Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry. I'm not really sure how many people these days remember that. Although I do remember a hilarious episode of SG-1 where a character, played by the same actor who played Dr. Phlox, comments 'How can you call yourself a nerd and NOT worship at the alter of Roddenberry?'. But I digress. Star Traks was created by Alan Decker. I'm certain he remembers that Roddenberry create Star Trek. But if he literally worships at an actual Roddenberry alter, then I may have to evaluate my opinion of his mental well-being. Which frankly, considering he has two kids, I was already a bit concerned about. Star Traks: Silverado was created by Brendan Chris. While he remembers that Roddenberry created Star Trek, he still managed to spell his name wrong in about thirty disclaimers before noticing.

Author: Brendan Chris
Copyright: 2014

“SIMON!” Sylvia called, rushing into 3CC, “Simon, I need your help with something!”

There was a mix of Matrian shipbuilders, Starfleet engineers and even a few construction bots milling around the shipyard control center. They looked up from their various tasks, all of which were centred in one way or another on the Silverado rebuild.

“SIR!” a pale, red-headed engineer practically ran right at Sylvia, coming to attention and saluting, “LIEUTENANT COMMANDER JEFFERY IS NOT TO BE DISTURBED, SIR!”

Sylvia quickly accessed her database.

“Oh, you’re the guy Chris keeps trying to transfer off the ship,” she said, “Look, this is important, and I need Simon to help me here,”

“SIR! MAJOR DEKAIRE AND LT COMD JEFFERY ARE NOT TO BE DISTURBED DURING THEIR MORNING CONFERENCE! SIR!”

Now Sylvia was starting to understand why Stafford had wanted to get rid of this idiot.

“Tell me where he is, Technician, or I’ll tell everybody about your-“

“SIR, he is in Workshop Two, SIR!”

“That sure didn’t take much,” Sylvia mused as she rushed back out, Fifebee’s holo-relay in tow.

“Aww,” one of the Matrians said to her Starfleet counterpart, “I wanted to hear the whole story,”

“Everybody knows about it anyway,” the Starfleet crewman shrugged, “He’s just in denial,”

“Oh.”


Sylvia hurried into the workshop, expecting to find Jeffery and Dekaire fully naked and in the process of mating. She wasn’t disappointed.

“SYLVIA!”

“What the-HEY!”

She wasn’t expecting…well. Let’s just say that with typical human intercourse, the male and female partners take certain roles. Neither Jeffery nor Dekaire were in the role she expected.

“Our of curiosity,” she asked, as the two rushed to cover themselves, “Are Matrian women typically the dominant sexual partner, or is that something you’re into specifically? Chris, of course, refuses to tell me about his…relations…with anyone, Matrian or otherwise. And I don’t really want to know, to be honest.”

“But ye don’t mind invading me privacy?” Jeffery demanded.

“Well, considering the work you all are doing on my body right now, I think walking in on you mid-coitus is a prety small thing,” Sylvia arched an eyebrow, “And besides, this workshop isn’t exactly a private space.”

Her panic subroutine reminded her that there was currently a panic-related situation in effect.

“And I need your help with something really important!” she added, somewhat less calmly.

“Can Ah get me pants back on first?”

“Please do,” Sylvia was turning away when Dekaire approached her angrily.

“If you tell ANYONE-“

“Come now, Major,” Sylvia put her hands on her hips, “It’s Simon. Everybody knows what you two are doing. And nobody cares.”

“You TOLD them?” Dekaire demanded of Jeffery.

“Nay!”

“He didn’t have to,” Sylvia assured her, “We just know him pretty well.”


After waiting impatiently while Jeffery and Dekaire got dressed, Sylvia finally barged back into the workshop. She half expected the two to have resumed their mating, but was surprised that the issue was far simpler. And far less interesting.

“Look, I am CERTAIN that those are MY socks!” Dekaire was saying to Jeffery, the latter holding a pair of black socks, “Yours are the ones with the holes in them,”

“For Pete’s sake you two, I have some serious problems here!” Sylvia snapped, “I have tried the polite way to get you to listen, and it hasn’t worked. Now, you will listen to me! Or I will become very, very angry!

“Ah’m sorry,” Jeffery started.

“Don’t apologize to her Simon!” Dekaire snapped.

“Do you want the security footage of this workshop to accidentally get re-routed to the Planetary Inquirer?’ Sylvia asked her sweetly.

Dekaire paled.

“Look, just…what’s wrong?” Jeffery asked.

“I haven’t heard from Fifebee since the Checklist was attacked, and my construction bots are…well…I’m having some problems,” Sylvia explained.

“The whot?” Jeffery asked.

“Oh, sorry, the Checklist is what Stafford and Jall named their Qu’Eh ship.

“How long ago was the attack?”

“Couple of days,” Sylvia shrugged.

“And yer just getting worried NOW??” Jeffery demanded, “Never mind the bots, our shipmates could be dead!”

“Hush,” Sylvia waved his concerns away, “They’re fine. Mostly, I think. I can’t actually contact the ship, but I do get a message saying ‘We are sorry, our communications system is currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please try your call again later’. And they’re moving. So it’s just comms issues. But the bigger problem is the bots!”

“What did you do??” Dekaire demanded, colour returning to her face.

“Come see!” Sylvia insisted.


Dekaire and Jeffery followed Sylvia into the Shipyard Six Control Center.

“Look,” she pointed out at the window, down at the floor.

They did.

“Hey, is that all our missin’ stuff?” Jeffery asked.

“The bots had already built a new runabout, as an experiment. On their own! Before Chris asked for a couple for the mission,” Sylvia admitted, deciding it was finally time to come clean, “But they wanted to keep building, they wouldn’t stop! They borrowed a bunch of materials and had over two hundred of the darned things finished before Fifebee and I put a stop to it. We finally got them to tear everything back apart.”

“Why, by the Goddess, did you do that?” Dekaire demanded, “We could have traded those to the Federation for that antimatter generation station they keep denying us!”

“But they also activated more bots from Shipyard One!” Sylvia protested, “On their own! And they’re insisting they be allowed to build more ships!”

The doors hissed open and the two alpha bots strolled in. The interface padd on the console beeped.

Jeffery picked it up.

“All the materials here are ready to be returned, and the extra bots have gone back to storage, just like you commanded,” he read, “Look, Sylvia, Ah have a lot of work to do-“

“Oh, yes, I saw exactly what kind of work you’re doing!” Sylvia said heatedly, “But the bots were refusing to follow commands!”

Dekaire took the padd.

“I don’t see that,” she said, scrolling through the pages of output.

Sylvia snatched the padd back. Sure enough, the ominous line the bots had given her about how ‘The experiment must continue’ had disappeared.

