Author: Brendan Chris
Captain’s Log, Stardate 58786.4
“Following the successful completion of our mission to ND342-3 and assorted holiday chaos, we’ve been recalled to Starbase 45. Not sure why exactly, but since we don’t need supplies, repairs, or replacement of injured/killed personnel, I can only assume it’s not a very good thing.”
“On a related note, we’ve rendezvoused with the USS Cletus to transfer Lt Cmdr Johnson off the ship. We don’t have a replacement for him yet, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.”
“That’s a really funny looking ship,” Yanick commented, looking out the viewport.
“The Akula-class is somewhat out-dated,” Fifebee said to her, sounding again like a sentient encyclopedia, “However it does remain an excellent choice for missions where speed and maneuverability are paramount. Still, there are very few still on active duty, as the Akula-class has been replaced by newer scout ships, such as the Nova-class.”
“My ship is bigger,” Stafford said, arms crossed, as he stared out the viewport at the other ship.
They’d gathered to give Johnson a somewhat half-hearted farewell. Johnson had been polite, of course, but everybody (except Yanick) had been fully aware that he was eager to get off the ship. Stafford still wasn’t really sure what Johnson’s problem had been. Hmmm. Maybe he should have asked the guy to fill out one of those ‘How Am I Captaining?’ questionnaires?
The Cletus smoothly detached from Silverado’s starboard airlock. The ship was tiny; a scaled-down Constitution-class saucer, refit-style of course, made up the main body of the ship. At the trailing edge of the saucer two support struts supported warp nacelles, one above and one below the saucer. The Akula-class was clearly of the same generation as the larger, four-nacelle Constellation-class, but the Akula was much smaller and had nacelles in the standard vertical orientation, as opposed to the ones on the Constellation class, which had been rotated ninety degrees on their long axis.
Oh, for crying out loud, if you REALLY want to know what an Akula-class ship looks like, go play the Star Trek: Legacy - Ultimate Universe mod. I have better things to write about than some crappy scout ship! (In the un-modded version, it’s called an Apollo-class refit. Go fig.)
The Cletus spun around, far faster than Silverado could have, then vanished into warp. Stafford, Jall, Yanick and Fifebee turned away from the viewport, walked through the airlock antechamber and back into the main corridors of the ship.
“So,” Jall asked, “Any idea who we’re going to get to replace him?”
“Not really,” Stafford shrugged, “I guess we’ll just have to find somebody else to promote,”
“Captain Stafford! Captain Stafford!” An out-of-breath sounding voice called from down the corridor.
“Yes?” Stafford turned, “Pye? What the hell are you doing out of bed? You’re not on duty for another five hours!”
“Yeah, mister!” Yanick put on her best parenting look, “If this keeps up, you’ll be going to bed without supper!”
“I heard…you need…operation…” Pye panted.
“Uh,” Stafford swallowed and looked around nervously, “If this is about the Tummy-Tuck I asked Wowryk about, she convinced me to just go to the gym-“
“No!” Pye gasped, “Operations…Officer,”
“Oh, yeah,” Stafford nodded, then resumed walking, “If you’re interested, talk to Jall here. Gotta warn you though, moving from helm to operations at this point in your career probably isn’t a good move,”
“Not me!” Pye said, having recovered some breath, “Day!”
“Ensign Day?” Jall cocked a hip, “The cutie on the night shift?”
“Jall!” Stafford snapped, “Do you mind?”
“Chris!” Yanick put her hands on hips, “Let him express himself!”
“Yanick!” Fifebee declared. Everybody ignored her.
“Commander,” Stafford looked furtively at Pye, then lowered his voice, “What did we agree about you and that kind of…stuff?’
“Oh, you mean like me checking out guys, or saying gay-sounding stuff when you’re around?” Jall asked, looking innocent.
“Yes!” Stafford growled, “What did we agree?”
“That it makes you very uncomfortable, and that you’d really appreciate it if I kept my personal life far away from you,” Jall droned, rolling his eyes.
“So?” Stafford asked, gesturing.
“We agreed that you wanted me to stop,” Jall said, a glint of his old mischievous self showing, “We didn’t agree that I actually would stop.”
He turned and started walking away, as Stafford’s face turned beet red.
“And I think Day’s a great choice,” Jall called back over his shoulder.
Pye looked at Stafford hopefully.
“I’ll think about it,” Stafford said, “Now go to bed! And no staying up to watch TV!”
“If you’ll excuse me,” Fifebee said, turning to leave, “I must check on an experiment in one of the science labs,”
Yanick and Stafford stood alone in the corridor for a moment, Stafford’s hands still clenched into fists.
“That First Officer of mine is going to drive me insane,” Stafford growled.
“I think it’s cute,” Yanick said, “The way you bitch at each other…it’s almost like you’re married or something.”
“Please, Trish,” Stafford said, his face turning white as a sheet, “Please don’t say things like that,”
“So, does that mean I stop saying things like that,” Yanick put a perplexed look on her face, “Or that we agree that I should stop, but then I go on and do it anyway?”
“Hey, you’re supposed to be on my side!” Stafford said.
“Oh, silly,” Yanick giggled, punching him on the arm, “Are we still on for tonight?”
“Yeah,” Stafford nodded, “Your quarters, 1900 hours,”
Jall stepped into his office, feeling again the sense that he really shouldn’t be there.
He didn’t know what it was. Every time he stepped into the First Officer’s office he felt a brief chill, followed by the sensation that he’d gone somewhere he really shouldn’t be going. (He’d felt a similar sensation on his first trip to San Francisco). Could it be a deep-set fear of Noonan? This had been his office after all. Naw, Noonan was a good guy, in Jall’s opinion. Strange, but good. Of course, Noonan had been VERY strange. And there had been rumours that he could…do things. Could he have left some kind of psychic echo?
All of Noonan’s things had been shipped back to Earth, leaving the room somewhat barren. As much as Jall disliked agreeing with Stafford on principle, it was a good idea for him to keep his personal life out of his work, especially considering how many officers and crewmembers would be coming through the office for meetings, evaluations and so forth.
Jall settled into his chair, trying to remember just why exactly he’d come to his office in the first place.
“Commander,” it was T’Parief’s voice, sounding as though it was painfully to even say the word, “We have a communication coming for you from Earth,”
“And they didn’t hang up when they saw your face?” Jall quipped, unable to help himself, “I thought that was why we put Yanick on communications?”
“I’m sure witnessing a live evisceration would convince them they do not wish to speak with you,” T’Parief said, “Or perhaps I could play the recording of you dancing on the tabletops last New Years Eve?”
“Just put them through,” Jall said.
Noonan’s face appeared on the screen.
