Author: Anthony Butler
Apologies to Disney and Dr. Carol Marcus.
Stardate 52486.4. On our way back from a survey mission of the Gamma Eradus Five colony, Starfleet has asked us to pay a visit to a nearby science station in order to check on their progress. Ordinarily, this is a very commonplace assignment. But imagine my surprise when I found out who was in charge of the station…
“Come.” Captain Baxter said, looking up from his terminal as the doors to his readyroom doors opened.
“You wanted to see me, Captain?” Commander Conway asked, stepping into Baxter’s readyrooma and allowing the doors to close.
“Yes, Commander. Have a seat.” Baxter smiled. “I just got our new orders from Starfleet.”
“Really.” Conway said, sitting down across from Baxter. “Well, what comet do they have us chasing this time?”
“Not a comet at all.” Baxter smiled broader. “A science station.”
“Even worse. Diplomatic duty. We have to kiss butt while at the same time deciding whether or not to reccomend Starfleet pull out of the project. I’m hating this assignment already.” Conway grimaced.
“But you haven’t even heard anything about it yet. Aren’t you interested in which station we’re visiting?”
This wasn’t going the way Baxter wanted it to. “Come on, ask me what station we’re going to.”
Conway rose from his seat. “I really could care less, Capt-“
“Okay, what station.” Conway sat back down.
“Dreamland Station.” Baxter said, letting the words fall out with an air of adventure. “How’s that hit you?”
“Sounds like a stupid name for a station if you ask me.” Conway replied. “What’s so special about it?”
Baxter grinded his teeth. Time to bring out the big guns. “How about the name Alexa Lanham. Does that ring a bell?”
Conway sank back a bit, his frown deepening. “Not Doctor Alexa Lanham.”
“Oh,” Baxter said, brightening. “Have you heard of her?”
“Heard of her? She’s my f***ing ex-wife.” Conway said angrily.
“I’m very hurt that you didn’t share that little tidbit of your personal life with me, Commander.” Baxter said, pouting. “Imagine my surprise when I called up Dr. Lanham’s personnel file.” Baxter tapped a few commands into his terminal. “Dr. Alexa Lanham: Married, Stardate 47654, to Lieutenant Commander David Conway of the Darwin. Divorced, Stardate 48304. Not exactly wedded bliss, huh Commander?”
“You could say that,” Conway replied. “I met Alexa a month after being assigned to the Darwin. We were putting into spacedock for a refit on our deflector array and she came on board as part of our new science contingent. After knowing her for about three weeks, I asked her to marry me. It seemed to good to be real. She was tall, gorgeous, intellgent, and had a great personality.”
“Well, opposites do attract.” Baxter said, leaning forward on his elbows. He hadn’t expected Conway to start rambling about his past. He had just wanted to see him suffer. Was that so much to ask?
“Very funny. Anyway, things didn’t exactly work out for us. We were assigned to the same ship, which meant we would see each other all the time. I got sick of her.”
“This isn’t exactly a fairytale romance, Commander.”
“You’re telling me. It finally ended when I led an away team down to Marna Three to investigate a seismological problem.”
“Let me guess, she almost died and you realized you couldn’t bear to let a loved one die while under your command.” Baxter said drearily.
“Not exactly. She pushed me into a five-hundred meter split in the planet’s tectonic structure.”
Baxter couldn’t stop himself from laughing. “Sounds like you two weren’t all that compatible.”
“No, we weren’t. And the worst part is the board of inquiry ruled the whole thing an accident. I know very well that bitch tried to kill me.”
“What on Earth could make a woman want to push her husband into a five-hundred meter gorge, anyway?” Baxter asked.
“I have no idea.” Conway replied. “We were just having a tiny arguement, that’s all.”
“About what?” Baxter asked.
“I’d rather not go into it.”
“You might as well. You’ve wasted this much time so far.”
“It was over socks.”
Baxter fell back in his chair. “Socks???”
“I lost a pair of socks, sir, and I know she stole them.” Conway said.
“Socks ended your marraige?” Baxter shook his head. “I’ve heard some sick stuff before, Commander, but that takes the cake. You win today’s booby prize.”
“It wasn’t just socks, Captain.” Conway protested. “It was everything.”
“Larkin to Baxter. We have arrived at Dreamland Station.”
“We’ll be right there, Commander.” Baxter said, rising from his chair. “Well, I’d love to hear more about your sordid past, Conway, but as it is, you’ve got a little reunion to attend. Your team leaves in five minutes. Happy trails.”
Commander Conway, Lt. Commander Larkin, Counselor Peterman, and Ensign Twilley from the science department materialized in the lobby of Dreamland Station.
“I still don’t see why you had to come.” Conway muttered, leading the way to the front desk.
Peterman smiled as she followed Commander Conway.
“The Captain felt it might be best to send me along to reign in your…diplomatic zeal.”
“You’re here to shut me up in case I get too obnoxious, is that it?” Conway asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Very perceptive, Commander.”
“Greetings. I am Zak. How may I help you?” A well dressed Benzite man at the front desk said.
“I’m Commander Conway from the Starship Explorer.” Conway said, leaning up against the desk. “I have an appointment to talk with Dr. Lanham.”
“Is that so?” The Benzite asked, looking down at his terminal. “Hmm. I don’t seem to see you on Dr. Lanham’s calendar. You’ll have to make another appointment and come back.”
Conway reached across the desk and grabbed Zak by the front of his vest and dragged him forwards. “Listen here, fishboy! I have an appointment for ten o’clock, and I’m damn well going to keep that appointment, do you hear me?”
“Unhand me, you cretin!” Zak cried indignantly.
Peterman pushed Conway aside. “I’m very sorry, sir. Our First Officer has a bit of a temper this morning. Allow me to explain. We were sent by Starfleet to evaluate this station in regards to your funding. Now, if we give you a poor evaluation, the comittee might decide to drop the project. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”
The Benzite shook his head. “N-no, ma’am.”
“Then buzz us in.” Peterman said sweetly.
“Of course.” Zak pressed a button on his desk. “Dr. Lanham, some people from Starfleet are here to see you. Evidently their appointment was…misplaced.”
“I’ll be right out.” Lanham replied.
“I’m not looking forward to this.” Conway muttered under his breath.
A tall, gorgeous blonde woman stepped out of a pair of double doors behind the front desk. “I’ve been waiting for you guys. What took you so-“
“Hi, Alexa.” Conway said, looking up at the taller woman. “My, you certainly have grown.”
Lanham wrinkled her nose in disgust, staring down at Conway. “And you’ve shrunk. I told you that caffeine would stunt your growth. What are you doing here?”
Before Conway could reply, Peterman stepped in front of him. “We’re here to take a tour of the facilities and report back to Starfleet’s Appropriations Comittee. It’s really just an informal, routine assignment. We won’t be here long.”
“You’d better not be.” Lanham said, gesturing for the group to follow her back behind the desk. “We’re at a critical stage in the development of the Dream Device, and we’re not about to let you and your so called ‘scientists’ screw things up.”
“Nice to see you too, Alexa.” Conway said.
“Follow me.” Lanham sighed.
“It would appear that Dr. Lanham and Commander Conway have had a somewhat volatile past,” Larkin observed, withdrawing her tricorder and commencing with her scans.
“Nothing a little crevasse can’t fix.” Peterman giggled.
“Charlie, down!” Baxter shouted, shoving Charlie back into Commander Conway’s chair and stuffing his chew bone in his mouth. “I’m not letting you stay on the bridge unless you stop trying to eat the lining of my chair!”
