Author: Anthony Butler
Imagine wiping out entire worlds with just one thought.
Imagine producing, out of thin air, anything you desire.
Imagine the possibilities, when there is nothing, no force in the universe, standing in your way.
Now, imagine you have recently aquired those abilities.
What are you going to do with them?
Are you going to keep your simple barkeep job? Serve drinks to Starfleet crewmen day in and day out, then help the doddling crew of one of the least competent ships in the fleet out of their disaster-of-the week? Are you nothing better than a walking, talking deux aux machina?
Or are you going to push your abilities to their limits until you find out that there are no limits? Until you find out the true meaning of the word…
Learn it, little boy, or better yet, I’ll teach it to you…
Mirk shot out of bed.
Literally. He slammed into the ceiling quite painfully, then flopped noisily back into bed, where Lt. Megan Hartley rolled over and slapped a pillow over his head.
“Some people are trying to sleep in here, Mirk!” That’s when Hartley realized that Mirk had woken up for a good reason.
Mirk and Hartley’s quarters were bathed in red, and klaxons were blaring in their ears.
That’s when Mirk noticed books and nick-nacks had come off the bedroom shelves, and his vase of pear blossoms had smashed on the floor. He heard voices outside in the corridor. Had they just been in a collision?
“Baxter to Lieutenant Commander Hartley…we have a…something…up here on the bridge you need to come look at.”
Hartley rolled out of bed. “This better be important, Captain.”
“Just get up here.”
Mirk leaned up and touched Hartley’s arm as she slipped on her uniform trousers and yanked on her uniform jacket over her “I’m with Godlike” t-shirt.
“I’m going with you.”
“And why is that?”
“I’ve got a…feeling…I should be up there.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing you need to worry about honey,” Hartley said in a sugary tone, leaning down to kiss Mirk on the cheek. “Just let your fiancee the Engineer take care of it.”
“Honey, the last time I had a ‘feeling,’ I saved us all from an unsavory parallel universe.”
“Must you always bring that up? Fine, c’mon!”
Mirk was still doing the front buttons on his dinner jacket when he and Hartley spilled out of the aft bridge turbolift. They’d been thrown against one another mid lift-ride for some reason and Hartley exited the lift wanting to know why.
“That’s why,” Captain Andy Baxter said, pointing toward the viewscreen.
“You brought me up here to see an asteroid field,” Hartley said flatly, resting her hands on her hips. “You got me and Mirk out of bed for THAT!”
“It used to be a planet, smartaleck,” Lt. Commander Nell Vansen said from her place standing next to Baxter. “Silius Four to be exact.”
“And it blew up, literally just as we were passing by,” Commander Chris Richards said, studying the readings at the engineering station and then waving for Hartley to join him there.
Hartley jogged over to the station and paged through the readings. “An EM spike and then…blammo. It just blew up.”
“Was it inhabited?” Mirk asked, rushing to the railing surrounding the command chairs to get a good look at the carnage on the screen.
“Thankfully not,” Lt. Commander Tilleran said from her seat behind the science console. “However, the third and fifth planets in this system are inhabited by species’ who just recently reached warp capability. They are bound to be affected by the gravitic disturbances caused by the planet’s destruction.”
“Are they members of the Dominion?” Baxter asked, glancing at Vansen.
“According to our records, no.” Vansen checked the panel next to her seat. “But Weyoun did think it would be a good idea for us to discuss joining the Dominion with them on our way back through this system.”
“Have the Dominion dispatch ships to render environmental aid,” Baxter said. “Meanwhile, hail both planets, J’hana, and try to find out if any of them have immediate–”
“Sir,” Hartley interrupted, glancing with deep concern at the engineering panel. “There is a small ship in the debris field. Badly damaged. Its warp core appears near critical.”
“Anyone aboard?” Vansen demanded.
“One lifeform. Humanoid.”
“Beam it directly to Sickbay,” Baxter said.
“Beam,” Hartley chuckled. “That’s something I haven’t done in a while.”
“Right, right,” Hartley said, tapping at her panel, as Baxter called for the Lt. Madera to steer the Explorer away from the ship before it blew.
Mirk accompanied Baxter, Vansen, and J’hana down to Sickbay to check on the Explorer’s newest visitor. Baxter commed to alert Dominion Ambassador Weyoun to the situation, leaving Richards and Hartley behind on the bridge to further analyze the explosion of Silius Four.
Mirk wasn’t sure who or what he would find there. He hoped, somewhat illogically, that he would find the source of the voice that had screamed in his head prior to the Explorer getting rattled by a planet’s explosion. There was a great likelihood that he had really just been dreaming, and that the nightmare was merely a coincidence.
Then again, it could, however unlikely, be Irma Sutton. Or worse, even.
Mirk shivered as the doors to sickbay parted and he edged in behind Baxter and the others.
What, or rather who, he found in the center Sickbay table was not at all what, or who, he’d expected.
She was seated upright, holding a grey pressure bandage to her forehead. Her glittering silver jumpsuit was a bit singed but she looked none the worse for wear, otherwise. Doctor Holly Wilcox was running a medical tricorder over.