“I have already seen that video,” Noonan said, smiling gently, “Your rhythm was excellent; however your singing voice lacks, well, everything a singing voice should have,”
“Uh…hi…” Jall said slowly, “I was just thinking about you,”
“You don’t say,” Noonan said, a knowing look in his eye, “What an amazing…coincidence,”
“Sure,” Jall said. He didn’t know what to say! When was the last time he and Noonan had an actual conversation? Had they even spoken when Noonan was first officer? Why would he be calling now?”
“You’re probably wondering just why I’m contacting you,” Noonan said, the amused look still present, “Considering how rarely we really spoke when I was aboard ship.”
“Oh….no?” Jall said, “I was just thinking about…how well decorated your apartment looks.
Noonan looked over his shoulder for a moment, then back at the screen.
“Frankly, Commander, I’m calling to warn you,” Noonan said, his expression suddenly becoming serious.
“W-warn me?” Jall squeaked. If anybody else had called, he would have laughed it off, but something about Noonan…well, he was suddenly scared out of his wits.
“Nothing that serious,” Noonan said quickly, “However, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, I’ve found myself with quite a bit of spare time. I’ve been keeping a close eye on developments here on Earth, specifically anything that might relate to Operation Salvage or Silverado,”
“Still feeling a bit attached to the old girl?”
“Of course,” Noonan said frankly, “I greatly enjoyed my time aboard her,”
Jall resisted the urge to make a smart-ass remark.
“You must be aware that the Federation will soon hold Presidential elections,” Noonan went on, “And that both candidates have their campaigns in full force,”
“I saw something about that in the news,” Jall shrugged, “I don’t really care; I don’t vote,”
“Then you must know that the press, as well as the opposition, is desperately combing through everything President Dillon has done during his term,” Noonan said, raising an eyebrow, “Including Operation Salvage,”
The crew tried not to think about anymore, but Silverado had been ‘recycled’. Originally constructed decades ago, the ship had been left to rot in a junkyard until President Dillon came up with the idea of refitting old ships that had previously been considered lost causes. Silverado had been the first ship recovered by the program, but several others had followed since including the USS Elfman, Stallion, Vendome, Papineau and Cricket. Whether or not the operation was a success was still a matter of debate, as Silverado continued to be plagued by minor glitches. Only Sylvia’s presence allowed the ship to run as smoothly as it did, as evidence by the more serious problems the other ships experienced. Jeffery and Sylvia had helped a lot during an officer exchange program (a one-way exchange, at that), but they hadn’t been able to fix everything.
“Sooo, what?” Jall asked, “You think the project might be cancelled? Big deal,”
“No, I’m not worried about the project being cancelled,” Noonan said calmly, “However, Dillon’s supporters can be a ruthless group, as are his opponents. I strongly suspect that you and the rest of my former colleagues might find yourselves caught up in the struggle, as Operation Salvage has already come to their attention,”
“What are you trying to say?” Jall asked, “That we’re going to become pies in some political pie-fight?”
“I don’t know,” Noonan frowned; looking frustrated for the first time in Jall’s memory, “I have a sense…” he trailed off, then brought his gaze back to Jall.
“Whatever you do, Commander,” Noonan said gravely, “Remember where your loyalties lie. And who your real friends are,”
With a polite nod, he closed the channel.
Jall sat staring at his screen, wondering what the hell that was all about.
Lab Technician First-Class Trent Smedi and his partner, Lab Technician Second-Class Jemi H’Kspeda were working in Science Lab 2. Both were moderately competent scientists; Smith specialized in genetics and H’Kspeda in energy particle waves. Unfortunately for them, ‘moderately competent’ didn’t get you onto a ship of the line like the Enterprise or onto a really important outpost like Deep Space 9. It would have gotten them onto an average ship, like the Endeavor, or onto a decently respectable outpost such as Starbase 45, if not for the fact that the two of them tended to have…accidents.
Neither had attended Starfleet Academy, however they’d gone through the standard training required for all Starfleet enlisted personnel. Their laboratory supervisor had noted that the accidents occurred in much greater number when the two of them were working together and had made a special notation in their records to ensure that they never served on the same ship.
There are only so many ‘ships of the damned’ so to speak. At the time Silverado was being crewed, the Explorer was out hunting for some race called the Bast, the Secondprize had reached maximum crew capacity, the Banshee had been destroyed (despite rumours to the contrary) and Waystation had already surpassed their scientific accident quota for the rest of the decade, what with their encounters with the evil Happyverse and all.
So the Dispatch Officer had shrugged, hoped that the stories of their laboratory disasters had been exaggerated and shipped them off to Silverado.
“Trent, what are you doing now?” H’Kspeda asked. She was Selay, a species resembling an Earth King Cobra. The hood-like flaps that ran down her head to her neck were relaxed, indicating that she was not in an aggressive mood. Not that she ever was. If she were a bit more aggressive, she might have had more success in stopping some of Smith’s more…questionable…experiments. While the two of them were closely matched in terms of scientific knowledge, H’Kspeda was by far the superior when it came to common sense.
“This?” Smedi, a human/Trill hybrid, put an innocent expression on his face as he manipulated the controls to the life-sciences equipment he was using, “Nothing. Nothing at all.” Smedi’s human father was of Arabic descent, while his joined Trill mother had been the Trill equivalent of Asian. The resulting features would have made Smedi very attractive, if it weren’t for the fact that his obsession with his experiments caused him to forget basic necessities such as washing or cutting one’s hair. His gut had been expanding continuously since he’d joined Starfleet, and was in danger of overwhelming his standard-issue belt. None of their co-workers would say it to their faces, but the entire Science staff was positive that if H’Kspada had been a more humanoid woman, she would have avoided him like the plague. What they didn’t know was that she found all humans sexually repulsive. Since she couldn’t avoid them all like the plague, she’d simply come to terms with the fact that she wouldn’t be dating until another Selay was assigned to the ship. (Or Commander T’Parief became single.)
“Maybe you should wait until Lieutenant Fifebee can take a look,” H’Kspada said hesitantly.
“Fifebee? Naww,” Smedi grimaced, “What, just because she’s an officer, she knows better than me? This experiment is going to change the world as we know it!”
“But-“ H’Kspada tried to object. As usual, Smedi ignored her.
“OK, so first I need to implement a gradual mutation, but only in certain cells,” Smedi said to himself, “Maybe if I implement a type of nano-machine that would tear down and rebuild the DNA at the nucleotide levee?”
“Or,” Smedi went on, “I could set a retrovirus that would re-write the relevant DNA, then put in a biological energy field generator that would prevent the virus from spreading to the rest of the organism,”
“No!” Smedi grinned, “I’ve got it! I’ll simply enter in a DNA sequence into the organism that will cause it to rewrite its own DNA at the onset of reproductive development! Perfect!”
