Author: Brendan Chris
Author’s Note: This story takes place during the Halfway to Haven finale stories ‘1.17 & 1.18: You Will Be Infested’. There are spoilers, and I won’t go into a lot of detail about things those stories cover in detail…but this story is fairly independent. Or at least it should be. I hope it is.
“Haven approach control, this is runabout 5394-51A, requesting docking clearance,” Lt Comd T’Parief grumbled quietly into the tiny tactical station toward the rear of the runabout cockpit.
“Runabout 5394-51A, this is approach control, you are cleared to dock,” the voice of Lt Wyer came over the comm, “Bay 12 is ready for you and the other three runabouts,”
“Thanks,” Captain Christopher Stafford acknowledged, “5394-51A out,”
“Can’t believe we never got around to naming these runabouts,” Commander San Jall grumbled from the co-pilot seat.
“I’m not the one that forgot to bring the list of authorized and available runabout names,” Stafford pointed out.
“We could have asked Starfleet for it!” Jall shot back.
“And given them the chance to order us back sooner? And to give us grief over forgetting the list to begin with? Nope,” Stafford replied, “Besides, the distance we were from the nearest subspace relay? The message would take forever to reach them.”
The pilot turned in her chair, directing a look of pure death at Stafford.
“Captain. Listen very carefully: I haven’t seen my baby in months,” Lt Patricia Yanick said darkly, “If you don’t stop wasting time and get us back on that station -QUICKLY- I’m going to peel your face like a banana! Sir!”
Stafford gulped. Behind him, T’Parief smiled, a look of pride on his face.
“Take us in,” Stafford said, “But at least take us past Shipyard Three on the way, so I can see my ship?”
“Fine!” Yanick snapped, turning back to her controls, “Sure, let’s delay getting me to my infant child so you can see your precious ship!”
Stafford opened his mouth to say something, maybe to chide Yanick for her unusually grumpy mood. But then he remembered reading something about mother bears, cubs and the very low survival rate of anyone caught between them. He closed his mouth again.
The runabout ducked under the broad disk of Haven, giving a view of the engine arrays, the central energy transceiver and the ring of docking ports tucked under the inner edge of the Outer Rim.
“Is that the missing ship?” Valtaic enquired, pointing at a small, sleek Starfleet vessel docked at one of the ports. It had a ring nacelle in addition to the standard warp drive units.
“That is the USS Hummingbird,” Fifebee replied, checking her console, “It is not the missing USS Roadrunner. It was, however,recently assigned to the city. If we receive another mission before Silverado is complete, it may be a better option than the runabouts,”
“Anything would be,” Stafford complained. The crick in his neck from ducking under low doors and bulkheads was getting to be intolerable, “And how about that, Trish? A new, experimental ship to fly?”
Yanick informed him where he could shove his experimental ship.
“That would be an experiment, all right,” Jall chuckled.
They eased up from beneath the station. Stafford almost flew to the viewport, eager to see the progress on his ship. Instead, all he saw was a solid, dark grey shape sticking out of the station. Even the extended scaffolds of the shipyard, normally sticking out of the side of the city to cover the rear half of Silverado, were hidden.
“What the…where’s my ship?” he demanded.
Fifebee tapped her panel.
“Silverado is still there,” she said, “The shipyard has simply erected a hologram around the construction site. Most likely a security precaution against direct observation, which would reveal not only the progress on the rebuild but also the advanced Federation and Matrian construction techniques we are attempting to merge,”
“Well, shit,” Stafford sat back down, “OK, may as well dock.”
“Finally!” Yanick muttered.
The docking bay doors had already opened and four landing platforms had eased themselves down from above the ceiling and into the bay, each more than capable of holding one of the runabouts. Just inside the doorway leading from the docking areas to the Customs checkpoint and into the city itself, Sylvia and Lt Comd Simon Jeffery were waiting patiently.
They didn’t have to wait long.
“OUT OF MY WAY!” Yanick snapped, barrelling through at full speed, “Sorry! Sorry!” she added, almost as an afterthought, “I’m not trying to be a bitch, but-“
And she was gone.
“Um…” Lt Rengs spoke from his position behind Sylvia. Next to him, his wife Rengs Aris was holding Allona, Yanick and T’Parief’s infant daughter.
“She’ll be back soon,” Meris said. Her comm chirped, “That’s probably her now,”
“We’ll just go meet her,” Rengs said, looking uneasily at Sylvia’s stony face.
“Good plan,” Jeffery said, his mouth tight.
“There’s got to be a way to sneak past without going through the Customs station,” Stafford said nervously, “Can’t we just find a side passage? We’ve done that before, right?”
“They’d have to be opened up by the deck officer,” Jall said, “And why so nervous? It’s not like we actually GO through Customs, they have a line bypass for us! If…you know…they even had Customs up and running at the moment,”
“It’s not Customs I’m worried about,” Stafford said eyes shifting, “It’s-“
“CHRISTOPHER RICO STAFFORD!!!!” Sylvia’s shrill voice cut through the bay, echoing off the cavernous walls.
“It’s that,” Stafford sighed.
“MONTHS!” Sylvia snapped, stalking down the corridor towards the group of Silverado officers, “You were expected back here MONTHS ago!”
“Only one or two,” Stafford gulped, “And it’s not like we didn’t tell you guys we were being delayed! We stayed in touch!”
“Hi, guys,” Jeffery waved, but Sylvia cut him off.
“Dear Sylvia,” Sylvia recited, as if reading from a padd, “Stopped at the Tapart homeworld to do some diplomacy stuff. Ran screaming when Stern tried to seduce the Prime Overseer’s genderless offspring, which is apparently a high crime. But it’s OK now, the Tapart aren’t going to kill us. We just had to let them lock Stern up for a week.”
“Heh,” Stafford chuckled, “Yeah. But hey, the Tapart would make good allies! Especially considering how close they are to Qu’Eh space!”
“Sure,” Jall agreed, “Xenophobic, aggressive, territorial. What’s not to like?”
“Dear Sylvia,” Sylvia went on, oblivious to Stafford’s objection, “Stopped at an uninhabited planet so Valtaic could do some sort of Lithinarian religious thing. He’s fine, just a broken leg!”
“That was the sacred Rite of Voltain Discharge!” Valtaic lifted his chin, “It is an annual event, and is a somber reminder to my people of-“
“Somber my ass!” Jall cut in, “You climbed a tree in the middle of a lightning storm! You got hit by lightning fourteen times!”
“And when you fell, you were so amped up you set a bush on fire!” Stafford added.
“I need not explain my culture nor our rituals to you,” Valtaic said coolly.
“You nearly electrocuted me when I tried to set your leg,” Wowryk chimed in.
“That, I apologize for,” Valtaic admitted.
“Dear Sylvia,” Sylvia moved on to another communiqué, “Diverting off course again. Picked up an odd energy reading from an abandoned Matrian Colony. Call you when we’re done. You know, unless we die horribly,”
“Which we didn’t!” Stafford insisted, “In fact, we found something really interesting!”
“Oh yeah!” Jall said excitedly. He pulled a small pistol off his belt, “We found this awesome thing at the colony! I call it the D-BAD Ray!”
“What does that even mean?” Jeffery asked.
“The ‘Don’t Be A Dick’ ray!” Jall explained. He turned to Sylvia, “See, when you shoot somebody with it, it spikes their endorphins and causes a drop in aggression hormones. They basically forget why they’re even mad and calm right down. I’ve actually secretly shot you with it twice now, but I guess it doesn’t work on AIs,”
“We have used it on the Captain seven times since we found it,” Fifebee admitted, “Sadly, the effects wear off in minutes,”
That caught Sylvia’s attention.
“Mind-control technology?” she lifted an eyebrow, “San, that’s so illegal in Matrian Space now, you could be executed just for having that!”
Jall’s eyes widened.
“Is that a matter reclamation unit over there? Excuse me,” he quickly went and disposed of the D-BAD ray.
“The point is, I’ve been worried sick!” Sylvia said, “You’re months overdue! We had a major crisis here with the bots-“
“Is that why the shipyard is all closed off?” Stafford cut her off.
“Christopher, don’t interrupt,” Sylvia said primly, “And no, that’s just a security thing.”
“We…Sylvia sorted out the bots,” Jeffery stepped in, “Shipyard Six has been quiet ever since. But she-“
“Had to go through a very unpleasant experience to do it,” Sylvia cut him off.
