Author: Brendan Chris
Captain’s Log, Stardate 58025.7:
“As per Starfleet Orders, we’re proceeding directly to the nearest outpost, Starbase 45, to await the arrival of Admiral Edward Tunney. It would seem our discovery of a T’Parief look-alike has concerned Starfleet sufficiently to send Tunney and a team of specialists in person to examine the body. But I guess they’re not concerned enough to really give us any orders other than ‘hurry up and wait’! Not that it really matters. It’s not like that corpse is going to get up and leave or anything,”
Stafford paused in his log recording for a moment to turn to Wowryk.
“Right?” he asked.
Rolling her eyes, Wowryk nodded.
Stafford returned to his log.
“On the other hand, Starfleet is paying attention to us and taking us very seriously. I wonder if we’re in trouble or something?”
“Regardless, I’m determined to give Tunney a proper reception when he arrives. Never mind that he is my commanding officer, he’s also the guy who kept Unbalanced Equations out of Guinanco’s hands,”
Stafford, Jeffery, Wowryk and Yanick were reclining comfortably in the Captain’s Dining Room while a Guinanco waiter set their meals in front of them. Little Luke, AKA Lord Stalart, was sitting in a high chair next to Wowryk. He and Stafford were eying each other grimly.
/<So, Captain,/> Stalart thought-spoke, /<We meet again. Gaze deeply into my eyes, and behold your doom!/>
“Did you have to bring him?” Stafford asked Wowryk, oblivious to Stalart’s telepathy, “He’s staring at me!”
“My taking care of him was YOUR idea,” Wowyrk pointed out.
“Yeah,” Stafford sighed, “As you’ve reminded me about two hundred times. As long as he doesn’t make a fuss,”
“May I offer anybody a refill on your beverages?” the Guinanco waiter asked calmly, “Perhaps relationship advice?”
“No, thank you,” Stafford said sharply.
Nodding, the waiter stepped into the tiny lift that took him back down to the galley.
“Ugh,” Stafford groaned, “Who could THAT possibly be?”
“Yer the Captain,” Yanick pointed out, “Maybe we’ve found a new star system, or we’ve been attacked, or maybe they ran out of toilet paper in the bridge restroom again…”
“OK,” Stafford replied, getting up, “One, we’re in the middle of explored space. Two, if we’d been attacked, the bridge would have commed me. And three, we agreed that we’d never bring that incident up again!”
He thumbed the wall panel and the doors hissed open, revealing Steven standing there with a tray of drinks.
“Evening all!” he announced pleasantly as he walked in, “I’ve got a strawberry milkshake for Ensign Yanick, purified spring water for the good Doctor, a Long Island iced tea for the Captain-“
“Steven,” Stafford stated flatly, “What are you doing? We didn’t order anything!”
“Well,” Steven said, setting Yanick’s milkshake by her side, “We all know that Guinanco can’t mix drinks to save their lives, so I thought I’d-“
“Awww!” Yanick gushed, “Thanks!”
“Look, Steve,” Stafford was getting exasperated, “we’ve been through this. Guiananco isn’t replacing you! Just keep doing things the way you’ve always done them!”
“I just want to provide you with excellent customer ser-“ Steven tried to explain
“Thanks,” Stafford said, “Now, if you don’t mind, we’re trying to eat!”
“OK,” Steven turned back to the door, “But we’ve got some great specials going on tonight-“
“Uh huh, yeah.” Stafford ushered him out.
“Hold on,” Jeffery called, “We still want the drinks!”
“FINE!” Stafford snapped, taking the tray from Steven and thumbing the ‘door close’ panel, “God, here I though Luke would be the worst fuss of the night!”
/<’Worst fuss’, hmmm?/> Stalart thought to himself, /<Well, TAKE THAT!/>
The baby-like alien pushed his baby food off his high-chair, knocking it to the floor and splattering baby-food all over the carpet.
“Luke!” Wowryk exclaimed, “What are you doing? Ugh, now I have to clean that up!”
“Doctor, please,” Stafford gave a slightly evil grin as he returned to his seat, “I’ll handle it,”
Wowryk looked skeptically at him, halfway out of her seat.
“You will?” she asked.
“Yup,” Stafford nodded, then proceeded to press the button that would summon the Guinanco waiter back.
“You are SOO evil!” Yanick giggled, “I love it!”
Wowryk frowned, but took her seat.
“Y’know, Chris,” Jeffery said, digging into his mutton chops, “Ah really gotta admit that having Guinanco here really isn’t that bad,” he popped a piece of chop in his mouth and continued talking, “this stuff is better then the stuff our replicators put out,”
“Jeffery, please,” Wowryk reprimanded, “Chew with your mouth closed,”
“Yes, dear,” Jeffery replied, still chewing.
Wowryk cleared her throat.
Jeffery swallowed, then grinned sheepishly.
“So where’s T’Parief?” Wowryk asked Yanick, “I was hoping to have a word with him this evening?”
“Oh,” Yanick sipped her beer, “he’s running the Beta security team through a drill. I guess he’s worried that the Hazardous Team is tying up all the training resources,”
“Good thinking,” Stafford nodded to himself.
“From T’Parief?” Yanick smiled, “Always. He’s a pretty smart guy!”
“Fire! Fire!” T’Parief screamed, rolling around on the ground and trying to smother the mostly-harmless (but slightly painful) holographic flames that covered his body.
“Here!” Ensign P’meth shouted, throwing a heavy blanket over the fallen officer and working to smother the flames.
After he extinguished the flames and regained his footing, T’Parief glared at each of the members of Beta team in turn.
“What did I tell you regarding flamethrowers?” he asked coldly.
“Um,” one pale crewman shakily raised his hand, “Only use them when you’re in the lead point of your attack formation,”
“Correct,” T’Parief growled, “And what did you all do?”
“We used them when were weren’t the lead point of the attack formation,” the crewman continued nervously,”
“We already have a Hazardous Team,” T’Parief said coldly, his voice rising from a grown to a roar, “Perhaps I should suggest that we nickname this squad ‘The Flaming Queens’?!”
“Please, no,” murmured Ensign Bith.
“THEN I SUGGEST YOU SHAPE UP!” T’Parief snarled, storming out of the holodeck.
Shortly after dinner, Stafford had scheduled a practice session for most of Silverado’s officers in the main shuttlebay. As the last few stragglers crowded in, Stafford, Noonan and T’Parief stood on a small stand to address the group. Noonan’s features still had a faint tracing of scar tissue from an accident suffered a few months ago, but the marks were vanishing at a speed that impressed even Dr. Wowryk.
“You’ll probably all wondering,” Stafford began, “Why I ordered you all here during your off-duty hours-“
“Wondering, yeah,” somebody grumbled.
“Silence!” T’Parief snapped.
“Um,” Stafford said, glancing at his security chief, “Right. Thank you. Anyway, as you’re no doubt aware, Admiral Tunney will be arriving tomorrow in regards to the dead body sitting in the morgue and to conduct a brief inspection of the ship,” he turned to Noonan and nodded.
“As you know,” Noonan began calmly, “protocol requires a certain amount of ceremony when an Admiral makes a formal inspection. Mr. T’Parief will therefore be leading you through a review of the parade drill required. Mr. T’Parief,” Noonan stepped back.
“Form up,” T’Parief stated, the command indicating that the officers should fall into rank and prepare for drill (marching) maneuvers.
