Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry. The networks pretty much shut him out and took over, and now they own the thing. Star Traks was created by Alan Decker. I'm not sure the networks have noticed him yet. That's probably a good thing. Star Traks: Silverado was created by Brendan Chris. Odds are, the only network paying attention to him belongs to the NSA. According to Snowden, they are noticing everybody these days.

Author: Brendan Chris
Copyright: 2015

Author’s Note: This story takes place at the same time as Halfway to Haven: Season 1. There are no relevant crossovers, so if you haven’t read that series you aren’t missing anything. And I will promise you upfront, this is the last season that will involve the Silverado crew in Matrian Space for a long time.


Captain Christopher Stafford took a deep breath, wiped his palms on the insta-dry sports shorts he was wearing and turned to address his science officer.

“Are we ready?”

“One moment,” Lt Comd Jane Fifebee said calmly, the eyes of her holographic avatar flickering as she accessed the city computer systems.

“C’mon, girl,” Commander San Jall complained, hopping on the spot while he adjusted his sweatband, “I’m stoked! I’m good to go! I’m high on life! And coffee. And if either of those wear off before we get started…”

“Then the rest of us will kick yer arse,” Lt Comd Jeffery finished for him.

Lt Comds T’Parief and Riven Valtaic, the two most obviously alien members of the group, simply exchanged a glance and said nothing. Well, they didn’t speak. But T’Parief’s glance said very clearly ‘I really hate that annoying man. With the Captain’s permission, I would have killed him long ago.’ Valtaic’s was less wordy, simply saying ‘I am ready to begin.’ Valtaic’s race was sort of funny like that. No social pleasantries, no white lies, no making conversation for the sake of conversation. Oh, he made a few efforts in order to better fit in with the rest of the crew, but by and large he preferred silence to inane chatter.

“We’ll be cheering for you, Pari!” Lt Trish Yanick’s voice came over the public address system, “Well, I mean, I’ll be cheering for you. The egg is just going to…well, sit here. But I’ll be cheering!”

“Maybe you should let me hold the egg for the next few minutes,” Dr. Wowryk’s voice cut in, “Cheering, jumping and fragile shells don’t mix well, and you left the harness in your quarters again!”

“OK,” Yanick replied.

“Yes, just hand it-WHOAH!” Wowryk exclaimed, “That’s slippery!”

“Yeah,” Yanick sounded sheepish, “Pari took his turn warming it before the race, and he got his gooey sweat all over it. I haven’t had a chance to wipe it off yet,”

“Well, I suppose that’s beneficial to the parental bonding….oh, is that microphone still on?”

Down on the main event floor, Stafford was pinching his nose while Jeffery and Jall made somewhat disgusted-looking faces at T’Parief.

He eyed them coolly, daring them to comment or claim that human sweat was any better.

They said nothing.

“Fifebee, can we get this show on the road already?” Stafford asked.

“I am having difficulty locating the proper Matrian configuration files and announcement scripts,” Fifebee claimed, “I assume you desire the authentic experience?”

“At this point, I just want to get going” Stafford said, “Can’t you wing it?”

“Considering that ‘it’ is a mechanized obstacle course with moving platforms, wind generators, rain sprinklers, floor sections that can be electrified, gel cannons and other physically challenging obstacles, it may be unwise to, as you say, ‘wing it’,” Fifebee replied.

“It’s designed for fun and recreation, it’s not a death-trap, by the Goddess!” That was Colonel Myress Abela. The Matrian woman had only recently come out of nearly two centuries in stasis. She’d been found in the hidden city of Haven by the Silverado crew and had been instrumental in defeating the Qu’Eh invasion. Following that bit of fun, the Matrian Government had assigned her as First Officer of the giant orbital city. She’d overseen the construction of the city and was eagerly getting everything up and running. Including the Obstacle Training Course that had been built near the sports centre in the Outer Rim.

“As you wish,” Fifebee nodded, “I believe I have located a near-equivalent Terran-“

“Just go!”

“Ahem,” Fifebee flickered again, then spoke:

“Hello, and welcome to the Aperture Science…um…the Haven Robotic Obstacle Training and Testing Centre. In the course of your testing adventure, you will…”

As Fifebee went on, Sylvia did a face-palm. “Nice choice of role models, Jane,” she muttered.

“…and remember, testing is the future! And the future starts with you! Unless you are old, feeble, or irradiated in such a way that the future should not start with you. In which case-“

“Fifebee!” Stafford snapped.

“Right.” Another flicker. Ahead of the five racers, the obstacle course jumped to life! Moving panels in the floor and walls jumped into position, forming a series of steps leading from the start line to the first obstacle, five low tunnels. Behind each tunnel was a steel slide, leading to a series of small platforms crossing over an electrified section of floor.

“GO!” Fifebee shouted.

All five of the men jumped forward, taking the steps two at a time. T’Parief took the lead briefly, his muscular legs propelling him up the steps in half the time it took the other four. Unfortunately, he barely fit in the tunnel, losing precious seconds squeezing through while Stafford and Jall caught up. Jall dove through with surprising dexterity, but Stafford more clumsily dropped to his knees to crawl through. Valtaic and Jeffery weren’t far behind.

They all hit the bottom of the slides within seconds of each other and jumped easily across the floor section. Following that was a steep ramp with a series of ropes hanging from the top. T’Parief and Jall charged ahead, grabbing the ropes and hauling themselves up, followed by Valtaic. Stafford and Jeffery started lagging, pulling themselves to the top as the rest were preparing for the next obstacle: a large open pit. Halfway across was a thick bar, just perfect for swinging oneself across the gap.