“I’m…” Stafford hesitated, “I’m sorry we weren’t here to help,”
Sylvia tried to hold her severe expression, but it didn’t last.
“Oh, come here!’ she said, grabbing Stafford in a hug. She moved on to Jall, Fifebee, Wowryk and even Valtaic. The last might have slightly destabilized her imaging system.
“Come on,” she said, “I’ve stocked the kitchen in Chris’s condo. Let me make you supper.”
Everybody exchanged a look.
While Sylvia went back to get started on dinner, Stafford and Jeffery hopped the tram to Shipyard 3. Stafford ran for the windows, almost as giddy as a little kid.
“My ship!” he said happily, “My ship, my ship, my ship!”
“Aye, Ah get it. Yer excited,” Jeffery couldn’t help but smile, his mind suddenly flashing to that first runabout trip to see Silverado years ago. Stafford had been in for a very rude awakening when they’d arrived at the box dock to find a dilapidated piece of junk waiting for them. This time, things wouldn’t be quite so bad.
Stafford rushed to the windows and looked out into the bay.
“Ohhh,” he sighed happily, “Ohhh, that’s so much better!”
Reconstruction was well underway. The floating cloud of random ship parts and hull plates was gone. Row upon row of gleaming hull plating was now stacked along the shipyard floor, along with what looked like kilometres of waveguides, conduits and other materials. The ship itself was looking somewhat like it had a month into the reconstruction, with bare structural members stripped of their outer skin and showing all the inner workings. The nearly-complete warp core lay out on the shipyard floor opposite the stacks of hull plating.
The difference was that this time, the ship wasn’t dead in the water. Most of the habitable portions had been reassembled and replaced, along with many of the major components. Lights gleamed throughout the ship, from habitat sections that had been powered up to structural integrity generators that had been powered on to ‘flex’ the superstructure to ensure a proper fit. There was still a lot of work to go, but Silverado now looked like a starship under construction instead of a gutted carcass.
Stafford dropped into a chair, eyes not leaving the window. Before he could ask, Samantha breezed by and dropped a beer off.
“Nice to see you back, Skipper,” she said, moving along to the next table. Business in the temporary crew lounge seemed to be brisk tonight.
“She’s looking good, Simon,” Stafford took a sip, smiling as he recognized an Earth brew. Replicated, but better than that Matrian swill, “You guys are doing good work,”
“A lot of it is Dekaire and the construction bots,” Jeffery admitted, “But Sylvia learned a lot about the bots that’s helped out,”
“How are you and Dekaire?” Stafford asked.
“We’re…on a break,” Jeffery admitted, “For about two months now,”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Stafford gulped.
“Don’t be,” Jeffery shrugged, “We both knew what it was,”
They chatted for a while, both watching as the bots continued to work away on the ship, just catching up on the past months activities. It would soon be time to join the rest, but for now Stafford had the chance to reconnect with his old friend. And his ship.
Wowryk winced at the happy, high-pitched squeal that seemed to drill right into her temples.
“THHHHUUUUUBBBBBB!!!!” Yanick giggled with her daughter after she finished blowing another raspberry on Allona’s tiny belly. Allona let out another happy shriek.
“You try, Pari,” Yanick said, moving back from the table where Allona had been set down for changing. Changing was complete, thankfully, new diaper in place and the old one safely disintegrated.
T’Parief leaned over to gently press his lips to his daughters belly, but with his thin lips he couldn’t get the right seal for a proper raspberry. Allona kicked at him, one tiny heel hitting his cheek.
“Well, or not,” Yanick laughed, tucking Allona into a onesie and picking her up, “Oh, I can’t believe how much she’s GROWN!”
“More than a human child,” Wowryk said thoughtfully as Yanick passed the infant over to her. Months of practice with Luke apparently hadn’t gone to waste, as Wowryk deftly tucked Allona against one shoulder and started to gently rock her, “She looks a lot like you, Trish. If it weren’t for the skin and the internal organ arrangement, you’d barely tell she was Parian.” Wowryk looked thoughtful, “Well, there is the lower body temperature. And I’m curious to see what her teeth will look like. And I suppose it’s likely that unexpected features will present themselves when she approaches puberty…”
“You are going to be the weirdest Aunt, Noel,” Yanick chuckled. She was visibly itching to hold her baby again, but restrained herself (barely) from plucking the child back out of Noel’s arms.
Wowryk noticed Yanick’s anxiousness and passed the child over, then froze when Yanick’s words registered. She had already sat down with Yanick and T’Parief during the runabout trip to the Kallar system and had agreed to be the child’s Godmother. Really, it had been no competition…though they were careful to bring it up only when they were certain there was no way Sylvia could be monitoring the runabouts. But Aunt?
“Well, ‘Godmother Noel’ sounds so formal,” Yanick said, “Plus, once she starts dating guys the ‘Evil Fairy Godmother’ jokes would just be too easy,”
T’Parief chuckled, at least until Wowryk sent a dark look his way.
“Aunt Noel,” Wowryk said thoughtfully, trying it out.
“She does not have any biological Aunts,” T’Parief added, “Both Trish and myself have only brothers, She will need…female influence,”
“And as much as I love your mother, she’s not exactly a feminine role model,” Yanick said.
“That is probably why you get along so well with her,” T’Parief grunted.
“How is…um…what was his name? Dr. Darik?” Yanick asked, abruptly changing the topic.
“Yes,” Wowryk smiled, thinking back fondly on the young Matrian doctor she’d met at the disastrous water party a few months back, “We’ve stayed in touch over subspace. I’m actually going down to the planet to help at his immunization clinic for a couple of weeks,”
“Oh, that sounds serious!”
“I might even let him hold my hand, once the requisite six months have passed since our first date,” Wowryk said, perfectly seriously.
“That’s…great…” Yanick said, trying hard not to comment.
“I’m kidding, Trish,” Wowryk said.
“Oh, good,” Yanick gave a sigh of relief.
“I even let him mention kissing my cheek without killing him,” Wowryk added.
“Baby steps,” Yanick bit her lip.
Allona giggled happily.
Captain’s Log, Stardate: 59558.4
“It’s been nearly a month since we returned to Starbase 341 from our extended trip out to Kallar IV. And one day since Sylvia finally stopped nagging me about taking so long to get back. But, Starfleet, I’m sure you’ll agree…and I know now that you actually DO read these logs…that all of that was time well spent. After all, we did the whole ‘boldly go’ thing. In runabouts. That just shows you how dedicated we are to the mission!”
Personal Log, Supplemental:
“OK, no matter what I put in the official log, we all know damned well the reason why we took our sweet time getting back is because we’re sick to death of Matria Prime and Haven. Even eating Tapart food and watching Valtaic fall out of a tree were high points by comparison. Well, actually, watching that thing with Valtaic would have been a high point, even if we weren’t bored silly.”
“Yanick and T’Parief went back down to the planet to do parenting things. Jall and Valtaic are back to examining Qu’Eh tech, although now it’s an abandoned comms array instead of an abandoned ship. Wowryk has been all over the planet helping with rehabilitation from the Qu’Eh invasion, and Jeffery, Sylvia and Fifebee are hard at work in the shipyard. As for me…well, turns out that with me gone, the Matrians actually started going to the Ambassador, like they’re supposed to. So…I don’t really have a job with the Matrian government anymore. I’ve been living up on Haven, staying out of the way and working on shipyard paperwork stuff.”
“Dear God, the last month has reminded me of just how boring this place is. I’m waiting for something, anything to happen and liven things up! Anything!”
Stafford looked up from the desk in his small home office as the weird Matrian door chime went off. He closed the news site he’d been reading and moved to the door. Jall immediately walked in, a duffel bag over his arm.
“Sorry, the shower in my apartment is acting up,” he said, “Mind if I use yours? Thanks!”
“Wait, I thought you were-“
“Off examining Qu’Eh tech? Sure was! But I had to come up here to get Fifebee to help me with some analysis stuff, and somebody left the window open in my place. Pipes burst from the cold,”
“I never said you could use my shower! Couldn’t you just go to the gym?”
Jall actually looked uncomfortable.
“I’d rather not,” he said.
“Do I want to know?”
