Author: Anthony Butler
Stardate 51318.4. In our continuing search for new power resources, we have come upon a planet near the periphery of Flarn space which may be of use to us. I’m hoping this find will signal a change in the poor luck we’ve had since getting to this miserable quadrant.
“You are looking at the remains of the abandoned Flarn science installation at Gribnar Four,” Lt. Larkin said, pointing at the graphic on the conference room screen.
“And you’re sure that Mirk’s information is correct?” Baxter questioned from the front of the conference table.
“He stakes his reputation on it, sir,” Larkin replied.
“What reputation?” J’hana asked, “The last time we listened to him, the ship became possessed by evil slime.”
“I agree with J’hana,” Conway said. “We should proceed with caution.”
“Let’s not cloud the issue here,” Baxter countered, “according to Commander Richards, the ship is drastically low on fuel, and if Mirk is correct, and this abandoned Flarn science station does contain intact generators…well I don’t see that we have any other choice than to go down and get them.”
“I agree,” Richards said. “It’s a risk we have to take.”
“At any rate,” Baxter continued, “We will arrive at Gribnar Four in approximately thirty minutes. Doctor Browning, what is your estimation of how long our life support resources will hold out?”
Browning had spent the last ten minutes wolfing down scrambled eggs and pancakes. She made no attempt to answer the Captain, which seemed to anger him intensely.
“Doctor Browning, this is a meeting, not a breakfast buffet!”
Browning tried to swallow and respond, but seemed to get something caught up in her throat. Her eyes bulged out and she began to make gasping noises, flapping her arms around wildly.
Baxter covered his face in annoyance. “Someone help her.”
Richards jumped to the Doctor’s side and began administering the Heimlich maneuver. “I gotcha, everything’s going to be fine.”
Finally, there was a loud pop as Browning heaved a large chunk of half digested pancake out of her mouth.
Unfortunately, Lt. Larkin was directly in its path.
The android paused a moment, trying to comprehend this latest event.
“Are you all right, Doctor?” Larkin finally said, wiping the pancake from her face.
Browning looked up at Richards, whose arms were still around her. “I’m just great. Now for some Jell-O!!!!”
Baxter turned to Larkin. “All right, if Dr. Browning is finished, why don’t you take a few people down to the planet and investigate.”
The away team, consisting of Lt. J’hana, Lt. Larkin, Ensign Zachary Ford, and Ensign Ned Clemson from engineering, materialized in a dimly lit room.
Lt. J’hana immediately noticed the smell of fetid, rotting meat.
“What the heck is that smell?” she asked, switching on her wrist beacon.
Larkin had immediately withdrawn her tricorder. “I am reading no life signs in this facility. However, I do read several bodies in the area.”
J’hana’s wrist light scanned around the room, finally arriving at a body.
Larkin approached the mass and scanned it with her tricorder. “It is definitely Flarn, however, as far as I can tell, it has been severely mutilated.”
“By what?” Ford asked nervously, drawing his phaser.
“I am not certain. The readings seem to indicate his cardiac cavity was ripped open and his circulatory organ was removed.”
“Something ripped his heart out,” Ford translated.
“I say we find the damn generator and get out of here,” J’hana said.
“Aaaah!” Ensign Clemson cried.
Everyone jumped at the sound of the ensign’s cry and turned around to see what the problem was.
They all breathed a sigh of relief to see that the ensign had shrieked due to the fact that he had his wrist beacon on backwards, and when he switched it on, its bright light hit him directly in the face.
“I’m blind, fffffffft, blind!” Clemson muttered, stumbling around.
Ford smacked Clemson on the back of the head with the back of his phaser. “Come on, butthead, let’s get a move on!”
Once Clemson had managed to get his wrist beacon facing the right direction, the away team moved out, led by Lt. Larkin.
“I believe there is a faint power signal coming from this direction. It may be the generator we seek.”
“Then again…” J’hana said, following Larkin, “it may be a giant, venomous beast.”
“What’s the likelihood of that?” Ford asked from the rear of the line, just behind Ensign Clemson.
“Yeah, hukkkkkkkkk.” Clemson giggled.
Larkin stared confusedly at the readings on her tricorder. “Hmmm. Very strange. The tricorder indicates that the power signature should be in this area, but now I am having trouble getting a fix on it.”
“Baxter to Larkin,” Larkin’s comm badge chirped.
“Larkin here, go ahead,” Larkin replied, looking up from her tricorder.
“We just got a call from the Sulani government. It seems they want to thank us for saving that vessel of theirs awhile back. They’re talking a ceremony, a banquet. The whole nine yards.”
