Author: Brendan Chris
“AH-HAHAHAHAAA! Bow before me, pathetic humans, and tremble at my wrath!”
“No!” Yanick gasped, shrinking back in terror, “Please, no!”
“I am the master of this domain!” Commander Jall laughed insanely, “You will all bow to me!”
“Commander Jall!” Stafford shouted, striking a heroic pose, “Stand down!”
Laughing, Jall unleashed a stream of energy from his fingertips, tapping into the ship’s computer and taking complete control.
“T’Parief, take him out!”
T’Parief leapt over the tactical rail, claws outstretched, only to bounce off a forcefield that sprang up between him and Jall.
Jall laughed maniacally.
“That’s it, Commander,” Stafford roared, “YOU’RE FIRED!”
“Huh?” Stafford jerked in his chair, pulling his chin off his hand, “I was listening,”
“No you weren’t,” Yanick said from the helm console, “You were, like, totally zoned out,”
“Catatonic,” Fifebee added from the science console.
“Completely unaware of your surroundings,” T’Parief joined in.
“OK, OK,” Stafford grumbled, “I was daydreaming. So sue me,”
“We would,” Jall said, “But since the Federation doesn’t use money, you really don’t own anything worth suing for,”
“I own all your asses as long as I’m captain of this ship!” Stafford declared loudly.
“Uh-huh,” Jall said.
“You keep telling yourself that,” Yanick added.
“Don’t you have something…first officer-ish to do?” Stafford asked Jall.
“Now that you mention it,” Jall rose from his chair, “I have to tour Stellar Cartography in ten minutes.” He started walking towards the turbolift.
“And don’t forget to have those mission reports finished! Starfleet wants them by-“
“They’re on your ready room desk,” Jall cut him off, stepping into the turbolift.
“Well don’t forget the consumables report from the Quartermaster-“
“Five minutes and it’s done!” Jall called as the doors closed, cutting off Stafford. Jall closed his eyes for a moment. Ahh, peace and quiet at last.
“Deck 22,” he requested. The turbolift hummed to life.
“Stafford to Jall,”
Sighing, Jall tapped his comm-badge.
“What about the promotions list? We’re supposed to have it submitted tomorrow,”
“It’s on your desk,” Jall snapped, “But we can’t send it until you make up your mind on who’s actually getting promoted!”
Silence for a moment. Then:
“I knew that. Stafford out.”
Jall shook his head as the turbolift arrived on Deck 22, the doors hissing smoothly open. As with all the even-numbered decks on the ship, the wall panels of Deck 22 were a soothing, creamy-tan colour. Jall quickly found his way to the Quartermaster depot. It was small and out-of-the-way, since replicators had largely made it redundant. Still, it was more energy-efficient to store common items for use rather than replicating them, where possible. Surprisingly enough, manipulating atomic bonds took a huge amount of energy.
T’Parief tapped idly at his panel, scanning space around Silverado for any sign of threats. So far he wasn’t seeing very much. Silverado was inside Federation space, carrying a shipment of fragile Federation China from Starbase 45 to three new member planets. Not exactly a vital assignment, but still one that he would give his best effort to complete, especially considering that the strange planet of Deloria II was very close to this region of space. Of course, he always gave his best effort. On everything. Whether that involved assaulting an enemy base, preparing a luxurious bubble-bath for Yanick or preparing training programs to help hone his unique security team into something resembling a cohesive fighting force, everything received the same effort.
Naturally, the fact that his best effort had failed to win him the position of first officer wasn’t bothering him in the slightest. No, not at all. Lieutenant, excuse me, COMMANDER Jall had previous experience, of course. And T’Parief knew perfectly well his actions in the televised competition for the role had done little to distinguish him. (Although his mother had commed to congratulate him on the very effective way he had reduced the holographic Vulcan to a pile of oozing holographic meat.)
“Uh, Lt. Commander T’Parief? Sir?”
T’Parief’s head twisted around to glare ferociously at the intruder. Ensign Grant, a member of the Beta security team, looked timidly back at him.
“Uh, it’s time for my bridge shift, sir,” Grant said.
Eyes narrowing as he regarded the solidly built yet timid-looking human, T’Parief considered. He’d assigned Grant to train with Crewman Kreklor, hoping to toughen the human up a bit. But Grant was still wearing that innocent puppy-dog expression. T’Parief found puppy-dogs to be very appetizing, but Grant would never be able to intimidate anybody looking like that.
“Very well, Ensign,” T’Parief said, relinquishing the panel, “I will be in the security office,”
As the reptilian officer left, Grant looked down at the tactical rail. T’Parief had been stabbing the controls so hard that there were several punctures in the panel membrane. One display was so badly cracked the readouts were unintelligible. Even as the turbolift doors shut on T’Parief’s retreating form, the console gave a half-hearted spark and went dead.
“Grant to Engineering,” Grant gulped.
“Aye? What do ye want?”
“Uh, I need a repair team on the bridge. The tactical panel is-“
Grant winced as a stream of profanity emerged from the comm channel, cutting off abruptly as the line went dead.
“That’s the third time he’s done that this week,” Yanick observed from the helm console, “I think Simon’s getting a bit sick of it,”
“You don’t say,” Grant said, moving to the starboard auxiliary panel and quickly converting it to a tactical panel.
“I even tried doing that thing he likes last night,” Yanick went on, oblivious to the shocked looks she was getting from the other bridge officers, “With the oil and the spiked ball and everything,”
“Trish,” Stafford said, “I really don’t want to know about your kinky sex life with the big lizard,”
“Sex?” Yanick turned in her chair to look back at him, “I gave him a back rub!”
“Oh,” Stafford said quietly.
“If you want to know about their sex life, I suggest you review Xujo Han’zon’s Interspecies Karma Sutra,” Fifebee commented dryly.
“So, Mr. Johnson,” Stafford said, trying to change the topic, “Drink any interesting teas lately?”
Jerome Johnson, Silverado’s new operations officer, sulked in his chair.
“I really do wish you’d stop bringing that up,” Johnson said in his crisp, British tones. Johnson had only been on Silverado for a few weeks, following a failed bid to replace the departed Commander Noonan as first officer. Tall, athletic and with skin the colour of milk chocolate, he’d been disqualified when the judges had learned that his incomprehensible street-talk was just a farce to hid his British background. He’d been foiled when Wowryk, Fifebee and Sylvia discovered fresh tealeaves in his cabin.
The final decision on whether or not Johnson would be remaining on Silverado had not yet been made. However, since there was an open slot on the senior staff (and since Admiral Tunney didn’t really want him back after that televised fiasco), Johnson had been temporarily assigned the position of operations officer.
The turbolift doors hissed open again as a maintenance team led by Jeffery entered the bridge. Setting down their toolkits, they quickly began repairing the damaged tactical panel. Dr. Wowryk followed them out.
“Captain,” she said, nodding politely.
“Hey Doc,” Stafford gave a weak wave, not getting out of his chair.
“I wanted to bring you the Starfleet Medical report on Pelgus IV,” Wowryk said, taking Jall’s now-empty seat. Her nose wrinkled briefly.
“Something wrong?” Stafford asked, one eyebrow raised.
“No,” Wowryk said, shaking her head, “Jall just apparently has a more masculine body odor than one would have thought,”
Now it was Stafford’s nose’s turn to wrinkle in disgust.
“You were saying about medical reports?” he asked.
“Yes,” Wowryk pulled out a padd, “Pelgus IV is a very cold planet, and as such…”
As Wowryk explained the various health issues identified by the initial survey to Pelgus, including four new types of pneumonia and a parasite guaranteed to give your stomach lining a thorough cleaning, Yanick started aimlessly picking at her helm console. Next to her at Ops, Johnson was sitting quietly, staring intently at his panel as he ran his fingers over the controls. Hmm. Apparently he was more interested in working than talking. Maybe she should talk to Ensign Grant? He looked sweet. No, wait. He was T’Parief’s subordinate, and her big, green boyfriend was more than a bit territorial when it came to his woman. She was going to have to have a talk to him about that!
