Low and Behold, Rodenberry looked upon Star Trek, his creation, and wondered 'Just what the heck has Paramount, the new license holder, done with my work?' Alan Decker, a child hanging from each arm, shook his head with fatigue and wondered 'Where did all these Star Traks writers come from anyway? Building on my creation...' Brendah Chris, sitting in the Toronto airport, worked on Star Traks: Silverado, and wondered just why exactly he was going to Texas. Because work said so, dummy. Oh. And, Low and Behold, the wondering stopped.

Author: Brendan Chris
Copyright: 2006

Departure:


Lieutenant Commander Simon Jeffery tapped frantically at the Engineering console on Silverado’s bridge.

“Chris,” Noonan was saying, “It’s time to abandon ship,”

“NO!” Stafford cried. The rest of his protest was lost to Jeffery as he frantically re-routed shield control to independent processors.

Silverado was in the process of being dragged into the atmosphere of Delorea II. A ship commanded by Lord Stalart, a being they had mistaken for a baby for over a year, had a tractor beam solidly locked onto them and was pulling them down. To make matters worse, Stalart had ripped Sylvia out of the computer core. The sudden removal of the AI, who had been deeply intertwined into the ship’s systems, had sent the entire computer network from the isolinear processing banks to the bio-neural gel-packs into a state of cybernetic shock. If Silverado had been a living thing, she would be in the midst of a seizure.

“All hands,” Stafford called, his voice ringing through the emergency all-call, “Abandon ship. Repeat,” he grimaced, sounding like he had something stuck in his throat,” All hand, abandon ship.”

The evacuation alert sounded as the ship shook again. Jeffery’s gaze shot to the small dome in the bridge ceiling. Already he could see the atmosphere thickening outside the ship.

“Fifebee!” Jeffery gasped to himself. He tapped frantically at his panel, trying to get her program downloaded into a portable chip.

“C’mon, Jeffery!” Jall called, jumping into the emergency hatch next to the turbolift, “Party’s over,”

“Not yet!” Jeffery cried. The computer was refusing to respond. He tried locating Fifebee’s program, but wound up with Yanick’s horse riding program. Not bothering to wonder if T’Parief knew about the cowboys, he tried again. Behind him, he was dimly aware of Stafford and Noonan arguing angrily.

The arguing suddenly ceased.

Seconds later, Stafford was pulling Jeffery away from the panel.

“Come on,” he said dully.

“But,” Jeffery stammered, “Fifebee!”

“No time,”

Jeffery swallowed, knowing Stafford was right.

He followed Stafford and Yanick down the ladder to Deck 2, where six command-level escape pods were housed. Jall, T’Parief and Wowryk were already sealed in Pod 1. Not sure if he should be happy or upset that he couldn’t be with the doctor, Jeffery followed Stafford and Yanick into Pod 2.

“What about Matt?” Yanick asked frantically.

“There’re four more pods,” Stafford said, “He’ll manage,”

The ship shook hard around them, harder than ever before. Everybody fell to the floor of the pod, flailing for hand-holds.

“What was THAT?” Jeffery asked, pulling himself back into his seat and activating the restraints.

“No time!” Stafford shouted. Checking that they were belted in, he punched the LAUNCH control.

The hatch above them blasted open and the pod shot loose of the doomed ship. Jeffery caught a brief glimpse of Silverado’s hull, the metal starting to glow red with the heat of re-entry. He could see other escape pods blasting free as other members of the skeleton crew made their escape.

The pod suddenly spun out of control as something, something big, grazed past them, the turbulence from its passage pulling at the pod like a whirlpool. As Jeffery watched he could see two of the escape pods collide. They spun off in separate directions, intact but out of control.

Struggling to help Stafford land their own pod, Jeffery brought up a surface scan. The temporal interference blocked almost everything of use, but he could see that they were heading for the larger continent north of the equator.

By the time he was able to look again, Silverado and the other escape pods were gone.


Week One:


“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Yanick asked.

“Positive,” Stafford said firmly, “We have everything?”

“Survival gear,” Jeffery said, hefting a heavy backpack, “Tents, food, tricorders and phasers,”

“I hope you’ve got those well-hidden,” Stafford said, “If we’ve landed where you say we have, this place won’t take very kindly to energy weapons,”

“We have,” Jeffery said, “I know darned well I saw a city pass under us on the way down. I’m sure Fifebee would tell ye it’s equivalent to late 20th or early 21st century Earth,” he swallowed, “God rest her soul,”

“It’s not your fault,” Stafford said firmly, “It’s Stalart’s. And we’ll get him,”

Neither man spoke.

Yanick, sensing the tension, tried to plaster a smile on her face.

“You were saying you wanted to get outside more often,” she said.

Stafford ‘s face remained cold.

“Y’know…” Yanick said, “around the trees and squirrels and lizards,”

Stafford said nothing.

“Lizards,” Yanick repeated softly, tearing up.

“OK, let’s just get this out,” Stafford said sharply, “The ship’s gone, anybody who survived is now marooned on this planet and we’re not even sure if everybody made if off,”

“Ah know at least one person who didn’t,” Jeffery said, thinking of Fifebee.

“So we need to establish ourselves here and wait for help to arrive,” Stafford said, “Admiral Tunney will send somebody to investigate when they lose contact with us. That’s two weeks we have, minimum, before anybody comes looking for us. And even then they won’t be able to find us through the interference unless we’re doing something that makes us easy to find. That’s our priority. We’ll cry about the spilt milk later,”

“At least we left a lot of people at Starbase 45,” Yanick said hopefully.

“Yeah, we did something smart for a change,” Jeffery said.

“Let’s get to work,” Stafford said curtly.

With his little speech done, Stafford turned and put some distance between himself and the escape pod. When the others had joined him he tapped a button on his tricorder.

The self-destruct charge in the escape pod detonated, blasting the pod into the tiny pieces, ensuring that the local inhabitants would learn nothing of Federation technology.


Stafford, having used his tricorder to determine that their pod had landed less than fifty kilometers from a major coastal city, prepared to get underway. Gathering their survival gear, they set off in the direction of what appeared to be a major highway. The sun was already descending towards the horizon, indicating that the day was nearly over.

“OK,” Stafford said, “So we’re looking at a culture equivalent to Earth in the late 20th century. Anybody remember the Richter rating for that?”

“Oy,” Jeffery said, scratching his head, “Would that be a C-7? or a B-3?”

“I dunno,” Yanick said, “I kinda spaced out when we were doing the Richter Scale of Culture at the Academy,” she frowned, “They had this Vulcan come in to explain it. But I really don’t think he understood it either,”

“Nobody understands it,” Jeffery grumbled, “Except for old Alonzo Richter, and he’s been dead for decades. If they did, we wouldn’t bother comparing every planet to Earth!”

“Just trying to lighten the mood,” Stafford muttered softly, “Forget it,”

“And that reminds me of this other time,” Yanick went on, oblivious to what the other two were saying, “There was this Vulcan, and he, like, was totally horned up. Said his pony was far away. I think. I have no idea what that has to do with wanting to get under my pants, but he said it would help out. But I, like, had heard from this one girlfriend of mine that Vulcan’s are really bad in bed. Somebody about how it’s illogical to pleasure the female if her orgasm isn’t needed to make babies. But, y’know, I don’t want a baby yet, so what do…”

“How long a walk are we looking at?” Jeffery asked Stafford.

“Hours,” Stafford said back.

“Well, do we have a plan?”

“Not really. Not yet,” Stafford’s voice was flat.

“Ah really think we need a plan,” Jeffery insisted, “Like, right now,”

“Huh,” Stafford shrugged, “Well, you’re entitled to your opinions I guess,”

Jeffery frowned.