“No internal bleeding or broken bones. Other than a few scrapes, she’s fit as the proverbial fiddle, Captain,” Dr. Wilcox told Baxter as he surveyed the visitor.
“You were very lucky,” Baxter told her. “That explosion rattled a lot of people on the Explorer, and it’s easily ten times the size of your ship.”
“Boy,” the woman said earnestly. “I sure am lucky you guys rescued me when you did.”
“Your ship blew up,” Vansen said flatly. “Maybe you can tell us what you were doing in the vicinity of Silius Four?”
“She’s not a suspect, Commander,” Baxter snapped.
“She may be, Captain,” J’hana said, cracking her knuckles. “A thorough interrogation will tell the tale.”
“Whoa, there.” Baxter held up his hands, one in front of J’hana, one in front of Vansen. “We’re not interrogating anybody. This woman is our guest.” Baxter leaned in toward J’hana. “Unless we find out otherwise. Got it?” he whispered in the general vicinity of her antenna. The Andorian nodded briskly.
Mirk, meanwhile, just stared off into the woman’s unfathomably blue eyes. He was engaged to be married, but, by the Holy Grapefruit, this woman was gorgeous. She had a long mane of glistening blonde hair, and the aforementioned eyes, which were presently trained on Mirk. She was a petite girl; when she slid off the table she came just to Mirk’s shoulder, and looked up at him with those penetrating eyes.
Mirk heard Baxter prattling on about “Dominion treaty” and “the Federation olive branch,” but Mirk was not at all listening. And neither was she.
“What’s your place here?” the newcomer asked Mirk.
“I’m the manager of the Constellation Club.”
“I see. And that fulfils you?”
She looked around, like a child visiting a toy store for the first time. “Can you show me around this ship?”
Mirk looked to Baxter. “I…suppose.”
Baxter nodded. “Um, sure. I don’t see why not. And, of course, I’m at your disposal should you need to…”
And she was gone, having drawn Mirk out with her.
Holly folded her arms and stared at the door to Sickbay wonderingly. “Goodness. I’m a woman and even I can admit it. She was beautiful.”
“Yes,” Baxter said thoughtfully.
“Yes,” J’hana said.
“Get your chin off the floor and come back to the bridge with me,” Vansen groused at Baxter. “We have an investigation to conduct.” She snapped her fingers at J’hana. “Yes, that’s right, J’hana. I said investigation. C’mon now. Let’s go!”
“I hate her,” J’hana said, as her and Baxter followed Vansen out of Sickbay.
“No kidding,” Baxter said.
“And yet I feel compelled to do her bidding. Strange, is it not?”
“You haven’t told me your name yet.”
“Gabrielle. Some call me Gabby.”
“Is that your first or last name?”
“Yes. What is this place?”
“Ship’s Shoppes. It’s the onboard mall. A collection of shops where…”
Gabrielle turned to face Mirk and giggled, curling her hair back behind her ears. “I know what a mall is, silly. I’m from another planet, not another universe.”
“What planet are you from, Silius Four, or…?”
“Somewhat farther away than that,” Gabrielle replied vaguely. “And you?”
“A place called Malox. Also far away. In the Delta Quadrant.”
“You are a long way from home, aren’t you?”
“Yep. I’ve been serving on this ship for more than four years now. First when they got lost in the Delta Quadrant, then on routine missions in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, now here in Gamma.”
“My, you do get around.”
“I try.” Mirk and Gabrielle came to a stop at a spot on the second level of Ship’s Shoppes overlooking the walkway below and bustling civilian and Starfleet shoppers. “So what brings you to this area of space?”
Gabrielle looked very evenly in Mirk’s eyes. “You.”
“Are you going to push your abilities to their limits until you find out that there are none?” Gabrielle giggled. “Sound familiar?”
Mirk’s mouth opened and closed but no sound came out.
“That’s a nice fish impression, there, Mirk.”
“I didn’t tell you my name…”
“And why on Earth would you have to?”
“Say it with me now, Mirkie.” Gabrielle reached up and grabbed Mirk’s cheeks and moved his mouth. “OM. NIP. O. TENT.”
“Oh boy,” Mirk said, her hands still on his mouth. “Are you here to destroy me?”
Gabby threw back her head and laughed. “Silly boy! Why would I want to do a thing like that?”
“Because that’s what the last omnipotent woman in my life did.”
“Oh, yes. That Irma person. What an insecure, envious woman.”
“Yes. I thought so too.” Mirk gazed down at the bustling people below. “So, if you’re not here to destroy me, why are you here?”
“To do just what I said I’d do before my companions so subtly blew up a planet to get your attention!” She went from gripping both sides of his mouth to pinching his cheek. “To teach you a thing or two about what it means to be a god!”
“Oh.” Mirk gulped. Was he ready for this?
“Yes, you’re ready for this, my cherubic little godlet. I wouldn’t be here otherwise! Now come with me!”
“What do you mean they’re GONE?” Hartley shrieked, leaning across the conference lounge table at Baxter.
