Author: Daniel McNickle
Stardate 55124.4. Lieutenant Commander Tilleran has been experimenting with hazardous radioactive materials of late, trying to (in her own words) “Get something interesting to happen to them, damnit.” Anyway, she’s botched the experiment big time and we need a place to get rid of all of this radioactive goo, (which seems to be growing) so we are in search of an uninhabited planet or planetoid to dump the stuff on. The only problem is finding a place that annoy the Jem’Hadar, or possibly the locals, and that won’t be engulfed too quickly.
Lieutenant Tilleran informs me that we shouldn’t release it into a nearby star because it’s against local regulations. Not everyone feels that this is such a pressing concern.
On the home front, Kelly’s cat (she keeps insisting he’s a kitten, even though he’s now almost six years old) Fritz has gotten out and disappeared. This has happened before, but he always comes back. Sometimes he leaves some unpleasant surprises behind, though. I’m hoping nothing will go wrong this time. I shudder to remember what happened the first time he got out.
“I say we dump it and run,” said Lieutenant Susan Madera. “I mean, the Jem’Hadar will have no way of knowing who did this and it’s much better that way; if we try and dump it legally they’ll just say no. Besides, they can’t very well force us to hold on to it.”
Captain Baxter smiled. “I’m with her. If we disguise our warp signature there’s no way we can be traced. It’s not worth the trouble. Tilleran, find me the closest asteroid and dump that goo.”
“Captain,” interjected Lt. Commander Nell Vansen, “You’re supposed to be following local regs.”
“We sure are. Tilleran, hop to it.”
“He’s right, you know. We’re supposed to be helping people, not breaking the law.” This from Counselor Peterman, unconsciously. She had been up all night comforting Charlie, her golden retriever, who had been attacked by an unidentifiable animal that ran out into the corridor while Charlie was walking to the Arboretum, bit him on the leg, and ran back in before anyone could see it. Searches had turned up nothing and Peterman had gotten no sleep from consoling the still-whimpering dog. She therefore forgot to disagree strongly and possibly violently with Vansen.
“I do not care. Why do we care about such things? This is irrelevant. I should be at the conference right now. Instead, I am detained by some insignificant hazardous material that would do nothing worse then bring you a horrible, painful death should you choose to fight it.”
“Jan, we went over this,” Tilleran piped up. “You can’t leave until we’ve dealt with this because of security concerns.”
“That is a sharzz-fvzrnsx reason and you know it. Let me go or I will be forced to take a shuttle by force.”
“How can it not hurt your throat to say that?” asked Vansen.
“I don’t see what the big deal is about this conference is anyway,” said Tilleran. “It’s the local Sadist’s Association. You’re not a sadist. You’re more of a…”
“I am a warrior. I require tools. Sadists produce efficient tools, many of which cause humorous results. Also, I wish to extend the Federation’s message of friendship to a new group.”
Captain Baxter smirked. “And you said that our reasons were sharzz-something or other. Fine, go. We really don’t need you here anyway.” He looked down at his padd. “Before you go, though…” He looked up to remind her but she had already departed. The doors closed. “Never mind, then.”
On the shuttle, J’hana had little to do. She passed the time by creating an itinerary for her visit. Half an hour into the trip she had finished. The computer informed her that the ETA was six hours.
For the next two hours, J’hana pored over the details of the different exhibits at the convention. Especially interesting were the extremely annoying viruses (causing everything from hemorrhoids to hives), the weapons that were incapable of doing lethal damage to most species, and thus were useful for shooting people again and again and again ad infinitum, and the AnnoyaTron 6000 which was reputed to be able to drive someone two star systems away mad at the touch of a button!
The section on knives made J’hana hungry. She was tempted to order something from the replicator. She remembered, however, that an acclaimed chef who had repeatedly received ratings of four poisoned throwing stars and who, by a staggering coincidence cooked Andorian food, despite never having heard of Andorians nor of their food, was going to be in charge of the buffet. She waited.
“Get up, bitch.”
It was a peaceful morning on the bridge. Baxter sat calmly in his chair, sipping his coffee and reading the morning report. His wife and his second officer argued cattily in the background over who had the right to the third command chair. Baxter ignored them, instead wondering what they were going to do with the goo which had doubled in mass since the staff meeting the night before.
Tilleran’s panel beeped insistently. “Sir, my experiment is growing faster.”
