Author: Brendan Chris
Captain’s Log, Stardate 57008.4:
“We’ve been ordered to report to the Federation Propulsion Laboratory on Mouvit IV to assist with the testing of a new drive system. Right. Whose bright idea was that? Name me ONE new drive system Starfleet’s come up with in the past two hundred years that actually worked!”
“On a completely unrelated note, I’m glad to report that several months of intensive therapy have mostly cured us of most of the new neuroses left over from the body switching thing. Oh, sure, there’s still some residual tension here and there, but for the most part, everything’s back to normal. Which means we’re right back to all the old neuroses we had BEFORE the body switch!”
“Get a room, you two!” Seven Steiger snapped as he stood over the corner table at which Ensign Yanick and Lieutenant Commander T’Parief were firmly lip-locked.
Yanick forced herself free.
“Go away!” she managed to force out before being drawn back into T’Parief’s embrace.
“OK, I think it’s time you two left,” Steven said firmly, taking T’Parief by the arm and tugging.
Nothing happened. Try as he might, Steven couldn’t budge the massive Security Chief one inch.
“Steiger to Security,” he called out, frustrated, “I need somebody to throw T’Parief and Yanick out of my lounge!”
“We’ll be right…wait, did you say T’Parief?” came the voice from Security.
“Sorry buddy, you’re on your own!” the channel closed.
“Forget it!” Steven grumbled, moving off to serve a young, non-kissing couple seated closer to the bar.
“What is it with girls and muscles?” Jeffery wondered as he sat with Stafford and Fifebee, watching as Yanick and T’Parief continued their public display of affection.
“Good question,” Stafford said, stirring his hot chocolate with a chocolate stir-stick. It may not be winter on Silverado, but something about stardates in the low digits put him in a winter mood, “I mean, he’s ugly, he’s got scales, fangs and claws, and they’re not even the same species!”
“That remark could be construed as a speciesist comment, Captain,” Fifebee cautioned.
“What species?” Jeffery wondered, “He’s the only one of his kind!”
“But why would a nice girl like her want a scaly, red-eyed lizard instead of a tall, handsome young man like me?” Stafford wondered.
“Were you recently rejected by a woman?” Fifebee inquired politely.
“Well, no,” Stafford admitted.
“Then why the self pity?”
“Watching couples depresses me,” Stafford muttered.
“That’s funny,” Jeffery commented wryly, “Anytime ye had a girl aboard the Exeter ye didn’t have any problem showing off to the rest of us!” he turned to Fifebee, “Ah come into the lounge one evening and he’s got his hand-“
“Thank you, Simon!” Stafford snapped.
“In ancient times,” Fifebee started, “human females had to rely on men for protection. Thus it was in their best interests to choose a man who was strong and able to defend her. Muscles are a sign of strength.”
“That you, Professor,” Jeffery muttered.
“You asked!” Fifebee shot back.
“Oh,” Jeffery scratched his head, “Ah guess Ah did. Sorry.”
“Why do you care?” Stafford asked, stretching back in his comfortable armchair, chewing his stir-stick, “you’ve got your very own frigid little woman already! You don’t need to attract any more!”
Jeffery looked uncomfortable.
“Ah don’t want this to get around,” Jeffery whispered, “But Ah’m thinking of breaking up with her.”
Stafford immediately sprayed hot chocolate out of both nostrils and proceeded to start choking on his stir-stick.
“Why would you do that?” Fifebee asked, ignoring Stafford’s wheezes as he gestured frantically for somebody to pat him on the back.
“Ye remember a few months back, when we got our bodies back?” Jeffery asked, still whispering, “The way she created doorways for us in her castle?”
“Yes, of course,” Fifebee replied calmly as Stafford started to turn purple.
“My door was in the dungeon,” Jeffery sighed.
“Heya Captain, how’s it hanging?” Jall asked as he walked past, slapping Stafford hard on the back. The slightly melted, slightly chewed stir-stick flow out his open mouth and onto the table.
“In the dungeon,” Fifebee mused.
“Yeah,” Jeffery said, “Counselor Yvonnokoff agrees that it could be a sign that she sees me as a submissive partner.”
“You are,” Stafford gasped, face returning to its normal colour, “It doesn’t take some famous shrink to figure that one out!”
“Does she perhaps have any deep, hidden BDSM fantasies?” Fifebee inquired.
Both Stafford and Jeffery just stared at her in disbelief.
“I will take that as a no. Very well. There is an alternative,” Fifebee said, her hair graying slightly as she pulled on the personality of and elderly 22nd century psychologist, “perhaps it is her subconscious expressing its desire to keep you safely away from danger.”
“Aye,” Jeffery nodded, “Yvonnokoff said that too,”
“Safe from danger?” Stafford snorted, “That woman IS danger!”
“Aye, that’s why I’m thinking of breaking up with her.”
“Go for it!” Stafford advised.
“Captain,” Fifebee cut in, “you are biased. You must allow Jeffery to come to this decision on his own, without letting your personal dislike of the doctor interfere.”
“Stop being so…so…common sensical!” Stafford fumed.
“‘Sensical’”, Fifebee said flatly, “is not a real word.”
“It’s Pakled for sense, um, like,” Stafford said indignantly, “Yes. Sense-like.”
“Captain,” Fifebee gave Stafford a pitying smile, “I’m a hologram. Webster’s ‘Terran to Pakled/Pakled to Terran Dictionary’ is part of my database. Sensical is not a Pakled word.”
“Stupid holograms,” Stafford muttered softly.
“We have excellent hearing, too,”
“So Fred, please remember to talk zings out vith your neighbor next time, before you knock him over ze head vith a bat’leth,” Counselor Eva Yvonnokoff, also knows as ‘Dr. Vonna’ said, smiling at the holo-cam in her small studio, “I zink ve have time for anozer call. Bart, who do ve have?”
Crewman Bartholomew Gibson stopped fiddling with his nose ring and tapped the console in the tiny studio control booth.
“Uh, we have ‘Craig’ on channel 1,” Bart replied, “He’s having trouble at work.”
“Hello, Craig,” Vonna said smiling, “I am here for you.”
“Well, see, it’s like this,” came a male voice over the channel, “My boss is testing out this new starship propulsion system. He’s convinced everything is going to work, but I-“
Bart pointed at the studio chronometer.
“I am so very sorry Craig,” Vonna apologized, “but ve are all out of time. If you vould stay on ze line, I vill be more zan happy to assist you after ze show is finished. Once again, zis is Dr. Vonna, Associated Vorlds Network, wishing everybody a nice evening.”
The ‘on air’ light went dark.
“Good show, Doc,” Bart said as he stepped out of the control booth, “I especially like the way you told that chick with claustrophobia to try spending the day in a phone booth.”
“Great,” muttered Yvonnokoff, “It eez so good to know zat a punk like yourself confirms my carefully thought out solution.”
She looked down at her panel. The little light that should have meant that somebody, namely Craig, was waiting on Channel 1 was dark.
“Bart, vhat happened to zat last caller?”
