Author: Brendan Chris
“I don’t understand how all these cloths are going to help,” Wowryk said, carrying at least four bags with boutique logos on the sides, “It’s a water gun party. I’m going to wear the swimsuit I bought the last time I was at Romulus Republic.”
“It’s the principle of the thing,” Yanick said as they approached Wowryk’s small house in the suburbs, “Besides, you don’t show up in the bathing suit. You wear something over it, then the more drunk you get, the more you take off,”
“I won’t be drinking much, thank you,”
The door slid open, revealing Simon Jeffery seated in the small foyer.
“Hi, Noel,” he said nervously.
“Simon,” Wowryk moved forward to give him a quick, just-friends hug that surprised herself almost as much as it surprised him, “What brings you here?”
“And how did you get into her house?” Yanick asked.
“You’re all programmed in,” Wowryk waved her concerns away.
“Oh. I thought it was engineering wizardry,” Yanick said.
“Oops” Simon gulped.
“Well…if Ah’d known Ah was on the access list, Ah wouldn’t have dismantled yer door lock,” he pointed at a small pile of electronic pieces off to one side
“Called it!” Yanick exclaimed.
“I’ll fix it before Ah go,”
“So what brings you here, other than breaking and entering?” Wowryk was getting a bit frosty now.
“Ah brought ye something,” Jeffery said. He reached to one side and picked up a long package.
Wowryk took it from him, then led them into her small dining room. The room was undecorated, simply a place for her to sit, or to eat on those occasions where she took her meals at home. No effort had been made to personalize it. Placing the item on the table she opened it, revealing a gleaming water gun.
“The one ye used to hose Misrek down with holy water looked like ye just pulled it out of a replicator,” he said, “So I thought I’d make ye something nicer,”
The water gun was about the same size as the generic, polymer one she’d used before. Big enough to give somebody a good hosing, but not big enough to require a back pack. The tank looked like a stylized Holy Water bottle, with a cross etched into what looked like glass, but was probably some sort of unbreakable polymer. The pressurizer pump handle was carved wood, gleaming a dark gold in the inside light. The tubes were pure titanium.
“It’s beautiful,” she said lifting it carefully.
“Guaranteed to drench anybody,” Jeffery said proudly. Then his face fell a bit. “Ah tested it on a construction bot. Turns out they’re not as waterproof as Ah thought. At least that one wasn’t.”
“Anyway, Ah got to go. Major Dekaire is riding me pretty hard at work. Ship’s coming along though. And Sylvia says ‘hi’.”
“Have a pleasant night, Simon,” Wowryk said, not noticing Yanick making an obscene ‘finger through circled finger’ gesture and mouthing ‘Majore Dekaire?’ in Jeffery’s direction.
Jeffery just gave her a confused look as he dematerialized.
“He forgot to fix your lock,” Yanick pointed out, dropping her hands.
“Men.” Wowryk sighed, shaking her head.
“I’ll get that techie guy on the HT to do it. Marsden.”
“Great. So now what?” Wowryk asked.
“Now, we get ready for the party tomorrow.”
“And what does this involve? Manicures? Facials? Do we have to spend all night trying on different outfits?”
“You can if you want,” Yanick shrugged, “I’m doing that tomorrow before the party. My plan for tonight is to go to bed early. So I have plenty of energy for tomorrow!”
“Oh,” Wowryk was surprised.
“But…y’know, we could do each others’ nails if you like”
“Don’t patronize me,” Wowryk crossed her arms.
“I better go make sure T’Parief and the egg are OK. It’s going to be his first time leaving it with somebody else since I laid it,”
“Is he going to be…ok with that?” Wowryk asked.
“He better be,” Yanick said darkly.
Matrians didn’t have red carpet affairs. The idea of standing in line to get into an event while simultaneously trying to look important and schmooze with other people trying to look important hadn’t really caught on as far as civilian life went. Maybe it was practicality from the generations of war, or just an eagerness to get down to business. More formal events involving heads of state or political VIPs were conducted in manners closer to what humans would recognize as red carpet affairs, but for celebrities, nope.
Still, as Wowryk, Jall, Yanick, T’Parief and Valtaic walked towards the entrance to the large outdoor park that was the site of the party, waterguns in hand, a small army of flying robots equipped with holo-cameras buzzed around overhead. On viewscreens across the city (and a few in several others), commentators commented on T’Parief’s Gorn finery (leather straps and spikes weren’t really big on Matria) and Jall’s skin-tight outfit (most Matrian women still couldn’t believe he was gay…he acted too much like a straight Matrian man). Yanick’s outfit didn’t really get any attention, which normally would have annoyed her, if she wasn’t so thrilled to just finally be going out again. And of course there was much debate on the sort of swimsuit Dr. Wowryk was hiding under her stunning red and black Matrian pants suit. Valtaic was wearing his uniform and was assumed to be a bodyguard. They presented their tickets, allowed their water guns to be scanned (just in case) and proceeded into the park. It was still light out, the party beginning in the late afternoon hours. But it was already dimming. Soon the sun would set, and the park would be lit by the lighting systems setup for the event.
“Let me state, yet again, that I do not wish to be here,” Valtiac said flatly as he was ‘escorted’ through the park entrance with Jall on one side and Wowryk on the other, “I do not like parties, I do not like water, and as most of the women at this event are lesbians, they are unlikely to like me,”
“Don’t be silly,” Yanick called back to him without even turning.
Giving an uncharacteristic sigh of exasperation, Valtaic turned to Wowryk.
“That is her answer for everything!” he complained.
“You do too like parties,” Jall cut in, “The boring kind. So this is a step up. And as I keep telling Stafford, just because the girls don’t want to have sex with you doesn’t mean they aren’t fun! And if they like you, they’ll introduce you to friends of theirs that will actually be into you. Oh, also, lots of people on this planet are trying to have kids. So who knows?”
“And the water?”
“You win some, you lose some,” Jall shrugged, “I told you to bring a grounding rod or something,”
“I did. It is still an unpleasant experience.”
“The point,” Wowryk said, “Is that if I’m going to party, and T’Parief is going to party,”
“Then we need somebody else here that’s willing to stand around like a boring stiff all night,” Jall finished.
“Dr. Wowryk, oh I’m so glad you’re here!” a Matrian man exclaimed, fluttering his hands around at the sight of Wowryk and almost pushing Jall right out of the way, “We expected you here half an hour ago!”
