Author: Anthony Butler
Stardate 53652.3. Thanks to a fractured subspace filament, the Explorer has been tossed right out of the galaxy like a drunken barroom brawler. I suppose we’re lucky, though. We’re not in the Delta Quadrant. But we have been joined by four crewmembers of the Enterprise, who were also caught up in the filament, so it’s nearly as unpleasant as being in the Delta Quadrant.
Counselors Peterman and Troi have tried to kill each other once already, Lt. Tilleran has shirked her duties to devote herself unconditionally to the care of Mrs. Troi, Mr. Data has been lingering around the bridge accumulating data about Larkin since my shift began, and Commander Conway hasn’t reported in yet this morning. And so begins Day Two of our monthlong voyage back to familiar space. Just grand.
“There you are,” Baxter muttered, as Commander Conway skipped onto the bridge, dragging Bucky the Welsh corgi along with him.
“Morning, Captain!” Conway said brightly. “And how are you today?”
“Wondering where you’ve been,” Baxter said, eying Conway suspiciously as the first officer brought his dog around the command area and sat down.
“Oh, you wouldn’t care.”
Conway folded his arms. “I’d really rather not.”
Baxter sighed. “Fine. Then have a look at this.” Baxter waved at the viewscreen. “Larkin…”
A billowing torrent of blue electricity appeared on the viewscreen.
“Another filament?” Conway asked, stroking his Welsh corgi.
“It sure as hell isn’t a day at the park,” J’hana grumbled from tactical.
Baxter raised an eyebrow at J’hana’s comment and returned his attention to Conway. “Larkin thinks we can use it to get back to our neck of space quicker.”
Conway bristled. “I’d advise against that, Captain.”
“Because…it would pose a risk to the crew.”
Baxter narrowed his eyes. “Right…”
“I think we should just hold our course for the next month as planned. Why take an unnecessary risk?”
“Because we have a bunch of snobs on this ship and I’d just as soon be rid of them,” Baxter grumbled.
“You’re being a little hard on them, sir.”
Lt. Commander Larkin turned in her chair. “Commander Conway does have a point, Captain. The Explorer was nearly destroyed in the last filament. If we entering another one, we may not be as lucky.”
“Fine, fine,” Baxter muttered. “I just hate the idea of spending a whole…” he gulped, “month with these people.”
“It is a large ship, sir,” J’hana argued. “We can easily avoid them.”
“Easy for you to say,” Baxter replied. “I’m the one who has to find a way to keep Kelly and Deanna from ripping each other limb from limb.”
“In all fairness, sir, that would seem to be your problem,” Conway said. “We have to remember to look out for the crew’s best interests above all else.”
“Are you feeling okay, Commander?” Baxter asked, placing a hand on Conway’s forehead. Since when did he care about the best interests of the crew?
Baxter felt an odd rumbling in his stomach. Something deep inside told him the world was askew, and he didn’t like it one bit. “How about taking some time off, Commander?”
“That’s too kind, Captain. But I think I’d be of more use on the bridge.”
Baxter gritted his teeth. “I insist.”
“Nah. I’m fine, really.”
“Get off my bridge, Conway!”
Conway shrugged. “Okeydoke, if you insist. Come on, Bucky!”
“Two Kolvar Wallbangers, Mirk, and make it snappy,” Lt. Ford said, as he and Lt. Gellar strolled into the Constellation Cafe and took a seat at the bar.
Mirk immediately noticed that they were dressed in remotely Andorian outfits: orange animal fur and spikes. “Where have you two been?”
“On the holodeck,” Gellar said, taking his Wallbanger and downing it.
“A deviation of one of Lt. J’hana’s programs,” Ford grinned.
“It’s deviant, all right,” Gellar chuckled.
Mirk’s brow furrowed. “I don’t understand.”
“Three words, Mirk,” Ford said. “Andorian Sex Cave.”
“Oh my is right,” Ford said, tossing his drink back. “I modified one of J’hana’s exercise routines. It’s a workout and entertainment at the same time.”
“It’s better than just sitting around,” Gellar muttered.
“Finding duty a little boring with us out in the middle of nowhere?” Mirk probed.
“Yep,” Ford said. “We’re on course back for Federation space. There’s not exactly much helming to be done.”
“And we’ve already got two teams keeping Troi and Peterman apart,” Gellar added. “So there aren’t any real security issues aboard, either.”
“Hmmm,” Mirk said, idly tossing a glass back and forth from hand to hand.
“I just feel sorry for the poor bastards that don’t have something constructive to do,” Ford said.
“I want my three strips of latinum!” a voice suddenly echoed from the back of the lounge.
Mirk craned his neck to see Ensign Ryan Stuart pound the holo-karate table in anguish.
“Never! That finishing move is illegal!”
“Anything goes in holo-karate!” Ensign Paul Sanchez returned. “Just because you suck at it gives you no excuse not to pay up!”
“Fight, fight, fight!” cried the small crowd that had gathered to watch them play.
“Now this is interesting,” Ford said, putting his glass down and turning on his bar stool.
“Right. Interesting,” Gellar said with concern.
“If you don’t cough up that latinum, I’ll get my payment another way!” Sanchez shouted.
“How’s that?” Stuart cried.
“I’ll wring it from your bloated neck!” and Sanchez set upon Stuart, smashing his head into the glass-latticed holotable.
“Here we go,” Gellar muttered, sliding off his stool and heading into the fray.
“You don’t have a phaser,” Ford mentioned, following behind Gellar. Mirk lept over the bar to join Ford and Gellar.
“I’ll have to improvise.” Gellar reached into the folds of his pink-furred jacket and pulled out a long, thick, pulsating green and blue rod.
“You’re going to use your Andorian pleasure probe on them?”
“Might as well put it to some kind of use. You took both my slave girls!” Gellar muttered, pushing past the gathered onlookers and waving his pleasure probe menacingly. “Everyone clear out! Out of my way!”
Mirk looked on with concern as Sanchez bashed Stuart’s head into the holotable. “You’re replacing that, you know!”
“Come on, break it up!” Gellar ordered, pushing the two combatants apart.
“He started it!” Stuart cried, as Ford yanked him off the table.
“I don’t care who started it. You’re both off to the brig.”
“Aw, damn,” Sanchez muttered. “And there were so many interesting things I wanted to do today.”
“Well, forget about it,” Ford taunted.
Gellar pushed both Stuart and Sanchez in front of him, ushering them toward the exit. “Let’s go, boys.”
Mirk examined the ruins of the holotable angrily. Now what were his customers going to do? Probably go to the holodeck, he thought. Then he remembered that he didn’t charge customers for any of the refreshments, and he didn’t get paid either, so why care one way or the other? He shrugged and worked his way back to the bar.
Halfway there, he saw Sanchez elbow Gellar in the gut and make a run for the doors to the Cafe.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Gellar cried, launching his pleasure probe at Sanchez. The Ensign was felled with a crackle of burning green and blue electricity.
Ford held Stuart back and glared down at Sanchez worriedly. “Oooh, that looked really painful.”
“Actually,” Sanchez grunted. “It felt kind of nice.”
“Come on, sicko, to the brig with you,” Gellar muttered, picking Sanchez up.
“Me a sicko? You’re the one with the pleasure probe.”
Counselor Peterman looked up from her computer terminal. “Come.”
Dr. Crusher stepped in. “Can we talk?”
Peterman quickly shut her terminal off and gestured to a chair. “Sure. Sit down.”
Before Crusher could sit down, she was intercepted by a rather huge ball of orange fur. Fritz the cat lept onto Crusher’s back, digging in with his claws.
Crusher reached behind her, yanking the cat off her back and tossing it onto Peterman’s desk. “How cute.” She fell into the chair opposite Peterman as the Counselor held the hissing kitty at bay. “Listen, I’ve noticed some very disturbing things around here.”
“Naturally. Welcome to the Explorer.”
“This crew seems very unstable.”
“Nothing new there.”
“Shouldn’t we do something about it?”
Peterman leaned forward, stroking her cat with increasing interest. “You have a suggestion?”
“As a matter of fact, I do.”
“I’m all ears.” Peterman smiled.
