Author: Alan Decker
In their own plane of reality, the non-corporeal entities known as the Directors watched the activities of the mortals with growing displeasure and disgust. They had dealings with the mortal known as Andy Baxter, a captain of a starship. After helping return Baxter to his own corner of space, the Directors began watching him and the others in this Federation he called home. Several months of observation told them that something had to be done. This kind of thing just couldn’t go on anymore. Unanimously, the Directors agreed to go to the Federation and put and end to the problem.
DEEP SPACE NINE
Major Kira Nerys looked over the incoming communique with a growing feeling of rage. How could Kai Winn be doing this to Bajor? Before her emotions completely overcame her, she snapped up a padd, stormed up the short stairs to Captain Benjamin Sisko’s office and slammed her hand against the door chime.
“Come in,” Sisko said casually as he tossed the baseball that graced his desk up into the air. Kira entered; Sisko could almost see the flames burning in her eyes.
“Have you seen this?” Kira demanded, tossing the padd onto Sisko’s desk. Sisko leaned forward and picked up the communique.
“So, the Kai is attempting to drive Shakaar out of power.”
“Yes. We’re talking about the possibility of civil war!” Kira said.
<Nope. Definitely not,> a disembodied voice said from all around them.
“What the…!” Sisko exclaimed, jumping out of his seat. A large eyeball materialized in the air over his desk.
<We’ve had enough of Bajoran politics,> the eyeball said.
“And who are you?” Kira said, trying to maintain a strong front in the face…uh, eye of the bizarre newcomer.
<We are the Directors. From this day forward, we decree that the Federation may only engage in unique plots and events. No more of this recycled stuff.>
“Recycled!” Sisko stammered. “This is real life. We have no control over what happens from week to week.”
<Well, we do,> the eyeball said. <If any attempt is made to pursue this lame storyline, extreme measures will be taken against you. Now, good day.>
The eyeball vanished as quickly as it had come, leaving Sisko and Kira staring at each other in shock.
“What do we do, Captain?” Kira asked finally.
“The same thing we would normally do, Major. Take a runabout to Bajor and try to find Shakaar. I’m going to contact Kai Winn and…”
The station was suddenly plunged into darkness as power failed all around them.
“Sisko to O’Brien.”
“O’Brien here,” Deep Space Nine’s Chief of Operations replied.
“I have no idea sir.”
<We happened,> the voice of the eyeball said. <We gave you a chance, but you screwed it up. Now, you have to sit quietly.>
Not accepting the eyeball’s word, Sisko and Kira rushed out into Ops where Chief O’Brien was frantically trying to ascertain what had happened to them.
“Sir, all power is down except for life-support and some type of energy field has appeared around the station. We can’t even get a message out, much less launch a runabout or the Defiant,” O’Brien said.
“Damn it!” Kira shouted. “What about Bajor?”
“I believe they’re just going to have to deal with the Directors as well,” Sisko said. “Anybody got a deck of cards?”
“I do,” O’Brien said, reaching into his engineering kit. “Poker okay?”
“Fine,” Kira said. “But we’re not playing strip poker this time.”
“This time?” Sisko asked, interested.
“Never mind, sir,” O’Brien said quickly.
The mapping mission had thus far been pretty routine. Actually, it was far too routine as far as Commander William Riker was concerned. He concentrated on the never-ending starfield on the viewscreen trying to will a Romulan Warbird or something into existence. Just something to break the monotony.
Captain Jean-luc Picard walked out of his ready room onto the bridge hoping against hope that something interesting would be happening. It wasn’t.
“Would you like the bridge, Captain?” Riker said quickly.
“No thank you, Number One,” Picard replied. “I’ll be in my…”
A blinding flash of light in front of him stopped Picard in mid-sentence. A moment later, Q stood before him, smiling broadly.
“Ah, Jean-Luc, bored are we?” Q said, his eyes flashing mischievously. “How fortunate that I dropped by to liven things up.”
<Not again,> a disembodied voice said.
“Who said that?” Q demanded.
<I did.> A large eyeball materialized between Picard and Q.
“Who in the galaxies are you?”
“You mean the omnipotent Q doesn’t know something?” Riker said.
“Shut up, Riker,” Q snapped. He turned to the eyeball. “I don’t wish to play with you.” He snapped his fingers. A flash surrounded the eye, but when it cleared, the eye was still there.
<No more childish games from omnipotent beings. It’s been done too many times,> the eyeball said.
