Author: Anthony Butler
Captain Baxter urged his horse forward in a vain attempt to keep up with Counselor Peterman.
She was easily fifty meters ahead of him, hurdling over streams, tree trunks, and other obstacles, as if they were hardly there.
The Captain, on the other hand, was having slightly more trouble.
“Kelly!” Baxter cried, trying to catch up. “Wait up!”
“If you can’t stand the heat,” Peterman called back, “get out of the…”
Peterman was cut off when her horse stopped dead at a particularly large tree trunk, sending her flying forward over the horse’s head, smacking roughly into the ground several meters ahead.
The horse walked over to her and nudged her, neighing softly.
Baxter jumped off his horse and ran to the Counselor’s aid. “Are you okay, Kelly?”
Peterman grabbed Baxter’s offered hand and pulled herself up. “Yeah, I just injured my pride. And my butt.”
“Very funny.” Baxter said. “What was that you were saying about not being able to stand the heat?”
“You are having way too much fun with this.” Peterman replied. “I could have been killed.”
“I don’t think so.” Baxter said. “That’s why we have holodeck safeties.”
Peterman rubbed her sore rear end, wincing in pain. “Tell that to my butt!”
Baxter was about to deliver a cunning retort to that statement when his comm badge beeped.
“Lieutenant Fresca to Captain Baxter. Please report to the bridge immediately.”
“Acknowledged.” Baxter said, tapping his comm badge in annoyance.
“What the heck could that be?” Peterman asked.
Baxter shook his head. “Around this place? Who knows.” He unstrapped his riding helmet and tossed it to the ground. “Hang around here and practice that jump a couple more times. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Peterman kissed Baxter softly on his cheek as he left. “You’d better be.”
The Captain called for the exit and made his way out into the corridor, leaving Peterman alone to scold her horse.
“You’d better not be such a damn coward next time, Spock!” she said, waving her finger menacingly.
“Nice chaps, Captain.” Lt. Fresca said from the command chair. “They suit you well.”
“Shut up.” Baxter said, as Fresca vacated the seat. “What’s the big emergency?”
Fresca took her place at ops, looking over the panel. “We recieved a distress call a couple minutes ago from a ship just inside Flarn borders.”
“Sulani vessel?” Baxter asked as Commander Conway stepped onto the bridge, making his way to his customary seat.
“No, sir.” Fresca said. “You’ll just love this.”
“I’m sure I will.” Baxter said impatiently. “So where did this call come from if not the Sulani?”
“According to the message and its ID tag, the distress call came from a Klingon Bird of Prey.” Fresca said.
“That’s impossible.” Conway said, looking to Baxter. “It’s an obvious trick.”
“Never say never, Mister Conway.” Baxter said. “As I recall, there were several Klingon vessels in the starship graveyard near Malox.”
“Then we’re being tricked by the Bermuda Expanses. We’re still being tricked, sir.” Conway said.
“Ahem.” Fresca said, trying to get the commanding officers’ attention. “I haven’t even played the message yet.”
“By all means, Lieutenant.” Baxter said. “Let’s hear it.”
Fresca hit a button on her panel, playing the message: “To any friendly vessels, this is Captain James Stevens of the United Federation of Planets. Our vessel is badly damaged and we are in need of help. If the Flarn find us, we will be killed and eaten. We formally request asylum with any government that will take us.”
Commander Conway’s jaw dropped. “Stevens? The captain of the Inspiration?”
“And one of your former commanders, if I’m not mistaken,” Baxter mused.
“Sir, I take back what I said. We have to check this out.”
“Fair enough.” Baxter said. “Ensign Madera, plot a course for the source of that distress call, Warp Nine.”
“Plotted, sir.” Madera replied.
“Engage.” Baxter said, sitting back in his chair and steepling his fingers. “Looks like you’re in for a very weird reunion, Commander.”
“Yeah.” Conway said, getting up from his chair. “I’ll be in my quarters.”
Back in his quarters, Commander Conway sat down at his desk and turned his desktop terminal to face him.
“Computer, access main onboard database and cross reference all articles on the Federation Starship Garrison.” Conway said, getting up to grab a cup of coffee from the replicator.
Conway sipped at the cup of coffee thoughtfully as the computer worked.
“USS Garrison. Excelsior Class.” The computer began, “Registry NCC-68992. Commanded by Captain James Stevens until stardate 44325, when it was destroyed in a severe plasma storm.”
“Stevens always did have a way of losing ships.” Conway said, thinking back to his days aboard the Garrison. The computer continued to list the Garrison’s mundane characteristics as Conway closed his eyes, almost able to hear the creaking of the Garrison’s hull as the storm beat against it…
“We can’t break free!” Lieutenant Guiterrez said from tactical. “The storm is tearing us apart.”
“Modulate the shields!” Stevens shouted. “Helm, all power to forward thrusters. I want warp power, Mr. O’Neil!”
Lieutenant Conway tried his best to maintain his balance at the operations console as Captain Stevens barked out orders to the bridge crew. He’d been in Starfleet for six years, and had never been this scared.
“Our shields are almost down!” Guiterrez shouted, slamming her fist on the tactical console. “The storm will break through our hull in less than nine minutes.”
“Any advice on how to get us out of this mess, Commander Somers?” Stevens said, turning to face his first officer.
The executive officer shook her head. “Without warp power we’re dead in the water.”
The Garrison rocked severely as it was tossed through the plasma storm.
“I want some options!” the Captain cried.
“Captain!” Lt. Conway shouted uneasily from operations. “Couldn’t we create a warp field without going anywhere?”
“What?” Stevens asked. “What would be the point?”
“We could hide inside the warp bubble until the storm dissipates. It might overload the warp engines, but it may give us enough time to avoid the storm.”
“That’s insane, Lieutenant.” Stevens said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully as the ship shook. “I like it. Go down to engineering and implement the plan.”
“Aye, sir.” Conway said, getting up from his station and rushing over to the turbolift…
“Baxter to Conway. We have almost arrived at the coordinates of the distress call.” Captain Baxter’s voice said calmly over the comm system, jolting Conway from his reverie. “Just thought you’d like to know.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you. I’ll be right there.” Conway said, standing up and stretching, trying to shake the memories of the Garrison from his mind. His plan gave the crew just enough time to get to the escape pods before the warp field overloaded the engines and destroyed the ship. He idly remembered Stevens berating him about that loss, rather than consider that Conway saved the crew. He wondered whether or not Stevens was the type of guy to hold a grudge.
Commander Conway walked onto the bridge, noting that the senior bridge staff had now taken their positions for whatever mission lie ahead, and also noting that Baxter had taken the travel time to change out of his riding outfit…thankfully.
“We are almost within sensor range of the vessel, Captain.” Lt. Larkin announced from ops.
“Shall I raise shields?” J’hana asked.
“I don’t think that will be necessary.” Baxter said as Conway took his seat. “But stand by just in case.”
“Aye, sir.” J’hana replied.
“Coming within sensor range now.” Larkin reported.
“Put the vessel onscreen.” Baxter said, leaning forward in his chair. “Let’s see just what we’re dealing with.”
Commander Conway looked on with amazement as the ship appeared on the screen.
“Maximum magnification.” Baxter ordered.
The ship suddenly grew larger on the screen.
