Author: Brendan Chris
Personal Starlog, July 25th 2172:
“With the end of the Xindi threat and the strengthening of Earth’s alliance with the Andorians, Starfleet Intelligence has finally started shifting assets back to Earth. I understand the need to be keeping an eye on what’s going on there, for sure, but between nearly two years of prep work on Titan Base and several months on Columbia, it’ll be very good to be home.
Lieutenant Matthew Noonan let out a deep breath as he stepped out of the cramped shuttlepod that had delivered him to the surface of the planet Earth. His rank with Intelligence didn’t give him enough pull to get a ride all the way to the home he had once shared with his fiancé in the city of Montreal, but it at least took him to the Intelligence offices in Toronto. The Montreal home would be empty anyway. Six months ago he’d received a tearful message from Amber, telling him that she just couldn’t be with a man who was away for so much of what was supposed to be their life together.
While Starfleet Headquarters had been firmly established in San Francisco, it was felt by Admiral Ryn of Intelligence that it would be foolish for the high-security branch of Starfleet to establish only one office. Intelligence offices had been scattered across the solar system; in the old capitol cities of Earth, the base on Titan and the colonies on Mars.
Now that his stint on the starship Columbia was finished, he could finally get back to his real work.
“Welcome back, Lieutenant,” Commander Ali extended his hand. Noonan shook his commanding officer’s hand firmly and settled into the seat behind the desk.
“So,” he asked, “Any new information on our pale-faced friends?”
“Eager to get back to work?” Ali chuckled, “I would have though you and Amber would be-“
“Amber and I aren’t that close anymore,” Noonan choked.
Ali’s smile faded.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said.
“I can’t blame her,” Noonan sighed, “I couldn’t expect her to wait around forever. She didn’t even leave me a comm code or anything,”
He cleared his throat.
“Anyway, I’ve been away from this operation for too long,”
“I agree,” Ali said, sliding a padd over to Noonan.
“Three more sightings in the past month,” Ali said as Noonan flipped through still images of two men. One with bright green eyes, jet black hair and fine features. The other, caught in the middle of a laugh was staring directly at the camera, his blond hair flowing down his back and his bright violet eyes gleaming. Both men had the same ivory white skin.
“This one knows he’s being photographed,” Noonan said, tapping the photo.
“Given what we know about these creatures, that doesn’t surprise us,” Ali agreed, “They’ve had humans chasing after them for millennia, if the information unearthed in England is true-“
“‘Psychic detectives’,” Noonan scoffed, “Please, this is the 22nd century! Give me a photo-imager and phase pistol any day,”
“Are you awake in there?”
Commander Noonan jerked awake more violently than he had in decades. Which to him amounted to a slight jerk of his head.
“I’m sorry, Lieutenant,” he said calmly, “I was having the most unusual dream,”
“I s-sure couldn’t tell,” Lieutenant Kelsey Noonan replied, a slight stutter in her voice betraying her nervousness, “I’ve never seen anybody fall into such a deep sleep. I w-was getting worried,”
“There’s no need for concern, Lieutenant,” Noonan smiled, “Everything will be fine,”
“D-do you really think so?” Kelsey looked out the windows of the runabout Asessippi. Directly ahead of them, the portal between two universes slowly pulsed to some unknown celestial rhythm. Every few moments the runabout sent an energy pulse into the phenomenon, holding it open until Silverado could return from the strange parallel universe they’d ventured into. Both Noonan’s had their reasons for being on edge; it was Commander Noonan’s friends and shipmates who would be trapped in a strange universe if the portal closed. The portal also represented Lieutenant Noonan’s way home.
“Your crewmates are among the most intelligent and competent officers Starfleet has to offer,” Noonan chuckled, “Mine, well. I’m sure between the two of them, the Staffords will succeed in stopping K’Eleese in an efficient and reasonable manner.”
“Lieutenant Sikcee,” Captain Christopher Stafford-2, commander of the Sovereign-class USS Silverado-2, hero of the Federation and all-around good guy said, “Would you please tell my counterpart that he’s being really immature about this and that we really need to start working together to plan our assault on K’Eleese’s base?”
Sikcee opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the captain on the viewscreen.
“Lieutenant Fifebee,” Captain Christopher Stafford, commander of the Ambassador-class USS Silverado, pain in Admiral Tunney’s ass and worm in Starfleet’s apple said, “Would you please remind MY counterpart that he’s the one who punched me out on my own ship!”
Fifebee opened her mouth to relay that information, but was cut off.
“Sikcee, tell that degenerate that HE was the one who slept with MY WIFE!” Stafford-2 snapped.
“Fifebee, tell that jerk that it was HIS WIFE who slept with ME!”
<One would think that after five millennia of civilization, humanity would have learned to share,> Fifebee transmitted to her counterpart via data-link transmission.
<Indeed,> Sikcee agreed, <Or that they would have learned the consequences of too much synthohol,>
“What reason would my wife have for sleeping with you?” Stafford-2 snapped, not bothering to go through his holographic science officer anymore, “She has one of me, one’s enough! Clearly, since you’re a single loser, it was YOU who seduced HER!”
“Clearly,” Stafford scoffed, “One of you WASN’T man enough for her!”
There was a truncated growl as Stafford-2 cut the transmission.
Silence fell over the bridge.
Lieutenant Jall was working his station with his standard level of dedication (not much), preferring instead to read the latest issue of ‘Humanoid Male’s Health’. Unlike Yanick he had the discretion to view the e-magazine on his panel where Stafford couldn’t see. Yanick wasn’t even on the bridge, having commed in sick. T’Parief was manning his station as silently as usual. Stafford had become accustomed to the alien’s dark moods as of late. But the overnight addition of several shiny patches of scales, indicating recent medical treatment, combined with Yanick’s absence had Stafford convinced something was up.
Stafford took a moment to thank God that neither Jeffery nor Wowryk had duty stations on the bridge.
The previous evening had ended not with one bang, but with two.
Bang number one was Stafford-2’s fist colliding with Stafford’s face after learning that his wife had gone to Stafford’s quarters for an illicit rendezvous.
Bang number two was Dr. Wowryk’s cautiously opening mind slamming shut as her boyfriend insisted on a public display of affection.
Comparing the Dr. Wowryk of two years ago to the Dr. Wowryk of yesterday turned up several big differences in Stafford’s mind. His first meeting with Wowryk had ended in disaster as she attempted to introduce his head to a solid object in return for a rude comment he had made. Two years of living on Silverado had dulled her razor-sharp edges, her time with Jeffery (along with hours of therapy with Yvonnakoff) had lessened her strong dislike of the male gender and playing mother to little Luke had further revealed the beautiful, loving woman Noel could be.
Stafford didn’t have the nerve to go near Sickbay, but a quiet comm conversation with Nurse Veeeneman while Wowryk was in the medical lab revealed that the good Doctor had removed her holo of Jeffery from her office, dropped Luke off at the ship’s Education & Child Care center and started organizing Sickbay to the last detail.
