Author: Brendan Chris
Captain Christopher Stafford stood on his ready room couch, his boots carefully placed on the drop cloth spread over the cushions. His ready room was immaculate: the carpet shampooed to gray perfection, his desk surface polished to a shine and every light fixture cleansed of any hint of dust. The framed pictures on the bulkheads, knocked askew during the various Qu’Eh attacks of the previous months, had been restored to their former locations. Using one hand to steady himself against the bulkhead, he carefully held a leveling device against the top of a picture frame with the other.
“Almost,” he muttered softly to himself as he gently pushed the picture down on one side. The image, a field of tall green plants with hundreds of tiny yellow flowers, shifted slightly. Stafford stepped back off the couch to admire his handiwork.
“Perfect,” he said, giving a satisfied nod.
There was a muffled shout from the direction of the bridge, then the bulkhead behind the image burst inward! The picture flew right at Stafford as he jumped back, insulation, sparking wires and chunks of debris flying into his ready room as a heavy support beam punched through the wall.
“AHHHH!!!!!” Stafford shouted, stumbling back over his desk, knocking padds and knick-knacks in all directions. His computer terminal fell to the carpet, giving a sizzling spark and a puff of smoke.
“What do ye think yer doin’?” Jeffery’s thick brogue was muffled by the portion of the wall that remained intact, “I told ye, THREE anti-gravs for somethin’ that size! C’mon, pull it out before- “
“JEFFERY!!!!!” Stafford screamed.
“Aye, before that happens,” Jeffery continued cheerfully. There was a brief pause, the sound of more scuffling, then the beam was withdrawn from the bulkhead, leaving a giant hole in its place. The hole was quickly filled as Jeffery poked his head through. “Sorry, Chris!” he said.
“Sorry??” Stafford demanded, dropping the broken remains of his picture, “Sorry? Is ‘sorry’ going to fix this? It was a gift from my parents! It’s IRREPLACEABLE!”
“Your parents sent you the image file and you just printed it off,” Commander San Jall’s voice was the next one to filter through the broken bulkhead, “You can print a new one in, like, five minutes,”
“Or ye could if the replicators were workin’,” Jeffery corrected, “Or the power systems. Or anything, for that matter.
Stafford looked again at the gaping hole, sighed, then stepped towards the doors to the bridge.
The bridge, unlike the ready room, was a disaster. Half of the conn/ops console was missing, with just a blackened stub where the conn normally extended from the center pedestal. The viewscreen was a shattered mess, the consoles were largely dead and the lighting was being supplied by a series of haphazardly placed Matrian spotlights along with one or two barely working illumination panels.
Silverado had taken a beating in both the First and Second Battle of Matria Prime. Well, the Second and Third, if you counted the first time Silverado had fought it out in that particular solar system, but back then the Matrians had been the bad guys. Kidnapping Lt Cmdr Jeffery, trying to brainwash the crew and eventually being brought down by Dr. Wowryk, Commander Noonan and a Prefect Lashette of the Senousians. But that had been another fight. This latest round had seen Silverado defeated by the Qu’Eh, a newer, more corporate enemy, then sabotaged by Jall himself in an attempt to prevent the Qu’Eh from getting access to Federation technology. He’d mostly succeeded; almost every system in the ship had been fried. But the Qu’Eh had still managed to steal a few phaser emitters from the hull, enough to give the rescue a fleet a run for their money.
But the rescue fleet had prevailed, especially after a combined Starfleet/Matrian force flung a three-kilometer-plus, heavily shielded Old Matrian city at the enemy. Now, with the Matrians free and the Qu’Eh gone, it was time to turn their attention to rebuilding. And the recent bout with Dark Sylvia really hadn’t helped their efforts.
“Ah dunno why ye bothered trying to fix up yer ready room in the first place,” Jeffery said, still looking through the hole in the bridge wall, “Ye signed the rebuild order. The Matrians are gonna tear this ship apart like Yanick and Jall tearin’ into a case oh lager,”
“Please,” Jall sneered, “I wouldn’t touch a lager if you paid me. Maybe a nice, light micro-brew…but no. Hard liquor, any day of the week,”
“Eh,” Jeffery gave a wave without turning, “Yer bum’s out tha window,”
Stafford and Jall exchanged glances. Stafford shrugged.
“Leave his ass out of this,” he advised Jeffery, “And I just wanted one piece of the ship to look decent. You know, someplace I can work before the Matrians get too far into their reconstruction?”
“Deconstruction,” Valtaic corrected, climbing up from behind the tactical panel, “They’re tearing the ship down to the spaceframe before they rebuild. As you know, learning how the Federation builds ships. Or rather, how they built them about seventy years ago?”
“Ye did good work at least,” Jeffery said to Stafford, finally pulling his head out of the hole, “Too bad it’s only going to last another day or so,”
“Another day?” Stafford exclaimed, “But…I thought I’d have a week or two before they got up here!”
“Nay,” Jeffery shook his head, “The whole bridge module comes off tomorrow. Along with the antimatter pod assembly, the captains yacht, the shuttles, the navigational deflector particle emitter. Everything that’s designed to be removable. Then on to everything that isn’t.”
“Oh,” Stafford looked crestfallen, “I guess…I just thought we’d have more time is all.”
“Haven has thousands of shipbuilding robots, “Jeffery said, “Hundreds in this shipyard alone. As soon as their Master Shipbuilder arrives, we’re gettin’ this show on the road!”
Stafford looked like he was about to say something else when a young Matrian stepped out of the emergency hatch and onto the bridge.
“Wow, what a climb!” the young woman said, “Invigorating!”
“May I help you?” Stafford asked politely, trying not to give her the old once-over. Matrian women were largely oblivious to the…er, attentions of alien men. (Matrian men were somewhat less physically-minded than the average human male.) But a few pointed ‘You see something you like?’ comments from Matrian women with the physique to crush him like a soda can had taught him to be…discreet.
“Message from an Admiral Tunney,” she replied immediately.
“I’ll read it later,” Stafford waved a hand, “It’s been nothing but bad news from him lately anyway,”
“You’ll talk to me NOW!” Tunney’s voice emerged from behind the woman’s back, making Stafford jump, “Between the time difference and the difficulty in getting the bandwidth on that one, single, subspace relay, I sure as hell am not waiting for you to call me back!”
“Sir!” Stafford jumped to attention, looking around for the elusive Admiral.
“Oh!” the Matrian exclaimed, pulling on a shoulder strap to reveal an open terminal slung behind her back.
“Go put me on the ready room desk,” Tunney’s voice emerged from the terminal, but the only image visible was that of an empty chair. The woman looked around for a moment, but Stafford, Jeffery and Jall all pointed towards the ready room doors (next to the gaping hole in the wall.) She stepped through the doors, spotted the desk and placed the terminal on it. The three Starfleet officers gathered around the hole. On the terminal, Tunney was dropping into his seat.
“Thank God!” he grumbled, “Do you know how nauseous I was getting, with that screen swinging around on her back? Why the hell are you hanging around that junk heap instead of in your office? On the planet?”
“Um…this is my ship, sir,” Stafford said, trying to think fast, “This is where my….good example? Uh…to provide a…um…responsibility?”
“Nice leadership noises,” Tunney rolled his eyes, “And why the hell are you talking to me through a hole in the wall?”
“GET IN HERE!” Tunney snapped.
Stafford, Jeffery and Jall all scrambled through the doors and into the ready room. Valtaic, uninterested, returned to his work.
“Not you two!” Tunney waved towards Jeffery and Jall, “Get out!”
Jall and Jeffery raced back out through the doors and to the other side of the hole, looking in.
Tunney looked exasperated. Stafford, noticing the dark look on Tunney’s face, grabbed the remains of his canola field picture, quickly located a jutting piece of metal, then hung it over the hole.
“Thank you,” Tunney said dryly, “I just love what you’ve done with the place,”
“Thank you, sir,” Stafford replied, on reflex.
“Shut up!” Tunney snapped, “Do you KNOW just how much trouble you’ve caused???”
“Uh…none at all?” now Stafford was confused, “We fought off an alien invasion, found a giant buried space station, showed the Matrians that the Federation is there for them and contributed to the positive karma of the galaxy. We got rid of trouble! We kicked trouble’s ass!”
Tunney crossed his arms.
“True,” he conceded, “But you also went over my head and managed to get the planetary leader of Matria Prime to authorize a rebuild of a starship that Starfleet Command had ordered decommissioned. Worse, you went over Fleet Admiral Ra’al’s head!” Tunney’s face loomed in the small screen, “If we were in the Klingon Empire, I’d probably be dead right now!” he barked.
“If we were Klingons, somebody would have killed her years ago,” Stafford muttered. More loudly, “I didn’t go to Anselia, I swear!”
“Right. You expect me to believe that you’ve been sleeping with her through this whole invasion, but that she just came up with the idea to rebuild your precious little ship all on her own?”
“Well, yeah. But…hey! How did you know we were-“
“I know everything,” Tunney cut him off.
“Sir, I swear! She came up with this on her own!”
“Be that as it may, do you KNOW how much paperwork is involved in rescinding a decommission order?”
“A lot?” Stafford guessed.
“Yes,” Tunney agreed, “But NOTHING compared to the paperwork needed to give a new Federation member access to all the classified technology buried in that ship! Even if it is all fried, it’s going to have to be replaced! The paperwork needed just to give them enough information to fabricate a new warp core is going to take me at least a week!”
“Oh” Stafford cringed a little.
“And I’m great a paperwork” Tunney went on.
“Yes, sir,” Stafford gulped.
“Fantastic, even,” Tunney continued.
“Lots of experience,”
“Which means it will probably take you about two weeks,” Tunney was smiling now, “Another week for the impulse engine systems, three or four for the shield emitters. Luckily, the physical dismantling and reconstruction of the spaceframe isn’t classified…but the compatibility study with the Matrian construction bots will probably take your people a while.”
“But…but…” Stafford’s mouth was gaping like a fish now.
“I’ll be transmitting the details your way,” Tunney said, looking downright pleased with himself, “Enjoy,”
The screen went dark.
“Crap,” Stafford groaned.
“We couldn’t just have tried for a new ship,” Jall’s annoyed voice came through the strategically placed picture.
Elsewhere in the massive space station, Lt Trish Yanick was also struggling with an interior decorating dilemma.
“No, Pari,” she said insistently, “I don’t agree, I won’t agree, and there’s nothing you can do to MAKE me agree!”
T’Parief, all two-plus-meters feet of him, looked down at the diminutive blond girl.
“I think there is,” he said, moving in closer and baring his teeth.
“Don’t be silly,” Yanick bopped him on the nose, making him draw back with a reptilian hiss, “We can’t make out in front of the baby!”
