Author: Brendan Chris
“Be very, very careful,” Ensign Burke said nervously, standing to one side of the central workbench in Science Lab One.
“I am always careful,” Lieutenant Fifebee said, using a micro-scalpel to carefully manipulate the tissues on the lab workbench. Her specimen twitched slightly as she probed the delicate flesh arranged before her.
“Isn’t this one of those experiments that crosses a line man was not meant to cross?” Burke wondered.
“I am not a man,” Fifebee said, “And besides, little can go wrong. As long as I am very careful-“
“GOOD MORNING, ALL!”
Fifebee fumbled with the scalpel.
Captain Chris Stafford was on top of the world.
His ship was back in one piece! Back together, and working better than ever! OK, fine, the better than ever part was exaggerating. But still, the saucer and stardrive sections had be re-attached and she was cruising through space at Warp 5, on her way to her next mission. What could go wrong?
His random stroll through the ship had taken him into the science department. Turning off the main corridor, he entered a side passage leading through several science labs. Why not pop in and see how his favorite Science Officer was doing?
He thumbed the entry pad to Science Lab One, where Fifebee was hunched over some bizarre animal.
“GOOD MORNING, ALL!” he announced loudly.
Fifebee twitched, the scalpel stabbing into one of the creature’s sensitive nerve clusters. With a shriek it leapt off the table, ignoring the fact that it was squirting yellow fluid out of the incision in its side. Fifebee reflexively made herself non-solid, the animal passing through her and landing on Stafford. It clamped itself to his head and started biting.
“AHHHH!” Stafford screamed, “IT’S KILLING ME! IT’S KILLING ME! GET IT OFF!”
“Sylvia, freeze the program,”
“Done, Jane,” Sylvia replied, “And Chris, don’t be such a baby!”
Stafford gasped as the small creature stopped moving. He quickly pulled it off his head and threw it across the room.
“What the hell was that?” he cried.
“I was,” Fifebee said, “Performing an experiment,”
“But…but…” Stafford gasped, “Why?”
“I was observing Mr. Jeffery as he played an archaic computer game yesterday evening,” Fifebee explained, “I was intrigued by these ‘head-crab’ aliens featured in the game, and was wondering if it might be possible to create one,”
“Wait, wait,” Stafford said, moving tentatively closer to holographic thing. It was small and fairly round with four spiny legs and a gaping, sharp-toothed maw underneath, “You mean this is one of those parasite things from Jeffery’s stupid game that’s supposed to clamp onto your head and turn your body into some kind of zombie?”
“Yes, that’s exactly it!” Fifebee said happily, “What do you think? Does it look realistic?”
“Too realistic,” Stafford said, rubbing his head. Thank God for holographic safety protocols! “Why the hell would you want to make one of these things?”
“I thought it might make a good pet,” Fifebee explained.
Stafford stared at her.
“Rriiight,” he said, “Um, I’m just gonna go down and talk…to…somebody…”
He turned and left.
“Come, Craig,” she said, “Let us try again,”
Burke screwed up his face, hunched his back and thunked the back of his hand to his chest.
“Yesss, mathster,” he said.
“Simon? SIMON?” Stafford called.
Jeffery was wedged in a cramped Jefferies in the aft section of Maintenance Sub-Level A. The maintenance sub-levels weren’t used for much of anything anymore. They’d been an oddity of some of the very early Ambassador-class ships and had been removed from later versions after many of the new technologies used in the ships had been miniaturized.
“Whatcha doin’?” Stafford asked. Like he needed to ask!
“Ah’m checkin’ out these new saucer separation systems,” Jeffery replied. He was tapping at a small panel set into the side of a large component.
“Haven’t you done that like ten times since they were installed?” Stafford asked.
“Well, aye,” Jeffery said, “But, y’know. Better to check the cave before ye stick anything in it,”
“You know,” he said, “You say some of the strangest things.”
“Don’t ye just wanna separate the ship, y’know, to see if this stuff works?” Jeffery asked, rapping his knuckles on what could have been one of the grab-plate servos that helped hold the saucer section in place, “Like, just for the heck of it?”
“Last time we separated the ship we crashed it into a planet,” Stafford said dryly.
“Aye, but that was an accident,” Jeffery shrugged, “And we didn’t separate on purpose,”
“We’re not separating the ship,” Stafford said firmly, “If you’re that desperate to try it out, go to the holodeck,”
“Fine, fine,” Jeffery grunted, “Party pooper. Was there something ye wanted, by way?”
“Yeah,” Stafford said, “Um, have you noticed anything strange about Fifebee lately?”
“Strange?” Jeffery shrugged, “Like walkin’ through walls, or vanishing into thin air? She is a hologram, ye know,”
“No,” Stafford said, “Like creating pets out of your video games creatures,”
“Really? Ah gotta see this!” Jeffery jumped up, banging his head on the low ceiling. He fell back down, cursed and started rubbing the sore spot, “Never mind, it can wait. Um, which one?”
“The head-crab alien one,” Stafford said.
“Oh! Braw! Uh, but to answer yer question,” Jeffery shrugged, “nay, Ah haven’t noticed anything odd.”
“She’s been acting strange ever since she heard from Dr. Zimmerman. I wonder what could have happened?”
“It’s kinda cute,” Yanick said, eyeing the creature seated on Fifebee’s shoulder, “Y’know, in a gross kind of way,”
“Is it classified as an appetizer or an entrée?” T’Parief asked.
“Neither!” Fifebee said, moving away from the large reptile, “It has no official genus, as it is from a 20th-Century video game, but it is mine. I have named it ‘Fido’,”
The three were eating lunch in Le Plateau Argenté, Silverado’s Guinanco-operated mess hall. Fifebee didn’t eat, of course. But it was a great chance to introduce her new pet to her colleagues.
“I’ll have the lunch special,” Yanick told Patsy Horton. The manager of Le Plateau Argente, AKA Platterheads, was wearing her standard wide-brimmed hat and flowing blue robe.
“Of course, dahling,” Patsy scribbled this down on her archaic paper pad, “And for the…gentleman?”
“I will have the sautéed puppy with a side of entrails,” T’Parief requested.
Yanick kicked him under the table.
“Pari!” she snapped, “What have I told you about eating pets in front of me??”
“Make it sautéed targ,” he said.
Yanick rolled her eyes. Patsy moved off to fill their orders.
Fifebee plucked Fido off her shoulder and cradled it on her lap. The creature gave an odd cooing sound as she stroked it’s furry, ovoid body.
“Hey folks-OH GEEZ!” Stafford had approached the table with Jeffery but jumped back when he saw Fifebee’s pet.
“Relax, Captain,” Fifebee said, “I have perfected his program. In addition, he has been de-beaked,”
“De…beaked?” Jeffery asked, staring at Fido with fascination.
“I have removed the pincers and parasitic tendrils from Fido’s mastication orifice. If he attempts to infest your head he will be quite unsuccessful. Though you may find that he gives a good head rub,”
“Ew,” Stafford said, taking the furthest seat from Fifebee.
“Why’d ye pick one of these as a pet?” Jeffery asked, “Why not a cat or something? Um, can I hold it?”
Fifebee handed Fido over to Jeffery.
“First,” Fifebee said, “Fido is holographic. Second, he is not a real creature. He was created by an organic programmer. Much like myself. I felt a strange…kinship with many of the creatures in the video game you were playing. Though I must say I was very annoyed that you destroyed most of them,”
“That was the whole point of the game,” Jeffery said, looking embarrassed as he stroked Fido’s white fur.
“As long as it doesn’t shit on the carpets,” Stafford sighed, wrinkling his nose as Patsy set T’Parief’s plate of steaming…stuff down in front of him.
“Holographic beings do not defecate,” Fifebee said, taking Fido back from Jeffery, “If you will excuse me, it is time to take Fido to the arboretum. I am not sure yet what leisure activities he will enjoy, but I hope I will find something,” she stood and left.
“Anybody else find that a little bizarre?” Stafford asked after she’d gone.