“Well, Haven has this security officer. Muscles like you wouldn’t believe, always at the gym. And…uh…”
“Stop,” Stafford held up a hand, “Don’t want to know. Fine, use my shower. Just leave it the way you find it! And get a repair order in for your place!
“Already did! Thanks.”
As the half-Trill stepped into his bathroom and closed the door, Stafford frowned. When the hell did he and Jall become the kind of co-workers that could barge into each-other’s personal space like that? The answer was that they hadn’t. On the other hand, a few months in the cramped runabout had probably broken down some barriers. His musings were interrupted when the comm chirped.
“Captain Stafford, this is Matrian Interstellar Communications, you have an incoming transmission from an Admiral Edward Tunney. Do you accept the charges?”
“Charges? Why are you charging me for communications now? Isn’t it coming over a Federation relay?” he asked.
“Well, we have connection fees, transfer fees, plus the fee for this friendly greeting instead of a computer prompt,” the operator said pleasantly.
“I’m not paying to get orders from my boss!” Stafford snapped, “Isn’t there a Federation or government account you can bill, or something like that? Wait, no! We saved your planet! And WE are providing your only comms link to the rest of the galaxy!”
“Please hold,” the operator’s voice turned chilly, “A supervisor will be with you shortly,”
There was a click, then mind-numbing hold music began to play.
After half an hour, Stafford finally just cut the connection and made his own outgoing call to Admiral Tunney, care of Starbase 45. The connection went through immediately, making him think that whoever had dealt with the incoming connection might still be suffering a bit of mental trauma from the Qu’Eh invasion. The screen, however, revealed an image of Admiral Tunney, slumped forward in his seat and snoring softly.
Stafford bit his lip. This was one heck of an opportunity. Tunny always managed to catch him at his absolute worst. The possibilities for revenge were endless! Stafford was debating whether he’d rather play loud, red alert sirens or simply record the transmission for future use when there was a loud voice behind him.
“Don’t you have any body wash?” Jall demanded, soaking wet and clutching a towel around his slim waist, “Proper facial cleanser? A loofah? There’s nothing in there but a bar of soap and cheap shampoo!”
“You’re dripping all over my floor!” Stafford snapped, “You wanted to use the shower, get your ass back in there and deal with it! And didn’t you bring your own?”
“I did,” Jall admitted, “But I need to get Yanick to take you shopping. This is a dermatological emergency! No wonder you’ve always got blackheads!”
“JALL!” Stafford shouted.
“Right. Thanks for the shower,”
Jall disappeared back into the bathroom.
“Interesting,” Admireal Tunney’s voice said from the terminal. Stafford slowly turned to face his superior officer, suddenly wishing he could simply sink into the floor and disappear too.
“Admiral,” he groaned, “This isn’t what-“
“I see three possibilities,” Tunney said sharply, “One, you are pretending you’ve entered into a romantic and sexual relationship with your First Officer, whom I know you despise, in order to get me to reassign him,”
Stafford felt a surge of hope.
“Two,” Tunney cut him off, “You HAVE entered into a romantic and sexual relationship with your First Officer in order to get me to reassign him,”
Stafford’s eyes widened.
“NO!” he said quickly, “Look, the pipes in his condo burst and he doesn’t want to use the gym showers because of some body-builder type that…well, I think he gets embarrassed in the group shower. But there’s nothing between us!”
“Three,” Tunney continued, then trailed off. “What? Burst pipes? You expect me to buy that? This is the 24th Century for crying out loud!”
“Please just let me die,” Stafford groaned.
“Later,” Tunney promised, “Now, as to the reason I called. I have a job for you and your people.”
“Hooray!” Jall’s voice called from the bathroom, “I’m sick of Qu’Eh tech!”
“I’ve got a job for…” Stafford started to say angrily to Jall, but he closed his mouth when Tunney arched an eyebrow. “Not that kind of job,” he said quietly, turning very red, “Sir, you are misreading this whole situation!”
“Burst pipes. Uh-huh,” Tunny said flatly.
“What’s the job?” Stafford asked.
“You and your crew will open a restaurant on Matria Prime,” Tunney said seriously, “The cover will be that you’re taking part in a Celebrity Chef program being produced by the Matrian Entertainment Network. MEN is already working on the details. The restaurant is a cover; you’ll actually be trying to get us a biometrics scan of several key M’Lady’s executives,”
Stafford looked blankly at the screen.
“What the hell?” he asked, “That sounds like an intelligence mission! How does that have anything to do with us??”
“Lord, how I’ve asked myself that question whenever your crew is involved,” Tunney muttered. “It was supposed to go to the new Starfleet Intelligence team on the starbase. But they’re still missing,”
“OOOhhhh,” Jall called from the bathroom, “There are SI agents on that missing ship?”
“He’s not supposed to know that. You can kill him, now,” Tunney said.
Stafford immediately started rummaging around in his desk for his phaser.
“He’s kidding,” Jall called, “Hey, I forgot my toothpaste. Can I borrow-“
“You have your orders,” Tunney told Stafford, “Carry them out. And before you continue your ill-advised relationship with your First Officer, I suggest you take a moment to sit down and reconsider your life and your various bad decisions. Very carefully.”
“We’re NOT-“ Stafford snapped, but the channel had closed. He let his head drop down on the desk. “Ohhh…this is even worse than when Yanick was flirting with T’Parief in my body. Captain Beck still doesn’t believe I’m straight,”
“Don’t worry, pookums,” Jall chuckled, towelling his hair as he stepped out of the bathroom, “It’ll be OK,”
“Get out. Wait, get dressed, then get out. And if you tell ANYBODY about this misunderstanding, I’m going to get that body-builder to break you in half!”
“Promises, promises,” Jall sighed as he pulled on his shirt and left the apartment.
“What do you mean this is everybody?” Stafford demanded, standing in a fairly standard lounge/meeting room near Silverado’s shipyard. A small sign near the wall informed them it could be rented for a variety of gatherings at very reasonable rates, “I called a senior staff meeting! Where’s Wowryk? Where’s Yanick? Where’s Sylvia?”
“Patricia is still on the planet with Allona,” T’Parief said, “She has asked me to take notes,”
“Wowryk is on a date with Darik,” Jeffery said, “I tried to comm her, but I just got an answering service. And Sylvia…um…”
“One of her recipes backfired,” Fifebee explained, “An outdated database entry neglected to mention that Terran basil is toxic to Matrians. She is with Dr. Annerson in the clinic, attempting to produce an anti-toxin.”
“Oh for…” Stafford threw his hands up, “We have a MISSION, people! That means we have to meet and plan and do things! It doesn’t mean ‘come to the meeting when it’s convenient!”
“Duty. Mission.” Stafford said bluntly, “Remember?”
T’Parief at least looked abashed.
“What’s the mission?” Valtaic asked.
“We’re opening a restaurant as a cheap excuse to scan some Matrians,”
T’Parief’s brow furrowed.
Stafford glared right back, daring him to object. With a throat-rattle, the reptile backed down.
“Look, one hour to get everybody up here! It’s a transporter beam away from the planet, it’s not rocket science!”
“It is, in fact, teleportation theory,” Fifebee pointed out, “A far more complicated-“
“Simplot to Stafford,” the comm chirped, “Please come see me in the HCC. We have a problem.”
“Stafford here,” he tapped his badge, “Sorry, Elizabeth. Remember that thing, with Tunney? And how I’m not supposed to-“
“Oh yeah. Listen to this,” there was a beep, then what had to be a recording of Tunney’s voice rang out, “Stafford, I gave Simplot this recording in case of emergency. It will play exactly once, then self-destruct. So if you hear it, forget that ‘don’t help Haven’ thing and help Haven. Once.”
“YEOWITH!” Simplot cursed as the sound of sizzling electronics came over the comm, “I thought it was just going to delete itself or something, not literally self-destruct! Somebody get me a band-aid! And burn cream! And Captain Stafford, please get up here. It’s sort of…urgent.”
The comm went dead.
“One hour,” Stafford said, “And everybody better be here!”
One hour, ten mintes later:
“OK, hypocrite much?” Jall said, scratching at his stubble for a moment before trying to adjust his hair, “He throws a fit about us being late, and now we can’t find the guy?”
“He is the Captain,” T’Parief grumbled.
“-you SURE Allona is OK?” Yanick was saying to Sylvia.
