Author: Anthony Butler
Captain Baxter approached Counseolor Peterman’s door after carefully examining his hair in the computer panel on the opposite side of the corridor.
“Computer, unlock door. Authorization Baxter Alpha one one zero.”
Baxter stepped into the room and walked back to the bedroom, carefully avoiding the sleeping form of Charlie. He smiled, seeing Peterman curled in a tight ball under a mound of covers, fast asleep. She looked so unbelievably cute sleeping there, it almost gave Baxter a toothache.
“Kelly…” he whispered softly into her ear. “Wake up honey.”
Peterman stirred. “Hmm?”
He softly nudged her shoulder. “Come on, darling.”
Peterman opened her eyes and smiled. “Good morning.”
“There’s my girl.” Baxter sighed.
She sat up, stretched and yawned. “What brings you here?”
“Well, I was just about to go on duty on the bridge, and I thought I might stop by and see you on the way.”
Peterman leaned forward and wrapped her arms around the Captain. “Aww, Andy…”
They had been going out less than three weeks now, and hadn’t done anything spectacular, in Baxter’s opinion. They made a few trips to the holodeck, had several meals in the Starlight Lounge, and in Baxter’s quarters. Nothing out of the ordinary. But, more than ever, Baxter knew that he was in love with Peterman. He wanted nothing to mess this up, as much as the fates had conspired to do just that so far.
The couple’s embrace was interrupted by the beep of Baxter’s comm badge.
“Larkin to Baxter. We have encountered a vessel sir. It appears to be dead in space.”
Baxter sighed. “Can’t Conway take care of this?”
“He went off duty two hours ago, sir. And if I am not mistaken, your shift begins in two minutes.”
“Fine, fine. Scan the ship and have a full report ready by the time I get there.”
“Aye, sir. Larkin out.”
“Sorry, honey, duty calls.” Baxter said, smiling and kissing Peterman on the forehead. “Now you get to sleep.”
Peterman closed her eyes, ready to fall into dreamful sleep, when she suddenly remembered her appointment with Lieutenant J’hana. It was 0758, and the meeting was at 0800.
“Damn.” Peterman cursed, dragging herself out of bed. “So much for a wonderful morning.”
“Put the ship on screen, Lieutenant,” Captain Baxter said to Lt. Gellar as he stepped onto the bridge.
A small vessel appeared on the screen.
“It appears to be a Sulani transport, sir,” Larkin announced from ops. “All of its power systems are offline.”
“A little far off course, isn’t she?” Baxter asked, taking his command chair.
“Apparently it has been adrift for several days without power.”
“Life signs?” Baxter asked.
“I can discern no life signs. Presumably the crew perished after life support was lost.”
“I suppose we should send a team over there.”
“That would be prudent, Captain.” Larkin replied.
“Very well. Take an away team over there and see if you can find out what happened,” Baxter said.
Larkin stood. “Aye, sir.”
Lieutenant J’hana checked the chronometer in Peterman’s office again. 0815. How like a human. Peterman was late, and it didn’t surprise J’hana a bit.
As a matter of fact, it angered her. Why was she here, anyway?
True, Conway had ordered her to meet with the Counselor after the incident where she broke that ensign’s collar bone in four places, but, hey, he had it coming. Let one ensign misfile a report, and the next thing you know there is chaos.
J’hana didn’t feel one bit of remorse. What she did feel was tremendous anger, directed towards Counselor Peterman. Why did she have to visit Peterman anyway? She didn’t need anyone to tell her what was making her so edgy lately.
She knew that much. It was being cramped on this ship with all these unruly humans. It was driving her nuts. If that wasn’t bad enough, with the exception of the little scuffle with the Maloxians, J’hana hadn’t been able to let off steam in any productive ways, like killing people. She really missed the gush of warm blood coming from an open wound that she had inflicted. It wasn’t fair that no one wanted to kill her lately.
- J’hana’s patience had come to an end. She didn’t need any counseling; she wasn’t about to let an undisciplined human tell her what was what. She stood to leave, just as Charlie burst through the door and knocked her over, playfully licking her face.
“Bad dog.” Peterman said, ruefully setting her stack of padds down on her desk and sitting down. “I’m awfully sorry about being so late, Lieutenant, there was an…emergency this morning.”
“I am sure,” J’hana said, pulling herself away from the dog. But Charlie just came back for more, leaping onto her as she took her chair. “Enough!” J’hana shouted, tossing Charlie across the room. “We will have none of that.”
The dog hit the wall with a smack and then jumped back into J’hana’s lap.
“He only likes it more when you play rough with him, J’hana.” Peterman giggled.
“Is that so,” J’hana said through clinched teeth. “We shall see.” J’hana pushed Charlie to the ground and wrapped her hands around his throat. “How do you like me now, dog?” J’hana shouted.
Charlie made a low gurgling sound and extending his tongue to lick J’hana’s hand as she strangled him.
“I think he really likes you, J’hana,” Peterman said, smiling. “Now, let’s get down to business. Come on, Charlie, I have a pupper treat for you.” She offered a long, brown stick of meat to Charlie and he bolted for it, taking it into his paws and devouring it.
“Frankly, Counselor, I do not see why I should be here,” J’hana said.
Peterman looked at a padd. “So Commander Conway suspended you from duty for no reason?”
“Dunston had it coming,” J’hana huffed.
“He only misfiled a security report.”
“Well, he needed to be taught a lesson.”
Peterman sighed. This would be a long day. “Wouldn’t it have been a better lesson to show him where the file should have gone, instead of giving him a roundhouse kick?”
“I imagine he will not make that mistake again.”
“That’s true enough. Then again, thanks to you, he may never be able to do the tango again.”
“Never mind. The point is, you went too far. You have to learn some restraint.”
“Why.” J’hana grunted. It was more a statement then a question.
“Because, you can’t just go around beating people up.”
“ARRRRRGGGGGHHH!!!” Peterman let her head on her desk.
“May I leave now?” J’hana finally said.
Peterman looked up. “Sure. We’ll continue this tomorrow. Until then, it is still my judgement that you remain suspended.”
J’hana stood up, when suddenly a little figurine on Peterman’s endtable caught her eye. “This is a most excellent figurine, Counselor.”
Peterman looked surprised. “Why, thank you.”
J’hana suddenly crushed it in her palm, letting the pieces fall. “Whoops. I am sorry. That temper again.”
Peterman just lay her head back down on the desk as J’hana stormed out of the room. This would take some work.
Lieutenant Larkin materialized in the engine room of the Sulani transport. It was her decision, that, since she did not require life support, she would beam down first and reestablish power. She took the small generator she had brought with her and attached it to the emergency power junction, switching it on. As soon as she did, lights and panels came to life all over the room.
“Larkin to transporter room. I have established emergency power. Energize.”
After several moments, Lt. Commander Richards, Lieutenant Gellar, and Doctor Browning appeared next to Larkin.
“Mr. Richards, please attempt to restore main power. Lieutenant Gellar and I will make our way to the bridge and attempt to find a way to access the ship’s logs. Doctor Browning, your services will be required as well.”
Richards nodded. “Gotcha. This may be tricky. I’ve never worked on a Sulani ship before.”
“Well, now’s your chance, buster.” Gellar said as he followed Larkin in the direction of the bridge.
“Smartaleck,” Richards mumbled as he opened up his engineering kit.
Doctor Browning leaned over and kissed Richards on the cheek before she left. “Good luck, dollbaby.”
“I’ll need it,” Richards sighed, looking at the
warp core. “Come on, Doc!” Lt. Gellar shouted from the distance.
“Oh, sorry.” Browning said, running after Gellar and Larkin.