T’Parief, however, simply launched himself across the pit with one push of his massive legs. He fell short of the far edge though, managing to catch it with one clawed hand! Valtaic jumped for the bar, but at that moment the powerful wind generators kicked in, sending him off to the side, missing the bar. Stafford and Jeffery waited until the gust died down, then swung across the pit.

Valtaic wasn’t out though. Just before hitting the floor, he pulsed his energy field, an organ in his chest sending power surging through the network of conductive minerals in his skin. There was a loud CRACK and a flash of sparks as he bounced off the floor and was propelled over the edge of the pit. Unfortunately, the next obstacle was a balance-beam suspended over a pool of water. Valtaic landed with a splash and a cry of dismay. T’Parief, who had just started across the beam, jerked as the water shorted out Valtaic’s energy field, falling in with a matching splash.

Stafford and Jeffery paused, waiting to see if it was safe to start across the pool, but this cost them as Jall leaped onto the balance beam, sprinting across the pool and taking the lead. Jeffery and Stafford moved after him, with Valtaic hot on their heels. T’Parief, slowed a bit by the shock, moved to follow.


“Does that count as cheating?” Yanick asked Wowryk as they observed from a comfortable lounge set up above the track, “I think that counts as cheating,”

“Well, we don’t have a Matrian rulebook handy, so I really don’t know,” Wowryk replied.

Wowryk’s padd beeped as Sylvia’s face appeared on it.

“I don’t think it counts as cheating,” she said, “It was really more of a reflex action,”

“That just happened to cost Pari the lead,” Yanick said sourly.

“It’s not over yet,” Sylvia shrugged.


The next obstacle was a ten meter climb up, with only rock-shaped hand and footholds for purchase. As Sylvia might have predicted, T’Parief’s superior strength let him catch up to the others, though Valtaic also proved surprisingly adept at climbing and managed to pull alongside Jall. The next obstacle, however, was a doozy. It was another gap, though this one at least lacked water, goo or an electrified floor. But to cross this one, the competitors would have to jump their way across four lines of moving platforms, frogger-style. To make matters even worse, Fifebee’s voice spoke up, informing them that a platform would collapse three seconds after being touched. Five ladders led up from the pit back to the starting point.

Jall and Valtaic leaped from th edge, both landing on platforms. But at that moment the rain sprinklers kicked in. Jall slipped, falling to the padded floor while Valtaic paused long enough for his platform to suddenly tip, sending him down as well. T’Parief attempted to charge straight across without stopping, however he hit a gap on the last row of platforms and fell to the floor. Stafford and Jeffery moved slower, making it almost to the edge before Stafford hit a gap and Jeffery paused just a bit too long.

In the meantime, T’Parief was on his second attempt when he slipped on a platform, landing on Stafford and Jeffery. A brief shoving match took place, and by the time they made it back to the starting point Valtaic had managed to tumble down again.

They all made it across on the next attempt, but now Jall was back in the lead. He was already leaping up the next obstacle, a series of randomly spaced steps leading up to another series of tunnels.

The other four scrambled to catch up, but only T’Parief managed to close the gap before Jall disappeared into the tunnel. In his mind, the other three were irrelevant. Stafford and Jeffery were both fit, but neither worked in an especially physically demanding position. Valtaic was more of an unknown…but even having one of them win was preferable to allowing Jall, the bane of his existence, to best him.

With that thought coursing through his mind, he put on an extra surge of speed, flinging himself through the tight tunnel and falling out the other side, landing in a tucked roll and springing up at the last obstacle, a series of monkey bars suspended over another electrified patch of floor.

It was a photo finish, both T’Parief and Jall breaking the light beams marking the end of the course at the same time. Stafford heaved himself through next, followed by Valtaic and Jeffery bringing up the rear.

“Excellent,” Fifebee spoke, her holographic body appearing next to them, “Remember, the City of Haven Bring-Your-Daughter-To-Work day is the perfect time to have her tested!” She shook her head. As she did so, the various platforms and devices making up the obstacle course closed up and returned to their stored positions, leaving only a bare, flat running track. “Excuse me. Congratulations to our two winners, Commander Jall and Lt Comd T’Parief.”

Jall stuck his hand out to shake T’Parief’s hand, but the big lizard just glared at him, a deep rattle coming from deep in his throat.

“Oh come on, be a sport!” Jall complained.

Another rattle.

“T’Parief, just shake his hand so we can continue,” Stafford wheezed.

Looking like he was about to stick his hand in a dung heap, T’Parief briefly shook Jall’s hand.

“Good,” Stafford said, still trying to catch his breath, “This concludes the USS Silverado Senior Officer’s Challenge. I hope you’re all feeling…I don’t know. Motivated? Full of good morale? Can somebody remind me why we put ourselves through this?”

“My morale has improved,” Valtaic stated.

“Ah think Ah’m gonna poop out a kidney,” Jeffery groaned.

“But did you have fun?” Colonel Abela asked, walking down from the referee walk that ran the length of the course, “That’s the important thing. We included this course so that physical training could be fun as well as challenging,”

“I had a grand old time,” Jall said happily, “But then I spend more time in the gym that most of these guys”

“Physical fitness is important,” Abela nodded, approvingly.

“Physical fitness my ass, I want to stay sexy enough to get laid!” Jall replied.

“Oh geez,” Stafford grumbled.

“Which way to the showers?” Valtaic asked, to the point as always.