Down in one of the training rooms, just a short span of corridor away from the security office, T’Parief had just walked in on Crewman Kreklor and Ensign Marsden. The two of them were rolling around on the workout mat, curses and obscenities flying in all directions.
“You spineless pitak!” Kreklor growled, trying to pull Marsden into a headlock, “This time your insults have gone too far!”
Marsden twisted his tall, wiry frame away, managing to escape the bulkier Klingon just in time to fall on his ass as Kreklor shot one leg out in a sweeping kick.
“I TOLD you,” Mardsen shouted, “It was an ACCIDENT!”
T’Parief briefly entertained the notion of intervening, but decided that it would be more entertaining to simply watch. After all, whoever lost the fight would need to explain to him just why they were unable to defeat their opponent.
“Filthy human!” Kreklor spat, standing over Marsden, “You expect me to believe you-“
“Ridge-headed brute!” Marsden shot back, jumping up from the mat and hitting Kreklor in the midsection with a head-butt. Kreklor’s eyes bugged out as he stumbled back, falling to the mat and rolling to the side to avoid having Marsden land on him.
“Yanick to T’Parief,” chimed T’Parief’s comm-badge.
“Yes?” T’Parief replied quietly, hoping not to disturb the two combatants. They hadn’t noticed him yet, and he hoped to keep it that way.
“Y’know, I think you might be a bit too jealous. See, I wanted to say hi to Ensign Grant while he was on the bridge, but then I realized he works for you, and you get all jealous when I talk to other guys, so I didn’t talk to him. But now I think-“
Kreklor and Marsden froze, the latter bent over in front of the former, gripping him by the arm and preparing to flip him over his back and onto the floor. They both turned to look at T’Parief.
“And it’s really not fair to me to be scared to talk to people, you know, in a purely friends-type way, just because I think you’re going to get all moody, like when your brothers ate your pet targ…”
Kreklor and Marsden broke out laughing as T’Parief commenced grinding his teeth.
“Ensign Yanick,” T’Parief said, attempting to retain some shred of dignity, “May I call you back?”
“Take care of your relationship issues on your own time!” this time it was Stafford’s voice coming over the comm. There was a beep, then the line went dead.
A menacing rattle came from T’Parief’s throat as he growled with displeasure.
“Somebody isn’t getting laid tonight!” Marsden laughed. Kreklor was bellowing loud, Klingon laughter and was unable to comment.
T’Parief grabbed a nearby holocam, used during training session to allow security officers to see where they could improve their techniques. He clicked an image of the two, turned and left.
“OOOhhhh!” Marsden laughed, letting go of Kreklor and heading towards the opposite door, this one leading toward the showers and locker room, “A scary picture! I think our brave leader is really getting whipped!”
“He is owned,” Kreklor agreed.
As Stafford reminded Ensign Yanick (yet again) to keep her personal life with T’Parief off the bridge, Ensign Grant called quietly out to Lieutenant Fifebee.
“Lieutenant,” he asked, “Could you give me a hand here for a moment?”
“Certainly,” Fifebee replied.
“I can’t get the console functions to properly change over to tactical,” Grant said, “See?” he tapped a few buttons. The console configuration briefly changed, the wall display showing a detailed threat-analysis scan of the surrounding area. After a few seconds, the panel quickly reverted back to its former state, showing security footage from the security locker room.
“Hmmm,” Fifebee frowned, leaning over Grant to tap at the panel, her body brushing against his, “It appears somebody has been using this console to observe the males of the security team. Most likely Ensign Bithe, as I have noticed lately that her behavior has become more and more like that of Ensign Burke. I must speak to him about the influence he is having on her…” Fifebee trailed off.
“Ensign Grant,” Fifebee said, noticing that the security footage was showing Grant stepping out of the shower, “I had no idea you has such a pleasant…body…”
“Um,” Grant flushed, suddenly aware of just how close to him the holographic (but still attractive) female officer was.
And she was looking at him in a very suggestive way.
Commander Jall walked down the corridors of Stellar Cartography. It was just a routine inspection, nothing major. He had to check with the department heads, get progress reports on the few projects being worked on (the ship was inside mapped space, what was there to do?) and make sure there were no major issues.
“Commander Jall,” Lieutenant Marconi, the Italian head of Stellar Cartography, smiled widely as Jall entered the main Stellar Cartography lab on Deck 7, “What can I do for you?”
“Just doing my inspection rounds,” Jall said, grinning. He’d almost forgotten how much fun the whole ‘In-Charge’ thing could be, “Report,”
“Oh, was that today?” Marconi frowned, “I could have sworn that was tomorrow,”
Jall looked at his padd.
“Nope, today,” he said.
“Oh,” Marconi blinked, “Uh, well, everything’s fine down here,”
“You’ve finished cataloguing the scans from our last survey mission?” Jall asked. He had been waiting for that report for the past two days.
“Oh, uh, we’ll be done that tomorrow,” Marconi promised.
“And the latest star charts from Starbase 45 have been updated into the navigational computers?” Jall pressed.
“Tomorrow,” Marconi repeated, “Hey, we’re having a naked limbo contest in the crew lounge tonight, you in?”
“Ohhh! Naked limbo?” Jall asked, “How did you get that OK’d? Stafford said-“
“‘No nudity in Unbalanced Equations’,” Marconi finished for him, “We’re using the crew lounge! I even got that sweet Ensign Bithe to come! She’s got the hottest-“
“Wait, wait,” Jall said, shaking his head, “No, I can’t.”
“C’mon!” Marconi pressed, “Ensign Roal will be there, and I hear he’s…y’know. Into the kinda thing you-“
“Lieutenant,” Jall said, getting formal, “I have to set an example now! I’m First Officer! I’m supposed to be giving you shit for not finishing those reports I need, not talking about naked limbo!”
“Come on, San! You can’t back out on us! The ship’s party scene just won’t be the same without you!”
“Don’t see why,” Jall rolled his eyes, “You’re all too straight to appreciate me!”
“The girls love having you around,” Marconi said seriously, “And girls and drinks are the two biggest requirements to a successful party!”
“I’m supposed to be giving you shit now!” Jall repeated, “I need those cartography reports, ASAP, or I’m going to have to put you on report!”
“Uh-huh,” Marconi said, guiding Jall out of Stellar Cartography, “Tell you what, you come to the limbo thing tonight, and I’ll have the reports ready for you by the time Nurse Kerry’s leather bustier hits the floor! Besides, the Hazardous Team is going to be there, and I know how much you like Klingons.”
Jall found himself standing in the grey-paneled corridor as the door to Stellar Cartography hissed firmly shut behind him.
“I SO am not into Klingons,” Jall muttered, walking towards his next stop; Astrophysics.
Three departments (and three firm Naked Limbo invitations later) Jall returned to the bridge. Stafford wasn’t in sight, probably doing some captain-type thing in his ready room. Or taking a nap. Rumors as to what captains actually did in there were rampant among the lower ranks. Not all of the suggestions were polite. Near the aft of the bridge, Lt. Commander Jeffery was just finishing up the repairs to the tactical console.
“Hey Mr. Jeffery,” Jall said, smiling, “How’s it going?”
“Just fine,” Jeffery said politely, “Ye smug bastard,” he added under his breath.
“What was that?” Jall asked.
“Nothing,” Jeffery said, looking innocent.
Sighing, Jall let the matter drop.
No, no he didn’t.
“Mr. Jeffery, come with me,” Jall said, gesturing towards the conference lounge.
“Ah have to get back to Engineering,” Jeffery said, “We’re goin’ to recalibrate the-“
Jall felt something inside snap.
“Mr. Jeffery,” he said, the slightly sibilant tones of his voice overridden by sheer irritation, “You seem to think I’m asking you to come with me. I’m not. I’m ORDERING you to come with me! And can somebody explain why nobody is manning science or tactical!?”