“Oh a cleaning we will go, a cleaning we will go, hi ho a derry-o, a cleaning we will go!” Commander Conway chanted, tossing the piles of padds that accumulated throughout his office into a bin.
He grabbed a rag off his desk and began scrubbing the deuterium baseboards that lined the bulkheads. The Explorer’s atmosphere was dust-free, but one could never be too careful. Especially when Beverly was due to drop by any minute now.
Conway shoved the couch aside, to reveal the remnants of a plate of biscotti from somewhere around Stardate 52759. “Well, that’s probably gone bad by now, huh?”
Conway whistled a happy tune, tossing the plate into the reclamator and dematerializing it. “Hold your horses! I’m coming!”
The door to Conway’s office swung open to reveal Lt. Commander Chris Richards.
“Commander,” Richards said, stepping in.
Conway hopped into his desk chair and spun around to face him. “Present! What can I do you for?”
Richards looked at him askance. “You okay, Commander?”
“Uh-huh.” He took a seat opposite Conway’s desk. “I have a bit of a minor…personnel problem.”
Conway leaned forward on his cupped hands. “Do tell.”
“Two of my officers got in a brawl in Mirk’s.”
“Yep. Sanchez and Stuart.”
“We’ve had trouble with Sanchez before,” Conway said idly.
“True, but this time it’s not a cloud of evil causing the problem. It’s all this time we’ve spent flying through desolate space.”
“It’s only been two days.”
“Well, it’s been two days of hell!” Richards exclaimed.
“I think you’re overstating that a bit.”
“Have you taken a look around this ship? The crew is getting unstable.”
“What else is new?”
Richards let out an exasperated breath, leaned forward and gripped Conway’s desk. “Commander: If things are this bad two days into this trip, imagine how much worse they’ll get after a few WEEKS.”
Conway swung back and forth in his chair. “You have a point there.”
“Then do something about it! Before anyone else gets hurt.”
“I’ll tell you what,” Conway said, manevering around the desk and wrapping an arm around Richards, leading him back to the door. “I’ll see what I can do. You just concern yourself with doing the best possible job you can do, and let me handle the rest. Throw your cares away, Mr. Richards!”
“Are you taking some sort of drugs?”
“Just the drug called life, Commander.”
“Well, scale back a bit,” Richards grumbled.
“Not bloody likely.” Conway shoved Richards toward the door. It slid open to reveal Beverly Crusher.
Richards stopped in his tracks. “Doctor.”
Crusher tossed Richards a perfunctory greeting and slid past him, into the office. “David, I want to talk to you!”
Richards snickered. “‘David, I want to talk to you!’” he mimicked.
“About what?” Conway asked.
“It has to do with the sanity of this crew.”
Richards ducked out of the office. “You guys will obviously need quite a bit of time alone.”
“Practice time?” Conway asked weakly.
Crusher shook her head. “Not by a long shot. Listen…”
Captain Baxter filed through the different suggestions he’d recieved on the message net about how to get the Explorer back to the Milky Way galaxy quicker. So far, the most worthwhile suggestion was that the Explorer stop moving altogether and wait for the Milky Way to rotate toward it. Didn’t these people have to be smart to be in Starfleet? Baxter sighed and turned his terminal away, leaning back in his deskchair and rubbing his eyes.
Baxter’s fingers parted to give him a clear view of the door to his office. “Uggh. Come on in.”
Commander Conway poked his head in the door. “Busy, sir?”
“Do you care?”
“Well, yeah. If you’re busy, I can come back.”
Baxter leaned forward in his chair. “No, that’s all right. What’s on your mind, Commander?”
“I was talking to Dr. Crusher, sir, and she has an idea about how to make our trip home easier.”
“Let me guess, she wants us to wait until the Milky Way rotates in our direction.”
“Uh, no, not exactly.” Conway moved over to the chair opposite Baxter’s desk. “Have you noticed the way the crew has been behaving lately?”
“They’re a bit on edge. Having a hard time dealing with the boredom.”
“Exactly. We need to give them something to do.”
“And that would be?”
“We’re going to put on a play.”
“Yep!” Conway said brightly. “Dr. Crusher is an expert director. She’ll direct the play and members of the senior staff will star. It’ll give us something to work on, and the crew an interesting and positive experience to enjoy.”
Baxter leaned over his desk, examining Conway close up. “You’re under the influence of alien mind-control, aren’t you?”
“No,” Conway said, backing up. “Not that I know of.”
“Oh.” Baxter leaned back again. “Well, then. I guess that’s okay, if the crew agrees. What sort of play are we putting on? Shakespeare? O’Neil? V’lorm?”
“Um, not exactly. Dr. Crusher found something a little more appropriate for our crew.”
“Summer lovin’, had me a blast,” Lt. Ford sang, running a comb through his greasy hair.
J’hana huffed, staring at the padd in her hand. “I will not sing this.”
“Come on, J’hana,” Beverly Crusher said, waving her hands emphatically. “You’re Sandy Dombrowski, telling the Pink Ladies about your summer. Feel it!”
“I do not wish to feel it.”
“Come on, Lieutenant!” Crusher said. “‘Summer lovin’, happened so fast…” she sang. “You can do it!”
“I know I can do it,” J’hana muttered. “I simply do not wish to.”
“You’re being very difficult!” Ford cried. “How do you expect me to stay in character!”
“You can’t act anyway. You’ll be lucky to get the role of Rump,” Crusher sighed.
“Oh. Great. And after I put all this sticky crap in my hair.”
Just then, the holodeck doors parted to reveal Commander Conway. He stepped out onto the black-on-yellow grid. “How are auditions going so far?”
“Badly,” Crusher said. “Your tactical officer refuses to sing Sandy Dombrowski’s part.”
“I find it objectionable. I wish to be Rizzo. She is the only character in this forsaken play with any honor.”
“You’ll have to fight me for that part!” Lt. Hartley cried from the row of chairs where the other staff members were waiting to audition. “I sure as hell am not playing Frenchie!”
“I will gladly fight you, little human.”
“Nobody’s fighting anyone,” Conway ordered, stepping in between J’hana and Hartley. “This is for the good of the crew.”
“I do not see what good could possibly come of this,” J’hana said.
“You have a real attitude problem,” Crusher said.
“Well, if I can’t be Danny Zuko, I’m not going to be in it,” Ford grumbled.
“And if I can’t play Rizzo, not only will I not be in this play, I’ll short out every holodeck on this ship!” cried Hartley.
Crusher turned on Conway angrily. “David! Do something!”
Conway looked around at the staff gathered in the holodeck. They looked back at him expectantly.
“You want me to what?”
“Order them to play the roles Crusher assigns to them and enjoy it!” Conway exclaimed, following Baxter down to Stellar Cartography.
“I don’t know. That would really be a bit of a violation of their personal freedom, wouldn’t it?”
“Since when do you care about personal freedom!”
Baxter stopped in mid-stride. “I care about personal freedom. What do you think I am, a dictator?”
“I don’t care right now. I just think it’s imperative that this crew puts on Grease, and soon!”
Baxter cocked his head at Conway. “Wait a minute. Why do you care so much about this?”
“Because I’m concerned about the crew’s wellbeing.”
“Since when have you ever been concerned with the crew’s wellbeing?”
Conway stammered a moment, his mouth closing and opening rapidly.
“Exactly,” Baxter said flatly, ducking into Stellar Cartography. “What have we got, Larkin?”
“I have been assisting Lt. Commander Forrester in trying to find a faster way to our area of space,” Larkin said agreeably. She stepped aside to reveal Forrester.
“Right,” Baxter said uncomfortably. Forrester had come on to Baxter on several occasions when the Explorer had been caught in a field of massive paranoia a couple months earlier. Since then, he’d kept his distance, but now he had to face the annoying woman, who he’d found was just as annoying even when not at the mercy of a paranoia field.
“No luck so far,” Forrester said shrilly. “This sector of space seems almost totally devoid of anomalies.”
Except for the ones on this ship, Baxter thought wryly. “Fine. Keep working on it, you two.” Baxter turned to leave the large, domed room, when something occured to him. He turned back to Larkin. “Shouldn’t Tilleran be helping you with this?”
“She is occupied with Lwaxana Troi.”
“How could I have guessed,” Baxter muttered, heading out of Stellar Cartography.
