God, I'm sick of saying this. CBS, Paramount, and Viacom own Star Trek. Alan Decker (That's me if you don't know by now) owns the rest.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 1995

 STAR TRAKS V:

In The Way-Station

by Alan Decker


ACT ONE:


The Discovery


Chapter One


“Captain’s Log. Stardate 50216.4. The Secondprize is finally getting back to the business of exploring strange, new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations. We’re back to boldly going where no one has gone before. It’s about time, too. I’ve had enough of responding to distress calls, carrying supplies, and transporting admirals and ambassadors. I want to be on the frontier facing the unknown…as long as the unknown isn’t better armed than we are. Maybe we’ll find a nice planet of happy, sexually uninhibited people to spend some time with. That would be great. Explorers need to relax a bit.

Speaking of relaxation. Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Rebecca Singer, has been relieved of duty to go take a nice, LONG vacation at the Federation Funny Farm on Tantalus V. It was a difficult decision, but, after she almost drowned Nurse Kelley in tears during the delivery of Ensign Krieger’s baby, I had to remove her from duty. We are currently operating without a Chief Medical Officer, but Starfleet Command assures me that they’ll get us a new one as soon as they can. In the meantime, we are on course to the edge of charted space. Then we’ll be on our own. No starbases nearby. No Starfleet Command to contact for advice. No starship to race to our rescue… What the hell are we doing?! We could be killed!”


Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins stared woefully into the glass of tranya sitting on the bar in front of her. Absently, she stirred the orange liquid with her fingers.

“If the drink’s that depressing, I can get you something else,” a voice said from behind the glass. Hawkins looked up at Trinian, the hostess of Seven Backward.

“I’m sorry, Trinian,” Hawkins replied. “The tranya’s great…really.”

“I didn’t know you could drink through your fingers.”

Hawkins laughed weakly. “Don’t you have any other customers to tend to besides me?”

“Sure, I do. I’m taking care of my other customers by dealing with you. Your mood’s bringing down the whole place, so spill it!” Trinian demanded.

“It’s just…well…he’s so damn aggravating!” Hawkins shouted these last few words. Seven Backward fell completely silent. Every eye was upon her.

“Thanks, Patricia. You do wonders for the atmosphere in here,” Trinian whispered.

“Go back to what you were doing! NOW!” Hawkins ordered. The lounge’s patrons quickly shifted back to their tables. The wrath of the Secondprize’s Chief of Security was something no one wanted to incur.

“I take it that you are referring to Commander Dillon,” Trinian said. She really didn’t even need to ask. Hawkins and Dillon had become almost friends over the course of the last couple of months, much to the surprise of most…well actually all of the crew of the Secondprize. Hawkins was the last person people expected to befriend an officious, obnoxious, overbearing, egotistical jerk like Commander Travis Michael Dillon.

“Of course, I’m talking about Travis!” Hawkins snapped. “He is, unfortunately, the only male in my life at the moment.”

“Wait, you two aren’t…” Trinian looked at Hawkins concerned.

“Aren’t what?”

“You know…doing stuff.” Last Trinian knew, Dillon and Hawkins were just friends. If Patricia had taken things farther…uggh, it was too horrible to contemplate.

“God, no!” Hawkins exclaimed. “He’s driving me insane enough just being a friend. Any more would push me over the edge.”

“What’s the problem?”

“Well, believe it or not, deep inside Travis’ dipshit exterior is a halfway decent guy. You just have to be very patient and lucky to catch a glimpse of it.”

“I don’t think I have that kind of patience,” Trinian said.

“Neither do I, and that’s the problem. I made the mistake of actually liking the nice guy I caught a just few glimpses of. Because of that, I’ve been getting to know Travis better and spending time with him. If I could get him to…” Suddenly, the doors of Seven Backward whooshed open, and Lieutenant Emily Sullivan stormed angrily into the lounge. She threw herself onto a stool at the other end of the bar.

“Hold that thought,” Trinian said to Hawkins. The hostess walked over to Sullivan. “Can I get you anything?”

“A very large phaser rifle would be a start,” Sullivan mumbled.

“Wanna talk about it?” Trinian asked.

“An ion storm is disrupting subspace communications, dammit!” Sullivan shouted.

“I’m not trying to sound insensitive, but so what?”

“I can’t talk to Brad.”

“Who?” Trinian said frustrated.

“He’s this guy I met on SDS.”

“What’s an SDS?”

“The subspace dating service. He runs a mining operation out on…” The doors opened again revealing Commander Scott Baird. He charged toward the bar, saw Sullivan, stopped, and headed for a table over by the viewport. He sat down and slammed his fists against the table. It was the only time Trinian had seen transparent aluminum break.

“We’ll talk later,” Trinian said heading off toward the Secondprize’s chief engineer.

“But what about Brad?” Sullivan wailed.

“He’s probably got six eyes and a massive overbite,” Trinian snapped irritated. One person complaining about their problems was annoying enough, but she was already up to three today. Patience and compassion were starting to run thin.

“WHAT?!?” Sullivan said.

“Nothing,” Trinian said, regaining her composure. “Now hold on a minute.”

“What about me?” Hawkins called from across the bar.

“Take a number!” Trinian marched over to Baird’s table. “What the fuck’s your problem?” she shouted. Baird looked up at her. The look in his eyes could have frozen a star. “Speak, dammit!”

“I’m having a bad day, O.K.?” he said slowly.

“No way, mister. You stormed into my lounge, and now you’re going to talk to me,” Trinian sat planting herself in the chair across from him.

“The fucking warp core is…” The doors opened allowing Lieutenant Lisa Beck to enter. She walked straight to the viewport and began staring out of it blankly.

“Run a level one diagnostic and get over it,” Trinian said distractedly to Baird as she got up and headed toward Beck. Four unhappy people in ten minutes. This was getting REALLY annoying. She went and stood by Beck quietly.

“If I had wanted to talk, I would have gone to see Counselor Webber,” Beck said without looking at Trinian.

“I didn’t say a word,” Trinian replied. “I just came over here to get away from everyone else.”

“Right. Look, if you really want to know, I’m just not feeling a lot of…job satisfaction at the moment.”

“Join the club,” Trinian replied.

“What?”

“Never mind. Go on.”

“I’m underappreciated. No one cares about what I do.”

“The communications officer plays a vital role in starship operations.”

“Maybe seventy years ago, but not now,” Beck said. “Most starships don’t even have them anymore. My career’s in a rut, and I being wasted here.”

“There are worse jobs.”

“Like?”

“Being bartender here,” Trinian said. Beck smiled weakly.

“Thanks, Trinian. I feel a little better at least.” Beck turned at walked to the doors. This made Trinian even more annoyed. Beck actually thought Trinian was trying to cheer her up. Damn her.

“TRINIAN!!!” Hawkins and Sullivan whined in unison. That was the last straw.

“Oh, go get something resembling lives, you two!” Trinian shouted as she walked back behind the bar. Just then, the doors opened and Captain Alexander Rydell entered the lounge whistling to himself. Hawkins and Sullivan took the opportunity to retreat from Seven Backward.

“Good afternoon, Trinian,” Rydell said, flashing her a broad smile.

“What are you so damn happy about?” she snapped, turning on him. “Of course, it’s not like you have any worries. You’ve got it so easy sitting up on the bridge in your cozy padded chair while I’m on my feet down here having to listen to these dips complain. Well, I’ve had it!”

“Is there a problem?”

“Yeah, you and everyone else on this damn ship!”

“If I came at a bad time…”

“Shut up!”

“Look, I…” Rydell stammered.

“You, you, you! Who cares?”