“Take a left down that passage,” Abela waved,”Then it’s men on the left, women on the right,”

“Jall, there’s no women here, so you can take that one,” Stafford said.

“No, he can’t,” Abela snapped.

“I promise not to peek,” Jall rolled his eyes, “Y’know…any more.”

“When’s your new crew coming in, by the way?” Stafford asked Abela.

“Queen Anselia and Admiral Verithi are working on that,” Abela replied, “Until the Federation decides who is getting command of the city, I will just carry on myself,”

“Well, we’ll be over in Shipyard 3 if you need us,” Stafford said, “I’m making some progress on the paperwork, we’re hoping to start work on the ship soon.”

“I’m sure my staff and I can manage without your assistance,” Abela smiled confidently.


Two days later:


Stafford dove behind a cargo container as phaser fire seared the air above his head.

“I thought you said your staff could manage!” he snapped at Abela.

“We were managing just fine until your people decided they had to ‘help’!” Abela shot back.

“Hey, Major Jakerd called US when the Vulcan ship arrived! He said they were ‘creepy’!”

“Major Jakerd thinks EVERYTHING is creepy!” Abela snapped back, popping up long enough to fire back. Lt Comd Stern and several other members of the Hazardous Team were three containers over, laying down covering fire as T’Parief tried to get closer to the enemy.

“Well, he was right this time!” Stafford said, “It’s not easy to spot a Romulan disguised as a Vulcan!”

“That’s no reason for your people to shoot them and chase them halfway around the station!”

“THEY WERE PLANTING A BOMB!”

At least, Stafford was 99% sure that’s what the three Romulans had been doing when T’Parief and the Hazardous team had tracked them down. The Silverado officers had been somewhat bored, so the call from Major Jakerd had been a welcome distraction. Once T’Parief had reported their bomb-planting activities, half the Silverado crew had wound up chasing them through downtown Haven.

“They were planting a bomb,” a new voice broke in, “And we were about to stop them,”

That voice wasn’t Abela’s, it was one half of the trim, annoyingly attractive Bajoran couple that had arrived shortly before the Vulcans/Romulans. The male had skidded alongside Abela and Stafford, managing to return fire in the direction of the bad guys while the female, two cargo containers over, lobbed a couple of stun grenades.

“In fact,” he went on, “my partner Tarina was in the process of seducing the one guarding their get-away ship while I was ready to slip right in behind the others and disarm the bomb. There was no reason whatsoever for ANY of you to get involved,”

“This is MY city!” Abela snarled, returning fire again, “Who the heck are you to tell me where I may or may not get involved!”

“Special Agent Astal Jerum, Starfleet Intelligence,”

“Ohhhhhhh, shit,” Stafford groaned, banging his head against the cargo container, “Now we’ve REALLY stepped in it,”

“You most certainly have,” Agent Astal replied, “You’ve managed to blow our cover AND spook the Romulans. Tarina and I were looking forward to a long, quiet assignment out here, now we’re probably going to end up on another mission to Cardassian space. Thank you for that.”

Abela gave Stafford a look.

“Hey, I’m sure you just love dealing with Matrian Intelligence,” he said to her.

Abela just grunted.


Less than fifteen minutes after the last of the Romulans were rounded up, Stafford and Jall were summoned to the Shipyard 3 Control Centre. Larger than Silverado’s bridge, the room was the command and control hub for the shipyard that would be tearing Silverado apart, right down to the space-frame, and rebuilding her. Hopefully good as new. For the moment though, the main display screen that had been showing design schematics for an Ambassador-class ship was showing the angry, goatee-ed visage of Admiral Edward Tunney.

“-exposed not one but TWO Starfleet Intelligence agents, interfered with a sensitive operation and, all-in-all, managed to royally screw up!”

“Yes sir,” Stafford grumbled.

“Wait,” Jall looked back and forth between Tunney and Stafford, “OK, we didn’t have any way of knowing those two were SI. And we stopped the bomb and caught the bad-guys…just not as neatly as they would have. So…why is this a major screw-up instead of an ordinary, normal, old-fashioned screw up?”

“Captain Stafford,” Tunney settled back into his seat, “Would you care to explain it to him?”

Stafford sighed.

“We weren’t supposed to get involved. If we hadn’t gotten involved, this wouldn’t have happened. We’re supposed to focus on rebuilding our ship-“

“YOU are supposed to be down on the planet!” Tunney cut him off, “You’re still the Federation Adviser to the Matrian Council! Why are you even up on the space station?”

“Well…my people…”

“Have their own work to do! Do you know how long it’s been since anybody tried building an Ambassador-class ship? Or even RE-building one? Or using it as a teaching lab for a new member planet? Your ‘people’ are going to be shaping what shipbuilding in that sector is going to look like for the next century and they sure as shit don’t need you sticking your fingers in the mix!”

Tunney slammed a hand down on his desk.

“Stafford, get your ass down to the planet and STAY there! Jall, you’re supposed to be helping with the study of leftover Qu’Eh technology! So get to it! Tell that snivelling little engineer of yours to get his people to work already! And BOTH of you, STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM ANYTHING THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE YOU! That includes the Haven crew, the surrounding space…if I want you poking your nose around in something, I will tell you,”

“Yes, sir,” Stafford said glumly. Jall echoed him.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, my SI counterpart is trying to figure out how to get replacement agents out there in something less than a month. And if you two do anything to screw up the next pair, I swear you’ll be flying a garbage scow!”

The screen cut out.

