Author: Anthony Butler
Captain Baxter’s brow furrowed with annoyance as he glanced over Commander Conway’s latest personnel review, leaning back in his chair in the Starlight Lounge and sipping from a glass of grapefruit juice.
As usual, the reports were littered with complaints and whining about the crew’s annoying quirks, from Ensign Fresca’s earring to Lt. J’hana’s little problem with punching and denting bulkheads. Baxter wasn’t interested in petty things like that, as a matter of fact, on this particular morning, he wasn’t interested in anything that didn’t relate directly to the officer sitting in the booth on the other side of the lounge.
Counselor Kelly Peterman sat at the booth, quietly chatting with Doctor Browning over a pile of pancakes. It was no mistake that her back was to him.
Baxter peered at the Counselor over his padd, trying to seem inconspicuous.
“How long is this going to go on, Captain?” Mirk said from behind the Captain. He took a glass of grapefruit juice off his tray and replaced the empty one on Baxter’s table.
Baxter jumped in surprise, then turned his head back to face the bartender. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. Mirk.”
Mirk just rolled his eyes. “Would you just be a man and go over and talk to her?”
Baxter put his padd down and sipped from the new glass of juice, savoring the tremendously bitter taste. “There’s nothing to say. We had our differences, and now we’ve gone our separate ways.”
Mirk just looked across the room at Peterman, obviously dissatisfied with that answer. “Gee, it sounds like you’ve ended the relationship before it ever started.”
Baxter stared at the back of Peterman’s head ruefully. “Well, what if I have? That’s my right, isn’t it? Maybe I’m looking for someone else right now.”
“Like Ensign Fresca?”
Baxter shivered. “No. NOT like Ensign Fresca. There are plenty of other females on this ship for me to choose from.”
Mirk laughed. “You’ve fallen for Kelly, whether you want to admit it or not is another thing. But be assured of this, Captain, you won’t settle for anyone else, it’ll just be a waste of time.”
Baxter shot Mirk a sidelong glance. “What do you know about this stuff anyway, Mirk, you’re just a teenager.”
“Males and females on Lobstrax mature emotionally much quicker than humans. We are much more sensible when it comes to relationships, too.” Mirk said proudly.
“Oh, that reminds me, how is your little friend Danel doing?”
“Touche.” Mirk grimaced, taking the tray back to the bar.
“You could at least look at him, Kelly.” Doctor Browning said through a mouthful of pancake.
Peterman poked her fork through her own breakfast. “I could, if I wanted to.”
“I don’t see what the big deal is.” said Browning.
“The big deal?” Peterman replied. “The big deal is that the Captain was sucking face with Ensign Fresca on that beach on Sulan right after I swore to myself I’d found my Prince Charming.”
“Give the guy a break, Kelly, even Fresca admits that she initiated the thing.”
“Yeah, well, he was enjoying it, I could tell.” Peterman said, staring down at her plate. She wasn’t really even that hungry.
Browning chewed thoughtfully. “I think you guys
make a pretty cute couple myself. One of you just has to admit that you’re wrong.”
Peterman frowned. “Well, it sure as hell won’t be me.”
Browning considered that, then looked at Peterman’s plate, which must have had something special on it to garner such intense concentration on the part of the Counselor. “Hey, are you going to eat those pancakes?” Browning asked.
Peterman pushed her plate in Browning’s direction. “You go right ahead, I’m not really that hungry.” With that, the Counselor got up to leave.
It just so happened that that was the exact time that Baxter had decided to get up to leave. He was still looking at his padd as he walked toward the door. Coincidentally, he was right behind Peterman as she made her way for the door.
Completely unaware, Baxter collided with the Counselor, causing her and his padd to fall to the ground, the former making a small thud.
“Whoops,” Baxter said sheepishly. He suddenly realized who he had knocked over. “I’m sorry, Counselor.”
Peterman refused Baxter’s hand and pulled herself up. “You certainly are,” she huffed, trying to straighten her hair. “You should watch where the hell you’re going.”
“Hey, I said I was sorry, what do you want me to do, grovel at your feet?”
“It would be a start,” Peterman said, handing Baxter his padd.
“Very funny.” Baxter said as she headed out the door. “Listen, I don’t know why…”
“Conway to Baxter, we’ve arrived at the Beldana system. Just thought you’d like to know.”
Baxter tapped his comm badge. “Acknowledged, I’ll be right up.”
He turned to Peterman to continue. “I’m…” She had already headed off down the corridor toward her quarters. He raised a finger, opening his mouth to call out to her. He thought better of it and turned on a heel, making his way for the turbolift, in the opposite direction.
Just before rounding the bend, Peterman stopped and turned around, watching Baxter as he headed for the turbolift.
“I…” she whispered, not having the courage to call out after the Captain. “Damn,” she whispered. “Damn him, and damn me,” she turned around and resumed the stroll to her quarters.
Stardate 51521.4. We have arrived at the planet Beldana Two, where Sulani intelligence tells us we can find a large supply of dilithium. In a not-so-prime-directive-ish move, we are attempting to make some diplomatic ties between them and the Sulani, as they are on the edge of Flarn space and not as susceptible to Flarn influence.
Baxter stepped out of the turbolift. “Standard orbit, Ensign Ford.”
Ford tapped in the commands. “Standard orbit, aye.”
Baxter stopped behind Lt. Larkin’s chair. “What’s the story on the Beldanans, Lieutenant?”
Larkin looked at her panel. “Readings are consistent with the Flarn records. The planet is class M, jungles and forests accounting for seventy percent of their landmass. The planet seems to be occupied by a humanoid population.”
“Do they have compatible subspace radio?” Baxter asked, staring at the planet as it turned serenely on the viewscreen.
“I believe so. Their level of technology would seem to be post-industrial. We should broadcast our hail on a wide EM band, however, to insure that they will receive it.”
“Well, then, let’s see who’s home. Open frequencies, Lieutenant Gellar.”
Lt. Gellar tapped a few buttons on his console, activating the ship’s hailing frequencies.
“Greetings. I’m Captain Andrew Baxter, commander of the starship Aerostar. I am acting as diplomatic emissary for the Sulani government, and have been authorized to open up diplomatic relations with you.”
Baxter paced the bridge for several minutes, waiting for a response. Finally he sat down in his chair dejectedly. “Well, did they receive our signal, or not?”
“Difficult to tell, Captain.” Larkin reported.
“Well, I guess the four day trip to the ass end of space sure did pay off.” Conway grimaced from beside Baxter.
“Shut up, Conway, I’m sure they’ll reply any second now.”
“Yeah, right, and I’m a Tarkalian razorbeast.”
“Aerostar,” A sultry female voice suddenly said over the speakers. “This is Pre-ordinate Valla of Beldana. You say you’re with the Sulani?”
Baxter smiled at Conway, feeling quite pleased with himself. “That’s correct. We’re requesting your help in toppling the Flarn dictatorship.”
“You’ve got to be kidding! The Flarn would never stand by and watch that happen.”
“That’s why we’re trying to usurp their power slowly, from the edges of their borders inward. The Sulani believe that it is possible.”
“Your proposal interests me. I will convene with the ordinate and her council and get back to you.”
“Thank you for your time, Valla.” Baxter said, signaling to Gellar to cut the channel. “You were saying, Mr. Conway?”
