Author: Brendan Chris
“Harry,” Eva said patiently, forcing her face into a concerned expression, “vhat you are doing is not healthy. I urge you to seek proper psychiatric care.”
“C’mon Vonna,” Harry objected, “I’m sure lots of people do it!”
“Harry, I don’t zink its physically possible for most people to dislocate a joint at will. In ziz case, I agree vith your wife. You should stop ziz.”
“If you say so, Dr. Vonna,” Harry sighed.
“My pleasure,” Yvonnokoff smiled as she fixed her gaze on her producer, Crewman Gibson, as he sat in his booth, feet propped up on his console, “Bart, who is our last caller?”
“Uh, we’ve got Candy on Channel 4. Huh huh…candy…”
“Yeah, that was SUCH a witty alias!” ‘Candy’ snapped over the channel.
“Now, ‘Candy,’ Yvonnokoff stifled a grin, “Ve are here to help you. Vhat are you having trouble with?”
“It’s my new baby,” Candy complained.
“He keeps you up all night?” Eva ventured.
“Well, only sometimes-“
“Is he teething? If so, you may want to stop breast feeding, as your nip-“
“I’m not breast feeding!” Candy snapped. Gibson chucked silently in his sound-proof booth and mouthed the word ‘breast’ to himself.
“Zen vhat is he doing?” Eva demanded.
“He’s peeing on my computer consoles!”
Yvonnokoff frowned. Not because she was confused, but because she was pretty sure she could smell acrid smoke wafting into her studio. She looked straight into her holocam.
“Vell,” she began, holding back a cough, “You vill be glad to know that he is unlikely to electrocute himself, as liquid breaks up when released in such a manner and vill not carry an electric current,” she took a sip of water, then looked into Gibson’s booth, narrowing her eyes slightly. Gibson was sitting there, looking back innocently. As Eva turned back to the holo-cam, he quickly snuck a pull from a joint he’d hidden beneath his console.
“I know he can’t get electrocuted!” Candy was saying, “But he’s making a mess, and shorting out my computers! How do I make him stop??”
Eva coughed quietly into her hand. That smell…
“Bart,” Eva said, glaring at Gibson through the screen, “Vhat do you think?”
Gibson, a panicked look in his eyes, shook his head.
“Please Mr. Gibson,” Eva went on, “I am interested to hear your learned opinion.”
“Well,” Gibson said, expelling a cloud of smoke.
“Zank you,” Eva cut him off, “Zat is all I needed to know. Candy, I vould suggest Thuggies Security Diapers. Zey are designed for Klingon babies, but you can get human versions vithout ze built-in sandpaper at your local Dillon’s Supply Depot. If your toddler cannot remove his diaper, he cannot pee on your computers.”
“Thanks Vonna,” there was a click as ‘Candy’ signed off.
“And zat concludes our show for today,” Yvonnokoff said, smiling at the camera, “Up next, ve have Joan Redding vith ze evenings news,” Eva stabbed the cut-off button on her console and pointed a finger at Gibson, “And you, you little shvit, if I ever catch you smoking up on ze job again, I shall…vhy eez on-air light still on?”
Noel Wowryk chuckled to herself as Yvonnokoff’s rant was cut off by the opening theme of the AWN News. Her chuckle faded to a sigh as she heard a crash from the living area in her quarters.
“You might wanna check up on him,” Sylvia called from the comm.
“Luke,” Wowryk said tiredly, “you better not have…you did. You broke mommy’s vase. Again.”
/>For the hundredth time, you are not my ‘mommy’, you alien bitch!/> screamed the baby-like Lord Stalart of Arcania, />I was unsuccessful in destroying the mechanical woman who controls this ship, but I will not be defeated!”
Wowryk mentally counted to twenty as ‘Luke’ finished his screaming fit, unaware of the telepathic message her ‘primitive human brain’ failed to intercept.
“Come here, child,” she said, picking up Luke and patting him on the back.
If sex led to babies, and babies led to headaches like the one she had now, then wasn’t she justified in thinking that sex was evil?
“TREE! TREE! SIMON, TURN LEFT!” Stafford screamed
Stafford used his heels to dig his snowboard into the powdery surface of the ski slope, sliding to a stop less than two feet away from Jeffery’s crumpled form.
“You didn’t turn left,” Stafford complained, reaching out a gloved hand to help Jeffery up. The two of them were in Holodeck 1, one of the larger holodecks on the ship. Steven had arranged for a Rocky Mountains Ski Getaway as a way to break the monotony of Silverado’s current mapping mission.
Or perhaps as a way to break a few crew members.
“C’mon buddy, up and at ‘em!” Stafford snapped, hauling Jeffery to his feet, “I know you can do this-“
“If only ah could learn to turn!” Jeffery finished, pushing back his goggles to rub his eyes.
“I really don’t see how this snowboarding thing can be fun,” Silvia stated, materializing in the holodeck as a cheery faced woman with curly brown hair, “You slide at high speed down a hill, crashing into every tree, bush and female skier on the way down. If I didn’t have the safety protocols engaged, Jeffery would have two black eyes, a concussion, a broken nose, a fractured tailbone-“
“This is not helping,” Jeffery complained.
“C’mon Sylvia,” Stafford said cheerfully, “Don’t you feel a rush when you’re flying through space at warp 9.2, dodging asteroids and evading bad guys?”
“Not really. Mostly I feel pissed off that you got me into that kind of situation to being with.”
“Oh,” Stafford frowned, “Well, I guess that kinda kills the neat little analogy I was gonna make.”
“It’s this whole going sideways thing,” Jeffery went on, “Ah mean, when yer piloting a shuttle, do you go sideways? Nay! Ye go straight. This sideways snowboard thing is unnatural.”
“You were the one who wanted to come with me!” Stafford shot back.
“Aye, well, that’s because if Ah have to spend one more minute with that little terror I’d go batty!”
“C’mon”, Stafford said, tightening the bindings on his board, “He can’t be that bad. He’s like, two years old!”
“He’s shorted out every computer console in Noel’s quarters. Do ye have any idea how scary she is when she gets angry? Or much fried baby-pee stinks?”
“Yes.” Stafford replied simply, “C’mon, let’s get to the chalet and check out some ski-bunnies. Maybe that will make you happy-“
Jeffery jumped back, catching his board on the snow and falling on his backside as a large blur slammed into Stafford, crushing the Captain into the snow.
“PARI! OH MY GOD!”
Ensign Yanick slid to a stop, her skies throwing powdery white snow right into Jeffery’s face.
“Pari, are you OK?” she asked, crouching over T’Parief as he blew snow out of his nostrils.
“I think I landed on a rock,” the gargantuan officer gasped as he pulled himself up off the ground.
“That’s nay a rock!” Jeffery wheezed, flinching as cold, wet snow slid down his parka, “That’s the Captain!”
“Idiotic, foolish, juvenile-“
“At least this is a step up from ‘sinful and blasphemous’!”
“Don’t start with me! I’ve got a hypospray that could give you explosive diarrhea for the next week! If you could ever get that six-foot pole out of your ass first, that is!”
“Not getting much sleep, are we?”
“Stop shouting!” Stafford croaked, the voices around him finally becoming too much. He could feel pain, everywhere. Especially in his chest, but also his head, legs and arms. Deep, throbbing pain.
“Oh, you’re awake,” Stafford’s vision cleared to show Dr. Noel Wowryk standing next to his bio-bed, her beauty only slightly marred by the previously mentioned lack of sleep.
“Glad to see you’re still with us,” smiled Matt Noonan, First Officer, “You had us worried there for a moment.”
