Author: Brendan Chris
Author’s note: This story is a Special. That means that I’m completely ignoring other impacting events from earlier in the season in order to provide an amusing story carefully timed to coincide with a holiday or event. If you have a problem with this, please dunk your head in the nearest horse trough and call me in the morning.
“I think you’re chicken,” Ensign Trish Yanick taunted her captain from the helm console near the front of the bridge.
Lieutenant Fifebee’s eyebrows rose in alarm.
“Has the science department been conducting unauthorized experiments again?” she asked, turning to face the front of the bridge.
Captain Stafford turned in his seat to look at her.
“Huh?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Fifebee said quickly, “Just trying to make a joke,” she turned back to her station, “I show those people one piece of genetic manipulation and now they think they’re gods,” she mumbled under her breath.
“Look,” Stafford said, turning back to Yanick, “Just because I don’t want anything to do with this outdated holiday doesn’t mean I’m a scaredy-cat,”
“Why are we now involving felines?” T’Parief groaned from Tactical, “Chickens, cats, why is it you humans must turn every expression into an all-you-can-eat buffet??”
“That right there is scarier than any spooky decorations Steven could put up,” Jall quipped.
“At least Mr. T’Parief doesn’t need a costume,” Noonan said with a soft smile.
“Look who’s talking,” Stafford and Fifebee muttered together.
“I really do love Halloween,” Noonan went on, sounding almost wistful, “A celebration of the supernatural. Ghost, goblins and even,” something glittered in his eyes, “vampires,”
“All myths,” Stafford waved his hand dismissively, “I’d rather deal with what’s real,”
“If you say so,” Noonan grinned. His grin grew into a smile. His smile gave way to chuckles then finally to giggles.
“Haven’t seen him laugh like that in a long time,” Yanick said happily, “It’s good for him,”
Finally Noonan regained control of himself.
“I’m sorry, Captain,” he said, “I tend to get a bit excited on Halloween,”
“Uh-huh,” Stafford said slowly.
“If nothing else,” Sylvia piped in, her face appearing on the Port Auxiliary console display, “Steven will have plenty of candy and scary movies in the lounge this evening. That is real enough,”
“Candy is definitely real,” Stafford agreed, “And if Steven’s digging out the chocolate then I’m there!”
“Chocolate makes Ensign Yanick hyper,” T’Parief said sadly.
“Hyper?” Stafford grinned, turning back to regard his security chief.
“More hyper,” T’Parief clarified.
“Chocolate makes me fat,” Jall added, “It goes STRAIGHT to my hips!”
Stafford and T’Parief exchanged uneasy glances then returned to their duties.
“This is just far too easy,” Simon Jeffery complained later as he lounged comfortably on Dr. Wowryk’s couch, “Couldn’t ye come up with something more creative? The crew’s gonna have a field day with this!”
“Why do you say that?” Wowryk asked as she stepped out of her bedroom, ducking to avoid hitting her pointed hat against the doorframe, “Simon, did you bring my broom?”
“Aye,” Jeffery sighed, “Yer gonna be the prettiest witch at the party.
“And where is your costume?” Wowryk asked.
“In me quarters,” Jeffery said, “It’s a surprise,”
“Hmm,” Wowryk worked to straighten her corset, “I’m going to see if Nurse Kerry can help tie this corset,”
“Ah can do it,” Simon objected.
“Thank you, Simon,” Wowryk said, looking down her nose. She focused on what Yvonnokoff had told her: he’s trying to be helpful. Appreciate his efforts. Not everything is an effort to get sex, “But the tying of corsets is traditionally a task for a woman of lower social standing,”
“Er, right,” Simon decided not to press the issue. He was surprised enough that Noel was participating in the Halloween party instead of condemning the partygoers to Hell or Purgatory or something. He was even more surprised when she decided to go with the corset for that ‘evilly thin’ look. But the whole concept of Wowryk being constrained by male/female roles was ridiculous; he knew the real reason she didn’t let him help with the costume was because she still wasn’t comfortable with him touching her. But he could respect her personal space.
“This,” Stafford said, surveying Unbalanced Equations, “is really strange,”
Dozens of crewmen and officers mingled in the lounge, which Steven had decorated with Jack-O-Laterns from Earth, Jeelug dolls from Trill and Death Day pennants from Vindali 5.
“Did you know,” Fifebee said, sipping a holographic cup of tea, “That 79 percent of Federation worlds celebrate a holiday with a theme on death, ghosts or the supernatural? And that furthermore, 65 percent of those holidays take place during local fall?”
“Fascinating,” Stafford said dryly. Speaking of ghosts, there goes Crewman Shwaluk covered head to toe in a white sheet. On his arm was Nurse Kerry in a strapping Joan of Arc outfit. Yanick had surprised everybody by showing up dressed as a Klingon, elaborate makeup giving her the look and plenty of synthehol giving her the loud and boisterous disposition.
Jall had shown up wearing a military camouflage uniform from the 21st century and had already annoyed the hell out of several people by chanting ‘this is my rifle, this is my gun’ until Yanick smacked him upside the head. Noonan was stealing the show in a beautiful tuxedo; his skin gleamed like polished ivory and his gestures were even more fluid than normal. A pair of fake fang teeth, at least everybody assumed they were fake, were visible when he smiled. Sipping his wine, he moved from group to group, easing in and out of conversations as easily as one might sink into a hot bubble bath.
“Halloween can be such a freeing experience,” he said to Stafford in passing. He gestured to where Dr. Wowryk was just coming through the door, pointed had sticking up above the crowd, “In some cases, it can be a chance to express ourselves as we really are,”
“Well,” Stafford grinned, “Wowryk sure hit things dead-on with her costume!”