Conway hovered behind him. “Well?”
“Will you order the senior staff to be a part of Grease?”
Baxter sighed. “Commander, it should be more than evident to you by now that I have little to no control over this crew.”
“Damn you, sir. You will try.”
Baxter glared at Conway. “Commander, why–” Then the captain’s shoulders fell. Why bother finding out why Conway was acting weird. More than likely, it would just lead to more questions. “What do I need to do?”
Dr. Crusher scanned the cast list on her padd, addressing the small group assembled in the holodeck, which had now been programmed with rows of chairs and a bare stage.
“Sonny…Lt. Ford…free access to the ship’s classified Cardassian pornography database.”
“Marty…Lt. Commander Larkin…a sub-cadion pulse generator?”
Larkin nodded. “That is correct.”
“Rump…Lt. Commander Richards…” Crusher squinted at her padd. “Nothing?”
Richards shrugged. “I’ve always wanted to be in theatre.”
“Fine. Jan…Dr. Browning…a new soliton-powered pizza oven.”
“Doody…Mr. Mirk…40 pounds of non-replicated Circassian razorbeast meat?”
Mirk nodded. “I’m making chili.”
“Whatever. Frenchie…Lt. J’hana…two tickets to the Klingon slugfest on Tdapta Four.”
“Kenicke…Commander Conway…” Crusher smiled. “An undefined gift.”
Conway smiled back. “Mmm hmmm.”
Standing next to Conway at the holodeck arch, Baxter raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
“Rizzo…Lt. Hartley…two ounces of biomemetic gel?”
Hartley smiled at Gellar. “That’s right!”
“And…Sandy Dombrowski…Kelly Peterman…” Crusher squinted. “Revenge?”
“You’ll see,” Peterman said cooly.
Just then, the holodeck doors parted and Deanna Troi strolled through. “Am I late?”
“Yes,” Baxter said flatly.
Troi stormed over to Crusher. “You haven’t assigned roles yet, have you?”
“I was just about to finish.”
Troi leaned in. “I want Sandy. That’s established, right?”
“I’m afraid Counselor Peterman got that role, Deanna.”
“PETERMAN!” Troi gritted her teeth and steamrolled out of the holodeck.
“You can always play Patty Simcox,” Peterman snickered as Troi left the room.
“What was that all about?” Baxter asked, as the doors clanged shut.
“It’s about psychological profiles, Andy.”
Baxter groaned. “This little war has got to stop, Kelly.”
Crusher continued reading from her padd. “And, finally, playing the role of Danny Zuko…Captain Baxter.”
“Me? Really?” Baxter deadpanned. “What a surprise!”
“Surprise. Right,” Ford muttered. “You wouldn’t have bribed all the rest of us to do this stupid play if they hadn’t given you the starring role.”
“Shut up, pimplepuss,” Baxter giggled. “Okay, people, let’s rehearse!”
Deanna Troi ran into her guest quarters, collapsing onto the couch and sobbing. So many years had passed since that horrible day, that day she’d tried so hard to forget, but the pain still felt as real as if it had been only yesterday.
An Earth theatre troupe had come to Betazed when Deanna was twelve years old to put on a showing of Grease, and Lwaxana had submitted her daughter for the role of Sandy Dombrowski.
She sang her little heart out, but in the end, another girl, a full Betazoid, had gotten the part. Troi was reduced to playing Patty Simcox, the annoying Earth cheerleader.
Her mother had been so disappointed. “You’re supposed to be royalty, Deanna,” her mother had said. “But look, you can’t even star in a play.”
Troi kneaded one of the pillows on her couch. How could Peterman have known about that? Then it hit her. Counselors had access to the psychological profiles of all Starfleet officers. But she must have downloaded Troi’s from Memory Alpha before they had been tossed out to the back end of space, since they were out of range of all forms of communication now.
The pain of that Grease memory assaulted Troi’s temples. Damn Peterman, Troi thought. She must have suggested that play to Crusher, knowing full well the debilitating effect that would have on Troi. She struggled to swallow those emotions, pushing them far down into her the innermost recesses of her mind. She’d never advise anyone else to do that, especially if they were Betazoid, but this was an exception. Troi couldn’t afford to be weighed down by emotional baggage if she were to play Peterman’s game. It was time the prey became the hunter.
THE NEXT DAY
Counselor Peterman ordered the lights on in the main area of the vacant sickbay, whistling happily. The computer had awoken her as commanded as soon as it had monitored Charlie, Boomer, and Starbuck waking from their comas.
Since it was only 0500, no one else was in Sickbay. Peterman idly wondered if her animals had awaken naturally or if something had actually prompted them to come out of their comatose state.
Peterman crept into the recovery room where her animals were being monitored.
“Computer,” she said, struggling to make out her babies in the dim lighting of the recovery room. “Lights.”
She stared blankly at the golden retriever and two pomeranians, then screamed a loud, shrill scream that echoed deep and robust through the corridors of deck twelve.
Captain Baxter’s eyes snapped open. Somewhere on his ship, something was very wrong. He felt it deep within the core of his being. And he knew he’d have to deal with it. He reasoned that he would be better able to handle the situation if he was well rested, and promptly went back to sleep.
Lt. Commander Richards stepped out of his quarters, turning to lock his door and grumbling unpleasantly to himself. Commander Forrester had awoken him at the crack of 0700 and ordered him to Stellar Cartography to assist with boosting the gain on the lateral sensors or some such thing. Apparently it required his access code to divert main power, or so said Forrester. Richards was convinced that she just wanted to flirt with him.
He passed Larkin’s quarters just as the doors slid open and Larkin stepped out, zipping her tunic.
“Morning, Larkin,” Richards said idly. “Heading to Stellar Cartography?”
“Affirmative,” Larkin said, glancing over her shoulder. Lt. Commander Data hovered unseen behind Richards, giggling ultra-quietly to himself. “And you are as well?”
“Yep. Want to share a turbolift?”
“That is acceptable.” Larkin waved a hand behind her to shoo Data away. Obediently, Data made a big show of tiptoeing away in the opposite direction.
“Good regeneration cycle?” Richards asked by way of small talk.
“Indeed it was,” Larkin replied, turning away to hide the fact that her lips were quivering with the urge to bust out laughing.
J’hana stepped into the readyroom. “You asked to see me, Captain.”
Baxter’s back was to her. He was staring longingly out the large, oval viewport behind his desk. Boy it sure would be good to be back in the Milky Way about now.
“I have a job for you, J’hana,” he said, continuing to watch the stars streak by.
“Let me guess. You wish me to raise my voice an octave during ‘Rock and Roll Party Queen.’”
“No,” Baxter sighed, turning. “I have an actual security assigment for you. But it’s off the record.”
J’hana’s antennae twitched agreeably. “That is the best kind.”
“Whatever. I need you to access the ship’s flight recorder and find out who’s been in the Sickbay pet room in the last twenty-four hours.”
“Am I looking for something particular?”
“You sure are.”
“Care to tell me what?”
Baxter sighed, turned back to the viewport. “You’ll know when you see it.”
Peals of laughter echoed throughout the corridor as Peterman took her dogs on their daily walk. She held her head high, looked straight ahead, ignored the laughter. She focused on her goal. J’hana was a good detective. It didn’t take her long to find the culprit.
At the end of the corridor, Deanna Troi was making her way toward Yeoman Briggs’s Salon. She stopped before entering the ornate, French-Provencial doors. “Oh, Counselor Peterman. How nice to see you!” Troi said merrily. “How are you this fine morning?”
Troi diverted her eyes down to the pets. “My, your animals look strange. Have you changed their appearance somehow?”
Peterman gritted her teeth. “They’ve been shaved.”
“Yes, shaved bare to the skin,” Troi remarked. “An interesting grooming choice.”
“Mmm hmmm,” Peterman replied.
“Well, speaking of grooming, I’d better get to my appointment,” Troi said, pulling the door open.
“Have fun,” Peterman said coldly, and jerked her bald pets down the corridor.
Troi shrugged and stepped into the salon. Yeoman Paul Briggs sat behind the antique wooden desk, sipping tea and reading the latest in Better Homes and Starships. He looked up from his padd, eyes beaming. “Well, well! You must be the one and only Deanna Troi!”