The two men walked in near silence, making small, non-committal sounds anytime it seemed like Yanick was waiting for an answer as she chattered on. They weren’t really aware of it, but Yvonnokoff could have told them that at some level Yanick was just desperate to talk about something, anything other than their current situation. Stafford found himself falling into the rhythm of her words. He noticed the bluish colour of the foliage, the colour of the sky and the soft breeze. His mind clicked over almost mechanically, analyzing different ways for them to survive on the planet until they were rescued. Should they have stayed with the pod? Its emergency beacon wasn’t strong enough to break through the interference, but maybe it would have made a good base of operations? Were they better off in the countryside where their life-signs would stand out, or in the city where they could try to find a way to send out a signal? Was there any wreckage of Silverado they could salvage?

His mind did a little flip and went blank.

And started clicking again. Should they have stayed with the pod? Its emergency beacon wasn’t strong enough….

Etc, etc.

“And that reminds me of this OTHER friend of mine who fooled around with a Romulan once,” Yanick was still going on, “And SHE said that they have the same endowments as Vulcans, but they’re much more skilled. But y’know, that size thing doesn’t really matter that much. Unless you’re talking about shuttles or vid-screens. My brother bugged Mom and Dad for MONTHS because he thought his 115-centimeter vid-screen was too small. So they finally got him an 150-centimeter screen, and I got the smaller one. Cuz, y’know, vidscreens are SO ugly and hard to design around that anything bigger than one-fifty would have looked weird in my quarters…”


Some time later the sun had dropped completely out of sight behind a line of trees, the sky turning a brilliant orange as it set. Stafford and Jeffery were still walking quietly while Yanick talked.

“That reminds me of this one saying my Daddy always used to say,” Yanick said, “I don’t remember it, or why he said it. But I’m still reminded of it…”

Jeffery clenched his teeth as he walked between Stafford and Yanick, eyes flickering between his companions. Stafford’s eyes looked dead as he took in their surroundings. Yanick’s eyes had been looking all over the area without seeming to really see anything. He started wondering just where exactly they were going. They didn’t have a plan, after all. They were just wandering in the general direction of the city. But what would they do once they got there? What would they eat? Where would they sleep? What if they were so different in appearance from the Delori inhabitants that they had to stay hidden?

How they HELL were they going to escape?

“But I don’t think she’ll marry him,” Yanick said, “I mean, Sam’s a good guy. He’s my brother, and I love him. But, y’know, it’s not like most girls really go for that kind of thing. I keep telling him he’d be better off dating an Andorian,”

“You don’t say,” Stafford said absently, brain still running though its shell-shocked cycle.

“I have no idea why that girl was so mean to me at the Academy,” Yanick went on, “I mean, I know her boyfriend was dancing with me at the Holiday Blitz, but it’s not like we were gonna do anything! I mean, I’m pretty sure he was just trying to make her jealous anyway, so-“

“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHUT YER FRICKIN’ MOUTH!” Jeffery screamed.

Yanick came to a dead stop and spun to face him, mouth open. Tears were already forming in her eyes.

“Hmmm?” Stafford said absently, already several steps ahead of them.

“We’re stranded here!” Jeffery shouted, “Alone! Castaways! The ship, MY SHIP, our HOME, has been blasted into space dust, our friends could be dead,” Jeffery gulped, “Noel…Noel could be dead,” he picked up steam again, shaking a finger at Yanick, “And all ye care about is interior decorating and the size of a Romulan’s penis? If ye don’t have something helpful to say, just…just…shut yer trap!”

Yanick stared at him for a moment, then turned away and ran off into the trees, sobbing.

Stafford stared wordlessly at Jeffery.

“Uh, Simon,” he said, “You know, she was just trying to pass the time,”

“PASS the TIME?” Jeffery screamed.

“We need to keep ourselves occupied,”

“They why aren’t we planning?” Jeffery snapped, “Gettin’ ideas? Gettin’ our act together? Have ye thought about what we’re gonna do? How we’re gonna get off this planet?”

“I’ve been working on it,” Stafford said calmly, “Simon, we’ve been through this. Back at the life-boat,”

“Aye!” Jeffery seized on Stafford’s words, “Ye told us we had to break through the interference. Ye cared! Ye had a plan! But now, now yer just standin’ there like a Pakled in front of a navigational deflector! That was YOUR SHIP that short little bastard blew up, and I’d treated him almost like a son! So f**king take control of the situation or-“

Stafford’s fist swung out and clipped Jeffery neatly on the chin, sending the smaller man spinning as he fell to the ground.

“How’s that for control?” Stafford said hoarsely.

Jeffery responded by swinging his legs around and knocking Stafford off his feet. Stafford fell heavily, the air knocked out of him. Before he could get to his feet Jeffery had pounced on him, the two men rolling around, each struggling to pin the other. Stafford managed to get Jeffery under him, but the smaller man squirmed free. They both leapt to their feet and faced each other warily, each man crouched and ready.

“Oh my God!” Yanick exclaimed. Since nobody had come to comfort her, she’d returned to find the guys wrestling around, “What’s going on!”

“Jeffery’s out of line!” Stafford spat, “With both of us!”

“Ye hit me!” Jeffery panted, “Ah can’t believe ye actually hit me!”

“Being upset about Stalart doesn’t give you the right to treat us like shit!” Stafford shot back, “What would Wowryk say?”

“Don’t bring her into this!”

“Both of you stop it!” Yanick cried, “I don’t want us to fight!”

Jeffery looked at her for the first time since she’d left and saw her tear-streaked face. Her blue eyes were wide with fear, her blond hair had come loose from it’s ponytail to fall around her face. She looked terrified.

Jeffery’s world spun.

“Trish,” he choked, “Ah…Ah’m so sorry! Ah don’t know why…Ah had no right…”

“No, you didn’t-“ Stafford started, but Yanick turned on him too.

“You!” she said, “You’re supposed be our Captain! It’s your job to look out for us! To keep us…keep us going…”

They stood in silence for several moments

“Look,” Stafford said, “Let’s camp here. Jeffery, get some wood for a fire. Yanick, find some water. I’ll start setting up the tents. Tomorrow morning we’ll sit down and figure out what we’re going to do. OK?”

Wordlessly, Yanick and Jeffery turned and left, leaving in opposite directions.

“I really don’t need this,” Stafford said to himself, standing suddenly alone in the wilderness.


The next morning didn’t start off much better.

The three officers packed up their tents, ate a meager breakfast of emergency rations and continued their trek to the city.

Words were scarce. Yanick just walked behind the other two, looking miserable and saying nothing. Stafford and Jeffery walked side by side, neither looking at the other.

Finally, Jeffery spoke up.

“We can’t be the only survivors,” he said.

“Probably not,” Stafford said curtly.

“And those survivors are going to want to find other survivors,” Jeffery went on.

“Uh-huh,”

“So they’re going to be looking for us too,” Jeffery continued, “Which means we should be someplace where we can easily look for them while they look for us. A cultural and communications center, maybe with some science facilities nearby, what passes for a news service-“

“Someplace like the city I’m leading you all to anyway?” Stafford cut him off.

“Well…aye…”

“Just because I haven’t consulted you on every step doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking,” Stafford said curtly, “I don’t need constant advice. I got along just fine without you while you and Syl-“ his voice caught for a moment, “When you and Sylvia were running around for Tunney, didn’t I?”

“Chris,” Yanick said, her voice slightly pleading, “Please, don’t argue,”

“So we get to the city,” Jeffery pressed, choosing to ignore Stafford’s jab, for Yanick’s sake, “Then what? We live as beggars? Sleep under a handy bridge? Hope that whatever passes for the police won’t arrest us for being poor?”

As they spoke, the trees ahead cleared and they found themselves not far from a busy highway. Six-wheeled ground cars of a clearly alien design were zipping in both directions. A nearby sign was in an incomprehensible alien language, but had an image of what was universally a toilet.

“Let’s hitch a ride,” Stafford said, ignoring Jeffery’s question, “Once we get to the city-“

“I have a plan!” Jeffery interrupted.

