Star Trek is the property of Paramount and the creation of Gene Roddenberry. Star Traks is the property and creation of Alan Decker. As is an unknown quantity of toe-jam. Brendan Chris is the property of the Canadian Armed Forces. Oh. Oops. You don't need to know about that. What you need to know is that Star Traks: Silverado is the property of Brendan Chris, so much as he owns anything these days.

Author: Brendan Chris
Copyright: 2007

Commander Simon Jeffery walked into Main Engineering, ready to start his day. Things were looking pretty good; he was hanging out with his friends and colleagues a bit more often, nobody had mentioned his disastrous bid for first officer in over a month, Wowryk had spoken to him without glaring and that funny rash on his butt had finally cleared up!

“Good morning, sir!” Ensign Frit Naketh called, tapping away at one of the power distribution consoles.

“Morning, Ensign,” Jeffery said, turning his head to smile at her. Hmmm, come to think of it, hadn’t one of the Nakeths been promoted? Yeah, one had. He just couldn’t remember which one. He’d have to ask Staffford about it later-

“Watch out!” Frit cried, crashing Jeffery’s train of thought.

“Huh?” Jeffery asked, about half a second before he tripped over Frat Naketh.

“Shit!” he shouted, tumbling over the smaller officer, arms flailing. He managed to snag one edge of the Master Situation console with his hand, but his head was coming down too fast! He did a face-plant into the console, not hard enough to break anything, but hard enough to elicit an electronic-sounding squeal. There was a brief flicker in the lights, then the warp core at the other end of engineering dimmed and went dark.


Captain’s Log, Stardate 58821.4

“We’re coming up on Matrian space, in accordance with our…what the f**k?”

Stafford’s log entry was cut short as the ship shuddered. Main lighting failed (as always) and there was a low groan as the ship dropped out of warp. On the viewscreen, the streaks of light shortened back into single stars, then slowly started to spin as the ship tumbled.

“Tell me we didn’t blow out the plumbing again,” Jall groaned.

“Yanick, stabilize the ship,” Stafford ordered. He slapped his comm-badge, “Stafford to engineering. What the hell?”

“Um,” Jeffery’s voice was hesitant, “We’ve had a bit of an…oops,”

“An ‘oops’?”

“One sec,”

Stafford tapped his fingers against his arm rests for several seconds, listening to the sound of control panels beeping over the comm. After about a minute there was a rising rumble from beneath the deck and the main lightening flickered back on.

“Warp power restored,” Valtaic reported from Ops.

“Jeffery,” Stafford rose an eyebrow, “An ‘oops’?”

“Please,” Jeffery sighed, “Don’t ask,”

Stafford paused for a few seconds, considering the various possibilities.

“Don’t tell,” he said, blowing out a breath, “Stafford out.”

“Captain,” Valtaic spoke up, sitting ramrod straight in his chair, “As we are already stopped, perhaps this would be a good time to deploy the relay and transceiver array?”

“Good idea,” Stafford agreed, “Jall, make it happen. I’ll be in my ready room, working on…requisition forms.” He stood and walked briskly to the door.

“More likely you’ll be reading ‘Harry Potter and the Retirement Home of Mysteries’ and munching on junk food,” Jall muttered.

“You’d do the same in a second, Jall!” Yanick giggled.

“Yup,” Jall agreed, “But since I, unlike some people, have work to do, let’s start unloading this damned thing,”

It was possible for Silverado to stay in contact with Starfleet while in Matrian space, but possible didn’t necessary mean easy. Matrian space was far enough from the Federation’s network of subspace communications relays that all sorts of little problems started cropping up. Trivial things like increased power requirements for the subspace transceiver array or static over the line, leading up to slightly more annoying things like time lag or dropped connections. Add to this the growing need for communications between the Federation and Matria Prime, Senous and any other potential new members in the neighborhood and one started to realize that shouting with standard subspace radio over a hundred light-years was about as convenient as using a string and cup to make a long-distance call.

So Silverado had been loaded with a shiny new subspace transceiver relay. Crammed into Shuttlebay 2, the relay resembled an enormous shovel, with a few extra antennae arrays sticking off the handle. At the ‘shovel’ end was the main transceiver array, designed to carry heavy communications traffic over great distances once the relay was linked with the rest of the Federation network. At the ‘handle’ end was an attachment point for living quarters. Important relays were manned, but as this one wasn’t expected to require a living being for quite some time there had been neither the room nor the need for Silverado to haul the living quarters module all the way out.

“I am activating tractor beams,” Valtaic reported, “Preparing to deploy relay,”

“We unhooked all the cables holding it down, right?” Jall asked.

Valtaic turned to him, a dark look on his face.

“Are you doubting my attention to detail?” he asked.

“Nope,” Jall said, “Just being careful. We have a tendency to have, well, ‘oopses’, to borrow Jeffery’s silly little word,”

“I see,” Valtaic said, turning back to his panel.

“If I thought you were an idiot, I’d say so,” Jall said, “Whether your culture prefers it or not!”

“He really would,” Yanick nodded, “He’s pretty blunt. Probably part of why he’s still single, but-“

“HEY!” Jall cried, “I could SO not be single if I wanted to be! I just happen to like the freedom-“

“The sex,” Yanick whispered to Valtaic.

“The relay has been deployed,” Valtaic said loudly. Normally, he would just inform them bluntly that he did not wish to hear their conversation, but he was trying to be accommodating. That and he’d learned that sometimes it really was better to just pull Yanick and Jall off topic as opposed to asking them to stop.

“I am initiating communications protocols with the relay,” T’Parief reported. Why tactical handled communications these days was something of a mystery to him, and Yanick usually handled incoming communications anyway, but at least it gave him something to do aside from listening to the pointless argument that was shaping up.

“You’re single,” Yanick was saying, “Because you get bored with the people you date faster than T’Parief does with the new chew-toys I replicate for him,”

“I so do not…wait. Chew toys?”

“Well, you know, for healthy gums and teeth,” Yanick’s panel suddenly beeped. She spun around as Jall went into a fit of hysterics.

“Thank you for calling USS Silverado, I’m Ens, I mean, Lieutenant Trish Yanick,,” she said brightly, smiling into the comm pick-up, “If you’d like to complete a brief survey on my customer service skills, press one. If you’d like to comment on my boobs or ass, I’ll patch you through to my clawed boyfriend,”

Yanick wasn’t sure just who had programmed the prompts in the communications sub-systems, but she suspected some of Sylvia’s humour might be responsible. (The real culprits were in fact disgruntled Daystom Institute employees.)

“That won’t be necessary,” the man on the screen said, “Just put me right through to Stafford,”

Yanick didn’t recognize the face on her panel, but she had to admit it was attractive. The man had captain’s pips on his collar and was obviously a Starfleet officer.