Baxter continued to grapple with the dog, not noticing when Dr. Browning stepped out of the turbolift and walked over to Counselor Peterman’s customary seat. “I’ve got something for you to look at, Andy.”
“Please, not more wedding stuff.” Baxter sighed, pushing Charlie back again.
Browning took a seat. “It’ll just take a moment.”
Baxter glared at Browning and looked down at the padd.
“So, as another man, what do you think?” Dr. Browning asked, leaning forward excitedly.
“Honestly?” Baxter asked.
Baxter scratched his head a moment. “Janice, this is the ugliest tux I’ve ever seen.”
“But I picked it out from the Vulcan Fashion Guild’s main archives. The material is designed for maximum comfort, efficiency, and mobility.”
“That’s mistake number one.” Baxter said, handing the padd back to Browning. “Every one of the groomsmen are going to be humans. We’re not going to be caught dead in those cheesy Vulcan priest outfits. Talk to Yeoman Briggs. He could probably offer you something more along a classic line. Something in the way of a bow tie and cummerbund.”
“Classic, huh?” Browning asked, looking over the padd. “You really think that’s the way to go?”
Suddenly Lt. Tilleran’s science panel began to beep annoyingly.
Baxter looked over Browning’s shoulder at Lt. Tilleran. “What is that, Lieutenant?”
Tilleran punched some commands into her panel. “Nothing to worry about, sir. Just a plasma surge nearby. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Okay.” Baxter said. “But keep your eyes peeled. We’re just a few light years from the Romulan Neutral Zone.”
Ignoring Baxter, Browning punched something else up on her padd and handed it to him. “What about that?”
“Bridesmaid’s dresses?” Baxter asked, turning the padd upside down, then rightside up again.
“They’re from high quality Bajoran silk. The best in the galaxy.”
“But they’re…see-through.” Baxter said.
“And what’s wrong with that?” Tilleran asked. “Betazoid weddings are performed totally in the nude.”
“I’m so glad I’m not getting married.” Baxter sighed, handing the padd back to Browning and looking at Charlie suspiciously as he began to gnaw on his seat again.
“And this is the cadmium crystal reactor.” Dr. Lanham said, gesturing to a large pulsing object at the center of the room. “It powers the self-sustaining matrix in the photon assimilator.”
“Fascinating.” Conway said dully. “What about it, Larkin?”
“A very interesting device, though I cannot fathom what the purpose of such a complex and powerful matrix.”
“That will all be explained shortly.” Lanham smiled, leading the group to the next room.
“Morning, Mirk.” Lt. Hartley said, stepping up to the bar. “Let’s have some of that Crescan Ale I love.”
“You seem cheerful this morning.” Mirk said, pouring Hartley a glass of the bubbly ale.
“Why shouldn’t I be? Lt. Gellar just asked me out.”
“Oh.” Mirk said, putting the bottle away and wiping off the bar. “You like Lieutenant Gellar, do you?”
“Are you kidding? He’s gorgeous!” Hartley said. “I’ve finally found a member of the crew normal enough to vent my sexual frustrations on.” Hartley looked up at Mirk, who seemed a little distant. “Earth to Mirk! Come in Mirk!”
Mirk shook his head, looking over at Hartley as if he just noticed she was there. “Oh. I was just thinking about a new name for the bar.” Mirk said, pouring himself a drink and walking around to the other side of the bar, pulling up a stool.
Hartley eyed Mirk suspicously. “What did you have in mind? Something better than Explorations, I hope.”
“Oh, yes.” Mirk said. “Much better.” Mirk made an expansive gesture with his hands. “How does ‘The Constellation Cafe’ work for you?”
“The Constellation Cafe.” Hartley said the name a couple of times, trying it out. “I like the alliteration. It’s a little long, though.”
“Well, the shorthand will still be Mirk’s.” Mirk said. “Of course, I’m going to have to do some major remodeling.”
Hartley took another sip of her drink. “What kind of remodeling?”
“I’m thinking old-style coffee shop.” Mirk said, running up to one of the rows of booths. “See how these booths are so –drab? I’m going to rip them out and put in couch-type seats.” Mirk ran over to the center of the room. “Then, over here, I’m going to put a big sofa, two huge, comfortable fluffy chairs, and a coffee table.” Mirk ran to the back of the room. “Then back here, a gaming table that can convert to a pool table, ping pong table, or holo-game table. Then, when we have our open mike nights, the table can be lowered and we can use the area as a stage.”
“Wow,” Hartley said, looking around the bar and trying to imagine Mirk’s changes. “Sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into this.”
“I haven’t had much else to do, honestly.” Mirk said, returning to the bar.
“Aww, poor thing. You miss home still, don’t you?” Hartley asked.
“Well, yeah.” Mirk returned behind the bar. “How could I not?”
Hartley sat back down and took another sip. “Don’t worry. I’m sure something will come up for you.”
At that, Jas Amara, the Bajoran waitress Mirk had taken on a few weeks ago, stepped up to the bar. “Hey, Mirkie.”
“Hi, Amara,” Mirk blushed. “I think table number five needs some more Vermellian Rum.”
“Anything you say, baby.” Amara reached out and pinched Mirk’s cheek.
Hartley watched Amara with amusement as she walked away. “You know, she seems quite taken with you, Mirk.”
“Me?” Mirk said with a chuckle. “No way.”
“Stranger things have happened,” Hartley replied, taking a sip of her drink.
“And this is my baby.” Dr. Lanham said, leading the away team into another room.
At the center of the massive launch chamber, a tall, missle-type object sat ready to be launched.
“The Dream Device, I presume,” said Larkin.
“Exactly, Lieutenant.” Lanham replied. “This is why my project must be completed.”
“I don’t want to sound dumb.” Ensign Twilley said, scanning the device with his tricorder. “But what the heck does it do?”
“It makes fairytales come true.” Lanham said, staring at the missle with wonder.
“You’re kidding!” Peterman said excitedly.
“How corny.” Conway replied. “And how on Earth does it do that exactly?”
“A cadmium-powered physical inversion field.” Larkin said, studying the device. “Fascinating.”
“Well, then, that explains everything.” Conway said, throwing his hands up in the air. “Let’s dump more of our resources into this baby right away.”
Lanham ignored Conway, walking over to a large monitor. “For the intelligence-impaired, I’ve prepared a little demonstration.”
“I’m thrilled.” Conway said, taking a seat and folding his arms.
Dr. Lanham hit a control next to the monitor.
A grey, dismal looking planet hung in space on the screen. “First we find a barren, dead planet or other useless space body.” Lanham said, hitting another control. “We introduce the Dream Device, which produces a wave of physcial inversion across the planet.”
A glimmering purple light twinkled towards the planet, suddenly exploding, spreading a purple wave across the planet. “The changes begin immediately. And within thirty minutes, the whole planet is transformed.”
Conway squinted at the graphic. “Transformed into what?”
Lanham hit another control. “Into a world of fantasy, taken right out of the ancient storybooks of old.
“Where once there were rocks, now we see seven dwarfs.” Lanham hit another control, showing the tranformation from rocks into dwarves. “And where once there was dirt, now there is an enchanted forest full of talking trees. And that mountain…that’s a castle, complete with fair prince and princess.”
The prince and princess waved on the viewscreen, embracing lovingly.
“I’m going to be sick.” Conway muttered.
“Yippee!” Peterman said, clapping her hands.
“And this ravine is now a lake full of magical mermaids. Oh, and is that Puff the Magic Dragon I see?”
