This disclaimer hereby disclaims that Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry. It's owned now by Paramount. One really must wonder what he thinks of what they've done to it. Star Traks was created by Alan Decker. He's still alive, last time I checked. Star Traks Silverado was created by Brendan Chris. Star Traks The Vexed Generation was created by Anthony Butler. Star Traks Banshee was created by Brad Dusen. Star Traks BorgSpace was created by Maija Meneks. One really must wonder what Alan thinks of what we've done with it.

Author: Brendan Chris
Copyright: 2006

Captain’s Log: Stardate 58612.4

“We’re on course for the Mortello system, where we’re supposed to show the flag,”

“Huh?” Jall asked, perking up at his Ops console, “What about me? And that’s a very rude word!”

“He said ‘flag’,” Yanick repeated.

“Oh,” Jall grunted, turning back to his console.

Stafford sighed, then continued his log entry.

“Also, the USS Cricket will be rendez-vousing with us there to deliver a new potential First Officer. Like life isn’t complicated enough!”

“OK, all done,” Stafford said, rising to his feet.

“If you don’t mind me saying so,” Sylvia commented, “That was a very brief log entry,”

“I know,” Stafford said, his voice low and lacking of energy, “But I’ve got a mountain of paperwork to do. I’m going to my ready room. Any chance of having something hot and loaded with caffeine waiting for me in the replicator?”

“Don’t forget to flip the coin!” Sylvia reminded him.

“Aw f…” Stafford swallowed the profanity, “Fudge. Who’s dumb-ass idea was that anyway?”

“Yours,” Yanick pointed out.

“Oy,” Stafford shook his head.

Three weeks earlier…

“I’m going to go through the consumables report,” Stafford said, heading for his ready room, “T’Parief, you have the-“

“Hold it!” Jeffery objected, turning away from the bridge Engineering console where he’d been adjusting the control systems, “How come he gets the conn?”

“Why not?” Stafford said, staring at Jeffery, “It’s not like you even want the job,”

“Neither does he!” Jeffery said.

Neither of them had mentioned to Stafford yet that they both did, in fact, want the position of second-in-command aboard the ship.

T’Parief and Jeffery stared coldly at each other.

“OK,” Stafford shrugged, “I guess I can be fair about this. I’ll pick a number between one and ten-“

“How do they know you will tell the truth about the number you picked after they guess?” Fifebee asked.

Stafford’s mouth tightened.

“What about the sacred honor of a Starfleet officer?” Stafford asked.

Jall and Yanick started snickering.

“OK, fine,” Stafford rolled his eyes, “How about padd, phaser, latinum brick?”

“Against him?” Jeffery said, looking at T’Parief’s clawed hands, “Ah don’t think so!”

“Eeny-meeny-miny-moe?” Yanick spoke up.

“Spin the bottle?” Jall suggested.

“Battle to the death?”

“Ugh,” Stafford shook his head, walking to the replicator at the front of the bridge. He tapped the panel, then withdrew the object that had appeared on the tray.

“We’ll flip for it,”


“What a dumb idea that was,” Stafford sighed, “I haven’t been able to leave the bridge for the past three weeks without tossing the damned thing.

He pulled the coin, a 21st Century Canadian toonie, out of his pocket and flipped it in the air.

“Heads,” T’Parief immediately called.

Stafford looked at the coin balanced on his arm.

“Tails,” he announced, then tapped his comm-badge, “Stafford to Jeffery. Your toss. Get up here,”

“Yippee!” Jeffery replied.

T’Parief rumbled with displeasure.

“Hey,” Stafford crossed his arms, “You had your chance! If you’d just taken the position instead of holding back, you could have saved us a lot of trouble,”

Unfortunately, by the time Stafford had noticed that his two Lieutenant Commanders were suddenly competing for the First Officer position they had both turned down, he’d already sent a request to Tunney for another candidate for the position. So now he had a new candidate on the way AND T’Parief and Jeffery had suddenly decided they wanted the position. Suddenly Stafford had gone from zero potential First Officers to three.

“Captain, we’re being approached by the USS Cricket,” Jall reported from Operations.

“Oh good,” Stafford said dryly, “That must be the new would-be First Officer. The one that I called Tunney to ask for. The one that Tunney gave me such a hard time over because Noonan quit right after we left Starbase 45,”

At his station, T’Parief bit his lip.

The Cricket was a Nova-class ship. Small and fast. She’d been sent to rendezvous with Silverado, and had made the trip out from the inner Federation worlds far faster than Silverado could have.

“I’ll be in the transporter room,” Stafford said, pulling out his toonie and flipping. T’Parief called ‘tails’, just for the heck of it, and lost a second time. He cursed quietly as Stafford disappeared into the aft turbolift.

Several moments later, Jeffery stepped out of the forward turbolift.

“Top o’ the mornin’, all!” he said happily, walking straight for the command chair and settling himself comfortably in, “Report!”

“We’re orbiting a boring, round planet,” Jall said.

“There’s another ship beside us!” Yanick spoke up.

“I feel I’ve just dropped five IQ points,” Fifebee added from the rear of the bridge.

Stafford leaned against the turbolift railing as he waited to be taken to the Transporter Room.

“Bith to Stafford,” chimed the comm.

“Yes?” Stafford asked wearily.

“Uh, about my duty shift next week,” Bith sounded hesitant, “I’m booked for overnight shifts, but I’m supposed to be on evenings for the next month,”

“Ugh,” Stafford groaned, “Can’t you take this up with Jeffery?”

“He referred me to you, sir,” Bith replied.

“Take it up with T’Parief,” Stafford said, closing the channel.

The past several weeks had been an administration headache. Suddenly all the little gripes, complaints and whining sessions that had been going to Noonan were being brought to him. It’s not that he didn’t care, Stafford reflected, it was just that after listening to such inane whining constantly he’d become numbed to it.

“Pye to Stafford,”

“WHAT?” Stafford asked.

“Uh, I wanna put Crewman Shwaluk on report. He put Antedian fire-wasps in my bed,”

“Put venomous snakes in his!” Stafford snapped, cutting the channel. OK, maybe he didn’t really care.

The turbolift doors opened. Stepping out, Stafford tapped his comm-badge.

“Sylvia? Could you please redirect all these annoying comms to Jeffery and T’Parief?”

“Shirking your duties, dear?” Sylvia asked, sounding amused.

“Nooo,” Stafford said slowly, “But if they want to be First Officer, they can start dealing with First Officer type stuff!”

“But Chris,” Sylvia chided, “This is a great chance for you to get to know your crew a bit better! Make personal connections!”