“I’m sorry,” Yanick said, smiling sweetly, “But since that Ultra-Viagra salesman called us dressed up as an admiral, Captain Stafford says I gotta check with him first.”

The officer on the screen raised an eyebrow.

“I’ll ask if this is a good time,” Yanick said.

Stafford had just nicely settled into his chair, book in one hand and a box of crackers in the other. He turned his chair away from the desk, taking in the view of the stars as the ship accelerated back to warp speed. He was just starting to sink into the storyline when, of course, the comm went off.

“Yanick to Stafford, there’s an incoming communication for you. I’m pretty sure he’s not selling Ultra-Viagra,” Yanick’s voice came over the comm.

“Ugh,” Stafford groaned, “Who do I have to bribe to get an hour’s peace and quiet around here?” He tapped his comm-badge, “Can it wait?”

There was a moment of silence as Yanick spoke to whomever the hell it was.

“He says it can’t. He also says that you know him,”

“Uh-huh,” Stafford sighed, turning back to face his computer terminal, “I know a lot of people, that doesn’t mean I really want to talk to them!” He squared his shoulders, trying to look somewhat professional. Who knew? Maybe it would be some old buddy of his, just wanting to chat about old times. That would be nice. A small kernel of hope started to build as he tapped his terminal, accepting the call.

“Hey Christof, how’s it hanging?”

Aw, shit. The grinning, dark-haired human on the screen was immediately familiar to Stafford.

“I really don’t want to talk to you, Kurel,” Stafford groaned, “And my name is NOT Christof!”

“But I’ll always think of you as Christof,” Captain Jake Kurel said, grinning out from the screen.

“What do you want?” Stafford asked bluntly.

“I just wanted to congratulate you on finally making Captain,” Kurel said shrugged, “It’s a big accomplishment, after all,”

“Uh, right,” Stafford crossed his arms, “I hate to break it to you, but you’re about three years late on that,”

“Yeah, I was a bit busy, what with my four-year mission to the Beta quadrant and all,” Kurel said smugly, “You know, exploring new worlds, making contact with new races and making hot love to sweet, sweet alien women. But at least I made the effort.”

Kurel and Stafford had been assigned to the same squad at Starfleet Academy. The powers-that-were had decides centuries ago that the best way to encourage teamwork among officers would be to put them in closely-knit teams from the very start, with varying degrees of success. Some squads blended quickly into well-organized, functional groups. Others took a little longer. Still others never made it, graduating (or dropping out) as the same disorganized rabble they’d been on the first day. Stafford and Kurel had belonged to a modestly successful squad, but by the time their four years at the Academy had ended, the two could barely hold a civil conversation. (Something to do with a prank gone horribly wrong, involving tuna fish and a phasic oscillator. Don’t ask.) When Kurel had been promoted to captain a year ahead of Stafford, he’d been sure to forward the announcement to every communications account Stafford had. Stafford had ignored all of them, vowing to avoid the man for the rest of his life. Which, as it turned out, was easier said then done.

“What do you think we’ve been doing out here, Kurel,” Stafford said, “We’ve been exploring new worlds, doing First Contacts and all kinds of good stuff.”

“Uh-huh. Word has it you didn’t f**k up badly enough out on the frontier the first time, so they’re sending you back for another try,” Kurel said.

“I don’t have time for your bulls**t, Kurel” Stafford said, “Now why are you calling me? Is it something actually important, or are you just making my life miserable?”

“Only important if you care about your reputation,” Kurel said, giving his voice an air of ‘It-Doesn’t-Matter-To-Me’.

Stafford stared at the screen, torn. Did he care about what Kurel said? Could the guy actually know something he should know?

“Fine,” he said, trying to sound like he didn’t really care either, “Tell me,”

“So, do you have to take him to the vet, too?” Jall was asking, “You know, for de-worming, or neutering, or whatever?”

“Now you’re just being silly, Jall,” Yanick giggled. T’Parief, standing behind the tactical rail, was gripping his console hard enough to leave half-inch deep claw marks.


“Comparing Mr. T’Parief to a common pet is disrespectful,” Valtaic said.

“So’s your face,” Yanick said, still giggling.

There was a slight tingle in the air as Valtaic’s electric field pulsed, then the maroon officer turned back to his panel. As he did, Stafford poked his head out of the ready room.

“Jall, ready room, NOW!”

Shrugging, Jall climbed out of his command chair and stepped in.

“What’s up, oh Captain, my Captain?” he asked, jumping into the seat across from Stafford.

“Don’t talk to me like that,” Stafford said, “It’s creepy,”

“What up, dog?”

Stafford stared.

Jall rolled his eyes.

“Commander Jall, First Officer, reported as yelled, at, SIR!” he said loudly.

“Sit down,” Stafford said, “And try not to get fondue on the upholstery this time,”

“Do you see me eating fondue right now?”

“I didn’t see you eating it the last time!”

“That’s because I’d hidden it in my sleeve,” Jall held up one arm, demonstrating that the sleeve was, in fact, empty.

“Yes, but…” Stafford shook his head, “I don’t care. Look, we have a bit of a problem, and it’s something we’re going to have to work together on,”

“Oohhh! Goody!” Jall exclaimed, “Teamwork time! High-five!” he held up one hand.

Stafford grimaced.

“Oh, come on!” Jall grinned, “Be a sport,”

Reluctantly, Stafford weakly slapped Jall’s proffered hand.

“So, what’s the big problem?” Jall asked.

“As you probably know,” Stafford said, “When somebody becomes a Starfleet captain, he or she is joining the elite community of Starfleet,”

“Did your mommy tell you that?”

“Shut up!” Stafford shook his head, “Now where was I? Oh yeah. Like any community, this one has perks and drawbacks, responsibilities and support. And gossip. Lots of gossip.”

At this, Stafford stood and started pacing, a challenging activity considering the size of the ready room.

“And on ship, the captain works very closely with the first officer. The two are a team, and they work as a team to make sure they and their ship meet the standards required of a Starfleet vessel. Now, can you think of anything we’ve done, or not done over the past few years that might be giving us a bad reputation with the other captains?”

Jall started laughing.

“Are you kidding? I think Noonan might have a list in his quarters somewhere, but it would take ten of us to lift it! “ Tears started to stream from Jall’s eyes as he giggled, “Our paperwork is two months behind, our promotion list took about a year longer than it should have, we’ve run through about ten years worth of parts in the past two years alone, and we crashed our saucer in somebody’s idea of a museum!”

“I meant other than that!” Stafford snapped.

Jall was still struggling to control himself.

“How about the time Yanick thought she saw Brad Pitt’s face in a nebula and accidentally crashed into that space billboard?”


“When T’Parief accused the High Chancellor of Marxis III of being a communist?”

“He WAS a communist!” Stafford threw his hands up in the air, “But no!”

“Dr. Wowryk’s ‘Men are Scum’ newsletter?”