“Can I just have…”

“Get it yourself!” Trinian said. She pulled her hat off and slammed it down on Rydell’s head until the brim was somewhere around his nose. He heard loud footsteps and then the sound of the doors opening. A second later, the doors opened again.

“I do not think that the hat is quite you, sir,” Lieutenant Commander Jaroch’s voice said from behind him.

“Shut up and get me to sickbay. I think this thing has molecularly bonded to my eyebrows.”


Chapter Two


“Captain’s Log. Stardate 50218.6. I have returned to duty after my short stay in sickbay. It would have been a lot shorter if they hadn’t given me that unrequested appendectomy. I cannot wait until we get a new chief medical officer to get those butchers under control.

Otherwise, ship’s operations are running smoothly, and there’s nothing interesting to report. Two days exploring the unknown, and we haven’t found a damn thing. I just hope that this doesn’t continue. The crew has a tendency to do strange things when they’re bored.”


The tension on the bridge could have been sliced with a phaser. The bridge crew manned their stations with a heightened sense of anticipation while Captain Alex Rydell and Commander Travis Dillon paced back and forth across the bridge floor listening to Lieutenant Commander Jaroch.

“Seven, six…”

“Almost there,” Dillon said, stating the obvious. Rydell shot a quick, angry look at him. “Sorry.”

“Two, One.”

“Ten quadrillion kilometers!!!” everyone shouted.

“We have been out here way too long,” Jaroch said turning away from the odometer on his science console.

“What do you mean?” Dillon asked. “Going this far is a major milestone for any starship. I’m glad that I was here to witness it. This will be something that I’ll remember until the day that I die.”

“I do not doubt it,” Jaroch replied. “I am sure that you must fill the space in your head with something.”

“What was that, Lieutenant Commander?” Dillon demanded. “That remark was a severe breech of chain-of-command etiquette and protocol. A reprimand will be showing up on your record, believe it.”

“Oh, stow it, Dillon,” Captain Rydell said. “Jaroch’s right.”

“That my head’s empty!” Dillon shouted.

“No…well, yeah, O.K. there’s that, but I mean he’s right about us being out here too long. It’s been almost a week since we left Federation territory and we haven’t seen a damn thing except uninhabited solar systems.”

“Some of those systems will be perfect for new colonies, though,” Dillon said.

“Yeah, but we’re supposed to be encountering the unknown out here. We haven’t run into one alien yet!” Rydell said.

“Captain, I am detecting subspace waves,” Jaroch reported.

“You had to say something,” Dillon mumbled.

“Are they naturally occurring?” Rydell asked, rushing up to Jaroch’s console.

“I do not believe so, sir, but they are not of any type that I am familiar with.”

“Could they be a message?” Dillon asked.

“They are not of any type that I am familiar with,” Jaroch repeated with an edge of anger in his voice.

“I’m working on it,” Lieutenant Lisa Beck said from the communications console.

“I am quite capable of handling this myself, Lieutenant,” Jaroch said, his irritation growing further.

“But if it’s a message, I’m the one with the best chance of translating it,” Beck retorted.

“Do and DIE, mortal!” a deep rumbling voice bellowed from Jaroch’s body. Rydell dove toward Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins. If J’Ter was out, the safest place to be was behind the Secondprize’s chief of security.

“That is my job,” Beck said, refusing to back down. Jaroch/J’Ter stood up from his console and walked over to Beck.

“You will be destroyed.”

“Will you two grow up and stop bickering?” Dillon said.

“SHUT UP!!!” Jaroch/J’Ter and Beck shouted.

“Gotcha,” Dillon said weakly.

“Now, are you going to let me to my job, psycho-boy, or do I start knocking off a few of your past lives?” Beck said calmly. Jaroch’s eyes glazed over for a second.

“I seem to have lost control there for a moment,” Jaroch said, looking around confused. “I apologize.”

“Thank you,” Beck said. She turned back to her console and got to work.

“You can get up now, sir,” Lieutenant Hawkins said, pocketing her phaser.

“Thanks,” Rydell said embarrassed as he picked himself up off the bridge carpet. “You have the bridge, Number One.” Rydell walked toward his ready room.

“I don’t want it,” Dillon said nervously.

“Too bad, you’ve got it anyway. Let me know when you find out something,” Rydell replied as he left the bridge. Dillon glanced at Beck and Jaroch. They smiled back evilly.

“Mommy,” Dillon squeaked.


“Jaroch to Captain.” The voice of the Secondprize’s science officer pulled Captain Rydell out of the book he was reading.

“Rydell here,” he replied.

“I have located the source of the subspace waves.”

“I’ll be right there. Rydell out.” He switched off his desk computer and left the ready room. The bridge looked pretty much the same as it had when he left half an hour earlier except Jaroch was looking very pleased with himself and Commander Dillon was curled up in the command chair babbling incoherently. Rydell ignored his first officer and joined Jaroch back at the science console. “What have you got?”

“Well, sir, the waves are being emitted from the fifth planet in the J-39 system. At warp five, we can be there in four hours,” Jaroch reported.

“Sullivan, lay in a course and engage,” Rydell ordered.

“Sir?” Ensign Kristen Larkin said. “Lieutenant Sullivan can only lay in the course. I have to engage it, sir.”

“I don’t care who does it,” Rydell said. “Just get us there.” Sullivan and Larkin went to work at their respective consoles, while Rydell wished for the ten-thousandth time that he had a modern starship with a conn station like everyone else. Pushing the thought out of his mind, he turned to Lieutenant Beck.

“Report, Beck.”

“I haven’t got much yet,” Beck said, clearly frustrated.

“You should have let me do it,” Jaroch said. Beck glared at Jaroch furiously. Lieutenant Hawkins reached into her pocket and held her phaser out to Beck.

“That’s enough,” Rydell said before Beck had a chance to vaporize Jaroch. “Let me hear what you do have.” Beck pressed a button on her console and a loud whine started screaming out of the speakers on the bridge.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRNNNNNNNNNNNNNN the YYYYYYNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN a EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”

“That’s all you’ve got?” Rydell asked.

“I’m afraid so, sir,” Beck replied.

“Well, keep working on it.”


“We’re entering orbit around the fifth planet,” Ensign Larkin said.

“Good. How’s it look, Jaroch?” Rydell said.

“Class M…barely. The surface is arid. There is a group of small structures near the planet’s equator. The waves are coming from one of these buildings.”

“Life signs?” Dillon asked.

“None that I can detect,” Jaroch replied.

“That’s strange,” Rydell said. “Everybody left, and they forgot to turn things off?”

“Ha!” Lieutenant Beck shouted suddenly. “I’ve got the translation.”

“Let’s hear it,” Rydell said.

“Welcome, visitors. You may follow this signal to the landing coordinates. Have a nice day.”

“That’s it?” Dillon said when the computer had finished speaking.

“It?!?” Beck shouted. “That took me five hours.”

“Good work, Lieutenant,” Rydell said, diffusing the situation. He stopped for a minute to think. “Well, I guess were just going to have to send a team down. Dillon, take Jaroch and Lieutenant Russell down and…”

“Sir, request permission to accompany the away team,” Beck said. “If they find any written examples of this culture’s language, I have the best chance of translating it.”

“Granted,” Rydell said. Dillon, Beck, and Jaroch left their positions and got into the turbolift.

“So,” Dillon said friendlily as the turbolift descended. “You two are going to be nice to each other on this mission aren’t you?” He sincerely hoped that Hawkins’ advice for dealing with crewmembers was going to work.

“Oh, I’m sure that we’ll be fine,” Beck said with a forced smile.

“I have no doubt,” Jaroch replied. “We are professionals and know when to let our colleagues with more experience and ability take over. Right, Lieutenant?”

