Author: Anthony Butler
Stardate 51707.3. I was awaken this morning by a message from Wujan, the Sulani president, who tells me that there is rumor of a race on the other side of our sector that may be interested in joining the Flarn resistance. I assured him that the Aerostar would gladly visit the out of the way planet to parlay for their membership in our makeshift “Federation.”
“You what?” Commander Conway asked incredulously, glaring at Baxter from his seat next to him at the conference table, during the usual morning staff meeting.
“You heard me.” Baxter said resolutely. “We’re going to go to Barvan Twelve and that’s the end of it.”
“I don’t believe it.” Conway replied. “It’s an entire day out of our way.”
“I don’t care, every planet in the alliance against the Flarn counts. They haven’t struck us hard yet, but when the time comes, we’ll have to be ready.” Baxter said.
Conway folded his arms and sat back in the seat, staring at the stars as they whizzed by the observation lounge’s windows. “That’s ludicrous. We can’t act as the Sulani’s little lapdogs. We have business of our own to tend to.”
Baxter shook his head. “No we don’t. The Sulani have pulled our butts out of the frying pan more than once. Besides, we signed a treaty and we’re going to stick to it.”
“You signed a treaty, I sure as hell didn’t.” Conway said, turning away from Baxter.
“Orange juice?” Doctor Browning asked, breaking up the conversation.
“No.” Conway said.
“Yes.” Baxter said, sticking his tongue out at Conway. “So there.”
Browning poured Baxter’s orange juice, looking over at Conway. “Come on, Commander, we could all use some free time.”
“We have had too much free time as it is.” Lt. J’hana said from the other side of the table. “We are like spoiled children. Every time we have extra time on our hands something terrible happens. We are better off when we are busy.”
Counselor Petersen turned to J’hana from her seat next to Baxter. “I know more than a few people on board who would disagree with you.”
J’hana stared down at her plate, trying to think of a comeback. “These muffins are excellent.” she finally said.
“Thanks.” Browning said, taking her seat. “I made them myself.”
“Wow, Janice.” Baxter exclaimed, munching on a muffin. “You’ve become a regular master chef!”
Browning smiled. Richards nudged her from his place beside her and pinched her cheek. “Yep, she’s been helping us conserve replicator power by cooking stuff herself.”
Baxter stopped chewing a moment. “What ‘stuff’?”
Browning’s smile widened. “Some of the grain samples Lieutenant Larkin had in the hyponics bay.”
“Interesting.” Larkin said, eyeing one of the muffins closely. “I was not aware that cooking unknown extraterrestrial mammal feces was a human custom.”
Baxter suddenly spit the muffin out, rinsing his mouth with the orange juice. “It was a nice thought, Janice.”
Browning looked at the muffins skeptically. “I thought they smelled funny.”
“Could we please get back to business?” Conway asked. “I have a battle simulation to do with Beta shift in fifteen minutes.”
“Okay, okay…does anyone have anything else to report?” Baxter asked.
“I definitely like the muffins, Captain.” J’hana said, still nibbling on a muffin. “They are a meal fit for a warrior.”
Baxter turned to the rest of the staff at the table. “Anybody else?”
“Well, I have a question.” Petersen said.
“What’s that, honeybunches?” Baxter asked.
“Well, let’s say that you made a date with your boyfriend to go horseback riding on the holodeck at fifteen hundred hours, and you forgot that you had a backup of caseloads a mile long to finish, and you’d have to work like a demon in order to keep it, what would you do?”
Baxter glared at Petersen, then his gaze softened. “I’d say you’d better shine up your pentagram and start working, Kell.”
Petersen smiled. “Okay, I’ll try my best.”
Baxter paused a moment, looking around the room. “In that case, if there’s nothing else…” he said, in a vain attempt to close the meeting.
“Captain, I’d like to talk to you…” J’hana said. “In private.”
“Fine. Then everyone else is dismissed.” Baxter said, standing up from the conference table.
The group poured out onto the bridge, going their separate ways for the day.
Lt. Commander Richards stopped Ensign Ford before he took his post at the helm. “I need a favor, Ensign.”
Ford turned to face the Engineer. “Yeah?”
“I need you to help Lt. Tilleran run a diagnostic of the transporter buffers. They’ve been acting up lately and I’m short on people down in Engineering as it is.”
Ford’s eyes lit up. “Which transporter room?”
Richards smiled. “One.”
Ford nodded vigorously. “Great. I get off my shift in twenty minutes.”
“Perfect. I knew you’d be ecstatic.” Richards said, joining a waiting Dr. Browning and heading into the turbolift.
“What was that all about?” Browning asked as the turbolift doors closed.
“Lt. Hartley works in transporter room one.”
“Aahhhhh.” Browning said. “That reminds me. You remember our appointment this afternoon, don’t you?”
Richards nodded. “Of course. What kind of idiot do you think I am?”
“I don’t know.” Browning said. “The kind that forgets appointments?”
Back on the bridge, Commander Conway placed a hand firmly on Ensign Fresca’s shoulder. “You ready?”
Fresca had just vacated the spot at ops for Lt. Larkin, and was slightly startled by the Commander.
“Of course I am.” she lied. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I don’t know. I just know people have a way of getting antsy when they’re about to be promoted.”
“You’re kidding me!” Fresca said, surprised. “Promoted?”
Conway led Fresca to the turbolift on the other side of the bridge. “It depends on how well you do on this battle drill. But I will say it looks good.”
Fresca smiled as the turbolift doors closed. “Jeeze. And I didn’t even have to sleep with you.”
“What’s on your mind, Lieutenant?” Baxter said, sliding into his seat behind his desk and folding his hands on top of a growing pile of unattended padds.
J’hana stood on the other side of Baxter’s desk, as usual, at perfect attention. “I feel it must be brought to your attention that I am nearing my time of Jemlatti’kari.”
Baxter gulped, his stomach suddenly feeling very queasy. “I don’t know, Lieutenant, shouldn’t you talk to Dr. Browning about that?”
J’hana shook her head. “It is not a medical matter.” The tactical officer sat down in one of the chairs opposite Baxter’s desk, still keeping her posture adequately professional. “I have reached a time in my life when Andorians feel it is a time to celebrate the great conquests of existence, and also face individual limitations. Our name for this is the Jemlatti’kari.”
Baxter began to feel better when he realized this didn’t involve blood, cramps, or mood swings. “Oh, in that case, I’m all for it. Jemlatti the day away if you want to. We’re not going to be especially busy.”
J’hana shook her head again. “No, sir. You do not understand. The true Andorian ritual requires a group of peers to compare experiences with. Andorians feel that without a base reference in life, we would lose focus. We must have something with which to measure our success.”
“Well, good luck finding Andorians around here.” Baxter said. “But you’re welcome to conjure some up on the holodeck.”
