Author: Anthony Butler
Commander Conway sighed deeply and proceeded through the doors to Transporter Room Three.
“Morning, Commander,” Dr. Lana Shar said brightly, packing her tricorder and phaser and adjusting her hair in one of the mirrors that circled the transporter pad. “Ready to go?”
“I guess,” Conway murmurred unenthusiastically.
“What’s the matter?” J’hana asked, slapping Conway hard on the back as she mounted the pad. “Aren’t we a happy Commander today?”
Conway grabbed a phaser and tricorder from the transporter operator and glared at J’hana. “You know damned well what’s wrong.” He turned to Lana and regarded her softly. “This isn’t just any other planetary survey.”
“You can say that again,” Lana said. “This is my last planetary survey. That fellowship at the Daystrom institute couldn’t have come at a better time. My residency on the Explorer is almost up, after all.”
Conway’s shoulders fell. “Let’s just get this overwith.”
“You old softie,” J’hana said with a toothy grin.
“I for one will not forget your scientific contributions to this ship, Doctor,” Lt. Commander Larkin said, following Conway onto the transporter pad. “They will be missed.”
“And I won’t?” Lana asked.
“By some, perhaps, but I am not capable of that emotion.”
“Shut up, Larkin,” Conway barked.
“Ensign Monroe,” J’hana said, still stifling a laugh. “Energize.”
“This place is gorgeous, isn’t it?” Lana asked, putting her tricorder in its holster as she strolled through the leafy blue thickness of Zebdron Four’s jungle. “A perfect planet on which to end my days of planetary surveying.”
“If you say so,” Conway said, staring down at his own tricorder. “Oxygen is seven percent over normal.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Lana said. “This place is perfect, Commander. I could even imagine starting a family here.”
Conway looked up. “You could?”
Lana looked at Conway and smiled. “Sure. If it was with the right person.”
Conway stepped closer. “Like who?”
Taking a deep breath, Lana turned around and walked several paces away. “Commander, in my line of work, it is necessary to posesss a modicum of detachment.”
“I can understand that,” Conway said reasonably.
Conway’s eyebrows rose. “However?”
“However, since this is my last day aboard the Explorer, I feel it only fair to be honest with you. Commander–David…I think I have fallen in love with you.”
A few moments of silence passed as a breeze blew through the beautiful Zebdronian trees.
“What?” Conway asked, shaking his head in disbelief. “WHAT?”
Lana turned around and stepped toward Conway. “I could not tell you how I felt while we still worked together. It would have been…improper.”
“But, Lana…now that you’re leaving the ship…what…what… what…”
“I will postpone my arrival time at the Daystrom Institute,” Lana said, pulling Conway’s head toward her. “Now shut up and kiss me.”
Lana enveloped Conway in a long kiss. The Commander wagged his arms around like a distressed monkey, finally throwing them around Lana and lifting her up.
“J’hana to Conway,” came the rushed and breathless voice of Lt. J’hana over the commander’s combadge.
“J’hana to Conway.”
Conway set Lana down and stared at her googily-eyed. “What, J’hana?”
“Lt. Commander Larkin and I just had a rather unsavory run-in with some type of huge native airborn lifeform. Larkin’s arm was nearly ripped off and it slammed me into a rock face.”
“I have other things to deal with right now,” Conway said, grinning at Lana. “It can wait.”
“It can wait!” Conway said, tapping his combadge to sever the communication.
“Now,” Conway said, pulling Lana toward him. “Where were we?”
Suddenly a large shadow fell over Conway and Lana; a piercing squawk sent a shiver down the commander’s spine.
“Lana, behind me!” Conway spun around, fumbling for his phaser as he pushed Lana behind him. “Come get me you f***ing bird!” he cried, lifting his phaser with a trembling hand as the huge, black creature dove toward him.
Before Conway could thumb the firing control, however, the bird knocked him aside effortlessly with one claw and grabbed Lana with the other.
Conway scrambled to his feet, firing madly at the bird as it soared off into the sky. It wove effortlessly away from each phaser beam. “Come back here you damned crow from hell! Give her back to me!”
The bird just shrieked again and circled above Conway.
“Commander!! HELLLLLLP!” Lana cried from high above.
Conway shielded his eyes from the sun as he stared up at the circling bird. “Listen here, you! That woman you have there loves me! That makes her rarer than anything in the galaxy! Two other people came here with me, either of which would be delicious. Take them! They don’t love me!”
Another shrill squawk.
“Damn it!” Conway cried. “Drop her now!”
Obediently, the bird dropped Lana.
“Wait, no, I didn’t mean that!” Conway said. “Not now! You have to come down here before you drop her! Swoop down and pick her back up!”
Another squawk and the bird was gone.
“Oh man,” Conway said, looking up as Lana plummetted down toward him. He ran back and forth, arms outstretched, as Lana fell. “I’ll catch you, darling! Just fall in my arms! Guide yourself right into my loving arms, sweet-heart!”
Squinting in the bright sunlight, Conway could make out the fast approaching shape of Lana dropping toward him like a rock.
Then she slammed into his head and he blacked out.
In what seemed like an instant later, Conway’s eyes fluttered open and he found himself staring right into the huge, gruesome face of a Flarn.
Conway shrieked like a little girl, backing away in his biobed. It took him a moment to remember that that evil, toothy, pointed, hard and shiny black face belonged to the Explorer’s Chief Medical Officer.
“Ah. You are awake,” Dr. Benzra said, hunching over Conway. “You took a nassssty bump on the head there, Commander.”
“Lana…” Conway muttered, rubbing his head. “Lana…is she okay?”
“Hmmm? Ssssure, I ssssupossse she isss. But the woman who wasssss with you…ssssshe’s dead.”
“LANA!” Conway cried, jumping off the biobed and rushing over to the other biobed, where Lana’s shapely outline was covered in a white shroud.
“Oh…that’s Lana? Sssssorry. I sssstill don’t know everyone’s namessss,” Benzra said, hovering behind Conway. “Yessss, ssssshe is as dead as they come. Fractured ssssssspinal cord, I am afraid. Sssssoo, how should I dissspose of her? Hmmm? Vaporizzzation? Blow her out an airlock? What’sssss the protocol around here?”
“Where’s the symbiont?” Conway cried, turning around and grabbing Benzra’s exoskeleton. He pulled the huge Flarn down toward him. “Where’s the f***ing symbiont?”
“Ssssssymbiont?” Benzra asked in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“She has a 500-year old slug living inside her! It may not be dead yet! It has to be transferred into a new host!”
“Mmm hmmm,” Benzra said, running a medical tricorder over Lana’s body again. “Oh, that? I was wondering what that wasssss. Here I thought it wassssss a sssssssecond sssssssspleen.”
“Take it out, Doctor! You have to take it out and put it into stasis!”
“Fine, fine,” Benzra mumbled, grabbing a phaser scalpel off a nearby tray and pulling open the shroud.
Conway watched as Benzra worked, shivering at the wide-eyed look that was frozen on Lana’s face. Poor Lana. Conway’s only hope for love now was that the symbiont still carried her feelings for him. If it was still alive.
“There,” Benzra said, yanking the symbiont out. “Yep, it’sssssss ssstill alive. Let’ssss find a vat of warm and bubbly for thisss thing, ssshall we?”
“Yes, yes, yes!” Conway said, following Benzra to the other side of sickbay and staring with concern at the slug the Flarn carried.