“He’s frolicking in the ocean blue!” Peterman said excitedly.
“That he is, Counselor.” Lanham replied. “And look at Little Red Riding Hood! She’s going to Grandma’s house. Watch out Grandma!”
“I’ve seen enough. Turn it off.” Conway said, rising from his seat. “No way I’m going to approve this damn thing.”
“And why not?” Lanham asked angrily, switching the screen off.
“It took Walt Disney eight months to build Disneyland. But look out! Here comes the Dream Device! It’ll do it in eight minutes!”
“You’re overreacting, Commander. I can see you haven’t changed.” Lanham said, hands on hips.
“Overreacting? You mean like the time I got angry because you tried to kill me?”
Lanham folded her arms. “That was an accident.”
“Likely story.” Conway huffed.
“Listen, if it makes you feel better, I’m giving your project my highest reccomendation.” Peterman said, stepping in between Lanham and Conway.
“I don’t know about her, but it sure makes me feel better.” A Romulan said, stepping forward and aiming his disruptor at Conway, Peterman and Lanham. “Everyone stay right where you are.”
“Warbird decloaking astern!” Lt. J’hana announced.
Captain Baxter looked up from Browning’s floral designs. “Go to Red Alert. Can someone tell me where in the hell that thing came from?”
“Remember that plasma surge?” Tilleran asked, looking down at her panel. “Sir, they’ve sent a team aboard the station.”
“Hail them.” Baxter said angrily.
“They are responding.” J’hana reported.
“On screen.” Baxter said, standing up and approaching the viewscreen.
A Romulan woman appeared on the screen, peering coldy at the Captain. “Captain Baxter. How nice to finally get to meet you. I am Subcommander Gatana of the Romulan Warbird Horshak. We have never met, but I was the executive officer of the warship that rescued your infiltrator, D’rue.”
“Charmed to make you’re acquaintance.” Baxter muttered. “Now bring your team back and leave the area immediately, or else I will do something very nasty to you.”
“I’m sorry, Captain. I cannot do that. We have reason to believe your station is being used to create weapons for use against our people, and as such we are here to obtain those weapons and do away with them.”
“Over my dead body.”
“As you wish.” Gatana replied, closing the channel.
“They’re coming about, arming weapons.” Ensign Madera reported from ops.
“Open a channel to Conway.” Baxter ordered.
“No good, sir, they are jamming us.” J’hana replied.
“Then raise our shields and ready the weapons.”
Baxter ordered. “Prepare to fire at them on my mark.”
“Didn’t we have some kind of peace agreement with the Romulans?” Browning asked.
“Tell them that.” Baxter muttered.
“I’ve got him, Commander!” Ensign Twilley shouted, pulling out his phaser and firing at the Romulan boarding party.
He missed, and they, in turn, fired back, immediately vaporizing the unlucky Ensign.
“Everyone behind the missle!” Conway shouted, pushing Lanham and Peterman to the deck as the Romulans fired another shot.
“They’re going to try to steal my device!” Lanham cried, ducking as a beam soared over her head.
“But why wait until a Starship had arrived?” Peterman asked. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“Don’t ask me.” Conway said, pulling his phaser out and firing back at the Romulans.
“You’ll come out of there if you know what’s good for you!” The Romulan called out, firing a disruptor blast.
“You’ll hit my baby!” Lanham shouted, looking around the side of the missle just long enough to yell at the Romulans.
“Don’t do that!” Conway shouted, dragging Lanham back.
“I’ll do whatever I want. This is my station.” Lanham said defensively.
“Technically,” Larkin said, crawling on her hands and knees to join the others. “That claim seems to be in dispute now.”
The Explorer rocked as the Horshak layed into it with its disruptors.
“What’s the status on our team?” Baxter asked, gripping the arms of his chair. “Are they still alive?”
“I’m picking up life signs from everyone except Twilley, sir.” Tilleran said.
“That’s the price of being a junior officer.” Baxter said. “Load up the quantums, J’hana. Fire two at them and see if that gets their attention.”
“You mean you actually want me to fire on them? By Starfleet standards, they have barely provoked us.” J’hana said. She was obviously not happy with Starfleet’s engagement policies.
“Damn right we’ll fire on them. My girlfriend’s over there.”
“Let us have the device and we will let you live!” the Romulan ordered, approaching the missle slowly.
“Never!” Lanham shouted.
“I said get down!” Conway said. “No deal. Get off the station now and we’ll consider not destroying your ship.”
“I don’t think so,” the Romulan replied. “Apparently you do not know who I am.”
“Several months ago our ships were involved in a rather messy altercation with a race known as the Flarn. My ship was destroyed and I was abducted. If it had not been for my executive officer, these…Flarn, no doubt would have eaten me. Does that clear things up for you?”
“You are Commander Ardek, formerly of the Exalax.” Larkin observed. “Starfleet has a standing warrant for your extradition. You are charged with the destruction of the Federation freighter Tangier and the theft of the Starship Aerostar.”
“So he’s the one that made our job so much harder.” Conway grunted, staring around the device at Ardek.
“I take pride in my work!” Ardek said happily. “Now do the intelligent thing and surrender, so I can remove this weapon and see that it’s properly disposed of.”
“It’s not a weapon!” Lanham said. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The point is moot, my dear.” Ardek replied, voice dripping kindness. “You see, I’m the one with the disruptor.”
“It seems we have reached a stalemate.” Larkin noted, peering around the side of the missle.
“Not for long!” Lanham cried, grabbing Conway’s phaser and rolling to her left, firing into the group of Romulans and hitting two of them.
Ardek fired back, missing Lanham by a hair and instead hitting a bank of panels behind her, causing them to explode, throwing Lanham, Conway, Peterman, Larkin, and the Romulans across the room.
Conway picked himself up, shaking off the effects of the explosion. “Is everyone okay?”
“I think so.” Peterman said, rising to her feet.
“We won’t be okay for long.” Lanham said, as Conway helped her to her feet.
“What do you mean?” Conway asked.
Lanham regarded the missle in fear, watching as lights lit up all around it. “That Romulan destroyed the launch computer, which must have sent a chain reaction down to the power core. The malfunction has caused the missle launch sequence to begin. And without the launch computer, I can’t stop it.”
“And that’s a bad thing, huh?”
Lanham nodded. “When the missle goes off, everyone in the chamber will be vaporized.”
“Let’s move, everybody!” Conway said, ripping his phaser out of Lanham’s hand and leading everyone out of the chamber.
At the chamber’s entrance, Conway found three of the Romulans still left alive, one he recognized as the Commander.
“If you guys want to live, you’ll come with us.” Conway said, grabbing one of the Romulans by the scruff of his neck and dragging him away.
“What happened?” Ardek asked, as Larkin dragged him out of the room.
“It seems Dr. Lanham’s dreams have come true.” Larkin noted.
“What’s happening over there?” Baxter asked, gripping his chair as the Warbird turned back towards them, its weapons blazing. Charlie cowered helplessly in the chair beside him.
“There was a massive overload of the cadmium power core.” Lt. Tilleran reported. “Some sort of projectile is preparing to launch.”
“We have to get out of here.”
“What about the away team?” Browning asked.
“Can we get them off the station?” Baxter asked, turning to Tilleran.
“Negative.” Tilleran replied. “That Warbird’s last shot just blew out our third plasma relay. That means we’ve lost transporters.”
“Damn.” Baxter said. “What about warp power?”