“There’s a breaking point, Sylvia,”

“How about I redirect the comms for now,” Sylvia said, “But we’ll book a focus group for you and some random crewmembers for later,”

“Fine!” Stafford snapped, “Whatever! Now I gotta go meet the new guy, Sylvia,”

“Have fun,”

With a click, the comm went silent.

“Blissful silence,” Stafford sighed, resting his forehead against the corridor padding next to the transporter room door. Bracing himself, he entered.

“DIE, HUMAN PINKSKIN!” Pysternzyks was screaming.

“Aw, crap,” Stafford groaned. He rushed through the doors to see three officers in the room. One, a tall, athletic black male, was holding back his Andorian Transporter Chief. Ensign Pysternzyks was shouting and clawing at a green-skinned Watreadian male. The Watreadian was cowering against the wall, whimpering.

“What the hell is going on?” Stafford demanded, moving between the Andorian and the Watreadian.

“Yo, dog,” the black man spoke up, “This blue cracka was totally beatin’ on dis Bhuddah here,”

Stafford blinked.

“What?” he asked.

“Dis dude,” the man started speaking, but the Watreadian cut him off.

“I can’t understand a word he says either!” he said, sounding very nervous, “The Universal Translator doesn’t make heads or tales out of it!”

“What up, yo?” the black man asked.

“Uh, right,” Stafford blinked again. He patted Pysternzyks on the shoulder, “Why don’t you go visit Ensign Pye. I think he has a job for you,”

“As you say,” Pysternzyks said, bowing slightly. He turned and headed for the door, growling at the Watreadian on his way out.

“Call me if you need anybody vivisected,” he called back.

“Welcome aboard,” Stafford said flatly to the Watreadian, “Who are you?”

“I’m Lieutenant Commander Fleebun,” the Watreadian said, “It’s, uh, a pleasure to be here,”

“Thanks,” Stafford said, shaking Fleebun’s hand, inwardly wincing at the clammy, almost slimy feel. Watreadians were an amphibious race. The pale green skin, the protruding foreheads and the gill slits weren’t a big deal, but that skin texture…ick! Brought a whole new literal meaning to the phrase ‘cold fish’.

“Sup homes!,” the black man said. His grip was firm as he pumped Stafford’s arm, “I be J-Tizzle, check out my bling; two gold and a black.

“Um,” Stafford’s brain felt like it was going to melt, “What?”

“His name is Lt. Commander Johnson,” Fleebun said, “I managed to get that much from the Cricket’s captain.

“Uh, OK,” Stafford gave Johnson a weak grin, “Pleasure to meet you,”

“Dang, yo,” Johnson said, looking around, “Dis a fine ass ship ya’all got here!”

“Uh,” Stafford discreetly positioned himself in front of the ‘Use at Own Risk’ sign, “Welcome aboard,”

“Word!” Johnson exclaimed, holding up one hand with index and pinky fingers extended.

“Um,” Stafford turned to Fleebun, “What happened with Pysterzyks?”

“Such hostility,” Fleebun said sadly, “I sensed from him that his aura was in flux and wished only to comfort the poor soul,”

“He gave him a slick squeeze!” Johnson explained.

“Squeeze?” Stafford frowned, “Oh! A hug?”

Fleebun nodded.

“Oy,” Stafford shook his head, “Didn’t they teach you at the Academy not to hug Andorians?”

“We Watreadians believe in a wholesome, caring approach to life,” Fleebun said.

“Boy are you on the wrong ship,” Stafford muttered, “By the way, why are there two of you? I only asked for one candidate!’

“Yo, Da Man told me dat ya’ll be frontin’ so they sent me in ta be an extra set of hands,” Johnson said.

“Which man?” Stafford asked, “Why did he need more hands in our fronts?” Stafford frowned, “You’re not…like Lt. Jall, are you?”

“He means that Tunney sent both of us,” Fleebun said, “I sensed that the Admiral suspected one of us would turn the assignment down,”

“Really,” Stafford rolled his eyes.

“Win!” Johnson exclaimed happily.

Stafford ushered the two of them out the door and in the direction of their quarters.

“Stafford to Bridge,” he said quietly.

“Jeffery here,” Jeffery responded, “How’s it hanging?”

“Tell the Cricket not to leave the neighborhood,” Stafford sighed.

Captain’s Log, Supplemental.

“It’s official. Tunney still hates us. I ask for one - ONE - possible candidate for the position of First Officer and he sends me two. I had a chance to look over their records while they were getting settled, and there’s nothing obviously wrong with them. Served on several starships, moved up through the ranks, etc. etc.”

“The problem is that one of them is a creepy, wimpy little pushover and the other…well. Commander Johnson…well. I’m sure he’s a fine officer. We just can’t understand a word he’s saying!”

“I’ve called a meeting, so the rest of the crew can meet our new candidates.”

“Tunney, what have we done to deserve this?”

“Hello everybody,” Fleebun said, standing at the front of the conference lounge. His rubbery hands were pressed together and he had a friendly, peaceful look on his face, “I’m Lieutenant Commander Fleebun. If selected, it will be my greatest pleasure to serve as your leader under our august Captain,”

Yanick and Jall immediately brought their hands to their mouths, in a desperate attempt to stifle the rising giggles.

“Ahhh!” Fleebun grinned widely, “Good humor! I love it! Please, everybody, a round of applause!”

Jeffery and T’Parief looked at each other uneasily. Yanick started clapping, with Fifebee and Wowryk reluctantly joining in.

“Now, I would like to invite you all to join me in a visualization exercise,” Fleebun took a deep breath.

“Uh, thanks,” Stafford said, cutting him off, “But let’s introduce the other newbie first,”

Johnson stood and grinned widely.

“WORD UP YO!” he said loudly, gesturing with his arms, “J-TIZZLE IN DA HOUSE!”

Everybody stared.

“Um, hi!” Yanick waved.

“Yo,” Johnson replied.

“You will both need to come to Sickbay to submit to the standard physicals,” Wowryk said crisply.

“Dayum girl!” Johnson exclaimed, “You fine! You can make me turn my head and cough any day!”

Wowryk gave a delicate little frown.

“I’m not sure if I should hurt you for that or not,” she admitted.

“Anyway,” Stafford said, “Our four candidates are going to spend the next couple of weeks taking turns handing difference aspects of the First Officer’s duties. T’Parief will start with bridge duty, Jeffery has crew reports, Fleebun has crew relations and Johnson will be taking care of the administrative duties. Any questions?”

There were none.

“OK,” Stafford took a deep breath, “Let’s start out. And may God have mercy on us,”

“Amen,” Wowryk said dreamily.

Jall and Yanick were riding the turbolift down to Deck 12 for dinner after coming off their shifts. Yanick was humming quietly to herself, trying to image if the rumors about men like Johnson were true. Jall wasn’t. He already knew it was a 50/50 shot. No, Jall’s thoughts were on other topics. Like how the hell Stafford could be considering either of the new recruits as contenders for the position that he wouldn’t even give Jall a chance at.