“Yess, you’ll love thissss,” Benzra said to the symbiont, plopping it into a vat of blue liquid she found nearby. “Full of nutrientsssss! Ssssuck it up!”
Conway stared at the slug as it wriggled in the vat. “Shar! Shar, I still love you! This is just a small bump in the road!” The symbiont wiggled a bit, causing Conway to smile. “That’s my slug.”
“Now what about thissss body?” Benzra said, angling her head toward the carved-open Trill on the biobed.
“Stick her in a drawer,” Conway said, still staring at the symbiont.
Captain Baxter rushed into the room. “Commander…I heard the news. I’m very sorry.”
“It’s okay, Captain,” Conway said, pointing to the vat. “We saved the symbiont!”
“Good to hear. Baxter to bridge. Lay in a course for the Trill system. Maximum warp.”
“Acknowledged,” Larkin said over the comm.
“How long will it take us to get there, Larkin?” Conway asked, not taking his eyes off the vat.
“Approximately sixty hours,” the android replied without missing a beat.
“Captain, that’s too long!” Conway said. “The symbiont will die if it’s not put into another body in under forty-eight hours!”
Baxter raised an eyebrow. “Do you have an alternate suggestion, Mr. Conway?”
“Actually,” Conway said, patting the symbiont lovingly. “I do.”
Personal Log, Commander David Conway,
Stardate 53192.7. I’ve spent all afternoon with Lana’s symbiont, and though I realize it can’t talk, I somehow know it senses me and still loves me. We went to the holodeck and saw one of Captain Baxter’s football programs, then we played my NASCAR program…I let it sit in the passenger seat! Some fluid sloshed out of the container but other than that I know Shar had a good time. I can’t wait until Shar gets a new body. There’s something creepy about being in love with a squirmy slug.
Commander Conway strolled down the corridor with the vat tucked under his arm, nodding happily to the officers that passed him.
“Commander Conway,” Lt. Hartley said, nodding at Conway and then in the direction of the vat. “Dr. Shar.”
“Good afternoon, Megan,” Conway said. “And how are you today?”
Hartley wore a pasted-on smile. “Just fine. And how’s the…”
“It’s just great, Lieutenant. It’s going to the bridge with me right now.”
“That’s nice to know,” Hartley said. “I’m glad to see being loved has had such a pleasing effect on you.”
“What can I say?” Conway shrugged as he stepped into the turbolift. “I love life!”
Ensign Stuart walked up to Lt. Hartley as the turbolift doors closed in front of Commander Conway.
“I don’t know what scares me more, Ryan. The slug, or Conway’s attitude.”
“No question,” Stuart said, as he and Hartley moved off toward Engineering. “Conway’s attitude.”
Commander Conway smiled up at Counselor Peterman from the command chair as she and a leashed-up Charlie stepped out of the Captain’s readyroom.
“Hi, Commander,” Peterman said. “Captain Baxter wants to see you for a mo–”
“Counselor!” Conway said, grabbing Peterman in a bear hug once she’d walked around to the front of the bridge. “You look especially radiant today!” Then the commander did something which frightened Peterman down to her very core. He kneeled down and patted Charlie on the head. “That’s a good boy! Good boy!”
Taking the affection as a go-ahead signal, Charlie jumped onto Conway, knocking him onto the deck.
Conway jumped up and straightened his uniform. “You rascal, you.” And he patted the golden retriever again.
“We really need to set up an appointment,” Peterman said, pulling Charlie toward her chair.
“Whatever you say, Counselor. You do know best!”
Conway circled back to the upper level of the bridge and popped his head into the readyroom. “You wanted to see me, Captain?”
“Yes,” Baxter said, stepping out from behind his desk. “I talked to Kelly and Dr. Benzra about the symbiont transfer. They both feel like it’s safe to proceed with the operation…but if problems arise, Benzra is under orders to stop the operation immediately. Is that understood?”
“Of course, Captain,” Conway said. “That’s a wise decision.”
“And Commander?” Baxter said, as Conway turned around.
“Stop being so freaking nice! You’re scaring the crew!”
“I gotta be me!” Conway sang, whirling around and heading out of the readyroom.
“But this isn’t you!” Baxter cried after him, poking his head out of the readyroom door.
“STOP THAT YOU F***ING MUTT!” Conway suddenly cried, hopping the railing around the command chairs and springing toward Charlie.
Charlie was lapping up the liquid from Shar’s vat, which was resting peacefully in Conway’s chair. When he heard Conway’s voice, Charlie looked up and barked pleasantly at him.
Conway shoved the dog away and grabbed the vat. “Are you crazy, Peterman? Do you want this symbiont to die?”
“I’m sorry!” Peterman said. “I turned my head to talk to Tilleran for one minute and he went for the vat! He must like those nutrients!”
“Well he can’t have them!” Conway growled, glaring down at Charlie. “These nutrients are for Shar…and now they may have saliva in them!”
“Jeeze, I’m sure she–it’s–okay,” Peterman said, as Conway ran for the turbolift.
“We’ll just have to see,” Conway muttered, as the lift doors closed.
Peterman looked up at Baxter, who was standing in the doorway to his readyroom watching the whole exchange.
Baxter shrugged. “At least we got to see the old Conway again for a brief moment.”
Peterman collapsed into her chair and pulled Charlie into her lap. “I for one would prefer the new Conway.”
“You sure are quiet tonight,” Commander Conway said, pushing a forkful of Mirk’s famous Maloxian mint quiche into his mouth. “Aren’t you happy that Charlie’s saliva didn’t hurt you?”
The symbiont merely sloshed around in the jar across from Conway.
“Well, yes, I suppose being dislodged from your host must have something to do with it.” Conway chewed thoughtfully. “But it certainly would be nice to talk to you.” Conway’s eyes wandered around the Constellation Cafe. He saw Tilleran. “Wait one minute. I have an idea.”
Lt. Tilleran, Lt. Hartley, Lt. Ford, and Lt. Gellar were all squeezed into a booth on the far side of the lounge talking and sharing a round of drinks.
“Don’t move,” Conway said, patting the symbiont lovingly and racing across the lounge. “Hey, Tilleran!”
Tilleran looked up as Conway approached the booth. “What can I do for–” The Betazoid’s nose wrinkled as she picked up on Conway’s thoughts. “Oh, my. That’s very strange. I don’t know.”
“What does he want, Ariel?” Hartley asked, looking at Conway askance.
“He wants me to use my body as a conduit for the symbiont to speak through,” Tilleran said, looking past Conway at the wiggling symbiont on the far side of the lounge.
“Sounds like a bad pickup line,” Ford grinned, giving Lt. Gellar a high five.
“Pretty bad, Commander,” Gellar said with a chuckle.
“This isn’t funny,” Conway said, kneeling down in front of Tilleran. “The last time it spoke to me it told me it loved me. And now I don’t know what it’s thinking. Please…just for a minute. I need you to channel her. Can it be done?”
Tilleran put down her drink and sighed. “I suppose. But just for a minute. I don’t want my mind to be filled with love for you for any longer than absolutely necessary.”
“It might kill you to have love for the Commander,” Hartley chuckled.
“Hey, we could all use a little more love around here,” Conway said, pointing at Hartley accusingly.
Ford shrugged. “I’m game!”
Hartley chuckled long and hard, then dumped her drink in Ford’s crotch and called for another.
Conway drummed his fingers on the table expectantly as Tilleran placed her hands on the symbiont.
