Author: Anthony Butler
Stardate 52633.6. We are en route to the Tellarite Homeworld to respond to a diplomatic crisis in the Tellarite Alliance–a mission that I’m sure will put our crew’s interpersonal skills to the test.
“Captain, can you tell me why we’ve been diverted from our colony research? You’ve thrown off my whole timeline!” Dr. Shar said angrily, following Baxter around the bridge as he made his usual afternoon rounds.
Baxter stopped short of the science station and turned back to Lana. “I already told you, Doctor, Starfleet wants us on Tellar Prime.”
“Oh they do, do they?” Lana said, folding her arms.
“Yes, as a matter of fact they’ve requested you personally to assist with this mission.”
“May I ask why?”
“Well…I didn’t want to have to bring this up…”
“You’re going to have to tell her eventually, Andy,” Peterman said scoldingly from her chair in the command area.
“What?” Lana asked, looking from Peterman to Baxter.
Baxter took in a deep breath. “The…er, nature of the Tellarite incident is basically…Trill-related.”
“Yes. The Federation ambassador–a Trill–evidently said some ugly things to the Tellarite Proconsul last week and now they’re not speaking to each other.”
“I’m sorry, Captain, I’m not up on current events. Who’s the Federation ambassador on Tellar Prime?” Lana asked, confused.
Baxter worked his way around to his command chair. “Filna Kedric.”
“Kedric!” Lana said, busting into laughter. “Well, why didn’t you say so? Shar has known Kedric through four lifetimes. Still causing trouble, I see?”
“You could say that,” Baxter said. “They thought that a familiar face might help smoothe things over.”
“Say no more, Captain,” Lana said, heading for the turbolift. “It’ll be nice to see old Kedric again.”
“Glad you approve.” Baxter wiped an arm over his forehead. Dealing with the Trill was usually an emotional rollercoaster.
“I hate diplomacy,” Conway scowled as the turbolift doors closed in front of Lana.
“Chin up, Conway,” Baxter said. “At least you’ll get to work with your favorite Trill.”
“Ah, well. There’s a silver lining to every cloud,” Conway said with a smile. Suddenly his smile faded. “But what if Kedric is an old flame?”
“You never know. The Starfleet report never specified whether the ambassador was a man or a woman.”
“Frankly, sir, I don’t think that matters to the Trill….not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“Right,” Baxter said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“Wrong with what?” Peterman asked.
“Nothing,” Conway and Baxter said at the same time.
“Really…what are you talking about?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Conway snapped.
Baxter turned to Peterman. “How about some lunch?”
Supplemental. We’ve arrived at Tellar Prime ahead of schedule, and are looking forward to putting an end to this little diplomatic nastiness as soon as possible. After all, Starfleet wouldn’t have sent us if they didn’t have full confidence in our diplomatic abilities, right?
Captain Baxter was still fiddling with his dress uniform when he materialized outside the Trill Embassy. “Seriously, Kelly, how do I look?”
“I’ve told you a million times, Andy, you look fine!” Peterman said, exasperated. “I’m the one that had to have a full root-reconstruction done on my hair. The body was this far from losing all coherence.” Peterman made a minute gesture with her two fingers.
“Pardon me, Mr. and Miss Universe, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to check in at the embassy?” Commander Conway asked, irritated.
“I suppose so,” Baxter said with a sigh. “I still think Yeoman Briggs should have given me that ceremonial belt I ordered.”
“It looked like something a comic book character would wear,” Peterman said tersely.
“So? I think it looked cool.”
“It was against regulations,” Conway hissed.
“Could you all please get along long enough for us to pull off these talks?” Dr. Shar asked angrily.
“Pardon? Who’s the Captain here? Would you like to go ahead and take over this away team?”
“As a matter of fact…”
Peterman shuddered. “This isn’t an away team, this is a fiasco.”
“Pardon me,” a voice said from behind the gate that was before the away team. “But you wouldn’t happen to be the people from the Explorer, would you?”
“What clued you in?” Conway asked.
“The uniforms were a big tip-off,” the man replied, pressing a button that opened the gate. “You’re early.”
“We increased out speed to Warp Eight,” Baxter explained. “Thought that the sooner we got here the better.”
“Well, yes, that was a fine idea, wasn’t it? All you did was totally throw off all my plans. Now I’ll have to change lodging reservations, dinner times, appointment times. You’ve totally ruined everything.”
“Gee, sorry,” Baxter said quietly.
“Yes, well, I suppose you Starfleeters assumed that you were desparately needed here, hmm? Yes, arrogant aren’t we? Center of the universe, huh?”
“You’re not joined, are you?” Lana asked, looking the man over.
“It’s none of your business.”
“Classic symbiont-envy syndrome,” Lana explained, turning to Baxter, Conway, and Peterman.
“That has nothing to do with it!” the man replied. “I have just had a trying few days. It’s not very easy being the Ambassador’s adjutant.”
“I don’t think I got your name,” Baxter said.
“Rusel, if you really want to know. Now then, I suppose since you’re already here, you’re going to want to see him.”
