Author: Brendan Chris
Doctor Noel Wowryk checked her disguise, making sure that the heavy sunglasses, head scarf and false nose were in place. Finding everything to be in order, she stepped out of the small house that had been given over to her use. It was a clear, sunny day on Matria Prime. She couldn’t really call it a summer, spring or fall day. Matria Prime had very little axial tilt and a very regular orbit, rendering the planet without seasons. The weather varied in terms of sunny, cloudy, rainy and not rainy…but that was really it. No summer. No winter. Just a sort of constant, warm autumn.
“And yet they beat us at hockey” Wowryk muttered to herself.
She left her temporary yard and started walking towards the nearest tram station. From there, she would take a tram from the suburb where her house was located down towards the center of the city, and from there it was a short walk to the research center where she was working.
She had to admit, it felt good to be living on a planet again. Four years on Silverado, months living underground with the Matrian Resistance and then staying aboard Haven had made her forget just how wonderful it was to step out her front door and find herself faced with a glorious blue sky. She stopped at the small park she had found halfway between her house and the tram station and stopped briefly to pray and give thanks.
An hour later, she resumed her walk to the tram.
The tram was just pulling up when she arrived; she quickly seated herself and took a quick glance around. Nobody seemed to be taking notice of her. This was good.
Her first day at work she’d stepped off the tram downtown and found herself surrounded by a veritable mob of paparazzi and fans. Matrian women were shouting their approval and appreciation while Matrian men were all but bowing and scraping at her feet. It was bad enough when she, when all the Silverado crew, had returned to Matrian Prime before the Qu’Eh invasion. They’d been the people who had rescued the Matrians from mind control, from a tyrannical dictator, and from a course that would have seen them trying to enslave their part of the galaxy. And it had been her, personally, who had stood up in front of their council and pushed for gender equality. She’d been famous. That was before the Qu’Eh. Now she was Noel Wowryk, the leader of the Matrian Resistance, the woman who had single-handedly outsmarted the Qu’Eh chairman and chased his people out of Matrian space. She’d also cured cancer, reversed global warming and managed to save all the cute, fuzzy animals who had ever been the slightest bit mistreated across the entire breadth of time and space!
Well, OK, maybe that was exaggerating a bit.
In any case, after that massive mob, she’d had to go out in disguise.
Obsession with celebrity. Yet another way the Matrians were much like so many cultures on Earth. After all the races she’d seen during her time on Silverado, she was still stunned at how similar life could be.
Or, on the other hand, how different. Just because an alien looked like you, walked like you, and (thanks to Universal Translators) talked like you, it didn’t mean they were anything like you. Wowryk was reminded of a commentary in a history book she’d read discussing the cultures of North America. Mexico to the south had been quite different, being settled by the Spanish, but both Canada to the north and the United States of America in the center had been settled by the English, French, and a variety of European settlers. The result was that by the end of the 20th Century, crossing the border between the two countries really didn’t feel…well, like crossing a border. The majority of people were still the same Caucasian race, everybody drove the same vehicles on the same side of the road, everybody spoke the same language, shopped at many of the same stores, ate mostly the same food and enjoyed the same entertainment. Currency was still dollars, no matter the colour change in the bills, and even the change between using miles vs kilometres didn’t feel so strange. (Not like crossing from English Canada into Quebec, where absolutely everything was suddenly French and ready to drink, party and protest.)
But, and this was the part that really stood out to Wowryk, it was the smaller thing, things you didn’t see right away, that really set things apart. Things that could remain unnoticed for days, weeks or even months, then WHAM! They were there, they were in your face and you couldn’t un-see them, no matter how hard you tried. Things like the blatant racism in the US that caught their Canadian neighbors completely off-guard. Treatment of sexual minorities, universally given the same marriage rights as everybody else in Canada, but subject to a patchwork of partial rights in the States. Or universal health care, which to Canadians was an everyday way of life, but had polarized nearly a generation of American politicians. And the reverse, possession of weapons, which was almost universal permitted in America but tightly controlled in Canada.
As Wowryk looked around the tram and noticed nearly a dozen pregnant women standing firmly, hands casually gripping the railings while their slimmer, smaller males sat in the seats, she had to bite her lip to hold back a chuckle. It had taken days for her to notice the high pregnancy rate, but the Matrians were recovering from generations of war, after all. And despite their reversed positions, Wowryk couldn’t help but think that if Stafford, Jeffery or T’Parief were capable of getting pregnant, they too would be too stubborn and too jealous of their precious image as the stronger gender to actually sit down and take a load off.
Little differences. Cultural differences. Like that weird thing about raw meat. The Matrians, God knew why, believed that displaying any kind of raw meat to the public was obscene. It was interesting…but it made shopping for groceries somewhat more difficult.
Wowryk got off at her stop, climbed the steps to street level and nearly tripped on a hoard of small but fiesty street cleaning robots.
“Apologies, madam,” one of the bots said in a grating, artificial voice as it picked up a discarded disposable cup, “There was a larger than expected celebration last night.”
“I see. Thank you,” Wowryk replied without thinking, continuing on her way. It had been weeks since the Qu’Eh had been defeated, but some of the Matrians were still celebrating. It wasn’t unusual to see a restaurant, a park, or even one of the ‘encouraged dating’ dance halls taken over for a bash. And, apparently, getting somebody else to clean up the mess.
That was another thing that was really starting to stand out with the Matrians: They had a lot of robots. From the mechanized army that staffed Haven’s shipyards to the street cleaners and window washers, there were thousands of them. And yet the Matrians didn’t seem willing to allow any but the smallest of robots on the surface of the planet. Nothing big enough to repair a building or build a road, but certainly something that could keep the streets clean. Why that was, she had no idea. Maybe because bringing Matrian-sized bots onto the planet would impact the job market?
Or, she realized with a shudder, several years ago it would have impacted the slave market, leaving the brainwashed males with no ‘penance’ to pay.
She contained the walk to the research centre, realizing that the party must have been a lot bigger than she originally thought. Banners still festooned the street, which she now realized had been entirely closed to vehicular traffic.
Even more unexpected was the empty research center she found on her arrival.
“Didn’t you hear, madam?” the security guard seated at the reception desk asked, “They called a day off. For the ‘Hey Ain’t Life Grand’ festival last night. Nobody’s in. I mean, if you have clearance I can let you upstairs, if you really want to work. But nobody else is in,”
“I…see…” Wowryk said slowly.