“He likes to be in charge,” Yanick whispered to Johnson as Jall led Jeffery to the lounge door.
“Can it, Yanick!” Jall snapped, earning himself a surprised (then dirty) look from his former partner-in-crime. Jall promptly forgot about her as the doors to the conference lounge hissed open, revealing Grant and Fifebee. The two were halfway out of uniform, thrashing around on the lit table as they kissed passionately.
Taking a moment to notice that Grant really did have a nice body, Jall allowed his inner rage to escape.
“WHAT THE HELL??” he shouted, “FIFEBEE????” GRANT??? SOMEBODY CARE TO EXPLAIN???”
“Commander!” Grant squeaked, grabbing his shirt and holding it in front of his chest. Fifebee simply shimmered, holographic clothing reappearing.
“Commander,” Fifebee said, “I assure you, it is not what it looks like-“
“Really? Jall asked, “Cuz it looked a lot like FOREPLAY to me!”
“Well…” Fifebee slowly admitted.
“Stop!” Jall snapped, “Look, one thing at a time! Fifebee, Grant, man your stations! I’ll deal with you when I’m done with…” Jall looked around. Jeffery was gone.
“That little prick!” he seethed.
Fifebee and Grant were still looking back at him.
“You,” Jall pointed at Fifebee, “Add this to your decision-making subroutines: Sex on Duty is a Bad Thing!”
“I can cite seventy-three cases in the past three years in which you engaged in sexual activity of some form during your duty shift,” Fifebee stated.
“Yeah, but you should know better!” Jall said, inwardly wincing at the weakness of his reply. He turned to Grant.
“You! One more incident like this, and I’ll report it to your boss! And lizard-boy isn’t as forgiving as I am! Now get back to work!”
Fifebee and Grant quickly returned to their stations.
Blood still pumping, Jall marched into Stafford’s ready room.
“The Stallion is only going to be four hours away from us,” Sylvia was saying, her holographic avatar standing next to Stafford, “Surely we can spare that amount of time,”
“Maybe,” Stafford said, looking at the flight plans Sylvia had highlighted on his terminal, “I wouldn’t mind meeting some of these officers you and Jeffery told me so much about. But I’m going to need a more official reason than ‘My ship’s computer wants to see her boy-toy’!”
“He’s not my boy-toy!” Sylvia objected, “He’s far older than I am! And we’re not even officially ‘together’, or anything like that!”
“Ship’s computer…” Stafford muttered to himself as he pretended to fill out paperwork, “Wants to see…cradle-robbing…boy-toy…”
“Chris!” Sylvia slapped at him playfully, “Stop it!”
The ready room doors hissed open and Jall stormed in.
“Nobody is taking me seriously out there!” he complained.
Stafford and Sylvia exchanged looks.
“I win,” Sylvia said.
“Oh, I get it,” Jall crossed his arms, “You put Fifebee and Grant up to this to see how long it would take me to crack?”
“Nope,” Stafford said, “Well, we didn’t put anybody up to anything. We don’t need to on this ship.”
“But we did have a bet going,” Sylvia said.
Jall’s face started to turn red.
“Sylvia, would you excuse us?” Stafford asked.
With a nod, Sylvia shimmered, her holographic body vanishing.
Stafford looked at Jall for a moment.
“Welcome to my world,” Stafford finally said.
“I doubt you’ve ever had to deal with two officers making out in the conference lounge!” Jall said.
“No,” Stafford shrugged, “But I have dealt with a lot. Including an officer who, as I recall, guilted me into apologizing to him so he could get some extra vacation time, an officer who spent several days in the brig after turning a station cargo bay into a casino and starting a mass riot which resulted in the injury of the station’s Administrative Officer. Oh, and an officer who turned my officer’s lounge into a strip club.” Stafford clasped his hands together on his desk, then looked innocently back at Jall. “Need I go on?”
“Is this your subtle way of telling me you blame me for all this?” Jall asked, shaking one finger in Stafford’s direction.
“Nope,” Stafford shrugged, “But it is my subtle way of telling you that I don’t have a single ounce of pity for you. You wanted to be First Officer? You’ve got it. Which means you get to deal with some of these petty issues.”
Stafford leaned forward over his desk.
“And you’ve helped encourage people to behave like this. Senior officers set an example, you’ve set yours. Sylvia, I think the old saying is ‘You reap what you sew’?”
“Sow, dear,” Sylvia interjected.
“Damn,” Stafford snapped his fingers, “So close.”
Jall glared at him.
“Dismissed,” Stafford said, settling back into his chair and waving one hand imperiously.
“Ohhh, it’s SO on!” Jall said, turning and stepping back onto the bridge.
Yanick stepped off the turbolift on Deck 3, saying good night to Ensign Burke as the doors hissed shut. She could have been home in her quarters a good fourty-five minutes ago, however by the time she’d made a quick trip down to Deck 8 to visit Wowryk (who was working late), detoured to Deck 12 to check out the Gardening Club social in the arboretum, followed by a quick trip all the way down to Deck 36 to talk to poor, lonely Crewman Leghil…well, suffice it to say her social life was eating up more of her time that one might expect.
By the time she finally did step through the door of her quarters, it was to find T’Parief sitting on her sofa, engaged in a staring contest with one of her potpourri lizards.
“Y’know it’s not real, right?” Yanick giggled, cocking her hip.
“It is,” T’Parief growled, “It is simply biding its time, waiting for a moment of weakness. Then it will strike.”
“Uh-huh,” Yanick said slowly. She stepped over to the table on which the air-freshening lizard sat, picked it up and carried it to another, less visible corner. T’Parief’s eyes followed it the entire way.
“Oookay,” Yanick said, finally hiding it behind a potted plant, “Somebody needs to get out a little more often,”
“You should not have called me while we were on duty,” T’Parief said.
“Oh, don’t be such a stiff,” Yanick said, rolling her eyes.
“It damaged the image I wish to present to my department,” T’Parief grumbled.
“Ohh, so it’s your image,” Yanick smiled, nodding knowingly, “As long as we’re clear that what the Hazardous Team thinks of you is more important than talking to me, then-“
“It is not like that!” T’Parief said sharply, “I always wish to speak with you. But sometimes we must wait until the right time,”
“Is this about Starfleet protocol stuff?” Yanick asked, “Cuz with Jall in charge, I don’t think we need to worry so much about that,”
T’Parief didn’t respond. Normally he would agree with Yanick, but he’d already heard about the little incident up on the bridge. He wasn’t so sure Jall was going to be the laid-back second-in-command everybody was expecting.
“I know just the thing we need!” Yanick said suddenly, grabbing a padd, “Yes! Everybody’s going to Naked Limbo in the crew lounge tonight, so the holodecks should be free! Let’s go!”
“But what are we-“ T’Parief’s words were cut off as he was hauled out the door.
As it turned out, just because the holodecks were available, it did not mean they were empty.
“You called?” Fifebee was reclining in a comfortable chair in the holodeck, a relaxing tropical resort program already running. Fido, her holographic pet head-crab, was wandering around the holographic scenery, chittering softly to itself. Sylvia was puttering around, worriedly making sure that edible snacks would be available to anybody who might want one. Yanick had asked Fifebee and Sylvia if she and T’Parief could meet them in Holodeck 2. Their ability to simply materialize in any space with holo-emitters meant they had beaten Yanick and T’Parief to the holodeck.
“Yup, I did,” Yanick said. T’Parief said nothing, simply allowing himself to be dragged in whatever direction Yanick desired, “We need to have a games night,”
“Games?” Fifebee asked, intrigued, “What kind? The Dillion Enterprises Special Edition Monopoly Game? The Game of Alien Life? Or were you thinking something a bit more…risqué? Perhaps Strip Poker, or something involving various complex positions-“
“Well,” Yanick said, frowning, “I’m not totally sure. But T’Parief and I have to bond, and it should be the kind of bonding that doesn’t need a lot of talking.”