Conway bit his lip behind Peterman and Baxter. It was a him. He was doomed. Lana was as good as spoken for.
“Oh, so Kedric’s a him now?” Lana asked with interest as Rusel lead the group into the embassy.
“For four years. And he’s been absolutely impossible since then,” Rusel said, rolling his eyes.
“You were the adjutant to his previous host as well?” Lana asked.
“Oh, yes. That one was a tactical advisor for the Trill defense ministry. Now that was a boring job. She ran me ragged.”
“I can imagine,” Conway said.
“Ah yes, Kena. What happened to her?” Lana asked.
“Suicide. Jumped off a forty-story building. They were scarcely able to save the symbiont.”
“That’s horrible,” Lana said. “I guess all the stress got to her. That’s very unlikely for joined Trill. They’re usually very–”
”–well adjusted. Yes, I know,” Rusel said tiredly. “Now would you like to see him or would you like to continue prattling about nothing.”
“I’ll field this one,” Baxter said, pushing Lana aside and approaching Rusel. “Listen, you little toad. We were sent here by Starfleet to smoothe things over, and your little snippets aren’t going to make our jobs any easier. Now, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, got it?”
“I said, got it?”
“Uh-huh,” Rusel said, lowering his head and opening the large door that was at the end of the hallway. “Ambassador Kedric, allow me to introduce the diplomatic attache from Starfleet command.”
Lana immediately ran to the ambassador’s desk before he could even stand up and gave him a great big hug.
“I’m doomed,” Conway muttered from behind Baxter.
“Do I know you?” Kedric asked.
“Kedric, you old fool! It’s Lana! Lana Shar!” Lana said excitedly.
“Shar!” Kedric said, picking Lana up and swinging her around. “How are you, old friend?”
“Ornery as ever, evidently the same as you,” Lana said with a smile.
Baxter cleared his throat expectantly. “Hello, Ambassador. I’m Captain Andrew Baxter, commander of the Explorer. This is my First Officer, Commander David Conway, and our Ship’s Counselor, Lt. Commander Kelly Peterman.”
“Yes, Starfleet said you all would be on your way,” Kedric said, not taking his eyes off Lana. “But I didn’t count on seeing you. I missed you, Shar.”
“Well, you know…we’ve had a very…close relationship in the past,” Lana said, smiling broadly.
“I’ll be jumping out a window if you need me,” Conway grumbled, turning.
“Close, huh?” Baxter asked, ignoring Conway.
“Yes, sir,” Lana said. “Shar and Kedric were best friends since we were boys. Then girls. Then boys. Then girls.”
Conway stopped and turned back. “What kind of…friends?”
“Platonic, of course,” Kedric said.
“Commander, surely you’re not implying…” Lana said incredulously.
“No…no. I just thought maybe you two were…you know, together. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“Right,” Baxter chimed in. “Not that there’s anything wrong with it.”
“Excuse me,” Peterman said, “but what the hell are you all talking about?”
Baxter put an arm around Peterman and covered her mouth with his hand. “How about a tour of the embassy, Ambassador?”
“I wish Tilleran were here,” Conway muttered to Peterman, as Kedric and Rusel showed the group from the Explorer around the embassy.
“Why?” Peterman asked.
“So I could find out how Lana feels about Kedric. I want to know if I’m wasting my time on her.”
Peterman patted her heart sarcastically. “What a romantic.”
“I’m just being practical,” Conway protested. “Hey, you’re a psychologist. Don’t you know the telltale signs of sexual love between two people?”
“Well, with the Captain and I, there was always a distinct smell after–”
“That’s not what I’m talking about!” Conway snapped.
“Pardon, Commander?” Kedric asked from the front of the group.
“I said, uh…Trill sculpture, that’s what I’m talking about!” Conway said nervously. “I love it.”
“You do?” Lana asked. “That’s fascinating, Commander. I should show you my collection some time.”
Conway snickered quietly to himself. “Why don’t you show me your…”
Peterman slapped Conway on the back of his head. “I heard that, Commander.”
“Hey, I have needs,” Conway whispered.
“I don’t want to know about them!” Peterman replied.
“But you’re the Ship’s Counselor. Suppose I wanted to talk to someone about my…pent up urges.”
“Talk to someone else,” Peterman whispered.
“Well, that’s not very professional.”
“I can’t believe we’re even discussing this. You’re acting like a child, Commander. Why don’t you just tell Dr. Shar how you feel?”
“Are you kidding? I might as well tell her all my perverted fantasies while I’m at it.”
“Don’t talk to me for the rest of the mission,” Peterman said, moving to the front of the group.
“I must say, you’ve got quite a nice embassy here, Kedric,” Lana said, taking Kedric’s arm. “You must be very proud.”
“I am, I am,” Kedric said, his face becoming serious. “But if we don’t smoothe things over with the Tellarites, I may be on my way out.”
“That’s what we’re here to prevent,” Baxter said.
“And you all are experienced in this? You think you can help make peace here?” Kedric asked with interest.
Baxter looked around at his fellow crewmembers and flashed a diplomatic smile. “Oh, certainly.”