Becky, one of the waitresses, was wearing a French Maid’s uniform while Nurse Veeneman was wearing a perfect replica of a nurse’s uniform from the 1950’s era.
“I figured we should have one medical-type person on duty,” she giggled, after catching Stafford staring at her, er, assets.
“Yeah,” he pulled his eyes away and returned his attention to Fifebee, “So what did you dress up as, anyway?” She was wearing a strange, flowing black gown and her hair had been freed from its customary bun to cascade down her back.
“I am Mrs. Addams,” Fifebee said in a cool yet polite voice.
“You’re dress is, um,” Stafford searched for the phrase, “It’s kinda tight,”
“I didn’t mean it that way!” Stafford shot back, “It’s tight. That’s it. I’m not ‘noticing’ anything!”
“Please,” Fifebee sniffed, “You get so little female attention you’d hit on Sylvia if she had breasts! Or a body!”
“That’s just wrong on levels I can’t even begin to describe!” Stafford objected, “And besides, I got laid by-“
“By a Senousian Prefect,” Jeffery cut in, joining the conversation, “Aye, we know! Ye’ve been milking that experience for far too many months now!”
“Who the hell are you?” Stafford demanded.
“I’m yer bud, so I get to say stuff like that about you-“ Jeffery started.
“No, I mean who are you dressed up as? All I see is a weird engineer with a dress, a pointy stick and a pair of, ugh, what the hell did they go those eye thingies? Mugs?”
“It’s a robe, not a dress, and they’re called glasses! Ah’m Harry Potter,” Jeffery said proudly, brandishing a wooden stick, “This is me magic wand!”
“Some of us don’t need extra magic wands!” Stafford said with a smile, “the ones we were born with are magical enough!”
Jeffery and Fifebee looked at him blankly.
“I need a woman in my life,” Stafford sighed.
“Another Gorn Gutwrencher, my big handsome man?” Yanick slurred, draped as she was on T’Parief’s arm.
“Please, my mighty warrior,” T’Parief smiled. As Yanick ambled over to the bar, T’Parief looked up just in time to see Noel Wowryk stride by in full costume: Black pointed hat, old-fashioned green dress, fake warts and a ratty old broomstick. She said something to Noonan who smiled widely, giving T’Parief a very clear view of two very real fang teeth.
He looked at his empty mug, back to Wowryk, over to Noonan and then back to his mug again.
“Trish,” he called out, “Better make it two!”
“Well, isn’t this stereotypical!” Stafford smirked as Wowryk passed by, little Luke glaring at the surrounding crowd from where he was cradled in one arm “At least somebody was thinking when they picked their costume!”
“And what are you dressed up as, Captain?” Wowryk asked, “A jerk?”
“I’m a Changeling,” Stafford said indignantly, “They look just like everybody else!”
“That’s lame,” Jeffery said.
“Hey, she doesn’t need your help,” Stafford complained.
“But you sure do,” Wowryk smiled.
“You don’t scare me!” Stafford said.
Wowryk lunged at Stafford, who cringed back.
“I just wanted to respect your private space,” Stafford said as Wowryk smiled triumphantly at him.
//You are all incompetent buffoons,// Luke/Lord Stalart grumped telepathically, //One day, my race shall conquer you all!//
“Guys, ladies, play nice,” Samantha said as she eased into the group, a tray of drinks balanced on one hand. Samantha was one of the waitresses in the lounge, and was generally good at calming down the guys, “Here, drinks are on the house,”
“They’re always on the house,” Fifebee pointed out before a sharp look from Samantha silenced her.
“What you folks need,” Samantha said, “is a good old-fashioned Halloween scare!”
“We’ve already seen Jall tonight,” Jeffery quipped.
“Something fun,” Samantha said with a sexy smile, “Sometime spooky. Something like, a haunted house!”
“Here are the rules,” Sylvia said as she processed the program Samantha had given her, “I can’t tell you what’s in the house. The only way in or out is through the front gate of the estate, which leads out of the holodeck. If anybody on your team leaves the holodeck, your team looses. If any of you loose bowel or bladder control, your team looses,”
“Ewww,” Yanick said.
“Whichever team stays in the house overnight will win,” Sylvia finished.
“What if we’re both in there overnight?” Wowryk asked. She’d left Luke with Lesli Kerry for the evening, no doubt greatly interrupting any romantic plans she and Crewman Shwaluk might have had. At least by putting Luke in their care she had prevented any possible non-marital coitus.
“Then it’s a tie,” Sylvia said, “D’uh! You don’t need bio-neural circuitry to figure that one out!”
Wowryk glared at Jeffery.
“What?” Jeffery said, “Ah didn’t program her! It’s not MY fault!”
Sylvia sighed and opened the holodeck doors, revealing a gloomy looking driveway. A full moon was visible behind the pitch-black silhouette of the house.
“Program complete, enter when ready,” she said in a resigned, bored tone, “Have ‘fun’. Hmph!”
The six officers walked up the broken and overgrown driveway to the house itself, Wowryk in her witch costume, Yanick dressed as a Klingon and Fifebee in her Morticia Addams dress. Jeffery was wearing his Harry Potter custume, complete with lightning shaped scar. T’Parief didn’t need a costume but had instead worn what would be considered normal garb for him at home; a leather tunic over baggy leather pants, bands of spikes on his elbows, knees and wrists and a trail of prosthetic head-spikes running down the center of his head, Mohawk-style. Stafford still hadn’t bothered to dress up.
“It doesn’t look THAT scary,” Jeffery said, looking up at the dark, foreboding shape of the house.