“Nope.” Tilleran replied. “We don’t even have impulse engines.”
“Get us out of here, Mr. Ford,” Baxter ordered. “All thrusters. J’hana, cover our retreat.”
The Explorer slowly turned away from the station, surging forward on thrusters and firing back at the Warbird with its phasers.
Conway ripped open a panel and jerked down on the lever within, which caused the door to the maintenance shaft to crack open.
“Whew! We’re safe!” Peterman said, sliding down the wall and sitting on the floor.
“Conway to Explorer.” Conway said, tapping his comm badge. After a few moments without a response, he tapped the badge again. “Conway to Explorer.”
“It’s no use.” Ardek said. “My ship is jamming yours.”
“Why you little–” Conway said, grabbing the Romulan by the throat.
“Gentlemen!” Lanham shouted. “We don’t have time for this. We have to get to the operations center and try to stop the device. I can’t begin to estimate the effects it will have on two starships.”
“Whatever the effect is, I doubt it is a desirable one.” Larkin said, holding a phaser on the Romulans and leading them towards a turbolift.
During the turbolift ride up to Operations, Conway felt the whole station shake. He turned to Dr. Lanham.
“We’re too late,” she said. “The device just went off.”
“The device just exploded approximately eight-thousand kilometers behind us.” Tilleran reported, examining her readouts.
“Status of the station?” Baxter asked.
“The station is fine,” Tilleran said, “But…”
“Shockwave bearing three two zero!” J’hana shouted, calling up a reverse view on the viewscreen.
“It’s a wave of massive physical inversion.” Tilleran said, looking up at the immense purple wave as it surged towards them.
“And that’s bad?” Browning asked.
“Very.” Tilleran replied. “I couldn’t begin to tell you the effects that it will have on our ship.”
Baxter watched as the Warbird was engulfed by the wave, pitching off to one side. Immediately it seemed to shimmer. It looked almost like it was…changing shape.
“We can’t outrun the wave, Captain. It will be on top of us in another ten seconds.” Ford reported.
“Will our shields be able to deflect the wave?” Baxter asked.
“Not any better than the Warbird’s did.” Tilleran replied.
Baxter stabbed a control next to his chair. “All hands, prepare for…a big purple wave type thing!”
Then the wave hit, and that’s when things really got weird.
Commander Conway ran out into the operations center, stopping short when he saw the body of Zak draped over the Main Ops console.
“Looks like the Romulans already got here.” Conway said
“How perceptive.” Ardek said from behind Conway. “Now let us go about our business.”
“First I’m going to find out what that wave did.” Conway said, pushing Zak’s body off the console. “Alexa, get over here and help me.”
“I’m not your little slave anymore, David.” Lanham replied. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
“Fine.” Conway said. “Larkin, I need you to help me get the sensors operational.”
Larkin examined the panel. “It seems the Romulans sabotaged the station’s defensive systems, in case they were defeated.”
“Can we even get a sensor visual on the Explorer?” Conway asked.
“The damage is extensive. Please stand by.” Larkin said.
“Alexa, where are the other scientists?” Conway asked, turning back to Lanham.
“Probably in the quarters on the lower decks.” Lanham said.
“We had them sealed off.” Ardek said diplomatically. “As you see, Commander, we are not animals. We could have killed them all.”
“I’m touched. Alexa, see if you can get those quarters opened back up, we’ll need all the help we can get to get this place operational again.” Conway said. “Peterman, help Alexa and Lt. Commander Larkin. I’m taking these guys down to the brig.”
“How exactly am I going to help them?” Peterman asked. “I know next to nothing about science.”
“Then just stand there and look pretty.” Conway said, dragging the Romulans at phaser point into the turbolift.
“Pig!” Lanham shouted.
Three minutes later, the turbolit doors parted again. Commander Conway spilled out, barely concious.
“Commander!” Peterman said, rushing over to Conway. “What the hell happened?”
“Romulans…took me by…surprise.” Conway choked out, pulling himself to his feet. “Slammed me into the bulkhead and…escaped.”
“Someone is activating a transporter on deck ten.” Larkin reported, looking over the operations console.
“Where are they transporting?” Conway asked, straightening his uniform.
“Uncertain. According to these sensor readings, there is a high probability they transported back to the Romulan ship.” Larkin looked back down at her panel. “Sir, the transporter interlink system just suffered a massive overload. It would appear they took precautions to make sure we would not follow them.”
“Can you tell me what happened to either that ship or the Explorer?”
“They were both hit by the wave.” Dr. Lanham said. “And…as far as we can tell, they absorbed its full effects.”
“Full effects? What does that mean?”
“They have suffered the Disney effect.” Lanham replied. “Which, in layman’s terms, means they have been transformed according to my matrix.”
“We have to get over there.” Conway said. “Is there any way off this station other than the transporters?”
“There’s a microshuttle on deck five.” Lanham said. “To be used for evacuation. The Romulans must have overlooked it.”
“Have you been able to release your people?” Conway asked.
“Unfortunately, no.” Lanham replied. “The door mechanisms have been completely fused.”
“We can worry about that later.” Conway said. “For right now, our primary concern will have to be reversing whatever your little device has done to the Explorer.”
The ride in the microshuttle was relatively quiet. After Conway, Larkin, Peterman, and Lanham crammed themselves inside the cramped microshuttle, they had barely said a word to each other.
“We are nearing the Explorer.” Larkin said, bringing the shuttle around.
“I have to see this.” Conway said, leaning forward and looking out through the viewport. “Good Lord!”
“It’s beautiful.” Peterman and Lanham said in unison. The Explorer looked like a giant steel castle. Spires and towers jutted out at odd angles from the saucer and stardrive section, and the nacelles extended around the perimeter of the ship like a border.
“Is there something recognizable as a shuttlebay for you to put this thing down in?” Conway asked.
Larkin checked the shuttle’s sensors. “Affirmative. The ship has not been completely transformed.”
“Yet.” Lanham added. “Now that the matrix is taken hold, it will not stop until its full course has run.”
“Then we don’t have a lot of time.” Conway said. “See if you can get us in the shuttlebay, Larkin. Peterman, break out the phasers.”
“Is that really necessary?” Peterman asked.
“Under the circumstances, I’m not going to risk anything.” Conway said, watching a large drawbridge swing down from the back of the Explorer.
“How quaint.” Conway said.
“Although it appears to be a wooden drawbridge, the shuttlebay door is still equipped with a forcefield, Commander.” Larkin noted. “We should be safe once inside.”
“What about the environmental controls?” Conway asked.
“Functioning for the moment, sir.” Larkin said. “My estimation is that within two hours computer control will have failed and the ship will be unable to sustain life in space.”
“But perfectly able to sustain life in an enchanted kingdom.” Peterman said excitedly. “I can’t wait to see this.”
“Will you shut up.” Conway bristled.
Conway held his phaser out as he emerged from the microshuttle.
“Who goes there!” a voice called out.
“Commander Conway,” Conway replied, turning to face the source of the voice.
It was Lt. Commander Richards, kind of. Now he was a happy little troll with big floppy ears.
“You must give me a toll in order to pass,” Richards ordered, holding out a shriveled hand.
“I’m not impressed.” Conway said, phasering Richards and moving on. “Come on.”
Peterman grimaced as she looked at the troll’s still form lying on the grassy shuttledeck. “Poor lil guy.”
“Move!” Conway shouted, leading the way down the tree- lined, sushine-filled corridor.
Dr. Lanham brought up step next to Conway, pulling out a tricorder. “What’s our first step?”