Tilleran closed her eyes. “This is a very complex being. It’s thought processes are nowhere near like humanoids. It’s taking me time to adapt.”
“Well hurry,” Conway said, “I’m getting antsy.”
“Anything else?” Mirk asked, hovering behind Conway.
“Another cup of coffee and some cheesecake,” Conway said, not taking his eyes off the symbiont.
“So Lt. Tilleran’s going to read that thing’s mind?” Mirk asked.
“Yep,” Conway said. “It loves me.”
Mirk nodded. “You’re in for a treat when that thing gets a new body. Trills make great lovers.”
“Not like you have much to compare it to,” Conway barked over his shoulder. “Now get my dessert.”
“Right away,” Mirk said, keeping an eye on the symbiont as he went behind the bar.
“What’s taking so long?” Conway asked, turning back to Tilleran.
“He’s right, you know,” Tilleran said, her voice suddenly sounding light an airy.
“Who’s right? About what?”
“Trills. The greatest lovers in the galaxy.”
“Not anymore. Just Shar now,” Tilleran said brightly. She touched Conway’s face. “How I’ve missed looking at you, Commander.”
Now a crowd had begun to gather behind Tilleran as she channeled the symbiont.
“I need my imager,” Hartley said. “What are the chances of this happening again?”
“This is better than that band Mirk had in here,” Gellar agreed.
Conway grabbed Tilleran’s hands. “And how I’ve missed hearing your…well, any voice.”
Tilleran pulled the sybiont out of its vat and tucked it under her arm. “Come on, Commander. Dance with me.”
“Are you sure it’s okay for you to be out of the jar?”
“For a moment,” Tilleran said, as Conway took her in his arms and twirled her around the tables in the restaurant. “For just a moment.”
“Some music, Mirk!” Conway ordered.
“Right away,” Mirk said, running over to the old fashioned juke box beside his bar and punching some random numbers.
Something by one of Conway’s favorite performers suddenly came on throughout the bar.
“Oh, my love, my darling, I hunger for your touch…” Conway cooed as he spun Tilleran around and dipped her.
When he brought her back up, her dark eyes were wild with love, and she pushed him forward into a table, kissing him ravenously.
In the commotion, the slippery symbiont was squeezed out from the Betazoid’s armpit and propelled into the transparent aluminum window behind her.
“Ewwwww!” Tilleran said, stumbling back to the deck and wiping her mouth. “Ew ew ew ew ewwwwwww!”
Conway stumbled over Tilleran and picked up the symbiont as if it were a fumbled football, charging for its vat and dunking it in.
“Sorry, honey,” Conway cooed, cradling the vat in his arms.
“Okay, okay, the floor show’s over,” Mirk said. “Everyone back to your tables.”
Conway stared up at the chronometer on the wall of Sickbay, tapping his foot nervously. “Come on, Benzra! What’s the hold up?”
Benzra ducked out of the adjacent operating room, removing her tent-sized operating smock. “It isssss not good. The symbiontssss nervoussss syssstem has been far too josssstled around today. What have you been doing with it?”
“Nothing…just a little–hey! What are you implying?” Conway asked angrily.
“Oh, nothing. It issss no matter. Whatever the cassse, the ssssymbiont musssst be placed into a new host within forty minutes. If you had taken better care of it we could have waited a couple more hourssss, but…”
“Say no more,” Conway said, ripping open his uniform jacket. “Stick it in me! Stick it in me now before it’s too late!”
“Are you sssssure you want to go through with thissss?” Benzra asked. “According to the recordssss I have read, human nervoussss ssssystemsss do not react well to ssssymbionts.”
“You don’t understand, Benzra,” Conway said, staring up into the Flarn’s gaping maw. “I love this symbiont. I’ll give it my life if necessary.”
“Fine by me,” Benzra sighed, tying the surgical smock back around her waist and taking Conway by the hand. “Let’sss get you on the griddle…I mean table.”
Baxter hurried into Sickbay, where he found Peterman and Tilleran already waiting on two empty biobeds. “What’s the word?”
“Apparently Lt. Tilleran here had an out-of-symbiont experience with Shar. It took over her mind.”
“I had to kiss Commander Conway,” Tilleran said, rubbing her hand over her tongue repeatedly.
“Yikes,” Baxter said, turning to Peterman. “So…have you heard anything?”
Peterman shook her head. “Some screams. A couple growls– but I think that was Benzra.”
“Mm hm,” Baxter said. “She’s a go-getter. Impressions, Tilleran?”
“Commander Conway is a horrible kisser!” The Betazoid walked over to a replicator and ordered a glass of orange juice. “All tongue-jabs and slobber! No style at all!”
“I mean telepathic impressions!” Baxter said with exasperation. “Can you get a feel of what’s going on in there?”
At that moment, the group heard the loud, high-pitched squeal of a heavy-duty phaser saw.
Tilleran looked in the direction of the operating room and took a long swig of orange juice.
Tilleran looked back at Baxter. “Confusion. Pain….umm… arousal?”
Peterman slapped her legs and slid off the biobed. “Well, I’m sure Benzra knows what she’s doing. I just hope Commander Conway was informed about what he’s getting himself into.”
“He read up on that Will Riker thing,” Baxter said. “Apparently all he had to say about it is that he’d never wear a glittery blue outfit.”
“I saw the picture,” Peterman said. “I thought it looked fantastic.”
“Hey,” Baxter said, turning around and grabbing a phaser scalpel off a nearby table. “Watch it, or I may have to remove something.”
Peterman leaned back on the biobed. “I invite you to try, Doc!”
“Hey!” Tilleran said. “Someone else is in the room!”
“Oh,” Baxter said, shelving the instrument. “Right. Sorry.”
Suddenly the doors to the OR sighed open and Benzra squeezed out, ripping the oversized gloves off her claws.
“Well?” Baxter asked, craning his neck to look up at the huge Flarn.
Benzra smiled toothily. “Just like sssssstuffing a pimento into a fluhga fruit.”
“What does that mean?” Peterman asked, looking to Tilleran, who just shrugged. “Does that mean the operation was a success?”
Baxter pushed past the Flarn and into the OR. “Commander Conway?”
Dressed in a blue surgery smock, Conway leaned up slowly and swung his legs off the bed. “You’re half right.”
Peterman ran in behind Baxter, nearly bumping into him. Tilleran squeeezed in too.
“Dr. Shar?” Peterman asked.
Conway smiled softly and shook his head. “Commandoctor Sharway.”
Baxter rubbed his eyes and leaned forward on the conference table. The senior staff, minus Conway, was gathered for the daily meeting. “The thing is, I don’t even think there’s such a title as ‘commandoctor.’”
“There is not,” Larkin said from the other side of the table. “That is to say, not in Starfleet.”
J’hana shifted in her chair to Larkin’s left. “Perhaps, but as I understand it, that is what he wishes to be called now.”
“And what would that make him?” Ford asked. “First Colony Specialist Officer?”
“Enough with the name-mixing,” Baxter snapped. “He’s only going to have that symbiont inside him for another thirteen hours anyway.”
“Which is all for the besssst,” Benzra said, swiveling in the specially made Flarn-contoured chair Lt. Hartley had constructed for her. “His sysssstem isss not reconciling itssssself with the sssssymbiont very well.”
“But Commander Riker was able to survive with a symbiont inside him for several days, wasn’t he?” Hartley asked.