“I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck,” Stafford groaned.
“You were!” Noonan chirped, “His name was T’Parief.”
“Four broken ribs, a punctured lung, dislocated shoulder, your left arm was broken in three places,” Wowryk trailed off, “Well, you were a wreck. Even with the safety protocols engaged! I’ve seen corpses in better shape.”
“Thanks,” Stafford said dryly, “So are you planning on FIXING ME anytime soon?”
“Oh, you’re all done,” Wowryk said.
“Then why do I feel like I should just roll over and die!?”
Wowryk bit her lip as the obvious ‘because you should’ tried to fight its way loose, instead saying, “You’re all fixed up. Some of your nerve endings are just a bit raw. The pain will fade.”
“We’ve been over this,” she said peevishly, “Painkillers-“
“Take away a reminder that God saved him from death. And the pain means he’s more likely not to make the same mistake again,” Noonan recited, as though from a book, “Doctor, please.”
“Oh, all right,” Wowryk sighed, moving to the supply table.
“Hey little guy!” Noonan smiled, reaching down to pick up Luke, who had been pacing back and forth, “How ya doin’?”
/>I will kill you very slowly, you pale-faced freak!/> fumed Luke, AKA Lord Stalart.
“You OK?” Stafford asked.
“Just a slight headache,” Noonan said, looking slightly confused.
“I thought,” Stafford glanced quickly to confirm that Noel was out of earshot, then lowered his voice, “I mean, I didn’t think somebody like you would get headaches.”
“This is the first one,” Noonan admitted, “But it’s probably nothing.”
Wowryk returned with the hypospray and injected Stafford with the drug. The pain immediately started to fade.
“Thanks Doc,” Stafford grinned, climbing off the bio-bed.
“We’re not done yet,” Noel said coolly.
“No,” Wowryk led Stafford to the large diagnostic monitor that took up most of the wall next to the main bio-bed, “Look at this.”
Stafford tried to make sense of the readouts. It looked like his body, only kinda inside out.
“What about it?”
“I’ve compared your current readings from the readings taken during your physical last year,” Wowryk explained, “Your muscle tone is slipping, your body-fat percentage is up and the oxygen-transport efficiency of your circulatory system has dropped three percent.”
“So, I’m out of shape?”
“So I’ll start working out again,” Stafford shrugged, “No biggie.”
“Not good enough,” Wowryk snapped, pulling out an isolinear chip, “You shouldn’t have stopped in the first place! A starship captain needs to be in top physical shape!”
“I was busy!” Stafford objected.
“That’s no excuse!”
“Unfortunately,” Noonan added, “The doctor is right.”
“Why are you still here?” Stafford snapped, “Go…do bridge stuff! I’m fine!”
“As you wish,” Noonan withdrew.
“I’ve prepared a workout program for you,” Wowryk continued, “And it’s mandatory. Doctor’s orders,” she handed him the chip.
“Uh, right,” Stafford said, turning the chip over in his hands.
“Just slip the chip into the robo-trainer and he’ll get you setup.”
“Robo-trainer?” Stafford asked.
“Yeah,” Wowryk said, quickly pulling Luke away from a lab counter on which corrosive venom samples from a Xinax IV sea serpent were waiting to by analyzed.
/>CRUD! And I was SOO close!/>
“Jeffery found him when he was refurbishing the gymnasium equipment last month,” Wowryk went on, “He’s not very smart, basically a walking computer, but he does the job. Of course, if we had a motivated crew we’d have somebody teaching classes. Or, if this were a MODERN ship, we’d have an exercise hologram to…” Wowryk trailed off. Stafford had apparently bolted when she had turned to pick Luke up.
/>At least SOMEBODY can thwart you, bitch!/> Luke thought-spoke triumphantly.
Wowryk smiled to herself.
“I guess this means he’ll have to find out about ‘mandatory workout mode’ the hard way,” she muttered.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 57854.2:
“Big rock. Will investigate. Bored silly.”
First Officer’s Log, Stardate 57854.2:
Addendum to Captain’s Log:
“I believe that Captain Stafford meant to say that we are continuing with our mapping mission in sector 461-B as ordered. The recent string of uninhabitable planets has had a definite impact on crew morale and it’s not uncommon to find somebody in the science labs playing ‘Solitare’ or “Andorian Ritual Rampage’ rather then studying their sensor readings. Three crewmen have been put on report. Fortunately the holodecks and Steven have been working hard to keep everybody entertained. Recommend extra vacation time to be allocated to Steven and the staff of Unbalanced Equations.”
“We have detected a planet in the Yonge-Éclair system that may contain life and are changing course to investigate.”
“May way was more succinct,” Stafford complained.
“Maybe so,” Noonan said softly, “But Starfleet wants details.”
“Yeah, that’s why we send all our sensor records in on a regular basis.”
“Touché,” Noonan acknowledged, then proceeded to stare at Stafford.
Stafford squirmed in his seat.
“I am the Captain! I’ll do my logs the way I want, and if Starfleet has a problem they can take it up with me!” he said stubbornly, crossing his arms.
Noonan continue to stare.
“Stop looking at me!”
Noonan didn’t blink. In fact, he didn’t move at all. To Stafford, it was like looking at a statue carved in flesh. He couldn’t even tell if Noonan was alive or dead, just that he was sitting there staring and it was FREAKING HIM OUT!
“OK! OK!” Stafford cried out, “You’re right! I know! Just cut that out!” Noonan said nothing, merely smiling to himself as Stafford started to re-record his log. “We’re almost at the planet!” Trish Yanick called from the helm, “Want me to slow down, or can I try that planetary slingshot thingy I read out in Helmsman Monthy?”
“Slow us down, please,” Stafford said, “I’d rather not vomit all over the floor. Not that there’s any vomit left in me after your boyfriend squeezed most of my internal organs and bodily fluids out all over the slopes of Fernie like squishing a bug on the pavement!”
“It was an accident,” T’Parief said softly from the Tactical station.
“It was almost a catastrophe!” Stafford shot back.
“Snowboarding is very difficult,” T’Parief objected, “moving sidewise down a hill just doesn’t make sense,”
“You were the one who said that skis were for sissies!” Yanick giggled from the helm.
“Hey,” Jall objected, “I was wearing skis!”
“Case in point,” stated T’Parief.
“Sensor readings coming in on the planet,” Fifebee interrupted, “Class M, mostly forests and grasslands. No signs of intelligent life-“
“-we could say that about this bridge,” Stafford muttered.
“-however there are abundant animal life signs, both on the surface and beneath the ocean,” Fifebee went on, “Strange, I’m picking up energy readings.”
“Ooo, really?” Stafford jumped up, excited and moved quickly over to Fifebee’s station, “Wow, look at the amplitude variance of the emissions!”
Silence hovered over the bridge as everybody turned to stare at Stafford. Slowly, he became aware of the attention.
“What?” he asked, “Oh come on! I’m a Starfleet officer and a Captain! I do know a thing or two about this kind of thing. And I got curious about energy anomalies after that whole Matrian thing.”
Yanick and Jall exchanged glances and shrugged while Noonan laughed quietly into his palm.
“You people suck,” Stafford sighed, “C’mon Fifebee, get your holo-relay. Let’s go take a look. Noonan, you have the conn,”
Fifebee nodded, rose and walked to the turbolift.
“T’Parief, take the conn,” Noonan commanded, following Stafford into the turbolift.
“Captain,” Noonan said as soon as the doors closed, “Do you think leaving the ship at this time is a good idea?”
“Why not?” Stafford shrugged.