“That time Lt. Cmdr Stern tried to get it on with a Velvattian?”

“No! Wait, what?”

“I’ve got it!” Jall said, “They’re pissed off because we’re the only ship that’s managed to fly backwards through a quantum instability!”

“That only happened because Jeffery screwed up the polarity of the impulse drive!” Stafford plopped back into his chair, “And no! It’s not a problem with the ship or the crew. It’s a problem with the two of us!”

Jall’s laughter abruptly stopped.


“Yes! Us! You and me! Me and you!”

“‘Both of us, together’!” Jall sang out loudly, rising from the chair and lifting his arms like an opera singer on the last note.

Stafford stared.

“Please don’t do that again. It’s just too…weird.”

Jall dropped his arms.

“You’re just not fun,” he said, “So what’s the problem?”

Stafford looked a bit uncomfortable.

“We haven’t been…um…‘establishing intimate relations’ with enough hot aliens,”

“What are they doing?” Yanick asked, looking over at the closed ready room doors.

“Talking. That’s all they ever do,” Fifebee replied from the rear of the bridge, “I honestly don’t see why they can’t simply have their conversations on the bridge. We will all find out what they were talking about anyway,”

“You know, you’re right,” Yanick said, “It’s not very nice, keeping us waiting out here while they blabber on and on and…”

“Did you consider that some of us prefer that others hold their conversations far, far away?” Valtaic commented, “Where they cannot annoy those who are trying to work?”

Yanick glanced at his panel.

“Reading ‘Enerflux Monthly’ isn’t working,” she informed him.

“It is when there is a fascinating article on EPS flux ratios-“

They were interrupted as Jall stormed out of the ready room, eyes blazing, Stafford close behind.

“NO!” he snapped, “I’m not doing it, there’s no way you can make me!”

“C’mon!” Stafford said, “Men have been doing that sort of thing since the dawn of time! You might even like it!”

“Forget it! Jall said, “I don’t care how ‘under quota’ we are, or what the other Captains say, I’m not doing it!”

“It’s not like I’m asking you to fall in love or anything, just a one night stand or two! What could it hurt?”

“My pride!” Jall grabbed his work padds from his command chair, “And I’d get icky cooties all over!”

“I kinda figured we’d use protection! “

“Well YOU can use protection, but you’ll be doing it all by yourself!”

With that, Jall stalked into the turbolift and departed. Everybody’s eyes slowly turned to look at Stafford.

“What?” he asked.

“You know, Fifebee,” Yanick said, “I really don’t think we would have found out about this conversation.”

“I really don’t think we would have wanted to,” Valtaic added.

“I withdraw my previous statement,” Fifebee said, “Some conversations should be held in private.”

“What?” Stafford asked again.

“You know, if you wanted to get it on with Jall, you should have gotten him drunk first,” Yanick said.

“WHAT?” Stafford’s eyes bugged out.

“Well,” Yanick giggled, “It sure sounded like he just shot you down!”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Stafford glared, walking back to his seat, “Look, it turns out that there are a few…unwritten rules for Starfleet Captains, and I haven’t really been following them..”

“‘Sleep with your First Officer’?” Fifebee ventured.

“No! Sleep with attractive alien women! It’s a tradition, going back to the days of Kirk! Starfleet Captains need to be suave, sophisticated and charming. And they need to spread the love. And I guess after all the man-whoring around that Will Riker did, they decided to count the First Officers, too,”

“So what’s the problem?” Yanick asked, “Senous is only a few light-years from Matria,”

“Senous doesn’t count,” Stafford said, “None of the planets like Risa, Senous or Orgasmos III count. Something about how it just makes things too easy,”

“So you need to have sex with women more often,” Valtaic observed, “I fail to see the problem,”

“Me neither,” Stafford said, “Sounds like fun to me. I just need Jall to get his act together so I can get caught up on my quota.”

“I don’t think he’s going to like that,” Yanick warned.

“Yeah. No shit,” Stafford said dryly.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 58822.6

“We have arrived at the outer reaches of the Matrian solar system. On account of the fact that we’ve had some pretty shitty luck here, I’ve ordered a slow approach into the system. Just in case. In the meantime, the senior staff and I are meeting to discuss what we know about the Matrians. We could have done it during the past several weeks, but this way it’s fresh in our minds. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!”

“So,” Stafford said, leaning back in his chair, “What do we know about the Matrians?”

“They’re one mean group of angry bitches,” Jeffery said immediately.

“Yes, other than that,”

“We have had an ambassador on Matria Prime since our initial encounter with the Matrians two years ago,” Fifebee said, “He has been carefully observing their society and has prepared a full report. I have cross-referenced his report with our own observations and compiled a complete summary of our knowledge,”

“Let me guess,” Jall said, “We hardly know anything?” He’d calmed down from his tantrum, but was still refusing to meet Stafford’s eye.

“Yer tax dollars at work,” Jeffery muttered.

“Actually, we have excellent knowledge of the current state of Matrian society, their technological level, current political situation and relationships with their interstellar neighbors,”

“If Senous was my neighbor, I’d have pretty good interstellar relations,” Stafford mused. Jall rolled his eyes.

“What’s the catch?” Jall asked.

“Can’t we just end this meeting on a high note?” Wowryk asked, “I have work to do,”

“There’s always a catch,” Jall insisted, “And what could you possibly have to do?”

“Somebody’s going to have an accident,” Wowryk said darkly, “They may need medical attention,”

“Oh, come on. Like you’re some kind of prophet now?”

Wowryk reached out with her foot and flipped one of the adjustment levers on Jall’s chair. The seat flopped forward, sending Jall’s face into the table with a loud CRACK!

“Nicely done,” Valtaic commented.

“Good form,” Stafford agreed.

“Bitch,” Jall muttered, tenderly touching his nose as he re-adjusted his chair.

“So what is the problem with Matrian space?” Stafford asked, “Why are we here? Why do they need a full-sized starship for something as simple as Federation membership?”

“If your society had just re-awakened from over a century of suspended animation, you would have problems too,” Fifebee pointed out.

Matria Prime, she explained, had once been the capitol planet of the Matrian Empire, a benevolent society that had explored space, established peaceful relationships with its neighbours and contributed to the overall positive karma of the galaxy. The big oddity with Matrian society had been that the males, through no fault of their own, had been less intelligent, less ambitious and less capable than the women. That’s not to say that Matrian society was sexist. Quite the contrary, any man who had the abilities to succeed in a particular role was welcomed to do so. But due to some quirk of evolution, few ever had those abilities. As their technology advanced, the Matrian women eventually decided to use genetic engineering to bring the men up to their level. The experiment was successful, and within a generation, all Matrian men were the intellectual equivalents of the women. Of course, some asshole decided that men were superior and should play a bigger part in ruling the Empire. And, of course, some bitch decided that women were still superior and should continue ruling the Empire. The result had been decades of war. The Matrian Empire all but collapsed as exploration and trade came to a grinding halt. Eventually, the women discovered a technology that would allow them to influence the behavior of the men (or anyone, for that matter) by remotely altering their personalities. Using this technology, they were quickly able to end the war by instilling in the men a complete love and adoration for anything female.