Baxter sighed. “How much faster?”
“The rate of growth is increasing according to an inverse square ratio with the density in grams per liter of substance.”
“Tilleran, it’s oh-seven-thirty.”
“It’s growing fast enough so that we need to get rid of it right now.”
Baxter put down his coffee. “Sefelt, what’s the local government in this system?”
Lieutenant Howard Sefelt consulted his instrument panel. “I think it’s the Ka’zul Union.”
“Send all of our information on them to my ready room. Chris, I want you to get in contact with them and figure out how we can get rid of this stuff lawfully. Honey? Stop fighting with Commander Vansen. Megan says that she’ll have your new chair in within a week, okay? You can sit here until then. I’ll be in my ready room. Chris, you have the conn.”
“Then shouldn’t I sit in the center seat?”
“You can fight it out with the ladies.
“Hmmm,” said Baxter thoughtfully as he dug into his grapefruit. “Hmmmm. Hmmmmmmmm. Hmm hmm hmmmmmm…”
“‘Hmm?’” asked Janice Browning as she walked through the ready room door, carrying Baxter’s breakfast.
“‘Hmm,’ as in I’m not sure if we can get away with dumping this stuff in Kaz’ul space.”
Browning frowned. “Kaz’ul? Never heard of them. Then again…”
“You’ve never heard of any of the other Dominion races either. We’re in the same boat…er, starship, here.”
“So what’s so ‘hmmm’ about them?” Browning poured a cup of coffee and set it down beside the grapefruit-and-ham-and-cheese-and-bacon-and-sausage-and-another-kind-of-cheese-that-is-simila r-to-but-not-quite-the-same-as-the-first-kind omelet.
“Well, they never developed warp technology. They are insanely advanced in biotechnology and the Founders derived several characteristics of the Jem’Hadar directly from Kaz’ul research. Just because they’re not warp-capable doesn’t mean they can’t kick our asses. Look at this.”
He turned his desktop viewer towards Browning. She looked for a moment and set out silverware and a napkin. “Looks like a big uprooted tree floating in space.”
“‘Yup’ it looks like a big uprooted tree floating in space, or ‘yup’ it is a big uprooted tree floating space?”
Baxter grimaced. “It is, but only in a very broad sense. That ‘tree’ is seven kilometers long. The leaves are reinforced solar sails, each can move independently. The total sail area is insane and the ship can reach very high sublight velocities. That ship can match us turn for turn unless we go to warp. It’s got organic armor three meters thick which regrows very quickly. And the roots are mobile. If we come near them they can reach out and grab us and hold us while their polaron beams tear us apart.”
“Sounds fun. If all they can manage is sublight, we shouldn’t have any problem warping in, dumping and warping out.” She smiled reassuringly. “Right?”
“Yeah, but the system is crawling with them. Apparently, they have two whole planets devoted to growing warships, and the ships grow like weeds. Anywhere we go we would have a ship within weapons range in five minutes, tops. Tilleran says that this stuff has to be taken down by shuttle, no transporters. That means we’re in system for thirty minutes. Vansen says we’re dead in six, less if they can get reinforcements.”
“I’ll just leave you to figure this out. Eat your breakfast, it’s getting cold.”
“Thanks, Janice.” He took a bite of the omelet. “Mmmf blfff!”
The Kaz’ul Union Dreadnought Amistodt sailed effortlessly on the ample light pressure put out by its unusually hot home star. On the bridge, her captain was unusually happy.
Normally Salgoud Smada Gali was a very unpleasant individual (the Kaz’ul being hermaphroditic, masculine and feminine pronouns are somewhat useless). He disliked his job. He had joined the Union Navy to blow things up. In his entire career (spanning 37 Standard years) he had blown up precisely two starships. One of them was an accident. The other was a training drone. The drone was 20 years ago. The accident had happened on his first day out of the academy, and the ship he had destroyed had been his own. Nobody cared all that much since the ship was a garbage scow and almost 300 years old. Unlike many cultures where antiques were prized as pieces of history, the Kaz’ul believed in working everything they had into the ground and replacing their tools with brand new ones, never even thinking of the old. After all, a 300 year old ship was of no use to anyone so why bother being all sentimental and gooshy about it?