“Who expected me?” Wowryk asked.
“Oh, we have so much lined up for you! A photo op with the governess, the mayor of course, oh and I believe the sports minister wishes a photo taken with Commander Jall. Where is he?”
“Over here. In the gutter,” Jall quipped.
“We’re here to have fun,” Yanick said, “Nobody said anything to us about photos and PR and stuff!”
“Ah yes, you’re the liaison officer, correct?”
“Well, then I’m sure you understand that if you prefer not to help us promote the event, we’ll just have to take those complimentary tickets back,” the Matrian said snottily.
“You didn’t even send me any!” Yanick snapped.
“Oh. Oops. I’ll be sure you’re on the list for the next party,” he made a note on his pad, “Now then?”
“Fine,” Wowryk grumbled.
“Hey!” Yanick pointed, “It’s Counselor Yvonnokoff!”
Sure enough, Yvonnokoff was passing nearby wearing a surprisingly revealing bikini and sipping something out of a plastic glass. Several attractive Matrian men (and a few women) were following behind her, clearly fans of either her show or her swimsuit.
“Hey Doc,” Jall called, “Wanna do some of these pics for us?”
Yvonnokoff gave them a cold look.
“Nyet,” she said, “I vas to be guest of honour, until you five decide to come. But is good. I can now relax, vhile you do ze ‘shilling’.”
“Can you at least get us drinks?” Yanick called as she walked away.
“What is shilling?” Wowryk wondered.
“What you people are about to do now,” the Matrian said as two more Matrians with holo-cams approached, “Now here, take some drinks and try to look happy,”
“Are these real?” Jall asked, eying the electric-blue beverage and trying to decide if it was alcohol, synthehol, or diluted warp plasma, “Like, not just coloured water or something?”
“Of course they’re real!”
“Mixed strong?” Wowryk asked suspiciously.
“Except for yours. We do keep track of our VIPs preferences,”
“Never mind, Vonna!” Yanick called.
Yvonnokoff said nothing, simply carrying on with her followers
Once again, when Stafford had arrived at his office the next morning it had felt like no time at all had passed since leaving the night before. He’d worked though the morning, wishing Yanick a fond farewell when Wowryk came to pick her up to get ready for the party. She and T’Parief had fussed over their egg for several minutes, making sure it was positioned just so on the pillow in the corner incubator. Wowryk had double-checked the readings and pressed the small ‘test’ button on the monitor patch, which obediently produced a loud and annoying beeping sound.
And then they were gone. His office was empty, just him and the egg.
The Matrian government complex was likewise quite empty. It was Friday afternoon! Well, OK, it wasn’t actually Friday, but it was the day before the weekend and he couldn’t remember what the actual Matrian name of the day was anyway. Not only that, but he was pretty sure that a good number of people who worked in the complex were off at that same damned party.
So he’d decided to have a private little work party by himself. His office screen was showing the coverage of the event, he’d brought in a bottle of wine that Steven had salvaged from Silverado before the reconstruction had begun, he had several plates of snacks on standby, and even a bottle of greenish Matrian wine that Anselia had given him. He was about to pour himself a glass of the Earth wine (Matrian wine tasted like shit, but man what a kick) when Lt Comd Stern poked his head into the office. He was clad in a set of baggy overalls and had a respirator over the lower half of his face. He pulled it down around his neck to speak.
“We’re done cleaning the men’s room on this level,” he reported, “And Rengs has almost got the last dent out of your kettle. Can we go now?”
“Did you polish all the doorknobs on this floor yet?” Stafford asked.
“Uh, c’mon sir,” Stern swallowed, “You’re not going to make me tell the guys we’re spending our Friday afternoon, uh…polishing knobs. A lot of us had really hoped to get into that big Wet & Wild water party.”
Stafford just looked at him.
“Polishing doorknobs, aye sir,” Stern said glumly. He left, snapping his respirator back into place as he departed.
Stafford turned back to the media coverage of the party.
“Wet and Wild,” he frowned, “Where did I see…”
He started rummaging around his desk until he came up with an actual paper envelop with the party logo on it. He opened it, finding two tickets inside. He aimed a padd with a translation program at it.
“Huh,” he said, “Guess that must have come a while back. Didn’t even…” he trailed off as he read the invitation, “Sponsored by M’Lady’s, in organized by…oh. Girls who like girls. I guess that’s why Jall picked it. Blah blah, bring a water gun, your best swimsuit, and a ‘have-fun’ attitude. Snacks provided. Nice. And…oh,”
His eyes widened as he read the fine print on the back.
“In order to provide the most care-free party atmosphere possible, all incomming communications channels will be blocked upon entry. If you are expecting an urgent call, please register with the guest services table.”
His eyes wide, he looked over at the egg, a sense of dread forming in the pit of his stomach.
“They would have registered, right?”
The egg sat there, almost taunting him.
“Don’t you dare hatch. Just…don’t you dare!”
Over at the party, the Silverado officers had finally been released from their PR duties, although the sky was definitely getting darker now. Yanick and Jall were dancing wildly, drinks in hand, while Wowryk picked at one of the snack tables. Valtaic had briefly started a conversation with an attractive brunette, but she’d given her friends the ‘come save me’ sign about three minutes in, leaving him standing awkwardly alone next to a tree.
“I feel as thought we have…forgotten something,” T’Parief grumbled.
“Yes,” Wowryk agreed, “Probably nothing important.”
“Indeed. Let us party,”
“With dignity and poise,” Wowryk added. She frowned, “Or, in your case, leather and spikes,”
“Is there a difference?” T’Parief wondered.
Wowryk lifted an eyebrow and turned back to the table.
Stafford was starting to relax again, glass of wine in one hand and some sort of cheese in the other. He’d started some music in the background, and was enjoying the sight of Yanick dancing wildly on the screen while T’Parief looked into the scope of what looked like a sniper rifle, but Stafford really hoped was just some sort of precision water gun. Sure enough, the reptile squeezed the trigger, sending a small blast of water arcing over the dancing crowd, right into a blond woman in a one-piece. She squeaked in surprise, looking around for the source of the attack, then laughing and turning back to her friends.
T’Parief promptly ‘sniped’ the lot of them.
What he didn’t realize, but that the announcer was all too happy to point out, was that the group of girls were simply bait. Even as he focused his attention on shooting the third girl, another group of women was quickly closing in on him.
