Author: Brendan Chris
“MOVE! MOVE! EVERYBODY OUT! WE’VE GOT A CODE 23-B, REPEAT, CODE 23-BRAVO!” Lieutenant Stern snapped as Silverado’s Alpha Security Squad, also known as ‘The Hazardous Team’, grabbed their equipment and bolted from the squad room.
Crewman Keklar was first out the door after Stern, his face locked in the standard ‘Klingon Snarl’, his long shaggy hair pulled back in a (relatively) neat ponytail. Right behind him was Ensign Dar’ugal, the headless, furred two-meter-plus tall Barudan having to duck to keep his shoulders from banging against the doorframe. On Dar’ugal’s heels was Ensign Marsden, the tall skinny human grabbing onto the squad room doorframe and using it to swing himself out into the corridor. Ensign Simmons brought up the rear.
The team approached the turbolift, Stern waiting by the doors as the squad squeezed in.
“Deck 8” Stern ordered. The lift jerked to motion, hummed for a couple of seconds, then jerked to a stop. The doors opened with a hiss. The squad immediately rushed out, moving quickly down the corridor. Deck 8 was in Silverado’s saucer section and had a layout somewhat similar to that of a dartboard. Two ring-shaped corridors circled the deck while several corridors ran from the outer edge of the saucer towards the center, somewhat like spokes on a bicycle wheel. The turbolift had deposited the security team near the core of the saucer. Stern led the team towards the nearest ring corridor. After quickly glancing in both directions, he motioned them forward. Their goal was almost in sight! Stern could see the doors to Sickbay not five meters away. Four meters…two meters. Before Stern could key the doors open, they swished open to reveal the tall, scowling face of Lt. Cmdr. T’Parief.
“What do you think you are doing?” he snapped.
“We heard that…well, it’s happening!” Mardsen said nervously, “And, y’know, that we were needed…”
“You are correct,” T’Parief nodded, “It is indeed happening. But did you think Dr. Wowryk would allow the entire security squad into Sickbay? Or that Mrs. Rengs would want her husband’s buddies watching the entire event?”
“But-“ Simmons objected.
“No buts,” T’Parief said firmly, “It was difficult enough to get Dr. Wowryk to allow this in the first place. Ensign Rengs has requested that Lieutenant Stern and Ensign Marsdon assist him with the ceremony.”
“The rest of us,” T’Parief continued, in a tone that didn’t invite argument, “will return to our stations until our duty shifts end, at which point we can wait there,” T’Parief pointed to the doors immediately opposite the entrance to Sickbay, beyond which was a small lounge/waiting room.
“Equipment check!” T’Parief barked.
“Gong, check sir!” Stern snapped, coming to attention.
“Maracas, check sir!” Marsden said, following suite.
“They’re not Maracas!” Simmons smirked, “They’re three-hundred year old Bajoran shaker sticks-“
“Just go,” T’Parief grunted, pushing Simmons towards the turbolift. He turned to Stern and Marsden, “You two, get in there!”
The main diagnostic area of Sickbay was dark and quiet. The bio-beds along the wall were empty; there hadn’t been a medical emergency in days. Most of the doctors and nurses assigned to Silverado were elsewhere, either off duty or performing research in one of the ships half-dozen or so science labs. Only Nurse Kerry, Nurse Veeneman and Dr. Wowryk remained. On the central diagnostic bed lay Rengs Meris. Her husband, Rengs Aris was fidgeting nervously in his seat. Madam Schoonbaert was seated next to Aris, padd in hand.
Dr. Wowryk had flatly refused to participate in the ceremony surrounding the delivery of the Bajoran couple’s baby, citing religious objections. The Bajorans believed the Prophets of the Celestial Temple were their gods. It was a big boost to their faith that the ‘Celestial Temple’ really existed, although there was considerable debate over the issue. Captain Benjamin Sisko had discovered the galaxy’s only known stable wormhole in the Bajoran system, which the Bajorans believed was actually their Celestial Temple. The wormhole was a gateway to the distant Gamma Quadrant, but was also home to unusual alien lifeforms that lived outside of time and space. Whether or not those beings could be called gods was an issue that theologists across the galaxy continued to debate. But to the Bajorans they were the Prophets, and that was good enough for them. For Noel Wowryk, they were NOT God, they were NOT Jesus and anybody who would break the first Commandment by worshiping alien beings before the Holy Trinity should burn in Hell.
On the other hand, she had a duty to see to the health and well-being of her patients, regardless of their beliefs. She had been prepared to swallow her distate and do it anyway, but fortunately Nurse Kerry was more then qualified to deliver the baby. Mostly qualified. Kind of qualified. With supervision.
“OK,” Nurse Veeneman said softly to Marsden and Stern, “You, with the gong thingy, sit here. You with the shaker thingies, you sit here. When Madam Schoonbaert finishes reading a line from that Bajoran holy book thingy, you shake the sticks. When he’s finished, the other you needs to ring the gong, but gently! The whole point of this Bajoran ceremony is to create a calm, relaxing environment for Meris to give birth.”
“Is there going to be blood and screaming?” Marsden asked very quietly, “Cuz I’m really not good with that kind of thing.”
“Why the hell are you in Security then?” Stern demanded, slightly less quietly.
“Quiet, both of you!” Veeneman hissed, “Calm and relaxing, remember? And no, Bajoran births are usually easy and painless. If the woman is properly calmed and relaxed.”
“Oh, that’s a relief.” The two men moved towards their seats.
“Um, no,” Veeneman stopped them, guiding them away from the foot of the table and around the head, deciding that the last thing Aris needed was a pair of his Security buddies catching a glance at his wife’s lower regions, “Let’s go this way instead.”
“Can we get started, please?” Meris asked calmly, her hands resting on her swollen belly.
“Yes, yes, of course,” Nurse Kerry fluttered around for a padd, “This would be so much easier if we had an actual Bajoran Vedek or Prylar or something on board,” she muttered.
“Perhaps some soothing music would be nice?” Sylvia asked eagerly.
“That’s not part of the ritual,” Aris objected.
“Fine, fine,” Sylvia huffed, “Just trying to help.”
Everybody looked at Nurse Kerry expectantly.
“Right, right,” she muttered, thumbing through the padd, “Let’s see, seat stick shaker and gong ringer near the head of the patient on the right side, with the husband at the patient’s right hand. Refer to Page 5, Illustration E,” Kerry frowned, “K, we’ve already done that. Elevate patient’s legs to expose the va…the va…” she looked around at the men in the room, “The, er, birth orifice,” she finally said, blushing slightly.”