“Just what I said,” Baxter said, inching back a bit. “When I called to ask Mirk how his tour of the ship was going, he was gone.”
“He did not show up on sensors,” J’hana broke in.
“Nor did our new visitor,” said Vansen.
“Just great. A beautiful woman shows up on the ship and kidnaps my fiancee. What next? Amrageddon?”
“I sure hope not,” Baxter said quietly.
“What are you going to do about this, Captain?” Hartley demanded, her voice shaking with rage.
“We are, of course, um, investigating,” Baxter said quietly. He looked at J’hana and Tilleran. “Guys…come on. Help me out here.”
Tilleran nudged J’hana. “Go ahead.”
J’hana cleared her throat. “The debris field left by Silius Four is currently being occupied by some sort of large, gaseous cloud that our sensors can’t penetrate. Even though the science department seems confident the planet exploded for natural reasons, we can’t explain the gas cloud. It just…appeared…around the debris field.”
“If sensors can’t penetrate the cloud, how do you know it’s gas?” Hartley asked.
J’hana shrugged. “That’s what it looks like.”
“Can we get a shuttlecraft in there?” Baxter asked. “Maybe Mirk and what’s-her-name are in there.”
“It’s worth a shot,” Richards spoke up. “But it would be a dangerous endeavor.”
“I volunteer you,” Vansen snapped, then stood up. “Well, people, we have work to do.”
“Yes,” Baxter said, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. “Yes, we do.”
“You show me your ship, I’ll show you my…” Gabby said, and waved a hand through the air, taking in the entirety of Mirk’s surroundings. “Entity.”
Gabby folded her arms with satisfaction and looked around. “This place is the source of my power.” She leaned conspiratorially toward Mirk. “Although it would be nothing without me. We’re…intertwined.”
Mirk nodded. “Fascinating.” He looked around the whitewashed corridor. The walls were made of wood. It was an old house. Something that would be found on Earth. “So who’s house is this?”
“An old friend’s,” Gabby said flatly. “He’s…indisposed, so he lets me use it. It’s just one of a million places on board the entity.”
“Why does your entity look like an old Earth house?”
“Why indeed, why indeed.”
“You’re from Earth!”
Gabby leaned forward and hugged Mirk tightly. “You got it right! I knew you were a clever guy.”
“So how is it that you’re omnipotent?” Mirk asked, following Gabby down the corridor and down a flight of stairs.
“You’ll probably have a hard time believing this,” she giggled. “But I stepped in fairy circles.”
“Yup. Sources of tremendous power on Earth. Anyway, there I was one day, skipping through a fairy circle, which in this case was just a simple circle of mushrooms growing in a field, and I suddenly felt this great, well, energy pass over me. It wasn’t until much, much later that I realized I was marked for immortality by that force which, at the time, lacked substance and definition. It turns out the fairy circle was a connection between Earth and a realm of pure energy and unlimited intelligence.”
“Sounds reasonable,” Mirk said, nodding.
“Anyhow, over time, the force amassed power, like a great caterpillar growing into a butterfly inside a cocoon, only the cocoon was me. When my human earth body ‘died,’ my essence was preserved in conjuction with the force’s. It became the entity and I became The Goddess. I used the entity to preserve everything I ever loved in Earth’s twentieth century.” Gabby took a big breath, then looked at Mirk brightly. “So here we are!”
“Yes,” Mirk said. “Here we are.” It was then that Mirk noticed piano music coming from the other room. Gabby led him into the next room where well-dressed folk drank heavily, talked and laughed, sounding southern, surrounding a man playing the piano. The man sang,
I wish I had an easy mind
and a pretty girl to hold my hand
seems the closer that I get
the water isn’t wet
this lonely life of mine
is the best I’ve ever had
it’s not bad…
my coat’s the only thing that’s on my sleeve
you may not know my reason
but I’ve got reason to believe…
“Thank you, thank you. You guys are great,” the man at the piano said, as the well-dressed and well-drunk audience clapped. “What’s say we play another crazy little melody? And hey, look, it’s the Goddess!”
“Mirk, this is Harry Connick, Junior,” Gabby said, leaning on the piano and gesturing at the grinning man as he pounded the so-called ivories.
“Nice to meet you, Mister Connick Junior.”
“Crazy. Crazy,” was all Connick would say.
“Let me show you some more. Have you ever seen Bourbon Street?”
Mirk thought back to when he and Hartley had gone there when the Explorer was stationed at Earth a year and a half ago. He’d been hungover for days. “Unfortunately.”
“You must not have done it right.”
“I got extremely drunk.”
“Well, let me show you MY bourbon street, my boy. Come on.” Gabby snapped her fingers and the world transformed around Mirk.
“I can’t believe Chris didn’t try to talk me out of leading the away team myself,” Baxter mumbled, leaning against the piloting chair as the shuttlecraft Cartier coasted toward the nebulous silvery cloud that surrounded the former location of Silius Four.
“Why would he?” Vansen asked as she steered the Cartier into position.
