Author: Brendan Chris
Personal Log, Steven Steiger, Stardate 57901.5:
“Screw that personal log stuff! I’m not a Starfleet officer! I’m a civilian! It’s just that this damned runabout I’ve been loaned only has two ways to record my thoughts…and the other way involves lipstick, mirrors and the complete loss of my cleaning deposit,”
“Anyway, the lounge staff and I are finally taking a long overdue vacation from our jobs at Unbalanced Equations, the officer’s lounge aboard the USS Silverado. For the next three weeks we’re not lifting a finger…it’s off to the luxury resort of Wasaga-Kling for us! Yeah, I know, the idea of a Klingon luxury resort kinda worried me too for a bit. Interesting story: The place started off as a ‘resettlement community’ for Klingons of certain, um, preferences, that were felt to be, er, undesirable by Klingon society. The High Council just didn’t count on the exceptional food service abilities, decorating skills and trend-setting, song-writing talents of the residents turning the place into the sector’s hottest tourist spot for female vacationers. Next thing you know, the resettlement community becomes a ‘proud Klingon colony, entitled to all the rights, privileges and of course tax payments such a title entails. Mixed-up people!”
“But the best part as far as I’m concerned: hot, young women flock to this place like moths to a flame for some reason. Sounds like a win-win situation for me!”
“So, what’s the deal with all the chicks heading to Wasaga-Kling anyway?” Steven asked, turning to his head waitress, Mary, who was playing a game of ‘Andorian Ritual Rampage’ on the runabout computer. The runabout Niagara had been given to Silverado by the Associated Worlds Network, in return for Captain Stafford allowing Counselor Yvonnokoff to go off and ‘shill’ for her show. Yvonnokoff had wound up being kidnapped, but AWN let them keep the runabout anyway. Jeffery had upgraded the civilian runabouts weapons, shields and sensors to Starfleet standard, and the civilian computer had a much better selection of games, films and replicator files than a standard Starfleet runabout.
“Call it an escape, honey,” Becky Smith said, chewing a big, pink wad of bubble-gum. Her trademark pink suspenders had made her something of a fashion outcast on Silverado, but her drink-mixing ability was second only to Steven’s. She had several other ‘assets’ that further endured her to the male members of the crew, “It’s one of the few resort planets we can go to without having hordes of horny guys trying to get into our pants!”
“Except for guys like you,” Mary added, tossing her head. Mary had joined Steven several months after he started on Silverado, replacing a waiter that had suffered an unfortunate accident involving karaoke night and a stiletto heel.
“Yeah,” chimed in Samantha. Samantha was known for her thick red hair, voluptuous figure and willingness to please the men in her life, “the ones that will do anything and go anywhere for a good f-“
“Hey, hey,” Steven jumped to his own defense, “I’m pretty sure that there are going to be PLENTY of women who would enjoy a bit of male attention!”
“We’re going to get plenty of that,” Mary shrugged, “Except that these guys are going to hang out with us without trying to use our chests as handlebars.”
“Not all women are like you!”
“That’s true,” Becky admitted, adjusting her strapless tops, “some of them are trashy skanks,”
“Oh come on!” snapped Steven, “Like you haven’t had your way with half the crewmen on Deck 14! I at least have standards! I don’t mess around with my customers!”
“Everyone on the ship is your customer!” Mary stated, “Which is why you’ve become such a horny pig!”
“Drinks anybody?” Samantha winced, walking back to the replicator.
“The Niagara is no longer appearing on our sensors, Captain,” Lieutenant Fifebee reported from sciences.
“As in ‘something bad has happened’ or as in ‘they’ve gone very far away’?” Stafford asked, taking a sip of fruit juice.
“The second one,” Fifebee replied.
“No subspace anomalies? No hostile aliens? No lunatic kidnapping broadcast executives?” Stafford pressed.
“Nothing,” Fifebee confirmed.
“Well then,” Stafford settled into his command chair, “I guess we just stay on course for our next assignment. Whatever it ends up being,”
“ETA is one week,” Yanick added helpfully from the helm.
“Yes, thanks for that,” Stafford replied, “This leaves us traveling without our lounge manager for a week. This is going to be a very boring week!”
“And he won’t even be back for two weeks after that!” Yanick complained.
“He did leave the replicators in Unbalanced Equations programmed with all of his more popular recipes,” Noonan pointed out, flicking his eyes up from the engine status report he was reading.
“Hey,” Yanick said, turning around in her chair, “if replicators were as good as a real bartender, we wouldn’t have Steven around to begin with! And can replicators plan parties? Arrange limbo contests? Offer a shoulder or cry on?”
“Point conceded,” Noonan inclined his head in Yanick’s direction.
“Maybe if you ever tried something other than wine, you’d appreciate the skills and abilities Steven brings to the job,” Stafford jested.
“What can I say?” Noonan said, his normally relaxed smile now slightly strained, “I’m rather set in my ways.”
“I still don’t understand why I couldn’t go with them!” Jall complained from Operations, crossing his arms and staring angrily at the main viewscreen, “This Wasaga-Kling place sounds like my kind of planet!”
“Mr. T’Parief,” Stafford said with exaggerated politeness, “Would you care to explain to our good Ops officer here the reasoning behind my decision to deny his vacation request?”
“Of course, Captain,” T’Parief answered in the same tone, baring his teeth, “Mr. Jall, the Captain’s decision to deny your vacation request was based on one indisputable fact: We like Steven. We want him to return and continue to serve us his delicious syntheholic beverages and mouth-watering snacks. Placing an offensive individual like yourself in close quarters with him for an extended period of time would seriously jeopardize our valued relationship with him,”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself,” Noonan chuckled softly.
Jall said nothing, simply rolling his eyes and amusing himself by shutting down the hot water flow to Stafford’s shower.
After the end of their shifts, Yanick and T’Parief were relaxing in Yanick’s quarters. At least Yanick was relaxed, curled up against T’Parief’s side with a magazine padd in one hand. T’Parief on the other hand was nearing the brink of insanity.
When Trish had been a little girl, her mother had bought her a potpourri-stuffed lizard. The little critter had been made of cloth with big plastic eyes and had brought a pleasant fragrance to Yanick’s bedroom. Over the years, she’d started collecting them.
T’Parief hadn’t even noticed the things until recently, when he spotted one sitting behind a potted plant on one of Yanick’s end tables. After finding one, he suddenly found more of the creepy little air fresheners all over her quarters…on the table, on the wall ledge by the windows, in the bedroom, in the bathroom, on top of the vidscreen, on the dining area table.
All of them watching him with their beady little plastic eyes. Waiting and plotting. Until one day when they’d come to life, skin him alive and stuff his hide with potpourri!
Taking a deep breath, T’Parief tried to focus on the beautiful woman at his side rather than her stupid stuffed lizards.
“Stafford to Yanick,”
Groaning, Yanick tapped her comm-badge.
“Ensign, please report to the lounge. We have a serious problem,” Stafford said, then disconnected.
“I wonder what kind of emergency this is?” Yanick said brightly, setting her padd aside and heading for the door, “Oh well. I bet I’ll be back soon, handsome. Make yourself comfortable.”
T’Parief took one quick glance around, spotting at least six pairs of beady potpourri lizard eyes.
“I will come with you!” he said quickly, darting out the door.
Yanick jumped through the doors of Unbalanced Equations before they had even fully opened. They started closing, then immediately started opening again as they sensed T’Parief’s approach. Once the alien officer’s tail was clear, they again started closing, only to have to open again as they detected the approach of Crewman Gibson.
Again, they started closing, only to reopen as Crewman Roscoe zipped down the corridor and between the closing doors.
Had they been capable, the artificial intelligence circuits controlling the doors would have screamed in frustration. As it were, they satisfied themselves by snapping firmly shut as Crewman Shwaluk approached.
Once Shwaluk’s nosebleed (an unfortunate effect of the door AI’s minor and temporary rebellion) had been taken care of, Stafford finally addressed Yanick.
“Trish,” he started, putting an arm around her shoulder, “We need your help,”
“Sure!” Yanick said happily, “What is it? Shuttle piloting? Spatial anomaly? Broken warp-thingamajig?”
“Uh, no,” Stafford cleared his throat, “Um. Well, we need you to bartend.”
“Huh?” Yanick frowned, “Didn’t Steven program the drink replicator?”
“He did,” Stafford agreed warily, “but there was a slight…accident,”
Half an hour earlier…
“OK, come one, come all! Get your drinks before they fall!” Stafford said happily, reaching into the drink replicator to remove the frosty Long Island iced teas he’d ordered for himself and Jeffery.
“Yer being WAY too cheerful about this, Chris,” Jeffery grumped from the bar, reaching out to take his drink.
“Whatever,” he said, “How often do I get the chance to do something like this for the crew? It’s different! It’s a novelty! It’s-“
“A total waste of yer time,” Jeffery cut in.
“I agree,” Dr. Wowryk said, sipping her tea.
“See?” Jeffery gestured to Wowryk.
“No, honey,” Wowryk gave him a smile, “I agree with the Captain. This makes him seem friendlier and more personable to the crew.”