“I’m not the one that you need to tell that to,” Beck replied.

“Are you insinuating that you have more experience than me?”

“I’m telling you.”

“Really, Miss I-Need-Five-Hours-To-Translate-Hello,” Jaroch retorted.

“That’s it, Commander Nut-Boy!”

“Help me!” Dillon screamed.


Chapter Three


Dillon, Jaroch, Beck, and Lieutenant Sean Russell materialized on a sandswept cliff overlooking a vast wasteland of dirt. At the edge of the cliff on a pedestal sat a tablet with some kind of writing on it.

“See what you can make of that thing, Beck,” Dillon ordered. Beck smiled victoriously at Jaroch and walked over to get to work.

“Yes,” Jaroch said. “Contact us when you have a translation. I am sure that it will only take you a year or so.”

“Let’s check out these buildings before someone gets hurt,” Dillon said quickly. He grabbed Jaroch by the arm and pulled him off toward the large, metal structures behind them.

“Fun place, huh?” Russell remarked.

“Yeah, a real barrel of laughs,” Beck replied, not looking up from her tricorder. “The one time I get off the ship, and where do I end up, a damn dustball accompanied by a nit-wit and a know-it-all.”

“You’ve still got me,” Russell said with a smile.

“True,” Beck relented.

“Great. How about we have dinner tonight in celebration of having found each other in this desolate hell-hole?”

“Sean!” She should have seen it coming. They could have been stranded on a planet about to be engulfed by a super-nova, and he still would have asked her out. It was just his nature. About a quarter of the female crewmembers on the Secondprize could vouch for that.

“What?” he exclaimed. “I was just asking.”

“Why don’t you go help the others?” Beck said irritated.

“All right, I’m going.” Russell trudged off feeling dejected until he remembered that ensign in Astrophysics he’d been meaning to ask out. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.


“What is this place?” Dillon asked as he and Jaroch entered the largest of the structures. The room they had entered was cavernous. The ceiling was dominated by a giant starchart showing various planets marked with the same unintelligible writing that was on the tablet outside. Jaroch quickly recorded the chart in his tricorder for later study. Dillon walked over to a long counter on the far side of the room. As he approached it, a panel in the counter’s surface opened up, and a small round object levitated out of it. The object was all metallic silver except for a black band around its center. It made some obnoxious, incoherent noises at Dillon, then the black band opened revealing a small arm which reached out toward Dillon.

“What have you found, sir?” Jaroch asked walking over.

“I was about to ask you the same question,” Dillon said. The robot repeated its earlier noises and moved the arm a bit.

“The universal translator should have something for us in a second,” Jaroch said. “That is assuming that Lieutenant Beck’s translation was accurate.” He said ‘lieutenant’ with obvious contempt.

“You don’t like her much, do you?” Dillon said.

“I do not like what she stands for,” Jaroch replied. “People who I outrank that believe they can outperform me.”

“Yeah, I hate that, too,” Dillon said. “All of those stupid underlings who have no respect for rank and regulations. If Captain Rydell enforced regulations we wouldn’t…” As Dillon droned on, Jaroch rethought his views on the matter. He couldn’t believe that he would actually have the same view as Dillon on something. Coming out of the first officer’s mouth, it sounded like a horrible, pretentious thing to believe.

“Thank you, Commander,” Jaroch said, interrupting Dillon. “You have made me see the error of my ways.”

“Error?” Dillon said confused. “But, I agree with…”

“Not now, sir, the translation is coming through,” Jaroch snapped.

“Welcome to Edgeworld. May I see your reservation?” the electronic monotone voice from the tricorder said.

“Reservation? This is some kind of hotel?” Dillon said.

“I believe so, sir,” Jaroch replied.

“Welcome to the edge of the universe, gentlemen,” Beck’s voice said from behind them.

“Explain, Lieutenant,” Dillon said turning toward her.

“Well, according to that plaque out there, we are now standing at the edge of Multek space,” Beck said.

“Multek?” Jaroch asked.

“Would you please just give us the whole story?” Dillon demanded.

“All right,” Beck huffed. “This place is some kind of tourist attraction for these people called the Multeks. This is one corner of their space. They don’t believe there’s anything beyond here except an empty void.”

“They’ve got a surprise coming,” Dillon commented.

“What exactly does the plaque say?” Jaroch asked. Beck looked at her tricorder and started reading.

“This is the end of habitable space. Beyond this point lies the great void of emptiness. Multek society has filled all that there is to fill. Rejoice in our accomplishment while enjoying this vast view of the void.”

“You have got to be kidding me?” Dillon said. “What kind of weirdos are these people? Filled all that there is to fill. Yeah, right!”

“Where’s Russell?” Beck asked, looking around.

“We thought that he was with you,” Jaroch said.

“I sent him to find you guys,” Beck replied.

“Great,” Dillon said. “You two contact the ship and tell them what we found out. I’ll go find Russell.” Dillon drew his phaser and walked cautiously out of the building.

“There is no one here to attack him,” Jaroch said, shaking his head in disgust.

“We can always hope,” Beck replied. Jaroch almost smiled.

“Lieutenant, I… want to apologize for any comments I may have made that…”

“Me too,” Beck said quickly. The last thing she wanted from Jaroch was a sappy show of emotion. Getting attacked by J’Ter would be better. “Let’s just call it off.”

“Agreed,” Jaroch said.


“Russell?” Dillon called into another one of the buildings. He’d checked two other already and hadn’t found a thing except more babbling robots.

“In here, sir,” Russell’s voice shouted back from far inside the building. Dillon entered, his phaser ready. He found Russell in a small room near the back of the building. He was laying on his stomach on a long metal table while a robot that looked like some kind of giant spider crawled over his back. “This thing is great!” Russell exclaimed.

“What is it?” Dillon asked fearfully.

“It’s a massager! I’ve got to take this back to the ship with me. Can you imagine the dates I’d get with this little beauty sitting in my quarters?”

“I don’t think I want to,” Dillon replied, backing out of the room.


“A tourist attraction?” Captain Rydell said in disbelief.

“That’s right, sir,” Lieutenant Beck’s voice replied. “It’s kind of like Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. Except instead of being able to see seven other states you can see…”

“Vast emptiness,” Rydell finished.

“That is correct, sir,” Lieutenant Commander Jaroch’s voice said.

“Good work, you two,” Rydell said. “See what else you can find. Secondprize out.”

“Sir, there’s a ship approaching our position from inside Multek space,” Lieutenant Craig Porter reported from the science station.

“On screen,” Rydell said, getting out of the command chair. The starfield image shifted to include a small but growing ship. It was approximately the length of the Secondprize, but it was shaped more like a sideways obelisk with vast wings extending from either side.

“It doesn’t match anything in Federation records,” Porter continued. “Our scans are having a hard time penetrating the ship.”

“Weapons?” Rydell asked.

“Nothing standard,” Hawkins reported. “They’re either unarmed or using something we’ve never seen before.”

“I’m not going to bet on the former,” Rydell said. “But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. Hail them, Hawkins.”

“But that’s not my job,” Hawkins said. “I have to watch the tactical board and…”

“Never mind!” Rydell snapped. Yeoman Tina Jones picked that exact moment to exit a turbolift. “Jones, take communications.”

“But I just need you to sign these…”

“Now, Jones,” Rydell said forcefully. Jones shrugged and walked back to the communications console behind and to the left of Rydell. “Hail the Multek ship.” Jones looked at the console confused. She tentatively hit a couple of buttons and hoped for the best. Suddenly, the image of a humanoid creature appeared on the screen. It had midnight blue hair, pale white skin, and red eyes. Rydell straightened his uniform and stepped forward.

