Author: Brendan Chris
Author’s Note: This story takes place at roughly the same time as Halfway to Haven 1.4 - ‘Hospitality’
“IT’S DOCTOR WOWRYK!”
Dr. Noel Wowryk immediately flinched at the high-pitched, male Matrian voice. Walking next to her, Dr. Sem Darik started, looking around with confusion.
“Oh no,” Wowryk sighed.
From one excited onlooker, they were suddenly surrounded by over a dozen Matrians, mostly male but some female. All of them wanting to congratulate her on the victory over the Qu’Eh, or ask her whether it was true that she’d been offered command of Haven.
Among other things.
“Dr. Wowryk,” a perky looking brunette male was shoving a camera/microphone combination unit in her face, “Is it true that you’re thinking about running for Queen in the next planetary election?”
“Dr. Wowryk!” another shout, this one from the back, “Let me take you to dinner! I own the most amazing restaurant!”
“It usually takes the press twice as long to find me,” Wowryk muttered to Darik as she tried to evade the reporter with the camera.
“-just a moment of your time-“
“-most incredible lover on the planet-“
“PLEASE!” Wowryk half pleaded, half shouted, “Please, I appreciate your good wishes, but I would just like to enjoy my evening in peace!”
The Matrians started falling over each other with offers on how that might best be accomplished.
Wowryk grabbed Darik by the hand and ran.
A few blocks later, they ducked into an alley. Breathing heavily, Wowryk eased an eye around the corner and watched until she was convinced that the cost was clear.
“You are a woman of excitement” Darik said to her, smiling.
“I’ve ruined our date,” Wowryk wrung her hands, “I’m so sorry! We didn’t even make it to the restaurant!”
Darik took her hands in his, pressing them together.
“The adventure was enough,” he said, “Besides, I know a great little place not far from here, if you’re still up to it?”
Wowryk considered for a moment. She was still upset from the mob, but something about the way Darik was offering…something about the way he looked at her was just so…so…innocent. Perhaps because his eye didn’t seem to make the unconscious, brief dip down to breast level that every man’s eye seemed to make around her. Every man but Jall, that was.
She frowned, suddenly worried at THAT comparison, then shook her head and smiled.
“I’d love to,” she said.
Halfway across the planet, Lt Comd San Jall rolled over and wished he was dead.
“Ohhh…” he groaned, “My head is killing me.”
Birds were singing outside the open patio window near the bed. Sunlight poured in, and a soft breeze ruffled Jall’s hair. It was, in short, an absolutely beautiful morning. If you weren’t exhausted, half-drunk and completely hung over.
There was a snort from the body next to his in the bed. Jall briefly considered this, then closed his eyes and begged to be unconscious.
This repeated itself two or three times until, two hours later, he finally had to get out of bed to use the facilities. Realizing that perhaps getting out of this strange apartment would be a good idea, Jall quickly searched for, then began pulling on his cloths.
The other body in the bed sat up with a groan, then turned to face him
“Leaving so soon?” the slim but unusually tall Matrian asked.
“Yeah, I’m late for work,” Jall said, trying to keep his voice flat. His instincts were screaming at him to run, run, RUN!
“I’ve heard that one before,” the Matrian said, crossing his arms, “In fact, you said the same thing the last time you were here,”
“The last…what?” Jall’s jaw dropped with horror. Come to think of it, the Matrian WAS very familiar. And so was the room for that matter!
“We…we hooked up at the Belted Baron last night, didn’t we?” he asked.
“Yeah. And about a month ago, too,” the Matrian said, “I didn’t really expect to see you again, but it was nice that you came back. Want breakfast?”
“I…I have to be at work,” Jall said. He frantically finished dressing and made a hasty escape.
“It’s not funny, Trish!” he said angrily over the comm as he and Valtaic tinkered with the engines of their captured Qu’Eh vessel, “Statistically speaking, how could I have possibly hooked up with the same guy at the same bar twice in a row?”
“Maybe because the first time was the most mind-blowing sex you’ve ever had?” Yanick suggested.
“Um,” Jall thought carefully, “I actually don’t really remember either time. So probably not.”
“Well than maybe you just have feelings for him?”
“Bite your tongue, missy!”
“I-“ Yanick broke off suddenly, “Oops, I gotta go. Allona needs changing, and I’m not letting T’Parief do that until he gets his talons trimmed!”
“Yeah, OK, bye,” Jall grunted as the comm cut off.
He leaned over the engineering console, wishing that the pounding in his head would just stop.
“You seem to be getting the hang of this meaningless sex business,” he said to Valtaic, “What do you think?”
“Sex is never meaningless,” Valtaic said flatly, “The question is whether the meaning you seek is deep, emotional connection, reproduction, self-validation, stress relief or physical pleasure.”
“I think one of us is missing the point,” Jall grumbled.
“Yes,” Valtaic nodded, “One of us is.”
Jall contemplated this, at least until another wave of nausea washed over him. He turned back to his console.
“Let’s just get the inertial dampeners working, OK?”
“Sylvia! Oy, Sylvia!”
Sylvia halted her holographic avatar, carefully stepping to the side to avoid the non-existent stream of traffic in the corridor.
Lt Comd Simon Jeffery caught up with her. He looked at her for a moment, grinned, then gestured out the corridor window into the shipyard.
“Work’s comin’ along, huh?”
“Simon,” she greeted him warmly, “I was hoping to see you. Fifebee and I have been having some trouble with her holo-relay. I was-“
“Probably just a bit overloaded,” Jeffery said thoughtfully, cutting her off, “It’s not meant to project two holograms. I mean, the last firmware update helped, but-“
“Simon, we’re holograms. We understand the problem,” this time it was Sylvia that cut him off, “I was hoping one of your engineers could install a few emitters in our workshop. Maybe around the shipyard? There’s a freshly baked apple pie in it for them…”
“Oh,” Simon thought for a moment, then shrugged, “Aye. Don’t see why not,”
“Good. Thank you!” Sylvia turned to leave.
“Wait,” Jeffery moved after her, “Sylvia, we’re missin’ another ten tonnes of duranium. Do ye know anything about that?”
“That’s really not my area, Simon,” she replied. She turned down a short corridor that led from the shipyard to one of the smaller workshops, “It probably went missing when the city blasted out of orbit a few weeks ago,”
“Ah guess,” Jeffery didn’t look convinced.
They reached the entrance to the workshop. Sylvia stopped, then turned to look expectantly at Jeffery.
“Simon, we agreed that I will stay out of the 3CC unless you invite me there, and you will stay out of my workspace. Fifebee and I are at a…sensitive point in our project.”
“But what’s this project?” Jeffery peered over her shoulder, as if doing so would allow him to see through the solid doors.
“Just wait!” Sylvia laughed, pushing him gently away, “You’ll find out soon enough!”
They both turned to see Major Dekaire, the blond, Nordic-featured and somewhat muscular Matrian shipbuilder. She gave Sylvia a sort of appraising look, then turned to Jeffery.