“Unmistakably a Bird of Prey, Captain, B’rel Class.” J’hana said, adding, “It is heavily damaged.”
“Life signs?” Conway asked.
“Uncertain.” Larkin replied. “There is life aboard, but the readings are sporadic. It seems they are suffering from a damaged warp core, among other things.”
“What about life support systems?” Baxter asked.
“Minimal.” Larkin said. “If there is life aboard that ship, it shall not last long.”
“Very well.” Baxter said. “Commander Conway…take a team over there and find out exactly what’s going on. Have Doctor Browning and Lieutenant Commander Richards join you in the transporter room.”
“Aye sir.” Conway said, standing up. “J’hana, Larkin, you’re with me.”
The away team materialized on board the wounded Bird of Prey, immediately activating their wrist beacons and withdrawing their phasers.
“Anything on those lifesigns, Larkin?” Conway asked, looking around the corridor, phaser ready.
“Yes, Commander. I have one life sign reading seventy-two meters away in this direction.”
“You heard the lady.” Conway said. “Let’s move. I don’t want to be here any longer than I have to.”
“I’m reading moderate structural damage, Commander. I suggest we watch our step.” Lt. Commander Richards reported.
“Noted, Richards.” Conway said. “Anything else I should know?”
“They could definitely use an air freshener.” Dr. Browning said. “It smells like year old gagh in here.”
“An excellent observation, Doctor.” Larkin said. “According to my tricorder, that is exactly what we are smelling.”
“Unfortunately, year old gagh is even more disgusting than fresh gagh.” J’hana said.
“Gee, J’hana,” Conway said. “I figured you would love gagh.”
“Please, Commander, I do have my limits.” J’hana replied.
“Here we are.” Larkin said, staring at her tricorder as the group arrived at a door. “I believe this is the bridge.”
“Can somebody get this door opened?” Conway asked.
J’hana stepped forward and pushed with all her might. “It is no use, Commander. The locking mechanism is jammed.”
“Allow me.” Larkin said politely, stepping in front of J’hana and pressing ever so gently on the door, sliding it open.
J’hana grunted under her breath. “Thank you, Lieutenant. If you do not mind, I will lead the way.”
“Good idea.” Conway said. “Larkin, follow J’hana. Everyone else, behind me.”
The group moved onto the Klingon bridge slowly, scanning it with their wrist beacons.
“Over here.” J’hana said, pointing at the command chair.
The occupant of the command chair was a huge Klingon, of approximately five-hundred pounds. He sat there motionless, eyes closed, as if he was taking a peaceful afternoon nap.
Doctor Browning holstered her phaser and pulled out her medical tricorder. “He’s suffering from blood loss and oxygen depravation. I think I can revive him if I get him back to sickbay.”
“Fine.” Conway said, looking around the dimly lit bridge. “So where’s Stevens?”
“That is odd.” Larkin said, staring down at her tricorder.
“What?” Conway asked.
“There is a life sign approaching us at high speed. I am also reading a weapon of some sort. Most likely disruptor style.”
“Great.” Conway said. “J’hana, you take one side of the door, I’ll take the other.”
J’hana nodded, standing ready with her phaser. “Ready, Commander.”
A dark shape rushed onto the bridge, screaming an unintelligible battle cry.
Commander Conway fired at the shape with his phaser, sending the figure roughly to the deck.
Lt. Larkin holstered her phaser, then bent down and turned the figure over, shining her wrist beacon into its face.
“A human.” J’hana said, looking down at the figure.
Commander Conway stared down at the still figure in complete dumbfoundment. “Captain Stevens?”
“So it would seem.” Larkin said.
Stardate 51780.5. We are towing the Klingon Bird of Prey out of Flarn space at maximum warp, since I sure wouldn’t like to wear out our welcome around there. That ship’s only two occupants have been beamed to sickbay, where Doctor Browning tells me they should make a complete recovery.
Commander Conway made his way down the corridor to sickbay, nodding dissmisively as Lt. Commander Richards gave him his report.
“Once we get back to Sulani space, I think I can have the Bird of Prey back up and running by morning.” Richards said. “Providing we can scrape up some extra duranium to reinforce the hull.”
“Any idea what did that to them?” Conway asked.
“Flarn antiproton cannons, without a doubt, Commander,” Richards replied.
“Their story checks out then.” Conway said, as he rounded the corner to sickbay.
“Why wouldn’t it? That’s a Starfleet officer and a Klingon. What reason could they possibly have to lie to us?”
“None. Yet.” Conway said, stepping into sickbay as Richards continued on his way down to Engineering.
“Both of them are suffering from lack of oxygen, minor cuts and abrasions, and some blood loss.” Doctor Browning said as Conway entered. “And, of course, the human is suffering from a point blank phaser stun, but I was able to patch him up. You know that makes the second Captain that you’ve shot with a phaser, Commander.”
Conway’s eyes darted over to Browning as he looked over his former commander. “That you know of. So are you going to bring them around or not?”
Browning looked over the two patients. “I don’t see why not.”
“Do it then. Now.”
Dr. Browning grabbed a hypospray, inserting a small cartridge into it. “What’s the hurry, Commander? Their ship won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, anyway.”
“Just do it, Doctor.” Conway said.
Browning shrugged and plunged the hypospray into Stevens’ neck. Almost immediately the readings on his monitor went up as his eyes fluttered open.
Stevens looked around, obviously disoriented. “Where the hell am I?”
Commander Conway leaned over. “You’re aboard the Federation starship Aerostar, Captain. You’re safe. Do you remember me?”
Stevens stared at Commander Conway for several moments. “You’ll have to forgive me, I’ve been through a couple of lousy hair days lately. Conway, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir. Commander Conway now.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, sir.” Conway replied again. “Are you feeling strong enough to tell us what exactly happened to you and your friend over there?”
Stevens sat up, shaking his head, trying to clear his mind. “I have to talk to your Captain. There’s a lot going on out here that he should be made aware of.”
“We’ll get you up to see Captain Baxter soon enough, but first…can you tell me how you escaped the Flarn?”
“Well,” Stevens said weakly.
Suddenly there was a huge roar from the bed adjacent to Captain Stevens, as his Klingon friend threw the ensign that was looking over his readings across the room, knocking over a cart full of medical equipment.
“What is this trickery!” the giant Klingon grunted.
Stevens slid off his bed and placed a hand on the Klingon’s shoulder. “It’s okay Dwanok. We’re safe.”
“Are you certain?” Dwanok asked with confusion. “You have said that before.”
Stevens looked to Conway. “I’m pretty sure this time. These people will help us.”
Dwanok looked down at Commander Conway and studied him. “What can this puny Earth man do for me?”
“What’s going on out here?” Dr. Browning asked, rushing out of her office, and picking up the dazed ensign that had been thrown across the room. “This is a sickbay, not a wrestling ring!”
“It’s all under control now, Doctor.” Commander Conway said reassuringly, turning back to face Stevens and Dwanok. “Now, unless there’s any objection, I’m going to take you two up to see the Captain.”
“None here, Commander.” Stevens replied. “And I’ll do my best to keep Dwanok here in check.”
Several minutes later, Captain Baxter had convened a meeting of he, Conway, Larkin, J’hana, Stevens and Dwanok.
“So what do you have to tell us that’s so important, Captain?” Baxter asked, clasping his hands on top of the conference table.