“Figures,” Jeffery grumbled, “Ye never agree with me,”
“I came here with you, didn’t I?” Wowryk shot back.
“Play nice,” Stafford grinned, “Don’t make me separate you two!”
/<How about a little service here!/> Luke, AKA High Master Stalart of Arcania, had climbed up one of the bar stools and was thumping his fists against the bar. The tiny, baby-like alien had been on Silverado for months now, with none of the crew realizing that he was in fact an alien and not a baby. Nobody on the ship could receive his telepathic speech, and his mouth had de-evolved to the point where it was useless, due to a dependence on telepathy. Only Commander Noonan could sense when Stalart was thought-speaking, and even he could only perceive it as a headache.
“Uchhh!” Stafford exclaimed, “Did you have to bring the kid? I’d like to think that Steven’s ‘Family Friendly’ policy has gone on vacation right along with him!”
“Don’t start!” Jeffery griped, “It was yer idea for us to take care of him, anyway,”
“Right, right,” Stafford mumbled. He turned to the drink replicator and ordered up a baby formula for Luke.
“Here you go, kiddo,” he said.
/<ENOUGH!/> Stalart mentally screamed, /<I REFUSE TO DRINK THIS PUTRID SLUDGE ONE MINUTE MORE!/>
He hurtled the glass bottle at the replicator with surprising strength. Glass and replicator panel shattered, with thick goop sliding down into the innards of the replicator.
Sparks flew from the device as the controller circuits short-circuited.
“I f**king hate kids,” Stafford said softly, coming out of his cringe as the sparks faded. Then, for all to hear, “So, does anybody here know how to mix drinks?”
“And that’s why we need you,” Stafford finished, “Even if we fix the replicator, the recipes Steven had stored in it are gone!”
“Great story,” Gibson cut in from where he sprawled in one of the side booths, “I especially liked how you started with the little ice-breaker, then moved in closer to the relevant stuff-“
“Gibson?” Stafford interrupted him, “Shut up. You’ve been spending too much time with Yvonnokoff,”
“Tell us about it, sir,” griped Crewman Shwaluk, his voice still nasal, “Last night he tried to psyco-analyze me when I said I didn’t feel like having sex with Leslie,”
“That is kind of strange, you’ve got to admit,” Gibson said in his defense.
“Not lusting after your girlfriend is strange,” Stafford conceded, “Especially when she’s as hot as Nurse Kerry is. But, if you don’t mind, I’m trying to talk to Ensign Yanick here!”
“Grouch,” Gibson muttered as he and his friends returned to their drinks.
“So,” Stafford turned back to Yanick expectantly, “can you do it?”
“Do what?” Yanick asked, twirling one finger in her long, blond hair and looking perplexed.
“Tend the bar!” Stafford exclaimed, “I mean, you drink so much that you must know how to mix them!”
“Chris!” Yanick cried out, “Are you calling me a drunk?”
“No,!” Stafford held up his hands, “Of course not!”
“Somebody once said to me,” Dr. Wowryk chipped in, “that you should never have more than five drinks in one sitting,”
“Probably good advice,” Jeffery nodded, “Thank God I’m standing!”
“Trish?” Stafford prompted.
“Oh, all right!” Yanick snapped, “but first we’re doing some redecorating!”
Steven, Mary, Samantha and Becky landed the Niagra in a crowded spacedock orbiting the planet Wasaga-Kling. Once the runabout had been secured, they rode a transporter down to the planet surface, to the resort of Kliding Mountain. The arrival platform was located atop a towering building in the center of the resort, giving them a spectacular view of the place.
Kliding Mountain Resort was divided like a pie, or a pizza, or some other round edible object that must be sliced into pieces prior to consumption. Steven couldn’t actually see any mountains, but there were hills off to the east. To the west was an almost circular harbor, nearly a mile in diameter, filled with brilliant blue water. Beyond a narrow straight and a shimmering security field was the ocean itself. Presumable, the field prevented shark-like creatures or other dangerous predators from getting near the swimmers cavorting in the clear water. The section of the resort leading to the ocean, the Nature District, was a medley of parkland and forest; clearly that third of the resort was set-aside for the nature lovers. Another third of the huge ‘pie’ was a tangle of streets, hotels, casinos, clubs, pools and so forth, catering to the party-crowd. This was the Resort District. The final part of the resort, the City District, looked to Steven to be part of the actual colony. Klingon-style buildings lay in neat rows, with smaller buildings at the edge of the colony making way for larger and more elaborate structures closer to the resort boundaries. Looking closely at some of the closest streets, Steven could make out tiny figures moving both ways between the different sections. Clearly there was no segregation between citizens and visitors despite the layout, which matched what he’d read in the pamphlet.
“Steven,” Samantha said, grabbing him by the arm, “Enough site-seeing! Let’s get to our hotel!”
“But-“ Steven started to protest that he WANTED to enjoy the view.
“The sooner we drop off our stuff, the sooner we can get the hell away from each other and do whatever we want,” Becky pointed out, still chomping on her gum.
“I found us a bellboy,” Mary said happily, approaching the group with a very large, very muscular Klingon. Steven had never seen a Klingon wearing a white suit before. Judging from the way the ladies were eying him, Steven assumed that it looked good, pulled tight as it was across the alien’s broad chest and shoulders. Possibly that meant he might find Klingon females in French maid’s uniforms?
That line of thought, unfortunately, brought up unpleasant memories of previous encounters, one during the body-swap crisis and one during the crew’s first adventure into Queen Wowryk’s Dreamland, shortly after leaving dry dock. Both had involved French maid uniforms. Both had, unfortunately, also involved Lieutenant Jall. This association served to somewhat reduce the sex appeal of even the hottest woman wearing the uniform.
The Klingon bowed and commenced loading the group’s luggage onto a trolley.
“His names Fruge,” Mary said, “Isn’t he handsome?”
“For a Klingon,” Samantha said softly, licking her lips, “But there is something to be said for the extra ridges…”
Within minutes the group had been escorted to a decent looking hotel near the boundary of the Resort and Nature districts. Fruge left them with another silent bow, leaving the four of them to split ways as they found their rooms. Their suites were in the same section of the resort, with a joined entryway leading off to individual suites. The area was clearly designed for people vacationing in groups who may want familiar faces nearby, but not TOO near.
“Hey, what’s this?” Mary asked, reaching to pull a piece of paper from one of Steven’s bags.
“I dunno,” Steven shrugged, “I don’t think it was there before,”
“Oh, it’s a note!” Mary said, opening it, “It’s an invitation to a party! And a comm-code!”
“So the bell-hop snuck us an invite,” Steven shrugged, “They probably do it to all the guests,”
“No,” Samantha said, narrowing her eyes, “if they did, it would be a properly printed invitation, not a hand-written note. Didn’t you take Hospitality 101? And why did he put it in YOUR bag?”
The three girls turned to look at Steven, sneakly little grins forming on their faces.
Steven threw his arms up in the air.
“Oh come on!”
“Comm-code and everything,” Samantha smiled.
“Steven’s already started picking up!” Mary laughed.
“I have not! I LIKE GIRLS!” Steven snapped.
“Better get used to saying that at this place,” Becky said, “I dunno about you three, but I’m going to see if there are any BBQ places in the nature area.
“I,” Steven said pointedly, “am going to see where all the GIRLS hang out!”
The two of them promptly left.
“I’m going to see what they have in the way of spas,” Mary said as she turned to leave.
“I’ll just take this then,” Samantha said softly as she snagged the note with Fruge’s comm-code.
“OK, you know, I have to admit, this could have turned out worse,” San Jall said, sipping at a Martian Margarita as he looked around the newly decorated Unbalance Equations.
Or, as Yanick had renamed it, the Silver Star Bar.
The place was largely unchanged, as the change in management was temporary. Yet Yanick had managed to take the lounge’s existing décor and transform it into a western theme.
Since Steven had taken over, the lounge had been a cross between a pub and a coffee shop. The walls were a pale tan with wood paneling covering the lower half of the walls and wooden trim reaching up to the ceiling. Even the supports running across the ceiling had been disguised as finished wooden beams. Booths lined the port and starboard walls, with the bar running across the forward wall. The two doorways at the inner corners of the room had a wooden finish with small windows bearing the Starfleet insignia. Small tables dotted the middle of the room with the aft wall being dominated by eight large windows looking out from the aft rim of the saucer section, affording a breathtaking view of space with the ship’s warp nacelles clearly visible on the lower edge. Several comfortable armchairs, including a special chair for T’Parief, were facing the windows. The senior staff had quickly laid claim to this section. Tables in one corner could be easily moved to clear a small dance floor when necessary.
Yanick hadn’t touched any of that. What she had done was taken down all the wall hangings; the pictures, the artwork and even the huge painting behind the bar that supposedly represented some Starfleet engineer’s artistic vision of a starship’s warp field. (Rumor had it the name of the lounge had been inspired by Jeffery’s loud complaints regarding the difficulties of programming the warp field equations to get Silverado’s state-of-the-art warp drive integrated into the ship’s fifty year-old chassis.)