“We need to find some way to reverse this thing.” Conway replied.
“I suggest we attempt to get to the bridge,” Larkin said, pulling out her tricorder. “My scans indicate that the higher decks are less transformed than the lower ones. We may be able to access the science terminal on the bridge.”
“The only way to reverse the effects of the Dream Device is to reintroduce the Explorer’s former matter matrix.” Lanham said easily.
Conway continued down the corridor, looking around suspicously. “And how can we do that?”
“Once the matrix is layed in, I can initiate the wave from within the ship using the structural shield grid.” Lanham said.
“Which, if I’m not mistaken, is currently being transformed into a stone and mortar.” Peterman filled in.
“The difficult part will be recreating the matrix.” Lt. Larkin said. “We will need to be as accurate as possible in order to recreate the matrix successfully. Doctor, I offer you my help, if needed.”
“It’s needed, all right, Commander.” Lanham replied.
“Hold up.” Conway suddenly said, stopping in his tracks.
Counselor Peterman let out a yelp of shock. Around the corner, the group found a gigantic body of water, apparently spreading the entire length of the saucer section.
Conway stepped out onto a rickety dock and held a hand up to block out the sunlight. “How in the world is this possible?”
Larkin looked around. “This is the approximate former location of our arboretum.”
Lanham looked out over the water with satisfaction. “My guess is the sunlight is simply an increased magnitude of the lighting elements the ship had to begin with. The water was created with basic elements, the walls and ceiling have been transformed to appear as sky, and the decks below were transformed into the ocean floor.”
“Incredible.” Conway said.
“What was that?” Lanham asked. “Did I hear a compliment?”
“No.” Conway replied, turning to see a large, twenty foot, wooden sailboat tied to the dock. “But I’d like to thank you for programming up a boat for us.”
Suddeny a figure climbed up from below the boat’s deck.
“Mirk?” Peterman asked.
“Aye, that’s Cap’n Mirk to ye!” Mirk cried, rattling his prosthetic hook and squinting from his one good eye.
“What a cheesy pirate.” Conway said. “You know, real pirates were nothing like that.”
“That’s why we call this fan-ta-sy!” Lanham said. “It’s not supposed to be real.”
“No wonder you’re such a space cadet.” Conway muttered, turning to Mirk. “Listen, ‘Captain,’ I need a ride to the opposite side of the sea, or whatever this is.”
“And what can ye offer for barter?” Mirk asked, leaning forward conspiratorially.
Conway looked around. “Well, let’s see…” He pulled the tricorder out of Peterman’s hand. “Ever seen one of these?”
Mirk scratched his head. “Can’t say that I have.”
“It’s very valuable, and it’s yours.” Conway shoved the tricorder into Mirk’s hands and jumped into the ship. “Let’s go mates.”
“Okay everybody, welcome to the Starlight.” Mirk announced. “Avast, maties, we’re about to set sail!”
Perched at the front of the Starlight, Counselor Peterman sighed joyfully. “This is such a beautiful view, Doctor Lanham. I know I’d pay good money to visit a place like this.”
“See?” Lanham asked. “This would put other theme parks out of business.”
“Sure.” Conway replied. “You’d just hit their planets with the device and presto, you’ve got destroyed their homes and made a pretty new theme park.”
“Well, we’d never do anything like that…” Lanham said.
Suddenly the Starlight rocked dangerously, threatening to toss Counselor Peterman overboard.
“What the hell was that?” Conway asked, grabbing Peterman and pulling her back into the ship.
“Don’t ye know?” Mirk asked, holding onto the wheel with all his might and turning. “These waters are the home of the deadly Puff!”
“Oh, no.” Lanham said.
“It would appear your ‘Magic Dragon’ has been incorporated into this reality.”
“The different story themes were designed to interact.” Lanham explained.
“So what are you saying?” Conway asked. “Is Puff the Magic Dragon a Sea Serpent here?”
“How should I know?” Lanham shrugged.
“Because you’re the f***ing programmer!” Conway shouted, as suddenly the Starlight rocked again.
“H-h-h-holy sh**!” Peterman shrieked, pointing up in the air.
In a shower of salty water, ‘Puff’ emerged from the ocean, spreading his great wings and soaring into the air, turning around and heading right for Mirk’s ship.
“Hang on, mates!” Mirk shouted, steering the Starlight in the opposite direction.
“There is something familiar about that dragon.” Larkin said, staring at the huge creature. “I am enhancing the image of the dragon’s face with my optical interface.”
“How about ducking!” Conway cried, pushing Larkin down and looking back, just as the dragon flew overhead, clipping the mast right off the top of Mirk’s ship.
“That was Lieutenant Gellar!” Peterman shrieked, just as the mast swooshed by her, knocking her back over the side of the boat.
“Peterman!” Conway cried. “Larkin, go in after her.”
“Commander, may I remind you that buoyancy is not my strong-“
“Go!” Conway shouted, pushing Larkin overboard.
“Now what are we going to do?” Dr. Lanham asked, watching in fear as Lt. Gellar, a.k.a. “Puff,” swung around for another assault, fire blazing from his nostrils.
“Jump ship!” Conway cried, grabbing Lanham and jumping overboard. “See you in the funny papers, Mirk!” Mirk hobbled overboard as well, just in time to see his ship burnt to a fiery crisp.
Commander Conway awoke to find himself lying in a rather uncomfortable postion on an incredibly sharp rock.
A wave of salty water slammed against Conway, threatening to push him off the rock, but he held fast.
“Dr. Lanham! Counselor Peterman! Lt. Commander Larkin!” Conway cried, climbing up the rock.
“They’re not here.” A voice said.
“Oh, no.” Conway said, turning to see the source of the voice. “Lieutenant Hartley.”
Hartley batted her eyelashes, swinging her scaly tail. “What a journey you must have had, weary traveler. Perhaps I could help you…”
“Get some more clothes on.” Commander Conway said, pushing Hartley aside and heading up the rock.
“You won’t find your friends.” Hartley called after Conway. “They’re prisoners of Puff now! And no one escapes the mighty Puff!”
“We’ll see about that.” Conway said angrily, ducking into a nearby cave.
“Now, I know you’ll find this hard to belive,” Counselor Peterman said nervously, “but you’re Lieutenant Brian Gellar, a human officer aboard an interstellar ship. Not a mean, ugly, thirty foot firebreathing dragon.”
“Rrrrr.” Gellar replied, flaring his nostrils and nudging Peterman up against the rocky cave wall.
“I do not think he understands you, Counselor.” Larkin said.
“What gave you that idea?” Peterman replied, shaking the dizzyness from her head. “We have to get out of here.”
“Puff was supposed to be a thrill attraction.” Dr. Lanham said. “It should conclude once we complete the proper parameters.”
“Which are?” Peterman asked.
“You know, I don’t remember.” Lanham said. “Something about rocks.”
“Coming through!” Commander Conway cried, leaping up from behind Puff and wrapping his arms around his neck. “Hey, in case you guys didn’t realize, this is a rescue!”
Puff swung Commander Conway from side to side, slamming him against the cave wall.
“Avalanche!” Peterman cried.
“An avalanche, that’s it.” Dr. Lanham snapped her fingers. “That’s what you have to use to defeat Puff.”
“Looks like Commander Conway’s already a step ahead of you.” Peterman remarked. “Let’s get out of here!”
“This is nothing like the land called Harmony!” Conway cried out as he was slammed into the cave walls by the snorting dragon.