“Simon, the girls and I are beaming down to the planet for Marinated Tentacle Night at Stacked,” Dekaire said.
“Ah, oh,” Jeffery looked surprised, “Is this a…a double date, bring the boys sort of thing? Cuz I don’t know how Ah feel about all the half-naked waiters there…”
Not it was Dekaire that looked uncomfortable.
“Well, no,” she said, “But it means I’ll be late for our…meeting…tonight,”
“Oh,” Jeffery said, “But-“
“See ya later, sweet thing,” Dekaire gave him a peck on the cheek, then walked away.
Sylvia raised an eyebrow.
“I hate marinated seafood anyway,” Jeffery grumbled, turning away.
“Don’t want to talk about it,” Jeffery waved her away.
“It’s fine. Ah know what it is,” he called over his shoulder.
Sylvia watched him leave, then turned back into the lab.
Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 59390.4L
“It’s been just over a week since Yanick and T’Parief hatched their daughter. And since two groups of Starfleet officers tried to stun and immolate each other. So far that little tidbit hasn’t managed to make it back to Admiral Tunney, and I hope to be somewhere in another galaxy if it ever does.”
“Following the birth and the return of Haven to Matria Prime, my senior staff has for the most part gone their separate ways. Jall and Valtaic are still working on the Qu’Eh wreck, Wowryk is arms deep in Qu’Eh implant technology, Jeffery is up in the shipyard working on, well, the ship. And Fifebee and Sylvia have buried themselves in some sort of secret project that they want to keep a surprise.”
“As the social butterfly of our group, I’ve tasked Lt Yanick with coming up with a way for us to keep in touch. We may be scattered to the winds now, but when it’s time to leave, we’re leaving together. Not sure what she has in mind though.”
“Wait, how did that ‘L’ get into today’s stardate???”
Captain Christopher Stafford looked up from his desk and his third form of the day. The first two had been nasty, twelve page affairs, making this seven page form seem like child’s play in comparison. His comm-panel, a nice little touch compared to the more limited comm-badge, popped up with Yanick’s name.
“Chris? Why aren’t you on Haven yet?” Yanick’s voice came from the speaker.
Stafford frowned and pressed the ‘accept comm’ button.
“Should I be?” he asked.
“Uh, yeah. Steven is having opening night at the Shipyard Steakhouse. You wanted the senior staff to stay in touch, so I booked us a table,”
As she spoke, Stafford became aware of an odd sound. Almost…squishy?
“I never got the message,” he said flatly.
“I’m sure I sent it to your messaging system,” he could practically hear the frown in her voice, while also realizing the weird noise was coming over the open channel, “But you know, I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Maybe I forgot,”
“I’ll beam up shortly,” Stafford said, “Meet me there?”
“Sure-YEOW!” Yanick exclaimed.
“What!!??” Stafford jumped to his feet, “Trish! What’s wr-“
“It’s OK,” Yanick cut him off, “It’s Allona. Wow. She doesn’t have teeth yet, but what a grip in those little hands!”
“She takes after her father,” T’Parief’s voice almost purred over the channel.
“Except her father doesn’t PINCH!”
“Wait,” Stafford sat back down abruptly, “You’re not…are you breast-feeding right now?”
“Better now than at the restaurant,” Yanick sounded like she was shrugging. A sudden high pitched cry of protest followed by a quick apology and the resumption of the sounds confirmed that yes, she had shrugged. And said shrug had…uh…deprived the baby of her food source.
Stafford rubbed his temples.
“Ohhh, it’s going to be a long time before I can get that image out of my head,” he groaned.
“The sooner, the better,” T’Parief growled.
“Both of you stop!” Yanick said firmly, “It’s perfectly natural. Beautiful, even!”
“Right. See you at the restaurant,” Stafford said, hitting the cut-off button.
Jall and Valtaic materialized about ten minutes ahead of Stafford. With most of Haven still being off-limits or unmanned, they hadn’t been able to get permission to use one of the five empty shipyards to work on the Qu’Eh ship. Well, they probably could have, if Stafford had made a fuss. But Jall preferred having a bit of space from the higher ranks, so instead the ship had been parked in an orbit within transporter range of the city.
“-can’t wait until the Matrians finish repairing their transporter relay satellites,” Jall was saying as Stafford materialized on the pad, “That’s going to make getting around a lot faster,”
“As opposed to the near-instant travel we currently enjoy?” Valtaic asked calmly.
“We do, the average Matrian doesn’t,” Jall replied, “We have access to Haven, they don’t. Plus Starfleet and the Matrian Defence Force have high-priority on all the planetary transport systems,”
“I didn’t realize you cared so much about the average Matrian,” Stafford said pleasantly. It was so rare that Jall said something honestly nice that he figured he better encourage him while he had the chance.
“I care when it means my evening ‘companion’ is half an hour late,” Jall shrugged.
Never mind that honestly nice stuff. Just forget it was even said.
Stafford managed to keep the smile on his face, but it became somewhat forced.
“Where are Yanick and T’Parief?” he asked.
“They’re going to meet us at the restaurant,” Jall said, “And we’re meeting Wowryk, Fifebee and Sylvia at the tram station,”
“Lead the way,” Stafford said, gesturing with one arm.
“Fuck that, I don’t know where I’m going,” Jall shrugged.
“Why did I want to stay in contact with everybody again?” Stafford pinched his nose as he led the way out of the transporter room.
“I’m just that lovable,” Jall quipped. Valtaic said nothing.
As the Starfleet officers walked out, the Matrian transporter operator just stared. These were the people who had saved her planet??
“Wow,” Wowryk said, raising an eyebrow as she looked out the front window of the tram. The only active transporter complex was naturally on the opposite side of Haven as Shipyard Three, necessitating a tram ride either halfway round the city or, in this case, directly across. The last time they’d seen the city it had been flush with greenery. Trees had lined the streets, plants had spilled over the balconies and terraces of the towers and lush, grassy parks had dotted the landscape. All that greenery had been dormant during the city’s slumber, but a series of landscaping bots had activated along with it, bringing everything to life.
Now winter had fallen. The lake was starting to ice over, the leaves had dropped from the trees, the various greenery had vanished and every surface was covered with a blanket of snow.
“Wow indeed,” Valtiac observed.
“You guys can ‘wow’ all you like,” Yanick said grumpily, “But now I can’t take Allona outside. That was the best way to get her to sleep; a walk outside.”
The tram rushed into a tunnel, barely slowing in the Transit Hub at it stuck to the express track.
“Speaking of, who’s watching the little guy? Um, girl?” Stafford asked as the tram slipped into another tunnel.
“Lt Rengs and his wife,” T’Parief replied.
“You trust your subordinates with your child?” Wowryk raised an eyebrow.
“I trust Maris,” Yanick said, “She’s already had one,”
“And I trust in Rengs’ fear of me,” T’Parief added.
“Logical,” Valtaic nodded. He returned his attention to the snow covered city as the tram exited the tunnel.
