Author: Daniel McNickle
Captain Andrew Baxter sat in his ready room, thinking. He had just recieved a message from his commander, explaining his orders for the next few days. The plan would finally be coming to fruition. Baxter had only to wait. Wait and watch.
His commbadge chirped. He tapped it. “Baxter here.”
“Captain,” said Conway, sounding more annoyed than usual, “Incoming communique from the board of Time Travel. It’s marked urgent.”
“Good, Commander. Patch it through to me.”
“Aye, sir. Sending it through now. Conway out.”
To: Captain Andrew Baxter, USS Explorer From: Starfleet Command, Board of Time Travel Re: Your time travel license
Your time travel license was rescinded months ago. You are technically not allowed to have command of a starship without a time travel license. As such, you are hereby ordered to put your ship on course for Earth to take remedial Time Traveller’s Education courses. Your senior staff will be joining you, and your ship will dock at McKinley station to repair that damage from the ion storm last week. We’ll also be shampooing your carpets and replacing your turbolifts with ones that are exactly like the ones you have now, except that they’re slightly faster. We’ll also be removing all of your personal belongings and replacing them with things that look and feel exactly the same, but are different. You won’t notice the difference. See you in a week.
Signed: Starfleet Command, Board of Time Travel
That was it. The plan had been set in motion.
On the bridge, Lt. J’hana was having a blast. She was conducting a battle drill. Seventeen simulated Borg had just materialized on deck seven, and her security forces were having a bit of trouble. She could see that, despite the fact that they were all totally expendable, (something one did not learn officially until the rank of full lieutennant) they were useful and she wanted as few deaths as possible, to keep a clean record, and to avoid cleanup duty. Hernandez was lagging in his frequency reset times, she would have to berate him severely. “Hmmmm.”
Conway turned around from the command chair. “Yes, Lieutennant?”
“I’m just thinking,” she said. “You little fwarz-shwarsher,” she added softly.
“Pardon? I didn’t get that last part,” said Conway, knowing full well what he had heard.
“I said, ‘I’m just thinking, Commander Conway.’ Why?” J’hana feigned puzzlement with a good dose of sarcasm. “Is your hearing going? You’re getting old, you know.”
The crew snickered quietly.
Conway began to turn pink, but thought the better of it. He turned red instead. “One more word, and you’re on pet duty for Counselor Peterman.” Peterman looked up, hearing her name.
“Wha? Someone say my name? J’hana’s going to pet-sit for me?! Oh, J’hana, thank you so much! I really didn’t think you had such a kind and generous side!” She began making a list of things for J’hana to do.
J’hana growled at Conway. Peterman continued gushing.
“You can sit for us next week, okay? But be careful. Fritz has been spraying lately, and Charlie’s grumpy. I think they want to get out, but on this ship there just isn’t enough wide open space for them…”
Conway didn’t look up from his padd. “Not enough space? We’ve got a frigging rainforest. That’s not enough?”
Peterman sounded distraught. “Well, no. You know how dogs like to just run, and play, and romp and all the other things that dogs do. The arboretum isn’t really THAT big. They need a planet.”
Baxter chose this moment to drag himself out of his ready room. He stood in front of his chair for a good five minutes, glaring at Conway before Conway looked up and moved. Irritated, Baxter sat down and slumped over to the side. “Ensign Madera, set course for Earth, warp eight.”
Peterman’s ears perked up. “Earth? We’re going to Earth! Yaaaaayyy!!!!” She started bouncing up and down in her chair. “Charlie will finally be able to run free! We’ll see my parents! Oh, how gre–” She continued babbling, but with no sound. Conway looked pleased.
“Sound cancelling forcefield. I had it put in last week. Effective, huh?” said Conway. “But why do we have to go to Earth?”
“First,” said Baxter, “Take out the forcefield. I want to hear my wife. Even if she is annoying you.” Especially if she is annoying you, thought Baxter. “Second,” he said, standing up and addressing the bridge, “We are going to Earth to renew out time travel licenses. The next person who complains will be temporarily demoted until we arrive.” He sat down and turned on the friendly fingers in his chair. Much better.
Madera turned around. “B-b-but…Earth?”
“You’re an ensign, junior grade. Anyone else?”
Silence. J’hana almost spoke, but thought the better of it. Then she reconsidered. Then she stopped again. She went over a holodeck program she had been meaning to try, Kill Your Crew v2.01. She decided to kill Baxter a few times if he demoted her. “Sir, I cannot go to Earth.”
“Ooh, poor wittle J’hana! She’s scared of the scawy Earthlings, awent you, oh yes you are!” said Conway with glee. “J’hana’s scared of Terrans, J’hana’s scared of Terrans,” he chanted. J’hana shot him in the arm, forcing him to drop his coffee in his crotch. “AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!” he screamed. A second shot sent him to lala land. What was interesting was that he actually screamed in capital letters, with two exclamation points at the end. It’s amazing what a person can do under pressure.
“J’hana, that was uncalled for.” Baxter examined Conway’s prone form. “But those were excellent shots. If you give me a half assed reason why you can’t go to Earth, I might let you slide. That almost put me in a good mood. Now, out with it.”
“Sir, over the years I have developed a slight…allergy…to humans.”
Baxter paused. A smile came over his face. He began to giggle quietly. Louder and louder. A full throated belly-laugh. He fell off his chair, rolling on the floor. Most of the crew joined him. Larkin, however, ignored the exchange, instead concentrating on her plans for the next fifty years of her life, the calculations for a jump back in time to the year 1979, and the color fuschia.
“J’hana,” Baxter said between laughs, “You’ve made my day. Report to Dr. Browning for an examination. She’ll give you something. But you’re coming to Earth. Whether you like it or not. Now go.”
“No buts. Go. You should be happy I’m not demoting you, like Ensign, junior grade Madera here. Now go away so I can laugh some more. It really is good medicine.” J’hana stormed off the bridge. Baxter could have sworn he heard the computer mutter something about stupid humans. He’d have to get that checked.
“Ensign, junior grade Madera,” he said, pulling himself back into his chair. “Report on our ETA for Earth.”
“Sir, you are really rubbing this in, aren’t you.”
“Yes I am. ETA. Now. Go.”
Madera sighed. Would her woes never end? Probably not. Her senior officers hated her, and she was going to EARTH, of all places. What a load of crap. I need a vacation, she thought. “ETA is 36 hours at present speed, reduced to four hours if we increase to warp eight point three.”
“Increase speed to warp eight point five and hold course. I’ll be in my ready room. Don’t disturb me unless we’re there, or Conway wakes up happy. Larkin, you have the conn.” With that, he disappeared into his ready room.
“I have the conn, sir,” Larkin said quietly to nobody in particular as she took the command chair. “Yeoman,” she said to young Benzite at the aft science station, “Get me a padd.”
She configured the padd to show her ops readouts and dismissed the officer who was filling in for her at ops. She transferred control to the panel, then went into low power mode to monitor the systems.
Peterman suddenly got up and disappeared into the captain’s ready room. The entire crew knew what would happen next. Nobody cared. Madera sneezed. The young Benzite yeoman manning the science station gagged for a split second. Her head exploded violently. At tactical, Gellar yawned.
Lieutennant Commander Robert Bucket (pronounced bouquet, it’s French) was, not unlike the vast majority of Starfleet, bored to tears. Of course, there was nothing to do about that except get on with his work, which was currently, to sit and look official-like for anyone who would care to wander into the Department Of Temporal transport, abbreviated DOT. Of course, nobody ever came in voluntarily, for a number of reasons. One was that the DOT was the only place to get time travel licenses, and those were normally distributed once and never used. On the rare occasion someone used their license, i.e. if they went back or forward in time, they would have to come to the DOT and report it. Time travel was so rare, however, that these were once a year occurences. Unless, as Bucket strongly suspected, there were quite a few more incidents which were, so to speak, lost in the paperwork. In other words: Not reported. Another reason: Time travel licenses were only given to Starfleet starships, and then, not to science vessels. Only armed vessels recieved licenses. The last, biggest reason, however, was that the DOT was buried in the center of New York City, on Earth.
New York City had changed quite a bit, mused Robert. From the single island of Manhattan almost 800 years ago, to the current sprawl, almost two hundred miles in diameter. The city had long since annexed all of Long Island, Westchester county and much of New Jersey. New Jersey, of course, had been quite mad about New York City annexing them, but seeing as this was done just after World War III, nobody cared about the radioactive wasteland. Through a hundred years of nurturing and care, the land was brought back to life, and now the smallest building in New York is fifteen stories tall. New York gives new meaning to the canyons of steel. Some people find it breathtaking. Others find it boring. Robert found it by taking a left on Northern Boulevard.
Suddenly, he leapt into action, frantically typing at a beeping terminal. A communiqué from Starfleet Command in San Fransisco. Something about a Starfleet crew which needed re-licensing. This, he mused, could be interesting. He went about making plans for the tests.