Smada was happy on this day of days because he saw his first chance to actually blow up something that was supposed to blow up. A Federation starship (Federations were enemies as far as the Kaz’ul knew-they resolutely refused to believe in faster-then-light travel or subspace radio and thus had no knowledge of the armistice. Nothing, they insisted, can travel faster then light. Therefore, neither can we. Perversely, they gladly took the subspace sensors offered to them by the Dominion. Nothing traveled faster then light, but information was nothing, wasn’t it? An outsider once tried to convince them that this line of reasoning should allow for subspace radio. He was shot by an angry mob of Kaz’ul who hadn’t blown up enough spaceships and thus needed some outlet for their aggression. The Kaz’ul usually got their news from regular Dominion patrols, which seemed to have stopped coming. Where was I? Oh yes.) was lurking a half a light year from the Kaz’ul system’s Oort cloud and scanning furiously for something. Smada ordered projections of their scans while quietly changing course to intercept.
The big tree ran with weapons hot toward the Starship’s most likely target-a large planetoid orbiting the primary in a circular orbit at a distance of nearly thirty light-hours. Under full sail, the Amistodt would arrive in six hours.
“We have six hours before this stuff overwhelms containment,” said Tilleran. “We will have to find somewhere else to put it then.”
The senior staff was once again gathered around the conference table, less J’hana.
“Why can’t we just leave it in space?” asked Baxter.
“Ummm..” said Tilleran. “Just a second.” She made a few quick calculations on her padd. “Well, it says here that leaving it in space gives us too high a risk of…um..ah..oh yes!”
“Aaaaah! Look over there!” She gesticulated wildly at a point outside the conference room’s panoramic windows. While everyone watched, she dashed for the door and ran for the turbolift.
“Where’d she go?” asked Hartley.
“Dunno,” said Richards. “Maybe she went to find a good reason. I say beam the stuff into space and get out of here. I’m going to go have lunch. Any takers?”
Richards left with Dr. Wilcox and Hartley and Sefelt.
Baxter protested futilely. “Hey! You’re not dismissed! You can’t just up and leave whenever you want! Get back here! Damnit!” Baxter sighed, and considered his options. They weren’t pretty. He decided on what he thought would be the path of least (or at least not all that much) resistance. “Well, Vansen? What do you advise?”
“Asking my advice? I wasn’t aware the situation was that desperate yet.”
“Shut up,” grumbled Baxter.
J’hana giggled as she ducked a flurry of spiky armchairs. She took another bite of her imitation fharbus on toast and grinned. Never before had she seen so many ways to cause glorious death. She would have taken them all but for a little credit problem-being that she had no money (stupid moneyless Federation economy) she couldn’t buy any of the goods at the show. Even if she did have money it would most likely have been worthless here in the Gamma quadrant, 80,000 light years the Federation. She was glad nonetheless, for the buffet was complimentary.
“Hey you!” shouted a voice from nearby.
“Who dares challenge J’hana, warrior of the ninth hive?”
“You need cash?”
“Yes. Are you a telepath?”
“No, you just weren’t carrying anything. Bill Harrison’s the name.”
“You are a human. What is a human doing here?”
“Same as you, probably. Exploring. I’ve been here a while and I brought quite a bit of valuable crap with me when I first came out…I’m pretty rich. Tell you what, if you can get Starfleet to reimburse me, I’ll give you as much as you need.”
“May you die a bloody, horrific death by the side of thousands of your compatriots, preferably from a very painful but not immediately fatal leg wound.”
Harrison smiled. “Hey, you too. Enjoy yourself, doll.”
“Do not call me doll or I will be forced to experiment with the itching powder-coated whips.”
“Sure thing, sugar.”
For the next three hours, J’hana spent like a monkey on an expense account, only the monkey was J’hana and the expense account was an expense account. Also, the monkey (who is really J’hana) liked to spend, almost like an Andorian (who was really a monkey who is really J’hana, an Andorian) on an expense account.
Merchant: “Are you sure this will fit in your shuttle?”
J’hana: “I’m sure it will. If it does not I will be forced to remove the fan. It will be missed.”
Another Merchant: “Be careful with these vials! They’re very thin and one false move and your entire crew has Bolian Oozing Syndrome.”
J’hana: “We have a good doctor. Of course, she was only just promoted from supporting character, but I think she can manage.”
Mordack the Gelatinous: “Are you interested in a good time?”
J’hana looked over the large tub of clear, jiggly substance that appeared to have spoken to her. “Perhaps I am. Who wants to know?”