There was some grumbling from the ranks. Parade drill wasn’t exactly common in Starfleet, but it was taught at the Academy. Drill wasn’t very difficult, once you got the hang of the different movements and commands. Most crews could be called upon to go through an Admiral’s parade inspection at a moments notice. Stafford and Noonan however, felt that it was better to give their people some practice first.
“FORM UP!” T’Parief snarled again. Stafford and even Noonan jumped a little from the ferocity of the security chief’s growl.
“Is it me,” Stafford whispered, “Or has he been a little cranky lately?”
“Can you blame him?” Noonan replied, “He just found out that there are other beings just like him. And he can’t exactly get an explanation on that from a corpse,”
“True enough,” Stafford agreed.
T’Parief was something of an anomaly, having been the product of a Gorn father and a half Klingon, half Andorian mother. It had taken the geneticists years to figure out how to help them procreate, and T’Parief was the result. He had two brothers, but while T’Parief took largely after their father in terms of looks, his brothers took after their mother. He’d been thought to have been unique, the only one of his kind in existance.
All that had changed after Silverado had been attacked by a group of starfighters piloted by beings identical to T’Parief.
The officers had finally formed up into ranks and stood at attention as T’Parief, Stafford and Noonan moved down the ranks, correcting their stances.
“Arms straight down your sides,” Stafford admonished Lieutenant Quintane, “And make sure you get a haircut tonight,”
“Starfleet protocol requires that non-regulation jewelry be removed,” Noonan reminded Ensign Pysternzyks, “Remove it,”
“I challenge you to combat!” the Andorian said smartly, “To the death!”
“I think not. This is Starfleet, not the Andorian Space Force,” Noonan’s eyes bored into Pysternzyks, “Now remove the earring,”
“I will remove the earring,” Pysternzyks muttered tonelessly.
Once everybody was reasonably presentable, T’Parief resumed his command position and prepared to try some simple drill moves.
Standing behind the group of officers, Stafford braced himself.
“Squad!” T’Parief called out in military sing-song, “Right, turn!”
Stafford sighed as no fewer than four officers turned to the left.
“Fix yourselves,” T’Parief growled.
There was some shuffling as the offending persons corrected their positioning.
“Forward,” T’Parief called,
“I can’t watch,” Stafford whispered, squeezing his eyes shut.
It was nearly midnight before T’Parief returned to his quarters, his throat raw from screaming. It had taken several hours to whip the ship’s officers into shape, but he could at least rest satisfied that they would perform acceptably for the admiral. His first marching command had been disastrous; everybody was out of sync, stepping on each other’s feet, banging arms into each other and generally looking like crap. It hadn’t helped that T’Parief had been so intent on correcting their marching that he wasn’t paying much attention to WHERE they were marching and managed to march them right into a repair bay, disrupting a shuttle warp core calibration and shorting out valuable diagnostic equipment.
Undressing and stepping into his sonic shower, T’Parief was briefly faced with his reflection in the mirror. Swallowing, he looked away. His body. His one of a kind body. He’d been thrilled to get it back from Lt. Jall, and rightly so. But to find out that not only were there others with the same form as he, they had for some reason decided to attack and attempt to destroy Silverado was something that weighted heavily on his mind. They had attempted actions that ran in direct opposition to his job as security chief. Stafford, Fifebee and Wowryk were carefully avoiding any mention of the fact and had refused to speculate as to the source of the attackers, but T’Parief knew there could be only one source.
His father. And K’Eleese.
Stepping out of the shower and moving to his bedroom, his gaze caught on his custom bed; double wide, with a slot in one half that allowed him to sleep on his back without crushing his tail. Standard Gorn bedding actually, although T’Parief preferred a somewhat softer mattress than the leather and iron framework used by the Gorn. He definitely didn’t like the Klingon version; a flat, hard shelf. His brothers preferred that type of bedding.
He never did understand why his younger brothers were so different from him. They had the same parents, and presumably the same doctors had worked together to bring them to term. But while he was more reptilian and far more intelligent, they were mammals and pretty stupid ones at that.
But why were they different? It just made no sense to him. If you had a Klingon and a Human parent, you didn’t have one human child and one Klingon child, you had two hybrid children.
What the hell?
He remembered asking his father that same question as a child. His father had merely sampled the air with his tongue and informed T’Parief that such things were not of his concern. Of course, the language had been somewhat harsher, leading the young hybrid to simply shut up and not ask.
Of course, now his father was gone.
He considered calling his mother and asking her, but he knew that he could not reveal information regarding their find until it was declassified by Starfleet.
He could ask without revealing that though….
He walked over to his comm unit and punched in his mother’s code. After a moment, the Klingon/Andorian woman appeared on the screen.
“Hello?” she smiled when she saw him, “Pari! What a surprise! I’m so pleased to hear from you!”
“Mother,” T’Parief said softly, ignoring her use of the irritating nickname, “How are you?”
“Quite well, thank you,” she replied, “Sufficient time has passed that I now have full control of your father’s assets and I have begun dating the most charming Lemnorian!”
“I am pleased you are well,” T’Parief said.
“Can the formality, Pari,” Klexish growled, “what’s wrong?”
“Since you were a kid, I could always tell when you were upset. The two meter pole would get buried even deeper up your-“
“I need to know something about our family,” T’Parief interrupted. He paused, then swallowed, “Why are my brothers and I so different?”
Klexish was silent.
“T’Parief,” she said finally, “You must understand that Gorn, Andorians and Klingons are all very proud species. When I was to become pregnant, we had to decide if our children would be mammals or reptiles. To satisfy Klingon, Andorian and Gorn honour, we decided we would have both. You were are our reptile, your brothers the mammals,”
T’Parief nodded. So far, so good. A reasonable, innocent answer.
“At least,” Klexish sighed, “That’s what I thought,”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about those days, since your father left with the files the geneticists put together,” she admitted, “And there are a few things that don’t make sense. Changes made to your brothers that didn’t seem to have any real explanation, genetic modifications that didn’t seem necessary,”
“Genetic engineering is illegal in the Federation,” T’Parief mused.
“Not when used for cross-species procreation,” Klexish pointed out.
“I see,” T’Parief was silent, “Is there anything else you can remember?”
“No, Pari,” his mother looked worried, “Is something wrong? What’s happening.”
“I cannot discuss it, mother,” T’Parief replied, “I must go. Please contact me if you remember anything else,”
“Understood,” Klexish nodded, then smiled, “Good night, my child,”
“Good night, mother,”
Stafford was seated in his command chair the next morning, pouring over a padd as his senior staff went about their duties. Yanick was holding the ship near Starbase 45 while Fifebee took advantage of the Starbase’s proximity to update several of her scientific databases. Jall, looking somewhat bored, was downloading updates for the computer core software.
Noonan, having returned from a brief inspection of the science labs, stopped near the large schematic of Silverado that dominated the rear of the bridge.
“Captain,” he said, frowning, “could you please come here for a moment?”
“Huh?” Stafford looked up from his padd and looked around the bridge before his gaze settled on Noonan, “Oh, sure,”
He joined his First Officer by the schematic.
“What’s the problem,” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” Noonan replied, “Something seems wrong with this status readout, but I’m not sure what it is…”
Stafford gazed at the schematic view of his ship. The display showed above and side cross-sections of the ship. Adjacent displays could be zoomed in to examine particular systems, sections or components.
Stafford couldn’t put his finger on it, but something was definitely wrong.
“Stafford to Engineering,”
“Jeffery here,” Jeffery tapped his comm-badge as Frat and Frek Naketh, two of his engineering officers stared at the Master Systems console in Main Engineering, scratching their heads.