“Well,” Stafford grunted, “So much for building morale.”

“I dunno,” Jall shrugged, “If I were you, about to spend a month or two in a city where women outnumber men three to one, and with a government promoting the making of as many babies as possible…”

“I guess there’s that. Wanna come along?”

“God no,”


“So that’s that,” Stafford said to his assembled officers. He’d gathered his senior officers, Beta shift officers, Gamma shift officers and even a few others into the big lounge looking out into the shipyard. Steven was slowly converting the place into a restaurant/bar, but so far it was a bland room with windows, chairs and tables.

“None of us are to interfere with the Haven crew in any way, shape or form. They’ve got their orders, we’ve got ours. Major Dekaire will be our Matrian liaison and will be running the shipyard. Lt Comd Jeffery, you and your staff are obviously staying here to oversee the rebuild. Lt Comd T’Parief, you and your staff are responsible for shipyard security,” Stafford looked down at his padd, “Uh…what else? Jall and Valtaic are going to the study Qu’Eh technology. Fifebee and Sylvia, you’re going to be our…liaisons to the construction bots,”

“We are overseers to those brainless automatons?” Fifebee lifted an eyebrow.

“I was going to say ‘troubleshooters’, ‘pit crew’ or ‘programming assistants’, but I thought I was being politically correct by saying ‘liaisons’ instead,” Stafford said flatly.

“Thanks, Chris,” Sylvia said cheerfully. Fifebee rolled her eyes.

“Yanick, you and Dr. Wowryk are coming down to the planet with me,” Stafford went on, “Yanick, you’re taking on your Starfleet Liaison role again. Wowryk you’re going to be helping the research team studying the Qu’Eh control collars,”

“Do you have something more specific for me than ‘Study Qu’Eh stuff’?” Jall asked. Valtaic was thinking something along the same lines, but assumed that it would be passed on eventually

“You and Valtaic are going to help study one of the Qu’Eh wrecks that was left behind after the fight,” Stafford said.

“Based here, or on the planet?” Jall asked immediately.

“I don’t c-“ Stafford raised his arms.

“Planet,” Jall cut him off.

Stafford let his arms fall.

“What the hell happened to not wanting to be on a planet where the women outnumber the men three to one?” he demanded, exasperated.

“Uh, it’s also a planet that’s just desperate for a party. I just didn’t want to go there with you. Or work in the government sector.” Jall said, as if talking to an idiot, “Besides, I could laid in the middle of the Vatican if I set my mind to it. I’m just that awesome.”

“Fine. Whatever. I hope you get every Matrian STD there is out there,” Stafford tossed the padd on a table.

“I’ll do my best!”

“That’s it, people,” he finished, “A few more months, then we can finally bid a fond farewell to this place. Dismissed.”

There was grumbling as everybody filed out, mostly at the news that they wouldn’t be heading back to Federation space anytime soon. T’Parief, however, had something more specific to grumble about.

“You are separating me from my mate and spawn before the egg has even hatched,” he said to Stafford, once everybody except the senior officers had departed.

“Look, I’m sorry, big guy,” Stafford said, “But I need Yanick on the planet and you up here. If it makes you feel better, she’s going to be working a 9-5 sort of deal. She’ll be back up every weekend…well, three days out of every eight, by the Matrian calendar,”

“Unacceptable,” T’Parief stated, “She and you require protection. There are still Matrian rebels, possibly Qu’Eh saboteurs, the standard assortment of criminals and never-do-wells,”

“Send the Hazardous Team,” Jall piped up.

“Ohhh, oh no,” Stafford said, “Not after the last time we let them loose on the planet…”

“They go. As do I,” T’Parief crossed his arms.

Stafford gulped.

“Well, it’s not like it’s that hard to change assignments,” he sighed, “I mean, we’re just a transporter beam away,”

He thought for a moment.

“OK, you and the Hazardous Team can come down for now. The rest of your staff can help the Matrians with shipyard security. But I want it understood that I can order you back here anytime if I think I have to!”

T’Parief considered for a moment, then nodded assent.

“OK,” Stafford turned to leave, “If everybody is all happy and feeling the warm fuzzies for their assignments, let’s get to it.”

“Actually-“ Jall started.

“I don’t care,” Stafford cut him off, “You’ve got the warm fuzzies and you are happy. End of story,”


Days of our New Lives


Jeffery


Day Zero:


Jeffery, Sylvia and Fifebee stood in Three-See-See, the current nickname for the Shipyard 3 Control Centre. Outside the observation windows, the USS Silverado hovered in the weightless shipyard environment. Hundreds of Matrian construction bots floated in the space around her, their various grasping arms holding scanners, cutters, wielders, micro-tractor beam emitters and holographic cameras. Waivers had been completed, authorizations to operate had been obtained. The plan was that they would tear Silverado apart starting with the hull plates and working their way in. Each piece would be identified, along with its place in the ship, right down to the screws in the light fixtures. Each piece would be analyzed, and the slightest sign of damage would mean a trip to one of two dozen replicator units for re-fabrication. In front of Jeffery was a glowing activation button.

“Ah really don’t feel so sure about this,” he said, “Ah mean, these bots haven’t been used in centuries,”

“We reviewed their programming,” Sylvia shrugged, “They aren’t very different from Federation shipbuilding bots.”

“They repaired the damage the Qu’Eh did to Haven with little difficulty,” Fifebee pointed out.

“That was a broken hanger door and a few scorch marks,” Jeffery’s lips twisted, “This is…we’re talking about me girl here!”