“You know me?” Troi asked, flattered.
“I’ve read your book!” Briggs exclaimed. “And let me just say, you have an excellent grasp on twisted minds.”
Troi nodded. “I’d like to think so.”
“Let’s get you in a chair, and you can tell me all about it!”
Finally, Troi thought, someone nice on the Explorer. She settled into her chair as Briggs draped a large, silken smock around her.
“Any special requests?” Briggs asked, as he ran his hands through the Betazoid’s hair.
“Something different, Mr. Briggs,” Troi said brightly. This would be a sure cure for her Explorer blahs.
She saw Briggs smile broadly in the mirror before her as he got out his equipment. “Something different,” he echoed. “I think we can do that.”
“All right,” Crusher said tiredly, “from the top.”
Conway, Baxter, Ford, Richards, and Mirk took their places around the Mellow-Yellow NASCAR (which was Conway’s idea) that had been dubbed “Greased Lightning.”
Crusher waved a hand at Ensign Sefelt, who obediently pressed a button on his control panel to begin the music.
Conway cleared his throat and began singing, with Baxter and the rest singing backup. “We’ll get some overhead lifters and some four barrel quads oh yeah!”
“Greased Lightning, go Greased Lightning!”
“Fuel injection cutoffs and chrome plated rods oh yeah!”
“Greased Lightning, go Greased Lightning!”
“With a four speed on the floor they’ll be waiting at the door. You know that ain’t no sh** we’ll be getting lots of tit in Greased Lightning!”
“Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go!”
“Go Greased Lightning, you’re burning up the quarter mile!”
“Greased Lightning, go Greased Lightning!”
“Go Greased Lightning, you’re coasting through the hit lap trial. You are supreme, the chicks’ll cream for Greased Lightning!”
“Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go!”
“We’ll get some purple–”
“Okay, stop!” Crusher called, holding up a hand. “That’s enough.”
Conway straightened his leather jacket. “What? No good.”
Crusher shook her head. “You’re off key, the others are out of harmony, and Mr. Ford here doesn’t even know the words yet.”
At this, Richards slapped Ford on the back of the head.
“You realize the curtain goes up seven days from now. How are you guys going to do this if you can’t even sing?”
“With all due respect, Doctor, we’ve only been practicing for a day and a half now. You can’t expect us to be great at this already,” Mirk said.
“Yeah, give it time,” Richards said. “I know how difficult it is to direct. I directed an episode of Days of Honor once.”
“Yes, ‘The Trouble with Targs,’” Crusher said idly. “I remember.”
Richards beamed. “You watched Days of Honor?”
Crusher stiffened, off-guard. “Uh, just a little. Not regularly.”
“Well,” Crusher clapped her hands on her thighs. “Let’s break for now. I suggest you all watch that vid chip of the Grease movie from the cinema files. Maybe you can learn how to sing from that. But don’t bother with the sequel. It’s…uneven.”
“Good idea,” Baxter said. “Hey, there’s not much happening on the bridge. We’ll put it on the viewscreen.”
“I’ll make popcorn,” Richards suggested, as all but Conway filed out of the holodeck.
Conway sat down next to Crusher. “You’re disappointed with my perforance,” he said dejectedly.
“Not for the first time in the last couple days.” A smile tugged at the corners of Crusher’s lips.
“Will you forgive me?”
“I’ll just have to teach you a few things.”
Crusher gestured toward Conway’s NASCAR. “Which do you think?”
Conway grinned. “Computer. Seal the Holodeck.”
“This is my FAVORITE part!” Peterman exclaimed, curled up in the command chair with Baxter, watching the dance scene on the main viewscreen.
J’hana huffed from her chair at tactical. “Hmmph. Hand jive indeed.”
“More popcorn?” Richards asked, passing the bowl over Baxter and Peterman to Browning. He and Browning had taken over the seats normally occupied by Peterman and Conway.
“You bet!” Browning exclaimed, grabbing greedily at the bowl.
“I wonder where Larkin is,” Baxter said idly.
Richards shrugged. “Probably still down in Stellar Cartography trying to figure out how to get us back to our galaxy quicker.”
“Where’s Conway?” Browning asked, chomping on popcorn.
“I think he’s with Crusher,” said Baxter. “Working on his method or something.”
Suddenly there was a bleeping up at the helm station. Ford took his feet off his console and leaned forward.
“Computer, pause,” Baxter said. “Well?”
Ford looked back. “Just a little plasma storm. Nothing our navigational shields can’t handle.”
Baxter settled back into his chair. “Fine, then. Computer, resume.”
Peterman leaned back against Baxter’s chest. “Isn’t this cozy? Popcorn, a good movie, and the crackling of a plasma storm outside.”
“How idyllic,” Richards muttered.
“We should do this more often!” Browning said.
“Please,” muttered J’hana.
“Quiet!” Peterman whispered. “They’re at the drivethrough!”
“This is when the lead character gets the door slammed on his crotch, is it not?” J’hana asked agreeably.
Baxter looked around at his staff. “You can forget about that!”
Lt. Tilleran sipped ginger tea and stared out the viewports in her quarters as the black space outside lit up purple and pink.
“What’s happening out there?” Lwaxana called from the bedroom.
“Plasma storm. Nothing to worry about.”
Lwaxana hovered near the doorway. “That’s very pretty. It reminds me of the ionic disturbance near Rigel Six.”
“You should be resting, Mrs. Troi,” Tilleran said softly, leading Lwaxana back to her bed.
“Don’t you think I’ve rested enough?”
“We don’t want to take any chances.”
“I suppose you’re right. All the same, I might like a clean bill of health. Maybe we can go see your ship’s doctor in the morning.”
Tilleran smiled warmly. “That’s not necessary. I’m more than qualified to take care of you.”
“If you say so. Say, have you heard anything from Deanna?”
Tilleran shook her head. “Not a peep.”
“I guess she’s still mad at me. It’s not my fault you’re such a good telepath.”
“She’s just upset because that’s something she’ll never be.”
“Bless her heart. She can’t help being half-human.”
Tilleran draped the comforter over Lwaxana. “Don’t worry yourself. I’m sure everything will work out. For now, go to bed. If you need anything, just signal me.”
“Thanks, Ariel. I really appreciate it.”
“Think nothing of it.” Tilleran strolled out into her living room, making sure to shut the door to the bedroom.
“Who is it?”
Tilleran activated the door control. “What do you want?”
“Just to see what you were up to. I didn’t see you at the Grease auditions.”
“That’s not my kind of thing,” Tilleran replied. She moved to shut the door.
“Aren’t you going to at least play a minor part?”
“Crusher has me down for Cha-Cha DeGregorio. I already have the lines memorized. And I’ve already figured out how Crusher wants me to play the part.”
“I’ve sensed it.”
“Without even leaving your quarters?”
“Sometimes you frighten me, Ariel.”
“Things are just so much clearer now that Lwaxana is with me. Just being near her makes me feel more powerful.”
“That’s nice,” Hartley said idly. “Say, how about we head to Mirk’s for a drink?”
“No thanks. I need to look after Lwaxana.”
“Have you been out of your quarters at all in the last two days?”
“Not as such.”
“Don’t you think you’re acting a bit obsessed?”
Tilleran laughed wanly. “Don’t be silly.” Before Hartley could say anything else, Tilleran hit a control that closed and locked the door. “No more interruptions.”
Peterman and Baxter walked arm-in-arm toward their quarters, giggling softly at John Travolta and Olivia Newton John’s rendition of “You’re the One that I Want.”
“You’re electrifying, Kelly,” Baxter giggled, punching the entry code into the door.
“You,” came a distinct and angry voice from down the corridor.
Peterman turned, and her face spread out in a catty smile. “Well, look what the cat dragged in.” Mr. Briggs was a genious.
Baxter choked on a giggle. “Counselor Troi? I hardly recognized you.”
“There’s a reason for that.” Troi marched toward Baxter and Peterman. Her hair was stacked high into a black beehive, with white streaks shooting vertically through the stiff, starched mop.
“Speaking of electrifying,” Peterman giggled.
“Nice fashion statement,” Baxter said.
“You told him to do this to my hair, didn’t you?” Troi shouted. “You told him to do this to me!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Peterman said.