“Do what normal couples do and copulate,” Sylvia called from the buffet table currently under construction.
Yanick and T’Parief exchanged glances.
“Well,” Yanick started to say.
“It is time for a social evening,” T’Parief said, cutting her off.
Fifebee looked at the two of them for a moment.
“Very well,” she said, “Shall we start with Euchre?”
Jall sat in his quarters, staring at the wall. He was reasonably sure he couldn’t out-stare it, seeing as how it didn’t have the need to blink. Or eyes.
Against his will, his gaze flicked over the chrono display on his living room vid-screen. 19:55 hours. The Naked Limbo contest would be starting up in five minutes. It was no big deal, really. A bunch of people would drink and get naked (no big deal in the 24th Century), somebody would make wise-cracks about the strategically placed ridges on some species, some of the females would worry they were too big around the middle and most of the males would worry they were too small in other places. Ensign Newtar from the Biophysics lab would role its eyes at the antics of species who reproduced via sexual reproduction. (Newtar’s people reproduced via fission.) Sooner or later, people would start to disappear as attendees paired of and went for ‘a coffee’. There was no reason why he would want to go at all. As Stafford said, it was unprofessional, it was silly, it was a waste of time and it wasn’t the way a proper Starfleet officer behaved.
Of course, in Jall’s opinion, Stafford had forbidden the crew from holding Naked Limbo nights because he didn’t want anybody to see the enormous stick wedged up his hindquarters. It was just a fun excuse to dance and party. The naked limbo part of the thing was just a way to make things different. Just like zero-G dancing, or wet T-Shirt contests, or water-gun fights. Of course, the draw of nubile female flesh meant a large turnout to the party, which meant more eye candy, which meant more attendees, which mean even MORE eye candy, which meant-
“OK, stop it,” Jall muttered to himself, getting up to pace, “I just need something to do to keep my mind off of things.”
Hmm. Who did he know, or hang around with on the ship, that wouldn’t be going to the party?
Stafford immediately came to mind. But he was about the last person Jall wanted to spend the evening with. Ditto for Wowryk.
Yanick? No, she’d totally be into Naked Limbo. Jall considered. But T’Parief wouldn’t be. Would it be worth dealing with the moody security chief in order to spend time with his bestest blond buddy?
“Jall to Yanick,” he called, tapping his comm-badge.
“Uh, Yanick here,” Yanick’s voice was rushed, “No, T’Parief, if you called the deal then you have to play this round by yourself, I can’t-“
“Whatcha up to?” Jall asked, confused.
“Um, teaching T’Parief to play Euchre,” Yanick replied, “No, you can’t play that card, Spades were the first card played this round. Yes, I know you broke suit before, but that’s because…no, I meant you played a different kind of card, it has nothing to do with ripping your pants! You can only do that if you’re out of Spades! Oh, you are out of Spades. Ooops, I guess you didn’t really want to give that away, did you? But that’s OK, if you break suit, the other plays know you’re really out of Spades, unless you’re lying, in which case we’ll find out anyway.”
“Do you need another player?” Jall asked.
“Um, no,” Yanick said, “We have four…no, T’Parief, Sylvia wins this one. She played a Bower. Uh, the card with the ‘J’ on it. Yes, I know Bower starts with a ‘B’, that’s not what I-“
The channel was suddenly overwhelmed with a loud roar, followed by the sound of something breaking.
“Uh, I gotta go,” Yanick said, “T’Parief is, um, eating the card table…Yanick out!”
The line went dead.
Jall looked at the chrono. It was now past 2000 hours. Steven would be in the crew lounge, leaving Unbalanced Equations with a minimal staff. Stafford and Wowryk would probably be dropping by for a quick drink, and would wonder why the officer’s lounge was so empty before going their separate ways. Marconi, Simmons and Bithe would probably be setting up drink and snack tables while somebody (probably Crewman Gibson) distracted the engineering staff long enough for somebody else (probably Crewman Shwaluk) to snatch the iso-flux dispersion array that worked so well as a limbo stick. Knowing Crewman Shwaluk, he’d forget to disengage the dispersal matrix first and would end up with a nasty shock and a dose of (mostly) harmless flux radiation that would scramble his higher brain functions for about an hour. Jall doubted anybody would notice.
OK. How to spend his evening.
Jall called up an Interactive Movie on his display. The concept was old, having first appeared in the late 20th Century, when computer technology was just getting going. He watched a brief video clip, introducing his character and the story, then found his vid-screen displaying his virtual self standing on a virtual street. He was a private detective in the first quarter of the 21st Century and he was looking for a missing scientist. If he’d really wanted to get into the game he could, of course, go down to one of the holodecks. But sometimes there’s nothing like curling up on one’s own sofa in one’s own home.
Jall started issuing orders to his virtual self.
“Take a closer look at that building there,” Jall said, pointing.
Obediently, his avatar walked closer to the indicated building. His avatar began speaking.
“The Ritz Hotel had definitely gone downhill the past few years. But as long as I pay my rent, Nilo doesn’t give me any grief. It’s a good thing this case came along, cuz I’m about three months behind. I’ll have to find the money before I can get any information out of Nilo,”
Hmm. Money. Wait, he’d been given a cheque to start his investigation-
“Stern to Jall,”
Jall bit his lip. Ignore it. He’ll go away. He ordered his avatar to pay the landlord the rent money.
“Simmons to Jall. Commander, we need you down here! We have all this synthohol and not enough people to drink it!”
Ignore it. Ask the landlord if he’d seen anything suspicious lately.
“Roal to Jall. Uh, guys, what was I supposed to say? Oh yeah. Um, Commander, I, um, was hoping we could…um, talk, and maybe get to know each other better…” somebody else’s voice came over the channel, sounding suspiciously like Ensign Bithe, “No, don’t say that, he’ll think you want a serious date or something!”
“Uh, nevermind…Roal out!”
Jall breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing he wanted to deal with was an insecure amateur trying to ‘get to know him’.
“Marconi to Jall,”
“WHAT?” Jall finally snapped, guiding his avatar to look for clues in the missing scientist’s former hotel room.
“Are you coming or not? The girls want you teach them how to do that dancing thing. Y’know, that South-Asian belly-dancer hip thing?”
“I’m not coming, Marconi!” Jall said angrily, “Jall out!”
“Well, I guess card games are out,” Sylvia said, eyebrows raised as she surveyed the remains of the table.
T’Parief was sitting in the middle of the wreckage, looking like a child that had just finished a temper tantrum. Pieces of wood stuck out of his mouth, moving as he continued chewing.
“I’ve seen him break furniture before,” Yanick said, sounding worried, “But this is the first time he’s tried to eat it,”
“The rules of Euchre can be quite complex and frustrating for beginners,” Fifebee said, “Incidentally, Lt. Cmdr, you may wish to drop by sickbay to have your stomach beamed. I doubt you would enjoy trying to excrete splintered wood in the traditional manner,”
“It’s holographic,” Sylvia waved one hand, “I’ll be sure it doesn’t make it out of the holodeck,”
Swallowing the mouthful of table, T’Parief regained his footing.
“Perhaps a less complex game?” he suggested calmly.
“Aren’t either of you going to eat something other than the furniture?” Sylvia said, moving back to the buffet, “I went to all this trouble!”
“Uh, I guess,” Yanick said hesitantly.
“I’m full,” T’Parief said.
Sylvia’s holographic avatar fluttered slightly as she focused her attention on the holographic control system. There was a slight humming sound from T’Parief’s mid-section as the holographic table chunks dissipated.
“I am now hungry,” T’Parief said flatly.
“OK, good,” Yanick said happily, “Cuz if you’re hungry, and I’m hungry, and there’s food, then we all get to eat!”
“Unfortunately, you no longer have a table,” Fifebee pointed out. Sylvia elbowed her in the side, then quickly commanded the holodeck to generate a suitable replacement table.