It spoke with a deep, resonant voice that sounded clearly inside J’hana’s head and sounded like someone farting outside of it. “I am Mordack, the Gelatinous. I am a pleasure reengineering consulting specialist.”
“What in the hive mother is that? A hooker?”
More farting noises. “Yes. But such terminology is unflattering and not entirely fair to one of my experience and professional demeanor.”
“I like hookers.”
“All right. Do you for free if you’ll get me out of this dreadful place. My last client insisted on bringing me here. Said something about picking up a few toys. That was three days ago and I haven’t seen it since.”
“I’ve picked up a few toys of my own. We shall experiment with them on the trip back to my ship. Let’s go.”
“Let me get my antigrav going…there. Lead the way.”
As they approached the exit, Bill Harrison ran up to J’hana with his suitcase in hand, somewhat out of breath. “I…have to get out…of here,” he panted. “Locals…on to me…don’t know if I’m going to make it…alive…”
“On to your what?”
“No…time…Must get to ship.”
“Fine, but you must spend the trip locked in the closet. Mordack and myself have business to attend to. Very private business.”
Mordack farted in agreement.
“Fine! Just go!” Harrison shoved J’hana into the runabout and then Mordack. He jumped in and hit the door control just in time, for as soon as it had sealed a rather impressive mob entered the spaceport and began throwing expensive-looking jewelry at the runabout, jewelry which smashed to pieces as it hit–convincing fakes.
“You cheated these nice people?” rumbled Mordack, inside Harrison’s head.
“I had to! I didn’t have any money, and they impounded my ship for docking in a no-docking zone!”
“All right, then. As long as you have a good excuse. Go in the closet. J’hana and I must talk business. Private business.”
Captain’s Log, Supplemental
Lieutenant Tilleran’s project has now overwhelmed Cargo Bay 1 and is being transferred by the bucketfull to Cargo Bay 2, the main Shuttlebay and Lt. Tilleran’s lab, where her efforts to fix it have remained unsuccessful. On the bright side of things, Charlie has been scared silly by whatever it was that bit him and hasn’t made any attempts to wreak havoc lately. Of course, Kelly is pretty worked up about this too, and she does have to deal with Vansen. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Tilleran says she’s not optimistic about figuring how to stop her experiment, so we’re going to have to dump it. The closest possible dump site, however, is in the Kaz’ul system and we’re liable to be intercepted and beaten within an inch of our lives, (if not past there) if we try and dump it. I need a nap. Oh yeah, and f*** you, Dad.
Computer, erase last line.
“This is runabout Batten Kill to Explorer, requesting permission to dock.”
“Hey, J’hana, welcome back. I hope you had fun,” said Captain Baxter, whose mood was far better then it had any right to be due to the copious amounts of grapefruit that Janice kept bringing him. He made a mental note to ask if anything was up. “Pick up anything interesting?”
On board the Batten Kill, J’hana looked to her left at Bill Harrison sitting in the copilot’s chair and behind her to the tank of Mordack the Gelatinous, and said “Nothing of interest. Request permission to dock.”
“Granted. Don’t have too much fun with your new toys. Baxter out.”
A thud was heard from next to Baxter, followed by a low moan. Nell Vansen had just kicked Kelly Peterman into the wall as Peterman tried to reclaim her chair. “Vansen to Batten Kill,” she said. “J’hana, don’t bring anything off that runabout until you’ve run it through the security scanners. There’s no telling what the Dominion might have left in your packages.”
J’hana growled ferally. “Are you implying that I might have a bomb aboard my ship and not know about it? I am the chief of security!”
“And I’m the Dominion expert,” shot back Vansen. “Make sure it gets done.”
“I will see to it personally,” replied J’hana and she muttered something inaudible.
“What was that?”
“Nothing at all. Bitch.”
Vansen shot Baxter a look that said “Are you going to let her talk to me like that?”
Baxter replied with one that said “Yes.”
Vansen grumbled quietly to herself as she closed the comm channel, then turned her attention to a padd for about fifteen seconds before she was knocked unconscious by a flying kick to the head from her chair’s previous owner.
At the staff meeting later that day, J’hana was brought up to speed on the situation at hand. Since there wasn’t all that much that had happened since she’d left, the meeting pretty much consisted of a briefing on the Kaz’ul and a request for ideas.