“You can’t do this to me. I’m Q.”
<You’re a rerun.> The eyeball blinked. Suddenly, Q vanished in a flurry of green flickering lights. As his screams slowly faded, Picard turned to the eyeball.
“What have you done with him?” Picard demanded.
<I sent him where he belongs.>
“Where’s that?” Riker asked. “Back to the Continuum?”
<No. Nick at Nite. Home of all reruns.>
Picard and Riker shuddered.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, Number One, but I actually feel sorry for Q.”
Captain Kathryn Janeway reclined on the sofa in her ready room and closed her eyes to gather her thoughts.
“Computer, begin log recording.”
“Recording,” the emotionless voice of the computer replied.
“Captain’s log. Stardate…”
<Boring,> a booming voice said. A large eyeball appeared in the air over her desk, glaring at Janeway. <We’ve seen it already.>
“But I haven’t said anything yet,” Janeway insisted.
<This is Voyager. It doesn’t matter,> the eyeball replied.
“Get off my ship.”
<Do you have any idea how many times you say that? It’s cliche. That’s it. I’m shutting you down.> The eyeball disappeared as suddenly as it had come. Janeway didn’t even have time to try to make sense of what had happened before everything on Voyager went dark.
“I’m almost there,” Commander Scott Baird’s voice said. Captain Alexander Rydell could hear the tension and fatigue in his chief engineer’s voice. The bridge crew looked at each other in concern.
“Keep on it, Scott. Just a little more,” Rydell said.
<And what is this?> a voice said from nowhere. A large eyeball materialized in front of Rydell. <Some life or death problem with the warp core?> the eyeball continued.
<Are the antimatter containment fields about to collapse? It was old decades ago.>
“Actually, that has nothing to do with it,” Rydell said, wondering just why an eyeball had appeared on his ship.
<Then, what is the problem?> the eye asked. <I’m sure it’s been done before.>
“Well, I was walking down the corridor with my usual afternoon Cherry Icee when I stopped to talk to our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Aldridge. Meanwhile, Commander Baird was rollerblading along the hall from the other direction. Counselor Webber walked out of her office just as Aldridge was skating by. She attempted to hug him hello, not noticing that he was on skates. She missed, causing him to lose control, but her leap at him landed her on his back.
“The two of them careened wildly down the hall toward Doctor Aldridge and myself. I spotted the danger and pushed Aldridge out of the way, just as Baird and Webber got to us. They missed me, but hit my arm holding the Icee. The Icee flew down the hall, landing on Commander Dillon’s head. Aldridge then ran over Dillon’s foot. Dillon screamed and grabbed his foot while hopping up and down. In his agony, he hopped into the transporter room and slammed into the control console. The Icee flew off his head and onto the transporter pad just as Dillon fell across the controls, activating the transporter.
“Now, we have a Cherry Icee perched precipitously in a warp nacelle. If it falls, it’ll possibly cause a warp field inversion, which would be bad.”
The eyeball stared at Rydell and blinked a few times. It wasn’t sure what to make of that story.
<Uh…carry on,> the eyeball said finally and vanished.
Captain Andy Baxter was rousted out of bed by the persistent sound of his communications console beeping at him. He looked over at the sleeping form of Counselor Peterman beside him, then crawled out of bed.
“Baxter to Bridge.”
“Bridge here,” Lieutenant J’hana, Explorer’s security chief replied. “Are you going to answer that message or not?”
“Can’t you take a message or something, J’hana?”
“It’s Admiral McGrath, Captain. He was rather insistent.”
“All right.” Baxter rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and activated his monitor. Hopefully the admiral wouldn’t notice Baxter’s glow-in-the-dark heart boxer shorts.
“Nice pants,” McGrath said immediately upon seeing Baxter. Oh well, so much for that.
“Thanks,” Baxter said unenthusiastically.
“Normally, I’d be laughing hysterically at you right now, but we’ve got a serious situation on our hands, Baxter.”
“What’s going on?” Baxter said, snapping alert.
“The Directors have shut down over half of the Federation. We’ve had reports coming in from all over of ships being visited by giant eyeballs.”
“What do they want?”
“We aren’t sure. They keep saying that we’re boring and we do the same thing over and over again. Any ship attempting to continue with a mission after a run-in with the Directors is drained of power and left to drift. The Enterprise is just sitting out there twiddling its thumbs, and we’ve lost contact with Deep Space Nine altogether.”
“What can I do?” Baxter asked.
