think of anything sarcastic to say.
“Oh,” said Jeffery, lowering the welder, “That makes sense then. Fine. OK. Sorry about that.”
“No problem,” muttered Jall as he gathered his blankets around his thin frame, “Hey, could you help me with a problem in Cargo Bay 2? The door won’t open, and we have supplies due to be delivered.”
“Are ye asking me as a favor or as the ship’s Operations Officer” Jeffery asked with a smirk.
“Whichever works,” Jall replied.
“Operations Officer. All right, Ah’ll take a look at it once Ah’m done here.”
A few hours later, Jeffery and Jall were prying at the loading door of Cargo Bay 2. Although the bay contained a cargo transporter, it was more energy efficient to use the outer doors rather than the transporter if large volumes of cargo were being loaded. Since Silverado was expected to be out for some time, there were many supplies to be loaded.
“Man, this thing is seized all to s**t!” gasped Jeffery.
“I thought duranium didn’t rust!” Jall gasped back.
“It’s not rust! Whatever they were hauling in here fifty years ago has congealed, dried and hardened to the consistency of neutronium!”
Jall continued to chip away at the material caked along the edges while Jeffery had wedged an old-fashioned pry bar into the seam under the door and was pushing down with all his might. He gave up in disgust.
“This isn’t working!” he said, “We need to try something different. He walked out of the cargo bay.
Ten minutes later, Jeffery walked back in with a backpack tank of WD-2340 Ultra and a handheld spraying wand. He proceeded to spray the substance liberally around the edges of the door.
“And what is that supposed to do?” asked Jall.
“Hopefully,” said Jeffery, “Loosen or soften this stuff enough for the door to open!”
He sprayed for several more minutes.
“All right Lieutenant,” he said to Jall, “Give it a try.”
Jall hit the ‘Open” button on the console. The door groaned, then slid open an inch or so. The atmospheric containment field snapped on to prevent any air from escaping.
“It’s a start,” said Jeffery happily,” now close it, and try again.”
This time the door rose about a foot. By working the door open and closed Jall was finally able to get the door open all the way. Bits of the troublesome substance had been scraped off the door and lay on the cargo bay floor.
“We should analyze this stuff,” said Jeffery, “It would make great glue.”
Jall glared at him, “F**k it, I’m just glad it’s gone.”
The atmospheric containment field behind them started snapping and fizzling.
Jall and Jeffery looked at each other.
“Oh s**t!” they yelled, then ran towards the exit. The field gave up altogether. Atmosphere rushed out of the cargo bay, sucking Jall and Jeffery out the open cargo bay door.
Stafford yawned. He was staying in Officer’s Quarters in San Francisco. Accommodations were offered to officers who preferred to stay on the planet surface rather than on their ship or station. His parents had invited him to stay with them for the week, but he had decided against that plan.
After enjoying a quiet, slow revival (as opposed to an abrupt wake-up call) Stafford showered, shaved and dressed. Leaving his assigned quarters he walked over to the janitorial closet. Inside was Fifebee’s holo-relay. Stafford powered up the device. It rose on its anti-grav units and lines of data began to scroll up the display screen as it established a connection to the holographic memory core aboard Silverado.
Fifebee abruptly materialized behind Stafford.
“I am Jane 5-B, sentient hologram. Good morning, Captain,” she said icily, “I hope you slept well in your comfortable bed in your private quarters.”
“I’m sorry they were filled to capacity Fifebee,” said Stafford, “I guess I thought you wouldn’t mind, being turned off and all.”
“I dislike being deactivated,” Fifebee replied, “It’s very….unsettling.”
“I booked two hotel rooms in Toronto,” Stafford said, “I promise we won’t have to shut you down again.”
“Thank you, Captain,”
“And stop calling me Captain. We’re on leave. Call me Chris,” Stafford said.
“OK, Chris,” Fifebee replied, “You can call me Jane.”
“Great, now that we’ve gotten the formalities out of the way, let’s get breakfast.” Stafford saw the look of amusement on Fifebee’s face,” OK, so I’ll eat breakfast and you can keep me company.
Chris and Jane walked a few blocks until they found small sidewalk café. They tucked the holo-relay into a corner and sat down. Stafford ordered bacon, eggs and a cup of coffee. Once his food had been delivered Jane’s eyes fluttered for a moment, then a fruit cup materialized in front of her.
“Neat trick,” Chris said.
Jane smiled, “I’ve been working on that for a while now. So much interaction between organics takes place during meals. This helps me to better experience that.”
“I suppose it would,” Chris said with a nod, “You’re trying to learn more about human interactions?”
“Not really,” replied Jane, “My database includes huge amounts of data on the social activities of every race known to the Federation. However theory and practical application are always different.”
“So in other words, we’re nothing but an experiment to you?” Chris asked with a frown.
“Hardly,” replied Fifebee, “I am programmed to behave as one of you. That programming encourages me to take part in social interactions like any functional member of society. However I do not wish to be one of you. I have my own unique properties that I wish to retain.”
“You do realize you’re talking like a Vulcan again, right?” Chris asked.
Jane’s eyes fluttered again. “That’s really getting annoying, isn’t it?” she asked, “Any time I get into any kind of deep discussion that personality pops up. It makes me sound so…robotic!”
“Most artificial beings sound like Vulcans,” said Chris.
“Yeah but I don’t want to sound like a Vulcan, or an android,” said Fifebee, “They’re so dull!”
“We’ll just keep working on that then,” said Chris, “But about your programming. Doesn’t it bother you that your wants and desires were created based on somebody else’s ideas of what an artificial being should be like?”
“No,” replied Jane, “Doesn’t it bother you that your wants and desires are based on instincts that nobody in your species had any control over?”
“Point taken,” said Stafford with a chuckle.
They sat in silence for a few moments. Jane watched an elderly couple stroll up the street. She took in the clear blue sky visible above the towering buildings. The green leaves growing on the trees, the scent of the bay on the air.
“Enjoying the view?” Chris asked.
“It’s my first time on a planet!” said Fifebee with a smile
“Really? What do you think so far?”
“We have a lot more to see.”
Ensign Yanick parked her small shuttlecraft on the landing pad on her parent’s property and stepped out. She took a deep breath, savoring the country air, heavy with the scent of nature. Grass, trees and maybe just a bit of cow poo.
“Trish!” her mother called happily as she came out of the house. She walked quickly to Yanick and engulfed her in a big hug. He father was close behind.
“How’s my little girl?” he said, “We sure weren’t expecting to see you back so soon!”
“Hey dad,” Yanick said smiling.
Rob and Samantha Yanick were a cute couple. He was a shorter man in his late 50s, with just a hint of grey. She was an auburn haired woman in her early 50s. Both adored their daughter.
Trish’s brothers, Sam and Steve came walking out of the house. Both in their late teens, they had decided it was ‘uncool’ to show any positive feelings toward their sister.
“Hey brat!” called Sam.
“Crash any more ships lately?” asked Steve with a laugh.
“You guys!” wailed Trish. Then she laughed, “Just a small bump.”
“How long are you out for?” asked Rob.