“This is Captain Alexander Rydell of the Federation Starship Secondprize. We are a peaceful organization of planets dedicated to the exploration of the cosmos.”

“AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” the alien screamed in horror. The communication was suddenly shut off.

“There’s some type of power surge building on their ship!” Hawkins shouted.

“Shields up!” Rydell said. A burst of blue energy lanced out from the Multek ship and slammed into the shields.

“Shields are down to sixty percent!” Hawkins said.

“Well, so much for that approach,” Rydell remarked.

“They’re moving away, sir,” Hawkins reported. “May I return fire?” Rydell could see that her finger was hovering over the phaser controls.

“No, Lieutenant. Lower shields and beam up the away team.”

“Vaughn to bridge,” the voice of Lieutenant Monica Vaughn, the Secondprize’s transporter chief, said suddenly.

“What is it, Lieutenant?” Rydell asked.

“I’ve lost the away team’s signal,” Vaughn said. “Something just snatched them off the planet’s surface!”

“Gee, I wonder who,” Rydell said softly as he watched the retreating ship growing smaller and smaller on the viewscreen.


Chapter Four


“Follow them, Larkin,” Captain Rydell ordered. “But keep a friendly distance. We don’t want the Multeks to do anything rash.”

“You mean like shoot at us and kidnap our people without any provocation,” Lieutenant Hawkins said.

“OK. We don’t want them to do anything ELSE rash. Is that better?” Rydell asked.

“Sorry, sir. I was just…”

“We’ll get them back, Lieutenant. Trust me,” Rydell said flashing her a confidant smile. “I want a briefing on the whole situation. I want sensor logs, transporter logs, the whole bit. The senior officers will meet in the observation lounge in ten minutes.”

“Uh…sir,” Porter ventured. “Why are we going in there? It’d be easier just to do it out here.”

“Look, Porter,” Rydell snapped. “We’ve barely been in that room the entire time I’ve been captain. Now, this time we’re going to use it, dammit. Is that clear?”

“Got it,” Porter said turning back to the science console.


“I’d really love to know what just happened,” Commander Dillon said as he stared at the steel-blue wall that just appeared in front of him.

“We’ve been moved!” Russell exclaimed.

“Please let me handle this part,” Jaroch said irritated. “Your observation, however astute, does not help us.” Jaroch began scanning their new surroundings with his tricorder. They were in a ten foot by ten foot metal room. One of the walls was open revealing a hallway. The border of this wall was glowing with a greenish light.

“This place looks uncomfortably like a brig,” Beck said. She tried to move her hand out into the hallway. A green barrier flashed into existence blocking her hand with a large blast of energy. “Yep, it is,” she gasped, holding her pained hand.

“My scans are being blocked somehow,” Jaroch reported. “I’m detecting life-forms, but I cannot discern their numbers or location.”

“That’s it,” Russell said, drawing his phaser. “I’m getting us out of here.”

“No!” Beck, Dillon, and Jaroch shouted, but it was too late. Russell fired at the invisible barrier, which deflected his phaser beam right back at him. He dove to the floor just in time to avoid having his head fried off. Unfortunately, he was too slow to save some of his hair. A three inch wide section of his black hair had been scorched off right down the middle of his scalp.

“You could try something sane before you pull out the phasers,” Dillon said. He tapped his commbadge. “Dillon to Secondprize.” An ear-piercing wail blasted through his badge. Dillon quickly hit the badge again to close the channel. “Well, I’m open to suggestions.”

“Yeah, me too,” Russell said.

“Get a clue,” Beck said.

“What?” Russell said.

“Just a suggestion.”

“The odds of escaping our confinement are very low,” Jaroch said. “Astronomically low. Impossibly low. We just cannot escape.”

“That bad, huh?” Dillon said. Jaroch just looked at him. “Oh.”

“Radical thought here, guys, but why don’t we try contacting whoever grabbed us?” Beck said.

“That would be the intelligent thing to do,” Jaroch said.

“Yes, why didn’t I think of that?” Dillon said.

“I think I just explained that, sir,” Jaroch said.

“I’m going to try to send a message out with the tricorder’s data transmission circuits,” Beck said as she recalibrated her tricorder. “Hopefully, our captors will be able to receive and understand it. If we’re real lucky, the Secondprize will get it and come save us.”

“When have we ever been that lucky?” Jaroch asked.


“All right, Lieutenant Porter,” Rydell said as he sat down in the plush chair at the head of the table in the observation lounge. “What have we got?” As he sat, a huge cloud of dust rose up from the chair engulfing the captain.

“You weren’t kidding that this room doesn’t get used much,” Porter said.

“No,” Rydell said with a cough. Porter, Hawkins, Vaughn, and Jones sat down carefully to avoid similar dust eruptions. Commander Scott Baird remained standing.

“Look,” Baird said before Porter could answer the captain. “This isn’t an engineering problem, so I don’t need to be here, right?”

“Scott, you’re a senior officer, so you have to sit through these briefings just like the rest of us,” Rydell replied.

“Yeah?! Well, I don’t see Dillon or Jaroch here!”

“They’ve kind of been kidnapped,” Rydell said, trying to remain calm. “That’s why we’re having this meeting in the first place. Now sit down!”

“Well, excuse the fuck out of me,” Baird said as he took his seat.

“Go ahead, Porter,” Rydell said.

“The Multek ship is constructed from an alloy that I do not recognize. We can’t get exact life-form readings, but I am estimating that there are at least four hundred persons aboard the vessel. The ship is using basic impulse engines. I cannot detect the materials generally associated with warp travel, but they may either be blocked from our scans, or they may have a totally different system.”

“So you haven’t found out a thing,” Rydell said.

“No.”

“What about the away team?” Hawkins asked.

“The may be over there, but I can’t locate them,” Porter replied. “For all we know they could be dead by now. The Multeks could have cut them open for experiments or just vaporized them straight off.” Hawkins’ fists tightened in anger.

“Thanks for the positive outlook there, Porter,” Rydell said. “Let’s go on the assumption that they’re still alive, O.K.? Lieutenant Hawkins, your report.” She glared at Porter one last time, then turned to the captain.

“The beam they hit us with was some type of subspace distortion ray,” Hawkins reported. “Our shield harmonics were such that most of the ray’s effect was deflected and the remainder was absorbed. The down side is that if they adjust the ray’s frequency so that more is absorbed, our shields will take more of a beating than they did this last time. If they can take out forty percent of our shields with only a fifth of their ray’s full power, a full power shot may destroy us.”

“Even more good news,” Rydell remarked. “Vaughn, what about their transporters?”

“I scanned the surface for transporter signatures, but the only ones I detected were ours. Whatever the away team was picked up with, it’s nothing like anything we have in our technology,” the transporter chief said.

“Perfect,” Rydell said. “How about you, Jones?”

“Well…I don’t really know anything about communications, so I really couldn’t tell you anything new,” Jones said. “On the bright side, the computer has perfected its Multek translation matrix, so we’ll have instantaneous communications through the universal translator.”

“That’s good at least,” Rydell said. “Well, it seems that we’re just going to have to muddle through on our own or hope that the away team manages to save itself.”

“Brilliant!” Baird said. “Can we leave now?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Rydell said. The briefing room cleared in a cloud of dust leaving the captain alone, lost in thought.


Chapter Five


Lieutenant Beck was the first to hear the humming noise outside of their cell. She glanced over at the other members of the away team. Dillon and Russell had fallen asleep, and Jaroch was staring at his tricorder and mumbling to himself. Beck picked herself up off the metal floor and tried to look out beyond the force field for the source of the hum. The corridor was empty. There were two more cells along the wall and a door at the far end of it, but there were no signs of life. The humming stopped, and the door at the far end of the hall slid open quietly. A deathly white humanoid with deep blue hair and eerie red eyes stepped into the corridor and approached their cell.