“Yet disturbing,” Stafford finished.
They arrived at the restaurant, using a secret knock based on Silverado’s registration number to actually get access. Very few businesses had been formally authorized on the city so far, but being part of Silverado’s crew had its perks, for once.
“Officially, Colonel Abela doesn’t know about this place,” Steven told them as he led them to a table overlooking the shipyard below, “Of course, we OK’d everything with her a while back. But we pretend she doesn’t know, and she pretends she doesn’t know, and everybody’s happy,”
Nobody was really paying attention to him though. They were too busy staring outside the restaurant into the shipyard.
“My ship!” Stafford whimpered.
“Wow again,” Wowyk lifted her eyebrow again as she sat at the table.
There might have been a ship in there. It was hard to tell. All they could really see was a cloud of parts drifting in the micro-gravity environment of the shipyard. Most of the parts seemed to be hull plates, but there were enough other parts to lead Valtaic to suspect that the shipyard construction bots had finished dismantling the hull and had moved deeper into the ship.
“Quite the sight, eh?” Jeffery said as he joined them.
“My ship!” Stafford whimpered again.
“Maybe we should have warned him,” Sylvia said to Jeffery as she took a seat at the table.
“Aye, Ah forgot how sentimental he can be,”
“Chris, sit down,” Sylvia said firmly, “I will be…I mean, your ship will be good as new,”
Slowly Stafford sat.
“I don’t know if I can eat after seeing that,” he said, his eyes still on the window.
“It’s a matter of willpower,” Jeffery said, sounding a bit cocky, “Ye just put it out of you mind,”
“Is that not that Captain Simplot?” Fifebee pointed at a somewhat scantily-dressed woman walking in with a broad, muscular man that looked like he’d just come from the gym. Or a steroid injection facility.
Jeffery ducked his head, trying to avoid being seen.
“Don’t let her know Ah’m here!” he whispered.
“Relax,” Yanick assured him, carefully looking at Simplot without actually looking at her, “I think she’s as eager to not see us as we are to not see her,”
“It’s just a matter of willpower,” Stafford said smugly, giving Jeffery a mild kick under the table.
“So you will pretend not to see her, though you do,” Valtaic looked very confused, “And she will pretend not to see us, although she does?”
“Yup,” Yanick nodded.
“Just as Colonel Abela pretends this illegal restaurant doesn’t exist, although she knows it does,” Valtaic continued.
“And we pretend we do not know that she knows. And she presumably pretends not to know that we are pretending not to know that she does not know?”
Valtiac just shook his head. Humans.
Stafford was back to staring out the window when Samantha came by to take their orders.
“Just please,” Jall was saying, “Tell me there’s nothing Matrian on your wine list. I’m sick of that green crap of theirs,”
“I have a replicated Australian shiraz,” Samantha said, “Uhhh…I can’t remember the name or year,”
“Sold,” Jall said, tossing the wine list aside, “And I’ll take the gratlik. Rare,”
“Trill food?” Yanick wrinkled her nose.
“Yeah,” Jall shrugged, “I usually can’t stand the stuff, but after eating mostly Matrian for…how long has it been? Eight months?”
“I don’t even know,” Yanick frowned, “It feels like forever. And I’ll have the chicken Caesar salad. And a huge, huge…heck, just bring me a bucket of wine,”
“And another to puke it into?” Samantha asked.
“Hey, I’m not pregnant anymore, I need to catch up!”
“You were never technically pregnant,” Wowryk pointed out, “And you are breast-feeding.”
“Right. Scale down the wine order. And are you trying to say I was fat?”
“Steak,” Stafford said, not wanting to sit through THAT argument again.
“What kind? This is a steakhouse now, hon,” Samantha said, “We’ve got about thirty-six species programmed in that humans can enjoy. Another twenty that are…well, non-toxic at least. And a D’Ceti sea cow flank that will have you tripping balls for about a week,”
“New York peppercorn? Medium.”
“Sure. Do you want the baked potato or the Patrian baked grub?”
“God, like you have to ask?”
“Ah motion we never to go a place called ‘Patria’,” Jeffery added to the conversation, “I’ve had enough of Matria to last a lifetime,”
“Seconded,” Wowryk said immediately.
Valtiac ordered the D’Ceti sea cow flank. Samantha tried to decide if he was joking or not, then just moved on down the table.
“Find something living, kill it, then throw it on the grill,” T’Parief didn’t even look at the menu.
“The Matrians won’t let us bring up any livestock,” Samantha was starting to look a bit exasperated.
“How do you like working at a nice restaurant instead of a ship lounge?” Fifebee asked, somewhat randomly.
“Hey, I LIKED Unbalanced Equations!” Yanick objected.
“I’ve got to have a lot more patience with the customers in a place like this,” Samantha said, hands on hips, “Let’s leave it at that, OK?”
After a few more moments of back-and-forth over the menu, she left with their orders. A few moments later, a Matrian male dropped off three bottles of replicated Earth wine.
“We’ve got a great purple wine that’s made in the southern hemisphere” he offered as he clumsily uncorked the bottles.
“Thanks, I’ve tried it,” Stafford said, “I always thought explosive diarrhoea was a myth until that night,”
“From the left, dear,” Sylvia said as the Matrian tried to set a basket of bread over Yanick’s right shoulder, “One serves from the left,”
“Sorry,” the Matrian smiled, “I’m still learning Earth customs. And there are so many other species to keep track of! Did you know that if I open the bottle for a Romulan, I must either take the first drink or be arrested as an assassin!”
“Hopefully we won’t see any more Romulans out here,” Jeffery said.
“Oh, I want to meet ALL the races in the Federation!” the waiter said energetically, “Can you imagine? Hundreds of races! Thousands of light-years of territory! As soon as they get the emigration agreements and passenger lines in place, I’m leaving!”
He finished pouring their wine, then left.
Everybody at the table was quiet for a long moment, Stafford still watching the slow spin of thousands of ship parts. The occasional construction bot could be seen, carrying various components away from the half-dismantled ship.
“I think that’s the part that’s hitting me the hardest,” Jall said quietly, “The Matrians are finally realizing there’s a whole other universe outside their little corner of it. Their old empire, the Qu’Eh…they’re really nothing in the big picture.”
“Nobody is nothing,” Sylvia said immediately.
“You know what I mean,”
The lights flickered for a moment, an odd sound running through the restaurant.
“Don’t worry,” Jeffery said, “Probably just a capacitor bank for the industrial replicator. We’re hittin’ it pretty hard.”
“Lots of things to replace?” Stafford took a long sip of his wine.