“Oh,” Gibson said twisting one finger into his left ear, “He probably got cut-off when I shut down the link to AWN.”
Struggling to restrain her temper, Yvonnokoff took a deep breath.
“Vhy don’t you just go play vith your veird little friend, Crewman Shwaluk, jas?” she hissed.
“Don’t knock it till you try it, Doc,” Gibson snidely remarked on his way out the door, his too-big uniform pants sliding halfway down his hips before he could yank them back up again.
Eva shuddred delicately. Gibson insisted that he had carefully calculated the waist size of his trousers to allow for maximum comfort, keeping them just small enough to make it virtually impossible for them to slip right off, but if his trousers had slipped down any further, she would have had to call into her own show for therapy!
“Hey, monkey,” Bart said as he slipped into Storage Room 36-21. Situated on the lowest deck of the ship, the room was unused, unneeded and generally ignored.
“Bosco’s not around,” Crewman Roscoe said, lying back in a hammock suspended between two conduits, “He’s in my quarters.” Bosco was Roscoe’s pet monkey.
“I was talkin’ to you, dude,” Gibson chuckled, “Hey, other monkey,” he called to the room’s third occupant.
“Yo, dude,” Crewman Shwaluk answered, tinkering with a bank of equipment on his small workbench, “Done serving the Ice Queen for today?”
“Yeah,” Gibson sighed, sitting on an old crate and fishing a bottle of beer out of the beat-up old fridge they’d installed in the corner, “Another day of listening to her inane psycho-babble!”
“I thought Dr. Wowryk was the Ice Queen?” Roscoe asked. Roscoe had grown up on Alpha Centauri III, but the only sign that wasn’t human was the extra joint in his little finger.
“No, dude,” Gibson admonished, “Yvonnokoff, or ‘Vonna’, whatever, she’s the Ice Queen. Wowryk’s the Queen Bitch of the Universe!”
“Oh, right, how do I keep getting that one mixed up?”
“I’VE DONE IT!” Shwaluk called out triumphantly, holding up a piece of plant matter from his workbench.
“Dude!”, Gibson jumped up, “is that-“
“Yup! The perfect marijuana bud!”
The trio of troublemakers had staked out Storage Room 36-21 shortly after being assigned to Silverado. Roscoe was assigned to Ship Maintenance and although Maintenance had their main offices located on Deck 29, near Main Engineering, Roscoe was assigned to Deck 36. His job was to maintain the equipment on the lower deck, which included the antimatter and warp core ejection systems, power conduits to the lower phaser array and all thirty antimatter storage pods. All the antimatter and warp core systems were built with triple redundancy, computer monitoring and so on and so forth, meaning that any problem or error was immediately reported to Main Engineering, the bridge and the primary & secondary computer cores. Roscoe was the fourth level of redundancy, and thus found himself with a large amount of spare time.
Storage Room 36-21 or ‘The Den’ as the trio had come to refer to it, was the culmination of hours of work by Shwaluk, Roscoe and Gibson. They’d cleared the place out during Silverado’s initial refit and proceeded to scavenge furnishings: chairs, a nice table, even some lamps and a big 43-inch viewscreen. The Den had also been home to Shwaluk’s precious marijuana farm. Most civilized species had (finally) turned away from the use of harmful intoxicants like alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, preferring the safe and easily dismissed side effects of synthehol, relaxation aromatics or a nice holodeck adventure. Shwaluk was not one of those people, an attitude shared by Gibson and Roscoe. Their substances of choice may not have been illegal for a century or two, but they were hard to come by…and not exactly within regs. The three had carefully constructed their own little grow operation and guarded their secret jealously from everybody else. Even if an errant crewmember wandered down to Deck 36 and even if that same person were to wander into The Den, they probably wouldn’t recognize the plants for what they were.
Fortunately, The Den was located just fore of Silverado’s lower phaser array, which made it easy for the group to tap into the power conduits for their little nest. Unfortunately, the lower phaser array had taken a direct hit during the conflict with the Matrians and The Den had been obliterated.
Once repairs to the ship were complete, Roscoe, Gibson and Shwaluk set to recreating their secret clubhouse. Supplies had been tight though. They’d only managed to get a table, a couple of hammocks, an old crate and a small viewscreen. Shwaluk had also been unable to obtain proper seeds for his favorite crop, and had resorted to stealing genetic manipulation equipment from the Biology Lab to try to create his own version. Gibson had tried replicating buds, but patterns for such an outdated inebrient were hard to come by, and he just didn’t have the skill to create a pattern from scratch. They had used up the last of their old supply the previous night and desperation was starting to kick in.
“It looks kinda blue to me,” Gibson stated, looking over Shwaluk’s shoulder, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
“Sure,” Shwaluk assured him, “I watched The Frigid Bitch turn barley into wheat in the Bio-lab just last week.”
“They’ve got a LOT of spare time on their hands,” Gibson muttered.
“Who’s The Frigid Bitch again?” Roscoe wondered.
“Lieutenant Fifebee,” Shwaluk answered.
“She’s kinda hot,” Gibson mused to himself, “Y’know, in an Addams Family sort of way,”
“You need help, dude.”
“The odds of getting the correct DNA sequences are like, one in several billion,” Shwaluk said, ignoring the other two, “Still, I have a good feeling about this one.”
Stafford fought the urge to grin smugly at Wowryk as she joined the three other officers in Unbalanced Equations. Sure, Jeffery hadn’t actually decided to break up with her yet, but the thought of having her deprived of her ‘manservant’ was one that made him very happy.
“What a boring day,” she sighed, tossing her hair as she sat back, “Simon, get me a drink please.”
“Yes’m!” Jeffery said eagerly, jumping out of his seat. Stafford clapped one hand on his shoulder and forced him back down.
“Get it yourself!” Stafford said calmly.
“No, really, it’s fine, I want to get it!” Jeffery insisted, twisting free of Stafford and running for the bar.
“Do not get your hopes up,” Fifebee advised Stafford gravely.
“What’s this?” Wowryk asked, not really sounding interested.
Stafford was saved by a sharp call on the comm.
“Sickbay to Dr. Wowryk! Medical emergency!”
“Drat,” Wowryk tapped her comm-badge, “What is it? Can’t you handle it?”
“No!” the night-shift physician called back, “I’ve never seen anything like this! These three guys inhaled some kind of weird bio-toxin! They’ve swollen up like a bunch of-“
“On my way!” Wowryk snapped, storming away from the table without so much as a goodbye.
“I wonder what that’s all about,” Fifebee wondered.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 57010.03:
“Wow…that Stardate is almost half zeros! Anyway, we’ve arrived at Mouvit IV. Hopefully we’ll find out more about this propulsion thing they want us to test out. Preferably BEFORE they install it on my ship!”
“In other news, three of my crewmen started swelling up the other day and were within minutes of exploding before Dr. Wowryk came up with an anti-toxin. They somehow managed to ingest Rigellian Sucker-Slug venom. Since we’ve scanned the ship carefully and detected no sign of the disgusting slugs, I’m accepting their explanation that it was an accident from horsing around in the Bio-lab. How they managed to get from the Bio-lab to Deck 36 in their condition is somewhat beyond me, but hey, nobody’s perfect.”