Now a pair of replicated wagon wheels hung behind the bar, and everything from saddles to horsewhips to lassos adorned the walls. Nobody noticed Crewman Shwaluk and Nurse Kerry carefully slipping a horsewhip off the wall.
“As long as she doesn’t go and make cowboy hats mandatory, I’m happy,” Stafford agreed, not looking at his operations officer.
“Didn’t we already do the barn theme?” Jeffery wondered to himself.
“Yes we did,” Wowryk said coolly, “In fact, as I recall, our last barn party resulted in me breaking my arm,”
“Oh,” Jeffery flushed. How could he have forgotten that? He’d spiked Wowryk’s drink, gotten her drunk, she’d broken her arm and he had been tossed in the brig. Whoopsie.
“Interesting that you’ve forgotten,” Wowryk said, echoing Jeffery’s thoughts and getting up to leave.
“Wait, Noel,” Jeffery downed the last of his drink then darted after her, “Ah didn’t forget! It was just the stupid theme!”
“Here they go again,” T’Parief muttered just loudly enough for Stafford to hear.
“I hear you,” Stafford agreed, downing his drink. A loud laugh from the across the crowded room drew his attention. The Hazardous Team, Silverado’s Alpha shift security squad, had gathered in one corner of the room and were loudly toasting Ensign Simmons’ high score in one of their holodeck simulations. On the other side of the room, he could see a crew-woman he didn’t recognize sitting in a booth with her civilian husband and teenage son. As much as he hated kids, he had to admit that looking around the crowded room at the happy families and groups of crewmates really served to remind him that over the past year and a half, Silverado had become a community. As soon as Steven got back and returned things to normal, everything would be great.
“Bridge to Captain Stafford,” came Lieutenant Quintane’s voice from the comm.
“Stafford here,” Stafford said reluctantly, sure that whatever news he was about to receive would probably spoil his good mood.
“Sir, we’re being approached by a civilian yacht. They’re requesting permission to land in the main shuttlebay.”
“Any sign of hostilities? Explosives? Things that would be Not Good?” Stafford asked.
“No, sir. They say they’re on a courier mission,” Quintane replied, “I’ve checked with Starfleet, and they’ve confirmed the identity and registry of the ship,”
“Fair enough,” Stafford said, “Let them dock and send security down to see what they want,”
“Yes sir. And sir?”
“They say they’re from Guiananco,” Quintane said.
Half a dozen heads snapped in Stafford’s direction. Yanick dropped the glass she was holding while T’Parief blew his Gorn Gutwrencher out through his nostrils.
“I’m on my way,” Stafford snapped, his drink forgotten.
For the fifth time, Steven turned around as a spark of hope flared in him. For the fifth time, that hope was crushed as he beheld a half-human/half-Klingon of the decidedly male variety.
“Sorry, bud,” Steven sighed, “I’m here for the ladies. I don’t suppose you could point me in the direction of bar that might cater to women of the straight variety?”
The hybrid laughed.
“They all appeal to the straight women,” he said, patting Steven on the shoulder, “Mostly so they can get away from guys like you!”
“Yeah, well,” Steven shrugged the man’s arm off, “If you find any…”
“I’ll send them right on over,” the man looked thoughtful, “Y’know, come to think of it, I do know this one girl who might be looking for a little action. Yeah, she was at a friend’s place earlier for drinks. I’d be happy to show you there,”
Steven looked around. Clearly he wasn’t going to have much luck with the women in this place. They were all cavorting around, dancing in groups with handsome young Klingons, humans and so forth and paying no attention to him whatsoever.
“Lead on,” he shrugged.
The hybrid, who’s name was Kraig by the way, led Steven over the nearby District border and into the city/colony section of the resort. They were heading to a ‘friend’s place’, where a house party (and hopefully a woman for Steven) awaited. After walking in silence for a few moments, Steven spoke up.
“So, uh, lived here long?” he asked.
“About a year,” Kraig shrugged.
“So you’re, uh,” Steven searched for a delicate way to put it, “um, one of those men that likes other men?” It was also hard to figure out where difference species stood on the matter. For some cultures, the gender(s) of one’s sexual partners was completely irrelevant. For other cultuers, it was a matter of life and death. Klingons…well, Steven wasn’t rally sure.
“That’s one way of putting it,” Kraig replied.
“Ah, well, good for you for being so open about it,” Steven said quickly, “I mean, I know there’s nothing wrong with that sort of thing, not in this day and age!”
“Y’know,” he said, “it’s the people who go out of their way to point out that they’re OK with something that are more likely to have problems with it. The ones that are really OK with something just be themselves. Sort of like the dozens of women you saw back at that bar that were completely ignoring you and dancing with all of us,”
“I still don’t get that,” Steven shrugged.
“What do you do for a living?” Kraig asked.
“I run a bar on a starship,”
“So you, like, got sick of people coming to you for drinks, or advice, or those tasty little blood-nuts and decided to get away from it all?” Kraig raised an eyebrow as he glanced towards Steven,”
“Something like that,” Steven said, moving slightly further away.
“So doesn’t it make sense that a woman might get sick of guys coming to her for her comm-code, or to tell her how pretty she looks, or whatever cheesy line they happen to come up with?” Kraig turned to regard the backside of a very attractive Rigellian passing by, then turned back to Steven, “Don’t you think they might want a vacation from that?”
“No!” Steven said, gulping as the Rigellian flashed a disarming smile in his direction before going on his way, “I can’t understand why they’d want to surround themselves with guys who wouldn’t show them any interest at all!”
“They don’t want interest right now,” Kraig said, “they get that at home. Here, they want friendship, fun and nice guys who aren’t going to take advantage of them. Women have been hanging around men like us, well, me anyway, for centuries. Human women, anyway. Klingon society is a little bit different,”
“I was meaning to ask about that,” Steven said, turning to check out a really hot, large-breasted Orion woman. His heart fell a little when he notices that the man holding hands with her was actually a rather masculin looking human woman. Maybe they’d be interested in a little ‘male companionship’…
“I know what you’re thinking,” Kraig said, following Steven’s gaze, “and unless you want them to kill you, I wouldn’t ask, if I were you. But you were about to ask me about Klingon society?”
“Right,” Steven said, “I mean, I’m sorry, but I can’t see anything honourable about getting it on with other guys. And isn’t Klingon society based on honor and glory?”
“Humans,” he said with a sigh, “you all consider yourselves to be so open-minded, so accepting. And yet you continue to paint every race you meet with as broad a brush as possible,”
“Aren’t you half human?” Steven asked.
“Yup. That’s why I can get away with saying shit like that,” Kraig laughed, “But seriously: Most of the humans that have come into contact with Klingons for the past few centuries have been in Starfleet. And which Klingons do your soldiers encounter?”
“Klingon soldiers?” Steven ventured.
“Exactly,” Kraig stabbed a finger in Steven’s direction, “You get most of your perceptions of Klingons from Klingon soldiers and Klingon politicians. And the politicians all worked their way through the military to get to their position. But there are Klingon farmers, Klingon tailors and Klingon grocery store clerks! There are Klingons that battle the enemies of the Empire and others that make sure the water treatment plant for Imperial City is working properly. The soldiers may have the glory and honour of combat, but each Klingon works for the glory and honour of the Empire. Just as all humans work to contribute to your society, although most of them will never make it into the history books. Just as there will never be songs sung of me in the Hall of Warriors.”
“So how does your, um, type contribute?” Steven asked.
“We are the most tolerant, welcoming and diplomatic Klingons you will meet,” Kraig said sharply, “otherwise I would have had to maim you for questioning my worth!”
“We were to be outcasts,” Kraig said, “but since the Empire acknowledged our value, we have contributed to the Empire by paying taxes on the latinum generated by the resorts on this world. Every now and then someone in the Empire will declare that we are all going to Gre’thor, where we will be consumed by some demon or another. Which demon it will be depends on the day of the week, the positions of the stars and whether or not the targling saw his shadow on the first sunrise of the new season,”
“So, they booted you out, then annexed you back to tax the hell out of you, but you’re still proud to be part of the Empire?”
“We are still Klingons,” Kraig said firmly, “even though my mother was human, my father raised me in the ways of the Empire. And I am proud to be part of it.”
“I bet Lieutenant Jall would have loved to have come here,” Steven mused to himself. He really didn’t know what else to say. Kraig had hit it right on the nail there. Steven had thought himself to be an open-minded, accepting 24th century human. He lived on a ship with dozens of different alien races and considered himself to be welcoming to all of them. But when was the last time he stopped to think about the different types of people in each race? There were bound to be Andorians who deplored violence, just as there were humans who embraced it. There would be Bolians who thought that Bolarus should cut off contact with the Federation, even as most of their society welcomed it to the point where they were integrating facets of different cultures into their own. If Earth could have soldiers, environmentalists, doctors, artists and Atheists, was it really so hard to believe that there would be Klingons to whom battle wasn’t the beginning and end of existence?
“We have arrived,” Kraig said, slapping Steven on the back before banging on the heavy wooden door they had reached, “Khres! Bhen! Open up!”
There was a commotion behind the door before it popped open. Loud music poured out, and Steven could see about a dozen people of various races drinking and laughing.