T’Parief didn’t know what hit him. One might he was sniping away, the next he was the target of no less than half a dozen water balloons. His Gorn spikes caused most of them to burst before hitting his skin, but the result was a half-second for the water to spread before it hit him! Instantly drenched from head to toe, he gave a surprised growl, his head snapping around as he looked for the source of the attack.
Stafford tensed, wondering if he was about to witness the first water fight induced mass murder in Matrian history.
But the look of shock on T’Parief’s face slipped away and to Stafford’s surprise he actually laughed, nodding at his attackers as if to say ‘I was sloppy, and you got me. Well done.’ Yanick and Wowryk fired a couple of shots in their direction, but the Matrians were already moving off in search of another target.
Stafford was about to turn back to his work when he caught a glimpse of a water balloon flying straight for Valtaic. Wincing, and certain somebody was about to get electrocuted, his hand started reaching for the comm-panel in his desk to alert Emergency Services.
The balloon hit Valtaic, breaking open and unleashing a spray of water across his back. The alien shouted in surprise, a tone from Stafford’s translator informing him that it was a word with no translation, probably some kind of Lithinarian profanity. There was a spray of sparks around Valtaic’s feet, but none of the Matrians around him seemed to notice.
The camera went off to follow another, more interesting group of party goers. With a sigh that was half-relief, half apprehension, Stafford returned to his work.
Stafford jolted to his feet! The egg! The egg was beeping! The egg was…wait.
Stafford turned to his comm-panel, which was flashing with an incoming call. He tapped ‘accept’ and faced the screen.
“Christopher, why aren’t you at the party?” Sylvia demanded.
“Hello to you too,” Stafford said mildly, taking a sip of wine, “I’m relaxing. As you may have been too far away to notice, I’ve been dealing with a lot of people and a lot of crap. So I’m actually really enjoying the chance to kick everybody out of my office and have the space to myself,”
“Is that a hint?” Sylvia crossed her arms.
“Well, noooo,” Stafford said slowly, “I have an egg here that would probably just love a computerized baby-sitter to keep it company, if you’re bored. Or even back yet.”
“Haven will enter orbit of Matria Prime in three hours,” Sylvia said, “We’re just going to get settled into orbit, then Jeffery has to arrange to pick up all the ship pieces that got left behind after we departed,”
“So, you don’t want to babysit?”
“I’d love to,” Sylvia smiled, “But I’m sort of far at the moment. Besides, I think this will be a good experience for you!”
His hopes dashed, Stafford took another sip of wine.
“OK then. Anything else?”
“No, just called to let you know we’ll be back safely in a few hours,”
“Great, have fun. I’m going back to enjoying my peace and quiet,”
“You do that,”
“Bye,” he cut the channel.
Back at the party, Yanick and Jall were still dancing away, water fight almost forgotten. T’Parief and Valtaic had started their own sort of hunt, with T’Parief continuing on the offense while Valtaic watched his flanks and water-blasted anybody who tried to sneak up on the admittedly large target T’Parief made. Stafford hadn’t been able to see them on the holo-vision, but he’d attached a pair of small metal spikes that ran from his ankles to the bottoms of his shoes, grounding out any energy fields he might accidentally generate. They were uncomfortable as hell, like covering one eye or plugging his ears. But water and energy fields were likely a bad mix. Wowryk had taken a comfortable seat in a VIP area overlooking the dance floor and had settled in to ‘observe’. With her striking outfit, a cocktail glass in one hand and a small smile on her face, she actually managed to look like she was having a good time.
And to her surprise, she was. Something was….different. She’d asked for a comfortable seat where she could watch Yanick and Jall dancing away, and was promptly presented with one. The drink in her hand was lightly mixed, nobody had hit on her yet, and she was…she was…
She was being left alone to enjoy the party on her own terms, she realized. Whether it was her celebrity status among the Matrians or the fact that Jall, Yanick and T’Parief were used to going out without her, the fact was she wasn’t being pressured in any way. And that was great.
Maybe this was going to be a fun night out after all. She might even go approach some of the Matrian boys. They weren’t exactly trouble, after all. Far easier to get along with than the average human male. She found herself looking around the VIP area, then noticed a rather attractive Matrian man looking her way.
She found herself giving him a smile. Not a large smile. But larger than the one she had been giving before.
Yes, this could be entertaining for sure.
Stafford was now completely relaxed.
The Earth wine was gone, but he was just drunk enough that the Matrian wine didn’t taste that bad. He still had plenty of snacks left, though he wasn’t particularly hungry. The screen was still showing the big water fight party, but he’d only watched long enough to establish that his people weren’t in any trouble, yet. He finished off another one of the forms he was working on for Tunney, hit the ‘Submit’ button, and smiled when the auto-checker came back with zero errors. He’d be a paperwork king at this rate!
That depressing thought in mind, he took a deep drink of the awful wine.
“Uh, sir?” it was Stern again, “We’re…um. We’re done knob-polishing,”
Stafford nearly coughed up his wine, which really had been bad enough going down the first time.
“I always knew you guys spent too much time together,” he remarked.
“Very amusing, sir,” Stern grunted.
“Yeah, fine,” Stafford waved his hand, “You guys can go. I think everything here is under control. I’m going to finish up a few more forms, then head back. I think-“
Slowly, Stafford’s eyes lowered to his comm-panel. Please, be a call. Please, please be a call. Oh, please…
Please, God. Stafford prayed. Please, please, please….
“Is that egg supposed to be beeping?” Stern asked.
“Fuck,” Stafford’s forehead met the desk with a clunk.
Across the city, Yanick stiffened.
“What?” Jall asked, “Somebody grab your butt again?”
“Yeah,” Yanick giggled, “I wouldn’t mind so much, but if T’Parief sees, we’re going to have an…incident.”
“Answer, damn it!” Stafford was pressing the ‘Yanick’ button on his comm-panel repeatedly, but the screen kept flashing ‘Error - Receiver Unavailable’. He tried T’Parief, Wowryk, Valtaic, even Yvonnokoff. Nothing.
“I thought you said all the comm lines into the party were blocked?” Stern asked.