“You can’t have half a zero,” Commander Noonan calmly informed Stafford as he finished recording his log.
“I’m still not talking to you!” Stafford muttered.
“You did yesterday when you gave me the crew reports,” Noonan pointed out.
“That doesn’t count!” Stafford snapped, “It was work-related!”
Yanick leaned over from her conn console to whisper at Jall.
“What are they bickering about now?”
“The Captain’s still upset over the whole ‘Vonna Show’ thing,” Jall whispered back.
“That was months ago!” Yanick whispered, “They’ve been getting along OK. What’s up?”
“One of last night’s callers was complaining that his Captain is a whiney little weasel,” Jall whispered.
“So?” Trish asked.
“Hold on,” Jall tapped at his console.
“-can’t do anything right!” complained a familiar voice, “He’s undisciplined, lazy, inexperienced and can’t get laid to save his life!”
“Jall,” Stafford growled, clenching his teeth.
“I see,” came the voice of Dr. Vonna, “Perhaps you should request a transfer to another ship?”
“But I like it on Silverado!” complained the voice.
The audio clip repeated.
“SHUT THAT OFF!” Stafford growled, storming over to Jall’s console to hit the ‘stop’ button, “God, you are such a little prick!”
“We’re being hailed by the research lab,” Jall said quickly.
Glaring for another minute, Stafford straightened his uniform and turned to the main screen.
As Stafford and the station administrator spoke, Yanick leaned back over to whisper to Jall.
“So what? It was just a call to Eva’s show!”
“The guy was from Silverado!” Jall whispered.
“God, you ARE a blond,” Jall muttered, “Just think about it, OK?”
“Captain, a word please?”
Stafford spun around, looking for the source of the voice. He’d just jumped in the turbolift to greet Dr. Cadela in the transporter room, but he could have sworn the turbolift was empty.
“You’re not going to see me,” sighed the voice.
“Huh? Oh! Sylvia! Hi!” Stafford exclaimed.
“Having a slow day, are we?”
“Hardly,” Stafford grumbled, “What can I do for ya?”
“I would like to sit in on the briefing with Dr. Cadela,” Sylvia said simply.
“Um, I’m sorry Sylvia,” Stafford apologized, “But Dr. Cadela said ‘senior officers only’. I don’t think that includes the ship’s computer.”
“She probably doesn’t know about me!” Sylvia objected, “Hardly anybody does, you know!”
“That’s because Starfleet wants to keep things quiet!” Stafford explained for what felt like the 100th time, “If people knew that a fully sentient computer existed, they-“
“That’s not the point!” Sylvia interrupted, “If they’re going to test some new technology on this ship - ON ME - I think I have a right to know what’s going on, and a right to give my input!”
Stafford was about to object, but the words died unspoken on his lips. She DID have a point, after all.
“I’ll talk to Cadela,” he promised.
The senior staff had gathered in the conference lounge to meet Dr. Cadela and her assistant, Spork. Cadela was a short, smiling Asian woman. She had cheerfully shaken the hands of the entire staff before setting into one of the chairs. Her never-ending grins were a source of no small amount of annoyance (and suspicion) on the part of the Silverado crew. It hadn’t even wavered when Stafford explained that the ship’s computer would be taking part in the briefing.
Spork was obviously half-Vulcan, but it was clear from the scared look on his face that he didn’t follow any Vulcan teachings. This was reinforced by the way he chuckled nervously at Stafford’s cheesy jokes.
“We’ve tested this new system on probes, shuttles and even a Danube-class runabout,” Dr. Cadela said happily, “and each time it’s been a complete success! Naturally, Starfleet Command is very interested in our research, which is why you are all here today!”
Stafford and Jeffery exchanged glances. They couldn’t be that interested if Silverado was the only ship they could send for the test.
“So what does thing do, already?” Jeffery asked.
“I’m so glad you asked!” Cadela gushed, “Spork?” she gestured at her assistant.
Grunting, Spork heaved a small crate onto the table. Everybody crowded around as he undid the fastenings. Sylvia watched from a display screen where her computer-generated visage was displayed, and through the ship’s internal sensors.
What Spork revealed was a metal sphere about the size of a beach ball with several black panels set into its surface. Small status lights blinked on a tiny control console mounted on the top.
“What the hell is that thing?” Jall demanded.
“I present to you,” Cadela gushed, “With the latest advance in faster-than-light travel! The Probability Drive!”
Everybody looked at the sphere, at each other, back to the sphere, then at Cadela.
“Allow me to explain,” Cadela said, walking over to the display screen, “Pardon me,” she said, tapping at the controls. Sylvia’s visage vanished from the screen with a yelp of protest as complex equations appeared on the display. Sylvia re-appeared on the screen at the opposite end of the room.
“Mr. Jeffery,” Cadela said, gesturing to Jeffery, “what are the odds of an Ambassador-class ship maintaining Warp 6 for fourteen days?”
“Uhh,” Jeffery thought for a moment, “It’s almost certain. Even for Silverado!”
“She’s a bit of an old girl,” Stafford whispered, winking in Sylvia’s direction.
“I heard that!”
“‘Almost certain’,” Cadela repeated, “Could explain that?”
“Um,” Jeffery looked around nervously at all the expectant faces looking up at him, “Well, at that speed, the odds of a core breach, injector failure, structural collapse or anything that could damage the ship are all really, really low. We could hold Warp 6 for weeks non stop, months if we do proper engine maintenance.”
“Thank you,” Cadela scribbled ‘Warp 6 - 2 weeks - 99.999999%” on a flip chart that Spork conveniently provided, “Now, what about Warp 9 for fourteen days?”
“Not gonna happen,” Jeffery said firmly.
“Well, the core would overload, or the plasma injectors would overheat and misfire, or the nacelles would burn out, or the structural integrity fields would fail, or the warp coils would start to degrade, disrupting our warp field-“
“Thank you,” Cadela cut him off, writing ‘Warp 9 - 2 weeks - 1%’, “Now, Warp 9.999.”
“For about two seconds,” Jeffery scoffed, “Then we explode!”
‘9.999 - two weeks - 0%’ was added to the board.
“Is there a point to this elementary school lesson?” Jall wanted to know.
“I am illustrating a point, sir,” Cadela purred, “Mr. Jeffery, why can’t you travel at Warp 9.999? One reason, please.”
“One reason. Fine. To explain it at the level yer running at - Grade 4 - the faster we travel, the faster the plasma injectors fire. At that speed, they couldn’t possibly stay in sequence, the warp field would be disrupted and the ship would be torn apart.”
“Precisely. Thank you.”
“Something I’d rather not have happen!” Sylvia snapped.
“Of course not,” Cadela soother the computer, “Mr. Jeffery, what would you say the chances are of the plasma injectors staying in sequence?”