But the damage had already been done. Most of their cities were devastated, their space fleet had been reduced to a handful of ships, their shipyards and space stations were crippled and their entire society was on the verge of collapse.

After much debate, a solution was finally found. The women would go into suspended animation, in a series of caverns deep under the surface of the planet. While their bodies slept, their minds would be linked to a central Nexus of thought; a virtual world where they could live out their lives. The planet was covered in a network of spatial interphase and cortical induction devices, also called Dream Machines. These devices served two purposes: they controlled the behavior of any male within the field, and they could serve as a link to the virtual world, Dreamland. In the meantime, the men would work to rebuild their society. Eventually, the women would emerge from their hibernation, the men would be released from their punishment and all would live happily ever after.

“Yeah, right,” Jall muttered.

“You skepticism is well founded,” Fifebee said, “As we all know, a group of the Matrian leaders decided that it would be far better to use the men as tools with which to begin building a great army. They started using the Matrian Spatial Interphase Devices to enslave surrounding civilizations, such as the Senousians. They send out several M-SIDs to find a leader for their men, somebody strong and intelligent enough to lead but submissive enough to be controlled. As we know, a member of this crew fit their needs perfectly.”

“Aye, that would be me,” Jeffery said, embarrassed.

“Which is where we came in,” Stafford said, cutting Fifebee off, “They kidnapped Jeffery, we came in, we blew up their ships, one of the Senousian women destroyed their Dream Nexus, the women came out of hibernation, the men were freed, whoop-de-doo,”

“You’ve left out many key facts,” Fifebee said, looking distressed, “One cannot sum up events that change the course of civilizations in one sentence! Such details take at least a full season to explore!”

“Uh-huh,” Stafford said, “So what’s the situation now?”

Small ridges started to appear on Fifebee’s forehead as she gave Stafford a dark look.

“Well”, she said, “After an unimportant group of people on an irrelevant ship freed hundreds of thousands of sentient beings from enslavement, the Matrian council was re-formed, with equal representation by population for males and females. They are continuing to rebuild their society and have applied for Federation membership.”

“Which has been granted,” T’Parief said, “So what is the problem? Why are we here?”

Fifebee looked at him for a moment, then her eyelids fluttered as she communicated with her holographic systems. A small pile of Lego blocks appeared in front of her. She quickly scattered them around the table.

“Put these back together,” she said.

Stafford, Jall, T’Parief, Yanick, Jeffery, Valtaic and Wowryk looked at her like she was crazy.

“How the hell are we supposed to do that?” Jall asked, “We don’t even know what they’re supposed to be!”

“Exactly!” Fifebee said.

“Whoa,” Stafford said a bit straighter in his seat, “I get it! No, wait. I don’t!”

Fifebee sighed.

“Think of it this way. When you first wake up in the morning, how much do you remember of the previous day?”

“Depends on how much he’s been drinking,” Jall said.

“I’m a bit fuzzy for the first few minutes,” Stafford shrugged, glancing at Jall.

“Now, imagine you were sleeping for over a century,” Fifebee said, “And, on top that, imagine that you spend that century in a virtual world, living your life as though you were awake? How much of your previous life do you think you’d remember?”

Realization dawned.

“You’re saying that they were in Dreamland for so long, they forgot what the real world was like?” Wowryk asked, leaning forward. She suddenly recalled how, after decades of simply having their will done by the virtual reality technology, the Matrian women couldn’t remember how to perform simple tasks like styling their hair or applying makeup.

“Yes,” Fifebee said, “They have almost no recollection of what their society was like before they entered Dreamland. Worse, at the point at which they entered hibernation, their society was in ruins after decades of war. I do not think there is a single Matrian alive who actually lived in the old, peaceful Matrian Empire. Imagine that you were attempting to rebuild the Federation, except that the Federation had been devastated by war before you were even born,”

“That’s just…unimaginable,” Wowryk mused.

“They have a very large obstacle to overcome,” Valtaic observed.

“We,” Stafford said. Everybody looked at him.

“We’re here to help them, right?”

“How are we going to do that?” Yanick asked, “I mean, how do you rebuild, like, a whole civilization?”

“Not to mention that there are several civilizations nearby that hold a grudge against the Matrians after years of enslavement,” T’Parief added.

“Plus we’re going to be the only Starfleet ship in the area for some time,” Valtaic said, “Working far from the support of Command. I find it difficult to believe these people were even candidates for membership!”

“Ambassador Owens must know something we don’t,” Stafford grimaced, “But I tend to agree, yeah.”

“I’m betting they probably won’t have any good nightclubs down there yet,” Jall said glumly.

“Perhaps with things as bleak as they are, the Matrians would welcome the comforting word of God?” Guess-who added that particular tidbit.

“What, you mean the part about the guy getting nailed up to a tree and stabbed with a spear?” Jall asked.

“Geez, we are such a cheerful bunch,” Stafford said, rubbing his temples.

Silverado slowly eased her way closer to Matria Prime. The Matrian solar system consisted of eight planets, with Matria Prime closest to the sun. Two small, rocky planets and five gas giants followed along with the expected planetoids, satellites and space junk. Guided by Fifebee’s hands (well, control protocols, but hands works the same), the ship’s sensors bathed the system, updating records and analyzing findings. The rocky planets and several of the moons orbiting the gas giants showed signs of colonization and extensive mining, but most of the sites had been abandoned for over a century. The remains of an extensive ship building facility orbited the third planet, shipyards and dry docks reduced to a collection of twisted junk. Near the equator of the second planet, an impact crater showed where a large space station had crashed into the surface.

“Take a good look, people,” Stafford said, “this is home for the foreseeable future,”

“Fire the decorator,” Jall said.

“I don’t remember it looking like this when we were here before,” Yanick said.

“We were a bit distracted the last time,” Jall said.

“Some of us weren’t here the first time,” Valtaic pointed out.

“Actually,” Stafford said, “Noonan probably knows the most about the system. He snuck in here to rescue Jeffery while the rest of us were in Dreamland,”

“We’re approaching Matria Prime,” Yanick said.