“Nay,” Jeffery said, “T’Parief’s lunch is the only bizarre thing in here today,”
“Would you like to try some?” T’Parief asked, offering a small steaming piece of targ.
Shrugged, Jeffery popped it in his mouth.
“Tastes like pork,” he said.
“Uh-oh,” T’Parief bit his lip.
“It is toxic to humans,”
“WHAT?” Jeffery jumped up, clutching his stomach, “If it’s poison, why’d ye give it to me?”
“I didn’t think you would actually eat it,” T’Parief shrugged.
“Ye big lout!” Jeffery was turning red with panic, “Get me to Sickbay! Ah need to have me stomach beamed!”
Without bothering to wait for a reply he turned and ran towards the exit.
“That stuff isn’t really toxic to humans, is it?” Stafford asked calmly.
“I do not think so, no,” T’Parief said, “But it was an entertaining practical joke,”
Stafford grinned, “It was, wasn’t it?”
“Would you like to try some?” T’Parief offered Stafford a piece.
Stafford was saved from replying by the sound of the comm.
“Bridge to Captain. We have a message coming in for you, sir. It’s Commander Noonan,”
“Tell him to hold on,” Stafford said, getting to his feet, “I’ll be in my ready room in five minutes,”
“You’ve reached Denith’s Pizza…um, I mean this is Stafford,” Stafford dropped into the seat in his ready room, “What’s up?”
“Captain,” Noonan’s smooth, pale face looked back at him from the monitor, “I trust all is well?”
“Jeffery thinks he’s been poisoned, T’Parief is playing pranks and Fifebee has a new parasitic pet,” Stafford said lightly, “How’s your day been?”
“Enlightening,” Noonan said, “I’ve been learning Arcturian Yoga,”
“Don’t you need four arms to do Arcturian Yoga?”
“I’ve managed,” Noonan replied.
“Wait,” Stafford squinted at the screen, “Where are you? It looks like you’re on a planet…you’re supposed to be rendezvousing with us in like eight hours!”
“Yes, I’m on Earth,” Noonan nodded.
“I hereby tender my resignation from the position of First Officer,” Noonan said. He tapped a button, and the details of his resignation appeared on Stafford’s screen.
“But…wha?” Stafford’s jaw dropped.
“My behavior over the course of the past two months has not been befitting a being in my position,” Noonan explained, “I unnaturally influenced a command decision when I forced you to abandon the ship. I unfairly controlled Ensign Yanick, forcing her to help me to recover from my injuries. And I…I fed on one of the Delori,”
“You…fed?” Stafford’s eyes were wide.
“Yes,” Noonan said.
Stafford waited for an explanation.
“Suffice to say it is not something I ever wish to do,” Noonan said, “Ever. The Delori did not survive,”
This time Stafford was speechless.
“I am comforted by the fact that the Temporal Reversal Device undid the damage I did,” Noonan went on, “However, the fact remains that I willingly made the decision to do it. I killed a man to further my own goals. And so I am returning to Earth,”
“But…what will you do?” Stafford could barely speak.
“Perhaps I will take up my old position with Starfleet Intelligence,” Noonan shrugged, “I do not know. Perhaps Starfleet isn’t a fit for me at the moment. Perhaps in another century or two…but anyway. I have enjoyed serving with you, and wish you the best,”
“But…why didn’t you say something before?” Stafford exclaimed.
“If I’d resigned at Starbase 45, Admiral Tunney could have assigned one of his own people as your First Officer,” he said, “This way, you have more control over your choices,”
“Right, right,” Stafford blew out a breath and shook his head, “Choices. Right.”
“In any event, enjoy the rest of your day,”
“Yeah, right.” Stafford sighed, “Well, um. We’re going to miss you, Matt.”
“Likewise. Noonan out.”
As the face of his former First Officer was replaced by the Federation Logo, Stafford fell back into his chair.
“Shit,” he said.
Jeffery lay on the main bio-bed in Sickbay, trying not to think about the large amounts of invisible energy the overhead bio-sensor array was directing at his body.
“Could ye hurry it up?” he asked softly, “She could be back any minute!”
“Will you relax?” Nurse Kerry shook her head, “Dr. Wowryk’s been going to see Yvonnokoff after lunch for the past week,”
“Really?” Jeffery sat up, “How come?”
“None of your business,” Kerry said, pushing him back down. Jeffery gasped as his head hit the firm padding, “Now hold still!”
“Is she still mad about the way we ended things?” Jeffery wondered, “Ah kinda thought we put that behind us at Delorea II. But, y’know, maybe not.”
He sat up again.
“Maybe she’s asking Vonna about whether or not she should take me back!” he exclaimed, sitting up again.
“Doubt it,” Kerry said, pushing him back down again with a thud, “If she’s upset about anything, it’s Stalart. She poured her heart and soul into that little brat,”
“Ah…Ah guess,” Jeffery said, staring up at the ceiling.
“I mean, really,” Kerry said, “She was expecting you to do something stupid. Stalart though, he was totally like her little baby. She figured she had another ten years or so before he turned into an idiotic man,”
“What?” Jeffery asked.
“Listen to me!” Kerry giggled, “‘Idiotic man’. I think I’ve been spending too much time in here with the Doctor! Anyway, you can go now. Whatever you ate wasn’t poisonous. Wasn’t exactly healthy, but wasn’t poisonous either,”
“Uh, right,” Jeffery walked numbly towards the exit, “Thanks, Nurse,”
“Uh-huh,” Kerry gave him a gentle push out the door, then sighed, enjoying the piece and quiet. Now there was just enough time left before Wowryk got back for her to wrap up another little project.
“Mistress? May I get up now?”
Kerry marched across Sickbay and through the door to the morgue, where Crewman Shwaluk was down on all fours, a dog collar and leash chaining him to the wall.
“You will get up when I say you can get up, worm!” Kerry snapped.
Lieutenant Fifebee walked down the corridor, having just left the arboretum. Fido had not seemed to enjoy the grass and trees, and she had been most embarrassed when he’d interrupted a pair of humans copulating in one of the bushes. She had not seen their faces, but was reasonably sure one of them was Lieutenant Jall. She made a mental note that he appeared to have an ‘outdoor’ fetish and should be reminded that the holodeck was more appropriate for such actions.
“Hey, Loot,” Crewman Gibson said, “Hey, nice monkey,”
“He is not a monkey,” Fifebee said indignantly, cradling Fido to her chest, “He is an unclassified, parasitic life-form. His name is Fido,”
“Hey, Fido,” Gibson reached out to pat the thing. It leapt out of Fifebee’s arms and clamped itself onto Gibson’s head.
“Oh dear, “ Fifebee gasped, “No, Fido! Bad parasitic life-form!”
“It’s cool,” Gibson chuckled, his voice a little muffled, “I could use a good head rub,”
“I…see,” Fifebee said, “If I may say so, Crewman, you seem remarkably calm about this encounter,”
“I have my ways,” Gibson shrugged, Fido still gnawing at his head, “Most of them involve chemicals,”
“Hmmm,” Fifebee said, “I will admit, I have always been curious about why organic beings enjoy using chemical substances like sythohol, though I’ve never tried it myself. Perhaps I should,”
“Go for it,” Gibson said cheerfully, “But, y’know, could you get this thing off my head now? I gotta go on duty,”
“While drunk?” Fifebee said disapprovingly.
“Chill, Loot,” Gibson said, “It’s not like I can’t vacuum the carpets with a little buzz. Besides, I’m not drunk,”
“Um, right,” Fifebee gently coaxed Fido off Gibson’s head, “Perhaps I should put you on report?”
“Hey, if you don’t believe me, check my blood-synthohol level,” Gibson offered.
“Irrelevant, since synthohol can be dismissed at will,” Fifebee said.
“There ya go,”
“Oh very well, carry on,” Fifebee sighed.
“That’s the spirit, Loot!” Gibson grinned, “Try something new! Break out of the mold!”
“Go away, you annoying little man,” Fifebee turned, heading back towards the bridge.