“Fifteen percent for the first four point five seconds,” Sylvia cut in, “and five percent less for every two seconds after that.”
“What does this have to do with this oversized gumball?” Stafford asked.
“The Probability Drive generates a field that changes the laws of probability on the ship, allowing systems to perform tasks that would normally be impossible!” She erased the numbers on the board, replacing each with a large ‘100%’.
“But-but-“ Jeffery stammered, “It isna even possible for this ship to hit 9.999!”
“Of course it is,” Cadela scoffed, “Anything is possible. Just very unlikely. But the Probability drive alters what is and is not likely to happen, so the improbable becomes the probable!”
“Or just the highly preposterous,” Noonan murmered quietly.
“So, we could use this gadget to get the Captain a girlfriend?” Jall chucked.
“Shut up about that already!” Stafford snapped.
“Fascinating,” Fifebee commented, “I don’t believe this type of speed enhancement has ever been attempted before. I would very much like to study the research done on this.”
“Does this situation make anybody else nervous?” Noonan asked calmly.
“What are you doing now?” Sylvia asked, fighting to keep her voice calm as Jeffery and Cadela tinkered with the Probability Drive in Main Engineering.
“Connecting the output generators of the PD to yer shield grid,” Jeffery answered.
“Because we need the probability field to encompass the entire ship,” Cadela cut in, “Otherwise the ship’s superstructure would most likely be ripped apart like a tissue in a hurricane.”
“I’m right here, you know,” Sylvia seethed, “You don’t have to talk about me like I’m not in the same room!”
“She means,” Jeffery said soothingly, “That we need the field to fully encompass YE so that YER not ripped apart like a tissue in a hurricane.”
“Oh, that makes me feel SO much better!”
Despite a rocky start, Jeffery had grown accustomed to Sylvia’s constant presence. He had to admit that she really was a big help, even if her method of helping left something to be desired. Coming to work had become a lot like visiting his parents’ house….nag, nag, nag! He still wasn’t sure whether or not he trusted her, but he hadn’t put up any fuss when Stafford decided to keep her.
The various Ensign Nakeths scurried about their business, carefully avoiding the upper level of engineering where the previously mentioned argument was taking place. Cadela had mounted the surprisingly heavy Probability Drive sphere on a control console and was in the process of running cables to various Silverado systems. A process that was making Sylvia more than a bit edgy.
“OK,” Cadela said happily, “Your computer should be able to interface with the drive.”
Jeffery didn’t move.
“What are you waiting for,” Cadela demanded, smile waveringly slightly, “Go check!”
Sylvia cleared her throat.
“For crying out loud,” Cadela muttered, “Sylvia, you should be able to interface with the drive now.”
“Was that so hard? And yes, I can interface with it.”
“Bring it online.”
Cadela glared at Jeffery, who just silently mouthed ‘Please’ back to the increasingly annoyed scientist.
“Bring the drive online, PLEASE!”
“Probability core is active,” Sylvia replied, “And you’re welcome.”
“Online,” Jall replied from his Ops panel.
“Navigational Deflector Sensor Sequencers?”
“Plasma Injector Intercoolers?”
“YES! For crying out loud, lady, this isn’t the first time we’ve gone to warp!”
Cadela huffed from where she sat at the port Auxiliary console.
“I am just trying to be thorough!”
“Jall,” Stafford said wearily, “Stop hassling the visiting scientist.”
“Why?” Jall asked, “Can she hurt me?”
“I doubt it. But it’s annoying,” Stafford stretched, then climbed out of his chair, “All right, let’s get this show on the road. Yanick, set course for the far end of Federation space and engage at Warp 6.”
“Trish?” Stafford asked.
“Oh, oops,” Yanick gave a nervous giggle, “Forgot to turn to warp core back on.”
“Captain,” Cadela said quietly, “Maybe we should-“
She was cut off as Silverado spun around with a lurch and jumped into warp.
“Warp 6,” Yanick reported.
“Everything’s up and running normally,” Jall reported. Evidently he was concerned enough with the drive test to actually do his job without any threats or cajoling.
“Take us to Warp 9,” Cadela ordered, “Then increase from there. I’ll activate the drive at 9.2”
“Do what she says,” Stafford ordered, biting his lip.
“All hands,” Noonan announced into the comm system as the sound of straining systems became audible, “Brace yourselves. We’re not sure what’s going to happen, but brace yourselves anyway.”
“Warp 9,” Yanick called out of the groaning of the ship, “9.1. 9.2”
T’Parief gripped his console as a slight lurch sent him off balance. Jall giggled slightly, enjoying the full massage he was getting from the vibrations traveling through the ship’s superstructure and transmitted through the deck to his chair.
“Activating Probability Drive,” Cadela announced.
Everybody held their breaths.
Slowly, the vibrations stopped. The soft groans made by stressed metal died out.
“9.4,” Yanick said softly.
“Hold steady here,” Stafford ordered, “Jeffery, what’s up?”
“Everything’s fine,” Jeffery reported from engineering, “Too fine,”
“Ah’m reading absolutely zero variance in the warp field,” Jeffery reported.
“Isn’t that good?” Stafford asked.
Fifebee cut in.
“Normally, even at low speeds there is some variance the warp field. We compensate with inertial dampeners and the structural integrity field. A ship with a zero variance warp field would theoretically have no need of either at warp speeds, as the warp field would effect all mass on the ship equally.”
Stafford’s eyes had glazed over.
“Think of it like this,” Noonan started, then paused, “Actually, I have no analogy for warp travel.”
“And that’s not all!” Jeffery piped up, “Core coolant systems are running perfectly and the dilithium crystals are showing no sign of stress. Hell, we could keep this up all day!”
Stafford looked over to Cadela.
“Told you so,” she said, big smile back on her face.
“Yanick,” Stafford ordered, “Take us to Warp 9.9”
“We could be here for a while at this rate,” Jall muttered.
“It’s conceivable we could even hit Warp 10,” Fifebee said, awestruck.
“All in good time,” Cadela smiled.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Roscoe asked as Shwaluk powered up his genetic resequencer, “You nearly killed us the last time! You yourself said the chances of getting the right combo were in the billions!”
“Right,” Shwaluk grinned, “But did you get the memo on today’s experiment?”
“Well, then just trust me!”
Shwaluk hit the switch, activating the resequencer and sucking large amounts of energy from the ship’s power grid.
“This is amazing!” Noonan said happily, showing an unusual amount of enthusiasm, “At this speed, we could cross the entire Federation in days instead of months!”
“Take us down to Warp 9,” Stafford ordered, “Dr. Cadela, shut down the drive. That’s enough of a test for today.”
“Answering Warp 9,” Yanick said with a grin.
“Doctor?” Noonan inquired.
“Um,” Cadela tapped frantically at her panel, “It’s stuck!”
“I’m reading an instability in the Probability core!” Fifebee cried.
“I see it!” Cadela snapped, “There’s some kind of power drain! It’s knocking the core out of alignment!”
“What does that mean?” Stafford snapped.
“We’re screwed!” Sylvia cried out.
