Author: Anthony Butler
Stardate 52459.5. While we were mapping the Kritada system near the edge of Beta Quadrant, we came across a colony ship from the late twenty-second century that had apparently crash-landed on the fourth planet of the system. In the interest of archaeological discovery, and since we really had nothing better to do, I’ve sent an away team down to investigate.
Commander Conway, Lt. Commander Larkin, Lt. J’hana, and Lt. Tilleran materialized inside a cramped corridor.
“Spread out, everyone.” Commander Conway ordered, switching on his palm beacon. “Remember, be careful what you touch. We have no idea what this ship was transporting.”
“I believe I have found something, Commander.” Larkin said, gesturing for Commander Conway.
Conway peered over Larkin’s shoulder. “A computer terminal?”
Larkin nodded, plugging her tricorder into an interface below the dusty video screen. “I will attempt to access the ship’s manifest.”
Moments later, text began flying by on the screen.
“What does it say, Larkin?” Conway asked.
“S.S. Destiny. Out of Baltimore, Maryland. Launched July Eighteenth, 2180.” Larkin reported, as she absorbed the information.
“What was she carrying?”
“Colony maintenance equipment, some scientific samples from Mars, a load of Bendracite ore, some preserved human bodies from the twentieth century, a set of chromium laced biospheres, some grain handling equip-“
“Stop!” Conway said. “Did you say preserved human bodies?”
“Affirmative.” Larkin said. “During the late twentieth century, the more affluent humans of Earth were fond of having themselves frozen in order that they might be revived one day in the future.”
“Sounds like a dumb idea to me.”
“You do recall that the twentieth century was not exactly replete with intelligence.”
“Believe me, I know. I went there, remember?”
Before Larkin could reply, Lt. Tilleran called out from another room. “Commmander Conway, come here, quick!”
“Would you look at that.” Conway stared into the foggy glass of one of the human storage pods. “Wonder who this is?”
Larkin accessed her files a moment. “According to the data I gathered from the ship’s computer, this is one of twelve humans, preserved by a government project known as ‘Project Coldfront.’ Further information is classified.”
“Classified, huh?” Conway asked, wiping away the fog on the glass. “Can you extrapolate the identity of this person from the cultural database?”
“Accessing.” Larkin studied the face of the person within the pod.
“I have inventoried the pods, sir,” Lt. J’hana said, holstering her tricorder and approaching Conway. “All but one of the pods have been broken into. The bodies have been removed as well. The only clue I can find as to where they went is this plasma residue.” J’hana held up a goo-covered finger for Commander Conway’s inspection.
Conway stuck his finger into one of the shattered pods and examined the goo. “What exactly is it?”
“According to the tricorder, some sort of alien feces, or other kind of biochemical waste product.”
Conway shivered a bit as he stared at the yellowey glob on his finger. “Is there any way I can get this off my finger quickly without betraying my sense of cool?”
“Commander, I have ascertained this subject’s identity.” Larkin suddenly said.
“Who is it?” Conway asked, wiping his hand off on his uniform.
“A celebrity known as Richard Simmons Evidently, in the 20th century, he was known for his powerful weight-loss programs and helpful cooking tips.”
“What’s he doing as part of a top secret government project?” Conway asked.
“Unknown.” Larkin replied. “Perhaps after we download the remainder of the ship’s computer core we will be able to ascertain that.”
“Good enough. Have Mr. Simmons here beamed up to Sickbay for further study.”
“Commander,” Lt. Tilleran said from behind Commander Conway, “I’d like to stay behind with a detachment of science officers to study this ship some more. This is a fascinating find.”
“Fine,” Conway said. “Call down a team to assist you. Meanwhile, the rest of us, including Mr. Popsicle here, are going back to the ship.”
“So I finally convinced Crewman Dyson to come down from the top of the rollercoaster tracks. I tell you, it’s a miracle she didn’t fall to her death.” Counselor Peterman said, idly munching on a celery stick.
Explorations was unusually quiet for a Monday afternoon. In fact, the only sound that Peterman heard in the lounge was the sound of Captain Baxter’s frantic slurping and chomping.
“Mmm hmm.” Baxter replied, shoving in another mouthful of lasagna. It was Italian day at Mirk’s All You Can Eat buffet, and Baxter wasn’t about to miss testing the limits of the phrase “All You Can Eat.”
“So I told Lt. Commander Larkin about the problem, and how you said that it was probably a bad idea that Admiral McGrath had that thing installed in the Adventure Colloseum on our last refit. She agreed that some safety precautions needed to be taken, so no one else gets stuck up there.”
“Like what?” Baxter asked, pausing in between chomps.
“Well,” Peterman said, “like seatbelts, for intance.”
“You think?” Baxter said, continuing to eat.
“Our rollercoaster is equipped with a stasis field that keeps the occupants held in. But Crewman Dyson’s field failed, causing her to fall back behind the car and become trapped at the top.”
“How horrible for her,” Baxter said, continuing to shove food into his mouth.
“And I’m sure you remember how I told you she’s afraid of heights…”
“Yep.” Baxter replied.
“Yep,” Baxter agreed again.
“I knew you weren’t listening!” Peterman said. “Crewman Dyson is NOT agoraphobic. It’s Ensign Welch that’s agoraphobic.”
Baxter looked up from his plate. “Listen, Kelly, there are four hundred people on this ship. I can’t remember the psych profile of each and every one of them.”
“I told you yesterday.” Peterman said, folding her arms. “All you care about is that damned buffet. Ever since Mirk installed it it’s all you can do to stay away from this place.”
“It’s a great deal, Kelly.” Baxter said, pushing himself up and trudging back to the buffet, pushing Lt. Ford aside to get to the baked ziti.
Peterman rapped her fingernails on the lighted table until Baxter returned.
Baxter sighed as he squeezed into the opposite side of the booth. “Ugh. This booth is getting smaller.”
“The booth is NOT getting smaller, Andy.” Peterman said exasperatedly. “You’re getting BIGGER.”
“Am not,” Baxter said, continuing to eat.
“So your uniform is shrinking too?” Peterman asked.
“My uniform fits fine.”
“Sure it does. That’s why Yeoman Briggs had to take it out two inches last week.”
“That’s a vicious rumor.” Baxter continued to eat.
“Andy!” Peterman said, reaching forward and grabbing Baxter’s hands in her own. “I’m getting worried about you. You don’t have Janice’s metabolism. You know everything goes right to your little love handles. And they’re not so little anymore.”
“You don’t love me.” Baxter said, a tear trickling down his cheek.
“Give me a break.” Peterman leaned back so Baxter could resume his eating. “That only works on guys.”
“It was worth a try.” Baxter said through a mouthful of ziti. “Listen, if you only loved me for my chiseled physique, then you might as well find another man right now, because what you see is what you get.”