H’Kspada sighed. It was a very special kind of sigh that said ‘You-Are-A-Complete-Moron-And-I-Tried-To-Stop-You-But-You -Didn’t-Listen-So-I-Give-Up’. She sat down next to Smedi, bracing herself.
“OK!” Smedi said triumphantly, tapping at a panel, “This is it!”
The console exploded, throwing Smedi and H’Kspada against the far wall, debris raining down all around them.
“What is the meaning of this?”
Lieutenant Fifebee had materialized in the center of the lab, at the former site of the life-sciences equipment module.
“Uhhh,” Smedi looked back at her, a guilty half-grin on his face, “Oops?”
Fifebee crossed her arms. Her holographic avatar was that of an attractive, young brunette with pale skin, porcelain features and a general air that made fans of 20th century television cock their heads and say ‘Lillith?’. A recent upgrade to her program hadn’t done much to change her general attitude, however her decisions were no longer guided by the library of scientific personalities in her database. As a result, she’d starting doing immature things such as piercing body parts and copulating with Ensign Grant in locations such as the janitor’s closet on Deck 15.
“Do I even want to know what ridiculous plan you had this time?” Fifebee asked. Yesterday it had been an eyebrow piercing. Today it was two.
“Um,” Smedi bit his lip.
“He was trying to make a strain of barley that would produce wheat grains,” H’Kspada sighed.
“It’s going to be the next big thing in galactic agriculture!” Smedi said, slightly desperately, “Imagine! You plant barley, and you get wheat!”
“Why would anybody want that?” she asked.
“Well,” Smedi paused for a moment, “I mean, you might…”
“I have just about had it with your foolishness,” Fifebee said sharply, “Now, start repairing this lab! And if I hear about one more attempt to manipulate life as we know it, I will have your head as a trophy!” She turned for the exit. As she passed a sign that said ‘29 Days Since Smedi and H’Kspada’s Last Accident’ she tapped a button on the side, resetting the counter to zero.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have set the growth accelerator to five thousand percent,” Smedi pondered.
H’Kspada sighed again.
Stafford arrived at Yanick’s quarters right on time.
“My lady,” he said gravely, bowing formally when Yanick answered the door.
“Oh, get in here, silly!” she giggled, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him in.
“So, what do we have in store tonight?” Stafford joked, “Foreplay, or just cuddling?”
“You wish!” Yanick said, rolling her eyes.
When Silverado had launched, Stafford had found Yanick to be one of the few officers he actually enjoyed working with, and they had formed a fast friendship. The various events of the past few years, from body swapping to parallel realities to being stranded on a time-fractured planet hadn’t really strained their friendship, but it had been a long time since the two of them had really hung out on their own. With things calm and back to normal at last, they were finally working to correct that.
“Good evening,” a third voice spoke
“Pari,” Yanick started, “What are you doing here?”
“I saw the Captain coming to your quarters and thought I would say hello,” T’Parief said stiffly.
“Hi,” Stafford said, waving weakly.
“Uh, huh,” Yanick crossed her arms, clearly not convinced, “You saw him coming here, and figured you had to come chaperone us, right?”
Now it was T’Parief’s turn to look uncomfortable.
“It is not that I do not trust you,” he said to Stafford, “However, it is common knowledge that you have not been with a woman in…a long time.”
“Isn’t that sweet!” Yanick giggled, ignoring the shocked look on Stafford’s face, “He’s getting all protective.”
“I think I resent that, Commander!” Stafford said.
“Well, he’s right,” Yanick said, batting her big blue eyes, “You were just telling me yesterday you haven’t had sex since-“
“Whoah,” Stafford said, stopping her, “That’s classified!”
There was some awkward silence.
“Well,” Yanick said, “We were going to watch a movie and get smashed. Want to join us?”
“If the Captain does not object,” T’Parief said.
“Well,” Stafford said slowly, “This was supposed to be-“
“I was only asking to be polite,” T’Parief said flatly.
H’Kspada and Smedi were still in Science Lab 2, even though it was now several hours past the end of their duty shifts.
“I’m an officer, I get to boss people around,” Smedi grumbled, arms buried in the life-sciences module he’d detonated as he attempted to replace a gene resequencer, “I went to the Academy, I’m an officer, so now I’m better than the rest of you,”
H’Kspada, who was repairing the control panel Smedi had repaired (incorrectly) half an hour ago, simply sighed. She’d long grown used to Smedi’s rants against the commissioned members of Starfleet.
“I get to make all the big decisions,” Smedi said, his tone becoming more and more hostile, “Because I’m an officer! I get bigger quarters, because I’m an officer! I get better food, because I’m an officer!”
“You know everybody gets their food from the same replicator systems,” H’Kspada commented.
“Hah!” Smedi said, “Everybody knows that all the replicators except for the ones in the officer’s mess are programmed to lace our food with chemicals designed to make us more docile!”
“But-“ H’Kspada had been present when Smedi had disproved that theory using a medical tricorder.
“And the tricorders on the ship have been tampered with to hide it!”
H’Kspada tried, unsuccessfully, to point out that the tricorder that had been used was the one she’d brought from the training center.
“And the ones at the training center!” Smedi went on, “It’s a conspiracy!”
He finished his work on the resequencer and moved on to his final repair item without even bothering to test it. H’Kspada finished repairing the control panel and started fixing all the mistakes Smedi had made when he’d repaired the resequencer.
“What I need is to teach them a lesson,” Smedi said suddenly, “I need to show those uptights that just because they have a fancier uniform and a few extra rank pins, it doesn’t make them smarter than me!” He abandoned the life-sciences module and strode through the small hallway that connected his work area with H’Kspada’s.
“Weren’t you working on some project dealing with subspace manipulation?” he asked as he started rummaging around her workspace.
Wincing as her carefully organized padds were thrown into disarray, H’Kspada shook her head.
“N-no,” she hissed, her snake-like tongue flicking out between her lips.
“I’m sure were telling me about it,” Smedi went on, “You were talking about using a subspace coil to froth the quantum foam, or something like that,”
“That was Ms. Horton explaining why her milkshakes were better than the ones your mother made. Quantum foam has little to do with subspace. And one does not ‘froth’ it.” H’Kspada said, “My project is on…on something completely different,” She didn’t want to tell him the details of her subspace manipulation experiments for fear that he’d destroy the universe. Or worse.
“Was it Horton?” Smedi shrugged, “Still, doesn’t that sound neat? ‘Frothing the Quantum Foam’. It would make a great title for a research paper!”
“But why would anybody want to do that?” H’Kspada asked, knowing that instead of answering, Smedi would simply ignore her and start working.
