Author: Anthony Butler
Mirk rolled out of his bed and checked the chronometer on his nightstand.
- He was over an hour and a half late.
“Mirk to Constellation Cafe,” Mirk gasped, reaching over and slapping the comm panel beside his bed.
“Amara here. Where are you, Mirk?”
“In my quarters. I guess I…achhhhh…overslept.”
“What was that?”
Mirk shoved off his bed and grabbed a tissue from a nearby box, blowing his nose vigorously. “I don’t know.”
“You sound sick.”
“Impossible. This has none of the indicators of a Maloxian illness. I’m tired, my muscles ache. My head hurts. There’s this thick green fluid stuck in my nose and throat…”
“Wait a minute, Mirk. That sounds like some kind of flu.”
“Some kind of what?”
“You’ve never heard of the flu?”
“Sorry. No one in the Delta Quadrant ever got an illness like this.”
“And how long have you been in the Alpha Quadrant, Mirk?”
“About a year.”
“And how long have you served with an Alpha Quadrant crew?”
“About two years.”
“You don’t think there’s the slightest possibility you could pick up an Alpha Quadrant disease after all that time?”
“I suppose it’s possible.”
“Maybe you should see the doctor.”
“No. No. I refuse.”
“Mirk. You have to stop this crazy predjudice you have against Dr. Benzra. She’s not like other Flarn from what I hear.”
“I don’t care,” Mirk said, pulling on some pants and shrugging on a glittery blue sportcoat. “Her race oppressed my race for decades. You’d be a little skeptical if we had a Cardassian doctor, wouldn’t you?”
“Touche. In that case, at least get some rest.”
“Negative,” Mirk said, grabbing a handful of tissues and heading out the door. “I’m on my way.”
“Mirk! You need rest!”
“I need a good old fashioned Maloxian remedy.”
Lieutenant Megan Hartley covered her nose as she walked into the Constellation Cafe. “What in the name of Cochrane is that stench?”
“Roots, leaves, grass, and dirt,” Mirk said, rubbing his nose and sniffing as he stirred a giant bubbling cauldron of gook.
“Did someone turn this place into a specimen lab and not tell me?” Hartley asked, hopping up on a barstool.
“This isdn’t a laughig madder, Lieutendat,” Mirk said, blowing his nose with a honk. “I have a code.”
“A code for what?”
“He has a cold,” Amara said, stepping up behind Lt. Hartley. “Apparently, this is an ancient Maloxian recipe to fend off –what did you call it, Mirk?”
“Directorial Blunders. Any malady of the self which inhibits your ability to perform day-to-day tasks,” Mirk recited.
“He’s sick,” Hartley translated, looking into the cauldron. “Are you sure this stuff’ll make you well, Mirk?”
“No. It’s replicated, so it may not have the same kick as the real thing, but then again, I doubt we’ll be heading back to Malox any time soo soo soo-“
Suddenly the entire Cafe rattled around the gathered morning crowd.
Hartley and Amara’s hair blew backwards as space itself seemed to ripple around them. Meanwhile, Mirk was envolved in a halo of white.
Gripping the handrail for support, Hartley struggled to stay on her stool. “That’s a hell of a sneeze!”
“All hands,” the comm chirped. “This is Captain Baxter. We’ve just detected a ripple in the space-time continuum all around the ship, and according to our records, that makes Spacial Anomaly number ONE HUNDRED! Per Starfleet regulations, we will each receive a plaque and a free trip to Starfleet’s sector-sized seafood buffet, including fourteen selections of seafood and your choice of french fries or onion rings, the next time we come into port. Congratulations everyone on being so accident-prone. Good day.”
Hartley rubbed her eyes as the storm of air and snot died down. “Mirk, are you okay?”
Mirk teetered there for a moment, his eyes wide open. “Nope.”
Amara ran a hand in front of Mirk’s face. “Mirk!”
The Maloxian blinked. “Woah. That was wierd.”
“What happened?” Hartley asked.
“I really don’t know,” Mirk said, shaking his head. “It was like, for a moment I was somewhere else.”
“Oh no,” Hartley said. “This is it!”
“What is what?” Mirk asked.
“Don’t you see…your powers have been increasing more and more lately. This must be your first foray into omnipotence!”
“Oh, that’s a load of flarg,” Mirk said. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Well, that’s certainly–” Amara said, when suddenly the bar was rocked with another massive sneeze.
“Mirk!” Hartley cried, as Mirk suddenly began to turn transparent.
“Hey Mirk,” Lt. Ford said, walking into the bar. “Can I have a Gorn Gonad-Launcher with extra tabasco?”
Ford watched as Mirk flickered out of existence completely, leaving a speechless and mucous-covered Hartley and Amara staring at the empty space he once occupied.
Ford scratched his head. “Where the hell did he go?”
“Mirk?” Amara asked.
Suddenly Mirk’s head poked through the surface of the bar. As if he was climbing out of a swimming pool, he hopped out from inside of the bar and shook himself, flickering as if he was a bad holographic projection.
“Hmm,” Mirk said, now sitting on top of the bar. “That wad a bid abnorbal.”
“Come on,” Hartley muttered, grabbing Mirk’s arm. “We’re taking you to sickbay.”
“Hey,” Mirk said, sliding off the bar as Amara followed close behind. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“You faded out of existence!”
“Happens all the time!”