“Who?” Major Dekaire stepped up from behind them, “Lt Comd Jeffery, haven’t you pressed the button? We specifically waited because you wanted to be the one to press the button,”

Looking embarrassed, Jeffery reached out towards the button. The bots weren’t that bad, he had to agree. They were basically humanoid, but their exposed skeletons, servos, cables and components firmly put them in the ‘robot’ category as opposed to ‘android’. Instead of shoulders they had an oval track ring on which a good half-dozen articulated arms were mounted. The arms could spin around the track as needed, each equipped with a different tool. Various clips and attachments for storage were carefully placed around their bodies. Their heads were capsule shaped, with a pair of glowing red optical sensors and a speaking grill. Mechanically speaking, they were well-designed and efficient. The years spent constructing Haven and its predecessor, Old Matronus, had given the Old Matrians plenty of time to work out all the kinks. Much like centuries of Starfleet shipbuilding had refined their construction techniques to a fine art. Sadly, the Matrian Gender Wars had taken a horrible toll on resources, technology and stored information, leaving Haven’s robotic work force vastly superior to what the other Matrian shipyards had managed to cobble together.

But the questions Jeffery couldn’t get a clear answer on was deceptively simple: How smart were they? Not human smart, he didn’t think. But working with Sylvia and Fifebee had taught him that artificial intelligence was something very real, and something not to be underestimated.

He pulled his hand away from the activation button.

“Ah just think we need to know more about these bots first,” he said, “Ye worked in one of the modern-day Matrian shipyards after the Reawakning, aye?”

“Yes,” Dekaire said, “And the robots there are inferior to these. As with most of our modern technology,”

“It’s not that your technology became inferior,” Fifebee corrected, “It’s that the people assembling, preparing and operating it didn’t know what they were doing. With proper work and configuration, most of your so-called modern technology could be restored to something very close to Old Matrian efficiency,”

“Thanks, we know,” Dekaire gave Fifebee one of those ‘I’m not an idiot’ looks that Fifebee seemed to receive fairly often these days.

Jeffery still hesitated.

“Maybe we should test a couple of them out on a runabout first?” he said, “The Assessippi took heavy damage when we used it to rescue the captured crew, and the Niagra-“

“Lt Comd Jeffery, if you do not push that button right now, I will push it for you,” Major Dekaire snapped, taking a step closer.

Jeffery flinched back from the tall Matrian woman, his right buttock brushing against the activation panel.

“Reconstruction Sequence Initiated,” intoned the flat, deep, female voice of the computer.

“Och,” Jeffery grimaced.

The three officers (and one Matrian) watched in a combination of amazement and horror as the cloud of bots suddenly launched themselves at the helpless starship. They could see clearly as the nearest bot, right at the very front tip of the saucer, extended its sensor and camera arms, carefully scanning a single hull plate and adding it to the reconstruction database. Jeffery winced as it extended cutting arms and, with crisp, mechanical precision, sliced the plate off the hull. It examined it briefly, tagged it, then allowed it to drift away. The scene was repeated hundreds of time across Silverado’s skin, most of the plates being tagged and released. Some bots however, tucked their plates under a spare arm, to be taken later for re-fabrication. As each item was scanned, it was added to the master display in 3CC. Small rectangles of hull plating were appearing on the empty ship diagrams; dorsal, ventral, port, starboard, fore and aft being displayed on wall panels while a slowly rotating holographic 3D display appeared over the central panel.

“They are impressive,” Sylvia said, watching with a look somewhere between admiration and…desire? If she could feel desire. For that matter, if she could feel desire towards what were, in Jeffery’s mind, tiny parasites slowly carving apart her body. “It’s sad that they can’t understand just how much they’re helping us,”

“Helping us, aye,” Jeffery said, unable to tear his eyes away from the mechanical carnage unfolding, “But ye know that intelligent machines are a slippery slope. Besides, they’re built to work, not to be happy,”

“Hmmm,” Fifebee mumbled thoughtfully, “But is happiness not a universal desire?”

“If it was, nobody would agree to spend their lives working on a ship in cold vacuum,” Jeffery said.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Sylvia replied, “I love a mindless, repetitive task as much as the next computer. But a bit of appreciation really does go a long way,”

“Fascinating, but we have work to do,” Major Dekaire waved several of the other Matrians forward, “Let us begin our education on Federation shipbuilding. Mr. Asbet is one of the construction managers at Shipyard Alpha, in orbit of Matria Prime. He wishes to know why Starfleet uses this strange ‘Aztec’ style hull pattern, I believe you call it,”

“Um…” Jeffery gulped.


After a full day spent answering (or making up answers to) questions inane as ‘Why even BOTHER painting differing hull plates different shades of grey’ and ‘Do you use a clear coat or simply wax?’, Jeffery and his staff managed to escape to their quarters in the living spaces near Shipyard 3. Some of the senior officers and married couples had been given leases on condos in the city itself as a sort of ‘thank you’ from the Matrian government, but most of the crew had opted to live Spaceside, their quarters looking out into, well, space. Jeffery didn’t even glance at the starry vista outside his huge, oval-shaped window as he collapsed on his couch and fell asleep.

After a deep sleep, he suddenly shot awake, looking around in panic.

Everything seemed fine, and yet something had jolted him awake. His quarters were empty, the stars outside shone silently in the black of space and the rumble of engines was sending only the gentlest vibrations through…wait. Engines???