“Maybe,” he said, “If I can combine the subspace manipulation effects of the warp engines with the frothing power of Horton’s power blender…”
Picture a man and a woman. The man is tall, Caucasian, in his mid thirties, with brown hair, blue eyes and a build that would be athletic, were it not for the slight thickening of his midsection. The woman is shorter with long, blond hair pulled into a ponytail, smooth, creamy skin, innocent blue eyes and a slender, petite figure. While these two are male and female with normal wants and desires, they have no sexual interest in each other. Instead, they enjoy each other’s company and want only to spend a companionable evening together, which they’ve been without for a long time.
Now picture that the man and woman are seated at far, opposite ends of the sofa in order to make room for a two-meter tall reptile with mottled green scales, sharp fangs, red eyes and claws that could give a tiger a run for its money.
“Is there a particular reason why you chose this evening to spend time together?” T’Parief asked, breaking the awkward silence.
“Yes, actually,” Stafford said. He was sitting on the couch with his arms crossed, the expression on his face close but not quite matching the pout on Yanick’s. “Jall and I finished the promotion list today. Trish invited me over for a drink to celebrate,”
“You were promoted?” T’Parief asked Yanick.
“I dunno,” Yanick said dully, shrugging, “Chris won’t tell me,”
“Of course I can’t tell her!” Stafford said, “Not until the names have been formally announced,”
“I see,” T’Parief nodded, “Then she is not trying to…thank you for a promotion,”
“Ohhhh!” Yanick stood up, “T’Parief, I don’t know what you’re trying to imply there, but it better stop! Now, I’m going to go mix drinks for everybody. God knows we all need one!”
She got up and left, heading towards the replicator in the other room.
“I still cannot understand human women sometimes,” T’Parief commented to Stafford. Stafford, who was still annoyed at having his pleasant evening intruded upon, was less than sympathetic.
“Welcome to the club,” Stafford said, arms still crossed.
“Were we Gorn, it would be much simpler,” T’Parief went on, “If I suspected that you were attempting to seduce my female, I would simply kill you. If I learned that you had already seduced her, I would kill both of you and seek a new mate,”
“Uhh, that’s…really interesting,” Stafford swallowed, trying to move just a bit further away.
“This human custom of pursuing platonic relationships with females that you do not wish to court is very foreign to me,” T’Parief confessed.
“Didn’t we go through all of this when you and Trish started dating?” Stafford said, getting a bit angry, “I’m not interested. Sure, she’s cute, and yeah, she’s a woman, but she’s a woman under my command. In my mind, that makes her off-limits,”
“Which explains just why you haven’t mated in such a long time,” T’Parief observed.
“Hey, don’t start with me!” Stafford said, sitting up straight, “This coming from the guy who wasn’t even capable of sex until a year or so ago!”
A deep, rumbling rattle came from T’Parief’s throat. Stafford had learned long ago that this was a sign of intense anger.
“Er, not that there’s anything wrong with keeping your virginity for the right woman,” Stafford gulped.
The rumble changed to a lower pitch.
“I have drinks!” Yanick said, returning to the room with three large glasses.
“Gimmi!” Stafford cried.
Jall yawned as he strolled into Unbalanced Equations. That promotions list had been a brutal, but long overdue piece of work. But he and Stafford had finally hammered out a list of just who on Silverado deserved to move up in rank. Jall had, to his immense surprise, actually enjoyed working with Stafford on the project. He and the captain might not see eye to eye on everything and they definitely had their share of heated arguments, but Stafford did have the well-being of his crew in mind and, at times, a reasonable idea of what he was doing. It wouldn’t hurt to put a little effort into improving their working relationship.
Which was why Jall had planned to join him for a quick drink. But looking around the lounge, he couldn’t see Stafford anywhere. Jeffery was sitting alone at one of the table corners, trying to stay out of sight. (He’d come out of his shell briefly for the Christmas thingy, but went crawling back in the second it was over.) Wowryk, Fifebee and Sylvia were seated in the large armchairs at the back of the room, talking quietly as they looked out at the stars.
Jall walked over and leaned on the back of Wowryk’s chair.
“Hey ladies,” he said, “Any juicy new gossip?”
“None that you are permitted to know,” Wowryk said coolly.
“We finished with most of the gossip ages ago,” Sylvia said, “We’re onto girl-talk now,”
“I thought girl-talk was gossip?” Jall asked.
“No,” Fifebee said, cradling Fido. She did not elaborate.
“Is there something you wanted, Commander?” Wowryk asked.
“Did it just get colder in here, or is that just me?” Jall asked, his voice still cheerful.
“I do believe I am starting to miss the old ‘angry, annoying Jall’,” Fifebee commented, “This new ‘cheerful, annoying Jall’ model is somewhat more aggravating,”
“I aim to please!” Jall chirped, “But since you asked so nicely, I’m looking for the captain,”
“He’s in Ensign Yanick’s quarters,” Sylvia said immediately.
“Ohhh…the Captain and Ensign Yanick, alone together! That’s a whole new juicy topic to gossip about!” Fifebee said excitedly, “Excellent! I am in dire need of practice!”
“Nothing there to gossip about,” Sylvia said, “T’Parief is there too,”
“Oh,” Fifebee looked disappointed. She perked up, “Unless they are engaging in group-“
“Stop!” Wowryk cried, plugging fingers into her ears.
“It’s nothing like that,” Sylvia said, “C’mon, let’s head over to the RoughHouse. Plenty of gossip opportunities there,”
The three ladies stood, ignoring Jall as they walked towards the door.
Shrugging, Jall walked towards the opposite exit. If Yanick and Stafford were having a little get-together, he’d just have to join them.
“Come on, come on,” Yanick called from the other room, “Drink up! More on the way!”
“Uh, Trish,” Stafford said, forcing himself to swallow the last of his martini, “It’s only been fifteen minutes!”
“The more the merrier, and all that,” Yanick said, returning to room with another tray of Cosmopolitans.
“BUUUUUWWWAAAAAAAPPPP!” T’Parief belched.
They’d turned on some music in an attempt to improve the rather bleak evening, but so far things remained awkward.
“Maybe we should do this another time,” Stafford said softly to Yanick, hoping T’Parief wouldn’t hear.
“No, no,” Yanick whispered back, “We planned this for tonight, we’re doing it tonight.”
“Well, OK,” Stafford said, still not looking totally convinced as he took a sip of his drink. He picked up a padd and started going through the ships entertainment library.
“Hi, everybody!” Jall cried from Yanick’s door.
Stafford tilted his head back, swallowing his drink in one gulp.
“Smedi, it is getting late,” H’Kspada said, her head flaps starting to twitch in annoyance, “Let us have a relaxing night. Tomorrow you can resume your…work,”
“I can’t do this tomorrow,” Smedi said, bent over his masterpiece, “I’m supposed to be cataloguing the DNA sequences from those planetary samples we took on last week,”
Which H’Kspada had known perfectly well. But, most of the time, if she could get Smedi to abandon one of his insane projects, even for a few hours, he would end up forgetting all about it and moving on,”
“OK,” he said, “So, I got the parts I needed from Horton’s kitchen, and I’ve got all the hookups ready. Now we just need a power source.”