“Commander Riker wassss in good health,” Benzra said. “Commander Conway’sssss body hassss been subjected to massssssive amountssss of caffiene and cholessssssterol. If I wassssss a food insssssspector back on Flarn Prime, he would be labeled unhealthy, ground up, and fed to the cattle.”
“Lovely imagery,” Baxter said. “But suffice it to say that Conway will survive the next thirteen hours until we reach Trill.”
“Indeed he will,” Benzra said. “Though the ssssssymbiont may have an irreprable caffeine addiction.”
“Well,” Baxter said. “That’s just a chance we’ll have to take.”
“I just hope the symbiont teaches him how to be a better kisser,” Tilleran muttered.
“Are you still caught up on that?” Hartley asked, turning toward the Betazoid. “I mean, you didn’t have to–”
“Good afternoon, everyone,” a mellow voice said from the conference room’s doorway.
“Commandoctor Sharway,” Baxter said. “Glad you could make it to the staff meeting. Grab a seat.”
Baxter studied Sharway’s attire carefully as he strolled into the conference room. Evidently he had acquired Shar’s ability to put together a good power suit, yet kept the outfit within traditional Starfleet lines.
Sharway smoothed the black, grey-shouldered suede sportcoat and pulled down on the sporty red tunic underneath. “Yes, about that. Shall I take Commander Conway’s seat or Doctor Shar’s?”
“Just sit down!” Baxter ordered.
“Oh, Captain, don’t be that way,” Sharway said, placing a hand on Baxter’s shoulder. “Taking out your anger on your insubordinates simply is not the way to handle things.”
“Since when are you qualified to tell me how I should take my anger out?” Baxter asked, looking Sharway in his placid eyes.
Sharway made an expansive gesture with his hands. “Since I gained the five-hundred years of knowledge locked within the symbiont that squirms within me, Captain.”
“He’s lost it,” Hartley muttered.
“Small thing,” Sharway said, turning. “Why do you harbor such ill feelings toward me? You and Shar always got along admirably.”
“But this isn’t Shar’s personality,” Tilleran said. She turned to Baxter. “A Trill host is able to reconcile the two personalities and make the transition seamless.” She looked at Sharway with some disdain. “But the Commander’s relatively weak mind and personality–if you can even call it that–is not at all prepared to handle the level of intelligence and knowledge that is being dumped into it. We’re not just talking about an issue of physical health, here. We’re talking mental health too.”
“I’ll start clearing out my calendar,” Peterman said, grabbing a padd.
“I assure you, I feel fine!” Sharway said, smiling. “I’d like to ram Lt. Hartley’s head into the table and snap Lt. Tilleran’s neck, but other than that I am wonderful.”
“Sounds like he’s got it under control,” Baxter said, standing up. “Let’s go ahead and break for now.”
Sharway put his hands on his hips and examined Commander Conway’s office. How had he never seen before that this was a nasty, horrible place. Not inviting at all.
The walls were plastered with posters of some kind of musical combo called “KISS” and padds were piled up all over the place. A huge espresso machine, dented and charred–evidently salvaged from the wreckage of the USS Aerostar–dominated the small office. There were no plants, no uplifting pictures, no artifacts of note. The office was dead space and there had to be something done about it.
Suddenly the door chime rang and Sharway obediently answered it. “Yes, how may I help you?”
“It’s, uh, Lieutenant Hartley.”
“Come in, come in,” Sharway said, ripping down the KISS posters and shoving the padds off his couch. “Please, make yourself welcome.”
“Welcome…in your office?” Hartley asked, strolling in and sitting down. “That’s a new one.”
“I know I’ve been unfair to you in the past,” Sharway said, scooting up onto his desk and facing Hartley. “I’d like to rectify that now.”
“Sir, you threatened to slam my head into a table about fifteen minutes ago.”
“Well, that was still the past, no matter how recent,” Sharway said. “How about we start with a clean slate, Lieutenant.”
Hartley laughed. “That’s fine with me.”
Sharway pointed toward the espresso machine. “Some sort of coffee beverage for you? I never touch the stuff, but you’re welcome to–”
“No, that’s all right,” Hartley said. “Actually, I was just wondering about the new duty rosters for the Engineering department.”
“Yes, duty rosters,” Sharway said, digging through the pile of padds in the corner. “They’re around here somewhere, I’m sure of it.”
“I just wanted to know your feelings on Ensign Welch in Impuse Engineering. As far as I’m concerned, he’s dead weight. Everyone in that department seems to think he’s an arrogant windbag.”
Sharway stopped rooting through the padds. “Yes, someone said that about a wrinkled symbiont named Shar once. It was the symbiont review committee. That was four hundred ninety years ago, Lieutenant. Look where I am now.”
“Uh-huh,” Hartley said thoughtfully. “So what are you saying?”
“I’m saying you have to give beings a chance. A being can go through a lot of growth in five hundred years.”
“Right. Well, I don’t have that long. What are we going to do about Welch right now?”
“Time will tell, my dear. Time will tell.”
Hartley pushed off the couch and headed for the door. “No offense, Commandoctor, but I liked you a lot better when you were impulsive and autocratic. At least then you got things accomplished.”
“You are of course entitled to your opinion,” Sharway said. “Have a pleasant day.”
“Yeah, right,” Hartley said, heading out of the office.
“Wonderful woman,” Sharway said thoughtfully as the computer chirped:
“Commandoctor Sharway. This is a Computer Generated Reminder. You have an appointment with Counselor Peterman in five minutes.”
“Oh, how could I have forgotten,” Sharway said. “The office can be cleaned up after that.”
As Sharway moved out of the office, he ran into Lucille and Harlan, Captain Baxter’s parents.
“Commander Conway,” Harlan said heartily, extending a hand toward Sharway.
“Haven’t either of you heard?” Sharway asked. “I have joined with the late Doctor Shar’s symbiont to become Commandoctor Sharway.”
Lucille raised an eyebrow. “Yes, of course. How insensitive of us.” She nudged Harlan with her elbow. “He wants to be called Commandoctor Sharway, Harlan. Call him that.”
“Mmmph, right. Sharway,” Harlan said. “Joined, huh? Kids today. All sorts of strange practices.”
“He’s in love with that symbiont, Harlan,” Lucille said sharply. “It’s a sweet romantic thing he’s doing.”
“Love? That makes it even sicker, Lucille. Just to think– that slimy thing is slipping around between his spleen and his appendix. It just isn’t natural to have your loved one stuck inside you.”
“Shut up,” Lucille said, slapping Harlan on the back. “We wish both of you the best.”
“Thanks,” Sharway said. “We’re on our way to a psychotherapy session right now.”
“Good for you,” Lucille said. “Come on, Harlan.”
“Hmmph. Psychotherapy. You know son,” Harlan muttered through cigar smoke, “sometimes a symbiont is just a symbiont.”
Peterman poured tea into Sharway’s cup and sat down across from him, placing the pot on an end table. “I must admit, uh, Commandoctor, Yynsian herbal tea with a sprinkle of umgee root is a rare request around here.”
“It is an aquired taste,” Sharway said. “Ha ha. I, that is Commander Conway, tried to drink it for awhile after he realized that Lana enjoyed it. He gave up soon after he decided that the beverage was absolutely awful.”
“I enjoy it. That is, Commandoctor Sharway enjoys it. Not as much as Lana did, but we have to make due with what we’ve got.”
“We,” Peteresen said to herself. “That’s a funny way of putting it.”