Stevens leaned forward from the other end of the table. “I trust you are familiar with the Flarn, Captain Baxter.”
Baxter nodded. “We’ve had more than a couple run- ins with them, yes.”
“Then you know that they are a merciless people. A barbaric people. A people devoid of compassion as we know it.”
Baxter nodded. “Yes, similar to Jehovah’s witnesses and telemarketers from back on Earth.”
“The point is,” Stevens said tiredly, “the Flarn probably told you that they killed all the humans they found in this quadrant and ate them.”
“That’s right.” Baxter replied.
“Well, what if I told you that there was a prison camp on one of Flarn Prime’s moons where humans and other Alpha Quadrant species were being kept in cold storage before they’re to be eaten.”
Baxter leaned forward even more. “I would be very interested. If it were true.”
“I assure you it is.” Dwanok grunted from beside Stevens. “We were on our way to find it when we were attacked. The pIntoH’s cloaking device had been having some intermittent problems ever since we crossed over from the Bermuda Expanse.”
“If I may ask,” Larkin asked from beside Captain Baxter. “How did the two of you manage to escape the Flarn upon arriving in the Delta Quadrant?”
Stevens looked to Dwanok, as if asking for permission to explain everything. Dwanok nodded gravely.
“You see…” Stevens said. “The Inspiration had been on a routine supply run to Waystation when we picked up a distress call from a Klingon squadron just outside the Bermuda Expanse, and I set a course to investigate.”
“Could have been a trap.” Conway muttered.
Stevens shot the Commander a look. “But it wasn’t. Anyway, when we arrived at the Bermuda Expanse, we couldn’t find a trace of the Klingon vessels, so we went in. You guys probably know what happened after that. We soon figured out we were a long way from home, and tried our best to negotiate with the Flarn, come to some kind of understanding. Well, to make a long story short…”
“Too late.” Baxter muttered under his breath.
“The Flarn had something else in mind. They crippled the Inspiration and two of Dwanok’s ships. I ordered everyone to evacuate the ship and grabbed one of the empty lifeboats.”
“What ever happened to the Captain going down with his ship?” Baxter asked.
“That’s a load of crap,” Stevens said, continuing. “The next thing I knew, I was beamed aboard the pIntoH, where almost all of Dwanok’s crew had been slaughtered.”
“We were able to get the cloaking device operational and make our escape.” Dwanok added. “At the cost of three of my engineering officer’s lives. They died honorably.”
“We’ve spent the last year skirting the Flarn borders, hitting small outposts, gathering supplies, and gathering information…in hopes of finding our crews. And last week, finally, we found something.”
“What exactly did you find?”
Stevens walked over to the viewer at the front of the conference room, pulling an isolinear chip out of his pocket. “May I?”
“Of course.” Baxter nodded.
Stevens slid the chip into a receptacle next to the viewer and activated it.
The Flarn emblem appeared on the screen, followed by the face of a somewhat disheveled looking woman in a red Starfleet uniform.
“Hi there!” The woman said nervously. “My name is Commander Cathy Vansen, and I’m here to tell you that not only am I tasty, but I’m also low in fat and fortified with thirteen natural vitamins, guaranteed to make your exoskeleton strong and shiny.”
“What the hell is this?” Conway asked with disgust.
“Just keep watching.” Stevens said, looking at the viewer.
Now a Flarn loomed over the officer on the viewscreen, a fork and knife at the ready. “It ssssssounds almost too good to be true!”
“I assure you, it’s not.” The woman said. “Come on down to Nardrenghar, Flarn Prime’s fifth moon, and find out for yourself. But come quick–this offer is only good for a limited time!”
The picture of the woman and the Flarn faded out, to be replaced once again with the Flarn symbol, this time paired with the phrase, “Humans, the other pinkish meat,” and in the background, the annoying jingle: “Yummy Yummy Yummy, I’ve got humans in my tummy!”
“Turn it off!” Baxter shouted, covering his face with disgust.
“That was my first officer from the Inspiration.” Stevens
said sadly. “Now she comes with a large soda and your choice
of fried grondal liver or mashed potatoes.”
“My god.” Commander Conway said softly. “It’s even worse than we thought.”
“Captain Stevens, Captain Dwanok, if you’ll excuse us…” Captain Baxter said, still looking a bit peaked.
“Of course.” Stevens said, as two security guards escorted he and Dwanok out of the conference lounge.
“We have to help them.” Commander Conway said, once the group was alone.
“That much is certain, Captain.” Larkin said, “Though the risk would be substantial.”
“It does not matter.” J’hana said solemnly. “We cannot allow the Flarn to make a mockery of the Alpha Quadrant. Humans, Klingons, Andorians, it does not matter the race. Something must be done.”
“I agree.” Baxter said, standing up and walking over to the conference lounge windows. “Baxter to Richards.”
“How are the repairs on the Bird of Prey going?”
“Give me another eight hours and she’ll be done, sir.”
“You’ve got four, Baxter out.” Baxter said, continuing to stare out the thick transparent aluminum window.
“Captain,” Commander Conway said from behind him. “I want to go with them.”
“Are you nuts?” Baxter asked, turning around. “You realize they might not come back from this mission?”
“I understand, sir.” Conway said. “Still, I think I owe it to Stevens.”
“For God’s sake, why?” Baxter asked.
“It’s a long story.” Conway sighed.
Baxter thought a moment. “Fine. In that case, take J’hana and Larkin along with you. Unless either of them object to risking their hides?”
J’hana looked to Larkin, then to Baxter. “I have no fear of death.”
“In addition,” Larkin said, “we already know that Flarn do not like the taste of Andorians and androids.”
“I had not thought of that.” J’hana muttered, looking down and twiddling her thumbs thoughtfully. “However, there may still be an honorable death in this.”
“Count on it.” Conway said, leaving the conference room.
An hour later, Commander Conway found Captain Stevens sitting with Captain Dwanok at a table in a far corner of the Starlight Lounge.
“They’re not exactly the brightening up the place,” Mirk said offhandedly as Conway entered the lounge. “The usual?”
Conway nodded. “Put some bourbon in it this time, Mirk.”
Mirk brought the commander’s coffee over as he approached Stevens’ and Dwanok’s table.
“Am I disturbing you two?” Conway asked, taking the drink.
“Not at all.” Stevens said, gesturing to one of the seats. “Sit down.”
Dwanok just grunted.
“I had a question for you, Captain.” Conway said thoughtfully.
“Shoot.” Stevens said, downing his shot in one gulp and pouring another from the bottle he and Dwanok were sharing.
“Do you remember when the Garrison was caught in that plasma storm?”
“Gee, we all almost died, the ship was destroyed…I vaguely remember that.” Stevens said sarcastically. “Why?”
“Well, I kind of…saved the crew…and I was wondering…”
Stevens raised his eyebrows. “You saved the crew?”
“Yeah,” Conway said. “Remember? I created a warp field for the ship to hide in until the storm passed.”
The captain sat back and seemed thoughtful for a moment. “That’s right. Now I remember. That was you?”
“Sure was.” Conway said. “What I was wondering was…”
“Garcon!” Stevens shouted. “Another bottle of that swill you call whiskey for me and my Klingon buddy here!”
Conway gritted his teeth in annoyance. “What I was wondering was…”
Mirk sat another bottle on Stevens’ table. Dwanok looked up at him and grimaced. “I need more than this to get a buzz! Where’s the real booze?”