“Just under a week,” said Trish, “Then we’re going to be out for a long time.”
“Yes!” exclaimed Sam, “I’ve got dibs on your shuttle until you get back!”
“Hey,” snapped Steve, “F**k you! You had it last time!”
Samantha smacked Steve upside the head, “I told you to watch your language young man!”
Fighting an odd sense of déjà vu, Trish followed her family into the house.
After unpacking, Yanick and her family sat down to dinner. Her parents had a replicator, but like many families they preferred food that was hand prepared on special occasions. Samantha pulled a large roast out of the oven and started carving.
Loading her plate with potatoes, carrots, beef and gravy, Trish started to tell her parents about her new assignment.
“My captain is great,” she said through a mouthful of potatoes, “We’ve been hanging out. We’ve got this other guy though, complete jerk. He was so mean to me the day we met! But the captain made him renovate my quarters after that. And I’m pretty good friends with Noel Wowryk, she’s our doctor. She’s a bit of a prude, but we still get along well.”
The Yanicks were used to their daughter’s ability to ramble on and on. They loved every minute of it. Hearing about their daughter’s life helped them to revive the connection to her, something that was very hard to do when she was away for long stretches at a time.
“You mentioned,” said Rob as he chewed on a chunk of beef, “That one of your shipmates would be dropping by.”
“Yup,” said Yanick.
Everybody looked at her.
“He’ll be dropping by tomorrow.”
“And what?” asked Trish.
“Well, it’s not like you to stop after one sentence,” said Samantha, “What’s his name, what is he like? Is he a friend, or a ‘friend’?” she gave her daughter a conspiratorial smile.
“His name is T’Parief. He’s…kinda quiet. The strong, silent type I guess you could say. He’s just a friend right now.”
“Oooh,” said Sam with a snicker,”Trish is on the prowl now!”
“You shut up!”
Truth be told, Trish really didn’t want to tell her parents that the shipmate coming to visit was a 7 foot tall, scaled, fanged, red-eyed lizard. Her parents were among the few people who preferred to live their lives on their own planet, away from the busy cities. They had only met a few aliens in their lives, as opposed to Trish who spent her entire day working with several. She didn’t know how they’d react to T’Parief. They weren’t even dating! She had a definite interest in him, but he’d been so distant lately.
Stafford and Fifebee took the intercity transporter from San Francisco to Toronto, materializing in a green, grassy park. It was in fact the same park Stafford had beamed down to during his visit to 21st century Toronto. He took a deep breath and sighed happily.
Things had changed in the past 400 years, that was for damned sure! The park itself still existed, but in a very different form. In the 21st century the park had been a relatively small strip of grass a couple hundred meters wide running between a stream and a series of office buildings and condominiums. The stream still ran, but the buildings were gone, replaced by the taller but more graceful architecture of the late 23rd century. The low buildings that had once existed on the other side of the stream were gone, replaced by another grassy plain surrounded by tall trees. Paths wandered lazily along both sides of the stream before meeting at a graceful bridge.
There had once been three large bridges crossing the park. Two still existed, but thanks to stronger, lighter materials they were no longer massive concrete behemoths, but slender duranium trusses. A sleek tram zipped across the bridge that had once carried the electric trains that Stafford (and Jall especially) had less than pleasant memories of.
Stafford took another deep breath. The air was fresh and clean. The slightly foul air of the 21st century was a distant memory for him. Most citizens of the 24th century had never smelled air pollution, except for those Starfleet officers foolish enough to end up on primitive industrial planets. (Or several centuries in the past.)
Fifebee looked around, her holo-relay hovering silently behind her. She could see several humanoids enjoying the sunshine. Her database told her than this was a very common activity for most organic species, although she was at a loss to understand why.
Stafford had wandered over to a large tree and was leaning back against the trunk, looking up at the green leaves.
“What are you doing?” asked Fifebee.
“Enjoying nature,” said Stafford, “I spend so much time on starships that I forget how much I love it,”
“You have had holodeck privileges during much of that time. Isn’t that good enough?”
“Holodecks aren’t the same,” said Stafford with a smile, “Um, no offense.”
“There are so many little details that the holodeck can’t match. The fresh smell in the air, the unevenness of the grass. The way the air feels different as you get closer to the water.” Stafford had left the tree and was following the path to the bridge. Leaning on the rail he looked down as the stream gurgled happily beneath him. Ducks swam aimlessly below the bridge.
Turning away he began to retrace the route he, Wowryk and Jall had taken during their trip to the past.
“It’s amazing how much of this has changed, yet how similar it is,” he said, “I’ve been here once or twice to visit my cousins, but having seen the city as it existed 400 years ago, well, it’s stirred an interest in me. I never really cared much about the past before.”
“That is a common result of time travel,” said Fifebee, “People who have experienced the past usually express a greater interest in it,”
“Right,” said Stafford, feeling slightly downed by her attitude.
They followed the path to the street. Pedestrians lined the sidewalks, and an occasional hovercraft skimmed the pavement. As systems such as transporters, shuttles and high-speed trams had been incorporated into public transit, most Earth cities found their streets emptied of vehicular traffic. Most private transports used the skyways.
Fifebee and Stafford approached the entry to the transit hub. A glittering sign read ‘Greater Toronto Transit System - Islington Station’.
Stafford remembered Islington Station from the 21st century. Primary a large, dingy underground room it had been a major transit hub connecting the cities of Toronto and Mississauga. Above the station at street level busses from both cities loaded and discharged passengers. Below was access to the subway system.
Islington of the 24th century was similar. It had expanded considerably. Shuttles and air trams had replaced busses, so a large landing pad had been constructed where the bus tunnels had once been. Building on the successes of the subway systems of the 21st century, massive networks of underground trams had spread across the globe. Having ridden on the 21st century version, Stafford couldn’t really understand that success, but he had been a frequent user of the modern systems, with their inertial dampeners and speeds bordering on the speed of sound.
“Fascinating the amount of trouble one must go to in order to move from place to place,” Fifebee mused.
“Transporters may be faster,” replied Stafford as they boarded the underground tram heading deeper into the city,” but this is way more energy efficient. Besides, transports wreck the whole social aspect of travel!”
“Travel has a social aspect?” asked Fifebee. The tram sounded three tones that apparently hadn’t changed in three centuries, indicating that it was departing, then sped out of the station and zipped over the park and back underground.
“Well yeah!” said Stafford, “Look at us. We’re socializing, having an intelligent conversation. We could have beamed right into the heart of the city, but look what we’d be missing out one!”
“We saw a park, no different from one of tens of thousands of parks on this planet. Although I admit this conversation is interesting.”
“See, that’s the spirit! And the park was special to me, because I was there 400 years ago! I nearly got my ass kicked by this fat woman and I got to watch the cops try to arrest Dr. Wowryk,” Stafford grinned.
Stafford sighed, “Fifebee, you need to relax.”
“Yes, relax. Listen to yourself! Other than the occasional visit from one of your personalities, you’re behaving like a stereotypical robot! ‘Fascinating.’ ‘Indeed’. “Organic socialization is interesting.’ I thought you wanted to develop your own personality?”