“I wasn’t going to…that wasn’t…what baby?” T’Parief shook his head, then looked over to one corner of the large, sparsely furnished bedroom.
“Yes, Trish,” Dr. Wowryk said calmly, “There isn’t an actual baby here, yet. Oh, and thank you so much for thinking of me as well,”
“Right,” Yanick stood firmly, “We can’t make out in front of Noel, either!”
“Thank you,” Wowryk turned back to her work.
“We aren’t going to make out,” T’Parief said firmly.
“Well, I’m glad we agree!” Yanick said, sounding relieved.
“I was not suggesting…oh very well. We agree on that,” T’Parief gave up that part of the discussion, “But not on the matter at hand. The egg will NOT stay in our bedroom!”
“Yes it will!” Yanick insisted, “See? Noel is already setting up the incubator in here, and once it’s in, we can’t move it!”
“Yes you can,” Wowryk chipped in, “This thing has so many backups and protective systems in it, you could throw it out an airlock and your egg would be fine for at least a day,”
“WE’RE NOT THROWING OUR BABY OUT AN AIRLOCK!” Yanick shrieked.
“I didn’t say you should,” Wowryk rolled her eyes, “Come ON Trish, calm down!”
“The place for spawn is NOT in the same room as the parents,” T’Parief said, “Such coddling…it is an insult. The child will live in the room down the hall. The second one on the left, between the second bathroom and the…which is it? The room with the torture device by the window?”
“My sewing room,” Yanick said, “And NO! I want the baby in HERE!”
“Why do you have a sewing room?” Wowryk asked, “Do you actually know how to sew?”
“NO, but that’s not the point!”
“The point is that you want to raise our child to be a sniveling, whining weakling, terrified to emerge from beneath your skirts!”
“Point,” Wowryk brought a hand to her mouth, delicately stifling a giggle, “Sewing room. Point.”
“Hey, I want to raise our child the way my parents raised me, and am I a sniveling weakling?” Yanick demanded, ignoring Wowryk and giving T’Parief a hard shove with both hands.
He didn’t move. Not so much as a millimeter.
“OK, you’re a bad example!” she admitted. She turned to Wowryk.
“Whoah, hey!” Wowryk threw her arms up, “Don’t go shoving me around just to prove how tough you are!
Before Yanick could reply, there was a gentle chime coming from the front door.
“Thank the Divine Lord!” Wowryk muttered, crossing herself and rushing for the hallway.
“I do not think you a weakling,” T’Parief said gently, “Your parents did wonderfully with you. But they did not have to consider Klingon, Andorian or Gorn parts to their child,”
“Parian parts,” Yanick corrected, “My favorite parts,”
Down the hall Wowryk rolled her eyes as a loud THUMP! sounded from behind her.
“Sinners,” she muttered, “The second I turn my back, it’s right to the floor, cloths all over the place! And right in front of the baby!”
The door chimed again.
“I’M COMING!” she snapped.
She crossed the spacious living room, passed the formal dining room and the broad opening to the kitchen area as she moved towards the entrance foyer. Yanick and T’Parief had spent days hunting for their temporary quarters aboard Haven, going through dozens of living units in the towers that filled the space station’s inner city. Unit after unit, tower after tower, they’d all been turned down. Eventually, they had expanded their search to include the massive apartment buildings attached to the Inner Rim, and it was there that they had found their dream home.
Apartments weren’t really the right word. Externally, the buildings resembled apartment buildings merged with the towering, curved wall that was the outer boundary of the city and the inner boundary of the thick ring that held cargo bays, docking facilities, shipyards, living quarters and everything else associated with a space station. But the actual ‘apartments’ themselves ranged from compact, single person accommodations to sprawling luxury units that filled half the building floor. Yanick and T’Parief’s home was one of these, and with it’s ground-level location opening onto a spacious yard, it was about as close to a farmhouse as one could get aboard the flying city.
Wowryk opened the front door, revealing Fifebee and Sylvia.
“Good morning,” she said pleasantly as another loud THUMP! echoed through the house, “May I offer you a beverage?”
“What was that?” Sylvia asked, moving quickly towards the hall, “Is the baby OK?”
“Ignore that,” Wowryk sighed, “I believe that is the sound of make-up sex,”
“Oh good, did they finally agree on where the baby is going to sleep?”
“NO!” Yanick’s voice rang from down the hall, followed by a yelp from T’Parief.
“Pay attention to what you’re doing!” he snapped.
Wowryk pinched the bridge of her nose
“Please get me out of here,” she said to the two artificial women.
“But I wanted to see the baby!” Sylvia complained.
“We can come back later,” Wowryk said.
There was another THUMP!
“Hey, no, my leg is going to cramp!” Yanick faintly complained.
“I’ll come back later,” Sylvia agreed.
Wowryk followed the two holograms to the nearest tram station. After retrieving Fifebee’s holo-relay (which was generating both their images) they boarded the tram and sat. Within seconds they were racing through the curving tunnel, then emerging into the city. Far above them, the clear dome gave a wonderful view of Matria Prime.
“Thanks,” Wowryk said, “I really needed to get out of there.”
“Too much domestic bliss?” Sylvia asked knowingly.
“I’m very happy for them,” Wowryk said neutrally.
Fifebee looked interested. She frowned for a moment as her program sifted through data, then spoke.
“Is their successful relationship underlining your own romantic failures, leading to feelings of loneliness and inadequacy?” she asked.
“I DON’T HAVE FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY!” Wowryk snapped.
“Fifebee,” Sylvia warned.
“I…oh,” Fifebee pursed her lips, “I apologize, Doctor. I was only curious,”
“Forget it,” Wowryk said, “I just want some quiet time. A nice walk through the empty Atriums is just right.”
Fifebee and Sylvia exchanged glances. Around them, the tram slipped into the entrance tunnel at the base of the Command Complex, turning as the tunnel curved into the Transit Hub.
“Oh, I know the shops are all closed, but I’m not interested in shopping. Or dealing with strangers,” Wowryk said, “All I want is-“
The tram entered the Transit Hub and approached the platform. As it did, people on the crossover bridges, on the balconies scattered above the curving tracks and on the landings of the fancy, glass-enclosed staircases all started pointing excitedly. All Matrians, half holding video recording devices, half holding microphones and all of them now rushing to the platform where their tram was coming to a gentle stop.
“Peace and quiet,” Wowryk finished.
Back in the shipyard complex surrounding Silverado, Jeffery and Valtaic were huddled around a complicated-looking bank of terminals in a complicated-looking control room. The room was a few levels below the actual shipyard operations center, the window looking into the yard giving them a view of Silverado’s navigational deflector.
“Ye think Tunney meant what he said about turnin’ this into a paperwork nightmare?” Jeffery asked.
“Hmm,” Valtaic replied, his tone decidedly non-committal.
“Aye, he was probably just givin’ Chris the grief over this whole thing…warrant he was lookin’ forward to gettin’ this old ship off the books!”
Jeffery moved away from the terminal, walking towards the rear corner of the room. Here another window looked into a smaller repair bay just off the main shipyard. In it, one of Silverado’s heavily damaged shield generators lay carefully centered on the bay floor. An equally damaged runabout was stashed at the far end, almost like an afterthought.
“Have ye uploaded the plans yet?” he asked.
Jeffery waited for an explanation. Evidently, one was not forthcoming.
“Because,” Valtaic explained patiently, “The Captain has not yet completed the required compatibility study for the construction droids,”
“Aye,” Jeffery nodded, “So we have to analyze their performance. Havin’ them do some basic repairs like the shield generator is the perfect way to get him the data for the study,”
“Agreed,” Valtaic nodded, “But we cannot permit the bots to work on Federation equipment without the compatibility study,”
“But we can’t finish the study without the data…which means lettin’ them work on Federation equipment!”
The two men glared at each other. Well, Jeffery glared. Valtaic absently brushed at his tunic as his agitated energy field attracted every dust mote in a ten meter radius.
Jeffery was about to tap his comm badge when it went off.
“Wowyrk to Jeffery!” Wowryk’s voice trilled out through the channel,
“Noel! What’s wrong!” Jeffery gulped.
“Fifebee, Sylvia and I have been cornered in the Transit Hub! Do you have access to a transporter pad? We need to get out of here!”
Jeffery bolted for the door, intent on getting to the runabout and hopefully cranking up its transporter.
“What is it?” he demanded, “Qu’Eh spy? Matrian rebels? Those creepy parasites from Fastus IV that burrow into yer-“
“JEFFERY!” Sylvia’s voice cut in, “This isn’t the time!”
“Right, right,” Jeffery emerged on the main deck of the repair bay and sprinted towards the runabout, “What is it?”
“PAPARAZZI!” Wowryk cried.
Jeffery skidded to a halt.
“Really? Ye mean with flash bulbs and such?”
“Flash bulbs were obsolete centuries ago, Simon!” Sylvia’s voice replied.
“But same basic principle, yes,” Wowryk cut in.
“Oh,” Much less concerned, Jeffery opened the runabout door. He tapped at a few panels, saw that the runabout did have some power…and that the transporter buffer was completely depolarized.
“Well,” he said, “Good thing it’s not an emergency, coz the only way yer comin’ through this transporter is in a bucket.” He chuckled, “Chris’ll be thrilled. He wanted ye to keep the good-will going with the Matrians, right?”
“Thanks for nothing, Simon!” Wowryk snapped. The channel died.
Jeffey walked back up to the construction bot control center.
“Problem solved?” Valtaic inquired.
“There was no problem,” Jeffery smirked, “Noel just doesn’t like cameras. She’ll be fine,”
Valtaic thought for a moment.
“Don’t say it,” Jeffery said before he could speak, “Ah don’t want some alien crack about me culture, or chivalry, or whatever. Let’s just call Chris up and get an answer to this wee problem,”
“I believe you may-“ Valtaic started.
“Jeffery to Stafford,”
Up in his ready room, Stafford was almost ready to cry. It had only been a few hours since Tunney’s ominous edict, and already he had close to two dozen different padds on his desk, each with a different form or requisition. Every piece of paperwork dealing with the refit of a starship, normally handled by a well-experienced team of shipyard bureaucrats, now dumped on his lap. And made more difficult by the fact that the shipyard doing the work wasn’t a Starfleet shipyard. Well, OK, it sort of was now, what with Haven being designated Starbase 341 and all, with a new Starfleet command crew inbound. But the Matrians were still relatively new members.
“Maybe I should just blow the whole ship up and start from scratch,” Stafford groaned.
“Wowryk to Stafford,” his comm-badge chirped.
“Noel,” he groaned, “I was about to call you. I need something for a headache,”
“How about a small mob of reporters?” Wowryk asked, a bit of bite in her tone.