“Might it be possible to get them to help us out with our power concerns, Captain?” Larkin asked.
“I don’t know. Just in case, you guys better go ahead and keep snooping around down there. We’ll be back in a few hours.”
“Sir, are you sure that is wise?” Larkin asked. “We are still not sure what the Flarn scientists were working on down here.”
“I’ll ask the Sulani President when we get there. Maybe he’ll be able to shed some light on it. We’ve really got to go, we’re going to be late. Good luck, guys! Bye!”
“Hmm,” Larkin said, returning to her scans.
“This sucks,” Ford said. “I want to be at that banquet.”
“I do not believe that they would just leave us here!” J’hana said, smashing her fist into a wall.
“Lieutenant,” Larkin began, “Nothing will be solved by overreacting. I am sure that the Aerostar will be back for us as soon as they possibly can.”
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Ford said, waving his phaser back and forth in front of him.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Ensign Clemson whined.
The away team stopped dead in their tracks.
“Very well, Ensign. The tricorder indicates that there is some kind of drainage reservoir ten meters in that direction,” Lieutenant Larkin said, pointing to her left.
Ensign Clemson padded off in the direction that Larkin had indicated, whistling a happy tune.
“Don’t fall in, Ned!” Ford said, laughing.
“Ffft. Funny,” Clemson responded from the other room.
“Man what a loser,” Ford muttered.
Ensign Clemson had been urinating for several minutes. Larkin, J’hana, and Ford sat around idly waiting for him to finish, entertained by the relentless sound of trickling, yawning, burping, coughing, giggling, and whistling.
“Will he ever finish?” Ford asked, checking the power level on his phaser for the fifteenth time.
“Come on, Clemson, MOVE IT!” J’hana growled impatiently.
“Hukkkkk, coming,” Clemson said, the trickling sound suddenly stopping, followed up by the sound of zipping.
“Hmmmm, how strange…” Lt. Larkin said, staring intently at her tricorder. “The odd power readings have returned.”
Ford rolled his eyes. “Whoop-dee-doo!”
Suddenly there was a loud, piercing, almost woman-like scream from the other room. “HUKKKKKKKK, HELPPPPP!”
“What now?” Ford complained.
“Come on!” J’hana shouted, drawing her phaser and pointing her wrist beacon in front of her.
J’hana immediately located Ensign Clemson due to the fact that he was madly waving his wrist beacon about the walls of the large, cavernous, sewerlike room.
Once J’hana had leveled her beacon in his direction, the away team stopped dead in their tracks.
“Holy crap,” Ford said in disbelief.
“Zztann,” J’hana cursed in Andorian.
“Hmmmm,” Larkin noted.
Ensign Clemson was in the clutches of an eight meter tall four armed monster, and it did not look happy.
“Indeed, this explains a lot,” said Larkin. “The Flarn must have been developing some sort of organic killing machine. A Frakenstein monster of sorts.”
“What should we do?” asked J’hana, as the monster toyed with Ensign Clemson’s body like a kitten with a chew toy.
“Get the hell out of here, that’s what,” responded Ford.
“Excellent suggestion,” Larkin replied.
“No. We will destroy it,” J’hana said.
While the away team chatted, Clemson was being ripped limb from limb.
“Aaaaahhhhh! FFFffffffft! Fffffftttttt! Hugkkkkkkkkk!” Clemson screamed.
“As second officer, I do outrank you,” Larkin retorted.
“That may be, but I have a phaser and I’m going to take that alien down whether you like it or not.” J’hana said.
“Help!” Clemson said. The alien was now bouncing him like a basketball.
Ford had turned away from the two arguing Lieutenants to watch the alien kill Ensign Clemson, something he found more entertaining. “Man, that guy just will not die.”
The alien was now running Clemson through a meat grinder. The ensign pulled himself out, hanging over the edge. “Help! Fffffft!!”
“Weapons do not dictate authority, Lieutenant,” Larkin argued.
“I’ll show you what you can do with your authority, Larkin,” J’hana responded.
“Ooo, that had to hurt.” Ford said, watching as the alien stretched and kneaded Clemson’s body.
“I’m this close to beating the crap out of you,” J’hana said, fuming at Larkin.
“I will remind you, Lieutenant, that my body is made up of a composite duranium polyalloy and can be subjected to a great deal of stress before buckling.”
“I’ll subject you to something, you robotic bitch!”
“Would ya look at that,” Ford gasped, astonished at the alien.
“This meaningless conversation will get us nowhere, Lieutenant. I suggest we pool our efforts in helping Ensign Clemson.”
“Woah,” Ford said. “How much punishment can the human body take?”