“Simon,” Stafford said, “We’re having a bit of a problem up here. We’re looking at the ship status display, and something’s not right,”
“Aye,” Jeffery nodded, “Tell, me, Chris old buddy, do ye see any red indicator icons on the ship readout?”
“Ummmm….no,” Stafford replied.
“Any error messages?”
“Flashing red lights?”
“Aye, we see the same down here,” Jeffery nodded, even though Stafford couldn’t see him.
“So why did you ask me all that?” Stafford wanted to know.
“Because ye still haven’t clued in on one very simple, yet long awaited fact:” Jeffery paused dramatically, “Everything is working properly!”
Up on the bridge Stafford looked to Noonan, then over to Jall.
“Jall?” he asked, “Did you know about this?”
“About what?’ Jall asked.
“Everything is working!”
“It’s just that, well,” Stafford grinned, “This is a first for Silverado! No wonder this status readout looked so wrong, there isn’t a single error or red light on it!”
“I thought,” Fifebee cut in, “That Mr. Jeffery had estimated that it would take considerably longer to fully iron out the problems we’ve been having, integrating new systems with the older hardware already on board,”
“He did,” Jall cut in, “He just didn’t count on having so much help,”
“The refit at Deneria helped,” Jall said, “They repaired or replaced everything that was that was damaged. But our biggest problem has always been integrating old and new equipment, and in that case…”
Singing softly to herself in the ship’s cyberspace, the sentient computer personality that went by the name of Sylvia was having a calm, uneventful day. She occupied the section of the computer data core that was normally occupied by the computer’s personality profile and verbal user interface. The majority of her time was spent dealing directly with the crew, fielding replicator requests, information queries, systems commands and even general chit-chat to the appropriate sections of the computer core. When she tired of that, she could draw back and allow the computer AI, a veritable moron compared to her, take over the regular drudgery of day-to-day computing while she perused more entertaining activities. At the moment, she was processing crew requests while performing security and auto-nanny sensor sweeps of the Rengs’ cabin, the educational section and any other part of the ship where children were present. She was also swapping recipes with the replicator control system on Starbase 45 and assisting Frit Naketh with routine ship maintenance.
“Yes, Chris?” Sylvia answered immediately, her voice-pattern analysis systems identifying the Captain and his location, allowing her to project the face she had chosen onto the nearest display panel, “What can I do for you?”
“I was hoping we could have a little face-to-face chat. Could you meet me in Holodeck 1 please?”
“Of course, Captain,”
Sylvia immediately accessed the holodeck control protocols and loaded the holographic program she had created for herself. Technically, she could project herself as a hologram anywhere in the ship using the same projection systems used by Lieutenant Fifebee. She generally avoided doing so, as she found confining her awareness to one location to be extremely limiting, much like closing one eye and tying your arms behind your back.
Taking one last nanosecond to add Wowryk’s adopted child Luke to the auto-nanny high-priority list (the little guy was always getting into trouble!) Sylvia transferred her awareness to the holodeck.
Sylvia looked around in shock, mentally kicking herself for not scanning the holodeck for occupants first, disregarding the thought as her holographic eyes took in the scene in the holodeck.
She was standing in a reproduction of Stafford’s childhood home, a program she had used frequently when interacting with crewmembers on the holodeck. Surrounding her was Stafford, Jeffery, Noonan, Fifebee, Jall and Lieutenant Sage from the engineering night shift.
“What’s going on?” Sylvia asked, smiling in spite of herself.
“Since this is Silverado’s first day without any unexpected systems errors, glitches or crashes, we thought we should mark the occasion!” Jeffery explained.
“And,” Stafford added, “since Mr. Jeffery and Mr. Jall here both agree that they never would have reached this point so quickly without your help, we just wanted to say ‘thank you’!”
“Oh you guys!” Sylvia blushed, turning deep red, “You didn’t have to do anything! It’s my job! It’s what I’m here for!”
“Not to mention expanding our replicator recipe database by fifty percent,” Jall added.
“Taking care of Captain Baird for us back at Deneria,” Stafford added.
“And sparing us from having to listen to ‘Command unclear, please repeat’ fifty times every day,” Sage, the night shift engineer, jumped in.
“We know this isn’t really your thing,” Stafford said, “But we wanted to do something nice. So here it is…
Dr. Wowryk walked into the dining room carrying a large while cake, an image of Silverado having been drawn in icing, the words ‘Glitch free for 1 day!’ scrawled in bright neon blue icing.
Despite not having taste buds, or a stomach, Sylvia happily accepted the first piece.
“Well,” Dr. Wowryk commented as she and Stafford left the holodeck, “That was quite the morale booster,”
“If you say so, Doctor,”
“I do,” Wowryk pushed on with a smile, “I think it was a wonderful thing to do. Sylvia’s had a bit of a rocky start with us, and it’s important to remember that she has feelings and needs too,”
“Wow,” Stafford muttered, “Today is just a day of surprises. The ship is working properly, we have an Admiral dropping by and you approve of something I’ve done,”
“So everything’s perfect?”
“Hardly,” he growled, “We’ve got a dead body in the morgue and our sharp-toothed security chief is in a very bad mood,”
“Bridge to Captain Stafford,”
“Stafford here,” Stafford tapped his comm-badge.
“Sir, the Admiral’s ship is arriving,” reported the duty officer.
“On my way,”
“Well,” Noonan smiled wide as Stafford and Wowryk exited the rear turbolift onto the bridge. Jall and Fifebee were emerging from the forward turbolift.
“You look happy,” Stafford commented, stepping down from the rear of the bridge and settling into his command chair, “What’s up?”
Noonan tapped at the small panel inset into his armrest. A ship appeared on the main viewscreen.
“Is that…” Stafford squinted, “No way!”
Starlight glinted off her hull as the USS Stallion eased into the system.
“Hey,” Wowryk frowned, “Isn’t that the ship were we found those stranded hillbillies?”
“It sure is,” Noonan smiled, “The only Constitution-class ship in active service,”
“And the second ship to be added to Operation Salvage” Stafford shook his head, “What do you know? I had no idea they’d finished refitting her,”
“It’s been well over a year since we delivered her to the refit dock,” Noonan reminded him, “I suspect that she’s been on active duty for quite some time,”
“She looks pretty,” Yanick commented from the helm.
The U.S.S. Stallion was looking much better then she had when the Silverado had hauled her out of the Rigel VI Salvage Depot and delivered her to Earth for refitting. Her nacelles were the perfect contrast of bright hull platesand the deep grey of 23rd century style warp grills that accented each side. Her navigational deflector assembly had been retrofitted, with additional sensor systems being added to the concave dish, and the paired spheres of 23rd century phaser emitters had been replaced with the phaser strips used in the 24th century.
“We’re being hailed,” Jall reported, “Should I tell them to buzz off?”
“No,” Stafford snapped, “put them on screen,”
Admiral Tunney appeared on the screen, next to a young woman with Captain’s pips that Stafford didn’t recognize.
“Admiral Tunney,” Stafford nodded, “Welcome to, er,” Stafford realized he really couldn’t welcome the Admiral anywhere specific and shrugged, “um, here,”
“Yeah, thanks for that,” Tunney nodded back, “Between you and me, the more light-years between me and my wife, the better,”
“Uh, of course,” Stafford fumbled for words while Jall muttered something that sounded like ‘TMI’, “If you’d care to beam aboard, we can begin the inspection,”
“Right, about that,” Tunney looked nervous, “If you don’t mind, I’d rather take a shuttle,”
“Admiral,” Noonan said, bringing himself to his feet, “I assure you that our transporters-“
“I’m not worried about you,” Tunney interrupted, “Let’s just say that the Stallion’s transporter had a little accident with my luggage!”