He said as much to Yanick.

“Well,” Yanick shrugged, “If you ask me, Stafford isn’t very happy about either of them either. And I know he’s not happy about Jeffery or T’Parief,”

“Really?” Jall asked, perking up, “Why not? He wanted to give T’Parief the job to begin with!”

“Haven’t you been paying attention?” Yanick asked.

“I’ve been trying to avoid talking to that arrogant wind-bag altogether,” Jall grunted.

“You better not mean my boyfriend!” Yanick said.

“Er, of course not,” Jall said, “But what was I supposed to pay attention to?”

“The whole mess! Stafford’s pissed at Pari cuz he turned the job down,” Yanick said. The turbolift doors opened and the two of them started down the corridor, “So did Jeffery. Now they’ve suddenly decided they want it!”

“So what?” Jall shrugged, “I’ve changed my mind on stuff before.”

“Silly,” Yanick giggled, “Think of it this way: If somebody turned you down for a date, then suddenly turned around and asked you out, what would you do?”

“Tell him to go f**k himself,” Jall said thoughtfully, “So you’re saying that Stafford is scared that Jeffery and T’Parief aren’t dedicated enough for the job,”

“Yup!” Yanick said, “It’s silly, of course. Once Pari sets his mind on something, you can’t change it. Like last night, when he wanted me to-“

“LA-LA-LA-LA!” Jall said loudly, fingers in his ears, “I don’t want to know!”

“You sicko,” Yanick crossed her arms, “I was going to say ‘make fish-gut soup’!”

“Whatever,” Jall led Yanick into Platterheads, shaking his head, “The four of them might be dolts, but Stafford doesn’t have much choice. He’s gotta pick one of them,”

Deep in the computer core, Sylvia was watching very, very carefully. She’d turned over most of the computer functions to automatic systems, devoting about ten percent of her attention to ensuring that everything was running as it should. The remainder of her attention wasn’t snoozing, as she’d been claiming, but was instead focused on the five candidates for First Officer. Stafford might think that there were only four candidates, but Sylvia felt otherwise.

Chris, dear as he was, really didn’t comprehend the importance of the decision he was trying to make. Sylvia was very sure of that. He hadn’t had to make this kind of choice before. When Silverado had launched, his crew had been picked for him by Admiral Grant. Noonan had been the ideal choice. His administration and interpersonal skills, his calm demeanor and his dedication to his job had been a perfect counterbalance to Stafford’s inexperience and easily excited personality. Now, with Noonan gone, Stafford was floundering.

On any other ship, the post of First Officer was important to the safety and well-being of the crew. Sylvia however had herself to think of as well. She needed a First Officer that understood her importance to the ship, would be willing to accept her input and able to balance out Stafford’s shortcomings.

Jeffery was pretty much out in her books. She agreed with Stafford: for now, Jeffery belonged in Engineering, overseeing the ship’s systems. Simon was a sweety but he and Stafford would probably end up in some stupid pissing contest over who was the better commander.

Fleebun was likewise out of the running as far as Sylvia was concerned. The man had all the personality of an isolinear chip and would probably still be trying to sweet-talk the hostile aliens when they blew Silverado to pieces.

Of Stafford’s two remaining candidates, Sylvia was unsure. T’Parief would balance Stafford fairly well, though she was a little concerned that he would prove too docile; too respectful of Stafford’s authority. He would treat her right though, of that she was sure.

Johnson was a bit of a mystery. The Universal Translater was stumped, but using her vast resources and not-so-vast experience she’d come to a vague understanding of what the black officer was talking about, though since nobody had asked her for that information she didn’t feel particularly obliged to provide it. Far better to see if everybody else was adaptable enough to come to an understanding. Besides, the expressions on everybody’s faces when Johnson spoke were very entertaining. Johnson was, from what she could see, very competent. He’d already taken the initiative of processing several administrative reports and had done a very good job. She mentally frowed…that meant other crews had been able to understand him fine. Why were her crew having so much difficulty? She assigned the question to an ancillary processor and set it aside.

Although that covered Stafford’s candidates, Sylvia felt there was somebody else on board that would be a very good fit to the role. Somebody who had been overlooked. Fortunately, she had her own avenues of opportunity to explore and her own plans to set into motion. Now she just had to wait

“I’ll have the Faboo Fingers and Fries, please,” Jall said, speaking to the Guinanco waitress.

“I’ll have the Salad of Sensuality, please,” Yanick requested.

“Of course,” the waitress bowed, “And remember: Honesty is the best policy!”

They frowned at the rather lame advice, watching as the waitress moved away.

“Must be a new employee,” Jall shrugged.

“Yeah,” Yanick agreed, “I hear that Guinanco orientation class is a killer,”

“They need to start teaching self-defense,” Jall said.

They made small-talk for several moments, waiting for their food to arrive. Finally, it did. Just as Jall was going to take his first bite, the comm beeped.

“Sylvia to Lieutenant Jall,”

“I’m about to eat, Sylvia!” Jall said.

“I’m sorry, San,” Sylvia’s voice didn’t sound all that apologetic, “But there’s a message coming in for you from Starbase 45,”

“Great,” Jall said, “I have a mailbox, right?”

“Yes, but-“

“And there’s room in it, right?”

“Yes but-“

“Well,” Jall said, spearing a chicken finger with his fork, “As the blond said to postal worker: ‘Just feel free to shove it in my slot’,”

“Watch your mouth, Lieutenant Commander, or I’ll wash it out with soap!”

“Yeah, whatever,” Jall grumbled. He tapped his comm-badge, cutting off the channel. He’d eaten two chicken fingers and was about to squirt ketchup all over his fries when he noticed Yanick staring at him, mouth agape.

“What?” Jall said, “I wasn’t that rude to her!”

“Did you hear what she said?” Yanick asked.

“Yeah, I have a message,” Jall shrugged, “Big deal. Probably somebody I dumped trying to get back together with me. Fat chance. Now eat your salad, we have a holodeck reservation in half an hour, remember? Shopping at the West Edmonton Mall!”

“But she called you Lieu-“ Yanick started.

“Less talk, more eat,” Jall said, pointing his fork at Yanick’s plate.

Several hours later, he returned to his quarters, exhausted. Some people might wonder just what the hell the point was in going shopping in the holodeck, especially if everything you bought vanished when you exited. Of course, they could have instructed the holodeck to replicate what they bought, thus allowing them to keep it, but that wasn’t the point. Shopping on the holodeck was practice. A dry run. Preparation for their next stop at a real planet with a real mall. Plus, the West Ed Mall was more of an experience then a shopping mall. He’d especially enjoyed the Ambercrombie & Finch models he’s programmed into the waterpark. Of course, they’d programmed the holodeck to display the mall at its peak.