Suddenly the alien laid Clemson over his knee and cracked him in half.
“That much, I guess.”
Ensign Clemson’s body snapped in two like a dry twig.
“Well, guys, you might as well stop arguing. It’s a moot point. Clemson’s dead,” Ford said flatly, staring at the body of Ensign Clemson.
Larkin stared at the body, then up to the alien who hovered over it. “I tend to agree with your hypothesis, Mr. Ford.”
“ENOUGH!” J’hana shouted, charging at the alien, wildly firing her phaser.
“Lieutenant!” Larkin said sharply. “Come back here!” the android gave up trying to dissuade J’hana and ran to her aid.
“I’ll cover your rear!” Ford shouted, staying as far away from the fray as he possibly could.
Realizing that phasers were having no effect, J’hana lept up on top of the alien, trying to ride it like a cowboy.
“LIEUTENANT!!!” Larkin shouted, unable to get the attention of her subordinate.
The android took careful aim, making sure her phaser was on the correct setting and began firing.
“Watch where you’re firing that thing, Larkin!” J’hana shouted, hanging on for dear life.
The alien reared its hook-shaped head and attempted to buck the tenacious Andorian.
“Woah!!!” J’hana croaked, starting to feel disoriented from all the dizzying movement.
“Of course. Why did I not think of it sooner?” Larkin suddenly said, holstering her phaser.
“What the heck are you doing?” J’hana cried, starting to feel nauseous.
Larkin pulled out her tricorder and began to take thorough readings. “Hmmm. How odd. Exactly as I thought.”
Larkin paced for a moment, a behavior she had picked up through careful observation of many humans, not the least of which her former Captain, Alexander Rydell.
Larkin was stirred from her musings by J’hana’s body flying through the air. The Andorian slammed painfully against a column, sliding down to the ground.
“Are you okay?” Larkin asked, approaching the security officer.
“Yes. I am fi-“ J’hana’s eyes suddenly focused on the sparking piece of circuitry that dangled in front of them. Dangling loosely by one wire was one of her antennae.
J’hana just sat there, transfixed on her broken antenna. “Whoops.”
Larkin studied the antenna carefully. “Hmm. It is made up of a polysynthetic fiber that is joined with very complex neurosynaptic circuitry. It is designed to interpret incoming sensory input and relay it directly to your brain.”
“I know that, you stupid robot. And now it’s ruined. Do you know how much trouble my parents went through to get me that false antenna? Do you know how unspeakable it is for an Andorian to be born with one antenna? Can you imagine the dishonor?”
Larkin stopped a moment and seemed to consider the questions. “Indeed, you must have had a very difficult childhood.”
“Yes. It is something I have tried very hard to forget!”
“Hey, guys!” Ford shouted in the distance. “That thing is eyeing you! Get out of there!”
The hulking alien loomed over Larkin and J’hana, looking from one to the other.
“By the hive mother,” J’hana said, staring up from her spot on the floor.
“Do not worry, Lieutenant. I will handle this.” Larkin suddenly rushed the alien and grabbed its leg, pulling with all her might. The alien waved its arms madly, tipping backward.
“Good going, Larkin,” J’hana said, picking herself up, and trying to bend her antenna back to its former shape. She only halfway succeeded; the antenna was still somewhat cockeyed. “Now let’s get the hell out of here.”
“At this juncture I would indeed concur,” Larkin said, breaking into a run.
Larkin and J’hana flew by Ensign Ford, who still seemed somewhat in shock. He soon came to his senses and turned on a heel. “WAIT FOR ME, GUYS!”
Several hours later, Lt. J’hana and Lt. Larkin came to a stop in an alcove. The station’s corridors seemed to stretch for kilometers.
Lt. Larkin studied her tricorder. “The creature is less than one hundred meters away and closing.”
J’hana was exhausted, trying desperately to catch her breath. “How much longer can we run away from that thing?”
“I can continue running at full speed uninterrupted for one point five months before my internal power supply gives out,” Larkin replied.
“Oh, great,” J’hana said, still gasping. “Then you can carry me.”
“We will just have to hold out until the Aerostar returns,” Larkin observed, continuing to run.
Stardate 51319.1. Well, the banquet was an unprecedented success. Commander Conway was unusually polite and Dr. Browning went through the whole affair without one belch. Afterwards, I had a very interesting meeting with the Sulani President, who tells me the Sulani have indeed studied Gribnar Four. How the heck was I supposed to know that Gribnar Four was where the Flarn attempt to build the perfect killing machine, and that experiment had gone horribly awry? At any rate, we’ve set a course at Warp Nine to return to the base and rescue our crew members, if they’re still alive. Oh, and on a happier note, before leaving, the Sulani President was nice enough to donate us some fuel which just so happens to be compatible with our own. Well, that’s one problem solved, eh?