“We’ve all seen one before,” Stern muttered.
“And we’ve got much better nicknames then ‘birth orifice’,” Mardsen smirked. Stern elbowed him in the side.
“Refer to Page 6, Illustration G,” Kerry muttered to herself.
Aris and Meris exchanged worried glances while Wowryk threw her hands up in disgust and marched back to her office.
T’Parief drummed his claws along the armrest in the lounge across from Sickbay. Yanick sat on his lap while the other members of Alpha Squad, AKA ‘The Hazardous Team’, milled about the room, raiding the replicator and flipping channels on the vid-screen.
“It isn’t even our baby,” T’Parief grumbled, “Why do we care?”
“Because any birth is a reason to celebrate!” Yanick said with a grin, “And it’s-“
“The first baby born on Silverado,” everybody finished together.
“Like we haven’t heard that a million times over the past month,” Simmons said.
“One of my fellow warriors is having a child,” Keklar said firmly, “It is a reason to celebrate! His wife will give birth to a proud young warrior who will carry on his family name and bring glory to his house!”
“Or she’ll give birth to a wimp who’ll spend the rest of his or her life playing with dolls,” Simmons pointed out.
“Rengs is a fine officer,” T’Parief jumped in, “I have no doubt his spawn, um, child,” he corrected, “will be someone to be proud of.”
Lieutenant Jane 5-B hunched over an oblong object in Science Lab 1. The object in question was an alien pod that Silverado had found several months ago while orbiting Tantulus V, right before the lunatic K’Eleese had escaped. With the ensuing search and chaos, it had been some time before Fifebee was able to study the mysterious artifact. The pod itself was almost two meters long and shaped like a tic-tac. Alien symbols traced a path over the reddish surface of the pod.
Fifebee had detected a faint seam in the metal, obviously the pod was meant to open. Sensors were also able to detect a stasis field; whatever was inside the pod was in the equivalent of suspended animation. As such, it didn’t matter whether she opened the pod now or three hundred years from now; the contents would be undisturbed.
“Sylvia, could you please use a modulated tetryon beam to scan the pod?”
“Sorry dear,” Sylvia’s voice came back after a longer than usual delay, “I’ll get on that, estimated time to completion is one hour and thirty-six minutes,”
Fifebee frowned. Such a scan usually took minutes, not hours. Also, Sylvia was sounding very mechanical; her voice was closer to that of the ship’s original computer rather than the life-like, matronly speech patterns the Silverado crew had become accustomed to. It was almost like the mechanical woman was…distracted?
“Sylvia!” Fifebee snapped, realization dawning on her, “The Sickbay staff is perfectly capable of delivering the baby! I suggest you concentrate on your work!”
“But the baby-“
“Is in good hands,” Fifebee cut Sylvia off, “I would estimate that monitoring of Sickbay should only consume zero point zero, zero two percent of your processing capabilities.”
“You’re no fun,” Sylvia grumped as she initiated the scan.
“I don’t see what all the fuss is about,” Fifebee muttered, “Babies are miniature humanoids that have not yet learned to clean up after themselves.”
“Each one is a fragile new life,” Sylvia said wistfully, “With the potential to do anything he, she or they want. Each child is a precious gift.”
“No wonder Captain Stafford was such a mother’s boy,” Fifebee said thoughtfully, “Still, there are more efficient ways of reproducing the species. Cloning, for example.”
“Cloning takes all the fun out of it,” Sylvia said.
“We shall see how much ‘fun’ the Rengs’ have when they’re waking up four times a night for feedings.”
“We welcome new life into the world,” Madam Schoonbaert read from her padd, “We rejoice in the miracle of birth,”
After a short pause Marsden shook the shaker sticks, making a sound like a pair of Maracas. Once he finished, Stern gently tapped the small gong.
Meris let out a contented sigh. She felt so calm…so relaxed…
“Is she…leaking?” Marsden asked.
Meris’ relaxation dissolved as she bit back a retort. The next contraction hit not with a calm pressure, as had the previous ones, but with a sharp pain in her abdomen.
“Shut UP, Marsden!” Nurse Kerry snapped, “SHE NEEDS TO RELAX!”
“So do you,” Marsden muttered.
“Birth is a time of awakening,” Schoonbaert read on, trying to get things going again.
Slowly, as Stern rang the gong, Meris found herself relaxing again.
<Dilation should be between four and six centimeters,> Nurse Kerry read silently from her padd, <Refer to Page 13, Illustration 11-C,> She made a face, looked down at the business end of the delivery bed, then back at the padd again, then shrugged.
“Looks about right,” she muttered softly.
“Pardon?” Aris asked.
“Nothing,” Kerry said quickly. Kerry had been a bit nervous when she had asked to delivery the Rengs’ baby. Her medical training qualified her for the procedure and she had in fact delivered a pair of healthy twins on her last posting. She’d never delivered a Bajoran baby before though and wanted to be sure she got it right. Of course, Dr. Wowryk was available to assist in the event of complications or an emergency. That agreement was the only reason why nobody had put up a fuss when Wowryk suggested that Kerry deliver the baby. Nobody really wanted to get on her bad side if it wasn’t really necessary. Still some, like Stafford, had been made very uncomfortable by Wowryk’s decision.
“We welcome new life, in the name of the Prophets,” Schoonbaert read.
Marsden rattled the shaking stick.
Stern rang the gong.
Wowryk prayed for God to smite the heretics from her Sickbay.
Stafford squeezed his way into the small lounge across from Sickbay. The place was packed! Half the Security department was crammed into the small space along with people he vaguely recognized as being part of Silverado’s civilian support staff. He recognized a teacher’s aid, a botanist and the guy who supervised the robots that cleaned the pool. Obviously the Rengs’ had been making friends during their stay.
Pushing past Ensign Bith, Stafford made his way to where Yanick was seated on T’Parief’s lap.
“Any news?” he asked.
“Not really,” Yanick shrugged, “Sylvia’s keeping an eye on things, but she’s not allowed to tell us what’s happening. Patient confidentiality or something like that.”
“But,” T’Parief grumbled, “When I asked for Dr. Wowryk’s location, Sylvia informed that she is in her office.”
“So?” Stafford scratched his head.