“Somebody’s coming,” Beck whispered urgently. “He’s got to be one of the Multeks.” Jaroch quickly stood up and kicked Dillon and Russell to awaken them. Commander Dillon cleared his throat, ran a hand through his hair, and straightened his uniform to prepare for their visitor.

“Try to keep him talking,” Jaroch said. “The longer he is down here, the better chance I’ll have of calibrating the tricorder to get through the force field and get a good scan of him.” The Multek stopped in front of their cell and stared in at them.”

“I am Commander Travis Michael Dillon of the Federation Starship Secondprize,” Dillon said, stepping toward their visitor. “This kidnapping is an extreme violation of Federation law and our right as individuals. Now I demand that you release us from this cell and return us to the Secondprize or the next available Federation-aligned ship in the vicinity.”

“You are not of the enclave,” the alien said. He seemed like he knew it to be true, but was just accepting it for the first time.

“Uh…no we aren’t,” Dillon said confused.

“But we’ll gladly join if you’ll let us out,” Russell added hopefully.

“But there are none outside of the enclave,” the Multek said. He seemed to be having some kind of debate within himself.

“Actually, there are many outside of the enclave,” Beck said kindly. She almost felt sorry for this Multek, and he was the one holding them prisoner. He seemed so lost and confused. “We represent an organization of many other races throughout the galaxy.”

“No! There are none, but the Multeks!!!” the Multek shouted. “You cannot and do not exist.”

“Then how do you explain us?” Dillon asked.

“You are a hallucination.”

“So, you’re using up power to keep some hallucinations in the brig,” Dillon said.

“I must declare myself unfit for duty,” the Multek said, shaking his head. “I have lost my sense of reality.”

“You’re telling us,” Russell said.

“I must go now, my imaginary prisoners.” The Multek turned and trudged sadly back down the corridor.

“Were you able to get a reading, Jaroch?” Beck asked.

“Most definitely,” Jaroch replied. “Since I knew what I was trying to scan, I was able to adjust the tricorder’s scanning frequencies until I negated the effects of the force field.”

“What did you scan for?” Beck asked. “They’re completely alien to us.”

“The movement of his mouth when he spoke,” Jaroch replied smugly.

“Great,” Dillon said, thoroughly disinterested on how it was done. “What did you find out?”

“Well, the entire ship is surrounded by some kind of dampening field which prevents scans from penetrating the ship,” Jaroch reported. “The force field in this cell has the same effect, but it also jams all normal communications traffic and deflects phaser fire.” Russell involuntarily felt the new bald streak on the top of his head.

“Well, that explains why they didn’t take any of our stuff. But the important question is can we get out of here?” Beck asked.

“I believe so,” Jaroch replied. “If we set the phasers to the frequency which I used to scan outside of the field, they should be enough to hyper-energize the field. This will cause the field generators to overload and, most likely, shut down.”

“What do you mean most likely?” Dillon demanded.

“There is also a chance that the overload will cause them to explode, killing us all instantly.”

“Lovely,” Beck muttered.

“Is that our only option?” Russell asked.

“No,” Jaroch said. “We could also just sit and wait until we rot until unrecognizable hunks of flesh and bone.”

“Oh,” Dillon said. “In that case, what frequency do we set the phasers to?

“I had a feeling that you would see it my way,” Jaroch said.


“Report, Kroll,” the captain of the Multek ship barked as Kroll entered the bridge after returning from the brig.

“The imaginary ones are still there, Captain Wuddle,” Kroll said.

“You mean that you think you saw imaginary beings in the brig,” the ship’s science officer said. Kroll fell silent as he tried to work things out.

“Yes…I thought that I imagined having a hallucination of beings who don’t exist in our brig, and I also didn’t really have a conversation with them because they aren’t really there and couldn’t have made me hear what I thought I imagined that I heard …I think.”

Suddenly, alarms blared across the bridge. The Multek science officer rushed back to his console to see what was happening.

“Captain! The ship is imagining that the unreal ones that we think we might be hallucinating as existing in our brig just pretended to overload the brig force field. I am now imagining that the illusionary aliens are entering the transport shaft!”

“Where are they pretending to go?” Captain Wuddle demanded.

“The ship thinks that the imaginary ones are headed toward the craft in the landing bay.”

“They have to go through the passenger area to get there! There’ll be chaos! Quick, Kroll, go stop them…or pretend to stop them…whatever!”

“But, Captain,” Kroll said. “I have seen the imaginary ones. I must be suffering from hallucinations and am, therefore, unfit for duty.”

“I don’t care. Go stop the imaginary ones from going near the passengers!”

Kroll turned and rushed back into the transport shaft. He wondered if his blaster would have any effect on imaginary beings. Sometimes, being the ship’s security officer just wasn’t a great job.

“Send a message back to Multos informing them of our situation,” Captain Wuddle ordered after Kroll had left. He was just the captain of a passenger liner. Imaginary beings were the military’s problem, not his.


“How much farther, Jaroch?” Commander Dillon asked as they exited the Multek version of a turbolift and began walking down a long hallway.

“The shuttlebay is at the end of this corridor,” Jaroch replied, looking at his tricorder.

“What about these doors?” Russell asked referring to the long rows of red doors lining either side of the steel grey hallway.

“They appear to be quarters,” Jaroch said. “Each is occupied by at least one Multek.”

“In other words, let’s move fast and quietly,” Dillon said, darting ahead at a brisk jog.

“Die, imaginary ones!” Kroll shouted suddenly as he dove out of a transport shaft in front of the away team. He was pointing some type of weapon at them.

“Well, so much for doing this quietly,” Beck remarked.

“What do you mean, die?” Dillon asked. “If we’re not real, you can’t kill us.” Kroll stopped to think, allowing his weapon to drop a bit.

“Oh yeah, well…how about disappear imaginary ones?” Kroll asked.

“How about not?” Russell said. He dove forward, catching Kroll in the stomach with his bald spot. They fell to the deck, wrestling for control of Kroll’s weapon. Suddenly, a door opened to their right. Russell and Kroll looked over and saw a Multek child with his mother.

“What’s that, Mommy?” the child asked pointing at Russell and Kroll.

“It’s not polite to point at things that don’t exist,” the mother replied and herded her child back inside their quarters. Kroll took advantage of the distraction to pull away from Russell. He put his weapon against Russell’s head and slowly stood up.

“Ha! I have you now, illusionary alien type being!” He was immediately struck by three phaser beams as Dillon, Jaroch, and Beck fired.

“Grab him,” Dillon ordered. “Hopefully, the Multeks will be a little less willing to blast us out of space if we’ve got one of their own people with us.”

“Sir, I doubt that kidnapping one of their people is going to help us win the Multeks’ friendship,” Jaroch said.

“Why?” Beck asked. “We don’t exist to them, remember. This Multek will just be going on a little trip with four of his imaginary friends.”

“You are just saying that to disagree with me,” Jaroch said annoyed.

“Maybe,” Beck replied with a grin. They walked off down the hall while Russell, struggling under the weight of Kroll, tried to keep up.


“I think that I have an idea, Captain,” Lieutenant Porter said from the science station. “It’s a bit of a longshot, though.”

“Anything would be useful right now,” Captain Rydell replied as he got out of the command chair and headed back to Porter’s station. “What have you got?”

“The dampening field blocking the Multek ship from our scans must be set to a particular frequency.”

“Just like our shields are.”