“I was sort of hoping Starfleet comm-badges wouldn’t be affected,” Stafford groaned, “OK, let’s think this through logically. I have just under an hour until this thing hatches! I can’t get hold of the parents. Or the doctor. Matrian hospitals won’t have a clue how to deal with this. Most of our medical staff is aboard Haven, which is too far away for impulse and too close now for warp drive. Let’s see…”
“Nurse Veeneman!” Lt Marsden jumped in. Most of the Hazardous Team had flocked to his office when the beeping had started. They were still wearing the drab cleaning overalls they’d changed into when they’d started their forced cleaning detail and looked far more like the cast from Ghostbusters as opposed to Starfleet officers. “She’s been working at one of the hospitals in the city, somebody about Federation and Matrian vaccination exchanges,”
Stafford looked at him oddly.
“He sort of has a thing for her,” Stern explained, “Even though she already HAS a boyfriend,” he added pointedly.
“Hey, I still have a chance,” Marsden muttered.
Stafford was already tapping at his panel.
In the VIP section, Wowryk and Darik, the Matrian she’d been eying, were enjoying a drink and a deep philosophical discussion on the merits of dermal regeneration. He was, it turned out, a doctor at one of the downtown hospitals.
“Fascinating,” Wowryk said, “Federation technology used something similar about fifty years ago, but the Vulcans determined that method was more likely to cause…well, tumors.”
“Really?” Darik chuckled, “Well, then I guess we’re sort of doomed, aren’t we?”
“Yes,” Wowryk and Darik both replied automatically, turning to the familiar voice. Wowryk spotted her first as Nurse Veeneman walked up to the edge of the VIP area.
“I wanted to introduce you to…oh. You found each other.” Veeneman gave them a sly look, “I met Dr. Darik at the vaccine exchange conference, and I thought you two might hit it off. But you beat me to it! See ya!”
“Wait,” Wowry called as she turned to go, “I thought…I didn’t realize you were going to be here. I thought you were working at the hospital,”
“I’m off duty,” Veeneman shrugged.
“Guess we should have checked that,” Wowryk muttered, a frown on her face.
“Checked what?” Darik asked.
“Never mind, it’s probably nothing.”
“Ohh, my God,” Stafford groaned, tapping desperately at his comm-panel, which merely beeped and repeated its error message. The egg continued beeping, the beeps coming slightly faster now.
“Sir, SIR!” Stern rushed around the desk and blocked the comm-panel from Stafford’s probing fingers, “That’s not helping. And it’s giving me a headache,”
“I found the ‘mute’ button,” Marsden reported from the egg, “But there’s a count- down timer. It says ‘hatching in fifty minutes, plus or minus five minutes’,”
“Have any of you ever delivered a…an egg, before?” Stafford gulped.
“Considering what our boss will do to us if something goes wrong?” Stern asked, “No, and we’re not willing to learn now. Sir, I know you don’t want to consider it, but there is only one option:”
“Rush to the hospital and hope they can figure it out?” Stafford said hopefully.
“I know you’re upset, so you probably haven’t considered what T’Parief, Yanick and Wowryk will do to you…and us…if we try that,”
“You’re right,” Stafford reluctantly agreed, “So what’s your plan?”
“Hazardous Team, it’s time for a mission,” Stern said firmly.
“Wait..you’re not,” Stafford gulped, “Oh no. No.”
“Marsden, get the transit map and find the most efficient route,” Stern ordered, “Kreklor, Dar’ugal, you’re on point. Simmons and Rengs, keep an eye on our flanks,”
“Ohhh, you are,” Stafford palm had somehow found it’s way to his face.
“We’re going to that party,” Stern said, reaching for his phaser, “We’re breaking in, we’re finding the parents, the doctor, maybe a cocktail or two,”
“Are we’re going to hatch this fucking egg,” he finished confidently.
“And you’re doing it in overalls?” Stafford asked slowly.
“Hey, a good disguise never hurt,” Stern shrugged.
“Why does this sort of thing always happen to us?” Stafford sighed, rising to follow as the HT rushed out of the room.
Two minutes later, he was running back into his office.
“I thought YOU were carrying the egg!” he accused Stern.
“Why would I be carrying it, sir? YOU’RE the babysitter!” Stern replied, “Besides, I need my hands free. For phasering.”
“You’re not phasering anybody!” Stafford snapped. He reached out, hesitated, then reached towards the egg again. Again, he hesitated.
“It’s not going to bite you,” Stern said.
“I know,” Stafford gulped, “It’s just that…it’s still technically a baby,”
“Or an omlette,” Simmons said helpfully, “Like, Schrodinger’s Egg! We won’t know until it’s opened!” Marsden gave him a hard elbow in the ribs.
Stafford visibly braced himself, then carefully picking up the egg and strapped it into the exoskeleton, attaching it to the handy shoulder harness that left it hanging in front of his chest. “Now let’s get this dramatic…whatever it is, on the road.”
Wowryk excused herself from Darik, finding herself in need of one of those trips to the little ladies room that one so often needs when one is drinking, even lightly. She emptied her glass, promised to return and slipped towards a discrete gate leading out of the VIP area.
The park had several buildings scattered around. Most were combinations of restaurants, information booths and lavatories. A couple were maintenance buildings, used for the storage of the equipment used to maintain the park. A bright light shone on a sign that showed an outlined image of what appeared to be the icon for a ladies room.
Unfortunately, despite the signage, it was one of the maintenance buildings Wowryk found herself in rather than the desired VIP bathroom. The door was unlocked and swished open as she approached, revealing a mixed collection of gardening robots, garbage removal drones and a wall packed with landscaping bricks.
Interesting, but she really had to go to the bathroom now.
She looked around frantically, finally spotting a likely door. Sure enough, there was a small, unisex washroom. She ran inside and yanked the door shut.
She had just finished her business when the outside door burst open again. She opened the door and was about to explain that this wasn’t actually the lavatory, but that there was a stall if they were…well, getting desperate.
But something stopped her. Maybe it was the expression on the intruders’ faces. Maybe it was intuition. But she froze. The door was open a crack and the light in the washroom was already off. It was unlikely they would see her unless they actually walked over and peered right into the small room.
“-told you the bathrooms were the other way! We’re never going to find her now!”
“So sorry, sir,” a female voice, unusually subservient for a Matrian.
“First Stafford, now Wowryk,” the first voice complained, “This should be a simple matter. There were enough women at this party that Stafford should have come running. We thought getting Wowryk was a bonus, but now she’s all we’ve got!”
Wowryk unconsciously eased a bit further back from the door. Who were these people?