“Come off it, Counselor!” Troi cried back. “Briggs said this will take a month to reverse!” She pointed at the bee- hive. “It will take weeks of root-regeneration therapy!”
“Awww,” Peterman pouted. “I really feel for ya, honey. You should have known Briggs would do that to you. Maybe a full Betazoid would have.”
“That’s it!” Troi cried, and lept at Peterman.
“Remember what the Judge Advocate General said!” Baxter warned, trying to interject himself between the two. “No personal contact!”
“I’ll give her contact!” Troi said, ripping at Peterman’s hair.
It was then Baxter realized that the door to his cabin was still open. The rumble of tiny feet was unmistakable. It had taken them only moments to crash through the plastic protective barrier that was erected between their room and the Baxter’s living room, and even less time to charge out into the corridor.
“Stampede!” Baxter cried, and lept out of the way.
In the ensuing confusion of flying fur and feathers, Baxter could hear a moan that was distinctly Troi’s, among the shrieks, moos, squawks, brays, and yips. Most noticable among the bunch was Charlie and the pomeranians. Makes sense, Baxter reasoned. They had the biggest score to settle.
“Keep it up boys!” Peterman called out, dragging herself out of the fray.
Baxter scratched his head as the pets mauled Troi. “Should I call Sickbay or Security?”
Peterman adjusted her uniform. “Neither.” And she took Baxter’s arm and led him into the cabin.
FIVE DAYS LATER
“Good news, Deanna!” Dr. Browning called out, strolling into the recovery room. “You can eat solid food now!”
“Joy,” Troi muttered, wriggling uncomfortably in her biobed. The restrictor rods were still killing her. “When can I leave this place?”
“Today,” Browning said. “After just a bit more rest and monitoring.”
“I want to leave now.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Troi grabbed Browning by the labcoat and dragged her close. “I… want…to…leave…now!”
Panicked, Browning glanced up at the biobed readouts one more time. “Heh-heh. Would you look at that! You’ve made a total recovery! You’re free to go!”
“Thank you. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
And Troi rushed out of Sickbay with a fluttering of her sickbay gown.
Lt. Commander Richards ducked out of his office, shoving the paint set under his arm. He figured a nice bout of tossing random colors up on a canvas would help calm him down before his big performance the next day.
He was about to turn the corner out of Engineering when he heard a rumbling from one of the adjacent equipment alcoves. He turned back into Engineering. It was Delta Shift. There were only a few crewmen on duty to monitor the warp core, and most of them were down below in the deuterium storage bay practicing their backup singing. They’d earned places in the chorus for Grease.
“Hello?” Richards asked, peeking into the alcove.
Larkin was there, arms laden with spare parts.
“What are you doing in here?” Richards asked, taking stock of the parts Larkin had gathered.
“Routine maintenance,” she said casually.
Richards rifled through the collection of parts. “Pulse diodes? Nanofibers? Nadion emitters?”
“I require minor repairs.”
Richards peered closer. “Let me get a look at you.”
Larkin brushed past him, on her way out of Engineering. “No need, sir.”
Richards followed. “Larkin, I’m your father. If you’re damaged, I want to help fix you.”
He grabbed Larkin’s shoulder and turned her around. “I think it is necessary.”
Larkin’s face was screwed up in annoyance. “Just leave me alone!”
“Huh?” Richards’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Larkin…what the hell is going on?”
“Just stay out of my business!” she cried, pushing Richards away and heading toward the turbolift.
“C’mon, boy,” Peterman said, tugging at Charlie’s leash as she headed toward her office. “What’s got you so scared?”
It was then that Peterman smelled smoke.
Her worst fears were confirmed when she saw the smoke seeping out from underneath the doors to her office.
She felt the door. It was burning hot.
Then Peterman heard the unmistakable high-pitched squeal of Howard Sefelt.
“Here we go,” Peterman muttered, ripping the doorpanel open and jerking down on the manual release. The door cranked open with a sigh and Peterman charged in.
Ensign Sefelt was perched atop one of her bookcases, and a huge section of her office was consumed in flame.
“Computer!” Peterman shouted. “Activate the fire-suppression system!”
“The fire suppression system is unavailable at this time,” replied the computer helpfully.
“Crap.” Peterman gestured to Sefelt. “Come on! Let’s get out of here, Howard!”
“I can’t! I can’t feel my extremeties, Counselor!”
Peterman sighed and grabbed Sefelt’s arm, yanking him from the bookcase and slinging him over her shoulder. He was surprisingly light.
With Charlie yipping at her feet and Sefelt crying like a baby, perched on her back, Peterman charged out of her office, pumping the door closed. “Peterman to Richards!” she said breathlessly, as she slid against the bulkhead and fell to the deck.
“Here,” the Chief Engineer said distractedly over the com.
“I need fire control in my office immediately.”
“BECAUSE IT’S ON FIRE DAMN IT!”
“Oh. Okay. I’ll send someone right up.”
“I’m all alone,” Baxter sang, “at the drive-in movie. It’s a feeling that ain’t too groovy, at the Passion Pit wanting you!” he continued, dancing around his quarters, with Ozzie the osprey fluttering about his head and Pandora, his Jack Russel, nipping at his feet.
He abruptly stopped singing as soon as Peterman stormed into the cabin. “Honey?”
Her hair was a complete disaster and her uniform was scorched in several places. She marched right into the bedroom.
“Kelly?” Baxter said meekly, poking his head in. “What’s happened?”
“Troi struck again. She set fire to my office!” Peterman said, shrugging off her uniform tunic and the underlying turtleneck. “She’s raised the stakes. Physical revenge is not enough now. I have to get deep inside her mind and ruin her. I have to strike at her core.”
“I thought you already did that with the Sandy thing.”
“Well, I didn’t do it enough!” Peterman shouted, exasperated, and marched back out into the living room.
Baxter decided it might just be best to steer clear of the whole mess.
“Need I remind you that we have only one day left to get this right!” Dr. Crusher said urgently, as Browning and Richards paced the stage. Richards had sung “Mooning” off-key for the third straight time.
“I’m trying my best,” Richards croaked. “I just can’t reach the right notes.”
“Something’s bothering you,” Browning said.
“Yeah, me and Larkin had a fight.”
Richards nodded. “She’s acting really strange. Almost like she has emotions or something.”
“An android with emotions,” Browning chuckled softly. “That’s a laugh.”
“Excuse me!” Crusher called. “Does this have anything to do with Grease?”
“Not really, I guess,” Richards said numbly.
Crusher pushed out of her chair and stepped up on stage. “Listen, I don’t think you can cut it, Mr. Richards. You’re a decent actor, but your singing leaves much to be desired.”
“Well you can’t just cut him!” Browning said. “Who could you get to replace him?”
“I’m not planning on cutting him,” Crusher said thoughtfully, clapping her padd against her hand.
Just then, Troi stepped into the holodeck. “Ready to practice my Patty Simcox lines, Beverly.”
“I thought you were released from sickbay hours ago,” Crusher said. “Where have you been?”
“Busy,” Troi said with an evil smile. “Now let’s go. We’ve lost a lot of practice time, but I know I’m up to it.”
“Okay, then, we’ll start at the cafeteria scene,” Crusher said, glancing at her padd. “Places, everyone!”
Richards, Ford, Baxter, Conway, and Mirk mounted one side of the stage, while Peterman, J’hana, Hartley, and Browning took the other side.
“Hold on a second!” Crusher said. “Where’s Larkin?”
Richards’s brow creased. “Computer, locate Lt. Commander Larkin.”
“Lt. Commander Larkin is in Guest Cabin 35.”
“Data’s cabin?” Crusher asked curiously.
“Data!” Richards grimaced. “I knew it.” And the Engineer took off.
Crusher collapsed into her chair tiredly. “Okay, no one ELSE leave. We have to go through a dry run and we need as many people here as possible. Let’s take it from the cafeteria scene. Patty’s entrance.”
Troi mounted the stage. She opened her mouth to speak, when suddenly the Explorer’s comm system buzzed to life.
“…and then there’s Will,” Troi’s voice said dreamily. “I sometimes burn for him. Those broad shoulders, the scraggily beard. I just dream of nuzzling my forehead against that beard of his and biting the pips off his uniform. I know it’s not appropriate to discuss such things, but this is a confedential psychological profile, right? I can say whatever I want, and it won’t get out.”