“You’re still recovering from serious injuries,” Noonan pointed out, “It would be best if you remained here to recover while I aid Lieutenant Fifebee.”
Stafford regarded his First Officer for a moment.
“You’re right,” Stafford admitted, “It wouldn’t be very smart of me to go running around an alien planet with half of my innards bruised. Sylvia, redirect turbolift to the Deck 11 Gymnasium, please.”
“Are you sure wouldn’t rather have a nice hot soak?” Sylvia asked, “I can have the tub in your quarters full by the time you get there,”
“After my workout, maybe,” Stafford said as the lift doors opened, “Have fun on the planet, you two,” he stepped out and disappeared down the corridor.
“He acquiesced too easily,” Fifebee stated.
“Do you think so?” Noonan asked.
“I think Dr. Wowryk got him in a soft spot when she told him he was out of shape,” Sylvia cut in, “Chris never did like it when people made fun of his body.”
Fifebee grinned mischievously,
“I’m just going to file that away for future reference,” she said.
“Play nice,” Noonan admonished as they stepped out of the turbolift and walked towards Transporter Room 1.
When Stafford had made his clandestine escape from Sickbay, Wowrk had failed to notice that he had left his workout chip sitting on the supply cart. However, somebody else DID notice.
/<Well, fortune smiles,/> Stalart thought to himself as he climbed up the side of the supply cart, stubby fingers groping for the chip and tucking it in a pocket,/<I can use this ‘robo-trainer’ to be sure that the Captain never again poses a threat to me! MWA-HA-HA-HA-URK!/>
“Luke! What did I tell you about playing with medical equipment?” Wowryk scolded, holding the ‘infant’ face to face, “I swear, Kerry, this little twerp is going to be the end of me!”
/<I bet I could do a better quadruple heart bypass that you could!/>
“Here,” Wowrk plunked Luke into a playpen she’d erected in her office, “Now play nice with your toys! Mommy has some sacramental wine she needs to visit.
/<I’m driving her to drink!/> Stalart realized, then smiled, /<Excellent!/>
Once Wowryk had gone her way, Stalart quickly opened up his ‘My Little Catholic’ church play set, pulling out a padd he’d swiped from Nurse Veeneman. All the consoles in Sickbay, Wowryk’s quarters and the Rengs’ quarters had been set to lock automatically when not in use, and only authorized persons could unlock them. The goal was to prevent innocent little baby fingers from accidentally flooding the room with banana custard or otherwise causing chaos. The result was a lot of pissed off nurses who would realize that they’d been typing for minutes minutes without having anything appear on the screen. The result was also a very annoyed little Lord Stalart, who found himself quite unable to infiltrate the networks of ‘the mechanical bitch’, AKA Sylvia. The padds on the other hand, had no such constraints. Slipping Stafford’s workout program into the reader slot, Stalart started programming.
“Good morning, Commander,” Ensign Pysterzykz hissed as Noonan and Fifebee walked into the transporter, “Off to explore a new planet, attempting to bring honor and glory to your families?”
“I have no family,” Noonan and Fifebee said together.
“No matter,” the Andorian muttered, pulling absently on on antennae, “There’s nobody down there to kill, so what are the odds of winning glory?”
“Just prepare to beam us down, please,” Noonan ordered. He pulled his tiny protective field emitter out of a pocket and affixed it to his arm, then proceeded to slather a goopy cream over his exposed skin.
“What is that?” Fifebee asked.
“Sun block,” Noonan replied as he took his place on the transporter padd next to Fifebee’s hovering holo-relay. Pysternzykz ran his fingers down the sliders on the transporter panel, then yelped as sparks shot from the equipment behind him.
“Engineering to Transporter Room 1,” snapped the intercom, “We’re picking up a power drain up there, what’s going on?”
“Stand by!” Pysternzykz snapped, running his fingers over the controls. Something was interfering with the annular confinement beam, putting anybody in transporter transit at risk of having their molecules spread across the planet. Fifebee wouldn’t mind; her program was safe in Silverado’s computer core. Noonan however, would probably object. Pysterzykz boosted power, recycling the transporter beam to preserve the pattern. Frowning, he noticed that several of the circuits in the transporter emitter he was using had shorted out. Silverado had multiple transporter emitters placed around the outer hull, the plan being that at least two should always be available to transport to or from another object, regardless of where that object was in relation to the ship. The Andorian immediately tried to boost power to the undamaged circuits before the beam could fail.
“They’re stuck halfway between the ship and the planet!” he called up to the bridge, “I’m getting feedback on the transporter circuits! The emitter is too badly damaged to complete the transport!”
“Well rematerialize them somewhere!” Jeffery snapped.
Pysternzykz grunted, then shifted the signal to a different emitter. The move was risky, like changing television channels in the middle of taping your favorite program. The transporter hummed, dimming the lights slightly as it sucked more power, then reported the results to Pysternzykz.
“Transport successful,” the Andorian gasped in relief.
“Thank God,” Jeffery agreed, “Any damage to the system?”
“Well, just a fried emitter-“ Pysternykz was cut off as the entire transporter stage erupted into sparks, wisps of smoke rising from below the deckplates where the pattern buffer was located. Ducking his head until the mechanical carnage ended, Pysternzykz whistled.
“Yes. There has been damage to the transporter system.”
Noonan staggered as he rematerialized on the planet surface, nearly losing his footing. Next to him, Fifebee flickered wildly before the emitters on her holo-relay stabilized.
“Well, that was very unpleasant,” Noonan grunted, tapping his comm-badge, “Noonan to Silverado. What happened?”
“Something broke,” came Stafford’s hurried reply.
Noonan and Fifebee exchanged glaces.
“Hardly a rare occurrence on our vessel,” Fifebee said dryly.
“OK, there was some kind of energy drain,” Stafford came back on the line, “it started leeching the transporter beam. The emitters tried to compensate and burnt out. Apparently you’re really lucky to be in less than two billion pieces.”
“Thrilling,” Noonan murmured, “Can you beam us back up?”
“Well, about that,” Stafford paused, “The transporter is kinda toast at the moment. We can send a shuttle.”
“Perhaps later,” Noonan suggested, “We may as well do what we’re here to do.”
“Good thinking Number One,” Stafford agreed, “Hmm, I don’t think I’ve ever called you-“
Noonan cut the channel.
“He talks to himself far too much,” he said, pulling out his tricorder.
“Yes, well,” Fifebee did likewise, “If he can have conversations with himself, the rest of us needn’t speak with him.”
“Was that a joke, or just you being a bitch?” he asked.
“Wouldn’t you like to know!” Fifebee smirked. The two of them walked up a slight rise, careful not to step on the rocks scattered along the ground. The planet was pleasant, in Noonan’s view. They’d materialized in the foothills of a large mountain, which Noonan found to be rather odd, as their destination had been temperate grasslands. Possible the transporter malfunction had pulled them off target. Either way, it really didn’t matter much to Noonan, the strange energy patterns were-
Noonan’s world spun briefly as he collapsed to the ground.
Stafford crept slowly into Sickbay.
It hadn’t taken long to realize he’d forgotten his workout chip, and even less time to realize that Wowryk would nag him about it far more than Sylvia, with her bio-neural circuitry, redundant processor cores and massive linguistic database, ever could. He was reminded of another auburn-haired, bitchy doctor that had been a guest speaker at one of his Academy classes. He couldn’t remember her real name, just the nickname Jeffery had given her: Ball-Crusher. Taking a moment to muse over how odd it was that Jeffery was now dating a similar (but younger) woman, Stafford eased into Sickbay.