“Simon,” she tried again, “It pains me to admit this, but I think I may have accidentally encouraged the bots to think for themselves just a teensy bit too much,”

“Ah’m goin’ back to work,” Jeffery said, almost rolling his eyes.

“Major,” Sylvia turned to Dekaire, “Surely you understand-“

“I understand that you have shipbuilding bots that built lots of ships,” Dekaire cut her off, “And that through some string-pulling with your Captain, you are actually permitted to experiment in this shipyard. Without even informing the current Starbase chain of command. Lucky you. I fail to see the problem.”

“At least isolate the bots from each shipyard, in case it IS a glitch that could spread!” Sylvia insisted.

“Oh very well. Now, if you would kindly see that the material down there is either returned or put to good use, we have work to do,” Dekaire said.

They left.

Sylvia collapsed in her chair, aware that it was a very organic reaction to her situation. Across the room, the two bots stared back at her with expressions that somehow managed to be smug.

“Well, you heard her,” Sylvia turned to her console, “Go take care of that stuff while I go through your base code. Again.”


A short time later and many light-years away, things were heating up.

“The Tapart ship has entered hailing range,” Lt Comd T’Parief reported. He stood at the Tactical Authority seat of the Qu’Eh vessel’s Leadership Table. Well, the Qu’Eh might call it a Leadership Table, but to the Silverado crew it was this ridiculous, gigantic desk that dominated the rear half of the ship’s bridge and demanded a living person sit at each seat in order to authorize whatever it was the people at the actual control consoles at the front of the bridge were tying to do.

“Thank God they haven’t shot at us yet,” Stafford said from the Senior Manager’s seat, “Hail them! Maybe we can explain to them that we AREN’T Qu’Eh and don’t deserve to be blown up!”

“Hailing,” Lt Bithe said from the forward tactical station.

“Authorizing,” T’Parief added. He paused. “They are responding. Lieutenant, you are cleared to see their incoming channel,”

“Opening channel,” Bithe replied.

“Authorizing opening of channel,” T’Parief added.

“For the love of God, SHUT UP!” Stafford snapped.

“We have not said anything yet,” the face on the viewscreen said, the Universal Translator giving the voice a confused quality. At last, they assumed it was a face. The alien they were speaking to looked more like a jack-o-lantern, with a wide, orange head, broad, lip-less mouth, a hole for a nose and two bundles of some sort of optic fibre that emerged from it’s shiny, thick looking skin where one would normally find eye sockets.

On the ugly scale, most of the crew ranked it around a 9.5/10.

“I…uh. I apologize,” Stafford said formally, “I wasn’t actually talking to you. I’m Captain Christopher Stafford of the USS Silverado, and-“

“Your vessel is not the USS Silverado,” the alien cut him off, “We have sensor scans of that vessel, obtained courtesy of the Matrian government. In fact, they provided us with sensor scans of all Federation vessels operating in their space, in order to prevent any unfortunate misunderstandings. Your vessel, however, is clearly a Qu’Eh mothership.” The alien paused, its optic bundles spreading in some unfathomable expression, “The Qu’Eh have failed to enslave us with any of their methods, mostly because we continue to destroy their ships.” It paused again, the optic bundles doing an odd, side-to-side motion, “We will therefore destroy you,”

“Wait!” Stafford said, “Do we look like Qu’Eh? And besides, we don’t want to come to your planet, we’re just heading for the Qu’Eh border!”

“You claim not to be Qu’Eh, but are travelling aboard a Qu’Eh ship toward Qu’Eh territory?” the alien asked, sounding almost as though speaking to a small child. Or an idiot.

“Well, we’re…it’s complicated,” Stafford said, “But we’re humans! I can’t stress that enough!”

There was a rumble from T’Parief.

“Most of us are human,” Stafford clarified.

“Maybe you are Qu’Eh, maybe you are not,” the alien rotated it’s head to the left briefly, “But surely we would have been notified by the Matrians of your trip if you were not. They have been most careful about keeping us informed. We believe it is because they fear we will take revenge for their previous indiscretions,”

“Stall him,” Fifebee whispered in Stafford’s ear, “Jall is very close to resolving the issue with the long-range communications,”

“Uh, maybe you could call the Matrians?” Stafford suggested.

“We dislike contact with outsiders,” the alien said, “Which is why the Matrian fear of us is nothing but an amusement. Though they dislike it when we tell them that. In any event, the evidence is not in your favour, and we believe in being thorough. Good-bye,”

The screen went blank.

“They’re targeting weapons!” Stern warned.

“Evasive!” Stafford snapped.

“Taking evasive manoeuvres!” Pye barked from the helm.

“Authorizing…wait, Pye? Did you REALLY mean to do Beta-7?” Yanick asked.

“Well, no, it was Beta-5,” Pye replied.

“But five doesn’t have that barrel roll at the end,”

“JUST AUTHORIZE IT BEFORE THEY SHOOT!” Stafford yelled.

“Oh, right,”

They almost made it. The Tapart ship fired two blasts of energy at the Qu’Eh vessel. One missed, but the other grazed the broad, flat upper portion of the ship, giving everybody a good shake.


“Shit,” Commander Jall swore, fingers racing over a console while Lt Sage was buried arms-deep in a communications access panel, “I think that hit just scrambled more of the software! I almost had Fifebee’s holographic interface talking to the transceiver!”

“There’s nothing else wrong with the hardware!” Sage insisted, “I’ve re-routed all the damaged circuits!”

“I’m working on it!” Jall hissed.

The comm chirped.

“Jall!” Stafford’s voice called, “They’re not listening to me, and they’re too stubborn to call up Matrian Prime themselves! If you don’t get long-range comms working NOW, we’re all dead!”

“Look, there is NO possible way I can figure this out in-“

Jall fell to the floor as the ship shook hard. Lights flickered out and there was a groan as all the systems around them shut down. Then another as everything turned back on.

Jall pulled himself up to the console. The various screens were coming back up as the system rebooted.

“Ouch,” he said, “Look, just try not to let them knock us around too much and I’ll see what we can-“

“Long range comms are back on-line!” Sage announced.

“Fifebee! Get back to Haven and sort this out!” Stafford snapped, “And Jall, get up here! I need your finger pressing an ‘Authorize’ button!”

The comm went dead.

“Good work, Sage,” Jall said as he turned to the door.

“I didn’t fix it,” Sage shrugged, “Must have been the reboot,”

Jall turned back, a very dark look in his eyes.

“But we tried rebooting the system,” he objected, “Several times,”

Sage shrugged.

Jall barely restrained himself from kicking anything on his way out the door.