“We’re gonna die, we are going to DIE!” Ford cried, rocking in a fetal position like a baby.
“Take your death like a man, you weenie human,” J’hana grunted.
They, along with Larkin, had found an air duct to hide in, and they had done so for the last few hours. Even though the creature had not yet found them, something made J’hana think that it was just toying with them.
“Hmmm,” Larkin said, staring at her tricorder.
“I hate it when she says that.” J’hana grumbled.
“To coin a human phrase, ‘nice knowing you’,” Larkin said emotionlessly, watching as the blip representing the alien creature closed in on them.
Ford and J’hana screamed as the alien popped its head up through the air duct, snarling and dripping acid-saliva all over the metal grating of the duct.
“God help us!” Ford cried, when suddenly they felt the familiar dissolving feeling associated with transporting.
The alien’s huge head lunged for them, but it was too late. They were gone, and he was once again, pitifully, alone.
The poor creature let his head down on the air duct’s surface and wept. Back to the endless hours of working on the garden all day by himself.
“Welcome back,” Commander Conway said warmly, as two medtechs dragged Ensign Clemson’s body off the transporter pad and Larkin, Ford, and J’hana stepped down.
“Screw you,” J’hana snarled, limping out of the transporter room and making a bee-line for her quarters.
“What, you didn’t have a good time?” Conway asked, looking from Ford to Larkin.
“We did not find the generators. However, we did find an extremely unfriendly bio-genetically engineered creature.”
“Well, you know what they say, ‘new life, new civilizations…’” Conway said with a grin, leading Larkin and Ford out of the transporter room.
“This new life was anything but civilized,” Larkin corrected.
“Hope you had a nice time at the banquet, Commander,” Ford muttered. “I’m going down to Mirk’s to get a nice strong drink.”
“Commander, do you think the Captain will want to perform the usual ceremony for Ensign Clemson?”
“Undoubtedly,” Conway muttered, stepping into the waiting turbolift. “He feels it helps the crew gel together.”
“Judging by the crew’s response to the last few ceremonies, I find that conclusion erroneous.”
“Tell him that,” Conway muttered as the turbolift doors closed.
“Well, then, without further ado, I will proceed to the next part of the service…” Baxter said, looking out at the audience gathered in the Aerostar’s cargo bay.
The audience made a collective sigh.
“To properly celebrate death, I believe we should celebrate life as well.” There were a couple of moments of silence.
“Here we go again,” Counselor Peterman sighed.
“Up with the music!” Baxter cried, looking to Larkin, who obediently hit the proper controls on the cargo bay’s computer panel.
Suddenly, loud, funky disco music filled the room, as a glittering disco ball descended from the ceiling.
The casket carrying Ensign Clemson’s body began to rise from the floor on a graviton field, turning in time with the disco ball.
“Care to dance, Counselor?” Baxter asked, swaggering over to Peterman and beginning to do the John Travolta move from “Saturday Night Fever.”
“I guess so,” Peterman said, as she was whisked away on the dance floor.
“This is totally irreverent,” J’hana said with a frown. “We have completely destroyed the solemness of this person’s death.”
“Remember who we’re talking about, J’hana!” Richards said. “It wasn’t as if someone important died!”
J’hana finally smiled, hoping no one noticed that she had a sparkling new replacement antenna screwed on top of her head. “I guess you are right. You should have seen him getting killed. It was quite awe-inspiring.”
Richards chuckled. “It must have been quite a sight.”
Ensign Ford stuck his head in between Richards and J’hana. “Almost as great a sight as J’hana’s-“
Suddenly a hand grabbed onto his neck and hoisted him up in the air.
“My what?” J’hana asked, staring up at Ford and clenching her fist around his neck.
“J’hana’s sparkling personality,” Ford said nervously.
J’hana let the panicked Ensign drop. “Yes, well, I am who I am and that’s all who I am.”
“Profound,” Richards noticed, taking Dr. Browning’s hand and whisking her away.
J’hana stared down into Ford’s eyes. “You will tell no one what you saw down on that planet, do you understand, Ford?”
“Very well. Now then. I believe it is our duty as responsible crew members to break it down and boogie.”
With that, Lt. J’hana grabbed Commander Conway from the sidelines of the dance floor and dragged him into a furious tango that put the other dancers to shame.
Meanwhile, Ensign Clemson’s body was beamed out into space, to join the many other inert and nameless atoms that hung around for absolutely no reason.
And the Aerostar just kept on going.