“Chris, Ah’m findin’ problems that, frankly, we’d never have found without tearin’ the old girl apart,” Jeffery said, “Some of the structural integrity field waveguides were so twisted, it’s a wonder we didn’t break apart every time we went into warp,”
They discussed their respective work for a while. Jall and Valtiac had repaired the warp drive on the captured Qu’Eh vessel and were ready to start conducting tests. Wowryk had just replicated a Qu’Eh implant removal device from specifications found in the ship’s computer. The device was far less painful than the Starfleet Medical Borg Implant Removal Devices they had used. (The SM-BIRDs had been nicknamed S&M Birds by the unfortunate Qu’Eh victims who had been subject to them.) Stafford and Yanick were still advising the Matrian Council and crunching through paperwork for Admiral Tunney, although Yanick was spending a lot of time up on the city now. T’Parief had become suddenly less concerned about security for Stafford and more concerned about security aboard Haven. For the shipyard, he tried to claim. Of course Stafford knew it was his precious baby daughter the big lizard was worried about. But since he’d wanted T’Parief guarding the shipyard to begin with (as opposed to following him around the planet), he’d been happy to send him up there. The Hazardous Team had been harder to get rid of, but he finally ordered them to go help the Matrians searching the now-abandoned Qu’Eh buildings and installations for booby-traps and other dangers before they were dismantled. Jeffery, of course, let loose a string of techno-babble about the ship reconstruction that the rest of them at least half understood, but really only boiled down to ‘We have a lot of work left to do, and it’s taking longer than we thought’. Halfway through the discussion their meals arrived. Everybody looked expectantly at Valtaic as he began eating a strange cut of light pink meat. Noticing their glances, he informed them that D’Ceti sea cow toxins were an aphrodisiac to his species, not a hallucinogenic. And that he had another date with the two bartenders Jall had ‘introduced’ him to shortly before setting half the Hazardous Team on fire.
Jall attempted to high-five him, however Valtaic declined.
Only Fifebee and Sylvia weren’t eager to volunteer any information on what they were currently working on.
“Chris, we finished the reconstruction work on the runabouts and the shuttles,” Sylvia said, after Stafford asked for the third time, “Jeffery will tell you that it went really well.”
“And gave him much information that is allowing him to fine-tune the bots working on Silverado,” Fifebee added.
“It’s true,” Jeffery admitted.
“But why can’t you just tell us what you’re doing now?” Stafford asked.
“We just have a few problems we need to sort out,” Fifebee said, “Once we are certain what we are planning will work, we will happily give a full briefing,”
“Well, ok,” Stafford said, finishing off his steak, “Ugh, I never thought I’d be so happy to have even replicated steak,”
“Well, get used to it,” Wowryk said primly, “We have what, several months before we can leave this system? Jeffery?”
“Hmmph?” Jeffery asked through a mouthful of roast grouse. He swallowed, “Months, at least,”
“I can’t take months on this planet,” Stafford, Jall and Wowryk all said in perfect unison.
They stared at each other for a moment.
“It’s already been months,” Yanick said, picking at her vegetables, “Hmm. I’m going to have to nag Allona to eat her vegetables, aren’t I?’
“She will eat the flesh of her prey,” T’Parief grumbled. Whatever it was that Steven or his cooks had prepared for him, it had vanished in two bites.
“Yeah, whatever, hon,” Yanick said, “But with a side of veggies,”
“If Counselor Yvonnokoff were here,” Jall started.
“OH SHIT!” Yanick cursed, “I totally forgot to invite her!”
“Whatever,” Stafford muttered.
“Next time,” Jall waved her away, “But I’m pretty sure she’d tell us that Starfleet officers who spent years on a ship exploring,”
“Or crashing on time-shifted planets,” Fifebee interrupted.
“That was still exploring,” Jall shot her a look, “The point is…we haven’t been anywhere new in something like a year. I’ve been to twelve metropolises, fifty-two cities, two hundred night clubs, three hundred restaurants, eight sex clubs and two fetish dungeons,”
“You could have left those out,” Stafford said.
“No, I’ll give you the addresses,” Jall said, “You need to loosen up,”
“I’m loose!” Stafford objected.
“OK, let’s shelve that for now,” Jall said, “The point is, we need to GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE AND EXPLORE SOMETHING NEW!”
He downed the last of his wine and slammed the wine glass down on the table.
They all looked at Stafford.
“What? You think I can just magically get us a new ship and a new mission?” Stafford asked.
“Try something,” Wowryk said, “I…I can’t take being famous anymore. I don’t even want to go back down to the planet at this point,”
“What about that nice doctor?” Yanick asked.
“We had dinner last night,” she admitted, “It was…nice.”
“Mr. Jeffry,” Fifebee grabbed his wrist, “You are approaching what some might call the ‘Danger Zone’.”
“Besides you have Major Dekaire to…service,” Fifebee added, “Dr. Wowryk’s romantic encounters should no longer be your concern.”
“Service?” Stafford asked.
“Well, I’m not human,” Fifebee shrugged, “But they certainly don’t seem to be dating. He…does as she wishes.”
“Sounds like his last relationship,” Stafford cracked, taking a swig of wine. Both Wowryk and Jeffery glared at him, “Sorry,”
“Tunney must have SOMETHING that needs doing around here,” Jall said, “I mean, I know there are other ships nearby. Maybe they need…advisers? Specialists?”
“I’ll look into it, OK?” Stafford promised, “Now look, can we…can we just go somewhere I don’t have to stare at the gutted ruin of my ship?”
“We have ice cream at our place,” Yanick said, “But we’d need to program the replicator for cake,”
“Hold on,” Sylvia’s eyes flickered for a moment. “Done. Shall we?”
“What kind of cake?” Stafford asked.
“Red velvet,” Sylvia replied.
“And it is no lie,” Fifebee added.
Stafford rose immediately.
“Then yes, we shall,”
They were walking towards the tram station when Sylvia pulled Stafford and Jall back.
“I didn’t want to mention it in front of everybody,” she said, “Although Fifebee nearly did, with her typical lack of subtlety,”
“One of my favourite things about her,” Jall shrugged.
“But I’m worried about Simon,” Sylvia went on, “This thing with Major Dekaire…Chris, you’re right. It’s just like his last relationship. It’s like he hasn’t learned anything for the past few years! He’s letting yet another woman walk on him like he’s a…a…turbolift carpet!”
“Door mat,” Stafford corrected absently, “Look, Sylvia, I’ve known the guy a lot longer than you. He’s always been attracted to aggressive women. Back on the Academy…well, I never did walk in to find him strapped to a St. Andrew’s Cross or an Andorian heating coil with some leather-clad dominatrix doing unspeakable things to him. But I always sort of expected it.”
“Bullshit,” Jall said, “You poked and needled in his relationship with Wowryk as much as anybody else did. There’s no way you can tell me now that you knew he-“
“Wowryk was different,” Stafford shook his head, “Will you just pull your mind off the sex for a minute? I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
“But you did. And now I’m going to have to find myself a little bondage playmate for the night,”
Stafford decided he didn’t want to pursue the topic and risk finding out whether or not Jall was joking.