“And every day I’m getting a little more.” Peterman sighed, staring at Baxter as he ate.
Suddenly an alarm klaxon blared throughout Mirk’s bar.
Mirk looked up fearfully. “Okay everyone, that’s a Red Alert. Everyone to stations, NOW!”
“Sheesh.” Peterman said, covering her face as Mirk’s staff scrambled around the lounge.
Suddenly the doors parted and Dr. Browning strolled in.
She looked around at everyone and suddenly put two fingers in her mouth and whistled. “Hey! I’m not eating! I just came to talk to the captain!”
“Oh,” Mirk said, hitting a button under his bar. “As you were, everybody.”
Browning approached Baxter and Peterman’s booth, looking at Baxter and smiling. “My, Captain, you are looking healthy today.”
“Thank you, Janice.” Baxter said, glaring at Peterman. “At least some people can appreciate a good food intake level.”
Peterman just shook her head. “What brings you here, Janice?”
“I’ve finished preliminary tests on our iceman. He’s definitely alive, and stable for revival.”
“How exciting!” Peterman exclaimed.
“I don’t know.” Baxter said. “We don’t know anything about this guy, other than he was a 20th century celebrity of some sort. What if he’s dangerous?”
“Please.” Peterman said. “This is an excellent chance to get to talk to someone who lived back then.”
“I got a taste of what it was like to live back then, and it wasn’t so great, honey.” Baxter said, wiping his mouth off. “We have ethical considerations here.”
“So you suggest we just keep him on ice for another three hundred years?”
“I–” Baxter said, when suddenly the comm system beeped.
“Nurse Carter to Dr. Browning. We have a situation down in sickbay.”
“What kind of situation, Holly?” Browning asked.
“Our little guest just woke up.”
“Well,” Baxter said, standing up. “Guess it’s a moot point now. Let’s get down there.”
“The iceman cometh,” Peterman said happily, following Browning and Baxter out of Mirk’s.
Captain Baxter stepped into sickbay, where he found a group of medical technicians, including Nurse White, surrounding a biobed.
Baxter pushed through the crowd.
“Why hello,” the man on the biobed said with a gentle smile. “You must be Captain Baxter. I’m Richard Simmons.”
“Charmed,” Baxter said, shaking the man’s hand.
The first thing Baxter noticed about Simmons was his hair. It was puffy, curly, almost like an afro. And his clothes!
“I’m sure you’re in a hurry to get out of that outfit,” Baxter said. “Is that what they froze you in?”
Simmons looked down at his tight pink spandex shorts and red, white, and blue tankop. “These are my regular duds, Captain. Aren’t they great? So sporty! I’m always ready to work out!”
“Indeed,” Baxter said. “Well, I’m sure you have a lot to tell us about how you got here, and we have just as much to tell you about where you are. But before we go any further, I’m going to let you get settled into some quarters.”
“How thoughtful!” Simmons exclaimed.
Peterman pushed past Baxter, moving to shake Simmons’ hand. “Why, hello there! I’m the ship’s counselor, Kelly Peterman. I’ll be here to smooth your transition to this new environment!”
“You will?” Baxter asked.
“That’s wonderful!” Simmons said. “I’d love to sit down and kibitz with you over a nice cup of camomile tea!”
“Come on, then!” Peterman said, offering Simmons her arm and leading him out of sickbay.
“But–” Baxter and Browning said.
But it was too late. Simmons and Peterman were both gone.
And somehow Baxter realized that the day was just going to go downhill from there.
“And this is the bridge,” Peterman said, gesturing for Simmons to follow her out of the turbolift. “This is the hub of activity for the entire starship.”
“I don’t believe it,” Simmons said, looking around. “We’re actually in space.”
“Deep space,” Peterman clarified. “Near the edge of the galaxy.”
“Look at all this technology,” Simmons said. “Who knew we’d come this far in only thirty years!”
“Three hundred years,” Peterman corrected.
“Oh, that’s right.” Simmons said. “I keep getting the numbers all mixed up.”
“It’s okay, your brain was frozen a long time. It’ll all come back to you soon.”
Simmons squeezed Peterman in a big bear hug. “You’re so great, Kelly! I wouldn’t be able to take this big transition without you!”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
Commander Conway looked up from the command chair as Peterman and Simmons embraced. “Who the hell is that clown?”
“This clown,” Peterman said indignantly, “is the man we rescued from the crashed ship.”
“That’s the exercize guru?” Conway chuckled. “Looks like a scrawny little geek to me!”
“Hey!” Peterman said, “that’s my friend you’re talking about.”
Simmons held up a hand. “It’s okay, Kelly. Some people pack the hurt in so tight it dribbles out sometimes. Isn’t that right, Mr. Frowny?”
“Dear Lord,” Conway said, glaring at Simmons. “Is this guy related to you, Peterman?”
“If only,” Peterman sighed. “This man is a mental health and dietary genius. He was so unappreciated in his time that they felt the need to freeze him in a vault, until such time as society had evolved to the point where it could appreciate his insight.”
“In that case,” Conway said, taking a swig of his coffee. “I say you put him back in.”
“Someone needs a hug.” Simmons said, outstretching his arms towards Conway.
“Don’t touch me,” Conway said, backing away. “Counselor, escort your little friend back to his quarters. He’s not even cleared to be on the bridge.”
“Why don’t you unlock that box of love inside you, let it fly out and soak up all that sludgy old anger!” Simmons said, as Peterman led him back to the turbolift.
“If I had love in me, I’d have found it by now.” Conway said, sitting back down in the command chair.
“I have the key to that little love box, Commander!” Simmons cried out as the door closed. “Please let me unlock it!”
“What a wacko,” J’hana said from tactical.
“Tell me about it.”
“We managed to break the computer’s coding, Captain,” Lt. Commander Larkin said, indicating the information as it flew by on the screen down in engineering as Captain Baxter and Lt. Commander Richards looked on.
“You won’t believe what we’ve found,” Richards said, hitting a button on the viewscreen. Four pictures, followed by a few paragraphs of information each, appeared on the viewscreen.
“This is a roster of the Destiny’s frozen crew, sir.” Larkin said.
Baxter peered at each person on the screen. “What do all these people have in common?”
“That’s the strange thing.” Richards replied. “Very little, other than the fact that most all of them were involved in the entertainment industry. One worked with computers, two others in politics.”
“We will have to study the classified database more thoroughly before we can determine the actual reason the government had for freezing these individuals and later launching them into deep space. Whatever the case, though, they were definitely designed to survive many hundreds of years of suspended animation.”
Baxter read some of the names off the screen. “Richard Simmons, Martha Stewart, Gallagher, Bill Gates. Hanson brothers? Hmm. I don’t recognize any of the names.”
“The pod occupants have not been found,” Larkin explained. “The pods were broken open and covered with some sort of
unidentifiyable biological matter.”