“Hey,” Ford called as the group hurried out of the Cafe. “Who’s going to get my drink?”
“I shouldn’t be here,” Mirk said, as Benzra ran her medical tricorder over him. “I have work to do.”
“You have a fever of 45 degreeesssss celsiusssss, Mr. Mirk,” Benzra said, studying the readings. “And your blood pressssssure is off the chartsssss.”
“I feel fide,” Mirk sniffed.
“You say he vanished?” Lt. Tilleran asked from the other side of the biobed, running her tricorder over Mirk.
“Right before our eyes,” Hartley said, and Amara nodded assent.
“It’s nothing,” Mirk griped.
“Causing a major quantum disturbance is most certainly NOT nothing,” Tilleran said. “This is a problem and we have to figure out how to fix it before you do it again.”
“I assssume it issss tied to your Delta Quadrant origin,” Benzra said thoughtfully. “Very likely an Alpha Quadrant virussssss ssssstrand hassss had an adverssssse and odd affect on you.”
“Then what’ll stop it from affecting you?” Mirk asked.
“Flarn do not get sick.”
Mirk folded his arms. “Depends on how you define sick.”
“Mirk!” Amara said angrily.
“What are you getting at?” Benzra asked, putting her tricorder aside.
“Nothing. Just that the Flarn are a bunch of slave- driving, cruel, thoughtless, insensitive monsters!”
“And!!!!” Mirk cried. “And it’s not nice!”
“Sssssssorry,” Benzra said, walking over to a large wall panel and hitting some controls. “I wassss not aware that it wasss Galactic policy that a race hasssssss to be nice.”
“Look what you’ve done,” Amara whispered. “You’ve hurt her feelings.”
“Well maybe she hurt my feelings by being born of a race that did nothing but push my species around for decades.”
“Mirk,” Hartley prodded. “That’s not very forward-thinking of you.”
“You all could have fought back,” Benzra said dully. “We did not force you to be ssssssubservient to ussss. Oh, wait. We did. Anyway, what isss done isssss done. I wassss not in agreement with all the Flarn did, but I wassssss an obedient ssssoldier. We all have our place in life, Mr. Mirk.”
Mirk glared at Benzra. “Maybe so, but–buu buu…”
“But what?” Benzra asked.
“Uh-oh,” Hartley said, pushing Amara back. “Here comes another one! Hold on to something!”
Dizzily, Mirk fell backward as colors swirled around his field of vision.
Before he could fall off the biobed, a hand grabbed his shoulder and steadied him.
“Easy now,” the voice said. “You almost took a header there, Mirk.”
Mirk worked his eyes open and rubbed them. “Dr. Browning?”
“Uh-huh,” Browning said, running a scanner over Mirk’s head. “That last sneeze was a doozie. Are you okay?”
“I don’t think so. Where the hell did you come from?”
“Ha ha ha,” Browning said, turning around and looking at some samples under the spectroscope. “My office, silly. Don’t you remember?”
“You sure scared us,” Hartley said from behind Mirk.
“Lieutenant…” Mirk said, turning to look at Hartley. “Junior Grade?”
“What else would I be?” Hartley asked.
“Full Lieutenant. They promoted you when they made you Chief Engineer.”
“Chief Engineer?” Hartley laughed. “Ha! That’s rich, Mirk. That cold must be affecting your brain.”
“And where’s Amara?”
“Who?” Browning asked.
Mirk shook his head. “This is weird.” His eyes went wide as he stared at the carpet. “PUSE?”
“Yep,” Browning said. “Just like it’s always been. Don’t you remember the carpet being puse?”
“No,” Mirk said sadly. “I do remember the carpet…I just…remember it differently. There’s something wrong with my mind.”
“How so?” Tilleran asked. She was on the other side of the biobed.
“Can’t you tell?”
Tilleran looked down, sniffing quietly.
“That’s not funny, Mirk,” Hartley said. “You know Tilleran lost her telepathic abilities when the Starshine cult screwed with her mind earlier this year.”
“Uh-huh,” Mirk said, scooting off the biobed. “Listen, I’d better–”
Browning pushed Mirk back onto the biobed. “You’d better sit down and relax.”
“No, no…you see…there’s something wrong with–with–”
“Oh no…” Browning said. “Here it comes again. Duck, everyone!”
“They just took out our port stabilizer!” Lt. J’hana called out over a din of noise.
“Return fire!” Captain Andy Baxter shouted.
Mirk waved smoke away from his face. This was the bridge. But it wasn’t the Explorer’s bridge!
“Mirk! What do you know about this system?” Baxter asked Mirk, who sat beside him where Peterman normally sat. “Any hiding places?”
The Maloxian gripped the seat. “I don’t know what system this is.”
“Sure you do,” Conway said, from his chair to Baxter’s right. “It’s virtually in Malox’s back yard!”
“We’re in the Delta Quadrant?” Mirk asked, scratching his head. He suddenly put the pieces together. “This is the Aerostar!”
“This is no time for levity, Mirk!” Baxter called. “That Flarn ship has destroyed our shields and they’re slowly working through the duranium shielding around the Engineering section. Another minute and they’ll cause a warp core breach!”
“Oh, flarg,” Mirk said, sniffing and sniffing as hard as he could. “Come on, damn it, sneeze!”
‘What are you doing?” Conway asked.