Larkin sat serenely in the command chair, regarding the viewscreen as a dismal looking Captain Baxter stared back at her. “Hello, Captain. I trust negotiations are going well?”
“No, Commander, negotiations are not going well. We began the talks by having the Proconsul call the Ambassador a ‘poopy head.’ But other than that, well, it’s a walk in the park.”
“Am I to take that as sarcasm, sir?”
“Take it however the hell you want, Larkin. And be ready for a party of Tellarite guests to beam aboard. They insist on getting a look at our ship.”
“Ach, Tellarites! The little pigs.” J’hana grimaced from the tactical console. “We should not allow them aboard the ship.”
“And that’s enough out of you, Miss!” Baxter scolded. “Larkin, I want happy faces all around there. If I screw this up it’s a major dark spot on my diplomatic record.”
“What diplomatic record?” J’hana asked.
“One more wisecrack and it’ll be you kissing ass instead of Larkin.”
“Kissing…” Larkin said, confused.
“Never mind,” Baxter snapped. “Just get down to transporter room two and receieve our guests. And put on your most diplomatic face.”
“But, Captain, this is the only face I–”
“Baxter out!” The Captain blinked off the viewscreen.
Larkin looked at the planet on the viewscreen strangely for a moment and then rose from the command chair. “Lieutenant J’hana, you are in command. If you need me I shall be belowdecks with the Tellarites ‘kissing ass.’”
J’hana grunted an approximation of a laugh and made her way around to the command chair. “That is something I wish I could see.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea, honey?” Baxter whispered from behind Counselor Peterman. He was a little leery of letting Peterman take over the negotiation efforts, but considering his own performance so far, he reasoned things couldn’t possibly get any worse.
“Positive, now let me do my thing,” Peterman said confidently. She then turned to the Tellarite Proconsul. “All right, Proconsul Garp. Just fall back and let Kedric catch you.”
“I don’t know about this. What’s to stop him from letting me hit the floor?” Garp asked worriedly.
“Trust,” Peterman replied.
“I don’t think that will be enough.”
Baxter tapped his foot impatiently. “Just close your eyes and fall back already for Pete’s sake.”
“There’s no call to get snippy with me, Captain,” Garp said sharply.
“Just fall back!” Kedric muttered.
“All right, all right! Don’t rush me!” Garp replied.
“Fall back!” Baxter cried, shoving Garp with all his might. The Tellarite flew backwards, arms pinwheeling, right into Kedric, who in turn slammed back into the wall.
“Whoops,” Baxter said half-heartedly.
“Captain, that was most unkind,” Garp said. “I liked it.”
“I think you crushed my symbiont,” Kedric said, wincing as he climbed back to his feet.
“Crybaby,” Baxter muttered.
“And this is what we call the Constellation Cafe,” Lt. Commander Larkin said, gesturing for her party of four Tellarites to follow her into Mirk’s lounge. “This is a popular place for members of the Explorer’s crew to socialize, imbibe, and engage in the early stages of primitive mating rituals.”
The leader of the group, a senator from Tellar Prime’s ruling council, nodded approvingly. “Primitive mating rituals, huh?”
“Affirmative, Senator Shult. For humans, eating and drinking serves as a common precursor to sexual activity.”
“It’s not as nice as any of the places on our planet, but it will do,” Shult said, approaching the bar.
“Indeed,” Larkin said. “Now, if you will follow me to the bar, I will introduce you to our Lounge Manager, Mr. Mirk.” Larkin gestured to Mirk as she and the Tellarites neared the bar.
“Bartender, get my mate an appropriate drink!” Shult cried out happily.
“Mate?” Larkin asked. “Senator, surely I–”
“One Humping Horta coming up,” Mirk said, diving below the bar and clanging several bottles together.
Shult turned to Larkin, a broad smile spreading over his piglike face. “I take it your Captain ordered you to satisfy me in any way possible?”
“Yes, sir, but I hardly–”
“Good. Pound down that drink and then have a set of quarters reserved for us.”
Mirk smiled at Larkin as he handed her the Humping Horta. “Go get ‘em, Larkin.”
“Get…them?” Larkin asked.
“Drink up! I want to be home by dinner time!” Shult shouted, pushing the drink up to Larkin’s lips.
Larkin obediently drained the glass and then slammed it onto the bar, causing it to shatter explosively.
“There, I have now ‘pounded it down,’” Larkin said proudly.
“I don’t think he meant that literally,” Mirk said, worriedly scraping pieces of glass off the bar.
Commander Conway doodled aimlessly on his padd as the negotiations continued. He hated diplomacy more than anything. At least when there was a battle there was always something to do. But when people just sat around talking about their “feelings,” it seemed like a big waste of time.
“Okay,” Peterman said, taking a deep breath. “I think you’ll find this exercise a little less…” she glared at Baxter, “physical.”
“Sorry,” Baxter said quietly.
Peterman held up a stack of large index cards. “I’m going to show you two a card, and I want each of you to say what first comes to mind.”
“Who goes first?” Garp asked.