The Klingon who had opened the door, presumably Khres or Bhen, wound up and socked Kraig across the jaw. Kraig punched him right back, before being gripped in a firm hug.
Steven flinched back at about half the speed of light when the Klingon turned to him.
“Easy on him, Khris,” Kraig laughed, holding the Klingons arm back from punching, “He’s human, and he’s after that woman who was here before. Is she still around?”
“Oh!” Khris looked down at Steven, somewhat in the way one might regard a moderately interesting insect, “Yes. Last time I checked, she was trying to talk Bhen into giving her a strip show,” there was a roar of laughter and applause from the room behind him. Khris looked over his shoulder, “Oh. It appears she has succeeded,” he shook his head, “she sure can’t hold her liquor! But by Khaless, she looks good in a thong!”
“The woman?” Steven asked quietly.
“Bhen,” Kraig said.
“But he said-“
“Khris calls everybody ‘she’,” Kraig explained, “don’t ask why. Nobody has managed to figure it out yet,”
“Er, right,” Steven said, somewhat uncomfortable. Unconsciously, he had crossed his arms and hunched his shoulders, trying to avoid touching anything or anybody as Kraig led him into the house. Kraig’s words about tolerance and acceptance rang through his head, but he still found himself flinching any time one of the partygoers got a little to close to his personal space.
As they entered, Khris was dragging a stocky Orion, presumably Bhen by the lack of apparel, out of the room amid hoots and jeers. Steven gulped as nearly a dozen pairs of eyes flicked in his direction, moving up and down as they carefully appraised him before going back to their conversations.
“Maybe I’ll just go back to my rooms,” Steven said, edging towards the door.
“Nonsense!” Kraig said, grabbing him by the arm and hauling him back in, “You will meet a woman! It has become my mission!”
They were approaching a tall, slim woman. Her back was too them as she laughed at something amusing her companion had just said. Steven immediately forgot about the rest of the room’s occupants as he noticed the wonderful shape of her body. Slim waist, perfect buttocks, slender arms and a beautiful cascade of dark hair.
“Sweety,” Kraig said, putting a hand on her arm, “Sorry to interrupt, but I believe you told me to let you know if we found any nice straight guys for you?”
“Oh, yes!” she spun around, flashing a smile at Steven.
Samantha, valued employee of Unbalanced Equations, proceeded to spend about five minutes laughing hysterically at her boss and he crossed his arms and glared.
“This is your idea of an eligible woman?” Steven demanded of Kraig.
“How was I to know you already knew her? She is attractive, and seeking the intimate attentions of a man such as you,”
Steven jumped as a meaty hand planted itself firmly on his behind.
“I was hoping you would come tonight,” a low voice whispered in his ear,”
“AHHH!!!” Steven yelled, spinning around and finding himself face to face with Fruge, the bellhop from the hotel.
“Oh yeah,” Samantha laughed, “I snuck his little invitation out of your bag! He was pretty disappointed when you didn’t show up with me.”
Speechless, Steven threw his hands up the air before stalking angrily out the door and back in the direction of his hotel.
“Was it something I said?” Fruge asked Kraig and Samantha.
Stafford paced anxiously in his ready room, waiting for the representative from Guiananco to arrive. He would have gone directly to the shuttlebay himself, but Noonan had cautioned him against that action. According to Noonan, he would be in a much stronger position if he allowed the Guinanco rep to come to him.
Guiananco Corporation was steadily spreading among the various ships and stations of the Federation fleet. The head of Guiananco, a woman by the name of Guinan, had taken the experience she had gained from running Ten-Forward aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise and had founded Guinanco to help bring other starship lounges up to the level of sophistication of Ten-Forward.
With the patented ‘saucer-hats’ and their tendency to divide their property into ‘advice’ and ‘non-advice’ sections, Guinanco had been an immediate success among some of the most prestigious ships on the fleet. Elegant receptions, relaxed atmospheres and peaceful celebrations were Guinanco’s forte.
But although Guinanco enjoyed a high level of success among the high-class (ie boring) ships of the fleet, it had become a name feared and cursed by the ‘other’ ships. The ships that liked their drinks strong and their music loud were not fans of Guinanco, with their low noise levels and 2200h closing time. And so even though Guinanco had holdings on ships such as the Secondprize and the Explorer, the crews were less than happy about it. Fortunately the crew of the Explorer had other options such as Ship’s Shoppes and Mirk’s to keep them busy.
Guinanco had been asked to run Silverado’s lounge by Operation Salvage, the project that had overseen Silverado’s renovations. Fortunately, their representative had left after seeing the poor condition of the ship, leaving Stafford to go hunting for his own bartender. He’d picked a random name out of the listing, hired Steven Steiger and considered himself lucky.
So why was Guinanco here now? Hopefully Stafford would soon have the chance to ask.
Stafford quickly darted behind his desk, knocking his Silverado model off the edge. He caught it seconds before it could smash on the deck, fumbling for a moment before setting it back on the display stand. Sitting in his chair and clearing his throat, he spoke up.
The doors hissed open revealing an impeccably groomed woman of average build. Her dirty blond hair was pulled back in a professional looking ponytail, her business suit was perfectly pressed.
“Greetings,” she said, her British accent somehow giving the common word a sense of class, “My name is Patsy Horton. I am the representative sent by Guinanco and it will be my pleasure to assume operation of the lounge on Deck 12.”
“Captain Christopher Stafford,” Stafford replied, “And I’m happy with my current lounge staff. May I show you the door?”
“I’ve seen it, thank you,” Horton replied coldly, “it’s quite lovely. But perhaps there has been a misunderstanding. We at Guinanco received word that your lounge manager had left, and so we are most eager to ensure that your crew has a quiet place to relax.”
“You heard wrong,” Stafford said, “He’s on vacation. He’s going to be back in a few weeks. So thanks for dropping by.”
“I see,” Horton sighed, “there has indeed been a misunderstanding. As per Starfleet’s standing contract with Guinanco, any starship lounge that is unoccupied is open to Guinanco administration. We will be taking over your lounge immediately.”
“Whoah!” Stafford snapped, “Who the hell do you think you are? It is not ‘unoccupied’! We have a contract with our current manager, and I’m not breaking it for a bunch of hippie freaks in funny hats!”
“You have little choice in the matter. I assure you, my family has been in the restaurant service industry since the 20th century. I promise you I will operate a calming and pleasant establishment,”
Trish Yanick was pooped. She’d been running around fixing drinks behind the bar for nearly four hours. Shortly after Stafford had left, many of the families and teenagers had slowly drained out of the lounge as more off-duty crewmembers eased in. The music was turned up, and Yanick was serving more and more mixed drinks and fewer coffees and milkshakes. Jall had just dragged Fifebee onto the dance floor when the sound system shut down.
“Greetings everybody,” announced a portly looking man dressed in dark blue, “This facility is under new ownership! I’m pleased to announce that this is now a Guinanco establishment. We have many new and exciting renovations in store for you that I’m sure you’ll find both relaxing and entertaining. Sadly, we will need to close immediately to commence our renovations. Thank you all.”
“What?” Trish snapped, “I’m in charge here!”
“Not anymore. Have a pleasant evening.”
“The Captain will hear about this!” Yanick cried, stomping her foot.
“And so,” Horton finished as Stafford tapped his fingers on his desk, “I’m sure you’ll find Guinanco management to be far superior to any independents you might have hired. We promise a relaxing environment where a listening ear or shoulder to cry on will always be within easy reach,”
“Your idea of relaxing is our idea of BORING!” Stafford snapped, “I’ve read the brochures, seen the advertisements. We like Unbalanced Equations the way it is!”
The doors hissed open as Ensign Yanick stormed in without knocking.
“Captain!” she wailed, “these people just kicked everybody out of the Silver Star!”
“What?” Stafford demanded, turning to Horton.
“That lounge is now Guiananco property,” Horton shrugged, “We must renovate,”
Stafford glared at her, then started tapping at his terminal, opening a little used direct channel to his superior at Starfleet HQ.
“Tunney here,” Admiral Edward Tunney said calmly, his goateed visage appearing on Stafford’s terminal, “Captain Stafford! Long time no see. I rather liked it that way, actually. What do you want?”
Stafford quickly filled Tunney in on the situation.
Tunney shook his head.
“Corporations just keep getting more and more arrogant,” he sighed, “Yours is the sixth complaint against Guinanco in the past week,”
“And what did you tell those other five captains?” Stafford asked, looking briefly at Patsy Horton.
“‘Too bad’,” Tunney shrugged, “And that’s a quote. Guinanco is within their contract rights, although I’d like to get my hands on whomever it was at Starfleet Command that signed that contract,”
“But Guinanco turned us down originally!” Stafford protested, “We’ve got a contract with somebody else now!”
“I see,” Tunney frowned, “Just give me a minute,” a ‘hold’ symbol appeared.
“While we wait,” Horton went on, “I have several other changes I’d like to implement as soon as possible,”
Stafford stared at her blankly. Misinterpreting his restrained hostility as a sign to continue, Horton pulled up a diagram of Silverado on her padd.