Conway glared at Dwanok angrily, while addressing Mirk. “Hey, Mirk, why don’t you take Dwanok here over to the bar and give him some of that special Flarn war brew you let me try.”
Mirk smiled. “Yes, sir! Come on, Dwanok, if you’re brave enough.”
Dwanok harrumphed and followed Mirk over to the bar.
“Hard to believe that bartender’s people stole my ship.” Stevens mused, sipping from his drink. “Kind of ironic that those Maloxians took the Inspiration and used it to try to blow you guys out of the stars.
“Yes, sir, I guess it was.”
“Weren’t you going to ask me something?” Stevens asked, pouring another shot.
“I was going to ask you, Captain…” Conway said, annoyed. “If you ever planned on thanking me.”
“For saving your crew!” Conway shouted. “I was a simple lieutenant, and I saved your whole crew! Doesn’t that mean anything?”
Stevens thought a moment. “Well, the ship was a complete loss.”
“You just don’t get it, do you, Captain?”
“What do you want, Commander? A medal? I wouldn’t expect you to do less than your best. And if your best happens to save the ship, then all the better.” Stevens said, taking another drink.
“I guess you never knew just how much the crew talked behind your back, huh?” Conway asked coarsely. “They talked about you constantly.”
Stevens seemed amused. “Oh, they did, did they? What did my valiant crew have to say about me?”
“That you were arrogant, for one, Captain. You never thanked one of us for a job well done. You simply kept on pushing.”
“They also said you were nuts. You had your readyroom redecorated in vinyl and polyester, and you would sit on the bridge sometimes, gorging on popcorn and making insane little squealing noises! You were a lunatic!”
Stevens stared passively at Conway the entire time he ranted and raved. “Are you finished, Commander?”
Conway took another swig of his coffee. “Yeah, I guess.”
“Good. Now let me ask you a question. Did any of that inhibit my ability to command?”
“Well, no.” Conway replied.
Dwanok returned to the table, stumbling around with a dizzy expression on his face. “I have to hand it to the Flarn. They make a fine war brew. Your bartender friend gave me the recipe. Buaaaaaaaagggggh!”
The Klingon belched directly into Conway’s face, causing his hair to be blown completely out of whack.
“Glad you approve.” Conway said as he bore the brunt of the blast.
“So I hear you want to join us on our little mission.” Stevens said drunkenly, pouring another shot.
“Yes, sir.” Conway said, turning his attention back to the Captain. “If you’ll have me along.”
“You understand there’s no assurance of any of us coming back alive.”
“Yes, sir.” Conway said. “Me and my people are willing to take that risk.”
“I understand the Andorian fights well.” Dwanok interjected, before letting his head hit the table.
“She could also drink you under the table, Dwanok.” Conway said. “And belch twice as loud.”
“I’d be lying if I said we couldn’t use all the help we can get, Conway.” Stevens said. “Just be ready to face the consequences if we get burned on this one.”
Conway nodded. “Of course. But I want you to be ready to thank me if I haul your ass out of the fire this time.”
“I’ll consider it.” Stevens said, taking another drink.
Later that evening, Captain Stevens stumbled onto the bridge of the pIntoH, trying to shake the drunkenness from his head. “I forgot how hard it was to shake a good syntheholic stupor,” the captain mumbled, settling into the command chair.
Lieutenant Larkin stuck her head out from an access panel on the side of the bridge. “If you recall, Captain, synthehol can only make you as drunk as you want to be. If you are that intoxicated, it would seem that, at least subconsciously, you wanted to be.”
“You sure talk a lot, Lieutenant,” Stevens muttered, turning his chair to face the weapons console.
“I had not noticed,” the android replied.
“I sure have,” J’hana said, checking the weapons.
“What’s our status, Lieutenant?” Stevens asked.
“The new quantum torpedoes have all been loaded in the torpedo bay, and the disruptor cannons have been repaired. We should be more than a match for the Flarn perimeter defenses.”
“Then let’s just hope we don’t come up against a warship.”
“I have no fear of that, Captain.” J’hana said. “I have done battle with Flarn warships before.”
“Oh have you? Good. Let’s hope you won’t have to add another notch to your belt.”
“Pardon?” J’hana asked with confusion.
“Never mind.” Stevens said, tapping his comm badge. “Stevens to Dwanok. What’s the status on the engines and the cloak?”
“They are back up and running.” Dwanok replied. “However, I am not altogether sure of the Starfleet engineer’s competence.”
“I assure you, Dwanok, he is quite competent.” J’hana said angrily from the weapons console.
“We shall see, Andorian.” Dwanok replied.
“Are we ready to go, or not?” Commander Conway asked, as the bridge doors parted to allow him in.
“Whenever your Captain gives us the word.” Stevens replied. “Your engineering crew is still offloading some of its equipment.”
“Good.” Conway said. “Lieutenant Larkin, I believe you have some experience at the helm?”
“Of course.” Larkin said, closing up the panel she was working on. “I served as a helm officer for several years aboard the Secondprize.”
“Then you’ll take the conn. Unless Captain Stevens has any objections?”
“Not at all.” Stevens said. “What about you, Commander?”
“What about me?”
“What post are you going to take? I think, ah, yes, it just so happens we have an opening at the operations console!” Stevens said in mock surprise.
“What do you know?” Conway said, sitting down at the console next to tactical. “My Klingon is a little rusty.”
“Well, you’d better sharpen it up quick.” Stevens said, when suddenly Conway’s console began to beep.
“Message coming in from the Aerostar.” Conway said. “It’s Captain Baxter.”
“Put it onscreen.” Stevens ordered.
Captain Baxter appeared on the screen, standing on the Aerostar’s bridge. “We’ll be waiting at the Flarn border, Captain. Let us know if something goes wrong.”
“You aren’t planning on taking the Aerostar in after us if we fail, are you?”
Baxter smiled. “I might.”
“Don’t be stupid, Baxter. That’s a needless risk of life. If we don’t succeed, you’d better leave us for dead.”
“What a pleasant thought.” Baxter replied gamely. “At any rate, good luck, Captain.”
“We don’t need luck.” Conway muttered. “We need a miracle.”
“Thank you, Captain Baxter.” Stevens said, glaring at Conway. “We’ll see you at the border in ten hours. pIntoH out.”
Captain Baxter watched the pIntoH on the viewscreen as it turned on a wing and engaged into warp.
“Proceed to the rendezvous point, Ensign Ford. Warp Six.” Baxter said, returning to his command chair.
“Aye, sir,” Ford said, tapping in the commands and engaging the warp engines. “Do you think they have any hope of rescuing those Alpha Quandrant people?”
Baxter watched the stars streak toward him on the main viewscreen. “Frankly, Mr. Ford, I have no idea.”
“We will arrive at the Flarn border in approximately twenty minutes.” Lt. Larkin announced from the helm.
Stevens turned to face Commander Conway. “Engage the cloak Commander. Let’s find out just how well your Commander Richards repaired the cloaking device.”
“Engaging cloak.” Conway reported. “Rigging for silent running.”
“Take us down to Warp four.” Stevens said, turning back to face the front of the bridge. “From our experience, the Flarn can detect us at speeds above that.”
“Acknowledged.” Larkin said.