“She is fine,” Sylvia assured her, “I am maintaining a data link to the building security computer, and the background checks I conducted on your new babysitter qualify him to handle Federation Top-Secret Alpha-Five material,”
That caught Valtaic’s attention.
“I have Top-Secret Alpha-Five clearance, and yet I cannot obtain equipment of that level,” he said
“The clearance isn’t all that hard,” Sylvia admitted, “It’s the ‘need to know’ piece that’ll get you every time,”
“I NEED TO KNOW MY CHILD IS BEING CARED FOR!” Yanick snapped.
“Trish, you’ve been a mother for a few months and you’re already getting CRAZY over-protective,” Jall said, “I mean, c’mon. You’ve SEEN her father. Nobody is going to mess with her!”
“But if the babysitter gives her Matrian formula instead of the-“
“She’ll poo green for half a day, then be fine,” Wowryk jumped in, “Trish, I think we may need to have a talk…Oh, Sylvia, how did things turn out with Dr. Annerson and the poisoned Matrian?”
“I’d rather not talk about it, but she will be fine,” Sylvia replied.
“Dr. Annerson. I guess even in the 24th Century, ‘induce vomiting’ is valid poison-control advice. But I’m afraid her lab coat is beyond recovery.”
The doors hissed open
“Oy,” Jeffery greeted Stafford as he walked into the room, an odd sort of look on his face, “How’d things go with Eliza…um…Captain Simplot?”
Stafford walked slowly to the head of the table and sat, not meeting anybody’s eyes.
“Oh.” Jeffery said quietly, “THAT’S why she called ye up.”
“I do not understand,” Valtaic said flatly.
“Well, when she’s stressed, Eliz…Captain Simplot likes to relax with…um…” Jeffery turned red, “Look, if a girl wants to be rough with ye, what are ye gonna do? Ye can say no, or ye can shut yer gob and enjoy it.”
Wowryk raised an eyebrow.
“We didn’t have sex!” Stafford finally said, “Simon, I know you had a thing for her, but I sort of like that whole ‘where no man has gone before’ thing.”
“You expect me to believe you only sleep with virgins?” Wowryk was aghast, “That is-“
“OK, no, not what I meant,” Stafford cut her off, “I guess I mean ‘where no best friend has gone before’, OK? Do you want to know the situation or not?”
His officers looked at him expectantly.
“Do you want the good news or bad news first?” Stafford asked after a moment.
“Oh for-“ Jall threw his hands in the air.
“I wonder if Allona is going to be mad at me for not breast-feeding enough. You know when she’s older.” Yanick said thoughtfully.
“Aaaannd suddenly a Borg invasion doesn’t sound all that bad,” Stafford rolled his eyes.
“It’s the 24th Century!” Wowryk crossed her arms, “You shouldn’t be bothered by such a natural, healthy process,”
“It’s not the process, it’s hearing Yanick wonder about it in the middle of a staff meeting!”
“It is irrelevant,” Valtaic declared, “We have a mission. Even if it is an inane foray into the arts of espionage and culinary service,”
“Well,” Stafford said, “Actually…”
“Pari, why are you grinning like that?” Yanick suddenly asked, looking over to her partner. Indeed, T’Parief had a wide, beaming and completely out-of- character grin stretched over his face, fangs fully exposed.
“Tell me,” he said, turning to Stafford, “That you’re not joking!”
“Joking?” Jall frowned, mentally replaying Stafford’s words. His eyes widened. “Oh. Oh no. No, no, no!”
“Whot?” Jeffery asked.
“The bad news,” Stafford sighed, “Is that the USS Roadrunner is back, they found a hostile race of fungus-people, their science officer somehow developed magic powers which, for some reason really pisses off the fungus-people-“
“Are ye serious?” Jeffery interrupted, “Magic powers?”
“Galactic barrier?” Fifebee inquired.
“Long-dead ascended race,” Stafford corrected.
“Now I know how Starfleet must feel when they read our log entries,” Jall smirked.
“Tell me about it,” Stafford agreed, “Oh, also, the Borg are invading Matria Prime, Silverado is in no condition to fight, reinforcements are too far away and the best plan the Haven crew has come up with involves throwing about a million tonnes of space-junk at the cube and hoping it blows up afterwards. And to top off the suck, we get to fly one of those teeny, tiny, little quantum slipstream death-traps into battle.”
T’Parief clapped his hands together with brisk glee then began tapping on his padd.
“I will plan the security team deployments at once!” he said happily, “Now, the Hazardous Team will likely be assimilated almost immediately…perhaps some sort of sub-dermal explosive devices to cripple the Borg assimilation chambers?”
“Oh, we are SO fucked!” Jall said flatly, turning to Stafford, “What the hell was the GOOD news?”
“Well, we don’t have to do this restaurant thing anymore,” Stafford shrugged.
Despite the delays in their senior staff actually getting enough of a meeting together to accomplish something, the Silverado crew themselves leaped into action quickly enough. There was a lot of work involved in readying a two-hundred year old space station for an assault by the most deadly and powerful enemies the Federation had ever know. Engineering teams were pulled off the shipbuilding project to help modify deflector generators, security teams were tasked with defending various key sections of the city, the science staff was kept busy analyzing the few helpful suggestions Starfleet had sent for dealing with the Borg, and the medical teams were pulling all the Starfleet Medical Borg Implant Removal Devices out of storage. (Wowryk actually suspected that the Qu’Eh implant removal devices they’d found might work better, but rules were rules.) Jeffery, Silvia and Valtaic made a beeline for the USS Hummingbird, their new Hummingbird-class ship. (“Never fly the first ship in a class!” Jeffery was heard to say, “They never have the bugs out!”)
But Lt Yanick was having none of it.
“I’m not even qualified on a Hummingbird-class!” she objected shrilly, the tiny speaker in Stafford’s comm-badge cracking as it tried to match her pitch, “I’ve been flying nothing but shuttles and runabouts for the past year! I haven’t even flown Silverado since the big Qu’Eh war thing! Pye can fly the battle just fine!”
“Trish,” Stafford sighed, “This is the BORG! They’re sort of a big deal! I need my best pilot on the job,” there was the sound of gurgling over the comm channel, “Wait…Yanick, where are you?”
“Um…I beamed back down to the planet to say bye to Allona,” Yanick replied, somehow managing to sound both defiant and sheepish.
“WE ARE ABOUT TO GO INTO BATTLE!” Stafford fumed.
“AND I AM A MOTHER!” Yanick fumed right back, “Look, I’ll beam up in half an hour, OK? Just let me…let me do this!”
“Fine!” Stafford huffed, then closed the channel.
“I assure you, madam, I am fully trained and able to sit your baby,” the somewhat snotty-looking Matrian male insisted as Yanick fed Allona, “Your electronic woman has been very…thorough,”
“I know,” Yanick said, not unkindly but not exactly apologetically either, “But…well, if you’re ever a parent, you’ll understand.”
“I have five infants,” the babysitter said, “I don’t get to see them often. The mothers…are a bit possessive,”
Yanick lifted an eyebrow.
“How many mothers?” she demanded.
“Five, of course,” the sitter said.
“You’ve knocked up five different women, and Sylvia thinks you’ll make a good sitter???”
“Why is that a problem?”
“SYLVIA!” Yanick shouted. Allona promptly began crying, leading Yanick to start bouncing her in an effort to calm her. Of course, between the crying and the bouncing, Yanick’s…food production facility…slipped loose.
“Trish?” Sylvia’s voice asked from a nearby console, “Is there a problem?”
“You mean other than getting a low-class man-whore for a sitter?” Yanick demanded, adjusting her bra and top before again bouncing Allona gently, “No! Of course not!”
“Trish,” Yanick could see Sylvia shaking her head in her mind, even though the AI probably had no physical body at the moment, “Remember that whole imbalance of genders thing on Matria Prime? Shortage of males? Falax has been making ‘donations’, the same with many of the unmarried men on the planet. It’s very encouraged and quite necessary to the Matrians survival as a species. Trust me!’
“Ah, oh,” Yanick looked embarrassed as she turned to the sitter…Falax, “I thought…”
“If madam would care to return to her duties, I assure you I can care for the child,” Falax said stiffly.
“Wait…Trish, you’re on the planet???” Sylvia demanded.