“Well, you haven’t really succeeded in anything yet, have you?” Conway asked sourly. “I mean, what if they just try to delay us until a Flarn task force arrives to wipe us off the map?”
Baxter turned back towards Gellar. “I want you to get Richards to boost power to the long range sensors and keep an eye out for any Flarn vessels. We’ll be ready just in case.”
“Aye, sir.” Gellar replied.
“Meanwhile, I’ll be in my readyroom.” Baxter said, heading for the office. “You have the conn, Mr. Conway.”
“I’m overjoyed.” Conway said sarcastically plopping down in the center seat and staring at the planet with distaste. He had to say one thing for pre- ordinate Valla, she sure did have a sweet voice.
Captain Baxter leaned back on his sofa, closing his eyes in a vain attempt to get some rest. He never was a morning person, and couldn’t stand getting up early. Sure, there were advantages, but it seemed as if it was impossible for him to regain total conciousness before noon.
He had almost drifted off to sleep when his door chime rang.
“Come.” Baxter moaned, rubbing his eyes.
Doctor Browning strolled in, ordered a cup of hot chocolate from the replicator and sat at his desk. “We have to talk.”
Baxter just looked over at her, rolled his eyes, and leaned his head back on the sofa. “Have a seat,” he mumbled sarcastically.
“This Peterman thing has got to stop. It’s really getting annoying, Andy.” Browning said, sipping the hot chocolate and thumbing through the various reports on Baxter’s desk.
“And here I thought you were going to ask for more staff in sickbay or something.”
“Everything is fine down in sickbay, Captain. I’m worried about you.”
“Why should you be worried about me? I’m fine. Couldn’t be better.”
“Liar. You hurt like hell. You told me you were in love with that girl, and you still are.” Browning said defiantly, holding up one padd and glancing at it “I didn’t know we had quantum torpedoes.”
“Well, I just thought they were reserved for the battleships.”
“No, I mean, so what if I was, or still am, in love with her? She never knew how I felt. She just thought we were friends.”
“Perish the thought!” Browning said, glancing at Lt. J’hana’s security report. “Wow! Ensign La Posta and Ensign Valdez got in a brawl in Cargo Bay eleven? Jeeze, I thought those two were friends.”
Baxter walked over and grabbed the padd. “Give me that.”
“You’re ignoring the issue here, mister.” Browning said as Baxter took the seat across from his desk.
“And that is…”
“When are you going to swallow your humongous macho pride and talk to her? Why do men have to be so damn stubborn?”
“What about her? She’s being just as stubborn as I am.” Baxter said defensively. “She could talk to me just as easily.”
“True, but you’re the one that wanted her so badly in the first place. What’s wrong? Did you just expect to have a crush on her with no hope of ever winning her love? Does having a commitment scare you that much? It seems like you came just into reach and then stopped trying.”
“You couldn’t be farther from the truth.” Baxter said, standing up and pacing his office nervously.
“Oh, yeah? Then what’s the problem?”
Baxter stopped at the massive viewport that wrapped around the circular area behind his desk. “I…I don’t…”
“Gellar to Baxter, we are receiving a response from the Beldanans.”
“To be continued.” Browning said ruefully, drinking from her mug and leaning back in Baxter’s chair as he left the readyroom.
“We have a visual, sir.” Gellar said from tactical.
“Great. Let’s see what these guys look like.” Baxter said, taking his seat from Conway and attempting to assume the most commanding posture possible. “On screen.”
As soon as the image of Pre-ordinate Valla appeared on the viewscreen, the male occupancy of the bridge let out a collective sigh.
“Shwiing.” Ensign Ford said in a low voice. She was beautiful.
Lt. Larkin turned and looked at Ford quizzically. “‘Schwiing’?” she whispered.
“An old earth colloquialism.” Ford explained.
“Pre-ordinate,” Baxter said unsteadily. He was having a hard time not noticing the entrancing beauty of the woman.
“Captain, I must apologize. We are an out of the way planet. We get little in the way of news and even less in the way of visitors. Many of our people have never even seen an alien. I must say, your people are quite…handsome.”
Baxter straightened his uniform. “Well, we try.” He smiled. “Anyway, why don’t we have a meeting to discuss some type of alliance…”
“I have spoken with our Ordinate. She is quite interested in pursuing a dialogue, if nothing else.”
“Wonderful.” Baxter said excitedly. “When do we start?”
“I have been authorized to offer every hospitality of our capital city. Please come down with several of your people and sample every wonderful thing we have to offer.”
“I can’t wait. Send us your coordinates and we will beam down immediately.” Baxter replied.
“As you wish.” Valla said as her image blinked off the screen.
Baxter stood. “I’m going down there myself. Mr. Conway, you have the bridge.”
Conway stood up as well, obviously irate. “Wait just a God damn minute. Let’s see here, if there’s a failing reactor, or huge snow monster, or weird bubbly goo, or a horde of Flarn on the planet, you send me down. But the first chance we get to beam down to a hospitable planet with a beautiful woman, it’s time to send the Captain!” “Exactly, Mr. Conway. This is a diplomatic mission, and as the ranking officer aboard, I am responsible for conducting the negotiations.”
“You’re ranking alright.” Conway muttered.
“I’ll ignore that. Mr. Ford, Mr. Gellar, Lt. Larkin, you guys are with me.”
Baxter led the group into the turbolift and disappeared behind its closing doors.
At the same moment, Dr. Browning stepped out of the readyroom. “Where did everybody go?”
“If I had my say, straight to hell.” Conway mumbled, collapsing in the command chair.
The air was still and warm on the planet of Beldana. Almost warm enough, in fact, to make Pre- ordinate Valla uncomfortable, but not quite. She hurried up her pace as she made her way across the Capital Plaza to the Ordinate Building.
Beldana was a small, quiet, peaceful planet, with little to offer in the way of resources. It was because of that fact that they were, by and large, left alone by the Flarn. Occasionally they would drop by to make sure there were no dissenters, no heavy weaponry. Nothing that would serve as a threat.
But that was what intrigued Valla and the others so much. What good could their people be to any effort against the Flarn? She didn’t see what the planet had to offer.
What worried Valla even more as she climbed the steps to Ordinate Hethla’s office was the stir that would overcome the capital city once its occupants discovered the nature of its visitors. She wasn’t sure if Beldana was ready for change…just yet.
The crew of the Aerostar seemed to be, physiologically, quite similar to the Beldanans, except, of course, that they seemed to lack the blotches of green that the Beldanans had along their faces, necks, and arms. That fact alone, of course, was not what disturbed Valla, so much as the appearance of the Captain and several other crewmembers that Valla discerned on the bridge.
The Pre-ordinate marched right past the secretary and into Hethla’s large, ornate office.
“Hethla, I came as fast as I could. I’m sorry I had to have you summoned from your vacation in the caverns.”
Hethla turned in her chair, twirling a finger in her long, flowing red hair. Secretly, Valla envied her gorgeous hair. Certainly Valla’s own hair was equally as long and beautiful, but it was brown, and brunettes, despite advances within the last few decades, were still considered a minority. Valla was considered an esteemed member of her hairstyle for attaining the post of Pre- ordinate, and hoped to be an inspiration for young brunettes everywhere.
“Well, Valla, this is quite an interesting turn of events.”
“Yes, ma’am, it is. What do you propose we do?”