“That was not funny,” Jeffery stated as he and T’Parief met in front of the door to Stafford’s ready room.
“I thought it was amusing,” T’Parief said, “So did the Captain.”
“Yeah, well, Chris thinks Klingon comedians are funny,” Jeffery said.
“So do I,” replied T’Parief.
“Oh. Right. Uh, any idea what he wants us for?”
They stood staring at the door for a moment.
“Ye’ve been dating Yanick for a while now, right?” Jeffery said.
“Have you ender wondered what would happen, um, if you dumped her? Y’know, how do ye think she’d react?”
“No,” he said, “I have not. I would not. Why would you ask such a ridiculous question?”
“I’m right here, you know,” Yanick called from the helm, about two feet away from the two men.
“Sorry,” Jeffery squeaked. He led T’Parief into the ready room as the lizard bared his fangs in annoyance.
“Gentlemen,” Stafford said, rising to his feet, “Please, have a seat,”
Jeffery and T’Parief exchanged glances. If Stafford was being so professional, something was very, very wrong.
They all sat. Stafford looked from one to the other.
“Noonan quit,” he said without preamble.
“He whot?” Jeffery exclaimed.
Stafford’s mouth tightened.
“Look guys,” he said, leaning on the table, “What you have to understand about Noonan is that he was…different. He could do things that normal people can’t do. Some of them were good,” he frowned, thinking about what Noonan had said about ‘feeding’, “No. Actually, come to think of it, they were all bad. At least for me. So he’s decided that it’s time for him to move on,”
“But,” Jeffery gaped, “I mean, it’s so sudden! He’s been with us since we launched this ship! And he just up and quits?”
“Not a very honourable way to leave,” T’Parief mused.
“No, no,” Stafford shook his head, “He was right. He had a good run with us, but you guys must have noticed, even before the crash. He was more distant; he wasn’t really paying attention to any of us. I think it started right after he ran into that girl in the other universe…what was her name? Chelsey?”
“Kelsey Noonan,” T’Parief corrected.
“Anyway,” Stafford said, “I thought he was just having the same problems as the rest of us. But maybe that was his way of easing himself out. It would be just like him, too. Gently distancing himself from us without us even noticing. The thing is though, he’s managed to do me a favor and give me a headache, all at the same time,”
“People on this ship have a way of doin’ that,” Jeffery said, looking sideways at T’Parief.
“We’re far enough out now that Starfleet isn’t going to send a replacement unless we ask for one,” Stafford said, “Which means I get to pick my new First Officer. The headache of it is figuring out how to shuffle everybody around,”
T’Parief and Jeffery said nothing. Stafford stood and started walking around the office.
“We’ve got a really junior crew,” Stafford went on, “I don’t know if that’s because of the war a few years back or because Starfleet was such a bitch to us back when we launched. But you two are the highest ranking officers on the ship, other than me,”
He returned to his desk and crossed his arms.
“So,” he said, “I need to pick a new First Officer.”
Jeffery and T’Parief exchanged glances.
“Not me!” they said in unison.
“What’s going on in there?” Yanick wondered as muffled shouts came from the closed ready rooms doors.
“Sounds like a spat,” Jall commented, “I bet Jeffery borrowed one of Stafford’s skirts without asking again,”
“For the tenth time, San,” Yanick sighed, “They’re called ‘kilts’. And I said they were ‘Scottish’, not ‘Stafford’s’.”
“I like my version better,” Jall said.
“Even though it’s not based in any actual fact?” Fifebee asked.
“That’s just the way he is,” Yanick said, turning to Fifebee, “He’s always…oh! Sweety! What have you done with your hair?”
“I thought I’d try a new doo,” Fifebee said, gently patting the brilliant blue spiked Mohawk she’d programmed into her hairstyle subroutines that morning, “Do you like it?”
“The colour brings out your eyes,” Yanick said.
“But I think the Mohawk is a bit much,” Jall said.
“Oh, ignore him,” Yanick said, “Spiked hair on women is totally retro!” she bit her lip, “Oh. I’ve lost track. Is retro in or out this season?”
“Amateur,” Jall said, shaking his head.
“GET BACK IN HERE!”
Everybody’s attention snapped to the ready room door. Jeffery’s hands where clutching the door frame as he strained to pull himself out of the room. T’Parief, looking bored, had one thick hand on his shoulder. As they watched, Stafford came around his desk and latched onto the other. Together, they pulled Jeffery back in, the closing doors hiding the rest of the scene.
“Guys, I’m starting to get worried,” Yanick said, “This could be serious!”
“Why don’t we just ask?” Fifebee said, “Hey! Sylvia! What’s the deal in there?”
“Heya folks,” Sylvia yawned, “What’s up? I hope it’s good, I was having a snooze,”
“What’s the deal with the Tiresome Threesome in there?” Jall asked.
“Can the innuendoes, San,” Sylvia advised, “They’re getting tiresome. And I can’t tell you, I wasn’t paying attention. Besides, it’s private,”
“Now she wants to respect privacy,” Yanick grumbled.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to my relaxing,” Sylvia said, “And Fifebee, fix your hair,”
“I like it this way,” Fifebee said defiantly.
“Young lady,” Sylvia said firmly, “It’s not regulation, it doesn’t match your uniform and you look ridiculous. Fix it this minute!”
“OK, fine,” Fifebee grumbled. With a shimmer of holographic sparks her hair resumed its former style.
At this the doors to Stafford’s ready room opened again. This time it was Stafford who emerged.
“Meeting! NOW!” he barked, storming across the bridge and through the door to the conference room. T’Parief and Jeffery trailed behind, looking at the floor.
Ten Minutes Earlier…
“You’re joking,” Stafford said, chuckling.
Jeffery and T’Parief looked at each other, then back at Stafford.
“You’re…not joking?” the smile fell off his face, replaced with a look of disbelief, “You’re kidding me. Two line officers, a major career move dangled right in front of you and YOU DON’T WANT IT???”
“Perhaps when I am older,” T’Parief said.
“WHEN YOU’RE OLDER??” Stafford shouted, “ARE YOU INSANE?”
“Hey, Chris,” Jeffery said, “Calm down, bud,”
“I don’t believe this!” Stafford said, shaking his head, “This could only happen to me,”
“Ye could still get somebody from Starfleet,” Jeffery offered.
“Oh, there’s a bright f**king idea,” Stafford snapped, “That way I get to explain to Tunney that not only did my LAST First Officer quit, I can’t even get a replacement myself!” He massaged his temples with his fingers, “Do you know how bad it’s going to look if you both turn this down?”
“I do not see the problem,” T’Parief said, “Starfleet assigns officers all the time,”
“Right,” Stafford said, “And a brand new outsider is JUST what we need,”
“Ah don’t know why yer getting’ so upset about this,” Jeffery shrugged, “It’s not a big deal,”
“Maybe it’s just the surprise,” Stafford sighed, a lot of the anger leaving his voice, “This is all happening so quickly. Here I thought I’d have to explain to you why I was giving the job to T’Parief! And now-“
“Whoah, whoah!” Jeffery interrupted, “Givin’ the job to him? What? Why not me?”
“Um,” Stafford, realizing what he’d just done, suddenly looked very nervous, “He has seniority?”
“Bullshit!” Jeffery snapped, “This is cuz of what happened on Delorea, isn’t it! Yer still pissed that Ah took charge when ye wouldn’t!”
“That is NOT what happened,” Stafford rose from his chair again, “If anything, that was points in your favour! But given the nature of our ship, I want you down in Engineering! You’ve taken enough time off from that job as it is!”
“Oh, so this has to do with me leavin’ the ship for Tunney then, is it?”
“Stop twisting my words!”
“Are you implying,” T’Parief was frowing, “That Jeffery is irreplaceable in his current positing, but that I can be easily replaced?”
Stafford and Jeffery stared at him.
“Excuse me?” Stafford said, “I’m offering you a promotion and you think it’s BECAUSE I THINK YOU’RE REPLACABLE???”
“Enough of this, I’m outta here,” Jeffery said, heading for the door.
