Author: Brendan Chris
Special thanks to Alan Decker, who created Waystation and all its characters.
Author’s Note: This story takes place while the Explorer is still running around searching for the Bast, long before Bradley Dillon returns to Waystation.
Captain’s Log, Stardate: 56234.4
“Finally! We’re getting somewhere! After cruising at a steady speed away from Earth for a few days, we have been ordered to report to Waystation to pick up our ship’s counselor and to load a few last minute supplies from Dillon’s Supply Depot.
“We may not be officially out of the Federation yet, but Waystation is the furthest we’ve gone so far, with unexplored space right around the corner. About time too, I was getting really sick of hanging around Earth.”
“That,” Stafford said, “is a really big station.”
“Spacedock is bigger,” Ensign Yanick pointed out.
“Yeah, but Spacedock is, well, Spacedock. It’s always been the biggest beast around,” Stafford replied, “a station this big, out on the frontier? There’s got to be something nasty in the area.”
Waystation rotated slowly on the bridge viewscreen as the Silverado drew closer. Basically two huge saucers connected together, with a rotating operations module mounted on the top. The original components of Waystation had been two Ambassador-class saucer sections, identical to Silverado’s saucer. Waystation’s saucers had been expanded and renovated extensively so that even though the basic shape remained, the resulting massive station dwarfed the Silverado.
“We’re receiving docking instructions,” reported Commander Noonan, “upper saucer, docking arm 3”
“Ensign Yanick, you know what to do,” Stafford said.
Silverado began to ease slowly towards the docking arm extending from the station. Stafford worked to control his breathing as his ship (with its gleaming new paint job) eased closer to the station. Ensign Yanick was a great pilot, really. She just had a bad habit of becoming distracted. Usually at a disasterously inconvenient time.
<Please God,> Stafford thought to himself, <Don’t let her notice the rotating restaurant. >
From the rear of the bridge, T’Parief gazed briefly at Yanick. She was as beautiful as ever. He had even thought she was interested in him after they spent the evening chatting at a party in Unbalanced Equations, but she had been spending a lot of time with Captain Stafford since then. Upon seeing this, T’Parief had backed off.
Stafford almost jumped right out of his chair when Lieutenant Jall announced in a bored voice that they were being hailed.
“On screen,” Stafford ordered. As the image appeared on the screen, his mind ground to a halt.
The woman was beautiful. Long red hair cascaded around a perfectly formed face with stunning eyes and perfect lips. A face that was drawing into a frown and repeating his name again. Oh. She was talking to him. He should answer.
“I’m Captain Lisa Beck, in command of Waystation,” she said, “where are you guys?”
“Um, in the process of docking actually,” Stafford said, with a glance in Ensign Yanick’s direction.
“Oh?” she frowned again, “Oh yeah, there you are. I’m sorry, we were expecting a much older ship.”
Stafford smiled dumbly, “We got a paint job!”
“That’s great,” Beck said, “but we’re about to receive a transmission from the Admiralty and I need you with me for that.”
“Why do you need me?” Stafford asked.
“Damned if I know, “ Beck replied, “but you and I are named specifically. Report to Ops ASAP please, Captain.”
“Yes ma’am!” Stafford said with a smile.
Stafford started walking towards the turbolift.
“Um, Captain,” Jall said, “you do realize we haven’t docked yet?”
Stafford smiled, “Transporter Room 1!” he commanded as the lift doors close.
“Oh, he’s got it bad!” said Jall.
Beck sighed as the viewscreen in Ops shut down, returning to its view of space outside Waystation where numerous ships (including Silverado) eased around the station.
“Another irritating starship captain?” asked Craig Porter from the science station.
“I dunno about irritating,” Beck said, “a little weird maybe, but not irritating. Yet.”
There was the chime of a transporter. Stafford materialized several feet off the deck and dropped like a stone.
“Ow,” he said as he picked himself up off the floor, “Stafford to Silverado, the transporter is STILL out of alignment!”
Porter and Beck exchanged glances.
“Captain Stafford,” Beck said with a smile, trying to put her best foot forward, “welcome to Waystation. Are you OK?”
“Yes, yes I am,” said Stafford as he shook Beck’s hand, “great to meet you. “
“My office is this way,” she said.
Stafford followed her into the station commander’s office, trying really hard not to check out her perfectly formed backside.
“Wow,” he said, “much nicer than my ready room.”
“Thanks,” Beck said.
“So any idea what these guys are calling us about?”
They sat in silence, staring at the screen, waiting for whoever wanted to talk to them to start the damned call already.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Beck finally offered.
“Sure,” said Stafford, “just a cup of coffee please. Cream and sugar.”
Beck walked over to the replicator.
“So is Silverado your first command?”
“Yes, yes it is,” Stafford replied.
“How are you liking it?”
“Um, it’s been interesting so far. Not at all what I expected,”
“It never is, apparently,” Beck replied with a smile, “you weren’t pushed up from Inventory or Janitorial or something into a captaincy, were you?”
“Um, no. I was first officer on the Exeter for several years. Why?”
“No reason. Did you know that one of the saucers making up the station came from the old Exeter?”
“Really? Before they build the Galaxy-class version?”
At that moment the display screen came to life, displaying the goateed visage of Admiral Edward Tunney.
“Captain Stafford, Captain Beck,” he said, “I’m sorry to keep you both waiting, but I saw little point in having to give this briefing twice.”
“Understood, Admiral,” Beck said, a model of professionalism.
“Um, yeah. It’s all good,” piped in Stafford.
“I’ll cut straight to the point. Two more vessels, the U.S.S. Endurance and the U.S.S. Poodle have both found active spatial interphase generators in their cargo bays.”
“WHAT?” exclaimed Stafford, nearly dropping his coffee, “HOLY F**K!”
“Indeed,” said Tunney, “the crew of the Endurance located and deactivated their device before it could induce any comatose dream states. Thanks to your report I might add. Good work.”
Stafford nodded at this as he began to pace back and forth in front of Beck’s desk.
“The Poodle on the other hand was less fortunate. They were unconscious for almost a week before another ship stumbled over them. They were suffering from severe dehydration, but are recovering nicely.”
“Did they go through the same bulls**t we did?” Stafford asked.
“No,” replied Tunney, “there were no reports of any neural links, no power hungry tyrants and no battles. When the other ship found them, they were able to revive everybody with no problem.”
“Um, excuse me,’ said Beck, raising her hand is if in school, “but would one of you mind explaining to me what the hell is going on?”
“Captain Stafford can fill you in,” Tunney said.
Beck looked at Stafford.
“Bad, bad machines that causes bad dreams and bad feelings,” Stafford said absently as he continued to pace.
“You’re going to have to do a bit better than that!” Beck said, losing her patience.
“He can give you more details later,” Tunney interrupted, “but he’s essentially right. These devices trap anybody within their influence in a shared dream state. The special interphase also causes increased fear and paranoia in the crew.”
“OK, so what does this have to do with me?” Beck asked.
“The last port of call for both the Endurance and the Poodle was Waystation.”
“It seems that whoever is spreading these things may be operating from your station, Captain.”
“We’ll get to the bottom of this,” Beck said confidently.
“Um, yeah” added Stafford.
“Good. Captain Beck, I realize you aren’t under my flag. I will be routing your orders through appropriate channels. Basically, we want you to find out who is planting these things and stop them.”
“Stafford, you and your crew will brief Waystation on these devices then continue on your mission. If whoever is behind this is operating in that sector of space, your current mission at least has you in the right area.”
Stafford collapsed into his seat.
“This is bad!” he groaned.
“It doesn’t sound like these things are that bad,” said Beck, “nobody was seriously hurt.”
“Whoo-boy Captain,” Stafford said, “do I have a story for you!”
“Which I have to sit though, apparently,” said Beck.
“Can we discuss this over dinner?” Stafford asked.
“Fine. I pick the restaurant.”
“I need to brief my crew first.”
“Find. Meet me in Starfleet Square Mall in half an hour. I hope you have a strong stomach.”
Stafford and his senior staff had gathered in Silverado’s conference room. Stafford had calmed considerably since hearing the initial news.
“That’s all we know so far,” he said, having delivered Admiral Tunney’s briefing already, “whoever planted that device on us has now pulled the same stunt on at least two other ships, and may be operating out of Waystation.”
“We will find and crush the cowardly…um,” T’Parief searched for an appropriate curse, but couldn’t find one, “cowards, right?” One of the disadvantages of being descended from three different war-loving spaces was that sometimes he just couldn’t decide which swearword to use.
“You will all be working with your counterparts on Waystation to bring them up to speed,” Stafford said, “but this is their problem now.”
“Dumping our garbage into somebody else’s back yard,” Jall muttered.
“You have a problem with that?”
“Not really. Less work for us.”
“Fifebee, Noonan, T’Parief and Jall. You will report to Waystation to brief your counterparts on these devices and their capabilities. “
“What about me?” asked Jeffery.
“You were a slave-boy the entire time!” giggled Jall, “what are you going to teach them, the finer points of butt-kissing?”
Jeffery glared at Jall.