“Trying to sneeze,” Mirk said. “Before–”
“Richards to Captain!” came a call over the comm. “They just compromised the warp core. I closed off Engineering, but I can’t get the ejection system operable. We have to abandon the— zrrrrrrt.”
“Richards!” Baxter called, snapping a button on the arm of his chair. “All hands, this is Captain Baxter, prepare to–”
“That’s disgusting,” said a young, thin-haired man in an unfamiliar, yet definitely Starfleet, uniform.
Mirk looked around, wiping his nose on his sleeve. He was in a cramped little galley on an unfamiliar ship. The galley was nowhere near as spacious or inviting as his bar, and it appeared he was the head chef, if the apron and chef’s hat he was wearing was any indication.
“Come on,” the man repeated. “Me and Harry have to eat before our shift begins.”
“Fine, fine,” Mirk said, slopping something from a nearby wok onto the annoying man’s plate. “Enjoy.”
“Thanks,” the officer said, turning around and joining a young Asian man at a nearby table.
“Commander Chakotay to Tom, Mirk, and Harry. Report to the bridge immediately.”
“Great, I don’t even get to eat,” the thin-haired man said.
“You can eat later,” Harry replied, motioning for the door. “Come on, Tom.”
More confused than ever, Mirk stepped out from behind the kitchen counter and followed Tom and Harry out of the galley. He decided to play along with the situation until he knew he could trust this crew. He couldn’t make any hasty judgments on their morality until he knew what kind of universe he was in.
“By the everlasting eyeballs!” Mirk cried out, stepping out out of the turbolift. He was face to face with the largest pair of breasts he’d ever seen.
“Mr. Mirk, are you all right?” a voice said from somewhere above the tremendous set of quantum torpedoes.
“Mr. Mirk,” a short woman with Captain’s pips and shoulder- length hair said, pushing by the pair of breasts. “This ship just entered the system,” she waved back at the viewscreen. “Can you identify it for us?”
“Flarn…” Mirk said slowly.
“Flarn?” asked a taller man with a tattoo on his forehead.
“Flarn,” Mirk repeated. “Captain, you have got to get us out of here. They enslaved my entire race. They’re the worst menace in this quadrant. Um, next to the Borg that is.”
“That’s all I need to know,” replied the woman, heading back to her command chair. “Full about. Go to red alert.”
“They are hailing us,” said the Vulcan at tactical.
“Put them on screen,” the woman said. Mirk noticed that her voice was strangely high and grating. Really irritating.
Mirk flinched as the gruesome head appeared on the viewscreen.
“Federation Sssssssstarsssship,” the Flarn said. “I am Lord Benzra of the Flarn Warssssship Vendregad. Stand down and prepare to be processssssed into well-balanced mealssssss.”
“Benzra…” Mirk said to himself.
“Well-balanced?” the man with the tattoo asked.
“Not now, Chakotay,” snapped the Captain. “Lord Benzra…I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the starship Voyager. What do you mean by ‘processed?’”
“We want to eat you!” suddenly the Flarn’s eyes fell on Mirk. “What is this? A Maloxian! And not jusssssst any! One of our greatest pilotsssss. Did you think you could essssscape from usssss that eassssily, Mr. Mirk?”
Janeway stood up and crossed in front of Mirk, blocking him from Benzra’s view. “Captain, we were sent to this quadrant six years ago by a powerful entity known as the ‘Caretaker.’ Shortly after arriving, we ran into Mr. Mirk. Since he came aboard, he has proven himself a valuable crewmember. I will not let you harm him or any other crewmember on my ship.”
“Then you will die.”
Suddenly the bridge rattled as the starship was pummeled by the Flarn weapons.
“They’re using some type of antiproton beam, Captain,” the Vulcan said.
The large-breasted woman Mirk had bumped into earlier was now manning the station right behind the command chairs. “They are decimating our shields quite effectively.”
“Try to modulate the shields and keep our strong side facing them, Seven,” Janeway barked over her shoulder at the voluptuous woman. “Can you tell us anything about this race? Have the Borg ever faced them?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
Janeway frowned and stared at the angling Flarn warship on the screen. “Helm, evasive. Return fire, Tuvok. Mr. Mirk, what can YOU tell us about these ‘Flarn’?”
“I can tell you they’re not going to give up,” Mirk said fearfully. “They’re the most vile and abhorrent creatures in the galaxy.”
Suddenly, Lord Benzra appeared on the screen again. “Ssssstarship Voyager…are you ready to give up?”
“Not on your life,” Janeway said, her voice dripping with vehemence.
“Then…then…” Benzra’s nose crinkled. “AAAACHOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
“Brace yourselves!” the tattooed man shouted.
Mirk looked at Benzra on the viewscreen askance as she recovered herself. “Benzra?” Her compound eyes had a look of confusion. The rows of teeth no longer showed in a sneer. Her jagged mouth was pursed in a frown.
“Detecting a ripple in the space-time continuum, Captain,” Harry reported. “Apparently, the computer recorded a similar one approximatley fifteen minutes ago.”
“Mirk! It’ssssss Doctor Benzra,” Benzra said, shaking her head. “Where am I?”
“What’s happening?” Janeway asked, looking back at Mirk.
“In another universe!” Mirk said.
“Lord Benzra?” a concerned voice asked from beside Benzra.
“Mirk?” Janeway asked.
“Doctor Benzra!” Mirk said. “Doctor! What’s happening to me?”