“If you’re Frankenstein maybe,” Stafford grumbled.
“Chris, what are ye complaining about?” Jeffery slapped T’Parief on the back, “We’ve got our own Frankenstein right here!”
The house itself was huge, with a bulbous central section and several slender towers sticking up from the sides. The paint was faded, but the windows were intact and the massive front door was firmly closed.
“Whipstaff?” Stafford read from a sign, “Never heard of it?”
“You’ve never seen ‘Casper, the Friendly Ghost’?” Yanick asked.
“Nope,” Stafford said. Then, under his breath, “But I bet you have,”
“This domicile is from a movie?” Fifebee asked, worry in her voice.
“Aye,” Jeffery said, “But don’t worry, it was programmed in the safe, old-fashioned way. No holo-brainwashing this time!”
“Good,” Stafford said, pulling the door open, “We call the second floor,”
“OK,” Yanick, Fifebee and Wowryk agreed.
Stafford looked at them suspiciously as T’Parief and Jeffery shone their lights into the house.
“You agreed pretty easily,” he said.
“We’re always easy,” Fifebee said innocently.
“Right. In what parallel universe?” Jeffery muttered, glancing at Wowryk.
“Well, since you asked,” Wowryk said, “We’d rather have the main floor. It’s closer to the exit,”
“So you can run, hide and lose?” T’Parief asked.
“So we can escape,”
“Uh-huh,” Stafford smirked, “But think of this: it’s also closer to the basement. Which is where most of the creepy things like to hang out,” he grabbed the dusty banister and started climbing the steps, “Have a nice night!”
“This is going to be SOO much fun!” Yanick said happily. She and Wowryk were camped out in the middle of the cavernous main entrance hall while Fifebee fooled around with the fuse box, “We can tell ghost stories, and talk about boys and-“
“Ghosts don’t exist,” Wowryk cut her off, “And boys are evil-“
“Jesus was a boy,” Yanick interrupted.
“Yes, but,” Wowryk was quiet, “OK, you’ve got me on that one. Not all men are evil,”
“Men can be fun!” Yanick said, “T’Parief is fun, and we’ve never done anything naughty,”
“Because he can’t!”
“Ohh!” Yanick clapped her hands, “See? We’re already talking about boys!”
There was a soft buzz, then the lights in the hall came on.
“And now we have power too!”
“How come THEY get lights?” Stafford grumbled as the three of them sat in the dark in a spacious drawing room.
“We do not need light,” T’Parief said. In the dim illumination from Jeffery’s flashlight he looked especially demonic; his eyes reflecting only deep red and dark shadows emphasizing the predatory cast of his features, “We will hunt our enemy in the pitch black of night, rending him limb from limb!”
“We don’t have an enemy yet! Jeffery said.
“I was just getting into the moment,” T’Parief said. Stafford could have sworn the reptilian officer sounded embarrassed.
“So,” Jeffery asked, “What do we do?”
“We have to stay here the night,” Stafford said, “I say we sleep,”
“No way!” Jeffery said, “There’s no fun in that!”
“Then what?” Stafford asked, “Sit here and twiddle our thumbs?”
“This gives us an opportunity to bond, as comrades,” T’Parief said, “and to share experiences, man to man.”
Stafford was surprised.
“Bond?” he said, “With us?”
“Forget it,” T’Parief said, “I did not realize it was a problem,”
“No, it’s not that!” Stafford said, “I, uh, just sort of figured that you didn’t like any of us,”
“With all respect sir,” T’Parief said, “That is because Jall is usually with you,”
“So,” Jeffery asked, “Um, what made ye decide to join Starfleet?”
“To meet new races and explore the galaxy,” T’Parief said, “why else?”
“To meet new and intelligent forms of life,” Jeffery said, poking through the room’s dusty old furniture “And kill them?”
“That is the slogan of the Gorn Armada,” T’Parief said, “I am more than just Gorn,”
“Klingon and Andorian,” Stafford mused, “Have you ever been to Andor?”
“I went with my mother to meet her father’s hive,” T’Parief said.
“Not really,” T’Parief stately flatly, “They attempted to kill her and run us both off the planet,”
“I was 16 at the time,” T’Parief went on, “I fought off an assassination squad sent to kill her. After that, they accepted us into the hive,”
“AHHHH,” Jeffery screamed.
Stafford and T’Parief jumped to their feet.
“There’s a mouse under this dresser!” Jeffery snapped.
“Oh come on,” Stafford groaned, “who’s afraid of a harmless, little-“
T’Parief roared as the tiny rodent scurried out from under the dresser, jumping up and knocking Stafford to the ground as the mouse scurried up the inside of T’Parief’s trouser leg.
“What the hell is going on up there?” Yanick wondered as the sounds of shouting and banging about wafted down from the upstairs balcony.
“I don’t know,” Fifebee said, “But I have finished repairing the stove. We can now make hot chocolate, as requested,”
“Yes!” Yanick said happily, “Oh, speaking of which, do you know Ensign Day?”
“Of course,” Fifebee replied, hunting though the dusty old cupboard for a kettle, “But what does he have to do with hot chocolate?”
“He’s hot,” Yanick said, “and his skin’s the colour of milk chocolate,”
“How irrelevant,” Wowryk sighed.
“But, y’know,” Yanick grinned, “If you ever wanted to try out some, er, y’know, fun…”
“Ensign Day is a Deltan,” Fifebee said, “Intercourse with a Deltan usually ends up overloading the minds of most other species, resulting in catatonia or madness,”
“You’re a hologram,” Yanick said.