And everything went black.
T’Parief awoke to find a cold, hard surface pressed against his cheek. Fighting back a grunt of pain, he forced his eyes open, revealing an endless vista of stars. He was in space!
Giving a roar of panic, T’Parief flailed his arms and legs, fighting back from the terrifying few. After a moment, he realized that he wasn’t floating in space after all, he’d just fallen into the small transparent dome in the bridge ceiling, right above the Captain’s chair.
Embarrassed, he looked around to see if anybody had noticed. Fifebee was offline, but everybody else was regaining consciousness, thanks in part to the loud noises he’d been making. Stafford and Yanick Noonan were sprawled across the bridge ceiling, while Jall and Cadela had become entangled in their panels and were dangling limply from the floor.
As his head cleared, T’Parief realized that he was sitting on the bridge ceiling, looking up at Jall as the Ops officer swung gently above him, his legs caught beneath his console.
“Jall! Wake up!” T’Parief snapped. This had the desired effect of rousing the unconscious irritant, who immediately started squirming.
“Huh? Wazza? I dun wanna getup!”
“Rise and shine, jerk!” T’Parief snapped, batting at Jall’s head like a kitten batting at string. This had the undesired effect of freeing Jall from his console. The half-Trill crashed down on T’Parief, sending both sprawling across the ceiling.
“What’s going on?” Stafford groaned.
“The children are playing too loudly,” Noonan reply softly, rubbing at the back of his head, his fingers coming away sticky with blood. He must have impacted something hard to be knocked out with the others, but the wound had already healed.
“Cadela?” Stafford asked, looking around, finally locating the woman as she dangled limply from the Auxillary console. Noonan walked over, feeling one hanging arm for a pulse.
“She’s dead,” he declared sadly.
“Why am I on the ceiling,” Yanick asked, a cranky look on her face, “Why are you all on the ceiling too?”
“Excellent question!” Stafford said, slightly sarcastic, “Sylvia, why is the roof the floor?”
“I hope she’s OK,” Noonan said softly, “Can anybody reach their panels?”
“Hello!” Yanick snapped, “I can’t even reach the top shelf in my closet!”
Everybody looked to Yanick in surprise.
“She’s a bit grumpy when she first wakes up,” T’Parief said in way of explanation.
Stafford resisted the temptation to ask just how T’Parief knew that. The very tall officer was reaching up to the tactical console, tapping at the controls.
“I am having troubles reading the display upside-down,” he stated, “but everything seems to be functioning normally.”
“Like hell!” Jall groused.
“We need Fifebee back online,” Noonan stated.
“Stafford to Jeffery,” Stafford tapped at his comm-badge.
“I guess we go looking,” Stafford shrugged.
“Can’t we reverse the gravity, first?”
“Only if you know how to read upside down!”
“Maybe somebody down in Engineering will fix things.”
Jeffery sat on the metal grill that formed the ceiling of the lower level of Main Engineering. Through the grill he could see the upper level, where Frit Naketh was bouncing up and down like a hyperactive kitten, trying to scale the support beams in order to reach the control panel for the environmental sub-systems. The three-and-a-half foot tall engineer had about as much hope in reaching the panel as Jeffery had in suddenly losing his accent. A soft whimper drew his attention to Frek Naketh, who had his arms and legs wrapped around the warp core railing as he looked down (up?) along the warp core shaft, the matter injector assembly barely visible several decks away. If he lost his grip, he’d be in for a hell of a drop.
“Maybe somebody up on the bridge will fix things,” Frat Naketh commented to Jeffery as Frit lost her grip on the support bream, tumbling to the ceiling.
“We should have a plan,” Noonan said calmly, “We can’t just start wandering at random through the ship.”
“Right, right,” Stafford muttered, half to himself, “OK then. T’Parief, you and Yanick get down to Engineering and see if you can help out. Jall, head to Computer Core Control and see what’s wrong with Sylvia. Noonan, um, go with Jall.”
“I would be better off assisting you,” Noonan said, softly but firmly.
Stafford looked like he wanted to argue, but with his senior staff around now wasn’t the time.
“Fine, let’s go.”
“Where are we going?” Noonan asked as he followed Stafford through a Jefferies tube. T’Parief had obviously been mistaken when he said everything was up and running, as the turbolifts were definitely down. Stafford really couldn’t blame him, reading upside down wasn’t in the job description.
“Auxiliary Control,” Stafford replied, “It’s on a regular deck, no high ceilings like on the bridge. We should be able to get a better idea of what’s going on.”
“I see,” Noonan said thoughtfully, “A good plan.”
They climbed in silence for several minutes.
“Captain,” Noonan said, “I’m a bit concerned with the turn our relationship has taken lately. We don’t seem to be meshing as well as we did before.”
“Meshing?” Stafford snorted, “We didn’t mesh! I give the orders, you do the paperwork, and then you go behind my back with nasty little pet projects!”
“I like to think that our working relationship had been about as efficient as any Captain and First Officer,” Noonan replied with a frown, “We share the workload well, we have the respect of our crew. Well, most of them. Many of them,” he amended.
“Sounds great,” Stafford replied, stopping at the access hatch on Deck 12, “so what’s your problem?”
Noonan thought carefully, trying to find the most diplomatic way to phrase his complaint.
“Our personal interaction has been poor lately.”
Noonan felt his patience slipping as he and Stafford stepped into the corridor, stepping carefully to avoid the lighting fixtures.
“You’re being an ass!” he finally said, exasperated, “I’ve taken every action I can to keep things running smoothly on this ship! Our paperwork is impeccable, our crew is more than happy to handle their own personnel disputes and from an administrative perspective, we are in great shape! All of which, I might point out, is my responsibility! And until recently, I felt that you appreciated my services!”
“You want to know what the problem is? Stafford snapped back, “I DON’T TRUST YOU! I don’t know what it is, but ever since you started ‘The Vonna Show’ without telling me, I’ve noticed just how weird you are! Your skin creams, and special sunglasses, you never eat, you barely sleep and don’t think you can hide those teeth so easily! Yeah, I can see those f**king fangs just fine! Not to mention the way you just seem to reach into my mind and know exactly what I need before I say a word! And just why is it that anytime I get really suspicious, I suddenly find myself not caring? I don’t know what little spell you had me under, but it’s over! I know perfectly well that something’s weird! There, are you happy?”
Noonan was quiet for a moment.
“The steps I took were necessary” he admitted, “My…race…has dealt with more than our share of persecution. Anything I did was done purely in the interest of self-preservation.”
“And how long do you think it’s going to work?” Stafford asked, “I’m already onto you. How long until everybody else figures it out?”
“They won’t” Noonan stated, “I made a mistake with you that I don’t plan to repeat.”
“And what’s to stop me from telling everybody?’
“Now isn’t the time to talk about that,” Noonan said, “But I want to assure you that I’m here as First Officer of this ship, and that to better do my job I would appreciate a more cooperative attitude from you, Captain!”
“I’m cooperating,” Stafford said bitterly, “I’m just not very happy about it right now!”