Jeffery, on the other hand, had proceeded to drink himself silly, to the point where Steven had to call in security to remove the engineer from Unbalanced Equations.
Stafford hadn’t gone down to engineering either.
He knew his counterpart was correct. In less than a day they would be at the planetoid that supposedly held one of K’Eleese’s bases in this universe, if not her main headquarters itself. His mission was to apprehend the insane Klingon woman, a mission that happened to coincide with Stafford-2’s opinion that since K’Eleese was a problem from his universe, he had a responsibility in helping to clean up the mess she’d made in the other universe; attacking cargo ships, harassing Federation and Klingon colonies and working to form a coalition of worlds for purposes unknown. Undoubtedly, she’d had enough time to fortify her position against attacks. Stafford and Stafford-2 were counting on the likelihood that she wouldn’t be expecting more than one starship to come after her. She was, after all, a very minor threat. One woman against a Federation of several hundred planets. How much damage could she do?
“Captain,” Fifebee was frowning at her panel, “Have we sent any transmissions in the past day other than our updates to Starfleet?”
“I dunno,” Stafford shrugged, “Jall?”
“Nope,” Jall didn’t even look at his panel.
“Why?” Stafford asked.
“There are indications that somebody transmitted a signal, then attempted to delete it from the communications logs before we passed through the portal,” Fifebee replied.
“Do we know where the signal was sent?”
“Somewhere in the direction of unexplored space,”
“So, in our universe then,” Stafford clarified.
“Then it wasn’t our neighbors here,” he stuck a thumb out in the general direction of Silverado-2, “Which means it can wait until later,”
K’Eleese skipped happily down the main tunnel of her base, code-named Ecstasy. Finally! Her new toy was arriving!
Passing several Sobeks as they worked to expand and fortify her base, she caught sight of her partner in crime, Slezar.
“Hey, Slezy, baby!” she called happily.
Slezar turned to face her, his Gorn features looking almost cartoonish in the cheery bright lighting K’Eleese insisted on.
“One of our cloning tanks has sprung a leak,” Slezar stated without introduction.
“Fix it,” K’Eleese shrugged.
“I did,” Slezar replied, “But it does not change the cause of the problem: we are pushing our equipment too hard,”
“You weren’t saying that in the bedchambers last night,” K’Eleese said with a sly smile, walking behind Slezar and dragging one hand around his bicep.
“We are loosing too many warriors!” Slezar snapped, “Mostly due to your foolish attacks on Silverado! Now we have two Silverados chasing after us!”
“Hey, honey,” K’Eleese drew back to admire her nails, “I want the Silverado from our home universe crushed to dust. The second one just sort of got in our way,”
“And what do you plan to do about it?”
“I’m just SO glad you asked!” K’Eleese squealed, a wide smile splitting her Klingon features, “C’mon, it’s right over here!”
Turning, she rushed down a side passage towards one of the transporter bays.
“C’mon! Hurry up!” K’Eleese was giddy as a school-girl, urging Slezar to accelerate his relaxed gait, “You are so totally going to love this! It is just so incredibly amazing!”
Wondering again if the chance to fulfill his life’s work was worth leaving his calm and reasonable wife for this lunatic, Slezar sped up slightly, eyeing the slight bounce of K’Eleese’s breasts beneath her armor as she spun around.
Finally, they arrived in the transporter bay, where two Sobek’s were unwrapping a large crate.
“We’ll finish here,” K’Eleese sang out.
“Yes, K’Eleese,” one of the Sobeks bowed before they left.
Slezar sighed inwardly. The Sobeks based on the design used to create his son were fierce warriors, but they were far too obedient. Slezar had learned from the mistakes made with his prototype children and combined T’Parief’s fierce body with the obedient and loyal minds of his younger children. The design worked well enough. For now.
Still, he sometimes missed the arguments and defiance of his older spawn.
“C’mon! C’Mon!” K’Eleese chanted, prying the top off the crate.
Slezar looked inside. The device appeared to be a beam emitter of some kind. Logically, there was one thing it could be. Still, he had to know.
“What is it?” he asked.
K’Eleese gave another smile. There was nothing cheerful or happy about this one. This was a look of predatory satisfaction, with just a hint of madness.
“The key to a happy victory!”
“OK, here’s the plan,” Stafford explained, pointing to a display panel. He and his counterpart had behaved civilly long enough to decide their next course of action, “We send in two operatives to scout K’Eleese’s base and report back. We then use their intelligence to plan a crushing assault,”
“When you say intelligence,” Jall crossed his arms, “do you mean-“
“I mean information brought back by our scouts, not their actual intelligence!” Stafford replied.
“Oh, good,” Jall feigned relief, “Cuz I figure you’re probably sending T’Parief…” he trailed off, waiting for T’Parief to respond.
T’Parief simply gave Jall a look of contempt and returned his attention to Stafford.
“Er, yes,” Stafford continued, “I was planning on sending Mr. T’Parief. You’d probably fit right in-“
“I mean, you’d be harder to spot,” Stafford quickly corrected, flushing, “I don’t mean that you’d fit in, because you’re a fine officer and the Sobeks are evil, you just happen to look a lot like them, which really works for us in this case. Er, not that I’d ever treat you differently due to racial characteristics-“
“Nice recovery,” Jall chirped, “Maybe you should make a beeping sound when you’re going to back up like that. Y’know, warn rest of us?”
“Makes sense,” Jeffery said, “Unlike some people,” he muttered under his breath.
Further down the table, Wowryk ignored him.
“Anyway,” Stafford continued, “If you feel up to it-“
“Do not insult my honour,” T’Parief snapped, “I realize you don’t have much experience dealing with loyal officers,” he spared a hard look at Jall, “But I will follow your orders, regardless of my personal situation!”
“Right,” Stafford gulped, “Jeffery, get the ship ready for combat. I really doubt K’Eleese is going to respond well to diplomacy. Dr. Wowryk, I hate to say it, but you better get Sickbay ready for casualties. If we get boarded-“
“I understand what the Sobeks are capable of,” Wowryk said, “And if I ever need a reminder, I’ll just ask Trish. I understand she’s seen it first hand,”
“That is none of your business,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” Stafford said, “Am I intruding on a personal problem here?”
“It is not the Doctor’s concern,”
“It is my concern!” Wowryk objected, then turned to Stafford, “It’s your concern to! You’re one of Yanick’s best male friends, and you-“
“Look,” Stafford cut her off, “This is a serious briefing. We’re about to go up against a woman’s who got away from us two times out of three. We really don’t have time for this,” he stood to leave, “Carry out my orders. T’Parief, you and Commander Stern leave in one hour,”
“Yes sir,” T’Parief nodded and left. The others followed suit.
“She handles pretty well,” Stern-2 explained, “But the seats are a little big for me,”
Stern-2 and T’Parief were in the main shuttlebay of the Silverado-2, examining a Sobek heavy fighter they had disabled during the last attack.