“Then these other subjects were most likely abducted and
eaten by the inhabitants of Kritada Four,” Baxter reasoned.
“Possibly.” Richards said, “but if not…”
“There’s no telling what they could be doing running around in the twenty-fourth century,” Baxter completed Richards’s sentence. “Larkin…I want you to take a squadron of security officers down to the planet and scour its surface. If those people are alive down there, we have a responsibility to find them.”
After giving up on waiting for her patient to return, Dr. Browning decided to grab an early dinner at Mirk’s. After all, the All You Can Eat buffet would only be offered for a limited time.
Browning had just begun cramming in her huge plate of spaghetti and meatballs when Peterman and Simmons strolled into the lounge.
“Janice, there you are!” Peterman said, leading Simmons over to the Doctor’s booth. “Here we are, Richard. The hippest eating establishment on the Explorer.”
“Very nice.” Simmons looked down at Browning. “Dr. Browning, right?”
“Yeah.” Browning said, looking up from her food. She had a shiny red goatee made of tomato sauce all around her mouth. “Have a seat.”
Simmons and Peterman sat down opposite Dr. Browning.
“Having some spaghetti, I see.” Simmons said, watching as Browning ate.
“Uh-huh.” Browning said as she shoved in a piece of garlic bread.
“You know, pasta is a great idea. Very high in carbohydrates. What’s killing you is the meatballs. They’re loaded with cholesterol. Did you ever think of a light vegetable topping, instead of that heavy meat sauce?”
“No.” Browning continued to eat.
“Look at you,” Simmons said sadly. “Wallowing in that meal like you’re a pig. Don’t you feel ashamed?”
“Not really.” Browning said through a mouthful of spaghetti.
“Wouldn’t it feel great to leave a meal without being stuffed, without feeling the pain of fattening food weighing you down?”
“Listen to him, Janice, he knows what he’s talking about.” Peterman said.
Browning looked up a moment. “What the heck is this? Can’t I even eat in peace?”
Simmons put a hand on Browning’s hand, rubbing it gently. “This isn’t peace, honey. This is a war. You’re fighting a war with your body you just can’t win. When are you going to sign that treaty and begin the rebuilding process?”
“You’re a wacko.” Browning said, sliding out of the booth. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to go get some cheesecake and drop an A-bomb on myself.”
“I’m not going to give up on you, sweetheart, don’t worry. I’m fighting for you, even if you aren’t!” Simmons cried. “Now how about joining me for some salad and a nice bowl of lentil soup, Kelly?”
“I’d love to!” Peterman said, following Simmons over to the bar.
Captain Baxter turned over in bed, pulling the covers over him tightly and curling into a ball. He cracked one eye open, noting that the time on the chronomter was only 0740. He still had ten minutes to sleep, thanks to his extremely efficient ten minute morning ritual. He had found a way to get up at 0750 and still be on the bridge by 0800. Of course, this meant missing some vital places in the shower, but that was a sacrifice Baxter was willing to make.
“Hey, sleepyhead, let’s roll out of there!” a voice said, as suddenly the speakers in Baxter’s bedroom came to life with a throbbing rendition of “Funkytown.”
“What the hell?” Baxter said, shooting up in bed.
Simmons was standing there, decked out in a pink and blue spandex leotard, ready for action. Next to him, similarly decked out, but much more appealing, was Counselor Peterman.
“Up an at ‘em, fat boy!” Peterman said, dragging Baxter out of bed and into the other room.
“But–” Baxter said.
“No buts, we’re getting you in shape!” Peterman said.
“But I don’t want to be in shape!” Baxter pleaded.
“Too bad.” Peterman said. “It’s for your own good. Now we’re playing some oldies, and it’s time to start sweatin’.”
“You know the only time I like to sweat is when we make love,” Baxter whined.
“Well, if you want to sweat then, you gotta sweat now, because otherwise, you’re not getting any,” Peterman said. “Now let’s see some deep-knee thrusts.”
“But Kellyyyyyyyyyyy!” Baxter whined.
“Move!” Peterman shouted, thrusting up and down for Baxter to watch.
The Captain raised an eyebrow. “I’m getting a workout just watching you, baby.”
“Come on!” Simmons cried, dancing into the room and swinging his arms in the air. “Let’s feel that burn!”
“You’re gonna feel something burn in about one more minute, buddy,” Baxter said, grunting as he thrusted up again. He could hear loud cracks each time he moved, his joints sighing heavily under the stress of the activity. Moments later, Charlie ran to join Baxter, jumping onto his leg and humping away with thrusts of his own.
For their part, Pandora and Fritz skittered in between Peterman and Simmon’s legs.
Baxter sighed, pushing Charlie off him and continuing to squat.
This was a hell of a way to start the day.
Lt. Commander Larkin trudged along the vast, red expanse of rock that made up most of the surface of Kritada Four, as several shuttlecraft streaked overhead, in search of the missing humans. If the other thawed-out humans had managed to escape the wreckage of the Destiny, Larkin did not give their chances of survival in this environment much consideration. Kritada Four was a world of heat, turbulent wind, and thunderous earthquakes. Then again, from what Larkin gathered from her cultural database, if anyone could make a place a home, Martha Stewart could. And that was a good thing.
“Milano to Lieutenant Larkin,” the voice of Ensign Tim Milano, the security officer assigned to search the caves in the northwest continent said over Larkin’s commbadge.
“Larkin here. Report.” Larkin replied.
“I think we’ve found something, Lieutenant.”
“Specify.” Lt. Commander Larkin said, looking up from her tricorder data. “What have you found?”
“About seventy meters past the caves we found a large– Holy crap! Larkin, we found some-zrrrt….” The signal abruptly cut off.
“Ensign Milano?” Larkin asked. “Ensign Milano, are you there?”
It would take two hours on foot for Larkin to reach Milano’s location, so she immediately tapped her comm badge. “Larkin to Cartier.”
“Saral here, go ahead.”
“I have lost contact with Ensign Milano’s team and I fear they are in danger. Lock onto my position and pick me up in your shuttlecraft immediately.”
“Changing course now.” Saral replied.
“He’s late again.” J’hana said, rapping her fingers on the tactical console and glancing at the chronometer on her panel.
“I’ll give him five more minutes.” Conway said. “Then the ship is mine.”
At that, Baxter stumbled onto the bridge, wheezing heavily.
“That’s my boy.” Peterman said from behind him, patting him on the back. “You did good. Don’t you feel wonderful?”
“Drink now,” Baxter said, stumbling over to the replicator and ordering a grapefruit juice.
“What the hell happened to him?” Conway said, moving over into his usual seat.
“Richard gave Andy one of his workouts. It almost killed him, but you know what they say. Whatever doesn’t kill you…”
“…is still extremely painful.” Baxter wheezed, collapsing into his chair between Peterman and Conway. “I’m never doing that again.”