He settled in front of his desk terminal ready to check his calendar for the night to be sure he didn’t have any hook-ups scheduled before he went to bed. Nope, all clear. Now he could just shower and take a nice, long-

“You have one new message,” the terminal informed him.

“Huh,” he stretched, “That’s right. Wonder what this is about.”

He tapped the icon to play the message.

Two minutes later, he was running out of his quarters.




“What?” Stafford groaned. He pulled himself up from his couch, where he’d fallen asleep watching old Futurama cartoons. He couldn’t figure out who it was, but the robot really reminded him of somebody.


“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Stafford walked to the door, trying to straighten his rumpled uniform and hoping his breath wouldn’t kill his visitor. The doors hissed open.

“Hey, Captain,” Jall said, giving a small wave.

Stafford took a moment to marshal his good manners.

“Yes, Lieutenant?” he asked, “Is there a reason why you’re at my door right before bed?” He shuddered. “Please tell me it’s something official,”

“Yeah, read this and weep, um,” Jall swallowed. Polite, friendly and professional, he reminded himself.

“Captain,” he said, holding out a padd, “I’d like to respectfully submit myself as a candidate for the position of First Officer,”

“You can’t” Stafford said tiredly, not taking the padd, “You’re only a Lieutenant!”

“Not anymore,” Jall thrust the padd into Stafford’s hands, gave him a nervous grin then walked quickly down the corridor.

With a growing sense of dread, Stafford stepped back into his quarters and thumbed the activation button.

“To Lieutenant Jall, USS Silverado, currently operating out of Starbase 45,” a pretty brunette woman was looking out from the display, a calm, professional expression on her face, “Greetings. I’m Grace Hanshaw, attaché to the Starfleet Judge Advocate General. It’s my pleasure to inform you that your appeal, filed Stardate 56102.3, has been processed. It is furthermore my pleasure to inform you that the Board of Inquiry has found that your demotion from the rank of Commander and First Officer of the USS Sutherland for ‘Behavior Unbecoming an Officer’ was indeed processed for improper reasons. Starfleet offers apologies.”

At this point, Hanshaw’s face took on an expression of professional sympathy.

“Regrettably,” she said, “The Board also found that the original orders promoting you to the rank of Commander and position of First Officer were unconfirmed and did not come through standard channels. Furthermore, you may be interested to know that the investigation regarding the destruction of the USS Rossburn, the vessel on which you served prior to serving on the Sutherland has been re-opened and attached to a similar case involving irregularities in the destruction of the USS Banshee.”

“To cut to the chase, we are not able to restore you to the rank of Commander. The Board of Inquiry has ruled instead to restore your original rank, prior to these above mentioned incidents. Congratulations, Lieutenant Commander Jall,”

The message ended.

Stafford collapsed back down on his couch.

“This just keeps getting better and better,” he sighed.

The next morning, Stafford stormed into Platterhead’s like a man on a mission. He quickly spotted his quarry, grabbed a plate from Patsy Horton’s admittedly scrumptious Bolian Breakfast Buffet, piled it high with blue eggs and ham and marched over to the corner table where Yanick was sitting with T’Parief.

“Lieutenant Commander, Ensign,” he nodded politely as he sat down.

“Er,” T’Parief looked uncomfortable, “Won’t you join us?”

“I will. I think you’re due on the bridge right now, though,”

T’Parief frowned.

“I am quite sure my shift does not start for…” he trailed off, noticing the look in Stafford’s eyes.

“Oh, my,” he said, his voice stilted and flat as he tried to take on a worried tone, “I do appear to be late. Excuse me,”

As he left, Yanick crossed her arms.

“And what was that for, Mr. High-and-Mighty?” she asked.

“Did you know?” Stafford demanded, “Did he tell you?”

“About the boil on his tail?” Yanick asked, blinking her big blue eyes, “No, but I saw it while he was sleeping. The question is how you-“

“Not T’Parief!” Stafford cut her off, “Jall! Did he tell you he was getting an appeal?”

“He did say something about a facial the other day…” Yanick said thoughtfully.

“Ugh,” Stafford groaned. He handed Yanick the padd with Jall’s message on it, eating his eggs as she watched.

“Huh,” Yanick said, “She doesn’t say what he did either-“

“I don’t care what he did!” Stafford said, “I’m more worried about what she’s doing now! Giving him back his rank? Does the JAG have any idea how much this messes things up for me?”

“I don’t think they care,” Yanick said honestly, cutting off a piece of her pancake and shoving it in her mouth, “And the way you’re acting, I don’t think I care either,”

“Me?” Stafford frowned, “What did I do?”

“What?” Yanick said, “Aside from being so biased against a member of your own crew that you refuse to even consider him for a position he really wants, even though your other four choices are a nitwit, two people who have already turned down the job and a guy who doesn’t even seem to speak English?”

“Jall is NOT First Officer material!” Stafford objected, “He’s whiney. He’s insubordinate. He spends as much time doing his hair in the morning as you do and if he came across a wounded animal he’d probably kill it so he could turn it into a stylish hat!”

Yanick crossed her arms.

“You’re not even trying to be open minded about this,” she accused.

“No,” Stafford admitted hotly, “I’m not!”

“That’s it!” Yanick declared, “You’re forcing me to do something I really don’t want to do!”

“What?” Stafford frowned. Then realization stuck and his eyes widened, “No, wait! Trish-“

“SYLVIA!!” Yanick called.

“Good morning!” Sylvia said, smiling as she materialized in one of the empty seats, “What a beautiful day it is today! Hardly a nebula in sight!”

“It’s too early, Sylvia,” Stafford groaned.

“Nonsense,” Sylvia said, leaning forward on her elbows, “Fill me in, Trish,”

“Couldn’t you just examine the sensor logs for this room for the past five minutes?” Stafford cut in.

“I could,” Sylvia said, “But Trish likes it better this way,”

“Oh, fine then,” Stafford grumbled, sitting back in his chair, “Whatever TRISH wants then, cuz we sure don’t want to do what TRISH doesn’t want to do,”

“Quite, you!” Yanick and Sylvia said together.

“So what’s up?” Sylvia asked.

“Chris is being stubborn,” Yanick said.

“Of course,” Sylvia shrugged, “He’s always been stubborn,”

“Runs in the family,” Stafford muttered.

“So this probably has to do with the situation involving our favorite Operations Officer,” Sylvia guessed.

“Ensign Day is my favorite Ops Officer,” Stafford said flatly.