“No, I don’t think that would…wait, what?” he frowned, “How did reporters get aboard? The city is off-limits, isn’t it?”
“I don’t care! They’ve got Sylvia, Fifebee and me cornered in the Transit Hub! We’re hiding in an empty shop, but there’s no way out the back! I tried to get Jeffery to beam us out, but he just laughed, and-“
“The Matrians aren’t going to hurt you, Doctor,” Stafford massaged his temples, “They just want to talk to the woman that helped save their civilization. Again.”
“BUT I HATE CAMERAS!”
“And I hate paperwork,” Stafford shot back, “We’re both out of our comfort zones. Stafford out!”
As the channel died, he leaned back in his chair.
“I am SO going to pay for that later,” he grumbled.
He stared at the pile of padds.
“On the other hand, if I can get Sylvia back up here, she can probably chew through this stuff in about thirty seconds,” he said thoughtfully. He was about to call Wowryk back when his comm went off again.
“Jeffery to Stafford,”
“This better be good, Simon!” Stafford said impatiently, “I need to call Wowryk back! If I can get Sylvia up here, then-“
“Noel will be fine, Valtaic and I are havin’ some trouble with the construction bots,”
“I told you I need the study data before I can do anything!” Stafford snapped.
“Aye, but we can’t let the bots loose on the shield generator to get the data until we have the authorization,”
“But I can’t get the authorization without…oh f**k my life!” Stafford snapped.
“Aye, ye see the problem,”
“There’s gotta be a waiver or something in here somewhere,” he started shifting through the padds. He abruptly stopped. “Wait…yeah, you know what’s happening with Wowryk. She called you already…”
“Aye. So whot?”
“And you just told her not to worry about it?”
“I believe,” Valtaic cut in, “That the Captain is about to point out that you have completely missed the significance of your former lover reaching out to you for assistance, the potential gain of status in her eyes had you assisted her, and the likely consequences of your failure to do so,”
Down in the shipyard, Jeffery was turning to Valtaic, his eyes as round as saucers.
“Ye don’t think she…she didn’t mean anything by it,”
“I am still learning about human culture,” Valtaic admitted, “But it has been much easier to understand once I realized that when communicating with human women, one must always look for hidden meaning,”
“I think he’s got you there, Simon,” Stafford’s voice said over the comm, “Who knows? Maybe this is her way of saying she’s interested again,”
“BOLLOCKS!” Jeffery shouted, running for the door.
Valtaic chuckled to himself, then turned back to his panel. What was he doing? Oh yes.
“Valtaic to Stafford. If I may inquire about the waiver-“
“Valtaic, follow Jeffery,” Stafford’s reply was immediate, almost as if he’d expected the call.
“Why?” Jeffery’s situation was in no way relevant to Valtaic’s work. In fact, with Jeffery gone, he might even make swifter progress.
“You can’t seriously tell me that based on your past experience with Dr. Wowryk, you don’t think what she does to Jeffery will be worth seeing?”
Valtaic considered this.
“Would you like me to take a camera?”
“Do you think Dr. Wowryk is interested in resuming romantic courtship with Lt Cmdr Jeffery?”
“Not a f**king chance,”
In the Transit Hub, Wowryk, Sylvia and Fifebee were standing in a cylindrical room, roughly a third of which consisted of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the tram tracks two levels below.
“I keep expecting somebody to put a coffee shop in one of these,” Sylvia said, looking around the room, “It’s prime location,”
“No kidding,” Wowryk muttered, “GO AWAY!” She waved angrily at the throng of Matrians clustered on a balcony less than ten meters from the left window.
“Is it really that big a deal, Doctor?” Fifebee asked calmly, “They just want a few photos, perhaps some choice sound-bites,”
“Yes, it’s a big deal!” Wowryk snapped, “I can take space battles, and injuries, and evil aliens, but I draw the line at being harassed and photographed by a bunch of, of…nosy busybodies!”
“Simon and Chris didn’t think it was a big deal,” Sylvia said.
“Well then THEY can come deal with them!”
There was silence for a few minutes.
“We cannot simply stay here,” Fifebee said firmly, “I have work to do. And you’ll die of starvation or dehydration if we remain too long. I suggest you simply treat them the same way you treat everybody else who is disturbing you,”
“Telling a bunch of reporters she’s not interested in dating isn’t going to look great in the papers,” Sylvia teased gently.
“NOEL!” Wowryk comm badge chirped.
“Simon,” Wowryk said cautiously, tapping the badge, “Yes? I am a bit busy at the moment,”
“Just stay there! Ah’ve got a fix on yer signal! Ah’ll help ye out, no sweat!”
The channel went dead.
“Well,” Wowryk looked taken aback, “That’s a positive development. I’m sure Simon is on his way to a working transporter right now. This whole problem will be solved in a matter of moments.”
Sylvia and Fifebee exchanged a doubtful glance.
Jeffery was not, in fact, on his way to a working transporter. Having been the senior Starfleet engineer poking around Haven since it’s activation a few weeks ago (and being on good terms with Colonel Abela) had its advantages. He’d used a Traveler with command override on a turbolift and was at that moment just emerging in a corridor just off the Transit Hub. He knew Wowryk was on the third level of the hub’s outer wall, in an unoccupied shop or cafe. He knew the reporters were surrounding the only entrance, and that that particular space looked out over the tracks. So he’d taken the lift to the inner side of the hub, climbed up a maintenance ladder and started inching along one of the support beams that held the massive lighting panels over the tracks.
“We were so close,” he muttered to himself, “So close to gettin’ to second base when things fell apart. But maybe…maybe if Ah play me cards right…”
He pulled a length of duranium cabling from his tool belt and began securing one section of it to the beam.
“No problem, Simon,” he muttered, “No working transporters. All she needs is a way out. Just break down the window, climb onto the beam, and we’re at home base! Er, Ah mean home free. Right.”
He steadied himself, just as Fifebee was turning towards the window.
“Uh-oh,” Fifebee said calmly, “I believe we are about to witness a rescue attempt,”
“Likely to succeed?” Sylvia asked.
With a Tarzan-like howl, Jeffery jumped off the support beam, halfway between the inner wall and the shop window. He continued howling as he soared through the air, swinging along the perfect arc defined by the cable he gripped, legs outstretched to smash through the window.
“I suspect not, no,” Fifebee answered.
Jeffery’s howl abruptly stopped as he smashed into the nearly unbreakable transparent aluminum window, stuck for a moment, then tumbled to the hard deck several meters below.
“SIMON!” Wowryk gasped. She turned for the exit and keyed the lock. The doors hissed open, revealing the sea of reporters. “Out of my way!” she snapped, “Somebody just fell on the tracks!”
There were a series of gasps, then Sylvia and Fifebee watched as the Matrian reporters stampeded down the corridor, down the stairs and towards the platform, Dr. Wowryk trailing behind. “OH REALLY!??” Wowryk snapped, her voice fading as she turned the corner, “You mean all I had to do was yell something like that and you would have left me alone??”
As she disappeared from view, Valtaic approached the opposite direction, a holo-recorder in one hand.
“Did I miss the ill-conceived rescue attempt?” he asked calmly.
“Yes, but don’t worry,” Fifebee replied, “I have it in my memory logs.”
Down on the tracks, Jeffery was groaning as Wowryk quickly assessed his injuries.
“Bruises mostly,” she said brusquely, “That left ankle looks bad, and you may have cracked a rib. Luckily the track anti-gravity field kicked in, or you might have broken your neck!”
“Small price to pay,” Jeffery winced, “For ye,”
“For…” Wowryk frowned, “Jeffery, what exactly do you think is happening here?”
“Well…ye called me for help. Weren’t ye…reaching out?”
“You’re one of my shipmates,” Wowryk said, “We’ve barely seen each other for months. Of course I was reaching out!”
“But ye weren’t…Ah though maybe ye were callin’ me cuz ye might have wanted to…to…date?”
Wowryk blinked, and for a moment it seemed nothing would happen.
Then the storm clouds rolled in.
“SIMON JEFFERY!” she snapped, “What part of ‘COME SAVE ME FROM A BUNCH OF NOSY REPORTERS’ translates to ‘I WANT TO DATE YOU AGAIN’!??! Somebody ELSE can take you up to the clinic!”
With that, she turned and stormed past the reporters.
“No offense,” she growled on the way by.
“Oh,” Sylvia groaned, looking down from the window up above, “I’m not looking forward to tonight’s news broadcast.”
“-embarrassing day for Lt Comd Simon Jeffery, one of the-“
There was a crash, then a groan as the newscast showed footage of Jeffery hitting the window then sliding down to the tracks below. “-Silverado officers currently residing aboard Haven. Rumour has it-“
The image skittered backwards, then began to replay. Once again, the footage showed Jeffery smashing into the window. “-one of the Silverado officers currently-“ The image skittered back again.
“Oy!” Jeffery finally barked, “C’mon, mate! Isn’t it bad enough that-“
“I just can’t help myself,” Cmdr Jall admitted, rewinding the footage again.
“Listen, ye git!”
“Quiet, all of you!” Stafford grumbled.
“-one of the Silverado-“
“I did not say-“
“-anything,” Fifebee finished quietly.
“But it goes even FURTHER back,” Jall went on, manipulating the playback.
“-part of ‘COME SAVE ME FROM A BUNCH OF NOSY REPORTERS’ translates to ‘I WANT TO DATE YOU AGAIN’!??!” Wowryk snapped on screen.
“That’s some nice camera work right there,” Jall pointed.
Stafford slammed his fist down against the table he was using, sending padds tumbling to the floor.
“JALL!” he barked, “Jeffery has ALREADY been humiliated! Why the f-“
“It’s OK, mate,” Jeffery interrupted, his voice almost a sigh.
“No, it’s NOT all right!” Stafford went on, “He’s-“
“He,” Jall crossed his arms and finally turned away from the screen, “is trying to make a point.”
Stafford’s eyes narrowed. The three of them, along with Fifebee, Valtaic and Sylvia were in what would, in theory, become the Silverado crew’s temporary replacement for Unbalanced Equations. Steven was still setting up, and having a hell of a time figuring out to get the real wood tables he wanted for proper ambiance, but in the meantime the generic Haven lounge had plenty of generic Haven furniture. Valtaic was sitting next to Fifebee’s holo-relay, an open access panel sitting next to a cup of replicated Raktajino
“What point,” Stafford demanded, “could possibly require you to keep rubbing Simon’s nose into the fact that Noel basically emasculated him in front of the whole planet?”