“Now,” she said, “the Ambassador-class ships were Starfleet’s first attempt at a so-called ‘city-ship’. Families, civilian population, extended facilities and so forth. I feel that in this case, we aren’t placing enough focus on this. For example, your fitness facility,”
“Yes,” Stafford said flatly, “We have a gym. People use it now and then. I go there myself,”
“Indeed,” Horton nodded, her clipped British tones becoming slightly more clipped, “You have a weight room, aerobics and aerobatic facilities, private exercise rooms, a pool, sauna and whirlpool, a team sports facility-“
“I know what we have,” Stafford snapped, glancing at the ‘hold’ symbol still displayed on his screen, “What’s you’re point?”
“It has no name,” Horton said, spreading her hands like this was a great shock, “We could vastly improve crew usage and attendance with a stylish name. I’ve been thinking ‘The Ambassador’s Club’, or perhaps ‘The Silver Medal Spa’,”
“I’m thinking you can kiss my-“
Stafford was cut off as Admiral Tunney reappeared on the screen.
“OK,” he said, “I’ve had a quick chat with our legal department. Do you want the good news or the bad news first?”
“Good news,” Stafford said.
“OK,” Tunney replied, “Uh, could you please turn me to face Ms. Horton?”
Stafford spun the terminal screen around to face the woman.
“Ms. Horton,” Tunney said, “As per Section 4, Paragraph 2 of the Guiananco contract, I regret to inform you that due to Guiananco’s previous rejection of Silverado as a franchise site, Steven Steiger’s contract is valid and binding until he sees fit to terminate it,”
“YES!” Stafford cheered, “Stafford to Security, I want every Guinanco employee out of Unbalanced Equations and back on their ship, NOW!”
“Hold on, Captain,” Tunney went on, “Um, could you turn me around again please?”
Stafford spun the terminal back to face him.
“Whoa,” Tunney groaned, dizzy from the spin, “Uh, now for the bad new: As per our contract, we still have to allow Guinanco to open a franchise on Silverado if they so desire,”
“What?” Stafford snapped, “Why?”
“Because I said so,” Tunney snapped back, “You’ve got two mess halls, why don’t you let them take one? Now, if you’ll excuse me, Gail is waiting at home, and she gets rather cranky when I’m late. Tunney out.” The screen went blank.
“Well,” Horton said, frowning, “That was unexpected,”
“Right,” Stafford said, half to her, half to himself.
“Regardless,” Horton forced a smile back on her face, “We have some business arrangements to discuss.”
“So we’re giving up the Officer’s Dining Hall?” Jall asked, “Meh, better that then the bar,”
The senior staff had gathered in the conference lounge following Stafford’s meeting with Ms. Horton. Wowryk, Jeffery, Yanick, T’Parief, Fifebee and Noonan were all gathered around the table. Everybody had been relieved to hear that Guinanco wasn’t getting their paws on their drinking hole, but few other opinions had been offered.
“So, what does this mean for our food?” T’Parief asked.
“Well,” Stafford shrugged, “private replicators, the Junior Mess and Silver Star-“
“Unbalanced Equations,” Yanick pouted, “Those Guiananco jerks took all my stuff down before you kicked them out. I’m not going through THAT again!”
“Of course,” Noonan soothed her as T’Parief put an arm around her shoulder, “It was good of you to help out as much as you did,”
“You’re welcome,” Yanick gave a small smile.
“Right,” Stafford cleared his throat. Cleared it again. Finally, he said softly:
“Mr. T’Parief? Not here, please, you’re on duty,”
T’Parief gave a snort of surprise, then took his arm off his girlfriend.
“Thank you,” Stafford said quietly, “Right then. Guiananco will be reopening the Officer’s Dining Hall in two days,”
“I think it would be in the best interest of moral and crew community if we had a familiar facility running,” Noonan said, “Which means we need somebody to run Unbalanced Equations until Steven gets back.”
Glances were exchanged around the table.
“Mr. Jeffery?” Stafford inquired.
“No can do,” Jeffery said, “Ah’m refurbishing the gravity generators on Deck 6,”
Wowryk raised a hand to speak.
“And yes,” Jeffery cut her off, “Ah’ve advised the residents of that deck to take plenty of anti-nausea medication. Ah know how much ye hated ‘Vomit-Fest 768’ when Ah refurbished Deck 20,”
“Thank you,” Wowryk gave a curt nod.
“How about you, Doc?” Stafford asked, “Feel like running the bar for a few days?”
Wowryk opened her mouth to speak.
“I’m kidding,” Stafford laughed, “I know, synthohol, drink of the devil, yada, yada, blah, blah and so forth,”
“Ohh, I like this game,” laughed Jall, “Can we all play ‘Cut Off the Doc’ more often?”
“Only if you want me to cut something off of you!” Wowryk snapped, glaring hard at Jall while he smiled back innocently.
“Alright,” Stafford said, shaking his head, “I think the fair thing to do would be for all of us to pitch in and work together to give Guinanco some competition. Still, I propose we just made Jall do it. All in favor?”
Hands went up.
Hands went down.
“Have fun, Lieutenant,” Stafford said, I’m sure after the little riot you inspired at Deneria, something like this won’t be much of a problem for you. Just, uh, do us a favor and try not to inspire a riot. Or run illegal gaming tables. Or do things that would get you tossed in the brig.”
Steven, Samantha, Mary and Becky had joined up for breakfast. Well, it was supposed to be breakfast, but what with the girls being out all night, breakfast had turned first into brunch, then into lunch. Then into more of a mid-afternoon snack.
The ladies were still somewhat tired. Steven, on the other hand, had enjoyed a good night sleep in the privacy of his own hotel room, one hundred percent alone. The thought of exploring the resort had crossed his mind, but one look at the crowd outside, most of which was scanty clad (to be polite) had convinced him that the best thing to do would be to wait for the protection of the women before he ventured anywhere.
Steven sighed to himself.
“You’re not still upset about last night, are you Steve?” Samantha asked.
“Upset?” Steven mumbled, looking into his raktajino, “Why would I possibly be upset?’
“Cuz,” Becky popped another gum bubble, “The only available chick you found was Samantha? That sound like enough to upset any self-respecting man!”
“Oh shut up,” Steven grumbled.
“You’re not one to talk, you trashy little-“
“After I finished at this amazing spa, I spent most of the night partying with this charming couple,” Mary said cutting off Samantha and spreading some kind of weird purple sauce on some kind of weird green bread, “They took me to see ‘Kiss me, Turtlehead’ at the big theatre in the Colony District. Funniest thing I’ve seen in years!”
“Charming,” Steven muttered.
“Well I had a fantastic time,” Samantha smiled, “After I finished with our bellhop’s party, his friend Dieno took me to this wonderful after hours place. We were there talking for hours, then we went to-“
“His apartment?” Steven ventured.
“She met up with us,” Mary cut in, “And we went down to the beach, then home.”
“So all three of you had a great time?”
“The best,” Becky laughed, “We’re meeting them for dinner tonight!”
“Yippee for you,” Steven sighed, getting up.
“Where are you going?” Becky asked.
“Back to my room. Maybe there’s a sight-seeing guide, or a club listing or SOMETHING. There’s got to be SOME eligible young women on this planet!”
“You should have gone to Risa,” Becky advised.
“Now she brings up Risa,” Steven sighed.
Stafford paced in his private dining room. It wasn’t all that private at the moment, as Noonan was sitting at the table, watching Stafford pace back and forth. Stars streaked past the forward windows.
Stafford had never really figured out why exactly Silverado needed a Captain’s Private Dining Room. Really, what was the point? He could either eat in the Officer’s Dining Hall, or use the replicator in his quarters. He supposed it had to do with that whole floating city/embassy concept behind the Ambassador and Galaxy class ships; impress foreign dignitaries, provide comfortable living environments and create an atmosphere of community. Right. Whatever. He used it on rare occasions, though he never really bothered to press the little button that would summon a steward from the lower decks to take his order.
With Guinanco renovating the Officer’s Dining Hall and Jall running Unbalanced Equations, Stafford had retreated to his dining room to muse.
“I’m really starting to wonder if putting Jall in charge of the lounge was such a good idea,” Stafford mused, pacing back and forth. See? I told you he was musing!
“Of course it wasn’t,” Noonan said, “It was simply the most convenient solution for most of the staff and the least convenient for Jall,”
“And usually that’s good enough,” Stafford said, “But I’m starting to wonder,”
“Certainly not one of your better decisions,” Noonan said, “Indeed, had it been a decision relating to the ship and crew as opposed to only the lounge, I would have had to question your judgment,”
“In the future, you really could have mentioned something a little earlier,” Stafford said, deap-pan.
“I have a novel idea,” Noonan said, “we could go downstairs and see exactly what Jall has come up with,”
“I’m almost afraid to,” Stafford stopped, looking out the window.
“Sylvia,” Stafford said, addressing the computer personality, “What do you think? Is it safe to head down to the lounge, or am I going to regret it?”
“Go out,” Sylvia suggested, her image appearing on a wall display, “Relax, have fun. Try to loosen up a bit while you’re at it. You really do need to socialize more, try to meet some nice girl-“
“Great,” Stafford muttered, “relationship advice from a computer. Just what I need. C’mon, Matt. Let’s go.”