“Have you decided what kind?”
“How does one decide that? Based on the information I have, personalities develop as a result of one’s unique life experiences and behavioral patters established by early childhood and upbringing, as well as genetic factors.”
“Oh boy,” sighed Stafford again, “You’re unique, you got that right. Now smile.”
“Smile! Take your hair out of that tight bun. Get rid of that uniform and wear something more casual- oh! Here’s our stop!” Stafford grabbed Fifebee by the hand and pulled her out of the tram. The doors closed and the tram departed.
“My relay!” exclaimed Fifebee in alarm.
“Oh s**t!” shouted Stafford. He bolted for the exit and flailed his arms at the nearest hovercraft. Jumping in, he shouted at the computer, “Next tram station east of here, as fast as possible.
“Welcome to auto-cab,” stated the synthesized voice as a pleasant, computer generated female face appeared on the front monitor, “Please state the destination.”
“Next tram station east of here, and fast!”
“Keele tram station, confirmed.” The hovercraft pulled onto the nearly empty street and accelerated.
“So, how about that weather?” asked the voice.
“Just shut up and hurry!” snapped Stafford.
“Jerk,” muttered the voice. The craft stopped and the door opened. “Thank you for choosing auto-cab! We hope you’ve enjoyed the ride!” Stafford had already leapt onto the street and was running full tilt into the station. Running down the stairs to the tram platform, he saw that the tram was nowhere in sight.
“F**k,” he swore.”
“Looking for this?” came Fifebee’s voice from behind him, causing him to jump.
“What? How? What?”
“Excellent questions,” replied Fifebee with a grin, “I simply reset my imaging systems to project myself next to the relay then disembarked at this station. There was really no chance of you beating a high speed tram to this station in a surface transport.”
“Oh,” panted Stafford as he collapsed against the wall, “Good thinking.”
After catching his breath, Stafford led Fifebee to High Park. He had only seen a small corner of the large park in the 21st century, but he had come across images during his research into the past. Not much had changed. The grassy green fields and gardens remained. Grenadier Lake still stretched the length of the park. The buildings had long since been replaced, and the massive highways that had bordered the south end of the park were long gone. After the removal of the highways the park had been extended to reach to waterfront, on the shore of Lake Ontario.
Stafford led Fifebee around the park, pointing out the fountains, ponds and gardens. He was enthusiastic yet relaxed. Fifebee on the other hand was bored silly. She had started composing a paper on the psychological impacts of time travel, an analysis of Captain Stafford’s speech patterns and had started indexing the new information she had received in the past few weeks.
Sensing that she was distracted, Stafford turned to Fifebee. “Am I boring you?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied, “I have discovered that I do not find nature to be particularly appealing.”
“Oh,” said Stafford, a little surprised by her bluntness, “Well, let’s head back to the tram and head downtown.”
They walked in silence for a while. Fifebee felt a slight tugging of….guilt? Chris had been working to show her more of the planet, to assist her in integrating into human society. And she wasn’t being very enthusiastic.
“I am surprised that so much of the old city remains intact,” she said, “Most major cities were devastated during the third world war.”
“Canada wasn’t a major target,” replied Stafford, “They were mostly on the sidelines, sending in peacekeepers and accepting refugees fleeing Khan and his ‘supermen’. (Author’s note: see Eugenics Wars, Star Trek: Space Seed for more info) So far as I can recall, Canada’s Armed Forces were completely devastated, but by that time the Coalition had bigger things to worry about. They took out most of Canada’s Armed Forces bases and bombed Pearson Airport, Canada’s biggest International Airport, about 15 kilometers from here. With no armed forces and limited transport capability Canada was effectively out of the war. Then the Coalition turned their attention elsewhere, and the rest is history. But you probably know this better than I do, being a walking database and all.”
“Yes,” said Fifebee, “But I wished to make conversation and to hear your interpretation of events.”
As Fifebee and Stafford explored Toronto, Yanick was enjoying a quiet morning on the farm.
Many officers claimed they had problems sleeping without the comforting thrum of a ship’s engines. Yanick figured they were crazy. In her childhood home, with nothing but the sound of crickets coming in her window she slept better than she had in ages and awoke shortly after dawn feeling fully rested. After a huge family breakfast, Sam and Steve went off to school while Rob checked the herd. Trish composed a brief message to T’Parief, giving him beam-down co-ordinates and advising him to come down at any time. Signing the message with a happy face she sent it and went outside.
Walking through the farmyard, dodging cow patties, she passed through a bush then shimmied through a fence into the pasture. She gave a sharp whistle, then waited expectantly. Shortly afterward a large, tan horse came trotting towards her.
“Fred!” she squealed in delight.
Slowing to a walk the horse tossed his head and whinnied softly. Trish produced a large carrot, which the horse eagerly accepted. Leading him towards the corral, Trish relayed all the recent events in her life to her horse, who listened very attentively as he crunched his carrot.
She saddled him up, and left for a nice, long ride around the farm.
After a few hours, she returned to the farmyard, unsaddled Fred and led him around the corral for several minutes to cool him off. Satisfied, she led him back to the pasture and went inside for lunch.
Samantha had taken the day off from her job at the town’s comm array to visit her only daughter. She had prepared a light lunch, which she brought out to the patio.
“So how did you meet this young man you’re bringing over?” Samantha asked.
“Oh, Mom,” sighed Yanick, “Don’t be so nosy!”
“I just want to learn about my future son-in-law!”
“MOM!” yelped Yanick, aghast, “He’s one of my shipmates! We’re not even dating yet, never mind marriage!”
“You must like him though, to be inviting him out here,” said Samantha with a smile.
“So how did you meet?”
“Well, we were the first senior officers to arrive on the ship. The captain showed up a few days later. It wasn’t exactly a choice assignment. We were both cranky, and we kinda got into a bit of a fight!”
“Fight?” asked Samantha.
“He made a rude comment regarding a dead hamster, and I kinda got upset.”
“You and your animals,” Samantha said with a chuckle.
“Anyway, we were hanging out together at this party in the crew lounge, and we were getting along really well! “
“You didn’t…do anything, did you?”
“That’s none of your business mom!” wailed Trish. She took a sip of her lemonade, “But no. He was pretty hammered, but we talked, a lot. But he’s been really distant lately. I don’t have a clue why.”
“Ahh, so you’re trying to get close again,” said Samantha with a knowing smile, “Oh, I remember some of the stunts I used to pull to get a man’s attention!”
“I SO don’t wanna know!” said Trish with a sigh.
They ate in silence for a few moments.
“Mom,” Trish finally said, “There’s something else you should know.”
“He’s….not really human.”
“You’re dating an alien?” said Samantha, surprised.
“Don’t sound so shocked mom, it’s the 24th century!”
“I’m just shocked that you think it’s a big deal! Why, I remember this Rigellian tourist who wandered out here when I was in college…oh, the fun we did have!”
“Yeah, but what will dad say?”
Samantha nodded knowingly, “Your father is very…conservative when it comes to that kind of thing. He’s just going to have to meet this guy and see that there is nothing to worry about. Does he at least look fairly human?”