“All rightee, then. That gives us approximately four hours until we reach the outer perimeters of Flarn prime.” Stevens said, standing up.
“Four hours, fifteen minutes.” Larkin corrected.
“Right. Either way, I’m going to see if I can shake off this pretend hangover.” Stevens said, partially unzipping his uniform jacket and heading for the bridge exit. “Ship’s on autopilot. You guys should get some sleep too.”
“Sounds good to me.” Conway said, getting up from his station.
“I will monitor the bridge as a safety precaution, as I do not require sleep.” Larkin stated, walking towards the command chair.
“If you say so, Lieutenant.” Conway said, as he and J’hana left the bridge.
Captain Stevens stretched out on the flat, hard, Klingon shelf-bed, trying to find a comfortable position. He had slept aboard this ship long enough, however, to know that it was impossible.
Right when Stevens thought he had found a comfortable spot, his door chime rang.
“Come in.” Stevens muttered, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.
Lieutenant J’hana stood in the doorway. “May I talk to you a moment, Captain?” the Andorian asked.
“I suppose. Come on in.”
J’hana walked inside the small quarters, allowing the door to clang shut behind her. “It is about Commander Conway, sir.”
“What about him? Do you think he’s unfit for duty?”
“Quite the contrary sir. Actually…”
“Spit it out, Lieutenant.”
“Andorians are raised to expect a certain rigidity and authority from their superiors. It has been my experience that human commanders act in a completely different fashion.”
“And your point is?”
“Well, sir, with all due respect…” J’hana said, not sure of how to phrase her statement. “It does not seem that you respect the commander, despite his best attempts to please you.”
“Has he said anything about that to you?”
“Of course not, sir. These are merely my observations. I would, of course, be content to be beaten into submission by my superiors should I make a mistake. Commander Conway, however, may expect praise for a job well done.”
Stevens stood up and poured himself a glass of Klingon blood wine from a pitcher on his bedside table. He offered J’hana a glass, but she refused. “I’ve been a Captain for over thirteen years, Lieutenant. I think I know how to command my subordinates.”
“I would not suggest anything to the contrary.” J’hana said.
“Wouldn’t you? Isn’t that what you’re saying?”
“No, I merely…”
“You’re right, of course.” Stevens said, sitting down and sipping from the wine goblet. “I ride all my officers a little too hard sometimes. Well, rode.”
“And now they are trapped on some moon around Flarn Prime.”
Stevens looked down into the wine goblet and looked back up at J’hana. “Maybe.”
“If they have been consumed by the Flarn, would you savor the idea of them dying without ever knowing that you respected them?”
“Of course not.” Stevens said, looking down again. “They know I respected them.”
“Perhaps.” J’hana said. “But does Commander Conway?”
“So you’re telling me that I should let my people know what I think of them before I lose the chance.”
“You said that, I did not.” J’hana replied. “Is that what you think?”
Stevens put the goblet down. “You would make a damn good ship’s counselor, Lieutenant.”
J’hana made a disgusted face. “Perish the thought, sir.”
“Get some sleep. We’ll be near Flarn Prime in a couple hours.”
“Actually,” J’hana said, smiling as she headed out the door. “I have a date with your friend Dwanok.”
THE FLARN WARSHIP BREKTAG
“Outposssssst Fourteen reported a warp disssssssstortion heading towardsssss our location, Lord Krenek.” Midruk reported, standing beside Krenek’s command chair.
“Isss that sssso?” Krenek asked with interest. “Could it be Dwanok’s ship?”
“Perhapssssss.” Midruk replied. “He would be quite a catch, your hignessssss.”
“He Cssssssertainly would, Midruk. Flarn elite refer to him as ‘The Big Boonung.’ Sssssssee if we can follow thisssss disssstortion.”
“Yessss, your highnesssss.” Midruk replied, barking orders at the helmsman.
Captain Stevens fastened his uniform jacket as he stepped out onto the bridge. He looked around. Commander Conway was already up and at his panel, as were Larkin and J’hana.
“Take us out of warp, Lt. Larkin.”
“Aye, Captain.” Larkin replied. “I have located Nardrenghar on the sensors. We are within three million kilometers.”
“Continue at full impulse. Lt. J’hana, keep your eyes peeled for any Flarn warships that may be following us.”
“Aye, sir.” J’hana said.
“Commander Conway, as soon as the moon comes within scanning range, I want you to check it out. Find us the quickest, cleanest way in.”
“Yes, sir.” Conway replied, checking his panel. “Getting preliminary long range sensor information now.”
“Flarn warship entering the sector at coordinates 261 mark 010.” J’hana announced calmly from tactical. “Their weapons are armed.”
“Red alert.” Stevens said. “Well, this complicates things.”
“Perhaps not.” Larkin said from the helm as the Red Alert sirens blared.
“What do you mean, Lieutenant?”
Larkin turned in her chair. “The Flarn use a passive ion flux scanning system. While advanced by Federation standards, they are not infallible.”
“Go on.” Stevens said with interest.
“I believe it may be possible to create a reflection of the pIntoH’s image on the other side of this system, utilizing the neutrino emission chamber’s reflection capabil-“
“Good enough, Lieutenant. I don’t need to be bothered with technical jargon. Implement your plan.”
“There is one drawback to this plan.” Larkin stated.
“And that is?”
“Once the Flarn realize they have been tricked, they will follow the neutrino trail back to our position.”
“In other words, we’d better drop our team and get the hell out of here.” Stevens replied.
“I would not have used those words, but, essentially, yes.”
“Fine, then. That’s what we’re going to do. As soon as we beam down, I want you and Dwanok to take the ship to the far side of Flarn Prime and wait. We’ll just have to be damn quick bringing the team back up to the ship.”
“Damn quick is right,” snapped Conway from ops.
“Question, Commander?” Stevens asked.
“No, not at all, Captain.” Conway said, suddenly looking down at his panel. “Sir, scanners are picking up a huge installation on Nardrenghar. As a matter of fact, that’s all they’re picking up.”
“Explain.” Stevens said, heading back to Conway’s console.
“Nardrenghar is a barren, rocky moon, sir. The installation is the only thing there. The rest of the moon is covered with volcanoes and dense, volcanic clouds.”
“Not a vacation spot, then.”
“What about entry points?” Stevens asked.
“Let’s see.” Conway scrolled through the computer’s overhead maps of the installation. “These maps indicate that there is a massive repair tunnel that leads directly to a huge cellar, approximately three kilometers below the surface.”
“Any life signs in that tunnel?”
“Negative. But the installation’s outer perimeter is swarming with Flarn.”
“Great. They’ll pick us up as soon as we beam in.”
“Exactly. And the transporters won’t be able to put us more than a kilometer below the surface, what with all the volcanic activity and rock.”
“So we’ll have to fight our way down to that cellar.”
“Yes, sir. Assuming that’s where our captives are.” Conway replied. “The sensors can’t penetrate that far into the rock. That cellar could be filled with angry Flarn for all we know.”
“That’s just a risk we’ll have to take.” Stevens said gravely.
“We have reached Nardrenghar, Captain.” Larkin reported from the helm.
“Standard orbit, Lieutenant. Status of the Flarn warship, J’hana?” Stevens said.
“They are circling the system. They must have tracked our warp signature here, but we should be much more difficult to spot at impulse power.”