Stafford’s mouth tightened in annoyance. His initial reaction was to tell Jeffery to take his plan and cram it up his torpedo tube, but something stopped him. His mind flashed back to the previous night, Yanick saying ‘You’re supposed to be our Captain!’ in her sad, pleading voice. He WAS supposed to be the Captain, and a piss-poor job he was doing of it too. He’d always allowed, even gone with, the very casual attitude his people took in regards to protocol. It hadn’t been a problem, because up until now they’d always been able to set aside their differences and work as a professional unit when a true emergency came up. Most of the time anyway. His recent experiences with Yvonnokoff and the fracturing of his bridge crew’s personal relationships had reminded him that while his people each had their own ideas, attitudes and eccentricities, it was up to him to merge them into a working whole.

And he was failing. Again. Even though the two people with him were the two he usually found easiest to deal with on ship, his attitude with Jeffery was preventing them from working together. It was time for him to do what he wanted the others to do: push aside his personal issues and focus on doing his job as best he could.

Taking a deep breath, he turned to his Chief Engineer.

“I certainly would appreciate your input,” he said carefully and neutrally.

Jeffery looked surprised.

“Ye would?”


Several hours later, a kind Delori man was dropping them off in what he’d informed them was the city of Dufarekia.

It had taken a few tries before they were able to successfully hitchhike. The first problem had been flagging a vehicle down. The second was getting the Delori driver to speak long enough for their Universal Translators to get a hang of the language. The first four drivers, upon learning that the trio only spoke an incomprehensible (alien, but they didn’t know that) language simply rolled up their windows and drove on. The fifth nearly had a heart attack when, halfway though his attempt to explain to the three why he couldn’t carry foreigners, they suddenly started speaking perfect Delori. Armed with functional Universal Translators, it was an easy matter to request a lift from the sixth driver.

“OK,” Stafford said, “Now what?”

They were at a busy intersection. The buildings had become progressively taller the closer they moved to the core of the city and while they were still far from the central district, the apartments and commercial buildings around them stretched at least fifteen, sometimes twenty stories into the air. They’d also noticed that the Delori, like humans, came in a variety of different colours. Some were a pale, pale white. Sort of like Dr. Wowryk. But rather than getting progressively browner, like many humans, their skin took on a blue-grey hue. The darkest Delori they saw had skin that was such a dark grey shade he looked like granite.

“I wouldn’t mind one of those,” Yanick said, pointing to where a grey-faced man was serving what looked like roasted rats on a stick.

“We have no money,” Stafford pointed out.

“Have no fear,” Jeffery assured him, “Ah remember ye telling me about that little trick you pulled back on 21st Century Earth,”

“Huh?”

“You know,” Yanick said, “When Jall messed up the computer and we accidentally went back in time? On our very first mission?”

“Yeah, I remember that,” Stafford nodded, keeping a smile on his face and trying not to look annoyed, “I just don’t remember what we did,”

“Just follow me,”

Jeffery walked up the street until he saw a sort of terminal set into the side of a building. He walked up to it, tapped on his tricorder for a moment or two, then reached out and withdrew a thick wad of bright blue bills.

“Now we have money,” he said.

“Oh yeah,” Stafford nodded, “I remember now,”

“We should probably clear the area though,” Jeffery warned, “That thing might have an alarm that goes off when people reprogram it to start spitting out money,”

“Good thinking,” Stafford nodded. Positive reinforcement, he reminded himself, “I really appreciate your input, and understand the effort you had to put into making this happen,”

“Don’t patronize me!” Jeffery said.

Stafford mentally sighed.

They bought Yanick her rat-thing-on-a-stick, then moved quickly away from the ATM.

After an hour spent exploring the streets of the city, Jeffery gestured for them to stop.

“OK,” he said, pulling out his tricorder, “Now, follow me…”

Stafford bit his lip. HE was supposed to be in charge!

‘Use your resources’ he could almost hear Yvonnokoff lecturing him, ‘Let your people do what they must!”

“After you, Jeffery,” he said through clenched teeth.

The sun was setting again by the time Jeffery found what he was looking for. Leading them to a very large, concrete building, he stopped outside a side entrance.

“OK,” he said, “This buildin’s a major hub of data traffic. Ah’ve been tracking it on me tricorder. Ah’m pickin’ up fiber optics, microwave signals, some kinda wireless data network, the works,”

“What kinda optics?” Yanick asked innocently.

“Old stuff,” Jeffery said.

“OK,” Stafford said, “You’ve explained to us that we need to find some kind of central records place, and you think you’ve found it. But shouldn’t we be asking people about what’s in here?”

“Naww,” Jeffery waved him off, “Don’t wanna go raising suspicions, right?”

“Um, right,” Stafford frowned.


Jeffery tapped at his tricorder, scanning the building for security systems, guards, anything that could hinder his plan.

Jeffery wasn’t really sure why exactly Stafford had done such a sudden about-face in attitude, switching from ignoring his ideas to welcoming them, but he wasn’t really going to complain. He’d known Stafford since their Academy days, and he knew the other man could be stubborn, proud and more than a little afraid of failure. He’d been worried about his friend when he took command of Silverado. Of all the crew, only Jeffery had known ahead of time about Operation Salvage, and keeping that secret from Stafford had done more than a bit of damage to their friendship. Over the next year and a half, Stafford had mellowed again, becoming more like himself and less like an angry, disappointed boy who’d been given a lump of coal for Christmas instead of a new bike. The whole situation with the universe filled with their super-competent counterparts hadn’t helped, with Stafford assuming all was well and pretty much cutting himself off from his staff, but he’d worked hard to counter that after Yvonnokoff had brought the matter up.

Jeffery couldn’t blame Stafford for being shaken up over the destruction of his ship, even if he hadn’t even wanted it to begin with. Jeffery had by far poured far more time and effort into that junk heap than any other member of the crew and if anybody had a right to be pissed off, it was him! He’d adopted Lord Stalart, taken the kid to ball-games on the holodeck, spent time with him, tried to help Wowryk take care of the kid. Up until his relationship with Wowryk had fallen apart anyway. Now, not only was Wowryk either dead or stranded far away, his ‘son’ had kidnapped Sylvia and destroyed his ship! Damn right he was angry!

“OK,” he said, snapped his tricorder shut with unnecessary force, “Let me find an access panel, and I’ll get us in,”

“Uh, why do we want in?” Yanick asked.

“Just trust me,” Jeffery said. His words were polite, but the tone was hard.

He blew out a frustrated breath as he located and opened an electrical box and started crossing wires. It wasn’t Yanick’s fault. It wasn’t Stafford’s, even if the asshole had punched him. He knew he shouldn’t be taking his anger out on them, he knew it damned well. But he had to take it out somewhere! If he didn’t, he’d build up pressure until he exploded into a million pieces! He…had…to….SNAP!!!!!”

“AAAARRRRGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!” Jeffery screamed, ripped the box off it’s mount and slamming it to the ground. He started stomping on it with his heavy survival boots, flattening the flimsy metal until it was nothing but an unrecognizable heap.

Stafford and Yanick looked at him for a moment.

“Feeling better now?” Stafford said dryly.

“Aye,” Jeffery gulped “C’mon, the security system is disabled,”

“Right,” Stafford said, throwing a last uneasy glance at the busted-up box, “‘Disabled’, he says,”


Yanick followed Stafford and Jeffery as they walked quietly down the darkened corridors of the building.

It was, as Jeffery had said, ‘a data node’. She wasn’t entirely sure what he meant by that, but didn’t really care. After all, Jeffery was a smart guy. He knew what he was doing. As usual, she’d just hang back until there was piloting to be done, cute guys to flirt with or fashion decisions to be made.