“Then that’s not all you won’t be doing again,” Peterman said, folding her arms.
“Kelly, don’t be that way.” Baxter said. “You can’t just expect me to reform overnight.”
“It won’t be easy, but Richard and I are convinced that you can do it.” Peterman said. “Now, how about a nice fat free bran muffin?”
“I’d die first.” Baxter folded his arms. “I’m going down to Mirk’s at nine to have my cheesy scrambled eggs and bagel like I’ve done for the last year and a half, and there’s nothing you and that spandex-clad freak can do about it.”
“Wanna make a bet?”
“I’m so sorry, Captain,” Conway said, mocking sympathy. “You must be taking this sudden change in lifestyle quite hard.”
“Can it, Conway.” Baxter said. “I’m in no mood for your crap today.”
“What are you going to do about it, Captain, sentence me to an exercise program too?” Conway said, laughing hysterically.
“That’s just what I had in mind!” Simmons suddenly said, stepping out of the turbolift. “Everyone on their feet. Computer, play Simmons Three.”
Suddenly the bridge came alive with disco lights and the sounds of “Love Rollercoaster.”
“God’s mercy, no!” Conway gasped, as Simmons pulled him out of his chair.
“You were saying?” Baxter said joyfully, as Simmons forced Conway to strut his stuff.
“I object to this dishonor,” Lt. J’hana said, folding her arms. “And I refuse to betray my pride in such a fashion.”
“You’ll boogie and you’ll like it, missy,” Baxter wheezed as he danced. “If I have to suffer, everyone suffers! That’s an order!”
And before they knew it, the whole bridge crew was up on their feet, hand-jiving their way to a trimmer waistline.
“Okay, everyone, that’s a wrap!” Simmons said, an hour later.
The bridge crew collapsed to the deck, breathless and wheezing.
“Already?” Ford gasped. “The time just…just flew by!”
Commander Conway tried in vain to drag himself to a replicator for some coffee, but collapsed to the deck from exaustion before moving an inch.
“You guys were great!” Simmons said. He and Peterman were the only ones still standing. “I can’t wait to see how you’ve improved during tomorrow’s session!”
“To-tomorrow?” J’hana wheezed. “Is he kidding?”
“You should be used to this, J’hana. A warrior such as yourself.” Peterman said, wrapping a towel around her neck and taking a seat back in her chair.
“This is not the work of a warrior. This is the work of a p-p-pansy that needs a good stab in the neck with a ritual blade.”
“Sticks and stones, J’hana,” Simmons said, waving a finger. “Now put those angry words deep in your pocket, and pull out some joy to take their place.”
“Permission to kill Mr. Simmons,” J’hana said, withdrawing her phaser and leaning up from the deck.
“Granted,” Baxter gasped, pulling himself back to his chair.
“Don’t even think about it.” Peterman said, standing in front of Simmons. “This man is the best thing that ever happened to this ship of slobs.”
“Shoot her too,” Baxter gasped, leaning his head back and closing her eyes.
“With pleasure, Captain,” J’hana said, when suddenly there was a beep at her panel.
“Is anyone going to get that?” Baxter asked.
The beeping continued.
“Oh, I guess I will,” J’hana said, throwing her hands up in the air. “I do all the work on this ship anyway. I will have to kill Mr. Simmons and Counselor Peterman later.”
After several moments, Baxter looked back. “What is it, J’hana?”
“A message from Lt. Commander Larkin. She lost contact with her team in the caves and is going in after them.”
“Does she require reinforcements?” Baxter asked.
“Good, then let’s take ten and hit the showers,” Baxter said, dragging himself back to the readyroom.
Baxter had just finished putting on the clean uniform he replicated when the door to his readyroom sounded with a pleasant bleep.
“Come,” Baxter said, zipping the front of his uniform and straightening it as he took a seat at his desk.
Lt. Tilleran quickly stepped into the room, padd in hand. “I have a lot to report to you, sir.”
“Back from the Destiny already?” Baxter asked, gesturing for Tilleran to have a seat.
The Betazoid quickly sat down. “Yes, sir. Captain, I have a strong suspicion that the other humans who were in stasis down there were kidnapped by aliens.”
“You found some evidence?” Baxter asked.
Tilleran offered the Captain her padd. “What you see there is a complex biological structure. That’s the makeup of the residue we found around the four empty pods.”
“Exactly sir. But what’s so odd about the structure of the alien feces is that it contains some uniquely terran characteristics.”
“Which means these ‘aliens’ are not aliens at all. They were comprised of terran DNA. It’s my theory that they were actually genetically engineered and left aboard the Destiny.”
“To what end?”
“I don’t know, but whatever the case it seems that they could very possibly be the reason the Destiny crashed in the first place.”
“Why would the government engineer something so horrible?”
“I don’t know the answer to that either. But I can tell you that by the makeup of this feces these creatures are burrowing parasites, capable of inhabiting a human body.”
Baxter examined the animated graphic on the padd: a spiny looking cartoon alien burrowing itself in the chest of a human.
“Gross,” Baxter said.
“That’s exactly what I said, sir,” Tilleran replied.
“You know, coincidentally enough, part of Larkin’s team came up missing while they were looking for the missing humans.”
“You don’t say,” Tilleran said. “Forgive me for jumping to conclusions, but don’t you think there’s a remote possibility that these creatures may have gotten our people too?”
“Gee, that never would have occurred to me.” Baxter rubbed his chin. “Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to at least contact Larkin and tell her about our findings.” Baxter tapped his comm badge. “Baxter to Larkin.”
After waiting a few moments, Baxter tried again.
“Captain, we have to go down there. Our people could be in grave danger.”
“Agreed,” Baxter said, pushing himself up with a grunt.
“Are you okay, sir?” Tilleran asked.
“No. Damn muscle pull.” Baxter winced as he limped out of the readyroom. “Simmons has been working me too hard.”
“The guy we sent back from the Destiny?” Tilleran asked.
“Yeah, he thawed out when he got back here, and he’s been making us work out ever since.”
“Oh. I guess that would explain the crewmembers lining up in the corridors doing jumpingjacks to twentieth century Earth music.”
“Trust me, there’s nothing to worry about,” Baxter said, shrugging on his survival jacket and grabbing a compression phaser rifle from Lt. J’hana. “We’re just going to go in, find our people, and get out.”
“Sounds easy enough,” Peterman replied, watching the security officers in the transporter room get ready. “Just promise to be careful.”
“I will,” Baxter said, zipping up his jacket. “Where’s the geek?”
“If you’re referring to Richard, he’s in the upper auditorium doing aerobics with the engineering staff,” Peterman said defensively.
“Try not to let him work you too hard while I’m gone.”
“Hey, what are you insinuating?” Peterman asked, as Lt. Hartley punched up the coordinates.