“Of course we’ll talk to the Captain from the Aerostar.”
Valla took a seat across from Hethla’s desk. “Do you think it’s really true? Do you think that there are actually men aboard that ship?”
“From your report, it would seem that the Captain, among others, is indeed male.”
“It seemed easy enough to grasp with the Flarn. I mean after all, they’re so big and ugly, their sexual status didn’t matter much to us. But these people, they are quite attractive. I am concerned that perhaps our Prime Policy will be in jeopardy.”
Hethla’s face grew stark at that notion. “That must not happen.”
“I don’t see how we can stop it, Ordinate. Are you going to suggest invoking the old law on someone who attempted to defy the Policy?”
“Our laws are what define our being, Valla. If we don’t set boundaries, then our laws will be meaningless, and with them, our very lives.”
“You are correct, Ordinate.” Valla replied, bowing her head.
“I am glad you see it my way. Now let us greet these so-called ‘men’.”
Baxter and his team materialized in a large chamber filled with chairs, with a long conference table at the front. Baxter reasoned that the twelve people sitting at the table made up some sort of council. He also noticed that they were staring at him with a mixture of awe and amazement.
The room was silent for several minutes. How odd it seemed that every panel member was a female, and a gorgeous one at that. Baxter noted that perhaps the equality between males and females on this planet was slightly skewed.
Growing impatient at the long silence, Baxter broke the ice. “Hi there,” he said to no one in particular. “I’m Captain Baxter of the Aerostar. It is nice to meet you all.”
“He seems real…” One of the panel members whispered to another.
“What…?” Baxter asked.
“I assure you, they are all quite real…” A voice said from the rear of the room.
Baxter turned around to see two other women, one of them he recognized as the one he had talked to earlier. “Hello, you must be Pre-ordinate Valla…” he said, smiling and walking towards her.
She seemed entranced as she looked at him, her eyes wide in amazement. She almost took his offered hand, when Hethla stepped between them. “Yes, and I am Ordinate Hethla. On behalf of our people, may I welcome you to Beldana, Captain.”
“Umm…thanks, Madam.” Baxter said.
“And this is our Prime Council,” Hethla said, gesturing to the assembled group. They all nodded nervously, still in awe. Valla couldn’t seem to take her eyes off Baxter.
“Pleasure to meet all of you,” Baxter said. “Let me introduce some of my staff. This is Lieutenant Kristen Larkin, my Chief of Operations and Third in Command, Lieutenant Steven Gellar, Assistant Chief of Security, and Ensign Zachary Ford, Chief Helmsman.”
“Hello.” Hethla said blandly to each officer as they were introduced. “I suggest we get down to business immediately.”
Baxter and his officers were shown to a row of seats at the front of the council chamber and invited to sit down.
“Once we discuss certain…matters, you will be invited to tour our city and sample our hospitality,” Hethla said, her politeness seeming a bit forced.
“I have a question…” Ensign Ford said, raising a hand. Baxter shot him an annoyed look.
“What is it?” asked Hethla, taking a seat at the center of the council. Valla stood by her chair, as if awaiting a command.
“Is your planet filled with nothing but gorgeous women?”
Hethla raised an eyebrow. “Of course. Isn’t yours?”
“I don’t believe it.” Conway said, covering his face as Baxter smiled back at him on the viewscreen. “A planet FULL of beautiful women.”
“Believe it, Mister, this world is like Xanadu. Just leave me here to die.”
Conway gripped the arm of the command chair so hard he almost left a hand print. “Believe me, I’d like nothing more than to do just that.”
“We spent this afternoon discussing the planet’s politics and its place in the Flarn empire. Tonight we’ll be having dinner with the Prime Council. We should be back by tomorrow. WITH a signed treaty of cooperation I might add. Alert the Sulani. Baxter out.”
“I’m overjoyed.” Conway muttered, squeezing harder on the arm of the chair.
“Hmmmph.” J’hana huffed from tactical. “A planet full of women indeed. Any man who knows anything about females should know that it is the equivalent to being dropped in the middle of a herd of angry Klingon Targs.”
“What the hell are you mumbling about?” Conway asked, turning back and glaring at the tactical officer.
“Never mind.” J’hana grumbled. Conway would see. They all would.
Baxter leaned back on the bed he had been provided and sighed with relief. It was quite comfortable. The away team had been given a brief tour of the Ordinate’s palatial home, then been shown to their respective, connecting suites. Baxter removed his dress uniform from its protective wrapping and eyed it with scrutiny. The clothing processor had managed to get the worcestershire sauce off from the last diplomatic function. For that, at least, the Captain was thankful.
Baxter was about to change clothes for that night’s diplomatic dinner when there was a knock at the door.
“Come in.” Baxter called out.
“Am I interrupting?” Lt. Larkin said, poking her head in the door.
“No, not at all.” Baxter put the dress uniform down. “What’s on your mind?”
“I thought I might discuss with you the observations I had made from our encounter with the Beldanans thus far.”
“Fine by me.” Baxter said, sitting down on the enormous, extremely comfortable couch that sat at one end of the room. The sun was just setting, and it casted warm orange rays into the colorfully decorated room. “What have you got?”
Larkin took a position in front of the captain. “This planet is indeed rich in dilithium. As a matter of fact, there is a substantial deposit right below this city.”
Baxter propped his chin up on a hand. “Fascinating.”
“Indeed, there is more. The socio-political structure of this planet is highly dubious. It seems as though at one time the Beldanan society was quite similar to Terran society, but at some point in the their history, the male Beldanans disappeared altogether.”
“Any idea why?”
“No, sir. I have discussed this at length with Valla, and she seems hesitant to go into it. I will investigate the matter tomorrow when we visit the planet’s main library. My hypothesis is that some sort of plague overcame the men of the families and they became extinct.”
“Weird, a particular sex becoming extinct. I wonder how they reproduce?”
“They seem to have found a way to self-inseminate.”
“That’s incredible. They’re like those frogs in the rainforest.”
“Good job, Larkin.”
“Thank you, Captain, I…” Larkin was interrupted by another knock at Baxter’s door.
“Come in…” Baxter asked. Who could it be now?
Valla opened the door and strode inside. She was clothed in a floor-length dress so form-fitting that Baxter imagined it had to be cutting off her circulation. She looked fantastic.
“Hello again, Valla. What brings you here?” Baxter said, approaching the Pre-ordinate.
She stared at him once again in wonder. “I…have been sent to escort you to the dinner. I see you are…busy…”
“No, no, um, uh, Ms. Larkin was just leaving.” Baxter cut his eyes in the android’s direction. “Ahem, isn’t that right, Lieutenant?”
“Pardon me, sir?” Larkin said. “Oh, of course. Yes, I was just on the way out.” Larkin searched her data banks for an appropriate excuse to leave, for evidently the Captain wished to be left alone. “I have a roast in the oven.”
Baxter and Valla both looked on in confusion as the android left.
“She is a remarkable piece of technology, Captain.” Valla said, once the door closed after Larkin.
Baxter stepped a bit closer. “Yes, she is.”
“Your planet must be…extraordinary…” Valla said, stepping even closer.
“Yeah, it is.” Baxter said, his voice now a whisper.”You should see it some time.”
Valla stepped closer. Her toes were now almost touching his. She looked up at him, closing her eyes and turning her head. “I’d like that.”