“Yes,” Sharway said, smiling. “I find myself of two minds about things lately.”
“About that,” Peterman said, grabbing a padd and making some notes. “I think that’s what some of the crew are concerned about. How your brain is dealing with the unity of the two minds.”
“I assure you my brain is loving every minute of it.” Sharway crossed his legs. “I’ve never been more at peace.”
“That’s all well and good, Commandoctor. But what about the repurcussions for Commander Conway after the separation?”
Sharway gripped his fingers deep into the leather of Peterman’s fainting couch. “We…I…do not like thinking of that.”
“And why is that?” Peterman asked, biting on the stylus she was using to write on her padd.
“Because I love us. I mean, we love each other. I mean, we love I.”
“You enjoy the union of your souls,” Peterman said, her eyes filling with wonder. “That’s very romantic.”
“Yes,” Sharway said. “I believe it is. I feel we were meant to be together like this. How many couples can enjoy a joining this…close?”
“Not many, to be sure,” Peterman said. “You and Shar have a very rare opportunity, but you have to keep in mind that it cannot last forever. Not without killing Commander Conway.”
“Shar is aware of that, no matter how much Commander Conway may protest,” Sharway said. “Shar is quite old and wise. Shar realizes what must be done. But let me reiterate–Conway ain’t happy!”
It appeared as if Sharway was having a conversation with himself.
“I know the separation will be difficult,” Peterman said. “But just think, soon Shar will have a new host and the two of you will be together again.”
“Yes,” Sharway said. “Part of me is worried that the host will be a man.”
“Gee,” Peterman said. “I wonder which part that is.”
“The very conservative part,” Sharway assured. “It will be all right, however. One way or another, things will work for the best.”
“I’m sure,” Peterman said, making more notes. “Can I ask you something …off the record?”
“Sure,” Sharway said.
Peterman leaned forward. “You didn’t really mind when Charlie drank out of your, I mean Shar’s, vat, did you?”
“Not at all,” Sharway said. “You must recall that Shar actually spent some time inside Charlie, or shall we say, Sharlie.” Sharway laughed at that a moment then resumed. “You’ll find I know more about your dog than you do.”
“Really?” Peterman asked. “What do you mean?”
“Well, for one, he is thoroughly unhappy with your relationship with Captain Baxter.”
“You’re kidding! But he loves the Captain!”
“I didn’t say he did not love the Captain. He simply thinks that it’s ethically wrong to be married to the Captain of the ship on which you work.”
“Wow. Really?” Peterman wrinkled her nose. “I didn’t realize Charlie had such deep thoughts.”
“Just because he does not talk does not mean he has nothing to say,” Sharway said.
Peterman leaned in closer. “Well, what else does Charlie think about?”
“Hmmm,” Sharway said, rubbing his chin. “There’s the whole issue of your hair. He was much happier with…”
“Baxter to Sharway,” chirped the comm system.
“A Trill vessel just came into hailing range. They say they’ve been dispatched with an emergency host for Shar. They’re ready to perform the transplant immediately.”
Sharway’s face fell. “Goodness. I thought I would have more time…”
“It’s okay, David,” Peterman said, placing a hand on Sharway’s. “We’ll get through this together. Andy, have the personnel from the Trill vessel meet Sharway and me in Sickbay.”
“Are you sure about this?” Sharway asked. “Can’t we have just a little more time together?”
Peterman wrapped an arm around Sharway as she led him toward the turbolift. “No, that wouldn’t be wise, David. The sooner you break this bond the easier it will be to do it.”
“But I feel complete as Sharway. If I become Conway again I’ll only feel like half a man.”
Peterman shrugged as she and Sharway pushed into the turbolift. “Well, maybe that’s how things were meant to be.”
Six Trill in black labcoats were gathered around Sickbay’s central biobed as Sharway and Peterman stepped in.
“Which of you hosts the symbiont?” one of the Trill said, stepping forward.
“Me,” Sharway said.
“Very good,” the lead Trill replied. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Doctor Fedra Grem of the Trill symbiont board. These are my associates,” the man gestured to the five Trill behind him.
“Grem?” Sharway asked. “Impossible. I know Grem. He’s shorter…and balder!”
“Maybe he just had plastic surgery,” Peterman said diplomatically.
“Yes, indeed,” Grem smiled. “Plastic surgery.” Then he waved his and one of the other Trill lept forward and cracked his elbow upside Peterman’s head, knocking her flat to the deck.
“Symbiont snatchers,” Sharway said with disdain, taking a battle stance. “I should have known. Sharway to J’hana–security alert in Sickbay!”
“They won’t get here in time,” Grem said, as the other Trill descended on Sharway, pummeling him with their fists. “Don’t damage the symbiont, boys. We need it alive. It’s one of the oldest ones around and should bring a handsome price.”
“You lousy excuse for a Trill!” Sharway spat, fighting his way out from under his attackers. “Stealing symbionts so you can sell them to the highest bidder!”
“You talk a good game, human, but that will end when we rip that symbiont out of you. Grem to Baspita, prepare for transport.”
“Negative, sir,” came a reply from the Trill ship. “The Explorer has put up her shields.”
“I don’t have time for this petty brinksmanship,” Grem said, snatching the combadge off Sharway’s uniform and fingering it. “Bridge.”
“Bridge here. What do you want?” Baxter’s voice asked.
“This is the leader of the Trill party that has come aboard your ship. We demand that you lower your shields immediately or we will kill your crewman.”
“Sharway?” asked Baxter.
“I’m here, sir,” Sharway said. “Don’t let them take the symbiont. I would rather die.”
“Listen up, you spotted son of a bitch. We’re not going to let you go that easy,” Baxter called over the comm system.
“Then your crewmember will die,” Grem said gravely. “Melba, Kral…drag the human into this vessel’s operating room. We will be forced to remove the symbiont here. Without anesthesia.”
“Don’t be hasty, Grem. Maybe we can come to some sort of compromise!” Baxter said desparately.
“The only compromise we will make,” Grem said, as the Trill tossed Sharway on top of the surgical table and activated the restraining field, “is letting this human live while we take the symbiont.”
“I don’t like that one bit,” replied Baxter.
“You don’t have to like it. You just have to obey,” Grem said sharply. “Now lower those shields or I start cutting.”
Suddenly Sharway heard a raspy voice coming from the main area of Sickbay. “Hello? I’m here to ssssssupervise the sssssymbiont transssfer. Commandoctor Sharway?”
“BENZRA!” Sharway cried. “I’m in the OR! They’re trying to kidnap the symbiont!”
“You think your weak medical praticioner can stop us?” Grem said with a laugh. “Please. Melba…you and Frana go take care of the good doctor.”
“Yes, sir,” the two Trill said, heading out of the OR.
And almost as fast, Sharway heard a bone-chilling growl, and the two Trill flew back into the OR, slamming into the far wall with a spine-snapping crack. The impact caused the restraining field system to short circuit, and Sharway suddenly found himself free to move.
“What the–” Grem said, turning toward the door.
“The operation isssssss over!” Benzra shouted, impaling one of the other Trill with her claw and knocking two across the operating room with the other claw.
“Merciful symbionts!” Grem cried, running for the door to the OR.
“Not ssssso fassssst,” Benzra said, wrapping a claw around him and slamming him against the floor until he stopped squirming.
Once she was sure the final Trill was dead, Benzra stood and placed her claws on her thoracic section, admiring the carnage in the OR. “That’ssss how the Flarn operate.” Then Benzra looked around. “Right, Sssssharley? Sssssharley?”