“I already had this argument with Chris,” Yanick sighed, “Look, I’ll beam up in a minute, OK? I just have to…change Allona, then I’ll be right back up,”
“She does not need-“ Falax started.
“Hush, you!” Yanick cut him off, “I’ll be right there!”
“Well,” Syvia sighed, “You say that…”
“Whoah!”Stafford stumbled as he stepped into the arrivals/departures lounge adjacent to the USS Hummingbird’s docking port, “Why is the whole city shaking? Are the Borg here already?”
“City engines,” Jeffery called from the docking port. He stepped out of the small ship’s airlock and moved to the observation windows. He pointed at a distant engine array, which was glowing a fierce blue. As they watched, the central energy transceiver pulsed with energy before firing a graviton beam at the large ball of space junk destined to collide at high speed into the Borg ship. The hum of the engines started to take on a straining quality.
“Starting our run towards the expected Borg arrival point,” Valtaic added. He had a huge pile of clear material in his arms.
“What is that?” Stafford asked.
“Dust covers,” Valtaic replied immediately, “I suspect this ship was not expected to be used again for some time,”
“Great. An experimental death-trap that probably hasn’t had core maintenance done in months,” Stafford sighed. His eyes widened. “Wait…YANICK!”
“Oh shit,” Yanick groaned as her comm-badge started to beep.
“Not in front of the child!” Falanx shrilled.
“Stafford to Yanick! We are now OUT of transporter range!”
“I know!” Yanick groaned, “Sylvia just told me!”
“Dammit, Trish!” Stafford cursed.
Yanick pushed Falanx and Allona out of the room.
“Chris…I…I’m sorry!” she said, “I didn’t mean-“
“We don’t have time to run back to get you,” Stafford said angrily, “Look, just…don’t get assimilated or anything. I guess we’ll handle this one without you,”
He closed the channel, leaving Yanick alone in the room.
“That as a bit harsh, mate,” Jeffery said.
“I’m sorry,” Stafford said, not exactly sounding sincere, “But we have a mission and I needed my helmswoman piloting this ship, not down there fussing over her brat!”
“Don’t let the big lizard hear you say that. Seriously.”
They climbed up the narrow stairs and entered the Hummingbird’s tiny bridge. Instead of a viewscreen, there were three curved windows looking forward, port and starboard. The helm panel was at the front of the small U-shaped space, with slipstream navigation and science to one side and ops to the other. The engineering and tactical panels were towards the rear. A large, transparent shield had been bolted over the slipstream navigation panel, and a big sticker with ‘NO’ printed in big bold letters was affixed over the slipstream activation controls. Lt Pye was sitting at the helm console, tapping at buttons. There was a humming sound, then the various other panels started flickering to life. Below decks, they could hear the thrum of the warp core powering up.
“Sylvia? How are ye feelin’?” Jeffery asked.
Sylvia’s face appeared on a side console.
“It’s nice to be in a bigger computer core again,” she said, “But my, this ship is small! I feel…strange. There are some very strange algorithms in the computer core that sort of…tickle?”
“Slipstream stuff,” Jeffery guessed, “Ignore it.”
“Otherwise things seem fine.,” Sylvia said, “Are you ready to fly, Lt Pye?”
“I’ve never flown one of these things,” Pye said, “But…um…I’ll do my best?”
“Let’s get this thing ready,” Stafford said, sitting gingerly in the command chair. He looked slightly surprised.
“This is actually a really comfortable chair,” he admitted.
The remaining preparations were swift, and less than an hour later they were ready to depart.
“Release docking clams,” Stafford ordered.
“No, wait-“ Fifebee attempted to interrupted, but it was too late. The Hummingbird abruptly dropped away from the city.
“The city is still accelerating,” she said.
“Yeah, so?” Stafford wondered.
“The point is to destroy the Borg with a giant ball of space junk,” Fifebee reminded him, “Towed-“
“EVASIVE MANEUVERS!” Pye shouted, tapping at the helm. The ship jerked hard to port then shot forward at full impulse, mere seconds before the space it had previously occupied was abruptly filled with jagged, broken metal.
“Our first Borg attack and we nearly kill ourselves un-docking,” Jall shook his head.
“The Roadrunner is ordering us to take up a position one thousand kilometres from the expected arrival point, thirty degrees offset from the city approach vector,” T’Parief called from tactical. He did not look comfortable, stuff back behind the tiny panel.
“Tell that British ass that I outrank him, and I’ll put my tiny little ship wherever the hell I want!” Stafford snapped.
“So…where should I park this thing?” Pye asked.
Stafford thought for a moment.
“Actually, just do what the British ass said. But make it eleven hundred kilometres. And forty-five degree offset,”
Pye barely touched the panel before the little ship rocketed in the indicated direction.
“Gotta admit, this thing handles a little more nimbly than a thirty-six deck Ambassador-class,” Jall said.
“Sure,” Stafford snorted, “Nothing like the speed of an eagle and the deflector shields of a butterfly,”
Yanick was holding Allona again while Falax puttered away in the kitchen, a news broadcast playing on the vidscreen.
“This is Chorty Vella reporting live from the Matrian Cruiser Avatania,” a slender, brunette Matrian male with caramel skin tones was speaking on the vid- screen, “We are currently holding position near the expected arrival point of the Borg vessel that, according to Starfleet, was supposed to arrive in our star system some time ago. In this reporter’s opinion, there appears to be a lot of hype over nothing,”
The image changed, showing several Matrian ships holding formation. In the distance, the tiny dot that was Haven was barely visible, the city still far from the expected scene of action. She watched as the USS Roadrunner and the USS Hummingbird took their positions, the camera seeming to pause briefly on their Starfleet colours. Yanick imagined she could almost see Stafford’s face through the tiny bridge windows.
There was a flash and a curse, then the camera jumped around. Yanick gasped as the image of a single Borg cube appeared on the screen, dark and menacing as it moved towards the Matrian and Starfleet ships.
“This reporter chooses to revise his opinion!” Chorty Vella squeaked, “Gruesome death awaits us all!”
“He’s over-reacting, sweety,” Sylvia’s voice came from the comm, “Really, he’s just going to get the population in a panic,
“Sylvia?” Yanick gulped.
“Just thought I’d keep you in the loop,” Sylvia replied, “I-WHOAH! How about those evasive manoeuvres!” Sylvia’s voice was abruptly replaced with what had to be the main ship-to-ship frequency.
“Cruisers, concentrate fire on three-two-zero mark zero-four,”
“Hummingbird watch those turns! You’re weaving into my arc of fire!”
“Hummingbird here, standby until we finish our attack run!”
On the screen, Yanick watched as the two tiny Starfleet ships darted into the cube, unleashing an equally tiny storm of phasers and photon torpedoes.
“Delta-four!” she mouthed almost silently, wanting whoever was piloting to pull the ship into a complicated series of rolls that was good for evading tractor beams. Whoever was piloting opted for the simpler Beta-two, the ship doing a single roll then darting behind a larger Matrian cruiser.
“The Borg shields appear to be down slightly,”
“Recalibrate shield nutation!” that was definitely Stafford’s voice, “That’s something we always say during Borg attacks, right?”
“That, and re-modulate phaser frequencies!” Jall added.
“Still can’t believe we almost killed ourselves un-docking…oh hell, this is an open frequency!”
Yanick’s eyes were glued to the screen. The news feed had moved to focus on the Borg ship itself again, but the Hummingbird appeared again before long.
“…not even firing back?” somebody’s voice wondered.
“Starfleet vessels, this is the Matrian Cruiser Jarissica,” a worried Matrian voice came over the comm, “We need you to check something out on the far side of the cube,”
“Confirmed,” T’Parief’s voice! Her mate was up there!
Allona gave an unhappy squeak.
“Too tight, madam!” Falax chided her, gently relieving her of the infant.
“Ohhh,” Yanick fretted, reluctantly allowing him to take Allona. Falax stood next to her, watching the bobbing and weaving ships as they fired on the Borg ship…which still seemed to be simply sitting there instead of returning fire.
“Cease fire, cease fire,” somebody ordered, “Until they actually DO something, we’re apparently going to try to get some intel on them,”
“Roadrunner and Hummingbird are moving to investigate,” another Matrian voice spoke on the open channel. On the screen the ships were still moving, but they were no longer firing on the Borg vessel.