“Kedric,” Peterman replied.
“Why does he go first?”
Peterman took an exasperated breath. “Because I said so.”
“Because you’re a racist and you like him more. We all know that humans prefer races that most resemble them.”
“That’s not true!” Peterman protested.
“Then let me go first.”
“This is ridiculous,” Kedric said, throwing his hands up. “How can I work with a man so petty.”
“You have a problem with me going first, Mr. Kedric?” Garp asked.
“Me? No, not at all. By all means, go first.”
“Are you patronizing me?” Garp asked angrily.
“For Pete’s sake!” Baxter cried out, staring up at the ceiling.
“Don’t drag Pete into this, whoever he is!” Garp called out. “He’s not to blame. It’s you! You and your pedantic little Federation. We should secede from it right now.”
“Listen here, Wilbur,” Baxter said, grabbing the Tellarite’s jacket menacingly.
“Ahem,” Peterman said. “I am holding up the first card. Will you take your turn, Mr. Garp, or do you forfeit it to Mr. Kedric?”
“I’ll take my turn, I’ll take my turn!” Garp said worriedly, turning away from Baxter and looking at the card, which portrayed a brilliantly painted blue wormhole. “What am I supposed to do again?”
Peterman let out a long sigh. “You are supposed to tell me the first thing that comes to your mind when you see this picture.”
“Oh. Wormhole,” Garp said.
“There, was that so hard?” Peterman said. She turned to Kedric. “What do you see, Ambassador?”
“This isn’t how it’s supposed to go,” Peterman said. “You both can’t have the same answer.”
“And why not?” Garp and Kedric said at the same time.
“Because!” Peterman cried. “You’re supposed to say what the pictures remind you of.”
“I am reminded of a wormhole,” Garp said.
“Me too,” Kedric said. “What else could it be?”
“A doorway, a portal, freedom, salvation, the Prophets of Bajor–something creative!” Peterman said, pulling at her hair in frustration.
“What’s her problem?” Garp asked, turing to Kedric.
“You’ve got me.”
Lana stepped forward, putting her hands on Peterman’s shoulders. “I think we’re making some real progress here. How about we take a break and…uh…meditate on what we’ve learned?”
“I’ve learned that Starfleet officers are imbeciles,” Garp said.
“And I’ve learned that Tellarites are in a perpetual state of looking for a beating,” Baxter growled.
“Come on, you two…” Lana said soothingly. “How about you and Counselor Peterman go back to your room, put on some soft music, and…”
Baxter grabbed Peterman’s arm and moved off towards the stairs. “We’ll take it from there. Come on, hon.”
“My, humans will mate at the drop of the hat,” Kedric said, staring at Baxter and Peterman as they ran off with disapproval.
“What’s your point?” Garp asked.
“Hey, Lana!” Conway called out as the group at the table broke up. “Do you have any dinner plans?”
“Well, actually Kedric and I were going to go back to his place and get a bite, you know–catch up on old times.”
“Sounds great!” Conway said, putting an arm around Kedric and Lana. “Lead the way!”
Lt. Commander Larkin sucked down another Humping Horta and slammed the glass down so hard it shattered all over the bar.
“Another?” Mirk asked, timidly scraping the bits of glass into his hand and adding them to the pile that had already built up in the receptacle bin from the last five glasses.
“Please,” Larkin said. “I find the consumption of alcoholic beverages most relaxing.”
“Uh-huh. What about your Tellarite friend?”
“He is in his quarters preparing for our encounter. He should be calling for me any minute now.”
“So, are you going to…you know…do him the favor?” Mirk asked, leaning forward conspiratorially.
“I most certainly will not,” Larkin said firmly. “I am a Starfleet officer. Starfleet officers do not simply go around offering free love to the first giggolo to come along.”
Larkin thought about that as she sucked down her next drink. “I do not know. I just assumed it was a commonly kept precept of Starfleet.”
“Well, you know what they say. Precepts are made to be broken.”
“Rules are made to be broken,” Larkin corrected.
“Yeah, them too.”
Then the comm chirp sounded on Larkin’s badge. “Shult to Larkin. Come on, honey, I don’t have all day. Are you gonna come here and put out, or what?”
“I suppose it would be an interesting sociological study,” Larkin said. “Other than my consumption of these beverages I have done little to study human mating rituals.”
“There’s a lot to learn,” Mirk said. “Not that I’m an expert or anything.”
Larkin pushed off her stool. “Well then, I shall pass on everything I learn to you. Now I must go and ‘put out.’”
“Good luck!” Mirk called out as Larkin left.
“So, I guess the moral to that story is: never try to drink coffee and drive in the NASCAR championship simulator at the same time. I think it’s better for the drivers and the fans,” Conway said, leaning back on Kedric’s couch and savoring the last morsel of fried chicken the Ambassador had prepared.
“Yes, well…” Kedric said. “That’s…um, quite interesting Commander.”
“So…” Lana said. “What have you been up to, Kedric?”
“You know…a little negotiating here, a little handshaking there, a little troublemaking when I get the chance,” Kedric said, winking conspiratorially.