“I am impressed,” said J’hana simply. “The Kaz’ul are a race of impressively fierce warriors while at the same time being totally illogical and very stupid. I would like to see a Vulcan try to explain the inconsistencies in their philosophies. I am certain that he would make a very satisfying pop when his brain fell out.”
“So how do we beat them? You are the tactical officer.”
“We shall attack frontally and die honorably, possibly horribly.”
“You’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd, Ari,” said Tilleran.
In the corner, Bill Harrison debated piping up. On the one hand, he had been taken aboard as an advisor by that crazy Andorian woman. On the other hand, nobody else at the table seemed to be acknowledging his existence. He decided to butt in.
“Um…Excuse me? Hi, Bill Harrison’s the name. I couldn’t help overhearing that you’ve got a bit of a problem with the Kaz’ul here. Might I be of some assistance?”
“Who the hell are you?” demanded Vansen.
“I’m a sort of traveller, an explorer, like you guys. I’m out here solo just going where chance takes me. It’s a blast.”
Baxter was incredulous. “Where did you come from?”
“I came in with J’hana. She said you guys could use some guidance, since you’re new here. I figured that I might as well help, I couldn’t do any more where I was.”
“You were chased off the planet by an angry mob who demanded their money back for your fraudulent valuables. After they had their money, they were going to kill you with some of their purchases at the convention. I do not recall bringing you to this conference.”
“I have a way of blending in, not being noticed,” said Harrison. “I don’t know what it is, but when I want to I can just slip by…”
“Yeah, okay, nobody cares,” said Baxter. “Can you help us get rid of this goop?”
“I think I just might be able to. See, this ability to go unnoticed of mine extends to pretty far away from me. I can keep an entire shuttle hidden if I want to. Just put that stuff in a runabout and I’ll take it to wherever you want it, no sweat. I’ve flown through huge space battles, no problem. Remember the battle for Chin’toka?”
“Was that during the war?” asked Richards.
Richards said, embarrassed, “We, uh…we kinda missed the war.”
“Oh. I guess somebody has to guard the home front. Anyway, this huge space battle was going on and I just flew right through, never even scanned.”
“All right,” said Baxter. “I’m skeptical, but I figure it’s better than nothing. Tilleran?”
“He should be fine as long as he doesn’t get blown up. I’ll put the stuff in drop tanks. As soon as you get to the planetoid, a quick control sequence should get rid of them and you can come right back. We can distract the Kaz’ul.”
“Distract is right,” remarked Vansen. “Judging by these schematics, it’s a wonder that the Founders have never invited these guys to any wars. If they were around at the battle for DS9, we would have lost something on the order of every ship within five parsecs and a few starbases to boot. How the hell are we going to survive this?”
“A better question,” answered J’hana, “Might be ‘When can I and my amorphous sex-slave have some time to ourselves, and would anyone care to join us?’”
The meeting ended with uncomfortable gazes all around.
“J’hana, I’m just not sure about us,” farted Mordack the Gelatinous as he, well, sat there, being Gelatinous and not doing all that much else.
J’hana, who was also just sitting there (in Mordack, that is), spent, and thoroughly covered with Mordack, did not answer. She was far more concerned that the captain would enter his ready room, which was the sort of thing he tended to do without warning, than she was about the current state of her relationship with her whore.
“Perhaps you didn’t understand,” continued the blob. “I mean I’m not sure that we can continue seeing each other until I see some hard currency. Do you think I do this for fun?”
If she were dealing with a humanoid life-form in this situation, J’hana would turn to him (or her, or hir, or it, as the case may be) and look deep into their eyes with a look that struck fear deep into their cardiovascular system, and tell them that if they brought up such a subject in bed again she would be forced to do something far uglier, nastier and altogether more unpleasant then she had been doing. She also might have to remove a few limbs.
With Mordack the Gelatinous, however, threats of amputation were difficult, as was looking deep into his eyes (he had none, per se) and striking fear deep into his cardiovascular system (he had none, period). So she settled for ignoring him again.
“I asked you a question,” said Mordack inside J’hana’s head, more forcibly. “I asked, ‘Do you think I do this for fun?’”
“Yes,” muttered J’hana with some frustration. “I think you do this for fun.”