“Hold it, Mr. Jeffery!” Stafford said.
The doors hissed open.
“GET BACK IN HERE!”
T’Parief clamped down on Jeffery’s shoulder. Stafford joined him, and they hauled Jeffery back in.
“OK, fine,” Stafford said, “I think we’re all just a little too worked up. You two,” he pointed, “Are going to think very carefully about this. So am I. And we’re going to figure this out. Now come on,”
“Where are we going?” T’Parief asked, “Sir?” (Added for good measure.)
“We need to break the news to the children,” Stafford said.
The senior staff sat around the conference room table. Stafford’s initial impression of being angry had been slightly ruined. Sure, he’d stalked across the bridge in an impressive manner, shouting orders the whole way, but once the bridge crew had gathered in the conference lounge they’d had to sit for ten minutes and wait for Dr. Wowryk to arrive.
She walked through the sliding doors, a pleasant ‘hi-it’s-a-nice-day’ smile on her face. She stopped suddenly as she noticed the nervous expressions on Yanick and Jall’s face, the mix of embarrassment and indignation on Jeffery and T’Parief’s and the downright hostile expression on Stafford’s.
“Is this about my Bible studies group re-enactment of the slaughter of the Egyptian first-born?” she asked, “If so, I assure you we will remove the goat blood from the doorframes-“
“Just have a seat, Doctor,” Stafford said. He waited a moment while Wowryk sat, “OK, now that we have everybody-“
“Sylvia’s not here yet,” Fifebee said.
“Oh, right,” Stafford said. He did a double-take, “Fifebee, did you get your NOSE pierced??”
“Yes,” Fifebee said, “Do you like it?”
“OK, that’s it!” Stafford said, “What is up with you? Is there a reason why you’re acting like a…like a…”
“Teenager?” Yanick offered.
“I received an upgrade,” Fifebee said proudly.
“An upgrade did this?” Jeffery asked, “Did ye read the release notes first??”
Fifebee looked annoyed.
“No, I didn’t,” she replied, “Well, I have now,”
Everybody stared at her expectantly.
“AND?” Stafford prompted.
“One of the main changes the upgrade made to my program was to reduce the impact my personality database had on my decision making process,” Fifebee explained.
“But those personalities were what make you…so smart, right?” Stafford said, “We sort of need that in a Science Officer!”
“I still have their knowledge,” Fifebee said, “But they no longer influence my decisions,”
“So you’ve been doing this goofy stuff because you don’t have a bunch of stuffy scientists to tell you what to do all the time?” Jall asked.
“Awsome! Jall giggled, “Oh honey, you’re going to be SO much more fun!”
“Ugh,” Stafford groaned, “Just what we need. Another immature mind with all the discipline of Jall in a shoe store,”
“Hey,” Jall, Fifebee and Yanick said, “I resent that!”
“It sounds,” Wowryk said, “Like you need a bit of parental guidance. To help you mature,”
“Yes,” Fifebee said, looking thoughtful, “That would be most helpful,”
“I would be happy to-“ Wowryk started.
“SYLVIA!!” Stafford called, “We need you for something!”
“Did somebody call me?” Sylvia asked.
“Give me a moment to put on my face,”
Within seconds, Sylvia’s face appeared on one of the wall monitors.
“It’s nice that you’re all so eager to talk to me,” she said, “but I was having the nicest time gong through the romance novel database-“
Stafford quickly explained Fifebee’s situation. Sylvia, of course, agreed to assist.
“Hmph,” Wowryk grunted.
“So, like, now can you tell us what the big issue is?” Yanick asked.
“All right,” Stafford said. He paused. “Commander Noonan won’t be returning.
There were expressions of shock from around the table.
“Why not?” Yanick asked, “Is he mad that I accidentally broke his model ship?”
“No, no,” Stafford said, “Um, I can’t really talk about it. But now we need a new First Officer.
“As you know,” Stafford went on, “Jeffery and T’Parief are the only two Lieutenant Commanders on board, so they’re the only two people in line for a promotion to Commander and the position of First Officer. But this whole situation has reminded me of something that Noonan and I really neglected over the past few years,”
“Keggars!” Yanick said happily.
“Um, no,” Stafford said, “Promotions.”
That got everybody’s attention.
“I haven’t promoted anybody on this ship for two and a half years,” Stafford went on, “It’s overdue. Some people,” his eyes flickered briefly to T’Parief, “Have been doing their jobs with a minimum of fuss and deserve a higher rank. Some people,” this time his eyes rested on Jall, “Have been a thorn in my side and are have as much chance of being promoted as a runway model has of joining the Klingon Imperial Navy,”
“So, who’s going to be the First Officer?” Jall asked, leaning forward.
“I don’t know yet,” Stafford said, glaring at T’Parief and Jeffery, “For the moment, Jeffery and T’Parief will be sharing the responsibilities. Either one of them is going to get it, or we’ll just have to get somebody else in,”
“Ooohhh!” Yanick giggled, “A new guy!”
“Or girl,” Wowryk said.
“Anyway,” Stafford said, “The three of us are going to be watching your performance over the next few stories, er, months. So if you want a promotion, be on your best behavior! Now, if there’s nothing else, I have a ton of paperwork to fill out.”
“Oh! Oh!” Yanick said, raising her hand, “We should like, totally have a goodbye party for Matt!”
“Ye do realize he’s already gone, right?” Jeffery said.
“Yes, silly!” Yanick said, “But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a party for him,”
“I don’t care,” Stafford said flatly, “Have a party, have a banquet, have a bah mitzvah for all I care. Dismissed.
Yanick watched while, as usual, everybody filed out of the conference lounge. Jeffery gave one last glance out the rear windows, looking at the rear surface of the hull and the warp nacelles. T’Parief lumbered out, no doubt glad the affair was done with for now. He might be a big, scary security chief, but he didn’t like going up against authority. Even if the ‘authority’ was just Stafford. Wowryk gave her a friendly nod on the way out, while Fifebee, impatient at the slow pace of the organic crew members, simply dematerialized and transferred her program down to one of the science labs. Well then, everybody was gone and she could start thinking about what kind of theme to have - whoah! Hold on. Wait a second.
Jall was still seated at the table, staring straight ahead.
“San?” Yanick said, “Meeting’s over. Time to go! Wanna help me plan a party?”
Jall looked up at her.
“I want to be First Officer,” he said.
Stafford sat in his command chair, looking up at the viewscreen and the stars streaking by. He couldn’t recall the names of the crewmen running the helm and ops stations, but was sure that Yanick and Jall would be back soon to take their places. Jeffery had gone back to Engineering and Wowryk back to Sickbay (in separate turbolifts). The bridge was uncharacteristically quiet.
He turned to Noonan’s seat beside him out of habit before realizing it was empty. Hmmm. He’d have to do something about that.
“T’Parief, come sit down here,” he said.
“I would rather not,” T’Parief said in a low voice.
“C’mon, Lt. Commander,” Stafford said, “Even if you don’t want the job, you and Jeffery have to do it until I get a replacement. Sit in the damned chair and let Ensign Bith run Tactical.
“Yes, sir,” T’Parief said. Reluctantly, he turned over his panel and walked around the tactical railing, down a step into the command deck. Looking like he had eaten something unpleasant, he sat, his tail crammed against the seat behind him.
“There,” Stafford said, trying to have a friendly, light-hearted tone, “That’s not so bad, is it?”
“No, sir,” T’Parief sighed.
“Y’know, the position of First Officer is really an important one,” Stafford went on, “For the person doing it, and for the ship. It’s the best way to show you’re ready for a command of your own,”
T’Parief gave a small hiss of pain.
“What?” Stafford asked, “You can’t tell me you don’t eventually want your own ship?”
“I enjoy my current…position,” T’Parief said.
“You’d still get to blow things up,” Stafford assured him, “You’d just be telling somebody else to do it. Wouldn’t Lieutenant Stern make a good Security Chief?”