“Well,” Sylvia said, “I think if Yvonnokoff were here right now, she’d say that you need to consider things from Jall’s point of view before you can really understand his attitude,”

“Yvonnokoff’s not here,” Stafford said, “She’s broadcasting her morning show,”

“But I am here,” Sylvia said, “And I agree with her. You need to try to understand Jall before you go passing any more judgments on him,”

“What are you going to do?” Stafford asked sarcastically, “Lock me in a prison cell overnight with a bunch of sex-starved convicts? That sounds like Jall’s point of view to me!”

“Christopher Rico Stafford!” Sylvia snapped, “I will NOT tolerate that kind of bigotry from you young man! You were raised better then that, by God, and if you don’t stop discriminating against Jall because of his orientation I’ll-“

“It’s not about his orientation! I really don’t care who he’s romantically involved with,” Stafford cut her off tiredly, “And could you stop channeling Mom for a minute? I thought Jeffery’d fixed that little bug,”

“And just what is it about then?” Sylvia huffed.

“His attitude!” Stafford said.

Yanick and Sylvia waited for him to say more.

“And that’s it, actually,” he finished rather lamely.

“So you agree that he’s a skilled officer who just has a bad attitude towards his job?” Sylvia asked.

“Towards everything,” Stafford said warily.

“OK then,” Sylvia said, “This is a start. Now, what we’re going to do next is a little role-play,”

“Sylvia, I need to get to the bridge,” Stafford said, starting to rise.

“No you don’t,” Sylvia said, “Johnson has the conn. We’re still orbiting Mortello. Jeffery is dealing with a personnel dispute, T’Parief is already going over today’s paperwork and Fleebun is hosting a ‘Social Committee’ meeting,”

“We have a social committee?” Stafford asked.

“Well, if Fleebun gets his way we will,” Sylvia shrugged, “I guess he doesn’t know we already have one,”

“Me!” Yanick said happily.

“Fine,” Stafford groaned, “But let’s do this someplace more private.”

They’d moved to the Captain’s Private Dining Room on Deck 3. The empty room was covered with a layer of dust, having been largely unused for several weeks. There really wasn’t much call for a formal dining room when the Captain ate in the dining hall with everybody else and they had about as many high-ranking visitors as the public washrooms in a Klingon fast-food joint.

“OK,” Sylvia said, sitting her holographic self down at the head of the table, “You be you, I’ll be Admiral Tunney and Yanick is going to be all your peers,”

“Why aren’t I being Jall if this role play is about him?” Stafford asked.

“I’m changing the context so it fits you,” Sylvia said, “Now go!”

“Fine,” Stafford sighed, “Uh, hi ‘Admiral Tunney-“

“Oops, one sec,” Sylvia flickered briefly then re-appeared, this time in the image of Admiral Edward Tunney, “OK, Go ahead,”

“You wanted to see me, ‘Admiral’?” Stafford asked, “Is this about my bad attitude or my various dress code violations?”

Sylvia/Tunney crossed her arms.

“If you’re not going to be serious about this,” she started.

“OK, OK,” Stafford said. He took a couple of deep breaths, trying to imagine that he was really standing in Tunney’s office, with the Admiral sitting in front of him.

“You wanted to see me, Admiral?” he asked.

“Ah yes,” Sylvia/Tunney said, “Captain Stafford, as I’m sure you’re aware, on Stardate 56451 you engaged in sexual relations with a member of the Senousian government during a reception hosted by the Matrian Council?”

“Oh yeah,” Stafford grinned a little, remembering that evening.

“Well,” Sylvia went on, “As I’m sure you’re not doubt aware, such actions constitute ‘Conduct Unbecoming an Officer’ and-“

“Whoa, what?” Stafford frowned, “It was her idea! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

“Regardless of who initiated coitus, the fact remains that it happened,” Sylvia said, “And I strongly disapprove of your actions,”

“Oh really,” Stafford crossed his arms.

“Yes,” Sylvia said, “As punishment, it’s been decided that you will be reduced in rank to Lieutenant and transferred to a different ship. I believe we have an opening coming up for a Science Officer-“

“Science Officer my ass!” Stafford declared, “I don’t know anything about science! I’m on the Engineering command track! You can’t demote me just because you disapprove!”

“Starfleet feels you’re talents are better used in the sciences,” Sylvia gave a cruelly triumphant smile, “Enjoy your new assignment, Lieutenant!”

“Ha, ha!” Yanick pointed and laughed, “What a sucker!”

“You can’t do this!” Stafford snapped, “I didn’t do anything wrong! I’ll fight this, you bastard! I’ll appeal! I’ll protest! I’ll-“

Sylvia shimmered again, taking on her normal from.

“I’ll…I’ll…” Stafford realized he was breathing heavy, “Whoa,”

“Well,” Sylvia said, hands clasped in front of her, “That’s not exactly what happened, I had to compress things a little for time’s sake. But I think you get the picture. Very nice job getting into the part, by the way.”

Stafford sat down. Hard.

“I…I…” he stammered, “Is that really what happened? He pissed off some Admiral, and the guy torpedoed his whole career?”

“The details are private,” Sylvia said, “But that’s it, in a nutshell.”

“I actually feel bad for that guy,” he gulped.

Stafford and Yanick exited the aft turbolift onto the bridge. Yanick moved to take her station from Ensign Jones, a grumpy looking girl from the overnight shift.

“About time,” Jones grunted, wandering towards the turbolift.

“Good morning, Captain,” Jall said, turning from his console, “Can I just have a word-“

“No,” Stafford snapped, “you can’t. Senior officers, conference room!”

Within minutes the senior staff, with the exception of Wowryk, had crowded into the conference lounge. With the addition of the two extra First Officer’s candidates, the small room was feeling a little crowded.

“Captain, I-“ Jall started.

“Not now,” Stafford cut him off.

Jall sat back in his chair, glaring.

“OK, folks, good morning, hope you slept well, blah, blah blah,” Stafford said.

“I found the disharmonic resonance in the port nacelle most soothing,” Fleebun said.

“Dis da…” Johnson’s words were lost in a wide yawn.

“Right,” Stafford said, “There’s been a bit of a development. You’ve probably noticed that Mr. Jall has an extra pip on his collar-“

“No he doesn’t,” Yanick said, “He has the exact number he’s supposed to have-“

“Trish!” Stafford groaned, “I meant he has more than yesterday!”

“Ye promoted him?” Jeffery gasped, “Are ye daft?”

“Yes,” T’Parief said, his eyes dark as he turned to Stafford, “Are you ‘daft’?”

“Wasn’t my idea,” Stafford said, “It’s not even a promotion. More like a reverse demotion,”

“I was promoted,” Jall said, “Then demoted two ranks. And now I’ve got one of them back,”

Everybody looked confused.