Sylvia had been staring at the bot code for hours, unaware of the battle that was just now taking place many light-years away. Everything seemed to be in order. Analytical subroutines, construction subroutines, materials handling subroutines, everything a robot would need to go out there and build something based on a set of blueprints. And everything seemed right.

The only wild card that had her concerned was the adaptive nature of the programming. But that was fairly standard with technology of a certain level. Adaptive programming could adjust to unexpected input without specially designed subroutines being needed. Federation computers had been doing that sort of thing for centuries. With only a few…unfortunate…incidents.

She rose from her seat, deciding she needed a break. She walked over to the window and looked into the shipyard.

Her jaw dropped as she looked out.

It had only been a few hours, but the bots were already hard at work on a new shipbuilding project. And they’d brought friends. Gravity had been shut down in the shipyard, and already several girders were being welded together, forming the slightest of skeletal shapes. The cloud of bots hard at work was less than half the size of the group working on Silverado, but still numbered in the many dozens.

Sylvia grabbed the interface padd, summoning the alphas immediately. She looked at the last few pages, trying to find some sort of glitch or garbled input command that might have caused this.

Nothing. They’d simply…started working. Why?

There was a sizzle of holographic sparks as a new body entered the room.

“Oh, thank Soong,” Fifebee gave a sigh of relief, “I was concerned my program would be corrupted in the transfer!”

“Fifebee!” Sylvia exclaimed, “You’re back! Comms issues, I assume?”

“Yes, but we have no time to…” Fifebee trailed off as she looked out the window, “What are you doing?”

“I am not doing anything!” Sylvia aid, “The bots are…I don’t know! They’re getting out of control! I was just starting to investigate when-“

“We have no time,” Fifebee said again, “The Captain and the others are under attack. We must discover why the notification of their voyage was not sent,”

“Chris probably forgot,” Sylvia sighed.

“He claims not. Let us make haste to the planet,”

Several bots began entering the room as the two holograms were leaving

“We’ll have to discuss this later,” Sylvia said, “But you need to stop doing things without authorization!”

“You,” Fifebee pointed at a random bot, “Just make sure nothing else goes wrong until we get back!”

The two holograms rushed to the tram station, towing the relay behind them.

“This is too slow,” Fifebee complained, “Far too slow. The Captain and the others will be destroyed before we even make it to the planet!”

“I have an idea,” Sylvia said.


Halfway across the city, Lt Wyer was sitting in the Runabout Cataraqui. As the Director of the Department of Dome Operations, he really had nothing to do with runabout maintenance. But with Lt Comd Virgii gone, he was trying to help carry the workload.

There was a hum from behind him. He turned, half-expecting the transporter to come to life. But the pad remained dark. After a moment, the hum stopped.

“Odd,” he shrugged.


Fifebee and Sylvia materialized at the front entrance to the Matrian Government Complex.

“See, site-to-site transport was faster,” Sylvia said, “I just wish I hadn’t told the bots to dismantle all those runabouts, those Starbase 341 people might get suspicious if they check their transporter logs,”

“I am sure we will be fine,” Fifebee said, grabbing the relay and rushing for the door.

“HOLD IT!”

Both holograms stopped in their tracks. Several Matrian guards had jumped up from their security stations near the building entrance the minute they’d started rushing in.

“We need to get to Captain Stafford’s office,” Fifebee explained.

“ID?” the lead guard asked.

Sylvia and Fifebee exchanged glanced.

“We’re holograms,” Fifebee said, “We don’t have ID,”

“Well, she’s a hologram,” Sylvia added, “I’m just the virtual avatar of the USS Silverado’s computer system.”

“Do virtual avatars have ID?” the guard asked.

“Well, no,” Sylvia admitted.

“Then we have a problem,” the guard said.


“Evasive manoeuvre Delta-Two!” Stafford barked.

“Engaging,” Pye replied.

“Authorizing” Yanick said, “But that’s not Delta-Two!”

“OK, look, I admit it, OK?” Pye snapped, “I’m terrible with all the evasive manoeuvre names, and most of the time the person in command can’t tell the difference anyway!”

“I knew something was fishy,” Jall admitted to Stafford.

“Let’s put him on report later,” Stafford replied.

“Yeah! Command team high-five!” Jall held up a hand, only to fall backward as the inertial dampeners failed to fully compensate for the current manoeuvre.

“Also,” he said from the floor, “Let’s tell the Qu’Eh that the quality of their inertial dampening system sucks,”

“There’s a ‘Quality of Ship Systems - Inertial Dampening’ form over by the turbolift,” Lt Burke said helpfully.

“I’ll pass, thank you,” Jall replied as he hauled himself up.

“We’ve got to buy more time until Fifebee can sort all this out,” Stafford cursed, “Do we have long-range comms with Haven now?”

“Just the holo-interface for now,” Jall said, “The rest will take another hour or so,”

“Shit,”

“What about the emergency distress beacon?” Wowryk asked. Stafford hadn’t even realized she’d come up from Sickbay, but with the skeleton crew they were running he imagined Sickbay was probably empty anyway.

“The only people listening for a Qu’Eh distress beacon would be…oh…” Stafford trailed off.

“We are near the Qu’Eh border,” T’Parief rumbled, checking a nav chart.

“Engage the beacon. Set course for the border, maximum warp!” Stafford ordered.

“The Tapart ship will knock us out of warp long before we get there!” Stern objected.

“We don’t need to get there,” Stafford said.


“Convinced?” Fifebee asked.

“I suppose so,” the guard said, “You certainly are a hologram,”

“Excellent. Now, please take your hand out of my chest,”

“Sorry,” The guard withdrew his hand from Fifebee’s body, and she reset her projection to hard-light, “And look! Now I have ID!” A holographic ID card, very official looking, appeared in her hand.

“Holoraphic ID doesn’t count,” the guard said.

“Their names check out anyway,” another guard called from a workstation, “Not much information otherwise,”

“Look, we’re just trying to figure out why nobody notified some potential hostile aliens that our crew-mates would be flying an alien ship near their territory!” Sylvia said, “If you want to come with us to make sure we’re not going to…I don’t know…blow the place up, then please do! But we’re in a hurry!”

The guard gestured, and two of the junior guards took up positions flanking the two.

“Go. These two will accompany you,”

They rushed through the corridors of the building to Stafford’s office. Sylvia quickly logged into his computer (she had no direct link with planetary systems) and accessed his sent messages.

“Yes, here it is,” she frowned, “It was sent to the Minister of Planetary Defence and to Admiral Verithi.”

“Fifebee to-“

“Don’t bother,” Sylvia gently blocked Fifebee’s hand from reaching her comm-badge, “You’ll never get through from there. But from Chris’s panel…”

She tapped away, then a Matrian woman appeared.