“Deflector shields and polarized hull plating, twin disruptor cannons, micro-torpedo launcher, maximum speed of Warp 4 and,” Stern-2 opened the canopy, “seating for two,”
“We are certain it has been properly repaired?” T’Parief asked, eyeing the craft warily. He’d already donned a replica of the uniform worn by the Sobek pilots.
“Sure,” Stern-2 assured him, “Jeffery, our Jeffery anyway, is an absolute genius at figuring out alien technology,”
“Then let’s go,” T’Parief said, climbing into the pilot seat.
“Er, I wanted to drive,” Stern-2 objected.
“I always drive,” T’Parief said in a tone that left little room for argument.
Stern-2 didn’t take the hint.
“Maybe in your universe. But on this ship, I drive,” Stern-2 said firmly.
“Did you and your counterpart have this argument last night?” T’Parief asked.
Gulping (and blushing boiled-lobster red) Stern-2 climbed into the co-pilot’s seat.
“They’re off,” Fifebee reported.
“Now we wait?” Jall asked.
“Yeah,” Stafford sighed, “Now we wait,”
Looking around the bridge, Stafford suddenly started feeling very alone. Without T’Parief’s familiar presence at the tactical panel behind him he felt vulnerable; like nobody was watching his back. Without Yanick at the helm, the bridge was calm and quiet. No energetic exclamations or silly yet entertaining stories. Fifebee tapped carefully at her console, tracking T’Parief and Stern for as long as possible while Jall started arguing over the comm with somebody who had apparently locked himself in a bathroom. Noonan’s seat was empty, leaving Stafford all alone in the command arena.
“I’ll be on the holodeck,” he said finally.
Feeling restless, Stafford scrolled through the available holodeck programs, searching for something that would match his mood. Finally he selected a program for 21st century Toronto. He knew from experience that one could lose oneself wandering the city for hours, and he was more in the mood for the chaos and imperfection of the 21st century as opposed to the neat and clean 24th century.
Chaos vs. perfection. Just like the two universes, he mused to himself.
The holodeck doors opened onto the busy intersection of Yonge and Bloor. Picking a direction at random, Stafford started walking.
After several moments of musing, he became aware that he was being followed.
“You’re really not handling this very well,” Sylvia said bluntly, walking up behind him.
“What are you doing here?” Stafford asked.
“I’m worried about you,” Sylvia said.
“Oh, I’m just peachy,” Stafford grumbled.
“Feeling a little guilty, are we?”
“Guilty?” Stafford shrugged, “Why should I feel guilty?”
“You slept with your wife?” Sylvia frowned, “Hmm, that doesn’t sound very wrong, does it? How about ‘You slept with your twin brother’s wife’?”
“We were drunk and it was her idea,” Stafford snapped, defensive.
“Why would you do something like that, Chris,” Sylvia pressed, “Honestly? I really thought you knew better than that,”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Did I disappoint you, ‘Mom’?” Stafford turned away and started walking down the street.
“What would your real mother say?” Sylvia called.
“Why don’t you tell me?” he snapped.
“I don’t have to,” Sylvia said, “I think you know perfectly well what she’d say. And I think you’d agree with her,”
“What do you want?” Stafford said, “You want me to say it was wrong? Fine, consider it said. It was wrong. I know it,” he stopped, collecting his thoughts, “It just made me so angry to see them together!”
“It like, what’s wrong with me?” Stafford started pacing, holographic characters moving around him as they went about their imaginary business, “I’m the same guy as he is! Sure, he’s a lot better at what he does, but he has the same wants, desires, interests and quirks as I do. Why is that he’s found the perfect wife while I’ve spent the past two years alone? What makes him so f**king SPECIAL!” Stafford’s voice rose to a roar as he drove a fierce kick into a garbage can, spilling its contents into the street.
“I see,” Sylvia crossed her arms, “So the best way to equalize this is to help his wife cheat?”
Stafford shook his head.
“I was a curiosity to her,” he said, “She had a one-of a kind chance, y’know? Try something new without really trying something new. I can’t really understand why that would be worth cheating, but for some God-damned reason I didn’t care,”
“You knew when you became a starship captain that it would probably mean a very lonely life,” Sylvia said softly.
“That didn’t stop him,” Stafford replied.
“And it doesn’t have to stop you,” Sylvia replied, “But I think you need to get over this need. You have friends on this ship-“
“Friends?” Stafford scoffed, “I’ve got Yanick and Jeffery-“
“And Noonan, T’Parief and Fifebee,” Sylvia’s face rose in a half-smile, “Even Jall,”
“I am NOT friends with Jall!”
“I disagree,” Sylvia said, “You work together, you hang out in the same bar, you see him frequently and at some level you care about what happens to him,”
“He’s a colleague,” Stafford said sharply.
“If he had a personal problem that you could solve, would you help him?” Sylvia asked.
“I wouldn’t want to,” Stafford said, “I’d rather eat dirt! I’d rather-“
“But you’d do it,” It wasn’t a question.
“Yeah,” Stafford sighed.
“You people have been working together longer than I’ve been alive,” Sylvia said, putting a hand on Stafford’s shoulder, “which, granted, isn’t all that long. I think you need to spend more time with the people you do have in your life and less time longing for something you don’t have,”
Stafford took a deep breath.
“I don’t WANT to spend that much time with people,” he said, “I’m perfectly happy doing things on my own,”
“Are you?” Sylvia asked, “Or is that just an excuse?”
Stafford said nothing.
“Think about it,” Sylvia advised, “But onto another topic: You’re neglecting a very important part of your duty,”
Stafford rolled his eyes.
“Is this about going to the holodeck while T’Parief and Stern-“
“Risk their lives?” Sylvia finished for him, “Of course not. There’s nothing you can do to help them right now. No, I’m talking about the way you’ve been handling your crew problems lately,”
“Problems?” Stafford shrugged, “I’m the Captain. Yvonnokoff is the counselor!” Sylvia followed Stafford into a Starbucks as he stepped in and ordered a coffee, “Yvonnokoff has more than enough time to deal with crew problems right now; we can’t exactly broadcast her show from another universe,” he stopped and looked over at Sylvia, “Can we?”
“No,” Sylvia shook her head, “But that’s not the point. It goes back to the ‘friends and colleagues’ thing we were just talking about,” she looked Stafford straight in the eye, “Some of these people are hurting, and you’re not doing anything about it!”
Stafford said nothing.
“When has Yanick ever called in sick?” Sylvia said sharply, “You know damned well she’s been in her quarters all day, crying her eyes out!”
“Er, did you use the internal sensors to find that out?”
“No!” Sylvia snapped, “Just a dose of common sense!”
“I don’t even know what happened to her!” Stafford objected, “How am I supposed to help?”
“Just a thought,” Sylvia put her hands on her hips, “But you could start by asking her what happened, hmmm?”
“Oh. Er, right.”