“Lieutenant Stern,” T’Parief said, “Would be more likely to sexually violate our enemies as opposed to destroying them,”
“I guess you know him better than I do,” Stafford admitted, “See? We’re already meshing-“
“Sir, respectfully,” T’Parief cut it, “My tail is becoming cramped. These chairs are physically painful. I really must stand at my console,”
He stood and stretched his tail, a series of cracks testifying to the discomfort he must have been feeling.
“We can get you a different chair!” Stafford crossed his arms.
“You?” Yanick gaped, “First Officer?”
“Why not?” Jall asked, “I’ve been First Officer before! On the Sutherland! And I did an OK job of it too! Which is more than Lizard-boy or Groundskeeper Willie can say!”
“Uh, you were demoted,” Yanick said, “That doesn’t usually help. And you’ve been on Stafford’s case since the day you two first met! He really doesn’t like you very much,”
“I can get over that,” Jall waved one hand, “And as for my demotion, all I did was have a fun evening. We were on shore leave at a starbase, there was this crewman, things happened. And I got demoted. Not very fair, but what am I going to do about it?”
“So talk to Stafford,” Yanick shrugged, “Who knows? Maybe he’ll give you a chance?”
“No,” Jall looked thoughtful, “No, not yet. He’s already in a foul mood, I need to give him some time to cool down,” he stood and headed to the door, “Cool down,” he repeated to himself.
“I’m going to start planning the party,” Yanick said, a look of intensive concentration on her face, “What kind of theme would work? I wonder what Matt would do?” She stook and started walking absently towards the door. “Hmmm. Maybe something with lots of black?”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 58516.4,
“We’re still on course, and we’re still surveying stuff. And we’re still bored. Last time I was on Earth, I can remember hearing somebody at Spacedock bitch about how Starfleet was wasting time and space putting holodecks and lounges and stuff on starships. I’d like to stick that loudmouth thirty-five light-years from the middle of nowhere and see just how good he is at keeping himself entertained!”
“We’ve just finished mapping an uninhabited system roughly five light-years from the Delori system, which by the way we’re avoiding like the plague. Fifebee went nattering on about some fancy mineral deposit so I guess there was something of interest there.”
“How do you think the crew’s handling the situation?”
“They’re handling it fine, Sylvia,” Stafford said, sitting in his ready-room and going over the daily fuel consumption report. Normally Noonan would have handled it during his morning tour of Engineering, but Noonan was hundreds of light-years away. Thank God Noonan had at least sent off the quarterly crew summaries before he left…those would have been pure evil!
“Are you sure? They’ve just lost an important comrade,” Sylvia had assumed holographic form and was lounging on Stafford’s couch.
“I’m sure,” Stafford said absently, “I’ve been paying attention this time! Yanick and Jall are planning their big ‘Goodbye Mr. Noonan’ party, Jeffery and T’Parief are avoiding the bridge whenever possible and Wowryk’s redecorating Sickbay,”
“About that,” Sylvia jumped in, “I really thing you need to talk to her about some of those new posters. They’re really not…appropriate-“
“Her Sickbay, her rules,” Stafford said.
“You’re just scared of her,”
“Yes,” Stafford said, nodding, “Anyway, we’re adjusting. People leave starships all the time.”
“Noonan leaving is one thing,” Syvia said, “Have you been giving any thought to who’s going to replace him?”
“Where have you been the past two days??” Stafford asked, “You’re supposed to be the all-knowing computer!”
“If you must know,” Sylvia said, her voice becoming slightly haughty, “I’ve been taking a bit of a well-deserved break. The automated computer systems can manage things fairly well without me,”
“You ARE the auto-“ Stafford tried to say.
“Details,” Sylvia huffed, sitting up and crossing her arms, “My point is, I don’t have to be giving all of you my full, constant focus!”
“OK, OK,” Stafford said, raising his hands in surrender, “So what have you been doing?”
“Sleeping, actually,” Sylvia said.
Stafford looked at her for a moment.
“Don’t ask,” she advised.
“Right,” Stafford nodded, “Look, either Jeffery or T’Parief will take the job and that’s that.”
“You can’t force them,” Sylvia reminded him.
“They’ll come around,” Stafford said confidently.
“If you say so,” Sylvia shrugged, “Myself, I bet Lieutenant Fifebee two bars of latinum that you’ll end up transferring a new officer onto Silverado,”
“Aren’t you supposed to be a good influence for her?” Stafford said, “Why are you teaching her to gamble?”
“Well, I am technically younger than she is-“
“Don’t start!” Stafford cut her off, “Sylvia, please. I’m happy for Fifebee’s new found freedom of choice, but I really need you to help her settle down! With Noonan gone we’re really hurting for, um, reliable crewmen,”
“Fine, just send me off,” Sylvia said, “Just order me around like a lowly peon-“
“The guilt trip’s not working today, Sylvia,” Stafford advised.
“Damn,” Sylvia muttered as she dematerialized.
“Jall to Stafford,” the comm chimed.
“Yes?” Stafford replied, tapping his badge, “What is it?”
“We’ve just finished rebuilding the pattern buffer in Transporter Room 2,” Jall said, “Do you want us to move on to Transporte Room 3, or leave it until tomorrow?”
“Gunning for that promotion back to Lt. Cmdr, huh Lieutenant?” Stafford chuckled dryly.
“Er, yeah,” Jall said nervously, “That’s it,”
“You’re going to have to do better than one lousy repair job!” Stafford snapped, cutting the channel.
“He is sounding…unpleasant today,” Pysternzyks said, watching as Jall and one of his subordinates replaced the panels covering the transporter pattern buffer, “It is a nice change,”
“Speak for yourself,” Jall grunted. This work thing sucked.
“So you do you think will become First Officer?” Pysternzyks asked, “The smart money is on T’Parief, but there are rumors that Dr. Wowryk would enjoy a position with greater power,”
“Wowryk?” Jall shuddered, “Put her in charge and I may as well just take a vow of chastity and get it over with,”
“You think you have problems?” Pysternzyks asked, “She has petitioned to have our Andorian Ritual Rampage holodeck programs removed from the database five times!”
Jall rolled his eyes.
The next day…
“So what do you think?” Stafford asked. T’Parief and Jeffery were seated across from him in his ready room, looking at the list he drew.
“You want to promote Ensign Yanick?” Jeffery asked, “In God’s name why?”
“She’s pretty good at her job,” Stafford shrugged, “And she has a good attitude,”
“Attitude? Ye want to talk about attitude?” Jeffery objected, “Ah had to rebuild the attitude control thrusters six times in the past two years cuz of her!”
“Her piloting saved us from being happified the last time we ran into K’Eleese,” T’Parief pointed out.
“Aye,” Jeffery conceded, “But she’s been actin’ a little strange since she started planning this party. She’s suddenly drinking wine by the bucket, and she bit T’Parief on the neck last night! Right in the middle of the pub!”
“That was not strange,” T’Parief said, “That was foreplay,” he frowned, “Though the wine is strange, now that you mention it.”
“Moving on,” Stafford said, in a tone that didn’t invite argument.
“I see you are promoting Lieutenant Quintaine?” T’Parief said quickly.
“Yeah, it’s overdue,” Stafford nodded.
“Yer promoting Ensign Naketh,” Jeffery said, eying the list, “But ye don’t say which one,”
“How many do we have?” Stafford asked.
“I dunno, I can’t keep track of them,”
“Day, Rengs,” T’Parief read, “Wait. You are transferring Ensign Marsden to Astrometrics?”
“Huh?” Stafford grabbed the padd, “No, no. That’s supposed to be Ensign Mardans. Y’know, the creepy guy with three eyes,”
“Good,” T’Parief nodded, “Marsden is a much needed voice of sanity on the team,”
“I see ye left Jall off the promotion list,” Jeffery said.
“Problem with that?” Stafford asked midly.
“Well,” Jeffery shrugged, “He’s not me favorite person. But ye have to admit, he’s done an OK job of runnin’ his department,”
“‘Running his department’ as in ‘making other people do all his work’, you mean,” Stafford said.