“BOLLOCKS!” Jeffery shouted. He dashed for the door, still in his day-old uniform. Why the hell was he feeling ENGINES? The only time he’d felt that aboard Haven was when the city had launched itself from the surface! They couldn’t go anywhere in a sub-light object the size of the city…was some idiot trying to land the damned thing? And what the heck would happen to Silverado if they did?


“-better be a damned good reason for this!” Major Dekaire was shouting through the comm as Jeffery rushed into the 3CC, “We’ve left a trail of ship parts and construction bots all the way back to Matria Prime!”

She turned to Jeffery and was speaking, but he wasn’t paying attention. His eyes were locked at the window.

Silverado looked like a rotted carcass. Nearly a quarter of ship’s skin had been peeled away, revealing structural spars, SIF and IDF conduits, shield waveguides, power lines and inner hull bulkheads. One warp nacelle had been opened up, with warp coils and other equipment fully visible. Bots were still climbing over the ship, scanning, cutting and sorting. But instead of spinning around slowly in the weightless shipyard, all the discarded hull plates had crashed to the shipyard floor, decks below.

“Whot…”

“I said,” Dekaire said crossly, “The new Starfleet crew decided to fire up the engines and take us for a trip without bothering to inform us! The tractor field kept the ship in place, but anything outside the main inertial dampening field was scattered!”

Silverado was too big to fit completely inside the shipyard. In fact, only the front half was actually ‘inside’ the shipyard. The rest of the ship just sort of stuck out the side of Haven, with massive scaffolds having extended out from the shipyard for just such a situation.

“We’ve extended the IDF and SIF fields around the scaffolding, and the bots that fell out when the city accelerated are collecting everything for pickup. But this is going to set us back at least a week!”

“Why-“

There was a bizarre twisting sensation, followed by a roar like a train racing down a tunnel! Outside the shipyard entrance, Jeffery saw a waterfall of blue and black light washing down, as though energy was raining down on the city from above! He wasn’t sure how light could be black, but there it was right in front of him.

“DIVERT POWER TO THE TRACTOR FIELD!” Dekaire was screaming.

Matrian technicians leaped to obey before Jeffery even realized the problem.

“Bugger me!”he shouted. The aft ends of Silverado twin nacelles were IN the swirling energy field! The aft end of the ship was tilting down, while the upper surface of the saucer was on a crash course with the shipyard ceiling!

As abruptly as it appeared, the roaring energy wave vanished.

“Watch it!” Dekaire shouted, the technicians frantically adjusting the beams so the ship wouldn’t abruptly reverse direction and bounce off the shipyard floor.

After a moment of frenzied adjustments, Silverado again hung serenely in the center of the shipyard. The bots had continued their relentless task without pause, scanning, cutting, sorting and repeating. They didn’t even seem to notice that dozens of them had nearly been crushed to death.

“Whot the blue blazin’ bollocks was that???” Jeffery wondered.

“Whatever it was, I’m going up there and giving them a piece of my mind!” Dekaire snapped, moving towards the door.

Jeffery caught her arm.

“Don’t bother,” he said, “Just wait for the staff meeting,”

“Don’t bother??” Dekaire demanded, “STAFF MEETING??”

“Major, Ah’ve been a starship engineer for a long time,” At last, a topic he was confident about! “And two things never change: First, the guys on the bridge never tell us shite.”

Dekaire studied him carefully.

“And second?”

“Whoever the new Captain is, he’s gonna call a meeting to go over the whole thing in excruciating detail.”

As if on cue, the doors opened and a Starfleet Lieutenant emerged. He was a lanky, mostly human male with strange shapes shaved into his hair and more odd shapes drawn on his exposed skin. He was also looking about as nervous as Bigfoot in a room of Klingon prickle-mice.

“No!” Jeffery exclaimed, his jaw dropping, the weirdness of the last five minutes forgotten.

“H-H-Hi Simon!” Lieutenant Josh Shurgroe waved, “Congratulations on the promotion,”

“Thanks,” Jeffery said, reaching out to shake Shurgroe’s hand. Shurgroe jerked back, then accepted the handshake.

“And who are you?” Dekaire asked, not bothering with any pleasantries.

“I’m Lieutenant Josh Shurgrue, Director of Shipbuilding,” he replied.

“Yer posted here?” Jeffery’s jaw dropped again, “And…wait…yer in charge of the shipyards? Yer her BOSS?” he gestured at Dekaire, who was not looking amused.

“Yeah, most of the Stallion’s crew is here. And I guess I am.” Shurgroe shrugged, “Anyway, the Captain sent me down here to…you know…assure you that we had to move the city for a reason, trying to rescue a quantum slipstream ship, and that we’ll…you know…help with the cleanup and whatever. Oh, and I think she’s having a meeting in an hour or so,”

Jeffery’s face flashed with understanding when slipstream was mentioned, and was starting to look smugly in Dekaire’s direction when Shurgroe’s words sunk in.

“Wait…so the Captain…the new station commander…”

“Is Captain Simplot,” Shurgroe nodded, “She’s very excited,”

“Bugger me” Jeffery groaned again.

“She might, if you ask her,” Shurgroe shrugged again, “I mean, you two have already-“

“Git out of here!” Jeffery gestured him away, “What we did was none of yer business!”

Shurgroe looked from Jeffery’s angry expression to the stone-cold look on Major Dekaire’s face.

“I’ll…see you at the meeting,” Shurgroe muttered as he left.

Dekaire looked to Jeffery.

“You know him? And slept with the new captain? The new female captain?”

“Er…” Jeffery hesitated.