“Butt-kissing aside, Jall’s right, God help us,” Stafford said, “You four are the most familiar with the devices. The rest of us were just along for the ride.”
“What about Dr. Wowryk?” asked Fifebee. Wowryk had been very quiet during this meeting.
“I want round-the-clock security on her,” Stafford ordered. T’Parief nodded.
“Doc,” Stafford said, “I know you don’t remember much, but anything you know could be useful. I’d like you to meet with Dr. Nelson on Waystation and see what the two of you can figure out. She’s a woman, so she should be understanding.”
“That is so sexist!” objected Wowryk.
“HAH!” barked Jall, “The Queen of the Royal Mistresses is lecturing us on sexism!”
“Score another for Jall,” T’Parief muttered.
“Enough!” snapped Stafford, “you all know what to do. Now I have to go have dinner with a gorgeous redhead. Later all!”
“Redhead?” asked Jeffery as everybody filed out, “What redhead?”
“I’ll explain later!”
Lisa Beck was waiting in Starfleet Square Mall for Stafford to show up for his ‘detailed explanation of the alien gizmos’, which he seemed to be using as a cheap excuse for a date. She didn’t mind, that much. He was reasonably attractive. A bit weird maybe, but not too bad. Besides, he would be light-years away before she knew it, which would at least get him out of her hair if he became a nuisance.
She could have sworn she heard heated argument moments before the turbolift doors opened and Silverado officers began pouring out, clown-car style. First was a very large reptilian officer with brownish-green scales and red eyes. Second was a tall, Mediterranean-looking man with a smirk on his face. Then another tall man with incredibly white skin, who seemed to flow out of the turbolift. A tall, slender auburn haired woman was next followed by Stafford. He pulled a large, hovering cylindrical object out of the turbolift and tapped at a panel. A shorter woman with dark hair pulled back in a severe bun appeared.
“I am Jane 5-B, sentient hologram. I think I should wait for the next…oh…I see,” she frowned at Stafford, “I will ask that you have the courtesy to consult me before you deactivate me.”
“Sure, sorry about that. We were just in a hurry,” he said to her, “nobody wants to worry about these things any more than we have to.”
<Hmmmm…> Beck thought to herself, <I guess weird is the norm on that ship. >
Stafford walked up to her, “So where are we eating?”
“I hope you like Andorian cuisine, Captain,” Beck said.
“Never had it, and call me Chris,” he replied. There was a pause, “isn’t this the part where you tell me to call you Lisa?”
“No,” she said with an impish grin, “I’ll tell you when we get there.”
They arrived at the Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet Andorian restaurant and were seated at a table towards the back.
“You do realize,” Stafford said, “that there’s a dirt filled hole up there, right?”
“That would be the Mishtak pit.”
“The who-what pit?”
“Long story. Forget it.”
A waiter came with menus.
“Do you trust me?” she asked Stafford.
“Sure,” he said with a wide grin.
“Two of the ‘Organ of the Day’ specials,” Beck ordered.
“Which wine would you prefer?” asked the waiter. Beck looked at Stafford.
“Oh, I’m not a big wine drinker,” he said.
The waiter nodded and departed.
“So,” Stafford said, “what is a lovely girl like you doing in a place like this?”
“What do you mean ‘a place like this’??” Beck demanded, “I happen to like it here!”
<Ouch, wrong approach.> Stafford thought. Out loud: “Um, it’s a great station. Hard to believe it started out as recycled ship parts.”
“From what I understand,” Beck said, “you’re not one to be talking about recycled ships.”
<Ouch again!> Stafford though, Out loud; “All the better for me to understand that with a little work we can turn what we have into sometime to be proud of.”
“Are you proud of your ship, Captain?”
“Please, Chris,” Stafford replied, “And yeah, I’m proud of it. I sure wasn’t at first, but we’re getting used to each other.”
Beck chuckled at this.
“So, are you going to tell me about this alien device that has your crew in a panic, or do you plan on trying to charm me all evening?”
“I had my moment of panic,” Stafford said, “I’m getting over it.”
At that moment their dinner arrived. Stafford looked at the steaming pile on his plate.
“Do I want to know?” he asked.
Stafford shrugged and brought a small piece of meat up to his nose. He sniffed it carefully then ate it. Finding nothing seriously amiss, he continued to eat as he proceeded to tell her the story of how the alien device had driven tension levels on the Silverado to new heights before trapping the crew in a shared dream reality.
“Hold on,” said Beck, “you’re telling me that your CMO became a power hungry, man-hating monarch? And raised an army of the undead? And had the entire female crew complement on her side?
“Yeah,” said Stafford, “a bit hard to believe, I know.”
“Not that hard,” replied Beck, thinking of Mistress Lisa-Love Beck, her counterpart in the Happy Universe’s Federation of Fun.
<Author’s note: The Happy Universe and the Federation of Fun have been featured in Waystation, The Vexed Generation and the Original Traks. I strongly suggest you check the Nexus for Happyverse stories. And now, on with the show…>
The waiter approached, asking if the meals were satisfactory.
“Actually-“ Stafford started, before Beck clamped a hand over his mouth.
“We’re fine, thank you,” she said. The waiter departed.
“I was just going to ask for ketchup,” Stafford said.
“Rule number one of Andorian dining: Everything is always fine, unless you want to be served as tomorrow’s special.”
“Gotcha.” “So how did you escape?”
“We all died,” Stafford said, perfectly straight-faced.
Beck laughed out loud at this.
“No really, how did you escape?”
“Seriously,” said Stafford, “we all died. We found out the only way to escape was to die. So we waged war against the Queen, overpowered her minions and slaughtered each other.”
“I can think of a few times I’ve wanted to do that,” Beck joked, “But seriously, I can see why you people are so worried about this thing. I’m a bit surprised that you’re talking about it so easily.”
“It’s like talking about a bad dream,” Stafford said, “it was pretty freaky at the time, but the experience has faded. We’re much more worried about what these people could be up to now,” he popped another piece of…whatever dinner was…into his mouth. “So,” he said, changing the topic, “I hear Bradley Dillon operates out of here. What kind of guy is he?”
“Don’t get me started on Dillon during lunch,” said Beck, “I don’t want to lose my appetite. Why do you want to know?”
“It’s his fault I got a recycled ship.”
“Figures,” said Beck, “he’ll shaft anybody to save a few bucks.”
As Stafford and Beck were sitting down for dinner, Sean Russell was sitting in his security office waiting for Silverado’s security chief. Fine, so he was supposed to figure out where a bunch of cargo crates had come from. How hard could it be?
Looking out the window of his office, Sean saw a pair of lovely legs go walking by, attached to an equally lovely body. Bolting out of his chair he ran out of his office and caught up with the lovely, auburn haired woman.
“Hey there,” he said with a big grin, “I’m Sean Russell, Chief of Security. Is there anything I can…do for you?” he paused suggestively.
She gave him a cool look. “Dr. Wowryk. Tell me, Mr. Russell, is there a church on this station?”
Sean frowned, “A what?”
“A church. A place of worship, where one may pay tribute to our almighty Lord.”
“I see,” she said with disdain, “In that case, where might I find Dr.Nelson?”
“She’ll be over there in the infirmary, probably studying her slug.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Symbiont! I mean her symbiont!”
“I see. Thank you,” she turned to go.
“Um wait!” Sean said as he trotted along beside her, “Could I interest you in dinner while you’re here? A drink? Maybe a little midnight lovin’?” he winked.
Wowryk slapped him hard across the face.
“PIG!” she snapped as she stalked off.
“Wow,” Sean muttered as he rubbed his cheek, “what a woman!”
“You’re lucky she’s in a good mood,” came a deep voice from behind him, “most men who suggest copulation with her end up with a black eye at least.”
Sean spun around, then jumped back in shock. His arms came up in a series of half-remembered (and probably ineffective) self-defense poses.
“Who are you?” he shouted.
“Lieutenant Commander T’Parief, U.S.S. Silverado.”
Russell noticed that the massive alien was wearing a Starfleet uniform.
“Oh,” he said, “sorry.”
“I’m used to it.”
“So you’re going to brief me on these alien interspaz things?”
“Cool. So tell me more about that gorgeous woman. Is she single?”
“You don’t learn well, do you?”
Captain K’Eleese sat in her command chair on her vessel, the Jubilant Death. Lounged was more accurate. The chair itself was high-backed, with large armrests and matching a footstool. It was also the only chair on a Klingon ship that had a reclining back.
Klingons were generally not big fans of comfort but K’Eleese wasn’t your average Klingon. She was dressed in standard female Klingon body armor; metallic plates covered her torso, leaving her muscled arms bare. The steel plaits of her battle skirt clanked together as she moved. The armored breastplate was carefully molded to her body, and the cut displayed impressive cleavage. Her thick dark hair was pulled back from her forehead ridges, and flowed down her back in a long ponytail.
Up until this point, you would think ‘hmmm, average Klingon woman, trying to look tough and sexy all at once, but actually not looking much different from a Klingon man. Other than the chest that is.’ Well here is where the similarities end.
The interior of her armor was padded with the fur of some unfortunate creature. On the outside pink daisies, tulips and even a happy-face sun had been carefully painted. A large red ribbon held her hair in its ponytail.