“Holodeck Three is currently in use.” The computer said in its usual monotone. J’hana appreciated the ship’s computer. It was direct and to the point. Amazing a human had programmed it.
“I know it is in use. I wish to enter.”
“State security authorization.”
J’hana grunted. What was Commander Conway doing in there that was so special he had to lock the holodeck? “J’hana Gamma five zero three,” she stated.
The doors suddenly parted, and J’hana stepped forward, immediately assaulted by the noise level.
“What is this place?” J’hana said with wonder as the doors closed behind her and disappeared. J’hana looked around. She seemed to be standing on an asphalt road, in some sort of stadium that was packed with cheering people. This was apparently some sort of Earth sport, though J’hana wasn’t sure which one.
Suddenly a loud voice boomed from out of nowhere.
“Conway almost wiped out there, ladies and gentlemen. Earnhardt is hot on his tail. They’re nearing the last two laps.”
Suddenly, a blue streak whizzed past J’hana at a tremendous speed, almost knocking her over. What the hell was that?
Before she knew it, a red streak passed her, coming close to ramming into her.
“Commander Conway!” J’hana shouted over the din. “I need to talk to you.”
“Hold on, folks, there seems to be a fan out there on the track. This is unbelievable.”
J’hana recognized the streaks that were whizzing by her. They were combustion-powered Earth vehicles. And they seemed to be driving around in circles. How odd.
J’hana decided that there was only one way to find Conway. “There is an old earth saying. If you can’t beat them, join them.” J’hana said, standing out in the middle of the track. “Stop, in the name of Starfleet Security!” she said to the vehicle that was coming towards her.
It didn’t seem too intent on stopping.
“That fan out there must be insane! She’s standing out in the middle of the track now!”
At the last minute, the car suddenly screeched to a halt, spinning out and stopping right at J’hana’s feet. A man in a helmet got out of the car, stomping his feet in fury.
“And jus what the hell do you think yer doin’, girlie?”
“I must commandeer your vehicle. It is an urgent Starfleet matter.”
“Never mind,” J’hana said, pushing him aside.
Kyle Petty removed his helmet, letting his hair cascade down about his shoulders. “You are one hot ticket, I’ll give ya that.”
J’hana looked at him as she slid into the car. “My, you have the look of a warrior,” she was taken aback, slightly.
“Thank, you, I guess.” Petty said sheepishly, stepping off to the side of the track.
“Thank you for the use of your vehicle,” J’hana said, strapping on her seat belt.
Now how the hell was she supposed to work this thing?
“Computer,” J’hana said. “Reconfigure the controls of this vehicle to those of an Andorian Land Cruiser, model eight.”
J’hana watched as the controls contorted in front of her eyes and changed to the more familiar lever-based controls of her homeworld’s ancient vehicle of choice.
The security officer yanked a lever back and sent the vehicle forward. “Much better.”
The vehicle accelerated quickly, nearing the pack of cars before it.
“Ladies and gentlemen, as we near the home stretch, we seem to have a new driver for Kyle Petty’s car.”
J’hana reached the last car in the pack, looking into the window and trying to see who it was.
She couldn’t tell who was driving because they wore a helmet. “Commander Conway!” she shouted
Nothing. She pulled forward, repeating the procedure until she reached the front of the pack.
The helmeted figure turned. “J’hana? What the hell are you doing here?”
“I need to talk to you!”
“Can this wait?” Conway asked, steering the vehicle away from J’hana’s.
J’hana pursued him. “No! It is of the utmost importance.”
“Too bad!” Conway shouted.
“I am sorry, Commander.” J’hana said, jerking her vehicle over and ramming it into Conway’s.
The two vehicles skidded off the track, also knocking into another car. All three of them tumbled through the median of the track, finally coming to a stop in a messy heap.
J’hana unhitched her seatbelt and crawled out of the car. Good thing the holodeck safetys seemed to be working properly. Her car had been crushed like a tin can. In a real situation, she most likely would have been killed.
Commander Conway likewise pulled himself out of his car. “Just great, Lieutenant. I almost won that one!”
“I am sorry, Commander, but I do need to talk to you.”
Both of them suddenly heard a groan from the third car that had crashed.
“Ooooohh,” a man said, lying several feet from the car itself.
“Dale!” Conway shouted, running to the man’s side.
“It seems Conway and the mystery driver are okay, but Dale Earnhardt looks injured. An ambulance is making its way onto the field.”
“No, Dale, don’t die!” Conway moaned.
“It’s…okay…David…I want you to…take my car.”
“No, you’re going to be okay,” Conway continued to moan.
An EMT hopped out of the ambulance, immediately sizing up the situation. “His spine is broken, and he’s losing blood fast.”
“Damn you, J’hana. Look what you did. You’ve killed Dale Earnhardt,” Conway screamed as Earnhardt turned his head to the side and closed his eyes.
“Get out!” Conway screamed.
“But I wanted to talk to you about my suspension. I need to be put back on duty!”
Conway grimaced. “Not very damn likely now, is it? Now get the hell out of here!”
J’hana grunted with displeasure. “I am sorry, Commander.”
That hadn’t gone quite as planned.
Doctor Browning bent down and frowned at the Sulani corpse. It seemed to almost frown back at her, pinned against the bulkhead by a duranium girder in a manner not unlike Lt. Commander Richards had been several months ago. At least in Richards’s case, the girder hadn’t gone through his chest. Browning shivered.
“What is your assessment, Doctor?” Larkin asked, staring down over the doctor’s shoulder unemotionally.
“He died of intense internal trauma caused by this duranium girder. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“That seems to coincide with my theory. It seems a massive explosion occurred outside the engine room that caused many of the crewmembers to be killed and the ship’s power systems were compromised as a result.”
Browning nodded. “So everyone else died when life support was lost.”
For a moment, Larkin’s brow almost seemed to furrow. “We are still left with the question of how the explosion occurred.”
“Good question.” Browning replied.
“Then I suggest we proceed to the source of the explosion.” Larkin said, leading the way down one of the ship’s cramped corridors.
“There.” Lt. Commander Richards said, as the warp core once again began to thrum.
Fixing the power systems had not been as hard as he had first thought. There had evidently been some kind of explosion, which had compromised the antimatter and matter containment fields. They were not as advanced as the ones used on most Federation starships, and were much more easily disturbed. Emergency containment valves had closed to prevent the antimatter and matter from mixing, causing main warp power to be cut off.
The strange thing was, emergency impulse power should have kicked in at that point, but it seemed as if those conduits had been severed. Richards tried to trace the power conduit to its breaking point, to see if the explosion had damaged that, and indeed it had. An explosion capable of efficiently knocking out both warp and impulse power would have had to have been extremely well planned, not by far accidental.
Even stranger, emergency battery backups had not functioned either. They were kept under an entirely different system and command protocol, and should have been unaffected by the explosion. They were purposely set up that way, in case just such an accident should take place.
After climbing three decks down to the battery chamber, Richards gasped.
“Richards to Browning. I’ve found two more dead bodies.”
“What’s new? They’re all over the ship. The entire crew is dead.”
Turning his head in disgust and covering his mouth with his sleeve, Richards choked out, “Just come down here, Janice, and bring Mr. Gellar.”
Captain Baxter sipped at the cold glass of grapefruit juice and sighed as he reviewed Lt. J’hana’s discipline report.
“You really know how to endear yourself to a guy, don’t you, Lieutenant?”
J’hana stood at the other side of Baxter’s desk in his readyroom, perfectly stoic and unmoving. “No sir, I would not say it is my strong point.”
“At ease, Lieutenant, if you stand any straighter, you’re going to break something.”