<<What was that for?>> Fifebee silently asked Sylvia, using the data links between her program and the ship’s computer core instead of audible speech. She didn’t like to communicate this way…she’d been programmed to behave like a human in most respects, and communing directly with computers wasn’t a very human activity. On the other hand, part of her found the speed of communication to be somewhat refreshing.
<<Don’t make things difficult for them,>> Sylvia said, <<They’ve got enough challenges in their relationship to overcome, without us reminding them,>>
<<What do you mean?>> Fifebee frowned, <<They are behaving in a way that indicates they are a couple. Well, most human couples don’t include a partner who consumes furniture, but that point aside->>
<<Fifebee, open your visual subroutines!>> Sylvia chided her, <<He’s a bloodthirsty reptile, she’s a lovable farm girl. How those two paired up at all is really beyond my understanding…by which I mean it’s beyond the computational understanding of this entire ship! Things had seemed to working out for the two of them before, but look at what’s happened now!>>
The exchange had taken milliseconds. Yanick and T’Parief had barely started moving towards the buffet table. As Sylvia and Fifebee observed, they started filling plates.
<<I see no problem,>> Fifebee stated.
<<When is the last time there was physical contact between the two of them?>> Sylvia asked.
Fifebee analyzed her memory.
<<1.2 hours ago, when they arrived in the holodeck.>> she replied, <<Yanick was dragging him by the arm,>>
<<Exactly!>> Sylvia said, <<In all that time, and who knows how long before that, there hasn’t been a kiss, a hug, not even a close gesture! They’re growing apart…or even worse, they’re getting bored with each other! Why else do you think Yanick is almost killing herself to find something for them to do tonight?>>
<<Why do they not have sex?>> Fifebee asked, <<I have noticed that organic beings enjoy that quite a bit. Sometimes with a variety of partners, including various body types, personality types and even genders. I was eager to attempt the process today with Ensign Grant, however I was interrupted.>>
<<You need to learn about timing, honey,>> Sylvia said dryly, <<But you get points for nerve. I wish it had been Chris that had walked in instead of San,>>
<<But back to the original question,>> Fifebee mused, <<Why do Yanick and T’Parief not simply ‘get it on?’>>
Sylvia was quiet for a moment. (A computerized moment, about five milliseconds.)
<<Two possibilies,>> she said, <<Either they have copulated so many times it has grown tiresome…>>
<<Or,>> Sylvia suggested, <<They still haven’t figured out how to do it yet,>>
Jall was slowly making progress through his Interactive Movie. His main character, a Mr. Tex Murphy, had managed to track down the missing scientist’s wife, who for some reason was working as a dancer at a club called the Fuchsia Flamingo. Dedicated as he was to his…preferences, Jall found more entertainment in judging the woman’s slightly tacky wardrobe than in watching her lithe body move through the dance routine.
“Johnson to Jall,” chimed the comm.
“I said NO!” Jall snapped, letting his head drop back against the couch.
“Um, Commander,” Johnson’s voice sounded slightly worried, “I just wanted you to know that I found a slight imbalance in one of the Deck 11 power conduits. We would like to take the EPS grid-“
“You found?” Jall asked, pausing his movie, “Aren’t you off duty?”
“Quite right,” Johnson sighed, “What I meant to say is that Ensign Day noticed some power fluctuations on Deck 11 and called me. With my assistance, he was able to isolate the problem conduit. However, we will need to drop out of warp momentarily, just to be on the safe side you understand, and we require your authorization.”
“Oh,” Jall shrugged, despite the fact that nobody was there to see him, “Why didn’t you just say so?”
There was a pause, likely as Johnson ground his teeth in annoyance.
“I attempted to do just that, sir,”
“Right, right,” Jall said, getting up, “Well, I need a distraction. Let’s go check it out.
“Did you feel that?” T’Parief asked.
“We’ve dropped out of warp,” Sylvia said, “Minor maintenance, nothing major. It’s your turn,”
T’Parief growled softly as he activated the random-number generator they were using for their game.
“Three,” Yanick said excitedly, “That means you land on a payday!”
“Yes,” T’Parief said, not sounding very excited, “If only I had a better job than ‘asteroid waste relocation engineer’, perhaps I could become excited about it,” his brow furrowed as he regarded the board, “I do not have enough funds to continue caring for all four of my spawn.” He looked thoughtfully at Fifebee, “Do the rules of this game permit me to consume any of them?”
Yanick smacked him upside the head before Fifebee could answer.
“It’s the ‘Game of Alien LIFE’, silly!” she said, “Not the ‘Game of Funky Baby-Eating Aliens’!”
“I love it,” Sylvia cut in. Her piece had more ‘children’ in it than any other, “I can have all the kids I want, and they never talk back!”
T’Parief said nothing.
<<Are you sure this was a good idea?>> Fifebee silently asked Sylvia, <<Given the difference in physiology, it would be very difficult for these two to conceive a child. We could be adding to their relationship stress,>>
<<If T’Parief’s parents can do it, then it’s perfectly possible for them to conceive,>> Sylvia replied, <<And they know it. I’ll have you know I’m observing them carefully. I want to try to determine exactly what the cause of their unhappiness is,>>
“Ohhh,” Yanick said, “I landed on the ‘Business Trip’ square. That means I have to separate from my mate for two turns, but I get more money!”
“More money for your spawn to consume in educational expenses,” T’Parief pointed out.
“Yeah, sort of a pain,” Yanick shrugged, “At least it doesn’t work that way in real life, huh? Not in this century, anyway.”
“Yes, very much so,” T’Parief replied.
<<OK, they’re still calm. I think we can safely rule out kids as a problem,>> Sylvia said, <<Here, let me try something in a minute.>>
Fifebee and Sylvia took their turns, Fifebee landing on a Payday square and Sylvia obtaining yet another child.
Finally, it was T’Parief’s turn again. He tapped the number generator, getting a five.
<<Distract them for a moment!>> Sylvia sent.
“Um, is that Captain Stafford urinating behind those bushes?” she said calmly.
T’Parief jumped to his feet, Yanick’s simply looked in the indicated direction.
“Why would he be here?” she asked.
“Nevermind,” Fifebee said, “I was mistaken,”
When the two organic members of the group had looked away, Sylvia had quickly tapped into the holodeck subroutines. A square five moves away from T’Parief’s piece which had previously read ‘You Get a Raise!’ had changed to ‘Have Sex With Your Partner’.
Sylvia and Fifebee watched very carefully as T’Parief moved his piece, then read out the instructions on the square.
“Have Sex With Your Partner,” T’Parief read aloud, almost mumbling as he realized what he was saying. Both he and Yanick suddenly looked very, very uncomfortable.
<<Bingo!>> Sylvia said.
Jall yawned as he stepped out of the turbolift on Deck 11. Turning a corner, he walked down the corridor until he located the maintenance panel Johnson had been talking about. Then it was merely a matter of waiting for five minutes until the other officer showed up. Two minutes into the wait, there was a soft sound, along with a slight sensation of motion. The ship had dropped out of warp.
Jall tapped one toe against the carpeted deck. Was this why Stafford always got so annoyed when he showed up late for staff meetings?
“Evening, Commander,” Johnson said, tipping an imaginary hat in a not-so-subtle bit of mockery. The fact that Johnson had been sent to the ship as a candidate for Jall’s current job was common knowledge, and a bit of bad blood was to be expected.
“Hi,” Jall said, “Let’s get this over with quickly.”
“As you wish,” Johnson inclined his head.
The two officers quickly peeled off the outer cover of the conduit. The problem was immediately apparent. Somebody had spliced a small energy tap onto the main conduit. The effect was minimal, when the tap wasn’t drawing energy. But even a tap that size, coming off a major power conduit? Somebody was planning something that would take a lot of juice. But who? And for what?
Jall looked down, realizing which room just happened to be one deck below him.