Seeing her senior officer was in trouble, Larkin quickly climbed up the dragon’s back, wrenching Commander Conway free.
“We must go, Commander!” Larkin cried, dragging Conway down Puff’s back.
The mighty dragon turned around, snorting angrily as rocks fell around it.
“The cave’s about to collapse! Get out!” Conway cried, as Larkin dragged him.
The group stopped for a quick breather once they were out of the cave, looking back.
“I wonder if he’s hurt.” Conway said, noting that the entrance was completely sealed. “And if he is, will that effect him when we revert the Explorer back to normal.”
“As long as none of the characters are killed, they will be fine. Any injury they incur will be erased when the matrix is reset.”
“You’d better be right.” Conway said, leading the group down the rocky slope.
They found Lt. Hartley at the bottom of the slope, sunning herself on a rock. “So you have managed to defeat the mighty Puff. Can you make it through the enchanted forest and up to the castle courtyard, or do you not have what it takes?”
“Of course we do.” Conway said defensievely. “Let’s move out.”
“Sure you don’t want to frolic in the ocean blue with me?” Hartley asked, swinging her tail flirtatiously.
“Maybe some other time.” Conway replied, motioning for everyone to follow him past the caves and into the forest.
“This is scary.” Counselor Peterman said, hiding behind Larkin as the group entered the enchanted forest.
“What’s in here, Alexa?” Conway asked, waving his phaser around suspicously as the group moved through the forest.
“You know, the basics of an enchanted forest.” Lanham replied. “Enchanted trees, enchanted squirrels, enchanted…”
“Bears?” Conway asked, freezing in fear as a shadow fell over the group.
Lanham kept pushing ahead. “No, just your normal garden variety-“
“Raaaar!” A furry fellow who bore a slight resemblence to Lieutenant Ford cried out.
“Big bad wolf?” Conway offered helpfully.
“I’m going to huff and puff and blow your house in!” Ford cried out, his meaty breath blasting into Counselor Peterman’s face.
Peterman just looked up, trembling fearfully.
“If you notice, Lieutenant,” Larkin said calmly, “we are not pigs, nor do we have a house to blow down.”
“Oh, no?” Ford asked, rubbing his chin. “Well, that complicates things. How about baskets? Do you have a basket for your grandmother?”
Larkin cocked her head quizzically. “I do not have a grandmother.”
“We don’t have time for this!” Conway cried, phasering the wolf and knocking him backwards.
Ford stumbled back several feet from the blast, his fur smoking.
“It appears you have only angered him, Commander,” observed Larkin, as Ford lurched toward the group, snarling angrily.
“Let’s move!” Conway cried, phasering Ford again at a higher setting and grabbing Dr. Lanham’s arm.
The forest got darker and darker as the group plunged through it. Conway also noticed that it seemed to be getting denser.
“I’m going to get you!” Ford cried, leaping after the group and gaining ground fast.
Conway thought he saw a clearing ahead, but before he reached it, a branch reached out and grabbed him by the arm, yanking him up into the air.
Likewise, Lanham, Larkin, and Peterman were also caught up in the clawlike branches.
“The trees are alive!” Peterman remarked with fright.
“Don’t leaf me,” one of the trees said, in a voice that was distinctly J’hana’s.
The blue tree had branches like the other, but two of the uppermost branches looked almost like antennae.
“What a corny joke!” Conway exclaimed, as J’hana wrenched at his body with her branches. “Not only are these things trying to kill us, they have really bad senses of humor!”
“The ride wasn’t decide to be harmful.” Lanham said. “It’ll just toss us around a little.”
“What about Fido down there?” Conway asked, glancing down at Ford, who was jumping and clawing at the group.
“I don’t know,” Lanham replied. “My guess is that the program didn’t know how to respond to phaser fire.”
“This whole thing seems a little too violent,” Conway said, phasering at J’hana’s branches. Each time one was burnt away, another grew in its place, tightening its grip.
“The matrix is very delicate. It was never designed to be applied to a starship in the first place. Most likely it’s malfunctioning.”
“Just great,” Peterman said. “Are you saying we may end up not living happily ever after?”
“It seems to be a distinct possibility.”
“Well, I’m not going to be rubbed out by a tree with an attitude,” Conway grunted, struggling past J’hana’s branches and finally touching down on the ground, grabbing Peterman and Lanham and jerking them downward.
“You can’t get away!” J’hana cried out, her branches twisting around in the air.
“Ruarrr!” Ford cried out, leaping past the branches and leaping toward the group.
“Stop, Mr. Wolf!” A voice cried, causing everyone, including Ford, to look up.
Peterman burst out laughing.
Captain Baxter stood there, tapping his foot, hands on hips. A wicker basket hung from one arm.
“Well, hi there Little Red Riding Hood.” Conway giggled.
“Now that’s all I asked for.” Ford said, grabbing Baxter’s basket and heading back into the woods.
“Hey!” Baxter cried out. “That’s for my grandma!”
“Andy, we have to talk about your fashion choices.” Peterman said, looking Baxter up and down. He had on the famous Little Red Riding Hood, a pretty blue jumper, and plaid kneesocks. Underneath the hood, Peterman could discern two tightly woven pigtails.
Baxter turned to Conway, who was still giggling. “What are you looking at, shorty?”
“Not a thing, sir.” Conway fell to the ground laughing.
“Commander,” Larkin said. “I believe we have reached the bridge.”
Conway pushed past Baxter and the remaining enchanted trees, to find the “bridge.”
The tiny “bridge” arched over a babbling brook. At the center of the bridge were several blinking and beeping consoles.
On the other side, three goats baahed pleasantly.
“See if you can access the main computer,” Conway ordered, gesturing towards the blinking panel.
One of the goats stepped forward. “You can’t cross. That would be baaaaaad.”
Larkin examined the goat. “This is Ensign Madera. Listen carefully, Ensign, we need access to the computers. Please let us pass.”
“You caaaan’t cross.” The goat replied. “The troll won’t let you.”
“We already dealt with the troll,” Conway said.
“Perhaps she is referring to another character created by the matrix,” Larkin offered.
Suddenly, a huge, furry gold shape emerged from under the bridge. “Rrrrrrrrrrr…you must pay my toll before you can cross.”
“Charlie!” Peterman exclaimed. Charlie was a seven foot tall, muscular, angry-looking troll. And he had evidently acquired the ability to speak English.
“Down, boy.” Conway said, stepping back cautiously and withdrawing his phaser.
“Pay the toll.” Charlie growled, kibble-tinged breath beating against Conway’s face.
“Anyone have some money?” Conway asked, looking back to Lanham, Peterman, Larkin, and Baxter.
While Conway was looking back, Charlie slapped him with a huge paw, knocking him to the ground. Immediately the dog was on top of Conway, growling and tearing.
“Larkin…you and Alexa set up the shield grid while I distract Charlie!” Conway cried, scrambling to get out of the huge dog-troll’s grip.
Peterman grabbed at Charlie’s arm. “Come on, boy, get off him!”
Larkin and Lanham immediately began working at the “bridge” panel.
“The matrix has consumed seventy-nine percent of the computer’s resources.” Larkin said, her hands flying over the panel. “We will have to move quick to reroute the necessary command pathways and get the shield grid active.”
“If we don’t work fast, we won’t have a shield grid to activate.” Lanham said, working as quickly as she could to aid Larkin.
“Stop it!” Baxter cried, skipping happily to Peterman and Conway’s aid as they wrestled with Charlie. “You’re hurting my friends.”