Every license test was different. But the basic premise was the same: You are put on a holodeck which is running a program of a time past. The main objective: Stay alive for a while without polluting the timestream. After five days, the results were calculated. If you managed to keep from destroying the future, you passed. There was also a written exam, which tended to count for ninety percent of the final grade. The written exam was ridiculously easy, so even if you ended up causing the eradication of all life in the universe, you could still pass. Go figure.
“Sir, we’re here,” said Ensign Junior Grade Madera from the helm, rather dejectedly. “Can I have my pip back now?”
Baxter stirred. He had been dreaming about Kelly. Sweet, wonderful Kelly. Beautiful, gorgeous Kelly. Exuberant…huh? He woke from his dreamy sleep. “Mmph. Hmph? Mmmmm. What is it Madera? It better be good. I was having a very nice dream.
“I said,” sighed Madera, “We’re here. At Earth. May I have my pip back?”
Larkin turned in her seat. “Sir, they have sent a communiqué. They want us to beam down to these coordinates. They appear to be a hovercar rental place on the outskirts of the city. They are requesting you, Counselor Peterman, Commander Conway, Doctor Browning, Commander Richards, Lieutennant Ford, Lieutennant Hartley and myself. They also say we have to be there in one hour. I suggest we depart immediately.”
“Yes, fine. Whatever. Page the officers who are coming, we’ll meet in transporter room two. They have two minutes. I’m going to get something from my quarters. And J’hana, since they didn’t call you, which is damn curious, you’re in command. You’re also on pet duty while we’re gone. J’hana, you have the bridge.” He left in a huff, still rather upset over the lovely dream.
The rental place was a dilapidated series of rooms in the center of a ten-story garage, at the top of a hundred-story building in the outskirts of Long Island. Six shimmers, then two more. Most of the senior staff of the Explorer looked around in disgust. The clerk sat up at the desk and snubbed out a cigarette.
Dr. Janice Browning sniffed. “What is that awful smell? Smells like…SMOKE!!! THE BUILDING’S ON FIRE! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!” She waddled screaming down the hall.
“I’ll go get her,” said Lieutennant Commander Chris Richards, who did just that.
Baxter put his hands on his face and dragged them down, giving him the appearance of severe annoyance. He went to the desk. “I’d like to rent a vehicle for eight people, please. The bill’s going to Starfleet.”
“Starfleet, eh?” said the clerk. She looked from Baxter to Richards and Browning who were returning from their oddessy in the hallway back to Baxter. “Whatever. What kind ya want? I got a Yoyodyne van, a Ford van and a Dodge van. All the same price, seat ten apiece.”
“NOW GODDAMNIT!!! I DON’T GOT ALL F***ING DAY!!!”
Captain Baxter stepped back, slightly stunned. He chastised himself, however, for forgetting that he was in New York and turned to Conway. “Commander, you can drive. What kind of van do you want? And make it snappy, our ‘friend,’” he made little air quotes with his fingers, “over there doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
Conway sauntered over to the counter, perfunctory mug of coffee in hand. “Let’s see the choices, hmmm?”
“My god,” whispered Hartley discreetley to Larkin. “Is he actually cheerful?”
“It would seem that the Commander is in his element, Lieutennant. He is renting a car in a large city that doesn’t care about people, somewhat like the Commander. He is, to put it simply, among those he knows.”
“Mmm,” agreed Hartley. “He better not do any of that fancy driving though. I’m not in the mood to get thrown around the inside of a crowded van.”
“Me neither, Megan,” said Peterman, joining the conversation. “But I don’t think that will be a problem. Take a look at the highways.”
From their vantage point at the top of the building they could see the close-by major highways of Long Island. The Long Island Expressway was packed solidly, all seventeen levels of it. The Northern State wasn’t much better. Incidentally, Northern Boulevard was empty. People always avoided the local streets. Stupid.
Conway, still sauntering, moved over toward Baxter. “Sir, they say that the vans are slightly unreliable. As in, they’re almost a hundred years old. I suggest we get a few different cars a few centuries newer. They’ve got two Mercedes-Benzes. It’s Starfleet’s money. Let’s go for it.”
“Commander, I couldn’t agree with you more. Ford! Get your ass over here.” Lieutennant Zachary Ford walked over to the senior officers.
“You’re driving. Take the keys. Myself, Kelly and Hartley are going with you. Conway, you’re taking Browning, Richards and Larkin. Thank you,” he said to the clerk, taking the two sets of keys and giving one to Ford and one to Conway. “Let’s go.
Conway, it seemed, was unhappy. He was beyond unhappy. He was downright pissed. But it made him feel right at home because everyone else felt the same way. The Explorer crew was too damn cheerful all the time. He mignt consider moving up here next time he had extended leave. Yes, he would have an apartment in Queens. If they ever got there.
He had taken the Long Island Expressway. Despite the protests of everyone in the car, and everyone in the other car, he had insisted. Ford had decided to make a bet with Conway that he could get to the DOT faster on Northern Boulevard, and Conway sniffed, saying it was impossible to get anywhere quickly on the local streets. Ford was about to win a hundred credits. Damn him. Conway bonked his head on the horn, adding to the symphony of cacophony already in progress on level eight of the expressway. He cursed everyone in the HOV lanes.
“Are we there yet?” asked Browning, through a mouthful of cannoli. Conway bonked the horn again.
Ford was crusing at a good 200 kph. The radio was blaring, the bass thumping, the windows open, the lights all green. Northern Boulevard was empty and getting the foursome to their destination faster than anyone had imagined. Baxter seemed to be enjoying himself, smiling faintly and staring out the window. Hartley was having fun too, singing along with the radio. Peterman was turning different shades of green. Spring green, forest green, chartreuse, jungle green, they just kept changing. Had Crayola crayons still existed, she might have reminded someone who knew what the huge boxes looked like of the section of greeen crayons. But Crayola crayons were eradicated in World War III. Que sera sera.
Peterman searched for a first aid kit. She found one behind the rear seat headrests, and searched frantically for a sedative. She found one, and soon took her very own trip to a very private (except for Andy) la-la land. Ahhhhh, she thought before passing out. La-la land.
Baxter looked up for a moment and noticed a sign. “Welcome…to..Queens,” he read. “We’re getting there. How’re we doing on fuel, Ford?”
“Ummm,” said Ford, checking the control board in front of him, “We’ve got a seven eighths charge on the sarium krellide cells, and we’ve got a full reserve tank of deuterium for the orbital engines. Why?”
“Well,” remarked Baxter, “We’re passing a fueling station. I was wondering if we needed gas. Let’s get some, just in case. Quickly, before we pass it!”
“S**t!” screamed Ford as he swerved into the station, knocking a few garbage cans, pedestrians, and the last chocolate labrador in existence to the sidewalk. The chocolate lab bounced into the road and quickly got torn to shreds by a massive truck which had been following Ford for a hundred kilometers. “Sir, you can’t tell me to turn AFTER we’ve passed the place I’m supposed to turn into.”
“Why not? You’re a good pilot, you can go back.”
“This isn’t a starship.” Ford sighed. “You can’t stop in ten feet in a car. Then, you can’t back up in the middle of the road. You get run over by huge trucks. Don’t you drive?”
Baxter snorted. “Hartley, get out and charge the sarium krellide cells. Charge it to Starfleet.”
“Why should I? I’m comfortable.” She stuck her tongue out at Baxter and flirted with an attendant through the open window.
“Lieutennant, fill ‘er up or you’ll suffer Madera’s fate.”
“Hmmm? I haven’t been on the bridge today.” She furrowed her brow. “What happened to Madera?”
“She got demoted. Go!”
“Make me.” She made a face.
“Yeoman Hartley, I order you to go fuel us or so help me I’ll send you back to the ship on pet duty for the next year!!!”
She pulled the release handle on the door and shoved it open so hard it rocked the car. Then she slammed it. Three windows shattered and the frame bent. Baxter shook his head. “Everyone out of the car. We’re going to have to take,” he shuddered, “public transportation.”
“Why?” asked Peterman, still slightly pale. “What’s wrong with the car?”
Baxter shook his head as he opened her door and helped her out. “Honey, the passenger compartment won’t be sealed if we go like this, and if the passenger compartment isn’t sealed, 200 clicks an hour will give you a bit of windburn, if you know what I mean. We’ll have to get the car towed back to the rental place.” He strolled to the attendant’s booth. “Hartley, you’re up to your armpits in s*** when we get back unless you manage to do something reeeeeeeal nice. Now come talk to the attendant with me.”
Baxter walked straight into the door as he tried to enter the booth. Damn civilians with their damn manual doors.
“Hi there,” he said to the young man sitting behind the desk. “We need to get to Manhattan on public transportation. Can you help us? And call a tow truck too, if you can.”
“Yo, whaup ma’ homey? Ya wan’s ta get ta the f***in city, yo? An yawan me cawl yous all damn tow truck, word?”