“Oh, troublemaking, eh?” Conway asked. “Well, Lana knows all about that. Tell him about the time we beamed down to that giant antfarm on Bakok Six. They were the size of dobermans!”
“Big ants,” Lana said, glaring at Conway.
“Why, I remember Lana was going to try to stun them, and I told her that wouldn’t be a good idea, because Earth ants are proportionally a hundred times stronger than us. Well, she didn’t like that, no sir–”
“David!” Lana said. “Would you mind talking to me out on the balcony?”
“Oh, sure,” Conway said. “Guess you want to…hee hee…‘talk’, huh?”
“Errrrrgggh!” Lana cried, grabbing Conway’s arm and dragging him out onto Kedric’s balcony.
“I love it when she’s rough with me,” Conway said, smiling.
As soon as she was out on the balcony, Lana slammed the door that led back into Kedric’s suite and glared angrily at Conway. “Are you insane?”
“Uh…no, I don’t think so.”
“Then why are you trying to interfere with me and Kedric?”
“What do you mean ‘interfere’?”
Lana clenched her fists angrily. “For one thing, you haven’t let us alone the whole time we’ve been here. You knocked over Rusel in order to sit between Kedric and I at the negotiations, you followed us to the infirmary to have our symbionts’ electrolyte levels checked, you butt in every time we try to have a conversation…”
“Lana, that’s not one thing. That’s a lot of things.”
“What is your problem?”
Conway shrugged. “I don’t have a problem. I just…well, I just really like you.”
“Arrrgh! I don’t believe it,” Lana cried out. “This is all about me?”
“That’s the stupidist thing I ever heard!” Lana cried, shoving Conway angrily.
Unprepared for Lana’s assault, Conway stumbled backward, hands searching for something to grab to steady himself. His fingers slipped on the smoothe stone of the balcony and he tumbled over the railing.
“Commander!” Lana cried, grabbing Conway’s foot just before he plummeted downward.
Conway looked down at the street several floors below and then back up to Lana. “Twice now. Twice a woman I love has tried to kill me!”
“You…love me?” Lana asked, grunting as she tried to hold up Conway’s weight.
“Yes I do. Now what are you waiting for? Drop me! Finish it! What’s the point in living if the objects of my affection just want me dead!”
“Commander, I never knew you cared,” Lana said softly.
“I do care, Lana! Now either drop me or help me up!”
“Kedric! Kedric! Get out here!” Lana cried.
“What the hell?” Kedric asked, looking at the scene and arching his eyebrows in confusion.
“Help me pull him up!” Lana cried.
“Oh, yes…sure,” Kedric said, grabbing one of Conway’s hands.
Captain Baxter moved out onto the balcony of his private suite and sighed as he stared out at the ugly, neon pink Tellarite sun. “Sorry, honey. Must be this damned rotten Tellarite air.”
“I didn’t notice anything strange about the air,” Peterman said from inside the room. “If you want, we could call up to the ship and have Lt. Tilleran run a sca-“
“No!” Baxter snapped. “That’s okay.”
“Don’t feel bad. It happens to every man now and then.”
Baxter grimaced. “Listen, just go to the replicator and order me up some kiwi and papaya, okay? I’m going to call the ship.”
“Okay, honeybunches,” Peterman said, whistling a happy tune as she programmed the replicator.
Baxter rolled his eyes and tapped his comm badge. “Baxter to Explorer. Status report.”
“We are holding orbit per your orders, Captain,” Lt. J’hana’s voice replied. “All systems are functioning normally and there’s nothing unusual to report.”
“What about Larkin and her dignitaries?”
“As I understand it, Senator Shult has reserved the Lincoln Cabin for he and Lt. Commander Larkin.”
“Good Lord, the Lincoln Cabin,” Baxter said in awe. “Do you mean he’s going to–”
“Stroke her beard? Yes, sir, that’s what I mean.”
“Well,” Baxter said contemplatively. “I suppose that’s okay. I mean, it really wouldn’t do any harm, would it?”
“Not unless you have a problem with your ship being thought of as the brothel of Starfleet and yourself as a big fat pimp.”
“Okay then, carry on. Baxter out.”
“Your papaya’s ready, sweetheart!” Peterman cried from inside the room.
“Damn right!” Baxter said, hurrying back inside.
“Afternoon, Mirk,” Lt. Commander Richards said cheerfully. “How’s the Gardokian spiced cider looking today?”
“I just made a fresh batch,” Mirk said, lifting a large pitcher up from underneath the counter and pouring Richards a glass. “Drink up.”
Richards sipped at his cider and looked around the bar. “Quiet day?”
“Pretty much. Oh…one interesting thing did happen.”
“Yeah, what’s that?” Richards asked, leaning forward conspiratorially.
“You know the Tellarite Senator that’s visiting the ship?”
“Yeah?” Richards leaned forward a little more.
“He’s doing the naked tango with one of our crewmembers right now.”
“Wow, that is juicy,” Richards said. “Who with? No, no, let me guess. It’s Lt. Tilleran, isn’t it? She always did have strange taste in–”
“No,” Mirk said, laughing. “You’ll love this. He’s…he’s with Lt. Commander Larkin!”