“Well, it’s dangerous for the Captain to lead an away mission.”
“I don’t think Chris really cares,” Hartley said from next to Vansen, as she studied the readouts on the shuttle’s sensors.
“Still…” Baxter mumbled.
“You didn’t think I would raise an objection did you?” Vansen said with a small laugh.
Baxter sighed. “Not really.”
J’hana stood next to Baxter, grimacing. “What have you found out about the cloud?”
“Not much,” Hartley said. “Our sensors can’t penetrate it.”
Vansen looked at Hartley. “I hope you have a bright idea as to how we’re going to get in.”
“I just so happen to, yes,” Hartley said, not looking at Vansen. “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.”
“They are about to fight,” J’hana said eagerly.
“All of you, cut it out,” Baxter said. “What’s your plan, Hartley?”
The engineer’s hands danced over the controls. “Warp field.”
“Can you go into more detail?”
“Would you understand?” Hartley asked.
“No,” Baxter said, looking at his feet. “I guess not.”
“Then why waste our time,” Vansen said, nodding at Hartley. “Do it.”
Hartley hit a control and a blue field flared in front of the shuttle’s forward viewport. The silvery, bright cloud expanse soared into view as Vansen brought the Cartier around, and then, suddenly, they were surrounded by it.
Baxter gasped as the Cartier flew through the billowing cloud. Below, immense dark, latticed structures rose up from what seemed like an infinite distance below. Vansen piloted the shuttle around arches and buttresses, along solemn mountain pathways, and between huge, dark, oblong shapes. All vague, all not quite discernable to the naked eye, but all large and breathtaking.
“Where are we?” Baxter said after a long silence.
“On the outskirts of a massive planet or vessel,” Hartley said, studying her panel. “I can’t be sure what it is or even how it got here. But it’s housing an unbelievable amount of energy.”
“Can we get in?”
“I don’t know.”
“Keep trying. It’s a good bet Mirk and that woman are in there.”
“Yes I know. I let them in,” the Goddess said, and Mirk looked around to see who she was talking to. There was no one in the immediate vicinity as they walked down Bourbon Street and turned on Canal, as music swelled from clubs on the left and right, and folks danced in the street or simply kissed. It was a sweaty and beautiful summer night, and Mirk felt light, as if any minute he could take off and fly.
“Wh-who are you talking to?” he asked.
“This’ll just be a minute,” the Goddess said lightly. “Well, distract them. Can you do that? I know you had dance rehearsal today. Well, reschedule it. Don’t make me come up there and knock you around! Right. Well, show them a good time. Good-bye!”
“Who was that?”
“One of my Chiefs,” she said, as if that would make any sense to Mirk. “Harry Connick, and others you may meet, are my Protectorates. I keep them safe from harm but they have no actual power. The Chiefs, whether they know how to use it all the time, they have power. They’re the ones who blew up that planet. Silly boys. Anyway, your friends are trying to break in. So instead of making them waste a lot of time trying, I let them come in.”
“Because I want to satisfy their curiosity. Some of it anyway. They’re important to you, so they are important to me.”
“I’m still not so clear on where it is we are.”
“A vessel of infinite size and proportion,” the Goddess said, taking in Bourbon Street and beyond with a simple gesture. “Where my Protectorates are housed, and where life is a continuous party. Sound good?”
“Sounds like fun I guess,” Mirk shrugged.
“The entity is more than just fun. It’s everything, and everyone I care about. It is the past, the present the future, a source of power unbeknownst to all of mankind, and all the little things that make life worth living. The breeze of an arched open doorway over satin sheets at twilight…that’s the Entity too.”
“Wow. Your electric bill must be huge.”
Gabby threw hear head back and laughed. Mirk was hypnotized by her moving hair. “You silly boy. Being trapped on that ship of mundane people has caused you to forget what you really, really are.”
“And that is?”
“A creature of extraordinary power.”
“And you’re here to help me unleash it?”
“I don’t need to help you unleash your power, silly. It’s entirely up to you how and when to use your powers. I’m just here to show you how to have a good time.”
Mirk felt a little taken aback by that. He knew how to have a good time. He managed the most rocking night spot on the Explorer. How dare she tell him he didn’t know how to have a good time!
“Oh, Mirkie, stop concerning yourself so much with the fun of others. Think of your own fun for awhile.”
“Like you do.”
“Exactly. Let’s go get a hurricane.”
“Noo, no. I swore I’d never drink another one of those again.”
“Fine. Strawberry daiquiri it is. C’mon!”
They had been flying through the dark and mysterious expanse inside the bright silver cloud for what had seemed like hours.
“Something tells me this could have been edited down to a few quick fly-bys,” Baxter muttered as the Cartier wove its way around the immense structure below.
“I’m not detecting any portholes or hatches,” Hartley said. “No orifice. No opening of any kind.”
“Can you get an idea of what the structure is made of?” Vansen asked.
“Besides pure energy? Not really.”
“The thing has got to have an entrance,” J’hana grumbled.
Hartley nodded, then beamed at something on her screen. “And I think…I think I just found it.”