“Damn!” he swore, turning away and running for the turbolift.
Johnson remained standing by the exposed conduit.
“Right then,” he said, “I’ll just unhook this then. Cheerio!”
Jall rode the turbolift down to Deck 12. The layout was almost identical to Deck 11, just slightly larger, as Deck 12 was the single largest deck on the ship. Turning, he quickly strode to the crew lounge, just down the corridor from Unbalanced Equations.
“JALL!!!!” close to a hundred crewmen called out happily.
The crew lounge was about the same size as Unbalanced Equations. As the name implied, it was the prime hangout for enlisted crewmembers and civilian workers on the ship. Regular crew far outnumber officers on any Starfleet ship, and while Unbalanced Equations was large and spacious for the number of officers likely to be in there at any given time, the crew lounge always felt cramped. Unbalanced Equations had an atmosphere that was somewhere between coffee house and pub, with occasional dancing. The crew lounge was more like a packed nightclub, complete with blaring music and stumbling crewmen who generally didn’t have to worry about how frequent intoxication might look on their annual performance evaluations. Well, OK, most officers on Silverado didn’t really care either, but at least visitors to the crew lounge didn’t have to worry about having the captain show up almost every evening.
Some ships were very strict, ensuring that only officers went into the officer’s lounge and crewmembers went into the crew lounge. Some weren’t. Such matters usually depended on the opinion of the ship’s captain, the general attitude of the crew, the number of fistfights involving crew vs. officers and whether or not Guiananco had a strangle-hold on the ship’s entertainment facilities. On Silverado, Stafford and Steven had been fairly lax, letting people unwind wherever they wanted. That wasn’t to say things were a free-for-all. Stafford insisted on a more ‘dignified’ atmosphere in Unbalanced Equations (he didn’t always get it, however). The crew lounge was where one went if one didn’t want to make even a token effort to behave. Hence, it had recently started being known as ‘The RoughHouse’.
It was no surprise then that Jall was well-known to the crewmembers that frequented the crew lounge.
The RoughHouse was packed! Dozens of crewmen and crewwomen, along with one or two officers, were already dancing to music being pumped from an impressive looking setup. The lights were low, further emphasizing the night-club atmosphere. In the middle of the room the limbo stick had been setup. Several attendees were already in various stages of undress, although nobody was naked. Yet.
“Commander!” Lieutenant Marconi stepped up, “Glad you could make it!” Marconi was walking arm in arm with two women, one an Andorian xeno-biologist, the other a human technician. The three of them were clad in their underwear, lacey, skimpy numbers on the woman and a pair of boxer-briefs on Marconi. Jall suddenly found himself surrounded by party-goers of both genders, and a few hands were already wandering into inappropriate places.
“Did you see this pic of Kreklor and Marsden that’s been going around?” somebody else said, flashing a padd in his face with an image of Kreklor bent over in front of Marsden, “The whole crew is talking about it!”
“Looks like nothing more than a security training session to me, and I’m not here to party,” Jall said, removing the padd from his face and Ensign Bithe’s hand from his butt. Bithe just grinned, then turned her attention back to her date, “Somebody has a splice running into the power conduit above this room, and I have a pretty good idea who,”
“Oh yeah,” Marconi nodded as several dancing crewfolk formed a conga line and started parading around the room, “Crewman Shwaluk needed extra power for his ‘Galactic Neutrino-Blasting Sub-Woofer’,”
“Nice!” Jall grinned, “What’s the wattage on that baby…I mean, where the hell is he? You can’t put an unauthorized tap into the EPS grid for a sound system! Does he want to blow out half of our power conduits??”
“Hey, lighten up, man,” Marconi said, “We unhook it tomorrow, Stafford and Jeffery will never know!”
“Stafford and Jeffery, huh?” Jall shot back, “ And what about me? I AM the First Officer, remember?”
“Yeah, but you’re cool,” Marconi shrugged, “Come on, have a drink while you’re here,”
“I can’t-“ Jall started.
“Hey, I found the problem with my sub,” Shwaluk said, dancing up to the two of them, “Some idiot found my splice and unhooked it. I’ll have it fixed in a jiff. Hey, Commander, aren’t you a little overdressed?” Shwaluk was shirtless, as was the woman he was dancing with.
Shwaluk pulled a device out of his pocket and pressed it to Jall’s tunic. Jall suddenly found himself slightly cold as his uniform jacket and undershirt disintegrated.
“Cool trick, huh?” Shwaluk called, pocketing the device as he and his date danced back towards the Galactic Neutrino-Blasting Sub-Woofer, “Perfect for this kind of party!”
“Hey, Commander,” Stern called, “I talked some of the Beta-team folks into serving drinks tonight! Check it out!” Jall noticed several security team members, male and female, all with fantastically toned bodies, wandering around in skimpy underwear serving drinks.
“Want a drink, Commander?” Ensign Roal asked, stumbling slightly as he approached Jall, then through an arm over his shoulder, “I’ve had several, hee-hee. Hey, did I ever mention how good you looked in that-“
“EVERYBODY STOP!” Jall shouted, vision turning red as the blood rushed to his head. He stormed over to the music control panel and slammed the cut-off button.
“THAT’S IT!” Jall shouted, “What is with you people? How many times do have to tell you, I can’t do this anymore! I’m First Officer now! I’ve got responsibilities, and expectations! I can’t act like…like…a drunken, sex-starved maniac whenever I feel like it anymore! The captain’s set some rules about how far we can go with this kind of stuff, and you’ve all gone way over that line!”
“So what?” Somebody in the crowd called, “It’s not like you haven’t done the same thing a million times!”
There was a chorus of agreement.
“That’s when I was…” Jall trailed off. How could he explain this? He had been angry at his demotion, a demotion that had been completely without just cause? He’d wanted to strike back at the authority that had, in his mind, discriminated against him? That he just really didn’t like Stafford all that much and didn’t mind being a thorn in the man’s side?
“You were a heck of a lot more fun is what you were,” somebody grumbled loudly. There was another chorus of agreement.
“Look,” Jall said, “It’s not that you’re not all fun. I know you’re all just having a great time. But if I’m going to be First Officer here, I have to act like it. And that means I have to set an example!”
“Like getting the captain drunk at Noonan’s good-bye party?” Marconi asked.
“Using T’Parief’s body to slut around after the Matrian thingy?” Bithe added.
“Starting a riot at Deneria?” chimed in somebody else.
“Great track record you’ve got there, Commander,” Stafford’s voice was sharp, overriding the general muttering in the room.
Jall spun around to find the captain standing in the door leading to the corridor. At the sight of him, various crewmembers suddenly started looking for uniforms or other items of clothing that had been discarded or disintegrated. Stafford walked slowly towards the music stand, trying hard not to stare at some of the shirtless women, most of whom happened to have stunningly perfect breasts.
“What exactly is going on in here?” Stafford asked, stopping in front of the music equipment to look around the room.
There was quiet mumbling.
“Naked Limbo party, sir,” Jall said.
“I see,” Stafford said, “Something I’m pretty sure I don’t allow on my ship. And you just happened to drop by, half naked?”
“Actually-“ Jall started.
“Commander, I don’t need to hear it,” Stafford said, turning his attention away from his first officer, “Come on people, what’s the deal? Why on Earth would you want to do something like this anyway? Isn’t it enough to dance and drink? Why do you have to get naked at the same time?”
“Uh Captain,” Jall tried to get Stafford’s attention, “You shouldn’t stand-“
“Quiet!” Stafford snapped, then turned back to the crowd, “Well?”
“I believe I can explain, sir,” Marconi said. When he saw he had Stafford’s attention, he pointed at Ensign Bithe’s ample bosom. Bithe blushed, holding her hands over her…um…don’t make me say it. The parts that aren’t supposed to show, and if they do show, it’s called a ‘wardrobe malfunction’.