J’hana raised an eyebrow. “I prefer to follow protocol, sir. Military protocol happens to matter a great deal to me, however little it means to you.”
“Then if I give you a direct order to sit down, it’s my understanding that you will do that.”
“That is correct, but I do not have to enjoy it,” J’hana said wryly, taking a seat.
“Listen, I know the Commander is a difficult man, believe me, I know. But the fact remains, he is in charge of personnel, and as I understand it, you have not been behaving in an extremely productive manner.”
“I have done my duty, sir.”
“You also broke Ensign Dunston’s collarbone. And I also hear that you hurt Ensign Yang’s feelings last week.”
“She is an incompetent engineer and I told her so.”
“Well, she also happens to have feelings, and you stepped all over them.”
“Cursed human feelings,” J’hana grunted.
Baxter was beginning to get annoyed. “Listen, missy, I happen to have those cursed human feelings you speak so badly of, and I also happen to like them. One of those feelings tell me that you are a good officer. You are efficient, strong, and a really hard worker. You are also foul-tempered, moody, and unpleasant.”
“I suppose you talked to Counselor Peterman.”
“Hell yeah, I talked to Counselor Peterman. You know, she loved that Betty Boop statue.”
“I shall replicate her a new one.”
“That’s not the point. You can’t just go around breaking things whenever you want to. You have to learn to respect people, their feelings, and their possessions.”
“I understand you have…feelings…for Counselor Peterman. Perhaps that clouds your judgement in this matter.”
“Damn right it clouds my judgement, it makes me even madder. J’hana, the bottom line is, you have to start being a little more respective of the crewmen around you, or, as much as I’d hate to do it, you will have to be transferred to a less… attractive…position.”
J’hana gasped. “Not…”
The tactical officer stood. “I understand, sir. I will endeavor to make good on my misdoings.”
Baxter leaned back. “Good. Then the first thing you should do is march back down there and apologize to Counselor Peterman. She may even have an idea or two as to how you can be reinstated at your post.”
J’hana turned to leave. “I understand. Thank you, sir.”
“And J’hana…” Baxter added as she headed for the door.
“Next time you’re out on the Nascar track, try and stay in your own lane,” Baxter chuckled.
“Commander Conway should have turned into the skid. The wreck would have been much less violent if he had.” J’hana added as she disappeared behind the doors.
“This man was cut in half by a phaser torch,” Dr. Browning said in disgust.
“Who could have done that?” Richards replied.
Browning looked from the decapitated corpse to the far wall and pointed. “That guy.”
The Sulani engineer lay on the deck, slumped against the wall. Browning’s eyes suddenly widened as she looked at her tricorder. “He’s alive…barely.”
“You’re kidding.” Lt. Gellar said, looking at the Sulani.
Dr. Browning jumped over to the man and injected him with a hypospray. “Apparently there was a small pocket of air down here when life support was lost. He’s lost a lot of blood and is suffering severe oxygen depravation.”
“Can you revive him?” Richards asked.
Browning bit her lower lip thoughtfully. “I’m not sure. His vital signs are fluctuating rapidly.”
The man suddenly groaned and gurgled painfully. His eyes shot open. “They’re crazy! They’re all crazy!” he screamed, sitting up and trying to stand.
Gellar put his hand on his phaser, but soon saw that the man wasn’t in a position to do any harm.
As quickly as he started ranting and raving, the man once again fell limp.
“We lost him.” Browning said, putting her hand over the man’s eyes.
“Larkin to Richards.” Came the beep of Richards’ communicator. “I have inspected the site of the explosion. It seems to have been caused by one of the crewmembers.”
“We figured that much out.” Richards replied.
“I have also taken the liberty of examining some of the ship’s logs. It seems they were delivering a vaccine to the planet Darson, a small Sulani colony on the edge of Flarn space. They seem to be overrun with some sort of plague.”
“That doesn’t sound good.” Gellar said.
“Indeed, Lieutenant, it is not. Judging by these logs, I am to understand that the colony could be wiped out within the day.”
“So, what do you reccommend, Ms. Larkin?” Baxter asked, leaning forward in his command chair and twiddling his fingers nervously.
“We must take the antidote to Darson, before it is too late.”
“Alright,” Baxter replied, “We’ll recall the away team and make a course to…”
“Captain…” Ensign Fresca said from ops, “I’m picking up some kind of spacial anomaly one point five parsecs from here.”
“Perhaps that was what the Sulani ship had diverted its course to investigate.” Baxter said, rubbing his chin.
“May I suggest we send a runabout to deliver the vaccine to Darson and allow the Aerostar to remain here to investigate this phenomenon? It may shed some light on the deaths of the Sulani crew.” Larkin replied.
“Ensign Fresca, plot a course to Darson. How long would it take a runabout to reach it at maximum warp?” Baxter ordered, standing behind Fresca’s chair.
“At Warp four, the runabout would reach Darson in four point five hours.”
“That would suffice, Captain.” Larkin said.
“Very well.” Baxter replied, turning to Fresca. “Have a runabout prepared for immediate departure. And call Commander Conway to the bridge. I have an idea.”
Fresca tapped in some commands on her panel. “Always a bad sign.”
“So the Captain sent you back here.” Counselor Peterman said with a touch of a smile.
J’hana huffed, sitting low in the couch across from Peterman and glowering. “It was an order. Please, Counselor, I am sorry. I… overreacted. I will do whatever it takes to redeem myself.”
“Someone once said something about good intentions, Lieutenant. I, uh, can’t quite remember what it was, but anyway, good intentions sometimes…turn out bad. Or something.”
J’hana shook her head. “What?”
“Well, my point is, it seems you always go into things with good intentions, and then your temper ends up getting the best of you, like in the holodeck with Commander Conway, and with me earlier today.”
“What’s your point?”
“You have to learn patience, you have to learn how to care for your fellow…”
“Baxter to Peterman.”
Peterman sighed and tapped her comm badge. “I’m kind of busy right now, Andy.”
“Well, it seems we have to send a runabout to take some vaccine to a nearby planet, and, well, I thought…since it doesn’t entail much work, you and I could go, and…well, you know, make a day out of it.”
Peterman’s eyes lit up. “We could take a picnic lunch!”
“Exactly. Our first little day trip.”
J’hana made a quiet gagging noise.
Peterman looked at J’hana a moment, smiling slyly. “I just got a wonderful idea.”
“I don’t feel very good about this.” Richards said, as Lieutenant Larkin continued working on the computer on the bridge of the Sulani transport.
“Do not concern yourself, Commander. We shall take proper safety precautions. This is an excellent opportunity for us to discover exactly why this occurred.”
Dr. Browning leaned over and looked at the body of what she presumed to be the Captain of the ship, slumped in the command chair. “Stabbing. That makes the fourteenth murder victim. I’m starting to think that this wasn’t an accident.”
“Gee, what could have given you that idea?” Lt. Gellar asked sarcastically.
“I definitely don’t feel very good about this.” Richards repeated.
Counselor Peterman closed her small carry-on bag. “That should be all.” She then turned to J’hana, who seemed like she was still in shock. “Okay, J’hana, do you understand everything?”
“I understand that I must really like my job in order to do this.”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I think that this is a sign of your progressing humanity.” Peterman said offhandedly, walking over to the replicator.
“I don’t want to have any…humanity.”
“You know what I mean. Now, Charlie’s food is in the replicator. It’s canine supplement number twenty- seven. If he’s really good you can give him a snack later on in the day. Raphael eats a special blend of ants and larvae I came up with. It’s under Peterman meal supplement five-j in the computer.”
J’hana’s face darkened. “Wait a minute. You said nothing about the monkey. It attacked me, as I recall.”