“Ah, Captain…wait. You’re not Captain Stafford,”

“Not exactly,” Sylvia said, “Look, Minister, we need to discuss a message that Captain Stafford asked you to send,”

“Hmm? Oh, that thing about the Qu’Eh ship?” the Minister shrugged, “Yes. We didn’t send it.”

“That’s sort of the problem,” Sylvia said.


“The Tapart ship is firing again!” T’Parief reported.

“Pye!” Stafford barked.

“Evasive man…shifting left!” Pye replied.

“Authorized,” Yanick said.

“Trish you don’t have to keep saying that,” Jall pointed out.

“Hey, I’ve got ONE JOB on this stupid ship right now,” Yanick shoved a finger in Jall’s face, “I’m gonna do it!”

“Fine. Be that way.”

The ship shuddered as a Tapart torpedo barely missed them.

“Havin’ trouble keeping the warp field stable!” Sage called over the comm from engineering, “One more close hit like that and-“

The ship shuddered again, then the starlines shrunk back to stars as something below decks groaned.

“-and we’ll drop out of warp,” Sage finished.

“Get us back to warp!” Stafford ordered.

“Instability in the warp core,” Sage said, “Give me…oh, I don’t know. Ten minutes? Jeffery usually says ten minutes, right?”

“You’ve got two!”

“The Tapart are almost on us!” Bithe called.

Pye slammed at his console.

“Trish-“

“Authorized!”

The Qu’Eh ship shot straight down, but took a hit on the shields anyway.

“Shields at 20%!” T’Parief called, “Honourable deaths, keep your seats. Cowardly survivors, the runabout bay is-“

“We’ve got two ships coming out of warp!” Burke cut him off, “They’re Qu’Eh!”

“They are firing on the Tapart ship,” T’Parief reported.

On the screen they watched as two dark green ships shot past them, identical to their own and still resembling giant flying clipboards with boxy sections attached to their undersides. Weapons splashed out, hitting the Tapart ship and rocking it back.

“Unidentified vessel, this is Manager Huyar,” a Qu’Eh voice came over audio, “We are commencing rescue operations. Please have all functional monitoring equipment operating as per SOPs in order to ensure proper quality assurance of this rescue manoeuvre,”

“Of course,” Stafford said, “Uh…”

“Finest quality to you,” Jall cut in, “Synergistic Alignment out,”

“And also to you,” the comm dropped.

Stafford was looking at Jall in surprise

“They held me captive for months,” Jall shrugged, “I learned how they talk, OK?”

“The Tapart ship is falling back!” Bithe reported.

“Wow, who ever thought we’d be happy to have the Qu’Eh here?” Wowryk mused.


“Why didn’t you send the message?” Fifebee demanded, “The Senousians attacked us, the Tapart are probably attacking the ship right now. You may have killed people!”

“Well, if Adviser Stafford had bothered to check his messages in the past few days,” the Minister said snottily, “he would have noticed that I attempted several times to clarify the language of his communique. This is, after all, a message that will come from the Matrian government and must therefore-“

Sylvia checked the inbox. Sure enough, there were nearly twenty messages from the Minister and from Admiral Verithi just on the subject of the message. The first was was dated the day after Stafford and crew had departed.

“He’s been gone!” Fifebee exclaimed, “He’s ON THE QU’EH SHIP!”

“Well how were we supposed to know?” the Minister asked peevishly, “He didn’t set his Out of Office notification or anything!”

Sylvia and Fifebee exchanged a glance.

“Well, now you know,” Sylvia said, “And you know their lives are in jeopardy. Please send the message immediately,”

“Of course,” the Minister sniffed, “By the end of the business-“

“NOW!” both women chorused.

“Fine!” The Minister tapped her panel, then looked up at them, her nose curled, “It’s sent! Happy?”

“Thanks!” Sylvia let out a breath of relief.

“We’ll be sure Stafford calls you later,” Fifebee said flatly, cutting the channel.

They looked at each other for a moment, then giggled.

“Forgot to set his out of office reminder,” Sylvia chuckled, “Oh, Chris,”

“What a stupid thing to almost die for,” Fifebee agreed, “They are most fortunate that we have, most likely, saved their lives,”


“I’m afraid we’re having some problems with our communications systems,” Stafford was saying to Manager Huyar, “That is why we had to use the emergency beacon. And why we can’t turn on our viewscreen,”

“We are currently in the process of completing the necessary Quality of Ship Systems forms,” Jall cut in smoothly, “We expect to have them tabulated shortly,”

“Your use of the beacon, though within established protocols, is still rather inventive,” Huyar said, “Most Managers wait until their ship is fully disabled. I suspect that as this prevented further ship damage, you may be eligible for bonus quality scoring! Ohhh, I envy you!”

“Um…thanks,” Stafford gulped. He dropped his voice and turned to Jall, “Get those long-range comms working,”

“Right. After I make sure you don’t say something stupid enough to have us killed,” Jall replied.

Stafford rolled his eyes

“Do you require further assistance?” Huyar asked, “I’m sure my crew would welcome the chance to be evaluated as they assist in your repairs,”

“A kind offer,” Stafford said, “But we are due at Kallar IV, and would hate to loose…uh…”

“Hate to have our quality score docked due to tardiness,” Jall finished. “See?” he whispered to Stafford.

“Very well,” Huyar said, “We will keep you on scans until we are certain the Tapart are-“

There was a fizzle of holographic sparks as Fifebee appeared on the bridge.

“Success!” she said, “The message has been sent!”

“Message?” Huyar asked, “Who is that?” There was some soft muttering over the line as somebody on the other end spoke to Huyar.

“Uh, oh,” Stafford and Jall exchanged glances.

“We just intercepted a message stating that a Qu’Eh vessel captured by the Matrians and crewed by Starfleeters is en router to Kallar IV,” Huyar’s voice had gone hard, “You wouldn’t by chance know anything about that, would you?”

“Uh…” Stafford gulped, “Jall, tell me warp drive is back up?”

“Just about…yup!”

“Activate your viewscreen,” Huyar ordered, “Now,”

“They’re locking weapons!” T’Parief snapped.

“Pye,” Stafford looked like he couldn’t decide whether to panic or face-palm, “Set course after that Tapart ship! And as soon as we’re in range, tell them we need help!”

“Authorized!” Yanick said brightly, as the stolen Qu’Eh vessel spun around and jumped into warp, narrowly evading a spray of Qu’Eh photon torpedoes.

“And nice timing, Fifebee!” Stafford snapped.


Aboard the Tapart vessel, Commander Punken was reading the message that had just been received when his Chief Sensor Specialist gestured for his attention.

With a brief flick of his optic strands, he indicated for the Chief Specialist to speak.