Yanick didn’t appear to be as upset about the loss of the ship as the other two, she wasn’t breaking stuff, punching people or shouting, but everybody has different ways of dealing with pressure. Yanick’s mind simply refused to process what had happened. She knew, at some level, how serious their situation was, but before she could dwell on it her mind would slide off as it noticed an interesting cloud formation, a cute animal running through the forest or a funny shadow on the wall of the building they were infiltrating. Part of the reason why she became so upset when Stafford and Jeffery started fighting was the fact that it made her focus on their predicament. As long as they got along, her mind could just pretend they were on an away team, or an undercover mission-

Ohhh! What’s that shiny object?


As Yanick contemplated a strange alien piece of artwork, Jeffery located the room he wanted. A few taps on his tricorder and the door gave a beep and open.

“You know,” he mused, contemplating his tricorder “Somebody I met at the Academy once told me ye could get one of these things to do anything if you just push enough buttons,”

“Really,” Stafford said, voice civil.

“I’ve heard that the buttons on tricorders are designed so they never wear out,” Yanick said dreamily.

“Keep an eye out,” Jeffery said to Stafford, moving into the room.

Stafford crossed his arms and was about to say something when Jeffery’s head poked back out.

“Keep an eye out please, SIR,” he added.

Grunting, Stafford pulled out his own tricorder and started scanning for life-signs.


Nearly half an hour had passed, and Jeffery showed no signs of being finished.

“Simon,” Stafford hissed, “Somebody’s coming! Three life-signs!”

“Are they coming here?” Jeffery asked.

“Well what do YOU think!” Stafford shot back, “Would I bother telling you if-“

He cut himself off.

“Yes, Simon,” he said calmly, “Yes they are,”

“I see them,” Yanick said, looking over Stafford’s arm at the tricorder screen, “Hey, that one’s different!”

“Huh?” Stafford frowned, “That’s funny, I don’t recognize these life readings. They aren’t Delori. Or anything the tricorder can recognize,”

“Oh, I’ve seen those before,” Yanick said casually, “In this pod we picked up at Tantalus V,”

“Huh?” Stafford frowned.

“F**K!” Jeffery swore from inside the room.

“I can’t remember anything else,” Yanick said, “But there was definitely a pod. And something was in it. But what was it?”

“STALART!” Stafford cried pointing.

“Oh yeah,” Yanick nodded, “It was-“

“What a pleasant surprise!”

Yanick spun to see what Stafford was pointing at.

Lord Stalart stood in the corridor, his fourty-five-centimeter height bringing him to about knee level with the two heavy-looking Delori flanking him. Both held primitive weapons, he wore his thought-speech translator on his head.

“I had rather hoped you’d died when your ship crashed,” he said casually, “It would have been so much easier,”

“What do you want!” Yanick cried.

“Where’s Sylvia?!” Stafford demanded.

“The mechanical bitch?” Stalart spat, “She’s my…guest…”

“Oh come on!” Stafford said, “Like anybody believes that ‘guest’ line anymore! What are you doing to her! Let her go!”

“Never!” Stalart said, “She will serve me, or die! The rest of you, well, you’ll just die! Kill them,” he gestured at Stafford and Yanick.

Before his thugs could fire, a phaser beam shot out of the room where Jeffery had been remaining as quiet as possible. The Delori to Stalart’s left disintegrated. The other fired back, the bullet splintering the doorframe as the sound of the gunshot filled the air. Yanick and Stafford dove to the floor. Another phaser beam shot out, missing both and destroying a sizable chuck of the wall.

“Retreat!” they heard Stalart shouting. The Delori grabbed him, tucked him under one arm and bolted for the door. Stafford pulled himself from the floor and gave chase.

He followed them out the front door of the building, emerging just in time to see them jump into a ground vehicle and speed away. He could hear sirens in the distance.

He returned to where Jeffery was checking to be sure Yanick was OK.

“Let’s get out of here,” Stafford said, “Sounds like somebody heard that gunshot,”

“We have what we need anyway,” Jeffery said, waving a thick bundle of paper.


Their retreat from the data center was quick. They casually hailed a private transport, known on other planets as a ‘taxi’. Jeffery gave the name of what turned out to be a fancy-looking restaurant. Rather than go inside to eat though, he immediately hailed another cab and instructed the new driver to take them to ‘Darretwik Apartments’. Upon arrival, Jeffery promptly hailed another taxi and instructed him to drop them off at ‘Duranwin Inn & Suites’.

“What the hell was that all about?” Stafford demanded once they had arrived.

“Ah don’t want to leave a trail,” Jeffery said, “Now hold yer horses a minute,”

Jeffery led them into the hotel lobby. It was a nice hotel, not a Five-Star in Yanick’s opinion, but it looked decent. The lobby was in great shape, with several comfortable looking couches arranged in a conversation circle. Two passageways led to rooms while a third opened up into a restaurant.

While Yanick was admiring the décor, Stafford tried to comprehend just when exactly he’d put Jeffery in charge of the mission.

Jeffery obtained a room for them and led them down one hallway and up a flight of stairs. The door opened into a large room with pleasant furnishings. A primitive cathode-ray tube television sat in one corner, a dresser was conveniently placed for storage and a bizarre, pull-down contraption adorned one corner near the bathroom. A mini-bar took up part of one wall, and appeared to be well-stocked.

The room was also dominated by a single, huge bed.

“What the hell is this thing?” Yanick asked, moving over to the contraption and using her tricorder to read the label, “It’s the ‘Invert-O-Tron: Get Your Daily Inversion Here! Two chingas.’ I wonder what a chinga is?”

“Local money,” Jeffery said, “And the Delori fancy being hung upside down and shaken for about twenty minutes a day,”

“Why?” Yanick asked.

Jeffery shrugged.

“They’re aliens,” he said.

“Uh, excuse me,” Stafford said, “But I’m still in charge of this mission!”

“Ye sure are,” Jeffery said, patting his shoulder.

“I mean it!” Stafford said through clenched teeth, “Look, Simon, I want and value your input, but why don’t you start explaining things to me BEFORE we do them! We need to be on the same page, especially with that little runt in the picture!”

“Well fine then,” Jeffery grumbled, “If ye insist,”

“Excellent,” Stafford said, an air of finality about him, “So then, why don’t you explain to us what…wait…” Stafford frowned, “Why is there only one bed?”

“It’s all they had left,” Jeffery said, turning very, very red.

“Right,” Stafford said slowly. He stared expectantly at Jeffery, waiting for the rest of the story.

“And, er,” Jeffery swallowed, “Ah’m married to Trish now,”

Yanick, who had been humming aimlessly to herself, spun to face Jeffery.

“What?” she demanded.

“Ah had to make identities for us!” Jeffery said, speaking very quickly and holding up the stack of paper he’d picked up at the data center, “Ah forged identities for each of us! Birth certificates, driver’s licenses, school records, credit ratings, bank accounts! But Ah didn’t know enough about the planet to do it all from scratch, so Ah had to take bits and pieces of different records Ah found…and the ones I did most of the copying from were married!”

“Simon!” Trish whined, “that’s…that’s…”

“Brilliant!” Stafford said happily, “Simon, that’s perfect! We can fit right into this city for as long as we need! We can watch for signs of other survivors and be ready to make our move when Starfleet comes to rescue us!”

“Except now we’re identity thieves,” Yanick grumbled.

“Nay,” Jeffery shook his head, “I stole bits of other people…but not the whole thing. It’s not gonna hurt anybody,”

“Bits of other people,” Stafford wrinkled his nose, “That just sounds wrong. But a good idea, all the same,”

“Aye,” Jeffery said, though he still looked nervous, “That’s what Ah figured,”

“Um, so why isn’t there a bed for us and a bed for Chris?” Yanick asked.

Jeffery gulped and looked at the floor.

Stafford’s face fell.

“Noooo….” Stafford groaned.

Jeffery only nodded.

“What?” Yanick asked.

Fascinatin’ thing, really,” Jeffery said, “But Ah guess that in this country on Delorea 2, people commonly marry in groups of three,”

“What?” Yanick cried, “Ick!”