An average, M-class planet appeared on the viewscreen. Even after a century of restoration work and two years of ‘re-civilization’, the planet bore deep scars from the war. Many of the cities were abandoned; the Matrian population having shrunk drastically. After all, if the men and the women are fighting, there won’t be a whole lot of babies being born, will there? The cities that were populated had been returned to pristine condition by decades of labour and the surrounding farmland had been reclaimed. Further from the cities, forests were slowly spreading, taking back the land that had been cleared for crops and pastures. Wildlife had enjoyed a population boom as the herbivores fed on the crops that had gone wild, and the carnivores fed on the herbivores. In orbit of the planet, the shattered remains of several satellites, space stations and starships had been towed into a large conglomerate of trash. A single space station, given the boring name of Docking Station 1, remained intact. Three shipyards continued to function, with Matrian cruisers under construction. Near the equator a string of planetary defence satellites was slowly taking shape. After Silverado’s first visit a large part of the Matrian fleet had been destroyed, and with the number of enemies they’d made the Matrians needed a strong defence.

“They’ve cleaned up a bit since our last visit,” Jall observed.

“A dump is still a dump,” Valtaic observed.

“That’s not very nice,” Yanick said.

“So far, I have learned little about the Matrians that leads me to believe they are deserving of Federation membership,” Valtaic said.

“Welcome to the club,” Stafford signed, “Hail the planet. Let’s get this over with,”

“Hailing the planet,” T’Parief reported.

The main viewscreen flickered, the face of a very pretty Matrian woman appearing. The members of the crew who had been present during the last visit immediately recognized Queen Anselia, the woman who had been elected as leader of the newly formed Matrian Republic. Physically, the Matrians were humanoid, with no obvious ridges, colours or extra body parts to distinguish them from humans. Stafford did notice that the woman’s body was very fit; her muscles strong and defined while still remaining feminine. She had long, flowing red hair and bright green eyes. Stafford tried hard to remember if she’d been as beautiful the first time he’d seen her. Of course, it had been so long since he’d been in any kind of relationship, physical or otherwise, with a woman that it probably didn’t matter. But she was radiant. Stunningly beautiful. Gorgeous. Oh, and she was speaking, too.

“This is Queen Anselia of the Matiran Republic,” she said, “On behalf of the Council of Governors, welcome back to Matria Prime,”

“Thank you,” Stafford said, standing and straightening his uniform in the approved ‘Picard Manoeuvre’, “We’re, um, eager to aid you and your people,” he flashed her a winning smile and tried hard to keep his eyes off her breasts, “In ANY way we can,”

“Down, boy!” Jall muttered.

“If you and your First Officer would like to beam down to discuss the situation-“

“We sure would!” Stafford said eagerly, “We’ll be there shortly!”

“We appreciate your enthusiasm,” Anselia smiled, then cut the channel.

“Well, that wasn’t so bad,” Stafford said.

“Please sit down,” Valtaic said, sounding very annoyed.

“What? Why?” Stafford asked.

“Because the rest of us don’t appreciate your ‘enthusiasm’ as much as the Queen does.”

Blushing, Stafford quickly sat.

Jall, Stafford and Wowryk materialized in the entrance hall of the Matrian Grand Council building. The marble floors and wood paneling, surprising, were completely unchanged from the last time they had visited. What had changed was the atmosphere. On their first visit, with suspended animation and virtual reality less than a week behind them, the Matrian women in the chamber had been frantically running back and forth as they tried desperately to put into motion the plans that had been developed for the Reawakening. Their makeup, hair and clothing had been a universal disaster, as they had become accustomed to simply willing themselves to take on any appearance they liked while in Dreamland. This time the hall was so silent that Stafford was almost afraid to breath. The vaulted ceiling and elaborate chandelier gave the room an enormity that seemed to take the smallest sound and give it an almost dirty feeling, like swearing in a church or speaking loudly in a library. The few Matrian men and women that were visible were walking calmly, briefcases or large padds in hand, shoes clicking softly along the marble floor. Wowryk looked around nervously, arms clutching her sides as though she expected to be dragged away at any second. Stafford and Jall looked uneasily around the large, echoing chamber, hoping that the Matrians really were sincere about having reformed.

“It’s quieter than last time,” Jall observed loudly, his voice echoing, “And it looks like they learned how to put on makeup sometime in the past two years,”

Wowryk and Stafford winced.

“Keep your voice down!” Stafford hissed.

“Why?” Jall said, “It’s not like there’s a sign or anything,”

Stafford pointed back towards the door. A small, bronze plaque read ‘Silence, Please’,”

“Oh,” Jall dropped his voice.

After consulting the building directory (and wondering why the hell she hadn’t been there to meet them), Wowryk, Stafford and Jall found their way to Queen Anselia’s opulent offices. Ambassador Owens, the Federation representative on Matria Prime, was seated in a plush red chair. Across a large marble desk, Queen Anselia sat regally in a thone-like seat. She wore an elaborate blue garment that looked like a cross between a suit and a gown, and her fiery red hair was piled up on her head like a giant snake.

“Of course, your Majesty,” Owens was saying, “I’m sure it won’t be a problem. After all, they’re here to help, right?”

“Yes,” Anselia replied gracefully, “And both we and our people are grateful for the aid and support the Federation has been giving us. But you have to understand that this is a very, very sensitive operation,”

“Sensitivity is our middle name, ma’am,” Stafford broke in, flashing a winning smile as he led Jall and Wowryk into the office, “Whatever it is you need doing, we’ll handle it with sensitivity, dignity and…um…”

“Poise,” Jall said helpfully.

“And if you believe that,” Wowryk said dryly, “There’s this bridge in Brooklyn you might be interest in buying,”

“Captain Stafford,” Ambassador Owens nodded, not bothering to stand, “Welcome back to Matrian space,”

“Thanks,” Stafford said, his eyes not leaving Anselia, “It’s, er, nice to be back,”

“You and your crew are always welcome,” Anselia said, rising to her feet, “Who knows what we would have become if it hadn’t been for your intervention,”

“Whatever you would have been, you would have been just as beautiful,” Stafford said. Wowryk rolled her eyes while Jall pantomimed gagging.

“Er, of course,” Anselia said, looking strangely at Stafford.

“Shall we sit down and discuss just why you’re here?” Owens suggested.

“Oh, we know that already,” Stafford said, waving a hand, “We’re here to explore the surrounding territory, help your government get settled into the Federation, help prep your space forces for entry into Starfleet and be the overall good guys in the area,”

“Succinctly, if bluntly phrased, Captain,” Owens said, crossing his arms.

“We are, of course, grateful for all your efforts,” Anselia said, noticing the tension between the two men, “But there is another matter we’re hoping you can help us with,”

“Sure,” Stafford shrugged, “What’s up?”

“As you may or may not know, we’re having a great deal of difficulty recovering information on our past,” Anselia said.

“Yes, about that,” Wowryk said, “When we were in Dreamland, one of your counsel members helped us access your historical database. There was a lot of information in there,”

“Yes,” Anselia said, “All of it controlled by Mistress Laurette. You might remember that Laurette was the driving force behind the campaign to take control of as much of the galaxy as we could get our hands on. We have no idea how much of that information is accurate, what’s been tampered with, or what is missing. For example, where were the original experiments in genetic manipulation carried out? What discussion or discourse took place leading up to the decision to use it? We obtained that technology through trade with another race, but we do not know why this decision was made, or exactly when. And what is worse, we have nobody skilled in this kind of historical research.”