“I won an appeal,” Jall shrugged.

“Yay!” Yanick clapped her hands.

“My congratulations,” Fleebun bowed.

“Go, dawg!” Johnson said.

T’Parief and Jeffery exchanged uneasy glances.

“Thanks,” Jall said, “Look, Captain, now that-“

“No,” Strafford cut him off, leaning forward, “Lieutenant Commander, I can’t let you submit an application for the First Officer’s position.”

T’Parief and Jeffery sighed with relief.

“What?” Jall demanded, “Hey, I’ve got the rank, I’ve got the skills-“

“San,” Sylvia cut in, “let him finish,”

“Thanks,” Stafford said, “Lieutenant Commander, I hereby invite you to participate in the selection process for Silverado’s new First Officer,”

Jall looked shocked.

“Really?” he finally asked.

“As much as I’m going to regret it,” Stafford sighed, “Yes. Really.”

“Sweet!” Jall grinned.

Stafford walked out of the conference room, onto the bridge and towards the turbolift.

“Chris,” Jeffery was saying as he followed, “I gotta talk to ye for a minute-“

“Captain,” T’Parief was saying at the same time, “A moment of your time in private, please,”

“No,” Stafford said without turning around. He stepped into the turbolift then turned, blocking either officer from following him in, “I don’t want to talk to you two about it,”

“But he’s about as responsible as-“ Jeffery started.

“He has no regard for the dignity of-“ T’Parief said.

“Look, you two,” Stafford snapped, then pointed at T’Parief, “Especially you! I practically handed this position to you on a silver platter and you didn’t want it! So I don’t think either of you have much of a right to question my choices now!”

He let the doors close, then leaned against the wall padding.

“I need a vacation,” he groaned.

“Yes, you do,” Sylvia chipped in.

“This is just a big mess, Sylvia,” Stafford sighed, “None of this was supposed to happen! We were supposed to be finished the hard part of this season! Er, I mean…”

“Fighting battles isn’t always the hard part, dear,” Sylvia said in a sympathetic tone, “Battles and tactics and strategies may be hard to predict, but next to the complexities of humanoid behavior, they’re really quite easy,”

“Sez you,” Stafford grunted.

“Speaking of hard to predict,” Sylvia went on, “Where are you going now?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“No,” Sylvia replied, “I predicted you would immediately consult with Fifebee following the announcement of Jall’s participation.”

“Really?” Stafford raised an eyebrown, “Why Fifebee?”

“Because she’s most likely to be impartial,” Sylvia replied at once, “And able to assist you in this decision,”

“Yeeessss,” Stafford said slowly, “But she’s been acting weird ever since that upgrade,”

“Which is why I ask where you’re going now,” Sylvia said.

“You wanted hard to predict?” Stafford said tiredly, “I’m about to do something I sure as heck never predicted!”

“I’m really quite busy, Captain,” Dr. Noel Wowryk said as she worked on a patient lying on the main bio-bed in Sickbay. On the wall above a console, a recently hung poster exhorted crewmen to avoid self-pleasure.

“I can see that,” Stafford said, eyebrows raised, “By the way, why is Crewman Kreklor lying face-down on your bio-bed with his pants off?”

“He had an accident during training,” Nurse Kerry piped in, “Don’t worry, it’s a lot more painful than it looks,”

“Uh,” Stafford turned a little green, “Why is that a good thing?”

Kerry just smiled.

“Look, Doc,” Stafford said, “I need to have a word with you,”

“Give me five minutes, please,” Wowryk said, not looking up, “I’m almost finished.”

“Right,” Stafford winced, “Your office.”

Stafford walked past the small laboratory workstation (the main labs were just down the hall) and into Wowryk’s small office. Out one corner windows he could see the ICU area with its single bio-bed positioned under a huge bio-sensor unit. Out the other window was the general treatment area, with several bio-beds lined up against the wall, a food replicator and several comfortable looking chairs for visitors. On Wowryk’s desk was a thick book with the word ‘Bible’ printed on the front.

Stafford quickly looked around. Nobody was watching.

Carefully, he picked up the book and started flipping to random pages.

“Fascinating read, isn’t it?” Wowryk asked from behind him several minutes later.

Stafford jumped, then quickly put the book down.

“Uh, not to be rude, Doc,” Stafford said, “But according to this book, shouldn’t you be burning a goat right about now?”

“There are many interpretations of the Scriptures, Captain,” Wowryk said frostily.

“Oh, good,” Stafford sighed, “Cuz that one page about not eating lobster-“

“Is there a point to this, or did you just come down to insult my beliefs?” Wowryk snapped.

“No!” Stafford raised his hands, “I mean, yes. Yes there’s a point and no I’m not down here to insult you!”

Wowryk settled herself delicately into her chair.

“And what is it?” she asked, raising one eyebrow.

“This whole First Officer thing is a mess!” Stafford groaned, letting his head fall on Wowryk’s desk with a thud, “I’ve got five different people wanting this post now. Five!”

“I had thought that a starship captain typically picked one person for the post,” Wowryk said.

“I did!” Stafford said, “I picked T’Parief! But the big lug turned it down!”

“But now he’s changed his mind?”

“Yes!” Stafford said, “And Jeffery wants it now, too! But I didn’t want him in that post in the first place!” Stafford suddenly cringed back, not sure if mentioning Jeffery was a good idea.

“I’m not sure that Simon has the emotional maturity for the job,” Wowryk said thoughtfully, “But it is good that he is showing ambition,”

Stafford snorted.

“Emotional maturity? On THIS ship?”

Wowryk simply looked back at him.

“I don’t want Fleebun in the same sector, nevermind the same ship,” Stafford said, “And Johnson…well…I just don’t know what he’s saying. Seems to meshing well with the crew though. He took over the DJ booth at Unbalanced Equations last night.”

“Yes, everybody enjoyed his music,” Wowryk’s gaze darkened, “Even though it was extremely sexist and referred to women as ‘ho’s’ and ‘bitches’,”

“It’s just music,” Stafford said quickly.

“Yes,” Wowryk agreed, “It is,”

“And I don’t know what to think of Jall now,” Stafford sighed, “He’s had such a bad attitude for the past two and a half years…but now I’m starting to understand that he might have a valid reason for that,” he trailed off as he saw the look on Wowryk’s face.

“Jall is the fifth candidate?” she snarled, rising from her chair, fury building in her eyes.

“You might want to put some ice on it, until the last of the soreness subsides,” Kerry was saying to Kreklor.

“Never speak of this again,” Kreklor said for the tenth time.

“Hit the deck!” Stafford cried, running out of Wowryk’s office and diving behind the wall separating the ICU from the laboratory workspace.