Baxter leaned forward a few more inches, just enough for his lips to brush up against hers. “Then I’ll have to show you some time.”
They kissed, for what seemed like hours, although it was only five minutes in reality.
“Wow.” Baxter said, stumbling back onto his bed and lying down. “I don’t believe it.”
“It’s been centuries…” Valla said, approaching Baxter and putting one of her knees down on the bed between Baxter’s legs and leaning forward.
“Man, and I thought I had it bad.” Baxter replied shakily.
A voice boomed over the intercom system. “Pre-ordinate Valla, the dinner begins in five minutes. Please escort Captain Baxter down to the dining room.”
That startled Baxter, as he didn’t even know the room had an intercom system.
“We’d better go,” Valla said, straightening her dress and checking her makeup in the mirror.
“Yeah.” Baxter said, still in a daze. “That sounds like a good plan.”
In the Prime Palace’s main dining room, Captain Baxter and his officers were seated at a huge table covered with all sorts of interesting foods.
“Please, enjoy just a few of our planet’s lucious offerings.” Hethla said, at the front of the table. Near her, Valla was seated across from Baxter. The rest of the table was occupied by the members of Baxter’s away team and the members of the Prime Council.
Baxter nervously grabbed something that seemed to approximate an apple off a huge plate and bit down on it, finding it surprisingly delicious–it was more the consistency of a grapefruit than an apple.
“Doctor Browning would have loved this.” Ford snickered, loading his plate up with a handful of something from just about every plate.
Lieutenant Gellar nodded in agreement. “Probably.” He then lowered his voice a notch. “Is it just me, or is the council member across from me checking me out?”
Ford looked up. “Are you kidding? She wants me.” Ford smiled and winked at the woman. “Hey baby, what’s happening?”
“I am curious,” the woman replied. “Do you sleep in a bed, or in a cage, like an animal?”
Ford just looked down at his plate quickly and began to eat.
Gellar nudged the ensign. “What tells me that’s not the first time a lady’s asked you that?”
“Shut up.” Ford said.
“So, Captain,” Hethla began, once she had placed a small pile of food on her plate. “What could our planet possibly have to offer you and the Sulani?”
“You’d be surprised, Ordinate. Your planet is rich in a material called ‘dilithium’. We would like to begin an agreement with you which would include a mining operation to use the dilithium for our ship as well as the Sulani’s ships.”
“How odd that the Flarn had not discovered it.”
“Their engines do not run on dilithium crystals, so I doubt they even know it is here. I guess it’s just plain lucky that they don’t have a need for it.”
“The Flarn need very little here. They simply wish for us to cooperate with them.” The woman that sat across from Lt. Gellar said. “In return, we get protection. Would the Sulani be as quick to offer protection?”
“Of course they would. The Flarn are using fear to control your people. If you did not cooperate with them, they would most likely make you quite uncomfortable.”
“What I think Jeena is trying to say, Captain,” Hethla said, looking angrily over at Jeena, “Is that we are not altogether sure that the Sulani have the resources to protect us from the Flarn, should we anger them.”
“I assure you, Ordinate, the Sulani are a powerful race.”
“If they are so powerful, why did they sit back and watch the Flarn enslave half this quadrant?” Jeena asked, now becoming angry.
“I can’t speak on that, Ma’am. We’ve only been in this quadrant for less than a year.”
“Yes, your magical journey,” Valla began. It was the first thing she had said in fifteen minutes. “Why don’t you tell us about that again, Captain. I’m sure some of the council members would like to hear more.”
“Well,” Baxter said, “I guess there’s not much to say…”
“That’s right, the so-called trip through thousands of light-years of space…” Jeena said, still quite agitated. “Why not distract us with more lies of your origins, then perhaps we will see through your…”
“ENOUGH.” Hethla shouted, pounding her hand on the table.
Baxter sighed; this wasn’t going as well as he had plan–What the hell was that? Suddenly the Captain felt something smooth and cold running up his trouser leg. He looked across the table at Valla. She smiled coyly, licking her lips ever so slightly. It was her bare foot! She was running her toes up and down the inside of his trouser leg erotically, which caused the expected reaction on Baxter’s part.
“How do you like that soup, Captain?” Hethla asked, trying to return the tempo of the conversation to normal.
Baxter’s hand trembled as he held up his fork. “I..I…” his voice wavered…“I love it.”
“Then why don’t you eat it with a spoon? Surely that way you could get more of it in your mouth.” Hethla said, laughing.
“Ye-yeah.” Baxter said weakly, quickly picking up his spoon. Suddenly Valla’s foot thrusted upward, in a maneuver that made Baxter bite his tongue to keep from yelping.
“Oh boy.” Baxter moaned.
“Are you okay, Captain?” Hethla asked, concern plain on her face.
Baxter scooted his chair back and got up, grabbing his napkin. “You’ll have to excuse me, Ordinate, I’m not feeling well.” he choked out, barely able to breathe. “Good night.” He looked at his officers and the council members, then his gaze finally fell upon Valla, who seemed to pout in childlike defeat at Baxter’s departure.
“Very well, Captain. I hope you feel better in time for the tour tomorrow morning.”
Baxter turned to leave. “Oh, I’m sure I will. No doubt it’s just a little…um…stomach thing.”
“Of course.” Hethla said understandingly.
Hethla leaned toward Lt. Larkin as Baxter disappeared up the long, winding staircase. “Is it customary for your people to hold their napkins in front of their genitalia after dinner?” Hethla whispered.
“Not that I am aware of.” Larkin stated, wondering what had come over her Captain.
Baxter stumbled up to his room, craving the solitude that he felt necessary at the moment. This woman was advancing on him like the German army, and, for the first time in his life, he was feeling boxed in by a woman. He thought of Fresca briefly and then amended that. The second time in his life. And then he briefly thought of Peterman…what would he do about Peterman…?
At any rate, this woman was obviously very interested in him, possibly even wanted to have SEX with him. And what was he to do? Obviously this society had survived for almost a millennia without males. What would occur if a male was suddenly re-introduced into the gene pool, so to speak? What social and political consequences would come from such an encounter? Was he ready to tread along that fine line called the Prime Directive? God knew great captains like Kirk, Picard, Sisko, and Rydell did it day after day. For goodness sake, Rydell played hopscotch on that fine line. Should he act any differently?
There was a knock on his door.
“Capt…Andy…” came a muffled voice. “It’s Valla.”
Okay, okay, Baxter thought, what do I do? “One second!” Baxter cried nervously. His ego and id where currently at war, and he couldn’t seem to decide which he liked better at the moment.
“Hethla sent me up here to check on you. To make sure you were okay.”
“Coming!” Baxter called out.
Baxter opened the door, resolving to do the right thing, to give the Prime Directive the respect it deserved and not interfere with this culture.
“Hi there.” Valla said sweetly as Baxter opened the door. She pushed him inside and onto the bed, slamming the door shut behind her. “I’ve been waiting for this for a LONG time.”
“Valla, I don’t think this is the-“
Ooh, sounds like the ego is ahead by a nose.
She grabbed the back of his head and pulled him forward, kissing him ravenously, precluding the chance of further discussion.
And the id hits the home stretch, the ego lagging behind.
“We’re making history here!” Valla shouted with ecstasy.