“Queen Anselia and I agree that learning more about the history of Matria Prime will benefit both her world and the Federation,” Owens said firmly, “I expect that you will extend her the same assistance you would extend any other member planet,”

“OK,” Stafford shrugged. He was planning on saying ‘yes’ anyway, why argue? “When is the membership ceremony, by the way?”

“Two weeks from now,” Anselia said, “Our people are very eager to become a part of the Federation family.

“Nice to hear,” Stafford said, his smile becoming a bit strained, “I can have my science officer beam down to help with your research whenever you want. In the meantime, maybe you and I could go get to know each other a bit better?”

“We would like that,” Anselia replied, “Will your officers be joining us?”

“I don’t think so,” Wowryk and Jall said together.

“They’ll be fine,” Stafford said.

“That was revolting,” Jall grunted. He and Wowryk had left the council building and were on their way to a nearby research facility, where they would meet Lt. Cmdr Fifebee. A uniformed Matrian driver had met them on the roof and ushered them into a small but luxurious craft.

“The way Stafford was hitting on the leader of the planet, or the fact that she didn’t seem to mind?” Wowryk asked absently, staring out the window of the transport.

“Both,” Jall shuddered. He noticed that Wowryk seemed mesmerized by the view. “You OK, doc?”

“It’s…very strange to be back,” Wowryk admitted, “I keep expecting to see Dreamland when I look out the window, with women ruling everything. Instead, I just see another city. From here, you can’t even tell these people are still recovering from a devastating war,”

“That’s because they used male slave labor to restore the city,” Jall said, “If you want to see a bit more destruction, we can just head back up to the ship,”

“I just can’t believe that the Matrians are just settling themselves into their new lives,” Wowryk went on, “You saw what they were like before! They kidnapped Jeffery, nearly destroyed our ship and enslaved hundreds of thousands of their neighbours!”

“Yeah,” Jall said, “But with the amount of mind control that was going on out here, how much of that can you blame on them?”

“Are you saying you actually want to be here?” Wowryk asked, crossing her arms.

“Hell no!” Jall said, “I think this whole mission stinks! But I don’t think the Matrians are hiding any giant secrets from us!”

“Oh, really,” Wowyrk said, “And has it occurred to you that they may not even know what kind of secrets they’re hiding from us?”

Jall looked at her for a moment.

“That’s a disturbingly good point,” he said, looking uneasily out the window.

They quickly arrived at the Matrian Research Institute. The building looked like it may have been a museum or library, hastily converted. Naked data cables ran through the hallways and the equipment scattered on the heavy wooden tables looked like it had been scavenged from other locations.

“The original plans for the restored cities didn’t include research facilities,” a rather pale Matrian woman said, noticing the way Jall was poking a data cable with his toe, “Not for historical research anyway. I’m Chief Durella, head scientist.”

“Why do you think there weren’t any plans for historical research?” Wowryk asked, “History? Archaeology? Nothing?”

“Most likely because the women who redesigned the cities were more concerned with galactic domination than with knowledge of our past,” Durella said, “Please follow me. Your Commander Fifebee has already arrived,”

“I thought it felt a bit chilly in here,” Jall quipped.

In orbit of the planet, Yanick and T’Parief were stepping off the gangway leading off of Silverado and into Docking Station 1, the Matrian equivalent of Spacedock. From the outside, the station wasn’t very impressive. The main body of the station was shaped like a fattened sphere, with docking arms extending out from the equator. The main body itself was large; over twice the overall length of Silverado, but much smaller than a Federation starbase. In addition, large sections remained out of service. As Yanick and T’Parief walked through the corridors leading towards the commercial section of the station, Yanick was appalled to see the condition of the place. The corridors were stained and faded, occasional dents and scratches testifying to a long life of hard use. A strange smell, almost like old potatoes, wafted on the re-circulated air.

“This place is kinda gross,” Yanick said, wrinkling her nose.

“Really?” T’Parief replied, “I rather like the smell,”

The corridor they were following opened into a large shopping facility. Unlike starbases, which usually had ring-shaped malls around the central core of the station, the Matrian station had a single, large pie-shaped wedge reserved for commerce. Above them, huge windows looked out into space, one wedge of Matria Prime visible as the station orbited the planet. The great trash pile they’d seen earlier, the result of two years of salvage, couldn’t be seen from this angle, but T’Parief couldn’t help but wonder how much of a space-junk impact the massive windows could withstand.

The shops, the shopkeepers and even the various items for sale all shared the same shabby condition of the station. Upon seeing the two well-dressed officers, several immediately set upon them, holding up various items and promising only the best price for the fine young lady and her pet.

“Not interested!” T’Parief growled as one man held out what could have been anything from a French-fry cutter to a Klingon sex toy, “Leave us be!”

Dissuaded by the large alien’s fangs, the man retreated, only to be replaced by an older man offering large, gaudy custom jewellery. T’Parief growled at him, and he was replaced by a child holding out a tray of dried meat.

“Oh, forget it, Pari,” Yanick said, defending herself against an aggressive pottery salesman, “I’m really not in the mood to shop anymore!”

The merchants started falling over each other all over again, each offering suggestions as to how the fine young lady and her pet might spend their time.

“I am not her pet!” T’Parief snarled loudly, extending his claws and finally dispersing the crowd, “I am her mate!”

“Well, boyfriend, anyway,” Yanick said, looking around again at the shabby shopping facility, “C’mon, T’Parief, let’s go back to the ship,”

“As you wish,” He took one last look out the windows. He cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. In the distance, he could see something. He couldn’t make out what it was, but it was big, and it was coming their way, fast! Already it had nearly tripled in size, jagged edges becoming visible as it sped towards the station.

“Everybody out!” he ordered loudly, “Something is about to impact the station!”

There was a moment of panic, then one of the merchants noticed what had startled him.

“That? Don’t be concerned, Mr. Lizard, sir,” the merchant said. The rest of the crowd had turned away from the view, back to their shops and their wares. “That is only Matronus,”

“Matronus?” T’Parief asked, calming. As the object grew closer, he could see that it wasn’t on course to hit the station after all, though it would come close, “Is Matronus not your capitol city, down on the planet,”

“That?” the merchant shrugged, “It is now.” He turned and trudged back to his shop.

As the object passed by, T’Parief could see that it was a piece of debris. It was impossible for him to have any clue of what the object had once looked like, or what it had been. The shattered chunk almost looked like a chunk of pizza crust. One side was curved, and looked like it had been part of the outer edge of the original object. The other was a twisted ruin of metal.