Mordack was caught totally off-guard by J’hana’s answer. His race was very direct, very forward. Being that when separated from each other they communicated telepathically and when joined together they shared their very minds, members of his race always shared everything without holding back. Thus, questions were not asked of each other during conversation. No questions meant no answers, and no answers meant that sarcasm, that wonderful resource of many beings, most notably humans, had never developed within the race, no one ever having had the opportunity to give ridiculous answers in that patronizing tone of voice (mind, if you must) designed to make the questioner look foolish.
Mordack was a pioneer, one of the first ever to leave his planet, and this was his first encounter with the phenomenon. As such, he struggled to understand why J’hana had given him a totally wrong answer-he knew that she knew that he did not in fact pleasure others simply for his own satisfaction but that it was what he was best at, and he did need money. As he mulled this over…and over…and over, J’hana took a quick nap.
When she woke up, feeling refreshed, she ordered a towel from the replicator and cleaned Mordack off of her as best she could. She then put on her uniform and prepared to leave, noting to herself that she had made a terrific mess in the captain’s ready room. Mordack was splattered all over the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the desk, the couch, the captain, the replicator…J’hana’s gaze backtracked to the door where Captain Baxter stood silently, debating with himself quietly whether to just turn around and leave quietly or to run screaming. He decided on the former and left. J’hana shrugged and ran her fingers quickly over her antennae to remove any goop that might have missed her earlier ministrations. She left.
Mordack quietly thought himself into oblivion, turning green with frustration as he kept failing to understand sarcasm.
“Lieutenant Tilleran!” cried Baxter as he jogged unsteadily away from his ready room. “Your experiment is in my ready room-and it’s got J’hana!”
“Jan!” cried Tilleran as she vaulted over her console. Unfortunately for her, the drop on the other side was longer then she expected (Tilleran didn’t vault over her console often. She usually preferred to walk around it, calmly catching up on gossip) and she stumbled and fell on her face. “Oof!” She sat up, felt her ankle (twisted, but okay) and grabbed her console to stand up. She gingerly put weight on the ankle. It held. She hobbled over to the ready room door and J’hana stepped out, still dripping Mordack from her damp white hair.
J’hana saw Tilleran’s expression (two parts concern, three parts confusion, one part surprise, shake well, serve cold) and paused in mid-step, surprised. “What is wrong?”
“You…you’re all right?” asked Tilleran, quietly. “The captain said…you were in the grips of my playdoh–”
“I’ve got to call it something, right?”
“Never mind. I am fine. The captain was merely suffering from shock and surprise, nothing unusual. I will be in my quarters.”
Richards, who had been looking on from his chair at Baxter’s right, chimed in. “J’hana, shouldn’t you be here on the bridge, what with a dramatic showdown and possible glorious battle coming up?”
Images of death and destruction, much of it very honorable, danced through J’hana’s head. Another image wiped them out–the image of Mordack, expressionless (obviously) but still sending the impression of a suggestive smile and a pseudopod, extended towards J’hana in that unmistakable come-hither gesture…
“You will do fine without me, I am sure,” said J’hana and she left the bridge.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Sefelt had arisen from his chair at ops to deliver a report to Captain Baxter, who told him to leave it in his ready room. Sefelt walked in, saw Mordack bubbling and roiling, a pure, jade green, and promptly keeled over in a dead faint. The doors began to close, encountered his prone form and opened again. The process repeated.
“Batten Kill to Bridge,” called Harrison as Hartley finished his pre-flight check and wished him luck. “I’m all ready to go here, just tell me when.”
“Bridge here,” said Baxter. “Good luck, Mr. Harrison. Now,” Baxter paused, searching for something poetic and possibly profound to say. He came up with nothing.
“Now what, sir?” asked Madera.
“Now we go and, um, do whatever it is that we are going to do. Right?”
“Right, Andy,” said Richards, sighing. He didn’t even know what the plan was, aside from it involving Bill Harrison (who the hell was he, anyway?) taking the Explorer’s brand-new runabout (delivered just last week–with velour seats!) loaded with Tilleran’s goop (which was dangerous, but why and how?) and flying it into a star system patrolled by very territorial aliens who sailed around in giant space-trees and killed most visitors, and dumping the goop on an uninhabited planetoid while not being spotted by the tree jockeys due to some untested innate ability that might not work properly.
All in all, it was one of the better plans he’d seen in his career.
Smada awaited the arrival of the enemy ship eagerly. His ship’s sensors had detected that the enemy had launched a large shuttle, poorly armed. He supposed it might be there for distraction-he grinned to himself as he realized that it wouldn’t be of any help in combat.