“It would not be the same. I need real people. In this case, I suppose it would be acceptable to substitute my fellow crewmembers for my peers.”
“Gee, I always thought we were peers.”
“You know what I mean.”
Baxter thought a moment. “This doesn’t involve pain sticks in any way, does it?”
J’hana laughed a hearty laugh. “Of course not. Why would lovemaking enter into the ritual?”
Baxter tried to hide his fear of that question before he responded. “I don’t see any harm in it, then. Feel free to ask any of the crew to compete in the ritual. But if they refuse, try not to be too…insistent.” Baxter trailed off as he remembered some instances where J’hana had been less than subtle.
“Understood, Captain. In that case, the first of the six shall be you.”
Baxter gulped again. “Me?”
“The proper instructions will be given at the time of the ceremony. I will see you in Holodeck Three at nineteen hundred hours sharp.”
With that, J’hana left the readyroom to begin preparations for the Jemlatti’kari.
“But…what if I say no?” Baxter asked, but it was no use, she was already gone.
“I really should have gotten to this sooner.” Lt. Tilleran said, as she worked on the transporter buffer. The entire pad had been disassembled and was strewn all over the transporter room.
“Don’t worry about it.” Lt. Hartley said. “It’s not as if we’re really busy today. We’re flying through uninhabited space.”
“Just as well.” Tilleran said. “I think if we had used that malfunctioning buffer to transport someone, they’d come back as a pile of bubbling goo.”
“Mmmm hmmm.” Hartley said, returning to her magazine.
“Could you hand me the polaron field inducer, Ensign Ford?” Tilleran said, reaching out her hand.
“Sure…” Ford said, looking at Hartley as she read the magazine. He shoved a tool into Tilleran’s hand and walked over to the transporter chief.
“Hi beautiful.” He said sheepishly.
“Go away.” Hartley said, not looking up from her magazine.
“What are you reading there?” Ford asked, trying to start up a conversation.
Hartley looked up, annoyed. “Well, if you must know, I’m reading all last year’s copies of The Federation Frontier. There’s a really great article about magic in here.”
“Magic?” Ford asked.
“Yeah, you know, magic tricks. Like pulling a rabbitt out of a hat?”
“Yeah.” Ford said, thinking a moment. “You like that stuff?”
Hartley continued to read. “Sure do. I remember my dad took me and my sister to a magic show when we were little. I thought the magician was the coolest guy.”
“Really?” Ford said, raising an eyebrow.
Suddenly there was a great eruption of sparks from the transporter pad. Lt. Tilleran got up and walked over to Ford, spinning him around to face her angrily. Her face was blackened from the explosion.
“You gave me a plasma initiator instead of a polaron field inducer. We all could have been killed!”
“Whoops.” Ford said sheepishly.
“Get out of here, and hope I don’t put you on report, you incompetent bastard.” Tilleran said angrily. “I do not require your help.” She then looked to Hartley, then back to Ford. “And no, she could never get into that position.”
“Oh boy…” Ford said, exiting the transporter room while the exiting was good. Oh well, he thought, at least he had an idea of how to spend his free time.
Counselor Peterman collapsed onto the couch in her office, in an attempt to get a few minutes of sleep before her nine o’clock appointment.
Suddenly her doorchime rang annoyingly.
“It can’t be nine already!” Peterman said, feeling extremely aggravated.
She walked to the door and opened it. A man in a blue uniform with a large, gray bandage around his head stood there, smiling broadly.
“Hello,” he said in a childlike voice.
“Who the heck are you?” Peterman asked, ready to let the door slide shut in his face.
“Dean.” He said slowly. “Crewman…Dean…Wilcox.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Appointment?” Dean asked, seeming confused. “Appointment.” He repeated.
Peterman checked the viewer on her desk, paging through her calendar. “You don’t have an appointment, Crewman Wilcox, which translates into ‘get the hell out of my office’!”
“But I need…”
“Out!” Peterman insisted.
Dean shrugged and headed out the door. “I need.”
“Yeah, that’s what they all say.” Peterman replied angrily, ready to settle into a long day of work.
“Three more Jem’Hadar ships have moved into the system.” Ensign Saral reported from tactical. “Our escape route is cut off.”
“Red alert.” Ensign Fresca said solemnly from the command chair. “All hands to battle stations. Raise the shields and ready all weapons.”
“Aye, sir.” Saral replied.
“Prepare a spread of quantum torpedoes and target the lead ship.” Fresca added.
On the viewscreen, six small, bug shaped Jem’Hadar warships bore down on the Aerostar like jackals attacking a lion carcass.
“Standing by for evasive.” Ensign Madera said from the helm. “Warp power at your command.”
“Don’t anticipate Ensign, I want full impulse.” Fresca said sternly.
Madera turned around in her chair to face Fresca. “Are you kidding me? Those are Jem’Hadar warships! We’re outnumbered six to one!”
“You heard me!” Fresca ordered. “Prepare attack plan Fresca Alpha Six.”
“The lead ships are firing.” Saral reported calmly.
“But…” Ensign Madera said.
Suddenly the bridge was rocked with several blasts from the Jem’Hadar ships.
“Direct hits on both the port and starboard aft quarters!” Ensign Saral cried out. “Shields down to thirty percent.”
“Return fire!” Fresca shouted. “All weapons!”
“Acknowledged.” Saral replied.
“Helm, hard to port!” Fresca commanded. “Move us out of their line of sight!”
“Aye sir.” Madera said.
More explosions rocket the ship, one of them sending Ensign Rush flying from the operations console.
Madera leaned over and felt Rush’s neck. “He’s dead!” she exclaimed.
“Continue course, Ensign!” Fresca commanded. “We’ll worry about the dead later.”
“More incoming fire!” Saral shouted.
“Divert all power to weapons and shields.” Fresca cried. “Return fire with quantums, dispersal pattern Fresca Mu Thirteen.”
The ship rocked again; this time panels all over the bridge burst into flames, sending showers of sparks all over the place.
“Our shields are down!” Saral cried.
“Get us out of here, Ensign Madera.” Fresca commanded. “Now.”
Madera pounded her panel. “It’s too late. We’ve lost warp power.”
“Fresca to Engineering.” Ensign Fresca said, pressing a button on the command chair. “We need warp power now.”
“It’s no use, Captain. The primary power coupling has been destroyed. I can’t even replicate you a sandwich, much less give you warp power.”
“Very well.” Fresca said dejectedly as the ship continued to rock, pressing another button on the command chair.”All hands to escape pods. Launch the log buoy.”
“Hull breaches all over the ship. Casualty reports indicate half the crew is dead.” Saral said. “What remaining sensors we have indicate that we are being boarded by Jem’Hadar storm troops. We have failed.”