“Thisssss cold you’ve contracted has totally disssssrupted the ssssspace time continuum. I was equipped with a quantum tracking mechanissssm and sssssent to find you. I have also…hrrrrk…contracted your cold.”
“They have stopped firing,” Tuvok reported.
“Lord Benzra, you are not well,” the Flarn off-screen continued.
“Damn right I am not. Sssssstand down our weaponsssss. I need to sssssspeak with Mr. Mirk.”
“Wait a minute,” Janeway said. “We’re not just going to–”
“I need to go over there,” Mirk said.
“Why?” the tattooed man asked.
“It’s a long story,” Mirk replied. “I just need to talk to her.”
“That’s a her?” the man at helm asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You have a narrow perception of other species, Mr. Paris,” Seven, the woman at engineering, said snidely. She was great for looks but had a sort of cold attitude.
“I just call ‘em like I seem,” Paris replied. Mirk concluded, based on Ford and Paris, that all helmsmen must be smartalecks.
“Perhapssss I sssshould beam over there,” Benzra said, looking around her bridge uneasily. She leaned forward and whispered, “My crew seemsssss antssssy.”
Janeway looked around her bridge as Benzra flicked off the screen. “I need some kind of explanation for this, Mr. Mirk.”
“You’d never believe it,” Mirk said. “Just believe me when I tell you it’s imperative that you beam her over here.”
“Whatever you say,” Janeway said. “But security will be keeping a close eye on her.”
“Just as well. She may sneeze again, after all.”
Benzra stared angrily at the two security officers as she squeezed into the conference room. Evidently they seldom dealt with lifeforms over three meters tall and were more than willing to give her a wide birth.
“Leave usssss,” she barked over her shoulder.
“Mr. Mirk?” Tuvok asked, peering around the huge Flarn.
Mirk nodded from his place at the conference table. “I’ll be fine, trust me.”
Tuvok nodded and motioned his security officers away.
“What ssssship issss thissss?” Benzra asked, stepping past the closing conference room doors.
Mirk shrugged. “Evidently some other Federation ship that’s stuck in the Delta Quadrant.”
“Voyager,” Benzra said to herself. “That name issss not familiar.”
“It may not have gone to the Delta Quadrant in our universe.”
The Flarn pulled out a small, blinking box. “It is no matter. Lt. Tilleran consssssstructed thissss device to help me find you and bring you home. But we have to use it sssssssoon. Once the ripple you caussssed in our home universssse collapssssssesss, we will be permanently stuck in thissss universsssse.”
“No way,” Mirk said. “This ship has a horrible crew lounge.” He then thought about the large-breasted woman with the cybernetic implants. “Then again, there are other things to consider.”
“There isssss nothing to consssider! We are returning to our rightful place!”
“Fine, have it your way,” Mirk said. Suddenly Mirk saw a twinkling blue fireball sail toward the conference room windows.
Thinking of the large-breasted woman to warm up his powers, Mirk pushed forward, and in a breath he was in the air, slamming Benzra with unbecoming strength right through the conference room door.
“What–” Benzra said, shocked. She and Mirk plowed through the doors, smashing apart the doorframe in the process.
“They have destroyed our shields!” Tuvok shouted. “Direct hit on Deck One, section three. The conference room. Erecting forcefields now.”
“You sssssssaved me?” Benzra asked, scratching her oblong head.
Mirk shrugged. “You have the device capable of getting us home, don’t you?”
“Voyager: Thissssss is the new Lord of the Vendregad. Our Lord has been relieved of duty due to insssssanity. You will deal with me now. Transssport Benzra and Mirk to our sssship and we will disssssssmember your crew and cut up your ssssship for ssssscrap.”
“That doesn’t sound like much of a deal,” Janeway said, hands on hips.
“No more diplomatic possssssturing!” the Flarn shouted, as more blasts rocked Voyager. “You all mussssst die!”
“Damn!” Mirk said, looking to Benzra. “Get us out of here!”
“Ssssssssorry,” Benzra said weakly, holding up the smashed, crackling device she’d shown Mirk earlier. “Tilleran’sssss device was desssstroyed when I hit the ground.”
“Hull integrity down to two percent!” Tuvok called out.
“Warp core nearing overload!” cried Seven.
“Then I have to sneeze!” Mirk said, tickling his nose like crazy.
“I have a quesssstion,” Benzra asked fearfully.
Mirk sucked and sucked air through his nose. “Hunnnnnnnk. What?”
“How will I change universssssesss without that device?”
“Damage to decks eleven and fourteen!”
“Well, this is obviously somehow connected to my powers. I’m sure I can bring you along. Just…just…”
“Main power is gone!”
Mirk rolled his eyes. “Just hold me tight.”
The Maloxian gritted his teeth as he felt sharp claws dig into his back.
“Let her rip!” Benzra cried.
“Warp core critcal!”
“All hands…abandon ship!”
“Here goes! AAAACHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOO!”
Benzra opened her eyes warily. She obviously wasn’t dead so that was a good sign.
She was in a cabin…aboard another ship…evidently another Starfleet one. But it wasn’t Voyager or Explorer.
“Baxter to Benzra.”
“Benzra here,” the Flarn said suspicously, tapping the comm badge that was attached to her exoskeleton.
“We need you up on the bridge, Ms. Benzra. It seems like the Maloxians are making some violently agressive moves near their border again.”