“Good,” Dekaire nodded curtly, “I wasn’t sure if you preferred men, or just behaved like a typical Federation male. It’s so hard to tell the difference. Dinner later?”

“Um…whot???”

Dekaire turned to one of the other Matrians in the room.

“That Shurgroe man doesn’t step foot in this shipyard or any of the support facilities without my personal authorization,” she said firmly.

“Yes, Major,”

“He’s not that bad…” Jeffery started.

“Weren’t you Silverado people, whom I might add have fought with us since the beginning, ordered to stay out of the way of this new crew that just barely stepped in at the last minute?” Dekaire asked.

“Well…they did sacrifice their ship…”

“They don’t need to be in here,” Dekaire said, “Now, dinner.”

“Did I saw yes?” Jeffery almost asked. The real question, he quickly realized, was whether he dared say no.

Dekaire just looked at him expectantly.

“Actually, that does sound good,” he shrugged.


Day Two:


Fifebee and Sylvia stood in one of the smaller repair bays off the main shipyard. Silverado’s two damaged runabouts had been moved into this bay, awaiting eventual repairs. Sylvia had slyly tapped into the bot allocation database and reassigned twelve construction bots to the runabouts.

“OK,” Sylvia said to the cold, emotionless eyes of the bots, “This will be a standard reconstruction, small scale. But we’re going to try this a bit differently. You will get twelve hours of down time for every twelve hours of work. Your factory specs say you require re-lubrication every 10,000 hours, but I think we can cut that in half. Oh! And we have a variety of isotope flavours for your power cells! Try them all, and let me know what you think!”

The bots said nothing.

“Please begin,” Sylvia said, gesturing to the runabout. After a moment, the bots walked to the first of the two small craft and began scanning it.

“You’re sure this is a good idea?” Fifebee asked.

“What can go wrong?” Sylvia shrugged.


Stafford


“Darg, check the interior,” Stern ordered, his weapon at the ready.

“Guys, this isn’t-“ Stafford tried to say, but he was quickly cut off.

“Sir, we are professionals,” Lt Rengs said firmly, keeping him off to the side, “Just let us do our jobs,”

“Professionals,” Stafford rolled his eyes, “Right,”

Dar’ugal pushed the door open with one foot, his phaser rifle immediately pointed into the small room. There was a scream, cut-off quickly as Simmons and Marsden darted into the room. They emerged with a pale Matrian man, his hands damp.

“He’s clean,” Stern said after running a tricorder over the Matrian.

“What is the meaning of-“

“Sir, if you’ll be on your way, and please note the sign at the entrance. This IS a secure facility,”

“Hmph,”

Dar’ugal made a series of hand gestures. Stern nodded.

“The room is secure,” he said, turning to Lt Comd T’Parief.

“Excellent,” T’Parief turned to Stafford and gestured at the door leading to the men’s room, “You may now urinate in peace,”

“Thanks,” Stafford said dryly. He paused before the door shut,”You know, before you come up with these displays that demonstrate just how bored you are, try to remember that you insisted on coming along,”

“I do not know what you are talking about, sir,” T’Parief said flatly.


Stafford finished his business (admittedly enjoying the total privacy) and returned to the office he shared with Lt Yanick. It wasn’t as large or as nice as the office he’d been given when he was the Minister of Planetary Defense. That office had been a huge, opulent affair, with a smaller office down off the War Room, several eager underlings and privileged access to much of the Matrian government complex

Now that he was just a Special Adviser to the Matrian Council, both his workload and his level of privilege had declined somewhat. He and Yanick were now in a single large office. Rather than a constant stream of questions and small tasks, he had only occasional visits from council members wanting to discuss Federation stuff. Mostly Starfleet stuff that the actual Ambassador wasn’t as familiar with.

That free time, however, had been a mixed blessing.

“Leave me alone,” Jall had finally snapped, after Stafford had commed him four times in one day to ‘understand the details’ (read: micromanage) of Jall’s efforts at studying a Qu’Eh ship, “You’re doing that thing you hate. Just sit back and let me work. I’ll let you know when we have something,”

He’d been about to comm Jeffery when Yanick had slapped a hand on his wrist, holding his arm on his desk and preventing him from tapping his comm-badge.

“Don’t,” she said.

“But-“

“Jeffery is going to tell you the same thing Jall told you,” Yanick said firmly, “You and I both know that Admiral Tunney told you to sit down here and not get involved. And what are you doing?” She looked at him like a parent looking down at a child that had misbehaved.

“I’m getting involved again,” he admitted sheepishly.

“Right.”

The discussion had gone back and forth a bit, but Stafford had known he was beaten.

“OK, Trish,” he’d finally said, “I hereby order you to take whatever actions necessary to keep me from micro-managing or otherwise sticking my nose in other people’s business.”

It hadn’t been easy. He was avoiding Tunney’s great big pile of paperwork as much as possible. He’d gone almost stir-crazy in the office. The office, which had seemed large and comfortable at first had shrunk down to something the size of a small closet. Finally, again following Yanick’s advice, he’d done what any bored government official would do:

He started taking long lunches.

So barely a few days after his arrival here he was, sitting at a nice outdoor cafe, eating something green and spongy and trying not to think about what his people were up to. Or what the Matrian food was doing to his entrails. Or the fact that Captain Simplot and her people were supposed to have taken over Haven a few days ago. Or the fact that Lt Comd Stern and the Hazardous Team were using his lunch as an excuse to practice covert surveillance.