“Hey, you don’t look like you’re even tired!” the guard, a young male was saying, “Unless you’re just hiding it behind those glasses. Me, if I’d been up half the night, I’d look like a train wreck,”
“I didn’t go…” Wowryk admitted.
“What?” the guard looked like she’d just announced that the Qu’Eh were on their way back, “But…it was the biggest bash of the month! They had fire-striders! And water-jugglers! And,” he lowered his voice conspiratorially, “I hear one of the Silverado officers was there! The tanned male, the one that never seems to stop dancing,”
“That would be Jall,” Wowryk rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, that’s him,” the guard nodded, “You follow the Silverados?”
“Ah, I’m familiar with them,” Wowryk was starting to feel a bit guilty about her hidden identity. This sort of deception was not the action of a proper, Catholic girl!
“The tanned one…Jall? He’s always out partying somewhere. And the Captain…can you believe that? A man, in command of a whole ship? And now working for our government! The blond one, the green reptile, and ohhhhhhh…Doctor Wowryk! Of course, nobody sees Dr. Wowryk anymore. Nobody knows why. But she doesn’t go out…there were rumours she was in Matronous a couple days ago, but I bet she’s still up in Haven, hiding from us for some reason,”
“Are you new here or something?” Wowryk demanded.
“Well, yeah. Why?”
“I’ve been working here all week,” Wowryk took her sunglasses off and put her hands on her hips, annoyed, “And why would you say I was hiding?”
The guard had straightened up rigidly in his chair, his face white and his eyes as round as saucers. He didn’t answer Wowryk’s question.
“Well?” she prompted, arms crossed over her chest.
“Um…Um…” he looked around, his eyes settling on the vid-screen for his work terminal.
Wowryk put her hands on her hips, her eyes drilling into his.
He tapped a couple buttons, then a pair of cheerful men appeared on the screen. Wowryk recognized them as Bots and Trax, hosts of a popular morning talk show.
After a bit of fiddling, the guard let the file play.
“-many invitations does that make now?” Bots was asking.
“As of last tally?” Trax shook his head, his expression one of carefully arranged regret, “Two hundred and fifty three VIP invitations that she’s declined or ignored. And that includes the Queen’s Gala on Quatrios Island.”
“I guess that makes Dr. Wowryk the official ‘Party Pooper of the Month!’,” Bots said.
“She may be a hero,” Trax agreed, “But she sure doesn’t know how to have a good time,”
“I’m-“ the guard looked back towards the foyer, only to see the door slip shut as Wowryk stormed out of the building.
“…sorry.” he finished.
Why had he shown her that, Wowryk asked herself. Why had that ignorant guard subjected her to something so…so…hurtful?
She’d put her glasses back on and was moving in no specific direction other than AWAY. Away from that street, the scene of last night’s party that had apparently been so fantastically wonderful that nobody on the planet could understand why she wouldn’t want to go.
The city that had seemed so comfortable and welcoming earlier that morning now felt distinctively hostile. Even though she was completely anonymous, she somehow felt eyes on her…watching her, judging her, wondering why it was that she didn’t want to join in on their fun and games.
Maybe what she needed was a break from the city.
A few hours later, Wowryk was in a small Matrian runabout dropping out of warp and approaching the city of Haven. The city was slowly making its way back to Matria Prime at full impulse and would be there in less than a week, but travel was still easily accomplished by runabout. After docking the craft, she made her way to Shipyard 3 and settled into the still-under-construction restaurant for a coffee with Sylvia and Fifebee.
“You will NOT pollute the peace of a Guinanco establishment with your…your…MESQUITE!” Patsy Horton was declaring shrilly, her wide-brimmed hat bouncing as she spoke.
“I damned well WILL!” Steven Steiger, Silverado’s bartender and resident anti- Guinanco protestor snarled back, “We’re going with a steakhouse theme and that’s THAT!”
“How disturbingly North-American,” Horton declared in her crisp, British tones, “I forbid it!”
“Too bad! It was decided weeks ago!”
“Somehow, this isn’t relaxing me,” Wowryk grumbled.
“Yes, those two have been clawing at each other since we were kicked off the ship,” Fifebee said.
“It’s a lovely night in the city though,” Sylvia said, “Perfect for walking down by the lake,”
As they turned to leave, Steven called to Wowryk.
“What do you think, Doc?” he asked, “Casual steakhouse, or uptight formal dining?”
“Don’t answer that!” Horton snapped, “Not until you’ve had a chance to view my full counter-proposal!”
“Come, dear,” Sylvia rushed her out the door.
Soon they were walking under the starry dome.
“…had a very unpleasant experience today,” Wowryk was saying.
“You were watching Trax and Bots, weren’t you,” Sylvia said knowingly, “Oh, Noel, morning talk shows never had anything nice to say about anybody,”
“I guess not,” Wowryk sighed, “It’s just…I was feeling so comfortable in Matronus. And now…”
Sylvia folded her hands and looked at her.
“You felt accepted,” she said gently, “Oh sweetie, I know that Chris and Simon and Trish all love you, but they DO give you a hard time sometimes. The Matrians fall over themselves for you, and as much as you hate the attention, you love that they love you for who you are and what you’ve done for them. And now…”
“I didn’t come up here to be psycho-analyzed,” Wowryk lifted an eyebrow.
“Yes you did,” Fifebee cut in, “That is exactly why you came to see us. Because you do not want to look vulnerable to the Captain or Jall, and Yanick is too busy with her egg to give anybody any attention. So you can either listen to Sylvia, wait for me to call up Dr. Crane on my personality database, or we can call in Yvonnokoff.”
Wowryk thought for a moment, then turned back to Sylvia.
“Called it,” Fifebee muttered.
“Would it really hurt to go out a bit?” Sylvia asked her, “Even if you just make an appearance. Show up, let the Matrians know that you’re willing to celebrate with them as well as fight with them, then go home in time for a good prayer and a good nights sleep,”
“Or use it as an opportunity to work out some of your sexual issues,” Fifebee said brightly, “I recommend Ensign Grant. He is both endowed and skilled as a lover.”
Wowryk actually smiled at that.
“The funny thing is,” she mused, “The Matrian men are probably the safest men in the galaxy for women to be around. Aside from Jall’s type, I guess.”
“So you’ll do it?”
Wowryk rose to her feet.