“The point is, he’s always been attracted to stronger women,” he said instead, “Wowryk was just…a lot stronger than most. I can’t see how this Dekaire woman can possibly compare. And he still hasn’t told any of us whether anything happened with that Carly woman,”
They had entered the tram station. The nearest track was empty, however the far track had one of Haven’s ubiquitous multi-car trams parked at the platform. The overhead display screen informed them (in Matrian and Standard) that this tram was an express tram to the other end of the city, with stops at only the transit hub and two transfer stations in the city proper.
“I’m still concerned,” Sylvia said quietly as they climbed the steps to the walkway leading to the far track, “I think he needs a little more support from his friends,” She put a certain stress on the last word.
“Our AIs are just so subtle,” Jall said to Stafford as Sylvia gave him an annoyed look, “Don’t you think they’re subtle? I think they’re subtle!”
“Jall!” Sylvia sounded like she was on the verge of becoming truly upset, a rarity for the artificial woman. (Though not so rare for the real woman her programming had been modelled after.)
“Fine,” Jall sighed.
As they approached the tram, Wowryk headed towards the front car, Yanick and T’Parief towards the second car. Before anybody could really realize what was happening, Jall had managed to position himself to guide most of the other officers into the second car.
“Not you,” he said to Jeffery, giving him a firm shove into the first car.
“Whot-“ Jeffery objected.
“Enjoy,” Jall said, stepping into the second car as the doors hissed shut. He looked around at the Silverado officers, minus Wowryk and Jeffery. They were staring at him with a mix of confusion, curiosity, or (in Valtaic’s case) complete lack of interest.
“What?” Jall shrugged, “Who better to give him a little encouragement and support?”
“Anybody?” Stafford asked, pinching the bridge of his nose yet again as the tram eased into motion.
“San,” Sylvia crossed her arms, “You’re either a brilliant judge of character…or an absolute moron,”
In the forward car, Wowryk and Jeffery were looking at each other with matching expressions of surprise.
“Why do ye suppose that git went and did that?” Jeffery wondered.
“More importantly, why did they all cram into one car?” Wowryk frowned, “That can’t be comfortable. I had thought Trish would want to join me here. She always enjoys sitting in the front seat,”
“Ah’ve always thought the Old Matrians should have used bigger trams on this thing. Like, subway train sized,” Jeffery chattered nervously. The tram had glided to a stop at a station just long enough for the doors to ease open, then close. “Ah mean, Ah get what they were tryin’ to do. Ninety small trams going to ninety different but specific destinations, as opposed to nine trains that each have to stop in ten places. But still, Ah think the efficiency rating would be-“
“Simon,” Wowryk cut him off as they continued their speedy trip down the track, “It’s obvious that they think we need to talk,” she gestured at the car behind them, “And that this childish idea of stuffing us in the same car was the best they could come up with. But I don’t think we have anything to talk about. Do you?”
“Nay, of course not,” Jeffery said automatically. Although really, he agreed. They’d both moved on, especially after he’d taken Carly for dinner.
They looked around, surprised, as the tram began to slow. It had passed a cluster of buildings as it approached one of the bridges leading over the central lake. It continued gliding for a few seconds before coming to a stop about a third of the way across the bridge.
“Oh, now that’s mature,” Wowryk crossed her arms.
“They’re listening to us!” she snapped, “They heard us say we’re not going to talk, so now they’ve gone and stopped the tram until we actually talk! Well it’s not going to happen!”
One car back, Stafford was pushing T’Parief’s tail out of his face.
“Maybe all of us cramming into one car was a bad idea,” he said, turning in his seat to avoid the tail.
“Hey, you wanted those two talking,” Jall held up his hands, “Now they can talk,”
“Once again, we suffer due to human foolishness,” Valtaic complained.
“And you’re the one whining about it, so what does that say about you?” Yanick asked cattily.
Valtaic’s eyes widened, then he closed his mouth.
“Why didn’t we just set this thing to take us non-stop to the other side?” T’Parief asked.
“Because other people use the system too,” Sylvia said, “Somebody got on at the last station,”
“Great. Now why are we stopped in the middle of the track?” Stafford asked.
They followed Sylvia’s gaze and saw a man in a Starfleet uniform run past them, paying little attention to the blowing snow.
“I guess he’s going somewhere important,” Sylvia shrugged.
“Wait…what was he wearing?” Jall asked suddenly.
“Oh for…” Stafford let his head thunk against the headrest, “This isn’t the time for fashion!”
“I am most certainly getting very sick of this meddling in my personal life,” Wowryk fumed as Jeffery poked half-heartedly at the door controls, “So I’m dating a man. OK, it’s the first man I’ve seriously dated since…well, since you, I suppose. But that’s no reason to meddle, and certainly no reason to get my ex involved!”
“Hey, Ah’m dating somebody new too,” Jeffery mumbled.
“Exactly!” Wowryk nodded, “We’re moving on,”
“Um…” Jeffery was now looking past her. Ahead of them, on the track, he could see two women blocking the track, weapons drawn. Colonel Abela and Captain Simplot? A man in a Starfleet uniform was facing them. And was that…was he wearing a bomb strapped to his chest???
“Noel, Ah think we have a problem!” he gulped.
“What? Why?” Wowryk demanded, “Do you think we haven’t moved on?”
“Because we ended things quite badly, after all,” Wowryk went on, “We barely spoke for months. But we both have changed since then. We have managed to become friends, haven’t we?”
“But what?” Wowryk crossed her arms, “Simon, I have made my wishes clear. I…I respect you. I care for you. But I don’t…I don’t think I love you. You will always be special to me. But it’s time we put our efforts into dating other people,”
Jeffery watched in amazed horror as the scene outside the tram played out. A lone figure in what appeared to be a loincloth swung down from the upper bridge supports, snatching the man with the bombing vest and tossing him into the lake.
“GET DOWN!” Jeffery cried, jumping at Wowryk and pushing her to the floor.
Wowryk shouted in surprise.
“Get off me you…you…PERVERT!”
And with that, she socked Jeffery right in the eye, sending him sprawling to the floor of the tram.
Outside, there was a muffled <BOOOOOMMMM!>. Wowryk’s gaze shifted out the tram window just in time to see the nearly naked Matrian fly back through the air, sparkling as he was seized by a transporter beam. Then a wall of water crashed over the bridge, shaking the tram like a leaf in a hurricane.
“Oh,” Wowryk carefully released her left hand, which had seized the front of Jeffery’s tunic, “Ooops,”
Jeffery just groaned.
Stafford was staring out the window.
“You guys just saw a dude in a loincloth swinging off the bridge, right?” he asked slowly.
“Nope. You’ve gone insane,” Jall said cheerfully.
They clutched the various handholds as the tram was thrown around in the frigid waves of water.
There was silence for a moment.
“Do you think we should go up to the command center and help?” Yanick asked after a moment.
“Nope,” Stafford said, “I’m sure…well, fairly sure anyway, that Abela and Simplot can handle this one.”
“Not our circus,” Jall agreed, “Not our monkeys,”
“But I still think I’ll skip the cake and beam back down to the planet,” Stafford finished.
They all exchanged glances.