“I underestimated the…stress…that you must have been dealing with,” Falax said abruptly. His tone had changed from snide condescension to…apology? “If I had known this is what was coming, I too would have rushed for my children.”
“I…thank you,” Yanick gulped. She watched as the Hummingbird darted around the far edge of the cube and out of sight, terrified that a sudden burst of weapons fire and a flash of antimatter would be last she would see of her partner…and her closest friends.
“RED ALERT! RED ALERT! FIRE ALL WEAPONS!” a panicked British voice screamed!
The Avatania must have been convinced that following the Starfleet ships would be worthwhile, because it rounded the Borg ship just in time to see both ships unloading their full weapons compliment at a huge, spongy-looking mass that had collided with the rear of the Borg ship hard enough to embed itself into the hull. The mess must have been six hundred meters in diameter, with huge spikes extending out.
“Oh my God…” Yanick gulped.
“Do most Borg ships not look like that?” Falax asked quietly.
“No,” Yanick whispered, “I don’t know…I never…Sylvia? What is that?”
“It’s some sort of fungus-based biological ship!” Sylvia replied, “The Roadrunner’s computer has more information on it…but if it’s not classified now, it sure will be soon. I can’t talk about it on this channel-WHOAH! That was close!”
“You’re being shot at!?” Yanick exclaimed
“No, Pye just about clipped the Roadrunner! Whoever’s flying that ship is drunk! Hold on, Trish, I need to deal with some sensor analysis subroutines,”
And it was back to the open frequency.
“-Roadrunner’s sending a boarding party to the Borg ship, they’re trying to see if they can disable it from the inside,”
“Keep weapons charged and locked,” that sounded like Simplot’s voice, “And Roadrunner, calm down! Stop shooting until we figure things out!”
Yanick paced to the windows and stood there for a moment, looking out at the dark, starry sky. The Borg ship was too far out for any of the battle to be visible. Hell, for all she know, the planet was pointing in the wrong direction for watching anyway. But she still felt compelled to look out there.
She turned back to the screen. The two Starfleet ships were visible, holding position above the strange, living ship that had been smashed into the Borg cube. Falax was standing facing the screen, Allona held carefully in one arm.
“Take care of my baby,” she told him tightly, turning and rushing for the door.
The elevator took her to the ground floor of her building, and from there it was seconds until she was on the street hailing a taxi.
“Sylvia,” she said, tapping her comm, “Sylvia, I need to know where the closest starport is!”
“I can tell you that, girl,” the cab driver told her.
“Then take me there!” she told her, closing the door.
“Patricia, I am still running analysis-“ Sylvia said.
“Sylvia, I’m coming up there!” Yanick cut her off, “I need you to hack the security flux capacitor, or whatever it is that people do when they’re stealing spaceships!”
“Stealing?” the cabbie gulped.
“Borrowing,” Yanick clarified, “Look, I have to go help fight the big Borg ship, OK?”
“Whatever, girl,” the cabbie hit a button and closed the privacy screen, “Don’t want to know,” she muttered as the screen closed.
“Trish, you’re on course for the Matronus Secondary Starport,” Sylvia said after a moment, “but-“
“Look, you can unlock a Matrian fighter for me, right?”
“And at full speed I can be there in minutes, especially if you find me a fighter with a warp drive!”
“And dammit, Sylvia, you people need me!”
“What about Allona?” Sylvia asked.
“I LOVE HER!” Yanick said fiercely, “But dammit, I am Patricia Yanick, Starfleet officer! I am the best blond, female, Starfleet pilot under five and a half feet in this sector, and I need to be on the bridge of that ship with my crew-mates, kicking some bad-guy ass! Now you will UNLOCK a high-speed fighter ship for me, and I will be there before you know it!”
Ten minutes later.
“You’ve got to be kidding me, Sylvia!” Yanick whined, stomping one foot with frustration and crossing her arms as she stared at the ship Sylvia had led her to.
“I tried to tell you,” Sylvia chided, “Repeatedly.”
“What is ‘jutresat’? Yanick asked, carefully sounding out the Matrian letters on the side of the runabout-sized craft.
“It’s a Matrian delicacy. Sort of a doughy crust, then a layer of tart vegetable based sauce, usually some sliced meats or vegetables. Then covered in a local cheese analogue so the meat isn’t visible. And they deliver to you, quite fresh. Silly Matrian custom.”
“Sylvia! This is a PIZZA DELIVERY SHIP!”
“It’s the only warp-capable ship in the city!” Sylvia said, “Everything else is either fighting the Borg or preparing to evacuate civilians!”
“Why does a pizza delivery ship have warp drive?”
“How else are they going to make their thirty minute guarantee?” Sylvia asked.
“Ohhhhhhh!” Yanick seethed.
“Your mission, should you choose to blah, blah, blah,” Admiral Tunney spoke from a small screen to one side of the Hummingbird’s bridge, “Is to send a team onto the Fungaloid spore ship and…retrieve samples,”
“Uh, can you be more specific?” Jall asked, raising one hand. Stafford shot him an annoyed look, thought about it for a moment, shrugged and looked expectantly at Tunney.
“Well, no,” Tunney admitted, “We’ve only had a few hours to analyze the data the Roadrunner brought back on the Federation of Fungus-“
“Seriously? Of FUNGUS?” Even Wowryk was taken aback. She leaned over Stafford shoulder and looked into the screen.
“-and even they’ve never been on a Fungaloid ship. So go do that ‘boldly going’ thing. And try not to die. At least not until you’ve beamed back the samples,”
The screen went back.
“OK, so T-“
“On it,” T’Parief said, flexing his claws. He stood, then paused.
“Is this mission,” he looked hopefully at Stafford, “unrestrained slaughter?”
“Why not?” Stafford shrugged, “Just make sure-“
“To get samples. I will handle it,” Fifebee stood from her station and called in Lt Burke to take over, “I am sure there will something of interest,”
“Right,” Stafford nodded, “And don’t forget-“
“Ta take a look at their engineering systems,” Jeffery moved from the Engineering panel.
“I’m in command of the away team,” Jall sighed, “Look, T’Parief, just don’t get guts in my hair this time, OK?’
“No deal,” T’Parief said bluntly.
“Is Pysternzyks down in the transporter bay?” Jeffery asked, “Ah know he keeps saying he wants to kill us, but I can’t think of anybody else Ah’d really feel comfortable with manning the beam,”
“Yup,” Jall said. And with that, the group exited the bridge through the narrow door in the year.
“What just happened?” he asked, looking around the bridge and the mostly Beta-shift personnel manning it.
“It’s a sign,” Wowryk said flatly, settling in on an empty chair.
“From God,” Stafford lifted an eyebrow.
“No,” Wowryk shook her head, “That maybe we’ve been doing this a little too long,”
Yanick’s small ship dropped out of warp a nice, safe, reasonable distance from where Haven was rocketing towards the Borg ship. She may have been blond, but that didn’t mean she was stupid. Stupid would have been dropping out of warp right next to a bunch of trigger-happy Matrian warships just aching to blow something up. Stupid would have been dropping out of warp too close to the city and crashing into that big pile of junk it was towing. Stupid would have-
Yanick cursed as she pulled the small ship into evasive manoeuvres, barely managing not to smash into Matria IV’s smallest moon.
Stupid would have been neglecting to plot the locations of the planetary bodies in the system before jumping to warp.
“OK, lesson learned,” she muttered to herself, “Let’s not do THAT again!”
She set a course towards the Hummingbird’s position and kicked the impulse engines into overdrive. The ship smelled of stale pizza as it was, and the straining engines were slowly changing the smell from old, stale pizza to old, warm, stale pizza.
Her course took her within five hundred kilometers of Haven. A nice distance. She keyed the scanners, made sure the city was tracked by the autopilot and noted that she would very quickly over-take the city and be at the Hummingbird in about fifteen minutes.
Then the city abruptly vanished off her sensors.
“Uh-oh,” Yanick looked out the window, expecting to see a blinding explosion and a spreading cloud of debris. But nope, there was the glow of the city’s engines way off in her port window. As she watched, her ship overtook the city, the domed disk sliding off behind her.
“That was odd,” Yanick mumbled. Why would the city try to block sensors?
There was a beeping alarm, and Yanick suddenly found her ship in the middle of a small cloud of green, wriggling THINGS that thrashed around as if searching for something. And that something must have been a ship, because they were very, very interested in the one she was flying.