The Stallion’s captain swallowed.
“We’ll ready the shuttlebay,” Stafford said, holding back his chuckles until the Admiral was off the screen.
T’Parief watched quietly from the shuttlebay control booth as the Admiral’s shuttle landed gently on the deck. A pair of crewmen quickly dropped a short flight of stairs alongside the shuttle. Tunney emerged, followed by two officers wearing the blue of Sciences & Medical.
He watched as Stafford called the attending Silverado officers to attention and turned to address the Admiral. After a brief talk, Stafford led Tunney up and down the ranks on a brief inspection. T’Parief could see that Tunney was surprised about something. Clearly, T’Parief thought to himself, the man had been paying too much attention to rumors without bothering to actually investigate the capabilities of Silverado and her crew.
Finally, Stafford dismissed everybody and departed with Tunney. T’Parief turned and headed back to his office.
“I’ll admit,” Tunney said as he and Stafford walked through Silverado on Tunney’s inspection, Tunney’s assistants remaining in the shuttlebay, “I’m impressed. The ship is in good shape, and the crew looks fairly disciplined. What’s the catch?”
“If you drop by Unbalanced Equations later, you’ll change your mind,” Stafford chuckled, “They’re a good crew, but they can be damned rowdy when they want to be!”
“Sounds like my kids,” Tunney snorted.
“Admiral,” Stafford said carefully, “Excuse me if I’m being rude, but what’s the deal? This is the first time you’ve stepped foot on this ship since I was added to your command, and it took a dead body resembling our own security chief to get you out here,” he paused, looking for any negative signs from Tunney.
“Keep going,” Tunney encouraged him.
“But you haven’t even asked to examine the corpse yet,” Stafford continued, “the first thing you asked to do was inspect the ship. You’ve chatted with nearly a dozen crewmen, tripped over one of the many Ensign Nakeths we’ve got running around Engineering and even found time to meet that awful little critter of Wowryk’s-“
“Yes, the alien baby you found near Tantulus,” Tunney shrugged, “I wonder if somebody will come looking for him someday?”
“Who knows?” Stafford shrugged, “I know Jeffery sure hopes so. But what’s the deal?”
“Perhaps now would be a good time to inspect a more private location?” Tunney suggested.
Stafford nodded, then turned to lead the Admiral towards the bridge and his ready room.
Grunting, T’Parief seriously considered either not answering the door to the security office or simply shouting for somebody else to get it. But he was the officer on duty, taking his turn at the desk while he scanned through the security updates from Starfleet, and it was his job.
Why the hell was somebody ringing the chime anyway? The door wasn’t locked! This was an office, not the weapons locker for crying out loud!
Tapping the button on his console to open the door, T’Parief looked up to see Dr. Noel Wowryk walking in, a hypospray in one hand.
“Mr. T’Parief,” she said coolly, “I have been trying to speak to you for the past three days. Why have you been ignoring my requests for a meeting?”
“Because,” he growled, “the only possible thing you could want to discuss with me would be the body in Sickbay. I do not wish to discuss it.”
“Right,” Wowryk crossed her arms, “and it never occurred to you that I might want to help you plan a surprise for Trish’s birthday next month?”
“Her birthday is next month?” T’Parief’s brow ridge rose in surprise.
“No,” Wowryk shrugged, “I actually need to talk to you about your, um, problem.”
“How did Trish put it?” Wowryk thought to herself, “Ah yes, ‘deer in headlights’?”
T’Parief quickly looked around; making sure that none of his staff heard that remark.
“My office,” he hissed, leading her further into the Security department.
Wowryk settled into the chair across from T’Parief desk, looking around at the blank walls of his cramped, windowless office.
“Cozy,” she commented.
“You wish to discuss my…problem?” T’Parief prodded.
It was an unfortunate truth, one that he didn’t like to admit, but quite simply, T’Parief was incapable of mating.
He hadn’t even realized the problem until he started dating Ensign Yanick, as improbable as that may be. He hadn’t exactly spent a lot of time dating. But the first time they tried to…consummate their relationship, the ‘problem’ raised its ugly head. They could kiss, they could hug, but as soon as T’Parief reached a certain stage, his brain simply shut down. He froze up like a deer in the middle of the road, incapable of anything aside from breathing for several minutes. Wowryk had grudgingly agreed to look at the problem, but had had little luck. So far.
“I suspected that the problem had a psychological component,” she started, “As you recall, Jall was quite capable of sinful acts when he was in your body. Likewise, when we were under the influence of the damaged Matrian SID, your altered personality committed evil carnal acts with the hologram of Jadzia Dax,”
“Please don’t remind me,” T’Parief sighed, “and definitely don’t remind Trish,”
“What I couldn’t understand,” Wowryk went on, “Was the complete shutdown. I ran full scans on you in that state, and it was clearly a physical reaction,”
She cleared her throat.
“I suppose,” she said, “That with my therapy progressing, I am able to look at your problem in a more…objective light. Anyway, here,” she handed him the hypo.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“The cure,” she said, “sort of. When I was examining the body, I found that a gland present in your body was absent from the corpse. I went back to my scans of you, and found that you have some kind of reaction that activates that gland when you get…um, that is, when you….ugh,” Wowryk shook her head, “Sickening,”
“I get the idea, Doctor,” T’Parief nodded, “When matters between Trish and I escalate, the gland is activated?”
“Right,” Wowryk nodded, “And it dumps some kind of sedative into your system. With Jall’s brainwaves running around your head, the gland never activated. Something in the Matrian SID prevented it from kicking as well. It probably has something to do with your unique brainwave patterns, since the gland is very close to your cerebral cortex,”
“I see,” T’Parief contemplated the ramifications of this, “why not simply remove the gland from myself?”
“I don’t understand its purpose well enough to advise that,” she said, “For all I know, the absence of that gland is what caused, er…”
“Caused my counterparts to become murderous beasts?” T’Parief suggested.
“That drug will prevent the gland from releasing the sedative,” she said, nodding at the hypospray, “You should be able to a perfectly sinful, um, normal sex life,”
T’Parief looked at her for several seconds.
“And you’re giving it to me?” he finally asked.
“Yes,” Wowryk nodded.
“Knowing I may use it to copulate with your best friend?”
Wowryk’s gaze froze.
“Commander,” she said cooly, “My duty on this ship is to look after the medical welfare of this crew. Regardless of my personal beliefs, I am bound to aid those who require it,”
“Like Rengs Meris?” T’Parief asked, referring to a woman whose baby Wowryk had opted out of delivering due to religious clashes.
“I supervised,” Wowryk snapped, “Nurse Kerry is fully competent, and managed the birth perfectly. I would have stepped in if anything had happened!”
“My apologies, Doctor,” T’Parief said softly, “I greatly appreciate your efforts,”
“I suppose,” she said, “that Yvonnokoff has been doing me some good after all. If I can’t give Jeffery a normal relationship, at least I can help you and Trish have one,”
“Don’t hesitate to come by Sickbay if you have further questions,” she said, suddenly all business.
“Thank you,” T’Parief nodded as Wowryk left.
“Well,” T’Parief commented, staring at the hypo and analyzing what Wowryk had told him, “this complicates things somewhat.”
“Well then” Stafford said, once he and Tunney were seated in his ready room, a pitcher of fruit juice sitting on the desk, “what’s the deal?”
Tunney gave him a look.