“What?” Richards asked, his expression turning grim. “MY Lt. Commander Larkin?”
“No, well, not–” Mirk stammered.
Richards grabbed Mirk’s collar, jerking him across the bar. “Tell me where they went!”
“The Lincoln Cabin! The Lincoln Cabin!” Mirk squeaked out. “Let me go!”
Richards let Mirk drop and then made for the exit. “Damn, the Lincoln Cabin! How could you let him take my daughter!”
“Your…daughter?” Mirk asked, straightening his sequined vest.
“Yes, my daughter!” Richards said. “You should be ashamed of yourself. You know, chronologically she’s only about eleven years old!”
“I’m sorry, Commander, I didn’t know you–” Mirk said, but Richards was already off down the corridor.
“What’s wrong with Lt. Commander Richards?” Lt. Hartley asked, pulling a chair up to the bar.
Mirk shrugged. “Guess he’s having child-rearing problems.”
“Come on in, hot pants!” came the gravelly voice of Senator Shult.
Larkin proceeded through the doors to the Lincoln Cabin, immediately noticing that it wasn’t decorated as most of the quarters on the Explorer were. The lighting was red-colored, almost like the bridge’s during Red Alert, and the walls were papered with crude paintings from several different races around the Federation.
“Nice digs, eh?” Shult asked, leaning casually on the white viynl couch. He was wearing nothing but a shiny red robe, which did little to cover his rosy-red, hairy gut. “Ready to do the wild thing?”
“Indeed,” Larkin said. “Shall we adjourn to the bedroom?”
“Thought you’d never ask,” Shult said, flashing a toothy grin.
Larkin pushed through the strings of beads separating the bedroom from the rest of the cabin. Within, a giant heart-shaped bed filled the room.
“Hop on, honey!” Shult said excitedly.
“Very well,” Larkin said, falling back limply onto the bed. She noted that the matress was filled with liquid, which at first caused her gravometric pressure sensors to be thrown off. She quickly compensated for the disturbance as Shult rolled on top of her.
“Get naked, baby.”
“As you wish,” Larkin said, unzipping her uniform jacket and removing it.
“It’s time we tested out those gears and gadgets of yours, sweetheart!”
Suddenly the doors to the Lincoln Cabin swished open.
“No!” a voice from the other room cried out.
“What the hell?” Shult asked.
Lt. Commander Chris Richards pushed through the beads and grabbed Shult by the scruff of his neck, slamming him up against the wall. “Get off her, you little creep!”
Shult picked himself up. “And who the hell are you?”
“I’m her mother!” Richards said angrily, pointing at his chest. “Now get the hell out of here!”
“You haven’t heard the last of me, buddy!” Shult cried. “This will have major diplomatic repurcussions. You’ve caused an intergalactic incident!”
“Get bent, pigman!” Richards cried, throwing a plaster bust of Marilyn Monroe at Shult as he ran down the corridor. “Are you okay, Larkin?” Richards asked, returing into the cabin.
Larkin zipped up her uniform jacket and straightened it, regarding herself in the ceiling’s mirror. “I am functioning within normal parameters, Commander. May I ask why you did that?”
“Mr. Mirk told me what you were planning on doing and I had to stop you,” Richards said. “You’re not a sex object, Kristen.”
“Are you certain?”
“Very certain. Trust me on this one. Maybe one day, when you find the right man–well, you never know. But you can’t just let yourself be treated like a piece of meat.”
“I am not a piece of meat,” Larkin said firmly.
“No, you’re not,” Richards said, putting an arm around Larkin and leading her out of the cabin. “And you’re never coming back to this room again.”
“Why do you suppose that Starfleet engineers would create such a place on a Starship, Mother?” Larkin asked.
Richards peered into the cabin one last time as the doors closed. “Beats me. But I think I just figured out where I want to spend my honeymoon.”
“How are you feeling?” Kedric asked, as Conway tossed back a mug full of coffee, slumped on the Trill’s soft couch.
“Like an imbecile,” Conway said.
“Good,” Lana said, folding her arms. “You should.”
“Thanks for the sympathy,” Conway said wryly.
Lana knealt beside Conway, looking up at Kedric. “Kedric, will you leave us alone for a moment?”
“I don’t see why I should. I mean, he didn’t seem to–”
“Kedric!” Lana said impatiently.
“Fine. I’ll be in the other room if you feel the need to toss him over the balcony again.”
Once they were alone, Conway looked up at Lana. “You’re mad at me.”
Lana thought about that a moment. “No, I don’t suppose I am.”
“But you don’t want to go out with me.”
“So why didn’t you drop me?” Conway asked.
“Because I do want to be your friend, David. Do you understand what that word means?”
“No, not really.”
“It means you trust someone that cares about you, and that person, in turn, trusts you.”
“And you do this because…”
“You sound like you’ve never had a friend, Commander.”
“I guess I haven’t.”
Lana put a hand on Conway’s and smiled. “Well, now you do.”