“Let’s hope we are.” Stevens said. “Larkin, I want you to prepare the diversion, Commander Conway: I want you and J’hana to get ready to beam down.”
“Where are they?” Lord Krenek hissed uncomfortably. “We have circled thisssss ssssystem for ten minutessssss and have found nothing.”
“Perhapsssssss they have…” Midruk said, when suddenly his sensor panel chirped annoyingly. Midruk looked down at the panel. “My Lord, we are picking up a Klingon vessssssssel decloaking near Flarn Five!”
“They are here! The nerve, sssstalking us right to our doorsssstep! Helm, take usssss to Flarn Five immediately, maximum speed!” Krenek screamed. “We ssssshall teach these upssstartssss a lessson for dessssssecrating Flarn home territory!”
“The Flarn vessel is moving to intercept our sensor reflection.”Lieutenant Larkin said over the transporter room’s comm system.
“Good.” Captain Stevens said, holstering his phaser. “Prepare to drop cloak for transport.”
“I have entered the coordinates and set the transporter for automatic decloak and beamout.” J’hana said, walking around the transporter console.
“Places everybody!” Stevens ordered, as he, Conway, and J’hana mounted the transporter pad.
“Wait.” Dwanok said, entering the room, holding a large weapon. “I want you to have this, J’hana.” The massive Klingon shoved the blade into J’hana’s arms, baring his sharp, crooked teeth in a goofy grin. “Last night was…painful.”
“Good. I am glad you enjoyed it as much as I.” J’hana said. “Why are you giving me your batleth?” she asked, cradling the blade in her arms. “It is a Klingon warrior’s most prized possession.”
“I know. It has brought me much honor. I believe it shall do the same for you.”
“Thank you, Dwanok.” J’hana said. “I shall use it well.”
“Quapla!” Dwanok shouted to the group, as the transporter beam engaged.
“What was that all about?” Conway whispered.
“It is none of your concern.” J’hana replied as the group dematerialized.
Stevens, Conway, and J’hana appeared inside a huge, hollow, cavernous tunnel.
“What’s that smell?” Stevens asked.
“It smells like rotten filth and decay.” Conway said, pulling out his tricorder. “I read high levels of methane and carbon dioxide. Barely liveable atmosphere.”
J’hana took in a deep breath and smiled. “Ah, it smells like home!”
“C’mon, let’s move. It won’t be long till the guards get here.” Stevens said, motioning for Conway to move forward. “Lead the way, Commander.”
Conway looked at his tricorder, motioning down the tunnel. “This way.”
“Ready weaponsssss!” Krenek shouted. “I want that Klingon vessssssel completely dissssssabled!”
“Sir!” Midruk shouted. “Ssssssomething’s wrong. The Klingon sssship has dissssssappeared from our sssssscanners.”
“Have they recloaked?”
“Negative. They are jussssst gone.”
“Thisss doessss not make sssssense.” Krenek said angrily. “Where did they go?”
“Sssssir!” The communications officer shouted. “We are receiving a call from Nardrenghar! Three intruders just beamed down there…from a Klingon Bird of Prey.”
“How cunning.” Krenek said. “But not cunning enough. Helm, take usssss to Nardrenghar, besssst sssssspeed!”
“The Flarn vessel is returning.” Larkin said from the helm.
Dwanok sat back in his command chair. “There is nothing to worry about, we have recloaked. Take us to the other side of Flarn Prime.”
“Aye, sir.” Larkin said, bringing the Bird of Prey around.
“How much farther?” Captain Stevens asked, as he Conway, and J’hana continued to run down the extensive tunnel.
“Another kilometer.” Conway wheezed.
“We’ve got company!” J’hana suddenly shouted, as screaming Flarn began to fall from access tunnels overhead.
“Set your phasers to fifteen!” Conway ordered, pulling his phaser out and vaporizing several Flarn. “That’s the lowest setting that hurts the Flarn.”
“Thanks for telling us that so soon!” Stevens shouted, firing his own phaser.
Before the group knew what had happened, a huge regiment of Flarn warriors had set upon them.
J’hana growled angrily, firing her phaser at one Flarn and swinging her batleth around, cutting another towering Flarn in half.
“We’re really outnumbered!” Stevens shouted, continuing to vaporize Flarn.
“Are you afraid, Stevens?” J’hana grunted, cutting into the Flarn in front of her, then swinging back to hit the one behind her.
“Of course not!” Stevens shouted, as a Flarn threw himself at him, hissing angrily.
Inches from Stevens’ face, the Flarn vaporized. Stevens opened his eyes to see Commander Conway blow on his phaser as if it was a smoking gun. “Thank you, Commander.”
“Don’t mention it, Captain.” Conway said, continuing to fight.
“We have reached Nardrenghar, my Lord.” Midruk reported. “No sssssign of the Klingon sssssship.”
Krenek laughed menacingly. “I jusssst realized why they are here. Open a channel.”
“The Flarn vessel is entering the system, sir.” Lt. Larkin reported. “And we are recieving a broad band transmission from them.”
“By all means, play it.” Dwanok said. “Let’s here what these Flarn have to tell us.”
The color drained from Dwanok’s face as he listened to the Flarn Lord’s message.
“By the blood of Kahless!” He shouted. “Lieutenant…call the away team now!”
“We’re almost there!” Commander Conway cried, beating away a Flarn with his bare hands. “Just a few more meters.”
J’hana heaved her batleth up into two more attacking Flarn. “It could not be soon enough.”
“Tiring out, J’hana?” Stevens grunted. “I was just getting warmed up!”
“Larkin to Stevens.”
Stevens slapped his comm badge, bringing up his phaser to annihilate another Flarn. “Stand by, Lieutenant. We’re kind of busy right now.”
“But this is important, Captain!”
“Not now, Lieutenant!” Stevens shouted.
“We’re here!” Conway said, staring up at a huge metal door. “Setting plasma charge. Everyone get back!” Conway placed a small, round object on the door and everyone, Flarn and Federation alike ran like hell.
There was a huge explosion as the doors (and half the surrounding superstructure) were destroyed.
“If we had firepower that big, why did we not use it when hundreds of Flarn were attacking?” J’hana asked angrily.
“Because then we wouldn’t have anything to blow the door up with, would we?” Stevens asked.
“Captain!” Larkin’s voice said again. “There is something I have to tell you!”
“What?” Stevens asked, following Conway and J’hana through the smoldering wreckage of the cellar entrance.
Conway looked around the huge cellar and gasped. “What the hell?”
“The human storage facility is empty! They were transported aboard the Flarn warship Brektag yesterday.”
“Oh.” Stevens said, looking at all the rows of empty freezer compartments.
The huge, cavernous cellar was completely empty.
Captain Baxter paced the deck of the Aerostar impatiently, constantly looking up at the viewscreen, as if, any minute, the pIntoH would appear there and his people would call saying they had found the missing Alpha Quadrant crews.
“Time to rendezvous?” Baxter asked nervously.
“Two hours, sixteen minutes.” Lt. Fresca reported from ops. “You’ve still got time before you should start really worrying.”
“Gee, thanks, Fresca.” Baxter said, sitting back down in the command chair.
“We have to get out of here!” Lt. J’hana said, as the Flarn warriors began to filter through the entrance.