“Not really. He’s a seven foot tall half-lizard.”
T’Parief materialized on a grassy lawn in front of a large house. The large sign reading “Yanick Farms’ confirmed that he had arrived at the correct location.
He walked up to the front door and reached down for the doorbell. His sensitive hearing could pick up some of the voices inside.
“Steve,” came a female voice, “Get the door!”
“Well I’m cooking supper, so get to it!”
The door opened revealing a teenage male human. The boy looked up, and up, and up, finally looking straight into T’Parief’s red eyes.
“AHHHH!!!!!” The kid screamed and slammed the door.
T’Parief sighed and leaned against the doorframe. He could still hear voices.
“Sam, there’s something at the door!”
“What is it?”
“I dunno, but it’s big and it’s got fangs!”
“Quick, get my phaser!”
“Wait, boys, no!” came the female voice again.
The door opened again and a low power phaser beam shot out, hitting T’Parief in the chest and knocking him back. Steve jumped out the door, yelling.
The phaser was pathetically low powered. It might have been great for getting rid of rodents or target practice, but to T’Parief it was just painful.
“OWWWW!” he roared.
Steve fired the weapon again. T’Parief dodged and started running. As much as he hated to run from a fight, it wouldn’t be good for Trish or her parents to see him fighting with their son.
“Steve! You little bastard! Stop it!” screamed Trish.
“Watch your mouth young lady!” came the voice from the house.
“What?” said Steve.
“That’s my friend!”
“I am!” snapped T’Parief, “So stop shooting me!”
“Oh, sorry.” Steve looked sheepish.
“What’s going on out here- OH MY GOD!” exclaimed Ron Yanick.
“Hi daddy,” said Trish, “Um, this is Lieutenant Commander T’Parief.”
“Pleasure,” said T’Parief as he extended his hand, claws retracted.
“Um, um, hi” Ron stammered, “Excuse me!” He dashed off.
“Did you know her ‘friend” was a gigantic alien lizard!” Ron was asking Samantha inside the house as Trish showed T’Parief around the farm.
“Yes, I did honey.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wanted to see you scream.”
“That’s not funny! Why didn’t she tell me about this?”
“Apparently,” said Samantha, “She was scared you’d get upset, or something ridiculous like that.”
“What am I supposed to do? My little girl is dating a reptile!”
“Look dear, number one, they’re not dating. Number two, it’s the 24th century! Aliens exist! We just have to be supportive of her, and be nice to him. It’s probably just some phase anyway.”
“Right,” grumbled Ron, “A phase.”
T’Parief and Yanick were walking past the corral.
“I’m sorry!” Trish was saying, “My dad doesn’t have much experience dealing with ali-um, non-Terrans. I was hoping to find a way to break the news to him gently, before you arrived here.
“I understand,” T’Parief rumbled, “I am accustomed to people being shocked at my appearance. Usually however, they do not try to shoot me!”
“Yeah, Steve overacted a bit. He’s been watching too many holo-vids about the Dominion War.”
“His behavior is similar to that of a certain shipmate of ours.”
“Hey! Don’t you go insulting my brother like that!”
Ron chose that moment to walk up.
“So, how are you kids doing?” he asked, shakily. His eyes kept darting to T’Parief’s razor-sharp teeth.
“We’re OK, daddy,” said Trish.
“I am well.”
“I’m sorry about the welcome,” said Ron, “We’re not used to entertaining guests of your, um, size here.”
“I understand, it’s fine, I assure you.”
“Great. So, if you don’t mind me asking, what species are you anyway?”
“I am half Gorn, one quarter Klingon and one quarter Andorian.”
“Wow,” said Ron as his eyes widened,” that must make for one hell of a family reunion.”
They had approached the heard of cattle.
“These here,” said Ron, “Are beef cattle. That’s what we’re having for supper. Replicators are fine, but there is nothing like the real thing.”
“Tell me about it,” rumbled T’Parief, “They can’t do justice to anything raw.”
“Um, right,” said Ron, “So I guess you like you steak extra rare then?”
“I think bloody is the word he used,” giggled Trish. She was just thrilled that her father was making an effort to get along with T’Parief.
“Yes,” T’Parief replied, “The rarer the better.” He indicated the nearest cow. “May I?”
“Um, sure, take a look,” said Ron.
Climbing carefully over the fence, T’Parief approached the cow, grateful that he had worn boots. The cow stared dumbly at him. He looked carefully in the eyes and at the nose. He ran his hands over the animals flank.
“An excellent specimen,” he said, “In good health. The general feel of the muscle tissue indicates that this cow should be particularly tender.”
As Ron’s jaw dropped Trish giggled.
“I didn’t know you knew anything about cattle!” she said.
“I took a food preparation course on the Gorn homeworld. It was heavy on livestock selection.”
“Wow,” said Ron.
T’Parief parted the fur along one flank, checking the skin color. Snapping his jaws down, he took a tiny bit out of the animal’s flank. The cow mooed in protest then took off running.
T’Parief licked the blood off his lips.
“Yes,” he said, “Excellent flavor and texture.”
Trish just stood at the fence with her mouth hanging open in horror. Ron had fainted dead away.
Jeffery screamed as he was sucked out of the cargo bay and into the black void beyond. There was loud ‘CLANG!’ followed by intense pain as he crashed into a very solid surface.
“Are we dead yet?” croaked Jall.
Opening his eyes, Jeffery could see into Cargo Bay 2 through the open door. What he couldn’t see was the interior of the Spacedock hanger bay, which he had thought would be his last sight as he perished in the harsh vacuum.
He became aware that he was lying on hard, cold metal. He could hear the shrill whistle of escaping air. He scrambled to his feet and stumbled towards the cargo bay door.
“What the hell happened?” gasped Jall.
“The outer hull doors were closed!” said Jeffery, “Otherwise we would have been sucked right into space! Hurry up, these doors aren’t meant to be airtight!”
The cargo bays on the Silverado and most Starfleet ships were located right next to the outer hull. The cargo bays were always huge, square rooms. Anybody who looked at a starship would notice that the large, tidy, perfectly squared doors visible inside the cargo bay never seem to appear on the exterior of the ship. There was often a second set of doors, angled to conform to the shape of the hull wherever the cargo bay happened to be. Fortunately, Jeffery and Jall had left the outer panels shut when they were working on the inner door. Air had rushed out to fill the gap between the inner door and the outer hull, but the outer hull plating had prevented them from being sucked into space.
Jeffery hit the ‘close’ button on the bay door and collapsed to the floor.
“That was WAY too f**king close!” he muttered.
“I just…we just….I almost….ugghhh….” Jall passed out.
“Every cloud has a silver lining,” muttered Jeffery as he dragged Jall’s unconscious body out of the cargo bay.
Stafford and Fifebee rode the tram to the Union Transit Terminal. The terminal was located at the very border of downtown Toronto, between the city and the lake. Following the dawn of space exploration, population pressure had eased considerably on Earth as more and more people left to settle other worlds. The drop in population pressure, combined with the sharply declining use of the automobile had drastically changed the appearance of downtown Toronto over the centuries.