“That doesn’t mean that,” Stafford gulped and turned to Jeffery, “I mean, you and I don’t-“

“Oh, no!” Jeffery assured him, “The relationship is entirely heterosexual. Guy and girl only!”

“Oh thank God,” Stafford breathed.

“Where’s Jall when you need him?” Yanick giggled.

“Hey,” Stafford said firmly, “He said heterosexual, not hetero-flexible! And couldn’t you have tried a little harder to get us separate rooms?”

Jeffery shrugged.

“Ah tried. Just as well, it wouldn’t look very convincing if we were in separate rooms,”

“Couldn’t you just tell them it was your turn with her?” Stafford snapped.

“NOBODY IS GETTING A TURN WITH ME!” Yanick shouted, fists clenched.

“Whatever,” Stafford shook his head. Surprisingly enough, mentioning his very annoying Operations Officer and remembering that the guy could be dead caused a very strong feeling of sadness in all three officers.

“Jeffery, tell us about…ourselves…” Stafford said.

“Right,” Jeffery pulled out a sheet of paper, “Yer Creth Sendel. Ye work at the HG24 News Office,”

“Anchor?” Stafford asked hopefully, “Reporter? Television Network Executive?”

“Janitor,”

“F**k,”

“Yer thirty-two,” Jeffery said, “Just moved from Trenetur with your wife and crentor,”

“Crentor?” Yanick asked. The Universal Translator didn’t have a translation.

“Uh,” Jeffery said, “Roughly translated, it means ‘The other guy married to my wife’. Ah guess I could just say ‘thruple’.”

“You know,” Stafford said, annoyed, “My tolerance for alternative lifestyles only reaches so far. I think I preferred being a bachelor!” He had mixed himself a drink from the mini-bar, after scanning to be sure Delori intoxicants wouldn’t kill him. Not that he’d mind all that much at the moment.

“You’re still a bachelor,” Yanick said, “Don’t you dare think I’m going to be performing any ‘wifely duties’ here!”

“Yer ‘Geleksy Bottoks’,” Jeffery said to Yanick as Stafford proceeded to blow his drink out through his nose, “Ye work as an administrative assistant for the same news service as Chris,”

“A secretary and a janitor?” Stafford said, wiping his face and coughing, “Couldn’t you have found something a bit more…challenging? And c’mon… ‘Galaxy Buttocks’? Why don’t you just name her ‘Sovereign-class Ass’?”

Stafford ducked as Yanick swatted at the back of this head.

“We’re here to keep an eye open for survivors and wait for rescue,” Jeffery said, annoyed, “Not climb the corporate ladder!”

“Corporate staircase,” Yanick said.

“Hmmm?”

“Well, they’re aliens,” Yanick reminded them, “Maybe it’s a corporate staircase. Or a corporate elevator. Oh! Or a corporate escalator! Going the wrong direction so you have to work really hard to get to the top!”

“And who are you, Simon?” Stafford asked tiredly.

“‘Microl Zetik’,” Jeffery said, “Ah work as a design technician at Kreniton Tech. Just started, of course, and eager to learn the trade,”

“So you can get access to whatever passes for advanced technology in this hellhole, right?” Stafford asked.

“Aye,” Jeffery nodded, “Y’know, that and Ah can’t resist playin’ with gadgets,”


The next two days were a blur of activity. After spending a day exploring the neighborhood, looking for signs of Stalart and waiting for all of Jeffery’s high-tech wizardry to do it’s work, all three officers went through their respective ‘new employee’ training. None of the Delori they encountered seemed to question them or show the least bit of suspicion. Clearly, the Delori’s reliance on electronic record-keeping was working to the castaway’s advantage. Everybody believed that Stafford and Yanick, or ‘Sendel and Bottoks’ were transfers from an affiliate station in another city

“OK,” Stafford said to Yanick, “I’m supposed to start cleaning floors on the fourth floor. I want you to start checking old news articles for any mention of anything strange happening the night we crashed as well as anything you can find that might relate to Stalart. A talking baby-thing has to get some attention. They have some kind of unified data network, sort of like the old Internet. Use it,”

“Gotcha!” Yanick said, “I’ll look for crashed networks and old Internews articles,”

Stafford paled.

“Silly!” Yanick gave him a playful smack, “I’m not THAT blond!”

Shaking his head, Stafford retreated to the mop closet.


He’d barely finished mopping the men’s lavatory when his comm-badge gave a soft beep. He almost didn’t notice, concentrating as he was on a particularly stubborn stain when it went off.

He checked to be sure he was alone, then pulled it out of his pocket.

“Yeah?”

“Chris!, er, Creth,” Yanick’s voice came, “I need you to come up to the sixth floor. I’ve found something!”

Stafford quickly finished up and left his mop bucket in a nearby closet. He rushed up the stairs, finding Yanick next to a small room off the main administration offices. Her desk had become somewhat of a disaster in fairly short order, but Stafford had a feeling that with her looks, Yanick could probably spend the day doodling and not lose her job.

Yanick was chatting it up with a pair of her new co-workers.

“Oh,” she giggled, “I don’t know anything about Pirdera or Jukacha. But I got these shoes at Hurigle’s Footsie Palace…silly name, huh?”

“What’s up?” he asked, trying to look casual for the benefit of anybody looking in the window between the room and the hallway.

“Oh!” She blushed, “Uh, we gotta, um, check something,” she grinned at her co-workers as she pulled Stafford into the room.

The man she’d been talking to shook his head as he started to walk away.

“Must be his crentor’s week with her,” he said, “And he wants a little action before she goes home. Disgusting,”

“Like you’ve never wanted to play when it’s not your turn,” his female companion huffed, “Honestly, you men think its fine when you share two women, but try to share a woman between two men and it’s just nothing but drama! Well, women have needs too!”

“Slut,” the man muttered.


“What’s so important?” Stafford asked.

“This thing,” Yanick said, indicating a piece of Delori technology. It was about twice the size of Fifebee’s holo-relay and stood in one corner of the room. A complicated control panel was suspended on a flexible arm, and numerous access panels dotted the front. Thick cables attached it to the wall, presumably data transfer and power cables.

“What is it?” Stafford asked.

“I don’t know,” Yanick hissed, “I don’t think it’s a computer core-“

“It’s not,” Stafford cut in, “They keep that in the basement,”

“I scanned it with my tri…” Yanick’s eyes darted around, “My tri…tri…you know. And there’s some strange stuff in there. But I don’t have a clue what it does!”

“Could it be part of what’s causing the temporal interference?” Stafford asked, “Or maybe some kind of advanced alien technology the Delori got their hands on?”

“I don’t know,” Yanick said, “I’m a pilot, not a…a…theoretical design physicist!”

Stafford examined the control panel.

“Well I can’t make heads or tails out of this,” he said, shaking his head.

“Excuse me?”

They spun around, looking like children caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

“Er, yes?” Yanick said.

“Are you two done with the photocopier? I need to copy something,” she held up a sheet of paper.

“Uh, sure,” Stafford said, stepping away from the device, “Uh, go ahead.”

They watched, fascinated as the woman inserted the sheet of paper into one end of the device, tapped a few buttons, waited while the device clicked and whirred, then withdrew an exact duplicate from an output tray.

“Thanks,” she said, walking out the door.

Stafford and Yanick stared at each other for several moments.

“Let us never speak of this,” Stafford said firmly, “to ANYONE!”


Week Two:


“OK,” Stafford said, “Let’s go over what we know,”

He was sitting cross-legged on the single, large bed in their hotel room, his back against the headboard. Jeffery was sitting in a chair nearby and Yanick was sprawled out on the bed, her blond hair spreading out around her head. Stafford was trying very hard not to notice that the outline of her breasts was now very visible from where he sat, and quickly shifted his position.