“Just let me get Allona,” Yanick said, “I think we’ll spend the night at our apartment in Matronus,”
“Actually, bring the cake,” Stafford told Sylvia.
“Yes sir!” she shot him a mock salute.
“I am so, so, sorry,” Wowryk said for about the tenth time as she ran a dermal regenerator over Jeffery’s black eye, “It was just a reflex,”
“Ah try to save yer life, and ye pop me one,” Jeffery grumbled. Also, for the tenth time.
“Stow it, both of you,” Stafford grumbled. They had all gathered in his condo down on the planet and had quickly sliced into the promised cake: a nicely done triple-layer affair with chocolate frosting and eight cherries, each atop a small dollop of whipped cream and spaced carefully around the outer edge. Only Valtaic was missing, having moved on to his evening…companionship.
“Nothing like a suicide bomber to make the evening interesting,” Jall quipped.
“I did have a quick chat with the CMO up on the station,” Wowryk said, still sounding embarrassed, “It was their Yynsian. Past-life problems. He’s fine now though.”
“Isn’t that a doctor-patient confidentiality thing?” Stafford asked.
“Not when it results in an explosion.” Wowryk shrugged.
“Hey,” Yanick slapped at T’Parief’s fingers as he reached for a slice of cake, “No. I brought some blood-pie for you,”
“But-“ T’Parief objected.
“Oh yeah,” Stafford looked up, “I forgot about his chocolate thing. Sorry.”
T’Parief gave the cake one last, somewhat longing glance as he accepted the slice of pie Yanick was holding out.
“Last thing I need is the father of my child getting re-addicted to a narcotic,” Yanick grumbled.
“Chocolate affects him like a narcotic,” Jall looked thoughtful, “Any chance vanilla affects him like a sedative?”
“Aphrodisiac,” Yanick said, “But he hates vanilla!”
“Hallucinogenic,” this time it was Wowryk that piped up, “I did a complete neuro-chemical analysis on him after the chocolate incident.”
“For the love of God,” Stafford looked horrified, “Keep him away from the Neapolitan ice cream,”
“Well OBVIOUSLY!” Yanick rolled her eyes.
T’Parief grunted as he took the pie and retreated into the dining room.
“So Chris,” Sylvia asked, sitting in a rather comfortable chair that was somewhat wasted on a hologram, “What do you think the chances are that you could actually convince Admiral Tunney to give us another ship?”
“Hmm? Oh, between zero and none,” Stafford sighed, “After all, we’ve got our own in Shipyard Three right now.”
“There are other ships in the area” Wowryk said thoughtfully, “Surely we can be of use there,”
“Hold on,” Jall cut in, “Those ships are just patrolling the Matrian border. Working there isn’t going to do us any good. In fact, it’s worse! I may have been to almost every decent bar on this planet, but at least I can go when I want!”
Wowryk gave him a look of disdain.
“Look, I said I’ll talk to him,” Stafford sighed, “Maybe that will do you guys some good. But he’s not going to let me go ANYWHERE until I get this mountain of paperwork finished. And that’s going to take me about-“
“Four months, two weeks, three days, eight hours, twenty minutes and thirty-two seconds,” Fifebee cut in immediately.
“Please, somebody just kill me,” Stafford groaned.
“Oh, I forgot,” Sylvia said. She fell silent, her eyes staring out into space as streams of ghostly data flickered across her irises. Even her breathing seemed to stop.
Everybody but Jall looked at her. Jall had pulled out his padd and was reading a message from one of his…playmates.
“Why, would you kill him?” Yanick finally asked Sylvia.
“Did she crash or something?” Jeffery wondered, turning to the holo-relay.
“Don’t touch that!” Fifebee snapped, “It’s been glitchy enough, trying to run both of us!”
“Oy,” Jeffery looked offended.
“One moment,” Sylvia’s voice, when she finally spoke, was decidedly cool and robotic. It was the tone of voice she used when the bulk of her processing power was focused on other things.
After another moment, her eyes re-focused and her appearance resumed its usual animation.
“OK, it’s done. Sorry, I’ve been meaning to do that for a while, but it wound up at the bottom of my processing queue,” she shrugged.
“What’s done?” Stafford asked.
“All your paperwork. Just don’t send it off all at once, or Tunney will get suspicious,”
Stafford’s eyes bugged out of his head.
“It’s done?” he almost whispered, “You mean…I don’t have to spend twelve hours a day staring at a screen, copying numbers like some mindless drone?”
“You’re welcome,” Sylvia smiled.
“Wait,” Stafford frowned, “Why the HELL didn’t you do this for me a MONTH ago??? DO YOU KNOW HOW I’VE SUFFERED???”
“It was good for you, dear,” Sylvia huffed, “Besides, I’ve been…busy. I have a lot of work to do too you know, my life doesn’t revolve around you!”
“But…but…” Stafford gulped.
“Be grateful and eat your cake,” Yanick said, handing him a plate.
Stafford stared at Sylvia for another few moments. Then, reluctantly, he shut up and ate his cake.
Two days later, Wowryk was relaxing in a noodle shop in the east side of downtown Matronus when Jeffery abruptly dropped into the seat next to her.
“Ah didn’t think Ah’d see ye, Noel,” he said, “And Ah almost didn’t even recognize ye!”
Indeed, Wowryk was wearing a form-hiding sweater, tinted glasses and had her hair up in a very un-Wowryk style.
“Simon! Don’t use my name!” Wowryk hissed, looking around frantically.
“I’m hard to find for a reason!” she said, speaking firmly but quietly, “I keep getting mobbed when I go out in public!”
“What brings you here, Simon?” Wowryk asked, “Were you looking for me?”
“Actually, ye told me this place was amazing. So Ah thought I’d bring Mira here. Do ye mind if we join ye?
Wowryk contemplated the idea of playing third wheel to Simon and his new lady and quickly came to the conclusion that no, thanks, that wasn’t exactly her idea of a good time.
“Ah, Simon, there you are,” Major Dekaire appeared at the one end of the table with two bowls of noodles in broth, “Here, try the squid noodle surprise,”
“Aye, thank ye,” Jeffery took one bowl along with a deep spoon.
“Doctor, a pleasure to finally meet you one-on-one,” Dekaire said as she sat at the table.
Wowryk look from Jeffery to Dekaire. Her plan for a private, peaceful meal had clearly crashed and burned.
But what an interesting opportunity this was, she suddenly realized. She didn’t really know anything about the new woman in Jeffery’s life…any more than Jeffery knew about Darick. And if her crewmates were worried that she and Jeffery were…well, she didn’t really know WHAT the heck they were worried about. She and Jeffery were done, they were friends, and what better way to demonstrate that then by a polite, courteous discourse with Jeffery’s new lady-friend?
“The pleasure is mine,” Wowryk said, hoping her smile looked genuine.
“Where’s…uh…Dark?” Jeffery asked, starting to fish around with his noodles.