“Code White!” Kerry called immediately ducking behind the bio-bed. She grabbed Kreklor by the shoulder and pulled him to the floor, the big Klingon crying out in pain from the sudden movement.

They looked fearfully at the door to Wowryk’s office.

Wowryk appeared in the doorway, looking very calm.

“Captain?” she called, “Please come back here!”

“Don’t go!” Kerry hissed, shaking her head.

But Stafford rose to his feet and walked carefully into Wowryk’s office. Wowryk was already seated behind her desk.

“As much as I detest Jall’s sinful lifestyle,” she said without preamble or explanation, “I respect his abilities,”

Stafford stared at her.

“Doc,” he said, “Are YOU all right??”

“If you must know,” Wowryk said, “My counseling sessions with Dr. Yvonnokoff have been very helpful. And I’ll admit I’m a lot less stressed without having an evil alien overload to babysit,”

“Glad to hear it,” Stafford said carefully, “Look. Doc, to come to the point: I want you to help me with the First Officer selection,”

Wowryk raised an eyebrow.

“Me?” she repeated, shocked.

“Normally I’d have Noonan to help with this kind of thing,” Stafford said, “But he’s gone. Jeffery and T’Parief are candidates, so I can’t turn to them. Yanick’s biased towards T’Parief, and I think Sylvia’s biased towards Jall,”

“I’m sure that by turning to the wisdom of God I can-“ Wowryk started.

“Nooo,” Stafford interrupted, “I’m sorry, Noel, but as much as I respect your religion, I can’t let it influence a decision like this,”

“I disagree,” Wowryk said, looking down her nose, “All of the candidates are equally sinful in the eyes of God,”

Stafford sat quietly.

“I honestly have no idea how to respond to that,” he said after a moment, “In any case, I’d like you to work with Fifebee on this. She’s impartial, which is what I need, but I want you to help balance out the weird, irrational decisions she’s been making lately,”

“Very well,” Wowryk said casually.

“Great,” Stafford sighed in relief, “Glad that’s over. Now I need to figure out just how we’re going to figure out which candidate is best for the role,” he tapped his comm-badge, “Fifebee, could you come down to Sick-“

Fifebee immediately materialized.

“-bay,” Stafford finished, “Nice entrance,”

He quickly filled her in on the situation.

“So,” Fifebee said, “How do we determine who will best fit the role,”

“Confession,” Wowryk said immediately.

“Noel,” Stafford rubbed his forehead, “I already said-“

“No, she’s right,” Fifebee said, “Part of the role of a First Officer is to take point in away team missions, including contact with other cultures. This would be an excellent test of their willingness to honor local customs,”

Stafford grinned.

“I knew I wanted you in on this for a reason!” he said, “What else?”

Jall stepped into Platterheads, just ahead of the lunch crowd. Most of the senior staff had become pretty good at that, using their seniority to take off for lunch five minutes early. Yanick and T’Parief were already seated near one of the windows, with Fifebee and Wowryk not far off. Fifebee wasn’t actually eating, instead she gently stroked Fido’s white fur as he sat on her lap. The parasitic head-crab alien’s 20th century creator probably never imagined his creation would end up brought into holographic form, and if he did he probably didn’t image that hologram cooing gently in the lap of another hologram rather than rampaging through terrified, fleeing prey.

Wowryk wasn’t eating much either. In her case, Jall suspected the nervous, slightly disgusted glances she kept shooting at Fido had something to do with it.

Jall stepped up to one of the replicators, deciding he didn’t really feel like going through the whole waiter/customer routine with one of Patsy Horton’s dim-witted waiters. Dialing up a Trill stew he was fond of, he pulled his tray out of the replicator.

Deciding he didn’t really want to eat across from a parasitic head-clamping alien either, Jall surveyed the room. Four of the tables contained one or more people he’d slept with in the past six months…he didn’t really feel like sitting with any of them. He didn’t really feel like sitting by himself either.

So he strolled over to Yanick and T’Parief’s table, grabbed a chair and made himself comfortable.

“What do you want?” T’Parief asked, tips of his fangs showing.

“Lunch,” Jall said, digging into his stew.

“Is there a reason why you must eat here?” T’Parief asked coldly.

“Pari, don’t be a grouch,” Yanick said.

“He does not have to eat with us!” T’Parief said, “Nobody has to eat with us but us! This is becoming tiresome!”

“I think I can eat where I want,” Jall said, pointing at his new rank pip.

“Ohhh!” Yanick squealed, “That’s right! Congratulations! I’m sooo-“

“Thrilled,” T’Parief said flatly, “Yes, I know.”

“Aren’t you going to congratulate me, big guy?” Jall asked, giving T’Parief an innocent look.

“I will not,” T’Parief said, “As I have no doubt that you will very soon do something stupid and be reduced to the rank of Lieutenant again,”

“Or,” Jall said, “I’ll do something smart and get promoted to Commander,” he leaned closer to T’Parief, “And then I’ll be in charge of YOU!”

“Doubtful,” T’Parief said scornfully, pushing Jall away none too gently.

“I dunno Pari,” Yanick said, “You might have to get used to the idea of taking orders from San,”

“I would rather take orders from Johnson,” T’Parief grunted.

“Yeah,” Jall said, a dreamy look in his eyes, “Me too,”

“Where is he, anyway?” Yanick asked, “I wanted to have a welcome-aboard lunch for those guys, but they didn’t show up!”

“Fleebun’s been doing a segment on crew well-being on The Vonna Show all morning,” Jall said, “Haven’t heard a thing from Johnson,”

“So, girl,” Johnson said, looking coolly at Ensign Bith through half-lidded eyes, “Let’s head back to my crib and rock the cradle,”

“I’m not sure what you just said,” Bith sighed, “But you’re just so tall…and manly…with such lovely, deep brown eyes…”

Johnson gave her a cool half-smile.

“Take me, you stud!” Bith cried.

“Word!” Johnson said, leading the way.

“I’m sure he’s working hard to get the First Officer slot,” T’Parief said, “Unlike some others,”

“Hey, I don’t see you doing anything,” Jall shot back.

“I would never reveal my battle plan to you!”

“See, that’s why you’re not going to get it,” Jall said, a hint of condescension in his voice, “All you think about is battle. Ever heard of negotiating? Or diplomacy? Or making fine love to a hot alien to secure a treaty?”

“He better not have!” Yanick said darkly.

“You are a hot alien,” T’Parief said smoothly, taking Yanick’s hand in his and peering deep into her eyes.

“Ohhhh, nice recovery,” Jall muttered.

“Mind if I joine ye, ladies?”

Fifebee looked up at the source of the voice and started. There was no denying it: the owner of the voice was indeed Lieutenant Command Simon Jeffery. But what the hell was he doing, coming to the table where she was sitting with Dr. Wowryk, the woman he was terrified of?