“Damn it.” Fresca said, pounding her hand on the command chair. “We weren’t fast enough.”
Suddenly the viewscreen, still filled with swarming warships, disappeared, to reveal Commander Conway, holding a padd under his arm, clapping sarcastically. “Excellent job, Captain Fresca. If I was a Jem’Hadar warrior, I’d probably snap your neck for being incompetent enough to let me board your ship.”
“Gee, thanks.” Fresca said. “That means a lot to me.”
“Don’t mention it.” Conway said, walking over to Ensign Rush and extending a hand to him. “But I do have to hand it to Ensign Rush here, he did a marvelous job of playing dead.”
“Thank you, sir.” Rush said, pulling himself up and smiling proudly.
“Computer, exit!” Conway said. The holodeck doors suddenly appeared on the side of the bridge. “Everyone is dismissed.” Conway added, making some notations on his padd.
All of the trainees but Fresca left the bridge, which was still bathed in the intermittent red light of red alert.
“Question, Ensign?” Conway asked, turning to look at her.
“Of course I have a question!” Fresca said, her chin cupped in her hands as she leaned forward in the command chair. “Do I get the promotion?”
Conway sat down in his usual chair next to the command chair. “You destroyed this starship and sacrificed its crew to the Jem’Hadar. What do you think?”
Fresca jumped out of the command chair and stormed towards the holodeck exit. “I think this was a huge waste of time.”
“There will be another simulation at fourteen hundred hours. I’d start practicing maneuvers now if I were you!” Conway added as Fresca left the holodeck.
“What you are asking me to do is a direct violation of command protocol, Ensign.” Lieutenant Larkin said, as she watched the viewscreen from the command chair on the real bridge.
“But it’s extremely important.” Ensign Ford complained, obstructing Lt. Larkin’s view of the viewscreen as best he could.
“Satisfying your carnal urges is not one of the primary missions of this starship, Mister Ford.” Larkin replied, turning her head so she could see the screen behind the Ensign.
“Pleeeeeassse!” Ford whined. “It would be an interesting study in human interaction!”
“So you say.” Larkin said, looking down at some readings on the monitor next to the command chair. “Still, the computer core is restricted to science and engineering officers on official ship’s duty.”
“But I can’t get the volume of information I need on my terminal.” Ford replied. “I have to get access to the core!”
Larkin looked up at Ford sternly. “To allow one of the crew so obviously obsessed with ingratiating himself to another of the opposite sex access to our computer core so that he might attain that goal would be a demonstration of unbelievable incompetence on my part, not to mention a betrayal of professional etiquette.”
“So you’ll think about it?” Ford asked hopefully.
“No.” Larkin said finally. “I will not.”
Doctor Browning hummed a nameless tune as she studied her medical report on Lieutenant Henson’s inflamed appendix, when Nurse Carter knocked on her door.
Browning looked up. “What is it, Holly?”
“There’s someone here to see you, Doctor.” Nurse Carter said, seeming somewhat uncomfortable.
“Is it a patient, or a personal visit?” Browning asked. “I’m kind of busy.”
Holly looked confused for a moment. “It’s a patient, Doctor. I think you’d better come out here and see for yourself.”
“All right.” Browning said. “I’ll have to start teaching you how to handle some of these minor cases yourself.”
Doctor Browning felt like eating her words when she strolled out into sickbay and found Crewman Dean Wilcox spread out on one of the biobeds.
“Goodness. I forgot all about him.” Browning said thoughtfully.
“You know this guy?” Holly asked, staring at the readings. “You realize he’s almost completely brain- dead!”
Browning pulled out a medical tricorder and began scanning the crewman. “What do ya know?” she said incredulously. “That’s weird.”
“Hi.” Dean said, his eyes fluttering upwards as he looked around. “I need.”
“You certainly do.” Browning said.
“How do you know him?” Holly asked, leaning over Dean with interest.
“He was injured during our trip through the Bermuda Expanse. I was…kind of busy at the time…and I had to give him some painkillers and release him. Later Lt. Commander Richards told me that he saw him fall down to the bottom of the warp core, but I kind of…um, forgot about him for a while.”
“For a while!” Holly exclaimed. “That was almost nine months ago!”
“Yeah,” Browning said, looking down at Dean. “I guess that’s bad, huh?”
“I don’t know. He actually seems to be alright. Can you hear me Mister Wilcox?” Holly asked.
“Humma.” Dean said proudly. “Humma Humma.”
“He seems to like you, Holly.” Browning said, smiling.
“You think?” Holly asked.
“Sure. It’s slightly less fantastic than the fact that he should be dead right now. It really is an interesting medical study.” Browning studied the tricorder readings. “Goodness. Half his brain is swollen and inflamed, and he has a subdural hematoma the size of a tangerine.”
“This is bizarre.” Holly commented.
“You’re telling me.” Browning replied. “The question is, what do we do with him? He’s obviously not competent enough to return to duty…whatever it is he did.”
“I need.” Dean repeated. “Humma.”
Browning smiled again. “I think he wants you to adopt him.”
“But what would I feed him?” Holly asked.
“Good question,” Browning replied. “But I sure could use a nice juicy tangerine about now. Excuse me.”
With that, the Doctor left Nurse Carter alone with the nearly brain-dead crewmember.
Commander Conway had almost finished his report on Ensign Fresca’s battle drill when Lt. J’hana stepped into the holodeck.
“Hello Commander. I did not think you would be here.”
Conway stood up. “Well, I had the holodeck reserved until ten hundred hours. I thought I’d stick around and fill out my report.”
“How did the trainees do?” J’hana asked with interest.
“Saral did quite well. Fresca, on the other hand… I don’t think she’s ready for promotion. She was way too uncertain disciplining Ensign Madera for her insubordination.”
“She is not in line for promotion to Captain, is she Commander?” J’hana asked. “She should not know everything yet.”
“True.” Conway replied. “What are you here for, anyway?”
“I’m preparing for the Jemlatti’kari.” J’hana said proudly.
“Gee,” Conway said. “Shouldn’t you see Doctor Browning about that?”
J’hana grimaced. “It is not a medical matter. While you are here, however, I would like to ask you to participate.”
It was Conway’s turn to grimace. “I don’t know, Lieutenant…what exactly would I have to do?”
“Recite the proudest moment in your life in front of me and six others.” J’hana replied.
“That doesn’t sound so bad.” Conway said, considering the idea.
“Then I shall put your name down as the second of the six.” J’hana said. “I look forward to seeing you back here at nineteen hundred.” J’hana considered explaining the rest of the ceremony to Conway, but thought better of it, deciding to leave it as a pleasant surprise for he and the other crewmembers involved.