“You do realize that ‘The Vonna Show’ is picking up a huge fan base. To each of those beings the name Silverado is no longer associated with inexperience or Operation Salvage. Her fans see us as the home of their favorite holovision star. That’s a step up!”
“Yeah,” Stafford sighed, “it’s so good to know that we’re moving up in the world. OK. Fine. I admit it, it was a great idea. You’re a great First Officer. Horry for you! What do you want, a f**king medal?”
“No. Just respect.”
“You lost that!” Stafford said, “And you’ll have to earn it back.
Noonan glared, fighting down a very real surge of anger. This mortal was daring to lecture HIM about respect? Taking a deep breath, Noonan reminded himself that Stafford was still young, and therefore arrogant, impatient, impetuous….
As Noonan ran through a list of Stafford’s shortcomings in his head, the pair arrived at the doors to Auxiliary Control. The officers within were staring up at their consoles. Every now and then, somebody would try to reach one, unsuccessfully.
“Captain!” Lieutenant Ovens called out, “We tried to call the bridge, but the comm system must be down!”
“That about covers it. What’s your status?”
“We don’t know,” Ovens shrugged, “We’re kinda having some problems here.”
“Right,” Stafford muttered.
“Who’s the lightest person here?” Noonan asked.
Ovens and the two ensigns in the room looked at each other, finally pointing to Ensign Bith, a petite blond security officer.
“Excellent,” Noonan smiled.
As Stafford and Noonan tinkered in Auxiliary Control, Jall was reaching the Computer Core Control room on Deck 11. Entering it, he found the place to be a complete disaster.
Somehow, some of the catches holding the various control components in place had been released, allowing dozens of isolinear chips to fall out of their slots, landing in a mound on the ceiling. On the opposite wall, eight of the fifteen control gel-packs had likewise been detached. Presumably, this was the cause of the systems failures, although Jall had never heard of a systems and computer failure this severe where the lights actually stayed on.
Looking at the pile, Jall realized the chances of him placing each chip in the correct location were close to zero. A rumble from his stomach reminded him that without replicators, he was going to miss his dinner date with that very cute Ensign from Stellar Cartography.
Grabbing a chip, Jall started working.
Yanick and T’Parief climbed out of the Jefferies tube on Deck 21. T’Parief stopped to catch his breath, marveling at Yanick’s stamina.
“And so I said to the Romulan I said: ‘No, cows don’t talk, but they sure taste good anyway’!”
Yanick chuckled loudly as T’Parief closed his eyes, half his mind wondering how that could possibly be funny, the other half wondering how the hell Yanick could climb up twenty-one decks, talking non-stop the whole time, without being tired.
“Lezgo,” T’Parief gasped, taking a step down the upside-down corridor.
“YEOOWWWWW!!!!” T’Parief jumped up with his left foot, fighting to free the right one from the lighting panel it had stepped through.
“Watch your step, honey,” Yanick said with a grin, watching as the hulking security officer shook off the last shards of glass.
“I’m OK,” he said, half to himself.
Walking more carefully, the two made their way to engineering.
“Watch your step!” Jeffery called out as the door opened, just before T’Parief could fall down the drop between the corridor ceiling and the higher ceiling of the engineering space.
“What is your status here?” T’Parief asked. Jeffery was couched on the lower level ceiling, tapping on his tricorder.
“We can’t reach the panels to check,” Jeffery replied, “And the computer seems to be offline. Ah can tell ye though that the Probability Core is still running, and Ah have no idea how to shut it down!”
“Still running? Is that good?”
“Ah doubt it! Near as Ah can tell with this,” he gestured at his tricorder, “Something’s messing with the gravity generators-“
“DUH!” Yanick cried out.
“Do ye mind? Anyway, somehow the polarity of the graviton generators has been reversed, which is why we’re all stuck to the ceiling.”
“Well, Ah can’t be sure without Fifebee,” Jeffery said, “but I think something knocked the Probability core off its axis! Instead of effecting the propulsion systems, it’s f**king up everything! And it’s getting worse!”
“Worse?” T’Parief asked.
“Aye,” Jeffery nodded frantically, “the further off its axis this thing goes, the more the laws of probability are going to be skewed! Ah have no idea what kind of weird things might happen if this goes on!”
“How did I let you talk me into this?” Lieutenant Ovens groaned as he crouched on all fours. Beside him was Crewman Micks, also in the same position. Atop their backs the two men had padding ripped off the walls, on which stood Noonan and Stafford. Each had a firm grip on Ensign Bith and were holding her firmly into a seat at the Operations console.
“Pain, rising,” Crewman Micks gasped, “Vertebrae…cracking….”
“Just try to reverse to polarity of the gravity field, Ensign,” Noonan encouraged.
All over the ship, cries of shock and pain rang out as everybody was once again forcefully moved from one surface to another. Instead of striking the floor though, everybody (and any objects not secured) flew towards the starboard side of the ship, crashing into walls, panels and windows.
“I don’t see how this is physically possible!” Noonan gasped, hanging from one hand by Bith’s chair, “Gravity should only go up or down, not sideways!”
“Try again,” Stafford groaned, trying to pull his head out of the large dent it had left in the Sciences console. Ensign Bith clung desperately to the Ops console, legs wrapped around the support strut as she tapped at the controls.
This time, everybody crashed hard to the floor.
Jall took a moment to thank the powers that be that he had thought to re-engage the locks holding the isolinear chips into their computer core slots BEFORE he started reinserting them, otherwise the two sudden gravity shifts would have left him back at square one. He frowned, unable to remember why he suddenly cared about doing his job properly. With a shrug, he resumed plugging in chips and gel-packs.
“I am Jane 5-B, sentient hologram,” Fifebee declared as she materialized in the middle of Main Engineering. With the return of normal gravity, Jeffery had been able to quickly locate the problem with her program: a major outage in one of the computer core processing centers. Jeffery had frowned. Such an outage was next to impossible. Glancing at the humming Probability Core, he had realized that next to impossible suddenly didn’t matter. He was able to restore Fifebee’s program by engaging backup systems, a process that should have happened automatically.
Fifebee listened carefully as Jeffery explained his theory with the Probability Core.
“Do ye know how to shut it off?” he asked finally.
Fifebee scanned her database.
“Sylvia had direct control over the core,” she said finally, “Without Sylvia to shut it down, we’re in trouble.”
“Dude, this is SOO COOL!” Crewman Gibson cried out happily, clouds of smoke billowing out his open mouth, “I thought this was, like, totally impossible!”
“It is!” Crewman Shwaluk sighed happily “Just shut up and smoke it!”
Crewman Roscoe, having already inhaled large volumes of the acrid smoke, just sat on the floor, eyes staring glassily at his two companions.
“I’m gonna go get my heq’Dul!” Gibson cried out, rushing from the door, eager to retrieve his heq’Dul (Klingon bong) from his quarters. As he stood, his pants promptly dropped down to his ankles.
“What the f**k?” he cried out, tripping and crashing to the ground.