“We can wait until she returns to her seat,” a second female voice suggested, “Or try one of the other Silverado people. There are several here,”
“Peons!” the male voice dismissed. “We need Stafford or Wowryk to make this work. And they probably won’t exactly be willing.” He sighed. “Come on. If they have some genuine Raleesh rum this night won’t be a complete loss,”
Wowryk peeked through the crack in the door just in time to see three Matrians, two female and one male, turning to exit the building. The women were tall, broad shouldered and well built. Bodyguards? Security?
She barely caught a glance of the leader. He was a slim male of average height, unremarkable features and impeccably groomed hair. His suit was of a strange Matrian cut, emphasizing curves that human males would prefer not be emphasized. But she didn’t recognize him at all. What did he want with Stafford?
What did he want with her?
Wowryk waited for a few moments, then exited the building. Up ahead she could see the trio re-entering the party, exchanging a nod with the guard watching the VIP entrance and turning to the right, towards the bar and seating area.
Wowryk followed, then immediately turned the other direction, towards the dance floor. She had to warn the others!
“You know,” Stafford said, fidgeting with the egg harness, “This isn’t really what I had in mind for a dramatic rescue,”
“Do you know how expensive cabs are in this city?” Stern asked, “Or how long it would take them to get through traffic,”
“Arrrgghhhh!” Stafford groaned.
“Please sir, sit down” Stern said, “You’re making the other passengers nervous.”
Stafford looked around the crowded subway car. Sure enough, the Matrians were looking at him with expressions ranging from mild concern to all out fear. It abruptly crossed his mind that he was a somewhat high-ranking member of their government, a starship captain, an alien and, at the moment, some crazy guy holding an egg slightly bigger than your average watermelon.
“Sorry folks,” he muttered.
The train eased up to a station platform. The doors opened and the vast majority of the passengers apparently decided that this was their stop.
“Two more to go,” Marsden said, glancing at the route map.
Wowryk pushed her way through the crowd, hunting for Jall’s short, spiky hair or the walking green mountain that was T’Parief. She didn’t see either of them. But she did find Valtaic.
“-which led to the great Advertiser Purge and perhaps the greatest but final massacre in Lithinarian history” he was saying to a rather pretty red-headed Matrian.
“Mr. Valtaic!” Wowryk pushed in, “We have a problem! I’ve got to find T’Parief!”
“Dr Wowryk!” the Matrian woman exclaimed, “I was SO hoping I’d have the chance to meet you!”
Wowryk tried to cover her panic with what she hoped was a friendly smile.
“I’m very sorry, Miss…”
“Beki,” Valtaic supplied.
“Beki,” Wowryk finished, “But there’s been a bit of an…incident…and I’m afraid I need Mr. Valtaic for a moment,”
She didn’t see Valtaic frantically shaking his head.
“Oh, of course,” Beki immediately took on a professional air, “Please excuse me,”
And she was gone. Probably a former soldier or Mistress, Wowryk mused, used to dealing with the unexpected.
“I wish you had not done that,” Valtaic said.
“Forget your potential sinful conquest,” Wowryk snapped, “I just heard a group of Matrians talking about some kind of plot! They’re after me or Stafford, whoever they can get!”
“T’Parief is this way,” Valtaic said immediately, moving to guide her, “However, there are two things you should know,”
“First, that woman is the first to show sexual interest in me since our arrival here. You may have ruined that,”
“Don’t care,” Wowryk said, “And second?”
“She is a news reporter,” Valtaic sighed, “Which means she will be back with a camera bot very shortly. Our time to resolve this issue discreetly is now very, very limited.
They pushed through the crowd. Finally, Wowryk saw T’Parief towering over Yanick and a group of Matrians. Jall was nearby, dancing with Nurse Veeneman.
“Doc!” Jall called, “We thought you got lost on the way to the bathroom!”
“I did!” Wowryk shouted back over the music. She pulled T’Parief’s ear down to her level and quickly repeated what she’d heard.
He tensed, immediately going into security mode.
“We must secure this facility,” he said, “I will notify security immediately. You will stay here. Do not wander off again,”
“But-“ Wowryk said.
“He’s right,” Jall reassured her, “The safest place right now is in the middle of a crowd.
Reluctantly, Wowryk remained put.
“No, I don’t have a ticket!” Stafford was saying for the third time, “Not on me. I left it on my desk! I’m trying to find the parents of this egg before it hatches! And their doctor!” Behind him, the Hazardous team had taken up position around the entrance, every approach to the park entrance was under guard. With the party well underway and all the important guests having arrived, the camera bots had vanished.
The bouncer continued to stare Stafford down, her thick arms crossed over her chest. Next to her, a smaller male was going over a checklist.
“I don’t see anybody who registered for an egg delivery,” she said.
“Come on! Everybody on this planet knows who T’Parief is, right? Wowryk? Yanick? How many OTHER aliens have laid eggs in the past few months?”
“It’s a clever story,” the bouncer said.
“I’m just doing my job,” the list-checker said, “After all, those people behind you look more like janitors than a security squad, and we’ve already had three people without tickets claim they were San Jall just to get in,”
“Really?” Stafford was taken aback.
“Really. So sit tight until I can properly verify who you are,”
Staffor was stunned. Who the heck did he think he was? This was an emergency! He had less than twenty minutes now to find Yanick, T”Parief and Wowryk!
Stern seemed to be thinking the same thing. Well, he was actually thinking that he was way sexier than a janitor, but that wasn’t really relevant to their mission.
“You could always pull rank,” he suggested to Stafford.
“What rank?” Stafford threw his arms in the air, the egg still hanging from the harness, “They’re civilians!”
“And aren’t you part of the government? You’ve got to have some sort of authority, right?”
Stafford started. He was, actually. He hadn’t really thought of himself that way. He was in command of his crew, that hadn’t changed, but his day to day job for the past while hadn’t involved much actual commanding. Just doing bitch work for Tunney, and sorting out the Silverado rebuild.
But he’d been the Matrian Minister of Planetary Defense for most of the Qu’Eh debacle. And he was still a Special Adviser to the council. That had to have some pull!
He stormed back to the bouncer.
“You listen here,” he snapped, “I am Captain Christopher Stafford, commander of the USS Silverado, and Special Federation Adviser to the Matrian Council. This is a medical emergency, and if you continue to interfere then you will be responsible for a diplomatic incident with the same Federation that helped save your butts. Now. Let. Me. IN!”
The Matrian with the list gulped.