Baxter looked bemused, amused, and like an idiot, all at the same time. Quite a talented guy. “Ummmmmmm…yes?”
“Cool. So, go out front, see? Bus stop right there, man. S**t, now, you gon’ get on the f***in Q66, word?”
“I suppose, yes, word. S**t?”
“Hell no, man! What f*** yous talkin’bout? Yous no say s**t at the end of a sentence, hell no! S**t, I mean, like, say it at the start. Word?”
“A’right m’homey. Yous gettin this s**t? So, yer on the Q66, word? Take that ta the beginn’o’Nassau county. Ya’ll see madd signs, word? Yous get off’n’get theight ta the middle atha city. Ma mothaf***ers, ya got that, word?”
Baxter looked up from the padd on which he was frantically trying to translate what the attendant said, to little success. “Yeah. Mahomey. Thanks.” He dragged Hartley out the door, and made the mistake of looking up at the sky. The dizzying skyscrapers loomed above him in all directions. He fell down.
When he came to, Kelly was fanning him with his padd, and he made sure to roll over on his side before opening his eyes. “Don’t look up,” he suggested.
“Extreme vertigo. These buildings go up for hundreds of stories. Take my tricorder and see if you can decipher any of the directions the attendant gave us. I barely understood the cursing, let alone the directions.” He handed her the tricorder and stood. The broken Mercedes hovercar stood a few feet away, still humming. A hovertruck, whirring an inch off the ground on its antigravs, blasted by at a hundred and fifty clicks. Ford was inside with the attendant, trying to buy a candy bar.
“Andy.” Kelly brought him out of his reverie.
“What did you find?” he asked, inquisitive. He even cocked his head slightly to one side. She saw him and laughed.
“Cute. I ran the recording through the universal translator, and got nothing. His speech patterns aren’t even recognizable as human.”
As nobody watched but Ford, the attendant suddenly shed his skin to become a horribly huge, horribly gelatinous, horribly translucent lime-green, multi-tentacled blob, which proceeded to eat Ford with its horribly slimy mouth. Ford tried to scream, but got a mouthfull of slime which tasted remarkably like lime Jell-O.
“So, you’re saying he’s a born and bred New Yorker, right?” inquired Baxter.
“Pretty much. They’re the only people in the galaxy whose speech is still indecipherable. That’s why very few people come to New York anymore. All these people LIVE here.”
“Poor people,” agreed Baxter. “You know, they were going to put Starfleet Headquarters in New York. But they would have to bring in all their temps and such from other places, because none of Starfleet spoke New York. What a fiasco when they discovered that. Already put the down payment on the World Trade Center down too. You hear something?”
Ford was thrashing and kicking for all he was worth inside the attendant’s gooey body. He was rapidly running out of air. Suddenly, he got an idea. He grabbed his phaser in slippery hands, set it to overload, and pushed it through the goo of the blob, as far away from him as possible. He curled into a fetal ball as he went flying with a wave of slime towards the door. He slammed into it with a loud thud.
“What was that?” asked Peterman as she turned to see the attendant’s booth’s windows get covered with the attendant’s remains. “Oh, my god!” she screeched as she ran and hid behind the now defunct Mercedes.
“What the hell?” asked Baxter as he and Hartley ran to see what had happened. The goop was now sliding down the interior windows, and the door was slightly open, allowing goop to flow outside slowly. Hartley pulled the door all the way open, and Ford fell out, dazed and coated, and slightly digested. “Yuck. What the hell happened here? Ford?”
“Unhhhhhshuuukkkkkkkk,” spluttered Ford as he spit goop out. “The attendant, shed skin, big green blob, eat me, set phaser to boom…unnnhhhhhhhhh.”
Hartley grabbed Ford and shook him hard. “Get a hold of yourself, man! What happened?”
“No, no, no,” blubbered Ford. Don’t let the monster near me…”
Hartley slapped him hard across the face. “Pull yourself together, you blithering idiot!”
“Nice insult, Hartley. Been reading up?” commented Baxter.
“Yes, sir. Thank you for noticing.”
“You’re still demoted.”
“Go to hell, sir.”
“Very well.” Baxter grabbed Ford and shook him. “Get a hold of yourself!” He smacked the still-blubbering helmsman three times.
“Here, Andy.” Peterman had ventured out from behind the hovercar and was approaching the booth. She grabbed Ford and shook him. “Goddamnit Ford, get a hold of yourself!” she screamed as she shook him and slapped him.
A Mercedes hovercar pulled into the station. Larkin and Richards stepped out. “Captain,” said Larkin, “Do you require assistance with Mr. Ford?”
“Oh, Larkin. Good. Come here and slap him.”
“Aye, sir.” Larkin walked over, picked Ford up and smacked him repeatedly. “Father?” she said, indicating for Richards to smack Ford.
“Of course. Thank you, Kristen.”
“You are most welcome.”
Richards bent down to Ford’s crumpled form and shook him hard. “Ford, what’s your problem?” Richards smacked him.
Conway, seeing what was happening, yanked open his door and ran to join the beat-down in progress. Finally, he would get to give that insubordinating horny little bastard what was coming to him. He began by kicking Ford anywhere he could, then kneeling down and punching him, elbowing him and head-butting him. He hardly noticed all the slime that was beginning to coat him from Ford’s cowering body.
“COMMANDER!” shouted Baxter in his most commanding tone. “You will stop that THIS INSTANT!”
“But, you were–”
“But? No buts. You are assaulting a fellow officer…Lieutennant!” Baxter smiled wickedly.
“Lieutennant? What the f***? You can’t do that to me!” Conway fumed and steamed and turned bright purple.
“No?” Baxter continued to smile. It was hurting. He stopped. “I’ve done it twice already today, and you were the easiest.” He turned to face the rest of the crew. “Nobody else wants to try me, do they?”
The crew shook their heads, shocked at the Captain’s display of self-confidence. Browning chose this moment to wake up from her nap in the Mercedes. She saw the crew standing amidst a puddle of greenish ooze, and Ford at the center, coated in it, looking rather beat-up. She grabbed her medkit and did her best to hurry over. It turned out something like a leisurely stroll.
“What happened? Why is Ford lying battered in a puddle of ooze? Who has my snack? And why do Hartley and Conway have fewer pips than they should?” Browning was quite befuddled, and scratched her head. The two events had nothing, however, to do with one another. She was currently suffering from a slightly dry scalp and this caused some itching, which necessitated some scratching every now and then. She made a mental note to use a moisturizing conditioner when she returned to the Explorer, and quickly forgot about it when her mind moved to thoughts of the ubiquitous New York hotdog stand, still a staple of New York City life in the 24th century.
“Well,” said Peterman, “The attendant here was a huge gelatinous blob which ate Mr. Ford when he tried to buy a candy bar. Ford blew up the alien with his phaser and was thrown against the wall. Now he’s blabbering about something. Richards has your snack. And the Captain is having a bad day. That about sums it up.”
“Huh?” Janice had been thinking about a lovely New York hot dog, covered in ketchup and mustard and onions with relish, a nice soda on the side, and an ice cream bar for dessert. Mmmmmmmmmmmm. And the knishes…And the bagels. Even with all the technology available to everyone and everything, New York had remained the home of the best bagels in the galaxy. She’d have to have a nice bagel sandwich, maybe chicken salad… “Kelly? Did you say something?”
“No,” sighed Peterman. “I didn’t. Would you treat Ford please?”
J’hana grunted as she jumped down the Jeffries tube ladder to deck seven, junction fourteen. She hoisted her phaser rifle, and carefully hit the control to one of the horizontal tubes, rifle at the ready. It was empty. She sealed it, and went on to the next tube. Nothing. She opened the third, and began frantically shooting at Nurse Wilcox and ensign Sefelt, who screamed a bit and then stopped when their laser tag vests went dark, marking them out. J’hana stopped shooting.
“You two suck,” she said. “Puny humans. Can’t handle a phaser rifle for a fwarz-sharsher. Why, if you were put in a battle against some tribbles with phasers, you’d probably–by the hive mother!”
Gellar laughed from the top of the shaft. “J’hana, you’ve got to stop bragging and start fighting. Or look out for tribbles. By the way, you’re out.”
“I shall kill you and all of your descendents and all of their descendents. I shall flay their skin from their flesh and then feed it-“
Gellar looked uncomfortable. “Uh, that’s okay. You don’t have to describe it, you can do it later. You’re out, sir. See you in Space Tastes tonight!”
“Go to hell, Lieutenna–What the hell??!” screamed J’hana as one of the Jeffries tubes opened and Tilleran blasted her.
“Ha! Take that, J’hana! No more laser tag for you!” Lt. Tilleran cackled. “Ow! Who the hell was that?” She squirmed and turned, to see Mirk at the other end of the tunnel, grinning.
“Sorry, Ariel. You lose! Who’s next?”