“Are you sure Larkin said this was okay?” Ensign Stuart asked with concern as he unlocked the entrance to the primary computer core for Ensign Ford.
“Positive.” Ford replied. “She’s very interested in my reports from this study.”
“Well, here you go.” Stuart said. “Good luck. And be careful in there. If that thing gets disabled, we’re all goners.”
Ford nodded quickly, ducking into the entrance to the core. “Right, right. Whatever. Thanks a lot, Ryan.”
“So then he said, ‘I’d start practicing my maneuvers now if I were you!’” Fresca said, as she nursed a stiff drink at the bar in the Starlight Lounge.
“Man, that’s tough.” Mirk said, pouring one of the other crewmembers at the bar a drink. “So why aren’t you studying?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, he told you exactly what you should do to get the promotion. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to do that?” Mirk asked.
“I had never thought of that.”
“It makes sense to me.” Mirk replied.
Fresca thought a moment. “Do you think I could actually do it?”
Mirk nodded. “Only one way to find out, right?”
Fresca stood up. “Good point. Thanks Mirk.”
Mirk smiled. “Any time.” Briefly Mirk wished everyone’s problems were that easy to solve.
After returning from the computer core, Ensign Stuart stuck his head into the Chief Engineer’s office. “I’m back, Commander Richards.”
Richards nodded as he stared at the information scrolling past on his viewer. “Great. Let’s see if we can get to that realignment of the dilithium crystals today.”
“Sure thing. Want me to get the attenuators ready?” Stuart asked helpfully.
“Yeah, good idea. I’ll be right out.” Richards said, planning the day’s work. But for some reason, he felt a tugging feeling at the back of his mind, a feeling he had a very important appointment that day. Oh well, if it was that important, he was sure he would remember it.
“So you see my problem.” Ensign Vicky Dawson said, spread out on Counselor Peterman’s couch.
Peterman shook her head, her face a complete mask of confusion. “I’m afraid I don’t, Ensign. I completely lost you after the part about the Dabo table on Deep Space Nine.”
Dawson sighed. “Okay, I guess I can go over it again. It all started when I began serving as a science officer aboard the Lakota. We were on our way to the Cardassian demilitarized zone to look for a Maquis raider that had made an attack on a Pakled cargo ship.”
“Uh huh.” Peterman said.
“And when we found the Maquis raider, there was only crewmember left alive the ship had been hit by a plasma storm near the Badlands.”
“Right.” Peterman said.
“And he was soooo cute.” Dawson continued.
“I think I see where this is heading.” Peterman sighed.
“Wait!” Dawson said, smiling. “You haven’t heard the good part yet.”
“Oh, boy.” Peterman said, shifting in her seat. Her butt was starting to grow numb from the past hour and a half of sitting.
“All right.” Doctor Browning said, looking across the operating table at Nurse Carter. “Close him up, Holly.”
Nurse Carter nodded obediently, attaching Crewman Wilcox’s skullcap to his head and sealing it back up with a cellular fuser. “This sure is messy work!”
Browning looked over at the hematoma she had removed, as it floated serenely in a glass jar. “Tell me about it. We don’t open people up as often as we used to, but when we do, it’s a bloodbath.”
“He’s coming around!” Holly said ecstatically, pulling off her bloodstained gloves.
“Already?” Browning asked, removing her red surgical mask. “That’s astounding!”
“Better.” Dean said happily. “Feel.”
“He feels better!” Browning said joyfully. “He feels better!”
“Better feel!” Dean exclaimed, grabbing at Nurse Carter’s chest.
Holly jumped back. “He certainly is excited about something.”
“Better feel!” Dean said again. “Better feel! Better feel Humma!”
Browning looked at Dean approvingly as Dean began dancing around the operating room. “A darn good job if I do say so myself.”
Ensign Ford hurriedly took a swig from his mug of hot apple cider as he stared at the readouts from the computer core. Information streamed past his eyes, pouring into the optical chip he had stuck in the reader, so that he could read up on the information in his quarters.
It had been about thirty minutes since he had requested the information from the computer, and it was still dumping information. All he could think was how useful this information would be in winning over the love of Lt. Hartley.
“So ever since then, I’ve had this irrational fear of tricorders.” Ensign Pressbury said from the couch in Counselor Peterman’s office. “Is that strange?”
Peterman looked up from a padd, where she had plainly inscribed:
GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!!!!!!
THIS MAN IS A LUNATIC!!!!
“Not at all.” Peterman said. “Well, that’s all our time for now. Bye bye then.” It was almost thirteen hundred, and she was barely halfway through her caseload, and already she felt emotionally drained. Why did people feel they always had to bring their problems to her?
Ensign Pressbury stood, thanked Peterman vigorously for her help and hurried out of the office. Before the doors could close after him, Doctor Browning squeezed her way in.
“Hi, Kelly. Am I early?”
“By a few minutes, yeah.” Peterman said disinterestedly. “Go ahead and pull up a chair. Or couch. Or whatever.”
“Gee, thanks.” Browning said sarcastically. “What’s put you in such a rotten mood?”
“This whole damn rotten tormented crew, that’s what! Do you know how hard it is to be the ship’s Counselor on a ship that’s been tossed to the other side of the galaxy?”
“Honestly, no.” Browning replied. “But that reminds me. I have a case for you.”
Peterman groaned. “What is it?”
“Well, he’s one of the crewmen from the science department.”
“And he’s got some…limitations.”
Peterman leaned forward. “What kind of limitations, Janice?” she said tiredly.
“Well, he’s a really nice guy, has a great personality, great outlook on life…he’s…”
“Cut to the chase, Doc.” Peterman said.
Browning sighed. “He’s clinically brain-dead.”
Peterman leaned back in mock surprise. “Is that all?”
“He could still lead a perfectly normal life. He just needs some direction. Nurse Carter has decided to adopt him.”
“Adopt?” Peterman asked. “Is that possible? Is it legal?”
Browning shrugged. “I don’t know. I talked to the captain about it, and he seems to think it’s a better idea than trusting him to take care of himself or taking him out behind the shuttle bay and putting him out of his misery.”
“Good point. But it’s going to take a lot of explaining if we ever get back to the Alpha Quadrant.”
“Well, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to…hey, wait a minute!” Browning looked at the chronometer on Peterman’s wall. “It’s thirteen hundred hours. Where the heck is Christopher?”
“I don’t know.” Peterman replied. “I forgot that was what you were here for.”
“Well, all I have to say is Mister Richards better have a darn good reason for not being down here. I mean anything short from the ship’s imminent distruction is-“
Suddenly all the lights went out in Peterman’s office, followed by a sharp siren that seemed to echo throughout the ship, that was accompanied by a stern message from the computer.
“The primary computer core is currently malfunctioning, secondary backup systems have failed. Power has been lost on all decks. Two minutes to warp core breach.”