“If Dr. Wowryk is in her office,” T’Parief explained, “she is not assisting with the birth. We know that she refused to participate in the birthing ritual unless there was a risk to the mother or infant. Logically, if she is in her office she is not assisting with the birth and we can conclude that there have been no complications.”
“Good thinking,” Stafford nodded, impressed.
“He’s such a smart guy!” Yanick cooed, rubbing her fingers over T’Parief’s head, right behind the cranial ridges. T’Parief let out a sound Stafford could have sworn was a purr before catching himself.
“Have I missed anything?”
Yanick looked behind Stafford to see the tall, slim form of Commander Noonan. The First Officer’s face was animated by a broad grin, his pale skin slightly flushed.
“No, you haven’t,” Stafford said, giving Noonan a wary look, “Just an impressive display of logic that would put a Vulcan to shame.”
“Ensign Yanick explaining organic fertilizer again?”
Stafford’s comeback died on his lips as the doors opened and everybody quieted down. Ensign Rengs Aris was standing in the door, looking shaken.
“Aris!” exclaimed Simmons.
“What is it?” demanded Yanick.
“What news?” asked Noonan.
“It’s…it’s” Aris stuttered.
“Out with it!” cried Sylvia.
“IT’S A BOY!”
“Little bastard,” Wowryk muttered.
“Trish!” Wowryk held a hand to her face in shock, “You hit me!”
Yanick and Wowryk were standing near the window in Unbalanced Equations. True to Silverado tradition, the successful birth of the Rengs baby had prompted an evening bash. Unbalanced Equations was full of officers and crewman laughing, chatting or even dancing on the small dance floor in the back corner. Steven was kept busy mixing drinks and setting out snacks as fast as the replicators could produce them.
“Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it!” Yanick fumed at Wowryk, “And how could you say that about an innocent little baby? He’s adorable!”
“You haven’t seen him yet!”
“He had…he had a…dear Lord, I can’t even say it,” Wowryk covered her eyes.
“HE HAD A PENIS!” Wowryk shrieked. All conversation in Unbalanced Equations came to a screeching halt as everyone turned to stare at her. Wowryk blushed bright red as Yanick pulled her into a corner booth.
“Of course he did!” Yanick hissed, “All baby boys do!”
“It was awful!” Wowryk said, tears forming, “I could see it through my office window. The birth was beautiful! I could see that tiny new life breaking free! And then…and then…” Wowryk shuddered, “Like watching an angel come from heaven, only you realize at the last moment that his wings are dark as ash, his legs are those of a goat and he comes in fact from the DEPTHS OF HELL!”
“He’s a beautiful, healthy baby,” Yanick said firmly.
“Who will grow up to be a man, with evil thoughts of carnal pleasure!”
“Well,” Yanick scratched her head, “Maybe in another sixteen to eighteen years or so. Not exactly something to panic about,” she was quiet for a moment, “You do realize that Aris and Meris had sex to conceive him, right?”
“Filthy!” she said softly.
“Noel, you’ve got a problem!” Yanick said eyes wide, “How can you say that!”
“According to the Church, sex is an evil, evil sin!” Wowryk exclaimed, “I say that because it’s true and it’s what’s required by my faith!”
“No, that’s not it,” Yanick said, “Last time I checked, the Catholic Church said that sex was a sin UNLESS it was for the purpose of procreation. And you just said that it was disgusting that Aris and Meris had sex to conceive a baby!”
Wowryk said nothing, just looked down at the table.
“You’re against sex period!” Yanick realized, “It has nothing to do with religion! You’re just using God as something to hide behind!”
“I refuse to listen to this, this garbage!” Wowryk snapped, getting up to leave.
“Wait!” Yanick grabbed her by the arm, “Noel, you need to talk to somebody about this!”
“There is nothing to talk about,” Wowryk said coldly, “There’s nothing wrong with me. If the rest of you want to live in sin, go right ahead. Now if you’ll excuse me…” She pulled free of Yanick and stalked right out of the lounge, ignoring the happy celebration all around her.
Sighing, Yanick leaned her head on the table.
“Looks like she’s having a good time,”
Yanick looked up to see Stafford.
“Does she ever?” Yanick muttered.
“She used to have fun slapping Jeffery around,” Stafford smiled, “Until he went and grew a spine, that is.”
“I’m worried about her,” Yanick admitted, “She was cranky enough when Jeffery started standing up for himself. This whole baby thing, I think it might push her over the edge.”
Stafford straightened up.
“Is this something that could affect her performance as a member of the crew?”
“It already did,” Yanick pointed out, “She should have delivered that baby,”
“But she had religious objections-“ Stafford started.
“It’s not about religion!” Yanick cut him off, “It’s something else. I think she’s terrified of anything having to do with sex…babies included!”
“You don’t think,” Stafford gulped, the looked quickly around and lowered his voice, “You don’t think somebody, um, did something to her? Y’know, in an illegal touching kind of way?”
“What? Oh, no! NO!” Yanick said, “There is NO way something like that could have happened to her! It’s impossible! If a medical scan didn’t pick something up at the time her Starfleet Psyche Test results would have.”
“They didn’t pick this up,” Stafford pointed out, “Although I doubt they look for, um, sexophobia?”
“I don’t think this is the result of anything anybody has done to her,” Yanick said, “Not intentionally anyway. I think that growing up on a Catholic Colony where sex is considered a sin, well, she just took that mindset to an extreme. I mean, I respect her beliefs, but when you’re scared of babies, you have a bit of a problem. This goes beyond anything they would have taught her,”
“Scary,” Stafford muttered, “I guess she couldn’t really talk to anyone about it, growing up.”
“No,” Yanick said, “And it might end up being something simple. Maybe she’s just asexual or something. But she’s got so many walls up about sex, we’ll probably never know!”
“And enough about that!” Sylvia chimed in, “We’ve got a fresh new baby on board! You should be celebrating! Worry about that old grouch later.”
“Good advice,” Yanick nodded, “I need to get drunk.”
“Have fun,” Stafford smiled. But Wowryk stuck in the back of his mind.
“It’s very exciting,” Noonan said enthusiastically to Steven as he sipped his drink, “A bright new life has come into existence! A new start! A chance for…” Noonan trailed off, “Steven, are you all right?”
Indeed, Steven had looked better, He had dark bags under his eyes, his hair was a mess and his usually crisp civilian wear was rumpled.