“You’re the only one who’s had contact with these Directors. Find out what they want and fast. We haven’t had so much as a mysterious holodeck malfunction reported in hours.”
“Good luck, Baxter. McGrath out.”
“What was that about?” Counselor Peterman asked sleepily as Baxter climbed back into bed.
“The Directors are trying to destroy our careers and put us out of work.”
“I have no idea, Kelly.”
“Well, go back to sleep. You can save our jobs in the morning.”
“Have we got any missions scheduled?” Baxter asked as he walked out onto the bridge the next morning.
“Negative, Captain,” Lieutenant Commander Kristen Larkin reported from the command chair. “Our orders are to maintain course for Starbase 218.”
“Is there a problem, sir?” Larkin asked.
“It’s always these quiet times when some type of complication happens.”
“I do not understand.”
“Never mind, Larkin. Just keep an eye on things. I’ll be down at Mirk’s.”
Baxter found Mirk wiping down the bar in the Constellation Cafe. The place was empty due to the early hour, leaving Mirk with little to do other than clean the already spotless cafe up even more. He was quite confident that any surface in the cafe could be eaten off of safely. Thank the Directors he decided to come back to the Alpha Quadrant. He would have missed all this great cleaning and extreme boredom if he’d stayed home in the Delta Quadrant.
“Have you got a minute, Mirk?” Baxter asked as he took a seat at the bar.
“Oh, I’m kind of swamped right now, but I’ll try to squeeze you in,” Mirk replied sarcastically. “What can I do for you?”
“Have you had any contact with the Directors lately?”
Mirk stopped wiping and looked at Baxter in alarm. Lately, Mirk’s dreams had been full of the Directors. They were angry: angry at Mirk, angry at Baxter, angry at the entire Federation.
“They’ve come, haven’t they?”
“Yes. They’ve been neutralizing ships across the quadrant. What do they want?”
“I can’t say for sure, Captain. The words I keep hearing in my dreams are ‘originality,’ ‘creativity,’ and ‘break new ground.’”
“I don’t understand,” Baxter said, confused.
“I wish I could help, Captain.”
“Larkin to Baxter,” the android’s voice said over the comm system.
“Baxter here. Go ahead, Commander.”
“Your presence is required on the bridge. We have a vessel approaching.”
“What sort of vessel.”
“It appears to be a Borg cube, sir.”
“Lovely. Just what I needed. I’m on my way. Baxter out.”
Baxter got up and rushed toward the exit. “I guess the Directors are just going to have to wait a while,” he said as he walked out.
“I don’t think they’re going to wait on us,” Mirk said softly.
“Status report,” Baxter barked as he raced out of the turbolift. At that moment, J’hana and Commander David Conway exited the turbolift on the other side of the bridge.
“Borg cube will intercept us in twenty seconds,” Larkin said, vacating the command chair for Baxter.
“They’re powering up weapons,” J’hana said as she took her place at tactical.
“What? No conversation first?” Conway said.
“Shields up. Arm phasers and quantum torpedoes,” Baxter said. “Prepare for evasive maneuvers.”
The Explorer rocked under a variety of weapons fire from the Borg cube. J’hana couldn’t even keep up with, much less analyze, what was being thrown at them.
“Shields at 2 percent!” J’hana said.
“Is that down 2 percent or down to 2 percent?” Baxter asked, not wanting the answer.
“Down to 2 percent!” J’hana shouted angrily.
“Are they pissed at us or what?” Lieutenant Zack Ford said from the helm console.
“Must be that whole Borg queen thing Picard pulled a couple years back,” Conway said.
“Ford, get us out of here!” Baxter said.
The Borg tractor beam locked onto the Explorer before Ford could even begin to execute the command.
“We’ve got reports of Borg beaming in on all decks,” J’hana said.
Suddenly, ten Borg materialized on the bridge.
“See what I mean?”
“We are the Borg. You will be assimilated,” the Borg said in unison.
“Come on everybody. Sing along. You know the words,” Conway said as he drew his phaser.
<No no no no NO,> a voice said from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. The large eyeball appeared in the air in front of the viewscreen. <We are so sick of this Borg stuff. Can we please please see something new?>
The Borg turned toward the eyeball.
“We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.”
<Oh, give it a rest,> the eye said.
“You will be assimilated.”
<I am Eyeball of Borg. That’ll go over well with the other Directors,> the Director said. <Nope. Time for you to go home.>
The Borg disappeared in a flurry of green flickers. On the viewscreen, the Borg cube was crunched flat like a crushed soda can and flung away like a frisbee.