While once the towers and skyscrapers had reached right to the waterfront, the majority of the buildings in the city were north of the Union Transit Terminal. Instead of highways and concrete, the quarter mile stretch of land between Union Terminal and the lake was a medley of trees, parks, gardens and fountains. Standing at the Grand Foyer of Union Terminal Stafford had the city at his back, and the trees ahead of him. Poking out of the foliage the CN Tower still stood, stretching to the sky.
“More nature?” Fifebee asked.
“No, we’re going into the city. I know you’ve seen enough nature,” Stafford said. They walked past the Zhang Memorial and boarded an auto-cab to take them along Yonge Street. As they went deeper into the city the buildings grew taller, eventually turning the street into a tiny crack in a canyon of duranium and glass. The ground levels of many buildings were dedicated to shops and services. An additional “service level” also ran along the 50th storey, with service windows and mini landing pads available to hover traffic.
Stafford tried to imagine how the city would seem in the eyes of one of the people he had met during his journey to the past. To him, it was just another big city. He looked out the window at a massive medical complex, ‘St. John’s Medical Centre’, thinking of the deaf boy on the subway who could have had an aural implant done in an hour. Or Trish, the blond woman who was ready to call the cops on Jall. Or the fat woman who tried to have Wowryk arrested. They wouldn’t have much luck here; police were hardly needed as there was virtually no crime.
He recalled the condition of the 21st century city itself. The grungy appearance of the transit station, litter scattered along the street, the cold, hurried march of the residents. Or one of those unfortunate souls left sitting on the sidewalk, begging for money or food. One of those people would undoubtedly be shocked by the cleanliness and apparent wealth and attitude of this city. Everywhere he looked, Stafford could see happy, smiling people going about their lives, greeting each other on the street and generally enjoying the beautiful sunny day. Public replicators were available throughout the city; no one wanted for anything.
It had taken centuries for Earth to evolve into the paradise it had become. Having seen the past, Stafford suddenly felt a great appreciation for the effort required to make that change.
The cab dropped them off near the relatively small buildings of the University of Toronto. Compared to the surrounding skyscrapers, the university appeared small, but it had been substantially expanded since the 21st century. The Royal Ontario Museum, once a separate entity, had been completely absorbed by the university. As had the Ontario Art Gallery and the Toronto Exhibition Center. The university attracted students from all over the Federation, and had become a major social center for the entire region.
“So what are we going to do?” Fifebee finally asked.
“Um, I dunno,” Stafford said, surprised, “I was just wandering around, trying to soak in the atmosphere.”
“And how does one do that?”
“Don’t have a clue.”
“I suggest we explore the museum, and other points of interest,” stated Fifebee, “I have uploaded a listing of popular locations into my memory systems.”
After exploring the Museum and Casa Loma, the huge and ancient castle parked right in the middle of the city, Fifebee took Stafford to the CN Tower for dinner. Getting seats wasn’t a problem, apparently there was a table reserved for Starfleet captains….they just hadn’t ever had one show up until now. The Tower had required a good bit of work to carry it through the years, but it had been declared a historic landmark and thus preserved. Truth be told though, Stafford was starting to wish he had come to the city alone. Fifebee had started to demonstrate a coldness that was grating on Stafford’s nerves. She had said very little positive about the city or Earth in general, and Stafford was getting the idea that there was a lot more going behind those dark eyes that one might think.
Stafford and Fifebee sat next to the windows. As the restaurant slowly rotated they were presented with an amazing view of Lake Ontario, then a wall of buildings.
“Hard to believe this used to be the tallest building in the world,” Stafford mused as he squinted at the nearest skyscraper. Somebody was undressing in the bedroom, but he couldn’t make out specifics.
“Indeed,” said Fifebee, “I find many things about the 21st century to be unbelievable. Did you know that humans used to kill each other because of the deity they worshiped? They would strap explosives to their bodies and detonate, killing as many innocent bystanders as possible! I can’t imagine such stupidity!”
“A lot of things happened that we aren’t very proud of,” said Stafford, “But we’ve moved past those times. Coming here has reminded me of how much we have to appreciate. What do you think overall? This is your first visit to a planet after all.”
“Honesty? I find it slightly sickening.”
Stafford frowned. That wasn’t really the answer he was hoping for.
“Everywhere I look, green things are growing. Small organic creatures are running, flying or crawling about. Humanoids are constantly walking about, sweating, belching, releasing waste material and consuming food. It’s disconcerting.”
“Sounds like you like being aboard ship much better,” Stafford mumbled.
“Indeed,” said Fifebee, “On a ship there is order. ‘A place for everything, and everything in its place.’ Impurities are filtered from the air; secretions are cleansed from all surfaces.”
“But a ship can be so sterile!” Stafford protested, “I mean, Silverado isn’t exactly a shining example of cleanliness, but don’t you enjoy the scent of fresh air?”
“I do not smell,” replied Fifebee, “And thus do not care.”
A waiter brought Stafford’s dinner. This time Fifebee didn’t bother to create her simulated meal.
“Is it all right if I eat, or am I just going to make you sick?” Stafford asked, with just a slight heaping of sarcasm.
“I’ve offended you,” said Fifebee.
“Yeah well, having my species referred to as ‘walking, sweating, stinking organics’ will do that to me every time!”
“Perhaps I should return to the ship and permit you to enjoy your stay in peace.”
“Y’know what?” said Stafford angrily, “That’s probably a good idea!”
Fifebee collected her holo-relay and departed, leaving Stafford alone to contemplate the city outside.
After recovering from his near death experience (thanks to a bucket of cold water, courtesy of Jeffery) Jall was back in the cargo bay. This time he was up on the second level manning the tractor beam control console, ready to receive freight. The gravity field in the cargo bay had been set to minimal and the inner and outer doors opened. Snuggled up beside the Silverado was the Kleyson, a supply vessel. A cylindrical force field connected the cargo bays on both ships.
On more modern vessels the process of receiving freight was becoming more and more heavily automated, but still required living beings to oversee the machines. In the case of the Silverado, Jall would have to follow the computer’s directions to manually sort and stack each piece of cargo.
“You almost ready over there, Silverado?” came the voice of the Kleyson’s supercargo.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Jall, annoyed, “Don’t get your knickers in a twist!” He made a few final adjustments to the tractor beam emitter. “OK, start sending stuff over.”
A single cargo container was nudged out of the Kleyson’s hold. It glided through the force field tunnel then passed through the Silverado’s open bay doors. Jall deftly snagged the container with a tractor beam and deposited it on a cargo rack.
A second container came through. Jall again snagged it, checked his display screen, and gently set the container down in the spot indicated by the computer.
<Boring!> Jall thought to himself. Out load he said, “Hey Kleyson, can we speed this up a bit? I’ve got a lot to do before the day is over.”
“I thought you’d never ask,” the supercargo replied. Containers began to come through more frequently. Jall was able to quickly adjust to the new pace.
“C’mon!” he said with a laugh, “I though we were speeding up here!”