“Maloxians?” Benzra asked, confused.
“You heard me. Please get up here as soon as possible.”
“I’m coming.” Benzra idly wondered where Mirk was in this universe. She hoped he was close, since she would be stuck in this universe permanently if he didn’t take her with him when his next sneezing fit hit.
By the time Benzra had squeezed herself out of the cramped turbolift tube and onto the bridge, she realized what ship she was on.
It was Aerostar, the ship Baxter and his crew were assigned to prior to the Explorer. In her universe, that ship had been accidently thrown into the Delta Quadrant and constantly tried to usurp Flarn authority. Now she was aboard it, and likely back in the Delta Quadrant as in the previous universe.
“Look at that,” Commander Conway grunted, as Benzra stepped toward the front of the bridge. He pointed his cup of hot apple cider toward the viewscreen.
Benzra shuddered. A fleet of Flarn warships. A cause for fear indeed, if all Baxter had on his side was the Aerostar.
“Damn Maloxians,” Baxter muttered from the command chair. “They think they’re so powerful. Don’t worry, Benzra. They’re not invading Flarn space. Not if we can help it.”
“Come again?” Benzra asked. “Did you ssssssay thossssse were MALOXIAN ships?”
“They sure as hell aren’t Flarn,” Ford said with a chuckle from the helm.
Benzra shook her head. What had she and Mirk jumped into?
“Aerostar. This is Emperor Jum of the Maloxian Hierarchy,” a voice said, as a bald Maloxian flipped onto the viewscreen. Benzra noted that a very skiddish-looking Mirk was standing next to him. “Turn your fleet over to us now or we’ll be forced to demolish you.”
“I don’t think so,” Baxter said defiantly. “This fleet may not look like much, but what we lack in numbers we more than make up for in nerve.”
“Oh, you’ll need tons of nerve,” taunted Jum.
“Hey, can I talk a minute?” Mirk asked, stepping forward.
“No,” Jum snapped angrily.
“Hey, Benzra. Looks like the shoe’s on the other foot now, huh?” Mirk asked weakly.
Benzra bristled. “You’re actually enjoying thisssss.”
“No. But I don’t see what I can do about it.”
“You can’t do anything about it,” Baxter said. “We’re going to stop you. Right, Benzra?”
“Get out of my way, boy,” Jum said with irritation. “And you back off, Captain Baxter.”
“No way,” Baxter said, jerking his head back to the tactical station. “Mr. Worf, lock weapons onto Jum’s ship and raise our shields. Tell the rest of the fleet it’s going to have to be a zone defense. Not enough ships to match them vessel for vessel.”
“Aye, sir,” Worf rumbled.
A Klingon? Where the Andorian would normally serve? How strange.
“They are opening fire,” a pointy-eared humanoid at the ops console announced.
“Start configuring firing patterns, Lt. Commander T’Phil. Worf, open fire!” Baxter commanded.
Suddenly Mirk appeared on the screen, grappling with Jum over the throne at the center of the Maloxian bridge.
“Benzra! I’m trying to stop my dad! You have to lower shields and transport me over there!”
“Imposssssible,” Benzra said. “Your Maloxian ssshipssss are firing at usss!”
“Yeah,” Conway said, seeming more than a bit confused. “Make them stop, whoever you are.”
“Working on it!” Mirk shouted. Other Maloxian officers scrambled after him, but each time they neared, Mirk nodded in their direction and seemingly with a thought they were thrown backward.
“Damage coming in from all quarters!” Worf called out as the Aerostar’s hull thundered with the impact of the Maloxian weapons.
“What would you have me do, Mirk?” Benzra asked.
Mirk shoved his father aside and dove for a nearby console. “This helm configuration is a little strange, but I’m going to try to steer the ship away from the battle. Follow us and then you can lower your shields.”
“What is he on about?” Baxter asked, rubbing his chin.
“Jusssssst do assssss he saysssss,” Benzra ordered. “He is on our ssssside.”
“She hasn’t failed us before,” Conway mentioned, sipping from his cup. “God I love hot apple cider.”
“Okey doke,” Baxter said. “We go with Benzra. Mr. Ford, follow that ship.”
“Two other Maloxian vessels are in pursuit,” Worf announced from tactical.
“Let me take the weaponsssss panel, Captain,” insisted Benzra. “I know the weaknessssess in thossse shipsssss.”
“Why haven’t you shared this with us before, little lady?” Baxter asked.
“I can’t explain it now. Jussssst let me help dessssstroy them!”
“Go for it!”
Benzra hopped over the tactical railing and pushed Worf aside. “Excussssse me.”
Torpedoes blazed from the Aerostar’s aft launchers, impacting the two Maloxian ships in just the right places.
Explosions ripped through their hulls, causing them to veer off course.
Worf checked the damage control console. “They did massive damage, but they’ve been stopped.”
“There,” Mirk said, reappearing on the viewscreen. It looked like there had been a small war on the bridge of the Maloxian flagship. “I’ve stabilized things here. Get ready to beam me over there before I–ah–ah” Mirk held a finger to his nose and sighed. “Damn, that was close!”
“Traitor!” Jum cried, leaping from behind Mirk and knocking him to the deck.
“What is going on over there?” Conway demanded.
“No time for quesssssstionsssss,” Benzra said, tapping at the tactical panel. “Lowering our ssssssshieldsssss and transssssporting Mirk over here.”