Saral holstered her phaser. “You are, Mr. Mirk. Should you not be ministrating over a sermon? I believe you have a packed schedule.”
“Yeah, well, I’m taking a break. I can’t preach all the time. I’m going to cook tonight.”
“I shall look forward to your meal,” Saral said. “If you will excuse me, I shall be killing more of our crewmates. If you’ll excuse me, I belive Lieutennant Forrester is entering this section.” Saral strode off, cool as ice. She staggered momentarily as she was barraged with three blasts from Forrester and two faceless security goons. Saral blinked, turned around, and proceeded to her quarters.
On the bridge, the cleanup crew puzzled over the stuff coating many of the consoles, remnants of the Benzite yeoman whose head had exploded recently. The main odd thing was that it wasn’t fragments of brain, blood and skull bones. It was green goo. And the body which remained had fallen to the ground, crumpling like it was nothing but a hull. More goo had come out of it. This was pooling on the upper deck of the bridge, and the cleanup crewman decided to call sickbay. “Bridge to sickbay, can you send someone up here?”
“Nurse Wilcox here, what can I do for you?”
“You remember the Benzite whose head exploded?”
“Yes. Whatever happened to him?”
“I’m here on cleanup, and there’s something you should see. Bring your tricorder.”
“I’ll be right up.”
Nurse Holly Wilcox, nee Carter, hummed an old tune as the turbolift whisked her towards the bridge. She wondered what that crewman had been talking about. The lift reached the bridge, and the doors opened. She gasped. Half the bridge was coated in green goo, and J’hana was in the command chair! She didn’t know what was worse. She thought about it for a few moments, and still couldn’t decide. She turned to her husband, Dean. “Dean, what do you think? Which is worse, J’hana in command or the green goo?”
Dean, who had seen the goo and run out to play in it, laughed. “Goo! Goo goo goo!”
“Hmmm.” Holly was puzzled. Did that mean that he liked the goo and thought that J’hana was the worse of the two, or that he was saying that he didn’t like the goo? She figured that since he was sitting in the goo and not in J’hana’s lap, that he liked the goo better. This puzzle solved, she gingerly stepped through it to the equally bemused crewman with his mop and bucket. “What can I do for you?” she asked.
He scratched his head thoughtfully. “Well, this Benzite’s head exploded today, and before I could get the body down to you for an autopsy, the body dissolved into this green goo stuff. The whole body, even the remains of the head is this stuff. I don’t get it. Aren’t peoples heads supposed to be made of stuff other….”
The crewman continued babbling, but Holly crouched down on the balls of her feet and scanned the goo. Odd, she thought. It was definitely organic, but there was some…other stuff there too. It almost looked like the gelatinous goo of a changeling…no. It couldn’t be. All the changelings that weren’t killed when the Dominion was defeated were sent back to the Gamma quadrant. Other than Janice’s little bowl of joy, there weren’t any changelings in the Alpha quadrant. So what was this stuff doing on the Explorer? She decided to run a background check on the ensign. She sighed as she looked at her husband. He was covered with the goo. He’d need a bath. Again. She needed help.
“Wilcox to Tilleran. Ariel, I need a favor.”
“Tilleran here. What can I do for you?” She sounded slightly irritated.
“Ariel, I need you to run a background check on one Yeoman Muldan. She was working at the Environmental station on the bridge when her head exploded. I’d do it, but Dean needs a bath.”
“No problem.” Tilleran paused. “May I ask why you need this?”
Wilcox sighed. “When the yeoman’s head exploded, we didn’t get brain fragments and skull pieces. We got lots of green goo. Her body dissolved into more of the same a few moments later. The tricorder is telling me that this goo is similar to a changling in its natural state, and this gives me the suspicion that this Benzite is not from…where are Benzites from anyway?”
“Beats me. I’ll get right on your background check. Tilleran out.”
Holly sighed. To the cleanup crewman: “I’ll take a sample of this stuff back to sickbay, and then you can clean up. Keep up the good work. And can you send someone down to our quarters? I think Dean wet the bed again.”
In the region formerly known as Central Park, Dronal contemplated the latest data. They had lost Muldan and Johnson, one due to an unfortunate failure of the bio-forcefield, the other to a loss of temper. Dronal would have disciplined them, but they were dead, and there was no use in beating a dead horse. Of course, there were no horses in New York City, only those like Dronal, and Muldan and Johnson. But more like Muldan and Johnson, because, of course, Dronal was in a class by himself (itself?). And now there were these newcomers. They would be dealt with. They were a serious threat to Dronal’s plans. If the newcomers could be destroyed, the plan would succeed. New York City would no longer be bound to this pitiful planet. The New York race had long since evolved beyond the Homo Sapiens Sapiens which ruled this planet. They were now Homo Sapiens Gooiens, or simply New Yorkers, and they would escape their prison. No, really. They would. Regardless. Their agent would do his job.
“AARRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHH!!!” screamed Conway. “No more! Please, no no NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
“Shhhhhhhh, Commander, shhhhh. We’re almost there,” comforted Peterman. The Explorer crew had been stuck on the R train for the past three hours as it made its exceedingly slow and delayed journey from the outer edge of Queens to Midtown Manhattan. The nearly fifty miles which should have taken an hour at most, had been just a long string of delays and breakdowns. They had changed trains twice already. The last stop was finally nearing, however. The train roared into the Bell Blvd station and the doors whooshed open. The crew ran out, ran upstairs, ran over poor Ford, who was still not feeling well at all, and ran into the simulated sunshine. They looked around, blinked, and realized that they were not at their destination. A break in the buildings ran in either direction for miles and miles. An arch sprawled over Northern Blvd, and there were hovercars backed up for miles. Each one seemed to be stopping for some type of scan before proceeding through the arch. There were smaller arches built into the big one on either side, and people were lined outside these, apparently awaiting the same scan. A piegon, soaring aimlessly, tried to fly over the arch. It smacked into a level 10 forcefield, which reduced the bird to ashes, shimmering violently. Some looked up. Some looked away. The natives ignored it.
“Larkin,” probed Conway, “Why is there a forcefield surrounding the city?”
Larkin tapped away at her tricorder for a few moments before responding. “I can tell you that there is a level ten forcefield surrounding the city in a dome. It circles the city at a radius of twenty four kilometers. There are pass throughs at most major thoroughfares, and one each at the mouth of the harbor, the East River and the Hudson River. This is the only way in, so I suggest we get on line.”
“Whatever,” grumbled Conway.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! PLEASE GOD NO!! HELP ME! SOMEBODY!!! ANYBOOOOOOOODY!!! HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLP!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!” screamed Captain Andrew Baxter. He was strapped to a chair in front of a huge viewscreen. His head was locked in place, and he had earphones over his ears. On the screen was playing the classic animated movie “Bambi.” Bambi and his mother were in the meadow, grazing. Suddenly, Baxter heard shots. Bambi’s mother and Bambi looked up. They ran. Bambi ran and ran, all the way back to the thicket. But HIS MOTHER WAS NOT THERE!
“Mama? Mama?” Bambi was looking worried.
“SHE CAN’T BE DEAD!!!” screamed Baxter. “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” he cried. He wept for Bambi’s mother, and for Bambi.
“Well, Captain.” Dronal’s voice boomed over the headset. “Had enough yet? Now tell me; Why are they here?”
“No no no! I won’t tell! Unnhhhhh…”
One of Dronal’s goons stepped into the circle of light and poked Baxter with a cattle prod. “Tell him,” growled the guard.
“NOOOOOOO!” squealed Baxter.
“Very well,” boomed Dronal. “I did not wish to resort to this, but you are being unusually resistant. We shall see what you say…AFTER AN HOUR OF ‘BARNEY AND FRIENDS!!!’ MWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! MWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! BUWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”
“You…you wouldn’t dare! You…I’ll….that’ll kill me! You need me alive!”
“That, Captain Baxter, is what you think.” Dronal laughed again. “Enjoy your Barney!”
Six hours and thirteen Starbucks later, the bedraggled explorer crew finally reached the DOT. Robert Bucket had just recieved a transmission from Dronal, and knew what to do.
“Good evening.” Robert faked the largest smile he could. “How can I help you?”
“Finally,” snorted Conway. “Some decent service. We need seven rooms and a time travel license so we can get the hell out of this dump.”
“Commander!” chastised Baxter. “We need to be polite.” Baxter turned to Robert. “We are here for our recertification tests. We will be staying on the holodeck, correct?”
“Yes, sir.” Bucket quickly tapped away something at his terminal, and brought out eight access cards. “These will get you into the briefing rooms, and subsequently, the holodecks. You will be splitting up into two groups of four each, each group travelling to a different time period. All the information you will need is in the briefing, automated. Follow the lights on the walls. Thank you.”
Conway stepped up and grabbed his access chip. “What’s your name, anyway?”