At this point their conspiracy was interrupted as Wowryk ran by screaming.
“What’s wrong?” Fifebee immediately asked.
“In the bathroom!” Wowryk gibbered, “It’s AWFUL!”
Yanick peeked into the old bathroom. Mildew grew in the shower and a layer of soap scum coated the sink and bathtub. In the center of the dusty mirror was a clean patch where Wowryk had been trying to see herself.
“In the mirror!” Wowryk hissed.
Yanick looked in, saw her reflection. Hmmm…it looked like her fake Klingon ridges were starting to come off…
Suddenly, her face started changing. Her nose and mouth ran together, oozing out into a blunt muzzle as her skin changed to a dull brownish green, scales forming on her cheeks as her hair fell out in clumps.
“That’s pretty gross,” Yanick said, stepping back. She had remained unchanged, only her reflection had been altered, “What did you see? Yourself as a man?”
Wowryk shuddered delicately.
“Worse,” she shook her head, “Myself in Jall’s body! Again!”
The three women exchanged a glance.
“Well,” Stafford said, crossing his arms as Jeffery scraped mouse parts off his boot, “I guess that solves that,”
“Is it gone?” T’Parief asked from his perch atop an oversized fainting couch.
“Uh, yeah,” Stafford said, “It’s gone.”
“I assure you, I am still a fully competent security chief,” T’Parief said, climbing uneasily down to the floor.
“Until we get invaded by a race of giant mice,” Stafford sighed.
“The giant ones do not frighten me,” T’Parief said, “They do not squirm or scamper,”
Lightening flashed and thunder crashed outside the house as the skies opened up with a torrential downpour.
“Nobody’s scared of lighting then?” Stafford asked.
“No,” Jeffery shook his head.
“Not I,” T’Parief affirmed.
“IT’S THE WRATH OF GOD!” Wowryk screamed, diving for cover under the table, “THE ALMIGHTY HAS COME TO STRIKE DOWN THE LOWLY SINNERS!”
“It’s the holodeck,” Fifebee said, “It is no more frightening than I am,”
“This stupid makeup is really starting to itch,” Yanick complained
Wowryk wailed as another thunderbolt shook the old house.
“What was that!” Yanick started to quiver.
“What? Where?” Fifebee looked around, adjusting her visual scanners for lower light levels.
“On that wall!”
Another flash brightened the windows, sending spindly shadows on the far wall.
“It is merely a shadow,” Fifebee sighed, shaking her head “And they say Starfleet represents humanity’s finest?”
Three hours later…
“We’re never going to win at this rate,” Jeffery said, “We’re up here sitting in the dark, and they’re having a slumber party!”
“Once they coaxed Dr. Wowryk out from under the table,” T’Parief commented. The storm had passed for the most part, after two hours of some of the most impressive thunder and lightening any of them had ever seen.
“I’ll have to remember that,” Jeffery said, “She’s terrified of lightening,”
“Don’t use your powers for evil,” Stafford laughed.
“So how do we scare them all out of the holodeck?” Jeffery wondered.
“Something big and scary?” Stafford suggested.
“Not you,” Stafford assured him.
Jeffery looked at T’Parief, then at Stafford.
Sylvia sat, figuratively speaking, in the center of the main computer core surrounded by a whirlwind of data. Sensor data, processed and analyzed and delivered to display screens, control input feeds and commands going out to various systems all vied for her attention, though many of the data feeds she simply allocated to non-sentient computer resources for processing. Who wanted to calculate pi to the 500th digit anyway?
But it was probably time to see what was happening in Holodeck 2. There hadn’t been any requests for her attention since the program had been activated.
Taking a look inside, Sylvia was amused by what she saw.
“This isn’t scary!” she exclaimed to herself. Focusing her attention on Stafford she laughed out loud.
“Ohhh, boys,” she laughed, “That’s not exactly fair now, is it? What say we even things up a bit, hmmm?”
“Promise me we will never tell Jall of this,” T’Parief said. Stafford had dug through the bedrooms until he had found a woman’s makeup table. Smearing himself with white goop, he’d transformed his face into a hideously ghoulish visage. Climbing up on T’Parief’s shoulders and clinging to the huge alien, the two of them towered over Jeffery as he draped a dusty gray sheet over Stafford’s shoulders. With Stafford’s face and T’Parief’s clawed hands, the two of them made a ghastly sight.
“This will scare the hell out of them,” Stafford smirked, looking in the mirror.
“It is scaring the hell out of me,” T’Parief shuddered as Stafford’s arm brushed one of the sensitive sensory nodes on the top of his head.
“C’mon, T’Parief,” Jeffery said, “Ye wanted to bond, we’re bonding. Scaring women on Halloween is a time honored male tradition!”
“As though I didn’t have enough traditions to keep straight,” T’Parief sighed.
“I promise that once we win, we can spend the rest of the night talking about battles and fights and all that,” Stafford said.
“How typical,” T’Parief snorted, “You did not consider that perhaps I wanted to spend the evening drinking beer and watching porn?”
“Uh,” Stafford looked down at Jeffery, who shrugged and shook his head, “Not really,”
“Good,” T’Parief nodded, nearly knocking Stafford of his back, “Because I don’t. Battles would be acceptable. But perhaps we could also discuss some of the old Earth cartoons I have become fond of?”
“I don’t think the Hazardous Team would approve,” Stafford chuckled, “But I think we can do that anyway!”
T’Parief carefully maneuvered the two of them down the hall, smacking Stafford’s head square against at least three doorframes. When the reached the balcony overlooking the entrance hall and leading to the stairs, Stafford gulped.