“Tractor that Trill ship, Mr. Gellar,” Baxter said, clasping his hands behind his back and staring at the ship on the viewscreen as a blue beam latched onto it. “Baxter to Sickbay. What is your status, Benzra?”
“J’hana and her security team just arrived and my ssssstatussss issss fine,” Benzra’s voice replied. “But your Counsssselor Peterman is unconciousssss, the Trill are dead, and Sssssharley is gone.”
“Gone?” Baxter asked. “Gone where?”
“I do not know.”
“Computer,” Baxter called. “Locate Commandoctor Sharway.”
“Commandoctor Sharway is in the USS Escort airlock.”
“Damn,” Baxter said, rushing to the ops console. “Larkin, lock out all access to the Escort. Clamp it down!”
Larkin’s hands flew across the ops panel. “Not possible, sir. Commandoctor Sharway has been quite effective in disabling the control protocols leading to the Escort.”
“Lt. J’hana,” Baxter called over the comm. “Sharway is on the Escort. Intercept him.”
“Already on my way,” J’hana’s voice replied.
“Baxter to Sharway. Stand down, Commandoctor. I don’t know what you’ve got planned but you’re obviously delusional.”
“I’m not delusional Captain!” Sharway said wildly over the comm. “I’m just doing what I should have done in the beginning! I’m getting away from that ship. As long as we’re there, Shar and Conway can never be together!”
“It has nothing to do with being here,” Baxter said. “You’ll die in a couple hours if we don’t get Shar out of you.”
“We’ll see. Goodbye, Captain.”
“I do not believe the shields will stop him,” Larkin said. “After all, Commander Conway is aware of the Explorer’s shield modulation.”
“Gellar! Change our modulation now!” Baxter ordered.
Before Gellar could move his hands toward the shield controls, Baxter watched the Escort sail by on the viewscreen.
“Escort away,” Larkin reported.
“Lock one of our other tractors on it,” Baxter said.
“It is too late. The Escort just went into warp,” Larkin reported.
Baxter scrubbed a hand over his face as he watched the Escort streak away on the screen. “Gellar, beam a secuity team to over to the Trill vessel and release it. Mr. Ford, plot a pursuit course. Set speed to overtake.”
“Aye, sir,” Ford said, touching a panel to activate the warp engines.
A loud thrum sounded throughout the bridge, then a cranking sound reminiscent of an old gas-powered truck stalling.
“Hartley to bridge. Who just shut down the warp core?”
“Sharway,” Baxter murmurred, clenching his fist. “I need those engines back, Lieutenant.”
“I’ll get on it. But it’ll take a while. Sharway did a complete shutdown and locked out the restart sequence with some sort of personal access code. It’ll take me a while to get around it.”
“Well do it as quick as you can. Bridge out,” Baxter said, turning toward tactical. “Mr. Gellar, contact the Trill homeworld. Maybe they can help us.”
“They’re not going to be happy about us losing a symbiont.”
“Hey, it wasn’t like we did it on purpose,” Baxter muttered as he sat down in the command chair.
“Confirm that, computer,” Sharway said, gripping the arms of the command chair at the center of the Escort’s cramped bridge.
“Longrange sensors detect no ships in pursuit,” the computer replied.
“Good,” Sharway grinned. “Then maintain course and alert me when we’ve arrived.”
Sharway looked at the stars streaking toward him on the Escort’s tiny viewscreen. They were beautiful. And all the more so since he had joined with Shar.
Shar truly did complete him. His life before this had been nothing but a prologue to this. Now that he was joined to Shar there was no taking that away from him. Conway and Shar would be together forever.
But somewhere in the back of Sharway’s mind, there was a nagging sensation that this was wrong. That by escaping those that cared about him, he was condemning Shar and Conway to death. But who cared? A few hours together were worth more than years apart.
Captain Baxter stared at the smashed bodies of the Trill criminals as Benzra shoved them into stasis drawers.
“Nice work, Benzra,” he said, as she slammed the last drawer with a clang. “But in the future, you should know that it’s Starfleet policy to stun criminals–not smash their bones and internal organs to a pulp.”
“I have heard of your ineffective justice ssssssssystem. It is but a joke.”
“Perhaps, but it’s a democratically voted-upon joke and we’re going to laugh right along with the rest of the Federation, get it?”
“I ssssuppose,” Benzra said. “Ssssstun it is. Although it will not be as fun.”
“Hmph,” Baxter said. “I suppoe you’ll want to eat the bodies too?”
“Me?” Benzra said with a laugh. “I’m not a humanitarian, Captain.”
“I do not eat humans, or humanoids, for that matter,” Benzra explained, as if she had explained this several times. “I find your muscle stringy and tough, your skin fatty and tasteless.”
“Well maybe you’ve just never eaten the right humanoid,” Baxter said defensively. “How can you make broad accusations about a whole species?”
“Becaussssse I wisssssh to.”
“Hmm,” Baxter said, “I guess that’s a relief in a way. Mirk was afraid he’d have to learn how to prepare barbecued leg of human.”
“Barbecued?” Benzra said, throwing her head back in laughter. “Your people know sssssssso little about food preparation.”
“Okay,” Baxter said with exasperation, “so why did you learn to cook humans anyway?”
“Becaussssse,” Benzra said with equal exasperation, “Flarn ressssstaurants do not hire humanitarians.”
Peterman limped into the morgue, rubbing her head. “Ow. I think I need more painkiller, Benzra.”
“Weakling,” Benzra scoffed. “Work through the pain. It will only make you stronger.”
“I miss Dr. Browning,” Peterman pouted. “Screw it, I’ll get the stuff myself. I’m a Counselor. I can write my own perscriptions.”
“Speaking of perscriptions,” Baxter said, following Peterman back into the main area of Sickbay. “Have you been able to determine the problem with Sharway?”
“It’s easy enough to figure out,” Peterman said as she jammed a cartridge into a hypospray and pressed the instrument into her arm. “Sharway has lost the thread of sanity that was keeping his two personalities together. He’s confused, delusional, warped, and has lost all judgment.”
“So the Conway personality took over.”
“Not exactly. More like both personalities just went cuckoo.”
“Please, don’t overwhelm me with technical jargon,” Baxter muttered sarcastically.
“Bottom line, we need to find Sharway and take out that symbiont before both of them lose their minds completely…or die.”
“Agreed, but it’ll still be hours before the warp core can be reinitiated.”
Peterman rubbed her head. “So what do we do?”
“We’ve contacted the Trill government. They’re sending a ship to pick us up and hunt down Sharway. They’ll have qualified doctors and a new host aboard, too.”
“Great,” Peterman said, following Baxter out of Sickbay. “But how about we make sure these Trill are good guys before we let down our shields?”
“Atmospheric entry sequence begun,” the computer ticked off as the Escort rumbled through the hazy orange atmosphere of Grasus, the fourth and largest moon around Trill Six.
“What is this place?” Sharway asked himself, squinting through the haze that flew by on the viewscreen. Great jutting rock formations became clear as the Escort made its approach.
“My birthplace,” Sharway replied to himself.
“But I thought all the symbionts were born on Trill,” Sharway said.
“That is incorrect. Symbionts can be found throughout the Trill system. There is a small colony of them here.”
“Are you sure this is a good place to hide?” Sharway asked himself.