“Damned right I’m going to do it,” she said her eyes starting to take on the fiery glow of conviction that had sent the Qu’Eh packing, “I’ve worked hard, fought hard and helped shape this civilization. I’m going to out and have a good time! And I’m going to be the most dignified party-goer this place has ever seen!”
She started marching towards the tram. As she did, something caught her eye. She turned just in time to catch a glimpse of…what the?
“Did either of you just see a Matrian in a loincloth riding a unicycle?” she demanded.
“Why would there be one of those on Haven?” Sylvia asked innocently.
“Good point,” Wowryk shrugged.
Stafford didn’t know how the hell he’d thought this job was boring. Was it barely twenty-four hours ago that he’d resigned himself to taking long lunches to kill time? No, actually. It had been twenty-eight. Or twenty-six. Or however long the Matrian day was.
The remainder of the day had been consumed with meetings and calls. First was Admiral Verethi, demanding to know what Starfleet thought it was doing, hijacking vital Matrian military assets and getting them thrown millions of kilometers away. Next was Abela, demanding the replacement of the Stallion officers that had been sent to take over Haven. Or, apparently Starbase 341, as it was now known. Stafford had cringed at the name. If only somebody had asked him! He, the Special Adviser to the Matrian Council, would have told them immediately to reject ANY designation ending in 41! The Matrians couldn’t know it, since their word for ‘for’ had no resemblance whatsoever to the Matrian word for the number four. But enough races were intelligent enough to figure the problem out, leaving those joking assholes at Asset Tracking to push the 41 numbers on any race dumb enough to accept them.
It was only Tunney’s stinging admonition to stay out of other people’s business that stopped him from agreeing with Abela and pushing Anselia to put his own people in charge of Haven. He actually liked Colonel Abela. The woman had…well, she had balls. She’d discovered (far too late) that elements of her own government had orchestrated the mass murder that had started the Gender Wars, had dedicated her life to hiding Haven and the considerable military, political and intelligence processing power it contained, had watched the downfall of her civilization over the centuries, transferred her mind to a clone body using the same body-swapping glitch in the Matrian SIDs that his own people had fallen victim to and finally, centuries later, had seen her people peacefully reconciled.
And now she was second-in-command under Captain Simplot. A woman who, according to Jeffery, had slept with half her crew and diverted her ship nearly a light-year to take advantage of a ‘really good sale’.
Still, he’d managed to control himself, to recommend they give Simplot more time to adjust and that his people needed to focus on their own tasks. He’d finally leaned back in his chair, ready to head home for the day, when Fleet Admiral Ra’al’s office commed. Apparently for the third time, as his line had been busy for his other comm calls.
So after first enduring a scorn-filled blast on keeping her waiting, Fleet Admiral Ra’al managed to make it perfectly clear that in her mind, the incident with Haven was his fault, Abela and Verethi’s concerns over the Stallion officers were his fault, the missing USS Roadrunner was his fault, and the fact that he wasn’t aware there WAS a ship named the Roadrunner, never mind that it was missing, was not only his fault but a substantial personal failing on his part.
She didn’t seem to want much other than to point out his various mistakes, failures and personal flaws. After about half an hour of ranting, she cut the channel.
Stafford was again just getting ready to leave when Admiral Tunney commed. Stafford braced himself for another blast of shit, but Tunney had simply transmitted a list of forms and paperwork that still had to be filled out regarding the Silverado rebuild and was now officially late.
“But we already removed all the classified stuff!” Stafford objected, “Well, that, or confirmed that it had been so blown to hell by the Qu’Eh and Jall’s little sabotage bit that nobody could get anything out of it!”
“That’s great,” Tunney had said, “But did you track the serial numbers and submit them to Starfleet Inventory? Did you complete the follow-up reports required by the waivers necessary to allow Matrian personnel to conduct the rebuild?”
“But it was all authorized!” Stafford almost whined, “We’ve been through waivers, and authorizations to operate, and clearances, and all of that!”
“Sure,” now Tunney’s look turned almost smug, “It was. After a planetary leader pulled some strings that, frankly, she shouldn’t have even known existed. But even with authorization, the appropriate paperwork still has to be filed. Correctly. And errors aside, you’ve barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done,”
He tapped a button and a dizzying array of form numbers and titles flew across Stafford’s screen.
“Enjoy. Tunney out.”
Now, a day later, Stafford had barely slogged through three of the nearly six hundred different forms that needed to be filed. He’d stayed late, then caught an auto-cab to the comfortable apartment that had been set aside for him while he was planet-side. He would have liked to have beamed up to his condo in Haven, on loan from Anselia, but Haven was still way, way out of transporter range. He’d overslept and found himself coming in nearly an hour late to find Yanick setting up some sort of half cradle, half incubator in one corner of the office they shared. T’Parief was sitting next to the contraption with their egg, further reducing the space in the small office.
He tapped away at his computer for about ten minutes before deciding he needed coffee. Badly. And, as luck would have it, the upscale coffee shop in the government complex had starting stocking Terran blends. Replicated for now, but the owner had assured Stafford that he had a shipment of beans as well as the growing stock to start his own line of real Terran coffee.
When Stafford stepped into the hallway to walk over to the shop, Lt Rengs, Ensign Simmons, Lt Marsden and Lt Comd Stern had immediately fallen into a diamond formation around him. They were all wearing black Terran suits, dark sunglasses and had small earpieces in one ear. Further ahead he could see Dar’ugal and Kreklor scouting ahead in the crowd wearing Matrian clothing but utterly failing to fit in.
Aware of the strange looks he was receiving from all directions, Stafford decided that enough was enough.
He needed to get his ship back. Soon.
Lt Comd Riven Valtaic carefully pondered the Qu’Eh circuit that was sitting in pieces on his workbench. The circuit had come from the Qu’Eh cruiser Synergistic Alignment, one of the big so-called ‘flying clipboards’ that made up the backbone of the Qu’Eh fleet. When the Qu’Eh had left Matrian Space they’d taken their troops and most of their damaged ships with them. The Synergistic Alignment had been too badly damaged to make the trip under its own power. With their other ships already towing damaged vessels, it had been abandoned in Matrian space.
The doors hissed open and Valtaic looked up, expecting to see Comd Jall step through. The half-Trill officer was already late for duty. Instead, Dr. Noel Wowryk stepped in.
Valtaic gave a curt nod to acknowledge her presence, then returned to work.
Wowryk said nothing for a moment. A moment stretched into two minutes.
By five minutes, she was visibly uncomfortable.