The main operating theater was empty, the bio-bed Stafford had occupied now empty, the wall displays shut down. The row of diagnostic beds along the right wall was empty. The tiny waiting area and adjacent nurse’s station were likewise empty, a small ‘Back in Five Minutes’ sign sitting on the desk. Peeking towards the corridor to the medical labs and offices, Stafford glimpsed Wowryk seated at her desk. He spotted the supply cart he’d left his chip on and carefully tip-toed towards it.
Stafford stepped closer.
/<Down here!/> Lord Stalart snapped, /<Oh, right, no telepathy. Well then…/>
“Wazzat??” Stafford started, then darted behind the nurse’s desk as Wowryk turned to look into Sickbay.
“Luke!” Stafford hissed, “Not now kiddo! I can let that bi- um, I can’t let mommy see me!”
/<Yes, pity you don’t have the gonads to stand up to her. Not that you need to worry about that much longer./>
“Hey, what’s that you’ve got there, little guy?” Stafford asked, noticing the chip Stalart had clenched in one stubby hand.
/<Your doom! Would you like it? Or perhaps you would just care to make things easy for all of us and relinquish control of this vessel to me?/>
“That’s right, give it here,” Stafford took the chip, “Thanks kiddo! Don’t let her push you around!” he winked as he slipped back out of Sickbay.
“Kids,” Stafford shuddered as he strolled towards the turbolft.
“Commander?” Fifebee asked, concerned. Noonan has just collapsed without warning and was lying on the ground in what was undoubtedly a very uncomfortable position to any species which included a spine as part of their anatomy. Noonan didn’t move or make any attempt to make himself more comfortable.
Hesitant to touch the fallen officer with her own hands, Fifebee quickly located a stick and proceeded to poke Noonan in the side.
The reaction was instantaneous. Noonan’s hand snapped out faster than the eye (but not the holo-scanners) could detect and snapped the stick like, well, like a twig.
“That was unexpected,” Fifebee murmured. Before she could call Silverado and update the captain on the situation, Noonan started to stir.
“That was unexpected,” he said, pulling himself to his feet.
“Indeed”, Fifebee agreed, “Are you well?”
“Yes,” Noonan said slowly, “from what I can tell, I seem to have fallen asleep.”
“Narcolepsy?” Fifebee asked.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Noonan said, “It’s never happened before. I suggest we continue.”
“Very well,” Fifebee agreed, “However, if it happens again, we-“
“-must notify the captain. Yes.”
They walked in silence for several minutes, adjusting their course slightly as Fifebee tried to locate the source of the strange energy readings.
“I have cross-linked my program with Silverado’s scientific database and established an uplink to the archives at Memory Alpha,” Fifebee said finally, “There is no record of any energy emissions like the one we are tracking.”
“Anything similar?” Noonan asked.
“I’m checking, but it will take a few moments.”
The scream shook the hillside and scared the living hell out of both Noonan and Fifebee, who immediately had their phasers drawn.
“I thought you said there were no life signs on this planet!” Noonan said quickly.
“I did and there aren’t!” Fifee cried.
Stafford nodded politely as he passed members of his crew in the ship’s seemingly endless corridors.
There goes Crewman Gibson, a toolkit sling under one arm and smelling faintly of…something Stafford couldn’t identify. Next was the cute blond ensign from Xeno-Geology that made Stafford wish he was an ensign too. As he approached the entrance to the gymnasium he had to jump back as Crewman Kreklor and Ensign Marsden stormed out, arguing loudly.
“Look, dude, if you wanna experiment with that kinda thing it’s cool,” Marsden was saying, “We’ll just have to find somebody other than me for you to get romantic with!”
“My hand slipped!” his Klingon companion roared, “It was an accident during a wrestling match! I did not want to touch you in any romantic way!”
“Whatever you say, dude,” Marsden shrugged, “But I really think you’d be happier if you’d just come to grips with-“
“DIE, HUMAN SCUM!” Kreklor roared, tackling Marsden to the group.
“BAD TOUCH! BAD TOUCH!” Marsden cried out, wriggling free of Kreklor’s grip only to run head first into the corridor wall, knocking himself out. Shaking his head, Kreklor slung the unconscious man over his shoulder.
“Please tell me you’re taking him to Sickbay,” Stafford said from where he had plastered himself against the corridor wall.
“YES, I AM FWARKING TAKING HIM TO SICKBAY!” Kreklor screamed, “Uh, sir,” he added as he realized who he was addressing.
“Carry on,” Stafford sighed as he stepped into the gym.
“Sickbay!” Kreklor snapped, stepping into the turbolift.
Muttering to himself, Stafford let himself into the equipment room and started hunting for the robo-trainer.
“Only on MY ship could we end up with a psychotic doctor, a blond helmswoman and a gay Klingon,” he grumbled, “I bet Picard doesn’t have these problems!”
“Picard is a senior captain, of course he doesn’t have these problems,” Sylvia chimed in, “And you should know that Kreklor really did deliver Marsden to Sickbay and is having plenty of heterosexual intercourse with Ensign Beyosh.”
“Who’s Ensign Beyosh?” Stafford asked.
“The cute blond girl in Xeno-Geology.”
“Figures,” Stafford muttered, “Look, Sylvia, I could really use some alone time right now. Do you think you could maybe, I dunno…”
“Buzz off for a while?” Sylvia suggested, “Oh, sure. Why not? I’m only your ship, your reason for living and the biggest responsibility in your life! Why shouldn’t I just not care about what you do?”
“Exactly,” Stafford said, “C’mon Sylvia, just for a few hours? Please? You could keep an eye on Lieutenant Jall, he’s got to have enough bad habits to keep you busy for weeks!”
“If only you knew,” Sylvia muttered, “Fine, you’re on your own. Have fun trying to make yourself more attractive.”
“It’s a health thing!” Stafford snapped.
“Alone at last,” Stafford sighed.
Returning to his search, Stafford realized that he really should have asked Sylvia where the robo-trainer was hidden BEFORE he asked her to ignore him.
“The energy waves are spiking, Commander,” Fifebee reported. No answer.
Noonan was flat on his back again, eyes closed and breathing deeply, as though he were asleep.
“Fifebee to Silverado,”
“Commander Noonan has passed out. How long until the transporter is repaired?”
“Three hours. We could send a shuttle to pick you up.”
“Please do,” Fifebee requested, “Once Commander Noonan is back onboard I will continue the investigation myself.”
“We’ll have to get approval on that,” T’Parief warned her.
“Commander Noonan can do so when he wakes.”
“Understood. The Charger will depart shortly and will reach you in thirty minutes.”
“Thank you. Fifebee out.”
“That was hardly necessary,” Noonan said, still lying on the ground, eyes open.
“We agreed we would contact the ship if this happened again.”
“You know,” Noonan mused, “this ground really is quite soft. Comfortable, even.”
“The energy waves have subsided,” Fifebee noticed, tapping at her tricorder, “Weird. There’s no detectable pattern to their activity. They seem to be bouncing up and down and random.”
“Taking me with them every time they spike,” Noonan said thoughtfully, “Are there any ultra-violet or X-Ray component to the energy wave?”
“There is an ultra-violet wavelength present,” Fifebee frowned, “My apologies, Commander, I hadn’t thought to check. Most species have natural immunities to UV radiation, clearly yours does not.”
“My…what?” Noonan asked, looking as innocent as possible.
“Your species is clearly vulnerable to UV radiation,” Fifebee continued, “As evidenced by the sunscreen and low-level shielding you employ on every planetary away mission. I did not take your specific life-support requirements into account when I analyzed the waveform.”
“Lieutenant,” Noonan said firmly, “I assure you, I am human.”