The bridge of her ship wasn’t much different from any other Klingon vessel, aside from the fluffy stuffed targ hanging from the ceiling over the helm console.
K’Eleese turned to her first officer/mate/slave and smiled as she stretched in her chair.
“So our operative was successful?” she asked.
“Yes, M’Lady,” he said, “explosives have been placed on Waystation’s upper saucer. We can detonate them at your command.”
Almost quicker than the eye could see K’Eleese reached out and gripped her mate by the throat. Her fingerless gloves did nothing to conceal her deadly pink nails.
“I ordered explosives on BOTH saucers!” she snapped, the smile never leaving her face.
“A Federation starship docked before he could sabotage the lower saucer,” gurgled the first officer, “he…would have…been…detected…”
“WE ARE KLINGONS!” she bellowed, “WE DO NOT HIDE LIKE PATHETIC COWARDS!”
One of the Klingons standing on the bridge turned to her and asked curiously, “Then why are we using a cloaking device?”
K’Eleese’s free hand snapped out, sending a small but deadly knife flying across the bridge. It passed between the Klingons legs right below his groin and hit the bulkhead with a ‘thunk’. One inch higher and the unfortunate crewman would have found himself singing high soprano at the next opera.
“Do not question me!” she said, smiling brightly. She turned to her mate/slave, “Will we still be able to carry out our plans?”
He nodded feebly, on the edge of consciousness.
“Good,” she looked thoughtful, “how many times I have told you to stop calling me ‘M’Lady?”
He shrugged weakly.
“TOO MANY!” she snapped. She activated the glove on her hand, sending a mild (but painful) electric shock through the first officer. He gave a gurgling scream before collapsing to the deck.
“I expect you to be fully recovered before this evening,” she said, “ I will NOT be gentle in the bedroom tonight!”
Settling back into her chair, K’Eleese contemplated the station on the screen. It held something she wanted. An incredible weapon…one that could tip the balance of power in her favor. K’Eleese may be on the chipper side for a Klingon, but she had an incredibly nasty streak. She had decorated her armor as homage to the ‘Happies’, the deliriously happy yet incredibly dangerous (and powerful) inhabitants of the parallel Happy Universe that Starfleet had encountered several times over the past few years. Her original plan had been to get her hands on one of the so-called ‘Happy Beams’ that would transform normal people into Happies. That plan had gone belly-up, leaving her searching for a more old-fashioned Armageddon machine. “Signal our operative! Take us in!” she snarled cheerfully, “I wish to be finished with those Starfleet p’taks before ‘Days of Honor’ comes on!”
On Waystation, in the Starfleet Square Mall, a nondescript humanoid tapped out an acknowledgment on his comm-padd and boarded the turbolift, bound for Dillon Enterprises.
Beck and Stafford were just finishing dessert, some kind of Andorian ice cream. At least Stafford assumed it was Andorian, since ice cream on Earth wasn’t usually blood red with serrated ice blades sticking out of it.
“So,” Stafford started to say, before he was cut off as Waystation began to shake.
“Beck to Operations,” Beck snapped, “what the hell was that!”
“Explosion on the upper saucer!” came the panicked voice from Ops, “no, two explosions…three…four…”
“Son of a bitch!” Beck swore. She bolted out of the restaurant, bound for Ops. Stafford followed.
Stafford, Beck, Russell, T’Parief, Porter and Fifebee all spilled out of the turbolifts into the Operations deck of Waystation. The station had stopped shuddering but alarms blared and red lighting flashed everywhere.
“Report!” ordered Beck.”
“I’m checking!” yelled Russell. T’Parief was at his side in an instant, tapping at an auxiliary console.
“There have been multiple explosions on the outer hull,” T’Parief reported, “upper saucer, dorsal surface.”
Beck looked at Russell for confirmation. He nodded.
“All weapons on the upper saucer have been disabled,” reported Sean.
“All of them?” Beck asked in disbelief.
“All of them,” T’Parief confirmed.
“Who asked you?” Beck snapped, “Somebody get these people out of here!”
“We can help!” Stafford objected.
“The hell you can! This is MY station and MY crew! Get back to your ship, who knows what’s next?!”
His mouth tightened but Stafford waved his people toward the turbolifts.
“I’m staying,” he said flatly.
“Fine. Stay out of our way!”
Morales had arrived by this time and was tapping frantically at his Docking Control console.
“Several ships have been knocked off their moorings,” he reported, “docking arms 3, 7 and 8 were stressed beyond tolerance.”
“Russell, what’s going on with those weapons?” Beck asked. No reply. “Sean?”
Russell was pointing at his console. His mouth opened and closed several times, as if trying to speak.
“HAPPY KLINGONS!” he finally screamed.
“Happies?” Porter cried in fear.
“Happies?” Stafford asked, confused.
“Never mind! On-screen!” Beck shouted.
Directly above Waystation a Klingon cruiser had decloaked. There was a large, winking smiley-face painted over the front of the ship’s command section.
“Craig?” Beck asked.
“I’m picking up 140 Klingon life signs…all normal.”
Beck gave a sigh of relief then glared at Russell, “Thanks for scaring the hell out of us! Klingons are our allies! Just because one of them has bad taste in ship decor doesn’t mean they’re from an evil alternate universe!”
“I’m so confused right now,” Stafford said.
“They’re not responding to our hails,” Morales reported.
“Hey,” Russell said, “I think they’re trying to beam something off the station!”
“Yeah, right out of Dillon Enterprises R & D.”
“They’re inside the shield perimeter!”
“Auditmi to Ops!” came the rushed yet calm voice of Dillon Enterprise’s Acting CEO.
“Speak of the devil,” muttered Beck.
“Somebody has just run off with a very valuable and dangerous piece of technology! You must stop them!”
“Get a tractor beam on that ship!” Beck ordered.
“Tractor beams are offline on the upper saucer.”
Beck turned to Stafford.
“Oh, so NOW you want my help?” he asked.
“Just do it!”
“Stafford to Silverado, lock tractor beams on that Klingon ship!”
“Aye-aye Captain sir!” came the cheery voice of Ensign Yanick.
A bright blue beam seized the Klingon ship briefly before sputtering out. The ship started gliding away from Waystation, careful to stay out of sight of any functional weapons. “Trish?” Stafford asked, “Tractor beam?”
“Um, it’s not working.”
“They’re getting away!” called Sean.
“Take out their engines!” hissed Beck.
“Take out their engines!” Stafford called.
“How do I do that?”
“Use the phasers!” Stafford shouted.
“I’m not a tactical officer! Like I know where the ‘FIRE’ button is!”
“C’mon Trish, try!” Stafford pleaded, “Please?”
Stafford could hear buttons being pushed in the background.
“Silverado has just vented her waste holding tanks all over the upper saucer,” Porter reported.
“Wrong button!” Stafford called out, exasperated.
“Found it!” Yanick called triumphantly.
A bright phaser beam shot out of Silverado’s dorsal phaser array and connected with…absolutely nothing.
“Did I get them?” asked Yanick excitedly.
“NO!” snarled Beck, “They’ve already cloaked! Beck took a deep breath, working to control herself.
“And here I thought maybe THIS ship would have a halfway competent crew,” she said coldly to Stafford as she brushed past him, “Porter, see if you can track them. Call Mr.Auditmi up here, and somebody get the Wayward ready to go.”
Stafford followed Beck into her office.
“I don’t appreciate the comments you were making about my crew,” he said.
“If your ship and crew were up to par, that ship might not have escaped!”
“Yeah? Well at least we don’t panic at the sight of a smiley face!”
“If you had been through what we have, you would have been scared s**tless too!”
“Oh, so is that it?” Stafford asked, “We’re just not experienced enough for you?”
“And while we’re pointing fingers, how did a Klingon ship get so close to your precious station anyway?”
“It was cloaked!” Beck was getting really angry with this guy.
“It was parked on top of your sensor array!” said Stafford with a bark of laughter. Mr.Auditmi, a short, portly Zakdorn male in an expensive suit walked into Beck’s office unannounced.
“Am I interrupting something?” he asked mildly.
“NO!” Beck and Stafford snapped.
“Good, because we have important things to discuss,” he said, “I want you to go after that ship and get our stolen property back, and I want it done yesterday!”
“Well yes sir, whatever you say, sir!” said Stafford, heavy on the sarcasm, “Who the hell are you?”
“I am Mr.Audimi, acting CEO of Dillon Enterprises! Who are you?”
“Captain Stafford, and goody for you! That doesn’t give you the right to barge in here and start issuing orders!”
“It most definitely does not!” Beck affirmed, giving Stafford the ‘DO YOU MIND?’ look. Stafford backed down.
“I don’t think you understand the seriousness of this situation,” Auditmi objected.
“My station’s been bombed during a serious investigation regarding a threat to the Federation,” Beck said coldly, “I think I understand it well enough!”
“No you don’t!”
Stafford noticed that there was a sheen of sweat across the man’s features. Beck noticed it as well.
“They why don’t you enlighten me?” she asked, “What was stolen?”
Auditmi hesitated then said, “A particle collider.”