“In the interest of correctness,” Valtaic spoke up, “I must point out that you are incorrect. Only an estimated 73% of Matrians even watch the total combined channels that were represented at the incident. Of course, the news feeds back to Federation space ensure that even at the 0.5% likely viewing-“
“Honey,” Sylvia shushed him, “That’s fascinating, but nobody cares. Could you please get back to downloading that update for Fifebee’s relay? I would really like to have a body for my own while the ship is being repaired, and the current system is very, very…glitchy.”
Fifebee gave her a look of annoyance. Sort of the look one might give a sibling who was getting increasingly invasive in her use of private space.
“Certainly,” Valtaic returned to work.
“The point I’m trying to make,” Jall said, “is that Wowryk is finished with him. Done. Finito. Frankly, with all the mild-mannered boys on this planet, I expect her to be dating within the week. And the sooner Mr. Jeffery gets it into his head,” Jall moved over to Jeffery and poked him in the chest, “the sooner he’ll realize that there is a WHOLE PLANET full of AVAILABLE WOMEN for him to chase after!”
“He…he has a point,” Stafford admitted, “C’mon, Simon…when was the last time you actually got laid?”
“Captain Simplot,” Valtaic supplied helpfully, “Stardate-“
“Why in the name of Siri would you care about such things???” Fifebee demanded.
“I have begun keeping track of a number of anecdotes for when I am expected to engage in social frivolities,” he replied, “For example, the Captain was last treated for Senousian chlamydia on Stardate-“
“Right, thanks, we get the picture,” Stafford cut him off and turned back to Jeffery, “But Simon, just think of all the things you haven’t done for the past few years because you’ve been trying to impress Wowryk?”
Jeffery looked thoughtful.
“Aye, it’s been a while…” he said slowly.
“In fact, you and I haven’t hung out in ages either,” Stafford went on, pushing his pile of padds back into a carry-bag, “And I need a break from this paperwork.”
“Are ye thinkin’ whot Ah’m thinkin’?” Jeffery was starting to look eager now.
“I think I am,” Stafford nodded, “Jall! Where’s the best night-spot on the planet? I’m talking bar-crawling-“
“-beer slamming-“ Jeffery added.
“Wait, wait, stop,” Fifebee abruptly interrupted, “Sir, you are being highly illogical,”
Stafford and Jeffery turned to her.
“Fifebee,” Jeffery asked, “Why would there be anything logical about going on a bender?”
“You are asking Cmdr Jall where to find bars, strip clubs and other assorted diversions,” Fifebee explained, “Do you really wish to spend your evening moving from one…what is the word…‘sausage-fest’ to another?”
Jeffery and Stafford exchanged a look.
“She has a point,” Stafford admitted.
“Let’s go find Lt Cmdr Stern,” Jeffery suggested.
“Yeah,” Stafford agreed.
The two of them high-tailed it out of the room.
“You just ruined,” Jall said slowly, “What might have been the funniest, most hilarious bar disaster of the decade.”
“San? Sweetie?” Sylvia said, “Stop your evil plotting and help Valtaic install this upgrade!”
Neither of them noticed the nondescript woman in the corner, her Starfleet uniform bearing the gold of Engineering/Operations. They also didn’t notice the interested glances she’d been throwing at Stafford and Jeffery for the past hour.
And they didn’t notice when she followed the two men out of the room, either.
“What do you mean nobody’s in charge of security right now?” Wowryk demanded.
“I mean exactly that,” T’Parief said flatly, his deep voice seeming to make the deck plates rumble in Haven’s Command Center, “Until the new Starfleet crew arrives to take control of the station, we have only a few administrative personnel on board,”
“Then how do I get rid of all those gossiping reporters?” Wowryk asked.
“How do you usually get rid of irritants?”
“I kick Commander Jall out of Sickbay!”
“I guess you two have something in common after all,” Yanick giggled. She was walking around the lower walkway, egg firmly held in her arms.
“The reporters you refer to have already been ordered to leave the station,” T’Parief returned to business, “As you know, the Matrian government is restricting access to the city until further notice. However, security is not as tight as it could be. They may return. And, of course, if you return to the planet there will be nothing to stop them from approaching you.”
“Can’t you do anything?” Wowryk asked.
“Perhaps the Captain will assign a few personnel from handling shipyard security to assist with city security for the time being,” T’Parief tapped his comm-badge, “T’Parief to Stafford,”
T’Parief tried again.
“What?” They could barely make out Stafford’s voice though the overwhelming sound of music, voices and what might have been Jeffery trying to pick up a woman by asking her if she wanted to see his hydrospanner.
“I would like to discuss-:
“I can’t hear you,” Stafford shouted, “Look, can this wait?”
“-not going to get anywhere with a corny pickup line like that-“ a woman’s voice broke into the channel.
“-unless it’s an emergency. Stafford out!”
Silence fell over the command center.
“Did those assholes go clubbing without me??” Yanick demanded.
“You’re about to be a mother,” Wowryk chided her, “They did the right thing,”
“But…wait,” Yanick blinked, “Was Jeffery hitting on a woman? That wasn’t you???”
“Apparently,” she admitted.
“Excuse me, Cmdr T’Parief?” A young-looking Matrian man, far too young-looking to be wearing the rank of Major that was none the less affixed to his uniform, had leaned over the railing from the command deck, “Uh, we have a Federation courier requesting permission to dock,”
“I was not aware of any Federation ships arriving today,” he said, “Or for the next week, for that matter,”
“Do you want me to tell them to turn around and go home?” the major asked, “Because…you know…that doesn’t sound very neighborly to me,”
“Did you run their registration and encrypted friend-or-foe ID against the Federation database, like I showed you?” T’Parief was almost purring now.
“And did they check out?”
“Um…” assorted beeping from the panel, “Yes.”
“Then,” T’Parief said, “as this is your planet and your city, you are free to do as you wish. My security needs have been met,”
“But…but what do I DO?”
“For your sake,” Wowryk said dryly, “Hope that it’s your new command staff, arriving early,”
It was not the new Haven command staff. Nor was it anyone associated with them.
The courier docked at one of Haven’s docking ports with practiced ease, the pilot engaging docking clamps, powering down ships systems and sending in a request for refueling after the long flight from the core of Federation space before the single passenger, a beautiful blond woman, had even made her way out of the airlock.
As planned, her contact was already there waiting for her.
“He’s down on the planet,” the contact, Lt Melissa Swelts informed her, “I’ve been following him for the past two days, ever since I was told you were coming. But I don’t understand-“
“You don’t have to understand,” the woman cut her off, “this man-“
“Actually you’re right,” Lt Swelts held up a hand, “I don’t need to understand. All I need to know is that Capt Baird needed a favour, and if that favour means keeping an eye on Lt Cmdr Jeffery for a few days, then fine. But if I don’t get back to the Vendome soon, Captain Saint-Germaine is going to declare me AWOL,”
“Right, I’m sorry,” the blond said, “I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s just…well, I’ve got a score to settle with this one.”
“Whatever,” Swelts said, turning to leave, “Best of luck. Oh, and here’s his comm-badge locator frequency. He’s down on the planet, bar-hopping with the Silverado Captain.”
She tossed a chip back toward the blond, who caught it easily.
Commander Carly Nance absently passed the chip from hand to hand. It would be an easy matter to locate Jeffery with this, even in the middle of a planet full of aliens. She just had one minor matter to take care of first.
“You know what this place needs? More chairs. Or a lounge. Or something,” Yanick complained, still holding her egg as she walked the second level of the command complex with T’Parief and Wowryk.
“Neither of you are required here,” T’Parief said bluntly, “No activity is expected. The Matrians are monitoring the sensors, the first of the new Starfleet crew is arriving within the week,”
“And we actually don’t really need you up here either,” the young Major said, poking his head back over the third level railing. He saw the glower T’Parief sent his way and immediately cringed back.
“That’s not what I meant! I mean, if you wanted to go relax, we can take care of things here and comm you if there’s a problem! But we more than appreciate you staying around just in case…and….well…um…thank you?”
T’Parief said nothing, merely flicked his tongue out as if to taste the air, then turned back to the women.
He was about to speak when the Matrian Major poked his head back out.
“Um…it’s actually a good thing you didn’t leave,” he said, “We’re getting a message from Starfleet,”
T’Parief took the steps to the upper level three at a time, found an empty control pulpit and confirmed his identity. The message flashed up on the screen.
“You better call the Captain,” Wowryk said, reading over his shoulder, “He’s not going to like this,”
“No, I imagine not,” T’Parief said.
Stafford was, at that moment, gazing at the bottom of a glass that was almost but not quite entirely unlike a typical human beer pint as the last dregs of his ‘beer’ drained away.
“You know,” he said, “I think these bar runs were a lot more fun at the Academy because we were pretty much limited to the kind of beer we could get on Earth,”
“Nay,” Jeffery said, nursing some pink concoction that had apparently been grain at one point. And had, so they told him, been fermented into some sort of ale, “We were younger. And we had the rest of our squad with us. That’s the thing.”
“No Simon, it’s this Matrian stuff,” Stafford grimaced, grabbing a menu, dropping a clear piece of Dillon Enterprises Quick-E-Trans over top and reading the translated results. (Their marketing division was still reeling from the product’s disastrous similarity to Quik-2-Trans, a near-instant and luckily temporary gender reassignment technology.) “Maybe it’s something in the water, but I think my bowels have just given up on this planet.”
“Too much info, mate,” Jeffery said. He grabbed the menu, pointed, frowned, concentrated on getting his finger where he wanted it, then waved the waitress over.
Then he spent another minute trying to remember where his finger had been before he’d waved.
“Two of those, please,” he said.
“Make it three,” Stafford added.
Jeffery looked at him like he was crazy.
“Who’s the third?” he asked.
Stafford shrugged, wobbling a bit on his stool.
“I dunno. We’ll find somebody sooner or later, won’t we?”
“I thought you wanted to go to that strip bar Stern was talking about?” Jeffery asked.
“We’re here,” Stafford frowned.
Jeffery looked around. The bar they were in followed pretty much the universal ‘intoxicating beverage service facility’ that was almost exactly as common as biochemistry that allowed intoxication, minus cultures were intoxication was forbidden. (But then add back the cultures were intoxication was forbidden, but happened anyway. Which was most of them.) There were tables, booths, pleasant lighting, the loud drone of conversation over what the Matrians considered music (and Jeffery considered incomprehensible).
There were no naked women. Or naked men, fortunately.
“I don’t think so,” Jeffery said.
“Sure it is. C’mon, wait here and I’ll get you a lap-dance. It was your birthday recently, right?”
“Like five months ago,” Jeffery said, “And Chris, nay. Ye don’t have ta…”
But he was already gone.
Sighing, Jeffery thanked the waitress as she dropped off their three drinks. Jeffery quickly downed his, then hid the glass under the table and grabbed the third. To be honest, this night out wasn’t quite turning out the way he’d hoped. He’d been full of piss and vinegar, right up until that first woman he’d tried the hydrospanner line on had turned him down. After that, he’d just sort of…lost his mojo.