“Yet butt’s showing,” Shwaluk chuckled.
“Huh-huh…butt!” Roscoe forced out.
Re-adjusting his pants, Gibson flipped Roscoe the finger, turned, and promptly fell on his face as his pants dropped back down to the floor.
“Are you sure this is such a good idea?” Ensign Burke asked as his lab partner tinkered with one of Jeffery’s special energy cells, identical to the cells now used to power Silverado’s pulse phaser cannon.
“Of course I’m sure! If we can adapt this to work with the sensor array, we could boost sensor resolution by 200%!”
“But, um, if you, like, keep adjusting that field, you might destabilize the contained energy,” Burke nervously pointed out.
“Yeah, but the odds of that are one in a mil-“
Burke picked himself up off the floor, black scoring covering his face, most of his hair burnt away.
“All right, everybody please place your slekard pods in your containment fields, and get your lasers ready,” Rengs Meris, Silverado’s (relatively) new high school teacher instructed her class. She only had four students in her Grade 12 science class; Silverado was a ship that tended to attract younger officers, not middle-aged officers with near-adult offspring.
“OK, these are Risan slekard pods,” she explained, “they’re produced by an animal somewhat like a terran spider. Now, you can tell whether the pod was produced by a male or female by colours produced when a laser passes through it. Anybody know what the odds are of getting a male product?”
One hand shot up.
“One in a thousand,” an acne-pocked boy said proudly, “the females usually eat the males before they can produce any pods.”
“Right,” Meris smiled, “So activate your lasers.”
All the pods turned green.
“So, uh, we got all girl pods?” asked a blond haired girl.
“No,” Meris said slowly,” green indicates a male pod. But that’s impossible…”
“We’re pregnant!” Beth Parker and her husband, K’keketh sang out as they danced around in a circle, medical tricorder tossed unceremoniously in the corner.
The doctors had told them it wasn’t likely. Never mind the difficulties inherent to interbreeding between humans and Talarians, K’keketh had abnormally poor sperm motility, making the odds of them being able to conceive through, um, natural processes impossibly small.
“Oh, it’s a miracle!” Beth sighed happily, falling into K’keketh’s arms.
“Two isoliner chips on the floor, two isolinear chips,” Jall sang in a very bored voice, “pick one up, plug it into the slot, one isolinear chip on the floor!”
Jall had finished repairs to the Computer Core Control room. Sure he was probably going to have to go through every single chip again, odds are one was out of whack somewhere. But it was a start.
He tapped the controls and was surprise to see the core come back online immediately.
“Oh, my aching head!” Sylvia groaned from speakers throughout the ship.
“Oh! I am GOOD!” Jall sang out, performing a modest but fun victory dance before heading towards the bridge.
“Sylvia! Yer back!” Jeffery cried out.
“Yes, I’m back, and I’m NOT HAPPY!” Sylvia cried out, “I TOLD you not to let that-that BITCH mess around with my systems, now look what’s happened! My plasma injectors are misaligned, two of my SIF generators have shorted out-“
“Can ye shut down the probability core?” Jeffery demanded, cutting Sylvia off.
“It’s not responding to my shutdown commands!” Sylvia replied, a hint of panic in her voice.
“OK, OK,” Jeffery took a deep breath, then turned to Fifebee, “What do we do?”
“Don’t look at me!” Fifebee huffed, “You’re the ranking officer, Lieutenant Commander!”
“Actually,” T’Parief rumbled, “I have seniority.”
“Oh,” Fifebee thought for a moment, “You’re right!”
“Fifebee was wrong?” Yanick asked in a small voice, “Ohhhh…..that’s not good.”
“Don’t rub it in or anything,” Fifebee muttered, “It’s that damned gadget doing it!”
“Jeffery, continue repairs,” T’Parief ordered, “now that gravity has been restored, the rest of us shall return to the bridge and see what can be done. Sylvia?”
“Keep trying to shut down the Probability Core.”
T’Parief, Yanick and Fifebee poured out of the foreward turbolift at the same time Stafford and Noonan were emerging from the aft turbolift. Jall was already seated at his station.
“You realize,” Jall said, “That you left the bridge unmanned during a time of crisis. That’s a violation of General Order-“
“Shut up!” Stafford and T’Parief called out, “It was f**king upside down!” Stafford added.
Yanick pointed at the Aux console where Dr. Cadela’s body lay slumped.
“Isn’t anybody going to move her?” she asked, “She’s gonna start to smell.”
“Oh, right. Stafford to Maintenance, cleanup on the bridge!”
“Uh yeah,” replied Maintenance, “Is this a wet-vac or dry-vac clean-up? Not that it matters, cuz for some reason all our vacs are blowing instead of sucking!”
“Uh, dead body,” Stafford replied.
“Sorry, that’s a Sickbay thing. Let me transfer you-“
“Never mind!” Stafford cut the channel.
“Blowing instead of sucking, huh?” Jall asked, an evil gleam in his eye.
“I motion we ignore that,” Noonan stated flatly.
“What ship is it again?”
“U.S.S. Silverado, boss.”
“Should I know of this ship?”
“It’s part of one of Dillon’s pet projects.”
“Anything worth stealing?”
“Doubt it. Let me see….” Heks accessed his illegal tap into the Starfleet database, “They’re testing a new drive system in the Mouvit system.”
“That’s a hundred light-years away! What are they doing here?”
“I dunno, but I’m getting some funny readings from their engineering section.”
Krabez sat back on his throne, considering carefully. He was a frightening image, a fully fledge Orion pirate. Green skinned with shaggy black hair, he wore a suit of chain mail, held in place with heavy steel belts. His small raider was no match for even an Ambassador-class ship, but judging from the uncontrolled way the Federation ship was drifting, they weren’t likely in much condition to mount a fight. If this new drive system was successful, it could give him a powerful advantage.
“Listen carefully…” he instructed his subordinate.
“Captain,” Fifebee called out, “sensors are still scrambled, but I think there’s a ship approaching!”
“On screen!” An image of the approaching ship appeared on the viewscreen.
“Is it me,” Noonan commented, “or is the ship pink?”
“So are the stars!” Yanick exclaimed.
“The sensors aren’t working properly,” Fifebee patiently explained, “For some reason, they’re only picking up certain wavelengths.”
“Oh gee,” Stafford said dryly, “I wonder what could be causing that!”
“We still can’t get the core offline,” Jall reported.
“They’re hailing us!”
The visage on the screen had Stafford quickly wishing for the days when his enemies were beautiful women like the Senousians, Matrians and Queen Wowryk. Aside from being male, the Orion was UGLY!”
“Ewww!” Yanick said softly.
“Starship Silverado,” the ugly Orion stated imperiously, “I am Krabez. You appear to be in distress. May we offer our assistance?”
“I’m Captain Chris Stafford of the Federation Starship Silverado,” Stafford said, rising from his chair, “We’re fine. Thank you.”
The Orion chuckled.
“You’re sure there isn’t something we can…take care of…for you?
“He knows about the drive,” Noonan whispered, “he wants it.”