“You were saying?” Peterman said calmly in the darkness.
“Okay, somebody plugged up one too many hair dryers!” Captain Baxter exclaimed from the command chair. “What gives?”
“If I were to guess, I would say there is a malfunction in the computer core.” Larkin replied.
“No!” Baxter said sarcastically.
“…and I have a definite suspicion as to whose fault this is as well.” Larkin said. “With your permission, I would like to take a Jeffries’ tube town to the computer core.”
“Be my guest.” Baxter said urgently. “You have a minute and a half.”
“Who put out the lights?” Richards asked incredulously, pushing his office doors open and shining a wrist beacon throughout Engineering. His beacon reflected in the eyes of Ensign Stuart.
“Don’t know, sir. We read a power spike from the primary computer core and then everything went dead.”
“Great.” Richards said, shining his beacon at the warp core. “Start locking in the magnetic constrictors, and fast. We have less than a minute and a half before the deuterium and anti-deuterium start getting to know one another, and I don’t want to be around if that happens.”
“Yes sir.” Stuart said, climbing the ladder that led to the upper core. “I’ll get the top.”
“Well,” Richards sighed. “I always liked being on the bottom best, anyway.” With that, the Engineer slid down the same ladder towards the bottom of the core, where the manual lockdown mechanism was.
“Ariel!” Lt. Hartley shouted urgently through the darkness. They had just done a test beaming when power went out, and the last thing Hartley saw before power went out was Tilleran beginning to shimmer onto the pad, but she had no way of knowing whether or not she had finished materializing.
“I’m right here!” Tilleran replied. “That was too damn close for comfort.”
“You’re telling me.” Hartley said. “I thought you were a goner.”
“I wonder whose fault this one is?” Tilleran mused.
Hartley grinded her teeth angrily. “I’ll give you one guess.”
“Ohshitohshitohshit!” Ensign Ford panicked, running from one end of the computer core to the other, each time smacking into the wall painfully. “What the hell am I going to do. Larkin was right, I’m going to blow up the ship!”
Suddenly a steely cold hand clamped down on Ford’s shoulder. He assumed it had to be the hand of death.
“Go ahead and take me, Grim Reaper! I’m ready for ya!” Ford cried.
“I am not the Grim Reaper, Ensign.” Lt. Larkin replied. “However, if you wish to survive you will follow my instructions to the letter.”
“Whatever you say, whatever you say!” Ford cried. “I just don’t want to die!”
“Nor do I.” Larkin replied. “Now, from the distinct smell of burnt apple, I shall assume that you spilled some form of hot apple cider all over the computer core.”
“That’s correct.” Ford said, a little embarrassed. “I knocked the mug right down to the bottom.”
“How unfortunate. You must have fused the primary opticable junction.”
“What can we do?” Ford said, panicking.
“I have exactly thirty meters of isolinear optical cable lining my inner cavity. It is a thirty-two meter drop to the bottom of the computer core. I will lower you, therefore, by the feet. Your job, once you arrive at the bottom of the core, will be to find the manual override switch and rip out its components. Then you will have to use your own tissue as a conductor, in order to power the toggle circuit.”
“That sounds painful.” Ford said.
“I assure you, it will be, but it is much less painful than death.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Ford said.
Larkin immediately set upon opening her abdominal compartment and ripping out the necessary length of cable. She would have to spend several hours, no doubt, with Lt. Commander Richards in repairs once this was over. If they survived, that is.
“Okay, on my mark!” Richards shouted, looking up.
Several seconds passed, without a sound from the other side of the warp core.
“ON MY MARK!” Richards cried. “Come on, Ryan!”
Finally, Richards heard a barely audible voice. “Ready up here any time, Commander!”
“NOW!” Richards shouted, throwing the emergency manual cut-off switch that would keep the matter and antimatter contained.
“I think I can feel it, Lieutenant!” Ford shouted, as he dangled precariously, with Larkin’s opticable tied to one of his ankles.
“You know what to do, Ensign!” Larkin shouted. “Time is of the essence.”
“But two minutes already went by. We must be safe from the warp core breach.”
“That is correct. However, there is a large amount of gamma radiation in this sector of space. If you ever wish to have children, you will press your finger into that connection.”
From most women, Ford would have taken that as an empty threat; but in these circumstances, he knew better.
“All right, all right!” Ford shouted, ripping the panel off and shoving his finger into the socket.
Sparks flew as electricity surged into Ensign Ford and lights came on all over the ship.
Forty minutes later, the Engineering team had almost finished repairing the computer core.
“You are the biggest imbecile I’ve ever seen, Ensign Ford.” Lt. Commander Richards said, as he packed up his tools and motioned for his team to follow him out of the core access tube.
“Th-th-th-anks, Commander, can I t-t-t-t-take my finger o-out of this p-p-p-panel n-nnnow?” Ford asked, as the electricity continued to pour into him.
“Oh!” Richards said. “Gee, I forgot about that. You could have taken your finger out of there half an hour ago.”
When power had gone out, Ensign Fresca had been taking a stroll down one of the many winding corridors of Deck Nine, going through the battle simulation in her head. As soon as it had, she had immediately heard a yelp of pain. As soon as lights came back on, she ran in the direction of the cry, only to find Commander Conway lying curled in a fetal position on the
deck in front of his quarters.
Some sort of book hung loosely from one of his hands.
“Problem, Commander?” Fresca asked, laughing and helping Conway up.
“Damn right there was a problem.” Conway wheezed painfully. “I was taking this new copy of the book I was reading into my quarters when the power went off, and I got stuck in between the doors. They almost cut me in half!”
“That’s just terrible.” Fresca said. “Are you ready for that battle simulation now?”
Conway straightened his uniform and examined the book, making sure it was undamaged. “You sure sound excited to take this test.”
“That’s because I know I’ll pass it.”
“We’ll see.” Conway said, laughing. “I’m going to go to sickbay and get my injuries looked at first. See you on the holodeck!”
Fresca felt a chill run down her spine as Conway said that last bit. Oh well, she’d show him.
Lt. Commander Richards had just returned to Engineering to repair Lieutenant Larkin (again) when he got the call on his comm badge.
“Browning to Richards. Where on Earth are you? Did you forget our appointment?”
“No, of course not honey.” Richards replied. “I just had a lot to do, you know, because of the power outage.”
“Well, enough with the excuses. Get up to Counselor Peterman’s office right now.”
Richards looked over at Larkin, who sat serenely on one of the diagnostic tables in Engineering, looking like a scarecrow with all the stuffing taken out, her opticable strewn all over the deck.
“No can do, honey. Lieutenant Larkin is in pretty bad shape. It’ll take me several hours to repair her.”