He blinked, noticing a new woman sitting at the bar, far enough that he couldn’t make out her features, but close enough that he could see that she had one hell of a body…and a dress that wasn’t putting any effort into hiding it. He could just get up and walk over there, say hello. Who knew? This was Matria Prime, after all. He had the advantage.
He’d almost convinced himself to get up when Stafford plopped back into his chair, blocking his view.
“Well, I have some good news, and some bad news,” Stafford said, holding his hand over the right side of his face.
“The bad news is that you’re right, this isn’t a strip bar,” Stafford took his hand away, revealing what would probably be a black eye before long, “And the women I thought was a stripper is actually a Matrian Defense Force Captain. Small world huh? Also, I might have a harassment charge on my file before we get back,”
“And the good news?” Jeffery asked.
“I remembered where the real strip bar is. Let’s go,”
Jeffery looked longingly back towards the bar, but the blond woman was heading towards the exit anyway.
“T’Parief to Stafford,” Stafford’s badge chirped.
“Can it wait until tomorrow?” Stafford asked.
“Ye have to…tap the..” Jeffery stopped, trying to remember what he was trying to say.
“Right. Stafford here,” he tapped the comm badge, “Can it wait until morning?”
“It can, but it should not,” T’Parief said, also forgoing pleasantries.
“Then it will, Stafford out,”
“C’mon, let’s find somebody we can pay to get naked,” Stafford said.
“Ooch, it sounds so perverted when ye say it like that,”
Carly tapped her ear, turning off the audio enhancement as Stafford and Jeffery prepared to leave. She bolted for the exit immediately, plans forming in her mind.
She knew from her (poorly translated) Map O’ Matria that there was only one decent strip bar nearby. And she’d need to get there fast to beat the two men and put her plan into action.
Stafford and Jeffery arrived at the strip bar, ordered drinks, then sat very, very quietly at a small table near (but not TOO near) the stage.
“Simon?” Stafford asked.
“Aye, Chris?” Jeffery replied nervously.
“This is NOTHING like Earth,” Stafford gulped.
“Ah know,” Jeffery paused, “Ah’m feert, mannie.”
“Scared,” Jeffery clarified.
The first big difference was that the dancer on the stage wasn’t gyrating to anything with a pulsing beat. She instead was slowly moving to something that might have passed for classical music on Earth. That was strange, but what really threw them off was the women. The women were tall. They were beautiful, in that somewhat Nordic Matrian way. There were blonds, brunettes, a couple of redheads. And their…female assets…were both well formed and adequately sized.
But nowhere near as large as their muscles. In fact, Stafford was certain that the two women dancing on the stage in front of him could tear him apart and make a few Olympic-record winning tosses with the pieces.
One of the dancers wandering around the floor stopped at a table full of slender Matrian men, flexing before sitting down. She laughed at something one of the men said. A few minutes later, one of the men rose and followed her to the private dance area.
“Aren’t those little guys scared they’re going to get hurt?” Jeffery asked.
“No more than the Earth women in a male strip club, I suppose,” Stafford said.
“Hey boys,” a busty brunette had sort of half-stomped, half-sashayed her way towards them, “How’s it going?”
Stafford and Jeffery noticed the swirling tattoos adorning her rippling arms before they even noticed her large but muscular chest.
“Meep!” they squeaked.
“Don’t be shy,” she sat at the table and made herself comfortable, “Is this your first time at a dance bar?”
“I guess so,” she leaned over the table, placing a strong hand over each of theirs “It’s OK,”
“We…that is,” Jeffery cleared his throat, “It’s our first time at a Matrian strip bar,”
“We’re from out of town,” Stafford added, finding his voice.
“Oh, the Federationers,” the dancer gave them a blazing smile, “That must be exciting!”
“Are the dance bars on your world like this?”
“Surprisingly,” Stafford took a long swig of his drink, “The women are just less…”
“Beautiful? Sexy? Engaging?”
“Muscular,” Stafford finished awkwardly.
The dancer looked taken aback.
“Oh,” she sat back, “Like her?”
Stafford and Jeffery turned to one of the side stages, where an absolutely stunning blond woman - probably human, from the look of her perfectly slender limbs - was easing out onto the stage.
“I’ll just leave you to it then,” the Matrian said, noticing their suddenly slack jaws, “I guess there’s no accounting for taste.”
The blond was staring right at them, too. A pair of sunglasses obscured her features, but they could feel her eyes on them as her body moved. She was still dressed, if you could call the revealing bikini she wore ‘dressed’, and she gave a ‘come hither’ gesture that each man clearly understood was for him and him alone.
They almost raced to the chairs along the edge of the stage, credit slips in hand.
But before they could offer them, she dropped down beside the stage and pulled out a padd. (From where, they could not possibly determine.)
“Now that I have your attention, boys,” Carly said, “I have something for you,”
She handed Jeffery the padd.
“Wha…who are you?” Stafford demanded, his brain starting to switch back on,”
“Hmmm? Oh, sorry!” Carly pulled the sunglasses off her face and looked at them expectantly.
Stafford just shrugged and shook his head apologetically.
“Sorry, he said, “I don’t recognize you. Simon?”
“She’s here to steal our saucer!” Jeffery gasped, staring at the padd.
“What?” Stafford demanded, grabbing it from him and reading, “Blah, blah, hereby requisitioned by Deneria Shipyards…Waystation 2 project? WHAT?? You can’t! This is bullshit! That saucer is part of our ship and it’s about to be rebuilt!”
“Guess again,” Carly said, “Fully authorized by the Fleet Quartermaster and Federation Procurement. Ambassador-class saucers are at premium right now. So we need yours,”
“And what are we supposed to do?” Stafford demanded, the haze of alcohol in his brain suddenly lessened, “That’s half our ship!”
“You’ve got a shipyard, build a new one,” Carly shrugged.
“That’s ridiculous!” Stafford snapped, “Simon, what…” he trailed off. Jeffery was now squinting at the woman, most of what had just been said had apparently gone right over his head.
“Do Ah know ye?” he asked.
Carly’s face darkened with rage.
“Clearly,” Dr. Wowryk said, “you two had a good night,”
Both Stafford and Jeffery had shown up at her clinic first thing in the morning. The hangover remedies had been easy, and now Wowryk was examining the identical black eyes each man now sported.
“And by ‘good’,” she clarified, “I of course mean ‘perfectly sinful and depraved’?”
“Not as much as I’d like…ow!” Stafford winced as Wowryk ‘accidentally’ bumped the dermal regenerator against his bruised skin, “As for why the woman who was apparently sent to come get our saucer decided to use a strip show to deliver the order, then cold-cock Simon for…well, I have no idea why she’d do that. He tried to explain, but he wasn’t making any sense,”
“Ah did, ye just weren’t listening,” Jeffery complained.
“Explain it again,” Stafford ordered.
Jeffery’s eyes shifted to Noel.
“Uh…later?” he asked.
“Jeffery, explain it NOW,” Stafford repeated, trying to remain perfectly still as Wowryk repaired his face.
“Ye remember when we were at Deneria Dry Docks, and the Captain there wouldn’t fix our ship because we were late?”
“Yeah,” Stafford frowned, “What does a repair dock halfway back to Earth have to do with…oh God, she’s the Engineer Collector, isn’t she!?”
“Engineer collector?” Wowryk asked.
“Uh…nothing,” Stafford closed his mouth. He suddenly understood why Simon might not want to talk about the woman he’d practically been ordered to sleep with in order to get repairs going. Except…
“One of the engineers on the dry dock has a thing about sleeping with Chief Engineers,” Stafford abruptly starting explaining, despite Jeffery’s frantic attempts to shush him, “You and Simon were sort of on the rocks, so I told him to go out with her so she’d convince her boss to fix our ship,”
Wowryk crossed her arms. Her tone was almost acidic.
“But he wouldn’t do it,” Stafford finished, “He was too worried about his relationship with you,”
“We weren’t on the rocks,” Jeffery interrupted.
“Simon, your entire relationship was on the rocks from start to finish,” Stafford chuckled. He suddenly stopped chuckling as he realized that he’d been so worried about covering Jeffery that he’d made a strategic mistake.
“So what you’re saying,” Noel said slowly, “Is that you ordered my boyfriend to cheat on me to get your ship fixed?”
“Well, I ordered him to take her to dinner…” Stafford held up his hands, “I didn’t order him to sleep with her,”
“And Ah didn’t! Ah want to be very clear on that!” Jeffery jumped back in.
“I see,” Wowryk put down the regenerator and moved to the exit.
“Where are you going?” Stafford called, “We’re still bruised and puffy!”
“I’m getting Nurse Veeneman,” Wowryk said cooly, “I’m very cross with you right now, and I would prefer not to make a scene. Or change ‘bruised and puffy’ to ‘cracked and bleeding’.”
With that, she left the room.
Stafford and Jeffery exchanged a look.
“I think we got off easy-“ he was cut off as the door opened again.
“AND IF YOU EVER PULL A STUPID, REDICULOUS, PERVERSE STUNT LIKE THAT AGAIN I SHALL CASTRATE YOU BOTH WITH A DULL SPOON!” Wowryk roared. She cleared her throat and turned to leave.
“Staff meeting in an hour, Doc,” Stafford said, “At the Hub Club,”
Wowryk nodded, then marched out.
“Thank God,” Stafford gave a sigh of relief, “I was getting worried,”
“Well, if she’s yelling at us, she’s not building up resentment that could lead to a serious breakdown, right?” Stafford explained.
Jeffery did not look convinced.
“Wait,” he asked, “Why are we having our meetin’ at the Hub Club? Also, what’s the Hub Club?”
One hour later…
“This,” Jeffery said, “is the dumbest way to hold a staff meeting that anybody has ever come up with,”
“Look, Abela said it was our mess to clean up,” Jall said “And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather stay on her good side,”
“You only say that because she gives you unlimited access to the transporter system for your evening night-club jaunts,” Valtaic pointed out.
“And? Now shut up and mop,”
With an annoyed look, Valtaic grabbed a mop and began mopping. They were in the Haven Hub Club Fitness Center, the fitness club that the Silverado crew had taken over and used most thoroughly during their time trapped inside Haven. Not as a health club, but with the way the city had been locked down the club had had the only working showers and hygiene facilities. After over a month of hard use by the hundreds of Silverado crew that had hidden there, plus the Matrians and Senousians and assorted Starfleet aliens (many of whom produced sweat and other secretions that were more…volatile…than the human equivalent), well the place had seen better days.