Mirk materialized on the bridge just in time for Jum to climb toward a panel on the Maloxian ship and start pressing controls. Benzra ran to his side as blasts pummeled the Aerostar.
“They are firing again!” T’Phil called out.
“Get those shields back up!” Baxter cried.
Too late, a surge of antiproton blasts pummeled the Aerostar’s lower section, blowing through hull plating.
“Richards to bridge! We’re losing hull integrity down here. Half the engineering section was blown away!”
“Damn!” Baxter cursed. “Get to an escape pod, Chris! T’Phil…blow the mag locks on the saucer section and separate the ship!”
“Now we’re really sssssscrewed,” Benzra said, annoyed.
“I have it covered,” Mirk said. “All I have to do is sneeze.”
“Separation complete. Escape pods away–engineering section destroyed!” Worf reported.
Mirk wrinkled his nose. “That’s weird. I can’t seem to do it.”
“They are still firing on us.”
“The times between changing universes seem to be increasing.”
“Try to evade them.”
“Maybe your cold issssss the 24-hour type. You could be getting well.”
“It’s no use. They are far faster and more maneuverable than us.”
“I don’t want to be well! I want to get out of here!”
“Then find the nearest planet and try to land us! It’s our only hope of escape!”
Benzra looked around. “Does anyone have sssssome ticklish material around here!”
“We’re kind of busy trying to save the ship right now, Benzra,” Baxter said, gripping the command chair.
The Flarn scoured the bridge quickly as a planet hovered into view on the main screen. “There hasssssssto be a ssssssomething that will work on this Director-forsaken bridge!”
Benzra eyed Worf and her eyes lit up. “Perfect!”
“What do you want?” Worf asked as he worked at his panel.
“Your hair!” Benzra said, slashing at the back of the warrior’s head with her claw.
“Arrrrgh!” Worf said, spinning around and leaping toward Benzra.
“Pleassssssse,” Benzra said, slapping the Klingon with one claw. He slammed into the floor, unconcious. Benzra tappinged at the tactical console. “There, that will keep the Maloxian warsssssship busy for a while.”
“What are you doing?” Baxter demanded, as Benzra crossed in front of him with the lock of Worf’s hair in her claw.
Benzra turned around and waved the hair menacingly in Baxter’s face. “Lissssssssssten, Captain, I am from another universssssse, as is Misssssster Mirk. In order for us to find the right universsssse, he musssssst sssssneeze. And in order for him to do that, I musssst tickle his nossssse. Okay?”
“STOP BLOCKING THE F***ING VIEWSCREEN!” Baxter shouted.
“Okay, okay. Here Mirk, try this.” Benzra tickled Mirk’s nostrils as the Aerostar’s saucer section sailed through the atmosphere of whatever planet they’d chosen to crash on.
“Moderate our descent with lateral thrusters!”
“Ssssssneeze, damn it!”
“Divert all nonessential power to inertial dampers!”
“Come on, goochy goochy goo! Ssssssneeze!”
“Everyone grab onto something!”
“I’m trying to, but it just isn’t working!”
“Brace for impact!”
“Here we go!”
“This doesn’t normally happen to me!”
“Will you two shut up! We’re trying to crash here!”
“SORRY!” Benzra and Mirk shouted, while behind them a forest of huge trees soared into view.
With a clang of wood-on-duranium, the Aerostar saucer shaved the tops off the trees, sagging down into the forest and plowing through trees like an oversized bulldozer. Finally the saucer slowed to a stop, dangling over a high cliff.
Captain Baxter shoved aside his broken command chair and stared up through the cracked oval window in the top of the saucer section. Birds flew by and sunlight streamed in. “Oh, wow!”
“Uggggg…” Commander Conway said, his legs sticking up in the air.
“Things could have been worse,” Worf said, brushing off his uniform.
Then a huge explosion rocked the saucer.
“Atmospheric antiproton charges!” T’Phil cried.
“MIRK!” Benzra rattled.
Mirk squeezed his eyes shut. “Here goes!”
“Try to make it the right universe this time!”
“Don’t pressure me!”
“Eye damn it, Mirk! SSSSSSNEEZE!”
Mirk yawned and sat up in bed. It was such a beautiful room! All bright yellow and green and matching curtains. Not his austere cabin on the Explorer, that was for sure. Glancing out the window, Mirk noted that he was now back on Malox.
“Mirkie, breakfast is on!” he heard a familiar voice call.
Mirk hopped out of bed and pulled on his housecoat. He would know that voice anywhere.
“Danel!” Mirk said, hurling himself out into the hallway beyond his bedroom. She was the young Maloxian he’d had a crush on since they were children. So what if she also tried to destroy the Aerostar with an explosive charge once?
Danel smiled primly. “Morning, sleepyhead. Were you that exausted last night?”
Mirk grinned sheepishly, kissing Danel on the cheek. “I guess. How are you doing?”
“Just as great as every morning I wake up knowing I’m Mrs. Mirk.”
“Mrs. Mirk?” Mirk said, rubbing his head. “Right. Right. We’re married.”
“Of course we are. First anniversary’s coming up, remember?”
“Of course. That’s duranium, right?”
“No, silly, it’s polyester.”
“How forgetful of me. Well, you may have a big pile of polyester coming to you this year, darling!” Mirk said, dipping Danel in a graceful dancing move. “Now how about some breakfast?”