“A human who can move faster than most humanoid species known to the Federation, employs moderate-level telepathy and hypnosis, survives entirely on what appears to be wine and is vulnerable to sunlight?” Fifebee raised an eyebrow, “Commander, you may have fooled the entire crew, with the exception of the Captain, but surely you did not think your tricks would work on me.”
Noonan’s mouth opened and closed several times, but no sound emerged.
“Pity Captain Stafford isn’t here to interpret for you,” Fifebee said with a smile.
“Fine then,” Noonan finally forced out, sounding like he was bringing up an unpleasant remnant of breakfast, “What do you think I am?”
“I suspect that you are a member of a species known to the Federation, but classified from the general public for fear that your unique abilities could case unease and possible panic among the general populace.”
“That’s pretty close,” Noonan admitted. But not close enough, he added to himself, relieved, “It was actually we who chose to keep our existence a secret. You amaze me, Lieutenant Fifebee. You’ve picked up on much more than I had given you credit for.”
“It’s my job,” Fifebee said.
“And what do you plan to do now?”
“Obviously, the Captain and Starfleet feel that you are an asset to the ship. If they have agreed to keep your identify secret, it is not my place to second guess them.”
“Thank you,” Noonan said with a nod. Fifebee might have picked up on a lot, but she had still missed the most crucial part of his secret. In fact, he realized, her misperceptions could come in very handy in the future.
“You may want to find a comfortable spot to recline,” Fifebee interrupted his musings, “The energy is spiking again.”
“Damn,” Noonan mumbled as he fell to the ground.
“If I were Jeffery, where the hell would I hide a-OH DEAR GOD!” Stafford screamed and jumped back as his hands stumbled upon a lifeless form. He stumbled on an exercise ball and fell back onto a pile of Yoga mats. It was one of the less painful falls he had suffered.
The lifeless form had fortunately turned out to be the robo-trainer he had been searching for and not, as he had thought, a dead body. It was clearly an android, though a very primitive one. Stafford had once met an android by the name of Larkin at the Academy. She had been hard to distinguish from a human, until she opened her mouth and started talking. The fact that her hand had popped off in the middle of a handshake had been a pretty big hint too. The robo-trainer on the other hand, was clearly a robot. The limbs, though flesh coloured, were rigid and metallic, and the bald head featured a speaker grill rather than a mouth.
“Let’s see,” Stafford mumbled to himself. There was a slot in the back of the androids head where his workout chip was clearly designed to fit. It slid in with a reassuring ‘click’ and a small red button lit up. Stafford pressed it.
“Thank you for activating the Daystrom Cybernetics PT-101 Personal Training Android. You may call me Andy,” rasped the metallic voice and the robo-trainer lurched to its feet, eyes glowing a soft red.
“Andy. Oh, that’s original,” Stafford muttered.
“Please state your name,” Andy intoned.
“Captain Christopher Stafford.”
Stafford imagined he could almost hear the clicks as the out-dated duotronic circuits in Andy’s head worked away.
“Program located. Patient: Stafford, Chris. Physician: Wowryk, Dr. Noel. Patient condition: reduced muscle tone and stamina, increased body fat count. Recommendations: Weight training, cardiovascular activity. Mandatory workout mode engaged.”
“Mandatory workout mode?” Stafford asked.
“Mandatory workout mode is designed to deal with patients with high resistance to the recommendations of their medical and/or psychiatric treatment professionals. Mandatory workout mode gives the PT-101 Personal Training Android the authority to override duty schedules and the personal preferences of the patient and can only be deactivated by the ships Chief Medical Officer.”
“Sooo, I have to exercise until Dr. Wowryk says I’m done?” Stafford asked, cringing slightly.
“Correct,” Andy affirmed.
“Please tell me you don’t have a Mandatory Catholicism Mode,” Stafford asked, sounding more than a little afraid.
“Oh, thank God!”
“Can I fire the phasers?” Jall asked.
“No,” T’Parief said firmly.
“Oh,” Jall frowned, “How about the quantum torpedos?”
“No!” T’Parief snapped.
“It just irks you that I have control of the weapon systems as long as you’re sitting in the command chair, doesn’t it?”
“Very much so,” T’Parief admitted.
“C’mon, big guy,” Jall goaded, “You’re in command! You can let me do it! What’s the worse that could happen? It’s not like I’d launch our Science Officer out the torpedo tube or anything silly like that.”
“That was an accident,” T’Parief snapped, “And she’s a hologram! It didn’t bother her in the slightest!”
“I wouldn’t mind hearing you give the order to load the quantum ducks,” Yanick giggled from the helm.
“Please, don’t encourage him!” T’Parief pleaded.
“You’re the boss,” Yanick shrugged.
“Yes,” T’Parief nodded, “Yes I am. Leiutenant Stern?”
“Lieutenant Jall is confined to quarters until the Captain is finished in the gym. Charge him with, I dunno, what can we charge him with?”
“Indecent exposure,” Stern replied at once, “Twenty-four hours in the brig.”
“Hey!” Jall objected, “I was never nude in public!”
“Actually,” Yanick pointed out, “Remember when you wore those shorts to the lounge the other night?”
“Uh, yeah. So?”
“Well, you got a little hammered and started dancing on the tables,” Yanick explained, “And it became pretty obviously to anybody sitting down that you didn’t have underwear on.”
“Oh,” Jall was quiet for a moment, “crud.”
“Let’s go,” ordered Stern.
“Peace at last,” sighed T’Parief as Stern led Jall into the turbolift.
“So, how long have you been in Starfleet,” Fifebee asked, as she and Noonan neared the source of the energy emissions.
“Ten years,” Noonan said.
They walked in awkward silence for several minutes.
“Something is bothering me about that voice we heard,” Fifebee said.
“Really? Sounded like it was having a good time to me.”
“Yes,” Fifebee agreed, “But it was coming from the direction of the energy emissions. Logically, as we have not yet come across the source of the voice, it is most likely at the source of the emissions.”
“You could put a Vulcan to shame,”
“But we were over two kilometers from the source,” Fifebee went on, “I know of no species that could sustain such a powerful vocalization over such a distance.”
“A good point. We will be sure to ask him or her when we arrive.”
“I wonder where the shuttle is,” Fifebee finally said.
“It was due several minutes ago,” Noonan replied, “Noonan to shuttlecraft Charger.”
“Mmmmm, Charger here,” sighed a blissful voice.
“Who is this?” Noonan demanded.
“Ensign Pye,” Pye said happily.
“Ensign, you are overdue.”
“Yeah, but I just had this really nifty idea that I should just land right here, and, y’know, I just feel so glad I did. Everything is just soooo groovy,”
“Where are you?” Noonan demanded.
“I dunno…next to a big shiny rock,”
“His signal is coming from the source of the energy waves.”
“I suppose I’ll have to hitch a ride from there then,” Noonan sighed, “Update the ship, then let’s get going.”
“Nine, ten, one more, PUSH, eleven. Excellent,” Andy said in his flat voice, “We will now move on to a seated row. Two sets, ten reps each, fourty kilograms.”
“Give me a break here,” Stafford wheezed, “I’m still recovering!”
“Patient is permitted thirty seconds of rest between sets,” Andy intoned, “You have ten seconds remaining.”
“Screw that!” Stafford muttered, stumbling to the water fountain and taking a deep drink, “I need a break!”
“Patient will resume workout immediately,” Andy stated.
“Gimmie a minute,” Stafford snapped.
Andy fixed a metallic hand around Stafford’s arm and pulled him effortlessly to the next station.
“Patient will resume workout immediately.”
“OK, OK,” Stafford grumbled, starting his exercise.