Commander Conway punched Charlie repeatedly in the face, as Petetersen and Baxter jerked at either arm.
“I’m going to take you out once and for all, you furry piece of crap!” Conway cried.
“You ugly human!” Charlie replied, chomping onto Conway’s head and biting down hard. “I have the feeling you’ve got a serious beating coming!”
“Matrix laid in,” Dr. Lanham said. “What’s the status on the shield grid?”
“I am still having trouble crossing the necessary command pathways.”
“We’re running out of time.” Lanham replied, glancing over at Conway and the others.
“What’s the problem?” Conway called over as he grappled with Charlie.
Larkin stared down at the console she was working at. “We cannot access the shield grids from here. The new matrix has cut off too many of the computer’s remaining resources.”
“Then what do we do?” Lanham asked.
Larkin thought a moment. “The primary shield junction is one deck down and approximately sixty meters behind the bridge. If that is still operational…”
“Find it!” Conway cried, smacking Charlie in the face and jumping up, kicking him roughly in the stomach.
“My poor little baby.” Peterman said, looking down mournfully at the whimpering dog-troll.
“We’ll worry about him later.” Conway said, withdrawing his phaser. “Come on.”
Lt. Commander Larkin examined the area with her tricorder. “It appears the junction is this way, Commander. We must hurry.”
Conway hurried Peterman after Lanham and Larkin. “Let’s move!”
“Oooh,” Baxter exclaimed, skipping along behind them. “We’re going to Grandma’s house!”
“He’s never going to live this down.” Conway chuckled.
The group weaved through the woods, running as fast as they could, as the few remaining panels and circuits that surrounded them began to disappear.
“The junction is up ahead.” Larkin reported, glancing up from her tricorder.
“Of all the–” Conway said. The group looked on in awe as they approached a huge, towering gingerbread house.
“This is Grandma’s house?” Peterman asked, turning to Lanham.
“Can I cook, or what?” Lanham said proudly.
“I’ll see once I take a bite.” Conway said, pushing the door open and stepping in. “Damn it’s dark in here. Watch your steps, everyone.”
“Red, is that you?” a withered voice asked.
“I’m right here, Grandma!” Baxter said, skipping ahead of the group and lighting a candle.
“I am attempting to locate the shield grid controls.” Lt. Commander Larkin said, running her tricorder along the walls of the house.
Conway and Peterman peeked into the bedroom as Baxter skipped in, leaning over and hugging “Grandma.”
“Hi, Grandma!” Baxter said. “The big bad wolf stole my basket, so I have nothing to bring you.”
“Darn it, and I’m sooo hungry.” Grandma responded. Peterman immediately recognized her.
“Wow, Janice, you’re looking a little older than when I last saw you.” Peterman said, as Browning peered at her and Conway through her spectacles.
“Who are these hooligans, Red?”
“They’re my friends, Grandma,” Baxter explained.
“Well, don’t let them get near the pooridge.” Browning said, folding her arms. “You know how they feel about people messing with their pooridge.”
“I have a bad feeling about this.” Peterman said, as Larkin called out from the front room.
“Commander, we have found the shield junction. It is in the fireplace.”
“What are they doing out there?” Browning asked.
“Repairs,” Conway said, ushering Peterman out of the bedroom.
Conway found Larkin busily rearranging chips and wires that hung out of the open buckstove.
“I am nearly finished, Commander.” Larkin stated, her hands moving so fast they could hardly be seen.
“The sooner the better.” Peterman said, looking around.
Conway put his phaser away and approached what looked like a breakfast table as Larkin and Lanham worked on the shields. “Well, we might as well have something to eat while we wait.”
“Commander, no!” Peterman shouted as Conway approached the first bowl of pooridge.
Conway stuck a finger in the pooridge and tasted it. “What’s your problem? Oooh, this is too cold.”
Peterman watched as Conway moved to the second bowl. “I don’t think you should do that, Commander. If I remember my fairytales right-
“Quiet. I haven’t eaten in hours.” Conway tasted the second bowl. “Ouch! Too hot.”
“Oh, no.” Peterman covered her face.
Conway tasted the third bowl. “Aahh, now that’s some good pooridge.”
“POORIDGE!” A huge bear cried, smashing through the gingerbread door and tackling Commander Conway right into the kitchen table.
The voice was vaguely recognizable as Ensign Stuart from engineering, and the bear was obviously the Papa.
Two more bears crashed in, clambering after Peterman and the group working on the fireplace.
One of them resembled Nurse Carter and the other Ensign Saral from security. They must be Mama and Baby bear.
“You’ve done it now!” Peterman shouted, beating Carter and Saral back with a chair as she struggled towards the kitchen.
“Hold them off so Alexa and Larkin can finish!” Conway cried, swinging a frying pan into Stuart’s face and slamming him up against the kitchen cabinets.
“That’s easier said than done!” Peterman cried, trying to remember that she really did like animals.
All of a sudden a woman that looked like Lt. Tilleran with green makeup and a witch’s outfit soared into the room on a broom, cackling viciously.
“Hello, my pretties!” Tilleran cackled, touching down in the living room and swinging at Lanham and Larkin with her broom.
“The program is becoming more fragmented as we attempt to alter its matrix,” Larkin observed, pushing Tilleran back as she continued the work on the shields.
“Will we be able to initiate the shield grid in time?” Lanham asked.
“I do not know.” Larkin replied.
“Chow down!” Conway shouted, tossing a bowl of pooridge at Tilleran as she lunged once again at Larkin and Lanham.
Seeing the pooridge fly, the bears turned and set upon Tilleran.
“What a world, what a world!” Tilleran cried, as the bears began licking the pooridge off her.
Conway straightened his uniform proudly. “This is kinda fun after all.”
Suddenly the walls around Conway crackled with blue electricity.
“Shield grid charging and modulating!” Larkin reported.
Conway watched as the gingerbread walls seemed to liquify and reform into the austere grey walls of the shield control chamber.
“What the hell happened?” Tilleran asked, rubbing her head and pushing Stuart, White, and Saral off her.
“It’s a long story.” Conway sighed.
Peterman smiled. “But it has a happy ending.”
Captain Baxter emerged from a nearby room, rubbing his head, Dr. Browning at his heels. “Dr. Lanham, I’m going to have to give your device a thumbs down.”
Conway patted Baxter on the back. “Not me, Little Red. I loved it.”
Baxter glanced over at Conway, mouthing, “Little Red?”
“I’ll tell you on the way back to the enchanted forest.” Peterman wrapped an arm around Baxter, glad to see him in man’s clothes again.
“Put the Romulan vessel on screen.” Captain Baxter ordered, as everyone took their places on the bridge. Browning and Lanham found a place near the railing behind the command area.
J’hana called up the image of the Romulan vessel. It had castle-like features similar to what had happened to the Explorer, except that it was green. The green hue made it resemble an Emerald Castle of some sort.
Larkin examined her panel. “Sensors indicate the ship will lose atmospheric viability in less than ten minutes.”
Conway leaned towards Baxter. “Sir, Dr. Lanham and Commander Larkin found a way to reprogram the matrix and restore the Explorer.”
“Can we adapt your methods to repair what was done to the Romulan ship?” Baxter asked, turning back to Dr. Lanham.
“I think so.” Lanham joined Tilleran at the science station. “If we program the matrix into a tachyon beam, we may be able to flood their shield grid and activate the physical inversion.”
“Do it.” Baxter ordered.
“You know, Captain,” Conway said, “considering what they did to us, it almost seems fair to let them die.”