“Uh, sir,” Stafford added meekly.
“First, your mission,” Tunney said, “We’ve done our best to track the origins of the raiders that attacked you,”
“The T’Parief look-alikes,” Stafford nodded,
“Right,” Tunney agreed, “I read his report, and he suggests that K’Eleese and his father are responsible,”
“Good luck finding them,” Stafford shrugged, “From what I understand, Lieutenant Porter from Waystation managed to trick her into running off to some parallel universe!”
“Right,” Tunney said, “We found an unauthorized tap into Starfleet records, specifically, a query into Silverado’s location about three days before the attack. We traced it back to the Birtal system. There are no inhabited planets, but long-range sensors show signs of a spatial disturbance. It’s your job to investigate. Find out where those raiders came from. If possible, apprehend K’Eleese, if she is in fact responsible.
“And what if another universe is involved?” Stafford asked, suddenly very worried.
“Use,” his voice was strained, “Your best judgment,”
“Well,” he finally said, “Considering the way Starfleet’s treated us over the past two years, I never thought I’d hear those words from a Fleet Admiral!”
Tunney was silent for a moment.
“What have you heard about Operation Salvage in the past few months?” he asked.
“I’ve heard that they’ve been turning out about a ship every month or two,” he said, “which is a hell of a lot faster than any shipyard could manage,” he shrugged again, “that’s about it,”
“Have you also heard,” Tunney asked, “that all Operation Salvage ships have been placed under my flag?”
“No,” Stafford admitted, “I kinda thought they were being spread out through the whole fleet,”
“I wish,” Tunney grunted, then stood to pace.
“Captain,” he said, “when you were first assigned to me, yours was the oldest ship and least experienced crew under my command. You’ve probably noticed a bit of a change in your assignments lately,”
“We’re been pulled off the long-range exploratory stuff,” Stafford said cautiously, “and we’ve been spending more time on missions inside Federation space,”
“Exactly,” Tunney said. He was quiet for a moment, “What do you think of the U.S.S. Stallion?’
Stafford shrugged yet again.
“She looks OK from the outside,” he said.
“Right,” Tunney said, “So do the Nederland, the Neches, and the Beaumont. All the Operation Salvage ships. But on the inside, none of them have made even half the progress you people have!”
“Yay us,” Stafford said cautiously.
“We have over a dozen ships now that look well and good,” Tunney said, a very worried look on his face, “but they are not up to fleet standard! That’s why Silverado is running normal starship duty now, while they’re being kept as far out of sight as we can manage!”
“But what does this have to do with us?” Stafford asked.
“Your ship has made the most progress in reaching normal operation,” Tunney said, “The organizers of Operation Salvage didn’t realize just how difficult restoring an old starship could be. But somehow, you’ve managed better than any of those other crews. Based on the reports we’ve been getting, my analysts believe they’ve located the source behind your success,”
“Right,” Stafford said, frowning. He didn’t like where this was going.
“Sylvia,” Tunney called, “Would you join us, please?”
There was a shower of holographic sparks, and Sylvia materialized, wearing a Starfleet dress uniform.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Admiral,” she said politely.
“Likewise,” Tunney nodded.
“Now look, Admiral Tunney,” Stafford was sweating, “I know Sylvia isn’t exactly Starfleet regulation spec, but-“
“Relax, Captain,” Tunney cut in, “I know you’ve tried to keep her presence quiet, but you’ll find that a sentient computer isn’t that easy to hide. Especially when she aggravates a senior Captain in command of a major drydock!” he turned to regard Sylvia again, who was watching quietly, “But it also doesn’t take much reading between the lines to realize what a benefit she’s been to you,”
“Thank you,” Sylvia smiled, “it’s nice to be appreciated!”
“That’s why I want to offer you a job,” Tunney continued.
“What?” Sylvia was taken aback.
Stafford’s jaw dropped.
“I’d like you to come with me to the Daystom institute,” Tunney continued, “Let the scientists take a look at you. Maybe see if we can figure out how to duplicate the circumstances that led to your creation. Once that’s done, you’d go from ship to ship, helping Operation Salvage get the rest of our ships up to the same level as Silverado,”
“You can’t throw her in a lab!” Stafford was aghast, “She’s…she’s…”
“A sentient life-form,” Tunney nodded, “Believe me, the last thing we need is another court-battle on AI rights. The whole holographic rights thing is crazy enough as it is! No,” he continued when Sylvia’s expression started to darken, “Sylvia is fully recognized as a sentient being, which is why I am offering her this position rather than ordering her into it,”
“I see,” Stafford said quietly.
“Admiral,” Sylvia smiled sweetly, “I certainly appreciate your frankness. I would like some time to consider your proposal.
“Of course,” Tunney smiled, standing to leave, “Captain, as much as it surprises me to say this, it’s been a pleasure. I believe you have a mission to prepare for,”
Tunney walked out.
Stafford stared at Sylvia for a moment.
“You’re not seriously considering going with him, are you?” he asked.
Fifebee was in Sickbay, running another scan on the alien corpse when Wowryk returned.
“Was he pleased?” Fifebee asked without looking up.
“As pleased as he ever gets,” Wowryk shrugged, “I can’t believe I just gave it to him!”
“You have come a long way, Doctor,” Fifebee said, tapping at the panel, “your relationship with your crewmates has improved greatly since you first came aboard,”
“Thanks,” Wowryk said dryly, “Have you started the quantum phase analysis the Captain asked for yet?”
“I am preparing the scan now,” Fifebee said, “I am awaiting Lieutenant Jall’s assistance in configuring the sensor system.
“I suppose I may as well make myself comfortable,” Wowryk sighed, sitting at a nearby workstation, “he’s never on time-“
“Try it now,” Jall said, getting up from behind an open panel.
“Never mind,” Wowryk muttered.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 58028.3:
“We’ve set course to the Birtal system, as per Admiral Tunney’s orders. Dr. Wowryk and Lieutenant Fifebee have completed their analysis of the alien body, again as per Tunney’s orderes,”
“I’ve tried to postpone this as long as possible, to try to give Mr. T’Parief time to come to terms with what’s happened, but with the ship now on a mission to track down whoever’s responsible for this, we need to face some ugly truths,”
Wowryk and Fifebee stood near the conference lounge display screen, a bio-readout of the dead alien on display.
“The alien has approximately the same anatomy as Mr. T’Parief,” Wowryk said, eyes flicking to where the security chief sat, silent and expressionless, “with a few minor differences, “she swallowed, “First, a gland near the base of the brain has been removed. The purpose of this gland is largely unknown, but it does control certain, um, bodily functions-“
“The good Doctor is attempting to spare my feelings,” T’Parief said coldly, “The gland in questions prevents me from mating,”
“Er, yes,” she said, swallowing.
“So, your big, powerful and impotent-“ Jall started.
“Jall,” Noonan’s voice was quiet but firm, “Not now,”
“Right,” Jall replied, instantly.
“Anyway,” Wowryk went on, “the other major difference is that the brain itself has been altered, possibly at the genetic level. Judging from the changes, I would say that this being was slightly less intelligent than Mr. T’Parief. In addition, parts of the brain controlling loyalty and obedience have been stimulated,”
“They’ve been dumbed down?” Stafford frowned, “What’s the point in that?”
“Not everybody thinks that a smart soldier is a good soldier,” Noonan said, “Some prefer blind obedience to creative thinking,”
“Tunney insisted that we run a quantum phasic scan,” Stafford said, bringing the briefing back on track, “What did that tell us?”
Jall took over.