“Come on, J’hana, that’s in the past now. I’m sure you and Raphael and everyone else will get along famously. Fritz eats feline supplement thirty-two and Ozzie eats a combination of sunflower seeds and pecans.”
As if on cue, Ozzie the osprey let out a huge squawk from the other room.
Peterman continued. “All your other instructions are in the computer under Peterman’s Pets One-A.”
“What about the…nogath.”
“Oh, Mongo? You take special care of him. He saved all our lives if you haven’t forgot.”
J’hana looked down at the small, hamster-like creature that scampered around in a cage on Peterman’s endtable. “I assure you, Counselor. I have not.”
Peterman grabbed her carry-on, as well as the picnic basket she had replicated earlier. “Great. Well, I guess that’s it. Wish me a great trip.” She bent down and kissed Charlie on the nose.
J’hana looked on with disgust. “Have…fun.”
Peterman headed out the door, then quickly stuck her head back in. “And don’t forget…today is Fritz’s bath day. He likes lots of bubbles.”
J’hana looked down at Fritz as he played quietly with his ball of yarn. She was about to embark on a nightmare that would put the Khittomer massacre to shame.
Captain Baxter smiled at Counselor Peterman as she climbed inside the cockpit of the runabout.
“Hey, Kelly. Are you sure you can trust J’hana to take care of your pets while you’re away?”
Peterman sat her luggage down and took the seat next to Baxter. “I know she has the heart of an animal lover within her, Andy.”
“The heart of an animal maybe.” Baxter said with concern on his face.
Peterman leaned over and put her arms around the Captain. “Stop worrying. Lt. Hartley is there if J’hana should have any problems, and she knows how to handle my pets. Now, lets get on with that vacation.”
Baxter and Peterman kissed for a long moment, interrupted by a chirp at the comm panel. “Bridge to runabout Potomac, you are cleared for departure.” Came Commander Conway’s gruff voice. “The vaccines have been transported directly to your cargo hold.”
“Thanks, Commander. See you tomorrow.” Baxter said, beginning the takeoff sequence.
“Don’t have too much fun out there…” Conway said wickedly.
“Same to you.” Baxter retorted, as the Potomac glided out of the Aerostar’s shuttlebay, angling away toward her destination and engaging into warp.
“The Potomac has cleared shuttlebay one.” Ensign Fresca announced from ops.
“Very well.” Conway said, heading back towards the command chair. “Lay in a course for the disturbance and engage at half impulse.”
“Aye, sir.” Ensign Ford said from the helm.
Conway turned towards the science station. “Lt. Tilleran, I want every sensor array we have online and studying this thing, understood?”
Tilleran nodded. “Aye, sir. All science departments are standing by. Sensor gains have been set to maximum, we won’t miss a thing.”
“Make sure you don’t.” Conway grimaced, sounding slightly too annoyed.
Tilleran shivered when Conway said that, as if she was just hit with a wave of negative emotion–stronger than average. How odd.
“The Aerostar is heading into the disturbance.” Lt. Gellar noted from one of the panels on the bridge of the Sulani ship.
“Found anything yet, Larkin?” Richards asked, looking over her shoulder.
“The computer core was damaged in the accident. I can only access certain logs.”
“How convenient.” Gellar muttered.
“Indeed. What is even more curious is the absence of ship’s logs from stardate 51590 until now.”
“That was three days ago.” Richards noted.
“Correct. The question remains, what took place in those three days?”
“A lot of killing?” Gellar offered helpfully.
“You have an excellent grasp of the obvious.” Larkin replied as she continued to access the logs. “I believe I have repaired the section of computer memory that holds the last Captain’s log.”
“About time.” Richards said.
“As I recall, you offered no help, Mr. Richards.”
“Just play the log.” Richards said with impatience.
Dr. Browning nudged him. “Be nice.” she whispered.
Larkin hit a control, and as she did so, the dark bridge’s speakers crackled to life.
“…are after me. I have sealed the bridge in hopes of escaping my insane crew. I was able to take out the navigation officer…went crazy…weapons officer still on my side. Engineer Bernan is another story. I think he’s going to…sabotage! I think he’s going to try to destroy this ship!…must stop him…steering us out of the anomaly…has something to do with…WAIT!! STOP!!!!”
What the away team heard next was the muffled noise of explosions and phaser blasts, followed by one more huge explosion.
“…on the bridge…” the recording continued, “lost all power…you took out the warp core didn’t you? We have sick people relying on…no…get away!!!!!!”
The recording promptly ended.
For a moment, the Sulani bridge was silent.
“Contact the Aerostar, Mr. Gellar.” Larkin said gravely.
Gellar pressed a few buttons. “No use, they’ve already entered the phenomenon.”
“We must follow them. They are in grave danger.” Larkin looked to Richards. “Commander, I need you to get this vessel’s engines back online. I also need you to help me devise a means of shielding this vessel from the effects of the disturbance.”
Richards just rubbed his face. “You might as well ask me to pull a rabbit out of my butt.”
“Whatever you think will help, Commander. Now follow me.” Larkin replied.
“What the heck am I supposed to do?” Browning asked.
“Continue to analyze the dead here and help Mr. Gellar.” Larkin added as she and Richards entered the turbolift.
Browning sighed. “Just wonderful. What do you need, Brian?”
Gellar began to set about rewiring the bridge stations. “A paddle.”
Gellar looked at her with complete seriousness. “Because we’re up shit creek.”
“Things are not that bad, Megan.” Mirk said idly, while polishing a glass.
Lt. Hartley bent over her drink. “Yeah, well, you’re not seventy thousand light years from home.”
“I don’t think that’s your problem,” Mirk said, putting the glass down and picking up another. “What’s really bothering you?”
“I don’t know. I’ve just noticed in the past couple months what a drought there is of acceptable men on this ship.”
“That’s not true. What about Lt. Atkinson? I thought you two were kind of an item.”
“Yeah, right, we went on one date. Anyway, he makes me nervous. It’s like he’s always trying to hide something.”
“Maybe he is. Aren’t we all?”
“Enough with the cryptic psychologist questions, okay? I don’t need to hear that right now.”
Mirk decided to abandon that angle and try another one. “Well, what about Ensign Ford? He likes you.”
Hartley huffed. “Not on your life. Ford is a superficial egomaniac whose hands are busier than a Galaxy class starship.”
Mirk’s attention had wandered off to the large windows at the front of the room, noticing the strange blue glow that seemed to suddenly surround the ship. “Where are we, anyway?”
Hartley turned around and look out the window. “I’m not sure. I think we’re investigating some vessel we found dead in space.”
“You don’t know what sector we’re in?”
Mirk thought a moment. “Oh.”
“Anyway, like I was saying, people come in and out of the transporter room, but they never stay long enough for me to really…”
Hartley was interrupted as a chair flew over her head and missed hitting Mirk by a centimeter.
Mirk stuck his head back up. “What the hell was…”
Another chair–this time Mirk caught it right in the face.
Hartley was on her feet in an instant. Evidently the entire rest of the Starlight Lounge had erupted into a giant brawl, with Ensign Dunston from security and Sanchez from Engineering at the center.
“Break it up guys!” Hartley yelled, to no avail. “Hartley to Security, I need a team in the Starlight Lounge on the double!”
Mirk pulled himself up, grabbing a bottle of Aldebran whiskey and bashing it over the head of one of the brawlers, knocking him out cold. “What the hell is going on?” He asked over the din.
Hartley pushed through the crowd, trying to push them apart. “I don’t know! Don’t you have a weapon back there, like all other bartenders?”
Mirk ducked behind the bar again. “I don’t think so. Wait a minute, here’s something.”