“Sure thing!” Danel said, rushing into their beautiful shiny- tiled kitchen.
Mirk sat down at the kitchen table and sipped at the cup of hot larmak tea that was already waiting for him. He glanced over the headlines in the Malox Journal as Danel prepared breakfast. It appeared that all his favorite basket-fruit teams had won unilaterally across the continent. And all violence on Malox had come to an end to boot!
Suddenly there was a knock at the door.
“Can you get that, Mirkie!” Danel called.
“Sure,” Mirk said, shuffling over to the ornate wooden front door and swinging it open.
“Sssssssssssssssurprisssssse!!!” Flarn Overmaster Granok squealed.
“AAAAAAH!” Mirk cried, slamming the door.
“Who was it, dear?” Danel called.
“Flarn,” Mirk replied.
“Well don’t just stand there, invite them in!”
“What?” Mirk asked, turning.
The door swung open again, and Granok squeezed in.
“Mirk, you old kidder,” Granok said merrily, patting him on the head with his claw. “Benzra and I love your ssssssensssse of humor.”
“Benzra?” Mirk asked, peering behind Granok.
“Hello, Mirk. Yessssss, how nice it isss that the Flarn and Maloxians are at peace with one another.”
“What do you expect, ssssssweetie?” Granok asked. “That one culture would try to enssssslave the other?”
Danel stepped out of the kitchen and she and Granok had a long laugh over the thought of that.
Mirk leaned toward Benzra. “I must have been thinking too much about getting us back to the ideal place, not necessarily the right place.”
“Good work, at any rate.”
“Maybe, but there has to be a catch.”
“The only catch around here isssss Granok,” Benzra whispered back. “He is the mosssst beautiful Flarn around. Never ssssssneeze again,” she added threateningly.
“You don’t just expect us to stay here!” Mirk said incredulously.
“I certainly do,” Benzra said. “This ssssssure as hell beatssss our universssse.”
“Come on, hon,” Danel said. “Invite everyone into the kitchen. I’ve made enough jarson eggs for everyone.”
“Mmm, nothing beatssssssss jarsssssson eggsssss,” Granok said, following Mirk and Benzra into the kitchen and rubbing his claws together.
“Not even a human corpse?” Mirk muttered.
Benzra slapped Mirk on the back of his head. “Nothing. He said nothing.”
“Breakfast is on!” Danel said, lowering a tray in front of Mirk and the others and taking a seat.
“Grrrrrreat,” Granok said, digging into the pile of eggs.
Benzra tentatively tasted the eggs, swishing them around between her second and third tongues. “What’sssss that ssssstrange sssssspice I detect?”
Danel grinned. “Pepper.”
Benzra’s claw moved to slap Mirk’s fork away from his mouth, but in doing so, she only succeeded in pulverizing Danel’s antique pepper grinder, sending a black cloud right into Mirk’s face.
“Damn it damn it damn it damn it damn it!” Benzra shouted, pounding her desk until it was reduced to rubble.
“Problem?” Nurse Holly Carter asked, poking her head into Benzra’s office.
“Yesssssss,” Benzra muttered. “I pulverizzzed my dessssk.”
“Wait a minute! My desssssk! My office! I’m back on the Explorer!”
“Yep,” Holly replied. “You expected maybe the Queen Elizabeth II?”
Benzra pushed the remains of her desk away and scrambled toward the door. “We’re in the Alpha Quadrant?”
“And we are not at war?”
Holly backed away as Benzra clambered out of her office. “That’ssssss great.”
“Glad I could make your day.”
Benzra slammed into Mirk somewhere between Sickbay and the Constellation Cafe.
“BENZRA! We’re back!” Mirk cried, laying on the deck.
“In our universssssse!”
“And I think you broke my arm…ow!”
Benzra leaned over Mirk and examined his arm. “Naah, it’ssssss fine.”
“Whew,” Mirk said, standing up and wiping off his forehead. “What a crazy day, huh?”
“Mm hm,” Benzra replied. “Though Nurssssse Carter did not sssseeem like sssshe noticed my absssssence.”
“We must have reappeared just prior to the first quantum disturbance. That’s why I appeared in the Cafe and you appeared in Sickbay.”
“That makessssss ssssssense.”
“Well,” Mirk said, turning. “I guess I’ll head to back to my quarters and get some sleep until the ‘cold’ or whatever
it is passes.”
Mirk had only gone about twenty meters when he ran into Lt. Hartley.
“Hey, Mirk. You look beat.”
“I feel beat,” Mirk admitted. “It’s been a wild morning.”
“What exactly have you been doing that’s so wild?” Hartley asked with a mischievous grin.
“It would take too long to explain. When I wake up I’ll make a full report to Captain Baxter and you can read it. Right now, I need a few more hours of sleep.”
“Ha ha. Whatever you say. Just be ready for tomorrow.”
Mirk stopped walking and turned around. “What’s tomorrow.”
“Our wedding, dummy,” Hartley said, slapping Mirk playfully on the rear end. “Tomorrow’s the day you become Mister Mirk Hartley.”
“Come on,” Hartley said, throwing her arms around the Maloxian. “Don’t play forgetful with me.” She squeezed a little too hard. “Remember what happens if you f*** with me.”