The bottom line was that the entire facility had to be scrubbed from top to bottom with an impressive variety of chemical cleaners. Abela had insisted that the Silverado crew clean their own mess, and Stafford had insisted that the senior staff do their part.
“I am a warrior, not a janitor,” T’Parief grumbled.
“It’s the war on germs, big guy!” Jall slapped T’Parief on the back.
So T’Parief threw him across the room. He bounced once, then slid along the slippery floor right out of the changing room and into the pool with a loud splash. Stafford waited a moment for him to return, wringing water out of his uniform.
“Ok, so on to the problem,” Stafford said, ignoring Jall and trying to get rid of a patch of dried D’Ceti slime, “Why the hell would Starfleet send a plasma conduit engineer all the way out here to tell us they’re taking our saucer?”
“For that matter, why the hell do they even WANT our saucer?” Jall wondered, trying to fix his hair, “It’s wrecked. That’s why we’re rebuilding it.”
“They want to use it as the base for the Waystation-2 construction, according to the orders,” Stafford said.
“Aye, Ah looked it up,” Jeffery said, “They did that with the first one,”
“I thought those saucers looked familiar. Just way, way bigger.” Yanick said. She was ‘supervising’ the work, egg in hand. “Chris, you should use the scouring pad for that, not the sponge,”
“You’re all missing the obvious point,” Wowryk chimed in. She was restocking towels, little bottles of toiletries and assorted other items in the areas that had been cleaned, “What makes our saucer special? Why bother to drag it all the way from here and force us to build another?”
“Exactly,” Stafford said.
“Coitus interruptus,” Sylvia said immediately shaking her head, “I should have known that upsetting an engineer would have consequences. And he was just so angry when I wouldn’t leave he and his wife alone until they agreed to do the inspection walk-through of the ship,”
“You think that Captain Baird requisitioned OUR saucer specifically, just because we might have-“ Stafford started.
“There’s no might have, Chris,” Sylvia cut him off, “We definitely…how do I put this…”
“Cock-blocked the living hell out of a married man who wanted nothing more than to bang-“
“You mean ‘make love to’,” Wowryk corrected.
“-bang his wife?” Jall finished, wiping something sticky off a mirror.
“Yes, thank you,” Sylvia nodded, “Really, Chris if you were him, wouldn’t you enjoy the chance for a bit of harmless revenge, if it came up?”
“I guess,” Stafford sighed.
“So what do we do?” Fifebee wondered. She had flatly refused to touch any sort of organic matter and was instead conducting high-resolution scans to identify any missed spots, “I assume building a new saucer from scratch is out of the question?”
“Nay, the bots could do it easily,” Jeffery shrugged, “But-“
“But it’s part of our ship,” Stafford said, wiping his brow, “Oh, ew, what did I just get on my forehead?”
“And it’s part of ME,” Sylvia added, passing Stafford a towel, “I think you’re forgetting that I am far more the target here than any of you,”
“I agree,” Wowryk nodded, “Other than Simon, of course.”
“What does Simon have to do with any of this?” Stafford asked.
“Do you honestly think Deneria would send a woman who just happens to have a history with Jeffery entirely by accident?” Jall asked.
“I don’t think Capt Baird even knew what happened with her and Simon,” Stafford looked doubtful, “I mean, she probably wasn’t about to go up and tell him that she’s been banging every Chief Engineer that’s passed through that dock,”
“Some of her girlfriends probably know,” Yanick spoke up, “I mean, it’s hard to hide that sort of thing, really.”
“So she volunteers for this task when it comes up,” Jall shrugged, “Works for her, Capt Baird isn’t any wiser.”
“I realize that my knowledge of this sort of…unseemly…behavior is limited,” Valtaic was now trying to electrocute a particularly stubborn patch of mold with the palm of his hand, “But it seems most unlikely that Capt Baird would even care enough to put this sort of effort into inconveniencing us,”
“That’s actually a really good point,” Stafford mused.
“Oh really, Christopher,” Sylvia looked annoyed, “He sees a piece of paperwork that crosses his desk saying they need an Ambassador-class saucer. He thinks to himself, ‘Gee, I know the perfect place to get one’ and simply sends the form to that Vulcan administrator of his to make it happen. Not everything is a huge, complicated plot!”
“Then let us build a new saucer and be done with this irrelevant discussion,” Valtaic said, rather snidely.
Sylvia grabbed him by the arm.
“Let’s go have a little talk, sweetie,” she said, giving the rest of them a meaningful look.
“So now what?” Jeffery asked as Sylvia led the bewildered- looking Valtaic from the room.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Jall shrugged, “Go seduce Carly and get her to get Captain Baird to get another saucer. There’s probably a closer, more convenient one anyway. And if this really is just an ‘annoyance of convenience’ instead of an insidious plot driven by unspeakable hatred, he probably won’t take much convincing,”
“She might,” Jeffery gulped, “Ah don’t think she’s really interested.”
“Simon, she got nearly naked in an alien strip bar just to get your attention,” Yanick almost laughed, “It doesn’t matter what she says, she still wants to collect you,”
“I agree,” Jall nodded.
“Ye would! Ye always agree with her!” Jeffery accused.
“Because she’s always right,” Jall went to give Yanick a high-five, but she recoiled.
“You have…blue…all over your hands!” she wrinkled her nose.
“You people,” Wowryk snorted, “Did it occur to you that there might be a way to do this without involving sex?”
They all looked at her.
“Do you know one?” Stafford asked.
“Well…” she gulped, “Maybe? I’ll have to think.”
“Well, then we’ll go with this plan,” Stafford shrugged, “But do let me know if you come up with something good. OK people, let’s get this done!”
No sooner said than done, Jeffery was in the Outer Rim, walking through a section of quarters that had been set aside for transient Starfleet/Federation personnel. In true bureaucratic fashion, the transient quarters were not close to any docking ports, docking bays or other facilities that a visitor might like convenient access to.
In any event, Jeffery found himself in front of the door to Carly’s quarters, a bundle of flowers in one hand and a box of chocolate in the other. He awkwardly shifted the flowers to the other hand so he could ring the chime, only to have two of the flowers escape his grip and fall lazily to the floor.
“Bollocks,” he cursed, bending to pick them up. Somehow, the top of the chocolate box popped off, spilling expensive Rigellian chocolates onto the carpet.
“Well,” Carly said as the doors hissed open, “This is…pathetic,”
“Carly,” Jeffery got back to his feet, “Ah…Ah mean…”
“Wow, she is quite the looker,” Jall’s voice spoke directly into his ear, courtesy of a small, hidden earpiece, “Why didn’t you nail her when you had the chance?”
“Not now!” Jeffery winced as Carly looked at him, confused and a bit suspicious.
“Ah mean, I recognize ye now,” he said, trying to cover, “Ah just…can ye honestly say it’s reasonable to expect me to expect to see you in a strip bar ten sectors from home, gettin’ naked?”
“Nice recovery,” Stafford’s voice was next.
“She looks like a slut,” Wowryk sounded…well, as disdainful as Wowryk typically does.
“She IS a slut,” Yanick said, “Well, sort of. Of a very specific type. And what happened to that ‘love the sinner’ thing?”
“Oh course,” Wowryk’s tone immediately changed, “I do like her hair, I suppose,”
Meanwhile, Carly surveyed Jeffery, flowers and chocolate and all.
“I’m not sure what this is,” she said, waving in his general direction, “But I’m not interested,”
“BURN!” Jall giggled.
“It’s an apology,” Jeffery said, fighting not to let his anger show, “Ah mean, aside from not recognizing ye, we didn’t really part on good terms. And there aren’t many of us…engineers…out here in the Matrian Sector,”
Carly rolled her eyes.
“You’re here,” she said, “because you think that if you kiss my ass enough I can convince Captain Baird to let you keep your saucer,”
“Perceptive bitch,” Stafford cursed, “F**k!”
“This place has six shipyards, five of them aren’t doin’ much of anythin’,” Jeffery tried to roll his eyes in turn, but somehow only managed to cross them. He blinked. “We could build a new one.”
“Right,” Carly turned to leave, “Nice try, Simon. But I doubt I could help you, even if I wanted to. This came from Starfleet Procurement and the Federation Quartermaster. Captain Baird was just asked to send somebody out here to do a quick examination of the saucer and arrange for it to be towed back to Federation space. The tug ships will be here in two weeks, by the way,”
With that, the doors hissed shut, leaving Jeffery standing in the corridor.
“Shit,” Stafford cursed, watching on the small hidden camera Jeffery had been wearing as the doors hissed shut, “So even if Jeffery DID nail her, she can’t help us,”
“Why would Procurement or the QM do this?” Jall wondered, “I mean, we haven’t done anything to piss them off, have we?”
“At this point, I’ve lost track of everybody we’ve ever annoyed,” Stafford sighed. Most of the senior staff had gathered in the secret, classified Matrian Intelligence section of the city. Several MIT operatives were in the process of bringing the various systems online, but nobody had objected when the Starfleet officers had commandeered a small room filled with workstations.
“You two are hopeless,” Wowryk seemed almost amused.
“You think we’re missing something? Oh do educate us, dear doctor,” Jall said.
“You will never convince me Commander Nance came all the way out here just to see the look on Jeffery’s face when she told him she was taking half his ship,” Wowyk’s hands were clasped calmly in front of her, “Any low-ranking junior officer could have been sent. Or a subspace message.”
“And yet,” Valtaic spoke up, “She has rejected him.”
“She can’t just welcome him with open arms,” Yanick said, “He rejected her pretty good. He’s gotta work to get back into her good graces,”
“But if she can’t help us, why would he even bother?” Stafford wondered.
“She said she’s here to do a ‘quick examination’,” Jall was looking thoughtful now.
“So maybe if she says our saucer is crap, they won’t want it?” Stafford turned to him.
“Eh. Who knows?” Jall shrugged, “But…well, whatever.”
“Jeffery to Stafford,” the comm chirped. Stafford tapped his badge.
“Yeah?” he asked.
“Ah’ve got to find out who told Procurement and QM to go after our saucer!” Jeffery said.
“You think somebody made them do it?” he asked.
“Ye think it’s a coincidence that they just happened to pick OUR saucer for this project?” Jeffery asked, “And that Deneria just HAPPENED to find out they needed to send somebody out here? Nay! Somebody’s playin’ us, and Ah’m willin’ to bet that Carly knows who! Ah just need to figure out how ta get her to talk…”
Stafford turned to Wowryk and Yanick, who were wearing matching expressions of triumph.
“Good on you for picking up on that, Simon!” Wowryk permitted herself a smile.
“Of course,” Valtaic looked annoyed with himself, “Why tell us where the order had come from, if not to imply that there was some significance…I fear I will never understand this human plotting and scheming,”
“So what’s the plan, people?” Stafford asked.