The bartender retrieved a large, square, flat object attached to a long handle. He assumed it was left by the last bartender to swat at any flies that might have snuck into the lounge.
Mirk wielded the high tech flyswatter as if it was a Klingon batleth, leaping over the bar and swatting away.
The security team arrived shortly later, but by this time, it seemed like no one cared.
The head of the security team considered this. “This fighting is most illogical.” she finally said.
At a little over a meter and a half, Ensign Saral was probably the shortest Vulcan alive, but nonetheless, she was an intimidating security officer to say the least.
“You must cease and desist in this action immediately.”
No one seemed to be listening.
“I said STOP.”
Lt. Hartley briefly stuck her head out of the tumbling mass of bodies. “Hey, Saral, could you please give me a ha-“ But before she was finished, a hand pulled her back in.
“Very well.” Saral looked to the three security officers behind her. “Set phasers to wide beam stun and fire at will.”
Mirk swatted and smacked as he worked his way through the fighting mass of people. “Can’t we all just get along?”
Hartley once again stuck her head out, while pounding someone’s head into a bulkhead. “That wasn’t very damn funny.”
“Are you okay, Megan?” Mirk asked.
“Do I LOOK okay?”
“Well…” Suddenly Ensign Sanchez rammed into Mirk and knocked him into the bar.
“Stop bugging me!” He said wryly, swatting Sanchez with all his might.
Suddenly there was the high pitched whine of phasers, and everything went dark.
Captain Baxter leaned back in his chair and sighed. “That was great.”
“Yeah,” Peterman agreed. “It’s never been that good.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever sucked on something so juicy.”
Peterman smiled. “Well, it is my mother’s recipe. I programmed it into the replicator, because, frankly, the regulation Starfleet fried chicken is way too dry.”
“Amen to that.” Baxter agreed, sucking on a toothpick. “Computer, how much time until we reach Darson?”
“Two point five hours.” The computer replied smartly.
“Well,” Baxter said, turning to Peterman, “That gives us just enough time to snuggle!”
“Yahoo!” Peterman said happily, as Baxter picked her up from her chair and proceeded to carry her back to the rear compartment.
“Incoming subspace message.” The computer announced, just as Baxter headed to the back room.
“Sheesh, not a moment’s peace. Probably Conway calling to check up on us. Computer,” Baxter said, “Switch off subspace receiver.”
“Is that such a good idea, Captain Shmoopee?” Peterman asked, running her finger up and down Baxter’s nose.
“Come on, what could happen?” Baxter asked, placing Peterman down on the bunk gently and crawling in with her.
“The Captain isn’t responding.” Lt. Gellar said uncomfortably.
“Do you think he’s okay?” Browning said, looking down at the Sulani comm panel.
“I don’t know, but, frankly, I’m more scared about us right now.”
Browning shivered. “You and me both.”
Suddenly the comm panel beeped. “Larkin to Gellar. We have repaired the engines and are ready to transfer all engineering controls to the bridge.”
“Do not activate the engines until we arrive.” Larkin added. “Have you heard from the Captain?”
“Negative.” Gellar replied.
“Then it appears we will have to rescue the Aerostar ourselves.”
“It’s bath time you little furball.” J’hana said with disgust, looking down at Peterman’s kitten, Fritz.
The kitten just looked up at her and mewed innocently.
“You don’t fool me for a minute, you little fhespat. I’ve seen your true colors.” J’hana said, remembering the unfortunate incident in which Fritz had nearly destroyed the bridge.
J’hana walked into Peterman’s bathroom, careful not to disturb the iguana that was sleeping in the sink.
She ran a warm tub and poured the replicated pet shampoo formula into it. “I hope I don’t accidently drown it.” J’hana laughed to herself. “Okay, Fritz, bath time!” J’hana said, walking back into the living room.
J’hana looked around, but couldn’t find Fritz anywhere.
“I do not have time for this, you furry little bastard.” J’hana said, looking under the couch. She saw a small, furry shadow underneath the couch. “Gotcha!” She said, reaching under the couch.
Fritz dug a claw into J’hana’s hand, shrieking.
“Arrrgggh!” J’hana cried, growing more and more angry. “Enough of this!” The officer grabbed the kitten and jerked her out from under the couch.
Meanwhile, the ruckus had attracted Raphael the monkey.
“EEEEEEK!” the monkey cried, jumping onto J’hana’s back.
“Not this again.” J’hana cried, grabbing the monkey and hurling him across the room. “I’ll deal with you later.”
J’hana dragged the kitten into the bathroom, as it shrieked at almost subsonic levels.
She dipped the kitten into the warm tub, with almost too much zeal. “Get nice and clean, kitty.” J’hana muttered, plunging Fritz under again and again.
The kitten just shrieked every time it was dunked, continuing to shriek while underwater, causing a bubbly sound that pleased J’hana to no end.
J’hana was almost ready to pull Fritz out and dry him off, when Charlie suddenly poked his head into the bathroom, emitting a low growl.
“Don’t worry, Charlie, I don’t have to bathe you.” J’hana said, not paying the dog much attention.
The dog continued to growl.
J’hana pulled Fritz’s kicking and screeching form out of the water, her back to Charlie, as he leapt through the air and plowed into her, knocking her into the tub.
“Blurb.” J’hana choked, as Charlie pushed her down under the bubbles.
J’hana wrestled with the retriever, trying to get on top of him, but it was no use. The dog dug into her with teeth and claws, growling and snarling fiercely.
“What the…?” J’hana gasped, as she was dunked under once more.
“What happened?” Mirk asked, wincing as he leaned his head up. He quickly realized that he couldn’t move, that he was under the effects of some sort of restraining field.
He turned his head. He was obviously in sickbay. Lt. Hartley was unconscious in the biobed next to his.
“They’ll be fine, Ensign Saral, I’ll make sure of that.” Mirk heard some voice in the distance say. His vision was still a little cloudy.
“Thank you, Nurse Bailey. I appreciate that. I was worried we used too intense a stun setting.”
“Don’t you worry, you guys just get back to duty.” Bailey replied.
“Very well. Good day.” Mirk heard the sound of doors opening and closing, then saw Bailey lean over him.
“Oh, look who’s awake!” she said happily. “You guys all took quite a little phaser stun. But now I’m here to take care of you.”
“Uggggh. I feel like I’ve been rammed into by a Garibid slag-beast.”
“That’s perfectly natural.” Bailey replied, heading over to check on the other biobeds.
“Lt. Hartley…” Mirk whispered. “Are you okay?”
Hartley sighed. “Jeez, I…”
Mirk looked over. “What’s wrong.”
Hartley suddenly looked back at Mirk, her eyes a flaming red. “YOU WILL DIE.”
“Security reports that the brawl was broken up and the participants sent to sickbay where they will be kept under surveillance.” Ensign Puckett reported from tactical.
“Fine.” Conway replied, sipping from a cup of coffee and reading the report. “I wonder what started the fight?”
“Don’t ask me.” Puckett replied.
“Gee, Puckett…that sounds like insubordination to me.” Conway said with ire, looking back at the tactical station.
Conway blinked a moment. “Nothing, just go back to your scans. Science station…report.”
Tilleran pushed several buttons. “The disturbance seems to be a conflux of quasineural energy, but I can’t seem to find the source.”
“Can you hypothesize?”
“It seems almost like the sort of energy that would be given off by humanoid brainwaves, but much more intense.”
“Humanoid?” Conway asked. “Weird. Continue scanning.”
“Get off me!” J’hana screamed, wrestling with Charlie, and now Fritz. “What’s got into you guys?”
Suddenly, J’hana looked into Charlie’s eyes, noticing that they were a bright, glowing red. If she were human, she would say that the pets were possessed, but, it happens that Andorians have no legends referring to satanic possession.