“D-do you have your Matrian government photo ID card with you?”
“Haven’t you seen the news in the past six months?” Stafford demanded, “Look at my frickin’ face!”
“So sorry, Adviser,” she said, gesturing for the bouncer to step aside.
Feeling twelve feet tall, Stafford stepped through the gate, Stern and the rest following.
“Let’s find the DJ booth,” he said, “Quickest thing would be to kill the music and put out an announcement.”
“Security has been advised,” T’Parief said, “However, there is little they can do. They have no real weapons. Also, there was some confusion at the gate. Somebody claiming to be from the government forced his way inside less than five minutes ago, looking for us. He refused to present any identification,”
“Thank God the egg is safe with Chris,” Yanick said. They had all gathered in a discreet corner of the dance area, still surrounded by dancing Matrians. T’Parief had dropped to his knees in order to better blend in, his height no longer advertising their location like a glaring beacon.
“There he is!” Wowryk hissed, pointing.
They turned to see the fairly average, nondescript Matrian man and his two female companions/bodyguards/escorts/whatever. They were looking around, but apparently hadn’t noticed them yet.
“They do not appear to be a threat,” he said.
“THEY don’t,” Wowryk said, “But do you really think they’re alone? I mean, we just heard that somebody pushed their way in!”
“It might just be a party crasher,” Veeneman suggested.
A few minutes later, the music dropped in volume and a cheerful, female voice came over the speakers.
“Would Dr. Wowryk, Lieutenant Yanick and Lt Comd T’Parief please report to the DJ booth immediately,”
The music resumed.
Wowryk, Yanick and T’Parief exchanged a glance.
“It’s a trap,” T’Parief rumbled.
“Thanks, we figured that one out, muscles,” Jall told him dryly, “Along with the fact that traps are really bad for defenseless, half-drunks like ourselves,”
“I am not defenseless,” T’Parief said, snicking his claws from their sheaths.
“The rest of us don’t have claws,” Yanick said, looking worried.
“I have an idea,” Jall said, “Doc, give me your gun,”
Wowryk hesitated. It was a really nice water gun, and a thoughtful gift from Jeffery. But Jall looked like he had an idea, so she handed it over.
“Back in a tick,” he said.
Stafford stepped down from the DJ booth and rejoined Stern and the team.
“If that doesn’t get their attention, nothing will,” he said, “How are we doing?”
Stern checked the timer.
“Look around, see if you can spot them,” Stafford ordered. He winced as another party-going jostled him, his arms covering the egg protectively.
“I’m finding a corner where I’m not going to bounce this thing around!” he said.
“See anything?” Wowryk asked Valtaic.
“I see several people near the DJ booth with weapons that are too small to be water guns,” Valtaic said, “I cannot make out their faces in the dim light, however they appear to be wearing overalls,”
“That’s not exactly a club thing, is it?” Wowryk asked.
“Only if it’s Mechanic’s Fetish Night,” Yanick shrugged.
“That’s a thing???”
“On some planet? Probably.”
“OK, I think I have a plan” Jall said, returning with Wowryk’s gun and a bag of clinking bottles, “I had to pimp out Valtaic for it, but I think it’ll be worth it,”
“I beg your pardon?” Valtaic asked.
“They’re hot, OK?” Jall said, “And it’s not like I was going to be able to do anything with beautiful women, so you can thank me later,”
Valtaic, looking confused, really had nothing to say to that.
“What is it?” Yanick asked.
Jall lifted Wowryk’s water gun and shot Yanick in the face. In the mouth, specifically.
“Is that…vodka?” she demanded.
“Close enough,” Jall shrugged.
“You’re going to shoot them with booze?” Wowryk demanded, “Wait…you PUT BOOZE IN MY HOLY WATER BOTTLE???”
“Relax, Doc” Jall reassured her, “I’m sure priests have been doing the same thing for centuries, when they weren’t feeling up the alter boys,”
Wowryk sputtered, her face flushing red with fury.
“And the plan isn’t just to spray them with liquor,” Jall added.
“It’s not?” Yanick asked.
“Well, yes we’re going to spray them with liquor,” he reached into the bag and drew out a small container of long-burn matches.
“But then we’re going to set them on fire,” he finished.
T’Parief nodded, looking at Jall with something that was almost respect. Yanick looked doubtful, while Wowryk was about to start an old-fashioned Wowryk rant, the likes of which had not been seen since little Luke had peed on her favourite alter cloth.
“It doesn’t burn very well,” Jall went on, “And there are plenty of people with water guns to put them out. It’s more of an emergency thing, y’know?”
“And we are probably going to need it soon,” Valtaic pointed. The nondescript Matrian man and his two women had joined the group in overalls. One of them was pointing right in their direction.
“I’ve got Parian life-signs over there,” Marsden said, pointing in one direction with his tricorder, “Stationary.”
“Why aren’t they coming?” Stafford demanded.
“A credit for each time I tried to figure that one out,” Simmons said glumly.
“That’s because shouting ‘bombs away’ when she’s almost there is a big mood killer,” Stern said flatly.
“Eww,” Stafford muttered.
“Minister Stafford!” a voice exclaimed, “Why, what an absolute pleasure it is to see you here! I had thought you had declined our invitation!”
“Huh?” Stafford spun around, hands grabbing at the egg, only to find himself face-to-face with an average looking looking Matrian, flanked by what had to be two bodyguards, “Look, I’m sort of in the middle of an emergency,”
“I see,” the man said, “You wouldn’t, by chance, be trying to locate Dr. Wowryk?”
“Have you seen her?” Stafford demanded.
“Not for some time,” the man said, “Excuse me, how rude. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Mr. Nor-Mall Mann, president of M’Lady’s. We are a rather large manufacturing and retail concern here on Matria Prime,”
“That’s great,” Stafford said, eyes on his egg timer, “but if I don’t find Wowryk, the blond and the lizard in five minutes, I’m fucked. So pardon me,”
“Oh, I insist we help,” Mann said, gesturing at his body-guards, “I believe your guard said they were that way?”
“Can we at least kill the music?” Stafford demanded.
“I will see to it,” Mann made another gesture, and one guard moved back to the booth.
“I still can’t see a thing in this shitty light!” Yanick complained.
“They are coming,” Valtaic said, “They are impossible to miss, they are the only ones in overalls,”
“So shoot the overalls?”