“You’re not fooling anybody,” Stafford said to Ensign Simmons. The explosives expert was disguised as a large plant. In a woodland setting, it might have worked. In the middle of the city, not so much.

“How else am I going to learn, sir?” Simmons asked.

“In some way that doesn’t make the serving staff look at me like I’m crazy,” Stafford grumbled.

“Well sir, you ARE talking to a plant,”

Stafford gritted his teeth and ignored the man. He also tried not to notice Dar’ugal, who was pretending to shop for hats at a nearby store. It might have been convincing, save for his lack of head.

“Heya Chris!” Yanick strolled pleasantly up to his table. T’Parief followed a short distance behind, their egg carefully cradled in one arm.

“Is that thing ever going to hatch?” Stafford asked.

“Noel says it could be anywhere from two to six weeks,” Yanick shrugged, “And that was two weeks ago. So…yes?”

“Typical delivery window,” Stafford muttered.

“Do you want to hold it?”

A look of complete terror crossed Stafford’s face.

“For the love of God, NO!” he gulped.

Yanick looked hurt.

“I’m just scared I’d…break it,” Stafford clarified, “And then the father would break me,”

“Oh,” Yanick nodded thoughtfully, “I guess that’s why people keep turning pale and running away when I ask,”

T’Parief bared his teeth and made an amused sound.

“Some people enjoy the strangest things,” Stafford shook his head.

“Anyway,” Yanick sat across from him and pulled a padd out of her bag, “Do you-“

“Will more of your party be seating themselves soon, sir?” a rather snooty Matrian waiter asked.

“They’re not part of any party!” Stafford growled, not seeing Simmons raising his arms over his head in the universal ‘raise the roof’ motion and quietly whooping, “They’re just a bunch of crazy security people. Don’t you ever get those around here?”

“We get crazies of all types, sir,” the waiter replied snidely.

“Keep that up and your tip is toast,” Stafford warned. The waiter left.

“You tip?” Yanick asked.

“The Matrian government does, when they’re paying for my food,” Stafford shrugged, “So what’s up?”

“Good news or bad news first?”

“F**k, I hate it when you do this,” Stafford rubbed his forehead, “Ummm…good news,”

“OK,” Yanick nodded, “The good news is that the Matrian Defence Force found Haven. I guess it got…um, let’s see…it got pulled into an unstable quantum slipstream. It’s about a week from here.”

Stafford stared at her blankly.

“So then the bad news…” he said.

“Is that Haven went missing, yes,” Yanick nodded.

“Less than a day!” Stafford exclaimed, “Captain Simplot was in command of that place for less than a day and she’s already managed to…to…what was a quantum slipstream doing so close to the planet???”

“Oh, it wasn’t,” Yanick assured him, “It was a ways away. They flew the city out to meet it,”

“They…they…” Stafford bolted to his feet, “I’m going up there! Call the spaceport and-“

“Don’t make me stop you, Chris,” Yanick warned him, “We agreed-“

“We worked too hard to find and launch that city for somebody to take it joyriding around the solar system! I can’t just-“

Yanick whistled.

In a flash, something dropped from the ceiling. Stafford was forced to the ground by a heavy weight, and the next thing he knew said heavy weight was seated comfortably on his back.

“In the Klingon Empire,” Crewman Kreklor said conversationally, “you would be dead now,”

“And in most of Starfleet you’d be on report now,” Stafford grumbled. Something about having over ninety kilograms of Klingon sitting on his back had just taken the fight right out of him. “Yanick, when I said ‘if I try to go to Haven, sit on me until the urge passes’, I wasn’t being literal.”

“Do you still feel like running up to Haven to meddle in Captain Simplot’s business?” Yanick asked him.

“Well….no,” Stafford admitted, “Mostly, I just feel like breathing again. Soon.”

“Well, there you go,”

This time when the snooty waiter came by he was accompanied by an even snootier-looking manager.

“Uh-oh,” Simmons said, “Fun’s over,”

Stafford’s comm-badge beeped.

“Verethi to Stafford,”

“Ohh crud,” Stafford groaned. Admiral Verethi was in command of the Matrian Defence Force. If she was calling him, it couldn’t be good.

“Yeah,” he asked, squirming to reach his comm-badge and wishing Kreklor would just get off him already.

“We have a comm-call with the Queen in an hour,” Verethi said without preamble, “She has some concerns over the Starfleet officers commanding Haven,”

“Don’t we all,” Stafford muttered. Louder, “Fine, talk to you in an hour.”

Finally escaping from the heavy Klingon, Stafford got to his feet just in time for his badge to go off again.

“Adviser Stafford, this is Matrian Communications, you have an incoming message from an Admiral Tunney, Starbase 45,”

“Oh boy,” Stafford stretched his back and waved for the snooty manager to wait a moment, “I’ll be back in my office soon, patch it through there. Stafford out,”

“Sir,” the manager said, “I’m afraid-“

“Matrian Communications to Adviser Stafford,” his badge went off again.

“I said I’ll talk to Tunney in my office,” Stafford snapped.

“Sir, we have the office of a Fleet Admiral Ra’al online. They wish to schedule a call for this afternoon,”

Now Stafford was a bit pale.

“Did they say why?” he squeaked.

“No,”

“1400, Adviser Stafford’s office,” Yanick jumped in, before poking his comm-badge and closing the channel.

“Vacation is over,” Stafford sighed. He gestured and his unfinished plate. “Could you box that to go? Thanks,”

He walked past the two employees.

“Charge it to Queen Anselia,” he called over his shoulder.



Tags: silverado