J’hana pulled herself away from the animals and tried to struggle towards the door. She reached for her comm badge, but noticed it must have come off in the struggle.
She ran for the comm panel on Peterman’s desk, but before she could touch it, Charlie lept on top of her and knocked her to the ground.
J’hana beat Charlie off her and struggled to get up, only to be slammed into by a madly squawking osprey.
“Get off me, Ozzie!” J’hana screamed, as the bird picked at her face with its beak.
J’hana ran into the living room, looked around. An entire pack of animals from every corner of the animal kingdom surrounded her, eyes glowing, emitting low growls.
“Now, it’s time to operate.” Bailey announced happily, pulling Ensign Dunston off his bed and onto a hover-bed.
“What are you going to do with him?” Mirk asked, his voice tinged with fear. Something was very wrong.
“I’m going to make sure he plays nice.” Bailey replied.
Bailey did not reply; she merely dragged Dunston into the operating room.
“I want to push your eyeballs into your skull and crush your head!” Hartley screamed, at no one in particular.
“Who’s my Shmoopie?” Counselor Peterman asked Baxter, tickling him underneath his arms.
“I am!” Baxter said in a childlike voice.
“Right, and what am I?”
“My lil punkinhead?”
“Yes!” Peterman replied, as Baxter lifted up her uniform and blew on her stomach, making a happy “thbbbbbbbt” sound.
“Computer, initiate a security field in front of me, clearance J’hana Gamma five zero three.”
Suddenly, a blue field buzzed to life in front of the evil pets, as they pushed against it, growling and roaring angrily.
J’hana pulled herself up and made for the door.
Exploding into the corridor outside, J’hana pounded a comm panel. “J’hana to bridge. Counselor Peterman’s pets have gone nuts! I need security on Deck Nine immediately!”
“Hold on, J’hana, don’t get your panties all in a bunch.” Conway replied. “I’m sure…”
There was a long pause.
“Get off my back!” Ensign Ford’s voice screamed. “I’m doing the best I can.”
“I’m going to kill you!” Conway screamed in return.
J’hana pounded the panel again. “This ship has gone insane.”
Trying desperately to think of a plan, J’hana ran down the corridor, in no particular direction.
In the process, J’hana almost ran into Ensign Saral.
“Saral, thank the Hive Mother.” J’hana gasped. “This ship has gone insane.”
“What do you mean?” Saral asked calmly.
“The bridge is in chaos and Counselor Peterman’s pets have turned into evil hounds from hell.”
“That would explain the fisticuffs in the Starlight Lounge.”
“What do you mean?”
“Twelve crewmembers were involved in a tremendous skirmish in the Starlight Lounge. I stunned them all and had them brought to sickbay. I was just going to check on them.”
“I’ll join you.” J’hana said, trying to calm down. “Maybe we can get an explanation out of them.”
“It seems you could use some treatment as well.” Saral said with concern, glancing at J’hana’s cuts and bruises.
“Forget about that.” J’hana said. “I just want to get to the bottom of this.”
“You have to die!” Conway screamed, slamming Ensign Ford into the viewscreen.
“No…YOU have to die!” Ford replied, digging his fingers into Conway’s face.
The two grappled fiercely, falling over the helm console and sending the ship into a dive.
Tilleran and Puckett were thrown over their stations as the ship dove, Puckett knocking into Fresca at ops.
“Come here!” Fresca shouted, grabbing Puckett by her uniform and tossing her into a bulkhead. “Nobody bumps into me!”
If they had stayed on that course, they might have had a chance to escape the disturbance, but unfortunately, Ford reached over and stopped the ship’s descent.
Tilleran ducked for cover as Puckett sailed past her. “What the hell?”
“You’re going down, bitch!” Puckett screamed, her eyes burning red.
Tilleran grasped at her head as the onslaught of terrible emotions hit her. These people had gone insane, but why? And why wasn’t it affecting her?
“This is the…hee hee…Federation runabout Potomac. We’ve brought you the vaccine, hope you guys feel better!” Baxter laughed, as Peterman tickled him. “Stop!” He whispered. “This is official business!”
“Okay, Shmoopie!” Peterman smiled. “I’ll hit the transporter!”
“Thanks, lil punkinhead!” Baxter smiled. “Enjoy the vaccine, guys!” Baxter continued over the comm channel, cutting the communication off and turning in his chair. “Well, that’s done. Let’s get out of here. Computer, set a reciprocal course, at Warp Two. There’s no hurry.” He turned to Peterman and smiled.
“I think we can find a way to pass the extra time.” Peterman laughed, jumping into Baxter’s lap.
J’hana had heard the screaming halfway before she had reached sickbay, and hurried up her pace as her worry increased. There was no doubt now. The ship had gone completely insane.
J’hana pulled out the phaser she had grabbed from a weapons locker on the way down to sickbay and steeled herself next to the door. “Ready Saral?” she asked.
“As always, Lieutenant.” Saral acknowledged.
J’hana nodded and ducked into sickbay.
Immediately the screaming seemed to go up a notch. What the hell was going on?
“Thank God you’re here, J’hana!” Mirk said from one of the biobeds. “Lt. Hartley and Nurse Bailey have lost it!”
“I’ll snap you in two!!!!” Hartley screamed from her bed.
“You watch these guys and free Mirk, Saral…” J’hana said, “I’ll check out the OR.”
Saral nodded. “Be careful.”
J’hana creeped into the OR, phaser at the ready.
“Oh, hi there!” Bailey said, wielding a huge chain saw. “I like this much more than a laser scalpel.”
“Please don’t let her cut me, J’hana!” Dunston cried.
“I don’t even need surgery! I’m not that sick! I’m sorry I misfiled that security report!” J’hana raised her phaser, ignoring the cries of Ensign Dunston. “Put the chainsaw down.” J’hana ordered.
Bailey bent down and put the chainsaw down. “Okey-dokey, no need to get angry.” She came up with a Klingon d’tang knife. “How about this?”
Before J’hana could react, Bailey tossed the knife through the air and pinned her left shoulder to the wall.
“Hey, nice shot, huh?” Bailey giggled.
J’hana winced in pain as she tried to pull the knife free from her shoulder. It was no use; she couldn’t move.
Confident that J’hana had been put out of commission for the time being, Bailey left the operating room, just as Saral came up from behind her, trying to apply the notorious Vulcan neck pinch. However, Bailey was quick to react, sweep kicking the Vulcan’s legs out from under her before her fingers could connect with Bailey’ shoulder. Saral slid down the wall in a heap.
“Stop this insanity!” J’hana cried, still pinned in the OR.
“I’ve only just begun!” Bailey said evilly.
“Oh, hell,” Mirk said. Saral had not had time to free him before getting knocked out.
“Time for your operation, Mirkie!” Bailey said, upturning
a supply cart in search of the perfect operating instrument.
“What the hell are you doing!” Tilleran screamed, as Conway threw Ford into the command chair and lept on top of him, throwing a blinding number of punches.
“I’m making a command decision, Lieutenant. YOU…ARE…OFF… DUTY!” Conway said, picking Ford’s unconscious body up and tossing it against the far wall.
That’s when Fresca came up behind him and caught him in a Full Nelson.
“Get off me, you Bajoran bitch!” he cried, his eyes glowing red.
“Never!” Fresca screamed, dragging Conway backwards and into the viewscreen.
Tilleran leapt over the tactical railing and hit a button on the ops panel that caused the viewscreen to overload and electrocute both of them.
“Whew!” Tilleran said, wiping her head. “That was close.”
“Yeah, now it’s just you and me.” Ensign Puckett said, smiling, as she rammed Tilleran into the crackling viewscreen.