“I think you know. Don’t you think I’ve noticed what a liking you’ve taken to that hairy little shmuck?”
“You’ve got it all wrong, Andy. If you’d just open up and let his goodness inside you…”
Baxter mounted the transporter pad, along with Lt. Tilleran, Lt. J’hana, and five security officers. “I think you’ve done enough of that for both of us. Energize Miss Hartley.”
“Why you damned-“ Peterman said, as Baxter dematerialized.
“Hey, Kelly,” Hartley said, prompting Peterman to turn around.
“What?” Peterman said exasperatedly.
“Could you please call off your spandex-wearing freak friend! He’s going to kill this whole crew! You know he had us doing toe touches to Tina Turner for two hours! I’m sore in places I didn’t know I had!”
“Tell it to someone who cares.” Peterman fumed, storming out of the transporter room.
“Lights on, everyone,” Baxter said, activating the light on his phaser rifle. “And be careful. I’ll take point. Lt. Tilleran, I want you and J’hana behind me.”
Lt. Tilleran fell in behind Baxter, whipping out her tricorder and beginning scans. “Captain, this cave spirals three kilometers below the surface of the planet. It’s huge.”
“Well, then we have a long search ahead of us,” Baxter grunted, swinging his rifle around, shining his beacon throughout the massive caves. “Can you at least get a lead on our crew?”
“I’m getting weak comm badge signals from about a kilometer ahead, but that’s about–” Tilleran suddenly clutched her temple.
“What is it?” Baxter asked, turning.
“A wave of noise…almost like…some kind of song in my mind,” Tilleran said. “It’s so powerful, so evil…it’s almost overwhelming.”
“Maybe it’s Martha Stewart,” Baxter offered.
“No–” Tilleran said, wincing. “It’s inhuman, animal…”
Tilleran shrugged. “Whatever it is, it’s getting stronger.”
“Rifles to maximum everyone,” Baxter said, tapping his comm badge. “Explorer, this is Baxter. Are you tracking us?”
“Yes, sir,” Commander Conway’s voice responded. “But we’ve had to boost the sensor gain to maximum. We have a weak video feed, infrared only.”
“It’s all the nonporous rock, sir,” Tilleran said. “The visual will only get worse.”
“Have Lt. Hartley keep a lock on us as long as she can.” Baxter said. “And have her be ready to beam us out as soon as we call. We may find ourselves in some deep s***.”
“Understood. Explorer out.”
“Good afternoon, everyone. I brought you some snacks!” Simmons said joyfully, stepping out onto the bridge and offering his tray full of goodies to the officers at tactical and engineering.
“Get off my damn bridge,” Conway growled.
Simmons offered the tray up to Commander Conway. “Come on, Commander, just try one.”
Conway picked up one of the treats and inspected it. “What is it?”
“Mushroom caps, stuffed with a yogurt mustard sauce and a sprinkle of paprika for that…” Simmons put his thumb and forefinger to his lips and kissed them, “Je ne sais quois!”
“Looks pretty damn small.”
“But it’s fat free,” Simmons said, shoving the plate up to Conway. “And you know why they call it fat free? Because is frees you from all that horrible horrible fat.”
“Leave me alone,” Conway said, returning to the command chair.
Simmons placed the tray on top of the ops console and sat down next to Commander Conway, placing his hands neatly into his lap and leaning forward. “Commander Conway,” he said gently, “around my house, anger was always considered a four-letter word. Something tells me you were raised differently. Let me tell you something. You can’t let that anger out, no matter how much you spread it around. The only way you can kill it is with kindness!” Simmons made an expansive gesture with his hands. “Pure, unadulterated kindness!”
“You know, speaking of how you were raised, I was thinking of something.” Conway leaned forward, smiling.
“Yes?” Simmons said.
“Everyone you ever knew or cared about is dead. DEAD DEAD DEAD.” Conway tossed back a last swig of coffee. “Chew on that awhile you fat free freak.”
“Oh, Commander Conway, that was the most horrible thing I’ve ever heard. How could you–” Simmons burst out into tears, running off the bridge.
“Well that wasn’t very nice,” Ford said.
“He made us snacks and all,” Ensign Madera said sadly. “And all he wants is for us to be healthy.”
“Everyone shut up!” Conway roared.
“Ewwwwwwwww.” Captain Baxter poked the fleshy mass with is rifle. “What is it?”
“A cocoon,” Lt. Tilleran said, examining the huge purple object with her tricorder.
“You mean there is something alive in there?” J’hana asked with disgust.
“Affirmative,” Tilleran replied. “As a matter of fact, I’m reading a comm badge signal.”
“Whose?” Baxter asked, peering through the semi- transparent mass.
“Ensign Timothy Milano,” Tilleran looked up. “He’s in there, and I can feel him, Captain. We have to get him out.”
“Just say the word, Captain,” J’hana said, pulling her Andorian blade out of her jacket and setting it to flay.
“Do it, J’hana, just make sure you cut the cocoon, not Ensign Milano.”
J’hana carved into the thick purple shell, peeling it back layer by layer, until she yanked out a goo-covered Ensign Milano.
“Can you revive him?” Baxter asked, peering at the Ensign skeptically.
“I can-“ Tilleran said, when suddenly the Ensign’s eyes snapped open.
“Kill me now!” he shouted. “Before it’s too late!”
“What the hell is he talking about? Too late for what?” Baxter asked, looking to Lt. Tilleran.
“I don’t know,” Tilleran said, looking at her tricorder. “Wait a minute, something is…inside him!”
“Oh, f***,” Baxter said, looking down at Milano’s chest, which began to bulge.
Before anyone could react, Milano’s chest ripped open with a disgusting pop and a strange, purple and green lizard emerged, staring at Baxter with interest.
“Hello,” he said in a cartoony voice. “I’m Barney. I love you. Do you love me?”
“What the f*** is this?” J’hana asked, peering at the creature.
“I’m not sure,” Tilleran said, studying it with her tricorder. “It’s organic…but…it looks almost like a…”
“Barney, Barney, Barney,” Baxter said finally. “I’ve heard that name somewhere before.”
“Well, whatever it is, it’s growing at an exponential rate,” Tilleran said.
Suddenly the creature lept out of Milano’s chest and latched onto Baxter’s face. “You’re my friend!”
“Help!” Baxter cried, falling back to the floor of the cave.
“Shall I shoot it off you, Captain?” J’hana asked, leaning over Baxter helpfully.
“No, thank you!” Baxter said. “Tilleran, get this damned thing off me! I think he’s hugging me!”
“Trying, sir,” Tilleran said. “He’s on pretty good.”
J’hana looked back at Ensign Milano, who appeared to be none the worse for wear, save a gaping hole in his chest.
“Hi, Lt. J’hana. How are you?” he asked.