“It’s been a busy week,” Steven muttered as he mixed up something Noonan couldn’t identify.
“When’s the last time you had a vacation?” Noonan asked.
“Um, right before I came on board,” Steven replied.
“What?” Noonan was surprised, “We’ve been in space for over a year and a half!”
“I know,” Steven said defensively, “but this crew hasn’t really given me the chance to take much time off!”
“I guess not,” Noonan mused as Steven moved down the bar to deliver the drink to a Terelian crewman further down the bar.
“You’ve been awfully tense tonight,” Yanick said, after she and T’Parief had left the party and returned to Yanick’s quarters. T’Parief sat on the edge of the couch, Yanick sliding behind the hulking officer and starting to rub his shoulders, “Take your shirt off,”
“Huh?” T’Parief started.
“I’m going to give you a back rub,” Yanick announced, “it works better if you take your shirt off first,”
“Yeah,” T’Parief stuttered, “But we’ve never, you, know…”
“Pari,” Yanick crossed her arms, “We’ve been going out for almost a year now. I think we can move past our ‘mandatory uniform’ rule.”
“Uh, right,” T’Parief said, peeling off his tunic and treating Yanick to an impressive display of physique. Well, OK, it was green and scaled physique, with a funny little ridge running along his spine right from his cranial ridges down to his tail, but Yanick was still impressed.
“Sylvia,” Yanick ordered the replicator, “One bottle of Gorn massage grease, mild formula, please.” The requested bottle materialized. Yanick squeezed some of the thick goop out and started rubbing it into T’Parief’s scales. T’Parief grunted, feeling himself start to relax. But one part of his mind stayed sharp: Yanick must have a reason for doing this, and based on current events, he had a pretty good idea what that reason might be.
Unknown to T’Parief, while Yanick’s right hand started massaging his neck, the left hand had slipped under one cushion, pulling out what any fan of medieval movies would recognize as a mace. A simple ball attached to a handle, this mace was dotted with blunt spikes.
Careful not to make a sound, Yanick raised the mace high over her head, preparing to bring it crashing down on the unsuspecting Security Chief.
Fifebee bent over her panel in Science Lab 1, reviewing the results of the scan.
“Isn’t it time you went to bed?” Sylvia asked with a yawn.
“I don’t sleep,” Fifebee said calmly, “Neither do you,”
“That’s not really true,” Sylvia said, “Every now and then I like to let the computer’s automated functions take over while I take a bit of a rest.”
“That’s closer to meditation than actual sleep,” Fifebee pointed out, “Your ‘body’, the ship, continues to function normally rather then going into hiberna-“
“Forget it,” Sylvia groaned, “I just meant that you’ve been working on this pod all day. Don’t you want a break? Maybe a snack?”
“I have been looking forward to studying this artifact for the past several weeks,” Fifebee explained, not bothering to point out that she didn’t eat, “I have time to do it now, so I’m going to do it now!”
“You don’t have to be such a bitch about it,”
Fifebee frowned, but didn’t say anything.
Deciding that the science officer really WAS being a bitch, Sylvia let the internal sensors in the Science Lab fall into standby mode. They would alert the computer (and her) to any requests made to the computer system, but she was no longer ‘paying attention’ to what was happening in the room. If she had been, she would have noticed Fifebee tapping excitedly on her panel.
“This is interesting,” Fifebee said, half to Sylvia (who wasn’t listening anyway) and half to herself, “There’s definitely a life form inside. Also, the pod is emitting a phased tachyon pulse every 4.8 minutes. It’s almost like it’s waiting for a response. Perhaps if I send a return pulse…”
Yanick brought the mace down hard on T’Parief’s back without warning, striking the security chief hard again and again. <THWACK> <THWACK> <THWACK>
“Uuuggghhhhhh….” T’Parief moaned, “By Glornx Trish, where did you learn how to do that?” <THWACK>
“An article in the Gorn Gazette,” Yanick gasped, panting as she struck T’Parief again on the left shoulder, prompting a groan, “It said this is more effective then a massage. Something about how Gorn hides are so thick it’s hard to effectively massage the muscle. I checked with Noel, she said this would still work on you, even though you’re only half Gorn.” <THWACK>
“And she approved it?” T’Parief sighed, tongue hanging out of his mouth, “Even though it would end up with me half-naked on your couch?”<THWACK>
“Are we having sex?”<THWACK>
“There you go,”<THWUMP> “OK, my arms are officially too tired,” Yanick dropped the mace to the floor, rubbing her aching arms.
T’Parief walked into the bathroom, used a towel to quickly wipe off the massage goop then returned.
“I somehow sense that you didn’t bring me back here just for a back rub,” T’Parief said softly as he sat next to Yanick.
“Can’t fool you, huh?” Yanick asked with a nervous smile, “It’s probably obvious. With a new baby on the ship, I’ve kinda been wondering what it would be like to have one of my own,”
“Trish,” T’Parief said carefully, “I really care for you, and want to keep seeing you, but do you really think we’re ready for-“
“NO! Silly!” Yanick gave him a swat, “Not NOW! I mean, we haven’t even figured out how to, y’know, do it yet, never mind actually making a baby while we’re…y’know…doing it. But I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to hear the pitter-patter of little feet. Or maybe claws. But all that stuff you said when your dad ran out, y’know, how Gorn don’t mate for life…” she trailed off.
“Trish,” T’Parief said firmly, “I’m NOT Gorn! I’m part Klingon and part Andorian too. And those parts DO mate for life!”
“And is ‘for life’ something that you want?”
“Good enough,” Yanick smiled.
“Dr. Wowryk has been studying the Project Triad files we brought back from Nisus,” T’Parief said, “They have more detailed information on my anatomy. She can use those to find a way for us to…y’know.”
“She’s barely even had time to look at those yet. But there’s no rush,” Yanick assured him, “Although I’d really like to know why your father would take that stuff with him when he ran off with K’Eleese. I mean, all that project did was let your mom and dad have you, right?”
“Yes,” T’Parief nodded, “Perhaps he wishes to have a child with K’Eleese.
Both Trish and T’Parief shuddered at the thought.
“So it’s settled then,” Yanick said finally, “I can wonder what it would be like to have a baby, but you can stop being terrified that I’m going to try to get pregnant.”
“Wanna make out for a while?” T’Parief asked.
“Did ye enjoy the party?” Jeffery asked Noel as she stormed into his quarters.