Yanick gunned the already overworked engines, pulling the ship into a dive. The ship bucked and there was a dull crunch as she collided with one of the spore-torpedoes. Instead of exploding, the thing seemed to have been killed. Why use a torpedo that could be smashed like a bug on a windshield?
A second one managed to latch itself onto her starboard window, greenish- brown flesh spreading back to expose a clamping, sucking maw. Some sort of secretions dripped from the thing, and when they started touching the surface of the window another alarm started blaring.
Yanick pulled the ship into a roll, looking for…THERE! She jerked the ship to the side, smashing the spore-torpedo into one of its brethren that was still hunting. The thing vanished with a dull THUD.
“GET OUT OF THE WAY!” Yanick snapped, pulling up the sensors and plotting the exact location of the Hummingbird.
It was time to do something stupid. Well, on purpose this time.
“Nothing from the Roadrunner?” he asked.
“No,” Lt Comd Stern said from Tactical, “Their team is still on the Borg ship, trying to find the vinculum. And our team is still on the fungus ship, killing and maiming and shoving things into stasis jars,”
“Are you bitter or something?” Wowryk asked.
“Bitter?” Stern asked, “Why would I be bitter? We’ve only got the single most fearsome enemy the Federation has ever faced along with an unknown plant-based alien race that nobody has ever really fought before. And I’m up here watching a screen while my team sits down in the crew lounge, waiting to do damage control!”
“Sometimes the senior staff gets to have some fun too,” Stafford said, “I mean, you guys got to go out on play on Kallar IV, right? Wasn’t that fun?”
“Sir, don’t patronize me,” Stern said flatly.
“Nothing new from our team?” Stafford asked, deciding to abandon the previous conversation.
“How about from Haven?”
“Who would have thought that fighting the Borg would be so boring!”
“THIS IS THE BEST MISSION I HAVE HAD IN MONTHS!” T’Parief roared, ripping his razor-sharp claws through a fungus-infested humanoid and ripping the creature to shreds.
“Yeah, it’s just awesome,” Jall sighed, trying to pull strands of intestine out of his hair, “There isn’t enough therapy in the world to get me past this,”
“Wait, don’t drop that!” Fifebee lurched, catching the gore in a sample jar before it could hit the squishy deck, “You’ve already contaminated it with your hair product, I don’t need to deal with whatever’s on the floor, too!”
“AHHHH-HA-HA-HA!” T’Parief gleefully charged at some sort of four-legged thing, smashed it against the wall with the crunch of breaking bones, then just for the hell of it proceeded to tear away at the fleshy bulkhead. The fungus-like skin tore aware in long strips, revealing vein-like conduits, fibrous nerve bundles and all sorts of interesting things for Fifebee and Jeffery to collect.
“Oy, big fella, could ye please open that conduit?” Jeffery asked, “Ah want ta see what energy-transfer medium they-“
T’Parief gave an almost lazy swipe and a long, lengthwise slash appeared in the indicated tube. Vicious green fluid squirted out, covering Jall in another layer of goop.
“I don’t feel well,” Jall said.
“Hush,” Jeffery waved him away, “This is amazing! It’s like-“
Jall heaved, then puked all over the wall.
“Ach, now ye’ve contaminated the sample!” Jeffery shouted, “T’Parief, could ye open another-“
SWIPE! RIP! SPLAT!
“Thank ye,” Jeffery said as another geyser of goop sprayed all over Jall.
“Haven remains on course,” Valtaic reported, reading the scanners, “The Borg vessel still has not moved, and will be destroyed in ten minutes if they remain in their current location, unless of course the starbase and the Roadrunner are successful in their poorly thought-out plan to harvest the ship for information and knowledge about the Borg,”
“Please,” Stafford sneered, “Nobody believes for a minute that’s even an option. You know, I know…heck, everybody knows that Haven’s going to blow the thing up in the end, why even bother pretending otherwise?”
“I’m getting really weird readings,” Burke was frowning, sitting next to the dark-skinned Lithinarian…and with a head of static-charged hair show for it.
“Weird how?” Stafford asked.
“The Borg are usually pretty good at resisting our sensors, but I’m picking up weapons fire…defensive shields. And all sorts of really WEIRD life signs! Maybe those fungus things?”
“I guess,” Stafford sounded uncertain, “Wowryk, what do you-“
“Borg cube is powering up weapons!” Valtaic snapped, “And the spore-ship appears to be drawing energy directly from the cube!”
“Evasive manoeuvres!” Stafford barked. Pye immediately yanked the ship to the side, barely a second before a Borg cutting beam lashed out exactly where the Hummingbird had been, “Recalibrate the shield nutations! Re-phaser the modulation frequencies! All that Borg stuff!”
There was a flash of light from the port windows and a small, boxy ship zipped right across their bow, a strange logo visible on one side.
“HOLY HELL!” Pye barked, yanking the Hummingbird onto yet another course and conveniently evading a spore-torpedo from the fungaloid ship.
“Who the hell ordered pizza??” Stafford demanded, “We’re supposed to be doing battle!”
“Ah, Hummingbird, this is Jall,” the Trill did not sound happy, “Everything just jumped into gear like the DJ dropped the beat…any chance of a beam-out soon?”
“We need to get below the spore-ship spines to get past their shields and get a good lock,” Valtaic said, “Pysternzk is standing by, and I have given him shield control for transport,”
“Oh boy,” Pye groaned, looking out at the wavering spines, the small clouds of torpedoes and the bright weapons flashing out in all directions, “We couldn’t have beamed them out BEFORE everything went to hell?”
“We didn’t have to!”
“Haven will intercept the cube in less than ten minutes,” Valtaic reported.
“I take it we’re definitely blowing them up now?” Stafford asked.
“Yes,” Valtaic said, “That plan came through the comm ten seconds ago,”
“You have to TELL me these things!”
“But you claimed that you knew,” Valtaic frowned, “That you knew, that we knew. That everybody knew?”
Stafford bit his lip and did a face-palm.
“Yanick to Hummingbird,” Yanick’s voice came over the comm., “You guys need a hand?”
“Why…wait, Trish are YOU in that pizza ship?” Stafford demanded.
“Well they were out of fighters! And shuttles! And…and I just had to help, OK?”
Stafford blinked, them he smiled.
“OK,” he said. Really…what else could he say to that?
“Does that thing have a transporter?” Sylvia abruptly jumped in.
“Well yeah, how else do they get the pizzas delivered in time?” they could hear Yanick rolling her eyes.
“I suggest we draw enemy fire while Yanick recovers the team,” Valtaic said, exchanging a look at Sylvia’s display screen. Her image simply nodded.
“Sure, why not,” Stafford shrugged, “I guess pizza ships are probably lower on the assimilation priority list than a quantum-slipstream tug,”
“I’m on it,” Yanick said.
“Did you bring any pizza?”
“What do you MEAN you hijacked a pizza delivery ship and didn’t bring any pizza?” Jall’s voice came over the comm as Yanick pulled the small ship into a tight turn. Off behind her, the Hummingbird’s shields flashed as one of the spore-ship’s weapons blasts hit it.
“Three minutes until Haven arrives!” Sylvia called over the comm.
“Working on it!” Yanick said to Sylvia, “And Jall, I was sort of busy! Besides, you KNOW that Matrian cheese gives most of us horrible diarrhoea!”
“It’s the principle of the thing!” Jall objected.
“Also, just so ye know,” Jeffery spoke up, “We’ve got hordes of screaming, tentacle-covered fungus things chasing us and T’Parief is getting tired. So hurry up!”
“Pari? Tired?” Yanick asked.
“I AM NOT….<rip>, <slash>…” T’Parief’s voice paused, “Well…tired is too strong a word,”
“Almost in range!” Yanick spun the ship on its axis, evading another round of weapons fire. Luckily it didn’t seem to be aimed at her, but still! Another twist, another blast from the overworked impulse drive and she was below the spikes.
“Energizing!” she reported. The Matrian transporter hummed for a moment, then Jall materialized on the tiny pad.
“ONE AT A TIME? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” Yanick shouted, slamming her fists on the panel and accidentally managing to evade a torpedo that otherwise would have crippled her tiny ship, “JALL! RECHARGE THE BEAM!”
“Bossy, much?” Jall started tapping at the panel.