“So what?” asked Stafford, throwing up his arms in disgust, “it’s not like every high school in the galaxy doesn’t have one!”
“Do you mind?” this time Beck said it out loud. She sat at her desk, looking Auditmi straight in the eye, “What’s so important about this one?” she asked.
“Nothing big really,” Auditmi said, shifting his weight.
“Right,” Beck said, “I know Dillon better than that.”
“It’s just a particle collider, meant to determine the mass of a very special particle,” he said, then very quietly; “it just has the potential side effect of collapsing any planet it’s on into a single ultra-dense particle about the size of a walnut.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that last part,” Beck said, “it almost sounded like you said this device would crush a planet to something the size of a walnut, but I must have heard you wrong, because I know Dillon Enterprises would NEVER be experimenting with dangerous and probably illegal technologies on MY station!”
“That effect is an unfortunate by-product of the device’s operation!” objected Auditmi, “as soon as we discovered it, all research on the device and the…the particle in question was discontinued. The device was scheduled to be destroyed tomorrow.”
“Wonderful,” said Stafford, “so we have a doomsday device in the hands of a Klingon?”
“Well, we have a lot of light-years to cover, so we’ll just be on our way,” Stafford said, heading for the door, “Ciao!”
“Hold it!” snapped Auditmi,
“Whaaat?” whined Stafford.
“I expect that Starfleet will be doing its utmost to destroy this device and all knowledge of it. Your vessel is the only Starfleet starship currently docked here. You and Captain Beck must leave immediately!”
“We don’t take orders from you!” snapped Stafford. He turned to Beck, “Right?”
“Right,” she said, massaging her temples “but as much as I hate to admit it, he’s also right. The Wayward can’t go up against a Klingon cruiser of that size.”
“If this device were to be used it could reflect very badly on Dillon Enterprises,” Auditmi said forcefully, “it is my responsibility to maintain this business while Mr. Dillon is away! The device MUST be returned and the thieves brought to justice ASAP!”
“All right,” said Beck, “we’ll go after your doomsday bomb!”
“We will?” asked Stafford.
“Yes,” Beck sighed, “we will. Pirates and dangerous weapons are definitely on Starfleet’s list of ‘things to chase after’.”
“I’ll leave you two to work out the details,” said Auditmi, satisfied, “I expect you’ll be moving with all due haste!” he walked out the door.
“So,” Stafford said with forced cheer, “how about we go finish our dessert?”
After a minimum of bickering it was decided that Beck and Russell would be joining Stafford aboard Silverado and that Fifebee and Noonan would stay on Waystation to help track the spatial interphase devices. Jeffery transferred Fifebee’s program to Waystation’s holographic memory core, but warned her that her mobility would be limited. Since Waystation didn’t have the special holo-transceiver that Silverado had, Fifebee’s holo-relay had to be plugged directly into the core. She wouldn’t be able to move it around with her.
Porter had managed to get a partial ion trail on the Klingon ship, but only enough to tell what direction they were heading: away from Federation space and towards the colonies on the frontier.
Stafford, Beck, Russell and the Silverado senior staff were on the ship’s bridge. Beck had taken Noonan’s vacant seat while Russell had been directed to the port auxiliary console, which had been set-up as a secondary Tactical station (much to T’Parief’s displeasure.)
“Good thing we finally got a copy of that “Console Functions for Dummies” book,” Stafford had commented, “last time we tried switching these things around we were playing musical chairs all day!”
Beck did not appear amused.
“All right Yanick,” Stafford said, “we’re kind of in a hurry, so let’s get underway.”
“Aye sir,” Yanick said, her usual cheer dampened by her earlier performance.
“Ops has cleared us,” Jall said in a bored voice, “but they want us to clean up our mess when we get back.”
Mess was defiantly a good word to describe Waystation. The weapons arrays on the upper saucer had been reduced to rubble, with black scorch marks fanning out like starbursts. Repair teams were working hard, but there were hampered by the foul sewage Yanick had accidentally dumped when hunting for the phaser controls.
“So this is the young lady who made such a mess on my station?” Beck asked with the barest hint of amusement.
“Don’t distract her!” Stafford whispered urgently.
“I’m sorry Captain Beck,” Yanick said, “I’ve never had to use weapons before!”
“And it wasn’t her fault the tractor beam quit,” added T’Parief, eager to defend Yanick.
“I’m a believer in second chances, Ensign,” said Beck with a small smile.
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“Waystation should have sent you the raider’s course,” Beck continued, “set pursuit course, full thrusters until we’ve cleared the station.”
“Do you mind?” Stafford asked with a quirky grin.
“Oh, sorry. Force of habit.”
“What she said, Ensign.”
“Full thrusters, aye sirs.”
Beck was unfortunately about to learn that Stafford’s warning against distracting Yanick should have been taken seriously. While talking to Beck, Yanick had completely forgotten to clear the ship’s moorings. Silverado’s thrusters coughed to life while the ship was still firmly attached to the station. The already strained docking arm moaned with stress then snapped clean off. Silverado lurched forward while Waystation wobbled like a drunk in a ballet show.
“Ooops,” Yanick said quietly.
“I warned you,” Stafford said to Beck, shaking his head.
Beck simply sat there, mouth open in a silent gasp of shock.
K’Eleese was relaxing in her private quarters. She had already finished dealing with her mate. He was recovering from their ‘love-making’ in sickbay with multiple lacerations and six broken bones. K’Eleese was lying on a large, padded couch while various slaves saw to her appearance. One was working at each hand, finishing her nails to perfection. Another was working to give her a pedicure while yet another brushed her long hair.
“Are you having fun, my sweet?” she asked the Klingon slave working on her feet.
“Yes, M’Lady,” he replied.
“I told you never to call me that!” she snarled, giving him a harsh kick to the face.”
“Better. Now smile! You don’t look like you’re having fun, and I want all my minions to have fun!”
He forced a smile, revealing jagged teeth. A smiling Klingon looks more frightening than happy.
K’Eleese’s personal assistant/scientist, a large, muscled Klingon named Skoteth, entered the room.
“Ahh, my dear,” she purred, “what news do you have on my new toy?”
“We did retrieve the correct device. It matches your specifications perfectly.”
“Great! Be sure our agent is suitably compensated.”
“If I may ask…” he started.
“You may. But ask nicely. There has been enough pain and screaming for one evening.”
Nicely? Skoteth once again regretting having to work for this woman. Klingons do not ask ‘nicely’!
“Could you please tell me why we stole a simple particle collider from a heavily armored Federation station rather than using the one we have in the science lab?”
“Very good,” she slapped him hard across the face anyway, “but that’s for questioning me! This is a very special device and what it can do is a very closely kept secret. ‘
“Then how-“ ‘do you know about it’ Skoteth was going to ask, but the saw the warning in K’Eleese’s eyes. The question died on his lips.
She produced an isolinear data rod, a common device for transferring data.
“On this,” she said, “is a program that will configure the device. Duplicate the one we have, down to the last detail, then use this to program it. Once you have finished, have the helmsman find us an empty planet. I want to be sure I’m getting what I paid for!”
Captain’s Log, Stardate: 56235.8
“Wow. I’ve actually never seen somebody turn boiled-lobster red before. I had thought it was just an expression. Anyway, Captain Beck wasn’t very happy with us for damaging her station. It was only one docking arm…not that big a deal! I’m sure they can re-attach it if they get it on ice quickly enough.”
“We’ve been following the course given to us by Lieutenant Porter, but we haven’t found any sign of any cloaked ships yet. T’Parief and Russell have found an ion trail that looks promising, so we’re just going to follow that for now. We’ve got to run into them sooner or later, right?”
Stafford was in his ready room. Beck was sitting on the couch, head back with a hand over her eyes. Stafford brought over a cup of tea. Assuming the ion trail belonged to the Klingon ship, the enemy had a huge head start. But at least now they had a lead.
“What is this?” Beck asked suspiciously.
“Chamomile tea,” Stafford said.
“Yeah. It always relaxes me. You look like you need some relaxation”
Beck took a cautious sip and to her surprise felt some of the tenseness ease.
“At least we didn’t slice your station in half,” Stafford said, referring to the incident that had led to the construction of the new and improved Waystation.
“You heard about that?” Beck asked.
“What was that?’ Beck asked, alarmed.
“What was what?”
“Did your toilet just flush?”
“Huh? Oh. I guess it did,” Stafford frowned, “I thought they had fixed that.”
“Right. So are mechanical problems a common thing on this ship?”
As Silverado continued to chase after the raiders, Russell turned to T’Parief.
“So,” he said, “any idea how long this is going to take?”
“Oh. How come?”
“Because they have a head start and we cannot exceed warp 5 if we wish to follow the ion trail.”
“Oh,” Russell tapped as his console, “Hey, you guys have a pulse phaser!”
“Yes,” replied T’Parief.
“Can I try it out?”
“Because I said so,”
“No reason to get cranky.”
“WILL YOU TWO SHUT UP!!”
T’Parief looked around for the source of the annoyed voice. He finally came to the realization that it was Trish Yanick. Yanick? Yanick NEVER shouted! Ever!