“I did not!” Wowryk snapped, going straight to the food replicator and ordering a cup of chamomile tea. Jeffery had skipped the party. He didn’t really know Rengs, and Admiral Grant had requested a report on Silverado’s status from an engineering standpoint. Turns out that some of the other ships that had been reconditioned by Operation Salvage had been having some mechanical problems and now the number crunchers wanted to know what kind of problems Silverado had had since launch. Jeffery had already listed almost two thousand glitches and malfunctions that had occurred in the past year and half and he’d be up half the night finishing up.
“Why not?” Jeffery asked.
“Everybody was fawning over how wonderful it was that a new baby had been born,” Wowryk huffed, sitting on the couch next to Jeffery, spine ramrod straight.
“And?” Jeffery asked, “Must have been something besides that to get ye all worked up.”
“None of your business!” Wowryk snapped.
“OK,” Jeffery shrugged, turning back to his padd.
“Jeffery, rub my shoulders,” Wowryk said crisply after a moment.
“Huh?” Jeffery was shocked. Rub her shoulders? As in touch her? “Um, OK,”
Nervously, Jeffery took up position behind Wowryk and gently started to massage her shoulders and the back of her neck. Her shoulders felt small and very tense. Slowly though, she was relaxing. She let out a long breath and even leaned back a bit. Jeffery instantly jumped to Yellow Alert: there was actual physical contact! Gulping, he lifted his elbows so he could continue rubbing her shoulders while Noel leaned back against him.
Guys, put yourselves in Jeffery’s situation. His beautiful yet frigid girlfriend had, for some reason, suddenly allowed him to touch her. This beautiful, unattainable woman was practically in his arms. What do you think would happen?
What happened was an instinctive and involuntary male response. One that Noel noticed quickly.
“That’s disgusting!” she shrieked as she jumped off the couch, “Of all the sickening, primitive male things to do-“
“What do ye mean, ‘disgusting’?” Jeffery demanded, more than a little hurt.
“You are getting…excited!” Wowryk accused.
“Of course Ah am!” Jeffery snapped back, “What did ye think would happen? I’m not a eunuch, ye know!”
“Just wait,” Wowryk said haughtily.
Jeffery was speechless.
“Get out,” he finally said.
“Ah said get out,” Jeffery said, feeling strangely calm. It was a feeling he recognized, the same feeling he’d had when he’d told the holographic Madam that he didn’t need to take her abuse, “If that’s the way yer gonna treat to me, then leave. Ah think Ah’ve been pretty understanding, but if yer going to threaten my manhood, and be disgusted by me…well…” Jeffery trailed off.
“Fine then!” Wowryk snapped, storming out the door.
It was amazing, Stafford mused to himself, how much things could change overnight.
Seated at the head of the conference room table, Stafford had a clear view of all of his officers. And clearly something was up.
To his left, Commander Noonan was looking more alive then he had in weeks. Stafford couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but Noonan just looked more…human. Stafford doubted anybody else would notice, Noonan was somehow able to prevent most people from dwelling on his appearance. Only Stafford seemed to notice anything, and that was only because Noonan had overused that particular trick on him. Fifebee sat to his right, or maybe squirmed was better. The holographic officer was clearly excited about something. Next down the table were Yanick and T’Parief, looking deeply into each other’s eyes as they waited for the meeting to begin. Sylvia had discreetly displayed the readings from the room’s internal sensors on Stafford’s padd; Yanick and T’Parief were clearly playing footsie under the table. The slightly distant way they had been treating each other since the Nisus trip was gone. At the opposite end of the love spectrum, Jeffery and Wowryk were looking anywhere except at each other. Stafford took a slightly guilty pleasure in noticing that Wowryk especially looked ready to snap. Jall was twiddling his thumbs at the end of the table, oblivious to whatever had happened.
“OK, lets get this out of the way the,” Stafford said, getting the meeting started, “Sylvia, please start recording meeting highlights for the ships log,”
“Acknowledged,” replied the crisp mechanical tones.
“And pay more attention to us and less to the Rengs’ baby!
“Grouch,” Sylvia muttered, the mechanical voice replaced by the more natural sound of Sylvia’s voice.
“Ok,” Stafford went on, “We’ve been ordered to report to Starbase 298 to pick up a shipment of isomorphic crystals and to deliver said crystals to Coga V. We’re already on course, courtesy of the night shift, and should be there in two days.”
Going around the table, each officer reported on highlights of the previous days activities and plans for today, mostly amounting to ‘not much’, except for Jeffery who just said that if anybody wanted a full list of problems that Engineering had to deal with that they could bloody well download it themselves.
Finally, it was Fifebee’s turn.
“I believe I have figured out how to open the alien pod!” she announced proudly.
Everybody looked blankly at her.
“The alien pod we’ve been carrying around for the past several months?” Fifebee tried again.
“The one we picked up at Tantulus V?” Fifebee rose out of her seat, gripping the edge of the table.
“Wait,” Jeffery frowned, “Ye mean that big thing that Burke ran me over with? Y’know, when you were…”
“A duck?” Jall finished.
“Yes,” Fifebee said flatly, “That would be it.”
“Cool,” Stafford shrugged, “What was in it?”
“We don’t know for sure,” Fifebee said, clenching her teeth, “I just figured out how to open it!”
“I have detected a life form in suspended animation inside,” Fifebee went on, collecting her decorum and sitting back down.
Noonan cocked his head.
“Dangerous?” he asked.
“I don’t know!” Fifebee said, speaking as though to a child as cranial ridges slowly started sprouting from her forehead, “I HAVEN’T OPENED THE POD YET!”
“I see,” Noonan nodded, “You were perhaps waiting for input from the Captain and myself?”
“I was actually waiting for the Lollipop Guild to make their recommendations,” Fifebee said dryly, electing a chuckle from Noonan and a disapproving frown from Stafford.
“Munchkinland aside,” Stafford cut in, “What risk is there in opening the pod?”
“Biological contamination,” Wowryk said at once with a pointed glance at Jeffery, “Microbes, bacteria-“
“A penis?” Yanick cut in, glaring at Wowryk.
“Oh, that’s mature!” Wowryk snapped angrily as Stafford winced.
“There is no sign of any radiation,” Fifebee cut in smoothly before the situation could escalate, “I suggest we open the pod in a Level 3 containment field until we determine exactly what is inside.” She paused briefly, “I cannot confirm or deny the presence of a penis,”
“Stop saying that, make it a high security forcefield, and you’ve got yourself a deal,” Stafford said.