“Maybe,” he said, looking down the drop, “I should have climbed onto your shoulders AFTER we climbed down the stairs?”
“We better be sure Simon doesn’t find out that you’re afraid of lightening,” Yanick said as the three women sat around the table sipping hot chocolate and playing cards.
“Because he’ll use my weakness in a despicable attempt to claim my virginity?” Wowryk asked.
“Um, no,” Yanick said, “But he’ll use it to get some close cuddling,”
“Hmmm,” Wowryk mused, “According to Yvonnokoff, cuddling isn’t sinful,”
“According to Yvonnokoff, Billy of Everglad 5 should be spending more time exploring his feminine side,” Fifebee pointed out.
“Good point,” Wowryk said, “She also said that fanatic devotion to ancient religions can be damaging to ones social life,”
Yanick and Fifebee exchanged glances.
“Complete gibberish,” Fifebee said quickly.
“Totally off the mark,” Yanick added.
“Did you feel that?” Fifebee asked.
“Yeah,” Yanick said.
“What’s happening?” Wowryk cried.
“The door!” Yanick screamed.
As they watched, the door to the main hall shook again as something struck it hard. With this last hit the latch snapped and the door slammed inward, revealing-
“Did you hear that?” Stafford asked his mount as T’Parief carefully navigated the stairs running down the outer wall of the main hall.
“I would have, if your forearm was not blocking my left ear!”
“Hey, watch the dorsal ridge! You’re going to crush my tes-“
“Please, Captain. Stop right there.”
“Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea,” Jeffery sighed from further up the stairs.
“Dumbass,” Stafford and T’Parief muttered.
The three looked down to see Fifebee, Wowryk and Yanick running across the main hall to the staircase, screaming as they fled. Behind them was a dark shape, scampering through the shadows.
“Uh-oh,” Stafford muttered as the three girls pushed past him and T’Parief. Staggering back, T’Parief snagged his foot on the dirty carpet covering the staircase and slipped sideways, sending Stafford plummeting over the railing.
“Captain!” T’Parief called, “Are you OK?”
“Yeah,” Stafford’s voice drifty up, disoriented but unharmed, “Whatever was chasing them broke my fall. Man, what a mess!”
“Uh, should we calm down the ladies?” Jeffery shouted down, gesturing up the stairs to where the others had ran,”
“The point is to scare them out of the house, not comfort them!” Stafford shouted back, freeing himself of the oozing carcass he’d landed on. It looked for all the worlds like a giant crab, with a pair of giant pincers and several legs sprouting out of a dull red carapace. Stafford had landed dead-center on the creature’s body, slamming it into the floor.
“But I did find us dinner,” he said.
Annoyed, Sylvia watched from the computer’s cyber-space as Stafford, Jeffery and T-Parief ate buttered crab-legs while Fifebee, Wowryk and Yanick huddled in a third floor bedroom. So, that hadn’t exactly gone according to plan. Time to pull out the heavy artillery.
“This isn’t really all that scary so far,” Jeffery said.
“I agree,” T’Parief rumbled.
“At least we’ve taken care of our seafood cravings,” Stafford belched loudly, throwing a glance at the hollowed out carapace of the giant crab, “For the next hundred years or so,”
T’Parief’s cocked his head and held up a shushing hand.
“What?” Stafford asked.
“Do you hear-“
Then he vanished.
“Guys?” Stafford asked, looking around the empty kitchen. He was stunned. There had been no transporter effect, no dematerialization at all. T’Parief and Jeffery were simply gone.
Starfleet had regulations and procedures for these kind of situations, of course. But this was the holodeck! The safety protocols were engaged and Sylvia was keeping an eye on them.
So rather than staying in the kitchen and calling for backup, Stafford slowly poked his nose out into the main hall.
“Nice,” Jeffery nodded approvingly after recovering from the shock of T’Parief and Stafford’s disappearance. Clearly, due to the lack of transporter effect, false holograms had been directed between him and the others, giving the illusion that he was alone. All holodecks worked that way; using inertial fields and optical illusions to give the impression of an infinitely large open space, when in reality you were in a big room. The holodeck couldn’t be large enough for your friends to be half a mile away during a holographic ski trip, but it could make it LOOK as though they were.
“Somebody talked you into playing, huh Sylvia?” Jeffery asked the ceiling. There was no response, nor did he really expect one. So the haunted house program, or Sylvia, wanted them split up. Fine, Jeffery was game.
T’Parief crept silently through the huge house, trying hard not to notice the eyes in the paintings hanging on the walls. Like Trish’s potpourri lizards, the paintings seemed to be staring straight at him.
Sniffing the air, he could detect only traces of the others. But there was another smell. Tasty, appetizing, like fresh Mousies, the all-natural, all-rodent breakfast cereal preferred by 9 out of 10 Gorn.
And the smell was coming from a disturbing painting of a large lizard being attacked by an army of tiny rodents.
Terror spiked in T’Parief’s chest as he backed away.
“You wouldn’t dare!” he hissed at the holodeck.
The tiny eyes in the painting came to life, seconds before hundreds of mice began to pour out of the painting.
Stafford turned at once to face the beautiful women who had suddenly appeared in the rear foyer, silhouetted by the bright full moon.
“Want to have a little fun?” sighed a second girl, smiling shyly at Stafford.
“We have ways of pleasing you that you can’t begin to image,” promised a third.
“Well,” Stafford grinned, “I like where this holo-program is going!”
The light faded as clouds obscured the moon.
With a cry of torment, the women transformed; their legs merging and lengthening into snake-like tails as their skin changed to a sickly green. Their eyes glowed a hideous red as dozens of snakes erupted from their heads.