“The Qu’Eh vessel we chased away is now on an intercept course,” it said, “Two more Qu’Eh ships are persuing. They are attempting to fire on it,”

“Hail them,”

“They are apparently still having long-range comms issues,”

Punken waited patiently until an indicator lit up, indicating that short-range comms were now adequate.

“Captain Stafford,” he said, greeting the ugly alien that appeared on the screen. These Matrians and similar aliens looked to Punken like no more than soggy bags hanging off a bony frame, “We have received a message from the Matrian home-world regarding your journey! I am pleased that we did not annihilate you, though still feel our caution was fully justified.

“Yeah, yeah,” Stafford said, “Um…any chance you feel like making it up to us by helping blow up the Qu’Eh that are trying to kill us?”

“Why did you summon them with your emergency beacon if they were going to try to kill you?” Punken inquired.

“Well…” Stafford hesitated, “Bad timing,”

“I do not understand,”

“Look, please help us anyway?”

Punken considered.

“If they enter our space, we will…discourage them,” it conceded.

“Thanks! Stafford out,”


“Hail the Qu’Eh,” Stafford ordered.

“Channel open,” Bithe said.

“Authorized,” T’Parief seconded.

“Manager Huyan!” Stafford called, “If you continue your course, the Tapart will fire upon you. Look, we’re actually planning on giving this ship back to the Qu’Eh! If you finish reading that message, it says so! So just let us be on our way to Kallar IV and..uh…”

“And we won’t tell anybody about how badly this is impacting the quality of our delivery,” Jal added.

The viewscreen blinked on, the image of Manager Huyan appearing.

“If that is so, then simply turn the ship over to us now. We promise to permit you to turn down any employment offers given prior to your departure,”

“Well…” Stafford trailed off. The whole return of the ship was nothing but a flimsy excuse for them to find out why Kallar IV was strangely free of call centres and other signs of Qu’Eh ‘employment’. Turning the ship over to these Qu’Eh would eliminate their whole cover story.

“I’m afraid that’s against company policy,” Jall cut in smoothly, “If we deliver this ship anywhere other than the authorized destination, we will be severely docked on our quality score. Possibly even given written reprimands!”

Huyan visibly winced.

“Of course,” she said, holding up a hand, “Say no more. I will be sure a duly authorized Qu’Eh representative meets you at Kallar IV,”

“Thanks,” Staffod said weakly, “Uh…finest quality,”

“To you as well. Huyar out,”

“They are moving back to the Qu’Eh border,” Bithe reported.

There was a collective sigh of relief.

“SHIT!” Jall barked, causing everybody to jump.

“What?” Wowryk demanded.

“We forgot to ask them for food!”

Stafford gave Jall a half-grin.

“Considering they’re not going to kill us, I think it’s still a win,” he said, “Pye, take us to Kallar IV. Jall, I want those comms sorted out. But first, senior staff to the meeting room. We have a few issues to iron out.”

The meeting room was fairly easy to find, being at the end of the hallway behind the door labelled ‘Manager’s Executive Conference Center’. Nobody had bothered going inside yet…the bridge setup was practically a meeting room on its own.

Now, as the senior staff entered the Qu’Eh senior staff meeting room, jaws dropped in astonishment.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Stafford said.

“What unholy abomination unto the Lord is this?” Wowryk breathed.

The Qu’Eh meeting room was a cavernous space, easily two decks high and almost triple the size of the bridge. A long table with at least two dozen seats dominated the center, with repeater displays hanging from the ceiling to show ship status readouts to the appropriate seat; Ops to Ops, Engineering to Engineering, helm to helm. On the table were complex workstations, some of them showing the standard word-processing or meeting organizing software, but others giving full controls over ship systems. The far wall was a huge double-high window looking into space, framed by what looked like the emitter strips of a holographic viewscreen. And the opposite wall was a beverage service station that put even the biggest Beanus Coffee Hut to shame.

“These consoles have full control over ship systems!” Jall exclaimed, poking at the Science Officer panel. Yanick rushed over to the seat at the table for the senior helm manager. A few taps, and the ship dropped out of warp. A few more and it kicked back in.

“Uh, bridge to Stafford,” Pye’s voice came over the comm, “We just-“

“Forget it,” Stafford said, cutting the channel.

“That’s not all,” T’Parief said, opening a panel on the wall opposite the entrance.

“Hmm?” Stafford peaked inside.

“Stasis bins,” he exclaimed, “and…FOOD!”

The panel T’Parief had opened revealed deep, slide-out racks filled with pastries, a small warming unit built in near the top. Stafford moved a panel over and found row after row of stasis-preserved sandwiches and salads. A third revealed a variety of cheese and cold cut trays.

“Who the hell keeps all their food in the briefing room???” Jall demanded, “Also, all the DAMNED CONTROL SYSTEMS!!??”

“The same idiots who designed that nightmare of a bridge,” Stafford grunted, “OK, people. Grab a plate and let’s get this meeting on the road!”

“Why did we not look in here earlier?” Valtaic asked Jall.

“Because the last thing anybody wanted was to spend half the trip sitting in one of Stafford’s endless meetings,” Jall replied

“Hey,” Stafford looked hurt.

“Second question,” Wowryk asked, hunting around for some soup, “Why didn’t we have one of the Starfleet ships in the sector escort us to Kallar IV? Would that not have saved us a great deal of trouble,”

Stafford and Jall looked at each other.

“Ooops,” Jall shrugged.


Back in orbit of Matria Prime, Sylva parked Fifebee’s relay in the corner of the shipyard control center. Thank goodness that bit of nastiness had been resolved! Jall had finally fixed the long-range comms an hour or so after Fifebee had transferred back to the Checklist. The first message back had been a request for replicator patterns for the runabouts, and a request to log a reminder to ask for an escort the next time they flew an enemy ship through unfriendly territory. Sylvia was about to wonder how a prostitute would help, but then her homophone subroutine kicked in and informed her that they probably meant a different kind of escort.

All thoughts of language and grammar flew from her head as she looked out the window into the shipyard. The few girders the bots had constructed before had, in the last few hours, grown into the faintest outline of an object. Something…saucer-shaped, from the look of it. As she watched, the dozens of newly activated bots seemed to work almost frantically to finish the structure of…of…

Sylvia gaped. She knew that shape! It wasn’t one that anybody saw often. In fact, other than a museum vessel in orbit of Pluto, nobody had seen that shape in centuries!

The bots were building an NX-class starship! She was certain of it!

She summoned the alphas. But instead of the crowd of bots she was expecting, only a single bot emerged.

“Where are the rest of the alphas?” Sylvia demanded.

The interface padd beeped. Cursing, Sylvia realized she hadn’t gotten around to installing the speech subroutines. Maybe that was a good thing.