Resolving to investigate more thoroughly with the ship’s sensors, T’Parief took Yanick by the arm and started to walk, quickly, back towards Silverado.

“So, how’s it going?” Jall asked, leaning against a filing cabinet.

“It is going slowly,” Fifebee said, “And each time you interrupt me, it goes even slower,”

“C’mon, how much data can there possibly be to sort through?”

“Considering that the Matrians have had electronic data storage for over five hundred years, surprisingly little,” Fifebee admitted, “And much of what survived appears to have been…scrubbed,”

“Scrubbed? As in what I do when I take a shower?” Jall asked.

“I’m sure a number of words can be used to describe what you do in there, most of which I have no interest in considering,” Fifebee replied, not turning away from the computer station she was using, “But the data have been ‘cleaned up’, so to speak.”

“You mean tampered with,” Jall immediately became slightly more serious.

“Yes. References to men have been subtly altered to reflect the inferiority of the male gender, which does not match our understanding of Matrian culture. Literature advocating war and female superiority has high priority on the computer network search engines.” Fifebee’s fingers were now flying over the computer panel at record speed, “Peaceful co-existence with other races has not been mentioned in any of the documents I’ve located so far, yet we know the Matrians were once a benevolent force in this region of space. The Senousian records dating back to before they left their original homeworld confirm that fact.”

“So what’s you’re saying is that we’re probably not going to learn anything about the original Matiran Empire by reading this trash, is that what you’re saying?” Jall asked.

“Correct,” Fifebee said, “We need an alternative,”

“Have I mentioned how beautiful your hair is?” Stafford said, “It’s amazing,”

“Thank you, Captain,” Queen Anselia said, inclining her head.

Anselia and Stafford had left the council buildings to enjoy a professional, diplomatic lunch. She’d taken him to the core of Matronus, to a large and expensive looking restaurant, and immediately ordered a drink that she identified as the local equivalent to whiskey. It was a bit early in the day for Stafford to start drinking, but who was he to argue with democratically elected royalty?

Downtown Matronus was almost indistinguishable from any Federation city. There were tall buildings, streets, streetlights, people, etc. Only the shape and colour of the buildings were at all different, being somewhat more round and with more shades of blue and pink than most Federation citizens would expect. As Stafford sat next to the windows of the restaurant, he couldn’t help but notice that the vast majority of the people walking past were women, and that most of them were staring in at him through the windows. Clearly Matria hadn’t resolved its male shortage yet, and that could only bode well for him! His mind immediately started to consider the possibilities of a planet where the women outnumbered the men, and the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea of spending a few months in Matrian space.

But first things first.

“So,” he said, picking at his appetizer, “Being Queen must be a lot of work,”

“Ugh, you have no idea!” Anselia said, “Meetings, and meetings about meetings, committees, and committees on whether or not to form more committees. It’s hell!”

“I bet,” Stafford said, “You know, I deal with that kind of thing on ship all the time, but I only have to worry about less than a thousand people,” Going good, Chris, he told himself. Build a bit of common ground, a bit of empathy, then go for the kill!

“Yes,” Anselia said, sighing, “And you get to go to exciting new places and meet all kinds of new people, instead of being chained to a desk!”

“Yeah, there’s really something to be said for this life,” Stafford grinned, “But you’ve done an amazing job! I can’t believe how different it is, compared to the last time I was here,” Flatter her a bit, butter her up. Make her feel like she’s something really special.

“Hey, Captain!”

Crap. His First Officer was strolling through the restaurant, deftly passing waiters, tables and patrons with a grace that some would call agile and that Stafford could only think of as Jall being…Jall.

“What do you want, Jall?” Stafford asked, “And more importantly, how did you find me here?”

“You’re wearing your comm-badge, duh!” Jall said. He noticed Anselia seated across from Stafford, “Hey, your Majesty. Nice dress, it really makes your chest look great!” He turned back to Stafford, “So, like, Fifebee says we’re not going to learn much about the old Matrian Empire from the records that survived; too many of them have been tampered with. Uh, are you OK?”

Stafford was presently chocking on a piece of grilled meat that had promptly gone down the wrong way when Jall had said the word ‘chest’.

“He’s turning purple,” Anselia observed, sounding worried, “Is that normal for your people?”

“Nope!” Jall said, quickly pulling Stafford out of his chair and performing the Heimlich manoeuvre, “But it’s not a problem.” He gave a hard thrust, and the piece of meat flew out of Stafford’s mouth and into Anselia’s drink.

“Jall,” Stafford wheezed, “Go away! I’ll talk to you LATER! And NEVER stand behind me like that AGAIN! Ugghhh!”

“Geez, fine,” Jall said, cocking his hip, “I just come here, try to do my job really well, save your life in the process and you just want me to leave! FINE!”

He turned and stalked off, snagging a fluted glass of something alcoholic on the way out.

“I’m so sorry,” Stafford said, cursing Jall’s bad timing. Hopefully he could still salvage this lunch enough to get a ticket into Anselia’s private rooms.

“That uncouth…Neanderthal is your First Officer?” Anselia asked, staring at Jall’s receding back.

“Yeah,” Stafford sighed, “Look, I know he comes off as a bit of a pig, but there’s really a good explanation for it,”

“We have never met a more arousing man in our life!” Anselia breathed, “He is so aggressive! So primal! So willing to say exactly what’s on his mind! He’s nothing like our men at all!”

Stafford felt his entire hope of seducing Anselia shatter like a drag queen’s cheap plastic tiara.

“You have no idea,” he groaned.

“Linkup successful,” Sylvia reported, “Although the data parity windows are still less than I would like,”

“It will suffice,” Fifebee replied, “Begin analyzing the data,”

“Are you sure we have to do this?” Sylvia asked, her holographic avatar tidying up the work tables in Science Lab 1 as she spoke, “I thought you told Chris that we wouldn’t learn anything about the Old Matrian Empire with this data,”

“I doubt we will,” Fifebee replied, “However, one must consider the sheer volume of data collected by a people over several hundred years. Even if all relevant information has been tampered with or deleted, there must be some original data remaining,”

“Yes, I’ve already found some that appears to be unaltered,” Sylvia replied, “But I don’t think suggestions for raising a litter of Matrian puppies is going to help us,”

“On its own, no,” Fifebee acknowledged, “However, if we collect enough unaltered data, we may be able to locate some clues that might be useful,”

“OK,” Sylvia replied. She fell silent as she devoted more of the ship’s resources to analyzing the Matrian database.

They had been working for some time when T’Parief and Yanick stepped in.

“I know it’d take a lot longer to get there in a runabout,” Yanick was saying, “But I’m going to have to visit Waystation at some point! I can’t go months without shopping the way you can!”