“Now we’re talking.” Baxter leaned forward. “Take us in, Commander!”
Richards sat in the command chair with his hands folded in his lap. “Are you sure you’ve checked every scanner band?”
“Every bandwidth I know of,” Tilleran said, overlooking several different panels of information on the science station. “The shuttle simply vanished off sensors.”
Richards shifted his weight in the chair. Long years of Baxter and Conley sitting there had left certain…grooves…and he could just never get comfortable in it. “Well, continue to monitor.”
Lt. Susan Madera turned around in her seat at the helm. “Shouldn’t we go in there and try to retrieve them at some point, Chris?”
“I want to at least give them a chance to look around in there before I go off half-cocked trying to get them out. I’m sure they’ll be okay.”
“If you say so.”
Before Richards could respond, the aft turbolift doors opened and the diminutive clone of Weyoun assigned to the Explorer drifted out.
“I heard we were investigating an exploding planet,” he said simply, moving down to sit beside Richards, in Vansen’s usual chair.
“That’s right,” Richards replied. He pointed at the billowing silvery cloud on the viewscreen. “The captain took a team in there to investigate. So far we haven’t found anything conclusive. We can’t even contact the shuttle.”
“Grave circumstances indeed,” Weyoun nodded. “Have the Silians offered any assistance with the investigation?”
“I think they’re dealing with problems of their own. One of the planets in their system exploded. That’s a handful.”
“Quite right, quite right. Well, I should probably communicate with their government anyway. Let them know the Dominion is there for them in their time of need. Please keep me apprized of any important developments, Commander.”
“Sure,” Richards said as Weyoun left.
“Are you sure there’s breathable atmosphere?” Captain Baxter said as he stared out the oblong viewport at the rear of the shuttle.
“Yes, Captain. We’ve landed in some sort of shuttlebay, and the door closed behind us. We’re fine,” Hartley said.
“Unless we’re trapped and they won’t let us out,” Vansen said.
“Whoever ‘they’ are,” chimed J’hana.
“Well, then, let’s just find out,” Baxter said, as J’hana passed out tricorders and phasers. “Shall we?”
They stepped out of the shuttle and into what looked like some kind of primative loading dock. After seeing the outside of the massive vessel, Baxter half-expected the interior to look just as foreboding. But it wasn’t. It was all bright flourescent light.
“There’s a large complex just beyond here, filled with people,” J’hana said, studying her tricorder.
Baxter withdrew his phaser. “Well, let’s not dally. Set your tricorder to pick up Maloxian readings.”
A dull roar became apparent as Baxter led the group past the loading dock, through an access tunnel and out into a huge, open area… a dome covered arena. The dull roar was a crowd. Thousands…hundreds of thousands of screaming teenagers.
“Are we at the Lollapaloozical Musical Festival?” Baxter gasped, as J’hana checked her readings.
“Negative. This event is not sponsored by Sluggo Cola.”
“Then what is it?” Vansen asked breathlessly. “Where in Creation are we?”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Pontiac Silverdome!”
Baxter’s eyes went wide. “Oh, god NO!”
“What?” the others asked simultaneously.
After Mirk finished throwing up his two strawberry daiquiris, he stumbled into an alley, dizzily looking about for Gabrielle. “Gabby? Where’d you get off to? I…urp…I’m sorry I threw up in your Entity. Can we go home now?”
It was then that Mirk tripped on something and fell through a hole, falling for an eternity, and suddenly slamming into a chair in a ritzy nightclub.
Gabrielle was sitting across from him, dressed in a glittering silver evening gown, hair up in a beautiful pile of blonde braids. “Glad you could make it.”
“I’m a bit underdr–” Mirk was about to say, but then realized he was wearing a silver tux.
“There, is that better?” the Goddess said, rolling her eyes and laughing lightly. “You are so easy to please.” She leaned forward, propping her chin on her hands. “I like that about you.”
“Now be quiet!” she said, clamping her fingers down on Mirk’s lips. “Old Blue Eyes is about to go on.”
Suddenly a powerful-looking silver-haired man strolled out confidently onto the stage. “Evening, ladies,” he said, prompting Gabby to clap uproariously, standing, cheering, mounting the table.
“Whoooooooooo Frank! Darling I love you!”
“Gabrielle, baby, nice to see you again,” Frank said. “Care to come up and do a duet with me to start off the set?”
“I’d love to,” Gabby said, and leapt from table to stage in one graceful movement, without even messing up her hair. She wrapped an arm around Frank, producing a microphone from then air in her hand. “Okay, Mirkie. This one is for you!”
Mirk shuddered, sinking in his seat. What had he gotten into? Then they both sang:
Come fly with me
we’ll fly, we’ll fly away
if you can use some exotic booze
there’s a bar in far bombay
come on fly with me
we’ll fly, we’ll fly away
come fly with me
We’ll float down to Peru
in llama land there’s a one-man band
and he’ll toot his flute for you
come on fly with me…
Then, suddenly, Gabrielle climbed down from the stage and strolled slinkily over to Mirk, and laid across his lap, singing to him and him alone:
We’ll float down in the blue
once I get you up there
where the air is rarified
we’ll just fly
Mirk stood, pushing the Goddess off him. “I really need to get back to my ship. AND my fiancee.”