“An objects quantum signature can be used to determine whether or not an object originated in a different universe,” he said, “T’Parief over here insists that K’Eleese and his father, uh Sexar?”
“Slezar,” T’Parief corrected.
“Whatever. Those two are the most likely to have information on where things like T’Parief could be found,” Jall shrugged, “Last I knew, they were off to another universe. It makes sense that Tunney wants to know if these guys are from here, or there.”
“Fifebee?” Stafford asked.
“We have determined that the alien is indeed from another universe,” Fifebee said, “We’ve also determined that he is about four weeks old and has been subject to a growth acceleration process of some kind,”
“So,” Ensign Yanick frowned, “T’Parief is from another universe?”
Wowryk and Fifebee exchanged glances.
“Mr. T’Parief was born and raised on Nisus,” Wowryk said gently, “This alien, on the other hand, was-“
“Cloned,” T’Parief grunted. He took a deep breath.
“I knew,” he continued, “As soon as we found the body, I knew. My father is using the research from my birth to raise an army. He has obviously found the technology to incubate, indoctrinate and accelerate the growth of these beings,”
“An army of T’Pariefs,” Stafford mused, “No offense, but that sounds extremely dangerous,”
“I agree,” Noonan said, “Lieutenant Commander, your services to this ship are beyond reproach. However, an army of beings combining the strength and combat abilities of Klingons, Andorians and the Gorn would not be healthy to the stability of the quadrant,”
“Which is why we’re chasing down K’Eleese and Slezar,” Stafford said, “We’ll be at the Birtal system in thirty-sex hours. Once there, we’ll need to try to follow the trail of these creatures, um, beings,” he amended, with a glance at T’Parief, “back to its source. Dismissed,”
Most of the officers filed out, Stafford motioning for Fifebee and Wowryk to remain.
“Why,” Stafford said slowly, “am I getting this feeling that there’s something you’re not sharing?”
“Captain,” Fifebee started, “While we certainly have some suspicions, we have nothing concrete. We have no evidence on which to base a solid theory,”
“If this is something that could impact my ship and crew-“ Stafford started.
“Doctor-patient confidentiality,” Wowryk reminded him.
“The patient is dead!” Stafford said firmly, “I know you’re trying to protect T’Parief, and that’s really good of you. But if there’s anything you know that can help us learn more about these lizard-things and where they came from-“
“We’ve finished analyzing the Project Triad files,” Fifebee said without preamble, “the documents relating to T’Parief’s conception,”
“Took you long enough,” Stafford commented, “We’ve only had them for how many months now?”
“They contained years of research and experimentation,” Wowryk declared indignantly, “I don’t think a man who can’t even turn on a bio-bed should be commenting on my medical skills!”
“Sorry, doc,” Stafford shrugged, “What did you find?”
“On the surface, everything is normal,” Wowryk said, “Records of DNA donors, in this case Klexish and Slezar. Listings of alterations to DNA and gene sequences, properly documented and justified, results of research into different ways of recombining the two DNA strands-“
“I thought genetic engineering was prohibited in the Federation,” Stafford asked.
“It is permissible to use genetic engineering to correct genetic disorders, or to help beings of difference races have children,” Fifebee explained, “provided that proper authorization and permits have been requested, approved and received,”
“You said ‘on the surface’,” Stafford cut back in, “what is wrong?”
Wowryk and Fifebee were silent for a moment.
“We’re not sure how to explain this,” Fifebee admitted.
“Be blunt,” Stafford advised.
“I don’t think mere reproduction was the final goal of Project Triad,” Wowryk said slowly, “there are items and anomalies that suggest that Slezar may have had another goal. What that goal was, we can only guess,”
Stafford was quiet for a moment.
“He’s using it to create an army now,” Stafford said, “Could that have been his goal all along?”
“Maybe,” Wowryk said, “but then why only create one? And what about T’Parief’s brothers? They’re nothing like him!”
Stafford was quiet again.
“Have you mentioned this to T’Parief?” he asked finally.
“Er, no,” Fifebee admitted, “But I suspect he knows, or at least suspects, far more than we do,”
T’Parief left the briefing, fully aware that Stafford would be grilling Wowryk and Fifebee for information on Project Triad. On the one hand, the information and project had been created with the explicit purpose of creating him. The fact that it was now being laid out for all to see was somewhat vexing. OK, let’s be honest here, it was really f**king annoying.
So why wasn’t he more upset? T’Parief wondered to himself as he rode the turbolift down to his quarters. He was angry, that much was sure. But not as much as he would have expected. Was it because he hoped they could find the truth that was eluding him? Did he actually trust these people enough that he was comfortable with them analyzing his anatomy at the molecular level?
Maybe. Except for Jall.
More likely, he decided, he just really didn’t care what the rest of the crew knew. Sure, the whole Project Triad thing had been his business, but with a squadron of his ‘race’ trying to blow up the ship, any rights to privacy they might have had were clearly being tossed out the nearest airlock. And rightly so, the security specialist in him realized.
Why didn’t he care though? Was there maybe some sequence, some bit of genetic code included that would prevent him from getting too curious about the whole Triad thing?
Now he was being paranoid.
The doors to his quarters swished open, driving most thoughts right from his head.
Ensign Trish Yanick was sprawled over the couch in his quarters, covered only by a shimmering shawl of Thallonian sick.
“Heya, handsome,” she purred.
“G, g, g…” T’Parief’s brain was on the verge of lockdown, getting closer and closer as Yanick climbed from the couch and walked towards him, every curve on her body contributing to the symphony of her motion.
Instantly, his mind cleared.
And his heart sank.
“You found Dr. Wowryk’s little present,” he growled.
“Guilty as charged,” Yanick gave a coy smile as she held up the hypo she had injected him with, “You’ve been having such a rough time lately, I thought I’d see what I could do to…cheer you up?”
“How did you know what that hypo would do?”
“I read the label,” Yanick said, pointing, “See? It says ‘take one dosage to reduce the effects of catatonia due to sexual excitement’. Right here, under your name, T’P-“
“I see,” T’Parief sighed. Stupid, over-efficient Dr. Wowryk, “Trish, do you, I mean, are we-“
“We’ve been going out for over a year,” Trish said, placing a hand on his arm, “Don’t you think it’s time for us to, y’know…”
T’Parief was silent.
“I can’t,” he said softly.
“Sure you can,” Yanick giggled, pointing back at the hypo label, “See? The hypo is good for about two hours-“
“No, I mean, I just,” T’Parief growled.
“It is not you,” he said, “And it is not the hypo,” he stood, clenching his fists, his claw tips digging into his palms, “My parents, for some reason, decided that I should not be able to mate. And until I learn why, I cannot put you at risk!” He turned to her, “They may have had a good reason for this!”
“You could call your mom and ask,” Trish offered.
“She,” T’Parief said softly, “is not the parent who can answer that question,”
“Well,” Yanick said, gathering her uniform and standing, “I hope you find the answer. When you do, I’ll be here for you,” she was quiet for a moment, “Do you need a hug?”
T’Parief smiled slightly.
“No,” he said, “But I could use some time alone,”
“What, and you just LEFT?” Wowryk asked. She and Yanick were seated in the mess hall, now know as ‘Le Plateau Argente’ since Guinanco had taken over. Most of the crew had just taken to calling it ‘Platterhead’s’. Partly due to the name and partly due to the huge, round, platter-like hats worn by the Guinanco employees
“Duh! Of course I just left!” Yanick replied, dumping about two hundred calories worth of salad dressing on her low-calorie salad, “He said he wanted some time alone, so I figured I’d come get something to eat!”