“The Delori are definitely equivalent to early 21st Century Earth,” Jeffery said, “Ah could make a fortune in Federation space selling stuff from this place in antique stores! LCD televisions, magnetic storage drives, florescent lighting. Oh, and they had these things called ‘photocopiers’ and ‘fax machines’ that could-“

“Thanks, Simon,” Stafford cut him off, trying not to glare, “Anything useful?”

“To us?” Jeffery shrugged, “Maybe. Ah think our best bet is to take control of a microwave transceiver array and try to reprogram it to send out a signal,”

“Good, good,” Stafford was feeling better about their chances already,” Yanick, what about Stalart? Or any wreckage from the ship?”

“Um,” Yanick rolled over on the bed and reached for the briefcase she’d left on the floor. Stafford and Jeffery stared for a moment at her backside as she rummaged around, gulped, exchanged glances, then pointedly looked away.

“Here we go!” she said, pulling out page after page of computer printout, “I got some stuff, but I’m not sure what all it means. Jeffery gave me a hacker thingy that broke into their secure information network, so a lot of this stuff isn’t known to the ‘normal’ people. Man, if I can hack their network these guys have SERIOUS security issues,” Yanick tried to pull her hair back into place, “OH, there’s a mention of a meteor the night we crashed. Do you think-“

“Where?” Stafford and Jeffery cried together, reaching for the sheets and rummaging through them. They both came up with different sheets of paper.

“‘Although some residents claim it was an alien spacecraft’,” Stafford read aloud, “‘Astronomers from the Azdeka Central Observatory confirm that the object that crashed into the Central Sea last week was in fact a perfectly ordinary chuck of space debris, remarkably only in it’s size’…” Stafford trailed off. “My ship,” he said softly, “Crashed…in the ocean…”

“Maybe not,” Jeffery said, frowning as he read his sheet.

“Huh?”

“Another meteor crashed just outside the city, according to this,” Jeffery said, “And judging from the size of it, it wasn’t our lifeboat!”

“Stalart’s ship?” Stafford asked.

“Maybe,” Jeffery said, “Or…or a piece of Silverado,”

“Either way we need to check that out,” Stafford said, “Does that say where?”

“Yeah,” Jeffery frowned, “Y’know, Chris, something’s fishy about this.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Jeffery said, “The Delori have decent telescopes. And Ah can bet their military has some pretty nifty radar-tracking technology. If they’re sayin’ in here that it’s NOT an alien spacecraft, Ah think it’s cuz they know for damned sure that it is!”

“Uh-oh,” Yanick said.

“Which means it’ll be all but impossible to get near it!” Jeffery finished.

“You’ll figure something out,” Stafford said, thinking hard. “OK,” he finally said, “We have two priorities: Number one, we need to find out if that’s part of our ship, or Stalart’s near the city. Number two, we need to see what, if any, footage the Delori have of the other crash, the one in or near the ocean. But before we do that, what do we know about Stalart?”

They started pouring over the printouts Yanick had brought back.

“There’s been a huge upswing in electronic bank break-ins over the past week,” Stafford said, frowning, “With money being stolen from several accounts,” He looked at Jeffery.

“Don’t look at me!” Jeffery said, “Ah just faked a really large deposit into ours. Ah know we needed money, but Ah didn’t wanna rob anybody to get it…”

“So we can assume Stalart is just as good at hacking their computers as we are,” Stafford said.

“It looks like some criminal group has been really nasty the past week,” Yanick said, “Lookit this…the past week’s shown a big upswing in criminal activity by the…the Zlarnsky Crew,”

“Hey, I saw a police report on them in here somewhere,” Stafford said, rummaging, “Here we go. Hmm…looks like the found the leader dead in an alley somewhere about a day after we crashed. Cause of death…huh. Unknown. Some kind of energy discharge,”

“Those thugs Stalart had with him at the data center sure weren’t kiddies,” Jeffery commented.

“And the Zlarnsky Crew has ties to an extremist faction in the country’s politics,” Stafford through the paper down, “I really don’t like where this is going,”

“What about Sylvia?” Yanick asked.

“Now that we have an idea on where Stalart is and who he’s working with,” Stafford said, “We can focus on that. If we can find her, we have to!”

“Y’know,” Jeffery pulled out his tricorder, “Maybe I can save us some time,” he fiddled with his tricorder and comm-badge. He’d been able to compensate for the temporal interference enough for the trio to stay in contact with each other, but not enough to pierce the temporal interference around the planet. Now he tied the comm-badge into the tricorder, trying to pick up any stray signals.

BEEP!! BE-DEEP-BEEP! BEEPIDY-BEEP-BEEP!!

“Gotcha!” Jeffery grinned, as lines of data started scrolling up the tricorder display.

“What is it?” Stafford asked.

“Silverado’s emergency beacon,” he said, “Bollocks, I should have checked for this days ago! So at least part of the subspace transceiver survived, even if the rest of the ship broke apart,”

“Which one is it?” Stafford asked eagerly.

Jeffery tapped away, then his face fell.

“Sorry Chris,” he said, “The signal’s coming from the Central Sea,”

Stafford’s mouth tightened.

“That’s it then,” he said, “Jeffery, tomorrow you’re going to go to the Azdeka Observatory to get any images or footage they took of either crash. Yanick and I are going out to Stalart’s ship. I want to know who’s there, if anybody’s using it and whether there’s any clue there as to where Stalart is. Any questions?”

Yanick raised her hand.

“Yes?” Stafford asked, all business.

“Can we get ice cream on the way?”


After another uncomfortable night (both Jeffery and Stafford were sleeping on the floor while Yanick took the jumbo bed) the three of them set off.

It was a non-working day, luckily, so most of the Delori were out enjoying various leisure activities like Bumper-Kites, Rollar-Walking and Barbeque Zin-Rat.

Jeffery walked casually up to a side entrance to the Azdeka Observatry. Using his tricorder, he bypassed the primitive security swipe mechanism and slipped inside.

He pulled on a cheap mask he’d purchased to obscure his face, just in case the small interference device he’d rigged failed to scramble the surveillance cameras. He spend several moments studying a map of the facility, complete with a helpful ‘You Are Here’ label, and moved off towards Central Storage.


“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Yanick asked.

“Yes,” Stafford said. ‘No’, he thought.

The two of them had rented a vehicle and had driven in the direction of the second meteor. They’d barely left the city when they encountered a huge sign that said ‘Detour’.

“Can’t say I’m surprised,” Stafford said, “If their government does know there’s an alien spacecraft out there, the last thing they want is people dropping by to sight-see,”

So they’d left the rental car nearby and proceeded on foot through the dense forest. Using Stafford’s tricorder, they managed to avoid the Delori security patrols.

Stafford’s tricorder suddenly beeped.

“What’s that?” Yanick asked.

“Transporter trace,” Stafford said, “Short range. Somebody just beamed into the city,”

“So Stalart’s ship’s in one piece?”

“The transporters are,” Stafford frowned, “That’s odd. There’s a large concentration of Delori around the ship, but they’re keeping their distance,”

“Why’s that odd?”

“An alien ship filled with new technology?” Stafford looked at her, “I’d think they’d bee all over it like ants on a candy bar,” he looked thoughtful, “Something’s keeping them away,”

They moved closer and after several moments, peeking carefully over a fallen log, were within spying distance of the ship.

It was Stalart’s ship, all right. Heavily damaged, its two lower decks looked completely crushed. One warp nacelle had broken off during the crash, smashing against a tree fifty meters ahead of the ship, warp coils and plasma injectors scattered around for all to see.

A crowd of Delori surrounded it, military judging by the tanks, mortar emplacements and uniformed men and women running to and fro.

“Damn,” Stafford said.

As they watched, an officer held up a megaphone and pointed it at the ship.

“Alien beings,” he said, “Again, we come in peace. We request that you send a representative to establish communications between our people,”

“No!” Stafford urged them quietly, “Don’t be reasonable! Blow the little bastards to pieces and ask questions later!”

“The evil people always get the good treatment, Yanick mused.