“Is that a challenge?” the supercargo’s voice was suddenly silky.
Two crates came flying towards the Silverado. Jall snagged one then the other, but was barely able to set them both down in time.
“Um, OK,” he said nervously, “You beat me, you win!”
Two more crates came floating through the open door. Again Jall was barely able to place then in time.
“Cut it out!” he wailed.
“HA-HA-HA!” laughed the other cargo operator as she sent 3 more crates through the tunnel, “It’s too late to back down now! You sound so tense, how about some nice relaxing music while we work?”
Jall grabbed two of the crates and was able to place them. The third bounced against the cargo bay wall. He nudged it into a corner; he’d worry about it later.
As four more crates came flying through the door, a pulsing electronic beat began to play over the intercom. Any 20th century video game fan would have instantly recognized the theme from ‘Tetris’.
“Hey boss,” Lynch’s construction chief called,” take a look at this!”
The construction ship Caterpillar was sitting near the Silverado’s starboard nacelle, supporting the workbee’s repainting the hull panels. Visible out of the view port was the Kleyson. Cargo modules of all shapes and sizes were shooting from the Kleyson to the Silverado. Faint flickers of a tractor beam were barely visible as somebody tried desperately to control the onslaught. Two large crates wedged themselves into the cargo bay door. Several smaller crates crashed into them, splitting open and spilling their contents throughout the force-field tunnel.
Garroth Lynch cackled in pleasure as he began to compose a ‘Thank-you’ card to the crew of the Kleyson.
Trish Yanick and T’Parief sat on the patio outside the house. Samantha was fussing over Ron inside, who had finally regained consciousness.
“I didn’t realize it would upset you!” T’Parief said for the 5th time, “On the Gorn homeworld, it’s polite to taste the livestock!”
“This isn’t the Gorn homeworld,” Trish said.
“I know that!” T’Parief grunted.
Samantha came out of the house.
“Well he’s calm now at least,” she said, “And dinner will be ready in an hour.”
“I should apologize,” said T’Parief as he started to stand.
“No, no, no!” objected Samantha, “Best just not to mention it. It was an honest mistake. If you mention it, you’ll just upset him all over again.”
“Then I apologize to you for the inconvenience this has caused.”
Samantha waved the apology away.
“Please dear, when you’ve got three kids to manage, having somebody take a bite out of a cow is almost a relaxing change!” she turned to Trish and whispered; “So polite! And look at that build! I bet he’s hung like a-“
“MOTHER!” gasped Yanick as she planted her hand over Samantha’s mouth, muffling whatever she was about to say.
“It’s true!” giggled Samantha, “Look at the size of his feet!”
T’Parief looked over at them.
“I’m sorry, I missed that…”
“Just as well!” Trish said hurriedly. She grabbed her mother’s arm and ushered her into the house, “We’ll take care of dinner, just relax! Take a walk. Just don’t bite anything!”
T’Parief had wandered around the house, coming to the landing pad off to one side. A basketball net had been affixed to the wall of the small shuttle hanger, around which Sam and Steve were having a game of one-on-one. Seeing T’Parief approach, Sam passed the ball in his direction.
“Head’s up big guy!” he called.
T’Parief tried to snag the ball as it whizzed past him. It hit his hand and bounced straight up. He barely managed to get a hold of it. Looking curiously at Sam he called out.
“Um, what do I do with this thing?”
“Throw it through the hoop!” called Steve.
“Bizarre human customs,” muttered T’Parief as he chucked the ball at the hoop. It missed by about five feet. Steve smirked.
“I thought good aim was a requirement for Starfleet Security!”
“I’m much better with a phaser.”
“I’d hope so! I’d hate for some hideous green alien to swallow my sister cuz you couldn’t take care of her.”
T’Parief frowned at the boy. Sam snickered.
“Oh,” said Steve, realizing his mistake.
Sam had retrieved the ball.
“Here,” he said, passing the ball back to T’Parief, “Try from a bit closer. I bet you could dunk really well!”
Dunk! There was something he recognized! Ensign Dar’ugal was fond of ‘dunking’ his donuts in a mug of coffee during his breaks. “But what do donuts have to do with this activity?” he asked.
Sam and Steve exchanged glances.
“Oh isn’t that nice,” said Samantha, looking out the window, “He’s playing ball with the boys!” she frowned, “Or trying to, anyway. I thought you had to have good aim to get into Starfleet Security.”
“You should see him with a phaser,” Trish muttered.
“He hasn’t sliced either of them open yet, has he?” asked Ron darkly.
“Naw,” said Trish, “He’s only ever done that once.”
<Oops> she though. Out loud, she said, “We were trapped in that dream reality I told you about. If he hadn’t killed Jall we would never have escaped.”
“KILLED?? Why are you hanging around with this thing??” demanded Ron.
“He’s a really nice guy once you get to know him,” said Trish, “And Jall wasn’t really dead, it was all a dream!”
There was a loud ‘POP!” sound. Looking out the window Trish could see the remains of the basketball hanging off one of T’Parief’s clawed fingers. He sighed as the boys laughed hysterically.
Dinner was finally being served. The Yanick family and T’Parief were seated around the table as Ron brought a plate of steaks in from the barbeque. Samantha passed around baked potatoes and vegetables. She had found a short stool for T’Parief, as his tail didn’t fit in most chairs. Ron dished the steaks out, serving rarest and bloodiest to T’Parief.
“Generally,” said Ron, “We find it tastes better after you cook it a bit. But at least you waited until it was dead this time.”
Samantha kicked him under the table.
T’Parief picked up the utensils and cut into his steak. He gingerly raised a red, dripping piece to his nose, sniffed it then popped it into his mouth. A burst of flavor exploded into his mouth. Subtle spices brought a tingle to his tongue. He started to chew, bringing forth another rush of flavor as the meat released its juices. His eyes closed and he released a loud sigh of pleasure.
“Oh,” he said, “That is GOOD!”
<The Author would like to take a moment to wipe the drool off his chin>
“This is amazing!” exclaimed T’Parief as he popped another chunk of steak into his mouth, his sharp teeth making short work of it. He sampled the other dishes as well. Samantha’s cooking was amazing, but the steak drove his senses wild.
Samantha plopped another slab of meat down in front of T’Parief.
“I figured by the size of you that you’d have a big appetite!” she said with a grin.
The conversation at the table wandered from T’Parief’s experiences on the Silverado to Ron’s cattle raising techniques. T’Parief’s interest in what he did pleased Ron. Anybody who liked steak so much couldn’t be that bad…
After dinner they moved into the living room for a drink.
“Trish,” said Ron, “Could you run outside and check the fence? I think I might have left it open.”
“Um, OK,” Trish glanced at T’Parief then left. After she left, Ron turned to T’Parief.
“All right,” he said, “You’re not perfect. It’s not fair to expect perfection. But you seem like a decent fellow. And so I want to know; what are your intentions with my daughter?”
“My intentions?” T’Parief asked, confused.
“Why are you hanging around with my daughter? Are you looking for someplace to sow your oats? Because I will tell you that if you hurt my little girl, I will kick your ass, even if you are seven feet tall with claws!”