“Sobeck-42 you are cleared for landing,” the harsh voice spoke over the comm, “Standby to receive approach vector and homing beacon frequencies,”
“Confirmed,” T’Parief rasped back. He tapped the oversized controls on the navigational computer, inputting their new heading and noticing how much more comfortable these controls were compared to the touch pads on Silverado. Almost like they were custom made for him. Which they practically were.
“What’s your plan for explaining me?” Stern-2 asked from the copilot seat.
“I don’t” T’Parief said simply, “You stay here and watch the ship while I take a look around,”
“Those aren’t our orders!” Stern-2 objected.
“Our orders,” T’Parief replied, “Are to learn about K’Eleese’s base. I will blend in. You will not. End of discussion,”
“I am not going to-“
“You are. Or I will have to hurt you,” T’Parief snapped.
“How about this,” Stern-2 suggested reasonably, “I’ll stay here while you look around. If you see other humanoid-types wandering around, it’ll be safe for me to join you,”
T’Parief was quiet for a moment.
“The problem with you alternate people is that you’re all too willing to compromise,” T’Parief said, almost a sigh, “It makes life less interesting,”
“You mean less confrontational,”
“It is the same thing,”
T’Parief walked confidently down the corridor leading from the landing bay, head held high and looking straight ahead. Rule number one of infiltrations: Look like you belong.
It wasn’t hard.
After following the navigational beacon to a concealed docking bay, T’Parief had taken a brief moment to compose himself after looking out the window.
He was everywhere.
An exact copy of himself connected refueling lines to the ship as he dismounted, nodding crisply to T’Parief but not otherwise acknowledging him. Which was just as well, as T’Parief wouldn’t trust his voice at the moment. Stern-2 remained in the cockpit as T’Parief quickly left the bay, choosing a corridor at random.
Leaving the docking complex he quickly found his way to what appeared to be the hub of the base; a busy, ring-shaped corridor deep under the surface of the planetoid with Sobeks and other aliens moving in both directions. Discreetly manipulating the comm-badge in his pocket, he sent Stern-2 the message to join him.
T’Parief turned to find himself staring into a face so similar to his own it could have been a mirror.
“Y-yes?” he force out.
“Are you Sobek-67? If so, I have been instructed to take you to weaponry indoctrination,”
“Er, no,” T’Parief replied, “I’m, uh, Sobek-42,” he gave the number they had found in the fighters memory bank,”
“Sorry,” the other large alien shrugged his broad shoulders, “You’d think she would give us name tags or something,”
“Indeed,” T’Parief’s mind was racing, “Er, I feel I could use a weaponry refresher, how could I arrange this?”
“Was something wrong with your flash-imprint?” the other alien looked suspicious, “You’re not…defective?”
T’Parief didn’t need any acting skills to look offended.
“Of course not! I simply wish to kill as effectively as possible,”
The Sobek laughed. It was a deep, hearty sound. The sound of his own laughter, which he so rarely heard.
“Talk like that tends to attract K’Eleese,” he chuckled, “Keep it up! Now, I must go,”
Nodding, T’Parief resumed walking, pretending to be on his way somewhere.
Stafford composed himself at the door to Yanick’s quarters, running through what Sylvia had said. Be sympathetic, but don’t coddle. Listen, but ask questions to show interest. If the waterworks start, comfort. Don’t freak.
Blowing out a deep breath, he rang the chime.
“Trish?” he cleared his throat, “Er, it’s Chris,”
The door hissed open.
The place was a mess. Stafford could see half a dozen half-eaten bowls of ice cream scattered around. Blankets were piled on the couch and ‘Monsters Inc.’ was playing on the wall panel.
Yanick was a mess. Her hair was tangled, her skin pale. Her off-duty cloths were wrinkled and smelled slightly.
“Er, want to talk about it?” Stafford asked.
Tears started pouring down Yanick’s cheeks again. Hesitating for a moment, Stafford moved in to give her a hug. Gripping him back, Yanick choked out the whole story; how T’Parief had grown distant over the past week, how he had rejected her attempts to get physically closer to him and finally how he had made her watch while he committed horribly violent acts on the holodeck.
“I’ve been so stupid!” Yanick said sadly as Stafford lead her to the couch, “I mean, how could I forget? I know what Klingons do. I know what Andorians do. I knew what he’d be capable of,” her expression twisted as she pushed Stafford away, “I just can’t believe he’d do that right in front of me! What an asshole!”
“Um,” Stafford composed his thoughts, thinking back to what Sylvia had said, “You can’t forget Trish, he’s hurting too. Look at what his father did! He’s trying to come to grips with who he is-“
“Who is he?” Yanick interrupted, “He doesn’t even know!”
“Right,” Stafford replied, “Hence the whole ‘coming to grips’ thing…”
“Oh,” Yanick gave a weak giggle, “Right,”
“I think you’re on the right track,” Stafford said, “Give him space, let him figure this out,”
“And be there to welcome him back?” Yanick sighed, “If he even wants to come back!”
“Sure he does,” Stafford smiled.
“Maybe I don’t want him back,” Yanick said, “Maybe I don’t want to date a murderous brute!”
“I guess that’s something you’ll have to figure out,” Stafford shrugged, “Um, you might want to shower first though,”
Yanick looked dismayed.
“I smell bad?” she pulled away from Stafford, fresh tears spilling down her face, “Oh GOD! I’m DISGUSTING!”
“Hey, hey,” Stafford tried to sooth her, “It’s nothing a sonic shower won’t fix!”
“Get out!” Yanick wailed, “Oh God, I’ve stank the whole time you’ve been here! Yuck!”
“Trish,” Stafford said, “I’m not leaving until you’re cheered up!”
An ice-cream bowl splattered against the wall less than a foot from Stafford.
“OK, you’re cheerful,” he dashed for the door, “Meet me for a drink later?”
The doors hissed shut.
“Oh! And we need to you at the helm for the big battle!” he called through the closed panels, “That’s an order!”
“Very smooth,” Sylvia’s voice filtered down from the ceiling, “I can see you putting Yvonnokoff out of a job any time now,”
Stern-2 soon joined T’Parief.
“This place doesn’t look that big” he murmured, “There can’t be more than a dozen fighters, maybe fifty troops,
“Plus the cruiser in orbit,” T’Parief added.
“Yeah, that,” Stern-2 agreed. On the way in they had passed a Vor-cha-class Klingon battleship. Impressive, powerful but not enough on its own to take out the two Federation starships.
T’Parief was tapping at a terminal discreetly placed in an alcove off the main corridor. He frowned.
“What” Stern-2 asked.
“This is a map of this facility,” T’Parief pointed. On the display was the ring-shaped corridor with several different areas highlighted. Inside the ring was an education center for the ‘flash-imprinting’ the Sobek had referred to. Outside the ring were the landing pads and a small shipyards where two more fighters were being constructed.
“There are no cloning facilities,” Stern-2 said, “No command center, no medical bay and no crew accommodations,”
“Yes, I noticed that,” T’Parief growled.
“What’s this?” Stern-2 asked, pointing at a single corridor stretching off the screen.