“Oh, boy.” Baxter sighed as she ripped his dress uniform open with animal like ferocity. There went the hand-stitching.
The id strolled across the finish line, waving at the cheering crowd and accepting its trophy.
Hethla chatted amiably with Lieutenant Larkin as she led the android, along with Gellar and Ford, back to their respective rooms.
“If I may ask, what brought about the extinction of your males, Hethla?” Larkin asked as they passed Baxter’s door.
“Believe me, Lieutenant, it is a very long…” Hethla stopped, hearing a commotion from within Baxter’s room. “Something is wrong.”
Larkin nodded. “I hear it as well. I believe the Captain is in some kind of danger.”
Larkin knocked on the door. “Captain! Are you alright?”
There was no answer.
“Ordinate,” Larkin said gravely, “I think it would be wise in this case to break down the door.”
“Go right ahead.” Hethla said with concern.
With one nod from Larkin, Gellar and Ford had withdrawn their phasers. Then, without further ceremony, Larkin plowed right through the door like a battering ram.
“Captain,” she said, stumbling into the room. “Are you…”
Gellar hit the lights, and immediately considered turning them off.
Captain Baxter was, puffing away on a long, purple cigarrette, wrapped up in sheets. Next to him, Valla appeared extremely nervous.
“Hi.” Baxter said sheepishly, extinguishing his cigarrette and smiling weakly.
Hethla was seething with anger. “I…do not believe it. This is an outrage!!!!!” She was now screaming at the top of her lungs. “Valla, my most trusted advisor, my second in command! You have violated everything our people hold dear. For that you will be punished severely!
“And you, Captain. You have disgraced every precept you have set forth upon visiting this planet. You have made a shambles of our diplomatic relations and destroyed the peace treaty. I hope it was worth it.”
“I…” Baxter said. “Well, it’s not what it seems.”
“Oooh, really smooth recover there, Cap.” Ford snickered. He and Lt. Gellar evidently found this entire thing quite amusing.
“Guards!” Hethla shouted.
“I am sure there is a way that we can…” Lt. Larkin said, trying to salvage the rapidly deteriorating situation.
“There is nothing you can say to help matters, Ms. Larkin. This man has proven the theories of centuries past. He had proven that our foremothers’ decision to eradicate the male gender was correct.”
Counselor Peterman stepped out onto the bridge to be greeted by Commander Conway’s uproarious laughter.
“Let me get this straight, Lieutenant. The Captain has been sentenced to execution at dusk tomorrow night, and the rest of the away team has been imprisoned?”
“That is essentially correct, Commander. How do you wish me to proceed?” Larkin’s voice stated calmly.
“Good question. I think the best thing to do is…”
Suddenly there was a crackle of static.
“Lieutenant….” Conway said into the air. There was no response. He turned back to J’hana. “What the hell happened?”
J’hana shook her head. “Uncertain, Commander. The Beldanans have erected some kind of jamming field around the entire capital city. I cannot open a comm channel or a communicator signal.”
“So we’re essentially cut off.”
“Well how the hell did they do that? I thought they had no where near that kind of technology!”
“Well, you were obviously mistaken.” J’hana said matter-of-factly.
“Then see if you can raise the Ordinate. I’m going to have to discuss this with her.”
Peterman just gasped. “What could Captain Baxter have done to be executed?”
Conway couldn’t seem to stop laughing. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Try me.” P eterman was in no mood for games.
The Commander sipped from his mug of coffee and smiled. “Well, it seems as though Captain Baxter broke an ancient law.”
“What law is that?”
Try as he might, Conway just could not keep a straight face. “Um, hee hee, the law is, ha ha, um, ‘no sex’.” With that he burst out with another string of guffaws.
Peterman sank into her seat. “No sex.”
“Yeah, see, from what Larkin could gather, sex was outlawed several centuries ago on Beldana, when all the men, supposedly a rowdy bunch, were systematically executed somehow. They’ve had centuries of peace and prosperity ever since.”
“He had sex.” Peterman was still amazed. How did she feel? Sad? Disappointed? Depressed? Angry? She knew whatever emotion she felt, it was definitely negative. “So what are you going to do about this?”
Conway stopped laughing a moment. “What am I going to do about it? I’m going to sit on my ass and drink coffee. That’s what I’m going to do. If you have any other suggestions, I’ll be happy to hear them.” With that, Conway was once again overcome with laughter.
Baxter interlaced his fingers with Valla’s, the heavy bars separating their cells dividing the two. They were allowed to put their clothes back on before being taken down to the dungeon to be deloused, photographed, frisked, and locked up.
The only member of the team exempted from this punishment was Lt. Larkin. Hethla had taken a liking to the android, for obvious reasons. Baxter would soon have to test how much loyalty that android had for him.
“Thank you ever so much Captain Hormone.” Lt. Gellar mumbled, sitting on the bench in Baxter’s cell.
In the same cell, Ensign Ford was smacking a tin can along the metal bars. “Freedom, I need freedom!”
“Shut up, Ford.” Baxter barked. He turned to Valla. “I’m so sorry, I had no idea.”
Valla smiled. “It’s okay. It was worth it. I’ll be able to say that I was the first Beldanan in seven hundred years to have sex with a man.”
Gellar looked up. “That explains it perfectly. She was desparate.”
“Old man river just keeps rollin’ along.” Ford moaned woefully, “Tired of livin’, scared of dyin’, old man river just-“
“Stop!” Baxter shouted.
“No, you stop.” Hethla said calmly, entering the cell followed by Lt. Larkin and two bulky guards. “The council has held an emergency meeting. Valla of the House of Sestra will be taken to the prison on Drid Island where she will spend the rest of her life without possibility of parole.” She turned to the cell containing Baxter and his officers as Valla burst into tears. “And the male officers of the Aerostar will be taken from this place at dusk tomorrow and put to death by the testiculator.”
“The what?” Baxter said. Before Hethla could respond, Lt. Larkin reached behind her and grabbed the fronts of the uniforms of the two hefty gauardswomen and hurled them into the opposite wall.
“We must now depart.” Larkin said calmly, drawing her phaser and ripping the heavy doors off both cells. “I suggest we do so with all due speed.”
She turned to Hethla. “I apologize, Ordinate, but I cannot allow you to kill my crewmates.” Before she knew what had happened, Hethla was lying unconscious on the floor due to a point plank phaser stun.
With that, the group fled the dungeon.
“Do you have any idea how to get out of here?” Ford asked as Larkin passed out the phasers that the guards had confiscated.
“As a matter of fact, I took the liberty of memorizing this building’s floor plan, Ensign.”
“You don’t know how much that relieves me.” He said, taking his phaser.
“Baxter to Aerostar.” Baxter said, grabbing his comm badge from Larkin.
“It is useless, Captain. They have erected some kind of force field that prevents beaming and communication from outside the planet.”
“Great.” Baxter said, grabbing his phaser. “In that case, lead the way out of here, Lieutenant.” Baxter grabbed Valla’s arm as they followed Larkin into an air duct.
“I want them found. Do you hear me? I want them found!” Councilwoman Jeena screamed as guards spread out all over the huge palace. “They have violated our most sacred tradition and assaulted our people!” With that, she turned to Hethla, who still lay immobile on the couch in the palace’s lobby.
“I don’t see how I could have been so stupid.” Hethla cursed. “I trusted the android, when she was evidently programmed by a man.”