“Well, you see it’s right here on the desk…”
“Robert Bucket, huh? Well, look here. I’m fed up, tired and hot. I want to go to a nice hotel room and take a nice shower and spend the night. I don’t want to go into some f***ing simulation and spend a week in the dark ages! And furthermore—”
“That’s incorrect,” interrupted Bucket, turning purple.
“My name isn’t BUCKET, it’s pronounced BOUQUET! Can’t you read the damn subtitle on the nametag!? I’M FRENCH FOR DRONAL’S SAKE!!!”
//QUIET!!!// sent Baxter to Bucket. //You’ll blow our cover!//
“YOU, MISTER PRISSY-ASS STARFLEET ARE GOING IN THE WORST SIMULATION!!!!” screamed Bucket, frantically typing. “Now go the hell to your briefing room before I have you IRRADIATED!!!”
“Fine,” grumbled Conway. “F***ing bastard.”
“I’d watch myself, Lieutennant,” said Baxter. “I believe Yeoman Briggs could use some company down in the shop…At this rate you’ll be his subordinate by next week.”
“F***ing senior officers,” muttered Conway under his breath, “Damn you, Baxter. I’ll get you someday…”
“What was that, Lieutennant?” inquired Baxter.
“I said, ‘I’d love to throw Captain Baxter a tea party some time!’ How’s tomorrow?”
“Excellent. Now, go to your briefing room. Or I’ll be calling you Mister Conway instead of Yeoman Conway.”
Holly examined the specimen of dead Benzite and became convinced that it wasn’t really a Benzite.
Her commbadge suddenly beeped. “Wilcox here. What can I do for you?”
Tilleran answered, slightly breathless. “Holly, I’ve got two things for you. Number one, Bolarus.”
Holly scratched her head. “Huh?”
“Bolarus is where Bolians are from. I don’t see why that was so hard to remember before. I should have remembered that right off the top of my head–”
“Ariel,” interrupted Holly, “Muldan was a Benzite.”
Now Tilleran scratched her head. “Oh. Right. Anyway, I’ve got that background check on Muldan you wanted. It turns out that she boarded at starbase 275 a few months ago, and all I can find before that is that she’s from New York City. Her record is blank. Barely anything exists about her. It’s like she’s a nonperson with a record put together at the last minute.”
“Really?” asked Wilcox. “Just like that?”
“Yup. It’s really fascinating.”
Holly fiddled with her scanner and took another reading. “I’ll bet.”
Tilleran paused. “Since there’s nothing else, I’ll get back to my stuff.”
“EEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!” screamed Kelly Peterman as she was tossed into the cesspool.
“An’ don’che ever loo’ a’ the Lo’d ag’in like tha’!” screamed the jailer as he tossed Ford and Hartley in after her. “Stinkin’ whore!”
“Ughhhhhhh,” said Hartley. “What a lovely hotel room. I’ll bet this isn’t the Gloucester Hilton.”
“Unnnnnhhhhhh,” said Ford. “Ughhhhhh ulllllll uuuuckk,” he added. He finished with “Ewwwwwwwww.”
“Shut up.” Hartley stood, allowing clumps of…waste…to drop from her coarse wool dress. “These clothes aren’t helping either.”
“Ewwww!!! Eww eww ew ew ew!!!” said Peterman, shaking out her dress. “This is soooo gross!!! Can we get out?”
Hartley tried the door to no avail. “We’re locked in until either A, the simulation ends, or B, someone lets us out.”
“Well, what about C?” asked Peterman.
“What, Captain Baxter rescues us?”
“Well,” said Peterman, “Yeah.”
“No chance in hell.”
“What? Why not?” Peterman anxiously shook her dress again. “My Andy is very heroic.”
“Yeah, well, to hell with him.”
“Shut your mouth, Ensign.”
“Why don’t you make me?”
Peterman rolled up her sleeves. “Why don’t I? Fine. You want it that way?! Come on!”
The two fell through the gunk to the floor and started rolling around in a flurry of punches and kicks. Ford moaned.
“Dang,” said Conway as the mosquito hit the windshield of the speeding Porsche 911. He flipped the wiper stalk and the washers whirred, squirting washer fluid at the windshield as the wipers swished back and forth.
“David,” asked Dr. Browning from the extremely cramped back seat, “Can you slow down? I–ow!” she exclaimed as her tea spilled all over her lap. “That’s hot! Is there a doctor in the house?”
Richards nudged her gently and told her, “Janice, the doctor is you. Remember?”
Browning looked flustered and bemused. “Huh? Me? Oh. Seen my medkit?”
“Your medkit was left outside the simulation, Doctor,” said Larkin coolly from the front seat. “We are in the twentieth century, and the instruments in your medkit do not yet exist.”
“Ow ow ow!” she exclaimed. “Pull over, hmm?”
“Fine,” grumbled Conway. He rammed the shifter into third and floored the pedal, passing the wheezing Escort they were following. The 911 hummed along at 80 mph down Route 22 towards New York City.
The holodeck computer beeped. “Ding-beep. Holodeck safeties are now off.”
“Lieutennant,” said Larkin, “Are you sure you can drive with the safties off?”
Conway snorted. “Hell yes. I do more difficult stuff just driving TO the track. This is a piece of cake.”
“Then I suggest you watch out for the large tractor-trailer which has spun out in front of us.”
Conway looked ahead. His eyes bulged as he slammed the brakes, downshifting wildly and cranking the wheel to the left. The Porsche went into a skid, oversteering madly. He released the brakes, and pumped. “S*** s*** s***!” he muttered as he fought to regain control.
The Porsche was now skidding backwards. Conway saw his chance, and jammed the accelerator. The rear wheels spun with an earsplitting screech, fighting for purchase. A huge cloud of tire smoke filled the air, and the Porsche continued to fly backwards toward the now-defunct…oil truck.
“Damn!” shouted Conway as he read the sign in his rearview mirror. “Hold on! We’re gonna hit!!” he shouted as he killed the engine and rolled into a ball on the driver’s seat. Browning and Richards looked behind them, and the last thing they saw was a huge truck spewing oil heading straight for them.
TO BE CONTINUED….IN A FEW LINES
The skidding Porsche hit the aluminum oil truck…and blasted straight through, coating the car in oil and leaving a Porsche-sized hole in the truck. The car full of three terrified occupants and one slightly ruffled android spun out completely, tires covered in oil, and smashed through a metal guard and splashed into Lake Lauderdale, spewing algae and weeds in all directions, not to mention water. But there was more algae and weeds than water. But that’s a different story. But it features in this story. But I digress…
The car began to sink immediately because, as everyone knows, only Volkswagens float. It sank for precisely four feet, then stopped since the wheels had touched down on the mucky bottom of the lake inlet. Conway opened his door, which was a mistake. Gallons and gallons of various substances, most of them yucky, many of them decaying, poured in, filling the car. The foursome managed to extricate themselves without dying in a few minutes, and stood, chest deep in algae, knee deep in mud.
“This,” said Commander Richards, “To coin a phrase, is just great. Just great. How, pray tell, are we getting to New York City now?”
“There is a Ford dealership across the road. We can purchase a vehicle there. I will attempt to retrieve our belongings from the car.” Larkin dove under the surface.
“That’d be great,” said Richards, “If you hadn’t spent all our money on that stupid Porsche.”
“Can you blame me for trying to have a little fun?”
Larkin surfaced long enough to join her parent in a resounding “Yes.”
Browning suddenly had an inspiration. Two, in fact. One was that they could have walked to shore instead of standing around in the swampy lake. The other was about the four small pieces of plastic in her pocket. “Hey, what does ‘Visa Platinum’ mean?” she asked.
Conway and Richards both looked at her, then each other. “Doctor,” said Richards, “Give those to me. Please.”
“All right.” She handed the four credit cards to him.
“Visa Platinum, AMEX Platinum, Mastercard Platinum, Discover. We’ve got four credit cards with incredible limits. Lieutennant, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Conway smiled. “Yes, I think I am.”
“Do you think we can get out of this swamp now?” asked Browning. “My dress feels really icky.”
Three hours later, a wheezing Ford Aerostar pulled out of Lauderdale Ford, carrying four smelly, soggy occupants. Larkin was driving.
“Tilleran to J’hana. Incoming transmission from McKinley Station regarding spacedock accomodations.”
J’hana looked up from Charlie’s bath. She hit her commbadge. “I am in the middle of cleansing this…creature and cannot recieve the message. Store it.”
“Whatever you say. Hope you’re enjoying yourself.”
“You may be Imzadi, but I will still kill you if you persist,” said J’hana, attempting to force Charlie down into the sudsy water.
“I know what you’re thinking, and no, that won’t work on me,” said Tilleran with a slight smirk. “Betazoids don’t have spleens.”
“Then I shall rip out your innards and shove them up your–”
She was interrupted by Charlie jumping out of the bath and onto her, sending her down to the floor on her back. Her head cracked against the hard tile floor, and she passed out. Charlie attempted to bite her left antenna off, waking her up.