“You know, the day has had its ups and downs.”
Suddenly the creature popped off Baxter’s face with a disgusting sucking sound.
Holding the creature by one arm, Tilleran examined it with her tricorder. “This is amazing, Captain. This is a fully developed parasitic lifeform, which, after implanting itself in a host body, grows to full capacity, then implants another host. Quite efficient.”
Baxter rubbed his face, which was still sore, and covered with purple goo. “How nice. Any sign of Larkin and the others yet?”
“Negative.” Tilleran replied. “Though I’m picking up a mass of more cocoons up ahead. If our people are inside the cocoons, then their comm badges will most likely be as difficult to pick up as Ensign Milano’s.”
“What about life signs?” Baxter asked.
“There are definitely life signs up ahead,” Tilleran said, squinting at her tricorder readings. “However, I can’t quite tell which ones are human and which ones are…not.”
“Just keep looking. The rest of our people have to be down here somewhere.”
Baxter and the team moved cautiously and quietly through the caves. Suddenly, Baxter heard muffled shouts and thumping next to him.
He whipped around, flashing his light at the purple cocoon beside him. Inside, someone was slamming fists up against the walls of the cocoon in an attempt to get out.
“Get him out of there,” Baxter ordered, as J’hana began hacking away with her knife.
Tilleran examined the dimly lit area. It was wider than the tunnels they had come through, and contained several of the purple cocoons.
“Something is blocking me from getting a clear telapathic reading,” Tilleran replied. “But I can get comm signals.” Tilleran ran her tricorder along the row of cocoons surrounding them. “I’m reading Gellar, Saral, Jett, Baker, Puckett…the whole security team!”
“Well then, where the hell is Larkin?” Baxter asked, scratching his head.
“We must leave immediately!” a voice suddenly cried. A shadowy figure lept from a high-up ledge, dropping fifty-odd meters to the ground and landing easily on her feet.
“Hello,” Lt. Commander Larkin said, looking around. “We are all in extreme danger.”
“Larkin, am I glad to see you,” Baxter said. Larkin’s uniform was tattered, and her outer skin was ripped in several places, exposing the circuitry underneath. “What happened?”
“There is insufficient time to explain. Suffice it to say, we should all leave.”
Baxter watched as J’hana and the security officers cut away at the cocoons. “Not until we get everyone out.”
“There may not be time enough for that, Captain,” Larkin said.
“There damn well will be,” Baxter said. “I’m not just going to–”
“Captain!” Tilleran cried, staring at her tricorder. “I just picked up fifty nonhuman life signs…”
“What direction?” Baxter asked, whipping his head in Tilleran’s direction.
Tilleran just kept staring at her tricorder.
“Damn it, Tilleran, what direction?”
Tilleran looked up, her face ashen. “Every direction, sir!”
Suddenly Tilleran grabbed her head and dropped to her knees. “That damn song again, sir! Do you hear it?”
Off in the distance, Baxter heard the song, and it sent shivers down his spine.
“I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family!”
“The tea is ready,” Simmons said happily, carrying a tray into Peterman’s living room and dropping a doggy treat into Charlie’s dish.
“Thank you, Richard,” Peterman said, taking a cup as Simmons sat down. “I’m so sorry for the way Commander Conway treated you. There will be a reprimand on his record for that.”
“It’s okay,” Simmons said, crossing his legs and sipping his tea. “I have learned to put my energy to good use, and I’ve benefited your crew. That’s all I need.”
“You are a truly wonderful person, Richard.” Peterman said, putting a hand on Simmons’ hand.
Simmons smiled coyly. “Oh, you’re just saying that.”
“No, I really mean it,” Peterman smiled. “You have something very beautiful inside you.”
“Phasers ready everyone, maximum charge!” Baxter cried, as suddenly four huge, purple, green-spotted, dinosaur-looking creatures lept down from above.
“This is near,” one of them growled.
“E is for Eat!” the other one said, wrapping a claw around one of the security officers and biting his head off. “I like to eat. Do you?”
“Larkin, watch out!” Tilleran cried, rolling over just as one of the Barneys lunged at her.
Larkin looked up, just in time to see a claw from one of the creatures reach down and pick her up.
Baxter watched in horror as the creature ripped Larkin in two, exposing jagged, sparking circuitry.
“One half!” the creature said gleefully. “Divide by two, hee hee!”
“Smoke them!” Baxter cried, firing his phaser at the creature that was holding Larkin.
Barneys pitched forward left and right as the group layed waste with their phaser rifles, but for every one that fell, more rose up.
“We love you, you must die, feel our claws rip out your eyes!” the Barneys chanted as they dove after Baxter and his team.
“Baxter to Explorer, I need evac right now! I have purple dinosaurs coming in from all sides!” Baxter cried, shooting left and right and running through the caves. “Explorer…come in! Come in!”
“We’re too far underground!” Tilleran cried. “There’s no way to get a comm signal out!”
Baxter ducked as a mauled body flew past him, spraying phaser fire into a mass of attacking Barneys. “Everyone grab one of the trapped crewmen and move out!”
J’hana ripped open the last cocoon, yanking Ensign Saral out. “Come on, Vulcan! Show me what you’ve got!”
Saral’s eyes fluttered open. “Lieutenant…”
“Can you walk?” J’hana asked.
“I…think…so…” Saral said shakily.
“Good.” J’hana said. “I’m going to get Larkin.”
“But, J’hana…” Saral said.
J’hana looked back. “Go. That is an order!”
Tilleran fired her rifle again and again. “There are just too many, Captain! We can’t push through!”
“Can’t is not a word, Lieutenant!” Baxter cried, pushing through a mass of aliens. “Where there is a will, there is a way! Something I learned from Richard Simmons!”
J’hana plunged through a clump of aliens, firing her phaser rifle madly. “Lt. Commander Larkin!”
“Zrrt…over…fzzt…here, J’hana,” Larkin said weakly.
J’hana cleared a path through alien after alien to get to Larkin, falling by the Android’s side. “You are coming with me.”
“I cannot,” Larkin said. “I am…zzzt…too badly damaged. Leave me.”
“Negative,” J’hana said, hoisting half of Larkin with one hand, and half of her with the other.
“Who will shoot your…drrt…rifle?” Larkin asked.
J’hana kneeled down next to where she sat her rifle. “You will. Now grab it.”
“Very well,” Larkin said, grabbing the rifle with her one functioning hand. “I shall endeavor to do my best.”
“Do not talk. Shoot!” J’hana cried, running through the cave with half of Larkin perched on each shoulder.
Barneys clambered after as Baxter, J’hana, Tilleran, and the other security officers broke past them, the recently un-cocooned officers in tow.
“We’re almost there!” Tilleran cried, firing her phaser backwards as she lugged Ensign Puckett. “We should be able to reach the Explorer in a matter of seconds!”