“I think I have a nine-volt battery in my desk,” H’Kspada said hopefully.
“Don’t be silly,” Smedi said. The contraption on the table, which had started life as a kitchen blender, had been spliced into the subspace field generator H’Kspada had been working on. Her project had been an offshoot of spatial manipulation experiments that she had read about. She was hoping to duplicate some very interesting effects she had heard of, but was nowhere near ready to test her experiment. Most likely, she figured, when Smedi put power to the device, nothing would happen. Probably. Hopefully.
“I don’t think we have anything in the lab strong enough for what I have in mind,” Smedi said. He picked up the modified blender and walked towards the door.
“Uh, where are you going?” H’Kspada asked.
No answer. He was already in the corridor.
“If he destroys the known universe, my career is toast,” she hissed as she followed him. It wasn’t hard; his girth made him easy to follow.
After walking down the curved corridor then taking a turbolift to Deck 29, Smedi walked into Main Engineering, looking like he owned the place.
“Hello, hello,” he said pleasantly to the evening shift engineers, most of whom simply turned back to their consoles, “Don’t mind us,”
He walked past the thrumming warp core, with its swirling columns of energy, and over to a power distribution bank.
“Uh, excuse me,” an officer with red hair was poking his head out of the chief engineer’s office, “What are you doing?”
“Just a science experiment, sir,” Smedi said, putting just a bit too much emphasis on the ‘sir’.
“Is that authorized?” the officer (Lieutenant Sage) asked.
“Sure it is,” Smedi laughed, connecting the device to the power outputs, “Would I be here if it wasn’t?”
“Would he?” Sage asked H’Kspada.
“Yes,” H’Kspada said flatly.
“She’s such a joker,” Smedi laughed. He activated the device.
The blender spun into gear, the pronged mixers spinning with a high-pitched hum. The various electronics Smedi had attached to the device started blinking, indicating proper functioning.
“There, see?” Smedi said, “Not a problem.”
Then the room started to melt.
“Here, have another drink,” Yanick said, a strained grin on her face.
“Yesh. Yesh please,” Stafford said, grasping at the glass she was holding in front of him. It took him three tries before he was able to successfully take it.
“How about ‘Trading Starships’?” Jall asked, oblivious to the strained atmosphere in the room.
“Jusht shoot me,” Stafford slurred.
“I think I saw that under 20th century television,” Jall frowned, searching through the padd.
T’Parief chose that moment to pass out, his head lolling back onto the couch.
“Oh, thank goodness!” Yanick said, walking back in yet again with another tray of drinks, “He’s getting better at holding his liquor. I thought he’d never fall asleep,”
“You mean you wanted him unconscious?” Jall asked.
“Do you have a problem with that?” Stafford asked, his own head never quite staying still.
“Nope,” Jall shrugged, “In fact, at this one bar-“
“Stop!” Stafford exclaimed, straightening up in seat. Unfortunately, the movement caused T’Parief to start sliding sideways, right on top of Stafford.
“Somebody help me,” he squeaked, struggling to get free, “It smells like Florida swamp under here!”
“Pari was trying a new cologue,” Yanick said, taking a seat at the far side of the couch, “But hey, now that he’s out, we can go back to our movie plan, right?”
“Can’t…breathe…” Stafford wheezed.
“How about ‘The Horta Wears Prada’?” Jall asked.
“Too…chick…flick…” Stafford forced out, still trying to wriggle out from under the unconscious security chief.
“It is not,” Jall said indignantly, “It’s got that hot chick with the nice ass,”
“It’s a movie about fashion, Jall,” Yanick said, “Chris says that fashion is for guys who can’t get laid with their natural, rugged good looks,”
Jall looked at Stafford for a moment then burst out laughing. He finally stood and reached for Stafford’s arm, pulling him free of his couch/reptile prison. Stafford stumbled to his feet, head spinning, leaning on Jall for support.
“I don’t feel good,” Stafford mumbled.
“Sorry,” Yanick shrugged, “But T’Parief would have caught on if he was the only one drinking,”
Suddenly the deck pitched under their feet, sending everybody to the floor in a heap.
“Status report!” Lieutenant Quintaine called from the command chair.
“Warp engines just went offline!” Ensign Day called from ops, “There’s some kind of power drain in Main Engineering!”
“Compensate,” Quintaine ordered, “Re-establish the warp field!”
“Uh, there’s something freaky happening with the warp field,” Pye reported from the helm, “It just did something I’ve never seen before!”
“Uh,” Pye tapped his panel, “You tell me!”
The main viewer flickered to life, showing a diagram of Silverado’s warp field. The multi-layered field looked normal, until the entire field jumped, spiraling around a central point like water going down the drain.
“Ohhh,” Quintaine gulped, slouching in the command chair, “This can’t be good,”
Yanick was the first to recover.
“Ohhh, what did I put in that last martini?” she wondered, sitting on the floor and looking around. She pulled herself to her feet, then noticed Stafford and Jall. The jolt that knocked out Yanick had knocked out both of them. Stafford had collapsed to the floor, then Jall had landed on top of him.
Yanick picked up an empty martini glass from the floor, looked at it, looked at the two officers on the floor, then looked at the glass again.
“What the HELL did I put in that last martini?” she wondered again.
“Owww,” Jall groaned as he woke up, “Where…who..?”
Stafford’s eyes opened, staring blankly up at the ceiling. After a moment or two, the confusion cleared as he shrugged off the effects of the synthohol. He looked up. Saw Jall’s face.
“AHHHHHHH!!!!!” he shrieked. Flailing, he shoved Jall off then jumped to his feet.
“What did you do?” he snarled, glaring at Jall as the half-Trill picked himself up off the floor,”
“What did I do?” Jall shot back, “What did YOU do?”
The two of them turned and looked, somewhat desperately, at Yanick.
“What did WE do???”
“Bridge to captain,” Quintaine’s voice came over the comm, “We’re having a bit of a crisis up here,”
“We’re having another crisis down here, too!” Jall shot back.
“Does yours involve the ship coming to a stop?” Quintaine asked.
“I’m on my way,” Stafford said, giving Jall one last dirty look, “We’ll deal with…with this later!” he tapped his badge, “All senior officers, report to the bridge!”
He strode out into the hallway, Yanick and Jall close behind. He didn’t get three paces before his comm went off again.
“Sage to Captain,”
“Um,” Sage swallowed, “It’s not my fault, but the engine room is…melting,”
“Yes,” Sage’s voice suddenly lost its calm, “And I think I’m melting with it!”
“Senior officers, report to the bridge!”