Larkin stood up, making an effort to cross to the other side of Engineering, her cables constantly getting wrapped up around her arms and legs.
“I assure you, Commander, that is not necessary. I understand the nature of your problems with the Doctor and believe it would be in your best interest to attend this session.”
“There you have it. Now get up here.” Browning said sternly.
“Gee, thanks, Lieutenant Larkin.” Richards said angrily.
“Think nothing of it, Commander.” Larkin replied. She still had not mastered sarcasm.
“So he reads as almost completely brain-dead?” Commander Conway asked, watching Crewman Wilcox play with a hypospray as Nurse Carter ran a scan on his vital signs.
“Yep. He should be a total vegetable. But there’s some kind of intelligence there.”
“Right.” Conway said, eying Crewman Wilcox. “Then what’s he doing eating that hypospray?”
Nurse Carter ran over to Crewman Wilcox and grabbed the hypospray. “No, no, don’t eat! Bad boy! Put it down!”
Dean frowned. “Better feel?”
Holly shook her head. “Not unless you give me the damn hypospray.”
“Humma!” he said happily, handing over the slightly gnawed hypospray.
“Amazing.” Conway said. “Is he potty trained?”
Holly nodded. “I guess so. He seems to know where the bathroom is. What he does in there, that’s anyone’s guess.”
“I see. So are all my bones in one piece or not?” Conway asked.
“Yeah,” Holly said. “You have some bruised ribs, but the pain killer I gave you should take care of that.”
Conway sighed with relief. “That’s good to know. Good luck with your, um, project.”
“Thanks.” Holly said, suddenly distracted by a flying shape behind her as Conway left.
She turned around just in time to be caught in a giant bear hug.
“I need.” Dean said, squeezing her tightly.
“I know, I know.” Holly replied, blushing. “Need me all you want.”
“This better be quick, Ensign.” Lt. Hartley said in annoyance, following Ensign Ford to the entrance to the Starlight Lounge. “I just got off duty and I’m exausted.”
“I assure you, Lieutenant, it will be. As soon as I’m done here, Captain Baxter has me doing ‘disciplinary duty,’ whatever the hell that is, for my little mishap in the computer core.”
“Okay, okay. So what did you want to show me so bad?”
“Follow me.” Ford said, leading Hartley into the Lounge.
The Starlight Lounge was darker than usual; Lt. Hartley could barely see that there were several rows of empty seats and a stage set up at the front of the room.
“What is this?” Hartley asked.
“You’ll see. Take a seat in the front row.” Ford quickly jogged up to the front of the room.
Once on stage, Ford threw on a cape and top hat, making sure both were on straight. “Hit the lights, Brian!” He commanded.
Lt. Gellar hit a switch next to the doors to the lounge, bringing the lights over the stage to full, displaying what Hartley realized were several different implements of magic.
“What the hell is this?” Hartley asked.
“Just watch!” Ford whispered, clearing his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for.”
Lieutenant Hartley just covered her face. “I don’t believe this.”
“Behold,” Ford said, gesturing to a narrow, six foot long, wooden box. “I will saw my loyal assistant in half.”
Mirk stuck his head out one end of the box. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing, Ensign Ford?”
“Shut up.” Ford whispered through clenched teeth. “Now, watch, as I defy the laws of physics themselves.”
Ford pulled out a giant saw and laid it in a groove at the center of the box.
“I have a terrible feeling about this.” Mirk said, closing his eyes.
Ford pulled the saw back and forth, smiling wickedly. “Isn’t it amazing, folks? He is unharmed!”
“Actually…” Mirk said. “I have a little bit of a stomach ache.”
“I said shut up!” Ford whispered again. “Look at that! I have cut him entirely in half!”
To emphasize his accomplishment, Ford pulled the two halves of Mirk’s body apart and turned them around and around, displaying how well he had actually cut them.
“Wow, that’s pretty neat.” Mirk said, glancing over at the other side of his body. “How the hell did you do that?”
Lt. Hartley stood up, clapping slowly and sarcastically. “Hit the lights, Brian.”
As soon as the lights came on, she approached the stage. “Wonderful, Ensign. You’re obviously a skilled magician.”
Ford bowed. “Why thank you, Miss Hartley. Does that mean you’ll let me take you on a date?”
“Not if you were David Copperfield.” Hartley said, laughing hysterically. “Sorry, Ensign. It was cute, but I still won’t date you. Bye bye!”
The Lieutenant left the lounge, laughing hysterically all the way down the corridor.
Ford stood there holding his wand, feeling extremely stupid. “David Copperfield?”
“Target the lead ship and prepare to fire all weapons.” Ensign Fresca commanded, leaning forward in the center seat.
“Aye, sir. They will be within weapons range in fifteen seconds.” Saral replied from tactical.
“I really think we should go to warp this time.” Ensign Madera said from the helm.
“And I think you should follow my orders or be relieved of duty.” Fresca said. “Do I make myself clear?”
“Perfectly.” Madera replied. “Which maneuver did you want me to do again?”
“Fresca Alpha Two-one-six.”
“That’s what I thought. Initiating Alpha Two-one- six.”
The stars on the viewscreen changed dramatically as the “Aerostar” turned to face the oncoming Jem’Hadar ships
and headed towards them.
“You’ll have to give it to her, Commander.” Captain Baxter said, watching Fresca over Conway’s shoulder from the observation room behind the viewscreen. “She’s got gumption.”
“Well, let’s see what she does with it.” Conway whispered, leaning forward.
“Fire all weapons!” Fresca commanded, clenching her fists, as the ship began to shake from Jem’Hadar fire. “And engage evasive pattern Fresca Omega Nine!”
“Acknowledged!” Madera replied, as the ship banked, torpedoes and phasers streaming towards the ships on the viewscreen.
“Two ships destroyed, two heavily damaged.” Saral reported. “They are continuing their attack.”
“Is the surprise ready?” Fresca asked, turning towards Saral and winking.
Saral nodded. “But of course, Captain.”
“Very well.” Fresca said, turning around. “Release the surprise!”
Two blue, shimmering tri-cobalt devices came into view on the screen, plunging towards the two undamaged ships.
“The two undamaged ships have been destroyed. The remaining two are no longer a threat.” Saral reported. “Our own shields are stable at forty-nine percent.”
“Very well.” Fresca said. “I think we gave them a fight they won’t soon forget. Set a course to return to the wormhole, Warp Nine.”
“Aye, Captain.” Ensign Madera said proudly. “And good work.”
Suddenly the viewscreen opened up again, allowing Commander Conway and Captain Baxter to exit.
“Excellent job, Ensign.” Baxter said, shaking Fresca’s hand. “And congratulations to the rest of you as well.”