Conway looked down at Lana. “So, I guess sex is out of the question?”
Captain Baxter rubbed his eyes tiredly. “I’m sorry, Senator Shult. I’m sure there was just a big misunderstanding.”
“There was no misunderstanding, Captain,” Shult said angrily, leaning forward on the conference table. “I came aboard your ship with the understanding that my party and I would be treated as honored guests. Instead, your Chief Engineer had the audacity to interrupt my liason with your Operations Officer, claiming to be her mother of all things!”
“Captain,” Garp said, “This is highly irregular.”
“I know, Garp,” Baxter sighed. “I feel terrible about this. Is there something I can do?”
Garp eyed Peterman wantingly. “Well, you can let both of us have your little Counselor over there.”
Peterman was about to say something when Baxter held up a hand to stop her. He leaned forward and grabbed Garp’s collar. “Now, listen here, you little shit! I’ve had just about enough of you. Your people are rude, gluttonous, perverse, and just plain unpleasant. I can understand why Kedric here called you a poopyhead. You, sir, are the poopiest head of them all!”
That said, Baxter fell back into his chair red-faced and out of breath.
“Well, Captain…” Garp said, taken aback. “You certainly have a way with words. Maybe our people are not so different after all.”
Baxter ran a hand over his face and looked up at Garp. “How do you figure?”
“Well, apparently your people value rudeness and unpleasantness as much as we.”
“Yes, I suppose we do,” Baxter said, straightening. “Perhaps we can all be rude and unpleasant together.”
“Here, here!” Kedric called out.
Peterman watched, perplexed, as everyone at the conference table cheered. “Does this mean everyone’s happy again?”
“No,” Baxter said tiredly. “But I think we accomplished our mission anyway.”
Stardate 52624.4. Although it may not have been a textbook performance, we did manage to bring a tiny measure of peace to the arguing Trill and Tellarites here on Tellar Prime. That done, we are leaving the Embassy, where I am sure we have more than overstayed our welcome.
Captain Baxter stepped out of the Trill Embassy arm in arm with Counselor Peterman, glancing back at Rusel as he struggled with several large parcels–acquisitions that Peterman had made in the Tellarite mercantile sector that morning. “Do you have everything, little guy?” Baxter asked with a smirk.
“I believe so,” Rusel sighed. “Sure you Starfleet people cannot stay any longer? We certainly loved your company.”
“Now now, Rusel, sarcasm does not become you,” Lana said, smiling.
“Besides,” Baxter said, “Tellar is a nice place to visit. But I don’t think I’d like to live here. Though the air does seem to do wonders for me.”
“After we got some nice papaya into you,” Peterman said, patting Baxter’s tummy.
“I hope you all die up there in that big starship,” Rusel grumbled.
“We love you too,” Baxter grinned, tapping his comm badge. “Baxter to Explorer. Prepare to beam up our luggage and transport the Counselor and I to the rendezvous point.”
“Aye, Captain,” came Lt. Hartley’s voice.
“Sure you don’t want to come with us?” Peterman asked, turning to Lana and Commander Conway.
“Definitely,” Conway said. “I’m sick of this planet. The sooner I get back to the ship the better.”
“And I’m going to stay and catch up on old times with Kedric a while before the Explorer leaves,” Lana said.
“Which is fine with me,” Conway said. “You know, they’re perfectly platonic.”
“And so are we,” Lana said sternly.
“Yeah…uh, right,” Conway muttered. “And even if you two weren’t platonic, that would be fine. Sheesh, even if you were the same sex…”
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Baxter interrupted.
Peterman seemed extremely irritated. “Will someone please tell me…”
“Baxter to Explorer,” Baxter said, wrapping an arm around Peterman. “Energize.”
“Andy, what the–” Peterman said, as the transporter beam took hold.
“Sorry about all the trouble I caused, Kedric,” Commander Conway said, reaching out to shake Kedric’s hand.
“Quite all right,” Kedric said. “Lana is quite a woman. And Shar is quite a symbiont. I can see why you might act like an imbecile over her.”
“Hey…” Conway said angrily.
“Shar to Explorer,” Lana said with a grin. “Beam Commander Conway out of here.”
“Now wait just a damn–” Conway said, as the beam began to dematerialize him.
“I love that device,” Rusel said gleefully as he, Lana, and Kendric returned to the Embassy. “It shuts people up quite effectively.”
Counselor Peterman and Captain Baxter materialized in the lobby of the Tellarite Captial City Convention Center to find Richards, Browning, and Larkin already waiting for them.
“I guess I’ll never know what you and Conway were talking about,” Peterman pouted, folding her arms.
“It’s nothing,” Baxter said. “Just a preoccupation that modern twenty-fourth century males can’t seem to get rid of.”
“Shhh!” Baxter said, placing a hand over Peterman’s mouth. “We’ll talk about it later.”
“Over a nice big bowl of papaya?”
“Glad you guys could make it,” Richards said, glaring at Baxter. “The show’s about to start.”
“You’re not still mad at me, are you?” Baxter asked meekly.