“Uh-huh.” Mirk squirmed out of Hartley’s grasp and flew back in the direction of Sickbay. “I gotta go now. Bye-bye. BENZRAAAAAAAAAAAA!”
“What got into him?” Hartley asked, scratching her head.
Mirk burst into Sickbay. “Benzra! Benzra! Something’s wrong!”
“I guesssssed that much.”
Benzra, whose back was to Mirk, stepped aside to reveal Captain Baxter, who was evidently in for his annual physical.
“Hey, Mirk,” Baxter said amiably.
Mirk’s jaw fell open.
“He sayssssss hissss scalesssss itch,” Benzra said matter- of-factly.
Baxter’s shirt was off, which would have given Mirk chills of discomfort in a normal situation, but as it was, his body from the shoulders down was covered in greeen slimy scales.
“And could you check my stomachs? I think one or two of them is acting up,” Baxter said, as Nurse Carter handed him a huge metallic bowl.
“Here you go, Captain.”
“Thanks Holly,” Baxter said with a grin, reaching in and pulling out a handful of squirming and chirping crickets. “Damn I love crickets!”
Baxter laughed maniacally and crunched on the crickets as Mirk and Benzra stared.
“And the whole crew is like this?” Mirk whispered.
Benzra shoved a padd into Mirk’s hand. “Yessss. Jusssssst checked the crew biological profile. One DNA sssssstrand out of millionssssss wasssss jusssst a bit different than it sssshould be. This universsssse is identical to ours otherwissssse.”
“No, it’s not. I have to marry Lt. Hartley.”
Benzra smiled weakly. “Sssssshould make for an interessssting honeymoon. Sssssshe probably hassss retractable claws and a forked tongue.”
“This is NOT funny!” Mirk said.
“We’ll get you sssssneezing again as ssssson as I ssssee to the Captain,” Benzra assured, turning to look at Baxter.
“Mmm mmm mmm! More crickets, Holly!” Baxter cried.
Mirk flew off the biobed and landed on the floor roughly.
When he opened his eyes, Amara and Hartley were looming over him.
“Oh, Mirk!” Amara swooned. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, Mirk,” Hartley chuckled. “Sounds like you strained something on that one.”
“You’ll be glad to know that the temporal fissure has resolved itself,” Tilleran said, behind Amara and Hartley. “There was a giant surge in temporal energy, then poof! Nothing.”
“You don’t sssssssay,” Benzra said, claws-on-midsection.
“Yep,” Tilleran said. “Why, do you disagree with my analysis?”
“Not exactly,” Benzra said, helping Mirk up. “Mirk and I just may remember things a bit differently.”
“And why would that be?” Hartley asked, looking at Benzra askance.
“Jussssst read my damn medical report,” Benzra said, turning to Mirk and plunging a hypospray into his arm. “And YOU. Get plenty of fluids and resssssst. That ssssspray ssshould clear up your ressssssspiratory sysssstem and allow you to sssssleep.”
“Whatever you say, Benzra,” Mirk said, patting Benzra on the exoskeleton. “You do know best.”
“Mirk?” Amara asked, as she and Hartley followed Mirk out of Sickbay. “Not that I mind, but why are you being so nice to Benzra all of a sudden?”
Mirk shrugged. “Just read her report.”
Later that evening, all the senior staff had a good laugh over Benzra’s report.
“What a harrowing adventure,” Counselor Kelly Peterman exclaimed, leaning against Baxter as several of the crew grouped around Benzra and Mirk at the large table at the front of the Constellation Cafe, near the windows.
“It wasn’t an adventure,” Mirk said.
“It wasssss madnessssss,” Benzra added.
Commander Conway tossed back a swig of coffee. “It sounds almost like you could pick which universe you went to.”
“I could, though it took a while for me to figure that out,” Mirk explained. “After talking this over with Counselor Peterman and Lt. Tilleran, we’ve come to the conclusion that all my anger toward Benzra made the first few universes so violent. It also reflected my feelings of inadequacy and how much I miss the Delta Quadrant.”
“I just used my dream interpretation textbook as a guide,” Peterman said with a grin. “It works the same way, although the universes were real, of course.”
Hartley shook her head. “Of course. But what about this whole marraige thing? Where did that come from?”
“It meant absolutely nothing,” Mirk said, straightfaced. “Absolutely nothing.”
Amara kissed Mirk on the cheek and hugged him. “Glad to hear that.”
“Well,” Baxter said, standing up and stretching. “Time we all got to bed. There’s a long day of killing and enslaving ahead tomorrow.”
“Yep,” Conway agreed. “What with our mission to annihilate and enslave all the inferior cultures of the galaxy–”
Baxter nodded. “It’s a full time job. The Federation wasn’t built by lazy bums. It was built by honest, hard-working fascists.”
“Amen,” Conway said with a mock-salute.
“F***!” Mirk and Benzra cried, scrambling out of their chairs and out of the Constellation Cafe.
“Find me some pepper!” Mirk cried, rushing out into the corridor.
Peterman punched Baxter hard in the stomach and glared at Conway. “That was a cruel joke. Both of you should be ashamed of yourselves.” Conway grinned. “We were just having some fun with them. Mirk’s cold is gone. It’s not like he’s going to–”
A knock on the head convinces Lt. Hartley that she’s a superhero. Will the crew be able to stop her from crusading throughout the ship fighting evil, or will she simply retreat to a fortress of solitude forever? Find out in “Superlative Girl!”