“It’s not going anywhere, and neither is she. I can freeze time, if you like. Then again, so can you, but why quibble over details?” The Goddess had to fairly shout that last bit, because Mirk was running away.
Frank Sinatra stepped down from the stage and joined Gabby as she watched Mirk run away.
“What’s his deal, Gabs?”
“He’s got a lot of self-exploration to do.”
“Sounds boring. Want to hit the town with Frankie-baby?”
Gabrielle smiled at Frank. “Maybe later.” She folded her arms. “Hmm. Should I follow him or just leave him be? Ha ha! Who am I kidding. Of course I’ll follow him!”
“Go get him, kid,” Frank said, winking at Gabby as she disappeared.
“This is one hell of a show,” Baxter said, as five guys dressed in leather and plastic soared over his head, flipped around on some kind of wire riggings, then propelled themselves onto the stage, some twenty meters in front of Baxter and his people.
“What do you mean?” snapped Vansen. “It’s been nothing but pyrotechnics and flying around. They haven’t started singing yet.”
“They need not sing,” J’hana said breathily. “They are simply ravishing. The things I would do to them…”
J’hana suddenly felt an invisible hand slap her across the face and knock her to the ground.
“WHO DID THAT?” she bellowed, leaping to her feet.
“I wonder what they’re going to sing,” Baxter said to himself. “Jazz? Rock and roll? Or that rap music I’ve heard so much about?”
“In any century, you’re a giant imbecile,” Vansen muttered.
“I just wish we knew where Mirk was,” Hartley said, studying her tricorder readings as she swung it around. “All I’m detecting is Detroit. GODDAM DETROIT!”
“Be quiet, Commander,” Baxter said. “They’re starting to sing.”
“Ahrrrrg!” Hartley cried, stamping her feet, as electronic keyboard and drum sounds pounded in her ears, and the sound of thousands of swooning teans coruscated off every surface, as the five boys mounted mechanical bulls and sang:
See, I’m talkin’ about the future, y’all And the future looks bright Especially if we rip it in half
Here it comes, millennium And everybody’s talking ‘bout Jerusalem Is this the beginning or beginning of the end? Well, I got other thoughts, my friends
See, I got my eyes on the skies The heavenly bodies up high And if you’re in the mood to take a ride Strap on a suit and get inside
If you wanna fly, come and take a ride Take a space ride with the cowboy, baby If you wanna fly, come and take a ride Take a space ride with the cowboy, baby Why-yi-yi-yippie-yi-yay-yippie-yi-yo-yippie-yi-yay Why-yi-yi-yippie-yi-yay-yippie-yi-yo-yippie-yi-yo Why-yi-yi-yippie-yi-yay-yippie-yi-yo-yippie-yi-yay Why-yi-yi-yippie-yi-yay-yippie-yi-yo-yippie-yi-yo
We don’t need all these prophecies Tellin’ us what’s a sign, what’s a sign ‘Cause paranoia ain’t the way To live your life from day to day (No, no) So leave your doubts and your fears behind Don’t be afraid at all ‘Cause up in outer space There’s no gravity to fall Put your mind and your body to the test Cause up in outer space, it’s like a wild, wild west…
“This really speaks to me!” Baxter shouted above the music.
“That’s because you are an idiot!” Vansen screamed in his face. “We need to get out of here!”
“But I kind of like it. They’re talking about space…and cowboys. Two of my favorite things!”
“Don’t make me stun you, Captain!” Hartley cried. “For once I’m in agreement with Vansen!”
Then, suddenly the music stopped. “Yo, dude, get off our stage!”
Baxter, J’hana, Hartley, and Vansen turned to face the stage, where the boys where talking to someone who’d just shown up instead of singing into their headsets.
“Yo that’s not cool at all. Get off our stage and enjoy the show, aiight?”
“I want to go home!” cried the person, who looked somewhat familiar.
“Then go home, but get off our stage so we can get on with this thing!”
“First I need to find my girlfriend.”
“Well, she ain’t up here.”
“Megan? MEGAN! Are you out there?”
About a hundred girls cried out in the audience. Hartley, meanwhile, stood on her tip-toes to try to see the stage. She was just too short. “Mirk? Mirk? Is that you? Damn it, J’hana, give me a boost!”
“I can help,” Baxter said sheepishly.
“Make yourself useful, then, Captain, and become a platform,” J’hana said, hefting Hartley up onto Baxter’s back.
“Oof! I think something just popped!”
“Mirk!” Hartley called, digging her knee into Baxter’s neck. “Mirk! It’s me! I’m here! What are you doing up there?”
“Trying to find you. I want to get out of here.”
“Why are we here in the first place?”
“This goddess was trying to teach me about omnipotence.”
“Did you learn anything?”
“Let me get back to you,” Mirk called, as suddenly the boys surrounded Mirk.