“Are all the crew prepared for battle?” he asked his executive officer, who grunted affirmative.
“Set course for the enemy. Best possible speed. Launch the fungus.”
“Incoming!” exclaimed Keefler at tactical. “We have one Kaz’ul dreadnought on approach vector, arriving in two minutes. Time to polaron weapons range is a minute forty. They’ve launched some sort of torpedoes!”
“Tilleran, scan those,” said Baxter.
“I’m on it. Looks like they’re some kind of fungal growths; I can’t be any more specific right now.”
“All right; shields up. Arm weapons. Baxter to Harrison.”
“Harrison here,” came the voice over the comm.
“Move it. We’ve got company.”
“They won’t even know I’m here. Good luck, out.”
Baxter turned to face Tactical. “Keefler, time to weapons range.”
“A minute and twenty five seconds. Torpedo impact in thirty seconds. Should I try to shoot them down?”
“Go for it.”
Keefler’s hands played over the tactical console and the Explorer’s dorsal phaserbanks surged into life, a series of pinpoint strikes carried out in rapid succession. A set of small novae appeared on the viewscreen for a brief second, in their wake a rapidly expanding cloud of organic debris hung.
“Got all but one and it’s too close to fire. Impact in three seconds!”
The torpedo flew through Explorer’s shields like they weren’t there (despite Vansen’s modifications) and impacted her engineering hull just above the main deflector. Blue-brown fungus settled around the impact point, oriented itself and immediately began chowing down on the Explorer’s outer hull, thoroughly bent on getting to its huge deuterium storage tank.
“Impact!” cried Keefler. “We’re taking severe hull damage on decks twenty-two through twenty-five! Some sort of fungus is chewing through the hull.”
“Sefelt, beam the affected section into space, quickly,” ordered Richards.
“Good idea, Chris,” commented Baxter.
“Thanks,” said Richards.
“Weapons range in twenty seconds,” announced Keefler. “No more torpedoes in sight.”
“The Batten Kill is passing by the dreadnought,” said Tilleran. “I don’t think they see him.”
Aboard the Amistodt, the disappointment of the fungal torpedoes was quickly overshadowed by a new development-the stupid shuttle was coming right to them!
“Fire all guns!” cried Smada, and from his ship’s mighty flank lanced out thirty-seven violet polaron beams, creating a focal point of death in the runabout Batten Kill’s warp core. She exploded in a brilliant blaze of sparks and fire.
Aboard the Batten Kill, just before it was destroyed, Bill Harrison quietly chanted to himself in a childish singsong voice:
“Nyah nyah, nyah nyah!
You can’t see–”
A huge explosion cut short the taunt, because (unfortunately for poor, deluded Bill) the Kaz’ul most definitely could see him.
“They blew up the runabout!” cried Sefelt in surprise and alarm. “They blew up the new runabout! Those bastards!”
“Damn,” said Baxter. “I’d heard this one had velour seats. Damn.”
“Weapons range in ten seconds!” said Keefler, urgently. “If we’re all done here, could we get going?”
“Great idea. Madera, get us out of here, warp five, random course,” said Richards.
“Some battle that was,” said Vansen. “You didn’t even blow up any panels.”
“A huge section of the outer hull was contaminated with corrosive fungus and had to be beamed off the ship. We lost a new runabout.” Baxter was ticking events off on his fingers, but he ran out of events.
“Doesn’t count. It’s not a real battle unless consoles explode.”
Vansen’s mini-console exploded violently, knocking her unconscious and setting fire to her uniform in several places.
“Whoops,” said Richards, smirking faintly.
Smada uttered an unspeakable (and untransliteratable, too) string of bad words as he saw the Explorer wheel about and jump to warp only seconds from weapons range. His first (and as it would turn out, only) chance to obliterate an enemy ship had vanished! Sure he had gotten the shuttle, but what good would that do anyone? It wasn’t as if it was a threat to anyone. He cursed again and decided that tomorrow he would shoot up some junior officers. That always cheered him up.
“Doesn’t anybody else feel that we’re being jerked around at the whim of an evil being, just using us for its own amusement,” asked Peterman at that evening’s staff meeting. “It all seems so senseless and random!”
“That it does, honey,” said Baxter comfortingly. “Say, J’hana, did you ever find what attacked Charlie?”