T’Parief zoomed the view out.
“Oh shit,” Stern-2 muttered.
The facility was huge. The section they had thought to be the base now filling only a single small corner of the screen.
“I’d say we’ve found K’Eleese’s headquarters,” T’Parief said.
“Why did the targling cross the road?”
“I don’t know,” Noonan replied, “Why did he?”
“To escape the honorable blood-lust of the rampaging hunter,” Lieutenant Kelsey Noonan replied.
“You’re right,” Noonan said, “Klingons really don’t tell good jokes,”
They sat quietly in the cockpit of the runabout, watching the universal portal slowly spiraling in the front viewport.
“Commander, I know this really isn’t my business,” Kelsey started.
“Please, go ahead,” Noonan gestured for her to continue,”
“I get the feeling you know a lot more about what’s going on with us than you’ve told me,” Kelsey said.
“Us?” Noonan tried to look innocent.
“About why we’re different in these universes,” she took a deep breath, “I’m a woman with almost n-no experience. You’re a First Officer who j-just happens to look exactly like an ancestor of mine with the same name. I’m not s-stupid. Y-you…you’re a lot older than you look aren’t you,”
Noonan was quiet for a moment.
“You must understand,” he said, “My story is classified by Starfleet. Very deeply classified. Aside from that, most people really don’t respond well to beings like me if they understand the entire truth,”
“Beings like-“ Kelsey’s eyes lit up with realization, “You’re not human?”
“No,” Noonan replied.
“But you were,” Kelsey looked amazed, “Something happened to you. Centuries ago! Something that didn’t happen in my universe!”
The story of his origins was known only to the highest levels of Starfleet Intellegence. He was under strict orders not to share what he knew, orders that were centuries old. Even Stafford, a man he was coming to like and trust, couldn’t be trusted with his tale. Yet…
Looking at Kelsey Noonan, Matt Noonan realized he was getting a very rare and very special insight into the universe that few beings were ever afforded. An answer to the question that haunts all beings at some point in their existence.
“Are you sure you want to know?” Noonan asked.
“Tell me,” Kelsey said, leaning forward.
Earth, 2173 - Track A:
Lieutenant Noonan sighed and took another sip from his Starbuck’s Commemorative NX-02 collector’s cup. He’d been on stakeout for nearly four hours in the city of New Orleans, waiting for his quarry to make its approach.
He’d been tracking the two beings from Commander Ali’s holo for over eight months now, after trying one last time to contact Amber. He tried apologizing, tried telling her how important his Starfleet career was to him, but that he was on Earth now, to stay. It was time for him to leave the stars and come back to her, forever.
She didn’t buy it.
Tearfully, she’d told him that there she’d moved on, that there wasn’t a place for him in her life anymore and that he was going to have to learn to move on too.
He wasn’t ready for a new woman in his life. Instead, he was ready to get back to his work.
For fifteen years now, Starfleet had been tracking the movements of unknown beings through the cities of Earth. Believing at first that the pale, mysterious apparitions were extraterrestrial in nature and potentially dangerous, Starfleet Intel had mustered dozens of officers in an attempt to uncover and confront them once and for all.
What they’d found instead were a series of tales, clues and evidence that the beings had been around not for a few years, but for millennia.
Sightings of the beings were rare, contact non-existence. As it became apparent that the threat posed by these creatures was minimal, other priorities arose and more and more officers were pulled off the case and assigned elsewhere. Noonan had been with the project for two years before being sent off on the newly commissioned Starship Columbia.
Now he was back. And on the hunt.
The two beings in the holo, Smiley and Grumpy he had nicknamed them, had appeared in more and more images lately. Ali had shown him dozens of different images, each of the same two creatures, one with flowing blond hair, blue eyes and a wide smile, the other dark-haired and melancholy. Always the blond one, Smiley, was grinning right into the holo-lens, as though he knew he was being recorded.
The frequent appearances had finally allowed Starfleet Intel to trace the beings movements and from there to track them to the city of New Orleans.
Present day, on Silverado:
Stafford paced back and forth in front of Sickbay, swearing that he could almost feel the waves of frigid iciness radiating from the doctor within.
“I can see that your counseling techniques are so much more effective through a closed door,” Sylvia piped up.
“You know,” Stafford snapped, “I would think that you would have dropped the tendency to stick your nose in my business when you finally convinced yourself that you’re not my mother!”
“Sticking my nose in other people’s business has nothing to do with your mother,” Sylvia sniffed, “It’s just part of being a woman,”
Refusing to argue that point, or point out that Sylvia had neither a nose nor woman parts, Stafford marshaled his strength and stepped into Sickbay.
“Scalpel!” Wowryk snarled at Nurse Veeneman. The smaller blond woman rushed to grab a laser scalpel from the equipment cart and slapped the tool in the Doctor’s outstretched hand.
“Is there a problem?” Stafford asked, very politely.
“Crewman Shwaluk here had a little accident!” Wowryk snapped, slicing into the patient’s body and flinging the scalpel back on the tray, “Protoplaster!”
“Er, what happened?”
“He and his GIRLFRIEND were engaging in a DISGUSTING display of perversity-“
“Bondage,” Nurse Veeneman translated, “She had him strapped to a St. Andrew’s Cross. She was a little rough with him, it came loose from the wall and landed on the coffee table. Dr. Wowryk is trying to get all the pieces of the table out of his chest,”
“Found another!” Wowryk snapped, tossing a jagged piece of glass into a specimen jar as blood spurted a good foot in the air, “Arterial clamps! Veeeneman! I need a transfusion, stat!”
“So,” Stafford winced as he noticed blood dripping onto the carpet, “About Jeffery-“
“Don’t start!” Wowryk cut him off as she dug a chunk of glass from Shwaluk’s stomach, pointing it at Stafford, “I refuse to discuss him!”
“He loves you!” Stafford exclaimed, “Can’t you get that through your skull! He doesn’t want under your pants-“
“Yes he does,” Wowryk and Veeneman said together as Wowryk started fusing Shwaluk’s liver back together.
“Ok, so he does,” Stafford conceded, “But he’ll wait as long as it takes! He just wants to touch you! To know that you love him back!”
“And where does it stop?” Wowryk demanded, “First a hug, then a kiss, then I’m flat on my back being violated!”
“Or strapping him to a cross and smacking his ass with a paddle,” Veeneman gestured to Shwaluk.
“Yea,” Wowryk snarled as she wrestled Shwaluk’s left lung back into place, “And we can all see how well that worked out for this guy!”
“So don’t do any of that!” Stafford said, exasperated, “Give him a hug! Give him a kiss! Then leave it at that!”
“Men aren’t capable of that kind of restraint,” Wowryk sniffed, shooting a fresh shot of drugs into Shwaluk’s neck..
“Oh yeah?” Stafford took a step closer, “I am going to hug you now,”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“I don’t want in your pants. We do nothing but fight,” Stafford took another step closer, “I don’t want to make love to liquid nitrogen!”