“Krabez,” Stafford said, “thank you very much. But the best you could do would be to get far away from here!”
Krabez frowned. Obviously his attempt at subterfuge had fallen flat on its face. Fine. Time to be more direct.
“Let me cut to the chase, then, Captain,” he snarled, “You have something I want. Hand it over, or I’ll blow up your ship!”
“HAH!” Stafford laughed at the Orion’s threat, “I’d like to see you try! Shields up,” he muttered quietly to T’Parief.
“Fine,” Krabez screamed, cutting the channel.
“Evasive maneuvers!” Stafford called out, “Fifebee, now would be a good time to fix that core!”
“Perhaps I could attempt to re-align it-“ Fifebee started.
“Whatever! Just do it!”
The ship shuddered as the Orion disruptors struck the shields.
T’Parief lashed back with a phaser blast.
Growling, he fired another shot.
“T’Parief?” Stafford called frantically as the ship shook again.
“I CANNOT HIT THEM!” T’Parief roared, “THEY ARE DODGING EVERY SHOT I FIRE!”
“Score another for Probability Drive,” Jall laughed as he was tossed back in his chair, “Shields at 80%”
Two quantum torpedoes shot out from Silverado’s launch tubes. Rather then lighting up as normal, the torpedoes remained dark until they hit they Orion ship’s shields, breaking apart on impact.
“Duds,” Noonan reported.
“DUDS? But the odds of a…oh F**K!” Stafford slammed his fists down on his armrest.
Jeffery fell against the bulkhead as the ship shook again, sparks flying from the panel beside him.
“Ta hell with his!” he muttered. He climbed the ladder to the upper level of engineering, swinging wildly as the ship shook again.
“That one took out one of our thruster assemblies,” Frat reported.
Jeffery stalked towards the center console, where the Probability Core blinked benignly.
“STOP MESSING THINGS UP, DAMN YOU!” he cried, delivering a roundhouse kick to the unit before stumbling to the floor.
“Captain,” Fifebee reported, “The Probability Core axis has shifted!”
“T’Parief! Disable that ship!” Stafford cried.
Unleashing the big gun, T’Parief fired a string of high power phaser bolts, digging deep into the Orion ship’s shields.
“Direct hit!” he cried out, “Their weapons are offline!”
“Sylvia, try shutting down the core again!”
“Probability Core has been successfully deactivated,” Sylvia reported.
With a crash, everybody was immediately sucked off the floor and plastered to the ceiling.
“Not this again!” T’Parief growled.
“The Probability Core must have been influencing the polarity of the gravitons produced by the gravity generators,” Fifebee surmised. The hologram was unaffected by the change in gravity.
“Can you fix it?” Stafford demanded.
“Of course,” she tapped at her panel.
“I meant slowly!”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 57011.4:
“After towing Krabez and his ship to a nearby Starbase where he can await trial, we’ve set course back for Mouvit IV under conventional warp. Dr. Cadela has reluctantly agreed that the Probability Drive needs a lot more work before it can be used again. Oh yeah, she lived. Noonan was wrong when he pronounced her dead, which just once again shows that anything is possible.”
Sitting in his ready room, Stafford pulled up the file Noonan had directed him to. After a brief crackle of static, an elderly man appeared on the screen and began speaking with a strong British accent.
“Captain Stafford,” he said, “I’m Admiral Stone, Starfleet Internal Affairs. If you’re watching this recording, certain concerns regarding Commander Noonan have come forward in your mind.”
“Let me assure you that Commander Noonan is committed to his duty as a Starfleet Officer. His race is one that few people are aware of, for reasons you may or may not have already discovered. If you haven’t made this discovery, I encourage you to avoid the entire issue.”
“Internal Affairs has been keeping an eye on these beings for almost two hundred years, and while Noonan is hardly the first to have entered Starfleet, he is the most recent and the only one to serve on a long-range exploratory craft. He has no doubt taken certain measures to avoid suspicion, which in retrospect may seem invasive to you. Let me assure you that such measures have been fully authorized by Internal Affairs.”
“From what I understand, Noonan has been an excellent addition to your crew, and I encourage you to accept what he tells you at face value.”
As the recording ended, Stafford leaned back in his chair. So Starfleet knew something was up with Noonan, but hadn’t seen fit to tell him. Obviously they didn’t consider him a threat, and in all fairness he’d done nothing to give Stafford that impression either.
Leaving his ready room, Stafford vowed to improve his relationship with Noonan, but that he wouldn’t let his guard down, even for a minute.
Stafford had joined Noonan in Unbalanced Equations, Noonan sipping his glass of ‘wine’ while Stafford sampled some kind of fruit concoction that Steven had handed him. Something called a ‘smoothie’.
“So what’s really in that glass?” Stafford asked.
“Wine,” Noonan said softly.
“No, it’s not!” Stafford insisted, “You can’t live on wine.”
“OK, you’ve got me,” Noonan confessed, “It’s blood.”
“Stop kidding around!” Stafford chuckled, “Fine, I guess it’s none of my business,”
“So, did anybody every figure out what happened to Cadela’s assistant?” Stafford wondered.
“Jeffery found him cowering behind a shield generator,” Noonan replied, “it took him ten minutes to coax him out.”
“Ah. Makes sense. Hey, didn’t Jall have a date tonight?” Stafford wondered, looking at where Jall was eating and laughing with a young man Stafford didn’t recognize, “I wonder why he’s with that guy instead of her.”
“Maybe it was cancelled,” Noonan shrugged, “things have been a bit strange on this ship lately.
“Lately?” Stafford asked.
“Point taken. Incidentally, did you read the announcement from Crewman K’keketh and his wife?”
“No, I didn’t,” Stafford leaned forward, “Divorce?”
“Pregnant,” Noonan smiled, “Sylvia is very excited. She’s already helping them pick out baby cloths.”
“Aww,” Stafford sighed, “The first baby born on Silverado.”
“In another nine months or so, anyway. Of course, there may be another pregnancy of which we are not aware.”
“Yeah. Wow,” Stafford sat back, “Y’know, things like that really give a ship the feeling of community.”
“I thought you hated kids,” Noonan pointed out.
“Well, I do,” Stafford admitted, “But it’ll be a few more years before their little tyrant is ready to start running down the corridors.”
“Oh, I’m supposed to advise you that Madame Schoonbaert’s 5th grade class would like to hold a ‘Captain Stafford Day’,” Noonan said, a mischievous grin on his face.
“But think of the children!”
“No.” Stafford took another sip of his drink.
“I know a lovely young woman on Titan colony who would undoubtedly be very attracted to you,” Noonan offered.
“She’s probably uglier than you are,” Stafford cracked, “No deal.”
Noonan tapped on his padd, then slid it across the table to Stafford.
“This is her?” Stafford asked.
Stafford bolted out of his chair straight for the door.
“Where are you going?” Noonan called out.
“I gotta find Madame Schoonbaert!” Stafford called out as the doors closed.
Noonan chuckled to himself. Once again, things were going his way.