“Exactly. Now if we could find the frequency of the Multeks’ field, we could overload it with the phasers,” Porter said.

“So how do we find the frequency?”

“I’m not sure, sir, but if we did it would definitely get their attention.”

“Yes, but what do we do when they start firing back at us?” Lieutenant Hawkins said from her position at the tactical console.

“That may not be a problem,” Captain Rydell replied. Hawkins could see a familiar glint in his eye. He had an idea. “Just get me that frequency, Porter.” He walked back down to the command chair and looked out at the Multek ship in front of them.


Chapter Six


Dillon, Jaroch, Beck, and Russell looked at the Multek shuttlepod in shock.

“Please tell me this isn’t happening,” Dillon said.

“I wish that it wasn’t, sir,” Beck said. She walked around the small pod one more time. “How many of us do you think it can fit?”

“Two. Three if someone is really wedged in,” Jaroch replied.

“I can’t believe that a ship this big only has one shuttle,” Dillon said.

“Well, unless you feel like going out and looking for another one, I suggest that you believe it,” Jaroch said.

“Jaroch, you and Beck go back to the ship with this Multek,” Dillon ordered gesturing at Kroll’s unconscious body. “Russell and I will take care of things over here.”

“We will?” Russell asked in alarm.

“Sir, I think I have an idea,” Beck said. “I’d like to stay here.”

“Fine with me. Jaroch, you just make sure that you get the force field frequency back to the Secondprize.”

“Aye, sir,” Jaroch said. He and Russell shoved Kroll into the small shuttle pod, then pushed their way in beside him. A minute later, the shuttle lifted off and exited the landing bay into space.

“Well, Lieutenant, I hope this plan of yours is a real good one because there’s about four hundred of them and two of us,” Dillon said.”

“Actually, I thought that we’d just go take over the bridge,” Beck replied. Dillon laughed weakly.

“No, seriously, what’s your plan?”

“That’s it.”

“Oh god.”


“Captain, there’s a small craft leaving the Multek ship,” Hawkins reported.

“How many people on board?” Rydell asked.

“I’m reading a Yynsian, a human, and one unknown,” Porter said.

“Can we get a tractor beam on them?”

“Not yet, sir,” Hawkins said.

“Ensign Larkin, bring us into range,” Rydell ordered the helm officer. “Hawkins, keep an eye on the Multeks’ power levels. I want some warning if they’re going to fire”

“The shuttle is moving erratically,” Hawkins said.

“Are they damaged?” Rydell asked.

“Not that I can tell, sir.”

“There must some type of struggle going on over there,” Rydell said. “Increase speed, Ensign.”


“Russell, move your arm!”

“That’s not my arm.”

“Then move his arm. I am trying to fly over here.”

“I’m sorry, sir, there’s just no room.”

“It is wedged under my gluteus maximus.”

“You’re what.”

“My ass, you fool! Now move it!”

“Yes, sir. I’ll try.”


“Captain Wuddle, the imaginary ship is moving closer to us. Shall I fire?” the helm officer said.

“Fire at what? There’s nothing out there,” the science officer said.

“But we fired earlier,” the helm officer insisted.

“That was a rash mistake,” Captain Wuddle said. “It’s not good for us to give into our hallucinations. We’ll leave the imaginary ship alone.” Suddenly, the transport shaft doors opened, and Dillon and Beck walked out onto the Multek bridge.

“Don’t mind us,” Dillon said waving at the bridge crew.

“Just pretend we’re not here,” Beck added with a laugh.

“Captain, the imaginary ones have entered the bridge,” the science officer reported.

“I can see that… I mean, I am hallucinating that as well,” the captain replied.

“Should we take action?”

“Against who? There’s no one here,” Captain Wuddle said. Dillon walked in front of him and stuck his tongue out at him.

“Naah naah, you can’t get me,” Dillon taunted.

“For instance, no one is sticking their tongue out at me,” the captain said, anger growing in his voice.

“Get to work, sir,” Beck said.

“Right,” Dillon replied. He moved over to the front of the helm console, right in front of the exasperated helm officer. Dillon waved at him a bit then punched a couple of buttons. The helm officer quickly moved to rectify what Dillon had done.

“Captain, I’m imagining that someone is messing with my console,” the helm officer said.

“Ignore it,” the captain said, his voice quivering. “Just remember, there’s no one here.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Captain!” the science officer suddenly shouted. “The imaginary vessel has captured the escaped shuttle with an illusionary tractor beam.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Dillon said. “It’s nothing.”

“Have you found the field controls yet?” Beck asked.

“No.”

“The imaginary ones are after our shields,” the science officer said alarmed.

“I heard,” Captain Wuddle said. “Get them!”

“But, sir, you said they don’t exist,” the helm officer said.

“I’m making an exception this time.”

“Uh, Beck…I think we may have a problem,” Dillon said, backing up to the rear of the bridge. The Multeks each leveled a nasty-looking ray gun at Dillon and Beck.

“I think you’re right,” Beck said, backing up next to him. They were soon pinned against the wall with three angry Multeks ready to shoot them whether they were imaginary or not.


Jaroch ran onto the bridge at full speed. He shoved Porter out of his chair at the science station and sat down to work.

“Welcome back, Jaroch,” Rydell said. Jaroch just grunted and worked at a furious pace. “May I ask what you’re doing?”

“Not right now. I’ll tell you in a second.”


“Look, we’re not real,” Beck said. “You’ve already said that we have to be hallucinations. Why don’t you just let us go on our imaginary way? I mean, it’s not like you can hurt us.” She laughed weakly.

“That may be so, but we’ll let the military find that out. For now, I just want to prove to myself that I’m hallucinating all of this,” Captain Wuddle said.

“How are you going to do that?” Dillon asked.

“By destroying your imaginary ship out there.”


“Captain, there’s another power surge building on the Multek ship!” Hawkins shouted.

“Evasive maneuvers!” Rydell ordered. Larkin steered the Secondprize out of the path of the Multeks’ weapon just before it fired. “Jaroch, if you’ve got some miracle planned, I’d really like to know about it.”

“They’re moving to pursue!” Hawkins said.

“Keep us out of the way of their gun,” Rydell said.

“Aye, sir,” Larkin replied.


“We missed!” the Multek helm officer said. He had gone back to his station to destroy the Secondprize while the captain and science officer covered Dillon and Beck.

“Impossible!” Captain Wuddle exclaimed.

“They’re moving away.”

“Go after them!” Wuddle shouted, turning to look at the helm officer. Beck took that opportunity to leap forward at Wuddle. The science officer just stared at her in shock until Dillon’s fist collided with the side of his face. The helm officer drew his weapon and fired blindly toward the back of the bridge while he tried to steer the ship with his other hand.


On the Secondprize’s viewscreen, the Multek ship started to wobble strangely. Rydell normally would have contacted them to see if they needed any assistance, but the subspace disturbances being fired at the Secondprize were deterring him.

“There!” Jaroch said. “Lieutenant Hawkins, the phasers have been recalibrated to the frequency of the Multeks’ force field. You may fire when ready.”

“It would have been a hell of a lot quicker if you’d just told me the frequency,” Hawkins said.

“Yes, but it would not have been nearly as dramatic,” Jaroch replied.

“All right!” Rydell said, happy to finally be able to take the offensive. “Larkin, go to three quarters impulse and head back for Edgeworld.”


Captain Wuddle and the science officer had recovered enough to fight back against Dillon and Beck’s attack, allowing the helm officer to return his full attention to flying the ship.

“Captain, the imaginary ship is increasing speed. Shall I pursue?” the helm officer asked as the Secondprize started to zoom away.