With an inward sigh, Valtaic set down his tools and resigned himself to pointless social interaction.
“May I help you, doctor?” he asked.
“I was looking for Commander Jall,” she admitted.
Valtaic felt his expression turn to one of disapproval.
“I wanted to talk to him about the medical facilities on the Qu’Eh ship,” she said, her tone becoming a bit defensive, “I want to study their implantation and de-implantation technology. The research center has the collars, but not the devices used to attach or remove them,”
Valtaic considered this.
“I concur,” he said, returning to his work, “When Commander Jall arrives, we will be beaming up to the ship to retrieve further samples from their computer core. You are welcome to accompany us.”
“Thank you,” Wowryk nodded.
There was silence again as Valtaic poked and prodded the circuits laid out in from of him.
“So, how are you doing?” Wowryk asked.
Valtaic gave her an annoyed look.
“I’m still your medical officer,” Wowryk reminded him.
Nodding in understanding, Valtaic set down his tools.
“For the most part, my well-being has not been affected by this planet,” he said, “The availability of fresh food compared to replicated fare is most welcome, however I am still unable to shake the bowel problems that have plagued me since our arrival. In fact, as the CMO, may I suggest that you consider analyzing the level of fibre and possible intestinal irritants that may affect Lithinarian biology. I assure you, either a dietary supplement or similar medication to address the issue would be appreciated not only by myself, but by those who share the same restroom facilities as I.”
Neither of them had noticed Jall walk in halfway through the conversation.
“Wow, that’s what that was?” he asked, “I thought somebody had literally died in there,”
Both Wowry and Valtaic gave him identical looks of irritation. Wowryk’s, however, shifted immediately to concern.
“What on Earth happened to you?” she demanded. Jall’s eyes were bloodshot, dark bags hung under them as well. His hair was half-flattened and he didn’t exactly smell clean.
“Look, Doc,” he said, “I’m sort of starting to like you. So I’m not going to answer that, other than to say I’m possibly still drunk and that the body odour you’re smelling probably isn’t mine,”
Wowryk’s look of concern turned to disgust.
“Valtaic, I’ll be a bit late. Just popped in on my way to my hotel. I still need a shower and about two gallons of coffee,”
“You wanna come up to the ship with us later, doc?” Jall asked, “You can even bring your holy water and do some consecrating if you like,”
Despite herself, Wowryk chuckled.
“I’ll have to use most of it on you, first,” she said.
“There’s a wet and wild party at one of the parks next weekend,” he said, “You bring the super-soaker of holy water, I’ll bring the genuine Polish vodka, and between the two of us we’ll show these Matrian girls how to party,”
Wowryk was about to refuse, purely on reflex. But this was why she’d gone hunting for Jall, after all. Regardless of the excuse she’d given Valtaic.
“It’s a deal,” she said.
With a tired grin, Jall left.
Valtaic was looking at her with a surprised expression.
He opened his mouth.
“Speak of that to anybody and I’ll hold you underwater until your batteries are completely drained,” she said pleasantly.
He closed his mouth and resumed work on his circuits.
A few hours later, Jall, Wowryk and Valtaic materialized in the Qu’Eh ship. Wowryk and Valtaic had been down on the planet for the majority of the Qu’Eh occupation, but Jall has spent almost all of it aboard the wreckage of Silverado. As a result, he took far more satisfaction in coming aboard the similarly damaged Qu’Eh ship. He stepped off the barely functioning transporter pad (they’d relied on the working unit at Matronus Transporter Central) and took in a deep breath of air, tinged with the stale, acrid scent of damaged circuits.
“The Matrians did a good number on this one,” Jall said to Wowryk as they stepped into the brightly lit corridor. Like all Qu’Eh designs it was bland and uninteresting. Tan wall panels met a slightly darker tan floor and a slightly lighter tan ceiling. Boring, rectangular lighting strips ran along the ceiling. The walls met the floor at perfect 90-degree angles, making the hallway almost completely featureless. Dull, generic art hung on the walls.
“The pictures are the same on each deck,” Jall said to Wowryk as they walked along, gesturing at a piece of art depicting a majestic mountain. Words in the Qu’Eh script were written along the top, “I’ve seen this one in the same place on all twenty levels. Even in the engineering spaces!”
“We have managed to restore main power,” Valtaic added, “We hope to have warp drive and other primary systems restored in the next two weeks.”
“What will you do with it then?” Wowryk asked.
“I imagine it will probably be taken back to Federation space for study,” Jall shrugged.
“This is Federations space, now,”
“Well, someplace more secure,” Jall rolled his eyes, “I mean, good thing we weren’t using one of Haven’s shipyards to work on this thing, or we’d be in the middle of nowhere by now,”
“The city will be back in a few days,” Wowryk seemed dismissive. Then, “Has there been any sign of that ship that went missing?”
“Nope,” Jall said, “I asked Stafford about it, but he said that Fleet Admiral Ra’al has ordered no rescue missions. I guess with that slipstream drive they had, they could be anywhere in the galaxy by now,”
They’d reached the medical center. The doors hissed open and Wowryk stepped inside.
And back out again.
“I asked for Sickbay, not the coffee shop!” she complained.
“That’s Sickbay, all right,” Jall said, pointing at his tricorder translation of the door sign.
Wowryk stepped back in. It really did look like a coffee shop. A counter along the back wall had a series of menu boards behind it, and the equipment sure looked like it was intended for the preparation and dispensing of those disgusting, tepid drinks that the Qu’Eh preferred. The decor was still horribly bland, but a few browns and greys joined the tan seen in the corridor. Several small tables were scattered around.
Finally, towards one side, she found a short hallway with two opposing doors. According to her tricorder the one on the left was labeled ‘Employees’, while the one on the right was labeled ‘Managers’.
“I don’t think this is going to be pretty,” she said, opening the employee door.
It wasn’t as bad as she’d feared. She’d been afraid that the ‘employees’ of the Qu’Eh, little more than slaves and often implanted with explosive collars to ensure ‘continued employment’ (obedience) would only merit the sort of medical care more suited to the Dark Ages. The facility she’d found was small, cramped and smelled unpleasantly like old-style antiseptic. But it was clean and the equipment was at least relatively modern, as opposed to scalpels, bone saws or forceps. She took a quick look around, but didn’t find anything of particular interest.
Up in the front, Jall had powered up one of the drink dispensers and was puttering away.