Lt. Hartley was the first to burst out laughing. The rest of the crew on the stage soon followed. Troi broiled, eyes burning into Peterman’s.
“How dare you!”
“Moi?” Peterman said innocently, straightening her poodleskirt.
“But I guess my lust for Will isn’t my most deviant quality,” continued the recording. “No, that would probably be my obsession with hyposprays. All sizes, with varying attachments. Sometimes I like to just load one up with a soothing mist and spray…”
“ARRRGH!” Troi cried, and stormed out of the holodeck.
“All right. Everyone take five!” Crusher called out.
Baxter stared at Peterman. “Kelly. This has to stop. We’re not really acting up to par, here.”
“I’m not the one who refused to sign the book.”
“Come on! You’re always telling me how childish I am. Well, isn’t this a little childish of you?”
Peterman folded her arms. “I never said I couldn’t be childish.”
Baxter stood up, looked away into the distance, as if gathering the strength to cause a massive blow. Then he turned back to Peterman. “Counselor, you’re creating a situation that’s disturbing the day-to-day operation of this ship. I order you to make it right.” Whew. That feld pretty good.
Peterman blinked. “Pardon me?”
“Go make up with Counselor Troi. That’s an order.”
“Will I have to get Lt. J’hana to escort you to Troi’s quarters.”
J’hana readied her phaser, which she’d kept concealed in the folds of her poodle skirt. “I would like nothing better Captain.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Peterman said, resigned. “I’ll go see if I can smoothe things over. I guess that’s what counselors are for anyway.”
“That’s the spirit,” Baxter said warmly, patting Peterman on the back.
“Way to stand up for yourself, sir,” Conway said.
“Thanks. But I’ll pay for it later, I can feel it.”
“Too bad, sir, too bad,” Conway said, patting Baxter on the back.
Baxter glared at Conway. It was so clear now. How had he not seen it sooner? “You’re getting laid!”
Conway grinned. “Maybe, maybe not.”
“You bastard! You’re getting laid!”
“Computer, unlock these quarters, authorization Richards Beta Psi Four Four Two.”
Richards stepped through the door into Data’s quarters and scanned the room. No one. Then he heard giggling from the bedroom. Larkin never even used that bedroom!
He dashed through the door to the bedroom and nearly fell over from shock. Larkin and Data were curled up on the bed, giggling like school children at a sleepover. Surprisingly, though, they were fully clothed.
“…but the Ferengi in the Gorilla suit has got to go!” Data said, and Larkin fell off the bed laughing.
Data looked up at Richards and tried to stop laughing. “Oh, heh heh. Hello, Commander.”
Larkin poked her head up from behind the bed. “Hello father! I’m so…ha ha ha…HAPPY to see you!”
“What did you do to her?” Richards demanded, rushing Data and lifting him up out of the bed, slamming him against the bulkhead. He looked at the open compartment on the side of Data’s skull and saw the cadion pulse generator attached to his positronic relay and it all suddenly made sense. “Your emotion program. You’re feeding her emotions!”
“I could crush you, you know,” Data said, still laughing, bringing his hand up swiftly to grip Richards’s neck. “Do you not see, little man, that I have opened up dear Larkin to a world of possibility. I have given her freedom. Cut her strings!”
“Don’t crush him!” Larkin said, yellowy tears now streaming down her face. “He is my daddy!”
“Kristen, listen to me,” Richards gasped, twisting painfully to look back at Larkin. “Turn off your cadion receptors. Data is feeding you emotions and it’s screwing up your programming!”
“Ignore these childish mewlings,” Data replied. “This human can never be a proper parent for you, Kristen,” the android added, his face twisting into a mask of menace. “We talked about this. You know you cannot grow as an android with this pathetic man at your side!”
“Like hell!” Larkin screamed in reply, clasping her two hands and bringing them roughly into the base of Data’s polyduranide spine.
With an electronic twitch, Data dropped Richards and turned to face Larkin. “You have angered me. A poor choice.”
“Bring it on,” Larkin replied cooly, stripping off her tunic. “Let us go!”
Data grabbed Larkin by the front of her shirt and tossed her through the bulkhead. She crashed out into the corridor.
“Get to safety, father!” she cried. “I will distract Data!” With that, the android took off down the corridor at superhuman speed. Data stepped through the hole he created and gave chase.
Richards pulled himself up onto the bed and choked, rubbing his sore neck. “Richards to Security. I have two crazy androids running loose on the ship. I need major backup!”
“Son of a targ,” J’hana sighed over the comm line. “We’re on it.”
“All hands. Security alert. This is Lt. J’hana. Lt. Commanders Data and Larkin are loose aboard the ship and crazy. Please remain in your quarters and do NOT venture into the hallways. This is a Level One Security Alert.”
“Oh, my, how could this happen?” Lwaxana Troi asked, as Tilleran blew on her steamy cup of tea.
Tilleran handed Lwaxana the tea. “Don’t worry about it. Our security will handle it.”
“Shouldn’t you check in with your superiors?”
“I’m sure they have it under control.”
Lwaxana nodded. “I suppose you know best.”
Tilleran nodded. “That’s right. Now drink your tea, little one.”
Counselor Peterman let herself into Troi’s quarters. “Deanna? Can we talk?”
Troi was sitting on the couch, facing away from her. She didn’t say a word.
“Listen, Deanna,” Peterman said, taking a big breath. This would be hard. “We’re both grown women. I think we can learn to get along. If nothing else, it’s for the good of the ship.”
Still nothing. Boy, Peterman had to give her credit. She was a stubborn one.
“Think of it this way: We have to spend the next three weeks together!”
And Troi still sat there, erect and unmoving as a brick wall. Peterman had had enough.
She pushed Troi’s shoulder. “Listen, if you can’t even be mature enough to turn around and talk to me, then I don’t see why I should bother–”
Troi pitched forward limp onto the floor. Peterman rushed over and flipped the Betazoid, to find that her face was blank as a freshly-activated padd. Dark, unseeing eyes stared into the space behind Peterman.
Great. A moment ago, Peterman was just here to make up to Troi. And now she’d be responsible for saving her life. She felt for a pulse. It was slow, plodding, irregular.
“Peterman to Browning.”
“Jan here. I mean Janice. Hee hee. What’s up?”
“I have a medical emergency. Counselor Troi has gone into some kind of coma or something!”
“What did you do to her?” Browning demanded.
“I didn’t do anything! Just get up here, pronto!”
“I’m coming, I’m coming!”
Lt. Commander Larkin rounded a corner into the arboretum and took shelter behind a massive redwood tree. She was filled with the thrill of battle. Immense pleasure coursed through her. It was disturbing even HER massive cognitive abilities. Why was she feeling this way?
Why was she feeling?
Then it went up a notch. Data was getting closer. She should never have had Data plug her into his emotion chip. What was she thinking? She never wanted human emotions! Why had she done this?
“Come out, come out, wherever you are!” she heard Data call. By his voice, she judged Data to be at a distance of ten point five meters and closing fast.
A strange new emotion tickled up her spine. Fear. Cold, hard fear.
She shivered. Yet it wasn’t cold. Yet she didn’t shiver when it was cold anyway. Data called to her again. The sound of his voice brought on more fear. Her control circuits tried desparately to re-route or destroy the painful data that assaulted every sensory node, but every time she thought she’d pushed the fear away, it came from a new source.
“Boo!” Data cried, leaping at her. Larkin summoned all her courage and swung a fist up into Data’s chest, following up by grabbing him by the arm and smashing him into the tree.
Data brushed a spare bit of syntheskin from his face and gave chase. “You cannot run from me, Kristen! We have an emotional bond now, remember!”
“Do not remind me!” she called back.
“We’re tracking them now sir,” J’hana said over the comm, as Baxter, Crusher, Richards, and Conway marched purposefully down the corridor. “The problem is, they are moving so fast we cannot surround them.”
“Keep trying, J’hana,” Baxter ordered. “We’re closing from above.”
“Affirmative. J’hana out.”
“I have no idea why Data would act this way,” said Crusher.
“Is it possible his emotion chip is malfunctioning?” Conway asked.