“Damn right I am. Lt. Commander Larkin is a person. She is not an electric vibrator!”
“I’m sorry, Chris,” Baxter replied. “I was out of line. These negotiations have been very hard. I guess I kind of got preoccupied with them.”
Peterman pulled Baxter’s hand away from her mouth. “Yeah. He was so preoccupied he couldn’t–”
“Hey,” Baxter interrupted, “isn’t that show about to start?”
“In a couple minutes,” Browning said. “Now…couldn’t what?”
“Never mind,” Baxter snapped. “Let’s go inside now so we can get the good seats.”
“I’ll tell you later,” Peterman whispered, as Baxter moved ahead to the doors.
“Couldn’t get it up, huh?” Richards asked, elbowing Baxter as they proceeded into the auditorium.
“That’s none of your business!” Baxter snapped.
“Captain, there are several texts that you can consult that may help you,” Larkin said. “If you would like, I can–”
“I AM NOT IMPOTENT!” Baxter cried out, so loud everyone in the aisles to either side of the group turned their heads.
Thinking that Baxter was part of the performance, they all clapped.
“Thank you,” Baxter said uneasily, grabbing Peterman and dragging her down a row of seats.
Once everyone was seated, a particularly loud Tellarite came by with drinks and food.
“Get your neepka! Fresh dropknat! Come and get it while it’s hot.”
“Over here!” Browning motioned, waving several strips of gold pressed latinum.
“What’ll you have, human?” the Tellarite asked. “Neepka? Dropknat? Iced bikpa?”
“Yes,” Browning said. “And extra relish.”
The rest of the group stared at Browning as the Tellarite vendor unloaded his wares on her.
“It’s for everyone,” Browning said defensively.
“I should like to purchase a drink,” Larkin said. “I would like the Tellarite equivalent of a beer.”
Baxter leaned towards Richards as the vendor placed a cup in Larkin’s hands. “Since when does Larkin drink?”
“Since she became obsessed with mating rituals,” Richards explained. “She thinks drinking alcholic beverages is part of the whole mating experience.”
“Oh, dear,” Peterman said.
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Browning said, watching as Larkin downed the entire cup of beer.
The android slammed her empty cup down on the chair in front of her, breaking it in half and sending a shower of splinters everywhere.
“That was quite refreshing,” Larkin said serenely, sitting back in her chair.
“See the monster you helped create?” Richards said accusingly.
“Hey, don’t blame me,” Baxter said. “It looks to me like you need to tighten a few of her screws.”
“Don’t tempt me,” Richards said with a sigh.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” a voice called out over the loudspeakers. “We welcome you to the Seventieth Annual Tellarite Off-World Wrestling Tournament.”
“This is going to be great,” Peterman said excitedly.
“Yeah, she needed to work off some steam,” Browning agreed. “You know how she feels about the Tellarites.”
“Let’s meet the champion! A Tellarite, weighing in at nine hundred shelnaks, ‘Barnt the Barbarian!”
“Boo!” Peterman called out, as the hefty Tellarite man waddled out into the ring.
“And the challenger, all the way from Andor, weighing in at four hundred fifty-five shelnaks, it’s ‘J’hana the Maniacal’!”
“Go, J’hana!” Browning cried out, as tendrils of hot fried dropknat flew out of her mouth. “Break his neck! Punch his face in!”
“I can’t look,” Richards said, covering his eyes.
Baxter watched, mouth agape, as the huge Tellarite bounced on top of J’hana, enveloping her with his giant gut.
“Is she okay?” Peterman asked fearfully.
“Give her a second,” Browning said.
Suddenly Barnt the Barbarian lifted off the ground, as J’hana pushed him up from underneath.
“All right, J’hana!” Baxter called out. “I knew you could do it!”
“Sever his spinal cord at the third anterior joint!” Larkin said, in a vain attempt to join in on the cheering.
“See, I told you we’d have fun,” Baxter whispered to Richards.
Richards watched as J’hana took a running jump and rammed her elbow into Barnt’s face. “I never doubted you, buddy. But if you ever allow someone to take advantage of Larkin again, I’ll do that to you.”
Baxter winced as J’hana rammed a fist into Barnt’s chest, which caused a sickening crunch. “I’ll remember that.”
Larkin leaned over towards Richards. “I appreciate your concern, Commander, but I believe I can take care of myself.”
“Is that so?” Richards asked.
“That is so,” Larkin replied. “I plan on experimenting with several facets of the mating experience in the upcoming years.”
“Not as long as I have anything to say about it,” Richards muttered.
“We shall see,” Larkin said mysteriously.
Richards just stared at Larkin, as J’hana finished Barnt off with a roundhouse kick to the jaw, sending the massive Tellarite falling to the mat.
“And that’s all she wrote!” Baxter called out cheerfully.
But whether Richards liked it or not, Larkin was going to write quite a bit more.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
It’s brains vs. brawn as Tilleran, Hartley, Gellar, and Ford take on a planet overtaken by brain-eating zombies. Will they get out alive? Only if they use their…uh, skills. Stay tuned for “IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN.”