“Taking a runabout to Waystation is completely unfeasible,” T’Pareif said firmly, “The runabouts don’t have the range to complete such a trip. And you haven’t even explored the surface! I’m sure there will be something you will like in one of the cities,”

“Ohh, then why aren’t we down there looking around instead of hanging around some boring old science lab!” Yanick whined. She noticed the annoyed looks of Sylvia and Fifebee, “Like, no offence, or anything,”

“Why are you here?” Fifebee asked.

“There was a very large piece of space debris that nearly impacted Docking Station One,” T’Parief stated, “The briefing had stated that most of the debris in orbit of Matria Prime has been moved into the salvage pile. I wanted to determine if this piece would be a threat,”

“We do have a tactical panel on the bridge for things like that,” Fifebee reminded him, “Complete with detailed threat-analysis sub-routines,”

T’Parief simply glared at her.

“Fine,” she said, “Use the console next to the DNA re-sequencers,”

T’Parief continued staring at her.

“Next to the column with the blue lights and the flashing warning about genetic deterioration,” she added.

T’Parief moved to the indicated panel and began working. He’d barely begun accessing the external sensor array when Jeffery came through the doors.

“Has anybody seen Noel?” he asked, “Ah haven’t seen her since she beamed down with the Captain,”

“Did it occur to you that she might still be down there?” Fifebee asked dryly.

“Well…aye,” Jeffery said, “But…y’know, she really doesn’t like the Matrians, so Ah sort of figured she might be back…early…”

“None of us really like the Matrians,” Fifebee said, “But we still have a job to do,”

“I don’t mind them,” Yanick said. She was idly twisting her hair around one finger as T’Parief tapped at the panel.

“Ye like everybody,” Jeffery said.

“I don’t like…um…somebody,”

The doors hissed open again, this time Jall walked in.

“Trish! Martinis! Now!” He snapped.

“Uh, it’s the middle of the afternoon, and I’m helping T’Parief with a sensor scan,” Yanick said, “But OK!”

“Wait,” Sylvia said, “Jall, what happened?”

“Stafford’s an ignorant prick!” Jall replied, turning to the door, “C’mon, Trish!”

The doors refused to open.

“What did he do?” Sylvia demanded.

“He totally shot me down in front of the Matrian Queen, even though I totally saved him from choking to death!” Jall said, neglecting to mention that he was the cause of said choking in the first place, “And he was being a close-minded bigot again!”

“I thought you two had worked all that out already,” Yanick said.

“So did I!”

The doors hissed open again.

“Jall! There you are!” Stafford said, “I need your help!”

“Oh, now you need help from the homo, huh?” Jall asked, “And is this work-related?”

“Well…sort of. But not really.”

“Then NO!”

“Look, Jall,” Stafford pleaded, “Queen Anselia is, like, totally into you! She’s been totally cold to me since you came by the restaurant! The only way I was able to talk her into dinner tonight was if you and I double-dated with her and one of her friends! If you score with a queen and I just plain score, we can get our quota going back in the right direction!”

“I am NOT sleeping with a queen just so you can meet some stupid quota!” Jall declared, “Especially one who insists on referring to herself in plurals!”

“That’s a royalty thing. Lots of queens do it! Besides, it won’t be THAT bad,” Stafford insisted, “I mean, it’s what men were meant to do, right?”

“That is THE more ignorant thing you’ve ever said to me!”

There was an awkward silence. Both Stafford and Jall slowly turned to look at Sylvia.

“Hey, don’t look at me!” Sylvia said, “I have no idea how the two of you are going to work out your little dilemma. Try Counselor Yvonnokoff. Now, if you don’t mind, I have a great deal of data to sift through!” Her hologram promptly fizzled out.

“As do I,” Fifebee said, turning back to her console, “If only I had a data source that hadn’t been tampered with.

“I may have found you one,” T’Parief said.

Heads whipped around in his direction.

“What?” Fifebee demanded, “Where?”

T’Parief tapped at his panel. On the main laboratory screen, next to Fifebee’s station, an image of the curved piece of space debris appeared.

“What a mess,” Stafford observed.

“Well duh!” Yanick rolled her eyes, “It’s wreckage, silly!”

“Of what?” Jall asked.

“A Matrian orbital habitat of some kind,” T’Parief said, “It is in an irregular orbit that brings it very close to Docking Station One approximately once every five days.”

“Pari thought it was going to crash into us,” Yanick giggled, “It didn’t!”

“But it did cause me to wonder why it had not been towed to the salvage pile with the rest of the debris,” T’Parief said.

“Good question,” Jeffery asked, his engineer’s curiosity kicking in, “Any ideas?”


Jeffery took over the panel.

“It’s much bigger than anything else in the system,” he said, “Or it was. Ah think this is only a small piece of the original object.” He frowned, “Ah’m pickin’ up a few isolated pockets of atmosphere. Some residual power readings, too!”

“Yes,” T’Parief nodded, “Which is why I suspect there may be intact data banks on board,”

“How old is it?” Fifebee asked.

Jeffery tapped at the panel.

“Judging by the decay, Ah’d say it was destroyed very early in the Matrian Gender Wars,” he said, “But Ah couldn’t tell ye old it had been then without a more detailed analysis,”

“Then it is all mine!” Fifebee declared, jumping to her feet, “Fifebee to Impulse Engineering, ready my holo-relay, I am going on a trip!”

“Whoa,” Stafford said, “I didn’t OK a mission to a chunk of space junk!”

“This is probably the best chance we have at getting the information Queen Anselia wants,” Fifebee pointed out.

“Whoa,” Stafford said, “I just OK’d a mission to a chuck of space junk!”

“Thank you,” Fifebee gave him a pat on the shoulder on her way out, “For this, I will rescind the rumour I started about you and Nurse Veeneman and the chocolate body-paint.”

“Thanks,” Stafford said dryly. He turned to Jall, “What do you say buddy, up for a double date?”


“Well, what if you don’t have sex with her, what if you just cuddle for a bit?”

“Ugh!” Jall shouted, “Don’t you have any respect for my sexuality?!”

He stalked out of the lab.

Yanick, T’Parief and Jeffery stared at Stafford.

“I respect him,”’ Stafford said defensively, “Mostly.”

“You might want to work on showing it, Chris,” Yanick said.

“I disagree,” T’Parief said, “Let us continue to disrespect him. It would be like a bonding ritual,”

Jeffery and Stafford exchanged a glance.

“Ah could go for that,” Jeffery shrugged.

“As much as I would like to,” Stafford said, “I promised myself I’d try to work better with him.”

“You and I can still take part in the fun,” T’Parief assured Jeffery.

“No, he can’t,” Stafford said, “Jeffery, I want you to go over to that space thingy with Fifebee, see what you can find. If that piece of junk does have the information we need, it’ll go a long way towards showing the Matrians how useful we are and towards possibly getting me laid,”

“As long as we have our priorities in place,” Jeffery shook his head, heading for the door, “Let’s get this show on the road!”

Tags: silverado