“The error was understandable, Hethla. Don’t worry, we shall find those men and make them pay for what they have done.”
“Very well.” Hethla sighed, pulling herself up. Her head still hurt a bit from the phaser blast, but other than that she was none the worse for wear. “Have the executioners warm up the testiculator.”
“I can’t just sit here and wait this thing out.” Counselor Peterman said, pushing herself out of her chair and heading for the turbolift.
“What do you think you’re going to do about it, then?” Commander Conway asked from the command chair. “You know I’m not authorizing any away teams down there.”
“I know. I’m just going to feed my animals.” Peterman responded. “I could bring Charlie back with me if you’d like…”
“That won’t be necessary, Counselor.” Conway said blandly. “Get out of here.”
“With pleasure.” Peterman smiled, ducking into the turbolift.
The plan formed in Peterman’s head as she descended toward her quarters on Deck Seven. It was flawless.
“Computer…” Peterman called out as she strided into her quarters, heading toward her bathroom. The computer chirped in readiness. “Call up the subspace communication recording between Captain Baxter and Pre- ordinate Valla.”
“Command Authorization required to access communications files.” the computer responded.
“Peterman Zeta Five One Six.”
Peterman removed her comm badge and tossed it onto the coffee table, pulling her uniform jacket off as well. “Show me a visual of Pre-ordinate Valla.”
Peterman eyed the picture on her desktop viewer carefully. “Perfect. Computer, cross reference this image with the replicator database. I want you to prepare an outfit similar, but not identical to this one and replicate it at my terminal.”
Peterman grabbed the outfit as it appeared and quickly changed. She looked at herself in the mirror approvingly. “Not bad.” she said, flashing herself a catlike smile.
The outfit was slightly more form-fitting and exposed a good deal more skin than her uniform, resembling one of her brightly colored exercise leotards, but with a decorative vest and tiny wraparound skirt on top.
Peterman was so busy admiring herself that she hardly heard the doorchime.
“Who is it?” she asked suspiciously.
“Come on in.” Peterman said, affixing the earring that went along with the outfit to her ear.
Browning entered the quarters and stared at Peterman quizzically. “And what are you all dressed up for?”
“The stupidest thing I’ve ever done.” Peterman replied, picking up her kitten, Fritz, and stroking him softly.
“Do tell.” Browning said, taking a seat. Charlie, sensing a new visitor in the quarters, immediately set upon the doctor. She made a small “Oof” as he landed in her lap.
“I’m going to rescue the Captain. I’d prefer you not tell Conway.”
“You’re what?” Browning said, trying to stand up, but finding it useless with the huge dog pinning her down. “Are you crazy?”
“I love that man, and I’ll risk anything to save him. I know that now.”
“As I recall, you’ve said this a couple times before.” Browning said, continuing in her attempt to push Charlie off her.
“This time it’s real. I just hope he’s worth this. I don’t want to get hurt again.”
“Mentally or physically?” Browning asked, following Peterman as she headed into her bedroom.
“Both.” Peterman said, grabbing her sidearm out of the drawer in the bathroom, a perfectly sensible place to store a phaser in her opinion. Then she made a path to the living room to retrieve a tricorder.
“Well, if you’re going to insist on risking your neck for those guys, I’m going with you.”
Peterman stopped a moment and stared at the doctor. “This is not your fight.”
“It’s not yours either, but that little fact doesn’t seem to be stopping you.”
Peterman thought for another moment. “Computer, replicate another outfit similar to the previous one, set measurements for Doctor Julie Browning.”
“This sounds like fun.” Browning said with a tinge of gallows humor as she grabbed the outfit and headed for the bathroom.
“This is just great.” Captain Baxter sighed as he squeezed his way through the narrow, long, winding air duct. “It’s a good thing I’m not claustrophobic.”
“Yeah…” Ensign Ford said shakily from behind him. “Same here…hee hee…”
“Move it, spanky!” Gellar called from behind Ford. “We don’t have all day.”
“Shut up, Gellar.” Baxter barked, pushing forward. “We’re going as fast as we can.”
Lieutenant Larkin led the way, with Valla and Baxter behind her. “I believe we are almost there.”
“That’s nice to hear.” Baxter said sarcastically. “Wherever there might be.”
Ignoring the comment, Larkin continued, “According to the maps, we should come out somewhere near the edge of the palace grounds.”
“Does anyone else hear a rushing sound?” Lt. Gellar asked.
“Yeah, it sounds like rushing water…” Baxter said.
“How unfortunate.” Larkin suddenly said, coming to a stop at a metal grate. Beyond that was bright light.
“What is it, Larkin?” Baxter asked.
“We have come to a huge water reservoir. This was not on the maps.”
“That’s because it was built last year.” Valla said with exasperation. “The maps have not been updated yet.”
“That is quite an inefficient process, Pre- ordinate.” Larkin said, kicking the grate out and looking over the edge of the shaft.
“Well…?” Baxter asked impatiently.
“I estimate the drop to the water below to be approximately seventy meters.”
“Ouch.” Gellar said quietly.
“Well, we can’t just sit here.” Ford said, still shaky.
“I say we go back.” Lt. Gellar proposed.
“No, the guards will surely get us then.” Valla said resolutely.
As if to punctuate that statement, beams of energy suddenly collided with the edge of the shaft, causing sparks to shoot into the air.
“We are being fired on.” Larkin observed.
“Thanks for the news bulletin.” Baxter said impatiently. “I say we jump.”
“Are you crazy???” Ford screamed frantically.
Suddenly another blast came, this time from behind Ford.
“Stop where you are!” A voice shouted from the darkness.
“I would concur with the Captain in this instance.” Larkin said calmly.
“Hold on!” Baxter cried as he wrapped his arms around Valla and slid himself out of the shaft and into open air.
“I don’t believe he actually did it!” Gellar exclaimed. “He has brass ones after all.”
“Indeed,” Larkin replied, grabbing Gellar by the uniform and hurling him out of the shaft. “Let us see if you do as well.”
Another blast. This time Larkin targeted the pursuer that was inside the duct and fired with her phaser. She then turned around and squeezed off several more shots, taking out several of the guards that were perched on the opposite side of the reservoir.
“We must now depart, Ensign.” Larkin called out. Ford was curled into a fetal position.
“I don’t wanna die.”
“We all cease to exist eventually, Ensign,” Larkin said as she wrapped an arm around Ford and pulled him out of the air duct with her.
As Ford plunged toward the swirling waters below, he had a hard time finding that sentiment comforting.
“Where the heck are you guys going dressed up like that?” Lieutenant Hartley asked casually as Peterman and Browning strolled into the transporter room.
“Megan, I need a big favor.” Peterman pleaded as Browning took her place on the transporter pad. “I kind of need you to beam us down to the capital city of Beldana, kind of without letting the bridge know about it.”
Hartley considered this. “Are you kind of freaking insane? Conway will bust me down to Chief Mop and Bucket girl.”
“If you don’t help us, Captain Baxter will die and Conway will be Captain. You don’t want that, do you?”
“Heck no. But it’s an awful risk.”
Peterman leaned forward. “Megan, I’m asking you as a friend…
please help us.”
Hartley thought a moment. “You consider me a friend?”
“Yes!” Peterman said with exasperation. “You’re the only one that Charlie doesn’t annoy the hell out of!”