“I have no dishonorable intentions with your daughter,” said T’Parief. <Geez, it’s Dr. Wowryk all over again> he thought. “I think she is a very kind, friendly person. I enjoy her company. However I believe she is becoming romantically involved with somebody else. She wants to be ‘friends’.”
“Oh,” said Samantha,” really? Who is it?”
“I probably shouldn’t say.”
“Well, thank you for being honest with us,” Ron said, “Now sit back and have a drink.”
The rest of the evening passed in relative peace. Finally, T’Parief said his good-byes and took his leave. Trish caught him on his way out the door.
“Thanks for coming,” she said, giving him a peck on the cheek, “I’ll see you on ship?”
“Of course. T’Parief to Spacedock, one to beam up.”
“Wait your turn,” came the voice of the Spacedock transporter controller, “I’ve got more than just you to take care of!”
“Take your time,” muttered T’Parief.
Stafford spent the night alone in the Toronto branch of Starfleet Hospitality. His small, utilitarian quarters were more than enough for him.
After enjoying a quiet breakfast by himself, Stafford decided to visit the zoo. He didn’t see many animals on starships, so it should be interesting.
The Toronto Zoo was a massive complex, and Stafford could tell from the map that he would be spending most of his day there. He grabbed a map padd, picked a route and started walking.
He started in the Earth segment of the zoo. Walking along, looking at the animals frolicking happily in the large environments he began to relax again. Fifebee’s attitude had upset him more than he had thought. Maybe he just needed some alone time, some time to escape the pressure of having various people demanding his attention. The chance to just wander around on his own and do whatever HE wanted.
After exploring the zoo, including the special Andorian Wildbeest exhibit, Stafford sat to dine at a small restaurant. After a relaxing meal he decided that he would like to find a good pub and sit back for a drink. He took the tram back to the core of the city and started walking.
As he walked east of Yonge Street, he started to notice subtle changes in the atmosphere. Rainbow ornaments were appearing on the buildings. The area was pretty crowded, but something was…strange. Something about the throng of people on the street felt different to Stafford, but he couldn’t quite figure it out.
Coming to the next street, Stafford saw numerous outdoor cafes and coffee shops lining the sidewalks. Loud music blasted out of several buildings, and some of the strangest looking people he had ever seen were walking by. There was one fellow wearing a spiked collar. And nothing else. The overall theme seemed to be ‘the less, the better.’ And why the heck was that guy’s hair two feet tall?
“Excuse me,” he said, flagging down a passing pedestrian, a person of indiscernible gender with long hair and an anorexic build, “Where can a guy find a good pub?”
“A good pub?” the person asked in a nasal, high pitched voice,” whatcha looking for? Jocks? Bears? Twinks?”
“What?” asked Stafford, confused.
“C’mon dear,” exclaimed the person with a flick of their wrist, “Do you want muscle guys, big guys, or skinny guys!”
“Who said anything about guys?” exclaimed Stafford, “That’s really not my thing!”
The person snorted and put their hands on their hips, “Welcome to Church Street honey,” they said cheerfully, “You’re not gonna find anything BUT guys here! If ladies are more your thing, you’ll want to twirl your little ass around and go back the way you came.”
Stafford suddenly noticed the rainbow flags on the buildings, the bright colours (as opposed to the ubiquitous Toronto grey), and the lack of opposite-sex couples. It all clicked. He’d heard of ‘Gay Villages’ in his Earth History classes, but he’d thought the practice had died out centuries ago. Between online communications and growing acceptance, the need had just dried up.
But a history lesson wasn’t really what in mind. He gave the strangely dressed person a smile, then went back the way he came. Maybe something closer to the old Distillery District…
“Have fun!” called the person behind him.
As Stafford was finishing his unique encounter, Commander Noonan was having a very different type of unique encounter.
He was seated in an exquisitely appointed underground room. Heavy wooden beams supported the ceiling. Numerous lamps and candles bathed the room in a gentle light. Noonan himself sat in a large, comfortable chair. She sat across from him.
He had received her summons. He knew that to refuse would be extremely unwise. He had met her representatives at the indicated place and time. He didn’t resist as they blindfolded him and led him into a small shuttle. He was shuttled to a small transporter complex and beamed somewhere. The air was dry, and a bit crisp. After being led around in circles he was taken down a stairwell, though several tunnels and finally into this room where his blindfold was removed and he found himself facing her.
She was as glorious as the legends told. Huge volumes of curly red hair. A beautiful, pale face. Her waist was frighteningly slim. She looked up at him.
“You know why you are here, Matthew Noonan,” she said.
“I can guess,” he replied.
“We did not interfere with your decision to join Starfleet,” she went on, “It has happened before, although that other one did not last long. We are concerned with recent events however.”
“The new mission,” Noonan said knowingly.
“Precisely. It was anticipated that the Silverado would not leave the general vicinity of Earth. That is why we allowed the assignment. Now we learn that you will be going beyond the boundaries of the Federation these people have become part of. None of our kind has ever attempted such a venture. The dangers are great, and largely unknown.”
“I understand the dangers,” Noonan said gravely, “Do you intend to permit me to continue serving in Starfleet?”
“It is not our place to refuse you,” the woman said, “So long as you continue to abide by our rules. You have followed our ways very well, and have taken advantage of what this new world can offer you,” she gave a small smile, “I am actually jealous. With the technology available today you can almost live your life as one of them.”
“I’ve been lucky,” Noonan replied.
“Yes you have,” her face hardened, “We have no idea what will happen as you travel farther from this planet. A trip the distance you will be travelling has never been attempted. And your responsibilities to your ship and crew will undoubtedly put you in situations where you are in greater danger than they might suspect.”
“That has already happened,” said Noonan. He explained to her his experience on the Stallion and how the radiation field there had affected him.
“Were you not wearing protection?”
“I had not applied the cream. I had not expected to need it in such a place.”
“Interesting,” she said. She looked over at one of her associates. He left, then returned with a small device.
“Take this,” the woman told him, handing him the object.
“What it is?”
“It is a ‘personal low-power metaphasic energy shield’,” the woman frowned as she forced the unfamiliar words from her mouth, “It will help protect you from such hazards. But do not depend on it, like all technology it is fallible. Use the cream where necessary, but carry this with you always.”
“One last thing,” she said, “You will become attached to them. It is unavoidable. I have tried to warn young ones against becoming too attached to the humans. They never can. But you must be aware of it, and you must remember our rules. You have done very well thus far. Do not falter.” With a small gesture she indicated that the interview was over. Her associates again blindfolded Noonan and let him from the room.
A young looking man with dark hair walked out of the shadows.
The woman looked at him inquiringly. <What do you think?>
He gave a small smile. <He is no danger. Foolish perhaps, but no danger.>
<Let us hope you are right. He is in a position to cause many problems for us.>
Jall was in Silverado’s waste processing center, plotting his revenge. Too much stress and too little sleep had had a frightening effect on him. His hair stuck out in all directions, and there was an insane tone to his mutterings.