As Noonan turned to follow, he was pretty sure he saw Sylvia wink at him before she vanished from the screen. This could prove interesting.
Stepping out of the turbolift, Stafford walked towards Unbalanced Equations, fighting the urge to turn and run with every step. What the hell was he thinking? Jall already had a history of behaving irresponsibly, especially in regards to crew entertainment. What would it be this time? Cheesy vaudeville? Would he turn the place into a low-class burlesque house?
Coming around the corner, he found a small line of crewmen and women waiting behind a velvet rope. Ensign Buck was standing behind the rope with a checklist. He could see flashing lights through the small windows in the doors, and he could hear a heavy beat playing.
“Captain,” Buck smiled, unhooking the rope “please, go right in,”
“Uh, right,” Stafford closed his eyes and stepped through the door.
“Son of a-“ Stafford cut himself off, opening his eyes and rubbing his nose.
Snickering to themselves, the doors opened.
Stafford’s stomach dropped.
The place was packed with hollering, drunken people. Which was really nothing new. What was new was the photos of scantily clad men and women decorating the walls and the two stages that had been setup in the back corners of the room. To port, a woman from Ship’s Services writhed around a steel pole, her skimpy bikini barely containing her breasts. To starboard, a stocky, muscular man from Security was crouched down while Nurse Veeneman slipped replicator rations into his jockstrap.
Seeing red, Stafford quickly located Jall standing behind the bar. Stalking over, he grabbed the Operations Officer by the collar and dragged him over the bar.
“What the hell are you doing?” Stafford roared while Noonan looked on, amused, “This is, this is…THIS IS…”
“Wrong and inappropriate?” Noonan ventured.
“Wrong and inappropriate!” Stafford snapped, “I have half a mind to throw you in the brig!”
“Captain,” Jall said quickly, a weak smile on his face, “Before you do anything, look over there!”
Stafford looked, just in time to see the skimpy bikini go flying across the room.
“Oh my,” Stafford said, eying the gorgeous woman on stage.
Something else smacked into the side of his head. Stafford reached up, finding the jockstrap from the male stripper hanging off one ear.
“OH GOD!” he shouted, flinging the thing away in disgust, “Sick! That’s it! Stafford to security! I want this place shut down, NOW!”
Steven wandered through the streets of Kliding Moutain resort, avoiding the bars, the clubs and the casinos. After night had fallen he’d finally gotten sick of hiding in his hotel room and had ventured into the outside world, to no avail. He’d been rejected by more beautiful women that he would have ever though possible. It just boggled the mind! Each and every one of them said the exact same thing: Oh, that’s so sweet of you, but ‘Male A’ and ‘Male B’ are taking me to ‘insert event here’, and I’m really not looking for a date, so why don’t you just crawl into a corner and die?
Well, OK, they didn’t say that last part, but they might as well have.
Not that he wasn’t attracting attention.
Kraig had called him four times, trying to talk him into going to different parties, insisting that this time he really COULD find a woman for Steven. Right. After the horrible time he’d had the last time he’d followed Kraig somewhere, there was no way he was going to say yes. That, and Samantha kept suggesting that he really should call Fruge and that a little experimentation would be good for him. Steven had explained to her, yet again, that it was women he was after, and that he really had no interest in any experiments that didn’t involve him and at least three nude female cheerleaders.
Sighing to himself and swatting at some annoying bug, Steven dodged a streetlight and turned the corner, noticing a beautiful redheaded human woman walking up the street.
All by herself.
Swallowing and trying not to be distracted by the gently sway of her hips, Steven came alongside.
“Uh, hello,” he said, “Nice night. How’s it going?”
“Hey there,” she smiled, “It’s a beautiful night! Care to keep me company?”
“Would I?” Steven grinned, “Absolutely!”
“Great, I’m Lisa,” she flipped her hair back and grabbed Steven by the wrist, “C’mon, I know this great bar just down the street!”
“Uh,” Steve hesitated, “you don’t have a, um, girlfriend. Do you?”
“Of course not, silly,” she laughed, “I like guys.”
“Excellent,” Steven smiled.
Lisa turned out to be excellent company, as Steven was thrilled to learn. On the way to bar, she’d surprised him by bringing up the score of the previous nights BrockBall game. (BrockBall was a popular sport among aquatic races, involving three teams and a ball made from a spiny pufferfish).
Once they got to the bar and she bought him a drink, while directing him to a table seat close to the stage, he started to get suspicious.
“So,” he said carefully, “What do you do?”
“Oh,” Lisa giggled, “I work in the hospitality industry, over at Hotel Zion,”
“Charming,” Steven chose his next words carefully, “And you’re off-duty, right?”
“Sure!” Lisa said happily, “Off-duty and on my own time. Just hoping to find a man in this place that wouldn’t mind some female companionship,” she winked suggestively.
Off-duty was great, but Steven still didn’t have the information he wanted. Frustrated, he decided to go for the direct approach.
“You’re not one of the…drag performers, are you?” he asked slowly, mentally preparing for a backlash of Dr. Wowryk proportions if she took offense.
“Of course not,” Lisa said, smiling, “But I’ll tell you a little secret: I think you’re wasting time on men,”
“Excuse me?” Steven asked.
“Sure, they might be fun to look at,” Lisa went on, “but I can assure you, I have skills and abilities you can only dream of…”
As Lisa went on, Steven came to a shocking realization.
She thought he was gay!
Even as he opened his mouth to deny it, to explain to her that he really had no interest in men, another realization struck.
She wanted to spend time with him anyway.
T’Parief strolled through the corridors, first thing in the morning. He’d spend extra time grooming himself for the day; shining and sharpening his fangs, giving his scales an extra scrub and even cracking open the bottle of reptilian bodywash Yanick had given him.
“Morning, Lt. Cmdr,” Ensign Marsden waved from the security desk as T’Parief walked in to the security office.
“Good morning, Ensign,” T’Parief said, giving a small smile, “anything I should know about?”
“Naw, things were pretty quiet after we shut down the lounge,” Marsden said, “Although we did have a toddler running around Deck 13 in his diaper,” Marsden spun his chair around to tap at one of the security panels lining the back wall.
“Thank you,” T’Parief said, turning to head into the squad room, “I don’t need to see it.”
Stepping up to the equipment rack, T’Parief slipped his off-duty phaser into a charging slot and pulled his on-duty phaser out. Several members of the security staff passed through, getting ready to start their days.
Passing through the outer office again, T’Parief greeted Ensign Rengs before turning back to Marsden.
“I will be on the bridge until 1030 hours,” he stated calmly, “Keep an eye on those Guiananco folk,”
“Of course,” Marsden nodded. T’Parief walked out.
“What the hell was that?” Rengs asked once their boss was our of earshot, “I haven’t seen him that cheerful before,”
“This must be Jall’s first time getting tossed in the brig since you got here,” Marsden said.
Noonan, Stafford and the senior officer, except for Jall, had gathered in the conference lounge to discuss hiring a new bar manager.
“Did you really have to toss poor Jall in the brig?” Yanick whined, “It’s not like anybody got hurt-“
“Strippers,” Stafford said firmly, “Starship. Big no-no.”
“So who’s gonna run the bar now?” Jeffery asked, “None of us would make a decent bartender.
“Actually,” Noonan said, “I have a suggestion,”
“Great, I was hoping you would,” Stafford smiled. He sniffed at the air.
“Does anybody smell that?” he asked.
“That sort of fruity scent?” Jeffery spoke up, nodding, “Aye, Ah smell it.”
“Could it be a problem with the air circulation systems?” Stafford asked Fifebee.
“I doubt it,”
“Did anybody bring fruit with them to the meeting?”
Everybody shook his or her heads. T’Parief swallowed and gazed at the table.
“I was,” he said quietly, “trying a new bodywash,”
Stafford exchanged glances with Yanick and Jeffery. Bit his lip hard to keep himself from laughing at his very skilled and deadly security chief.
“Smells nice,” he forced out, “So, Noonan, on to your idea…”
“Good morning everybody!” Steven said happily, grabbing a chair. He’d met the girls at Chez C’Zangos, a Bolian place specializing in all-day breakfast, “Hey, what’s he doing here?”
Looking mildly offended, Kraig rose one eyebrow.
“We invited him,” Mary said firmly.
“This isn’t one of your hair-brained experimentation things-“
“Don’t be silly!” Becky picked at a slice of purple melon, “Kraig’s been so good about showing us around we wanted to take him for breakfast,”
“Ah,” Steven shrugged, “Oh well. The more the merrier!”
“And why are you so happy this morning?” Mary asked.
“I bet I know,” Samantha said with a grin, “Somebody got lucky last night, didn’t he?”
“Well, not quite,” Steven admitted, “But I did meet somebody. And we’re going out again!”
“And what about when we leave? You’re just gonna love her then leave her?” Becky asked, stabbing her fork in the air towards Steven, “Have your fun and take off? It’s guys like you that send women like us to places like this!”
“It’s not like I’m leading her on, or promising to love her forever,” he said, “And by the way, she’s stopping by to say hi, so be nice!”