“HOLY SHIT!” Stafford screamed, scrabbling backwards, “I don’t like where this is going anymore!”
Jeffery flinched as he heard screams. He ran down the hallways, through rooms and around columns, but the house seemed to go on forever. He couldn’t find Stafford, T’Parief or the ladies. He couldn’t find anybody! He was lost and alone.
Gasping for breath, he emerged in a large open space, a den of some kind, with a huge pipe organ filling one end of the room.
Gulping, he stepped in and turned to survey his surroundings.
The organ came to life, a deep and somehow disturbing chord piercing the air.
Jeffery spun to face the instrument, but the keyboards were undisturbed, nobody sat on the velvet cushion.
“OK,” Jeffery said as the deep laughter rumbled, “This is getting more cheesy than scary!”
The organ came to life again. This time, when Jeffery spun around he found a tall, Frankensteinian behemoth of a man at the keyboards, drawing a disturbing but strangely beautiful melody out.
“What game should we play with him, Pugsly?” a short, grim girl with pale skin and jet-black hair asked. Jeffery spun around, facing her. He was sure she hadn’t been in the room before, but she was definitely here now! At least now he knew what Fifebee would have looked like as a kid.
“I dunno, Wednesday,” a taller but thicker boy said, “Bobbing for Crocodiles?”
“Too messy,” Wednesday replied, “Christians and Lions?”
“Father said not to feed Kitty table scraps,” Pugsley reminded his sister.
“Very well,” Wednesday said gravely, “Then there is only one other option,”
“Uh,” Jeffery tried to break in, “Uh, hi little girl-“
“This game,” Wednesday said, facing Jeffery for the first time as a steel cage dropped into place around him, “Is called: ‘Is There a God’?”
“Y’know,” Jeffery gulped, gripping the bars, “Ah think my girlfriend would be MUCH better for that game,”
Wednesday rummaged around in a trunk for several seconds, coming up finally with a good sized hatchet. With a deft toss, she sent it flying straight at Jeffery.
“Do you think it’s gone?” Yanick asked Fifebee.
“Judging from the screams below?” Fifebee replied, “I think not,”
“Maybe the guys are being eaten,” Wowryk mused.
“I doubt it,” Fifebee said, “the holodeck safeties-“
“Hey,” Yanick interrupted, “What’s this?”
Her hand had come across a dusty piece of paper. She quickly brought it under the one light they had managed to get working.
“‘When you’re in need, a friend indeed’,” Wowryk read, “Well, we are certainly in need,”
“There’s a name here,” Yanick said, “Batelgoose?”
“Oh dear,” Fifebee said, grabbing the flyer, “If my pop-culture database is correct-“
“Betelgeuse,” Wowryk read from the sheet, using the correct pronunciation.
“What? Yanick cringed, “Beetlejuice? That’s gross!”
“Ladies,” Fifebee cut in, “I really suggest you don’-t”
“Yeah,” Wowryk said, “‘When you’re in a need, a friend indeed! Call Betelgeuse-“
“Beetlejuice?” Yanick repeated, looking at the flyer “Oh! Do they mean the star system? There’s a star with that name not far from Rigel,” she frowned, “I didn’t know that’s how you pronounced it though,”
“Doctor, Ensign,” Fifebee said, “I really must insist that you NOT say that name again!”
“Why not?” Wowryk asked.
“Yeah!” Yanick said, “I mean, I have a friend who lives on a colony near Betel-“
Fifebee slapped her hand over Yanick’s mouth.
“Nobody say ‘Beetlejuice’!” she snapped.
“But you just said it,” Wowryk pointed out.
“I know!” Fifebee snapped, “Please trust me: if one of us says that name three times, we are in for a world of hurt,”
“So we cannot say Betel-“ Wowryk cut herself off as Fifebee’s hand moved towards her mouth, “Fine! I’ll just sing praises to our Lord God instead!”
“Which can’t we say?” Yanick wondered, “Beetlejuice the name, or Betelgeuse the star?”
“Oh dear,” Fifebee dropped her face into her hands as the house started to shake, “I’ve been partnered with the two village idiots,”
“Honestly, ladies,” Stafford said frantically as he tried to open the locked door to the hallway, “I really think you’re more T’Parief’s type,”
“We don’t think ssssoooo,” hissed one of the three Medusa women.
“We think you look far tasssstier,” added the second.
T’Parief’s mind was far from coherent thought as he thrashed under a veritable mountain of rodents. His claws were extending and his vice-like jaws were snapping as he fought to rid himself of the tiny, white-furred vermin that clung to his uniform. For every mouse crushed, slashed or tossed away, two more appeared to take its place. Already what little intelligence there was in T’Parief’s mind at the moment was contemplating the nearest route to the exit.
Jeffery flinched back as the razor-sharp hatched flew straight for his head-
Only to be intercepted by a dashing, mustachioed man with slick, black hair and an amused expression.
“Wednesday,” he said sternly, “Pugsly. What are you doing in my den?”
“We’re just playing, Father,” Wednesday explained.
“With a six-inch hatchet?” Gomez shook his head, “I don’t think so,”
Wednesday hung her head.
Jeffery collapsed against the bars of his cage with relief.
“Thank ye so much!” he gasped, “Thank ye! Thank ye to every photon in your holographic soul!”
Ignoring him, Gomez turned to his son.
“Pugsley, put this away,” he turned to his daughter and shook a firm finger, “Remember Wednesday,” he said as he pulled the release on Jeffery’s cage, “Shooting fish in a barrel isn’t really fishing!”
“Huh?” Jeffery asked, slowly stepping backward.