“She’s right,” Browning added.
Hartley tapped a few buttons on her panel. “I’ll put you half a kilometer outside of the palace, just far enough away that you’ll be able to escape detection by their early warning systems.”
“Thanks, Megan, I owe you one.”
“Oh, one more thing,” Hartley added, “Once you rescue the Captain and the rest, you’ll have to either disable the interference field around the capital city or get out of range of its effects in order to get back.”
“Understood,” Peterman said with resolve. “Energize.”
“Wait a minute, we won’t be able to get ba-?” Browning suddenly exclaimed, as she disappeared.
Hartley smiled. “Good luck, guys.”
Several moments later, the comm on Hartley’s panel beeped.
“Bridge to Transporter Room One. We just read an energy surge in the transporter system. Do you know anything about that, Hartley?” Conway’s voice barked.
“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about,” Hartley said, “Everything’s peachy keen down here.”
“Well, keep your eyes open just the same.”
“Sure thing,” Hartley said sweetly, as she extended her middle finger upward in Conway’s general direction.
“Whose idea was this again?” Captain Baxter cried as he flailed wildly through the melange of rushing water.
“I believe it was yours.” Ensign Ford grunted through clinched teeth.
Baxter tried madly to keep himself afloat as he searched around for the members of his team. He had Valla clutched tightly against him, and was treading water as hard as he could.
“Where’s Larkin?” Ford shouted over the din of rushing water.
“For that matter, where’s Gellar?” Baxter gasped, spitting water out. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
Larkin suddenly burst out of the water, Lt. Gellar draped over her shoulders. “We must find a way out of here immediately.” Larkin said calmly. “My processors are filling with water.”
“I’m up for suggestions.” Baxter gasped.
Suddenly, Baxter began to feel like he was being sucked downwards. “What now?”
“I believe the drain has been let out.” Larkin replied.
“I feel like I’m in a giant tub!” Ford shouted as he spiraled downward.
Baxter struggled to keep his and Valla’s heads above water as they plunged toward the bottom.
Suddenly, the group clanged loudly against the bottom of the reservoir, flopping around like a bunch of fish out of water.
“Is everyone okay?” Baxter asked, pulling himself to his feet. He squinted as he stared up at the bright afternoon sky, and the edge of the reservoir’s outer wall, at least three hundred feet above his head.
Lt. Larkin wrapped her arms around Lt. Gellar and squeezed a lungful of water out of him.
The security officer coughed and wheezed a moment. “Jeeze, that sure was fun.”
“Any other bright ideas, Captain?” Ford asked.
“There will be no more bright ideas.” Hethla said sternly, from an opening on the far side of the reservoir. She was holding a rifle, flanked by two guards. “The chase is over.”
Counselor Peterman and Doctor Browning weaved their way through the crowded town square, toward what one of the passersby had told them was the Capital building. She seemed a little surprised by Peterman’s ignorance, as a citizen of Beldana, but commented that it was “not unsurprising for a brunette.” Peterman wasn’t sure what to make of that comment.
“Just think, Kelly, a whole world of nothing but women,” Browning whispered.
“Yeah.” Peterman glanced back at the Doctor, “But what do they do for fun here? I mean how do they, you know…”
“I don’t even want to guess.”
“Come on, Janice, you’re a Doctor, that stuff shouldn’t be disgusting to you.”
“All the same, I’d just rather not find out.”
“Go join the rest of your kind, Man-lover.” The guard grunted, throwing Valla into a cell that was located downtown from the palace. Valla knew it well. It was where alleged reformists, “man-lovers” were held until they could be transported to the main holding facility on an island off the main continent. What no one else knew, however, was that she had been secretly helping those same reformists for several years now.
“Pre-ordinate!” a woman shouted with joy as the door slammed behind Valla. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s just Valla now, my friend. I have been arrested for our greatest crime.”
The ten people in the cell suddenly turned toward her. “But how…that crime hasn’t been committed in almost a millennium!”
“Well, things are going to change. I’ve contacted some friends. I can’t say much, but I will tell you that things are soon to change.”
“We are with you, Valla,” the woman said solemnly.
“Place them up on the altar!” Hethla shouted angrily. It was time to put an end to the disturbance caused by these foul men. She had trusted them, trusted that they weren’t as evil as the men of her planet, but she knew now that she was wrong. And now she had the ammunition to show the whole of her planet why they must remain one, single, female race.
Baxter, Gellar and Ford were dragged up onto a raised platform. Lt. Larkin lay beside them, in a deactivated heap.
“Great job, Captain. Thanks to your busy hormones, we’re all about to die.” Ensign Ford muttered.
“As you were, mister.” Baxter grunted, staring straight ahead. He wasn’t sure what he felt like. On one hand, he was afraid of what would happen to Valla. On the other hand, he thought about how much he regretted not seeing Counselor Peterman one more time before he died.
“I wish they’d just get it overwith and kill us.” Gellar moaned, breaking the silence.
“Where the hell is everyone going?” Peterman shouted over the crowd that had slowly swelled around them.
“Good question.” Browning replied, her voice drowned out in the rush of people.
“Haven’t you heard?” One of the women near Peterman said. “They’re killing the alien men today!”
“Oh, man.” Browning said. “The Captain!”
Peterman quickened her pace across the capitol plaza. “I know, I know, come on!”
They soon came to a huge platform, where Hethla stood with a microphone, Jeena at her side.
“Hello everyone, thanks for coming.” Hethla began, her voice booming over the PA system. “As many of you know, yesterday a ship carrying an assault force of alien males arrived here. They tried to take over our government and reassert the male gender. We are putting a stop to that right now.”
Doctor Browning stared in horror as she saw Captain Baxter, Lt. Gellar, and Ensign Ford being blindfolded. “Kelly…we’ve got to hurry!”
Peterman plowed through the crowd and up the long stairway to the stage.
“We must show these encroaching males that we will not let them taint our way of life.” Hethla continued. “We shall show them what lies in store for any man that sets foot on this planet. Ladies, attach the testiculators.”
Three guards approached Baxter, Gellar, and Ford, carrying three strange, claw shaped devices that were attached to long, thick cords. Baxter let out a small squeak of pain as the claw was attached to his crotch. What the hell were they going to do to him?
“Now, let us witness the downfall of man…LONG LIVE WOMANKIND!” Hethla said energetically. The crowd seemed to be loving it.
“Stop!” Counselor Peterman shouted, climbing up towards the podium.
Several guards lunged toward her, but Dr. Browning quickly picked them off with her phaser. Before anyone had time to act, Peterman grabbed the back of Hethla’s head and jammed a phaser up to the side of her face. “We’re all sisters, here!” Hethla exclaimed.
“Then how about we have a little chat, sis?” Peterman growled.
Doctor Browning stepped up and trained her phaser on the Ordinate. “Anybody move and the bossy lady gets it!” She really liked this terrorism stuff. It was much more fun than medicine.
Peterman let go of the back of Hethla’s head and snatched her microphone. “Ladies of Beldana, let me ask you a question. Do you ever wonder what it is like to be loved by a man? To love a man? I assure you, for all their downfalls, it is wonderful. You girls don’t know what you’re missing!”
“They aren’t missing anything. Men are nothing but hormone crazed buffoons with little on their minds but sex.” Hethla replied.