“The Borg ship is moving!” Sylvia’s voice came over the comm, “Haven will intercept in less than two minutes!”
“Ten more seconds to charge the transporter,” Jall said, “OK…aaannnndd….wait for it…”
Yanick pulled the ship around the base of a towering spike as the transporter hummed and Jeffery appeared on the padd.
“Fifebee says to take T’Parief next,” he said, dumping a pile of sample jars on the deck, “She can always build another relay. And by ‘she’, Ah actually mean ‘me’,”
“Recharging,” Jall said.
“Jeffery, can you get that stupid Matrian transporter to go any faster?” Yanick demanded, “I’m running out of tricks here!”
“Do we have an hour and a plasma capacitor bank?”
“You’re SURE your plan to destroy this thing is actually going to work?” Stafford asked over the comm..
“YES!” Captain Simplot’s voice came back, “Now stop calling! I have work to do!”
“Hey, you can’t give me that line, we’ve never slept together! Unlike you and the REST of my staff!”
There was a pause.
“How DARE you!” Simplot shouted, “How do you get off judging me, Mr. Slept-With-Half-Of-Matria? Now get your pathetic little ship out of the way so we can blow that cube up!”
“It’s YOUR pathetic little ship!”
“Oh, Chris,” Sylvia chided, “You always did have such a way with women,”
“Just tell Yanick to get out of the way,” Stafford grumbled.
“I can’t leave, I’m not done beaming yet!” Yanick snapped.
“This tired old thing is chugging,” Jeffery was now working the tiny transporter panel, Jall was crammed up behind Yanick’s chair and the samples were stashed on the pizza heater rack. Which was, of course, turned off.
“Will we even have room for the big guy in here?” Jeffery asked.
“YES WE WILL!” Yanick screamed
“Intercept in one minute!” Sylvia called, “Trish, you’re cutting it tight!”
“Fifebee has already cut the transmission to her relay and is right here in the computer core with me,” Sylvia said, “We triggered the relay’s auto-destruct charge ten seconds ago,”
“It HAS that?” Jall asked.
“Well, it DOES have sensitive technology in it, ye dolt!” Jeffery said. Then he sighed, “And now Ah have to make another one.”
“Why doesn’t she have a spare?” Jall asked.
“Because Ah’m BUSY!”
“Yanick,” T’Parief’s voice came over the comm, “Now would be a good time,”
“You better not mean a good time to talk about having another kid!” Yanick snapped, her fingers running the over the helm panel like a piano player.
“I need to be alive for that,”
“The beam is charged, stop running around!” Jeffery called.
The beam hummed, and T’Parief materialized in the cramped alcove.
“GO!” Jeffery shouted.
“How the hell is this going to work?” Stafford waved at the view outside the ship, the small vessel’s weapons still firing (fairly ineffectively) at the combined Borg/Fungaloid ship. The remaining ships had largely scattered, and off to one side they could see the broad disk of Haven as the city bore down at a respectable percentage of light-speed. Unfortunately, the city was no longer on a direct course for the cube and would in fact miss it by several kilometers.
“You could call her and ask again,” Wowryk suggested, “But given the last conversation you two had, I think an apology would be more in order,”
“I can’t believe you’re siding with the slu-“
Wowryk smacked him upside the head.
“Love thy neighbour,” she chided him.
“Yeah, then why are you HITTING me?”
“You deserved it!”
“Ah, guys?” Pye called.
They looked up. Haven had rotated so it was no longer flying dome-first, but instead with its engines perpendicular to its course. Right, they would have planned to push themselves clear of the Borg ship, leaving their ball of space junk on an intercept course. Of course, the ball wasn’t going to hit the cube now anyway.
And then Haven fired its energy transceiver, this time set as a reverse tractor beam. The beam only lasted for a few seconds, but with the full power of three antimatter reactors and the mass of an entire flying city behind it, it was enough to change the course of the debris by several degrees.
Right into the Borg ship.
Haven shot off to the side as the space debris hit the Borg cube like a shotgun blast hitting a wall of cheese. The Borg armor shattered, the denser pieces shot right through, slamming out of the Fungaloid ship fused with the rear half of the ship, trailing streamers of fleshy residue and vital fluids. Something must have hit a power core or five, as there was a blinding explosion then pieces of both ships were flying in all directions.
And a small, boxy pizza shuttle zipped past the Hummingbird’s bridge window, singed but still functional.
“Uh…wow…” Stafford said, “Remind me not to piss those Haven people off,”
“You just did that,” Wowryk pointed out.
“Right. Remind me to apologize.”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 59561.7
“I have grovelingly apologized to Captain Simplot for implying that she…might be overly welcome to the advances of the opposite sex. And after yelling at me for about ten minutes about equal treatment and gender views, I think she accepted. And why am I putting this in my log anyway, you ask? So that you know I apologized, and that she screamed at me like you wouldn’t believe and if any harassment stuff comes out of this, at least I tried, OK?”
“The Borg and the Fungaloids have been destroyed, everybody’s OK and the pizza place agreed to drop the hijacking charges in return for footage of their ship fighting the Borg and the right to use it in their advertising. Jall managed to talk them into throwing in some free pizza with it, but man that Matrian cheese does a number on my intestines. Again, you’re probably wondering why that’s in my log, and again…it’s just so you know: The pizza place is OK with what happened.”
“Otherwise, it’s back to business as usual. Well, mostly.”
“I can’t believe I have to take a runabout between the planet and the starbase now!” Jall whined, “Who’s bright idea was it to land this thing on an uninhabitable moon in the middle of nowhere?”
“And I can’t even use my back yard until they put the air back in the dome!” Yanick added, gesturing out the window and shuffling Allona from left to right breast. Part of Simplot and Abela’s plan to defeat the Borg with high-speed space trash had involved venting the atmosphere from the dome and the water from the lake. Mostly the water, as the mass involved was considerable.
The Silverado senior staff had gathered in Yanick and T’Parief’s large apartment to celebrate the defeat of the Borg. They had chosen the place because it was spacious, being out on the Inner Rim of the city. And it was on the ground level, which mean that the large patio doors usually opened out onto a large yard, complete with trees, lawn and all that good stuff. But the foliage was now blackened and dead from vacuum exposure and the doors and windows had all auto-locked with those unbreakable mechanical locking mechanisms the Matrians seemed to love. Of course, since accidentally opening a window would kill everybody inside, it made sense.
“How long until Silverado’s ready to go?” Stafford asked Jeffery.
“Depends,” Jeffery said, “Reconstruction will be done in three weeks. Testing will take another week…then we have to fix whatever the testing found to be broke.”
“A month,” Stafford said, “One more month, people. We can do this. We survived the Qu’Eh, we survived the Tapart, and Kallar IV. We survived the Borg. We can handle one month on this city, without easy access to the planet,”
“They are bringing miners to the city,” Fifebee said to Jall. She was using the jury-rigged relay Jeffery had setup on the Qu’Eh ship until a proper one could be rebuilt, “My historical database indicates that is one of the many isolated, single-gender dominated jobs where same-sex relations are probable,”
“They’re Matrians. They’ll all be women!” Jall complained.
“Ah. Good point.”
“Somebody go be social with Valtaic,” Yanick said, “He looks lonely, over by the window.”
“I am not lonely!” Valtaic called back.
“Where’s T’Parief?” Stafford asked.
“He’s getting more food,”
“It’s not something terrible, like kitten stew, is it?” Wowryk asked.
“I gave him a list,” Yanick shrugged.
“If he can’t get decent food, we’ll just crash the Beta Shift party,” Jeffery suggested, “They have great taste in snacks,”
“But the Hazardous Team always finds better beer,” Jall pointed out.
“Hmm. Good point.”
“The science staff-“ Fifebee started.
“No,” Wowryk raised a hand, “The last time we checked in on one of their parties, we walked in on strip poker,”
“And the only thing worse than a pale, pasty-faced nerd,” Jall said, “Is a pale, naked, pasty-faced nerd,”
As the stars shone brightly outside of Haven’s clear dome, life continued. For the crew of Starbase 341, it was the dawn of a new era. Matria Prime had survived a Borg attack, the city was now far from the planet it had been meant to orbit, but was also being opened up to new citizens and businesses.
But for the Silverado crew, it was almost time to move on. Their stay in Matrian Space, far longer than normal for any starship crew, was finally, nearly at an end.