Larkin walked onto the Sulani bridge, followed by Richards. “Mr. Gellar, plot a course into the cloud.”
“Are you nuts? The same thing is going to happen to us!”
“I have come up with a solution to that problem.” Larkin said, picking up Doctor Browning’s medkit. “I will sedate the three of you until this situation has been resolved. I will then go over to the Aerostar and rectify the situation.”
“One problem.” Richards said. “I haven’t been able to get the transporters working.”
“I have a contingency for that as well, Commander. Now, give me your arm.” Larkin said, pulling out a hypospray.
Just as Bailey was about to slice into Mirk with
Dr. Browning’s pizza cutter, she felt a steely grip on her
“Remember me, bitch?” J’hana asked, clutching her shoulder.
“Not you again. I’m not ready to play with you yet.”
“No?” J’hana asked, leaping through the air and knocking into Bailey. “Well, I want a second opinion.”
“You won’t get one!” Bailey roared, slamming the side of the pizza cutter into J’hana’s face.
“Let me up and I’ll help you, J’hana!” Mirk cried.
“Yeah, I’ll help you to die!” Hartley continued.
J’hana struggled up to the field controls. Which one switched off Mirk’s bed? In frustration, she just hit a bunch of buttons.
“Ooo, you shouldn’t have done that!” Lt. Hartley shrieked, rolling off the bed.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Mirk said, free of his own bed. He jumped off the bed and grabbed Hartley. “What’s gotten into you?”
“I’ll tell you what’s gotten into me!” Hartley yelled. “Evil has!”
“Oh no…” Mirk cried, as the ten other officers from the brawl, each freed from their beds, came down on him.
Meanwhile, J’hana continued to struggle with Nurse Bailey.
“Take…two…of…these…and…call…me…in…the… morning!” Bailey yelled, pummeling the security officer with unbecoming strength.
“Never!” J’hana yelled, chasing Bailey into the science lab.
Bailey cackled wickedly. “You’re screwed now! Computer, seal the lab and initiate a decontamination sweep!”
“What the hell are you doing?” J’hana shouted, as a blue field began to slowly sweep across the room, in her direction.
Bailey made for the door. “See you in hell!”
“No!” J’hana grabbed Bailey and threw her to the floor. “You’re coming with me.”
The two rolled on the floor as the sweep got closer and closer.
“This is insane, Bailey!” J’hana grunted, pushing the nurse into a wall.
“Yeah, ain’t it cool?” Bailey replied.
“Computer, unlock that door, authorization J’hana Gamma five three zero!” J’hana cried, making a run for the door.
“No you don’t!” Bailey cried, leaping towards J’hana as the door opened.
“Yes I do!” J’hana replied, meeting the flying nurse with a swift backwards kick that knocked her back into the field.
“AAAAAAHHHHH!” Bailey cried, as she was vaporized with a crackle.
J’hana leapt out of the lab just as the field passed by. “Physician…” she grunted tiredly, “…heal thyself.”
“I love you, Kelly,” Baxter cooed, feeding Counselor Peterman a grape.
Peterman chewed on the grape and smiled. “No, I love YOU!”
“But I love YOU!” Baxter replied.
“No, I love YOU!”
“But I love you more!”
“No, I love YOU more!”
“I love you more!”
“I love YOU more!”
Larkin carefully piloted the Sulani transport into the cloud. She looked over at the sleeping forms of Gellar, Browning, and Richards. She knew they weren’t crazy about being put under sedation for this mission, but Larkin also knew it was not worth the risk of having them affected by whatever this anomaly was.
Larkin brought the vessel to a stop near the Aerostar’s bridge. Next, Larkin activated the Aerostar’s prefix code and lowered her shields.
Checking the stun setting on her phaser, Larkin headed for the airlock.
Lt. Hartley tossed Mirk across the room, into a rack of hyposprays and test tubes.
The rest of the brawlers had escaped into the corridor outside to wreak havoc on the rest of the ship, but Mirk couldn’t really worry about that right now.
Mirk pulled himself up and hurled a DNA scanner at Hartley.
Hartley deflected the projectile and leapt over a biobed to get to Mirk. “Now I’m going to crush your nose!” she cried.
Once again, Mirk heard the familiar whine of a phaser, but this time he was lucky enough not to be hit by it.
Hartley fell back to the floor, unconscious.
Saral holstered her phaser. “This is unacceptable.”
“You’re telling me.” Mirk sighed, standing up.
J’hana stumbled out of the lab.
“Bailey has been taken care of.” J’hana growled. “We have to get to the bridge.”
“Agreed.” Saral said, helping Mirk up. “I suggest we take Jefferies tube number thirty-two, to avoid the inevitable crowd we will confront outside.
“Right.” J’hana said, opening the jefferies tube junction in sickbay and crawling in. “Come on.”
Satisfied that everyone had become quiet again, Ensign Puckett returned to the tactical console.
“Hmm, strange.” She said calmly, looking at the proximity sensors report that a vessel was hovering just forty feet directly above them. “Can’t have that, can we?” Puckett asked herself, hitting the phaser controls.
Larkin left the Sulani transport’s airlock and immediately rolled up her left sleeve and opened a panel on her forearm. Her plan was to use the backup coolant servo that ran through her left forearm as propulsion. It was only there in case the primary one should fail, so she would probably be able to go without it for a short time. She pulled the cable lose and immediately whitish yellow liquid began to sputter out.
The android pointed the cable so that the pressure would propel her towards one of Aerostar’s airlocks, just to the rear of the bridge.
Larkin had almost reached the airlock when she noticed a phaser lance out from the Aerostar’s saucer and connect with the Sulani vessel.
The small vessel listed backward, as its hull was splayed open like a fresh watermelon.
Another blast hit its underside causing it to spin even more.
Larkin hurried up her pace, knowing her time was now cut even shorter.
Lt. Tilleran shook the dizziness from her head and tried to get up.
She looked at Puckett, who seemed to be busy at tactical.
“What are you doing, Puckett?” Tilleran asked, rubbing her head. That same evil was still assaulting her senses, making it difficult to think.
“Never you mind.” Puckett shouted, pulling out a phaser and taking aim at Tilleran. “I didn’t tell you to get up.”
Suddenly a phaser blast hit Puckett in the small of her back, causing her to fall over the tactical railing, on top of Ford in the command chair.
Tilleran pulled herself up. “Larkin…thank God you’re here. This place has gone crazy.”
“I am aware of that.” Larkin said, checking the tactical console. “I am in the process of rectifying the situation.”
“What happened?” Tilleran asked, approaching the tactical station, still rubbing her head.
“I do not have time to go into it now, but suffice it to say, this cloud is at the source.”
Alarms and buzzers went off on the Sulani transport as the Aerostar’s phasers cut into it.
The jarring of the ship and the noise of the klaxons was enough to stir Richards from the sedation of the hypospray.
“Oh, no…” he said, pulling back on the controls of the transport, trying to get control of the listing vessel.
Richards looked at the viewscreen. They were still in the cloud. He would be going insane any minute.
“Gotta make myself unconscious again!” Richards shouted, pounding his head against the bulkhead. It was just no use.
“Larkin to Engineering. What has happened to the impulse engines?”
“Stuart here. None of your freaking business. We’re taking over the ship now. Welcome to the revolution.”
“How unfortunate.” Larkin mused. “Computer, flood Engineering with anesthezine gas. Pleasant dreams, Mister Stuart.”
Larkin was at least thankful that Stuart wasn’t smart enough to transfer security control to Engineering.
“We must leave the cloud.” Larkin said.
“Right.” Tilleran said, taking the helm. “What about the engines?”