“Of course, Simon,” Wowryk said, gesturing to an empty seat.

“Did I miss something?” Fifebee asked politely, “I had thought you two had severed your romantic ties,”

Wowryk and Jeffery suddenly looked uncomfortable.

“We can still be mates,” Jeffery said, “Um, I mean that in the ‘friend’ meaning, not as in-“

“Yes, thank you Simon,” Wowryk said. She turned to Fifebee, “We’re being civil to each other. We’re still colleagues, after all,”

“I see,” Fifebee said.

Jeffery ordered his lunch from the waiter, firmly refusing the offer of inadequacy counseling.

“So Ah hear Chris asked ye to help out with the officer selection thing,” Jeffery said.

Wowryk and Fifebee exchanged glaces.

“We cannot speak about that,” Fifebee said.

“And I hope, Simon,” Wowryk said, “That you’re not trying to use your past relationship with me to get an unfair advantage!”

“Nay! Never!” Jeffery said quickly, “Ah was just makin’ small talk! Conversation! Chewin’ the fat!”

“Fat. How very unhealthy,” Wowryk mused.

“So,” Fifebee said brightly, “I’m curious about your humanoid courtship rituals. Now that you are single, have you been having a lot of promiscuous single sex?”

“Whot?” Jeffery’s eyes rose, darting between Fifebee and Wowryk. Wowryk had a dark look in her eyes, but was eyeing Jeffery with carefully disguised curiousity.

“Nay! Never!” Jeffery cried, “Ah’m not the playin’ kind o’ man!”

“I’m sure you’d like to be,” Wowryk muttered.

“Interesting,” Fifebee observed, “And-“

“Ah really gotta go,” Jeffery said, jumping to his feet and stumbling towards the door.

Wowryk looked at Fifebee.

“That was not suitable dinner conversation,” she finally said.

“It got rid of him, didn’t it?” Fifebee asked.

Wowryk smiled in spite of herself.

“It did, didn’t it?”

Captain’s Log, Stardate 58614.5

“I don’t know why, but out of all the hundreds of starships in the fleet, I’ve got the only one that needs to have First Officer tryouts. Whether this is because of something I’ve done, the tampering of some omnipotent being or because fate just hates us all, I don’t have a clue. At this point, I just want ONE First Officer so we can wrap up the last of this bullshit!”

“Together with Wowryk and Fifebee, we’ve come up with a way to choose. We’re going to have a number of tasks for the five wannabees. Whoever does the best becomes Number One. Quick and simple.”

“I hope.”

“OK,” Stafford was saying to Lieutenant Sage, “We’ll need the holodeck for a couple of days at least, so I want you to triple check that it’s in top shape. Yanick’s going to co-ordinate with Horton for the catering and-“

“Keptain Stafford!”

“Yes, Dr. Vonna?” Stafford turned, “Or is it Counselor Yvonnokoff now? I have a hard time keeping track,”

“Let us talk of your hostility later,” Vonna said, “I haff urgent suggestion. I hear you haff a special competition in mind for ze First Officer candidates?”

“Right, but it really doesn’t concern you!” Stafford said sharply.

“It eez my job to keep careful track of-“

“What’s your idea?” Stafford interrupted.

“I vas zinking-“

“Uh, Captain,” Sage asked, “There’s a minor anomaly in the power flow. I’m gonna need somebody to authorize a shut down of part of the EPS grid,”

“Ugh,” Stafford groaned, “Look, Counselor, do whatever you think is necessary. Just don’t bother me with it!”

“Jas, Keptain,”

Admiral Edward Tunney yawned as he walked through the corridor’s of Starbase 45’s residential section. He’d had a full day, overseeing starship assignments, tweaking mission profiles and doing the paperwork to add the USS Belarus, the newest Operation Salvage vessel, to his flag. Now, it was time for a drink.

“Gadem to Tunney,” his comm chirped as Tunney stepped into the turbolift.

“Gadem,” Tunney said, annoyed, “I’m done for the day. Can’t it wait?”

“I don’t think so, Admiral. I’ve been going over the holovision listings-“

“Great use of your time, Ensign,” Tunney said flatly.

“Sir, AWN just pre-empted tonight’s episode of ‘Trading Starships’ for a special edition of ‘The Vonna Show’!”

“Good for them,” Tunney grunted, arriving in the station’s commercial section and heading for his favorite sports bar for an evening pint.

“Bad for us, sir,” Gadem said nervously, “I really think you need to take a look,”

“I think I’m about to,” Tunney sighed, hearing the familiar jingle to ‘The Vonna Show’ through the door of Zorgothaks Pub.

He stepped inside, where Vonna’s face dominated the huge vidscreen normally reserved for sporting events.

“And velcome to special edition of ‘Ze Vonna Show’! I am Vonna, und today I bring special, close look at interpersonal relations! Ve vatch now as five contestants compete for coveted position: First Officer of USS Silverado!”

“Oh no,” Tunney said softly.

The screen shifted to show Stafford standing in front of five officers. Three he recognized as Silverado officers; the Chief Engineer, the lizard and the annoying loudmouth. He also recognized Johnson, the man he’d sent to apply for Silverado’s vacant First Officer slot and Fleebun, the officer he’d sent on a lark to annoy Stafford. They were standing in the middle of a grassy field, on what must be a holodeck. A small shed of some kind was in the center of the field. The camera panned around, showing several officers sitting in stands, cheering. A blond girl held a sign that read ‘Go T’Parief!’.

“OK, shut up everybody,” Stafford called, “I’ll be brief. We’ve got five officers who want to be second in command. Some took a while to make up their minds about it,” he glared at Jeffery and T’Parief, “Others had to do weird legal shit to get here,” this time his gaze moved to Jall. “Either way, we’re going to narrow these five down to one. You guys in the audience don’t really get any say in it, but when I told Yanick we were having a contest she insisted I do something to let you show your support. Anyway, let’s get to it,”

“He doesn’t even know he’s on quadrant-wide holovision, does he?” the bartender snorted, “Look at the way he’s scratching his nose! And he’s not even looking at the camera!”

“Gadem to Tunney,” the comm chimed again.

“What?” Tunney asked, suddenly feeling very, very tired.

“Sir, I have President Dillon’s secretary on subspace for you,” Gadem said, “And from what she says, it sounds like he’s not very happy,”

“Fifebee?” Stafford was saying on the sceen, “Take that ridiculous nose ring out. Let’s try to have a bit of respectability here, shall we?”

“Gadem?” Tunney sighed, putting his feet up and getting ready to watch the end of his career.

“Yes sir?”

“Put him on hold,”

Tags: silverado