“How dare you-“
Stafford hugged her, then stepped back.
Wowryk was quiet for a moment.
“See?” Stafford said, “All done,”
Frowning, Wowryk ran a medical tricorder over Stafford’s groin.
“Not even aroused!” she said softly.
“See? Just a platonic hug,”
“Which you had no righ to force on me!”
“Force? I’m trying to help!”
“You actually are trying,” Wowryk said thoughtfully, tilting her head.
The monitors on the biobed started beeping.
“Uh, Dr. Wowryk?” Veeneman interrupted, “The patient?”
“Er, right,” Wowryk turned back to Shwaluk, “Have a blessed day, Captain,” she called over her shoulder.
“Uh, right,” Stafford looked down at his uniform, now streaked with Shwaluk’s blood, “I’m just going to go change now.
“So,” Stern-2 asked, “What now?”
“Now,” T’Parief said, “We explore the rest of the facility,”
They left the terminal and found the main passage leading deeper into the huge underground base.
Sobeks passed them on both sides, providing no challenge but merely nodding at T’Parief as he walked past. Nodding back, T’Parief could only assume they took him for one of them. And why not? It’s not like he was a common species. Up until recently, he’d been unique.
“There are no females,” Stern-2 said softly after a few moments.
“Not that that would bother you,” T’Parief murmured back.
“I’m getting really sick of the gay jokes,” Stern-2 said, “For all you know, I swing both ways!”
Rolling his eyes, T’Parief replied.
“Males are generally more aggressive, and thus make better soldiers,” he explained, “I doubt K’Eleese and Slezar have any real need for women,”
“That’s bullshit and you know it,” Stern-2 replied, “Women make excellent soldiers. They’re less likely to let their aggression cloud the issue,” he gave an evil grin, “And without them, you can bet that your duplicates here are resorting to homosexuality,”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” T’Parief scoffed, “We are designed to be incapable of mating,” realization dawned, “In fact, I suspect that is why my father included that modification when I was created. Troops who cannot mate cannot resort to that kind of behavior. Nor would they rape the women of the conquered, which is extremely dishonorable conduct for a Gorn soldier,” he blinked, “Thank you, Commander. You have helped explain a mystery that has dumbfounded me for months,”
“Before you get too pleased with yourself,” Stern-2 said, “Remember that the Sobeks had that particular limitation removed,”
“Oh,” T’Parief slouched, “Well, it still applies to me, anyway!”
Earth, 2173, Track A:
On the verge of dozing off, Noonan forced himself awake as a single figure crossed the cone of light given off by a nearby streetlight.
It was Grumpy.
All traces of fatigue gone, Noonan pulled out his tricorder and immediately started scanning the creature. Metabolic readings for respiration and heart rate seemed normal, but there were strange energy readings present. Some kind of strange, psionic energy field.
Grumpy continued walking past Noonan’s aircar, apparently oblivious to the Starfleet officer. Noonan watched his movements very closely. He moved with a grace that was relaxed, fluid. He’d seen it once, while on safari. It was the grace of a tiger, a great hunter so confident powerful that it was almost casual in the way it moved.
As soon as he judged the distance to be safe, he popped the ultra-quiet door latch and slipped out into the night.
He followed Grumpy down into the narrow back street, then watched as he opened the gate to a small townhouse in the French Quarter. The main floor held an old-fashioned bookstore, while an apartment occupied the second floor. The rear garden was perfectly manicured. Pulling out his acoustic scanner, Noonan aimed the small device at the flat and listened carefully.
“You’re back,” one voice, soft and pleasant. Smiley, perhaps?
“I am,” Grumpy replied, his voice every bit as melancholy as his expression had led Noonan to expect, “It is a beautiful night. I was in no hurry,”
“Looking at the stars again, no doubt,” Smiley’s voice had darkened slightly.
“They launched another NX-class starship yesterday,” Grumpy said, his sad voice taking on a note of wonder, “I hear talk in San Francisco that the Fleet Yards are designing a newer, even larger starship-“
“So they explore the oceans of space, as they once explored the New World,” Smiley scoffed, “What do I care of it?”
“Do you not wish to see what is there?” Grumpy asked, “To stand atop a truly new world?”
“And how do you suggest we do that?” Smily asked, “I doubt there are rats on these precious starships of yours! Starving to death would complicate our trip somewhat!”
“There’s more,” Grumpy said, “I’ve heard that they can now synthesize,” he paused, “the blood. For medical transfusions and so forth,”
Smiley seemed to pause at this.
“The blood,” he said softly, “but I doubt they can synthesize the life we need,”
“Maybe not,” Grumpy said, “but I wouldn’t put it past them to learn,” his voice took on a firm note, “Can’t you imagine it? We could live without feeding on these poor humans! All the sustenance we could want, without causing so much as a scratch!”
“Oh yes,” Smily was defiantly scornful now, “You’d like that, wouldn’t you,”
“So would others,” Grumpy grunted, “Including, no doubt, the Starfleet officer currently hiding in our garden,”
“Yes, you,” Noonan could see Smily now looking out the window, directly at him, “Yes. Hello, Matthew. Why don’t you come in for a drink?”
In the 24th century…
T’Parief continued to move through the huge facility, finding stockpiles of weapons, partially assembled fighters and massive storage rooms filled with food and medical supplies. Finally, they found the main chamber of the base.
At the very top of the chamber, a good hundred feet above the floor, T’Parief could see what was clearly a command center. Lining the tiered sides were dozens of cloning tanks, each one holding a single Sobek in various stages of growth. Youths with bright green scales, adolescents with long, gangly limbs and the more familiar adults. Even as they watched, one tank opened, its cloning nutrients draining as the nude Sobek inside took its first unsteady steps into the world before being led to a flash-education center.
And conduits. Dozens of them, hundreds of them. Carrying power, nutrients and God knows what else.
T’Parief frowned. Most of the conduits fed into the cloning tubes, but many of the conduits led into the floor. Yet he was quite sure that the schematics had shown the main chamber to be the very lowest part of the base. Even the power reactors were higher above, well displaced from the base proper in case of accidents.
“Something is not right here,” he said to Stern-2.
“Tell me about it,” Stern-2 grumbled as he watched two Sobeks practicing unarmed combat in a windowed exercise room. They were fast, and even as he watched one threw the other into the wall hard enough to make the transparent aluminum rattle.
“You have seen enough,” T’Parief said, “Let’s return to the fighter,”
“Yeah, I agree,” Stern-2 was relieved, “Hey wait, what do you mean ‘I’ have seen enough?”
“I will remain here,” T’Parief said, moving faster, “There are questions that still need to be answered-“
“Look,” Stern-2 said, “I’m sorry about your shattered childhood, but-“
“Silence,” T’Parief hissed as two more Sobeks moved by, “This has nothing to do with me! Something here does not add up! I will continue to investigate while you return to the ships. Tell them they must attack at once. Every moment wasted is another Sobek K’Eleese can throw at us,”
“Understood,” Stern-2 said, with only a slight hesitation.