Shortly after Steven’s breakfast arrived, so did Lisa.
“Hi everybody,” she said, flashing a big smile. She shook each of the women’s hands before turning to Kraig.
“And this must be your boyfriend!” she said, “Well, he is pretty to look at. I’ll just have to outperform him,”
“Er, yeah,” Steven said, trying to smile, “Right,”
“You should bring him with us tonight,” Lisa said, “I bet we could have lots of fun together,”
“Oh, I think he’s too busy-“ Steven started.
“Consider me there,” Kraig smiled, wrapping one arm around Steven’s shoulders.
“Later boys,” Lisa gave one last smile as she left.
Steven pried Kraig’s arm off and pushed the other man away.
“Hey,” he grimaced, “Do you mind?”
“What the hell was that?” demanded Mary.
“Well,” Steven was sheepish, “She kinda thinks I, uh, play on Kraig’s team. And she wants to try to get me to join her team,”
“She’s a Converter,” Kraig sighed, “Another one!”
“A what?” Becky asked.
“Some kind of bizarre Order,” Kraig explained, “They send their members from planet to planet, trying to turn people away from the ‘evils of society’.”
“I’ve never heard of them,” Mary frowned.
“They’re low key,” Kraig said, “They avoid big public statements and prefer more subtle ways of convincing people,”
“Like sending hot women to seduce gay men?” Steven nodded, “Cool. Well, I hope there’s more of them around!”
“There are,” Kraig said, shaking his head, “Horrible waste of time. Those poor guys they seduce just end up lost and confused,” he frowned, “Or in detox. I know it would take a lot of booze to get ME to do that!”
“I think you’re sick,” Mary snapped, “Not you, Kraig. The other guy. The one lying to women for his own sick purposes!”
“Men have been doing it for centuries,” he said, “besides, how many women have manipulated men to get what they want!”
“We’ve never done it to get sex!” Becky snapped, “I mean yeah, we use sex to get what we want, but-“
“I’m a man!” Steven exclaimed, “Sex IS what I want!”
Stafford swallowed nervously at the doors to Unbalanced Equations, his bridge shift having just ended. When Noonan had shared his choice for temporary bar manager, Stafford had been pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t something inane like putting Sylvia in charge. But the more he thought about it, the more he wasn’t sure Noonan’s idea was a good one.
Marshalling himself, Stafford walked through the door.
The first thing that hit him was the smell. Fresh, chocolate brownies.
The lounge was virtually unchanged from Steven’s reign, which worked out well since Steven would be back soon, but for some reason everybody was eating chocolate brownies. Near the windows, in the booths, at the bar. Everybody. There was also a very strange atmosphere. Stafford couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something about the mood of the place was different.
Walking up to the bar, Stafford took a seat.
“Heya, monkey!” Crewman Gibson greeted him cheerfully, “Welcome to ‘Gibson’s Bakery’!
“I’m your Captain,” Stafford said, picking up a small brownie, “not a monkey!”
“Uh, right,” Gibson looked back at him expectantly.
“What?” Stafford finally asked.
“Aren’t ya gonna eat it?” Gibson asked, looking back innocently.
Shrugging, Steven took a bite.
Thirty minutes later;
“It’s like, wow, we live in this big city,” Stafford said, eyes glazed, “Except we’re not in a city. Cities are on land. We’re in the sky. We’re, like, this whole, big sky city,”
“Dude,” Crewman Shwaluk said softly, “that’s so deep!”
“Ah, Captain, I’ve been looking for you,” Patsy Horton stepped into the lounge, “I require extra subspace communications bandwidth. Your replicator library for decorations is very lacking, and I simply must have appropriate, gorgeous little things for my new restaurant!”
“People get food in restaurants,” Gibson said dreamily.
“Sort of like Dining Halls,” Stafford said. He gasped.
“Oh. My. God!” he said, pulling himself to his feet and wobbling slightly, “They’re making the Dining Hall a restaurant!”
“Oh please,” Horton sighed, “We discussed this last week!”
“Go away, scary pretty lady,” Stafford wheezed, collapsing back to the couch,
“Is there a problem?” Noonan asked calmly, moving to Horton’s side.
“Your Captain is out of his mind!” Horton said angrily.
“Well, yes,” Noonan said, “That is his normal state,”
“I mean he’s worse!” she snapped, “I need-“
“Extra bandwidth,” Noonan cut in, “Done. Gibson,” Noonan carefully examined a plate of baked goods, then turned to where Gibson was leaning heavily on the bar, “What is in these brownies?”
“Uhhh,” Gibson scratched his head and swallowed, “Nothing?”
Noonan sighed, the lie obvious even without his supernatural senses.
“Noonan to Sickbay,”
One hour of de-tox later:
“Stafford to Security! Arrest Crewman Gibson! The charge is distribution of intoxicating substances! Or whatever the charge is for getting your crewmates high without their knowledge! Fourteen days confinement!”
“You really need to stop throwing your bartenders in the brig,” Noonan commented, standing by Stafford’s biobed.
“He gave me hash brownies!” Stafford snapped, “And he gave Ensign Dar’ugal tea spiked with hallucinogenic mushrooms! He thought his fur was on fire and ran through four fire extinguishers before we could sedate him!”
“This isn’t setting a good impression for Guinanco,”
“And they open tomorrow,” Stafford groaned.
“What do you plan to do?” Noonan asked.
“I plan to scan anything served to me with a tricorder,” Stafford said, climbing to his feet, “I wouldn’t put it past that Horton woman to try to make me sick!”
“Did you really have to tag along?” Steve growled as he sat at a table with Kraig. Lisa had taken them to one of the calmer clubs, which had Kraig in a bad mood, and Kraig had insisted on coming along, which had Steve in a bad mood.
“Look, p’tack,” Kraig growled, “I told you it would be my mission to see that you find a woman, and honor demands that I see this through!”
“Right, honor,” Steven clenched his teeth. Right then. Kraig could ignore the rest of Klingon society by shacking up with another warrior, but as soon as it got in Steven’s way of a hot woman, honor had to be satisfied.
“I must help you maintain the charade,” Kraig said firmly, “If she thought for one moment you liked women, she would lose all interest,”
“Right,” Steven muttered. Truth be told, he was having some serious second thoughts. He thought of himself a pretty nice guy, working hard to give the Silverado crew a place where they could relax and be themselves. It made perfect sense that since sleeping with customers would be against his morals, he should have his fun when he was on vacation. He was human, after all. He had wants and needs, desires that he had to fulfill. But was he really justified in lying to a kind, beautiful woman to get what he wanted?
OK, so Lisa was really a scheming crusader nutcase who thought that she was doing the universe a favor through her ‘conversions’, but he only had Kraig’s word on that. Right? Right! Maybe she really was genuinely interested in him. What if he was planning for a single night of hot sex while she was picking out a wedding gown? Well, if she was doing that after one date she sure wasn’t the girl for him anyway!
“Hi boys!” Lisa smiled brightly as she returned with their drinks, “I ordered doubles, I hope that’s OK?”
“Er, fine,” Steven smiled, taking a small sip. Truth be told, he preferred to mix drinks rather than drink them, and he could tell that whoever had mixed this one, a Silver Cloud, had added WAY too much Terran Amoretto.
“So,” Steve said, “What shall we do?”
“Well,” Lisa said, “I have a suggestion, actually,” she looked seductively at Steven, “Why don’t we head back to my place and get more…intimate?”
“Now you’re talking!” Steven grinned.
“That’s weird,” she said, “usually, um, I mean I wouldn’t think that a guy would dump his boyfriend for a woman at the drop of a dime…”
“Oh,” Steven thought quickly, “um, he’s fine with it. Really!”
“Are you sure you’re gay?” Lisa was still frowning at him.
“Um,” Steven hesitated; Sure, he wanted to get into Lisa’s pants, but to actually say something like that? Even if it was a lie?”
Steven’s eyes flicked briefly to Lisa’s breasts, swallowed, then put his arm over Kraig’s shoulder.
“Yeah,” he said weakly, “Sure.”
“Fair enough,” Lisa shrugged, “let’s go,”
Grinning, Steven got up to follow her.
“Are you coming?” Lisa called back to the table.
“Soon enough,” smiled Steven.
“I meant Kraig,” Lisa looked at the half-Klingon.
“Aren’t you joining us? What, with you and your friend here being so close?”
“I don’t know if that-“ Steven sputtered.
“I insist,” Lisa said, crossing her arms, “if you want me, he comes too,” she uncrossed her arms and pressed her chest against Steven, “And I mean that in every meaning of the word,”
Next day, ten minutes before supper time:
“Something terrible is going to happen!”
“I see,” Noonan was silent as he followed Stafford into the corridor and towards the turbolift.
As they entered the lift, Stafford turned to Noonan.
“So what do you think?” he asked after a few moments of silence.
“About what?” Noonan asked innocently.
“They are a corporation,” Noonan shrugged, “As with any corporation, they have their advantages and disadvantages. Some will find their products and services appealing, while others despise them,”
Stafford thought to himself for a moment.
“Do you think we’re doing the wrong thing here, trying to compete against them,” Stafford lowered his voice as they stepped onto Deck 12, “Do you actually like their places?”