He was hunched over a rack containing a single torpedo casing. Having removed most of the internal components, he was now rebuilding it into the perfect revenge machine.
“Mess with me, huh?” he muttered, “Keep me up all night? Throw crates at me? I’ll show you! I’ll show you all! MWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!”
Late in the middle of the station’s night cycle, Jall crept through the corridors, his prize in tow. Sneaking down to the engineering levels he completed his act of sabotage, then returned to Silverado. Maybe now he could sleep….
Jeffery returned to Silverado to begin his morning work. He had come with what he thought was an ingenious way to power the Silverado’s pulse phaser cannon. He just needed some supplies from the cargo bay…
Cargo Bay 2 was a disaster.
Gravity had been shut right off. In one small corner, cargo containers were properly sorted and stacked. In the majority of the bay, crates floated, spinning slowly and bouncing against each other. Several had broken, spilling their contents to float around the bay. Jeffery lost his balance as he left the normal gravity field and was sent pin wheeling across the bay, crashing into a crate of medical supplies then becoming ensnared in an extremely large bra.
Somebody’s luggage, obviously.
Jeffery wasn’t much of a fighter. He did a pretty good ‘Angry Scotsman’ impression, but was quick to back down when challenged. Usually. In this case, he was ready for blood. Grabbing the nearest heavy object he could find, he worked his way back to the exit.
“Computer,” he snapped, “Where’s Lieutenant Jall?”
“Watch you tone with me!” stated the computer.
“F**K!” shouted Jeffery.
“And watch your language too!”
Jeffery took a deep breath.
“Computer, please tell me the location of Lieutenant Jall!”
“Lieutenant Jall is in the men’s locker room, adjacent to the gymnasium.”
“He’s dead meat!”
“Play nice, boys!”
T’Parief returned to Silverado, intent only on working on his beloved pulse phaser cannon. He and Jeffery had been working for some time on trying to get enough power to run the weapon without blowing out the power conduits.
Walking through the corridors, T’Parief heard a wailing scream.
Jall came running by with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. Jeffery passed by seconds later, swinging a large pipe wrench.
“Come back here ye meddling twit!” screamed the normally timid Jeffery.
“Somehow,” T’Parief muttered to himself, “I just really don’t want to know.”
Realizing that somebody would have to act as the voice of reason, T’Parief gave chase.
He caught up to Jeffery just as Jeffery was about to catch up to Jall. “STOP!” T’Parief roared.
Jeffery and Jall skidded to a halt, scared out of their wits.
“What in the various underworlds is going on?” he demanded.
“This idiot trashed the cargo bay!” stated Jeffery.
“It wasn’t my fault! It was that bitch from the Kleyson!” objected Jall.
“Stop!” snapped T’Parief, “I do not care what has happened. But you will both fix it. The captain will be back in four days, and if this ship is not in perfect shape by then, you will both be very unhappy!”
“Who died an put you in charge?” asked Jall.
T’Parief bared his teeth.”
“I’m on it!” Jall said as he scurried away.
“Nice job,” Jeffery said, “Atta way to handle him!” T’Parief glared at him. Technically he and Jeffery held the same rank. T’Parief on the other hand had seniority. “Right, never mind,” said Jeffery.
Several Days Later…
Captain Stafford walked briskly though the crowded corridors of Spacedock. He was following the circular mall-like complex that ran the circumference of the inner core of the Spacedock hanger; know as The Docks, trying to find the slip at which his ship was docked. He had enjoyed his last four days in Toronto far more than the first. It was too bad Fifebee had to start his vacation off on such a sour note. He had even had time to swing past his parent’s place for a tear-filled goodbye.
Stafford frowned as he completed his second circuit of the corridor. Looking out the huge observation windows into the hanger, he tried again to spot the aged, mismatched hull of his ship. Finally, he grew frustrated.
“Computer,” he commanded, “Where is the U.S.S. Silverado docked?”
“U.S.S. Silverado, NCC-135060, is docked at slip 4-D.”
Stafford looked at the sign to the nearest slip. 4-D. But the ship docked there sure as hell wasn’t the Silverado.
“Computer, double check that info, cuz that ain’t my ship!”
“The vessel docked at slip 4-D is the U.S.S. Silverado,” the computer replied.
Stafford squinted at the ship’s registry. NCC-135060. His jaw dropped. In the chaos of his vacation, he had completely forgotten about the work being done on his ship. The hull gleamed, every imperfection removed. The various hull plates glinted in a dozen different shades, forming the hallmark ‘Aztec’ pattern that gave Starfleet ships the appearance of being made of thousands of sheets of exotic metal. The Starfleet reds had been stenciled perfectly on the hull. An elderly couple was walking by. The woman held a monocle to her eye and examined the Silverado.
“Much more professional than that dreadful thing that came in last week,” she said, nose uplifted.
“Quite,” replied her husband.
Stafford arrived on the bridge and sat comfortably in his chair. Yanick, T’Parief, Fifebee, Noonan and Jall were all manning their stations. Stafford started scrolling through the ship status report Noonan had prepared for him. Cargo was loaded. Crew was present and accounted for. Families had boarded, including the <ugh> children. He looked over at Fifebee, who was absorbed in her panel. He felt a brief twinge of guilt, which he quickly repressed. SHE had been the spoilsport, ruining what he had planned as a relaxing vacation.
Fifebee was indeed tapping diligently at her panel, but was also fully aware of Stafford’s scrutiny. Undoubtedly he was still upset with her for her behavior on Earth. She felt a bit guilty; it had been Stafford who had stood up to her creator, Dr. Zimmerman, when he tried to drag her back to the laboratory. He had told her then that she needed to develop her own, unique personality. Well she was! And if that personality involved not liking nature, that was her business! Stafford should be happy for her for making such a self-discovery. Instead he was upset because her opinion didn’t match his, the selfish prick! She returned his stare with cold eyes until he looked away.
“So, um, where there any problems while I was away?” Stafford asked Jall.
“You f**king bet there were! Loud noises, lack of sleep, insane cargo controllers-“ Jall started.
“Glad to hear all was well,” Stafford said cutting him off.
“Control tower has cleared us for departure,” Fifebee reported.
“Thank you Lieutenant,” Stafford said with forced formality, “Jall, stuff like that is your job. Don’t dump it on the science officer.”
“Whatever,” muttered Jall.
“Take us out Ensign Yanick,” said Stafford, “And please, for the love of God, DON’T SCRATCH THE PAINT!”
“Yes sir!” Yanick replied with a big grin.
Silverado eased out of her slip and glided out the space doors.
Bob was stuck on night shift on the construction ship Caterpillar. Everybody else was off duty. He wandered through the cargo bay, taking care of his rounds. He frowned as he came across a gleaming black photon torpedo casing. The proximity alarm triggered.
“Take this, you sadistic pigs!” came the voice of San Jall.
The torpedo detonated, spewing unprocessed sewage throughout the Caterpillar’s cargo bay.
“Noooooo!” screamed Bob.
Next time, on Star Traks: Silverado! Yes, this is it, finally. I promise! Stafford and the crew of the Silverado are off to explore deep space, with just a short pit stop along the way.