“Any luck playing amateur counselor?” Fifebee asked as Stafford stepped out of the turbolift and onto the bridge.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Stafford said as he settled into his command chair, “Any news from T’Parief and Stern?”
Stern looked up from his tactical console.
“The other Stern,” Fifebee muttered to him.
“No sir,” Stern replied, blushing slightly, “No word. I would have commed you if there had been,”
“Oh,” Stafford slumped, “Right,”
“Sir, Silverado-2 is hailing us,” Jall reported.
“Captain,” Stafford-2 said coolly, “Sensors detect a ship heading our direction. One human life-sign,”
“Fifebee?” Stafford asked.
“It’s there, trust me!” Stafford-2 snapped, “Our sensors are more sensitive than yours!”
“Fifebee?” Stafford asked again.
“Confirmed,” she replied.
“Where’s T’Parief,” Jall asked.
“Exactly what I wanted to know,” Stafford-2 said, “Why isn’t your officer on that ship?”
“How should I know?” Stafford shot back, “Maybe you should wait until the ship gets back so we can ASK them!”
Stafford-2 vanished from the screen.
“Wow, he’s gotten rude,” Jall commented.
“So would you if your wife cheated on you,” Stern said.
“Belay that,” Stafford said warily.
“This raises an interesting question,” Fifebee said thoughtfully, “is it really cheating if you sleep with a precise duplicate of your mate?”
“Can we NOT have this discussion?” Stafford sighed, “Look, it was her idea, I was drunk, end of story!”
“We’re being hailed by the other Stern,” Stern called out from tactical.
“Thank God,” Stafford muttered, “On screen!”
The screen kicked into ‘conference-call’ mode, with Stern-2 on one half and Stafford-2 on the other.
“Where’s T’Parief?” Stafford asked at once.
“He stayed to keep scouting the base,” Stern-2 reported, “Sir, we’ve found K’Eleese’s headquarters! Cloning facilities, training centers, troop barracks, everything. It’s all here!”
“Excellent,” Stafford-2 replied, “Good work,” he turned to Stafford, “Captain, please ready your ship for combat. We’re going to confront K’Eleese.”
“Um,” Stafford raised a hand.
“Aren’t you going to er, talk to her first?” Stafford asked.
“Of course!” Stafford-2 replied, “She’s a dangerous felon. We give her a chance to surrender, then we blow her to pieces if she refused,”
“Fair enough,” Stafford nodded, “But does this seem too easy?”
“We’ve had to put up with you,” Stafford-2 replied dryly, “How easy was that?”
“But I mean, the base!” Stafford said, “I mean, you found it just like that! Doesn’t it worry you that it wasn’t better hidden? I think we should wait until T’Parief learns more before we go in,”
“This search,” Stafford-2 replied coldly, “Is the result of weeks of investigative work! Just because you came in at the last minute doesn’t mean it was easy,”
“Point taken,” Stafford sighed, “We’ll be ready,”
T’Parief accessed one of the base terminals long enough to see that Stern-2 had escaped unnoticed. Very unnoticed, T’Parief frowned to himself. Either the cruiser in orbit hadn’t seen him, or it didn’t care.
He turned back to the passageway between the base central core and one of the docking facilities and fell in step with several Sobeks as they moved to and fro, intent on their duties.
“Ohh! I can just HARDLY wait!” squealed an ecstatic voice.
As casually as he could, T’Parief stopped at the next data junction that came up and pretended to pull up a duty roster. Looking out the corner of his eye, he saw her. K’Eleese!
“I am sure you are very excited,” Slezar said.
“You have no idea!” K’Eleese said, clapping her hands together, “I’ve been waiting for this day for SO long!”
Both were unchanged from when T’Parief had last seen them, on the planet Nisus. His father’s scales were carefully polished and his silvery eyes glittered in the bright lighting. K’Eleese’s braids had grown, reaching well past her shapely buttocks now and dangling nearly at knee level. She’d also added green ribbons and beads to her ensemble, giving her the look of a walking Christmas ornament.
“How long will it take to install the device in the Jubilant Death?” Slezar asked.
“A matter of minutes,” K’Eleese waved one hand, unconcerned, “Once the Starfleet ships nearby have been converted to our cause, we will ensure that the member planets of the Convivial Confederacy are fully loyal to us as well,”
“Member planets,” Slezar scoffed, “You mean the disgruntled Klingon and Gorn colonies that are supporting you?”
“Whatever works,” K’Eleese snarled, “They support US, and that is good enough!”
“Hmm,” Slezar said, “for now,”
They had almost reached T’Parief’s position. He tried, very hard, to keep his eyes on the display panel, but when Slezar spoke again, he looked involuntarily over at his father.
“It is fortunate we have this device,” Slezar said, almost casually. Then he did something that T’Parief could never, throughout his entire youth, recall his father doing. Slezar turned and looked T’Parief right in the eye.
“Neither Silverado will stand a chance,” Slezar said. K’Eleese laughed as the two of them walked on, a phalanx of Sobeks guiding a crate on antigravs.
T’Parief jerked his eyes back down to the console until the group had passed, then turned to follow.
What did that mean? His father had winked. Which meant…what? That Silverado really DID stand a chance? Or did he really mean that Silverado DIDN’T stand a chance, and he wanted T’Parief to know it.
But how did he know T’Parief was there at all? He was indistinguishable from the other Sobeks, and for all his father knew he should be in another universe. No, that wasn’t right, was it. His father and K’Eleese clearly knew that there were two starships named Silverado almost at their doorstep. And they believed that whatever was in that crate would allow them to defeat both ships easily. Or at least K’Eleese did.
T’Parief’s mind went back to crunching one of many questions that had been on his mind since he learned that his father was working with K’Eleese: What was his father gaining? OK, so he had cloned hundreds of copies of T’Parief, something that his Gorn superiors apparently hadn’t allowed, according to Lieutenant Jall. But what was his motive, his reason? An army of Sobeks was fearsome for ground combat, but most battles in the Alpha Quadrant were settled in space, between battling ships. Any race, even the Pakleds, could run a starship given proper training. So why did Slezar need an army of soldiers?
“All hands to battlestations, Red Alert,” Stafford-2 said calmly. The lights on the bridge turned red as his officers prepared the ship for combat.
“Engineering,” Lieutenant Day-2 said from Ops, “Portside deflector shields show a 2% variance, compensate,”
“Confirmed,” Jeffery-2 called back.
“Programming priority targets,” Stern-2 said from tactical. A display on his screen showed a 3D schematic of the planetoid, with ships, fighters and the cruiser being assigned target designations. Another screen had a close-in view of the cruiser, with weak points highlighted.
In Engineering, Jeffery-2 had just given the order to activate the protective force field that would cushion the warp-core from damage.
“Divert extra power to the integrity fields on the nacelle pylons,” he ordered Ensign Frit Naketh-2, “We’re going to be doing some rough maneuvers,”
“Confirmed,” Naketh-2 nodded.