“It is the only place to hide. I must return to the pools so I can reconnointer. There is something wrong with us and it must be corrected.”
“But I thought we were going to escape–and be together forever.”
“Soon. But first, we must return to the pool and merge minds with the other symbionts. It is the only way to stabilize our connection. You don’t want us to die prematurely, do you?”
“No, no. That would be bad.”
“I knew you’d understand, sweetie.”
“I love you,” Sharway told himself.
“I love you too,” Sharway replied warmly.
Captain Baxter paced the bridge of the Trill vessel Korina impatiently. “Anything, Tilleran?”
Tilleran looked up from the science station she was sharing with one of the Trill crewmembers. “Negative, sir. No sign of the Escort’s ion trail.”
“It had to leave some kind of trail,” Peterman said, looking back to Tilleran from her position next to Baxter at the front of the bridge.
“Not if he masked it,” Baxter said. “Remember, you’re dealing with someone that has Commander Conway’s starship knowledge and Dr. Shar’s intelligence.”
“And enough insanity for both,” Peterman muttered. “There has to be some way to find them.”
“I’m trying every scan that I can think of,” Tilleran said.
“What about warp eddies?” Ressek, the Trill ship’s commander said. “Your ship had to leave some sort of warp eddy.”
“That’s a good point,” Tilleran said. “I’m scanning subspace now.”
“What luck that of all ships for Sharway to steal, he had to get his hands on one with sensor-reflective screening,” Peterman muttered.
“It’s not infallible, Counselor,” Baxter said. “Don’t you worry. We’ll find Sharway.”
“Hold on,” Tilleran said. “I have something. A warp eddy in the direction of the Trill system. It’s the right size to be from the Escort.”
“Why would they go there?” Baxter said.
“Perhaps Shar still has some control,” Ressek said. “It could be directing Conway to help us find him.”
“Let’s hope,” Baxter mumbled. “For both their sakes. At any rate, you better take us into Trill space, Captain Ressek. Tilleran, get ready to scan every planet in the system for humanoid lifesigns.”
“Aye, sir,” Tilleran reported, going to work on the science station.
“Ooooh, that feels good,” Sharway said, slipping into the milky-white liquid as slimy symbionts bobbed and weaved around him. Blue electric waves surged through the pool, sending good vibrations throughout his nervous system.
“You’re disturbed,” a voice said inside Sharway’s mind.
“This human has corrupted your judgment,” said another voice. “This joining must be severed.”
“But I love him,” Shar said inside the joined mind.
“Love is inconsequential. If you both wish to survive, you must terminate this joining immediately,” said yet another voice.
Sharway sloshed around in the milky pool. “Hold on a second! You’re trying to split us up!”
“You’re deluded, Mr. Conway. You two cannot stay together!”
“Who are you to tell me what to do!” Sharway said angrily. “And why do I feel like I’m meeting the parents????”
“We ARE Shar’s family. We care about Shar’s wellbeing and this act is a direct violation o that wellbeing.”
“What does that mean?” fSharway asked.
“It means you must let Shar go. If not for your own good, for Shar’s.”
“But what will I do without Shar?”
A thoughtful pause. “Let us put it in terms you can understand, Mr. Conway. If you truly ‘love’ Shar…how can you carry on a relationship with it while it is inside your body.”
“I figured we’d think of something eventually.”
“Do you think you’ll be satisfied with…that kind of arrangement?” one of the voices said in disgust. “We are aware that men must do that from time to time…but we percieve that you would do it to excess. And again, you would be placing the symbiont into jeapardy no doubt with your twisted plans.”
“How do you know what I’m planning?” Sharway asked.
“Because we are inside your mind,” said a voice impatiently. “You have to let Shar go. It will be placed into a new host. If circumstances permit, you may have a relationship with that being. But this…this perverted arrangement must end.”
Sharway sighed as he slid down into the swirling fluid. “Why should I let slimy little slugs tell me what to do?”
Another bright flash of electricity surged through the pool –but this one hurt!
“Ow!” Sharway said. “What are you–OW! Hey!”
“Do as we say! Or we will be forced to take more extreme measures!”
Sharway struggled through the white liquid as surge after surge jolted his system. “Fine, fine–just stop! STOP! Ow ow ow ow ow ow!”
Lt. Tilleran led the way toward the cavern, staring down at her tricorder, as Baxter and Peterman and a team from the Trill vessel followed behind.
“Well?” Baxter asked.
“I have a bead on Sharway’s whereabouts. He’s definitely in the cavern up ahead…and moving this way!”
Baxter withdrew his phaser and set it to low stun. “He may be getting ready to attack.”
“Do what you must to your officer, Baxter,” Ressek said, “just don’t harm the symbiont.”
“I’ll aim for the head,” Baxter muttered.
“Andy!” Peterman cried.
Suddenly everyone looked toward the cavern as Sharway came screaming out of it, electric blue bolts licking at his backside.
“Get off! Get off!” he cried.
“Commandoctor!” Baxter shouted, leveling his phaser at Sharway. “Stop right there and put up your hands!”
Sharway obediently threw his hands up, running to hide behind Peterman. “Those symbionts have a nasty temper!”
“They were probably angered by your irrational behavior,” Ressek said, grabbing Sharway by the arm. “As they should be. You and Shar have both been most annoying today.”
“Sorry,” Sharway muttered.
“Ressek to Korina. Transport us all directly to the medical bay.”
Counselor Peterman tapped her foot nervously as she and Baxter waited on the couch outside the operating room aboard the Trill vessel.
“Kelly!” Baxter said, putting a hand on Peterman’s knee. “Enough. You’re making me nervous.”
“I can’t help it, Andy,” Peterman said. “I’m worried about Commander Conway and Dr. Shar.”
“They’ll both be fine.”
“But what kind of host will Shar get? What if it’s a man?”
“Ha,” Baxter said. “That would be funny.”
“Not to Conway,” Peterman said. “He may not be my favorite person, but as Counselor I have to think about his feelings.”
“I’m sure everything will work out for the best,” said Baxter patronizingly.
Before Peterman could reply, one of the Trill assistants wheeled Conway out of the OR on an antigrav lift.
“Commander?” Baxter asked, rising to his feet.
“Ugggh,” Conway groaned, turning his head to the side and pulling the covers up to cover his face. “I feel like I just passed a kidney stone.”
“No,” Peterman said, “the symbiont was much bigger.”
“I hope you’re feeling better, Commander,” Baxter said, hovering over the antigrav lift. He was trying to be sensitive about the situation. “Have you seen the new host yet?”
“Not yet,” Conway said weakly, pulling the covers down again as the assistant disappeared into the corridor beyond the medical bay.
“I’m sure whoever it is will be a wonderful person,” Peterman said.
Just then, the doors to the medical bay wheezed open and the assistant strolled back in. “Come on. The doctors are waiting,” he called, to someone outside.
“Okay, okay,” a voice said. Conway’s head darted up. It was a FEMALE voice!
Conway, Baxter, and Peterman looked on as the new host squeezed through the doors to the medical bay.
“Sweet fancy Moses!” Conway cried. “She’s a whopper!”
“Commander!” Peterman said scoldingly.
“Come on, Tyra,” the Trill assistant said. “Let’s move.”
The mammoth Trill woman waddled past Conway’s antigrav lift and stared down at him reproachfully. “You know, before the Trill joining doctrines were rewritten to be more libral, I never would have gotten this opportunity.”