“Isn’t that what starship command is all about?” Jeffery said.
“Yes,” Stafford said slowly, “But command is also about dignity. Respect. And ‘establishing relations’ with attractive alien females. Jall fails on all three counts. Well, maybe two. I guess attractive alien males are close enough. But he still fails overall!”
“I agree,” T’Parief said.
“Ye would,” Jeffery shot back, “Ye’d like to see him filleted an broiled!”
“Do not be ridiculous,” T’Parief hissed, “Everybody knows human’s are better roasted,”
Stafford and Jeffery stared at him.
“I suppose a sense of humor is not part of starship command?” T’Parief grumbled.
“Ah dunno, Ah thought givin’ Chris this ship was a pretty good joke,” Jeffery quipped.
“Die,” Stafford said flatly. He sighed. “Look, let’s go over the rest of the list tomorrow. We’re going to be late for Yanick’s party,”
“If we are not announcing promotions for several months, why are we making the list now?” T’Parief inquired.
“It’s…an…organization thing,” Stafford said, “Y’know, so I know what I decided and so I can make changes if I change my mind,”
“Is there something wrong with the one you have?” T’Parief wondered.
Stafford stared back at him.
“Let’s go get a drink,” Jeffery said, standing up and trying hard not to laugh.
Yanick had decided to do something different and hold the goodbye party in the holodeck. Using the holodeck may have been the standard for most Starfleet crews, but Silverado had spent a good year in space without one. While the holodecks were heavily booked for personal time off, they really hadn’t been used for any group events.
Yanick wasn’t really sure why, but for some reason she’d chosen an unusual combination of party themes. The holodeck was programmed to recreate a large cathedral, but the cavernous main chamber had been redecorated with blacks, blood reds and Baroque type fixtures. She really didn’t understand why she’d chosen that combination, but it came right to mind when she started thinking about Noonan. A bar had been setup in one corner and Steven was already mixing drinks in preparation for the arrival of the partygoers. In the opposite corner, Patsy Horton was preparing a buffet. She and Steven occasionally exchanged dark looks; the two of them still weren’t pleased with having competition aboard the ship.
“Do you have the Rokeg blood pie ready?” Yanick asked, hurrying over to Horton’s side of the room.
“Yes, dahling,” Horton replied in her crisp British accent, “And the blood pudding. And the bloody steak. Blood-orange cake. But these dishes really aren’t-“
“Good,” Yanick said, hustling back across to Steven’s side, “And the drink specials?”
“Blood Marys,” Steven said, “And Bloody Ceasars. And enough wine to consecrate the whole ship. But-“
Yanick gave a slightly insane little giggle.
“Goody-goody-goody!” she laughed.
The holodeck doors opened and the first party-goers began to arrive. The Hazardous Team arrived as a group, Stern, Dar’ugal and Rengs marching immediately towards the food while Kreklor, Simmons and Marsden headed right for the booze. Crewman Gibson wasn’t far behind, followed by Crewman Shwaluk and Crewman Roscoe. (Roscoe had at least left Bosco, his monkey, in his quarters.) Nurse Kerry and Rengs Meris came in together, watching as their boyfriend and husband respectively started gobbling down Horton’s carefully laid out buffet. Frit, Frat and Frek Naketh came as a group, chattering in their high-pitched voices as they contemplated just how they were going to reach the top of the buffet table.
More people were streaming through the doors now. The holographic DJ started playing music, though nobody was ready to dance yet.
“Patricia Yanick!” Wowryk stormed through the doors seething, “What do you think you are doing? Desecrating a house of God with your sinful orgy-“
“Are you planning an orgy?” Crewman Gibson cut in, “Damn, I forgot to wear my harness-“
“You pervert!” Wowryk snarled, “I was going to say ‘sinful orgy of drunken gluttony,”
“My version was more fun,” Gibson muttered, holding one hand to his face as he moved very quickly away, Shwaluk and the Hazardous Team laughing hysterically.
“Noel!” Yanick giggled, “Relax and have a drink. It’s just a hologram, right? Never consecrated or any of that stuff. See? The Holy Eucharist isn’t here, and the Eternal Flame hasn’t even been lit,”
“Yes, but that’s not the point! You’re using the altar as a DJ booth and…” Wowryk paused, “Wait, how do you know about that?”
“I dunno,” Yanick shrugged, “I’ve had some really strange stuff come into my head today. Excuse me, Noel, I need to go program a full moon,”
Wowryk crossed her arms and sighed.
“I gave up,” she reminded herself, “I can’t change some things, and I’ve accepted that. They’re godless heathens, love them anyway. And it really is just a hologram-“
She was still muttering to herself when something wrapped itself around her head and started flailing at her shoulders with spiny legs.
“AIIIIEEEE!” Wowryk screamed, ripping it off and throwing it away.
“Thank you,” Fifebee said, catching Fido easily, “My apologies, Doctor,”
“Why did you bring that thing here?” Wowryk demanded.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,”
“Fifebee, come here,” Sylvia called. She strode over, again in holographic form. She was looking good; she’d gone for a more youthful look after her time on the Stallion, and it suited her well. “OK, I have been doing my research and consulting the females among the crew. The first thing we have to remember about parties is that there isn’t much point in socializing with the men until everybody’s had at least three drinks. Once they’ve had a few, you can pretty much get them to do anything you want,”
“That’s a degrading, sexist comment,” Wowryk said, crossing her arms. She frowned, then looked thoughtful, “But you actually have a very good point,”
“Evening ladies,” Stafford said, walking up with a drink in one hand, “How’s it going?”
“Is that your first one?” Fifebee asked, pointing at his drink.
“Yeah, why?” Stafford asked.
“This way, girls,” Sylvia said, “Let’s go check out the buffet,”
“But you don’t eat!” Stafford called as they turned away from him.
“Is she gone?” a quiet voice whispered.
“Don’t be such a baby,” Stafford said, looking around for the source of the voice.. Jeffery emerged from the stone column he’d ducked behind when he spotted Wowryk, “Y’know, have you even considered just going up and talking to her about what happened?”
“Yup, yup, up,” Jeffery said nervously, “Then Ah came to me senses,”
“Ugh,” Stafford rubbed one hand against his face, “You’re pathetic,”
“Is that why Ah was yer second choice for First Officer?”
“Please,” Stafford said, “Can we try to forget about the whole First Officer thing for tonight? Let’s just get something to eat,”
He walked over to Horton’s buffet and started picking over what hadn’t been devoured by security officers and crewman suffering from major attacks of ‘the munchies’.
“Horton, what is this stuff?” he asked.
“Damn good is whot it is!” Jeffery grinned, piling his plate with blood pudding and some bizarre dish Stafford couldn’t identify.
“T’was Yanick’s orders,” Horton said, looking like something unpleasant had been forced under her nose, “Really, the girl needs to get a sense of today’s culinary fashions,”
“Uh-huh,” Stafford said, deciding that the Rokeg Blood Pie looked safest, “Look, Horton, the day the Klingon food looks most palatable is the day we need a new buffet. Kapish?”
Horton actually gave him an approving look.
“I prepared a number of my more fabulous dishes, just in case Yanick came to her senses,” she said, “I’ll have one of the servant-boys fetch them,”
“Good work,” Stafford said grudgingly. He looked around. More people had arrived, including Jall and several members of the science and operations departments. Steven was hard at work, mixing up various concoctions.
“Right then,” he said, “Let’s see what’s going on with Yanick,”
“Hey ladies,” Jall said, grinning at Fifebee as he approached their little group. Wowryk was being fairly quiet; this whole ‘One of the Girls’ thing that Sylvia and Fifebee had suddenly started was pretty new to her. Sylvia held a drink in one hand for appearance sake. Fifebee held a drink as well, but she had activated her inebriation subroutines. (another ‘gift’ in her upgrade)
“How many drinks have you had?” Fifebee asked.
“Uh, this is only my second,” Jall said.
Fifebee started to turn away, but Sylvia stopped her with one hand.
“No, sweetie,” she said, “Men like Jall don’t count,”
“Count?” Jall raised an eyebrow.