“I wonder if this stuff is any better if it’s actually heated up properly?” he wondered. There was a hissing, a beep, what sounded like sipping, then a curse.
“Nope. Definitely not.” Jall announced.
Wowryk stepped into the managers section. Here was something she recognized as a proper Sickbay! Several biobeds sat in private alcoves along one wall, while the other held diagnostic screens, storage space for medical instruments and the door to the head physician’s office. She stepped in as though she owned the place, sat at the desk and started tapping at the computer. It immediately asked for a password.
She stared, then lifted her voice.
“Jall, do you have any of the…I don’t know…whatever it is that you people use for hacking into computers? You do hack, right? I mean, of course you do. You’re one of those technology people, after all,”
Jall appeared in the door with a frosty cup in each hand.
“This stuff actually isn’t bad if you grind it up with ice. And add a LOOOOT of sugar,” he said handing her one.
“Jall, the computer?” Wowryk prompted.
“Right. Do you know the Qu’Eh word for ‘Password’?”
Wowryk look a him.
He tapped a few buttons on the computer, which promptly unlocked.
“This is amazing,” Jeffery said, stepping into the runabout Assessippi. The small ship had been heavily damaged during the Qu’Eh invasion and Jeffery had actually considered just writing it off and asking Starfleet for a new one. But now…
He ran his hand along the small tactical station located just forward of the transporter pad. The Assessippi was an older runabout and hadn’t actually had one before. But the Matrian construction bots had followed the design specifications that Sylvia had given them down to the micrometer, and the new console was indistinguishable from one built in a Federation shipyard. He moved forward to the pilot seat and sat down.
“Still has that creak in it from the incident with K’Eleese and Slezar,” he said.
“We could have them put in a new chair,” Sylvia offered, her and Fifebee following behind Jeffery as he inspected the ship.
“Nay,” Jeffery shook his head, “It’s good. It means it still has some personality,”
He tapped at the panels for a few moments, running diagnostics and doing system checks.
“Ah’m impressed,” he finally admitted, “Ye were right to try this. Ah should have insisted on doing it me-self…dismantling and re-building a runabout before startin’ on Silverado. But Ah guess Dekaire didn’t want to hear it,”
“Would you care to take it out for a test flight?” Fifebee asked, managing to sound just a bit smug,”
“Aye, Ah would…but Ah have a meeting with Major Dekaire in half an hour.” Jeffery sighed.
Fifebee and Sylvia exchanged a look.
“And will you be going for…dinner…afterward?” Sylvia asked carefully.
“Aye,” Jeffery replied. He didn’t exactly look unhappy about it. But he didn’t exactly look happy, either.
“Simon…” Sylvia started.
“Noel and I aren’t datin’ at the moment,” Jeffery cut her off, “And Carly was…well, let’s not even go there. But I’m free to date whoever I want, OK?”
“Even if she’s a co-worker?” Fifebee inquired.
“Aye. Ah’m free to do whatever Ah want to do with her,”
“Or rather, she’s free to do whatever she likes with you,” Sylvia suggested.
“And whot do ye mean by that?”
“Nothing,” Sylvia said immediately, cursing herself for not conducting more detailed analysis prior to activating her speech subroutines.
Jeffery looked at her for a moment.
“Aye, that’s right. Nothing.”
He stepped out of the runabout, followed by the two holographic women. Outside the small ship the six construction bots that had conducted the rebuild were standing in formation. Across the large workshop area six more bots were in the final stages of rebuilding the more heavily-damaged runabout Niagra. One bot was welding hull plates back into place along the upper surface of the port warp nacelle. Another was carrying the pilot seat back into the cockpit. Two more were working on a nearby workbench, rebuilding the starboard impulse engine assembly. The last bot was walking slowly around the runabout, its red eyes observing everything very carefully.
Jeffery and Sylvia had both been working with groups of bots for weeks now, and they’d both leaned a great deal about the Matrian shipbuilding technology. One of the more interesting points that had come up was that anytime a group of bots worked on a project, one of them took on the a role referred to in their coding as the ‘facilitator’. The facilitator bot seemed to be a combination of coordinator, manager, tasker and quality control. It was as close to leadership as the robots could really get, but even so the bots required a fair bit of input from an organic operator.
“Good job,” Jeffery said to Sylvia as he started walking towards the exit, “Ah wish ye’d come to me when ye started this, but Ah guess Ah can’t argue with yer results. Do me a favour and upload the data from yer bots into the facilitators in Shipyard 3. Ah’m sure they’ve learned somethin’ useful,”
“I’m sure they have,” Sylvia said, running ahead of Jeffery to block his path to the exit, “But Simon before you leave…isn’t there something else you’d like to say?”
Sylvia gave him one of her looks that managed to convey annoyance, irritation, disapproval and affection all at once. It was, he mused, one piece of Mrs Stafford that had stuck around right from the very beginning of her existence, no matter how much she’d managed to evolve into her own being.
“Didn’t we save you a fair bit of work, just by taking a bit of initiative?” Sylvia pressed, “Your runabouts will be finished tomorrow, and the shuttles will take less than a week. We’ve collected some great data for you, and managed to keep ourselves occupied and out of your hair while you endured countless meetings, conference calls and bureaucratic tangles.”
“Aye,” Jeffery nodded, “And ye know I appreciate everything ye do.”
Sylvia smiled, and Jeffery knew that’s what she was after.
“Of course, we couldn’t have done it without the bots we ‘borrowed’ from the shipyard,” she added cheerfully.
“Oh, aye,” Jeffery chuckled, “Tell them Ah appreciate their hard work too,”
With that, he left.
“Did you hear that?” Sylvia said to the small group of bots standing next to the Assessippi, “He appreciates your hard work and the good job you’ve all done,”
Sylvia felt a small flash of frustration. The construction bots weren’t fully sentient, she knew. They had fairly advanced AIs, as Matrian technology went. But nothing near herself or Fifebee. Not even close to the level of androids like the late Commander Data. They did have a sort of rudimentary intelligence in that they could accept and process input and use it to make decisions. But whether they actually possessed any level of self-awareness was a matter of some debate between Sylvia and Fifebee.
Fifebee was convinced that the bots, while admittedly kindred spirits to the two artificial women, operated somewhere around the level of an insect colony. There was coordination, there was organization, and the more bots you added, the more complex tasks you could have completed in less time. But even though bees (or bee-like insects) could build complex hives, produce honey, and single-handedly fuel the agriculture of entire planets through pollination, they still possessed zero self-awareness.