“Of course, you fool!” Captain Wuddle shouted. Beck kicked him in the stomach just as he finished the last word causing him to double over in pain. She shot her foot toward his head, but just before it hit, his armed lashed out and grabbed her leg. He threw her off balance, then tackled her to the deck. Dillon had pushed the science officer back against a console when the Multek suddenly grabbed a cup off of the console and flung its hot contents in Dillon’s face. He screamed and fell backwards, clutching his burned nose and cheeks. The science officer rushed Dillon as soon as he hit the ground. Dillon kicked his legs out, catching him in the stomach. The science officer fell back against the console, gasping for breath. Noticing his dropped blaster on the floor, he dove forward and grabbed it. Keeping it carefully trained on Dillon, he stood back up.

“Freeze or your friend dies!” the science officer told Beck. Beck stopped in mid-punch and looked at the science officer. He definitely looked serious. In a way, this was a good thing. She could get rid of Dillon. But then what? They’d probably just kill her too. She lowered her fists and allowed herself to be herded against the back wall with Dillon.

“I’m getting a distinct feeling of deja vu,” Dillon said.

“No kidding,” Beck replied.


“We are coming up on Edgeworld now, sir,” Larkin reported.

“The Multeks are right behind us,” Hawkins said. As if to punctuate the point, the Multek ship fired another distortion. This one grazed the top of the shields and shook the entire ship.

“That’s enough of that,” Rydell said. “Ensign, go to full impulse and make a tight orbit of Edgeworld bringing us up underneath the Multek ship. Hawkins, be ready with those phasers.”

The Secondprize shot forward and looped around Edgeworld before the Multek ship had a chance to even react.

“Fire!” Rydell shouted as the bottom of the Multek ship grew on the viewscreen. The Secondprize let loose a full barrage of phaser fire, then flew past the Multek ship. The Multeks’ force field flickered with the energy being pumped into it by the phasers. Then, it flashed brightly and disappeared. “Bridge to transporter room.”

“Vaughn here.”

“Get the away team out of there!” Hawkins shouted before Rydell could even give the order.

“I was going to say that, you know,” Rydell said.

“Sorry, sir,” Hawkins said.

“Beam back the away team and send our Multek visitor home,” Rydell said.

“Aye, sir. Energizing,” Vaughn’ voice said.


Dillon and Beck materialized on the transporter pad and immediately slumped to the deck in relief.

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Dillon said.

“Yeah, one more second, and we would have been little burn marks on the floor,” Beck added.

“Glad I could help,” Vaughn said.

“Rydell to Dillon,” the captain’s voice said, breaking into their conversation.

“Dillon here.”

“Are you and Beck alright, Number One?”

“Yes, sir, but I recommend that we get the hell out of here. That was evidently some kind of passenger liner, and they’ve called in the Multek military.”

“Understood. Rydell out.”

Dillon and Beck picked themselves up off of the floor and trudged out of the transporter room. The main thing that both of them wanted right then was a nap.


Chapter Seven


“Captain’s Log. Stardate 50220.4. After informing Starfleet Command about our experience with the Multeks, the Secondprize has been ordered to return to Starbase 219 for a complete debriefing. Oh well, so much for our deep space exploration. I would like to commend Commander Dillon, Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, Lieutenant Russell, and Lieutenant Beck for their handling of the Multek situation. Lieutenant Beck deserves special commendation. Not only did she decipher the Multek language, but she also played an instrumental role in saving the away team.”


Lieutenant Beck, Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, and Captain Rydell sat at a table in Seven Backward enjoying a few drinks and discussing the events of the last couple of days.

“That really was exemplary work, Lieutenant,” Captain Rydell said. “Starfleet is going to have to reward you in some way.”

“Yeah yeah,” Jaroch said unenthusiastically.

“Do I detect a hint of bitterness?” Beck said smiling.

“I sincerely hope so,” Jaroch replied.

“Now, Jaroch, jealousy is so unbecoming,” Rydell said.

“So is a broken nose,” Jaroch said.

“What do you mean, Mr. Temper-tantrum?” Rydell asked mockingly. Jaroch’s arm lanced out, grabbed Rydell’s head, and slammed his face into the table.

“I’ve really got to stop coming in here,” Rydell mumbled. “It’s just not safe.”

At a table on the other side of the lounge, Commander Dillon and Lieutenant Hawkins were having dinner. Dillon had been watching the crew’s worshipping of Beck with disgust.

“She didn’t do that much,” Dillon said.

“Can’t you just let her enjoy some glory?” Hawkins said. “Is your ego that fragile?”

“Well…”

“You’re the first officer of this ship, and she’s just the communications officer. She doesn’t get many opportunities like this.”

“I know. I’m sorry, Patricia. She did really help get us out of that mess,” Dillon said. “But it’s not like she did it alone.”

“We all know that,” Hawkins said. “You, Jaroch, and Sean did your jobs. She went beyond hers, though.”

“You’re right. She did.” Dillon fell silent and stared out the window. “But I risked my life over there, too,” he said finally. “And no one cared.”

“I did.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, if you got killed, who would I go fight with in the holodeck?” she replied. He looked at her to see if she was serious.

“Thanks,” Dillon said finally. “It’s nice to know I was missed.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Hawkins said smiling.


INTERMISSION:


The Directive


Chapter Eight


As soon as the Secondprize arrived at Starbase 219, Captain Rydell was informed that Admiral Thomas Wagner was waiting at the starbase to debrief the crew.

Less than an hour after their arrival, the Secondprize senior officers as well as those involved in the Multek incident had assembled in the now dusted and cleaned Secondprize observation lounge to meet with Wagner.

“I just can’t get away from this ship,” Wagner said as he walked into the room.

“Common problem,” Lieutenant Beck muttered under her breath.

“Now then, it would seem that you all have put the proverbial foot into it again,” Wagner continued. “This Multek bunch don’t appear to be a very nice group.”

“Our initial contact would suggest that they are not open to the usual diplomatic overtures,” Dillon said.

“Very astute observation, Commander,” Wagner said. “How long did you spend rehearsing it?”

Dillon opened his mouth to reply, but quickly shut it again and looked down at the table.

“Admiral,” Captain Rydell said. “I realize that our first contact wasn’t very successful, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope for relations. Lieutenant Beck has worked out a translation program that’s almost perfect. On top of that, the time that she, Dillon, Jaroch, and Russell spent on the Multek ship has given us valuable insight into their mindset, their culture, and their weapons.”

“Yes, you discovered that they’re close-minded, xenophobic, and trigger-happy. None of which are exactly good signs,” Wagner replied.

“But we can’t just run away and avoid them,” Beck said.

“I can assure you that Starfleet has no intention of running, Lieutenant,” Wagner said. “In fact, we are going to establish a Federation presence in that sector as soon as possible.”

“What kind of presence?” Rydell asked.

“A space station,” Wagner said. “It will be a waystation for ships heading out into the unexplored areas and will also defend the area from any Multek aggression.”

“How are you going to get a station there in any kind of time?” Rydell asked. “These things take years.”

“Not this time, Captain. We expect to have Waystation operational within the next fourteen days.”

“Fourteen days! You’ve got to be kidding!” Rydell said. “You can’t even get personnel transferred here that quickly.”

“The personnel is already here,” Wagner said. “I’m pulling most of it from your crew.” Rydell clenched his fists and resisted the urge not to slam Wagner into the nearest bulkhead.

“My crew,” Rydell seethed. “We’re short-handed as it is. We don’t even have a Chief Medical Officer yet.”

“Not to worry. Your new one is on the way, and we are only taking a few of your current crew.”

“Who?” Rydell asked angrily.