“Captain,” Fifebee pointed out, “Starfleet procedure calls for a Level 3-“
“I know,” Stafford interrupted, “But how many ships have had huge problems because they didn’t bother to take two extra seconds to press the ‘high security’ button?”
“Your point is made, sir.”
“Great,” Stafford stood, “Fifebee, open the pod. Dr. Wowryk and Nurse Kerry will be on hand to assess any medical risks; Mr. Parief will be there in case of a security risk. I’ll go too, because I damn well feel like it. Mr. Noonan, you have the conn. Everybody else, active duty stations. Wowryk, Jeffery, a word in my ready room please.” Stafford left the conference room and strode through the Silverado main bridge, where Lieutenant Ovens was sitting in the command chair, trying to look as imposing as his slightly overtired appearance allowed. Yanick and Jall quickly took their posts as Wowryk and Jeffery followed Stafford into the ready room.
“Fifty bucks says this won’t be pretty,” Jall said softly to Yanick.
Stafford made himself comfortable behind his desk as Wowryk and Jeffery fidgeted in front of him. His completed model of Silverado sat on his desk, tiny lights shining, engine nacelles glowing with a soft blue light. The only sign of his little glue accident was a smudged fingerprint he couldn’t entirely clean off the port nacelle.
“What’s the deal,” he finally asked.
“Our personal lives are none of your concern,” Wowryk immediately replied, her tone somewhere between frosty and glacier ice.
“When it impacts your performance it sure as hell does!” Stafford snapped, “You’re both senior officers on this ship! Even if you start to loathe and despise each other, I expect you to be able to perform your duties in a professional manner!”
“My duties haven’t been impacted,” Jeffery said nervously.
“No, not yet. I’m being proactive,” Stafford replied.
“Is this about that damned baby?” Wowryk asked, “Because that-“
“Was different. Religious objections, I’m sure,” Stafford said, giving her a doubtful look, “Except I’ve had a crew member or two telling me that it was something else. Now, I want to know what happened. Now.”
“I don’t have to put up with this!” Wowryk huffed, marching towards the door-
And banging into the closed panels.
“Sorry,” Stafford said, grim faced, “But it so happens that Sylvia agrees with me on this one. There’s a problem here, and you need to sort it out.”
“Uh, Chris,” Jeffery finally spoke up, “It’s great that ye wanna help and all, but yer really not the kinda guy who can help her with this.”
Stafford was quiet for a moment.
“You’re absolutely right,” he said finally, “Stafford to Yvonnokoff,”
“Dr. Wowryk and Mr. Jeffery will be scheduling an appointment with you, ASAP please, Doctor.”
“This is mandatory. Send security after them if you have to.”
“Um, OK. By ze vay, vould you care to book a session to vork through your feelings of hostility-“”
“Stafford out,” Stafford turned back to his best friend and his least favorite doctor, “I knew I kept that quack around for a reason. Now, I don’t care if you break up, get married or have a kid for that matter, just get some issues resolved!” he gave a small grin, “It’s for your own good.”
“I can’t believe that bastard,” Wowryk muttered in the turbolift as she and Jeffery rode down, “Forcing us into therapy!”
Jeffery said nothing.
“You don’t actually think we need therapy. Do you?” she demanded.
“I think you do,” Jeffery said softly.
Wowryk’s mouth opened and closed like a fish for several seconds.
“Why?” she finally asked.
“Sex,” Jeffery said. Wowryk jumped back like she’d been slapped.
“Question asked, question answered,” Jeffery said.
The turbolift arrived on Deck 8 and Sickbay. Wowryk stepped out leaving Jeffery alone.
Less than an hour later, T’Parief, Stafford, Fifebee and Wowryk gathered in Science Lab One, standing around the strange alien pod. The security field shimmered faintly as Fifebee manipulated the controls.
“I’m using a tachyon pulse to establish a link with the pods computer circuitry. The pod is emitting a pulse every 4.8 minutes. The pulse seems to be a request for instructions. By tying in the universal translate and scanning the command pathways in the pods computer circuits, I should be able to generate an ‘open’ command.”
“Go nuts,” Stafford shrugged.
Fifebee tapped for several more minutes.
“I am now opening the pod.”
The pod itself was motionless for several seconds. Then, with a slight hiss, a panel on the upper surface of the pod slid smoothly open.
“That was easy,” Stafford said.
“Actually, it was very difficult and involved-“
“You’re a genius,” Stafford interrupted before the hologram could start spouting techno-babble.
“I’m detecting one life sign,” Wowryk said, tapping her medical tricorder, “There’s an active sterile field, and I’m not detecting any micro-organisms at all.”
“Still no sign of any radiation or other dangerous emissions,” Fifebee reported.
“T’Parief?” Stafford prodded.
“If there was a security risk,” the large officer said, “I would be in the middle of a fight already.”
“Point taken. But a simple ‘no security risks as of yet’ would be great. Y’know, for future reference and all that.”
“Well, let’s take a look,” Fifebee said, moving through the security field and looking inside the pod. One eyebrow rose.
“Dr. Wowryk, your assistance please.”
“I can’t walk through forcefields,” Wowryk said flatly.
“Right,” Fifebee said absently, eyes not leaving the pod, “I knew that.”
T’Parief deactivated the field. Wowryk stepped closer to the pod, leaned over, looked into the small chamber inside and saw-“
“For crying out loud!” she snapped, crossing her arms, “not ANOTHER one!”
“What? What is it?” Stafford demanded.
Fifebee reached into the pod and pulled out a small, detachable seat. Curled up inside was a baby, looking to be maybe a year or two old.
“He’s adorable!” Nurse Kerry said, “Look at his cute little flight suit! That’s so clever!”
Indeed, the baby was wearing a silvery suit with tiny vital sign readouts on the front.
“He’s waking up!” Fifebee smiled, unstrapping the little explorer from his seat, “Now that he’s outside of the stasis field. I wonder what he’s doing in here?”
“Maybe he’s the last survivor of an alien race,” Stafford said, “Shot into space to save him from a global catastrophe.”
“Ridiculous!” Wowryk said, shaking her head, “You need more than one specimen to…ugh… preserve the species. There’s no point in sending only one!”
“It worked for Superman,” Stafford muttered.
The baby opened his eyes and looked around, taking in the different faces around him. He immediately started trashing his limbs and babbling.