“We are still pursuing it,” she said quietly. She was still upset over the sudden loss of Mordack, who had been beamed out of the ready room and onto the Batten Kill just before Harrison left on his ultimate mission, under the mistaken impression that Mordack the Gelatinous was actually radioactive green goo. (He was in fact not very radioactive, but he did share many other characteristics with Tilleran’s playdoh.) “We expect to have it within the hour. My last report indicated that they have cornered the creature.”
“Squad Alpha, retreat!” shouted Keefler over the whine of phaser blasts and exploding pottery. “Squad Gamma, move in, rifles to max! Keefler to J’hana, I need reinforcements!”
“What is the problem, Lieutenant?”
“We’re pinned down in the ship’s art studio! Whatever this thing is, it’s dangerous! Bring down two more squads and hurry, we’ve already got three casualties!” Screams came over the comm channel.
“Confirmed. I’ll be right there,” she said as she ran to the nearest turbolift, calling security personnel. She drew her decidedly non-regulation sidearm that she had picked up at the convention from its ingeniously concealed holster and checked the power level. Fully charged.
She arrived at the studio at the same time as ten of her best people and went in.
She immediately had to duck the wild phaser fire that lit up the room. Most of it seemed to be coming from a large overturned kiln, where she could see Keefler and three security squads holed up, firing blindly. Every so often a phaser blast would lance out from somewhere in the shadows on the other side of the room (the lights had been blasted out) and incapacitate a security guard. At the rate they were losing guards the ship would be cleaned out within minutes.
“Evacuate the room!” cried J’hana. “Go go go!” She began to blast wildly at the unseen enemy with her new gun (it made a very strange sound; like a cat being shot). As the last of the guards ran out the door, J’hana fired a few parting shots (there was that screaming cat again) and sealed the door behind her. “Computer, flood the ship’s studio with anesthezine gas!”
The hiss of the gas jets could be heard through the door. “Computer, any lifesigns in ship’s studio?”
“One. Feline. Unconscious,” came the toneless reply.
“Clear the air.”
At the computer’s affirmative beep, J’hana unlocked the door and entered carefully. Lying prone in the far corner of the room was a fuzzy orange cat with a phaser in his mouth. His fur was matted and tinged with green goop.
“As far as I can tell,” said Dr. Holly Wilcox, “He jumped into the holding tank for that playdoh stuff and breathed some of it in. It apparently convinced him that he was not in fact a cat, but an alien operative aboard the ship with a mission to sabotage things in general and, I quote, ‘Eliminate the dog menace.’”
“My poor baby!” lamented Peterman, stroking her cat’s sleeping body.
“I think I’ve fixed everything,” Wilcox said. “I’m not a vet, but he’s looking pretty good and Lieutenant Tilleran says that he’s definitely not thinking about ‘getting’ your dog anymore. I’ll want to see him for a post-op checkup in about a week, okay?”
“Sure,” sniffled the counselor. “Thanks, Holly. You’re sure this can’t happen again? I was so worried…”
“You don’t worry about a thing, Fritz will be fine.”
Feline Officer’s Log,
My cover was nearly blown today by an unfortunate incident with one of this crew’s imbecile projects. Whatever I fell into acted to remove my self-control and I nearly killed that damn dog before I was able to restrain myself. In return for this near-miss I have decided to rampage a little, followed by some mischief in the Security officer’s cache of recent purchases.
TWO DAYS LATER
“Hartley to Bridge! The ship’s waste processing system is overloaded! She’s gonna blow if we can’t relieve this pressure!”
The bridge, unfortunately for Hartley down in Waste Processing, was empty. The only sound that could be heard was a soft moaning, followed by a louder series of plops every few seconds, coming from the head near the conference room.
The only sign on the bridge of the massive waste processing tanks exploding was a slight shudder, followed by a groan of disgust from most of the lower decks.
Throughout the long, drawn out Dominion war, Starfleet went up against some pretty vicious Jem’Hadar. When Richards, Browning, and Plato visit a far-flung Gamma Quadrant world, they come upon a new breed of Jem’Hadar. What they find is so horrifying…okay, who am I kidding. Actually, these Jem’Hadar are nice guys. But when the planet is attacked by a one-time Deep Space Nine guest star, will the pretty-boy Jem’Hadar have what it takes to defend the place, or will it be up to Richards to save their scales? Find out in “Nice Guys Finish Last!”