Sylvia disagreed. She thought the bots were more along the level of dogs, cats and other animals that, while perhaps not truly intelligent, were at least aware enough to feel pleasure, pain, attachment and perhaps even affection. Or lack thereof. She even suspected that the more bots you networked together, the greater their collective intelligence!
Fifebee thought this was preposterous. Even networking Federation starships, far more complex devices than the relatively simple bots, didn’t show any collective boost in AI.
Sylvia countered that the communications protocols between the bots weren’t the same as Federation computer-to-computer network protocols. And that the facilitator bots hinted at some ability to elevate particular units. Perhaps groups of bots operating with facilitators could be further controlled by one unit, creating a sort of overmind!
Fifebee returned that Sylvia had been processing too many science fiction novels as well as poorly-written fan fiction.
Sylvia replied that Fifebee had all the compassion of a robot.
Fifebee’s reply had been along the lines of ‘Oh, like the unfeeling robots we are discussing’.
Before they could end up in an infinite argument loop, the two of them agreed that only further experience with the bots would solve anything. And so Sylvia was frustrated when the five worker bots didn’t appear to respond to the praise, they just continued staring ahead with their dull, red eyes.
Fifebee again looked smug.
This time Sylvia approached the facilitator.
“You all did very good work,” she said again, “You’ve made me very happy, and I appreciate it. Why don’t you boys go relax for a few hours? Top up your power cells, process some repetitive computational tasks. You’ll feel better, and be all fresh and ready for another day!”
The bot seemed to contemplate Sylvia for a moment. Then as one they all turned and left.
“Let’s give Lt Pye a call and have him move this runabout to one of the hanger bays,” Fifebee said, “We may end up needing it later,”
“Hmmm,” Sylvia nodded, still watching the bots as they left. She wasn’t sure, but she thought two of the bots working on the Niagra were working just a bit faster than they had been before that little display of good will.
Lieutenant Patricia Yanick awoke to a loud beeping noise.
“Hatching drill!” T’Parief snapped, jumping out of bed and running to the small incubation unit in the far corner. Yanick, nearly knocked to the floor by the sudden movement of a mattress abruptly released from the burden of supporting the massive reptile, reached for her comm-badge and pantomimed pressing it. “I just called Noel. Next step is…uh…confirm the heart rate, right?”
“Already on it,” T’Parief said, his voice still in that clipped, ‘security-speak’ tone he usually reserved for reports on just how far down the shields were or whether some nasty alien was about to shoot at them. “Heart rate nominal,”
He shot her a cold look.
“You should be contacting the emergency medical services for a transporter,” he said.
“You know as well as I do that by the time we were beamed over to the transporter center, waited for somebody to fiddle with the settings, waited for the stupid, slow Matrian beam to recharge and finally beamed to the hospital, the egg would probably already be hatching!” She put her hands on her hips, directing just a bit of her heated willpower in an attempt to break through that reptilian coldness that always seemed to come over him when he was stressed.
“We should just have Noel beam over and let the baby hatch here,” she finished.
“Here?” T’Parief looked in disdain at the quarters they were sharing, “This place is identical to every unit aboard Haven that you rejected.”
Shortly after the defeat of the Qu’Eh, Yanick had made it her mission to find the perfect place to have her first baby. After turning down luxurious condos with breathtaking views of Haven’s inner city, the space outside the dome, even a rare underwater apartment that looked into the lake, T’Parief had finally found her the perfect place. It was a spacious, ground-level apartment in the Inner Rim with a small but grassy yard. It was, frankly, as close to Yanick Farms as she was going to get on a space station.
Then the situation had changed: Haven was still days away unless they wanted to climb into a runabout and warp back and forth constantly. All the nearby farms were automated, and not really setup for habitation. (The Matrians were working on changing that.) So they were stuck with the first thing the Matrians had offered them in Matronus. Neither of them were pleased with it, and both had seriously considered telling Stafford just where he could go stuff his work assignments, even though T’Parief had himself insisted on accompanying Yanick down to the planet.
But in the end, Wowryk was there, Stafford was there, Jall and Valtaic were there…heck, everybody but Jeffery, Sylvia and Fifebee had come down from Haven. And any arguments about whether they should live up there and commute to the planet had ended when the city was unexpected tossed across the solar system.
The tricorder next to the egg let out an unpleasant BLAAATTT sound.
“We have failed to respond to a drop in fetal blood oxygen levels,” T’Parief said flatly, “Without a tri-ox injection, the fetus has already suffered irreversible brain damage.”
He turned off the tricorder and set it back on the table. Yanick grabbed it and hurled it at the nearest wall. She was disappointed when the device simply bounced off, landing on the bed instead of shattering into a million pieces.
“We will have another drill tomorrow,” T’Parief said, picking up the egg and giving it a gentle caress. Far gentler than the tone he’d been using with her lately. He set the egg back down.
Yanick immediately moved to pick it up.
“You’re not going to throw that against the wall now, are you?” he asked calmly.
Yanick whirled on him, her eyes blazing.
“THIS. IS. OUR. CHILD.”
Giant lizard he may be, T’Parief was still pushed back a step by the halo of fury that suddenly surrounded his mate.
“I don’t want to HEAR about oxygen levels, hatching drills, or tri-box whatever!” she snapped. “The baby will be fine. WE will be fine! EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE!”
She set the egg back in the incubator and moved to the bathroom.
“I’m taking a shower,” she announced, “I think you better go for a walk. And leave that,” she pointed to the egg, “here. I’m taking it to the office again.”
She stormed into the bathroom.
T’Parief was still there when she finished, never having been particularly good at reading human female cues, even when they weren’t exactly subtle.
Yanick didn’t pay him any attention, simply dressed, placed the egg in the protective exoskeleton and harness Jeffery had given her as a belated shower gift, then departed. T’Parief followed.
“Stern to T’Parief,” his comm-badge chirped, “The Captain just arrived in his office. We’ve got this great idea! See, we attach the cord of his kettle to a dummy grenade. Wait for it to go off, then storm the room! I swear to God, if he doesn’t shit himself when the grenade goes off, he will when he’s got half a dozen rifles pointed at him!”
“Don’t you dare!” Yanick snapped, “He’s got enough trouble with all the work Ra’al and Tunney dumped on him!”
“Attach the cord to his emergency panic button instead. But be sure to inform Matrian Security that it is a drill. T’Parief out.”