Two sets later, he slumped over the machine.
“We will now move on to a bench press,” Andy stated, “Thirty kilograms in weight, plus a twenty kilogram bar. Two sets, eight reps each. Begin.”
“No,” Stafford snapped, “We’ve been at this for over an hour! I’ve already done the bench press! I’m going back to my quarters for a hot shower!”
“Negative,” Andy snapped, positioning himself between Stafford and the exit.
“Move, dammit!” Stafford snapped. Andy stayed put.
“Stafford to Jeffery,” he hit his comm-badge, “I’m having trouble with the training android.”
“Communications in this section have been disabled,” Andy intoned, “You will continue your workout now.”
“Sylvia,” Stafford called out, backing slowly to the bench press station “I could really use your help about now!”
“I finally get that woman to give me some peace and it just has to be the one time I end up really needing her!” Stafford fumed. He was, in fact, getting really annoyed with artificial intelligences, intelligent or not.
“Fine,” Stafford said, “We’ll play it your way, Andy,” he picked up a fifteen kilogram weight and turned to load in onto the bar.
At the last second he pivoted, swinging the solid metal weight right at the side of Andy’s head. With android reflexes, even decades old android reflexes, Andy reached up to intercept the makeshift bludgeon. But the impact was enough to send him off balance and to allow Stafford to make a dash for the door.
“Workout sequence incomplete!” Andy screeched, running to intercept the escaping human.
Stafford bolted out of the gymnasium and into the corridor. Wheezing for breath he started to run down the corridor. Looking back over his shoulder, he could see Andy in close pursuit.
“Workout incomplete! Return to the gymnasium! You will comply!” Andy rasped.
“Sorry buddy,” Stafford gasped, taking a quick corner and running down a straight corridor towards the core of the saucer section, “the Borg trademarked that one years ago!”
Barely managing to stay ahead of the rampaging robot, Stafford rushed past Crewman Gibson.
“Glad to see yer getting yer exercise, monkey,” Gibson called as he passed by.
“Shut up and seek help!” Stafford gasped, ducking around another corner.
“Sea…kelp?” Gibson repeated as Andy marched past, ignoring him, “Is it sushi night in the lounge?”
“We’re almost there!” Fifebee called out to Noonan.
Noonan was no longer capable of remaining conscious. He’d passed out on the last energy spike and hadn’t woken up. Fifebee had determined that the amount of UV radiation was enough to put him into a coma, but from what she could determine his sunscreen and field generator would be enough to protect him from any permanent damage. So she was dragging him across the pine-needle covered ground by his ankles, which seemed like a much better idea then leaving him sitting in the middle of nowhere. With his ankles slung under one arm and her holo-relay being towed by the other, Fifebee was doing a pretty good impression of a pack mule.
Whatever natural self-defenses Noonan had when he was in his dormant state were also dormant, although whether that was due to the energy waves or because at some level Noonan understood that she meant him no harm wasn’t really clear to Fifebee.
“That’s correct, Mr. T’Parief,” Fifebee stated, “Ensign Pye landed the shuttlecraft at our destination, and is being affected by the energy waves. I do not recommend sending another shuttle until we better understand what is happening.
“Are you in any danger?” T’Parief asked.
“I don’t know,” Fifebee answered honestly, “I rather doubt it, but if I’m screaming on my next transmission, then you’ll know we’re in danger.”
T’Parief only grunted.
Stafford climbed through the Jefferies tubes, making his way to Deck 12. The tubes ran though every level of the ship, allowing access to vital systems. They weren’t really meant to be used as escape routes or for covert operations, but it seemed to happen that any kind of situation involving a starship and a hostile intruder (or crewmember) always resulted in somebody taking to the Jefferies tubes. As if the corridors and turbolift system was suddenly incapable of moving them from point A to point B.
“Downward climbing is not an efficient cardiovascular exercise,” Andy intoned from above Stafford, “For maximum calorie burn, change to an upward direction immediately.”
“Screw you, Andy!” Stafford shouted.
“Sexual activity is an effective cardiovascular workout,” Andy replied, “but is not a part of my programming.”
Stafford clambered out of the vertical shaft and switched to a horizontal jefferies tube, heading towards the rear of the saucer section and the lounge.
“Is there a particular reason why the other animals can talk, but the dragon cannot?” Marsden whispered, fully recovered from his injury.
“Don’t ask me,” Rengs whispered back, “this is Terran entertainment.”
Cartoon Night on Silverado had quickly metamorphosised into a weekly event, although the selection had grown to include non-animated films. This evenings show was in fact animated and several members of the senior staff would have been irked at missing it, if their minds hadn’t been occupied by other things such as staying alive, tracking down strange energy emissions or worrying about people down on the planet. Even Jall was busy, having been dragged out of his confinement to help Jeffery work on the transporter.
As it were, the officers and crewmembers in the lounge were enjoying the antics of a large green ogre and his talkative (and slightly annoying) donkey sidekick as they struggled to free a beautiful princess.
“Perhaps she is the only one who understands that ONE DOESN”T SPEAK DURING A MOVIE!” Kreklor snarled.
“Shut up!” snapped somebody towards the back.
“Rewind it,” suggested Nurse Veeneman, “I missed that last part, what with all the testosterone poisoning in this place!”
“Who’s got the remote?”
“I think Steven had it last…”
“For crying out loud,” Sylvia sighed, “I’ll do it! Honestly, it’s like babysitting a pack of ten year olds…” the picture skittered backwards to approximately the point at which Marsden made his initial remarks.
The doors to Unbalanced Equations slid open. Steven left his bar to help the newcomer find an empty seat, but was rebuffed as Captain Stafford pushed past him and rushed to the front of the screen. He was gasping and holding a cramp in his side, and his somewhat revealing muscle shirt and shorts combo was generating a few chuckles from the gathered crew, especially the ugly sweat stains under his arms.
“HELP!” he cried out as he passed the crew, “I’ve got an insane robot chasing after me!”
Murmurs of confusion rippled through the crowd as people exchanged glances and looked back up at their captain.
“Shit!” Stafford swore as Andy marched through the far set of double doors, eyes glowing.
“I could really use some help here!” Stafford called out, backing towards the closer of the two exits.
“You cannot escape,” stated Andy.
“Oh!” Steven, the bar manager, snapped his fingers, “Crap, I must have sent you the wrong date! ‘Terminator 2’ isn’t playing for another month! We need to get through ‘Shrek’ and all the sequels first. Great job on the robot, but y’know, I think only half of the metal parts were showing in the movie. Yeah, if you want to get it right you need to cover about half of it in synthe-flesh, tear up the left hand a bit…”
Stafford rolled his eyes, mentally cursing the bar manager, the crew, and the fact that the crew’s growing obsessions with television was all his fault.
“Can I start the movie again?” Sylvia asked, oblivious to the scene that had just played out, “What’s everybody staring at?”
“Start it up please, Sylvia,” Steven replied, “Nothing happening here.”
Giving up on getting help from the peanut gallery, Stafford set course for Sickbay. Darting out of the lounge, he jogged down the corridor, then spun left towards the turbolift.
He was just about there when a metal half reached out from a crossing corridor, grasping him hard by the arm and throwing him off balance.
“You will work out,” Andy demanded, “Resistance is pointless.”