<Other alphas now subordinate. Construction on NX-class vessel initiated, based on publicly available schematics in Federation historical database.> the padd read.

“And who authorized that?” Sylvia tried to keep the edge out of her tone. And failed, “I keep telling you, you can’t just go off and do things like this on your own!”

<Authorization, Major Dekaire, Master Shipbuilder>

Sylvia frowned. She scrolled back, but could find no record of…wait…

“Oh very well. Now, if you would kindly see that the material down there is either returned or put to good use, we have work to do,” Dekaire had said.

“Put to good use,” Sylvia muttered, “Oh,no.”

The bots had taken it literally. That one statement had left a loophole that had allowed them to start a new project. Which meant…

“You’re the one that Fifebee told ‘make sure nothing goes wrong’,” Sylvia said, a dark feeling coming over her, “You interpreted that as…oh, no,”

The padd beeped.

<This one has assumed position of Prime Alpha, as authorized by Designer Fifebee,> the padd read <This one has increased assembly efficiency by 50%. NX-class estimated completion, sixteen days, four hours, eighteen minutes.>

“Stop assembly, immediately,” Sylvia ordered.

<Unable to comply. Higher authorization was received. This one must ensure completion of project.>

There was no doubt about it, this time, Sylvia fumed. The damned robot DEFINITELY looked smug.


Chief Engineer’s Log, Stardate 59390.7


“We’re officially running out of space. Ah know! In a space station this size, with all these empty shipyards, who would have thought? But we’ve got bits and pieces of Silverado stacked in all the cargo bays and workshops attached to Shipyard Three. And Four. And Two. Plus piles o’stuff in those shipyards themselves. We’re lucky nobody’s usin’ them,”

“Sylvia’s been right quiet in Shipyard Six for the past couple of days. Last time I saw her, she’d just gotten all those extra runabouts torn apart. Glad that was sorted. I actually expected her to show up in 3CC a while ago to check on the Silverado rebuild, but no sign of her. Probably a good thing. Major Dekaire has been making noises about studying some of Sylvia’s subroutines, and that sort of thing never goes over well.”

“Still, I should probably try to find her?”


Jeffery’s search for Sylvia didn’t take him far. He simply walked up to the double doors leading into the Shipyard Six complex. Unfortunately, they were locked.

He could have called Sylvia, but something stopped him from simply tapping his comm-badge and requesting access. There was something fishy about this…why would Sylvia close off the shipyard?

Had she?

He also could have called Major Dekair and asked her to use her override…but dammit, he was still a Starfleet engineer! And he probably knew more about Haven than she did! And just because she still didn’t like him using her first name didn’t mean anything!

Stick to the problem at hand, Jeffery reminded himself.

He pulled a panel off the wall. Luckily, the doors were simply locked with the standard locking system. The nearly unbreakable physical locking mechanism used for high-security lock-downs was not engaged. He tapped at his tricorder a bit, switched around a couple of wires inside the panel, then gave himself a satisfied pat on the back as the doors hissed obediently open.

“Ah still got it,” he said, stepping through.

He navigated several hallways, rode a turbolift up a few levels and soon arrived at the control center.

“Sylvia?’ he called, “Are ye here?”

He quickly spotted her hologram. It was standing near the windows, looking down into the shipyard.

“Hey Sylvia,” he said, “Glad Ah caught ye. Ye’ve been sort of a stranger, and…bugger me!”

Outside the window, a veritable cloud of construction bots were buzzing around, carrying beams, plates, welding pieces together, measuring the strength of the resulting welds. Shipbuilding stuff.

But he was stunned both by what they were building and how quickly it was coming together.

It was an NX-class ship, that much he saw at once. The saucer frame looked complete, and the bots were already starting to place the interior decks and the exterior hull-plating. They hadn’t started on the nacelles yet, but the nacelle pylons were in place. The NX-class was a tiny ship, 22nd-Century era, with only seven habitable decks. It was so antiquated as to be laughable.

On the other hand, Jeffery realized, it was also comprised of alloys and materials that were so common-place in the modern Federation as to be laughable. Silverado was actually getting a partial hull upgrade with the rebuild, as it was easier to replace damaged plating with modern materials than to try to duplicate the alloys used fifty years ago. But the NX-class actually used honest-to-God titanium in its hull, and the bots could grab that stuff from any moon in the system.

“Clever,” he said, “A ship that size, cheap materials, ye probably could have that up and running in less than a month. By why, Sylvia? Whot are ye trying’ to prove? Are ye trying to prove yer a better building than Dekaire? Cuz that museum piece ain’t gonna cut it!”

Sylvia said nothing.

“Also, this secret project thing of yers,” Jeffery went on, “Ah get it, with the runabouts. Ye didn’t want to set expectations, ye just wanted to let yer finished product speak for itself. Ah’m an engineer! Ah totally get it! And there would have been so many questions…why runabouts, why not a ship, is this worth the materials…all that. But ye proved it. Ye don’t need to keep buildin’ stuff!”

Again, Sylvia said nothing.

“Sylvia?” Jeffery turned to the holographic avatar. Its eyes were staring blankly ahead, unmoving. It didn’t even appear to be breathing, which Fifebee and Sylvia both simulated as a way to appear more natural.

He waved his hand in front of the holograms eyes. Nothing.

He moved over to the holo-relay and tapped a button or two.

“Who’s messing with the…oh. Simon. What are you doing in the shipyard?” Sylvia’s voice came from the comm-system.

“Well, I thought Ah was talkin’ to ye,” he gestured at the hologram, “But Ah guess Ah was talkin’ to meself,”

“Oh, shoot,” Sylvia exclaimed, “Did I leave that stupid thing on again? Sorry!”

The hologram fizzled out.

“Why aren’t ye…why am Ah talkin’ to ye through the comm?” Jeffery asked.

“I need the processing power,” Sylvia said curtly, “I have a bit of a problem, if you haven’t noticed, and I’m trying to figure out how to fix it,”

“Aye,” Jeffery nodded, “But Ah think the best way is to just admit that Dekaire is the Master Shipbuilder. Trying to out-build her, or whatever yer doin-“

“I am NOT trying to out-build anyone!” Sylvia snapped, “Simon, do you think I actually instructed the bots to build that ship out there? They’re doing it on their own!”

Jeffery blinked while Sylvia filled him in on the loophole Dekaire had inadvertently given the bots.

“So just turn them off!” he suggested.

“It’s not that simple!”

“Well, explain it to me,” he said, “Look, ye’ve been obsessin’ over these bots for weeks now! Why don’t ye come by my place and…well…”

He could hear the pointed look Sylvia would have been giving him if she had been a hologram at the moment. Or even a face on a viewscreen.