“Frat,” Jeffery-2 called out, “How’s that dynamic shield configuration going?”
“It’s running,” Frat Naketh-2 replied, “The computer will analyze incoming fire and redistribute shield power accordingly,”
In Sickbay, Dr. Wowryk-2 was the center of a storm of carefully controlled chaos.
“Veeneman,” she called, “I want odd-numbered teams on triage and trauma. Make sure they have comm-boosters and transporter beacons! If we take heavy damage, I want to be sure they can get our people to Sickbay! Kerry! The even-numbered teams are going to be doing emergency first aid in here until Dr. Ugkdeba or I can get to them. May God protect us!”
All over the ship, crewman manned their battlestations, bringing systems to emergency status, preparing for damage control and ensuring that every part of the huge Soveriegn-class ship was ready to perform when called on, no matter how dire the emergency.
“Red alert!” Stafford called, “All hands to battlestations!”
“Oh, here we go again,” Sylvia groaned as the klaxon started to sound, “Please be CAREFUL this time! Every time I get knocked up it takes you people weeks to fix things!”
Stafford felt his eyebrows raise.
“Language usage correction:” Sylvia cut back in, “Banged up. Damaged,”
“Got it,” Stafford said dryly.
“Ensign Yanick, report to the bridge, immediately,” Lieutenant Quintaine called over the comm. With Noonan guarding the road home, Stafford felt like he was half blind. Quintaine could manage the ship fine on the quiet night shift, but they’d never taken her into combat together before. Not only that, he had Stern running weapons rather than T’Parief. Again, Stern was OK, but he just didn’t bring the same enthusiasm to the job.
“OK, guys,” Jall called Engineering over the comm, “We’re going dancing, and we’re going to get our toes stepped on. Are the steel-toed boots ready?”
“What in the name of-“ Jeffery’s voice cut off as he understood what Jall was talking about, “Oh. Aye, shields at 100%. And talk like a normal person in the future, ye bloody-“
“Ensign Rengs!” Stafford called to one of the back-up officers standing by in the conference lounge, “Run into my ready room and make sure my Silverado model is secured,”
“Securing the Captain’s toys, yes sir!” Rengs snapped as he sprinted through the doors.
“Sir,” Stern cut in, “Our phaser banks and the capacitor cells for the pulse phaser are fully charged,” he frowned, “Uh, I think,”
“You think?” Stafford demanded.
“Um,” Stern blushed, “I’m not really used to these controls. T’Parief almost never lets us play with his big gun,”
Jall started laughing so hard he nearly fell out of his chair.
“OK people!” Stafford snapped, “We’re going into a dangerous situation here! Time to get serious and do our jobs!”
Everybody immediately turned to their stations and continued preparing the ship.
In Engineering, Jeffery was tapping at his console.
“Ships this old really shouldn’t be getting into fisticuffs,” he muttered, trying to strengthen the structural integrity field. He could hear Sylvia snapping ‘suggestions’ to his staff, shoring up weak spots in the hull and tying docking thrusters into the maneuvering thrusters to increase the ship’s mobility.
In the after torpedo bay, Crewman Gibson and Crewman Roscoe looked at each other as they passed a lit doobie between them.
“What are we supposed to be doing again?” Gibson asked.
“Uh, getting torpedoes ready?” Roscoe suggested.
“The only torpedo I see is the one in my pants!” Gibson chucked, gripping his groin.
“Sick, dude!” Roscoe objected.
On the bridge, Yanick came out of the turbolift, flashed Stafford an uneasy grin then slipped into the helm station.
“Programming in evasive maneuvers,” she said.
“Nice to have you back,” Jall said with a smile.
“Well, I’m not about to let YOU drive this thing!” she said with a smile.
“Twenty seconds to target,” Jall said, “Getting an error from the aft torpedo bay,”
“Torpedo bay!” Stafford snapped, “What’s the hold up?”
“Oh, huh-huh,” Gibson chuckled over the comm, “No problem, we’ve got everything ready to go,”
“Aft bay shows ready,” Jall rolled his eyes.
Stafford blew out a breath.
“Take us out of warp,” he said.
“Incoming!” Sobek-9 called from the helm, just as K’Eleese took her place in the command chair of the Jubilant Death, the Vor-cha-class cruiser given to her by a Klingon colony. On the screen, two Federation starships dropped out of warp and soared straight towards her planetoid.
“K’Eleese to Sobek-26,” K’Eleese said, “Are we ready to go down there, hmmm?”
“We are, K’Eleese,” came the reply.
“Excellent,” K’Eleese jumped up and clapped her hands, “Full power to the beam! Target the Silverado and prepare to fire!”
“Which one?” Sobek-13 asked from the weapons console.
“Good question,” K’Eleese said thoughtfully, “How about both? But be sure to get the larger one. After all, sometimes size does matter!”
“Picking up a strange energy reading from the Klingon ship,” Sikcee said, “I’m having problems identifying it,”
“Why haven’t they launched their fighters?” Jall-2 asked, eyeing the large Klingon ship on the main display.
“A very good question,” Stafford-2 wondered, “Day, any response to our hails?”
“No sir,” Day replied.
“Why aren’t they launching fighters,” Stafford-2 mused, “They can’t hope to defeat us with one ship, can they?”
“EMERGENCY EVASIVE!” Fifebee screamed.
Yanick, without bothering to check with Stafford, jerked the ship away from the other Silverado, sending people on all decks staggering for handholds.
“What the f-“ Stafford managed to get out before he was flung from his seat.
“EMERGENCY EVASIVE!” Sikcee screamed.
“Sir?” Yanick-2 asked.
“Do it,” Stafford nodded, “All hands, hold tight!”
Both ships broke off course, but Silverado-2 was several seconds behind her counterpart. Several very crucial seconds.
A pale blue beam fired out from Jubilant Death’s forward section. Silverado, having started to dodge as soon as the emitter powered up managed to squeak away, only her nacelles being caught in the beam.
Silverado-2 on the other hand, had started to turn far too late and was hit dead center.
“Are they damaged?” Stafford asked, watching as Silverado-2 came to a stop, then came about alongside the Klingon ship.
“I don’t think so,” Fifebee said, “That beam-“
“We’re being hailed,” Jall said.
The screen came to life, showing the bridge of Silverado-2.
Stafford, Jall, Stern and even Fifebee gasped.
Their counterparts were unharmed. But each had a large, goofy grin pasted on their faces. As they watched, Stafford-2 jumped up from his command chair.
“Hey diddily-doe, Silverado!” he cried happily, “I’m Captain Chrissy-Wissy Staf-fun-ord of the Convivial Confederacy Funship Silver-hey-do! Surrender and prepare to be happy!”
“Captain,” Fifebee said, “I think we should leave. Quickly,”
Stafford nodded, mouth working for a moment before he could speak.
“Ensign Yanick, come about,” he said, staring at his counterpart as he grinned insanely, “Maximum warp!”