Jeffery was in one of the lower cargo holds when the ship shook. He’d been looking for a bottle of whiskey that he had stored in his storage module, but hadn’t been having much luck finding it.
“The bridge,” he muttered, “Didn’t it occur to ye that Ah might learn more about what’s happenin’ in engineering?”
Forgetting his search, Jeffery stepped out into the corridor, walking purposefully towards the nearest turbolift. As he walked, he started to notice something strange. The wood-finished hand rail that lined one side of the corridor was starting to sag, like a big, wet pasta noodle. Panels were starting to droop, and support struts were flexing.
“Ohh, Ah dun think this is good,” he grumbled, walking faster and wishing he had a tricorder. Even as he moved, the warping continued, the rails were now stretching like taffy, hanging off their supports. A ceiling panel liquefied and fell to the floor behind him. Picking up his pace, Jeffery started running. What he didn’t notice was that his arms, swinging by his sides, had likewise started to lose their solidity, sagging and stretching.
He reached the turbolift, panting, and when the doors didn’t open immediately, he tapped the ‘call’ button. Or tried to. His elongated arms drooped to the floor even as he tried.
“BLOODY HELLISH BOLLUX!” Jeffery screamed, looking down at his body. His legs were collapsing, oozing into a puddle on the floor, and he was pretty sure other objects were hanging lower than they should have been. Desperately, he lunged forward, hitting the ‘call’ button with his nose, which squished into his face like an overripe tomato.
The doors opened, and Jeffery jumped/oozed into the lift.
“Bbbbrrriiiddgeeee,” he cried, the word coming out like a gurgle.
As soon as the lift jerking into motion, Jeffery was sure he was going to be sick. His entire body sloshed like a water balloon and the turbolift car itself rippled and pulsated like something made of pudding. Yet there was no pain, for which Jeffery was very grateful.
As suddenly as they had come on, the changes reversed themselves. The turbolift car solidified, regaining its proper shape. Jeffery’s limbs straightened, his body stiffened and his nose resumed its previous shape. Within seconds he was back to normal. The turbolift doors opened onto the bridge. Jeffery emerged, shaking and sweating.
“Simon?” Stafford asked, looking over Day’s shoulder at ops, “Are you OK? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
“Don’t go downstairs,” Jeffery whimpered, waving a hand back at the turbolift. He quickly explained what he’d seen.
“Ah’ve always wanted a willy that reached me knees,” Jeffery added, still shaken, “But not like that!”
Stafford and Jall exchanged a very uncomfortable glance, then moved further apart.
“No need to get graphic,” Jall said quickly, “So, Fifebee, any neat ideas on what the hell is happening?”
Fifebee turned to face Jall, her hands still tapping at her panel.
“Something in the ship is generating a powerful subspace field,” Fifebee said, “Beyond that, I do not know,”
“How big is the field?” Stafford asked.
“It encompasses much of the secondary hull,” Fifebee replied, “And it is growing. And there is something else…some kind of…I do not know what,”
“Dangerous?” Stafford asked.
“I do not think so,” Fifebee replied.
“What do ye mean?” Jeffery snapped, “I was oozing like one of Jall’s fruity fondues!”
“My fondues are not fruity,” Jall said indignantly.
“Yeah,” Stafford said, “But sometimes people dip fruit in fondue,”
He clapped his hand over his mouth, like he’d just said something evil.
“Oh my God!” Stafford shouted, “I’m catching it! I’m catching it!”
“Don’t be an ass!” Jall snapped.
“Hey let’s leave ‘ass’ out of the-“
“Is there somethin’ the two of you wanna tell us?” Jeffery asked.
“No!” Stafford and Jall shouted.
There was an awkward silence.
“OK,” Stafford said, “Jeffery, you, Fifebee and I are going to try to get into engineering. Jall, you stay up here with Yanick and…where’s T’Parief?”
“I think we left him passed out on the floor,” Yanick said.
“Ah. Jall, just…stay here,” Stafford said, stepping into the turbolift, “Come ON, Simon!”
Taking a deep breath, Jeffery stepped into the turbolift.
Yanick turned to Jall.
“So what did you two do?” she asked, oblivious to the rapt attention she was receiving from the night shift.
“Well,” Jall thought for a moment, then frowned.
“Nothing,” he said.
“Oh, c’mon Jall, you can tell me!”
“No, I mean, we couldn’t have done anything. I remember hanging out with the two of you in your quarters right up to when the ship dropped out of warp. Then we recovered. I must have just landed on him when we were knocked out,” Jall let out a deep breath, “Thank God!”
“Oh,” if Yanick was disappointed that she wouldn’t have fresh gossip for the mill, it didn’t show. (Pye, on the other hand, could be heard cursing quietly.) “Well, Chris will be glad to hear that. He probably doesn’t remember anything after all that booze I made him drink.
“Really?” Jall said, a slow, evil smile spreading.
“This is the edge of the field,” Fifebee said, tapping her tricorder. The three of them were in a Jefferies tube on Deck 20, in the connector between the primary and secondary hulls. “I am detecting subspace disruptions, but have never seen patterns like this,”
“Jeffery?” Stafford asked.
“This is weird,” Jeffery said, tapping at a wall panel, “Accordin’ to Sylvia, there’s nothin’ wrong with any of the systems down there, except for the power drain and the subspace field,”
“So, most of the time, when stuff melts, it stops workin’!” Jeffery said.
“Uh oh,” Fifebee muttered.
Stafford turned to her. She continued tapping at her tricorder.
“Uh oh?” he prompted, “Uh oh? Fifebee?? Uh oh???”
“Oh, sorry,” Fifebee turned to face him, “I may have underestimated the size of the field. What is ahead of us is only a stronger region of the field. The field itself encompasses the entire ship,”
“Then why aren’t we all melty?” Jeffery asked.
“I have a theory,” Fifebee said. She started climbing down into the Jefferies tube. Stafford and Jeffery hesitantly followed.
Two decks down, Fifebee led them into a corridor. Jeffery kept holding his arm out, waiting to see if it drooped. Nothing.
“It’s not happenin’,” Jeffery said.
“Yes, it is,” Fifebee replied. She turned the tricorder screen so the two of them could see.
“What is that?” Stafford asked.
“Mr. Jeffery,” Fifebee replied.
“What? It looks more like scrambled eggs!” Stafford said.
“Subspace and space are extremely twisted,” Fifebee said, “It is almost as though reality itself has been manipulated, causing anything within the area to become distorted.”
“Uh, then how come we don’t look distorted?” Stafford asked.
“Because you had been twisted in the exact same way that space has,” Fifebee explained. Stafford and Jall looked blankly at her.
“Just trust me,” she said, “To an outside observer this entire ship likely resembles scrambled eggs at this point.”
“Then why did things get gooey before?” Jeffery asked, following Fifebee into a turbolift. She looked quite unworried.