“Gag? Ick selkid blaaagh?’
“Perhaps he is a tyrannical Overlord,” T’Parief mused, “Exiled as punishment for his crimes.”
“Oh, please,” Kerry said, trying to shush the squealing infant, “He’s an innocent little baby.”
“Who’s been drifting in space for God knows how long,” Stafford mused, “He’s going to need somebody to take care of him.”
“Maybe Ensign Yanick?” Nurse Kerry suggested, “She seems like she’d be good with…kids…” Kerry trailed off as she saw the dark look on T’Parief’s face, “Or not.”
“RAKLE AAAGGHH UN!”
“Noisy little fella,” Stafford chuckled.
“He’s healthy,” Wowryk said, closing her medical tricorder, “Just upset. Can I go now?”
“No,” Stafford said, rubbing his chin.
I slowly came to my senses, my limbs slightly numb from an unknown amount of time trapped in this blasted pod. My last memory was that of Letharis, my archenemy, giving one of his stupid speeches about justice and liberty as the hatch on my prison pod slid shut. Damn him! Sending me to an ‘alien penal colony’ to be ‘rehabilitated’. How dare he!
“He’s waking up!” I nearly vomited from the nausea as I was lifted from my seat. “Now that he’s outside of the stasis field. I wonder what he’s doing in here?”
“Maybe he’s the last survivor of an alien race,” somebody said, “Shot into space to save him from a global catastrophe.”
“Ridiculous!” came another voice said, female, “You need more than one specimen to…ugh… preserve the species. There’s no point in sending only one!””
“It worked for Superman,” the male voice muttered.
I opened my eyes and looked around. Giants! Five of them! Three appeared to be female, one male and the fifth…well, I have no idea what it was. And huge! Each was six times my own size! What monstrous place had I been sent to? And they were using…linguistic communication? How primitive. I immediately attempted to escape from the female holding me, but it was useless. I was rendered powerless by her strength. I attempted to shout audibly, but my species has gone for millennia without verbal communication; my mouth has all the speaking abilities of my posterior orifice.
//I am High Master Stalart, Ruler of Arcania!// I broadcast in thought-speak, //Bow before me and despair!//
“Perhaps he is a tyrannical Overlord,” the hideous creature mused, “Exiled as punishment for his crimes.”
“Oh, please,” one female said, making foolish ‘cooing’ sounds, likely in an attempt to silence me “He’s an innocent little baby.”
“Who’s been drifting in space for God knows how long,” the male said, “He’s going to need somebody to take care of him.”
I tried to broadcast again as a horrible realization dawned on me. They couldn’t hear me! They were so pathetically primitive that their brains were incompatible with my own telephathy! Such a thing was known to happen, but this was the most awful of luck. What’s more, they had mistaken me for one of their young! How repulsive!
“Maybe Ensign Yanick?” the blond female suggested, “She seems like she’d be good with…kids…” she trailed off as the creature started to glare at her “Or not.”
“I AM NOT AN INFANT!” I tried to scream in their simple language, the sounds being horribly distorted by my useless mouth.
“Noisy little fella,” the male chuckled.
“He’s healthy,” the rather attractive female said, closing her medical tricorder, “Just upset, can I go now?”
“No,” the male rubbed his chin.
“OK,” Stafford said, clapping his hands together as he paced Yvonnokoff’s office, “We all know why we’re here.”
“Actually,” Eva Yvonnokoff, ship’s counselor said in her crisp tones, “I don’t. Vhy are ve here?”
“Ve are here,” Stafford said, “because the Doctor here has a problem, her boyfriend is concerned about her, and you’re the ship’s shrink.”
“I see,” Yvonnokoff nodded, “And vhy are you here?”
“Because I have an idea that might help.”
“Very vell,” Yvonnokoff shifted to look at Wowryk, “Dr. Wowryk, vhat is bozering you?”
Wowryk took a deep breath.
“I have problems with sex,” she said finally. She was quiet for a moment, then, “Well, that was easier than I thought,”
“Is excellent first step,” Yvonnokoff assured her, tapping away on her padd, “Now-“
“Look,” Stafford cut it, “I wanna give you my idea, then get the hell out of your private session.”
“Fine,” Yvonnokoff crossed her arms and leaned back, “Vhat is your brilliant idea?”
“Doc, you have a sex problem,” Stafford said, walking around the edge of Yvonnokoff’s office, “Sex, body parts, babies, all that stuff. I think you’ll agree that the best thing to do is get you comfortable with the whole ‘procreation’ thing, after which your own beliefs can take over.”
“Yes, that would be all right,” Wowryk answered, surprised not only at Stafford’s consideration of her beliefs, but also that he cared at all.
“Great. Well, it just so happens what we have an adorable little alien baby in need of a mommy-“
“ARE YE KIDDING?” Jeffery gasped, “You want us to ADOPT that thing?”
“Ze idea is sound,” Yvonnokoff nodded, “It vould aid greatly in Dr. Wowryk’s therapy, and vould be an excellent character-building experience for yourself as vell.”
“My character is fine,” Jeffery objected, “It doesn’t need any renovations.”
“I’ll do it,” Wowryk said, then turned to Jeffery, “We’ll do it.”
“Ye can’t make this decision for me, Noel,” Jeffery said firmly.
“You’re right,” Wowryk answered, “I can’t.”
“What’s in this for me?”
“If I can get,” Wowryk swallowed, “more…comfortable…with the idea of physical intimacy, you could get a lot out of it.”
Jeffery’s mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water.
“I do find you attractive,” Wowryk admitted, “And I tried yesterday to have some normal, non-sexual contact. But I’m scared of, of what it might mean.”
“I’ll do it,” Jeffery said slowly, “But only until we find his real home!”
“Fair enough,” Stafford said, heading for the door, “My work here is done.”
“Captain,” Wowryk called out.
“Two things. First, thank you. Second, if you mention any of this conversation to anybody, you’ll find your next Sickbay visit will involve an impressive array of invasive medical instruments that can be very, very unpleasant. Third, in the future, please stay the hell out of my personal business.”
Wowryk looking him dead in the eye. “Invasive. Medical. Instruments.”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 57732.6:
“We’ve docked with Starbase 298 to pick up a shipment of isomorphic crystals. We’re doing everything by the book; it would be really nice to visit at least ONE starbase without making asses of ourselves. Y’know, blowing stuff up, causing riots, fighting with constructions crews and whatnot.”