“You’ll shut up if you know what’s good for you!” Browning grumbled, gesturing with her phaser.
“Is that so?” Peterman asked, approaching Captain Baxter.
“Kelly, I…” he whispered.
Peterman winked at him. “Shut up and let me do the talking.” she whispered back, then turning to the audience. “This man has managed to worm his sick little way into my heart and I couldn’t imagine living without him.”
Peterman turned back to Baxter and looked at him, in a way unlike she had ever looked at him before. Their eyes locked, and suddenly time seemed to stop. “I love him. More than I ever imagined.” She leaned forward and kissed him passionately. They stood there ridiculously, kissing in front of the population of almost the entire capital city, and millions of other people via satellite link.
“Go, Kelly!” Browning said, smiling. She stepped backward a bit, not noticing the long cord that was behind her, the same cord that branched out into three separate cords, that each attached to the crotches of Baxter, Gellar, and Ford.
The doctor backed into the wires, her legs becoming ensnared.
Baxter, Gellar, and Ford winced in pain as the cords attached to them pulled taut and yanked their genitals.
The whole group, Peterman included, fell in a messy tangle of arms and legs.
Hethla turned on Peterman and pulled her up by her hair. “Nice try, you brunette bitch! It almost worked. Now you and your male friends are doomed.”
“I don’t think so.” Valla suddenly said from the foot of the steps. She had a laser rifle cradled in her arms. “Don’t move Hethla. I have people planted throughout this crowd and perched in the buildings overhead, all of them loyal to me and ready to blow your head off.”
“This is preposterous!” Hethla gasped. “What is this all about, Valla?”
Valla stepped up toward the stage, her rifle trained on the Ordinate. “It’s about the future, your high and mightiness. We’re not going to be kept in the dark any more. There are a great number of us like me who want the chance to fall in love. We want the chance to have a real family.” Valla was now clearly addressing the whole crowd, having snatched the microphone from where it had fallen on the stage.
“I don’t know how you think you’re going to accomplish that, my dear.” Hethla said cruelly.
“Quite easily.” Valla said, looking in the direction of a large vehicle hovering just behind the crowds. “If you all will please turn your attention to the vehicle behind you.” Valla paused as everyone turned around. “NOW!”
The vehicle opened and fifty Beldanan men streamed out.
“Our foremothers didn’t kill all of them, Hethla. They’ve been hiding on the southern continent for almost a millennium, along with their families. There’s a whole world none of us have known about. Because you hid it from us. You tried to keep us in the dark. You betrayed us. Now it’s time we reintegrated them. Of course, they’re going to get quite a workout for the first few generations, but there are more where they came from.”
The crowd went wild and chaos ensued as hundreds of people shouted in confusion.
“You fool. You’ve set us back hundreds of years. You’ve thrown us into anarchy.” Hethla said bitterly. “You have destroyed our civilization.”
Hethla had turned her attention away from Counselor Peterman. Not Mistake Number One, but a mistake all the same.
The Counselor kicked Hethla’s legs out from under her, sitting up and bringing an elbow down into the Ordinate’s stomach. “That’s for messing up my hair.”
Peterman stood up, kicking Hethla again in the side. “And that’s for attaching a machine to my boyfriend’s crotch.”
Hethla grunted, trying to pull herself up. “You will not… succeed.”
“Did I say you could get up, bitch?” Peterman asked, kicking the Ordinate again, sending her down for the count.
Dr. Browning clicked her tongue with concern as she removed the devices from Baxter, Gellar, and Ford’s crotches. “I don’t know what these things would have done, but it couldn’t have been good.”
Ford stood up gingerly, wincing from the pain the device had caused him just from being clamped on. He looked down at the melee below. “It looks like the political scene here will change dramatically in the next few minutes.”
Valla smiled. “You are correct, Ensign. This is the dawning of a new age.”
Peterman helped Captain Baxter up. “Andy, are you okay?”
Baxter shook his head, even that seemed to cause his crotch pain. “I’m fine. D-did you say boyfriend?”
“Unless you have any more plans with your little friend Valla.”
Baxter looked at Valla. She was being carried out into the crowd of Beldanans, as they cheered, hoisting her up toward the sky. “Uh, no. Somehow I think Valla will have her hands full enough here.” Peterman smiled, pulling Baxter up, into her arms. They embraced and kissed again.
“I’m sorry, Kelly, this has been a really confusing couple of months–”
Peterman pressed a finger to Baxter’s lips. “Shhhh. That’s all in the past. You’re mine now.”
Supplemental. We have just left orbit of the planet Beldana. It was quite an…interesting trip to say the least. I think I…learned a lot. For the record, I didn’t really, strictly speaking, break the Prime Directive. I mean, the point is, there’s a new, honorable, well-balanced government on Beldana now, that was…well, mostly the result of an internal struggle. We leave Beldana with the hopes that they will discover some sort of accord in the difficult years ahead. We will also recommend to the Sulani government that they not be added to the anti-Flarn task force, as they have enough problems as it is. I would also like to include a citation for bravery in this log, for Counselor Kelly Peterman and Doctor Janice Browning, who went above and beyond the call of duty to act in the crew’s best interest. Commander Conway’s protest will also be duly filed and ignored. Note for Personal Log: As of this day, stardate 51522, I have officially begun my romantic relationship with Counselor Peterman. Let this announcement be so noted in the ship’s betting pool.
Counselor Peterman nestled closer to Captain Baxter as they listened to Ensign Madera’s dramatic harp rendering of the classic Klingon Ballad “bljeghbe’chugh vaj blHegh,” which, roughly translated, means “Surrender or Die.”
Madera’s emotional rendition was almost enough to make Peterman cry, although, if she had heard the translation of the song’s lyrics, she probably would have been more disgusted than anything else.
“Look how cute they are together, Christopher!” Dr. Browning whispered in Lt. Commander Richards’ ear. “They make a really nice couple.”
Richards just smiled. “I knew they would get together sooner or later. I mean, without my coaching, Baxter would never have had the guts to…”
“Yeah right. It was my advice to both of them that got them together,” Browning responded, raising her voice slightly.
“Yeah, well who won the ships betting pool?”
“Well, me neither, so I guess neither of us had as much insight into that relationship as we thought.”
Browning thought a moment. “Well, still, if they get married, I get to be maid of honor.”
“Darn, and I was hoping I’d get to do it.” Richards said sarcastically. “I had a dress picked out and everything.”
“Sssshhh!” Lieutenant Hartley suddenly said, turning around in her seat. “Some of us want to hear the music!”
Browning was about to say something else, but thought better of it, deciding instead to quietly get up and grab a snack from the bar.
Mirk polished the bar and smiled gamely at Browning as she grabbed a couple Melkonan Tortes from the nearby plate.
“Hello, Mirk. Wonderful music, isn’t it?” Browning replied.
“Yes, Ma’am. It almost sounds as if love is in the air.”
Browning ignored the bartender’s cryptic reply and returned to her seat.
Meanwhile, Mirk reached under the bar and pulled out a padd. He scrolled through the information, counting out exactly how much he had won in the ship’s Peterman/Baxter betting pool. His intuition had once again served him well.
NEXT ON STAR TRAKS: THE VEXED GENERATION
While Peterman and Baxter go on their first lovers getaway, J’hana has to contend with an anomalous gas cloud that makes everyone want to kill each other.