“You mean Darik?” Wowryk corrected, “He’s on shift this evening,”
“That’s one thing I love about running my own shipyard,” Dekaire said, popping what might have been a small shrimp in her mouth, “Regular working hours,”
“How many shipyards have you worked in?” Wowryk asked.
“Two,” Dekaire was giving Wowryk an odd look, “Well, that I remember. I was a shipbuilder in the Gender Wars, but that was centuries ago. In Dreamland I designed marine pleasure craft,”
“Really? Ah didn’t know that,” Jeffery piped up, trying to get in on the conversation.
“Didn’t think you’d care,” Dekaire shrugged, “Watercraft really don’t have anything to do with starships,”
“Anyway, after the Reawakening I was basically drafted,” Dekaire went on, “I started with restoration work in the Matria Prime orbital shipyards. And when they wanted a master shipbuilder for the Silverado project, well. Not to brag, but I am the best,”
“Fascinating,” Wowryk had a look of polite interest on her face, “It certainly seems like you’ve worked your way up,”
Dekaire gave Jeffery a look that seemed a bit too much like the one she’d given Wowryk a few moments ago.
“Simon, could you go get some akiki? Thanks.”
Wowryk blinked. She almost said something, but Jeffery just smiled and left the table.
“I wouldn’t exactly call working on an alien ship working my way up,” Dekaire said flatly after Jeffery had left, “Not when you consider that I used to design boats for everybody who was anybody in Dreamland. But it beats working in a grimy, falling apart and badly maintained station,”
“I can see that,” Wowryk replied.
Jeffery returned to the table with two different bottles.
“Ah can’t remember how ye spell ‘akiki’ in Matrian. Is it one these?” he asked, indicating the bottles.
Dekaire rolled her eyes.
“Not even close, babe,” she said, “Don’t worry, I’ll get it,”
“So? What do ye think?” Jeffery asked Wowryk.
“She seems…” Wowryk trailed off, hunting for the proper word, “Good for you,”
“Whot do ye mean by that?” Jeffery demanded.
“Well, I mean she’s…she’s interested in design and engineering…type…things…”
Jeffery didn’t look convinced.
“Ye don’t like her,” he accused.
“She just doesn’t seem like she’s that interested in you!” Wowryk blurted.
“Aye? Well at least she has some understanding of intimacy!”
“If that’s the first thing you look for in a woman, I suggest a hologram,” she snapped.
“Tried that, didn’t work,” Jeffery snapped, referring to a holographic Orion dominatrix he’d once programmed. Not for sex, mind you, but to see if he was willing to take abuse from any woman.
“This,” Dekaire put a bottle down in front of Jeffery, “is akiki. Try some,”
Looking doubtful, Jeffery poured a small amount of the green sauce into his soup, stirred it, tasted, then winced.
“You will acquire a taste for it,” Dekaire sort of rolled her eyes.
“Have you tried much Terran food?” Wowryk asked, trying to forget the tension between her and Jeffery, “Our people may look very similar, but our foods seem to come from opposite ends of the galaxy,”
“What, you don’t like Matrian food?” Dekaire addressed the question to Wowryk, but she was looking out the window of the noodle house. Almost as though she expected somebody.
“Oh, I enjoy it,” Wowryk tried to backtrack. What was WITH this woman? “It’s just not the same as home,”
“I like…what was that strange thing you made last night, Simon?”
“Uh…macaroni and cheese,” Jeffery said. He was almost pouring water down his throat. Whatever akiki was, it was apparently spicy.
Dekaire’s gaze kept moving back to the window. Wowryk turned her head to follow it…
And that’s when three hover-vans abruptly descended on the parking space in front of the noodle house! The doors slammed open and nearly a dozen Matrians abruptly burst out.
Jeffery jumped to his feet, his hand going to the empty space on his belt where he might have worn a phaser, but Dekaire pulled him down.
“Relax, Simon, it’s just reporters,” she said.
Jeffery saw she was right. Instead of weapons, the Matrians were carrying microphones and cameras.
“Oh no,” Wowryk groaned, holding her face in her hands, “How did they find me THIS time???”
“This happens a lot?” Dekaire asked.
“You’d think they be bored of me by now,” Wowryk sighed. She marshaled herself, mentally calling out a quick prayer for patience.
“Well, you may as well make the best of it,” Dekaire said. She quickly adjusted her tunic. And that’s when Wowryk noticed something unusual:
For a woman who had just finished coming off a work shift in a shipyard, even a Matrian woman, Dekaire seemed to be dressed rather formally. Her tunic wasn’t wrinkled, like she’d been working all day. It was crisp and clean. She wore a gleaming, silver timepiece on one wrist, and while Matrian women disdained make-up, her hair was well-arranged and her face was clean and clear.
“You called them!” Wowryk accused, a sudden flash of anger coming over her, “Either when Jeffery first saw me, or when you went to get that spicy stuff!”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Dekaire sniffed, “Now smile before the cameras record you throwing a fit,”
“Wait,” Jeffery was looking from one woman to the other, a look of confusion on his face, “Noel, what are ye saying?”
“Look at her!” Wowryk snapped, “She’s not dressed for an after-work trip to the noodle shop! She planned this!”
“How dare ye!” Jeffery growled, “Ye think just because we’re shipbuilders we’re supposed to be…whot? Filthy?”
“Well, I don’t know about WE,” Dekaire remarked, “You’re an engineer,”
“It takes more than the ability to fix a broken door to be a shipbuilder,” Dekaire shrugged.
Then the reporters were on them.
“Doctor Wowryk! What do you think of the vote in-“
“-recent reports of Qu’Eh spies? Will you be investigating personally?”
“Please,” Dekaire raised her hands, “Dr. Wowryk was simply joining Lt Comd Jeffery and I for a meal. But if you’d like to discuss the rebuild of the famous USS Silverado-“
“You fame-mongering bitch!” Wowryk snapped.
The cameras were all recording, but now Dekaire looked flustered.
“I’m not just some reporter magnet you can use because you…you…whatever it is you want!”
Wowryk started storming out.
“Please, Noel,” Jeffery grabbed her arm, “Let’s just make a nice, orderly-“
“Were you in on this, Simon?” Wowryk demanded, “I hope you wouldn’t be inconsiderate enough to go along with her plan to use me like this!”
“Nay! Ah had no clue! But ye have to understand-“
“I have to understand nothing,” Wowryk sniffed.
“Lt Comd Jeffery, which of these women are you-“
“Planetary Inquirer,” one reporter snapped an image of Jeffery caught between the two women, “Is it true that you’ve been trying to arrange some sort of romantic threesome?”
“NAY!” Jeffery objected.
“Good day, Simon!” Wowryk snapped, breaking free and storming out of the restaurant.
“-was just an innocent date, but the next think you know we were SURROUNDED by reporters-“
“-Ah’m on the cover the ‘The Planetary Inquisitor!’ And not in a good way!”
“-honestly think I’ve slept with every available guy on the planet-“
“HEY! ALL OF YOU, SHUT UP!” Stafford finally roared.