“It would be nice,” Baxter nodded. “But we’re Starfleet officers. And that means more than a fancy uniform and a cushy pension. It’s about honor, goodness, and heart. To stand back and allow others to die would betray the oaths each of us took.”
“That almost brought a tear to my eye, Andy.” Peterman said, cuddling Charlie closer to her.
“Yeah,” Conway said. “I’m crying on the inside.”
“Matrix programmed in,” Larkin announced.
“Targetting tachyon beam,” Tilleran reported. “At your command, Captain.”
“Activate the beam.” Baxter ordered.
A yellow beam lanced out at the emerald castle, washing it in blue electricity.
Larkin checked her panel. “Matrix taking hold.”
The Romulan ship shivered and rippled in space, stretching and changing until it finally shifted back into its former shape.
“Status of the Romulan ship?” Baxter asked.
Tilleran examined her panel. “Uncertain, sir. There’s a lot of confusion over there.”
“As I’m sure there is over here.” Baxter said. “Hail them.”
J’hana shook her head. “No response.”
“Open a channel.”
“Open,” J’hana replied.
“Romulan ship, this is Captain Andy Baxter of the Starship Explorer. You have violated the hell out of Starfleet regulations and as such I request that you stand down and surrender for a formal Starfleet inquiry.”
Baxter watched the Warbird on the screen for several moments. He had almost given up, when Commander Ardek appeared on the screen, looking extremely forlorn. His uniform was torn and singed in several places.
“Captain…” Ardek said weakly, “I am Commander Ardek. It is a pleasure to finally meet my counterpart. D’rue told me much about you.”
Ardek looked extremely shaken. “I had no idea your myths and customs were so…barbaric. We very nearly did not survive the ravage done us by your vicious…bears.”
“Believe me, I’m all broken up about that one. Now
stand down and surrender.”
The Romulan cracked a smile. “I’m sure you know I can’t do that. I hope when next we meet we will have more time to talk. But right now I have to go. I have a lot of information on your little experiments to take back to my people.”
“Ardek!” Baxter cried, pounding his chair.
Ardek’s face disappeared, to be replaced by an image of the Warbird.
“The Horshak is turning back toward Romulan space.” J’hana reported.
“Set a course to pursue.” Baxter ordered. “Ready on the weapons, J’hana.”
“Phasers and quantums ready.” J’hana replied.
“Baxter to Horshak. I repeat, stand down now, or I will fire on you,” Baxter glared at back of the ship angrily as it moved ahead of them.
“We will reach the Neutral Zone in four minutes.” Larkin reported. “Might I remind you that entering the Neutral Zone will constitute a violation of–”
“Noted.” Baxter said tersely. “Lock phasers on their engines, J’hana.”
“Locked.” J’hana replied.
“Fire.” Baxter ordered.
The double-barreled phaser cannons mounted below
the Explorer’s saucers tore into the Horshak’s rear.
“Damage to their aft shields. They are diverting power to compensate.” Tilleran announced.
“Load forward quantums and fire.” Baxter said.
The Warbird shook as the two blue orbs connected with it. Disruptor fire flared back towards the viewscreen.
Tilleran held onto her console. “Minor shield damage sir.”
“We will reach the Neutral zone in thirty seconds.” Larkin said.
“Damn it.” Baxter cursed, clenching his fist. “I really hate that man. Mr. Ford, take us back to Dreamland Station, full impulse.”
Supplemental. We’ve just recieved Starfleet’s verdict on the Dream Device. The project has been shut down, and a starship is en route to dismantle the station and take its crew back to the nearest starbase. Meanwhile, we’ve been ordered to the Ligar system to participate in their annual pie-eating contest.
“Listen, Alexa,” Commander Conway said, as he escorted Dr. Lanham to the transporter room. “I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry Starfleet canceled your project. I know I’ve been pretty hard on you, but your work doesn’t deserve to be dismissed so easily.”
“Don’t worry about me, David.” Lanham replied. “I’ve been reassigned to a very exciting project aboard a Federation science vessel. I couldn’t be happier. Anyway, after seeing the Dream Device in action, I think it would be more accurate to call it the Nightmare Device.”
“Well, I know it’s going to give me nightmares.” Conway said, following Lanham into the transporter room.
“Coordinates set, Commander.” Lt. Hartley said, tapping at her transporter panel.
Conway sniffed at the air. “Something smells fishy in here.”
“Watch it, Conway.” Hartley hissed. “Or I’ll fillet you.”
“I wish I could say it was good seeing you again.” Lanham said as she climbed the transporter pad. “But I do think I’m not disgusted with you anymore. Just disinterested.”
“Well, that’s a start.” Conway smiled. “I no longer think you’re a moron.”
“I’ve never heard you say something so sweet to me.” Lanham said.
“Be careful out there, Alexa.” Conway said, glancing back at Hartley. “Energize, Lieutenant.”
Conway headed for the door to the transporter room as Lanham disappeared.
“You’re going to miss her, aren’t you, Commander?” Hartley asked, as Conway stepped out.
“Don’t be silly.” Conway muttered back, heading out into the corridor. “Stick to your stupid girl magazines, Hartley.”
Hartley stuck her tongue out as Conway as he left. She was going to be late for her date with Lt. Gellar if she didn’t hurry and clock out.
Commander Conway weaved through the crowds in the corridors towards Mirk’s.
When he reached the doors, he noticed a large sign which read:
PLEASE EXCUSE THE MESS
MIRK’S BAR IS CLOSED FOR CONSTRUCTION
THE CONSTELLATION CAFE
“Just great.” Conway muttered, heading back to his quarters. He didn’t want to fight crowds anyway. What he really wanted was to curl up in his quarters with a good book and a cup of hot coffee.
Conway was about to turn and head for the turbolift when a blinking light next to the door to holodeck three caught his eye.
When he investigated, he realized that there was a program in progress.
Squinting, Conway read the title of the program to himself. “Baxter Alpha Three Five: Happily Ever After.” Conway gagged to himself. Some kind of cheesy romantic program for he and Counselor Peterman no doubt. Did they learn nothing from the day’s events?
For the betterment of humanity, Conway decided to crash in on Baxter and Peterman and explain it all to them.
Conway tapped in his personal override code and strode through the opening doors.
“I’ve been baaaaaaad, Andy!” Peterman squealed joyfully. A shiver ran throughout Commander Conway as he stared down at Baxter and Peterman, lying on the middle of a grassy rolling hillside.
“Dear Lord,” Conway shook his head and covered his eyes. Baxter was dressed as Little Bo Peep, and Peterman was dressed in white stockings and fluffy cottonballs, apparently approximating a sheep.
Baxter pushed aside his curly locks, glaring back at Conway. “Is there something I can do for you, Commander?”
Conway just froze there, speechless.
“We were just…um, analyzing certain aspects of Dr. Lanham’s program.” Peterman said, picking herself up and wiping off her cottonball-covered butt, adjusting the fake sheep ears on her head.
“Yeah, that’s it.” Baxter said. “It’s not at all what it looks like.”
Conway backed towards the door. “You guys are just plain sick.”
Baxter and Peteresen waved urgently. “Commander! Watch your step…you’re about to fall into a herd of-“
Conway suddenly tripped, becoming engulfed in a mass of churning, baaah-ing sheep.
“Sheep.” Baxter finished.
When Counselor Peterman’s dog Charlie disappears, it’s an all-out race for Baxter to find him before Peterman has a total nervous breakdown.