“Ah, thank you,” Gomez said as a disembodied hand handed him a slim sword, “Now,” he said to his children, “Remember: always go for a major artery!”
He lunged at Jeffery, who screamed and ran full tilt towards the exit, only to find it blocked by the huge man who had been playing the organ before. Grunting, he handed Jeffery a slim sword and pointed to the onrushing Gomez.
“Aw, F**K!” Jeffery cried, holding the sword up.
“Ladies,” Stafford gasped desperately as the hideous Medusa-women converged on him, “Really! I’m a starship captain! I’m married to my ship!”
The ladies, clearly unimpressed, made it very clear that Stafford was about to become a conquest.
“I’m celibate!” he screamed, “I’m a Catholic priest! I’m a eunich! Just don’t TOUCH MEEEE!!!!”
Suddenly, the women vanished into thin air.
“Oh thank God,” Stafford sighed, straightening his uniform.
“God had nothing to do with it!” a rather nasty voice said behind Stafford.
Stafford spun around, finding himself face to face with a ghastly pale man with white hair, deeply sunken eyes, crooked, rotting teeth and body odour that would stop a Klingon.
“Who the HELL are you?!” Stafford demanded, grabbing his nose as he took a step back.
“What? WHAAT?” the man laughed loudly, “You didn’t hear those women of yours screaming my name?” there was a ‘pop’ and his face became a pasty, rotten-toothed facsimile of Fifebee.
“We are in for a world of hurt!” he cried out in Fifebee’s voice.
“Q?” Stafford tried, naming an omnipotent entity that had caused Starfleet numerous problems in the past.
DING DING DING!
The man’s hands had transformed into a large bell and hammer, which he clanged loudly in Stafford’s face.
“Wrong again, Chrissy the Sissy!” he howled.
Stafford was beyond speech now.
“I guess I missed my big intro, didn’t I?” the man giggled before snapping his fingers and vanishing.
<I’m going to die,> Jeffery realized to himself, <Holodeck safeties or not, I’m going to DIE!>
On pure instinct he ripped the wooden wand he’d worn as part of his costume out of his cloak, prayed that the holodeck pop-culture subroutine was paying attention, flicked it at the oncoming Latino and screamed:
Gomez stopped dead in his tracks. Jeffery, astonished, stepped backwards.
“Now WHAT was THAT?” Gomez demanded. Looking down, Jeffery could see that Gomez’s feet were firmly on the ground. He had not, in fact, levitated Gomez as Harry Potter and his friends might have done.
“I invite you in here for a friendly duel,” Gomez went on, “And you, you yell silly words while pointing a stick at me??”
“Lurch, show our guest the door,” Gomez snapped.
Jeffery gulped as a huge hand grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and swung him firmly towards the solid oak door-
Which disappeared as a deep cackling laugh filled the room.
In different parts of the sprawling house, all six members of the group looked up as laughter filled the rooms, echoing off the walls and resonating in the huge main hall. With a tear like a thousand pairs of too-small polyester pants, the carpets ripped from the floors as the paintings on the walls sprang to life, screaming in terror as the house reformed. Straight hallways took on jagged corners and rounded walls grew sharp edges. Windows collapsed into uneven holes in the wall as lightbulbs melted into waxy candles.
Stafford and Jeffery, running from separate wings of the house, tripped as the smooth floor suddenly grew ramps and inclines, slamming into each other and landing on a hard step that hadn’t been there before.
“Jeffery!” Stafford snapped, “What’s going on?”
“Ah dunno!” Jeffery shot back, “This isn’t my program!”
“Ah don’t think she’s this clever!” Jeffery said.
“Captain!” Stafford spun, nearly tripping on the uneven floor as T’Parief popped out of the door leading to the kitchen.
“T’Parief!” Stafford shouted back, “I’m glad to see you!”
“There’s the exit!” Jeffery said, pointing out the open front door. Down at the end of the driveway was the holodeck arch that led out of their hellish simulation.
“No,” T’Parief clamped a meaty hand on Jeffery’s shoulder before the smaller man could bolt.
“But-“ Jeffery pointed at the trees, which had grown gaping mouths and were using their branches to spear small birds, which they ate with loud CRUNCHing noises.
“Ick,” Stafford turned slightly green.
“We will not lose,” T’Parief said simply. He turned and moved quickly towards the stairs, which now resembled nothing more than a bizarre mineral formation.
“Where are you going?” Stafford asked.
“Trish and the others are up there!” T’Parief replied.
Stafford and Jeffery exchanged looks.
“It IS just a holodeck,” Stafford shrugged, moving after T’Parief.
Jeffery gave one last look at the exit, whimpered then followed after the other two.
“So, you babes here all for me?”
<MFUFFLE> Fifebee yelled. Or tried to. She’d tried to eliminate the interloper by the method suggested by her pop-culture database; saying his name again three times, but before she could get it out a third time, he’d snapped his fingers and conjured a solid metal plate over her mouth.
<FREEAMS!> Fifebee tried to shout at Yanick, holding up three fingers.
“You really stink, mister,” Yanick said, ignoring Fifebee.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Beetlejuice said, leaning close in to Yanick, “I’m not so bad, once you get to know me,”
“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!” T’Parief snarled, slamming the door to the upstairs drawing room clear off its hinges, “Get your filthy face away from my girl!”
“You’re dating the lizard?” he smirked, “Wow, toots. You’ve got even worse taste than a sandworm!”
“That not very nice, Mr. Juice,” Yanick snapped.
“Juice?” Stafford asked, coming up behind T’Parief and eying the newcomer uneasily.