Baxter gasped for air as he ran, lugging Lt. Gellar across his shoulders. “I’m sure glad I’m getting into shape!”
Commander Conway stretched and yawned as he emerged from the readyroom. “My my, that was a nice nap. Any word from the team yet?”
“Not yet,” Lt. Ford said, rising from the command chair. “And it’s been over an hour since we last heard from them.”
Conway sat down and leaned back. “You’re not worried, are you?”
“Me? Heck, no.” Ford said, taking a seat at helm.
“Message coming in,” Ensign Monroe said, looking up from tactical.
“On audio,” Conway commanded.
“Bzzt…er to Explorer….-eam-out now. Get us…out…zzt …ere!”
“Eam out now get us out zzt ere?” Ford asked. “What could that mean?”
“They’re calling for beamout, you idiot!” Conway shouted. “Conway to Hartley. Bring the team up now!”
“I’m having trouble locking on sir. Stand by.” Hartley said.
“Come on, come on!” Conway said.
“Got ‘em, sir.” Hartley reported over the comm. “We had so many some were routed to the other two transporter rooms.”
“Conway, this is Baxter,” Baxter’s voice said frantically over the comm. “You have to seal that cave down there at all costs. There are rabid purple dinosaurs on that planet. Tons of them!”
“Pardon me, sir,” Conway said in disbelief. “Did you say… purple dinosaurs?”
“Don’t ask questions, Conway! Just nuke the bastards! Nuke ‘em!”
“Yes, sir,” Conway said, looking back at Ensign Monroe. “Load up two tri-cobalts and send them down to the entrance of the cave now, Ensign!”
Baxter gasped for air, leaning up against the transporter room monitor and watching as the two twinkling tri-cobalt devices descended toward the dark red rock of the cave entrance, exploding in a bright blue glare, spreading a cloud of dust and rock into the air.
“Suck on those, you motherfwarkers,” J’hana wheezed, dropping the two halves of Larkin and putting her hands on her knees.
“Get a medical team in here right now, Lt. Hartley, and have the engineers see what they can to for Larkin,” Baxter said, looking down at the security officers they rescued from the cocoons. “If my guess is right, these guys all have some big f***ing gall stones to be removed.”
“We…never…did…find the other occupants of those pods.” Tilleran gasped, setting Ensign Puckett down.
“Do you suppose they were infested like the others?” Baxter asked, turning to Tilleran.
“It’s a good bet, sir.”
Baxter’s face suddenly went pale. “What about Simmons?”
“Simmons?” Tilleran asked. “Well, I don’t–”
“But he could!”
“It’s possible,” Tilleran finally said.
Baxter grabbed Tilleran’s arm and dragged her out of the transporter room. “I need you and your tricorder to come with me. J’hana, you too! And bring a phaser!”
“Not more running!” J’hana gasped, grabbing a phaser and following after the Captain.
“Computer,” Baxter said, marching down the corridor toward a turbolift, “locate Richard Simmons.”
“Richard Simmons is in Counselor Peterman’s office.”
“God damn it,” Baxter muttered, stepping into the turbolift, followed by Larkin and Tilleran. “Deck Nine.”
“Care for some cake?” Simmons asked, placing the tea service into the replicator for reclamation.
“Are you kidding?” Peterman asked. “All those empty calories?”
“Relax, sweety,” Simmons said, punching up something on the replicator. “This is angel food cake. Fat free for a fat free little angel.”
“How sweet. Sure, order me up a slice.”
Suddenly Captain Baxter, Lt. Tilleran, and Lt. J’hana burst into Peterman’s quarters, looking as if they’d all been through World War Three.
“Andy, what is this?” Peterman asked, looking at Baxter’s blood and gook-stained uniform.
“This is bad,” Baxter said, pushing Peterman aside and shoving a phaser up against Simmons’ head. “We’ve got a little test to run, sweetie pie.”
“Whatever could you mean?” Simmons asked.
“Do it,” Baxter said, glancing back at Tilleran.
J’hana held a phaser on Simmons from behind Baxter, just in case.
Tilleran examined Simmons with her tricorder. “He’s clean as far as I can tell.” Tilleran put away the tricorder.
J’hana put down her phaser. “False alarm. I’m going to go lose conciousness somewhere now.”
“I don’t get it,” Baxter said, putting his phaser down and staring at Simmons.
“What don’t you get?” Simmons asked. “What’s this all about?”
“Oh, we just thought you were inhabited by an evil parasitic creature, that’s all.” Baxter said. “Nothing to worry about now, though.”
“Parasitic?” Peterman asked. “Andy, that’s a terrible thing to say. You apologize for saying Richard has an evil parasitic creature inside him.”
“But, Kelly,” Baxter whined.
“Now,” Peterman said, tapping her foot.
Baxter turned back to Simmons. “Listen, Richard, I’m sorry I said you had an evil parasitic creature inside you. That was hurtful and mean.”
“Well, I’m always ready to accept a-“ Simmons suddenly stopped, clutching at his stomach. “Oooh, darned colon.”
“J’hana, Tilleran!” Baxter shouted, pulling his phaser back out and holding it on Simmons. “Get back in here! The Barneys must not show up on scans until just before they come out!”
Suddenly the creature exploded out of Simmons’ chest in a hail of blood, skittering across the floor and clamping onto the first live thing it could find.
“Charlie!” Peterman cried, running to her dog’s aid.
Charlie growled and whined and grunted, rolling around on the floor with the struggling purple dinosaur attached to his face.
J’hana ran into the room, phaser drawn. Immediately her eyes fell to Charlie. “Oh, Captain, let me kill the dog!”
“Stand down!” Baxter shouted, holding a hand up. Peterman would never forgive him if he let J’hana have her fun.
Charlie jumped to his feet, shaking his snout until it was wrapped around the Barney. He bit down and shook his head some more, causing the creature to wail in pain.
“Give, Charlie, give!” Peterman cried, yanking on the creature’s tail.
Charlie yanked back, munching happily on the alien.
“Come on, Charlie,” Baxter said, grabbing one of the creature’s stubby legs. “Spit her out. Come on, it may have acid blood for all you know.”
Suddenly Charlie let go, causing Baxter, Peterman, and the creature to fall backwards.
The creature flew through the air, and in one beautiful shot, J’hana vaporized it before it had a chance to hit the ground.
“Sickbay, I need a medical team in Counselor Peterman’s office, stat!” Lt. Tilleran said, examining Simmons with her tricorder.
“Oh, I’m dying!” Simmons cried, as blood spurted from the open football-sized wound in his chest. “I can feel the life oozing out of me!”
Peterman dropped to her knees next to Simmons. “You aren’t going to die, Richard! You just can’t die. You have too much to give!”
Simmons’ eyes flipped up into his head as he went into shock. “Ach, Kelly, I’ve really got the spilctus now!”