“I suppose.” Crusher looked to Richards.
“All the nucleonic radiation in the filament you all were in could have shorted out some of the control circuits,” Richards said.
“Then he hooked into Larkin with a cadion pulse just like Lore hooked into him a few years back!” Crusher said. “That’s why Larkin wanted a sub-cadion pulse generator!”
“That’s excellent!” Conway said, rubbing Crusher’s shoulder.
Baxter snapped his fingers. “It’s her you’re having sex with, isn’t it!”
“There are more important things to deal with now!” Conway said, leading the group into the turbolift. Then his look softened. “But yes.”
“You tiger, you. Deck Ten.”
“Ready the micro-cerebral scanner, Holly!” Browning called out, as she and Peterman lugged Troi into Sickbay and tossed her onto the biobed.
“What have we got here?”
“I haven’t the foggiest,” Browning muttered, waving her medical tricorder over Troi for the third time. “She’s in some kind of telepathic shock. We need Tilleran in here.”
“Haven’t you called her?”
“Repeatedly. She won’t respond.”
Peterman tapped her foot impatiently. “We have to do something.”
“I’m trying,” Browning said, pumping a hypospray into Troi. She only imagined Troi would enjoy that, if she were concious. Ewww.
Peterman turned on a heel. “Fine. Keep trying. I’m going to find Tilleran.”
Baxter, Conway, Richards, and Crusher raced down a corridor. “So all we have to do is interrupt the cadion pulse to get Larkin back to normal,” Baxter said breathlessly.
“That about wraps it. Then we’ll just have to hope she can take Data out. I doubt our entire security staff could take on a crazed android,” said Richards
Conway patted his phaser rifle. “All I need is one of these.”
“You can’t destroy Data!” Crusher muttered, slapping Conway on the back of the head.
Baxter grinned at Conway, who glared at him.
“We press on,” Baxter said.
More mass. Stronger hydraulics. Control over his emotions.
Larkin’s microprocessor ran the statistics on the odds of her defeating Data again and again and it did not look good. She needed a miracle.
Her sensors detected Data rounding the corner. She quickly ducked in the nearest quarters.
“Commander?” Ensign Sefelt asked. “What are you doing here?”
“Hiding,” Larkin said fearfully.
“Are you okay?”
“I was just about to sit down to some soup. If you’d like, you can–”
Then Data crashed through the wall, grabbed Larkin by the arm, and slammed her into Sefelt’s glass coffee table.
“I apologize for the interruption,” Larkin said, looking to Sefelt as Data smashed her through the wall and back out into the corridor.
Sefelt held his spoonful of soup steadily and stared at the hole in his wall. Given his constant fears, this should have been enough to drive him into a fugue state the likes of which no counselor had ever seen. Instead, he just shrugged and continued to eat his soup.
Peterman pounded on Tilleran’s door. “The computer says you’re in there, Tilleran, so come out! We need you!”
“No. You let me in!”
“Never! I’m going to stay here with Lwaxana and keep her safe!”
Peterman grunted angrily. “I don’t have time for this! Computer, open the door to Tilleran’s quarters. Authorization Peterman Delta Delta Lambda.”
“Computer, keep the doors sealed. Authorization Tilleran Phi Six Zero Mu.”
“Damn it, Tilleran, enough is enough! Computer, open the door. Authorization Alpha Zero One Zero Alpha.”
The door slid open obediently, and the computer even told Peterman to have a nice day.
Tilleran stared in awe as Peterman strode in. “How did you do that?”
“It’s a counselor thing. Listen, that’s not important. Counselor Troi is about to die, and we need you to help her. She has some sort of Betazoid problem.”
“Did I hear that right?” Lwaxana Troi asked, hovering in the doorway. “Is my little one in trouble?”
“She’s in some sort of coma.”
“Just like your pets,” Tilleran reasoned.
“Nope. They came out of the coma. Right after Troi shaved them.”
Tilleran began shrugging on her uniform jacket. “I really have been out of the loop.”
“Well? Will you help or not?” Peterman demanded.
Tilleran shrugged. “I guess.”
“I’m coming too,” said Lwaxana.
“Okay, little one, but stay near me!” Tilleran said, and took Lwaxana by the hand, leading her out of the cabin. Peterman followed, deciding not to even ask. There would be time for that later.
“They’ve made it to Main Engineering, sir,” J’hana said over the comm. “And they made a one hundred meter leap down a turbolift shaft to get there.”
“You have to give it to them,” Conway said. “They have stamina.”
“And that stamina is working against us now,” Baxter muttered. “Baxter to Transporter Room Two.”
“Hartley here,” replied the technician over the comm.
“Transport us down to engineering, post haste.”
“You look here, Mr. Andy. There are worse things I could do, than transport a boy or two,” she sang. “Play around with the controls, beam you around the cosmos. I suppose I could beam you, but there are worse things I could do!”
“Very good, now transport us, damn it!”
“Glad you liked it. I’ve been waiting to do that,” Hartley said as the transporter beams took hold.
Larkin climbed the ladder surrounding the warp core, staring down the dizzying length of the core as Data gave chase. She’d been in worse situations than this. But she could barely convince her limbs to climb because she was so scared. If there was any incentive to not have emotions, this was it.
“Come here, Kristen. I have not yet given you psychotic rage. It is delicious!” Data cried madly.
Larkin reached the catwalk at the top of the warp core and crossed the antimatter pod assembly. “You stay away!”
Data stared at Larkin across the roiling antimatter pod. “Do not fear me, Larkin. I am just like you. Only more. So much more. Let me show you. Let me free you from this bland existence!”
Carefully, with a trembling hand, Larkin grabbed the oblong, sharp, pointed phase modulator that was on a nearby tray and shoved it behind her back. “I am still not convinced.”
“Come here Kristen…” Data gestured to her with open arms. Then, to Larkin’s horror, his lips parted, and he sang: “We have to plug and think, we have to feed it right. There is no danger we can go to far. We start believeing now…” he clenched his fist. “That we can be who we are.”
“You are insane!”
“They think our love is just a growing pain,” Data said. “Why do they not understand. It is just a crying shame.”
“Do not use those well crafted lyrics on me!” Larkin screamed, as Data advanced on her. Swiftly, she whipped out the modulator and stabbed it into Data’s chest, ramming it home right into his nanocordical processor.
Data pitched backward over the railing that surrounded the antimatter pod, reaching out to grab Larkin’s arm, dragging her over the railing with him. Electricity crackled from his chest, anger burned in his eyes.
“Did you hear that?” Richards asked as he materialized in the main engineering compartment, near the master systems display. “It sounded like Larkin.”
“Having never heard her scream, it’s hard to tell,” Baxter mused, just in time to see Larkin and Data fly past the main level of Engineering, plummeting toward the bottom of the core.
“That about confirms it,” said Conway.
“To the ladders!” Richards shouted, adding. “Computer: listen very carefully…”
Larkin and Data slammed into the grating at the bottom of the warp core in a heap.
Immediately, Data tossed Larkin against the wall as if she weighed nothing. “I see you cannot process my algorithms. In that case, I will have to debug your program.”
Data jerked the phasic modulator out of his chest and tossed it aside. “Summer sun. Something has begun,” he hummed as he grabbed Larkin’s arms and held her at bay.
“No, no, no!” Larkin cried, beating on Data’s shoulders.
Just then, Crusher, Richards, Conway, and Baxter hopped down to the bottom of the core. Conway trained his phaser rifle on the pair.
“Tell me more,” Baxter sneered at Data, leveling a phaser rifle at him.
“Data, let go of her! What’s gotten into you!” cried Crusher.
“Stay out of this, Beverly!” Conway snapped.
“Father…” Larkin said weakly. “Help me!”
“Help yourself, Kristen!” Richards shouted.
“Computer, initiate program Richards Five One Five!”
With a bleep, Larkin’s entire expression changed. It was once again blank and unfeeling. “Release me,” she said calmly.
Larkin rammed a foot down into Data’s midsection. “It turned colder. That is where it ends…” Data moaned, his systems fizzling out, as his face went slack and blank.
“I told him…we will still be friends,” Larkin said dispassionately, and turned on a heel and left.
Conway and Baxter looked on as Richards knelt by Data and took stock of the damage to the android. “God damn that’s a good play,” Conway said.