“Take lunch,” T’Parief said to Russell.
“But I’m not-“
“Go. Maybe Dr. Wowryk will be in Unbalanced Equations.”
“THE LOUNGE!” T’Parief bared his teeth, “now GO!”
Russell gave T’Parief a confused look then entered the turbolift.
With Stafford, Beck, Noonan and Russell gone, T’Parief and Yanick were alone on the bridge. T’Parief walked up to the conn station and dropped to one knee to address Yanick.
“What is wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing.” Yanick said.
“I really f**ked up today!” Yanick wailed, “the tractor beam, then the phaser, then the docking…Captain Beck wasn’t very happy with me!”
“The tractor beam wasn’t your fault, you’re not a weapons officer and…” T’Parief thought for a second, “very well, I concede that the docking accident was your fault.”
A fresh round of tears burst from Yanick’s eyes.
“But that doesn’t mean…I mean, there’s no reason…I mean, ARRGGHH!” T’Parief bit off a shout of frustration, “Consoling women is NOT something I’m good at!”
“At least you’re trying,” Trish said with a small smile, “everybody else was just pretending nothing happened. Except for when Captain Beck turned red and that vein on her forehead started twitching.”
“That woman has the heart of a warrior,” T’Parief said with a touch of admiration, “but the Captain convinced her it was just an accident.”
“Yeah, but now he’s going to transfer me…just like that last one did!”
“I doubt it,” T’Parief said sincerely, “When you have your mind on your work you are an excellent helmswoman. You just have to work on avoiding distractions.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Besides, I doubt the Captain would get rid of you as long as you two are seeing each other.”
“SEEING EACH OTHER?!?!?”
“Yes. I thought the two of you were involved in human courtship rituals.”
“Courtship?” Yanick burst into laughter, “we’re not dating! We’re just friends!”
“Yes, you goof!” Yanick continued to giggle, “Dating the Captain! Do you really think I’d sleep my way to the top?”
“Um, no,” T’Parief was confused by the reference.
Finally bringing her laughter under control, Yanick put a hand on T’Parief’s shoulder.
“Thanks for cheering me up, I really needed that.
“My pleasure,” T’Parief grinned. The hunt resumed!
Back on Waystation, Porter, Noonan and Fifebee were huddled around Porter’s station in Ops. Fifebee had stashed her holo-relay in the engineering room of the upper saucer, where it could project here almost anywhere in that module. The commotion over the recently detached docking arm had faded as repair teams continued their work.
Porter was feeling completely creeped out by Noonan. The guy was pale as a ghost, spoke in a strangely formal way and kept anticipating Porter.
“Ok,” Porter said, “I hope one of you knows something about this kind of investigation, because our security chief went off chasing pirates.”
“I’m sure we’ll be able to figure out something,” Noonan said smoothly, “let’s start by looking at the docking schedule from the week before the Poodle and Endurance were here.”
“The docking schedules-“ Porter started.
“-are best accessed from Commander Morales’ console,” Noonan finished as he stepped in that direction. Porter shuddered.
“May I?” Noonan asked Morales.
“Um, sure,” Morales said. He stepped back and allowed Noonan to access the panel. Fifebee and Porter joined him.
“So,” Morales said, “how long-“
“-have I been on Silverado?” Noonan asked, “several weeks. It has been an interesting assignment.”
Porter had had enough. “How did you know he was going to ask that?” he demanded, “are you a Betazoid or something?”
“No. Studying human behavior is a…hobby of mine, you could say,” Noonan said, “my observations have helped me to anticipate certain behavior.”
“Keep talking like that,” Fifebee said with an arched eyebrow, “and everybody’s gonna think YOU are the hologram!”
Noonan chuckled. His smooth face was momentarily broken in an array of fine lines. Porter took an unconscious step back. He had a feeling that Noonan’s remark about ‘human behavior’ was a cover. He didn’t know why, but something about Noonan just felt…wrong.
Noonan brought up the listing of ships currently docked and compared it to the list of ships that had been docked on Waystation the week before the Endurance and the Poodle. He memorized both lists and turned to Fifebee and Porter.
“Several of the ships currently docked were here before the starships,” he said, “our next step should be to interrogate those captains. We shall start with non-Federation captains and go from there.” Fifebee nodded her agreement and turned towards the turbolift.
“Don’t you want to take the list with you?” Morales asked.
“No, thank you,” Noonan said, “I have it memorized.”
“I’ll be down in a minute,” Porter said. Noonan and Fifebee left.
“What the hell is wrong with him??” he hissed at Morales.
“Wrong with who?” Morales asked, puzzled.
“Wrong with Commander Noonan!”
“There was something wrong with him?”
“YES!” Porter snapped, “He’s pale, and weird, and kept finishing our sentences! And we had over a hundred ships docking during that week!! How can he remember which ones were here then and here now, or here then and not here now, or where they came from then and now, and, and…”
“Um, I never noticed anything,” Morales said, frowning, “maybe you’re just imagining things.”
“I don’t think so,” Porter said. But he headed to the turbolift anyway.
K’Eleese had awakened the next morning snuggled in her large, luxuriously soft bed with her various slaves sleeping on the floor around her. She allowed them to bathe and clothe her then headed to the bridge. Settling in her chair, she turned to Skoteth.
“How is my new toy?” she asked in a singsong voice.
“Ready to go,” grunted her servant.
“Oh come on,” she said, “you can sound happier than that!”
“READY TO GO!” he shouted with false enthusiasm.
“Better,” K’Eleese purred, “I so love it when my subordinates enjoy themselves.”
“Wench,” Skoteth muttered.
“What was that, sexy?” K’Eleese purred, leaning over.
“Wow,” Skoteth said, “a planet. Perfect for your test.”
“Oh goody!” K’Eleese said as she clapped her hands, “take the device down to the surface, activate it, then get up here as fast as those legs can carry you. Hmm…those are nice legs. You will report to my private chambers this evening.”
“Yes, K’Eleese,” Skoteth said aloud. He suppressed a shiver of disgust. This was going to take all the courage he possessed!
Skoteth had beamed himself and the device down to the planet surface. ‘Planet’ was generous; it was just a big rock. It didn’t even have an atmosphere, which had necessitated an environmental suit for Skoteth. He’d come alone; he needed the private time to prepare for the hell that awaited him when he returned.
Damn that woman anyway! Yes she was strong, powerful, vicious…everything a normal Klingon male would find attractive. But K’Eleese was…twisted. Her bizarre rules and requests, the insane symbols painted on the ship and her armor. What kind of self-respecting Klingon raider wore frilly under-things covered with pink hearts anyway?? He didn’t even know how she had acquired such power; only that to disobey would mean an agonizing death. He shuddered again. Considering what she had in mind for him in her ‘private chambers’, an agonizing death was starting to look pretty good! He kicked at a rock in frustration then howled as pain shot though his foot. The howl changed from a scream of pain into a release of pent up rage and fury that had been building since he had been ‘recruited’ by K’Eleese,
Throat raw, he activated K’Eleese’s mystery contraption and called for beam-out.
K’Eleese was still on the bridge when Skoteth returned. Her command chair had been moved to the side to make room for a massage table. She was lying on her stomach facing the screen as one of her many muscular slaves worked her back and shoulders.
“Is the device set?” she asked.
“Yes,” he growled.
“Awww,” K’Eleese sighed, “you look so unhappy. Stressed. I’m sure Hognak here would be happy to massage you next.”
Skoteth briefly considered, then said, “No, thank you. Now will we see why this device was so important to you?”
“Oh yes,” K’Eleese said, “you will see. Scan the planet. What do you see?”
“Energy levels in the device are rising,” Skoteth growled, “total activation in one minute.”
“Attention brave crew of the Jubilant Death,” K’Eleese called, “watch the planet closely and see what will give us control over the Empire!”
The planet sat there for a few moments, rotating slowly. Then a single, tiny point of light flared briefly, then faded.
“Is that IT???” demanded K’Eleese.
A fine network of lines radiated out from the exact spot where the light had flared. They spread with incredible speed across the planet. For an instant a vast network of jagged lines illuminated the globe.
Then the planet exploded outward, tiny chucks of rock flying in millions of directions. A vast, circular shock wave spread.
As suddenly as it had appeared the shock wave reversed direction, shrinking. The debris from the planet was drawn back, slow at first, then faster and faster, as though every piece of the shattered planet was being pulled into a black hole. The entire mass collapsed to a single tiny point that flared briefly with a brilliant light.
The planet was gone, leaving only a single, small chuck of matter.
“YES!!!” K’Eleese screamed in delight, “GLORIUS!!!”
<Nothing is safe from her now…> Skoteth realized with growing horror.
“I’m detecting a power surge!” snapped Ensign Burke over the comm.
Stafford and Beck were out of the ready room in an instant.
“Location?” ordered Beck.
Burke looked at Stafford.
“Where is it coming from?” Stafford asked.
“23 mark 6 sir. Theta Locari system.”
“Set a course. Increase to maximum warp!” Stafford ordered.
“Um, maximum warp?” Yanick asked from the helm.