“I suspect that as one gets closer to the source of the distortion, the phenomenon is so extreme that it becomes perceptible to human senses. Possibly because the effect on space and subspace is no longer equal, or perhaps your perceptions are no longer warping to the same extent as the surrounding environment,”
“Uh, Simon,” Stafford pointed, “Your ears are hanging down around your neck. Ugh, that is GROSS!”
Even as he spoke, his lips started to sag, his whole mouth oozing off his face.
“Simply remember,” Fifebee said, her left arm detaching itself from her body, “It is only a matter of perception,”
“I perceive that I…that I…” Stafford gagged, then puked all over the floor.
They arrived at Deck 29 and oozed as quickly as they could towards engineering. As they did so, the effects increased. Jeffery’s face was now hanging off his left knee and Stafford’s eyes had migrated to opposite sides of his head. Something that looked like a lung had attached itself to Jeffery’s back.
The corridor barely resembled a hallway. The walls and ceiling had sagged, supports were slowly collapsing, as though made of weak plastic. And yet there always seemed to be room for the three of them to pass through. The doors to engineering started to open, then promptly collapsed into a thick, gooey puddle.
“OK,” Stafford said, his voice coming out clear despite the shape of his mouth, “What the hell are you people doing down here?”
“First of all, Captain,” a bag of ooze called from the far end of the room, “This isn’t my fault!”
Stafford and Jeffery both vomited this time.
“Fifebee…is he supposed to be…inside out?”
“I do not know,” Fifebee replied peevishly, “I did not cause this problem!”
“Look,” Smedi (a slightly fatter bag of ooze) said, “If I can just get the blenders aligned with the subspace field generated by the warp drive, it will compensate for the-“
A nearby bag of ooze, this one with darker colours, gave a sigh.
“What did you do!” Stafford shouted.
“Well,” Smedi gulped, “I just thought I’d try out this neat gizmo I put together-“
“Unauthorized testin’?” Jeffery snapped, “In MY engine room?”
“On MY ship?” Stafford added.
“Smedi,” H’Kspada said, “Just turn it off!”
“No, no,” Smedi said. A portion of the blob (a hand being uplifted?) waved, “I can get this working. Maybe if I increase power to the-“
“SHUT IT DOWN!” Jeffery, Fifebee and Stafford screamed.
“OK, OK,” Smedi said, sounding offended, “I just have to do it slowly,”
There was a click, then a whirring as the blender blades slowly stopped spinning. As they did, the blobs of ooze on the floor slowly resolved back into people, internal organs returning to the inside and external body parts returning to their proper locations. Support struts straightened and the warp core, which was sagging to one side like a dying tree, straightened and resumed its normal shape. Finally, everything was back to normal.
“Get your hands off that device!” Stafford snapped, walking over to the blender-like gadget sitting on the workbench. Jeffery kept massaging his stomach, trying not to be sick again.
“What were you trying to do, anyway?” Stafford demanded.
“Well,” Smedi swallowed, “I figured if I used a subspace field manipulator to sort of ‘clamp on’ to the space-time fabric, then set the manipulator into a circular motion, I could twist reality. Y’know, froth up the quantum foam!”
Stafford stared at him.
“Why the hell would anybody want to do that?” he demanded.
“Why indeed?” Fifebee asked, “You have seriously damaged the structure of reality at this location. You are lucky reality did not tear, or worse, unravel. We should move the ship away from this location,” she added to Stafford.
“Stafford to bridge,” he tapped his comm-badge, “Problem solved. Take us out, slowly!”
He started to head towards the exit.
“Oh, one more thing,”
He turned around, picked up Smedi’s device and smashed it on the deck, pieces flying in all directions.
“DON’T DO THAT AGAIN!” he shouted.
#### Captain’s Log, Supplemental:
“Remind me why we need scientists on board to begin with? Well, now that we’ve turned off that…whatever it was, we have been able to re-engage warp drive and continue on course for Starbase 45. Dr. Wowryk has informed me that her supply of anti-nausea medication is dangerously low, and ship’s maintenance informs me that it will be several hours before the last of the vomit is cleaned out of the carpets. We were pretty lucky though; Fifebee tells me that Smedi’s little experiment could have ripped the ship apart. Or left us permanently turned into ooze balls. This is part of why he’ll be working for maintenance for the next few months, cleaning up the most disgusting messes we can find.”
“Speaking of disgusting messes,”
“Come,” Stafford called.
Jall walked in and took a seat across from Stafford.
“I guess we need to talk,” Stafford said.
“I guess we do,” Jall nodded.
“I don’t know what happened,” Stafford said, fidgeting uncomfortably, “My memory’s a bit fuzzy, but I want you to know that I am, in no way, interested in-“
“Nothing,” Jall said flatly.
“I was going to say ‘you’, actually. I’m very interesting in woman, especially if they’ve got nice-“
“No, I mean, nothing happened,” Jall said, “The ship shook, we fell down on the floor and were knocked out. Pure coincidence, us waking up where we did.”
“Oh,” Stafford blew out a deep breath, “Oh, thank you merciful God,” he sighed, looking up at the ceiling.
“Tell me about it,” Jall muttered, getting up to leave.
“You know, Commander,” Stafford called, “You really could have messed with my mind on this one,”
Jall turned back.
“I could have,” he said, “Maybe the next time you feel like taking a shot at me, you’ll remember that. And while you’re at it, maybe do some thinking about why you get so upset over this stuff. Saying it’s childish is sort of an understatement.”
“Well,” Stafford said, leaning back in his chair, “Maybe I will,”
Jall stepped into his office, waiting to feel the familiar discomfort he always felt when he entered. Yup, there it is. A wave of coldness, making him feel at once uncomfortable and unwelcome. Almost like…
He turned and examined the control panel next to the door.
“Stupid,” Jall grumbled, turning the environmental controls back up to the proper temperature.
He settled into his chair and activated his terminal. Before he could do anything, the comm sounded.
“Hiya, Commander,” Yanick’s cheerful voice called, “I have a message for you from Earth,”
“Put it through,” Jall said.
“Thank you for holding,” Yanick’s voice came back, “I have Commander Jall on the line, and he will be assisting you further. Thank you for calling Silverado, and I hope you enjoy your communication with us.”
Jall grinned, expecting to see Noonan’s pale face on his terminal. Instead, he was greeting by the grim face of a woman with hair so blond it was nearly white, black lipstick, dark eye shadow and strikingly beautiful features.
“Your comm officer really doesn’t know when to shut up, does she?” she asked.