Valtaic looked up again. The Matrian and one bodyguard seemed to be leading the pack, along with a tall male in overalls. A darker shape, the leader? Whoever he was, he was hanging behind in the shadows.
The music abruptly died.
“Dr. Wowryk,” a female voice came over the speakers, “You must report to security immediately!”
“Attack!” T’Parief abruptly roared, pulling out his gun and firing a stream of acrid alcohol at the nearest person in overalls.
“TAKE THAT!” Yanick shouted, squeezing her trigger and likewise dousing the nearest target. A target that, as it grew closer was starting to look familiar.
“Oh hell!” Stern shouted, “It’s T’Parief! And he must be drunk or something! Take him down, we’ll worry about the rest later!
“Shit,” Stafford muttered. The egg timer was counting down the last minute. He could swear that he could feel something starting to move inside…a slight tremor in the shell, perhaps as the baby positioned itself to break through its tiny universe.
Phaser fire shot out from three different locations, each one hitting T’Parief. The reptile went down with a thump.
All around them, party-goers suddenly had someplace else to be. It was a mad scramble as Matrians pushed off the dance floor, screaming. The dance lights were still pulsing in the dim twilight of the park, the peaceful starry sky a counterpoint to the pandemonium below.
Then Jall started throwing matches
Stafford screamed like a little kid as Marsden suddenly went up in flames. Marsden was swearing like a redneck, pulling off his overalls and stomping them into the ground. Kreklor and Simmons were likewise ablaze, but the flames didn’t seem very fierce.
He was close enough now to see who was attacking them. What he couldn’t figure out was why the hell his OWN PEOPLE were dousing them with alcohol and setting them on fire!
“Wait, wait,” Jall shouted, holding back his next match at the very last minute, “Did you hear that?”
“I know that scream!” Wowryk said, abruptly lowering her gun and standing. “Captain Stafford?” she called out.
“Yeah!” Stafford shouted back, barely audible over the din, “What the fuck is wrong with you people!”
Jall and Wowryk exchanged glances.
“Oops,” Jall shrugged.
With that settled, Stafford rushed over, unstrapping the egg as he did. Stern had just finished putting out Rengs and was establishing a perimeter.
“The damned thing’s going to hatch any minute now!” he shouted, thrusting the egg at Wowryk,”
“And?” she asked looking at him blankly.
“You’re a doctor! Hatch it!” he snapped.
“I’m the mother!” Yanick said fiercely, grabbing the egg from between them, “Stern! I need something soft! On this table here! And you guys better wake up T’Parief!”
“On it!” Stern said. In seconds, the singed overalls had been formed into a sort of nest. Yanick placed the egg in the center and looked at it expectantly.
“It’s an egg, you know,” Wowryk said quietly to Stafford, “By definition, it sort of hatches all by itself,”
“Oh,” Stafford said, feeling slightly foolish.
“Good, T’Parief’s up in time,” Wowryk said as Simmons was abruptly tossed across their field of view.
“He still doesn’t wake up well, does he?” Stafford agreed. But as soon as he saw his egg and realized what was happening, T’Parief was at Yanick’s side, one arm around her shoulders as they watched. Jall and Valtaic were to their left, Wowryk and Stafford to their right. Veeneman and Darik had joined them, off to one side. The Hazardous Team was arrayed around them, Stern speaking reassuringly to a large looking group of bouncers. Although things had calmed down considerably, nobody was approaching them.
The egg trembled slightly, then stilled. Trembled again, then stilled.
“Isn’t something supposed to happen?” Jall asked.
“Yes,” Wowryk said, her voice all business, “Veeneman?”
“Wish I had a tricorder,” Veeneman muttered. Marsden slapped one in her hand.
“A medical tricorder,” Veeneman clarified.
“Uh, it is. It’s from our med-kit,”
“Hmm?” Veeneman looked at the device, “Oh. A compact model. Silly me,”
She tapped away.
“Unusually high heart rate,” she said, her voice turning professional, “Blood-gas levels deteriorating. Wait…”
The egg trembled again, the shell almost seemed to creak under the pressure.
“The baby doesn’t quite have the strength to break the shell,” Wowryk decided, “It’s been known to happen,”
“Oh my God!” Yanick gasped. T’Parief turned to Wowryk.
“Surely you can-“
“Shut up and let me work,” Wowryk cut him off, “Veeneman, I need the baby’s position,”
“On it,” Veeneman fiddled with the tricorder.
“HURRY!” Yanick exclaimed, tears in her eyes.
Wowryk grasped the egg, then started rotating it.
“Keep going, keep going,” Veeneman said, “Another ten degrees…there! Posterior is now on the dorsal shell!”
“What does that mean?” Stafford demanded.
Wowryk visibly steadied herself, then turned to T’Parief and Yanick.
“You probably don’t want to see this,” she warned.
“Will it save the baby,” Yanick demanded.
“Then just do it,”
Wowryk nodded again, her face set. She raised one hand above the egg…
Then brought it down in a rough karate chop, striking near one end of the egg! Yanick screamed, her voice filling the park! T’Parief roared, and nearly pounced on Wowryk until…until he saw…
The egg had split right down the center, exposing pale green skin with a faint outline of scales. The part of the egg Wowryk had struck fell away to expose tiny buttocks, and the other end fell away as the baby pushed at it.
Wowryk quickly and daintily picked away the pieces of shell, grabbed a piece of overall that wasn’t drenched with booze and proceeded to wipe away the last few remnants of shell before presenting the baby to Yanick.
“Trish,” Wowryk could barely keep the grin off her face, “Your daughter,”
“Ohhh!” Yanick reached out and took the infant in her arms. The baby was still crying, but quickly calmed as her mother held her close, “Pari! Oh, Pari, come look at her!”
No answer. Yanick looked around.
Both Stafford and T’Parief had fainted dead away.
They moved off to the VIP area of the event, allowing the music to continue and the dance floor to be cleared. A number of party-goers were still present, but it was clear that a larger number had decided to revise their evening plans. Frankly, Yanick and T’Parief wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, but there were a few loose ends to clean up.
“Of course, we realize our part in this,” Mr. Mann was saying, “The ‘Comm-Blocker’ policy was something of an experiment, and certainly caused some issue. Though if your people had registered as they were supposed to…”
“We forgot,” Wowryk admitted.
“It’s still a dumb idea,” Stafford said flatly.