Conway made some notations on his padd and looked around the bridge blankly. “Interesting solution, Ensign Fresca. You realize we don’t have a huge supply of tri- cobalt devices aboard the Aerostar. If you were faced with a similar situation here in the Delta Quadrant, you might have to alter your strategy.”
Fresca nodded. “Perhaps. But the question is…”
Conway tapped a few more notations on his padd. “I still have some considerations to go over before I give you my verdict. You’ll know within the next couple hours. Good job everyone.” The commander turned to leave. “Computer, exit!”
Baxter shrugged, following the Commander. “Don’t look at me, Ensign. It’s his decision.”
Fresca stood at the center of the bridge in confusion. “So what the hell does that mean, ‘You’ll know within the next couple hours’?”
Saral walked around the tactical railing, joining Ensign Madera next to the holodeck exit. “Taken literally, I would guess it means we will be notified within the next two hours.”
“Gee, that makes me feel a lot better.” Fresca said, collapsing into the command chair.
Counselor Peterman banged her head on her desk again and again, something she had done for the last hour that Richards and Browning had been arguing. “Why are you guys doing this to me?”
“What do you mean?” Doctor Browning asked.
“You’re wasting time arguing away the day like two children, when you could be out enjoying life. I have a date with the Captain tonight, and I may not make it because you guys don’t know how to express your love for one another.”
Richards looked at Browning and then to Peterman. “What do you mean?”
Peterman took in a deep breath and tried to contain her anger. “I mean, you guys can’t figure out your feelings, and you take it out on one another. It’s a common problem, actually.”
Browning stared at Richards, amazed. “Oh, my God, she’s right!”
“You know, I think she is.” Richards said. “I just never heard things explained that way!”
Browning stood up and grabbed Richards’s hand. “Thanks a lot for your help, Kelly. I think we can figure out the rest on our own.”
The two left the office giggling and tickling one another, as if they had never been any different.
Peterman just laid her head down on the desk softly. “I have such a headache now.”
“Good boy, good boy, stay boy!” Captain Baxter commanded, trying his best to reign in his horse. When Counselor Peterman hadn’t shown up right away, he really hadn’t worried. He understood the workload she had, and knew that her last case, Browning and Richards, might very well take up the whole afternoon.
So while he waited, Baxter decided to make himself useful, hitching up Kirk and Spock, the two horses he and Peterman had programmed into the holodeck computer.
When Peterman still hadn’t shown up, Baxter decided to take Kirk out for a warm-up lap. Needless to say, he was still having a little difficulty. He had quickly found that the horses on the holodeck were much less apt to do what he wanted than the horse he had rode inside the Nexus Ribbon.
“Woah, Kirk, woah, come on!” Baxter shouted, as Kirk flew through the air towards the barn.
Baxter had barely avoided smashing into the barn when the holodeck doors parted, admitting Counselor Peterman, still in her uniform.
“Freeze program!” Baxter cried, dismounting and running over to the Counselor, hugging her gently.
“Hi, baby.” Peterman said softly.
“Long day, hon?” Baxter asked, still cuddling the Counselor.
“Definitely.” Peterman said. “I’m pooped.”
“Darn.” Baxter said, inwardly glad not to have to demonstrate his unpolished riding skills once again. “I guess we’ll have to ride some other time. I do, however, have an alternate plan.”
“What’s that?” Peterman asked, her expression brightening.
“Computer, load the program for Leonard’s Lake, July fourth, dusk.”
The horse ranch shimmered away, replaced by a beautiful lakeside setting, complete with a picnic dinner, candles, and romantic music.
There was even a slight breeze.
“Oh, this is beautiful, Andy!” Peterman said, kneeling down on the checkered picnic blanket and opening up a bottle of champagne. “I love the way you think.”
Baxter smiled. “It’s not over. Computer, fireworks please.”
The sky suddenly was aglow with fireworks.
“I love you, Andy.” Kelly said, reaching over to kiss the Captain in the multicolored glow of the fireworks.
“I know.” Baxter replied, hugging the Counselor closer.
Ensign Fresca drummed her fingers nervously on the operations panel, anxiously awaiting Commander Conway’s verdict. It had been almost two hours, and she had heard nothing from the Commander.
She didn’t know why she had to be kept in such suspense. What was the big deal, anyway? It was just a crummy promotion to Lieutenant Junior Grade. Who cared if she got it or not? Certainly not her.
Commander Conway stepped quietly off the turbolift and replaced Lt. Tilleran in the command chair, staring at Fresca as she nervously tapped her fingers on the operations panel.
“Operations, status report!” Conway suddenly shouted.
Fresca spun around in her chair, shocked. “What?”
“I asked you for a status report. Is that so hard?”
Fresca turned back to her panel and checked it quickly. “We’re still en route to Barvan Twelve and all systems are functioning normally. Repairs after the power outage have, for the most part, been completed.”
Conway smiled. “Good work, Lieutenant, take the rest of the day off.”
Fresca stood up. “Whatever you say, Commander.” She got all the way to the turbolift before she stopped in her tracks. “Wait a minute…” she turned around. “Did you say Lieutenant?”
Conway nodded. “Yes, I did. Unless you have a problem with getting the promotion?”
“No,” Fresca said, suddenly smiling. “No, not at all. Thank you sir.”
“Don’t thank me. Thank Ensign Madera for not wetting her pants back there. Now go get some rest while I’m still in a generous mood.”
“Yes, sir!” Fresca said, turning around and heading for the turbolift.
“Commander.” Saral said from tactical, “I am picking up a subspace transmission from the Sulani.”
“Put it onscreen.” Conway ordered. “I wonder what they want us to do now.”
Prime Minister Wujan replaced the field of flying stars on the viewscreen, smiling nervously. “Hello, Commander…Conway right?”
“That’s right. What can I do you for, Mister Prime Minister?” Conway asked, just ready to be hit with another request from the Sulani for some small “favor.”
“It’s actually quite funny, Commander. It’s definitely very funny.”
“What are you trying to tell me, Wujan?” Conway asked, preparing himself to get quite annoyed.
“Well, ha ha, you see…um, Barvan Twelve, it turns out, is, um, an uninhabited world. That rumor we heard, well, it was wrong. Evidently someone’s idea of a practical joke. Hee hee.”
“I guess the joke’s on us.” Conway replied.
“Ahem, well, um, yes.” Wujan said. “Obviously you guys will want to head back this way again. Quite sorry for the inconvenience and all. These things do happen!”
Conway shook his head in disbelief. “Oh, don’t mention it, Mister Prime Minister. We really didn’t have much to do anyway.”
“Oh, and give the Captain my regards. Wujan out.”
“Will do.” Conway said, closing the channel. “Ensign Madera, turn us around and take us back towards Sulani space, Warp Six.”
What a wasted day.
Ensign Ford walked slowly down the corridor, like a man on his way to an execution.