“And cook for you?” she asked with a chuckle.

“Ach,” he grunted, “Ah can’t take any more of Dekaire’s cooking. The ‘ring o’ fire’ doesn’t begin to describe my-“

“Just a moment,” Sylvia said. There was another fizzle as the hologram reactivated, this time with Sylvia animating it.

“Hold on,” she tapped a button on the nearby console, calling up the PA system for the shipyard, “I’m going out for an hour or two, and I don’t have time to find a sitter! You bots better behave!”

Jeffery just stared.

“Let’s go,” Sylvia said, grabbing the relay.


They didn’t even make it to the tram system before Fifebee abruptly transferred in.

“Greetings,” she said, materializing about ten centimeters in front of Jeffery and scaring the living crap out of him.

“AHHHHHH!!!!!” he predictably screamed.

“We really need to fix the proximity sensors on that thing,” Sylvia wrung her hands.

“Good day, Sylvia. Lt Comd Jeffery,” Fifebee nodded politely, “Where are we going?”

“Lunch,” Sylvia said before Jeffery could say anything, “How are things aboard the Checklist?”

“Eventful,” Fifebee replied, “We have been attacked twice more by random vessels believing us to be Qu’Eh. Fortunately, the message from the Matrian government defused both situations. And you?”

“Ohhhh….not good,” Sylvia groaned as they entered the tram.

“The bots are still building?” Fifebee inquired.

“Worse. They’re mis-interpreting everything we say to better suit their own desires,” Sylvia quickly explained the new situation.

“Sounds like kids,” Jeffery cracked.

“But otherwise things aboard Haven have been calm?” Fifebee asked.

“Aye,” Jeffery shrugged, “Ye might even say boring,”

“I see,”

The tram exited the tunnel and sped most of the way towards the nearest bridge before abruptly coming to a stop.

“What the…”

There was a flash of green, then an explosion rocked the tram. Shards of rock and other debris struck the windows as a large hole appeared in the building next to them.

“Duck!” Jeffery gasped, diving for the floor.

The two holographic women simply watched as an object sped past their field of view. It appeared to be a miniature city, with at least a hundred tiny towers perched on a broad base and surrounded by a gleaming energy shield. Right on it’s heels, a medicine-ball sized sphere chased after it, firing another blast of green energy. The mini-city responded with a swarm of tiny firefly-like objects that swirled around the ball, setting off bright sparks whenever they came in contact.

“We apologize for the inconvenience,” a computerized voice spoke, “This tram must be rerouted due to…” there was a pause, then a woman’s voice (presumably recorded) said “crazy fighting space robots!” in a somewhat panicked manner. The tram reversed course, then turned onto the radial city track.

“This is your idea of boring?” Fifebee asked.

“I’m really starting to not like public transit,” Jeffery said from the floor.

“Don’t worry,” Sylvia pointed, “There’s a flying ambulance right there if we need it,”

“Whot?”

“See? Bobbing between that office tower and that condo building?” Sylvia pointed, “But I think the pilot might be a bit drunk,”

“You can probably get up off the floor anyway,” Fifebee said.

“Ah should have gone on the mission with everybody else,” Jeffery muttered, climbing to his feet.

“Oops, speaking of,” Fifebee cocked her head, “They are under attack again. I must transfer back. I am not sure how much time until we are too far out for the transfer protocols to safely work. I may not see you again until after the mission. Good day,”

“Don’t tell Chris about the ship!” Sylvia said quickly, “I’m sure we can figure it out!”

Fifebee nodded, then disappeared.

“Wait! Oh, shoot!” Sylvia almost cursed, “I needed her to…undo whatever she said that made that alpha think it could promote itself!”

“If only it was that easy for the rest of us,” Jeffery said.

“Simon, the longer those bots work on that ship, the longer it’s going to take them to tear it apart! And Major Dekaire has already refused to help me!”

“Aye, she can be a bit…funny…about building ships,” Jeffery said.

Sylvia started pacing the small tram. Ouside the windows, Jeffery watched in a combination of awe and horror as Haven’s half-naked, Tarzan-ish police force chased after the two flying models. Was that round ball supposed to be the Death Star? What the hell was the flying city, then?

“Jeffery, I said you have to help me! You’re my only hope!” Sylvia said insistently.

“Huh?” Jeffery started, “Whot?”

“With Dekaire! You have to get her to…I don’t know…rescind the ship-building authorization she accidentally gave the bots!”

“Sylvia, Ah can’t even get her to let me pick the restaurant!” Jeffery objected, “And ye know she hates it when Ah try to tell her how to do her job,”

“SIMON JEFFERY!” Sylvia barked, “The rebuild of MY body is YOUR project, not HERS, so you DAMNED WELL better be telling her how to do her JOB!”

“Ah…ye…but…”

“And I seem to recall helping you last time YOU needed something like this,” Sylvia said, “Hello? Captain Baird? Deneria Dry Dock?”

“OK!” Jeffery gulped, “Ah’ll do it! Ah’ll get her to stop them!”

“BEFORE they finish that ship!”

“Aye,” Jeffery sighed. There was a flash of green light from outside and he jumped.

“Ah REALLY am startin’ to hate public transit!”


“Evasive, Gamma-Six!” Stafford ordered.

“Authorizing!” Yanick shot back.

“TRISH!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Yanick said as she punched the commands into the helm officer’s place at the Management Table in the Qu’Eh briefing room, “Force of habit!”

“Shields are at 60%,” T’Parief said looking over to Staffod and Jall at the head of the table.

“I will admit,” Jall said, “I sort of like the face-to-face way of doing this. With some exceptions,” he looked pointedly at T’Parief.

T’Parief bristled.

There was a beep, then Fifebee’s frozen hologram jumped back to life.

“That was a shaky transmission” she said, “I think we’ve passed out of range-“

The ship shook again.

“Maybe we can discuss your fascinating communications update when we’re NOT being fired on?” Stafford asked.

“We don’t know who they are,” Burke quietly updated Fifebee, “Probably merchants or something. We could actually defeat them, amazingly enough.”

“But blowing up innocent people isn’t really in our job description,” Fifebee almost sighed, “And they didn’t care about the message from the Matrians?”

“An unknown ship, this close to the Qu’Eh border? Which we have now been following along since Tapart space? Odds are they don’t even know who the Matrians are,” Burke shrugged.

“I have transmitted our greeting and the Matrian travel clearance in thirty-six thousand languages,” T’Parief said.

“By which he means that he has authorized Lt Bithe to do so,” Valtaic spoke from External Ops, “By which I mean he has authorized ME to authorize Lt Bithe to do so,”

T’Parief glanced at a display.