“Yo, we said get off our stage. This ain’t cool, aiight?”
“Beat ‘em up, JC!”
“Yeah, beat ‘em up!”
“Shut up Chris. You too, Lance.”
“I can beat ‘em up. I’ll go all beatbox on his ass!”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean, Justin?”
Mirk suddenly found himself surrounded, and saw out of the corner of his eye, several security patrolman scurrying up onto the stage.
“Back off!” Mirk cried, waving his hand at the security officers, who were suddenly blasted backwards by about two hundred feet.
“Whoa!” one of the five boys said. “That was intense. How’d you do that, guy?”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll do that to you, too, if you don’t help me and my friends get out of here.”
“He ruined our concert. Why don’t we ruin his ship?” suggested one of the other boys.
The sound of Baxter’s “uh-oh,” could be heard all the way in the crowd.
“There’s a buildup within the entity,” Ensign Keefler suddenly called out from tactical.
“Red Alert. Shields up!” Richards said.
“Isn’t that a bit premature?” asked Lt. Madera.
Suddenly a concentrated beam of silver energy lashed out of the cloud and slammed into the Explorer, knocking it backwards like a dinghy in a tidal wave.
“NO!” Richards cried, hanging onto the command chair for dear life as klaxons wailed all around him.
“That rocks!” Lance said, watching on the Entity’s viewscreen as the Explorer was pummeled. “Keep shooting, JC!”
“STOP SHOOTING, JC!” Baxter cried out, but no one was listening to him. Him, Vansen, Hartley, and J’hana were all trapped in a two-dimensional mirror, as seen, Joey explained, in “Superman II.” Baxter didn’t know what Superman II was. The mirror just spun helplessly off to the side of the bridge while the five members of the pop band danced around, punching buttons and giving each other high fives.
Mirk had discretely vanished about the time that the pop stars transported themselves up to what he had assumed was the Entity’s bridge. Just as they were about to deliver what was sure to be the Explorer’s deathblow, Mirk appeared at the center of the bridge.
“Playtime is over, boys.”
“Oh, not him again,” muttered Chris.
“Haven’t you figured out we don’t want to play with you?” Lance said. “Go home.”
“You’re blowing up my home,” Mirk said, pointing to the listing Explorer on the viewscreen as it helplessly tried to fire back with phasers and quantum torpedoes.
“Sorry, dude. You messed with us before. We’re just lashing back with some mad justice, N’SYNC style.”
“I have no idea what the heck you just said,” Mirk said. “But if I have to stop you, well then, so be it.”
With a wave of his hand, Mirk produced a 19-inch TV, circa 20th century Earth, on the bridge, on the fluffy chaise lounge Gabrielle laughingly called a command chair. “Familiar with one of these?”
“Yeah, dude, it’s a TV,” Justin said.
“Good. You’ve appeared on them before, I take it?”
“Lots of times,” said Chris.
“Good. Well get back in there,” Mirk said, and with another wave of his hand, the five boys disappeared and reappeared on the television. “Now apologize. In the form of a 20th century pop ballad! Sing, boys SING!”
And like puppets attached to strings, the five members of NSYNC, whatever that was, went into a blur of choreographed dance moves and sang:
Mirky I don’t understand just why we can’t be friends Things are getting out of hand Trying too much but Mirky we can’t win Let it go; If you want to free us let us know We are down on our knees; can’t take it any more
It’s tearin’ up my heart that we’ve been trapped, When we’re not with the blonde, it makes us sad And no matter what you do, we feel shame, Cause we dissed you!
Mirky don’t misunderstand (Don’t misunderstand) What we’re trying to tell you In the corner of this bridge (Corner of this bridge) Mirky it feels like we’re running out of time Let us go; If you want to free us let us know We are down on our knees; can’t take it any more
And no matter what you do, we feel shame, Cause we dissed you!
Mirk giggled as he walked over to the two-dimensional spinning mirror that contained Baxter, J’hana, Vansen and Hartley.
“How are you guys doing?”
He couldn’t hear them but by the looks of the fists pounding against the mirrored surface, he’d probably better let them out.
Mirk reached in and, one by one, dragged his crewmates out of the glass prison.
They all stumbled out, except for Baxter, who tripped and landed face-first onto a chaise lounge.
“Where are we?” he asked as J’hana helped him up.
“The bridge, as near as I can figure,” Mirk said, looking around. Suddenly Hartley piledrived into him, hugging him tightly.
She then realized the others were looking at her and she turned on a heel. “What? Haven’t you seen a girl hug her fiancee before?” She whirled back to face Mirk and slapped him. “What did you do with that goddess woman?”
“I assure you, he was a perfect gentleman,” a voice said from everywhere and nowhere all at once.
And in that instant, Gabrielle appeared at the center of the group, looking for all the world as if she’d been there all along. She looked at Hartley. “You’re a lucky woman, Commander.”
She gazed gleefully at Mirk. “He is brimming with potential. It’s largely unused for the moment, but it’s there.” She turned back to Hartley. “I get the feeling you’re going to discover that potential with him.”