“Like hell!” Stafford snapped. He let himself go completely limp, putting his weight on Andy. The robot was caught off-guard, his stabilizers unable to compensate for the unexpected shift. Man and machine dropped to the deck in a heap, but Stafford was ready for it, climbing to his feet as soon as he hit the ground. One of Andy’s hands snapped out and grabbed his ankle. Stafford went back to the deck again and kicked, but the stubborn android held on. Twisting around, Stafford kicked out again, hitting Andy square in the face and knocking off his speaker grill. He kicked out with the foot Andy gripped, banging Andy’s arm against a support strut. There was a deep clang, and a brief electronic protest from the robot before he tightened his grip. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Stafford kicked out again. This time Andy’s hand broke apart in a shower of sparks and bolts. Freed, Stafford dived into the turbolift.
Noel Wowryk was settling into a quiet night in her quarters. Her boyfriend, Simon Jeffery, was busy with ship repairs and her best friend, Ensign Yanick, was up on the bridge until the away team could make their way back to the ship. She’d considered going to the movie, but changed her mind when she learned that it involved magic. Magic was clearly against the bible.
Even little Luke was being well behaved, sitting on the couch, playing with a rubix cube and smiling every now and then.
Sighing to herself, she started her evening’s therapy.
To help overcome her fear of sex, Counselor Yvonnokoff had given her a reading list of romance novels to read, to help her see how people could have sex without being struck down by the hand of God. Granted, the characters were all sinners, but Wowryk had to admit that everybody was. God certainly wouldn’t approve of her own temper tantrums.
“As he kissed her, she could feel his arousal by the way his…his…member?” Wowryk frowned, “Member of what? Planetary Parliament? I thought he was a carpenter!”
/<Oh please,/> Luke thought to himself, /<She can remember the name for every internal organ in dozens of species but she doesn’t know slang for-“
Wowryk walked to the door, padd in hand.
“Yes?” she let the door hiss open.
“Doctor!” Stafford gasped, “Am I ever glad to see you! Call it off!”
“Excuse me?” Wowryk asked.
“The robot! It’s gone berserk! It’ll be here any moment!”
“Oh, don’t worry. It’ll shut down once your workout is finished,” Noel was still staring at her padd, “What does a member have to do with sex?”
“‘She could feel his arousal by the way his member surged’,” Wowryk read, “I don’t get it.”
“His pe…his pe…” Stafford couldn’t say the work, “His, um, male body part,”
“Oh, that makes sense,” Wowryk nodded, “Thank you,” She started to close the door. Stafford ducked in at the last moment.
“I don’t recall inviting you in!” Wowryk said crossly.
“Doctor, you don’t get it!” Stafford snapped, “That thing is trying to kill me!”
Wowryk pulled her eyes from her padd and finally noticed Stafford’s condition. He looked like hell; hair mussed, leg bloody where Andy’s fingers had broken the skin. Sweat poured down his face, and his arm was bruising where Andy had grabbed him.
/<Excellent!/> chirped Lord Stalart.
“Look at me!” Stafford went on, “Do you think this is the result of a regular workout?”
“I…suppose not,” Wowryk admitted.
There was a sharp CLANG and a dent appeared in Wowryk’s door.
“He’s here!” Stafford screamed, “There’s no way out!”
“Can’t Jeffery beam you out?” Wowryk asked as Andy continued to claw at the door.
“Transporters are down!” Stafford cried, “Unless…Stafford to Pysternzyks!”
“Quick! Use the transporters on the Asessippi to beam me directly to Holodeck 1!”
“Give me a minute to get down to the flight deck,” Pystersykz replied, “I assume you need to escape from a corner in which you are cowering like an infant?”
“As you were, Ensign!” Stafford said sternly, “Not all of us see dying as a good thing!”
With a groan, the door to Noel’s quarters fell inward.
“The bathroom!” Noel snapped, “I’ll buy you some time!”
“Thanks, Doc!” Stafford gulped.
Andy stepped over the ruins of the door. His uplink to the ship’s internal sensors told him that his target had entered Cabin 5, Deck 4, Chief Medical Officer’s Quarters.
His own sensors scanned the room quickly, settling on a female human identified as Wowryk, Dr. Noel.
“End Mandatory Workout Mode,” the female said, “Authorization Wowryk 17, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”
Andy’s Authentication Subroutine recognized and accepted the authorization code and sent the command to the Central Process Manager to shut down the Mandatory Workout Process.
Within milliseconds a counter command had been sent by another, unrecognized program, reinstituting MWP. The Authentication Subroutine fought with the unknown program for a cybernetic eternity (about two-point-five seconds) before the unknown process switched tactics, feeding the Authentication Subroutine false reports that MWP had been successfully terminated. Satisfied, the Authentication Subroutine retreated to the back of Andy’s duotronic brain.
“Authorization accepted,” Andy stated, “Mandatory Workout Mode is disengaged. New parameters: Locate Stafford, Captain Christopher and complete training program as per Mandatory Workout Mode.”
“That’s not the response that was in the manual,” Wowryk muttered, “I said end Mandatory Workout Mode!”
“That process has been ended,” Andy reported, “Resuming search for Stafford, Captain Christopher. Mandatory Workout Mode engaged.”
/<Wonderful!/> Stalart gushed, />If I’d known you were going to come here, I would have programmed you to kill her too!’
“Did I mention that fourteen of my hive-cousins died at the hands of malfunctioning machines?” Pysternzykz asked over the open channel as Stafford cowered in Wowryk’s shower. Life sure sucked. He’d managed to get into the second most dreamed about place on the ship (the number one spot being Wowryk’s bedroom) and here he was cowering for his life!
“Less talk, more hurry!” Stafford hissed, “He’s coming! He’s found me! He’s-“
Stafford materialized two feet above a round hay bale, bouncing once then slipping down the side, narrowly missing bopping a roan mare on the nose. The surprised horse snorted and tossed her head.
“Computer, end program!” Stafford stated, hoping that some part of the holodeck control systems would respond to him, even if Sylvia wouldn’t.
He was relieved when the simulate barn faded from view, revealing the holodeck grid.
“Excellent,” Stafford sighed, “Time to prepare a surprise for good old Andy…”
“AHHHHHH!!!!” sighed the overpowering voice happily as Fifebee topped the last rise between her and her destination.
Leaving her holo-relay and Commander Noonan in the relative shelter of the last hill, she stepped boldly over the top.
She had been expecting many things. A bizarre alien artifact, perhaps a portal to another time or space. Or a new mineral or element that gave off the energy waves the way radium emitted X-Rays.
She was half right. And half completely shocked.
Surrounded by steep hills on all sides was a perfectly round patch of crystals.
They grew towards the center of the patch, going from tiny, azure chips no bigger than snowflakes around the edges to pebble sized granules the color of sapphires, to fist sized chunks of turquoise. Finally, in the very center of the field was a single faceted gem more than two meters across. Lying flat on top of this gym was a single humanoid male.
He was fairly unremarkable; dark hair, broad shoulders. But he was wearing, strangely enough, a Starfleet uniform with Captain’s pips.
As Fifebee watched, he let out another contented sigh, the volume of which was almost enough to knock her off her feet.
Unsure of what to say, Fifebee decided to stick with Starfleet Polite Inquiry #3.
“Good day sir, I am Lieutenant Jane Fifebee of the Federation Starship Silverado. I apologize for interrupting, but are you aware that your…crystals…are creating energy waves that are disrupting some of our officers?”
The man looked over to her and started laughing.
“Starfleet! Oh doesn’t that just figure!” he said, a slightly dazed grin on his face, “I finally get a chance to sit back and relax, get away from humanity for a while and what happens? They come ‘seeking out new life’ and end up on my doorstep!”
Fifebee blinked as her recognition database scanned through millions of entries and against all odds recognized the individual.