But Wowryk was already moving towards the door, pulling Yanick by one arm.
“Uh…Noel?” Stafford prompted.
“Just do your thing, boys,” Wowryk said, “I’m sure you’ll be fine,”
Outside, Wowryk released Yanick’s hand.
“We need to find Fifebee and Sylvia,” she said.
“What are you thinking, Noel?” Yanick wondered, “You don’t think Jeffery can seduce the info out of Carly?”
“Do you think Simon could seduce a prostitute with a brick of gold-pressed latinum?” Wowryk arched an eyebrow.
“Well, no. Which is sort of why I’ve never understand why you were always so worried about him cheating,”
“Because the most annoying part about him is that he’s the seducee far more often than he is the seducer,” Wowryk replied.
“So what’s the plan?”
“Simple. Whoever is behind this, we simply need to convince them that our saucer isn’t worth the effort,” Wowryk said.
“And you know how to do that, huh?”
“I have a notion,” Wowryk sighed, “But it’s going to require me to do something truly…distasteful.”
“Oh,” Yanick looked thoughtful for a moment, then brightened, “Yay! What’s his name?”
“You are impossible,” Wowryk said. Her eyes were rolling, but there was a smile on his face, “No, not that kind of distasteful. But we’re going to need Sylvia and Fifebee to help…”
Commander Carly Nance spent half the next morning trying to figure out where the hell she could get breakfast. What sort of idiot place was this? None of the shops were open, the replicator in her quarters produced something that might be food, but still managed to turn even her tolerant, Starfleet-trained stomach. And the computer was no help at all.
She was poking around the Transit Hub when she came across a young-to-middle-aged woman in a Starfleet uniform, standing in the middle of a stairway foyer and looking thoughtful.
“Excuse me?” Carly called.
The woman didn’t speak, turn or otherwise knowledge she’d been spoken to.
Carly was a bit annoyed, but was more surprised. Fellow officers were usually very friendly, especially on frontier outposts like Haven. She walked around to face the woman and was surprised to see that her eyelids were fluttering rapidly, her face was perfectly impassive and there were no rank pips of any kind on her collar.
“The Silverado computer,” she said, realization dawning on her.
The woman’s eyes flew open, ghostly images sliding faintly over them. Carly had a fleeting impression that she was speaking to not a person, but a powerful intelligence, one that was processing vast amounts of data even as it directed the smallest piece of its awareness towards acknowledging her.
Then she smiled, her face brightening and the odd expression gone without a trace.
“Oh, hello dear,” the woman said, “Yes, I’m Sylvia. May I help you? You look rather lost,”
“I’m…uh, just trying to find a place to eat,” Carly said uneasily, “That serves human food, you know? Or even something Vulcan at this point,”
“Of course,” Sylvia put a hand on Carly’s back and started to guide her towards the tram tracks, “It’s been an ongoing thing here. Oh, my crew has been so frustrated! They love sampling new cultures and all, but there’s nothing like a taste of home, right?”
“Right,” Carly found herself allowing the woman to guide her. After the story she’d heard from Captain Baird, she’d had this image of the Silverado computer as some sort of electronic, voyeuristic parasite. Of course, Captain Baird had been very, very upset at the time, even for him.
“It finally got to the point where they’re going to open up their own secret little restaurant out in my shipyard,” Sylvia went on, “Secret knock to get in, select crowd and all that. But all Federation food! Well, there’s nothing actually there but a small replicator at the moment, but it’s programmed for Earth, Vulcan, Bajoran, Centaurian and I think there’s even some Klingon stuff in there. It’s a start, right?”
“And you’re telling me this why?” Carly was a bit surprised.
“Oh, you’re part of the family, sweetie,” Sylvia cooed, “Starfleet has to stick together, right?”
“Right,” Carly answered flatly.
Fifebee flickered into being in the seat next to Jeffery.
“You are now in range of the holo-relay. Sylvia will be here with Commander Nance in three point two minutes,” she said immediately, “Oh, and I am Jane 5-B, sentient hologram, and I would really like you to REMOVE THAT POINTLESS MANDATORY INTRODUCTION FROM MY SUBROUTINES!”
“Can’t,” Jeffery said.
“Can’t or won’t?” Fifebee demanded.
“Both. Either. Ah just can’t, it’s policy!”
“Hmmm,” Fifebee glowered briefly, then vanished.
“Don’t piss off the holograms,” Stafford advised him.
“Wait, why is Sylvia bringing Carly here?” Jeffery suddenly sat bolt upright in his seat.
“Good question,” he said.
They saw the door to what would soon be their secret restaurant open up. Sylvia walked in with Carly, who immediately made a beeline for the replicator and ordered up a plate of waffles and a big, steaming cup of coffee.
“Oh, thank the various gods,” she said, standing there with a tray and only then seeming to notice the various Silverado crew members sitting in the generic furniture, eating their replicated meals. Four civilians were arguing in the corner over what sounded like kitchen designs and outside the big windows was the dark, powerless form of the Ambassador-class starship.
Stafford and Jeffery watching in even greater awe as Sylvia guided Carly over to Wowryk and Yanick’s table.
“Is she NUTS?” Jeffery went white as a ghost, “Carly and Noel at the same table? That’s like…like matter and antimatter!”
Stafford’s arm snapped out towards Jeffery and he pushed down firmly on the other man’s shoulder.
“And throwing you in the mix won’t help,” he said quietly, “Maybe Noel has some kind of plan?”
“-think we almost met once,” Wowryk said, “I believe you were having dinner with Simon. Only he hid under the table as soon as I entered the restaurant,”
“I’m surprised he’d tell you that,” Carly said carefully. Great. Jeffery’s girlfriend. Or was that ex-girlfriend?
Wowryk laughed lightly.
“Oh, Simon and I talk about all sorts of things,” she said, “He really was a wonderful boyfriend.”
Was. Definitely ex-girlfriend.
“Hmph,” Yanick pouted.
“Oh Trish,” Wowryk sighed, “You had your chance-“
“YOU STOLE HIM FROM ME!” Yanick accused sharply. She visible calmed herself, then turned to Carly, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t get upset. And it was a long time ago,”
“And everything turned out for the best, right?” Wowryk asked, “After all, you have a child on the way, and T’Parief is, from what you say, an excellent and thorough lover,”
“Yeah, but Simon still had a bigger…well, never mind,” Yanick finished off the last of her fruit salad, “Speaking of T’Parief, I should go. He’s been carrying around that egg all morning.”
She rose and left.
“So,” Wowryk turned her attention back to Carly “Do you know how long you’re going to be with us? Trish and T’Parief are having a baby shower, probably in a month or so. And of course we’ll be planning some welcoming festivities for the new Haven command crew when they arrive,”
“I…uh, I’m only here to take a quick walk through your saucer and prep it for shipment,” Carly said.
“I wish Starfleet wouldn’t do that,” Sylvia sighed, “I mean, they can transfer my program to a new saucer easily. I’m actually running on a portable core right now. But there’s no place like home, right?”
“Let’s not dwell,” Wowryk said, turning to Carly “Oh, don’t worry, we’re not going to shoot the messenger. But it must be rough, being sent weeks out here just to do some paperwork!”
“I’ve been able to catch up on my reading,” Carly said coolly. Something was definitely up. Nobody was this nice. Not without some sort of ulterior motive.
Wowryk’s comm-badge beeped.
“Fifebee to Wowryk and Sylvia,” a female voice issued out, “Doctor, Crewman Shwaluk has been located. He has been lost in an empty part of the city for two days and is suffering from severe dehydration. I require Sylvia’s assistance in mapping out further areas of the city that may be of concern.
“Coming, Fifebee,” Wowryk replied, getting to her feet.
“Sorry, Commander,” Sylvia said, “But do enjoy your meal. Give me a shout if you need anything else.
And Carly was left sitting alone at the table, looking out at the empty starship in the bay and trying to get her bearings.
OK then, she thought to herself. If this is some sort of scheme, then any second now either Jeffery or that guy he’d been sitting with would sit down, chat her up and try to find out what she wanted in order to help them keep her precious saucer.
She looked around, then frowned.
Jeffery and the other guy were both gone.
“Ye’ve got to let me go back!” Jeffery squirmed as Stafford hauled him down the corridor.
“Fifebee was very clear,” Stafford said, “She said it was absolutely imperative that you NOT speak to Commander Nance. And I don’t know what the hell those girls are plotting, but so far it seems better that your lame pick-up lines.
“Like yer doin’ any better!”
“Hey, I was so great at picking up Matrian girls that I was in the news!” Stafford objected.
“Aye, bein’ accused of usin’ Senousian pheromones as date-rape drugs,” Jeffery pointed out.
“Falsely accused,” Stafford clarified, “Remember?”
“Oh, aye. Wonder who was behind that? We never did find out.”
They stepped into the shipyard control room. Sylvia was standing in front of a schematic of the city, her eyes doing the flickering thing they did when she was processing data. Yanick, Wowryk and Fifebee were over by the window looking into the yard.
“You don’t think that was too over the top, do you?” Yanick asked.
“No, it was perfect,” Wowryk said, “Just the right amount of spontaneity,”
“OK. And you realize you didn’t actually steal Jeffery from me, right?” Yanick continued.
“Whot?” Jeffery wondered.
“Forget it, Simon,” Wowryk said.
“Because I was never actually interested in him,” Yanick went on, “I mean, I remember thinking he was sort of cute. But he’s got such little ears, I figured he’d be pretty…well, you know. Small. Where it counts.”
“Oy!” Jeffery objected.
“Commander Nance is proceeding towards the saucer airlock,” Sylvia reported, “She should be calling us in three poin four minutes,”
“You’re tracking her?” Stafford asked.
“Actually, I really am trying to identify any other areas of the city where somebody could accidentally become lost,” Sylvia said.
“I’m tracking her,” Fifebee’s voice spoke out of the holo-relay in the corner, “Though I would prefer it if I had a body with which to perform the task,”
“You were the one worried about the relay overloading,” Sylvia pointed out.
“It’s my turn to be corporeal!”
“Five more minutes,”
“I can’t wait for that upgrade to be fully installed…”
“Carly to Jeffery,”
“Everybody shut up!” Stafford snapped. Once everyone was quiet, he nodded at Jeffery.
“Aye?” Jeffery opened the channel.
“I’m trying to get into the saucer to do my walk-though, but the saucer airlock is all sliced to hell. How am I supposed to get in?” Carly’s voice was carefully neutral.
“Oh. Yeah, we had a bit of an…incident. With an evil version of…never mind. Ye have to take the torpedo bay airlock and climb up,” Jeffery replied, “Ah can…Ah can give ye a hand, if ye like,”
“Thanks, I’ve wandered around in a derelict ship before,” Carly replied, “Out,”
“Ah should go help her anyway,” Jeffery turned to leave.