“Why are you being such a jerk!” Yanick demanded.
T’Parief looked at her.
“Preparing for an assassination is prudent for the Captain. Just as preparing for birth complications with the egg is prudent for us.”
“Ohhhh!!!!” Yanick fumed as they entered the elevator.
“GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” Stafford was screaming when they arrived at his office in the government complex, “And if I see ANYBODY even RELATED to the Hazardous Team before the end of the day, I swear I’ll have you sent to the coldest, most miserable part of this planet I can find!”
“There is an outpost at Quatros Island,” one of the Matrian Security guards said helpfully as he followed the Hazardous Team out of the office, not exactly looking impressed with them either.
“I said miserable, not jungle paradise!” Stafford snapped.
“That was Quatrios Island,” T’Parief corrected him.
“Qua-po-TAY-to, qua-po-TAH-to,” Stafford fumed.
“Quatato, qua-tah-to,” Yanick said automatically, blinking innocently.
“Qua-fuck-off,” Stafford turned back to his office, then spun back around at T’Parief, “And I have WAY too much work to do to worry about those assholes this week! Get them under control, or get them out of here!”
He spun back to his office and stomped angrily to his desk. Yanick moved inside to put the egg in its office incubator, and was surprised when he glared at her as well.
“Do you have to keep bringing that thing here?” he asked, “It’s cramped enough with you and Greensleeves over there,
“I’ve had a BAD MORNING, Chris!” Yanick’s eyes blazed yet again, this time directed at Stafford, “I don’t NEED ANY MORE STRESS!”
Stafford stared at her for a moment, then one corner of his mouth started twitching.
“What?” Yanick demanded.
“Well…it’s just that most women get moody BEFORE they lay the egg…” he said, “It’s like you’re pregnant all over again!”
She almost slugged him, then felt the corners of her own mouth pulling into a smile.
Five seconds later, they were both laughing at the top of their lungs.
“You want mood swings?” Yanick giggled, “I’ll show you mood swings!”
“You…You…” Stafford tried, but couldn’t finish his thought. He took a few breaths, then was finally able to speak.
“You just did!”
They broke into laughter all over again. T’Parief made a low rattle of irritation deep in his throat, the way he often did either when a joke was at his expense or when he felt that Stafford, a human male, was becoming too…familiar…with his mate.
And suddenly everything was better. Not exactly well. Not quite. But it was enough like the old times on Silverado’s bridge that the level of tension in the room took a nose-dive.
Dr. Wowryk chose that moment to walk up the ornate hallway. She took in T’Parief’s irritated expression and the fading giggles on both Yanick and Stafford’s faces, then rose an eyebrow in an expression that was almost Vulcan.
“Is this a good time?” she asked.
“NOEL!” Yanick practically squealed, running over to hug her best female friend, “I haven’t seen you in nearly a week!”
“I’m just a tram ride away,” Wowryk said, trying to salvage her dignity as she was embraced. After a moment, Yanick jumped back.
“How’s the research going, Doc?” Stafford asked, turning his attention back to his terminal and the piles of paperwork stored therein.
“It’s interesting,” Wowryk allowed, “Jall, Valtaic and I have been up on the Qu’Eh ship. They wiped a lot of their databanks, as expected, but there is plenty of documentation in the sickbay on the control implants. Enough to make the extraction method less…uncomfortable.”
“Fun,” Stafford remarked.
“But I didn’t come here to talk about work,” Wowryk said business-like, “I came to talk to Trish,”
“There’s a coffee shop down the corridor towards the lobby,” Stafford said hopefully, “Please, take all three of them!”
“Three?” Wowryk looked confused for a moment, then her gaze turned to the egg, “OH! That reminds me, I found this little gizmo in the Federation medical database,”
She pulled out a small electronic patch, attached it to the shell then fiddled with it for a moment.
“There,” she stood back, satisfied.
“What’s it do?” Yanick asked, looking concerned.
“It beeps,” Wowryk said proudly.
Stafford looked up from his screen.
“Fascinating,” he said, “An electronic thing. That beeps. You’ve outdone yourself this time, Doc,”
Wowryk gave him a look of annoyance.
“It beeps when there’s a significant change in fetal bio-readings. Specifically, when it’s getting ready to hatch.”
“Really?” Yanick gave T’Parief a look that Wowryk couldn’t quite interpret. But it didn’t exactly seem happy.
“Really,” she said, “You’ll have about an hour before it hatches, once the alarm goes off,”
“Oh thank God,” Yanick sighed.
“But enough about that, come on,” Wowryk said, taking Yanick gently by the elbow and leading her to the door, “I need a favour,”
T’Parief was about to pick up the egg and follow them, but Yanick turned back to him.
“NO!” she said firmly. “Stay here. And Chris, try to figure out why he’s being so…so…weird!”
“I’m busy!” Stafford called after her, but she was gone.
Stafford and his tactical officer stared at each other for a moment.
“I could call Yvonnokoff,” he offered.
T’Parief’s claws snicked in and out of their sheaths.
“Or not,” Stafford gulped.
“There’s something I have to tell you,” Wowryk said to Yanick as the two of them settled into a table at the unnamed coffee shop in the government building lobby, “It’s sort of…personal. I don’t really want anybody else to know yet,”
Yanick sat up straight in her chair.
“Oh, Noel, it’s OK,” she said, “I mean, I knew this was coming sooner or later, sort of. And I support you,”
“You do?” Wowryk frowned, “You did?”
“Well, when a woman goes for so long without dating a guy, well, it’s usually a sign that maybe guy aren’t for her,” Yanick said carefully.
Wowryk’s frown deepened.
“It’s OK,” Yanick patted her hand, “Nobody on the crew is going to judge you for being a lesbian. In fact, I think some of them will be turned-“
“I’m not coming out of the closet here, Trish!” Wowryk’s expression was a cross between shock, disbelief and exasperation, “I’m not a lesbian!”
“Oh,” Yanick shrugged, “What’s the big secret then? OH! You had sex with that sexy Matrian boy that rescued you…Agent Jural?”
“I haven’t seen him since we launched Haven,” Wowryk waved a hand dismissively, “No, the secret is…”
Wowryk looked carefully around, as though she were about to give away Silverado’s prefix code.
“I’m going clubbing tomorrow afternoon. With Jall. To some kind of water gun party,”
Yanick’s jaw dropped.