“Sylvia has informed me that men are not to be spoken to at parties unless they’ve had at least three beverages,” Fifebee informed him.
“Good girl!” Jall chuckled, “Although I usually wait till the fifth. Men in my, er, social circles tend to be better at holding their liquor,”
“Hmph,” Wowryk’s mouth turned down in disapproval, “And more likely to suffer substance abuse problems,”
“True,” Jall cocked his head, “Mostly because of harrassement and discrimation. The sort religious-“
“Jall, not the time. Noel, lighten up,” Sylvia said, “Men like Jall are a girl’s best friend. You know he’s not trying to get anything from you,”
“Interesting question,” Jall suddenly perked up, “Do you holographic women have…you know…girl parts?”
“Only when we want to,” Sylvia replied, perfectly deadpan.
“Interesting,” Wowryk said thoughtfully. She shook her head, then looked at Jall, “But what you do is still a sin!”
“So’s eating lobster,” Jall retorted.
“Have any of you seen Fido?” Fifebee asked, “He snuck off when ‘Walk like a Rigellian’ was playing.
“Just listen for the screams,” Wowryk advised her.
“Well, it’s about time we had a good party,” Jall said, sipping his Cosmo. In his other hand he held a second drink, “I mean, we sort of tried, but people have been walking on eggshells since the whole Delori thing.
“You still haven’t come to Sickbay to let me look at those scars, by the way,” Wowryk said, “The ones from Lord Dyer’s torture lessons?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jall waved her away, “I’ll take care of those when I come in for my spot removal next month,” he suddenly looked away, “Look, ladies, it’s been great, but I gotta run,”
He quickly darted off, moving through the crowd like a knife through butter.
“Must have spotted a likely conquest,” Fifebee mused.
“I don’t think so,” Sylvia frowned, “He’s heading for Chris,”
“Trish,” Stafford said, carefully approaching Yanick. Her eyes were wide, and she still had a slightly goofy grin on her face, “Are you feeling OK?”
“Yup, yup, yup,” she said, “Better than ever! Hey, did you know that blood has been successfully synthesized for centuries?”
“Uh, right,” Stafford took Trish by the arm and led her to a chair, “Look Trish, some people say you’re been a little strange since you started planning this party. Maybe you’ve been focusing on this whole Noonan party thing a little too hard…”
“Blood is life,” Yanick said dreamily.
“Hey Captain,” Jall said, appearing by Stafford’s side, “Having a good time?”
“Uh-huh,” Stafford waved him off, not even noticing the drink Jall placed in his hand, “Look, Trish, everything’s running smoothly. Why don’t you lie down for about half an hour and then we’ll talk-“
“Talk!” Yanick jumped up, “I have to make my speech!” she ran off towards the DJ stand.
“Right,” Stafford shook his head, the sipped his drink, “Hey, where’d this come from?”
Jall had already snuck back into the crowd.
“How many drinks has Simon had?” Wowryk asked coolly.
“Two,” Fifebee reported, “One more,”
“One more until what?” Wowryk asked.
“Until you go talk to him,”
“Why would I do that?” Wowryk crossed her arms.
“Because you’ve been avoiding it for the past several weeks,” Sylvia said, “And because if you don’t talk to him, he’s going to try to talk to you. And you want to approach this from a position of control,”
“I am always in control,” Wowryk sniffed. She sighed, “Sometimes I wonder if that’s part of the problem,”
She wandered off in Jeffery’s direction.
“No DUH,” Fifebee muttered.
Jeffery was seated at a small table in the corner. He watched as, around him, men and women ate, drank, danced and talked. There were a lot of smiles, a lot of laughter and it looked like Crewman Shwaluk would be starting a naked limbo contest before long.
He took another pull on his lager, then went back to looking out at the crowd. All these people, up until now, had been colleagues. Equals. He might have had a slightly higher rank than most of them, but he was still one of the guys. His position as Chief Engineer meant that he spent a lot of time running around the ship helping to solve problems for people. Many of them saw his as the helpful Mr. Fix-It. The guy to call when stuff broke. Could they adjust to thinking of him as an authority figure? Could he?
Jeffery jerked. How had she walked up without him noticing?
“Noel!” he exclaimed, rising to his feet from reflex, “What do ye…I mean, how can-“
“Sit down, Simon,” Wowryk said coolly, taking the seat across from him.
Jeffery stared at her.
“Please,” Wowryk added.
“I understand you’ve turned down the First Officer position,” Wowryk said bluntly.
“Aye,” Jeffery said cautiously.
Wowryk squared her shoulders.
“Simon,” she said, “Things ended badly between us. You betrayed me,” she held up one hand to silence him as he started to object, “Please. I may not have been offering what you wanted, but that is no excuse for leaving the way you did.”
She sipped her tea.
“But we still have to work together and see each other ever day,” she raised an eyebrow, “Unless you plan on transferring to another ship?”
Jeffery shook his head.
“Me neither,” Wowryk said, “So we will need to get along. Or at least,” she frowned, “Get along as well as anybody else on this ship does. Do you agree?”
“Good,” Wowryk stood, “Then I will ask you to please stop hiding behind potted plants when I enter the room and to come see me the next time you ingest something poisonous, instead of a less qualified nurse,”
With that, she left.
“Huh,” Jeffery grunted in amazement, watching as she left.
Eva Yvonnokoff stood near one wall, a vodka martini (stirred, not shaken and to hell with what James Bond said) held in one graceful hand. Her hair was in its standard bun and her every-present data padd was clipped to her belt. She watched, curious as Crewman Shwaluk wandered by, minus his pants.
“Crewman!” she called, “You haff strong urges of exhibitionism? Call my show tomorrow…ve do study on sex disorders Vednesdays,”
“It’s my pants,” Shwaluk slurred drunkenly, “They just fell off!”
“Jas, I am sure,” Yvonnokoff said, struggling to be heard over the music “Gibson? Are you here? Can you help you friend?”
“Steven kicked Gibson out,” Stafford advised Yvonnokoff as he approached her, “Something about having ‘Married Vonna’, I think. You’re not marrying your subordinates without telling me, are you?”
“No,” Yvonnakoff said crisply, “Und you, Keptain? Iz ziz obsession vith my married life a reflection of ze lonliness in your own?”
“Dating is overrated,” Stafford said dryly, “But listen, I want to talk to you about Yanick,”
“Well,” Stafford looked around, then lowered his voice, “Look, Doc, keep this quiet, but I have reason to believe she might have been…persuaded by somebody. Forcibly…persuaded.”
“You zink somebody sexually assaulted her?” Yvonnokoff’s eyebrows rose, “Doubtful, but serious if true!”
“Persuaded, not penetrated!’ Stafford snapped, yanking the martini out of Yvonnokoff’s hand and setting it on a nearby table, “She’s not behaving like herself, and I think it has something to do with-“
“Hi everybody!” Trish’s amplified voice broke through the crowd as the music faded, “Welcome to the ‘Bloody Good-Bye!’ party!”
“Too late!” Stafford curse. He looked down at his hand, where a fresh drink had appeared. “Damned, Steven’s serving team is on the spot tonight.”
Shrugging, he took a sip as he started forcing his way through the crowd towards Yanick.
Jall bit his lip as Stafford moved away, then went back to the bar to get another triple drink. He knew what he was dong was risky, but hopefully it would yield positive results…
“I’m so glad you all could come!” Yanick giggle, her eyes wide and just a little crazy, “We’ve been split apart, scattered and scrambled around, but we came through! We’re still one crew! We made it!
She had to stop for several seconds as several crewmembers started a round of loud applause. (Several more started booing and hissing, but we’ll ignore them for now.)
“But now a treasured member of our group has left,” Yanick said, her wide eyes suddenly looking very sad, “Master has left us! I mean, Matthew has left us. So I think it’s only fitting to mark his departure with a suitable ceremony!”
She turned to one of the holographic busboys that had been clearing tables.
“BRING THE GOAT!”