Andy stumbled slightly as he exited the turbolift and started walking towards Holodeck 1, where his quarry was hiding. His left hand was sparking from the damage Stafford had done and the short circuits were scrambling several of motor control functions. Cooperation between his guidance systems and his internal layout of ship enabled him to quickly locate the entrance to the Holodeck. The doorway was locked, but Andy quickly interfaced with the ship’s systems and entered an override code.
The doors opened, revealing darkness. Andy stepped in, the doors closing behind him and cutting off the light from the corridor. Switching to infrared, Andy swept the interior of the room.
He was in a factory of some kind, although his limited artificial intelligence didn’t really recognize it as such. His eyes saw conveyer belts, high ceilings, workbenches, drills, presses, air compressors and various chunks of manufacturing equipment. Since there was nothing that could possibly be used as workout equipment, his brain saw only obstacles and potential hiding places.
“Stafford, Captain Christopher: Your workout will resume.” He intoned.
“I don’t think so, Andy!” Stafford snapped, a hand phaser in one hand and a heavy revolver in the other “Gym time is over!”
He fired the phaser, sending a stun blast right into Andy’s torso. And absolutely nothing happened?
“Dammit!” Stafford snapped. He hadn’t been sure whether the holographic phaser would work, but really wasn’t surprised when it didn’t. Of course, if Sylvia was paying attention to him he could have used his command clearance to open a real weapons locker. Fortunately, he had a backup plan.
“Eat lead, Andy!” Stafford cried, pulling the trigger. The gun bucked, sending Stafford flying back into a stack of boxed ball bearings. The shot ricocheted off Andy’s head, leaving nothing more than a small dent.
“The Daystrom Cybernetics PT-101 Personal Training Android is among the most durable models of Daystrom robots, owing to the potential wear and tear of heavy exercise,” Stafford could swear the damned robot sounded smug.
Grabbing a box of bearings, Stafford pulled off the lid and hurled it to the floor. Small metal balls bounced and rolls towards Andy.
“Keep your ‘bearings’, Andy!” Stafford shouted gleefully, staggering to his feet and rushing away.
Andy switched from his standard stepping gait to a rapid shuffle, knocking bearings out of the way and not coming anywhere close to tripping.
“Well,” Stafford muttered to himself, “I really thought that one would work better!”
“Prepare to be pumped!” Andy stated.
“Hey buddy,” Stafford snapped, “I do the pumping! Um, but not with you. Or with anything remotely resembling a male of any species. It’s just not my thing!”
Andy stared at him.
“Prepare to die!” he finally announced, pushing a drill press out of the way and moving towards Stafford.
“Okay then,” Stafford muttered, “On to plan C!”
Stafford scurried past stacks of metal sheeting, barrels of chemicals, hunting desperately for…there it was!
Stafford turned to make his stand as Andy walked towards him, limping slightly.
“The workout will continue,” Andy droned, “resistance is pointless. I will correct your body fat percentage and increase your flexibility…by tearing off your limbs!”
“You want a piece of me?” Stafford taunted, “Fine then…come and get it!”
Andy continued walking towards him, right until Stafford pulled out a solid steel pin. Pulling out the pin just happened to release a metal hook, which coincidentally enough was attached to a rather lengthy chain. The chain slithered up the wall and through a pulley. At the other end of the chain an entire crate of stainless steel refrigerators tumbled to the concrete floor, smashing Andy to pieces on the way down.
“Q,” Fifebee said again, “What are you doing?”
“I am,” Q said contentedly, “relaxing. This is a Geroxian Pleasure Device, one of only three to have ever been successfully completed. The rest all drove the test-users insane, or something like that.”
“Pleasure Device?” Fifebee bit her lip, “Well, could you please turn it off so we can revive our First Officer and return out pilot from happy-land?”
“Weee!” Ensign Pye said cheerfully fron the nearly shuttle, spinning around again and again on this chair.
“I suppose I could,” Q mused, “I’m in a surprising agreeable mood.”
The deep glow inside the gems faded. The change was immediate.
“Oh of all the inane stunts!” Q snapped, “You would think that after all the fuss Katherine and Jean-Luc made about my ‘meddling’, which by the way was just me being helpful in my own special way, that Starfleet would have better things to do than come hunting be down! And do you have any idea how hard it is to actually get some time off from the Continuum?”
“Not difficult enough to prevent you from having your own special alone time, apparently,” Fifebee commented.
“And exactly what are you implying by that, you oozing ball of coherent light?” Q snapped.
“I would have thought the Q to be evolved beyond the needs for simple physical gratification.”
“Of course we are!” Q snapped! “Honestly, you bottom-feeders! You just assume that anything dealing with pleasure has to do with sex? This device is the ultimate in stress relieve and relaxation and has NOTHING to do with any of the perverted sexual mating habits of your creators! Pity the species that created it fell into a black hole. I have half a mind to send you to join them!”
“Did I miss something?” Noonan asked, walking up behind Fifebee and interrupting Q just before he could banish Fifebee to oblivion.
“Yes, Commander,” Fifebee said, “this is Q, the omnipotent life form that-“
“Yes,” Noonan interrupted, “I have been briefed on the Q and their involvement in the Federation.”
“Oh, well this is interesting,” Q murmured, “I never thought I’d see one of you so far from Earth!”
“That statement doesn’t necessary make you sound all that all-knowing,” Noonan said coldly.
“Yes, well” Q shrugged, “I know anything I want. I can’t say I especially wanted to know about you.”
“You know about my species,” Noonan said flatly.
“Know about it?” Q raised his eyebrows, “Of course I do! I know everything!
“Oh, this again,” Fifebee muttered.
“Yes, well,” Q stretched, “Charming meeting you and all, but I really must be going. Normally I’d come up with some entertaining maze for you rats to run, but I think you’re all in quite enough trouble as it is. Cheery bye!”
“Wait,” Noonan said, “Trouble? What do you mean ‘trouble’?”
Q winked, snapped his fingers and vanished in a flash.
Captain’s Personal Log, Supplimental:
“Now that the strange energy readings have been explained we’re resuming our mapping mission. Personally, I was hoping to find something a bit more interesting than an alien non-erotic pleasure device, but Starfleet seemed happy to get any kind of information on this Q character, no matter how inane it was. When the device was deactivated, both Noonan and Pye returned to normal and flew the shuttle back to the ship. Noonan came back with some vague warning of us being in trouble, I guess we’re all doomed and I may as well lie down and die now! Seriously, I think he was just spooked. The files I’ve found on Q tell me that he’s probably just trying to scare us. If not, well, there’s always the whole lie down and die plan.”
“Sylvia started paying attention to me again about two hours after Andy’s untimely death. Unfortunately, after this little incident there’s no way in hell I’ll be able to convince her to leave me alone for two seconds!”
“Dr. Wowryk patched me up well enough, and even apologized for the problem. I probably would have appreciately more if that little brat of hers hadn’t been throwing such a temper tantrum!”
Jeffery found a glitch in Andy’s programming that for some strange reason turned him into a homicidal maniac. One more example of why duotronics are obsolete and why forcing me to do things I don’t wanna do is a bad, bad idea.”
“Andy may have been destroyed, but Dr. Wowryk insists that I get back on a fitness routine. Fortunately, I’ve found a replacement trainer.”
“Five, six, seven, eight. Good,” Fifebee said, bored out of her electronic mind, “Next will be pec flys, fourty kilograms, ten reps. Did I mention I’m bored out of my mind?”
“Sorry Fifebee,” Stafford grunted, straining against the workout equipment, “But if something goes wrong this time, I want a trainer I can turn off in the blink of an eye!”
“Charming,” Fifebee rolled her eyes.