“Perhaps,” Mann shrugged, “But in the end, no harm was done. Though I expect our profit margins will be somewhat hurt by the lower attendance.”
“Starfleet doesn’t use money,” Stafford said immediately, recognizing the subtle hint,”
“Oh, of course not,” Mann smiled, “But still, there are things you can do that would mean a great deal to us. For example, the waiting list to open a storefront aboard Haven is quite long at the moment, and there doesn’t seem to be much appetite in the current government to…develop…the city,”
“That’s what you wanted Stafford and I for!” Wowryk exclaimed, “You weren’t trying to kidnap us or torture us or something! You just wanted us to…to…”
“Use our influence with the Matrian Council to help your business,” Stafford said, looking disgusted.
“In your culture, I believe they called it ‘lobbying’,” Mann said smoothly.
“Well forget it!”
“Hmmm. Well, if nothing else, I suppose the news feed from tonight will be excellent…publicity,” Mann mused aloud.
“News feed?” Stafford asked warily, his stomach abruptly dropping.
“Oh yes,” Mann said, “Luckily, a reporter affiliated with our company received a head’s-up that a situation was developing, and managed to get some excellent footage,”
He help up a small screen, showing several men in overalls, obviously Starfleet due to the presence of Dar’ugal and Kreklor towards the rear, shooting at T’Parief while Wowryk, Jall and Yanick doused them and set them on fire. The clip ended with Wowryk bludgeoning Yanick’s egg, but didn’t bother to show the happy ending.
The colour drained from Stafford’s face.
“You wouldn’t dare!” he snapped.
“Wouldn’t I?” Mann smiled mildly.
“You put that on the air, and I swear I will use every piece of influence I have to destroy your company!” Wowryk said with surprising vehemence, “I will NOT be portrayed as some sort of…butcher!”
“Yeah, there’s got to be some sort of slander law or something,” Stafford said, “And I hate to break it to you buddy, but even if you embarrass the heck out of us, it’s not going to help your company any,”
“Maybe not,” Mann admitted.
They all glared at each other for a moment.
“How about this,” Yanick suggested, joining the conversation, “You change that editing so it just looks like an emergency childbirth. Get it on the air now, maybe get some of your lost customers back. Half-price drinks or something, get new people in here.”
“That might undue some damage,” Mann admitted, “Of course, having Dr. Wowryk center stage will certainly help. But that still doesn’t help us with the other problem.”
“Look,” Stafford sighed, “I can’t lobby. Not for you specifically. But you’re right, they are taking a pretty long time to get things going with Haven. I’ll at least have a talk with the Queen about getting more business up there in general, OK?
Mann thought it over.
T’Parief and Yanick left immediately with their baby. Valtaic had attempted to flee, but Jall hauled him over to one of the rear bars and announced that he now had to ‘entertain’ the two very attractive female bartenders that had supplied the alcohol. After taking a close look at the two of them, Valtaic decided that perhaps, just this once, he could remain in a social setting.
That left Stafford and Wowryk standing near the stage at the edge of the dance floor and Jall off somewhere, probably getting laid. Wowryk sighed.
“What’s wrong, Noel?” Stafford asked, “You just hatched an egg! And it was a girl! Don’t know what they’re going to call her yet, but oh well. We’ll find out. It’s a happy day!”
“I know,” Wowryk said glumly, “It’s just…I was having a good time enjoying the party on MY terms. Now…now I have to enjoy it on Mann’s terms. And yes, I’ve noticed the irony.”
“At least now the news clip shows you handing the baby to Trish instead of breaking it in half,” Stafford said, “By the way, what was with all that turning? Spinning the shell around?”
Wowryk looked at him like he was an idiot.
“It’s bad enough I had to karate chop a baby,” Wowryk said heatedly, “Can you imagine if that had been her head instead of her butt???”
Stafford’s eyes widened in realization.
“Oh,” he said softly.
“Now I have to stay here and dance until Mann has his customers back,” Wowryk went on, gesturing at a hovering camera, “I didn’t even realize this event had corporate sponsorship!”
“Every event does, honey,” Jall said, abruptly returning, “But hey, I found something that might make things better,”
Darik was following behind him. Behind him was Veeneman, giving her a sly smile.
Wowryk started. She’d completely forgotten about the Matrian doctor. He’d seemed nice, and interesting. She’d been enjoying their talk, up until Mann and their misunderstanding ruined everything.
But maybe this was another chance…
Smiling, she reached out for his hand.
“Care to dance?” she asked.
“It would be an honour,” Darik said, taking her hand and allowing himself to be led to the dance floor.
Stafford’s jaw was somewhere around his knees.
“Shhh,” Jall put his finger to Stafford’s lips, “Don’t worry about it.”
“Get your hand away from my face!” Stafford swatted at him, “You smell like…vodka and burning!”
“Which means it’s been a good night,” Jall nodded, “So I’m going to go dance. You can either stay here and have fun, or go back to your office and pout,”
Stafford looked undecided.
“You’re staying here, you moron! Jall snapped, “And take that stupid egg harness off if you ever hope to get laid!”
“God, I need a drink,” Stafford groaned, pulling the now-empty harness over his head.
“Gotcha covered,” Jal said gleefully, pulling a bottle out of the bag he still carried.
Stafford looked over at the stage where Wowryk and Darik were now dancing away, Wowryk looked a bit shy but still quite happy. Jall had turned away from him and was starting to dance, no doubt looking for his next conquest. And the park was filling up again as the hovering cameras advertised the fact that it had been a childbirth, not a terrorist attack or mob war, that had stopped things before.
With a shrug, Stafford opened the bottle and took a swig.
Then he spit it out and decided he really needed to find some mix.
Haven had entered orbit halfway through the party, and so Yanick and T’Parief were able to bring the baby up to the home that they had so carefully chosen after the city had been launched. They’d taken a shuttle, rather than put the infant through a transporter at such a young age, and it was very, very dark when they arrived.
The baby had fed and promptly fallen asleep. Yanick gently placed her in the cradle they’d put in one corner of their bedroom.
“Allona,” Yanick said “We should call her Allona. I was looking at names before and…well, it means strong. Unless there’s a Gorn or Klingon name that works better.”
“Allona is acceptable,” T’Parief nodded.
Trish reached in to gently stroke the baby-Allona’s, head.
“Hi, Allona,” she smiled.
They watched, the stars shining outside the city dome as she slept quietly.
After a while, they too slept.