Fifebee materialized directly in his path, just as Sylvia faded out.
“You will do no such thing,” she declared firmly, “At least, not for another half hour,”
“Lt Cmdr Jeffery, would you please come give me a hand?” Carly’s voice sounded exasperated over the comm, “I don’t know who tried repairing this thing, but I can’t make heads or tails out of this plasma manifold they used,”
“It’s a Qu’Eh part, spliced into a Federation system,” Jeffery said, “And Ah’m on my way,”
It was spooky. Exactly thirty minutes after Fifebee had stopped him, he’d stormed out of the shipyard intent on finding Carly and trying to get the information he needed. He’d barely made it to the airlock when the comm had gone off.
He found Carly in Impulse Engineering, contemplating some of Jall’s half-assed repairs.
“She took a real beatin’ in the fight,” he said, “Fights,” he corrected himself, “And then Jall…that’s our Ops officer, he dumped a reactor overload into the systems to fry them good before the ship was captured.”
“I didn’t realize how extensive the damage was,” Carly shook her head, “I worked on this ship after…well, after our last ‘date’ on Denaria. She was old, but she worked,”
“Aye,” Jeffery sat on a console, “She did. But no more. Not until the Matrians do the rebuild,”
Carly tossed her hair back and stripped off her tunic.
“Ah…um…” Jeffery gaped.
“This isn’t for you,” she shot a dark look in his direction, “You’ve made your feelings about me perfectly clear. But if I’m going to go wandering through the Jefferies tubes, I’d rather be comfortable.”
She yanked a hatch open and was about to climb in.
“Look, it was weird, OK?” Jeffery blurted, “The whole Chief Engineer Shrine thing. But the only reason I was there…the only reason ye almost ‘collected’ me too is that I was…am…really attracted to ye! Yer a beautiful woman! A bit off yer head, but-“
“You were there because your Commanding Officer ordered you to be there,” Carly accused.
“That wouldn’t have worked if Ah wasn’t interested anyway! It’s just, Ah was seein’ someone,”
“Look,” Jeffery was pacing the small room, “Ah-“
“Wowryk to Jeffery,” the comm chirped.
“Noel, not a great time,” he said.
“Sorry, is Commander Nance with you?” Wowryk asked.
“I’m here,” Carly replied, “Could you tell your engineer I don’t need help?”
“Simon, apologize to the woman, then leave her be,” Wowryk didn’t miss a beat, “And Commander Nance, Trish, Sylvia and I are going down to Matria Prime tomorrow afternoon for some girl-time-“
“What about me?” Fifebee’s voice interrupted.
“And Fifebee,” Wowryk amended, “Would you care to join us?”
Carly froze. Of all the possible things somebody from the Silverado crew could have said, that was probably the one she’d least expected.
“I…um…sure?” she said.
“Excellent. We’ll meet you at the Silverbrook tram station at 1600 hours. Wowryk out.”
“Are they always that nice?” Carly demanded after the link closed.
“Sylvia and Yanick would be nice to a Klingon in battle rage,” Jeffery answered before he could stop himself.
“And your ex?”
“Noel? She’s nice, unless ye piss her off. And it’s easy to piss her off,” Jeffery gulped.
“Look, Ah’m sorry,” Jeffery said, “Ah just-“
“Sylvia to Jeffery, you are required in Workshop 3. Now.”
Jeffery was torn. Carly was softening! Now would be the time! He could have her right there in the engine room, then she’d tell him who was trying to rip off their saucer, or she’d wave a magic wand and make the whole thing go away.
On the other hand, Wowryk and Sylvia definitely seemed to be plotting something.
“Ah’m sorry,” he said again, then bolted.
“They’ve been down on the planet for hours!” Stafford complained, pacing back and forth in the still unnamed Silverado crew restaurant, “What the hell are they plotting?”
“Ah dunno,” Jeffery was flipping through various scans of Silverado.
“They are with Patricia,” T’Parief rumbled, “They may be shopping for a very, very long time,”
“She didn’t ask to borrow your credit chip, did she?” Stafford asked.
T’Parief simple grunted.
“Oh, sorry. That bill is going to huge, isn’t it?”
“It usually is, when Patricia borrows it,” the lizard sighed, “Luckily, she pays me back,”
There was a beep from the panel.
“Chris,” Jeffery had bolted to his feet, “Incoming message from Starfleet command, text only.”
“Yay,” Stafford twirled a finger, “Probably Tunney telling me that I missed some sort of paperwork deadline. I’ve been busy!”
“No. Well, that came in two hours ago, but….BLIMEY!”
Stafford ran over and leaned over his shoulder.
“Blah, blah…acknowledge report that Silverado saucer is deemed unsuitable!” Stafford cheered, nearly smacking Jeffery in the side of the head as he arms went up, “YES! They don’t want ours!”
“Continue to next candidate!” Jeffery finished the message, “USS Chilliwack!”
“But how…why?” Stafford wondered
“It wasn’t particularly difficult,” Wowryk explained. The women had returned from their outing, Carly had retired to her quarters and the Silverado officers had gathered in Stafford’s downtown condo. “If she was sent out here to do an examination of the saucer, then clearly there was an opportunity for her to give her recommendation,”
“But she never said-“
“Simon, of course she didn’t. She was trying to downplay her importance,”
“Let me finish,” Wowryk cut him off, surprisingly gently, “If her recommendation had been ignored, she would have been angry over being overruled, and probably would have told us who was overruling her.”
“But how did you get her to say our saucer was unsuitable?” Stafford wanted to know.
“Have you walked through it lately?”
“That was the easy part. Our saucer IS unsuitable,” Sylvia broke in, “We really would have been better off building a new one, to be honest.”
“But that was only half of it,” Wowryk went on, “Even if our saucer would take more work than it was worth, the whole reason she was here was because we’ve pissed people off. We had to…well…”
“Make amends,” Stafford said slowly, realization dawning on him, “That’s why you girls have been so nice to her! And why you’ve been ordering us away from her right before we could say something that would-“
“That would make us look bad,” Wowryk said, “A tall order, believe you me,”
“So your plan was to…be really nice to her?” Jall’s arms were crossed.
“I’m not buying it,” Stafford rose to his feet, “I’m sorry, Noel. But you’re usually a bit more…aggressive…than this. This whole nicey-nice thing isn’t exactly your style,”
Wowryk looked at him haughtily.
“You rarely see my nice side because you’re so busy irritating me,” she said.
“She has a point,” Jall stage-whispered.
Stafford was still looking at Wowryk, clearly expecting her to spill the beans.
“Well, OK,” Wowryk admitted, “I did have this elaborate back-up plan where I sicced a mob of reporters on her and told them she was plotting to steal half of Silverado.”
“Which sure would have been a PR nightmare for the Federation and…well, for whoever tried this stunt,” Stafford nodded, “I thought you might have something a bit more devious up your sleeve.”
Wowryk glared at him.
“Careful, or you’re next!”
“Noted,” Stafford gulped.
“In any case, we didn’t have to go that route,” Sylvia said, “Commander Nance may have had her history with us, but she’s a professional. And you know, most people respond well when you treat them as professionals, worthy of respect,”
“Our plan would have been more fun,” Jall said.
“So what happens to Commander Nance now?” Valtaic spoke for the first time, “Will she simply leave?”
“She’s leaving tomorrow,” Yanick nodded, “But before she goes…”
The women all looked at Jeffery.
“What?” he asked.
“She still likes you,” Yanick said.
“She didn’t…she kept sayin’…”
“Simon,” Sylvia said, “Just take her for a drink. Or supper. She’s still a fellow officer, far from home. She’s lonely.”
“And you might even get lucky!” Stafford chirped. Wowryk smacked him upside the head.
“Ah guess dinner wouldn’t hurt,” Jeffery sighed, “Strange or not, she’s still drop-dead gorgeous.”
There was silence for a few moments.
“Why-“ Stafford started.
“Commander Nance was humiliated the last time she and Jeffery were together,” Sylvia explained before he could even ask the question, “Even if she had come here demanding Jeffery sleep with her in order to keep the saucer, she would always know that he didn’t really want her, he was simply using her as a means to an end.”
“So? She had no way of knowing if Jeffery would even talk to her after she sent her recommendation back to Procurement or whoever!”
“Especially if he made it clear he was willing to sleep with her to save the saucer,” Wowryk pointed out.
“Which is why you kept calling him away before he could get that far with her,” Stafford nodded, “You had to keep his interest in her separate from the situation. Which would have been easier if you’d told us,”
“You boys never would have been able to keep up the role if you’d known you were acting,” Yanick said.
“Even if they only have dinner tonight, she still leaves with the knowledge that he went out with her of his own free will,” Sylvia said, “He went to her, she didn’t have to go to him, or beckon, or blackmail,”
“Which means that he must desire her,” Fifebee concluded, “At some level. Whether they engage in coitus or not, he expressed that interest,”
“Which means she wins,” Stafford nodded.
“You realize,” Jall said, “That you girls just completely manipulated the hell out of all of us. Especially Jeffery and Nance!”
“Oh, we didn’t really manipulate Carly,” Wowryk waved the concern away.
“She’s actually a lot of fun,” Yanick added, “Y’know, for girl-time anyway.”
“Uh-huh,” Stafford sighed, “I guess she never did say who was behind this, huh?”
“Nope. Does it matter?”
“Guess not.” Stafford shrugged.
“Oh, and Trish?” Jall asked.
“I’ve seen him in the gym shower. Small ears or not, that Scotsman is hung like a-“
“…not suitable,” Lydia Thompson sighed, her black nail polish gleaming in the low light of her officer in the upper levels of the Federation Humanoid Resources tower, “Well. That didn’t quite go according to plan,”
“Look, I don’t know why you wanted their f-f-f-frittering saucer,” Captain Scott Baird attempted to curse but was prevented by his profanity filter, “In fact, lady, I don’t even know why you’re involved in this crap. Or why you’re bothering me. Or why Procurement made me take your call. But if my engineer says their saucer is sh-sh-sh…not worth repairing, then it’s not. She might have a weird sex life, but she is really good at her job,”
“Far be it for me to disagree with an expert,” Thompson waved a hand dismissively, “Very well.”
“Great, glad you’re happy. Now, can I go back to doing my job WITHOUT having HR watching over my f-f-f-frappachino’d shoulder??”
“Humanoid Resources thanks you for your assistance,” Thompson’s voice was bored as she closed the channel.
“F-f-f-fidget you!” Baird managed to get out as the channel closed.
“Another day,” Thompson sighed, “Another day, another plan.”