Dr. Browning ran into the room with a medkit, looking down at Simmons with disgust. “Ewwwwww…you can see his ribcage poking out. That’s so disgusting. I’m patching up chests left and right today for some reason!”
“Just fix him up, Doctor,” Baxter ordered, pulling Peterman back away from Simmons and holding onto her. “I’m sure he’ll be fine, honey.”
“He took such good care of his body,” Peterman sobbed, “only to have it ripped open by some parasitic purple baby dinosaur!”
Baxter hugged Peterman tighter. “That’s the way things happen sometimes, sweetheart.”
Stardate 52462.8. After having Kritada Four declared “OFF LIMITS” by the Federation Council, we’ve made course to rendez-vous with someone who seems to need Mr. Simmons’ help much more than we do. I can say that Simmons has seemed a little less energetic the last couple of days; but, then again, I suppose having a disgusting creature burst out of your chest has a pretty heavy effect.
“So how did Starfleet like your report?” Commander Conway asked, following Baxter to the transporter room to see Simmons off.
“They were horrified, as they should have been,” Baxter said. “Another in a long list of planets we’ve visited that I never want to see again.”
“What about the whole government project thing?” Conway asked.
“As far as the Barney project goes, Earth’s United States government was obviously trying to design a creature that was horrifying enough to send fear into any enemy troops. When the project backfired, they loaded up the Barney creatures along with some Earth loonies that wanted to be preserved in space and shot them out into the far reaches. Evidently, some kind of horrible accident happened along the way.”
“Sounds pretty damn confounded to me, Captain.”
“That’s the government for you. Anyway, the Federation Council seemed a little concerned that we couldn’t find the other bodies. I told them I was sure they’d turn up somewhere, and that we’d keep an eye out for them,” Baxter said.
“Why do I get the feeling we’re going to go to some restaurant a month from now and have Bill Gates as our waiter?” Conway asked, as he and Baxter entered the transporter room.
“Because you are a very strange person,” Baxter said, nodding at Lt. Hartley as he stepped in front of the transporter console. “Lock in coordinates, Lieutenant.”
“Locked in sir,” Hartley said happily. “Where is our man in spandex, anyway?”
“He should be here presently,” Baxter said, leaning back against the panel. “Peterman is supposed to be bringing him here.”
“Captain, I hate to interfere in your personal life, but–” Hartley began.
“He is not shtuping Kelly, and that’s the end of it,” Baxter said, folding his arms.
“Of course he’s not,” Conway said. “He’s obviously, you know–”
Baxter glared at Conway. “What?”
“You know, he fires out of the AFT torpedo tube, instead of the FORE.”
“Simmons?” Hartley asked. “Come on!”
“No, I mean it,” Conway said, looking from Baxter to Hartley. “Half of the humans in America during the nineteen nineties were–you know–like that.”
“Let’s just quit with the speculation,” Baxter said. “I trust my girlfriend and that’s it.”
At that, the doors to the transporter room parted to admit Counselor Peterman and Richard Simmons. Baxter noticed that Simmons still had a large grey bandage on his chest where the creature had bursted out.
“Hello, my dear friends,” Simmons said, entering the room and giving Baxter a big hug. “I’ll miss you all so much.”
“Get off my ship,” Baxter grunted, as Simmons squeezed.
Simmons backed off, smiling politely. “I hope I haven’t caused you guys any trouble.”
“Actually, you haven’t. We like our crewmembers to be infested with parasitic dinosaurs and made to sweat to songs from the mid-twentieth century.” Conway muttered.
Baxter nodded, “Get on the pad, Dick.”
“Of course,” Simmons replied. “You know, you guys will
miss me when I’m gone. This place seems pretty darn boring if
you ask me. It needs some excitement every now and then.”
“We have more than enough without you. Bye-bye then.”
Baxter said, waving for Lt. Hartley to energize.
“Goodbye, Kelly!” Simmons said. “And remember to try
my recipe for blentzes! They’re absolutely fabulous!”
Peterman waved as Simmons disappeared, turning to a
“Trading recipes, are you?” Baxter asked, raising an
eyebrow. “You know what they say. First recipes, then
“Can’t say I remember that one,” Hartley said.
“We were just like girlfriends,” Peterman said. “Which,
actually, now that you mention it, is kind of odd.”
“See?” Conway said, following Peterman and Baxter.
“I guess we’ll never know,” Baxter said, putting his arm
around Peterman as the three of them proceeded down the
“Maybe we’re just better off that way,” Conway said,
looking down the corridor and stopping in his tracks. “Watch
out, guys. Here comes Charlie.”
“Come here, my little bugaboo!” Peterman said, kneeling
down and calling Charlie to her. “What do you have in your
Upon closer examination, Peterman realized that Charlie
had a dead Barney in his mouth. After some yanking and
tugging, Peterman managed to yank the parasite free and hand
it to Baxter.
“Damn it, Charlie, I told you to stay out of Lieutenant
Tilleran’s lab.” Baxter said, waving the purple creature in
Charlie’s face. “This is research!”
“Better put it back with the others,” Peterman sighed.
“That reminds me,” Conway said. “Are you sure we got
all the parasites out of all our officers that were implanted
down on Kritada Four?”
“Of course,” Baxter said.
Just then Lt. Gellar walked by. “Hey, guys, how’s it-URK!”
A hole opened up in Lt. Gellar’s chest and a creature
climbed out, baring its tiny fangs and hopping down to the
deck, skittering away.
Gellar calmly looked down at the gaping hole in his
chest, looked back up at Baxter, shrugged, and passed out.
“Clean up on deck eleven,” Baxter said, rolling his
eyes. Charlie looked up at Baxter pleadingly. “Okay, boy, go
And just like that, Charlie bolted down the corridor.
“Well, that’s probably the last one,” Baxter said,
watching Charlie slap the tiny creature with his paws and sink
his teeth in.
“I’m really very glad to meet you, sir.” Simmons said,
twisting his arms as “Mama Said” played on. “I hear you’re
quite a respected man around here. You could say we’re
kindered spirits. Both two men out of place, out of time.”
Simmons looked up melodramatically, sighing and wiping a tear
from his eye. “How we’ve both been forced to grow and adapt.”
“Uh-huh,” the other man replied, grunting in time to the
“Well, enough of this chatting. Let’s pick up the
tempo. Computer, change songs. Let’s hear ‘Disco Inferno.’
C’mon, Captain, I want to see you move those flabby buns!”
“I’m givin’ it all I got, laddie!” Captain Montgomery
Scott grunted, forcing himself through more squat thrusts,
“But I’m warning ye, I canna take much more o this!”
NEXT: When Commander Conway’s ex-wife accidentally transforms the Explorer into a magical kingdom. It’s up to him, Peterman, and Larkin to return the ship to its former, very un-magical state.