“Yes, Ensign,” Beck said darkly, “is that a problem?”
Giving Beck an annoyed look, Stafford addressed Yanick, “What’s wrong?”
“We’ve never tried going faster than warp 5,” Yanick said.
“Stafford to Jeffery,”
“How fast can this thing go?”
“On paper or in reality?”
“Reality would be good.”
Jeffery thought for a moment, “I wouldn’t go above warp 7 until we’ve had a chance to break in these new engines.”
“Ok. How fast can we go without exploding?”
“About warp 7.2.”
“Ensign Yanick, take us to that disturbance. Warp 7.”
There was a noticeable vibration as the ship accelerated. Beck looked uneasily at Stafford.
“Are you sure this thing is safe?” she asked.
“Absolutely sure. Well, mostly sure. Pretty sure. So, how about that weather we’re having?”
Noonan, Porter and Fifebee had been sitting in Russell’s security office for hours, interrogating various freighter and small craft captains. Neither had tired, although Noonan was becoming very bored. Porter had been in and out, helping with the interrogations then leaving to ‘pursue other leads’, whatever that meant.
“So, Captain Zisk,” Fifebee said as she walked around the chair on which a stocky Talarian captain was seated, “you say you delivered 53 crates to Waystation on stardate 51680.”
“Yes, that is what I told you,” he said, “can I go now?”
“THERE WERE 54 CRATES!” Fifebee screamed, holographic spittle flying from her mouth. Porter jumped in surprise.
“What? No!” objected the Talarian.
“This security log clearly shows your men unloading 54 separate containers!” Fifebee snapped as she pulled up a log file, “I want to know what was in that last container!”
“You should tell us,” Noonan said gently, “before she gets really angry.”
The Talarian broke, “It was Lieutenant Russell’s monthly pornography shipment!” he wailed, “He didn’t want it to go through regular channels, so I agreed to slip it through the red tape in exchange for his ‘Talarian Mud-Wresting’ videos! I’m a bad, bad man!”
“Get out of my sight!” Fifebee snarled. Porter escorted Zisk out the door.
“I’ll bring in the next one,” Porter said warily.
“Are you sure you’re feeling all right, Lieutenant?” Noonan asked.
“I’m fine,” Fifebee said, calm and collected.
“You’ve been playing the bad cop for some time now. I could take a turn.”
“No,” Fifebee said, “the last time I let you interrogate somebody, you did your little hypnosis trick and had him talking in seconds. This is much more fun!”
“We still haven’t found a thing.”
“That’s all right, I can keep yelling at these idiots all day.”
The office door opened and Yeoman Jones walked in.
“Hi there,” Fifebee said, “how may I help you?”
Jones laughed, “That’s usually my line. As liaison officer it’s my job to be sure all visiting crews have everything they need.”
“You’ve been very accommodating,” Noonan said with a smile, “but we don’t need anything. Thank you.”
“Ok,” she turned to Fifebee, “would you like to grab lunch later?”
“I don’t eat,” Fifebee said, surprised, “but I could accompany you.” After her disastrous vacation with Stafford, Fifebee was reluctant to socialize much with organics. But Jones seemed harmless.
“Ok. I’ll come get you in a couple hours.” She left.
“She seems very friendly,” Fifebee commented.
“Porter sent her in to see if she noticed anything ‘creepy’ about me,” Noonan said as he read his padd.
“How do you know that?”
“Because she’s talking to him right now. And he’s been strangely suspicious of me.”
“Humans are strange creatures.” Fifebee said thoughtfully.
“They defiantly are.”
“So are you.”
“You have no idea!”
Jones and Fifebee were sitting in the food court of the Starfleet Square Mall. Jones had grabbed some kind of panzerotti from Sandwich or What, while Fifebee sat across from her. She did not create a holographic meal, as she had done on occasion before.
“I’ve never had lunch with a hologram before,” Jones was saying, “well, I have, but it was on the holodeck. And he wasn’t nearly as intelligent as you are.”
“Starfleet has taken great pains to ensure that only holograms who are meant to develop sentience can, in fact, develop it,” Fifebee said.
“Yeah,” Jones said, “good thing too. I mean, no offense, you’re great! But I’ve heard of some pretty scary things happening when holograms go crazy.”
“So I’ve heard. I usually start growing ridges or points when one of the personalities in my database starts to assume control, however I wouldn’t say that I’m going to go crazy.”
“Points and ridges, huh? Really? That must be weird,”
“It is,” Fifebee said.
“Oh my,” Jones said as her eyes widened.
“What?” Fifebee asked, concerned.
“Were any of the personalities guys?” Jones asked in a quiet voice.
Fifebee looked at Jones for a moment, then burst out laughing.
“OH MY GOD!!” she hollered as she was overcome by frantic giggles, “‘Were any of them boys’!” Fifebee fought hard to get her emotions under control.
“It hasn’t been a problem yet,” she said when the giggles had subsided, “but that is DEFINITELY something I’ll have to watch out for!”
Jones took another bite of her panzerotti. Feeling strangely upbeat, Fifebee closed her eyes briefly. A bagel with cream cheese appeared in front of her. She hesitated, then began to eat daintily.
“Neat trick,” Jones said, “So how goes the investigation?”
“I’ve yelled at 89 separate ship captains until they confessed to one crime or another. The problem is that none of them are guilty of the crime we’re looking for!”
“Maybe it’s one of the ships that isn’t here right now,” Jones said helpfully.
“Probably,” Fifebee said. “It would help if we could narrow things down a bit.”
“How did the first doohickey get onto your ship?”
“We don’t know. Starfleet didn’t seem too interested in investigating at the time. It’s likely the same…s**t.”
“I’m sorry?” Jones was confused.
“I must be the most unintelligent hologram ever created. Fifebee to Noonan.”
“Double check that list. Were any of those ships from the Waystation docking list anywhere near Earth while the Silverado was in box dock?”
A brief pause. “Yes. The Pakled freighter Boink delivered a shipment of carpets to Silverado then proceeded to Waystation to pick up a shipment of cotton underwear,” Noonan paused again, “we’re idiots for not checking sooner, aren’t we?”
“Yes. Yes we are.”
“Let’s not tell the captain about this.”
“We’re approaching the source of the disturbance,” reported Yanick. She was doing her best to sound professional.
“Slow to half impulse,” Stafford ordered.
Beck looked at the main display, “According to our last survey, there should be a planet here.”
“I guess our Klingon friends have figured out how that thing works then,” Stafford said gravely.
The ship shuddered and the stars started spiraling across the screen.
“What the f**k?” yelled Stafford as he was thrown against Beck.
“We’re being pulled into a gravity field,” reported Burke.
“Yanick, get us out!”
Yanick started tapping frantically at her panel. She could see that the ship was too deep in the gravity well to pull up. She nosed the ship straight down, directly at the source.
Beck opened her mouth to object, then understood what Yanick was doing. Since the ship was too close to pull away from the object she was doing a slingshot or ‘gravity-assist’ to free the ship.
Silverado whipped around the source of the pull and soared away.
“Good work Ensign,” Stafford said, “Burke, what was that thing?”
“According to my scans, a single super-dense particle, 3.2 centimeters in diameter.”
“How big is that?” Beck asked.
“About the size of a walnut.”
Beck and Stafford exchanged glances.
“Not good,” Beck murmured.
“Can you find any sign of the raider?” Stafford asked.
“You mean like a large Klingon ship with a smiley face painted on the front flying straight at us?” Ensign Burke asked, scratching his head.
“YES!” Stafford snapped, “Why didn’t you say so sooner?”
“Aren’t the Klingons, like, our friends and stuff?” Burke asked.
“Remind me to yell at you later!” Stafford turned to Beck, “I like this part…RAISE SHIELDS, RED ALERT!” he called out.
The lights on the bridge dimmed and the red alert panels lit up. The lights started pulsating as an electric beat rang through the ship’s comm system and a loud female voice began to sing.
“Red alert, red alert it’s a catastrophe!
But don’t worry…don’t panic!”
“Jall,” Stafford shouted over the noise, “what the hell is that?”
“I thought it sounded cooler than that stupid Klaxon!” Jall called back.
“Um, Captain,” Beck tried to cut in.
“We have some small computer problems,” Stafford apologized to Beck, then shouted at Jall, “Fix that damned thing!”
“Ok, ok!” Jall started tapping at his panel. There was a burst of static.
“Roses are red, oh, violets are blue,
Honey is sweet but not as sweet as you!”
“I saw a red door and I want it painted black!”
“Red, red wine!”
“Jall, fix that f**king thing!” snapped Stafford.
“Captain, maybe this isn’t the time…” Beck tried to cut in again, pointing at the approaching Klingon ship.
“She’s my lady in red!”
“Why are they just sitting there?” demanded K’Eleese, “Most Federation captains would at least have the courtesy to say hello by now!”
“Let’s blow them to Gre’thor!” snarled her mate/slave.
“No!” snapped K’Eleese, “I need somebody to be terrified by my evil plan, or else what the hell is the point?!” She thought for a moment, “One light shot, just to catch their attention.”