“Oh, sweety,” Patsy Horton, the head manager exclaimed, stopping at their table and grabbing a seat, “You didn’t!”
“Um,” Wowryk frowned, “Did we invite you to sit down?”
Horton raised an eyebrow.
“Part of my job as a Guinanco employee is to offer relationship advise and counseling to our patrons,” she said frostily.
“Again, did we invite you to sit down?”
“Don’t mind her,” Yanick explained, “She been a bitch to everybody since her boyfriend went and grew a spine,”
“Hey, we’re talking about YOUR relationship here!” Wowryk snapped, “Not mine!”
“There is NOTHING wrong with my relationship!” Yanick snapped back.
“Honey,” Horton put in, “When a man says he wants to be left alone it means he wants to talk. He has some deep, burning secret that is just dying to be let out!”
“Well,” Yanick shrugged, “Technically, T’Parief isn’t a man,” she frowned, “I’m not really sure what he is,”
“Oh right,” Horton nodded, her British accent crisp and clear, “He’s the large lizard looking fellow. The one with the fangs?”
“That’s him,” Trish nodded.
“Well,” Horton said, “He must be a man. He does have a penis, right?”
Wowryk’s face twitched.
“I thought you were taking treatments for that whole ‘fear of the penis’ thing,” Yanick asked her. Wowryk promptly twitched again.
“Yvonnokoff and I are working on it,” she growled, turning back to her salmon.
“Yeah,” Yanick turned back to Horton, “He’s got one of those. But, y’know, so does Jall and we’re not really sure we’d consider HIM a man!”
“And what were you doing when he said he wanted to be alone?” Patsy asked, leaning forward.
“She was trying to seduce him!” Wowryk snapped, drawing the attention of a family at the next table and blushing, “Sinful, degrading…” she muttered several comments before taking another bite.
“And he wanted to be left alone?” Horton was aghast, “Oh, sweety, you know what this means, don’t you? I am SO sorry!”
“What?” Yanick asked.
“Sooo,” Jall said, a somewhat bored expression on his face, “How’s, er, the weather?”
Fifebee raised an eyebrow.
“Lieutenant,” she said, “I sat here as there are no empty tables available, and I did not wish to wait. You needn’t assume that you must make conversation with me just because I am sitting across from you,”
“I was trying to be nice,” Jall growled softly, pausing to check out a hot ensign walking by, “Mmmm…cute butt…”
“Again with the ‘conversation is not necessary,” Fifebee sighed.
“Hey,” Jall shrugged, “Checking out the scenery is always a good thing,”
The peace of Le Plateau Argente was shattered as, across the room, Yanick jumped up from her seat and slammed Patsy Horton’s wide-brimmed hat down, the brim ending up stuck beneath her nose.
“My boyfriend is NOT gay!” Trish shrieked, storming out of the room.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 58030.5:
“We’ve arrived in the Birtal system and commenced our sensor scans. So far, the number of questions we have sure outweighs the number of answers. Let’s recap: We’re chasing after a crazy woman and a Gorn who may or may not be in another universe, who may or may not be making an army of mutants-“
Stafford became aware of a low rumbling directly behind him. Oh. That would be T’Parief growling. Whoops.
“-er, hybrid beings worthy of the same respect of any lifeform. They’ve probably been created using the same research that created Mr. T’Parief, which may or may not have been on the up and up,”
“And I’m suddenly getting very worried,”
“What do we have?” Noonan asked Fifebee as she ran her hands over the science station.
“I am picking up a spatial disturbance, near the fifth planet in the system,” she said.
“Does it look at all like any kind of dimensional portal?” Stafford asked.
“We are investigating alternate universes,” Fifebee stated, “Not other dimensions.
“Yeah,” Stafford said, “But anytime I say ‘universal portal’, Jall starts giggling,”
“I have record of several phenomena relating to parallel universes,” Fifebee stated, “Opening a portal is highly complex, but has been done before. The U.S.S. Secondprize opened a portal to the alternate universe known as the ‘Happyverse’ to obtain a happy beam, in the hopes of ending the Ugilious threat once and for all on stardate 54994.8.”
Everybody stared at her blankly.
“Captain Rydell?” she tried again, “Secondprize? The ship that rescued us when we got back from the 21st century?”
“Was that in the required reading?” Stafford whispered to Noonan.
“Not really,” Noonan whispered back, “it was in one of the appendices,”
“Anyway,” Fifebee rolled her eyes, “It’s possible. From my initial scans, it looks as though there was once an anomaly of some kind here, but it has since collapsed in on itself. I suggest we take a closer look,”
“One moment,” T’Parief’s panel had started beeping, “Sir, I have a ship on short-range sensors. Looks like a freighter,”
“Shouldn’t the long-range sensors have alerted us sooner?” Yanick asked from the helm.
“The ship is adrift and without power,” T’Parief explained, “The long-range scanners missed it,”
“Oh,” Yanick shrugged, “I love you, my heterosexual honey-bear,”
“Can we please focus here!” Stafford snapped, “T’Parief, take Jeffery and have Pysternzyks shuttle you over to the freighter. Yanick, once they’re away, take use closer to the rift so Fifebee can start her scans,”
Stafford sat firmly into his chair as his crew moved to follow his orders.
“That was SO not professional,” he grumbled to Noonan as the turbolift doors closed on T’Parief.
“Nobody’s perfect,” Noonan shrugged.
“So,” Pysternzyks asked conversationally as Jeffery and T’Parief strapped into the shuttlecraft Charger, “Where may I take you today? Certain doom? Oblivion?”
“Try the freighter driftin’ nearby,” Jeffery snapped at the Andorian pilot,”
“I hear Oblivion is nice this time of year,” Pysternzyks went on.
“Silence,” T’Parief growled.
There was silence as the shuttlebay doors opened and the shuttle flew smoothly away from the ship, her saucer receding beneath them. As Jeffery watched, Yanick pulled the ship into a smooth turn before firing up the impulse engines and sending her flying away from the freighter.
“Ah keep tellin’ her not to push the impulse engines like that,” Jeffery griped.
“And I keep telling her to get rid of her potpourri lizards,” T’Parief growled, clearly still in a bad mood, “She is stubborn sometimes,”
“Aye, most women are,” Jeffery agreed.
“Some more than others,” T’Parief added.
“Are ye trying to imply somethin’?” Jeffery demanded.
T’Parief was quiet.
“May I ask you something…in confidence?” he asked the engineer.
“Uh, Ah guess…”
“If Wowryk were to offer herself to you, what would you do?”
“Pinch meself and wake up,” he said, “Why, did Yanick…”
“Bud,” Jeffery said, “If ye don’t do something, she’s gonna think ye prefer…more masculine company,”
T’Parief crossed his arms and glared.
“I most certainly do not. I have…other concerns at the moment,” he said, “Let us change the topic,”
“Uh, sure,” Jeffery shrugged, “yer the one that brought it up,”
Jeffery and T’Parief were silent as they moved through the empty freighter. Each was clad in an environment suit, which they had donned in the shuttlecraft. Both had regretting not suiting up earlier, as the cramped cabin in the shuttle was especially cramped with a two and a half meter tall lizard trying to squeeze into a space suit.
They had found nothing so far. They’d docked at a docking port, using manual overrides to open the powerless doors. There were signs of weapons damage on the ship’s hull, but nothing serious enough to explain the powerless state of the ship. Here and there were damaged sections of corridor, but again the damage was minor.