Instinctually, she grabbed him by the front legs and swung him around over her head, standing up in the process, and let him fly out the door across the living room, to smack into the far wall. He left a large wet streak as he slid down the wall, unconscious. She smiled.
“I shall be right up to recieve that transmission, Lieutennant. Beware of me in dark places.”
Tilleran smiled as she closed the link. “I’ll do that, J’hana. I will.”
J’hana emerged from the Ready Room to find Tilleran sitting in the Captain’s chair. “Get up or I will throw you out the airlock.”
“Is there a choice ‘c’?” asked Tilleran.
“I will,” and J’hana whispered something into Tilleran’s ear.
“Oooh…that sounds great,” she said with a smile. “Is it just me, or are you more bloodthirsty than normal today?”
“The latter. We are going to dock inside the new McKinley Station for a baryon sweep. We will have several days in which there will not be anything to do. I will have to draw blood to stay alive.”
“Well, it’s a good thing we’ll be together. I’ll find someone for you to kill tomorrow.”
Madera stepped out of the forward turbolift, saw the look on J’hana’s face, and stepped back in. “Emergency close,” she said. She was gone.
“Damn,” said Tilleran softly.
J’hana raced through the corridors of the Explorer as the computer counted down. “Thirty seconds until power shutdown. All personnel, evacuate the ship. Repeat, evacuate the ship.”
She raced into her quarters, found what she was looking for, and raced out. “Fifteen seconds until power shutdown. All personnel, evacuate the ship. Repeat, evacuate the ship.”
She ran down the corridor on Deck 25, past her beloved torpedo launcher, past a display showing a countdown of time remaining until power shutdown, to the airlock doors, which were beginning to close. She slid through, her middle finger getting crushed in the process. The airlock began to retract from the ship, cutting it off from any entrance other than getting out into the spacedock’s giant, airless hold, moving to the Explorer along a support girder or freely, and blowing the emergency bolts on an external airlock, all of which were extremely doubtful.
J’hana relished the pain of her bleeding finger. This would placate her blood thirst for a few days if left untreated. Possibly she could let it get infected, and then assault the doctor when he told her so. Yes, she thought. This could be an…interesting experience. She looked down at the object in her hand which she had raced so hard to get. Her “Screaming Tribble (TM)” sat in her hand, doing nothing except looking pitiful with plastic blood pouring from gashes in its sides. She’d fill it up and throw it around the room a few times if she got really bored. Destroying Starbase property was always fun.
“One…two….THREE!!!” screamed Hartley as she and Peterman rammed the door with all their might, finally smashing through, their momentum carrying them straight through the wreckage, right through a door across the small hallway, into another cesspool. This one had a good two feet of muck on the floor.
Peterman pulled herself up out of the mire and added her most recent meal to it. That done, she truged back to their original prison and retrieved Ford, who was close to unconsciousness. The two dragged him along outside the cesspool, and sat, since they couldn’t carry Ford.
A guard came walking down the hall. He saw the broken cesspool door at the same time that he smelled it. Then he saw the other one. Then he saw the trail of muck leading to the three officers sitting on the floor. The last thing he saw was Hartley’s foot coming at his head at high speed.
She tossed him into the fuller of the two cesspools, and sat back down. She thought a few moments, and then let loose a barrage of cursing so vile that if typed, it would probably destroy my computer. Peterman looked at her, head cocked to the side. She responded with an extremely vulgar salvo which would probably cause you to go into epileptic seizures if you read it.
After a few volleys back and forth, Ford woke up. “Where am I?” he asked, slightly addled.
“You’re in the basement of a medieval British castle. Counselor Peterman ticked off the Lord, and we got thrown in the cesspool slash dungeon.” She looked around. “Apparantly, this is the medieval version of the Federation Inn.”
“Really,” asked Peterman. “I would have said Klingon prison, but whatever floats your boat.”
“Thanks, Counselor. That cursing really increased my respect for you.” She held up two fingers, a fraction of an inch apart. “By about that much.”
“Better than nothing…Ensign.”
“Whoops, there it goes.”
“Don’t make me demote you.”
“I’m sorry, there is no USS Explorer on record. Are you sure that you docked your ship here?”
J’hana flushed deeply, and her antenna twitched. No ship? She had always thought she’d die saving her captain, but she never thought she’d die at his hands! “Try again,” she growled.
The technician performed a search. “No, there’s no USS Explorer on record. We don’t have your ship.”
“That…that cannot be! Our ship was right there! I docked it myself!”
The clerk smirked. “Are you sure you turned off the engines?”
“Do not toy with me. I have not killed anything for days, and I can make short work of you.” She smiled. “Unless, perhaps, you would enjoy if I gave you an unscheduled appendectomy. That can be arranged.”
“They’ll court martial you, at the very least!”
“I once disemboweled a junior officer for misconfiguring a quantumn torpedo which exploded with a yield of ten isotons instead of twenty-two. I was mildly reprimanded.”
The clerk fell off her chair. When she regained her seating, she checked again. “What did you say the registry was?”
“USS Explorer, NCC 87568.”
“Well, what do you know. It’s right here. We had taken it off the docking list while it was getting its weapons removed. She’s all right now.”
J’hana turned cobalt. “WEAPONS REMOVED?!?! Tell me, puny human. Would you ENJOY it if I ripped off your leg AND BEAT YOU SENSELESS WITH IT!?!?”
The clerk thought for a moment, and then responded. “Why, yes, I believe I’d like that very much. You did say 87569, correct?”
“N…C…C…8…7…5…6…8. Do you understand?” asked the Andorian, a hair’s breadth away before blowing up the whole damned station with her own two (she counted quickly…no new hands) hands.
“Computer,” said the clerk. “Activate a level 10 forcefield around my position.”
“Acknowledged,” chirped the computer, and a forcefield snapped into place, around the clerk and her customer.
“That was a smart thing to do,” said J’hana. “Now you’ll keep me from killing everyone on board the station.” She paused, collected herself, and continued. “Where is my ship?”
The clerk slowly got off her chair, and crawled under her desk. She curled into a very small ball, and said: “Your ship is not on record,” in a very meek voice.
The last thing she saw was the desk coming down to crush her.
Andy Baxter swung sickeningly from a chain, suspended fifty feet above a sea of translucent green. This, of course, was the real Andy Baxter, as opposed to the fake one which was currently infiltrating the Explorer crew in a simulation of medieval England.
Dronal had told him exactly how his ship had been infiltrated, how they had taken over New York in just a few short weeks, and were about to complete their escape from New York. And, Dronal told Baxter who they were.
Four hundred years ago, conflicts in the middle east escalated, involving Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Korea in a fight against the United States and NATO. Amazingly, the European Union sided against the United States. All-out nuclear war ensued, and despite the United States being the strongest nation in the world, one nation could not hold against the rest of the world. Their defense perimeters broken, missiles and bombs streaked in from all over the world, destroying all the cities, and much of the country.
New York had been hit hard, but not directly. It was the target of experimental biogenic warfare, having been developed by Iraq. The premise was to release an agent over the skies of the city, which would horribly disfigure and kill the entire population. Accidentally, however, the agent was loaded upon an ICBM which also contained a small nuclear warhead. The combination of radioactive fallout and the biogenic agent caused completely different mutations than expected, and quite severe damage to the city and surrounding areas.
Nobody was able to get any messages into New York, and all entrances to the city were coated in bio-agents and highly radioactive crud. Not suprisingly, the city was declared a loss.
But the residents of the city were not dead, not by far. The EM pulse that the warhead emitted destroyed all communications in the city, leaving its occupants back a hundred years technically. They languished until the twenty-third century, when the city was finally declared safe again, and people returned, to find a thriving community. The city had been cleaned, and the residents had built new buildings, annexing new territory in the process. The bridges were rebuilt, and the city went through a golden age, the original residents mixing with new ones.
But the weapon had left a long legacy on its victims. The incredible combination of heat and virulent matter turned the agent into a disease which infected the whole of the population, causing them to transform, to evolve, into the goo which they were now. Their new form was quite similar to that of the changelings from the Gamma quadrant, but for the lack of matter changing ability. They could change form as they pleased, but they needed outside help to assume different appearances. They constructed suits of skin to continue their human appearance.
In the late 23rd century, the city expanded quickly, almost violently, usurping Westchester county and New Jersey. The new buildings rose, but some parts remained as they were, historical reminders of the past. Coney Island was one of them, a little park against a backdrop of towering buildings, most of them fifty stories tall at least. The streets turned into airways, with aircars and trucks flying all day and night. And the natives planned to escape the city, without losing the life-giving environment.
When they heard of the Founders in the Gamma quadrant, they decided that they would seek them out. They began to construct a spaceship in the center of the city, far underground. They plotted a time for departure, and set an infrastructure up to destroy possible enemies. They managed to infiltrate Starfleet at a very high level, using Admiral Alynna Necheyev. Thus, they knew exactly what was happening with their only possible adversary: Starfleet.