<That’s better. Now, we’re free to talk,> the Director said, focusing his gaze on Baxter.
“How can I be of service?” Baxter asked nervously.
<Frankly, Captain, we’re very disappointed in you and your little Federation. We had such high hopes for some real quality entertainment, but everywhere we look it’s one rerun after another.>
“Rerun?” Baxter asked.
<Yes. Reruns. Reruns. Reruns! Oops, the transporter malfunctioned again. Oh no, it’s a holodeck program gone wrong. Look out, here comes the Borg. Oh my, the Klingons are growling and being mean. Yawn, the politicians on Bajor aren’t playing nice. Ick, some gooey shape shifter is wreaking havoc. Over and over again. We’ve had enough. You’re all finished!>
“You’re going to kill us?” Ford asked in alarm.
<No, you cabbagehead, we’re just not renewing you. You must step aside to make room for something new. We’re thinking about calling in that Buck Rogers guy.>
“Wait a minute,” Baxter said. “You can’t toss us aside so casually.” Baxter suddenly flew across the bridge and slammed into the side wall.
<Yes, we can,> the eye said. <Such a waste, too. You all had so much promise.>
“J’hana, do something,” Baxter gasped.
“There is no glory in being swatted like a fly by some super-powered eyeball,” J’hana said.
“Thanks a lot,” Baxter said, picking himself up. “Is there any way to appeal your decision?”
<Appeal?> the eyeball said, laughing. <What good could that possibly do?>
“Let me talk to the Directors. They’ll listen to me.”
<We’ve listened to you for too long, Captain Baxter,>
the eyeball replied. <I don’t see how more of your drivel could possibly change things.>
“I’ve got to try.”
<Very well.> The iris of the eye began to glow brightly. A blinding energy beam lanced out of it and hit Baxter. Baxter vanished in a puff of smoke.
<Don’t wait up,> the eyeball said, then disappeared.
“Is he dead?” Conway asked.
“I have no idea,” J’hana replied.
“Am I dead?” Baxter asked no one in particular.
<No. Now, wake up!>
Baxter opened his eyes and found himself floating in nothingness. One by one, the Directors faded into view all around him.
<Welcome back, Captain.>
“Thanks,” Baxter said.
<Could you speed this along? We’ve still got half of the Alpha Quadrant to shut down.>
“Uh…right,” Baxter said, trying to figure out what to say. He wondered if Picard felt this intimidated and confused when Q put humanity on trial. Somehow, he doubted it.
“Look, you can’t shut us down,” Baxter said finally. Not eloquent, but it got his point across.
<Why not?> a Director asked. <What possible reason could we have to keep watching your repetitive wanderings?>
“Hey. What you call repetition, I call tradition!”
<Tradition? Hah! That’s a simple-minded excuse for a lack of creativity.>
“No, it isn’t.”
<Yes, it is.>
“No, it isn’t.”
“No, you stop it”
<Make your point, Captain!>
“Fine,” Baxter said. “We may do some of the same things over and over, but it’s part of who we are. There’s a fine Starfleet tradition behind those plot complications. Each time a starship is captured by some capricious god-like being, you may see a rerun, but I see the continuation of a fine tradition.
“Each cheap transporter trick. Each psychotic holodeck character. Each scheming Romulan. They’re all important to that tradition. You can’t just remove that from us. You’d be removing our heritage.
“Ever since the days of Captain James T. Kirk, Starfleet crews have faced these tried and true problems again and again. And millions of beings across the Federation rely on us to solve these problems every time with that wonderful mix of intellect, courage, and technobabble that makes us Starfleet officers. Sure, we still explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations, but we also look back at where we came from. You can’t deny us existence for that. That’s out history! Our heritage! TRADITION! Let me put it to you this way…”
Somewhere in the distance, music began to play.
(To the tune of “We Are the World”)
We are of Starfleet,
We are the chosen.
We are the ones to roam the galaxy,
So let’s start goin’.
It’s those stars we’re trekkin’,
We’re Starfleet kind of guys.
But you want to take it all away,
Please let us be.
Baxter ended his song and looked out at the Directors. Tears were beginning to form in their disembodied eyes.
<That…was beautiful,> the lead Director said finally. <I really wish I had a hand to wipe this tear away.>
“Here, let me help you with that,” Baxter said, reaching out and brushing the tear aside. “Give me a hug you big softy.” Baxter wrapped his arms around the eyeball, which began crying profusely.