On the Silverado bridge the situation had deteriorated. Beck had given up and now sat in Noonan’s seat, her head resting on her hand while Jall continued to tap at his panel. The main screen had come to life and was showing an elderly man with a gray beard in some kind of control room;
“I present you with the ballistic missile submarine Red October,”
A skinny man in a striped shirt and green mask was chasing a slender blond woman;
“Our love is like a red, red rose. And I am a little thorny!”
Finally, the screen returned to its normal view and the alert siren sounded as usual.
“There,” Stafford said to Beck, “much better.”
The bridge shook as Klingon weapons struck the ship’s shields.
“I don’t think they liked being ignored!” T’Parief called out, “Shields are holding.”
A fierce Klingon woman in cheerfully painted armor appeared on screen.
“This is Captain Chris Stafford-“
“This is Captain Lisa Beck-“
The two captains looked at each other. Beck sat back down and gestured for Stafford to go ahead.
“-Chris Stafford of the Federation Starship Silverado. Um, can we please have our doomsday bomb back?”
Beck sighed. To her surprise the Klingon smiled at Stafford.
“No little man, you may not! But thank you for asking so politely.”
“I am K’Eleese, captain of the Jubilant Death. I’ve destroyed that pathetic planet to prove to you that I hold the ultimate weapon, and will use it to destroy your Federation a planet at a time, unless you agree to my demands!”
“Fair enough. What are your demands?”
“I demand to be named Empress of the Klingon Empire. I also demand fifty muscular human males to be transferred to my ship. I also want 2 stuffed pandas, the Martha Stewart home video library, a crate of those little paper umbrellas and a genuine Earth horsewhip.
“Help me!” muttered one of the Klingons in the background.
“She’s put a lot of thought into this,” Stafford muttered to Beck.
“We can handle the horsewhip, the pandas and the umbrellas, “Stafford said, “but we don’t control the Klingon Empire, and I doubt you could find fifty muscular men on this ship.”
“Then how about your security chief? He looks tasty.”
Stafford turned to T’Parief.
“What do ya say? Wanna spend the night with a lunatic?”
“I will pass,” T’Parief grumbled.
“Sorry,” Stafford said to K’Eleese.
“Then we have nothing further to discuss!” she snapped, “If you want my planet crusher, you’ll have to fight me for it!”
“Ok. Talk to you later.”
“Have a good day, Captain,” K’Eleese smiled and closed the connection.
“She’s nuts,” Beck said.
Silverado pitched as the Klingons opened fire.
“Return fire!” ordered Beck.
“What she said!” called out Stafford.
T’Parief and Russell worked their panels, unleashing a barrage of phaser fire at the Klingon ship. Several shots connected.
“Their shields are also holding,” reported T’Parief.
“Fire photon torpedoes!”
Two red torpedoes shot from the Silverado and slammed into the Klingon ship. K’Eleese countered with two quantum torpedoes.
Sparks flew across the bridge as the ship bucked.
“Shields down to 75%!” T’Parief called as Russell fired off another phaser barrage.
“Do you have any quantums?” Beck asked.
Two bright blue torpedoes slammed into the Klingon ship, knocking it off course.
“Good shot T’Parief!” Stafford called.
“That was me!” called Russell.
“Whoever! Nice shot!”
“They’re coming about!”
The Klingon ship unleashed another barrage of quantum torpedoes at the Silverado.
“Evasive maneuvers!” called Beck and Stafford.
The ship shook like it would come apart. The science console exploded, sending Ensign Burke flying into Lieutenant Russell. Stafford was tossed against the bridge railing, then fell to the floor unconscious.
“Bridge!” Jeffery called from Engineering, “We can NOT take much more of this! We’ve got power surges all across the board!”
“Medical team to the bridge! Status of the Klingon ship?” ordered Beck.
“Their shields are down to 45%. Ours are at 40. They’ve taken damage to their warp engines.”
“Give them everything we’ve got!” ordered Beck.
Russell grinned, “Powering up the pulse cannon!”
T’Parief whirled towards him, “NO!!!!!”
To an external viewer, the result was impressive. The pulse phaser cannon mounted on the underside of the Silverado’s saucer came to life, firing a series of high-power phaser bolts, similar to an old Earth machine gun. The shots hit the Klingon ship dead on, blasting through its shields and turning its port nacelle into slag.
Inside the ship the results were less pretty. Lights all over the ship dimmed as the cannon sucked up power. Safety cut-offs kicked in as power conduits overloaded. The result? Black out!
Beck sat in the dark on the bridge for several seconds before emergency lights kicked in.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Somebody,” Jall said pointedly, “used a weapon we haven’t figured out how to work yet!”
“Oops,” Russell said.
“Way to go, numb-nuts!” Jeffery called up from Engineering, “Whoever pulled that little stunt just fried the main power conduit to the entire saucer section!”
“Do you have power down there?” demanded Beck.
“Oh yeah, and plenty of it! Ye just can’t have anything other than emergency power for awhile.”
“Do your best to keep the shields up!”
“Who put you in charge, lady?” Jeffery asked.
“The railing that knocked your captain out cold!”
The ship shook as the Klingons returned fire.
“With what?” asked Russell.
“I’m using the phasers on the engineering section,” T’Parief called out.
The bridge of the Jubilant Death was in rough shape. Shields had been partially restored, but consoles sparked, the lights were dim and several crewmembers were unconscious. The ship’s warp drive was also hopelessly fried. Skoteth had dared to hope that the humans would beat his demented leader when they took out the ship’s warp drive, but his sensors showed that over half of the Starfleet ship was down to emergency power.
Skoteth had joined K’Eleese’s ship as a last resort, as had every member of her crew. Although he was in disgrace, his own sense of honour told him that K’Eleese was a crazy bitch. The humans were their allies now! And why steal a device to blow up planets? Blowing up planets was moronic. You wanted to conquer planets and use their resources. In any event, Skoteth was starting to feel that he would have to take action.
“You incompetent fools!” screamed K’Eleese, “We should be able to destroy that piece of junk easily!”
“I thought you wanted them to carry our demands back to Starfleet?” asked her curious crewman.
This time the knife struck him in the chest.
“Fool!” K’Eleese spat on the corpse.
The ship shook again.
“Their shields are down to 17%,” reported the weapons master, “but ours have been restored to 18%!”
“That ship should not have a gun that big!” snarled K’Eleese, “Skoteth, prepare the other planet crusher! We’re going to launch it at them and crush them like bugs!”
“As you command,” Skoteth left the bridge.
<Like hell! > he thought to himself.
Silverado shook again.
Yanick was pulling every evasive maneuver in the book (and a few Beck had never seen) but the Klingons continued to pound Silverado. Thanks to Yanick’s flying though, most of the hits were on the sections of the ship where the shields were stronger.
“Good flying Yanick,” Beck called out, “Russell, T’Parief, what’s the story?”
“We’re too evening matched,” T’Parief said, “At this rate, we’re just going to destroy each other!”
“Not good enough!”
“I’m getting a message from the Klingon ship,” reported Jall, “text only.”
“What does it say?”
“‘Silverado’,” Jall read, “‘the bitch in charge of this ship is insane. I’ll disable weapons if you give me safe passage back to Klingon space. What the hell…while we’re at it, how about…’ oh! Wow, um, that’s it. No more.”
“It’s a trick,” said T’Parief, “no Klingon would betray his crew like that!”
“All he wants is a trip to Qo’nos?” Russell shot back, “I’d take that chance.”
“I’m with Russell on this one,” Beck said, “Jall, tell him we accept.”
“Sure thing, gorgeous!”
After receiving a strange (but affirmative) reply from the Starfleet ship, Skoteth snuck out of his laboratory and into an access corridor. He disengaged the flow regulators on the plasma conduits powering the weapon systems, then ran like hell.
“Their shields are down!” reported the weapons officer triumphantly.
“Excellent!” K’Eleese gave a fierce grin, “Fire!”
A phaser blast shot out from the Klingon ship, blasting a hole in the Silverado’s saucer. “Yes!”
There was a sudden shower of sparks as the Klingon ship shuddered.
“What was that?”
“Our weapons are offline! Conduits have ruptured on deck 8!”
“Fix them!” snarled K’Eleese.
Silverado’s bridge tipped to one side as the Klingon phaser blast hit the saucer.
“Hull breach on Deck 8!” Jall cried, “Emergency forcefields holding!”
Nurse Kerry bolted out of the turbolift and hunched next to Stafford with a medkit.
“He’ll be fine…once he wakes up.” She moved on to where Burke was sprawled on the floor, “Him too.”
“I’m reading overloads on the Klingon ship,” reported Burke’s replacement, “their weapons are offline.”
“Disable them,” Beck ordered as she settled back in Stafford’s chair.
“Klingon vessel, this is Silverado. Surrender and prepare to be boarded,” spoke an accented male voice over the Jubilant Death’s comm system, “and oh yeah: nya-nya! We win!”
T’Parief, Dar’ugal and several other security officers beamed onto the disabled ship’s bridge. K’Eleese snarled at them.
“I’ll take every one of you with me if I have to! You’re not taking me alive!”
“Fine!” grunted T’Parief. He took a step towards her.