I, High Master Stalart of Arcania slowly looked over the edge of the crib I’d been placed in. Sickbay was relatively empty; Dr. Wowryk was off on some errand while the nurses were in the medical lab going over my medical report.
Looking around once more to be sure I wasn’t being watched, I pulled myself over the edge of the crib and dropped soundlessly to the floor. Moving as quickly as my little legs could carry me, I slipped into Wowryk’s office.
//Lornk these giants and their gigantic furniture!// I fumed as I pulled myself up into Wowryk’s chair, then from there onto the table. It only took a few taps for me to figure out how to use the computer panel and to pull up the ship’s layout.
//Hmmm, we’re docked at some kind of permanent facility,// I thought to myself, //If I can escape this hell-hole, I can find a transport back to my homeworld and continue my reign of terror!”
Excited, I jumped off the chair and ran for the door.
The alien ship was big. Very big.
Of course, had it been built to my scale, it would have been about the same size as one of our Dominator-class battleships. But considering the comparative sizes between these aliens and an Arcanian, well, this ship was really quite large.
I padded down the hall, cursing the little ‘footie’ pajamas I’d been forced to wear, with every step. Twice I had to hide behind support beams to prevent passing crewman from spotting me.
I knew that I was on Deck 8 of the saucer section. From the schematics I had accessed, I knew that the closest entry point to the space station we had docked at was four decks below me, on Deck 12. I immediately started looking for a…oh, what did they call it? A turbolift!
Though reading the signs was somewhat difficult, due to the signs being a meter or two over my head and in an alien language, I managed to quickly find my way to the lift. I entered, and looked around for a control panel.
There it was! Curses! Far out of reach! I jumped, but to no avail; I couldn’t reach it!
“Level please,” chimed the ship’s computer.
//DECK 10!// I screamed in thought-speak. Of course, the primitive machine couldn’t understand me!
I quickly exited the lift and ran down the corridor, ducking into an access hatch to avoid being seen by a rather unattractive blue-skinned creature. What luck! A ladder, leading further down into the ship!
Climbing carefully from rung to rung, it took me close to fifteen time-ticks to descend the four decks. I climbed out, and started padding down the brightly lit, cream and silver corridors.
“Do we REALLY need to tie up an entire starship just to deliver a box of rocks?”
I ducked behind a support beam as a tall, dark-haired being walked by, a short female with blond hair next to him.
“Oh, c’mon Jall! It’s a milk run!” she said.
“I did NOT join Starfleet to be a delivery boy!”
“Me neither. So what? C’mon, let’s go buy shoes,” the blond giggled, “That always cheers me up!”
“Well, if you insist. But they have GOT to be at least CLOSE to fashionable this time!”
//Well,// I thought to myself, //She’s a ditz and he’s not fooling anybody! Escaping from these people will be easier than I thought!//
I followed close behind the pair, in the hopes that anybody observing would believe me to be with them. We quickly arrived at the airlock; I could see the passage to freedom!
Before I could follow my pair of dull-witted guides, the airlock doors hissed shut! I spun around, only to see the inner doors closing as well.
I was trapped!
“Now what are you doing in here, sweetie?”
It was the voice from the turbolift!
“You really shouldn’t be playing in here,” the voice went on, “it could be dangerous! I’ll just beam you right back to Sickbay, where you’ll be save and sound.”
Captain’s Log, Supplemental:
We’ve departed the Starbase, cargo loaded and wallets empty. Please note that Lieutenant Jall has violated Starfleet dress code…again. I just can’t get it through his head that he needs to wear Starfleet issue boots on the bridge, no matter how ‘fashionable’ his Grexen originals are!
Our little passenger turns out to be quite the adventurer! Sylvia found him playing in one of the airlocks! Good thing she noticed, or God knows where he might have wound up. I guess with all these babies on board it pays to have a computer with a mother’s personality.
“We’ve reprogrammed the doors on the ship to ignore any being below a certain height,” Fifebee explained to Wowryk as the two prepared to move the baby to Wowryk’s quarters, “And the consoles in your quarters and in Sickbay will lock automatically when you’re finished with them. Last thing we need is a baby in a plasma conduit.”
“I’ll be keeping an eye on him too,” Syliva added.
//Oh, ‘keeping an eye on me’ hmmm? I swear, you mechanical devil-woman, for every day I spent in this prison, I will destroy one of your data processing units!//
“Now remember,” Fifebee said, just a hint of disdain in her voice, “Replicator formula 24-G and don’t try solid foods until you’re sure he’s ready for them. He will need to be bathed daily and he likes it if you rub his back after meals.”
“I didn’t realize your personality database included pediatrics,” Dr. Wowryk said uneasily as she and Jeffery stood near the alien baby’s crib in sickbay.
//I am NOT one of your wretched young, dammit!// Stalart thought-spoke, though of course nobody could ‘hear’ him, //I refuse to submit to this treatment!//
“He looks a little cranky,” Jeffery said, as the ‘infant’ screamed and flailed his arms in the air.
“Once I understood the nature of our visitor, I did the appropriate research and uploaded pediatric care into my database,” Fifebee replied, “Have you thought of a name for him?”
“Well, yes. We can’t just keep calling him ‘the alien baby’.”
“Ah vote for Jimmy,” Jeffery said.
“I’d suggest ‘John’,” Fifebee added.
“No,” Noel said, “I’ll call him Luke, after the Apostle Luke,”
//I am High Master Stalart! Master of Arcania! Release me immediately!//
“Pick him up,” Fifebee suggested, “He needs comforting.”
“Uh, right,” Wowryk swallowed, then reached down into the crib to pick up the small creature.
As ‘Noel’ reached down to clutch me in her alien grip, I tried to evade her grasp. Failing, I could do nothing but protest as she lifted me into the air.
“Little Luke,” she said, a faint smile on her face, “Well, I guess you’re not that bad after all. Give, um, give mommy a hug,”
//You are not my ‘mommy’ you alien bitch!// I cried out, //I will…not…oh, that’s nice…//
Noel had hugged me close, bringing me into contact with a giant, but pleasantly firm bosom.
“I think he likes you,” Fifebee said with a smile.
“Awww,” Wowryk sighed, patting Luke on the back.
Resting as I was against this supple creature, all I could think was that perhaps living with this alien would be tolerable, at least until another opportunity for escape presented itself…