They also set up a defense perimeter of an incredibly strong (rated level 17) forcefield around the center of the city, through which things could pass only at designated points. The forcefield shielded the city from the Breen attack on Earth, keeping the plan alive.
Now there were intruders, which would be dealt with immediately. All of the non native New Yorkers had been expelled, except for these seven. Their operative would destroy the intruders, and the plan could come to its culmination: The destruction of New York, and the massive, worldwide spread of the petunia plant, now relegated to the northeast United States. Oh, and they would escape the earth.
When Andy heard about this, the first thing he thought was: “I think I’m going to be sick from swaying up here.” The second thing was: “That’s terrible. I almost feel sorry for these people.” The third thing he thought was: “I’d really like some grapefruit now.” The fourth thing he thought was: “Damn. This means that Coney Island will be destroyed. No more special place.” Then be blacked out since he was upside down. Too much blood rushing to your brain can do that to you. So can watching horribly sappy children’s shows and then being swung fifty feet above ground upside down from a painful, chafing chain.
“Mirk, this,” said Tilleran between bites, “Is excellent.” She wiped her mouth. “What did you say it was?”
Mirk smiled, and sat down across from her. “It’s some kind of eggplant pie. It’s an earth dish, which I felt was only appropriate since we are in orbit right now.” He looked around at his restaurant. He hadn’t been around much recently, with the new religion and all. The patrons were really eating it up. Except for one small thing which he felt wasn’t right. “Have you seen J’hana?”
Tilleran took a drink and looked up. “Come to think of it, no. I haven’t seen her around for a few days, not since we docked. But now we’re in free orbit.” She tapped her commbadge. “Tilleran to J’hana.”
<Imzadi, are you there?> asked Tilleran through their bond.
<You know I do not enjoy it when you do that,> thought J’hana. <It is unnerving to have someone rooting around in your mind.>
<Imzadi, where are you?> asked Tilleran, concerned.
J’hana, abord McKinley station, stopped punching the ensign she was currently decimating. <I am looking for my ship. The McKinley station computers do not list the Explorer as being docked. Where are you?>
Tilleran grinned, then laughed. “We left J’hana behind!” she giggled to Mirk. <Imzadi, we left six hours ago. Didn’t you remember? We changed the departure time.>
<I advise caution when I am retrieved for I will probably kill someone when I get on board.>
<Then we’ll send Lieutennant Forrester,> said Tilleran. <We’ll be there soon, Imzadi. Get to a transporter pad.>
<Very well. Imzadi out.>
Tilleran sighed. But that eggplant was soo good.
“WINS news time will be four PM at the beep…BEEP.”
Conway awoke to the sound of the radio. Larkin had it tuned to the traffic reports, as Conway lounged in the far rear of the minivan. They had entered the Taconic State Parkway about an hour after the fiasco with the oil truck and the swamp. And the crashing of the car and the splash. And the new van.
Anyway, they had just entered Westchester county, and changed highways, Conway wasn’t sure to which.
“The current temparature is a steamy hundred degrees, with a positively nasty ninety-eight percent humidity. Folks, if you have air conditioning, you better stay inside!”
As if to punctuate Carol D’auria’s statement over the radio, white smoke suddenly billowed from the engine, smelling of antifreeze. Larkin spied the next exit, and the van slowly limped off the highway to the relative safety of the side streets. Larkin parked it, turned it off, and went to check the engine.
“David, I would appreciate your assistance in this matter.”
Conway unbelted himself. “Coming, Kristen.” He slid open the door and limped over to the front of the van (he had hurt his leg during the crash, the only injury).
“I am not familiar with this engine. Do you know what the problem is?”
Conway peered through the smoke at the engine. ‘Ford 3.8L V6’ said the engine cover. “Chris,” called Conway, “Come on out here.”
Richards popped open the front passenger door and stepped through the smoke to look at the engine compartment. “Hmmmm,” he said.
“Just trying to look like I know what’s wrong, Kristen.” He waved away some of the smoke. “It looks like we had a coolant leak in the air conditioner. I think the compressor’s shot. We’ll have to do without it.”
“S***,” said Conway. “Can we drive with it?”
“Probably,” Richards sighed, “But be careful, okay Kristen?”
“Of course. I am always exceedingly careful. It does not appear so because my reflexes are much faster than the average human, but rest assured. We will not drive through any oil trucks.”
“Was that a shot, Kristen?”
She cocked her head. “No, David. It was a statement. I am incapable of taking cheap shots at you due to your inferior driving skills.”
“Incapable my ass!”
Larkin adjusted the collar of her shirt, pantsuit jacket having been discarded after the crash. It was a nice shade of green, due to the algae. “Indeed. I suggest we proceed. Our briefing stated that we must arrive at the location specified by four PM on Tuesday, and it is now two.”
“Fine,” grumbled Conway. But I’m going into that store over there. I’m going to rip off your head if I don’t have some coffee.”
“Do you have sufficient method of payment?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a Visa or something in my pocket. I’ll be right back. If you leave without me, so help me, I’ll have you busted down to inventory.”
“Noted. We will be waiting.”
“Andy! Great, you’re here. Let’s get out of here,” exclaimed as the impostor strode down the basement hallway of the castle.
“Sure honey. Can Mr. Ford walk?”
“Uh, yeah,” said Ford, still dazed. “Help me up?”
Hartley grunted as she pulled him up.
“So, want to date me, Megan?”
“Mention that again and you go back in the cesspool. I’ve been too nice to you already.” She assumed her normal frowny faced attitude. “Let’s get out of this dump.” She looked down at her ragged dress. “And to a shower quick. I feel disgusting.”
“Ugh,” said Peterman. “Me too. Andy, how come they didn’t throw you in the cesspool?”
The fake Baxter looked puzzled. “I don’t know. Something the lord said about professional courtesy. But…”
He never finished his sentence, as he dematerialized at that moment. The dungeon vanished, leaving the new silver and yellow grid of a holodeck. The trio left, noticing, thankfully, that the stench left them as soon as they walked out, along with its source.
They followed the lights along the wall, to the front desk.
“You can sit over there,” said Bucket, indicating a few seats against the wall. “The others will be along soon.”
“Where’s my husband?” asked Peterman.
“We took him out for a separate debriefing. He’ll have to take the written test as well. He should be along in about half an hour.”
“Well,” said Hartley with a larger than usual dose of sarcasm, which was to say a whole bunch. “That was a pretty pointless excercise. We got in, we offended someone, then we spent a day in a cesspool. What could we possibly have affected?”
Sirens blared all around the minivan as a bewildered Browning and Richards stepped out, followed by a rigidly calm (as always) Larkin. A long black limousine sat at the center of the wailing unmarked police cars. A whole bunch of guys in black suits ran into the mini-mart where Conway had gone for coffee, dragging him out by the arms with what looked like a coffee stain on his shirt around the neck.
Richards debated whether or not to run and see what happened. On one hand, it was a holodeck program and nothing could happen. On another hand, he was trying to avoid polluting the timeline. He stayed put.
The agents dragged Conway over to the van. “He with you?” asked one of them to Browning.
“Um, yeah.” She looked from the stern secret service agent to Conway’s bewildered face. “What did he do?”
“Sorry, ma’am, but we’re going to have to take him away. He insulted the president, then kicked him in the balls.
“David!” exclaimed Browning. “What do you think you’re doing, kicking the president? We’re not supposed to pollute the t–”
“Shame on you, David. Hopefully, we’ll see you at your trial,” broke in Richards. We have to get…hey!” he cried as the simulation disappeared, leaving the foursome in a holodeck. Conway fell down, seeing as his support was no longer there.
“Oof. Let’s get out of here.”
“Commander,” said Browning, “That’s a great idea.”
“No more David?”
“I don’t even know why I did that.”
“The projections are ready,” called Bucket. “I’ve calculated the damage done to the timeline by your actions in the past. Come on up.”
“Oh, good,” said Peterman. The seven officers rose and gathered around the desk.
“Well, let’s see. The group who went to the twentieth century?”
“That’s us,” said Conway. “How’d we do? I want to go home.”
“You kicked the President of the United States in the nuts. This caused one repercussion. He never concieved a second child with his aide, Ms. Monica Lewinski. You caused nationwide scandal which was promptly forgotten when the Y2K bug wiped out the media computers of the world. Other than that, nothing whatsoever happened. Your incursion factor is point zero two.
“You, on the other hand,” he continued, pointing to Peterman and Hartley, “Caused the extraordinary proliferation of iguanas, causing them to become the dominant race in the universe. They killed off everything else, including humans, and ate Klingons. Incursion factor: one hundred, a complete eradication. You aren’t very good at this, are you.”
“Wha’d we do wrong?” growled Hartley.