“Marconi, you’re on report. Fraternization, harassment, whatever. I don’t want to hear you talking about another officer like that!” Stafford threw his hands up in frustration, “Look, I know you all just want to have a good time, but there are still a few, minimal standards we have to uphold! We’re representing the Federation here! What would a new alien culture say if their first glimpse of our culture was a pack of naked, sweaty, drunken, giggling dolts trying to walk under a stick?”
“They’d probably say ‘Where do we sign up?’!” Marconi cracked. Several crewmen started chuckling.
Stafford took a step towards Marconi, his face beet read, his mouth opening and closing in fits and starts as he tried to speak. Stafford didn’t realize it, but Jall noticed he was standing right in front of the speaker system. Jall also noticed that as soon as Stafford’s mouth had started flapping, everybody in the room had turned to look at him.
“Oh right,” Jall frowned. Noonan had always translated for Stafford when the captain became too agitated for normal speech. What would Stafford likely be trying to say? His eyes were drawn back to Ensign Bithe
“Um, ‘Nice tits?” Jall translated.
Stafford spun back to Jall and angrily raised one fist.
“The early bird gets the worm?” Jall tried again.
Stafford extended his middle finger.
“Oh! Don’t be a f**king prick, Marconi!” Jall said, sure he had it this time. Stafford nodded.
“Look,” Stafford said, having regained his speech, “Limits are important. First, it’s Naked Limbo. Next thing you know, you’re-“
“Captain,” Jall tried again to warn Stafford, “You really shouldn’t stand there!”
“Not now, Jall!” Stafford said, “Look, first it’s Naked Limbo, then Naked Dancing, then Naked…other things. And do you really want other cultures to think we’re a culture of-“
The Galactic Neutrino-Blasting Sub-Woofer suddenly fired at full power, sending the Captain and anything else in its path flying across the room at full speed. The crowd rushed to cover ears, antennae and other auditory sense-organs as glasses and bottles toppled to the floor and shattered.
“Fixed it!” Crewman Shwaluk said triumphantly as he emerged from under the music panel. He surveyed the now-devastated lounge, including the wall against which Stafford was now slumped, unconscious and with blood trickling from his ears.
In the holodeck, everybody looked up as a deep rumble shook the room.
“What was that?” T’Parief asked, jumping to his feet.
“Nothing to worry about, dear,” Sylvia said, “Chris is just going to be very angry when he wakes up.”
They’d given up on The Game of Alien Life. After the sex square, Yanick and T’Parief just hadn’t been into the game, further proving Sylvia’s belief that they were having ‘couple’s troubles’.
“There has to be something the two of you would enjoy doing together,” Fifebee was saying. “You have been dating for two and a half Standard years. Obviously common interests exist,”
“I typically enjoy games that involve violence, blood, gore and edible opponents,” T’Parief said, “These ‘bored games’ are new to me,”
“I don’t like eating people,” Yanick said, “And it’s ‘board’,”
“You say Kronos, I say Quo’nos,” T’Parief muttered.
“I suspect that Trivial Pursuit would be a bad idea,” Fifebee said, “As Sylvia and I have instant access to all trivia in the computer banks,”
“That game takes too much thinking anyway,” Yanick said.
“What about a more physical game?” Sylvia suggested.
“I do not play sports,” T’Parief said, “There are often…accidents.” He extended his claws in demonstration.
“Oh! Oh!” Yanick suddenly jumped up, “I’ve got it!”
“Got what, dear?” Sylvia asked.
Yanick called for the holodeck control arch, then spent several moments tapping away at the panel.
“If this involves petting fluffy bunnies, I am going home,” T’Parief said flatly.
Stafford sat in Sickbay.
He was awake again, and shortly after regaining consciousness he had been relocated from his bio-bed to one of the more comfortable chairs in the treatment area. It was fairly easy for Jall to track him down.
“Hey,” Jall said, taking the seat next to Stafford, “How’s it going?”
Stafford said nothing.
“Look, I know it looked bad in there,” Jall said, “But whether you believe me or not, I really wasn’t in there to party. Ask Johnson. There was this thing with a power conduit, and I went to check, and…”
Stafford was still sitting in the chair, staring straight ahead.
“OK, you know what? If you don’t believe me, tough!” Jall snapped, “You picked me as your First Officer, and that means that somewhere in there, you know I’m the man for the job! If you don’t like the way I spend my off-duty time, that’s your tough luck. Now, I know those guys were defying your orders. Sort of. I mean, you said no nudity in Unbalanced Equations, nothing about the crew lounge. I know what you meant, but it still wouldn’t hold up in a court martial.”
Stafford remained silent.
“But I mean, come on. If it doesn’t interfere with their duties, who cares what the crew does on their off hours? It’s not like they were doing anything illegal, right?”
“Maybe you need to think more about why you’re trying to impose rules like that,” Jall said, becoming frustrated, “I mean, it doesn’t affect you, right? I think it’s because you just don’t understand why somebody could enjoy things that you don’t. I mean, you’ve made it clear you don’t understand my sex life. Just one more example! Who knows? If you gave it a try, you might see why I like it!”
Stafford leaned back in his chair, but still didn’t look at Jall or answer.
Jall got to his feet.
“Ok, so you don’t want to talk. Fine. But at least try to understand that different people have different ways of having fun, and just because you can’t understand why they like something is no reason to put it down!”
With that, Jall strode out of Sickbay, narrowly missing Wowryk and Kerry as they walked from the med-lab area towards Stafford.
“OK, Captain,” Wowryk said, sounding cheerful, “I’m finished! You’ve got your choice of-“
“He can’t hear you Doc,” Nurse Kerry reminded Wowryk, “He’s deaf, remember?”
“Oh, right,” Wowryk stepped in front of Stafford. The captain started slightly, then looked at Wowryk.
“You’ve got your choice of inner-ear implants,” Wowryk held up a pair of small devices in one hand, “These organic replacement inner-ears that I just finished cloning from that mole I removed from your back,” she held up a small container in her other hand, in which two pieces of pink tissue floated, “Or, we could leave you this way, confident that this is the work of God and that his Divine Plan calls for you to spend your life with this barrier between you and your fellow man,” she smiled broadly.
“I may be deaf, Doctor,” Stafford said in the overly loud ‘I-can’t-hear-you-therefore-you-must-be-having-trouble-hearing-me’ voice inevitable used by people with temporary hearing loss, “But I still have a pretty good idea of what you just said. Put me back the way I was before this mess!”
“His lip reading is getting good,” Kerry smirked.
“Harder, T’Parief!” Yanick shouted, “Faster!”
“I am going as fast as I can,” T’Parief panted, broomstick pistoning.
“FASTER!” Yanick screamed.
T’Parief redoubled his efforts.
“YES!” Yanick shouted, jumping up and down as her rock slammed into one of Fifebee’s, knocking it out of the house.
“Crap!” Fifebee cursed, “I had calculated the trajectory and velocity of that rock perfectly!”
Curling was technically supposed to be played with teams of four players each, but rather than include holographic players, Yanick and company had managed with two. The winter sport was centuries old, yet hadn’t really changed. Teams took turns sliding heavy ‘rocks’ across a sheet of ice, trying to end the round with the rock closest to the center of the target or ‘house’. Some people might not recognize the word ‘curling’, but almost everybody recognizes ‘shuffleboard’, which was a table-top version of curling.
“Good work, Pari!” Yanick giggled, unaware that it was the first time in days that she’d used the familiar nickname.
T’Parief grinned, baring his teeth as he and Yanick shared a congratulatory high-five.
“My turn,” Sylvia said. She pulled one of the squat, circular rocks from the side, sliding it across the ice to the foothold. She squatted down, took aim, then pushed, sending the rock sliding down the ice towards the house, where the target lay. Fifebee didn’t even need to sweep the rock as it glided towards Yanick’s rock.
“I am curious,” Fifebee said to Yanick, “How did you decide that curling would be a good sport for you and T’Parief.