“I’d like to know how.” Conway said. “The Flarn have blocked off the tunnel entrance with hundreds of troops, the cellar has no other exits, and the pIntoH can’t beam us out through all this rock.”
Stevens began to fire on the oncoming Flarn. “I guess we really are screwed, then.”
“How wide is that tunnel entrance, Lieutenant?” Dwanok asked, looking over Larkin’s shoulder. “Wide enough to admit a B’rel class Bird of Prey?”
Larkin made some calculations on her panel. “Barely. It seems as though the repair tunnel was designed to allow large equipment to be moved down to the installation’s underground facilities.”
“Good. Rig us for atmospheric entry and begin our descent.”
“I must warn you, however, that the trip through the tunnel will require an extremely adept pilot.”
Dwanok grunted. “Then I guess I should be glad I have you at the helm.”
“Indeed.” Larkin said, steering the pIntoH down towards Nardrenghar’s surface.
“We can’t hold out like this for long.” Stevens cried, as the away team held off the Flarn fire behind a massive generator at the center of the gigantic cellar.
“Tell me something I don’t know.” Conway replied. “Conway to pIntoH, what is your status?”
“Stand by.” Larkin replied. “We are kind of busy right now.”
“I guess it’s our turn to stand by!” J’hana said.
“What irony.” Conway said, firing at the oncoming Flarn.
“Regimentssssss sssssix and sssseven move that way!” The Flarn guard commander cried, motioning his troops into the mouth of the tunnel. “Regiment eight, with me.”
Suddenly the commander heard a loud, piercing noise. He turned just in time to see a gigantic, green, bird-shaped ship appear from out of nowhere and soar towards him and his troops.
Before the commander could order his troops to pull back, a bright blue blazing quantum torpedo emerged from the ship’s “beak”, destroying half the tunnel.
“The tunnel’s superstructure is crumbling.” Lt. Larkin reported, as the tunnel’s walls flew by on the viewscreen. “That makes it decidedly more difficult to maneuver.”
“Perhaps you were right, Lieutenant.” Dwanok admitted. “Maybe we shouldn’t have used the quantum torpedo. Use the disruptors to clear a path.”
“What the hell is that sound?” Captain Stevens asked, watching horrified Flarn warriors come streaming out of the smoke-filled tunnel.
“Whatever it is, it’s heading this way!” J’hana yelled. “Everyone duck!”
Suddenly the pIntoH soared into the room, laying waste with its disruptors.
The ship stopped suddenly, hovering directly in front of Stevens, Conway, and J’hana, it’s searchlight blinding them.
“Hello.” Dwanok’s voice said from the exterior speakers. “Get aboard quickly, comrades. I believe I am in a no parking zone.”
With that, Dwanok let out a hearty laugh that made the away team’s ears ring as they dematerialized, leaving hundreds of dead, wounded, or confused Flarn behind.
“Now how do we turn this thing around?” Dwanok asked, staring at the viewscreen as Stevens, Conway, and J’hana entered the bridge.
“Very carefully.” Larkin replied, gently steering the pIntoH around.
“We have failed.” J’hana muttered, taking her position.
“Don’t sulk yet.” Stevens said, standing next to Dwanok’s command chair. “Wait until we get out of this alive.”
“Take us back up, Larkin.” Dwanok ordered from the command chair. “As fast as you can.”
“The inssssstallation issss in sssssshambles.” Midruk reported from the sensor console. “They report massssssive cassssssualties.”
“It isss not important.” Krenek said. “We sssssssshall have the Big Boonung as a prizzzzze.”
“Yessssss, ssssir.” Midruk replied. “Ssssir, the Klingon vesssssel is returning from the surface.”
“Quickly, Midruk, fire on them before they have a chance to cloak.” Krenek ordered, pounding a fist on his chair.
“Drop shields and engage cloak, Commander!” Stevens shouted, as the pIntoH soared towards open space.
“Aye, s-“ Conway said, when there was an alarm at Lt. J’hana’s panel.
“Captain! Incoming fire!”
“Hold on!” Stevens cried, as the ship rocked.
“Hull breach on Deck four!” Conway cried. “Emergency bulkheads dropping. Our primary power supply has been destroyed!”
“Switch to secondaries!”
“We have lost our cloak!” J’hana shouted.
“Raise shields and arm weapons. We’ll have to get our hands dirty now!” Captain Stevens said, as the ship rocked again. “I guess you’ll get a chance to prove yourself after all, Lt. J’hana.”
“I do not need to prove myself.” J’hana said, winking at Dwanok.
The pIntoH angled towards the Brektag, its disruptor cannons blazing.
“Can we go to warp?” Stevens asked, hanging on to Dwanok’s chair for support.
“Negative.” Larkin replied. “All of our power resources are being used for the weapons.”
“Damn.” Stevens said. “Damage to the Flarn ship?”
“Negligible.” J’hana reported. “However, it seems to match the specifications of the ship you faced near the Flarn border.”
“The Brektag. I thought that ship looked familiar.” Dwanok grunted. “This is a fitting rematch.”
“Rematch?” Conway asked. “We’re getting our asses kicked.”
“Silence, human!” Dwanok grunted. “We have not lost yet.”
Suddenly panels seemed to explode all over the bridge.
“We just lost the port stabilizer!” J’hana shouted. “And our shields are down to twenty-eight percent.”
“Blegh’pi chew!” Dwanok cursed, pounding his chair in frustration.
“What did he say?” Conway asked.
“You do not want to know.” J’hana replied.
The ship continued to rock as the Brektag laid into it.
“I guess we’ll get to find those crews after all.” Stevens said. “As a matter of fact, it looks like we’re going to join them…”
The speakers on the bridge crackled to life. “Klingon vesssssssssel: Thissssssss is Krenek of the Brektag. Sssssssurrender your vessssssssel and prepare to be boarded,”
Larkin turned back to face Dwanok. “Captain, the warp core is minutes from going critical!”
“This is it, then, huh?” Conway asked. “We failed.”
“Now that we’re goners, Conway,” Stevens said, turning to face the Commander. “I guess I can take this chance to tell you how much I appreciate…”
J’hana let out a whoop of joy from the weapons console. “Vessel entering the area at 079 mark 181. It’s the Aerostar!”
“What?” Stevens asked incredulously. “I told Baxter not to come here!”
“I am not complaining!” J’hana said as she watched the Aerostar glide into view on the viewscreen, fiercely pounding the Brektag with all the firepower it had.
“Go Aerostar!” Conway shouted.
“By Kahless, I never…” Dwanok said.
“Aerostar to pIntoH.” Baxter’s voice said excitedly. “We’ve damaged the Flarn vessel enough to make them stop firing. Stand by to beam out.”
“You have to give it to him,” Conway said, “he has great timing.”
“We are lissssssting!” Midruk reported. “Thrusssssters are not ressssponding, and the weaponsssss system has been fussssed!”
Krenek grabbed Midruk and threw him across the bridge. He hit the bulkhead with a disgusting snap, crackle, and pop.
“The Aerosssssstar hasssss dissssshonored the Flarn once again. Not only that, but they have deprived me of an expensssssssive meal.” Krenek lamented, watching as the ship listed closer and closer to the Klingon vessel. “It issssss a dark day.”
“Ssssir…” The helmsman said sheepishly, not wishing to suffer Midruk’s fate. “I think the Klingon sssssship’s power core issssss going to…”
“To what?” Krenek asked, watching as the ship grew larger on the viewscreen.