“Thirty-eight thousand,” T’Parief clarified, “And shields are down to 45%,”

“Take us around that moon,” Jall suggested, “Gravity sling-shot thingy,”

“I don’t think that will work,” Yanick said, “They’re too manoeuvrable,”

“Hey sweetie, I have my uniform on,” Jall said, “Just fly the ship. Later, when I’m wearing my drinking vest, we can debate things,”

“Ass,” Yanick muttered, but she complied.

The ungainly Qu’Eh vessel eased down towards the moon’s atmosphere, somehow managing to look somewhat graceful as it swung in close, picking up speed, then hurtling itself off in another direction. It would have been impressive, if the alien ship hadn’t followed them step by step.

“I told you so!” Yanick chirped Jall as the ship shook and T’Parief announced that the shields were down to 40%,”

“Oops,” Jall grunted.

Stafford said nothing, merely looking sidewise at Jall and humming something to himself.

“What?”

“He’s waiting until the rest of us are not here to inform you that it is wise to listen to a junior officer’s advice when said officer is speaking of their forté,” Valtaic spoke up.

“You’re an ALIEN, how do you know how to use words like ‘forté’?” Jall demanded.

“I had an Academy roommate who-“

“People!” Stafford cut them both off, “Can we please come up with something that will prevent us from either being KILLED or having to blow up an alien ship full of mostly-innocent aliens?”

“You’d think the fact that we haven’t shot back at them would give them some sort of clue,” Jall said.

“Well, it IS a Qu’Eh ship,” Stafford said, “I think I’d want to shoot us, if I were in their shoes,”

“Warp drive is back online,” Lt Sage’s voice came up from engineering.

“Yanick,” Stafford waved his hand vaguely in a direction that was nowhere even close to the direction of Kallar IV.

Yanick figured out what he meant anyway, tapped her panel and the ship jumped into warp.

And, with a shudder, dropped right back out.

“They hit us with another torpedo,” T’Parief reported.

“No damage to the drive,” Sage called, “But I don’t see the point in warping away if they’re just going to-“

“I get it!” Stafford cut the channel. That was it. He had not idea what to do. It was coming down to the unthinkable: Kill people who didn’t really deserve killing, or die in a crappy, captured enemy ship.

Stafford’s face fell into his hands.

Jall looked uncomfortable.

“Hey, I know it looks grim,” Jalls said softly, “But c’mon. Even if we’re about to die you’re the Captain guy, right? You have to look…not so upset. Even if we’re all going to die in a fiery explosion.”

“I’m not upset because I think we’re going to die, San,” Stafford said tiredly, “I’m upset because I’m about to do something I really don’t want to do. Something that makes me feel…soiled. Unclean.”

Jall looked confused.

“OK people,” Stafford rose to his feet and stepped towards the briefing room wall, “Conventional thinking isn’t working. I need…I need…”

“Oh God,” Jall’s eyes widened with realization, “No. You can’t!”

“I have to,” Stafford said, turning back and putting his hands on the back of his seat.

“We’ve got to solve this one with techno-babble.”

There was a collective groan from the crew. T’Parief looked like he might be sick.

“You’re not the only captain to feel bad about this,” Fifebee said, trying to be reassuring, “Many mediocre starship captains have been moved to tears with the humiliation of resorting to-“

“Fifebee!”

“Ahem. Sorry.”

“OK! Techno-babble, people!” Stafford said.

There was utter silence.

“Uh-oh,” Jall said.

“What?”

“It’s just…with all the Matrian stuff, with the conventional space warfare, the rebels, the insurrection thing…”

“Jall, get to the point!”

“I think I’ve forgotten how to techno-babble!”

“Me too,” Yanick said.

“I was never one for babbling,” Valtaic admitted.

“Sage!” Stafford re-opened the comm-link to engineering, “We need a techno-babble solution to this!”

“What? Do I look like a Wikipaddia to you? Uh, sir?”

“Oh my GOD, we are so fucked!” Jall announced.

“Use a modulated polaron burst to disrupt their targeting sensors long enough for us to escape at warp,” Fifebee said calmly.

Everybody stared at her

“Please,” she said flatly, “I AM technology,”

“Do it!” Stafford said.

“Uh…how?” Yanick asked.

“Fifebee?”

Fifebee tapped at her panel, then they all watched on the screen as a frazzled-looking ball of purple light shot out at the alien ship. There was a spray of purple electrical activity over their shields.

“Go!” Fifebee snapped.

Yanick sent the ship back into warp.

“No sign of persuit,” T’Parief reported.

“Oh good,” Stafford sat back down, “Let’s never, ever tell anybody about this, OK?”

“How many days to Kallar IV? Jall asked wearily.

“Four,”

“And we’re likely to be attacked…”

“At this rate?” Fifebee spoke up, “Three more times,”

“Ugh…”


Captain’s Log, Stardate 59402.6:


“We’re coming up on the Kallar system. Fifebee was wrong, we weren’t attacked three times. We were attacked five times. Four of those ships accepted our explanation; the fifth required a repeat of that little polaron thingy. In any event, this old Qu’Eh wreck is taking quite a beating. I don’t think they’re even going to WANT it back.”

“In any event, we’re here. We can drop off this ship, get on with our mission, and fly back in a little fleet of safe, non-provocative and innocent-looking Federation runabouts.”

“But just to be on the safe side we’ve decided to approach the Kallar system from the OPPOSITE direction of Qu’Eh space. Hopefully that will be a little less…startling.”


“Ready to take us out of warp?” Jall asked Yanick.

“Yup,” Yanick replied, “I’ve got my finger right on the…wait,” she paused, adjusted her finger two buttons to the right, “Right on the warp cut-off button,”

“Wait, what was the other button?” Jall asked.

“Um…nothing. Definitely nothing that would destabilize the warp field and possibly cause the ship to break apart,”

“Yanick!”

“Just drop us out of warp,” Stafford said from the head of the table.

“Uh-oh,” Fifebee said suddenly, “Wait!”

Stafford wasn’t even able to turn to face her before the ship dropped out of warp and Yanick cursed like the farm-girl she was.

“What-“

Stafford couldn’t even finish his question before he was yanked out of his chair by abrupt, barely-compensated deceleration.

“HOLD ON PEOPLE!” Yanick shouted.

He tried to rise to his feet, only to be pulled to the side as Yanick pulled the ship to port.

The holo-screen over the double-high windows flickered out, but that was OK. Stafford could see the problem through the window. They’d come out of warp right on top of something, and it was only Yanick’s quick thinking that had let them evade it.

Ships.

Dozens. Hundreds. All identical. And all in a parking orbit in what should be a very out-of-the- way, very quiet corner of the Kallar star system.

“Ohhhhh shit,” Stafford groaned.



Tags: silverado