“In time.” She took a deep breath and smiled at the others. “You’re all quite the group. You love each other a lot, don’t you?”
“Please,” groused Vansen.
The Goddess frowned. “Except for you.”
Vansen strode up to the Goddess and withdrew her phaser. “You’re under arrest for being an accessory to assault on Starfleet officers and on a Federation starship, and for blowing up a planet!”
“Ha! You are a funny little thing, aren’t you?” The Goddess waved Vansen away and the Second Officer disappeared with a satisfying “POP!”
“Where’d she go?” Baxter asked. “Did you, um…?”
“No you silly man, I didn’t kill her. She’s safe back on your ship, and quiet annoyed.” She sighed boredly. “I suppose you’ll be wanting me to repair all that damage my boys did to your ship.”
“No,” Mirk said. “That’s okay. I’ll do it.”
Hartley beamed at Mirk. “You’ll WHAT?”
Mirk snapped his fingers. Baxter did a double-take at the Entity’s viewscreen. One minute, the Explorer was listing, smoke emerging from several pock marks in its hull. The next minute, it was upright, perfectly intact, at station keeping.
“Can…” Baxter stammered. “Can you do that whenever you want?”
“No!” Mirk said quickly. “And don’t even ask me to.”
“Sure,” Baxter said, staring at the deck.
“So much potential.” The Goddess shook her head. “He must love you all very much to suppress it just so he can be with you.”
“Some more than others,” Mirk said, gazing into Hartley’s eyes.
“But at least you got a sneak peek at what’s to come,” the Goddess said with a big grin. She wrapped an arm around Mirk and Hartley. “Just think of the possibilities, kids!”
“I’m not sure I want to,” Hartley said.
Gabrielle pecked Hartley on the cheek. “You will, in time, sweetie.”
“Yum,” J’hana said sultrily.
She then kissed Mirk on the cheek too. “And you’re already starting to see the possibilities, aren’t you?”
“Can I ask why you blew up a planet and kidnapped my bartender?” Baxter asked quietly, for fear of being zapped away as Vansen had been.
“A girl’s got to keep herself entertained somehow,” Gabby yawned. “And, truth be told, the boys were not getting the job done in that department. And always acting out, too. They’re the ones that destroyed that planet. Sorry about that. Hey, at least it wasn’t inhabited, right?”
“I guess,” said Baxter.
“Anyway,” the Goddess said. “I just thought it would be nice to have a playmate,” she smiled at Mirk, “a true equal. But you’re not quite there yet, and far be it from me to push you. Not to worry…I’ll look you up again sometime down the road.”
“The hell you will!” Hartley snapped.
As if oblivious to Hartley, Gabrielle winked at the folks of the Explorer. “Bye, kids. I’ll see you…out there.” And with a wave of her hand she sent the crew back to the ship from which they came.
“Yo! Dude! Somebody let us out!” came plaintive cries from within the TV set.
“I don’t think so,” the Goddess said. “I think you boys should spend the rest of the afternoon in there. And maybe, just maybe, when you get out, you’ll learn to behave like good pop stars!”
“No buts.” The Goddess smiled. “I’m exhausted. I think I’ll take a nap. Later, boys!”
“What do you MEAN there’s nothing to lock a tractor beam onto!” Vansen fumed, as Baxter, J’hana, Mirk, and Hartley reappeared on the bridge.
“I mean, it’s a big cloud. I can’t just tractor a cloud,” Ensign Keefler was saying. Tilleran seemed to be nodding in agreement.
“Step aside while I…” Vansen said, stepping up to the quarterdeck. She then turned around to see that the others had just appeared. She put her hands on her hips. “It’s about time. Why don’t you all help me find a way to stop that nuisance out there!”
Baxter shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
Vansen’s eyes bugged out. “What do you MEAN you don’t think so?”
“Just that. Mirk fixed the ship. The Goddess did blow up a planet, but there was no life on it, so no harm done there. I consider the matter closed.”
As if on cue, the immense silver cloud quietly disappeared from the viewscreen, leaving only open space and the debris field of Silius Four.
Everybody commenced going back to their regularly scheduled duties.
“MIRK fixed the ship?” Richards cried, feeling truly like the forgotten man.
“Yeah,” Baxter said, strolling into the readyroom. “Try not to let that become common knowledge. I’ll be–” He suddenly turned around and bolted out of the readyroom. “Damn it! I’m late for lamaz class. Kelly’s going to kill me!” He looked furtively at Mirk. “Hey, Mirk. Buddy. Would you mind turning back time?”
“No,” Mirk snapped, and swept Hartley into the aft turbolift. Once inside, he kissed her long and hard.
“Can I at least get a ride?” Baxter asked in a small voice. Then the doors closed. “Guess not.”
Every member of the Explorer crew has had their share of difficulties with time travel, except for one. Now, Lt. Commander Nell Vansen must face time travel shenanigans of her own, again and again, as she is rocketed forward and backward through time. Will she be able to figure out how to stop the time…hiccup…or will she be forever doomed to travel “Back and Forth?”