“Well, it seems that the person you knocked out and threw in the cesspool was destined to have children whose descendants would keep the Germans from getting the atomic bomb until way after World War two. This prevented nuclear holocaust which would have mutated the iguanas into superintelligent, huge monsters. They took the name of ‘Godzillas,’ and destroyed all of the major cities, starting with Tokyo in Japan.”
Baxter chose that moment to enter the waiting room.
//I trust you have been briefed?// sent Bucket.
//Yes. As soon as I tell them that they have regained their licenses, we will make the announcement and take these seven to confinement.//
Bucket nodded, sort of. It was more like a telepathic affirmation. //We shall proceed as planned, then. Go ahead.//
Baxter returned the gesture. //I shall.//
“Well, I passed the test with flying colors. We’re getting out of here. At least, I am. Hehehe. Hahahaha. HAHAHA. BUWHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! BUWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!”
With that, Baxter and Bucket dropped their skin, to become horrible gelatinous blobs, similar to the one that attacked Ford. Richards’ commbadge chirped.
“Richards here,” he responded.
It was Tilleran. “Get out of there now. The Federation just recieved a transmission from New York: They intend to destroy the city.”
“And I guess ‘they’ would be these green blobs of goo about to take us somewhere unpleasant?”
“Damn! We’ll get you out of there. Tilleran out.”
Conway stared at the huge blobs in front of them, quivering with…Conway wasn’t sure he wanted to know. “Uhm…run,” he said, breaking into a dash out of the doors. He looked left, right and straight ahead. Blobs in all directions. But there was the window…
Conway smashed a window with a convenient nearby chair, and motioned for the crew to take a dive.
“Are you CRAZY?!?” cried Peterman. “I’m not jumping out of the 200th story window!”
“Would you rather be eaten,” asked Conway.
“It’s a difficult choice.”
He picked her up, and hurled her out. “It’s one I’m making for you. Last one out’s a rotten egg!” and he jumped. He tapped his commbadge. “Conway to Tilleran. We’re currently flying toward the ground very rapidly. You have thirty seconds to lock on to us and beam us up, or you will find yourself with a bunch of goo for a senior officer.”
“A tantalizing thought, but we’re locking on now. Energizing…”
And Conway saw a welcome sight, the transporter room.
“Captain Baxter’s been an impostor since the last starbase. We have no idea where the real one’s at. Search the city for him, quickly,” said Conway. “This is so hard, looking out for him.”
“I know you’ll manage, Commander. Did we get our licenses back?”
“I guess.” They exited the transporter room for the bridge. “I’m assuming that my demotion is now moot since it wasn’t really Baxter who did it.”
“Demotion?” asked Tilleran. “You must have had a hell of a time.”
The forcefield dropped for the first time in a few years. The Explorer’s scanning beam was already blanketing the city, and they had a perfect view for the whole spectacle. The entire city under the forcefield, crumbled in a massive implosion. Out of the debris, a huge ship rose, like a Phoenix from the ashes. It was a flattened sphere, a full two kilometers across, shining silver in the evening sunlight. It rose majestically, orange bolts firing from an unseen point on its underside to destroy the remnants.
The ship roared upwards through the atmosphere just as Tilleran found Baxter. “He’s on board that ship. I’m bringing him aboard now.”
Baxter shimmered into existance on the floor at the right of the bridge. He pulled himself up into a sitting position. “Unh…It’s good to be back. What’s going on?”
Conway quickly filled him in about recent events as the New York ship reached low orbit. It suddenly split in half, the halves falling back to earth. In its place was a rounded cylinder, roughly half a kilometer in length and two hundred in diameter. It slowly started moving towards the Explorer and a small fleet of ships which had recently gathered behind them, ready to do whatever was necessary, depending on the actions of the New York ship.
“J’hana,” said Baxter. “Let me take Tactical. These bastards made me watch Barney. The least I can do is blow them to shreds.”
“Are you sure, sir? I do not thin–”
“Stow it. Move.”
“Aye, sir. The blue button fires torpedoes, the red button fires phasers.”
“Shut up.” He examined the board in front of him. Not too bad. He targeted the ship with full salvos of torpedoes from fore and aft launchers, and armed the phasers. “Red alert, shields up. Larkin, status report.”
The ship rocked from two bright orange bolts, which nobody had seen coming. “They are firing upon us, sir.”
“Thank you. Shields down to ninety percent. Ford!” he barked.
“Come to course one four seven mark three zero. Charging ventral phasers.”
“One four seven mark three zero, aye.”
“Full impulse, torpedoes away.”
“Full impulse, aye.”
Ten winking blue quantum torpedoes flew away from the Explorer as she angled up and left, letting fly all her ventral phasers. The torpedoes danced across the brilliant chromed hull, putting on a beautiful display of fireworks, and leaving no marks whatsoever. The phasers merely glanced off to hit McKinley station’s shields.
The Explorer’s salvo prompted the rest of the fleet to come in firing, tossing a barrage of torpedoes at the New York ship. Nothing.
More orange blasts collided with the shields of some ships, forcing them back.
The Explorer came about in a graceful arc, compression phaser banks blasting. No good.
“Arming tri-cobalt devices,” said Baxter. “Away.”
The deep blue dot flew from the launcher tube to impact the New York ship with a spectacular explosion which cleared to reveal a charred crater venting plamsa.
“Larkin, spread the word. Tri-cobalt devices for the bastards.”
The fleet recieved the message and changed tactics. Three Akira-class gunships charged forward and launched a salvo of tri-cobalts, accompanied by the Explorer. Then the whole fleet came in with quantums firing, aiming for the damaged spots. The ship, spewing plasma from multiple breaches, veered into the atmosphere, beginning a long death spiral which would terminate in either explosion or a crash.
The fleet backed off, but Baxter was relentless, launching salvo after salvo of torpedoes, interspersed with phaser barrages. Suddenly, a massive explosion, lighting the dark side of the world, and spewing green goo everywhere to rain down upon San Francisco.
“Velara, good to see you again,” said Baxter, sitting down at his desk with a cup of cold grapefruit juice in his hand.
“Likewise, Captain. I trust you have resolved your…issues?”
Baxter shuddered involuntarily. “Yeah. They put me in a sensory deprivation tank to let me think about it for a while…I’m okay now, I think.”
Velara nodded. “You performed well in destroying the New Yorkers. We found a computer bank in the rubble of New York. They intended to leave the galaxy to wait for a few years, while they built their forces to incredible levels, then attack and destroy the entire Sol system.”
“What about the city?”
She shook her head. “I am sorry. The city has been declared a total loss. The bedrock has been completely destroyed, and the riverbanks are gone. It is one very large mud puddle.”
He sighed softly. Coney Island was gone.
“However,” she continued, “Most of Long Island was saved, including much of Brooklyn and Queens. In response to your unsaid query, Coney Island continues to exist. It was damaged, but estimates put the re-opening within the next year.”
“Thank goodness. What about that other quaint little community we passed through…Jackson Heights?”
“Only the northeastern section remains. The rest of it was crushed by a large building. I believe it was called ‘The Empire State Building.’”
“And our licenses?”
“They were transmitted just before the city was destroyed. You have been re-certified for time travel. But please attempt to refrain from doing so. Looking over your records, I see that your time travel incidents have been rather messy.”
Baxter was slightly indignant. “I wouldn’t say messy, exactly. More like…ummmm…oh, fine. They were pretty damn bad. But it wasn’t my fault!”
Velara smiled, a rare occurence. “It never is. Good day, Captain Baxter. Velara out.” The screen blinked off, the federation logo and “End Transmision” displaying.
“So I’m not really demoted?” asked Madera, expectantly.
“Well, it wasn’t me, so no,” replied Baxter. The crew had gathered in the conference room for a debriefing (not literally). “There was actually a bit of good news that came out of this…experience.”
Conway snorted. “And that would be…”
“We got our time travel licenses back,” replied Baxter.
“Oh, woohoo. I’m so happy.”
“Commander,” asked Larkin. “I must ask. Is it humanly possible to be more sarcastic than that, or have you reached the absolute limit?”
Conway would have answered in the affirmative, but he was interrupted by klaxons blaring.
Baxter tapped his commbadge. “Baxter to bridge. What’s going on?”
On the bridge, Gellar held his nose. “Sir, Mirk served eggplant for dinner last night, and we’re getting the aftermath of that now.”
Baxter’s eyes widened. “Oh, s***.”
“An excellent choice of words, sir,” said J’hana, running for the bathroom.
That night, Andy told his wife about the conversation. “And then she said that our time travel incidents were MESSY! Can you believe that?”
She laughed, and reached out with her long, forked reptillian tongue to grab another bite of zucchini. “Not at all, Andy. Not at all.”
Janice Browning’s little blob of joy is finally about to arrive. But is the crew ready? Is she ready? Is Chris Richards ready to deliver said blob? Find out in the next edition of Star Traks: The Vexed Generation, “Changeling Times!”