Jeffery moved towards Engineering while T’Parief attempted to make his way to the bridge.
“Hello, Simon,” chirped a voice in his ear.
“Sylvia!” Jeffery exclaimed, jumping nearly a foot into the air before his magnetic boots pulled him back down, “Don’t do that! Ye scared the hell out of me!”
“I’m sorry, Simon,” Sylvia apologized, “I just wanted to ask you something,”
“And it has to be now?”
“I’ve been thinking hard about Admiral Tunney’s offer,” Sylvia explained.
Sylvia filled him in on Tunney’s offer of employment.
“What?” Jeffery shouted, “That bastard! He can’t do that! Yer part of the ship! He can’t just rip ye out and shunt you from place to place-“
“Simon, relax,” Sylvia admonished him, “it was an offer, not an order,”
“And yer actually thinking about leaving?” Jeffery asked, prying open the doors to the freighter’s engine room.
“I am,” Sylvia admitted, “It would be an excellent chance to meet new people and contribute to the well-being of the fleet,”
“They wanna stick you in a lab!” Jeffery snapped.
“Only for a little while,” Jeffery could almost hear the shrug in her voice.
“Ah don’t like it,” he said firmly, tapping at a console, trying to bring power back online.
“I didn’t think you would,” Sylvia sighed, “Which is odd, considering how you advised Noonan to get rid of me when I first ‘came on board’,”
“Ye heard that?”
“I was still learning about the whole humanoid concept of ‘privacy’,” Sylvia explained.
“Right,” Jeffery brought the freighter’s power core back online, “so what did ye wanna ask?”
“If I left, would you go with me?”
T’Parief was tossed into the wall as the freighter shook around him.
“Jeffery!” he snapped, “Report!”
“Nothing! It’s fine!” came Jeffery’s rushed reply, “Just a wee ‘oopsie’ with the power up…” The line clicked off.
Grumbling, T’Parief turned back towards the bridge-
-and tripped over a body.
“We have restored power to the ship,” T’Parief’s voice came over the comm channel, “and located the crew. They are all dead. Cause of death is lacerations and blood loss. The wounds are consistent with…with…” T’Parief paused, “They match the damage I could inflict, sir,”
“I’d say our raiders were definitely here,” Noonan said calmly.
“Good work,” Stafford said, “Is the freighter functional?”
“It is,” Jeffery’s voice came on, “she’s no beauty, but we’ve got most main systems online. The safety systems had shut down the core to prevent an overload. Easy enough to fix,”
“Rendezvous with us here,” Stafford ordered, “We’ll bring the bodies on board and see about shipping them to, um, wherever they need to go,”
“The bodies are Talarian, sir,” T’Parief informed him.
“Whoop-de-doo,” Stafford twirled one finger in the air, “You have your orders. Stafford out,”
He turned to Fifebee, “Ok, what’s the story,”
Fifebee turned in her chair, addressing the captain while continuing to type commands into her console.
“The rift clearly was a portal to another universe,” she said, “Between the quantum signatures of the body we recovered and the readings from the rift, I believe it does indeed lead to the universe into which K’Eleese escaped,”
“Uh, how do we know which universe she escaped to?” Yanick asked.
“Porter told us the quantum signature he gave her,” Noonan explained.
“Right,” Jall nodded, “when she tortured us,”
“Remind me to thank her for that,” Stafford said, “So,” he turned back to Fifebee, “can we reopen the portal? And before you answer, either look at me or type. When you do both it drives me crazy!”
Fifebee turned fully away from her console.
“Opening a portal to another universe requires a large amount of energy,” she said, “The larger the difference between the quantum phasic signatures, the greater the power required to open the portal. Although as this portal has already been opened once, it would be much easier to reopen,” she turned back to her console, “Silverado, unfortunately, does not have enough power to reopen it. Mr. Porter must have purposefully given K’Eleese a phasic signature that differed greatly from that of our own universe. Likely to make her return more difficult,”
“Crap,” Stafford muttered.
“Perhaps,” Noonan said thoughtfully, “we could use the containment fields in the nacelles to build up a large enough power reserve to reopen it,”
“It would take several days to generate enough power,” Fifebee stated, “and we do not have the facilities to store enough of it,”
“Crap,” Noonan agreed.
“What if we had somebody on the other side trying to open the portal too?” Jall asked.
“That would work,” Fifebee said after a moments thought, “How did you come up with that idea?’
“Check your console,”
Fifebee turned back to her console, then jerked in alarm.
“Captain!” she snapped, “I’m picking up increased particle emissions from the rift! Somebody on the other side is using a multi-spectral quantum pulse to reopen the rift!”
“So, Jall was right?” Yanick asked, confused, “Or does that mean he was wrong?”
“It could be K’Eleese,” Noonan suggested.
“Captain,” Fifebee tapped her panel again, “According to my readings, whomever is over there does not have enough power to open the portal,”
“Which makes it unlikely to be K’Eleese,” Noonan continued smoothly as Yanick, being ignored, pouted at her console.
“Why not?” Stafford asked quickly.
“She had enough power to open it once,” Noonan’s reply was equally swift, “Logically, she would have to power to open it again,”
“Fifebee,” Stafford said, “Do we have enough power to help them open it up?”
After less than thirty seconds of tinkering, a bright green beam of energy surged from Silverado’s main deflector dish, striking the rift dead center. The anomaly, previous invisible to the eye, immediately started pulsing and shifting, growing into an amorphous green blob before starting to slowly rotate, bursts of energy rushing off in all directions.
“Captain,” Fifebee reported, “The portal is stabilizing,”
“I’m picking up a transmission!” Jall called out.
“Let’s hear,” Stafford ordered.
The comm system crackled to life, the voice filled with static.
“To the vessel on the other side of the anomaly: we are being pursued by hostile ships! We read twenty-two heavy fighters; estimated time to intercept is four minutes! We request permission to enter your universe to discuss the being known as K’Eleese, and to seek assisstance in defeating her forces,”
“That answers that question,” Noonan muttered.
“Tell them permission is granted,” Stafford ordered.
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Noonan asked, “it could be a trick,”
“You’re the telepath, you tell me!”
“It doesn’t really work across universal barriers,”
“Captain,” Fifebee said, “a vessel is coming through. And it’s big.
Eyes snapped to the screen.
Tearing out of the anomaly and flying straight at Silverado like a bat out of hell streaked a massive Sovereign-class starship, her sleek lines giving her the appearance of a sword flying straight at them. Her saucer and engineering sections flowed smoothly into each other; her swept back warp nacelles giving her an elongated look. The Sovereign-class was one of Starfleets newest ship types, representing the pinnacle of Federation technology.
Yanick squealed in surprise as she pulled Silverado into a dive, the smaller Ambassador-class ship barely clearing the larger vessel.
“Jeez!” Stafford exclaimed, gripping his armrest, “who the hell is driving that thing?”
“We’re being hailed,” Jall reported.
Gasps burst out across the bridge as a dark haired man appeared on the screen. He stood and straightened his uniform, using the approved Starfleet ‘tuck and straighten’, also known as ‘The Picard Maneuver’. He spoke in a clear, confident voice, looking perfectly at home in the center of the gleaming bridge in which he stood.
“This is Captain Christopher Stafford of the Federation starship Silverado. Thank you for your assistance…” his voice trailed off as he realized who he was looking at.
Stafford (the first one) didn’t move from his chair, his mouth hanging wide open. His eyes looked as wide as dinner plates.
“Well,” Noonan said, equally surprised, “this complicates things somewhat,”