Wowryk, Jall and Jeffery immediately quieted. Yanick and T’Parief, who hadn’t been saying much anyway, simply watched, and Valtaic didn’t even seem to be paying attention. They’d gathered in Stafford’s office, though why they had all felt the need to come and get in his hair was beyond him.
“I’ve tried, OK?” he said, “I sent about twenty different suggestions up to Tunney as to how he could better employ us. He’s not even taking my calls anymore. I can’t go to Queen Anselia, because as soon as I even hint that we’re not happy she starts hinting that we should all be running Haven instead. And I don’t think ANY of you want that?”
There was a slow shaking of heads.
“Look people, I’m sorry,” Stafford leaned back in his chair, “I know you’re sick of this place. So am I. But the reality is that until Silverado is rebuilt and ready to go, we’re stuck here. And Simon, how long-“
Stafford sighed as he answered the comm.
“Message from Admiral Tunney, Starbase 45, Priority Two,” the voice of the Matrian communications tech said.
Everybody was suddenly paying rapt attention, even Valtaic.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” Stafford grumbled, “I probably just screwed up one of the forms from last week,”
He tapped a button, and Admiral Tunney’s face appeared on his workstation.
“Admiral,” Stafford said tiredly, “Sir, if this is about-“
“Captain, shut up and listen,” Tunney said.
“Yes, sir,” This was not going to be a good conversation, Stafford could sense it already.
“Something’s come up,” Tunney went on, “And, as much as I hate it, you and your band of idiotic misfits are the best people to deal with it,”
Stafford’s eyes flickered over to his crew.
“By ‘idiotic misfits’, what do you-“
“I mean the dumb blond, the reptile freak-show, the emasculated engineer, the man-whore for men, the walking lightning bug, the bitch-doctor of death and the holographic recreation of my evil ex-wife!” Tunney snapped, with uncustomary anger.
“Uh, sir,” Stafford gulped, conscious of some very shocked and very, very angry glares being directed towards his boss.
“They’re all standing in the room with you,” Tunney finished, “I know, and I don’t care. File a harassment complaint. Or oh, wait, maybe you could…I don’t know…START SETTING EACH OTHER ON FIRE!”
“Ohhhh, so you heard about that?” Stafford gulped.
“Damn right I heard about that!” Tunney snapped, “It was in your log, for crying out loud!”
“You mean you actually READ those? Huh.”
Tunney closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“So what’s the mission?” Stafford asked, hoping to stem the tide of fury.
“This is Kallar IV,” Tunney tapped a button and a nondescript, M-Class planet appeared on Stafford’s screen, “It’s about twenty light-years from you, near the border of Qu’Eh space. A Matrian scout ship passed by last week and found that the Kallars are in contact with the Qu’Eh, but haven’t been targeted yet for ‘employment’,”
“You mean enslavement,” Wowryk spoke up.
“Exactly,” Tunney said “Now, your reports indicate that you have a warp-capable Qu’Eh ship in orbit of Matria Prime,”
“Capable doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good idea’,” Jall spoke up, “And there’s nothing wrong with being a man-“
“Warp capable,” Tunney repeated, “Captain, you and your crew will take the Qu’Eh ship to Kallar IV, under the guise of returning it to the Qu’Eh as a show of good faith. While you’re there, find out why the Qu’Eh aren’t enslaving the Kallars,”
“How do we get back?” Wowryk asked.
“You’ve got six shipyards. Build a runabout,” Tunney said flatly, “Or borrow one from the Matrians,”
“This might slow down the paperwork I’ve been working on,” Stafford said carefully. Not that it really would, Sylvia had finished it all. But anything to needle the Admiral a bit.
“Oh, that?” Tunney shook his head, “Forget it. It’s not important.”
“Forget…what?” Stafford’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened.
“Everything was already authorized,” Tunney waved a hand, “I just needed something to keep you busy and out of my hair until an actual mission turned up. Speaking of, get to work. Tunney out.”
The screen went blank.
Stafford stared at the empty screen for several seconds.
“Maybe-“ Wowryk started.
Wowryk, Jall and Yanick jumped as Stafford gave out a cry of frustration, anger and anguish that seemed to shake the very room before trailing off into a sort of squeak.
“Better?” Jall asked.
“AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!” Stafford screamed again.
“Oy, mate, quit it,” Jeffery said, rubbing his ears.
“I can’t…I can’t…so many weeks!” Stafford mumbled, “So much time, wasted!”
“But we have a mission now!” Jall said, “I mean, the ship we’re supposed to take is still a death- trap,”
“Ah have to stay here and work on Silverado” Jeffery said.
“I am most certainly going,” Wowryk said, “Although the sickbay on that ship is more of a coffee shop than a hospital, I will make it work,”
“I haven’t flown anything in months!” Yanick giggled.
“Our child is NOT going on this mission!” T’Parief snapped.
“We’ll get a babysitter. This will only take a couple of days, right?” Yanick asked.
“Twenty light-years and back again? Plus the mission itself? Try a few weeks, sweetie,” Jall said.
“Well…still,” Yanick said.
Stafford looked at her in surprise.
“Don’t you want to stay here with Allona?”
“Of course I do,” Yanick said, “But I still have a job to do. And Sylvia’s been begging me to let her babysit!”
“That reminds me,” Stafford tapped his comm-panel, “Stafford to Sylvia,”
“Sylvia here. What’s up, honey?”
“The runabouts are fixed, right? The Niagra and the Asessippi?”
“They sure are,” Sylvia said pleasantly.
“How long would it take to build two more?” Stafford asked.
There was a moment of silence.
“With full access to the replicators in a shipyard, let’s say Shipyard Six, and another two dozen bots? One day,” Fifebee’s voice replied.
“I’ll see if I can arrange it,” Stafford said.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like more?” Sylvia’s voice came back, “Six, perhaps?”
“Two is good.” Stafford frowned.
“How about four new ones, plus the two we have for an even half-dozen?”
“Two,” Stafford said flatly.
“Very well. Names?”
“We’ll think of that later,” Stafford rolled his eyes and cut the channel.
He looked around at his crew.
“OK people, we have a job to do! FINALLY!”
Up on the city, Sylvia and Fifebee were looking out into Shipyard Six.
“At least we got permission to use the shipyard,” Fifebee said slowly.
“Better late than never, I suppose” Sylvia agreed.
“Do you think they suspect anything?”
“Not yet,” Sylvia replied, “But I do not know how we’re going to keep this a secret for long.”
Next to them, one of the shipbuilding bots was looking expectantly at them.
“Your workmanship is excellent,” Sylva sighed, turning to the bot “We just have to work a bit on your ability to follow directions,”
She looked out at the shipyard floor. Row upon row and line after line, the space was filled with Starfleet Denube-class runabouts. More than the two Stafford wanted. More than the six Sylva tried to get him to take.
Somewhere around two hundred, in fact. Built over the course of the previous week.
“Which two should we give them?” Fifebee asked.
Sylvia blew out a frustrated breath, then shrugged.
“Does it matter?”