“There’s no way we’re getting in that ship,” Stafford said. He watched as another transporter signal lit up his tricorder, “And I bet the Delori don’t know that they have a way out. They can keep their little blockade up for ages while Stalart and his people beam in and out,”

“Can you trace the beam?” Yanick asked.

Stafford blinked.

“Um,” he said, “Yes. Yes I can,”


They quickly backtracked to where they’d hidden their vehicle and drove as quickly as was possible towards to location that, according to Stafford’s tricorder, Stalart’s people were beaming to and from. Within fifteen minutes they’d picked up three more transporter signals, indicating that the traffic between the ship and the beam-down location was fairly heavy.

Stafford spun the ovoid steering…oval around to the right, sending the vehicle into a skidding turn as his gaze flickered between the tricorder screen and the street ahead.

“You know,” Yanick gasped, hands tightly gripping her seat, “I really should have been the one driving-“

The car bucked as Stafford went far too fast over a speed bump.

“I really, really should have been the one driving,” Yanick went on, “I am the pilot, after all. I drive a starship!”

“Yeah,” Stafford said, taking another turn just a little too fast, “You drove MY starship! And it’s about time you saw things from my point of view!”


Jeffery dropped as quietly as he could to the floor as somebody walked down the corridor.

He was in a workroom, not far from the Central Storage section of the Observatory. According to the information they had, combined with Jeffery’s fledgling knowledge of Delori technology, they were sure that any images or video footage taken by the Observatory would have been digitized and stored in the central computer systems and backed up to secondary servers in a second site. Jeffery had been a little surprised to see an Observatory with such sophisticated systems and redundant security, but Stafford had pointed out that the unique (and bizarre) layer of temporal interference around the planet would probably make the Observatory doubly important, since radio waves would have a pretty hard time punching through.

The trick, Jeffery mused to himself as he waited for whomever it was (probably a security guard) to pass, would be removing any Prime Directive damaging files from the secondary site. He assumed there was a way to access them, since they had to be sent there in the first place. The trick would be to figure it out…


Once again having stashed their rental car nearby, Stafford and Yanick crept towards the building that appeared to be Stalart’s base. The building was normal enough; just a big gray box surrounded by other similar gray boxes in the heart of an industrial section. If it weren’t for the repeated (and continuing) transporter beams, the building would be totally insignificant.

“I’m picking up over two dozen life-forms like Stalart’s,” Stafford said, “What did he call himself? Acadian?”

“Arcanian, I think,” Yanick said.

“About three dozen Delori,” Stafford shook his head, “Damn! Who knows what he’s telling these poor people!”

“We could try to find out,” Yanick suggeseted, “I mean, he’s only been here as long as we have been. How well established could he be?”

“I shudder to think,” Stafford sighed.


Jeffery tapped as quietly as he could on his tricorder, interfaced as it was with the Delori computer systems. He’d located enough images of boring stellar phenomena to keep an astronomer happy for about twenty years, but no alien spacecraft. None at all.

Of course, he cursed, the Delori authorities didn’t WANT anybody to know it was an alien spacecraft. But still, there was no way they would just erase images like that. Or was there? They were aliens after all, maybe they simply didn’t care? After all, any alien race that made a habit of strapping themselves into Invert-O-Tron’s once a day had to have some other pretty strange habits.

No, Jeffery decided, no matter how strange and alien they were, they wouldn’t give up images of a crashing starship.

He dug deep into the network records, looking for large data transfers. Bingo! The day after they’d crashed there’d been a huge transfer of data to a network that wasn’t even listed on the official listing. A high-security government agency, perhaps?

Breaking in wouldn’t be easy, Jeffery knew. But he had his 24th-Century engineering knowledge and a tricorder that was four centuries ahead of any computer the Delori could cook up.


Stafford and Yanick crept carefully into the loading bay of Stalart’s claimed building. They’d stunned a pair of Delori guards, the two burly men clearly clueless when it came to fighting against energy weapons. Easing the door open, they quickly snuck down a corridor and up a flight of stairs. They found a control booth overlooking the large central storage area of the building. A crane and an electromagnet hung unused from the ceiling. Stafford dug into his pocket and pulled out one of the tiny eavesdropping bugs Jeffery had put together. Easing a window open on side of the booth, he tossed the tiny bug down to the floor, where several Arcanians and Delori were intermingling.

“Are all aliens your size?” one Delori was asking.

“How many stars are there in the sky?”

“If I mate with one of your women, is it illegal?”

“Wow,” Stafford said, “They sure aren’t picking up the cream of Delori society, are they?”

There was a green shimmer in the center of the room and Lord Stalart arrived, along with several crates of supplies.

“Just in time,” Stafford said.

“My new friends,” Stalart said, his translation device broadcasting his voice to the point where Stafford and Yanick didn’t even need to bug to hear it, “Today is a great day! Today you, the Delori, join a partnership with Archorethia and it is my great pleasure to welcome you into our…family,”

“Those jerks,” Yanick said.

“And so,” Stalart went on, “To help you cement that partnership, I’ve brought gifts: tools and weapons, so that you might overthrow your current, weak government and take your place in Archanian society!”

“Ohhh…” Stafford groaned, “This is really not good!”


Jeffery tried for the twentieth time to crack into the secret Delori network. He’d tried almost every trick in the book, and a film of sweat was breaking out on his brow.

<<ACCESS GRANTED>>

“Oh, good,” Jeffery breathed, “Ah only had two tricks left,”

It didn’t take long for him to locate what he wanted. There they were, nearly thirty still images of Stalart’s strangely shaped little ship, both distant shots of the ship as it started its dive into the atmosphere, tractor beam locked on Silverado and close up images with flames from atmospheric friction still flickering as the craft approached the ground. Looking close, Jeffery could see some kind of impact mark on the side. The images ended with the ship disappearing over the horizon.

The next batch of images focused on Silverado.

Jeffery’s throat tightened as he watched as, image by image, the ship was pulled into the atmosphere by Stalart’s ship. A cloud formation obscured the ship for a few moments, and by the time it emerged it was wreathed in flames as it passed through the dense lower atmosphere.

Jeffery frowned as he examined the last image of the ship before it disappeared from view, dropping towards the Central Sea.

“Whot in bloody blazes…” he muttered.


“He’s raising an army,” Stafford breathed, watching as Delori came forward to receive energy weapons, “He’s trying to take control of their planet!”

“Or at least this part of it,” Yanick said. She gasped, “Chris, look!”

Following her gaze, Stafford saw a small box sitting next to Stalart. It was clearly Federation design, with a dented speaker grill on one side and several connectors on another.

“Sylvia!” Stafford said. He quickly dug out another bug and tossed it as far as he could. Luck was with him, and the bug landed not far from Stalart and Sylvia.

“This really isn’t a good idea, you know,” Sylvia’s voice came over the comm, sounding as motherly and nagging as always, “Overthrowing legitimately elected planetary governments never helped anybody,”

“I’m not interested in helping,” Stalart said angrily, “I’m interested in destroying your friends, discovering the secret of the planet and escaping! Oh, after which I of course plan on killing you,”

“Not that you haven’t tried,” Sylvia said, annoyed, “You haven’t had much luck with that, have you?”

“Just because Daddy, uh, I mean your engineer, reinforced your little box with whatever that superdense material is doesn’t mean I won’t figure something out!” Stalart snapped.

“Good thinking Simon,” Stafford sighed with relief, “He must have reinforced Sylvia’s module with castrodinium or neutronium or something! Thank God she’s OK!”

He started moving towards the door.

“Where are you going?” Yanick asked.

“I’m getting our computer back!” he said, “Get the car ready to go!”


Stafford crept down a flight of stairs, eyes on his tricorder as he watched for life signs. Judging the corridor ahead of him to be clear, he walked quickly to what he figured was the least-used entrance to the main room. Five minutes wasn’t really long enough to judge traffic patterns, but hey, he had to start somewhere.