He pressed a button at the proper door, and waited patiently.
Moments later, Counselor Peterman opened the door.
“Oh, there you are Ensign Ford.” She said, turning around and gesturing for Ford to follow her into the quarters. “I suppose the Captain talked to you about your punishment?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Ford said solemnly.
“Great. You and the gang will get on famously!”
“The…gang?” Ford asked, when suddenly a golden streak hit him directly at the center of his chest.
“Have a great time. See you in a couple hours.” Peterman said, smiling. “Go easy on him, guys.”
Captain Baxter joined the Counselor outside in the corridor, offering her his arm as they walked to the turbolift that would lead to Deck Twelve.
“I trust Ensign Ford is taking his punishment well?” Baxter asked with amusement.
“I think it’s safe to say that Mister Ford will come out of this with a much better understanding of the nature of responsibility.” Peterman replied.
“Good.” Baxter said, as the two approached the turbolift. “I look forward to hearing his report tomorrow morning.”
Peterman nodded. “Considering how well it worked on J’hana, and now Ford, I think I should write a paper on using pet care as an alternative form of punishment for Starfleet officers.”
“You do that, hon,” Baxter replied, touching the turbolift call button. “And if we ever get back to the Alpha Quadrant, I’ll give it my complete support.” Peterman grinned, totally missing the sarcasm behind Baxter’s remark.
When the turbolift doors opened, Baxter did his best to stifle a laugh. Lt. Larkin stood within the turbolift, her opticable strewn all over the place, patiently waiting for the couple to enter.
“How are the two of you this evening?” Larkin asked, activating conversation mode.
“Fine.” Baxter said. “And…hee hee…you?”
“I have been better.” Larkin said as the turbolift descended. “I am currently on my way to Engineering to have my optical cable re-threaded. Lt. Commander Richards has been…busy all day. From what I understand, he is working on very important repairs.”
Peterman smiled. “I’ll say he is.”
“At any rate,” Larkin continued, “it has been a quite difficult several hours. Many people have become entangled in the cables, and nine times so far I have tripped, despite my best efforts.”
Baxter and Peterman tried their best not to laugh. “That’s just terrible.” Baxter said. “I hope Richards can fix you.”
“I am confident that he can.” Larkin replied, as Peterman and Baxter stepped out at Deck Twelve. “Enjoy the Jemlatti’kari.” The android added, as the doors closed.
“Thanks,” Baxter said, suddenly noticing that part of Larkin’s cable had been caught in the door of the turbolift as it had closed.
Suddenly the cable seemed to get more and more taut, until finally there was an audible snap, causing it to become limp once again.
“Do you think she’s all right?” Peterman asked with concern.
“I’m sure.” Baxter said, once again taking Peterman’s arm. “At any rate, it’s not something Richards won’t be able to fix.”
Captain Baxter and Counselor Peterman entered the holodeck to find Commander Conway, Lt. Tilleran, Ensign Saral, and Mirk waiting patiently, surrounded by the usual black and orange holodeck grid.
Baxter looked around. “Where the heck is J’hana?”
“Good question.” Conway replied. “We’ve been here for ten minutes and we haven’t seen her yet.”
Suddenly the holodeck doors parted once again. Lt. J’hana stepped into the holodeck, wearing a tight, sparse leather outfit and smiling broadly.
“Fellow warriors, it is time to begin the Jemlatti’kari.” J’hana said proudly.
J’hana directed the group to form a wide circle at the center of the holodeck, joining hands. J’hana stood at one end of the circle, looking from one participant to the next. “Am I to believe we are all ready?”
There were collective nods around the circle of people.
Mirk leaned over to Lt. Tilleran. “What the heck are we supposed to do here?”
“I don’t know.” Tilleran replied. “We don’t know a lot about Andorian tradition. Just play along.”
“Silence!” J’hana cried, looking upwards. “Computer, load program J’hana Beta Zero-one-six.”
Suddenly a primitive looking, cavelike enclosure materialized around the participants. At the center was a pool of thick, swirling yellow goo.
“So we stand around and chant around the pool of bubbly goo?” Conway asked from his spot next to J’hana. “How predictable.”
“No, Commander.” J’hana laughed. “You must dive in!” With that she gave Conway a shove. The First Officer’s arms flailed as he tried frantically to regain his balance, until he finally plunged into the huge pool, causing a tremendous splash.
Captain Baxter wiped off the goo that had splashed in his face and tasted it. “Hmm.” He said thoughtfully. “Tapioca pudding. My favorite.”
Peterman tasted Baxter’s face as well. “You’re right. Doctor Browning will be quite upset that she wasn’t invited. It’s her favorite too.”
“The substance that is actually used on my planet is deadly to humans, and this is the closest substitute I could find in the replicator database.” J’hana explained, diving in after Conway.
“Last one in is a rotten egg!” Baxter cried, dragging Counselor Peterman in with him.
As the seven crewmembers splashed around, Commander Conway pulled himself up to the edge of the pool, spitting tapioca and grunting. “So when do we get to the part where we talk about our most honorable experience?”
J’hana laughed, dunking Ensign Saral under playfully. “I lied about that part, Commander. The purpose of this ritual is, in fact, to allow Andorians to have fun. Something we are prone to forget about from time to time.”
“I hadn’t noticed that,” Baxter lied, dunking Saral under the tapioca for a few moments and lifting her back up again.
“This is highly illogical.” Ensign Saral said. “I fail to see the benefit in splashing around in tapioca.”
“Back under!” Baxter shouted, dunking Saral again.
Tilleran emerged from the tapioca, eyes closed, shouting “Marco!”
Mirk splashed through the pool. “Polo!”
Tilleran immediately found him, however. (Anyone knows that it’s incredibly stupid to try to play Marco Polo with a Betazoid).
“Wait a minute…” Mirk said, beginning to catch on, but, alas, it was too late. He was immediately dunked by Lt. Tilleran.
Baxter lifted Saral out of the tapioca. “Do you get it now, Ensign?”
Saral nodded. “Yes, Captain. I do.”
As Tilleran and Mirk played “Marco Polo,” Conway just did his best to tread…well, tread tapioca.
“I have to admit, Lieutenant, this is not at all what I expected from an Andorian ritual.”
J’hana laughed merrily as she dunked Peterman. “Wait
until we get to the flame pit!”
“Huh?” Conway asked worriedly. Before he could say
anything else, J’hana dunked him under the tapioca, laughing
NEXT TIME ON STAR TRAKS: THE VEXED GENERATION:
Commander Conway runs into his old Captain, James Stevens, and finds himself pulled along on a quest to save some lost Alpha Quadrant crews from being eaten by the Flarn and J’hana enters into a painful yet rewarding relationship with an extremely obese Klingon in