The Brektag hit the pIntoH’s aft section with a soft “clang,” just as it exploded in a bright ball of light, causing the massive Flarn warship to list backwards in the opposite direction, a huge chunk of its hull destroyed.
“They’re badly damaged.” Lieutenant Fresca reported from ops, as the team from the pIntoH materialized on the bridge.
Baxter stared at the ship as it listed on the viewscreen. “Can we get a clear scan? Are there any Alpha Quadrant species’ lifesigns aboard that ship?”
“There’s too much radiation over there to be sure, sir. Let’s just hope they weren’t in the forward section.”
“If they were there at all.” Conway said, taking his seat next to the Captain.
Dwanok stared at the wreckage of his ship as it drifted by on the viewscreen. “I really liked that ship.”
“Now is our chance, Captain!” Stevens said, approaching Baxter. “We can strike now, rescue our people from that ship!”
“We’re not even sure if…”
“Captain!” Lt. Gellar said from tactical. “Five Flarn warships are entering the system. And it doesn’t look like they’re in the mood to chat!”
“We can’t stay here.” Baxter said, returning to his chair. “Get us out of here, Mr. Ford. Warp Nine.”
“But Captain, our people!” Stevens said, staring at the viewscreen. “We-“
“-don’t even know if they’re aboard. And I can’t risk this ship just to find out.” Baxter said. “We’re leaving.”
Stevens sunk into the chair normally occupied by Counselor Peterman. “You’re making a mistake, Captain.”
“I guess we’ll never know.” Baxter said, rising from his chair and heading for his readyroom. “Conway, you have the conn.”
Stardate 51781.3. Despite all my attempts to dissuade them, Captain Stevens and Captain Dwanok insist on continuing on their quest through Flarn space to find their respective crews. I can’t judge the wisdom of their decision, but I can understand it. To that end, I have loaned them the runabout Wicomico, in hopes that they might find what they’re looking for.
“Sir, you realize that this leaves us with only one runabout.” Commander Conway said, as he and Baxter made their way down to the shuttlebay to see Stevens and Dwanok off.
“Would you like to let Stevens and Dwanok go off on this crusade with a little shuttlecraft?” Baxter asked. “They’d be torn apart. At least they have a fighting chance with the runabout.”
“I guess you’re right, Captain.” Conway said. “I just wish Stevens would listen to reason.”
Baxter laughed. “You should know by now that once a Captain decides to do something, he’s almost never going to give up.”
“If it was your crew held prisoner out there, would you do the same?” Conway asked.
“I don’t know.” Baxter said, as they rounded the corner to the shuttlebay entrance. “All I know is, there may be humans, Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians, Romulans, and who knows who else trapped aboard one of those ships, and if Stevens does succeed in rescuing any of them, it would be a huge victory.”
“Well if I didn’t learn anything else on this mission, I learned that you don’t have to have a victory to avoid a loss.”
Baxter nodded. “I’d sure as hell agree with that, whatever it means.”
The two entered the shuttlebay, where the rest of the senior staff, along with Mirk and some other crewmembers were waiting to see Stevens and Dwanok off.
Dwanok looked up at the runabout distastefully. “It is not a Klingon ship, but I suppose it will do.”
J’hana nudged Dwanok playfully. “I assure you it will, Captain. If you listened at all to the tips I gave you last night.”
“I will remember your tips every time I am subjected to a painful flame held over my abdomen!” Dwanok shouted, nudging J’hana back and laughing.
“What in the hell are they talking about?” Ford whispered to Conway.
“Don’t even ask, Ensign.” Conway said, turning to Stevens. “Good luck, Captain. I hope you two find what you are looking for. And if you ever need help, feel free to contact us.”
Stevens shook Conway’s hand. “Thank you Commander. I’ll remember that. Thank you all.” He looked around at the crewmen assembled in the shuttlebay.
All the crewmembers smiled and waved as Stevens and Dwanok ducked inside the Wicomico and activated its engines.
The runabout lifted off the shuttlebay floor and turned around, heading out the slowly opening shuttlebay doors.
Everyone continued to wave as the ship left the bay, waiting until it had engaged into warp and disappeared from sight to disperse.
“I guess I can get to that monthly citation review now.” Conway said, sighing, and staring at the padd he had with him. “As usual, a bunch of…wait a minute!” Conway stared with amazement at the padd.
“What is it, Commander?” Baxter asked, looking over Conway’s shoulder as he stared with disbelief at the entry in the ship’s citation log:
COMMANDER DAVID CONWAY:
STARDATE 44325 AND STARDATE 51780–CITATIONS FOR VALOR ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY, EXCEPTIONAL LEADERSHIP SKILLS, AND, MOST OF ALL, THE ABILITY TO DEMONSTRATE TO HIS COMMANDING OFFICER THAT HE IS A COMPLETE HORSE’S ASS.
APPROVED BY: CAPTAIN JAMES STEVENS, STARFLEET.
“I’ll be damned.” Baxter said, smiling. “I’ll have to agree with that last part.”
Conway laughed. “Me too.”
Counselor Peterman caught up with Lieutenant J’hana as she made her way to the turbolift.
“Wait up!” Peterman said, joining J’hana inside the turbolift.
“Deck Twelve.” J’hana grunted, looking to Peterman.
“Oh,” Peterman said. “Um, Deck Nine.”
The two stood in relative silence for several moments.
“Well, Lieutenant.” Peterman said. “I guess yesterday was quite an exciting day for you.”
J’hana grunted with pleasure. “Indeed. I found it… invigorating.”
“I’m sure.” Peterman looked around awkwardly. “So I guess you’re off to bed for a good night’s sleep.”
“Not exactly.” J’hana replied.
“Then what are you doing on Deck Twelve? A trip to the holodeck?”
“Yes.” J’hana said. “If you must know, I am participating in a Klingon holodeck program that Dwanok gave me.”
“Really?” Peterman asked with interest. “And what kind of program is it?”
J’hana thought a moment. “It challenges reflexes, strength, speed, and most of all, pain tolerance.”
“Ah,” Peterman said. “Sounds like fun. Think I could come along? I have nothing better to do.”
The turbolift stopped, the door opening for J’hana to step out. “I do not think so, Counselor. The exercises are of a…personal… nature.”
Peterman frowned. “Oh.”
“Good day, Counselor.” J’hana said, leaving the turbolift.
“Bye.” Peterman said, wondering what J’hana had meant, as the lift resumed.
J’hana stepped into the holodeck, cracking her knuckles and preparing for a workout that would rival the two she had the previous day.
“Computer.” J’hana announced. “Load program Dwanok-x-nine.”
The Holodeck suddenly became a hot, steamy, spartan Klingon dwelling.
Dwanok stepped out from behind a curtain, smiling wickedly. “I am ready for my discipline, Lieutenant.”
J’hana pushed up her shirtsleeves and laughed maniacally, wondering how the Counselor would interpret this particular program.
She would probably be scared out of her wits.
NEXT TIME ON STAR TRAKS: THE VEXED GENERATION:
Mr. Mirk decides to try the talk show industry and, in doing so, enters unknowingly into a mammoth battle-of-sleaze with Counselor Peterman. Who will be crowned sleaziest of all? Find out next time in