“Beetlejuice,” Wowryk explained. She’d been fairly quiet, losing interest in the holodeck program the more ridiculous it became.
“Hey,” Beetlejuice complained, “Watch it, Doc, or I’ll-“
“Beetlejuice?” Stafford repeated to himself, “Like the star?”
“Actually,” T’Parief said, “The proper pronunciation is ‘Betalgeuse’,”
“Yeah,” Stafford said, “That’s what I said. Beetlejuice!”
“Hey, I’m trying to terrify you people here,” Beetleuice complained, “Stop blabbering like a pair of old housewives and PAY ATTENTION TO ME!”
He clapped his hands together. A gag appeared in Stafford’s mouth, a tutu around T’Parief’s waist and a steaming pile of haggis appeared in mid-air over Jeffery’s head, spilling all over him in a steaming mess.
“I really don’t like this guy,” Jeffery complained.
“I concur,” T’Parief agreed, ripping of the frilly skirt, “I seem to recall this character from an ancient Earth cartoon, but I cannot remember how to get rid of him,” “RID OF ME??” Beetlejuice screamed, “OK, now you’re making me MAD!”
As he spoke, his head started to swell, growing and darkening, tentacle-like tendrils slipping from his nose and mouth. Expanding until he towered over the Silverado officers, he cackled as snakes erupted from his hair like a bad case of dandruff, the ceiling of the room expanding to accommodate him.
“Now I’m getting scared,” Jeffery said, “Holograms really shouldn’t have this much control over the holodeck!”
“He really is quite perverse,” Wowryk said, before a sudden flash of lightning sent her jumping a foot into the air.
“Um, let’s run!” Jeffery said, grabbing Wowryk by the arm and running out into the hall. The others quickly followed.
“Let’s go this way!” Stafford said, pointing towards one of the halls that led deeper into the house. He’d finally pulled the gag off.
“Nay, ye don’t wanna do that,” Jeffery advised, “Unless ye like crazy Gothic Latinos with swords!”
“He’s gaining!” Yanick cried, pointing back. Beetlejuice had turned himself into a gigantic snake and was following them as they ran.
“I really don’t like snakes!” Stafford cried.
“The exit’s right here!” Wowryk shouted, pointing out the door.
<OTS> Fifebee muttered, shaking her head, iron plate still firmly in place.
“What about the contest?” Yanick asked.
“You heard Sylvia,” Stafford said, “If we both leave, it’s a tie. I can live with that,”
“Me too!” Yanick agreed.
They bolted for the holodeck arch.
“NOT SO FASSST!” thundered the huge Beetle-snake from behind them, “I think it’s time for a little…appetizer!”
“Look, buddy,” Stafford said, “Maybe in the holodeck you’re big and bad, but to the outside world, you’re just a weird holo-program. Sylvia! Exit! End program!”
“NOOOOO!!!” Beetlejuice gave out one last scream as the program vanished, revealing four walls covered in holo-emitters.
“Congratulations!” Sylvia said happily, her materializing right in front of the holodeck exit, “You all lose!”
“What?” Jeffery demanded, “Ye said if we left at the same time, it’d be a tie!”
“No,” Sylvia said, “I said if you all stayed in there overnight it would be a tie. I also said that if a member of your team left the holodeck, you would lose. You all left. So you all lose,” she gave a cheery smile, “I suppose adding that Beetlejuice hologram was a tad mean. But oh well! Better luck next time!”
“Bitch” Stafford, T’Parief and Jeffery muttered quietly.
“I heard that quite perfectly by the way,”
<Nosy bitch> they thought to themselves.
“I can guess what you’re thinking now!” Sylvia declared.
“Good NIGHT, Sylvia!” Stafford snapped.
Stafford sat in Unbalanced Equations. The last of the Halloween party-goers were just clearing out, the time being around 0400 hours. He was sipping a cup of hot chocolate as he stared out at the stars.
“Captain,” Fifebee had walked up silently behind him.
“Finally got the metal plate off?” he asked.
“Indeed,” Fifebee quipped, “Perhaps next I will attempt to remove the pole welded to my spine,”
“Huh?” Stafford look back at her, “Pole?”
“Attempt at humor,” Fifebee sighed, “I have no spine. Although judging by your various reactions to the holo-program, neither do the rest of you,”
“It was just cheesy Halloween stuff,” Stafford said, “Supposed to make you scream, without really scaring you,”
“You may be interested to know,” Fifebee said, “That we could have removed the Beetlejuice character and endured the program very easily, simply by repeating his name three times,”
Stafford stared at her.
“You’re kidding, right?” he said.
“Wrong,” Fifebee replied, “In fact, judging by the unusual control that character had over the holodeck systems and the fact that we did not properly banish him, I would not be surprised if he is still there, somewhere deep in the holodeck memory banks,” with a pop her face suddenly took on a ghostly white color, her teeth a rotten black appearance, “Just waiting for the right time to pop back out!”
Stafford blinked and rubbed his eyes. When he looked again, Fifebee was her normal self, looking back at him innocently.
“You’re kidding, right?” Stafford said finally.
“I believe so,” Fifebee shrugged.
“Sylvia!” Stafford called out.
“Please delete the Beetlejuice character from ALL holo-programs!”
“Done,” Sylvia reported.
Fifebee raised an eyebrow.
“Better safe than sorry,” Stafford said defensively.
“If you say so,” Fifebee turned to leave, “Babes,”
Next time, on Silverado: What is Stafford supposed to do with the corpse of a T’Parief look-alike lying in the morgue? And why is Admiral Tunney suddenly so interested in visiting? Find out in part one of the Star Traks Silverado Season 2 finale: ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, Part 1!