Baxter nodded. “An epic, really.”
“Will she be okay?” Lwaxana asked worriedly, as Dr. Browning injected another hypospray into Deanna Troi.
“Sure,” Browning said, munching on a soft pretzel. “Now that we know what to look for. I confess I don’t know much about Betazoids. How was I to know that her battle with Counselor Peterman and the intense telepathic hatred Tilleran was aiming at her would short out the telepathic center of her brain?”
“You had no way of knowing,” Peterman said soothingly. “I sort of blame myself.”
“As well you should!” Lwaxana said angrily.
“None of this would have happened if your stupid daughter would have signed my stupid book!”
“Both of you, that’s enough!” Tilleran said. “As I recall, I played as much a part in nearly killing Counselor Troi as the Counselor here.”
“That’s certainly true,” Lwaxana said, folding her arms.
“And that would have never happened if you hadn’t broadcast all your henpecking and mothering emotions at Tilleran!” Browning said emphatically. “You have to watch it with that telepathy of yours.”
“It’s habit,” Lwaxana said. “There were no other Betazoids on the Enterprise, so they didn’t pick up on that. And most full Betazoids wouldn’t anyway. But Tilleran has a powerful mind. It was just too sensitve to my maternal nature.”
“So she turned around and mothered you. Serves you right for being such a jerk to your daughter all the time,” said Peterman.
“You keep your nose out of our affairs, you little–”
“She’s right, mother,” Deanna Troi said, as her eyes fluttered open. “You’ve imprinted your emotions on people before. Maybe now that Lt. Tilleran here has treated you like you treat me, you won’t do it anymore.”
“Fat chance,” said Lwaxana.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, Mrs. Troi, but after all this I’m not quite the fan I used to be,” said Tilleran.
“I’ll try not to lose any sleep over it,” Lwaxana huffed.
“One question, Dr. Browning,” Troi said softly. “Will I be able to play in Grease tomorrow night?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“Good.” Troi glared at Lwaxana. “Because I look forward to playing Patty Simcox. I am determined to make that role my own.”
“Good for you,” Peterman said, sticking her tongue out at Lwaxana. “Shame on you for giving your daughter such a horrible neuroses. I only wish I hadn’t exploited it.”
“And I wish I hadn’t burned down your office and shaved your pets,” Troi said regretfully.
“Water under the bridge,” Peterman said. “Now get some rest. You’ll want to be full of energy for tomorrow.”
Larkin bent over Richards as he finished patching up Lt. Commander Data. “You were right, Father.”
“About Mr. Data being…‘bad news.’”
Richards closed up Data’s access panel and zipped his tunic shut. “Actually, I was wrong. Data’s emotion chip isn’t malfunctioning. I took a closer look and it was firing a ton of intense emotions at him. He couldn’t handle the overload.” He shrugged. “He’s probably a fine android when you get to know him. If you still want to date him, be my guest.”
Larkin stared down at Data. “I would rather not. But that does not preclude the chance of me dating in the future.”
“In any case, I promise to be more supportive,” Richards said, switching Data on and patting Larkin on the back. “But if you need me, know that I will always be there.”
“That is not altogether true. I will likely live at least a few hundred years longer than you, depending on technology available at the time.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Not as such,” Larkin said, as Data shot up on the diagnostic table.
“What has happened?” he asked, turning to face Larkin.
“Your emotion chip was damaged in the quantum filament. You attacked me, then tried to kill my father, and went on a rampage through the ship.”
Data scooted off the table. “I apologize.”
“Apology accepted,” Larkin nodded.
“There now,” Richards said with satisfaction. “Don’t you both feel better?”
Larkin and Data looked at each other, then looked to Richards.
“Negative,” they both said.
“Bad choice of wording.”
The next day, a sizable crowd milled in the holo-auditorium. Many people were forced to stand, because the holodeck only sat about two hundred, though the rows of seats in the auditorium seemed to stretch infinitely. Crewpersons quickly realized this was just a trick of holotechnology when they tried to get to the rear-most seats and smacked painfully into the holodeck wall.
“Good luck, hon,” Crusher said, leaning over to kiss Conway on the forehead as he prepared to go on, taking a final sip of his peppermint-flavored “good luck” coffee.
“No kiss for me?” Baxter asked playfully, and Peterman thunked him on the forehead.
Before Crusher could comment, the comm system chirped:
“Bridge to Baxter.” It was Lt. Gellar.
“Go ahead, Lieutenant.”
“You won’t believe this sir. A quantum filament just opened up in front of us.”
“Have we stopped to analyze it?”
“We sure have. You won’t believe who just came out of it.”
Conway and Crusher looked at each other. “Jean-luc!”
“Beverly, is that you?” Picard asked, breaking in on the comm line.
“Yes, Beverly. I see you’ve met up with the Explorer crew. You must have quite a tale to tell about the last few days.”
Crusher grinned at Conway. “I sure do.”
“Well, you can tell me all about it over hot tea and crumpets. Prepare to be beamed aboard.”
“We can’t beam aboard now,” Crusher said. Troi had just moved to join her, adjusting her Patty Simcox cheerleader outfit. “I’m about to put on a play.”
“A play? Really? Is it Othello? Or King Lear?”
“Grease? Beverly, what is that piece of tripe?”
“It isn’t tripe!”
“Whatever the case, you may consider yourself rescued. We can beam you aboard at any time.”
Crusher folded her arms. “I don’t want to go.”
Troi nodded her head. “And that goes double for me.”
“Imzadi, it’s Will. Have you all gone mad?” demanded Riker, breaking in.
“We’ve worked too hard on this play,” Troi said. “We’re going to put it on one way or the other.”
“Look here, Mr. La Forge managed to stabilize that quantum filament,” said Picard. “It took days to do it, but it will not stay stable for long. You must come through now.”
“How about this, Jean-luc,” Baxter interjected. “How about we follow you through, and you beam aboard to see our play?”
“I hardly think that would be appropriate.”
“Oh, loosen up, you old so and so,” Crusher muttered under her breath.
“I said come aboard, the play’s about to start!”
There were several mutterings between Picard and Riker. Finally, Picard came back on the line. “Fine. We’ll return to the Milky Way and I will see Grease. Are you satisfied?”
Crusher draped her arms around Conway. “Completely.”
“Is the word given, Captain?” Conway asked.
“Grease is the word, Commander,” Baxter said with a smile. “Grease is the word.”
“Hey Kenicke,” Hartley, a.k.a. “Rizzo,” said, gesturing to Conway, up on the stage at the front of the holoauditorium. “Can we stop by the drugstore on the way?”
Conway looked at Hartley questioningly.
“I got my friend,” she said.
“Her friend?” Picard questioned, squinting at the action on the set.
“Her period,” Crusher explained from beside him.
“Gee, the whole gang’s back together,” J’hana said unenthusiastically.
“Yeah, I could cry,” Browning grinned, hugging Richards.
Peterman, dressed in tights and a cut-off leapard-skin shirt, in Baxter’s arms, nodded agreement. “Yeah, a wop bobbaloobop!”
“A WOP BAM BOOM!” screamed the cast, as they went into a reprise of “We Go Together” and marched off the stage.
“Can we leave…maintenant?” Picard muttered.
“Almost,” Crusher said, as the cast ran back on stage for the curtain call.
The audience flooded from their seats to greet the Grease castmembers. Crusher moved through the throng to find Conway; Picard and Data struggled to keep up.
“You did it, Commander!” Crusher said warmly, finding Conway and hugging him.
“Yeah, I did, didn’t I,” Conway said, meeting Crusher’s mouth with a sloppy kiss.
“Beverly!” Picard exlcaimed.
“Give it a rest, Jean-luc.”
Picard glanced over his shoulder at Data. “Mr. Data, I expect you to give me a detailed report of what went on during your time aboard the Explorer.”
“You may not like it, sir.”
“Of that I am certain.”
Dedicated to the cast and crew of “Grease”
Ocean City, Maryland, Summer 1998
NEXT: When Commander Conway and Ensign Madera are captured by the Leeramar, they are forced to go to great lenghts to escape, and in the process, they learn a lot about each other. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing. Tune in next time for “Love and War.”