“Lydia Thompson,” Jall said, instantly on his guard, “You’re just lucky you didn’t get the lizard,”
“I’m sure,” Thompson said, unperturbed. She had been assigned to Silverado as a Humanoid Resource liaison when the ship had been launched. Unofficially, she had been there to see that President Dillon’s interests were served, since Silverado was part of one of his pet projects. She’d caused a major headache for Stafford when Jeffery had been captured by the Matrians, back in their first year on the ship, and Stafford had kicked her off the ship. Since then, she’d been working her way up the ranks of the bureaucracy known as Humanoid Resources.
“And just what do you want from me?” Jall asked.
“Commander,” Lydia looked hurt, “Such harsh words. I would think you’d be happy to hear from the department that got you your rank back,”
“Surely, you know that all appeals and mistreatment cases such as yours are processed by Humanoid Resources before appearing before a tribunal,” Lydia explained.
“Uh, it took four years to be processed, and I doubt you had anything to do with it,” Jall said, crossing his arms.
“Very well,” Lydia said, “I can’t claim responsibility for that, it’s true. But you might want to consider that I do still have strong connections to Operation Salvage. I’ve been very much involved in crew selections, especially with so many ships being repaired. I don’t think you want to be my enemy,” she gave Jall a wink, “I may be able to…help you, at some point,”
“I’m listening,” Jall said neutrally.
“Well, Lydia said, “Let’s just say that there’s a…situation that’s come up. One that Admiral Tunney and I have decided is just perfect for Silverado,”
“Perfect because we have the skills for it, or perfect because it gets us out of your hair?” Jall asked.
“Both,” Thompson said bluntly, “Let’s face it, the method by which you were selected as First Officer, while very helpful in some ways, turned out to be highly embarrassing in others. In the end, we are at a time when we can ill afford embarrassment. Getting Silverado out of the way will make President Dillon’s re-election campaign slightly easier. And it involves working with people you are already reasonably familiar with.”
“So what’s the catch?” Jall asked.
“Well, let’s just say, hypothetically speaking, that this mission might put Stafford in a situation where he’ll have to make some big decisions,” Lydia said, “And, hypothetically speaking, these decisions, if made incorrectly, could have pretty serious impacts to his career, if they were communicated to the right ears,”
“Your ears,” Jall guessed.
“If he were to be removed as Captain, it would be nice to be able to replace him with somebody I could…trust,” she said.
“Somehow,” Jall said, “I doubt you have the authority for that.”
“Of course not,” Thomspon said, “But Tunney does listen to me. A lot,”
“Uh-huh,” It was making sense to Jall know. No wonder Noonan had called him! He must have caught wind of this mission, but how did he know Lydia would be contacting him?
‘Remember where your loyalties lie.’ Noonan had told him.
Jall thought for a moment. Would he betray Stafford, just for a shot at captaincy? He honestly couldn’t answer that question. He knew he couldn’t do anything to Stafford to get him out of the position, that kind of backstabbing just wasn’t him. But if Stafford were to do something really stupid, something that could result in his being removed anyway…would he actually have the gall to report it to Thompson?
“You better tell me about this mission…” he said.
Jall’s eyes widened his jaw dropping.
“Hold, please!” he squeaked, hitting the hold button and running out of the room.
“You missed the button!” Lydia called from the screen.
But Jall had already left.
No sooner was he out the door then Smedi snuck in.
“F**king officers,” he grumbled, moving quickly to Jall’s desk and rummaging through the padds there, “Transfer me to maintenance, will you? We’ll just see about that! When I find those transfer orders, I’ll-“
“What’s this?” Lydia said from the screen, “A disgruntled crewmember?”
“Uhhh,” Smedi started, noticing the woman on the screen catching him in the act of rummaging through Jall’s possessions, “Hello?”
“I think you and I need to have a nice chat,” Thompson said, smiling.
“So, Admiral,” Stafford said, “What’s up? You know we’re only a day or so away from you,”
“I know,” the broad, goateed visage of Admiral Edward Tunney said from Stafford’s screen, “But I thought you’d like to know that the details of your next mission have been finalized,”
“Really?” Stafford leaned forward in his seat, “I know you were going assign a ship to search for any other Delori artifacts in this sector,”
“The USS Vendome will be handling that mission,” Tunney said.
“Oh,” Stafford looked disappointed, “Ok, what about surveying the Gould Nebula?”
“I’ve got the Papineau on that one, but thanks,” Tunney said, looking annoyed.
“Captain, if you’ll shut up for a moment, I’ll tell you!” Tunney snapped.
“Oh,” Stafford said quietly, “Sorry,”
“First,” Tunney said, referring to a padd, “To replace Mr. Johnson-“
“I’ve already selected an officer to replace him,” Stafford said.
“I don’t care,” Tunney said, “After that televised fiasco, it’s going to be a LONG time before I let you select another senior officer! I’m assigning Lieutenant Commander Riven Valtaic as your new Operations Officer,”
“Ohh, Ensign Pye is going to be pissed,” Stafford groaned.
“He’ll survive,” Tunney said flatly, “You will pick up Mr. Valtaic at Starbase 45. And you damned well better treat him better than you treated Johnson!”
“I still don’t know what went wrong there,” Stafford objected.
“As to your mission,” Tunney ignored him, picking up another padd, “It just so happens we need a ship to undertake a very interesting, very long term mission for us. And, will wonders never cease, it’s something your crew is actually qualified for,”
“What?” Stafford asked, “Is Starfleet expanding into the circus business?”
“No, but if it does you’ll be the first to know,” Tunney said dryly, “What we have, well, let’s just say that it’s a great opportunity for you to learn about the aftermath of your actions, and a great opportunity for me to get you out of my hair for a while.”
Tunney tapped a button, causing a stream of mission details to appear on Stafford’s terminal.
“We’ll meet when you arrive at Starbase 45,” Tunney said, “Until then, happy reading.” The screen went blank.
Stafford’s eyes widened as he read through the material scrolling down his monitor.
Yanick was seated comfortably at the helm, flipping through a copy of ‘House and Starship,” while beside her Ensign Rengs, temporarily putting in bridge duty at Ops, flipped through baby pictures of his son.
“That’s kinda odd, isn’t it?” Yanick said, “Calls for both the Captain and the First Officer at the same time? From different people?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Rengs said, “I don’t usually get to come up to the bridge,”
“According to my memory files,” Fifebee called from her aft console, “This has happened only once before on this vessel. And I don’t believe it turned out to be a good thing.”
At that moment, the forward turbolift doors opened, revealing Jall. He was hyperventilating, sweat beading on his forehead as he glanced quickly around the bridge.
“Where’s Stafford?” he demanded.
Directly across from him the doors to the ready room hissed open and Stafford bolted out, twitching and fidgeting, as though in a panic.
“Where’s Jall!” he snapped.
The two officers noticed each other.
“THEY’RE SENDING US BACK TO MATRIA PRIME!” they wailed.
The bridge crew stared at them.
“Oh, shit!” Fifebee solemnly declared.