“That’s because of the Sisko incident five years ago,” Peterman whispered to Baxter. “He found that the selection process for Trill hosts was much to strict.”
“Now the Trill symbiont committee is an equal-opportunity recruiter,” Tyra said, chucking a thumb at her expansive chest. “I’m great for PR.”
“You’d be even better as a cargo freighter,” Conway muttered. “You’re about the size of one!”
“Jerk,” Tyra barked, jamming a huge, pawlike fist into Conway’s stomach.
“Ow! My surgery scars!” Conway cried, doubling over in pain.
“Serves you right,” Tyra tossed over her shoulder as she sqeezed into the OR.
“Well,” Peterman said. “So much for loving what’s inside a person.”
“Are you that superficial, Commander?” Baxter asked.
“Did you see her?” Conway asked. “She could crush me!”
Peterman grabbed Conway by his medical gown and jerked him toward her. “Listen, Commander. You almost died to be with that symbiont. When Tyra joins with Shar she will have the same personality that you risked your career and your life to be with. You will not just leave her because she’s too fat! Get a grip, Mister!”
“Ow!” Conway said, as Peterman released him and his head snapped back down onto the antigrav table.
“Come on, Andy,” Peterman said, grabbing Baxter’s arm. “I know Andy would love me no matter what I looked like. Right, baby?”
Baxter smiled weakly at Conway as Peterman dragged him out of the medical bay. “Sure. Sure. No doubt.”
Two hours later, Conway was pacing the Escort’s mess hall. He’d been released shortly after Peterman and Baxter stormed out of the medical bay, and forced to spend the last hour and forty- five minutes contemplating his relationship with Shar aboard the Escort.
Peterman was right. Conway had risked far too much to be with Shar just to let something as superficial as her appearance affect things. As soon as Tyra came aboard, Conway would apologize to her and hopefully that would smoothe things over. It would take her awhile for her to get used to him, and he likewise, but having Shar inside her would greatly help the process along.
Conway felt the need to pat himself on the back. He’d shock everyone by showing them that he wasn’t as superficial as they thought. He’d still be the same lovestruck fool he’d been for the past two days, and Tyra Shar would be his forever.
“Bridge to Conway,” came Baxter’s voice over the mess hall’s comm system.
“Yes, Captain?” Conway asked hopefully.
“Tyra has just been transported aboard. She wants to talk to you immediately.”
“Have her meet me in the mess hall, sir. I’m ready for her.”
“You’ve decided to carry on with he relationship?”
“Absolutely. Let the fat be damned.”
“Good going, Commander. Kelly will be proud. Bridge out.”
Conway rubbed his hands together eagerly. How should he put this?
Suddenly the doors to the mess hall swung open and Tyra shoved herself in.
“Commander,” Tyra said dully.
“Shar!” Conway said, throwing his arms around the Trill and squeezing her tightly. “I know I said some horrible things to you before you were joined to Shar, Tyra, but that’s all behind us. I want to carry on our relationship if you’ll have me.”
Tyra gently pushed Conway off her. “I’m afraid not, David.”
“What?” Conway asked blankly. “But we were meant for each other! It’s not the fat jokes, is it?”
“No. I was angered by that before the joining, but now I’ve learned to be more patient about such things,” Tyra said. “And Shar has convinced me to go on a diet.”
“Then what is it?” Conway asked, his eyes welling up with tears.
Tyra took a deep breath. “Well…”
Suddenly a beautiful, long-legged, tan Trill woman stepped into the mess hall. She wrapped her arms around Tyra and kissed her long and hard. Conway winced and covered his face. He heard a hell of a lot of slurping and sucking.
Conway rubbed the tears out of his eyes. “Who’s THIS???”
“Commander, meet Jenna Fran,” Tyra said plainly, still wrapped up in the Trill’s arms. “My future wife.”
“I heard about you,” Jenna said, smacking Conway hard across the face. “You should be ashamed. Tyra is a beautiful woman. And more than you could ever handle.” She stared back at Tyra longingly. “It’s been a long time since Fran and Shar have been together, but now that Shar’s in a new host, it’s time to rekindle those old feelings. Right, Shar?”
Tyra nodded, looking at Conway remorsefully. “I do still love you, Commander. But my love for Fran has been burning for centuries. There’s just no competition.”
“Thanks to certain other Trill, the walls of oppression that have stopped Trill symbionts from rejoining are coming down,” Jenna said happily. “It gives us an unprecedented opportunity to reunite.”
Conway slumped into a chair and stared up at the two Trill, shaking his head. “Women are hard enough to understand as it is. Stick a five-hundred year old slug inside them and it becomes impossible.”
Tyra leaned down and pecked Conway on the cheek. “Chin up, Commander. Lana loved you, and Shar still does. I’ll tell you what: If you’re still alive when this host dies, I’ll look you up. How’s that?”
Conway looked down. “Fine, I guess.”
“Come on, Tyra. We’ll miss our rendez-vous,” Jenna said. “We have plans at Corsica, you know!”
“Goodbye, Commander Conway,” Tyra said, as Jenna dragged her out the door. “Tell the crew it has been a pleasure serving with them!”
“Same to you,” Conway grumbled as Tyra disappeared through the doors to the mess hall.
Conway stared at the deck for several minutes, clenching his fist tightly on the small table next to his chair.
“Baxter to Conway. Tyra and her companion just beamed off the ship. I assume things didn’t go well?”
“Something like that,” Conway muttered.
“I’m sorry, Commander. Is there something I can do for you?”
“Get us back to the Explorer. I’ve had enough of the Trill.”
“Understood. We’re getting underway immediately. Baxter out.”
Conway sat there gritting his teeth and staring at the deck until he heard the doors to the mess hall swung open again.
“Commander?” Peterman asked, tentatively stepping in. “I heard what happened.”
“You should be happy. I was going to make the right choice. It just happened she found someone she loved more.”
“It happens,” Peterman said, walking over to the replicator and pushing a few buttons. “The Trill social structure is a funny thing. They have different emotional and sociological trends than we do. Other humanoids can rarely have successful relationships with them–especially when the symbiont has to be moved to another host.”
“But I did everything I could and she still ended up going off with someone else. Ugh. Women.”
“I know,” Peterman said, carrying a cup of coffee and a cup of tea back to the table. “But you know enough about love to know that it doesn’t always work out.” Peterman slid the cup of coffee across the table toward Conway and sat down.
Conway stared at Peterman as she blew on her cup. “What is that?”
“Uh…Yynsian herbal tea. Sharway turned me on to it.”
“With a hint of umgee root?” Conway asked, raising his eyebrows.
Peterman nodded. “Yep.”
Conway pushed his cup of coffee toward Peterman. “Trade you.”
“Okay,” Peterman said, passing her cup to Conway. “If it will help.”
“I think it will,” Conway said, tossing back a gulp from the steaming mug and slamming it down.
“Well?” Peterman asked, as Conway swished the liquid around in his mouth.
“Buaaaaaaaaaaah!” Conway suddenly splurted the beverage in Peterman’s face, wiping his mouth with his shirt sleeve. “I hate this stuff!”
“Good,” Peterman said, rubbing the hot liquid out of her eyes and wiping her face with a napkin. “That’s a start.”
What happens when Borg technology is combined with Inventory… irritatingness? Whatever it is, it’s enough to drive J’hana and the rest of the crew crazy. Watch out for mayhem, assimilation, and accounting in “You Will be Inventoried!”