“What is she doing?” Wowryk asked, frowning.
“Looks like she’s going to re-enact a few scenes from the Old Testament,” Fifebee said, eyes wide.
“What’s going to happen to the goat?” Sylvia asked, looking back and forth between Wowryk and Fifebee, “Is she going to hurt the goat?”
“She’s got to be KIDDING me!” Stafford gasped as a goat (he didn’t know if it was holographic or not) was led out onto the raised platform in front of the DJ booth. The goat bayed moronically as Yanick rummaged around in a nearby box, coming out with a wicked looking knife.
He threw back the last of his drink, threw the glass away and redoubled his efforts to get through the crowd. Across the room he could see Jeffery sitting at a corner table, oblivious to what was happening. T’Parief was paying attention, but he didn’t seem to be doing much about it. If anything, he looked fascinated.
He saw a flash as Yanick raised the knife. He was still five meters away!
The partying crewmembers watched in a dumbstruck horror as Yanick brought the knife down. Bright blood sprayed, most of it hitting Stafford as he leapt at Yanick.
He grabbed the knife from her, fingers slipping on the bloody instrument as Yanick, still giggling, collapsed to the deck.
Wowryk was up on the stage in a flash, holding a medical tricorder over Yanick as she lay on the deck, a goofy smile still on her face. Stafford sat at the edge of the platform, the still slick knife in one hand, the seat of his uniform damp where blood had seeped in. Before long Yvonnokoff had joined them, offering her analysis. T’Parief had joined them and was waiting by Stafford for the prognosis.
“I zink she needs long-term psyciatric care,” Yvonnokoff said, “I could devote show to-“
“Enough with your foolish pandering,” Wowryk cut her off. She snapped her tricorder shut and turned to Stafford, “She has some neurochemical imbalances in her brain. I don’t think it’s serious, but she’ll need to rest. I’m taking her to Sickbay.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Stafford sighed.
“You might be interested to know it was a holographic goat,” T’Parief said to Stafford. He knelt briefly at Yanick’s side, then moved away so the med-techs could carry her away. There was a burst of applause as the news that Yanick was OK spread through the crowd.
“Really?” Stafford asked once the noise had subsided, still looking slightly inebriated.
“Yes. It did not squeal the way a live goat would,”
Stafford chose to ignore that comment.
“Sylvia?” he called.
“Yes?” the voice came from the omni-present computer speakers, rather than Sylvia’s holographic body (which was at the other end of the room).
“Could you remove the goat, please?”
The body and the sprayed blood vanished immediately, though Stafford’s cloths were still damp.
“And have a new uniform for me in the back room,” he added.
He looked at T’Parief.
“C’mon,” he said, gesturing.
They sat at the table where Jeffery was staring at the wall.
“You two really weren’t very helpful there!” he accused.
“Huh?” Jeffery looked up, “What did I miss?”
“Just a crewmember going slightly nuts and killing livestock,” Stafford said.
Jeffery looked at T’Parief.
“It wasn’t me,” T’Parief stated.
“No, he didn’t do it,” Stafford said, “But you didn’t do anything to prevent it, either! And you!” he looked at Jeffery, “You were just sitting here!”
“It’s a party,” Jeffery shrugged.
“I thought it was part of the show,” T’Parief added.
Stafford stared at both of them, then shook his head.
“Maybe you’re not ready for this,” he said softly, “Maybe the fact that I even have to wonder whether your ready for a position of such responsibility should have told me from the start this wasn’t going to work,”
“Hey hey,” Jeffery said, looking slightly indignant, “We know what we’re doin’ as well as ye do!”
“That’s why you’re over here pouting about God knows what instead of keeping an eye on the crew?” Stafford asked.
“Well…” Jeffery trailed off, “Noel and I had a little chat,”
“Tell me about it later,” Stafford said. He shrugged and took a sip of his drink, “I really didn’t want to do it, but I don’t think I have a choice. I owe it to the crew. I need to call Admiral Tunney and at least get another candidate for the position. We’re going to need to replace one of you anyway if you get it,”
Jeffery and T’Parief looked back, seemingly uncomfortable.
“So that’s that,” Stafford said, standing up and finishing his drink, “Enjoy the rest of the party,”
He paused, looked at the glass in his hand.
“Where did that come from? I’m positive I finished it…” he wandered off.
“He’s lecturing us about responsibility?” Jeffery muttered darkly, after Stafford was out of range.
An hour or so after Yanick’s goat sacrifice, Jall was sitting at a table with Sylvia and Fifebee. Fido was curled up on Fifebee’s lap, she’d found him clamped onto the head of a passed-out crewman.
Jall was watching Stafford carefully. He’d been continuing to sneak drinks into Stafford’s hand for most of the night.
“I hope you’re not planning anything improper, San,” Sylvia said primly, “I may not really be his mother, but I still have a few motherly instincts. And when somebody of your…preferences…tries to get somebody drunk…”
“Don’t get your pylons in a twist,” Jall said, “I just want a chance to talk to him. It’s just synthehol, and I’ve been waiting until he starts looking for a server or moving towards the bar anyway.”
“Couldn’t you do that while he’s sober?” Fifebee asked.
“I could,” Jall said, “But he wouldn’t take me seriously. The drunker he is, the better he’ll listen. Hold on!”
His eyes were on Stafford as he downed his current drink, then walked in an unsteady line towards a table and set the empty glass down.
“OK,” Jall said, “He hasn’t been talking for the past fifteen minutes, he’s getting quiet. That means he’s ready.” He stood, “Wish me luck!”
He walked over to where Stafford had slumped into a seat.
“Heya, Captain,” he said, trying to sound casual, “How’s it goin’?”
“Meh,” Stafford raised one hand, then let it drop, “Whazzup?”
“Y’know, Captain,” Jall said, “We’ve never really gotten along very well. I know, I know, our personalities clash, maybe we’ve got some cultural issues, whatever. But the fact of the matter is, I know what I’m doing. I know what’s required of a First Officer, I’ve done it before. I can do it again. And I promise, if you give me a chance at this position you won’t regret it.”
Stafford was staring dully back at Jall. His eyes cleared and his mouth turned down.
“You’re only a Lieutenant,” he said, sneering and trying to shrug off at least some of the synthohol, “I know Starfleet has let people skip ranks before, but only for exceptional officers. You’re not exceptional. You’re barely adequate! You’ve been a pain in my side since day one and you show all the motivation of a spoiled princess!” He leaned across the table and jabbed one finger against Jall’s chest, “Unless you magically become a Lt. Cmdr in the next few weeks you don’t have a snowball’s change in hell!”
He climbed unsteadily to his feet and walked out the holodeck door.
Jall took a deep breath. Waited a few moments, then turned to make his own exit.
“San,” Sylvia tried to stop him on his way out, “I’m sorry, why don’t-“
“Forget it,” Jall snapped, pushing past her and out the double doors, “It was a stupid idea,”
Jeffery and T’Parief watched with slightly dazed interest as Stafford stormed out of the holodeck, followed shortly after by a very angry looking Jall. They were a little surprised when he pushed his way past Sylvia, he’d always gotten on fairly well with her.
“Ah wonder what that was about,” Jeffery mused.
“It made Jall angry,” T’Parief shrugged, “That is enough for me,”
“Yeah,” Jeffery said, “but Chris is pissed too.”
T’Parief shrugged again.
“If he is angry with Jall, that is Jall’s problem,”
The sat quietly for a few more minutes.
“I’m going for the position,” they both suddenly said.
The exchanged surprised looks.
“I have decided that I am ready to advance my career,” T’Parief said, by way of explanation.
“Yeah?” Jeffery asked, “Well, Ah’ve decided that Ah need to take on more ambitious projects, and this is the best way to start!”
They looked at each other. Jeffery’s eyes narrowed. T’Parief flexed his claws.
“I will win,” T’Parief said firmly, rising to his feet.
“Bring it on!” Jeffery said, banging one fist on the table.
They stared at each other for several seconds.
“Shall we start with a drinking contest?” T’Parierf suggested.