“I enjoyed the Guinanco establishment on Spacedock,” Noonan said, “I found it more conductive to quiet contemplation,”
“Quiet contemplation,” Stafford shook his head, “I really don’t think that’s in demand on this ship,”
“No,” Noonan agreed, “It most certainly isn’t,”
Stafford stopped in front of the doors to the Dining Hall, passing a small line of officers waiting to get in. Clearly, Patsy Horton was waiting for the Captain to arrive before opening. A wooden plaque had been attached to the corridor wall, the words ‘Le Plateau Argenté’ inscribed in the polished surface.
“Le Platu Arjenty?” Stafford squinted, horribly mangling the words.
“The Silver Platter,” Noonan translated, “Classy,”
“Stupid,” Stafford snapped, “I’d be surprised if more than a quarter of the crew can figure out how to say it!”
The doors swished open, revealing…
The dining hall.
“I thought she was going to redecorate?” Stafford murmured to Noonan.
“She has,” Noonan pointed out.
Indeed, taking a closer look, Stafford could see that while the dining hall was, for the most part, unchaged, there had been several subtle additions.
Understated artwork hung on the inner wall. The tables, which were normally bare, had been set with gleaming silver and simple but elegant china. Small vases held flowers from several worlds, while the serving counter extending from the entrance to the seldom-used kitchen had been converted into a service area. Behind the counter and beside the kitchen door was a large painting of Silverado pulling away from Waystation.
“Would you like the advice or non-advise section?” Patsy Horton asked, coming up to the entrance. She wore the customary flowing robes and wide-brimmed hat of a Guinanco manager.
“I thought it looked too good to be true,” Stafford sighed.
“Nice to see you too, Captain,” Horton said, “Non-advise, I assume?”
“Correct,” Stafford said, “Noonan’s here for advice. You are here for food,”
“Yum, yum,” Noonan muttered to himself, rolling his eyes.
“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to eat in the enlisted crewman’s mess,” the tiny waiter was trying to explain.
“I eat here!” Crewman Kreklor snapped, his Klingon features firmly set in the stereotypical Klingon Snarl, “I have always eaten here! I will continue to eat here!”
“B-but,” the little man stuttered, “this facility is for officers only!”
“We’re officers,” Stern said firmly as he and Marsden pushed their way ahead of Kreklor, “and we say he eats with us!”
“W-well,” the waiter gulped, “Guinanco policy does allow guests-“
“Great,” Stern nodded, “We’ll take that table over there…”
Stafford sat with Noonan, Fifebee and Jall. For some inane reason, Horton had seated the single senior officers together while the two couples sat at another table. A few tables down the Hazardous Team was just being seated, the short Guinanco waiter looking rather timidly at Ensign Dar’ugal and Lieutenant Stern.
“I will admit,” Fifebee was saying, “I rather like the new dining environment. Much more elegant.”
“I don’t really think ‘elegant’ is a word I’ve ever heard on Silverado,” Jall said, looking around, “but I’ll admit, this Patsy woman has good taste in décor. He work is subtle, a blending of Starfleet standard with a few classy touches here and there-“
Stafford pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Jall,” he interrupted, “For just this evening, could you please not be yourself?”
“Fifebee’s the only one here that can swap personalities at will!” Jall grumbled.
“Maybe she can give you lessons!”
Rengs Aris looked away from where Stafford and Jall were squabbling while Noonan watched on. Meris, his wife, had opted to replicate dinner in their quarters while she watched over the baby, but Aris had decided to eat with his teammates. Further down the table, Simmons and Kreklor were engaged in a heated debate over women. Again.
“Look,” Simmons said, “the problem with Klingon women is that they ALWAYS looks mean and nasty!”
“You call that a problem?” Kreklor replied, “if so, I know this resort you might like-“
“Well, it’s not really a problem,” Simmons admitted, “But they do it all the time! With a human chick, if she pulls out the old leather bustier and the knee-high boots, you know it’s a special occasion-“
Rengs winced, wondering for the hundredth time how many pieces his friends would be in if they ever voiced those thoughts in front of Meris.
Lieutenant Ovens sat at his table, right next to one of the windows and across from his girlfriend, Shelly. Lieutenant Ovens’ duties varied from manning Auxiliary Control to commanding the bridge when Stafford or his night replacement, Quintane, was otherwise occupied. Shelly was part of Stellar Sciences, with a specialty in solar system development theory. The two of them had met on Silverado and had dated steadily for nearly a year.
Ovens calmly spread butter on his bun, a basket of which having been delivered by the waiter.
“So are you going to talk to Noonan about that promotion?” Shelly asked.
“Um, maybe,” Ovens said uneasily, eyes flicking around.
“You should!” Shelly insisted, “With the amount of responsibilities you have, you should be a Lieutenant Commander, at the very least…”
“Something wrong, Captain?” Noonan asked softly.
“This is just too perfect,” Stafford sighed, “Look at them!”
Fifebee looked around the room.
“They are behaving,” she said, “For once.”
“Exactly!” Stafford hissed, eyed Patsy Horton as she smiled and greeted two more officers entering the room, “The one time I need them to misbehave and create a fuss, they’re sitting here quiet as mice! It’s just not fair!”
“I will admit to being surprised,” Noonan nodded, pausing to sip his ‘wine’, “It’s really unlike them. Still, you have to admit that given the amount of work Ms. Horton has put into creating a pleasing dining environment for us and fact that dinner has been quite pleasant so far, perhaps you really should allow her this moment of success?”
“But it’s Guinanco!” Stafford insisted, “They’re evil!”
“Are they?” Noonan raised an eyebrow.
Stafford looked around the lounge. The Hazardous Team was digging into some very delicious looking pizza. Wowryk, Jeffery, T’Parief and Yanick were talking quietly, as were Lieutenant Ovens and his girlfriend.
Stafford bit his lip.
“Steven will continue to run Unbalanced Equations, providing the crew with a place to unwind. Is it really so bad to have someplace elegant to dine?” Noonan asked.
“Not to mention,” Jall cut in, “that the ‘service’ button in your dining room summons Guinanco staff now instead of a Starfleet steward…”
Stafford eyes perked up.
“So I can make these Guinanco people wait on me hand and foot?”
“Besides,” Jall shrugged, “I’m sure it won’t be long until the next food fight sends these corporate slimeballs packing,”
“Your meals, gentleman,” Patsy Horton had returned to the table along with their waiter, who set the steaming plates in front of the organic members of the dining party.
“Thanks,” Stafford said grudgingly.
“Captain,” Horton smiled, “I do hope that we can put our past unpleasantness behind us and work together here,”
“Yeah,” Stafford sighed, reaching for his fork, “I guess that would work,”
The next morning…
“Well,” Samantha smiled as Steven walked into the joined section of the suite, “you were sure out late. Did you and Lisa have a fun time?”
Steven stared blankly at her.
“You said something to her, didn’t you?” he demanded.
“To whom?” Mary asked calmly.
“Lisa!” Steven relayed the tale of Lisa’s sudden decision to include Kraig in any nocturnal activities.
All three women stared at him expectantly.
“And?” Samantha demanded, “Was it good?”
“Oh please!” Steven snapped, “Kraig…well OK, even I can admit he’s attractive, but I can’t. It’s just not my thing. I was out all night wandering through the bars, trying to find one, just one normal woman!”
“I would have gone for it,” Samantha muttered, turning back to a magazine padd.
“Maybe you would have,” Steven shrugged, “But I’m sorry, I just can’t go for that kind of thing,”
“Well, we didn’t say anything to her,” Mary said, “Honestly. Maybe she just figured things out herself?”
“Yeah,” Steven sighed, “I guess so. But you know what? I’ve learned my lesson. For the rest of the trip, I promise that any time I talk to a woman, it will be to help her relax and have fun, not to get into her pants.
“Good boy,” Mary smiled, “He can be taught!”
“So,” Bhen and Khres were seating at a back table with Kraig as the later downed a very strong Mary’s Blood wine, “Did it work?”
“No,” Kraig sighed, “Lisa was as seductive as I’ve ever seen her, but he just would not crack,”
“Cheer up,” Bhen said gruffly, “perhaps the next woman chaser who passes though will be more receptive,”
“One can only hope,” Kraig sighed, draining his glass.
Several days later…
Noonan watched from the control booth as the runabout Niagara landed in Shuttlebay 2. Riding the lift to the main deck, he reached the runabout hatch just as Steven and his staff was disembarking.
“I hope your vacation was enjoyable,” he said in greeting.
“Great,” Mary said.
“Relaxing,” Becky smiled.
“Fun,” Samantha purred.
Steven was quiet for a moment.
“It took a few days,” he admitted, “But I had a good time,”
“A very good time,” Samantha added.
“As soon as he lost the ‘let’s bang’ attitude, the women were all over him!” Beckly smirked.
“I’m pleased to hear you had a pleasant time,” Noonan said sincerely, “However, I feel I should fill you in on some recent events…”
Ensign Pysternzyks was just getting ready to start maintenance on the Hudson when a series of shouts rang through the shuttlebay.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE’VE GOT COMPETITION??”