“Wait!” called out a deep voice. Skoteth emerged onto the bridge, “she’s mine!”
He walked up to his former captain and slugged her hard across the jaw. K’Eleese fell to the floor.
“That is for making me play horsy last week!!” he snarled.
T’Parief stood over K’Eleese’s fallen form. Took in the big red bow in her hair, the bright shapes painted on her armor and the brightly painted fingernails. He also noticed cuts, bruises and scars on most of the unconscious Klingons. He turned to the newcomer.
“I take it you are the one who betrayed your captain and sabotaged your ship?”
“I’m beginning to understand why.”
Stafford regained consciousness on his ready room couch. Holding a hand to his head he stumbled out onto the bridge.
It was a mess. Only emergency lights were on. Several consoles were shattered and black scorch marks covered several sections of wall. The ship’s schematic on the back wall had several red indicators on it. Jall, Russell and Yanick were working on repairs.
“What happened?” he asked. Russell spoke up.
“Captain Beck defeated the Klingons. One of their officers decided their captain was crazy and sabotaged their ship. T’Parief took a boarding party over and is transferring the prisoners to the brig as we speak.
“Nice. Any battle highlights I should hear about?”
“Russell tested out our new pulse phaser,” Jall piped up.
“Oh yeah? How did that go?”
“He fried the power conduits. The saucer is on emergency power.”
Stafford glared weakly, “Nice job, dumb-ass! Stafford to Beck. What’s up?”
“We’ve finished transferring the prisoners,” Beck reported, “once emergency repairs are complete, we can head back to Waystation. We found and destroyed the collider.”
“Sweet! I hear we had a little helper over there?”
“Yeah. He says that K’Eleese never told the crew what the collider was for until she used it, and nobody but her knows how to alter it to crush planets. Dr.Wowryk is giving her a mind-wipe as we speak.”
“Sounds like you handled things really well.”
“That’s the advantage of years of experience!” Stafford could hear the smile in Beck’s face as she said this.
“I bet. I’ll be right down to meet our guest.”
“Oh! Oh! I wanna come!” Jall said.
“Um, I’ve never met a Klingon before?”
Stafford and Jall met Beck and Skoteth in the transporter room as the last of K’Eleese’s crew were beaming over.
“She was insane,” Skoteth was saying, “she was ruthless, fearsome and merciless, like any good Klingon woman should be. But the flowers on her armor and the cheerfulness were just too much. Most of the crew did not want to work for her, but had little choice. You could not imagine the humiliating tortures we were subjected to in her bedchambers.”
“I see,” Beck said, not looking particularly interested, “Skoteth, this is Captain Stafford and Lieutenant Jall.”
“Nice to meet you,” Stafford said, “I guess we owe you a lot.
“Think nothing of it,” Skoteth turned to Jall.
“Hey,” Jall said, “I wrote the message,”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Skoteth wound up and punched Jall across the face. It was a pretty light punch, but it still spun Jall’s head about and sent him stumbling into the bulkhead.
“Nice shot!” Stafford exclaimed.
Jall bounced off the wall and delivered a swift uppercut to Skoteth’s jaw. Skoteth reeled back, then smiled.
“Excellent,” Skoteth said with a grin. He turned to Stafford, “It has been a long day. You have quarters for me?
“Uh, sure,” Stafford said, “Jall will see to it. Just try to avoid beating up any more of my officers.”
Skoteth and Jall walked away. Stafford turned to Beck.
“What the hell was that about??”
Beck thought for a moment.
“Has Jall ever exhibited any…strange behavior?” she asked.
“Like dancing around his quarters in blue spandex and giving fashion advise to my helmswoman?”
“Pretty much,” Beck took Stafford by the arm and led him in the opposite direction, “let’s just say you REALLY don’t want to know what they’re probably going to do and leave it at that, shall we?”
Captain’s Log, Supplemental.
“I’m thrilled to announce that we have successfully completed both missions. The planet crusher has been destroyed and all record of its existence erased. Noonan, Fifebee and Porter have tracked the spatial interphase generators to a Pakled freighter, which Starfleet plans to investigate.
“We’ve returned to Waystation to finish repairs before departing known space.”
Captain’s Personal Log,
“This is the first time we’ve had to combine our efforts with another Starfleet crew. I think we did fairly well. OK, fine. It was a disaster. My doctor beat up their chief of security. My helmsman ripped a docking arm off the station and splattered waste all over their hull. Their chief of security managed to short out main power for our entire saucer section in the middle of a battle. And there was more than a little friction. All in all, Captain Beck and I have decided to call it even.”
Most of the senior staff of Waystation and Silverado was in Unbalanced Equations. The lounge manager, Steven Steiger, never needed an excuse for a party. Captain Beck and the Waystation officers had reluctantly agreed to attend.
“And he actually said ‘sure thing, gorgeous’!” Yanick was saying to Stafford.
“No way!” Stafford exclaimed, “He said that to Captain Beck? How come she gets manners and obedience from him and all I get are sarcasm and a smirk?”
“Would you rather have him calling you gorgeous?” Beck asked.
“Definitely not! I’d settle for the good manners.”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” rumbled T’Parief.
“Keptain Stafford!” came a loud, heavily accented voice. A tall, blond woman approached. Her hair was pulled from her plain face in a severe bun.
“Yeah? What do you want?” Stafford asked.
“I’m Dr. Eva Yvonnokoff. Your ship’s counselor!”
“Oh yeah, I completely forgot about you!”
“Interesting,” Eva pulled out a padd and started taking notes, “could zis be a sign of hostility? Hmmm???”
“She’s gonna fit right in!” muttered Beck.
Yanick wandered over to where Jall was chatting with Morales
“You’ve been really cheerful today,” Yanick said to Jall. She turned to Morales, “He doesn’t socialize much.”
“I see,” Morales said.
“What’s up?” Yanick asked Jall.
“I made a new friend!”
“Oh, that’s nice. Friends are good to have. Is it anybody I know?”
“I doubt it.”
A few tables down, Russell was continuing his pursuit of Dr.Wowryk. She was seated in one of the armchairs near the windows, trying hard to ignore him.
“So, how about that view?” he was saying, “oh, look!” he pointed at a window, “that’s Ensign Borel’s quarters. Are there any binoculars in here? She’s got an amazing rack!”
Wowryk sighed, then turned to glare at Russell.
“Now listen very carefully, you disgusting little worm. I will not date you. I will not sleep with you. I don’t want to have anything to do with you. You’re a sickening pig of a man with no respect for women. I find most men unpleasant, but you are really sick!”
“Don’t like men, huh?” Russell said.
“No. Especially not if it means you.”
“I see,” Russell paused, “so can I watch the show the next time you and your girlfriend are doing it?”
Dr.Nelson was sitting with Lieutenant Porter next to the wall.
“I never figured out what was wrong with that guy,” Porter was saying.
“Forget it,” advised Nelson, “they’re going to be gone soon anyway and you’ll never have to put up with him again.”
Their conversation was interrupted by shouting.
“I AM NOT A LESBIAN!!!!!” Dr.Wowryk screamed, “YOU PERVERTED LITTLE ATHEIST BASTARD!”
Russell narrowly dodged a beer mug aimed right for his head as he bolted out the door.
“I like her,” said Nelson.
Stafford led Beck to a table and handed her one of Steven’s Klingon Martinis.
“Thanks for not getting my ship blown up,” Stafford said.
“No problem,” Beck replied, taking a sip, “what’s this thing floating in my drink? Klingon olive?”
“Ummm…yeah. Exactly. So, can I call you sometime?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Sorry Chris,” Beck said, “dinner was fun. Until my station got bombed. Then we were working too closely together. It just wouldn’t work. Besides, I’m not looking for a relationship right now.”
“Okay, okay,” Stafford said, “one excuse would have been enough. You don’t have to completely destroy me.”
“Nothing personal. I’m sure you understand.”
“U.S.S. Silverado, requesting permission to depart.”
“You’re cleared, Silverado,” replied Commander Morales as he tapped at his docking control pad, “have a nice trip. Please try to avoid ripping the docking arm off this time.”
“Right. Silverado out.”
“Phew,” sighed Beck, “I’m glad that’s over.”
“They weren’t so bad,” Morales said, “There were no serious injuries and the damage to the station was repaired easily.”
“Yeah, but I’m still glad they’re going to be gone for a long time.”
Silverado detached smoothly from the station.
“Okay Ensign,” Stafford said, “I think that’s enough excitement for awhile. Resume our course, warp 5.”
“Yes sir!” Yanick said, her usual cheer restored.
Jall sat happily at his station.
“Jall, report!” Stafford ordered.
“Just working to improve the efficiency of our computer core.”
Stafford stared at him blankly. “What??”
“I figured it I make some minor changes in the software I can cut down on the number of malfunctions we’ve been having.”
“So…you’re doing something constructive…on your own…without being ordered, cajoled or threatened?”
“Do me a favor: Run downstairs to Hell and check the thermometer.”
“It reads at freezing, sir.”
“Thought so. Carry on.”
Next time, on Star Traks, Silverado: A freak malfunction leaves the ship dead in the water. Sound familiar?