“I have bypassed Mr. Stuart’s controls and transferred engineering control to tactical.”
“I’m taking us out of here…” Tilleran reported, bringing the ship around.
Larkin scanned the area, trying to pick up the Sulani vessel in the garbled sensor traffic on the sensor scren. Funny, someone seemed to be operating it now.
“Yahoo! It’s a demolition derby!” Richards cried, steering the Sulani ship towards the Aerostar.
He was now feeling the full effects of the cloud.
“The Sulani vessel is coming towards us!” Tilleran shouted.
“I am aware of that.” Larkin said. “Raising shields. Please initiate evasive maneuvers.”
At almost the same instant, the ship rocked as the Sulani vessel rammed into it.
Tilleran tried desperately to hang on to the helm. “Shields holding.”
“We must lower the shields and transport the away team back to the ship. The Sulani vessel is losing hull integrity.”
“Are you crazy?” Tilleran asked.
“I assure you I am not.”
“Ask a silly question…” Tilleran replied.
Richards pulled himself back up to the controls after being thrown back from the Sulani vessel’s impact. “You guys don’t play fair!”
“I’ll show you fair!” Lt. Gellar said, bringing a fist into Richards’s back.
“You get off my boyfriend!” Doctor Browning screamed, leaping onto Gellar’s back.
Suddenly all three of them felt the tug of the Aerostar’s transporter beam.
“Transport successful.” Larkin reported. She had since repaired the viewscreen, just in time for the bridge to be washed with light from the Sulani vessel’s explosion.
“Hold on.” Larkin said as the ship rocked back.
“Inertial dampeners failing. We’ve lost attitude control.” Tilleran said from the helm.
“Freeze!” J’hana shouted, pulling herself out of the jefferies tube access port, leveling her phaser at Tilleran.
“I’m not insane!” Tilleran pleaded, putting her hands up.
The ship shook, as it tumbled out of control from the blast.
“No, Lieutenant, you freeze.” Larkin said coldly, pointing her phaser at J’hana.
“I’m not insane either!” J’hana replied.
“So who is insane?” Mirk asked, following Saral out of the conduit.
“I am!” Commander Conway cried, jumping up and slamming his hand down on the helm control, cackling wickedly.
Everyone, including Larkin, was thrown to the deck as the ship spun out of control.
“We have to get out of here!” J’hana grunted, pulling herself across the deck in Conway’s direction. She fought the sense of vertigo as the ship spun, trying desperately to separate Conway from his death grip on the helm.
For her part, Larkin struggled to get to the phaser she had dropped when the Aerostar had gone into its latest seizure.
“Someone shoot him!” Mirk cried, pressed against the wall.
“Not exactly a novel idea.” Saral noted, pressed up against the wall next to him.
Larkin reached out and grabbed the phaser. “If I am to disable him, Lieutenant, you must move out of my line of fire.”
J’hana grappled with Conway, jerking him back. “Do it! Shoot him! Shoot the bastard!!!!”
Larkin blasted Conway with the highest stun setting the phaser had, not taking any chances.
J’hana and Conway flailed backwards, hitting the deck with a thud. That was enough to give Tilleran a chance to lean up and stab the “All Stop” button on the helm panel and bring the Aerostar to a stop.
Carried by their own inertia, Mirk and Saral hit the deck with two more thuds as the ship suddenly stopped.
“Attitude control regained, inertial dampeners functioning again.” Larkin reported. “Lieutenant Tilleran, take us out of here.”
“With pleasure.” Tilleran sighed, stumbling to her seat.
“Anyone else feel like a drink?” Mirk asked solemnly.
Stardate 51594.2. Needless to say, the Counselor and I have returned to a different ship than the one we left. All I can say is, “wow.” It’s really a shame we had to find out the power of that cloud the hard way.
The good news is, we have set up warning beacons around the cloud to warn any other ships off. Hopefully, no one else will have to go through the trouble my crew did.
Mirk tells me the cloud was known as “The Inferno” in Maloxian legends–a place where humanoid emotions were burnt away to reveal beastly, animal instincts–much like twentieth century political conventions.
Lieutenant Tilleran has hypothesized that many years ago some nearby race was able to distill their negative emotions into a tangible form, much like Armus of Vagra Two. However, these emotions were in cloud form instead of black oily goo.
It is with great sadness that I state for the record that Nurse Brenna Bailey lost her life yesterday in the performance of her insane duties. She will be missed. Additionally, several supernumeraries were hurt in various scuffles around the ship, but I’m told they’re healing nicely.
And as far as J’hana, Tilleran, Saral, Mirk, and
Larkin, they have all earned awards for valor in their
efforts to save the ship. And did I mention I think I’m falling
in love? Strike that computer. This…probably isn’t the right
time for that.
“Boy, I tell you, I’d sure like to meet the jerks that put that cloud there. I’d have a word or two to say to them.” Ensign Ford muttered, throwing back another shot of whiskey.
“We just have to look for a race of incredibly nice people.” Hartley mused, tapping her glass on the bar in hopes that Mirk would refill it.
Mirk came around to the other side of the bar and filled Hartley’s glass, as well as Ford’s, and one for him.
“I tell you, I’ve never seen the like. It was terrible.” Mirk said.
“I really threatened to poke your eyes in?” Hartley laughed.
“Yeah, and a lot more. I’ve never seen you that mad. It was like PMS to the fourth power.”
“Wow, I would have liked to have seen that.” Ford said smiling.
“No you wouldn’t.” Mirk replied.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t remember anything.” Hartley said, throwing back another shot.
“No one does.” Ford said. “It’s as if we all woke up from a bad dream.”
“Yeah, except for me, Tilleran, J’hana, and Saral.” Mirk said. “Tilleran said we weren’t affected because of our brain waves or something. Turns out even Andorians have a low-level psychic rating.”
“Fascinating.” Hartley muttered. “Well, I’m going to bed.”
“I’ll be right there.” Ford laughed.
“Ha ha.” Hartley said blandly. “You may get your wish and see me go mad again.”
“Ouch.” Ford replied.
Captain Baxter shook his head with disbelief as he looked over the reports of several of his officers. He didn’t know what to do about the raving insanity and carnage that had taken place on his ship in the last day. He decided that no one could be disciplined for the incidents, because they had all gone insane, and the deaths of the eleven crewmembers could not be avoided. He was also glad for once that he didn’t have to report any of this to Starfleet. He idly wondered what they would have to say about it.
“Ready for bed, pookie?” Peterman asked, sticking her head in Baxter’s readyroom.
“Definitely.” Baxter agreed, taking Peterman’s arm and heading out of the readyroom.
He surveyed the bridge before entering the turbolift. A repair crew was busy repairing the damage to the bridge, and the night shift was in place. Lieutenant Larkin was also there, her hands clasped behind her back.
“Repairs are proceeding according to plan, sir. We are ready to get underway now.”
“Excellent. You have the conn, Lieutenant.” Baxter said as he stepped into the turbolift.
On the way down to Baxter’s quarters, Peterman and Baxter ran into Lieutenant J’hana.
“Hello, Captain, Counselor. I would just like to thank the both of you for restoring me to duty.”
“Think nothing of it,” Baxter said, “You deserve it after the ordeal you went through yesterday.”
“You can say that again.” J’hana replied.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” Peterman asked with concern.
“Yes, Counselor, but I wanted to check on your pets first. They seem to have settled down, and are none the worse for wear.”
“You did an excellent job taking care of them, J’hana.” Peterman said. “And Fritz has never looked cleaner. Maybe you’d like to pet-sit again sometime?”
“Not on your life, Counselor,” J’hana said firmly, heading to her quarters for a nice long nap.