“YOU are going to the Wet and Wild party??” she gasped, “You have TICKETS to the Wet and Wild party?”
“Well, I keep getting tickets for everything,” Wowryk shrugged, “I just never go. But yes, I have tickets. So does Jall. And I think that dreadful security man, the perverted one,”
“Stern,” Yanick supplied, “And he’s not perverted, he’s pan-sexual.”
“Whatever. Yes. Him.”
“How did THEY all get tickets and invitations while I didn’t?” Yanick whined.
“Because nobody has seen you since you laid your egg,” Wowryk replied. She decided not to mention that as the liaison officer, Yanick was somewhat less famous than Wowryk (one of the leaders of the Matrian Rebellion), Jall (Silverado’s commander during the defense of Matria prime, the same man who was captured and tortured by the Qu’Eh), and Stern (the security guy that led his daring rescue, not to mention several battles before and after the Qu’Eh took the planet).
“Right,” Yanick said glumly, “Lucky you. You have no idea how long it’s been since T’Parief and I had a night out,”
“Which is why I came by today…”
Stafford and T’Parief were still sitting quietly in the office when the girls returned. Their entire exchange had consisted pretty much of Stafford finally saying ‘Fatherhood, huh? Must be terrifying.’
To which T’Parief had simply replied ‘Yes’.
The great mystery of his moodiness solved, they hadn’t really had anything else to say to each other.
Yanick opened the office door and was followed in by Wowryk. Yanick put a steaming cup of coffee on Stafford’s desk, which he grabbed immediately, his eyes never leaving the screen.
“Thanks,” he said.
“I need the afternoon off,” Yanick replied, “I need to help Noel with a… a personal thing. I need tomorrow afternoon off too. And don’t come looking for me until after the weekend.”
“Thank God,” Stafford sighed, “Yes, by all means. Go. Take your family with you, and don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out,”
“That saying never makes sense unless you work in a building with actual, swinging doors,” Yanic giggled, “Which we are, for once. Thanks!”
She was almost at the door, then she spun around and faced T’Parief.
“Oh, and I almost forgot. We’re going clubbing tomorrow afternoon. It’s a big party, with lots of guns. You like guns. But they’re water guns, so I like them too. I’ll buy you a banana-hammock while I’m out helping Noel shop for cloths,”
That caught even Stafford’s attention.
“T’Parief in a banana….oh geez,” he shook his head, “Didn’t need that mental picture, thanks.”
He typed two words, then looked up again.
“Wait…Noel, are YOU…”
Wowryk gave him the Look of Death.
“None of my business,” Stafford muttered, going back to work, “It’s not like I’m leaving this office anytime in the next month.
T’Parief was doing his throat-rattle thing.
“Clubbing,” he said flatly.
“Pari, we’re about to be parents,” Yanick had an odd light in her eye, a mix of fear and excitement, “We’re going to busy, stressed, and entirely focused on our child. We need to take these opportunities while we can, or the next thing you know I’m going to have five kids running around my feet, stretch marks, saggy, worn-out boobs, and you’re going to be sitting in front of the screen with a pot-belly, mushy muscles and…and…dry scales!”
There was uncertainty in the big reptile’s eyes. He knew she was right. Their lives had changed so much already. And not necessarily for the better. When was the last time they’d had an evening where they could just go out and relax? And a water party! Matria’s boring climate wasn’t doing much for his scales. Sure, it wouldn’t be the same as a good swamp soak, but still!
“Who will watch the egg?” he asked.
T’Parief, Yanick and Wowry all slowly turned to Stafford. He was still typing away, lost in the world of paperwork behind starship reconstruction. After a moment, he realized he was the center of attention and looked up.
It suddenly clicked.
“Wait…oh no,” Stafford gulped, “No, no, no…”
“It’ll only be for one night!” Yanick pleaded, “It’s not like you have to feed it or change it or anything! Just watch it! Maybe a gentle shell stroke once in a while!”
“I’m not stroking anybody’s shell!”
“If anything happens, the monitor will go off,” Wowryk said primly, “You will have an hour to call us back for hatching. And Nurse Veeneman is working out of Matronus General Hospital.”
“But I,” Stafford gulped again, “I’m not good with…kids.”
Yanick planted both hands on his desk and leaned over.
“Christopher, if I don’t get ONE NIGHT of fun and partying before this egg hatches, I’m going to get more and more stressed until I finally POP! I NEED THIS!”
“You planned this, didn’t you?” Stafford said to Wowryk after a moment, “That’s why you showed up with that beeper. Is this revenge for when I dropped that alien brat on you and Jeffery?”
Wowryk gave a small smile as she shrugged.
“I suppose leading a rebellion has made me a tiny bit more conniving than I used to be,” she admitted.
“God help us if you ever turn evil,” Stafford shuddered, “Again. OK, fine. I’ll watch the egg. But if I comm you, I expect you ALL to be back here at warp speed!”
“Thanks Christ!” Yanick jumped up and grabbed Wowryk’s arm, pulling her towards the door and the shopping beyond.
“It will be good for you,” Wowryk said smugly as she left.
T’Parief turned uncomfortably towards his Captain.
“I appreciate this,” he said.
“You better,” Stafford grunted.
“But,” T’Parief allowed his teeth to show, “If anything happens to my spawn…”
“Please,” Stafford waved him away, “After Wowryk and Yanick finished with me, do you honestly think there would be anything left for you to deal with?”
“Yeah,” he returned his attention to his work, “Now take that egg and go. If I have to watch it all night tomorrow, I don’t want to see it until then,”
T’Parief nodded, picked up the egg and turned to leave.
“And tell Stern and the HT I want my f**king kettle back!” Stafford shouted after him, “And it better be fixed! And NOT BOOBY TRAPPED!”
He wasn’t sure, but it sounded like T’Parief had agreed.
“Finally, some peace and quiet.” Stafford muttered to himself.
After about five minutes, he had to admit that it was a bit TOO quiet. So he turned on the viewscreen.
“This just in,” an over-dressed, over-make-uped Matrian male was saying, “We’ve just received confirmation that Dr. Noel Wowryk, First Officer of the USS Silverado and one of the leaders of the Rebellion against the Qu’Eh, has accepted an invitation to the Wet and Wild party happening tomorrow night! Of course, we’ll have full coverage of the event, which is now just SURE to be the absolute party of the century!”
“Acting First Officer,” Stafford corrected, “And wow…news travels fast.”