What he needed was a distraction. Damn! Why had he sent Yanick to get the car? That woman could distract a Klingon from honorable death!

Maybe it was time to get really, really clever…


Stalart was watching as his men unloaded a crate of weapons, the Delori of course doing most of the work as they could lift much heavier weights than the tiny Arcanians who had rescued him from Silverado. His efforts to de-stabilize the government of this country were progressing, but he knew he had to move fast. No doubt the Federation would be eager to come in and enforce their ‘Prime Directive’ law, and if he wanted to get his hands on the temporal technology of Deloria he needed resources! He also needed to get his ship fixed, or he’d be trapped on the planet. Nobody from his world knew he and his new crew were stranded there. Fortunately, any planet had its political extremists and its organized crime, and there was nothing like the promise of power and advanced technology to bring the two together.

His head spun around as the sound of phaser fire rang out from the doorway nearest his position. As he watched, a dark shape clung to the back of a large cart, using it as a shield as he or she fired at Stalart’s shocked allies, moving closer to Stalart himself. Many of the phaser blasts missed (this person wasn’t the best marksman), but several hit home, stunning some of the Delori henchmen. There was muffled cursing from behind the cart, then wide beam phaser shots rang out, stunning almost a dozen of the crooks.

Switching his phaser back to narrow beam, he aimed it right at Stalart.

“NOBODY MOVE!” Stafford shouted, “ONE TWITCH AND I BLOW THIS BRAT’S HEAD OFF!”


Jeffery rushed up to the warehouse, panting as the taxi he’d ridden pulled away. Tracking Yanick’s comm-badge, he found her sitting in a vehicle just up the street. He collapsed in the driver seat.

“What are ye doin’ all the way out here instead of out at the crash site?” he wheezed, “Do ye know how much the bleedin’ cab fare costs?”

“Chris has some plan to get Sylvia back,” Yanick said.

“Sylvia?” Jeffery straightened up, “Ye found her?”

“Oh yeah,” Yanick said, “And Stalart too! Chris wanted me to get the car ready for a quick escape.

“Then don’t ye think,” Jeffery said, “That ye should be parked a little closer to the exit?” He would have laughed if his friend’s life wasn’t in danger.

“Oh!” Yanick smacked herself on the forehead, “D’UH!”

She floored the gas then spun the wheel, pulling the car into a neat one-eight and leaving black tire marks on the pavement before darting into the warehouse lot and breaking hard. The car stopped, perfectly parked near the side door.

Jeffery clutched the door handle as he glared at her.

“No wonder the blasted impulse reactors are always needin’ repair!” he roared, “Yer a maniac!”

“I prefer ‘performance driver’,” Yanick said, “And it’s not like I blew up the ship or anything,”

“Yeah,” Jeffery sighed, “Right,”


“If you kill me,” Stalart said, “I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine!”

Stafford blinked.

“Really?’

Stalart sighed.

“No, not really,” he said, crossing his tiny arms, “But see what happens when you subject your young to countless hours of television? I can’t get the Martha Stewart or Emperor Palpatine out of my head to save my life! Or was it Emperor Martha?”

“Hey Chris!” Sylvia said from her spot on the table, “I’m so glad you survived,”

“Me too,” Stafford said, still holding the phaser on Stalart as he moved closer to the table, “I mean, glad you survived. And that I did, I suppose,”

“I will destroy you, you know,” Stalart said, almost conversationally, “Again, I mean,”

“You never destroyed us!” Stafford shot back, “It was a good try, but we survived!”

“Some of you, maybe,” Stalart said, “We’ll see how many actually survive on this planet. You did examine your sensor readings before I blew up your ship, right?”

“Uh, sure,” Stafford said, his tone unconvincing.

Stalart grinned like the cat about to eat the tweety bird.

“Oh,” he said maniacally, “It’s just TOO perfect! But I’m not going to tell you. I much prefer to leave you to muddle about until you eventual learn how the rest of your crew comes to be horribly killed-“

“SHUT UP!” Stafford snapped, firing a phaser beam into a crate behind the tiny would-be Overlord.

Stalart’s grin turned darker.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said, “Were you hoping that more of them had lived? Maybe hoping to get the old gang back together and go back to fumbling around the nether-regions of the galaxy? Sorry, old chap!”

“Chris, he’s stalling!” Sylvia cried, “Just get us out of here!”

“You’re lying,” Stafford said, fighting to stay calm.

“I have to need to lie,” Stalart shot back, “The truth is so much more fun. Is that maybe a tear in your eye, hmmmm? I thought big boys didn’t cry-“

Stalart’s rant was cut short as Stafford shot him. He grabbed Sylvia’s module and ran for the door, ducking as bullets from the Delori henchmen whizzed through the air. With Stalart down, they’d decided they’d had enough waiting.

“Chris, did you kill him?” Sylvia cried.

“No,” Stafford gasped, “Stun. Starfleet way and all that bull…HOLY SHIT!”

He’d just come around the corner to the exit, finding no less than twenty Arcanians and Delori waiting. He tried to duck back, but two bullets caught him in the arm in which he held Sylvia’s module. He dropped her to the ground as he spun around, the pain shooting through his arm was enough to make him want to scream.

“RUN CHRIS!” Sylvia screamed, her vocal volume at maximum, “THEY CAN’T HURT ME! GET OUT OF HERE!”

Gasping, hearing the sound of Delori footsteps, Stafford obeyed.


He’d barely made it to another exit, stumbling as blood continued to pour from his arm. He tapped his comm-badge and summoned Yanick, who spun the car around, waiting just long enough for him to fall into the back seet.

Jeffery immediately started cursing.

“The med-kit’s at the hotel!” he cursed, “And that blood is going to TOTALLY f**k up our damage deposit on the car!”

Stafford had passed out and didn’t respond.


Several hours later, arm patched and car returned (damage deposit gone) they were packing up their temporary home.

“That’s the end of it,” Stafford said, “We can’t stay here. Three of us against Stalart’s entire crew? And the Delori? No, I’m getting us gone before anybody else gets hurt.”

“What about Sylvia?” Jeffery asked.

“I think she’s safe for now,” Stafford said, “Something about a reinforced casing…”

“Neutronium reinforced casing,” Jeffery nodded, “Aye. But Ah bet Stalart will get around it sooner or later,”

“Maybe,” Stafford said, “But we’ll come back for her. Once we have help. We’ve gotta find more survivors!”

“If anybody’s there,” Yanick said quietly.

Stafford had told them about Stalart’s claims. He really wanted to believe that it was nothing but an attempt to put him off guard, but something about the way Stalart had put it…

“‘Comes to be killed’,” he repeated, “Not ‘came to be killed’,”

“Not time travel…” Jeffery groaned.

“No, no no!” Stafford said, “I think he was telling me that something about this place is going to kill them…but that they’re not dead yet. We have to get to them first!”

“We have a place to start,” Jeffery said.

“You’ve figured out where the Silverado crash site is?” Stafford asked him.

“Better,” Jeffery pulled out a sheet of paper, “Ah found out that a research submersible was very suddenly pulled off its regular schedule and diverted to the Central Sea.”

“So?” Yanick asked.

“So,” Stafford perked up, comprehension dawning, “Science and research ships are usually booked months or years in advance! At least in the Federation…”

“Here too,” Jeffery confirmed, “It occurred to me, if Ah was in an Observatory, the data network would probably have easy access to the scientific networks,”

“Great thinking buddy!” Stafford laughed, “That’s our plan then. You can bet if anybody else knows where the wreck is, that’s where they’re going!”

“Aye,” Jeffery beamed. Stafford hadn’t called him ‘buddy’ since before the Operation Salvage incident, “Oh, and there’s something else ye should see…”

He pulled out several large printed images.

“Images of ship, taken right before it hit the ocean,” he said by way of explanation.

Stafford and Yanick stared at the first picture for several seconds.

“Where’s the rest of it?” Yanick asked, scratching her head.