<We’re so sorry,> the eye sobbed. <We had no idea that reruns were so important to you.>
“There there now. That’s okay,” Baxter said soothingly.
Baxter reappeared on the bridge of the Explorer in a bright flash and another puff of smoke.
“He’s not dead!” Lt. Ford exclaimed.
“Damn it!” Conway said, slamming the padd he was holding against the arm rest of his chair. “I had a lot of money in the betting pool.”
“Maybe next time, Conway,” Baxter said smiling. Another eye appeared on the bridge.
<Thank you for showing us the error of our ways, Captain,> the eye said. <We will make everything as it was before we interfered.>
“Thank you,” Baxter said. “No! Wait a second!”
<What is it?>
“Could you just leave the Borg where you sent them? I really don’t feel like dealing with them today.”
<Very well,> the eye said. <Everything else is as it was.>
DEEP SPACE NINE
Power returned to the station just as Major Kira was about to remove her uniform top.
“Damn it!” Sisko, O’Brien, Odo and Bashir shouted in unison, throwing their cards down. Kira let out a sigh of relief and rebuttoned her top.
“Better luck next time, gentlemen,” Kira said smiling.
“Captain, could I arrange to shut the power down again?” O’Brien asked quietly. “We almost had her.”
“But make sure Leeta is up here to play next time,” Bashir said.
“You two are truly despicable,” Odo said. “I should be available tomorrow afternoon.”
“Sounds like a done deal to me,” Sisko said. “We’ll meet back here then.”
“What’s going on now?” Kira asked.
They all turned and looked at her, smiling innocently.
“Captain, we’re almost through mapping this sector,” Riker said over the comm system.
“Acknowledged,” Picard said, leaning back in his ready room chair. “When the survey is completed, lay in a course for Starbase 94.”
“Aye, sir. Riker out.”
Picard picked up the padd on his desk and went back to reading the novel he’d been engrossed in.
“Jean-Luc,” a very familiar and annoying voice said. Picard lowered the padd. Q was standing in the ready room. “I’ve come back to brighten your day.”
Voyager’s power returned just as Captain Janeway was about to go insane from boredom. She’d been trapped in her ready room alone for hours.
“Chakotay to Janeway,” the comm system barked.
“Are you alright, Captain?”
“I’m fine. Have all systems returned to normal?”
“Then, resume our course for home. Janeway out.” Janeway reclined on her sofa again and tried to remember what she’d been doing before her ship had been shut down. Oh yes, a log entry.
“Computer, begin log recording.”
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 52539.8…Oh, never mind. It’s not important.”
“Captain, we’ve got an incoming message from Admiral Henry,” Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins, the Secondprize security chief reported.
“On screen,” Rydell said. The face of Admiral Thomas Wagner appeared on the screen.
“Rydell, is everything alright?” Wagner asked.
“Yeah,” Rydell said, confused. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
“You weren’t shut down?”
“Shut down? What are you talking about?”
“Some eyeballs called the Directors were neutralizing ships all over the quadrant.”
“Oh, the eyeball. No, it just dropped in, asked what we were doing, and left. No problem at all.”
“And what were you doing?”
“Well, Admiral, it’s a long story.”
Captain Andy Baxter had been staring at his dinner blankly for almost ten minutes. Across the table, Counselor Peterman watched him, concerned.
“Are you okay, Andy?” she asked finally.
“Are we boring?”
“Not if last night’s any indication,” Peterman said.
“I mean the Federation. We run around dealing with variations on the same problems over and over again. Where’s the challenge? Where’s the originality?”
“Andy, it’s not the problems that matter; it’s the people dealing with them.” Peterman stood up, walked over to Baxter, and put her arms around him. “The Federation is about people and their lives, not some stupid mission or anomaly.”
“So, what we do is unique because we’re unique?”
“Feel like going and doing something unique?” Baxter asked, a devilish twinkle in his eye.
“Definitely,” Peterman said, smiling. Baxter picked Peterman up and carried her back to his bedroom.
“They’re about to do it!” one of the Directors shouted.
“Again,” one of the others replied. “They’re animals.”
“Yep. Ain’t it great?”
“Definitely. Now, move aside. You’re blocking the view.”
What happens when Lt. Commander Kristen Larkin, android, meets Kristen Larkin, freighter Captain? All sorts of things. Maybe even things that make her rethink her position on the Explorer!