“Well,” Yanick shrugged, “Nobody gets hurt, which makes me happy, the rules are pretty easy, which makes T’Parief happy, and we get to smash stuff, which makes both of us happy,”
“Interesting,” Fifebee said thoughtfully as Sylvia’s rock crashed into Yanick’s with a resounding ‘CRACK!’, “So violent activity helps alleviate sexual tension?”
“Hmmm?” Yanick asked, looked back at Fifebee, expression best described as ‘confused blond’.
“Nothing,” Fifebee said innocently.
<<Interesting as this is,>> Fifebee sent to Sylvia, <<You do realize this isn’t going to fix their problem.>>
<<I suppose not,>> Sylvia replied, <<But it gives them something to work with. And I think they’re going to need it down the road,>>
“Testing, testing, one, two, three,” Kerry said, standing to Stafford’s left.
“Yup. Sounds fine,” Stafford said.
“Testing, testing, one, two, three,> Wowryk said, standing to his right.
“Hmmm,” Stafford frowned, “Still sounds sort of…bitchy. Any chance you can fix that?”
Wowryk smacked him upside the head.
“Nevermind,” Stafford grunted, sticking a finger in his right ear, “That fixed it,”
“Don’t stick your finger there!” Wowryk snapped, slapping his hand away.
“Right, right,” Stafford sighed, “Got it,”
“So, what do you plan to do about this little…incident,” Wowryk asked.
“Well, Marconi is going on report,” Stafford said, “And Shwaluk is going to be spending at least two days repairing and cleaning up the crew lounge.”
“What about the rest of them?” Wowryk asked, “I mean, they were engaged in a sinful display of the body, which probably would have turned into a drunken orgy before midnight!”
Stafford looked sideways at her.
“Really?” he asked, then shook his head “Huh. Not my kind of thing.”
“Well, the sins of the crew can of course be forgiven through confession and penance,” Wowryk shrugged, “The ringleaders of this little event however will need stronger punishment!”
In the background, Kerry started rubbing her head. Working with Wowryk really did give her more than her share of headaches.
“Marconi is already going on report,” Stafford said, “That’s enough,”
“What about Jall?” Wowryk asked.
“I still have to deal with him,” Stafford sighed, “Am I done here?”
“Considering you can hear me, yes,” Wowryk nodded, “Which is good. I still have an hour of prayers to get through before bed,”
“But it’s almost midnight!” Stafford exclaimed.
Wowryk stared blankly back at him.
“Right. Going now,” Stafford rolled his eyes.
Jall sat in his quarters. He’d progressed quite well into his virtual game, his character was in the middle of exploring the abandoned Area 51 complex in Roswell. A completely fictional version of Area 51, but it was still entertaining.
Be-DEEP! His door was chiming. Why was his door chiming?
“It’s past midnight!” Jall called, not getting up off the couch, “Unless you’re hot and about to get naked, go away!”
“Well, maybe this night isn’t a total loss after all,” Jall muttered, pulling himself up off his couch. He walked over to the door and tapped the ‘Open’ panel. The doors hissed open, revealing Stafford.
“I was wrong,” Jall groaned.
“Having a good night?” Stafford asked, stepping in.
“Please, come in, make yourself at home,” Jall said, with just a hint of sarcasm.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a look at this place,” Stafford said, clearly trying to be conversational, “Any other time I’ve dropped by, you’ve been doing something so disturbing-“
“To you, maybe,” Jall interrupted.
“Right,” Stafford said. He noticed a poster on one wall. The poster showed a muscular Federation Marine, sans shirt and holding a large phaser rifle in one hand, “It’s becoming clearer and clearer that there are a lot of things you enjoy that I find really…really…unappealing.”
“Which is your problem,” Jall said, crossing his arms, “Not mine,”
“You’re right,” Stafford admitted. He walked slowly past the windows, gazing out at the stars.
“How long did it take Sylvia to convince you of that?” Jall grunted.
“I haven’t talked to Sylvia about this, Jall,” Stafford said, turning back to Jall, “Believe it or not, I wasn’t just made a captain because of my good looks,”
“I believe it. Absolutely,” Jall agreed.
Stafford started, then rolled his eyes.
“Look, Jall, I’m not here to put you down!” Stafford said, “I’m here to try to…to…God, I don’t even know what!” Stafford rubbed his forehead with one hand, pacing the room, “Jall…San. I want us to be able to work together. Without killing each other!”
“Didn’t sound like it earlier!” Jall said, “What were your words? ‘You reap what you sew’? And what does tailoring have to do with reaping, anyway?”
Stafford was quiet for a moment. He stood next to a shelf, on which were a number of photos. A male human, a female Trill. A shot that could be a family picture, with a much younger Jall surrounded by relatives. At the end of the shelf was a small container. Stafford picked it up. It was surprisingly heavy.
“I’ve been thinking about that,” Stafford said finally, “I might have been…hasty.” He opened the container, pulling out a solid steel ring.
“This looks a little big to fit on a finger,” Stafford said, hefting the ring.
“It’s not for my finger,” Jall said flatly.
Stafford stared at him for a moment, then realization dawned.
“UGH!” Stafford dropped the ring like he’d been burned, “EWW! GROSS!”
“It’s been washed,” now it was Jall’s turn to roll his eyes.
“EWWW! EWWW!” Stafford cried, holding his hand by the wrist like it was going to fall off. He rushed into the bathroom, where the sound of running water could be heard. Finally, Stafford emerged.
“Why does your shower have a…never mind. I don’t want to know.” Stafford sighed.
“You know, if you’re going to go snooping in somebody’s quarters, you can’t blame anybody but yourself if you find something you don’t want to see,” Jall said.
“You’re right,” Stafford gave a half-grin. “It’s my fault, and I’ve got to deal with the consequences.”
“Consequences,” Jall snorted.
“There was porn on your bathroom wall,” Stafford said darkly, “There were no women. That’s a consequence I hope to never see again,”
Jall started to chuckle.
“What?” Stafford asked.
Jall’s chuckles grew to laughter. In spite of himself, Stafford felt himself joining in.
Laughter fading, Jall picked the ring up off the floor, returned it to its container and set it down on the shelf. Stafford stood and prepared to leave.
“Look, Jall,” Stafford said, “I picked you for this job because I thought you were the best candidate. Well, actually, you were the only candidate that didn’t make a total ass of himself. But that still means you were the best choice. If we’re going to be working together, I want to put aside some of the problems we’ve had.”
Jall looked suspicious.
“Are you sure Sylvia hasn’t been talking to you?” he asked.
“I swear,” Stafford said, raising his right hand, “Have a good night, San. I’ll see you on the bridge tomorrow,”
The doors hissed shut.
Jall stood staring at the door for a moment.
“That was bizarre,” he said.
“Oh, not that bizarre,” a voice said from behind him. Jall spun around to see Sylvia standing there.
“I thought you’d stopped spying on people!” he said sharply.
“I heard my name mentioned,” Sylvia shrugged, “The audio pickups do scan for that, you know.”
“Right, right,” Jall sighed, “Well, I’m going to bed, so if you wouldn’t mind…”
“I just thought you’d like to know,” Sylvia said, “That I really didn’t talk to Chris about you today. In fact, the only person who talked to him about you was Wowryk, and she thought you should be punished.”
“Big surprise,” Jall muttered. He crossed his arms again, “But I find it hard to believe it’s all ‘forgive and forget’, not when he thinks I arranged that stupid party,”
“Oh, he knows it wasn’t you,” Sylvia said, “He was standing in that doorway for a while before anybody noticed him. He saw your entire speech, right from about the time you told everybody you couldn’t act like a drunken maniac all the time,”
Jall stared at her.
“Surprising how much standing up for the rules in front of the crew has changed his opinion of you, isn’t it?” Sylvia smiled.
Jall was speechless.
“Have a nice night!” Sylvia waved, vanishing in a shower of holographic sparks.
“Son of a bitch!” Jall murmered.