“Well, I want Lieutenant Sean Russell for head of station security. Lieutenant Craig Porter for operations and science officer. Yeoman Tina Jones for liaison officer. Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales for the first officer. And…”

“Who’s going to be in command?” Dillon asked anxiously. This could be it: his big break.

“Someone who has served this crew well time and time again, especially during the Multek crisis: Lieutenant… make that Commander Lisa Beck.”

“What?!?” Dillon, Jaroch, and Beck shouted in unison.

“Her!” Jaroch exclaimed.

“What about me?” Dillon shouted.

“Yeah, what about him?” Beck said. “Let him charge suicidally into a dangerous sector.”

“Commander Beck, Waystation is your new post. You have no choice,” Wagner said. “You will report to temporary quarters on the starbase immediately, so that you may supervise the construction of the station.”

“What about us?” Lieutenant Porter asked.

“You, Lieutenant Russell, Lieutenant Commander Morales, and Yeoman Jones are to take a runabout to Bracktia Prime to pick up your station’s chief medical officer, Dr. Amelia Nelson.”

“Wait a minute,” Rydell said. “They get a doctor before we do. We’re about to head out again. We need a CMO.”

“You won’t be going anywhere for the next two weeks,” Wagner said. “It’s about time the Secondprize had a refit herself. You and Commander Baird will stay here to supervise that.”

“What do you mean stay here?” Dillon asked. “You make it sound like the rest of us are going somewhere.”

“The engineering crew will stay to help with the refit,” Wagner replied. “Most of the rest of the crew will be granted leave.”

“That’s fine with me,” Dillon said, leaning back in his chair smiling.

“You aren’t included in that group, Commander Dillon,” Wagner said. “I have a mission for you, Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, and Lieutenant Hawkins.”

“Admiral, don’t you have anyone else to send around other than my crew?” Rydell said. The irritation in his voice was apparent.

“At the moment, no,” Wagner replied. “You all are in luck.”

“Great,” Hawkins said sarcastically.

“What is our mission?” Jaroch asked.

“Well, my sister Debbie was contracted by Starfleet to create a kind of memorial to great Starfleet leaders. She’s finished the project, but no one from Starfleet has had time to go to check the place out and bring back a report. Jaroch, I want you to check on the scientific stability of the place. Hawkins, you check out the security safeguards. And Dillon, you find out whether the kids will like it. That should be right on your level.”

“What kind of place is this?” Hawkins asked.

“We aren’t sure,” Wagner said. “Debbie’s being real secretive about this one. She says it’s going to be great though. I just want to be sure. Standard procedure states that I need to send a team to check out any Starfleet installation. You guys are it. You leave in the morning. Dismissed.”

“Admiral Wagner…” Rydell began.

“Dismissed. There’s nothing to discuss.” The crew filed out of the conference room except for Rydell and Wagner.

“Tom, what the hell is going on?” Rydell asked.

“I’m sorry, Alex. This is what Starfleet Command wants. I am obliged to deliver their orders,” Wagner said. “I apologize for snapping at you a second ago, but there was no point in debating this in front of your crew. There’s nothing to debate.”

“But, you’re breaking up my crew. I’ve been serving with these people for the last three years. I would have liked some notice.”

“You’re getting Dillon, Jaroch, and Hawkins back. As for the others, I think it’s time that they moved on in their careers. The Secondprize is fine, but there’s really no place for them to go here.”

“Well, I can’t fault Command for their choices. Beck will make a great commander.”

“We think so, too,” Wagner said.

“Come on. Let’s go down to Seven Backward. After all this, I could use a drink,” Rydell said with a weak smile.

“Sounds good, Captain. You’re buying.” Wagner replied as the two men walked out of the conference room.


ACT II:


THE DIVISION


Chapter Nine


Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales noticed the flashing message icon on his viewscreen the moment he walked into his quarters. He’d just finished his shift in the shuttlebay, where he was the chief of all shuttlebay operations on board the Secondprize. His job was to be invisible. If anyone noticed him, it was usually because something was wrong with a shuttle or something had not gotten done. Neither of those things happened very much, which suited Morales just fine. He didn’t like getting involved with the command structure if he could avoid it. Managing shuttlebays was all the responsibility he ever wanted.

Morales had quite happily risen through the ranks without anyone trying to force him into any real command positions. He was now one of only eight lieutenant commander’s on the ship, which put him somewhere in the top ten of ranks on the whole ship. If something were ever to happen to Rydell, Dillon, Jaroch, and all of the other lieutenant commanders, he’d be in command of the ship. It wasn’t something he worried about too much, though. Things like that just didn’t happen. He was safe tucked away in his shuttlebay. Flying shuttles was all he’d wanted to do when he joined Starfleet anyway. There was something about being in a vehicle that small travelling through space that made him feel closer to the whole experience.

Morales stared at the blinking message icon for a moment trying to figure out who would have left it. Anyone on the ship would have just contacted him on his commbadge, and his parents weren’t scheduled to comm him for another week. That was unless something had happened. Morales ran over to his desk console and activate the message playback system. The face of a young man in a Starfleet uniform filled the screen.

“Lieutenant Commander Morales, my name is Lieutenant James Terris. I am the refit supervisor for Starbase 219. By order of Starfleet Command, I have the honor of informing you that you have been transferred to the new Starfleet Waystation to be established near Multek space, where you will assume the post of first officer. Congratulations. Your first assignment is to retrieve your station’s chief medical officer from Bracktia Prime. You are to leave by runabout tomorrow morning at 0600 hours. The rest of your team will meet you in the Secondprize’s main shuttlebay. Starfleet out.” Lieutenant Terris’ face was replaced by the blue and white seal of the Federation.

Morales fell back into his desk chair. This was so much worse than he could have possibly imagined. First officer. He was going to be a first officer. So much from hiding from command.


“Leave immediately,” Commander Dillon grumbled as he and Lieutenant Hawkins entered Shuttlebay Two carrying his travel case. “Admiral Wagner could have at least let us wait until tomorrow morning.”

“Really. I can’t see how going to look at some damn amusement park is that vital,” Hawkins said.

“I see that we all agree on the relative importance of this mission,” Lieutenant Commander Jaroch said from by the shuttlecraft they were to depart in. “I protest being used for such menial tasks.”

“Sorry, Jaroch,” Hawkins said. “You can’t save the universe every day.”

“I know, but there is a serious situation developing with the Multek Enclave. I should be analyzing their technology, not testing kiddie rides.”

“Hey, we don’t even know what’s at this place yet,” Dillon said. “There might not be any kiddie rides at all.”

“If you’re trying to help, Travis, stop it,” Hawkins said.

“Gotcha,” Dillon said. The shuttlebay doors opened, and Ensign Andrea Carr walked in.

“What are you doing here?” Jaroch asked.

“I’m your pilot,” Carr replied. “Is everyone ready to go?”

“Go?” Hawkins said. “We haven’t been told where we’re supposed to be going to.”

“I have,” Carr replied.

“Well… where are we going?” Jaroch asked.

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you, sir,” Carr said.

“We outrank you, Ensign,” Dillon said angrily.

“And Admiral Wagner outranks all of you. He ordered me not to tell you where we are going. He wants you to be totally objective about his sister’s project,” Carr said.

“What’s that got to do with knowing where we’re going?” Hawkins asked.

“The admiral felt that the planet’s name might color your opinion.”

“What? That’s insane,” Dillon said.

“Orders are orders. Now, please get in the shuttle. We have a long flight ahead of us,” Carr said. She pushed past the three officers and entered the shuttle to start her pre-flight check.

“I’m liking this trip less and less all the time,” Hawkins said.

“Tell me about it,” Dillon and Jaroch said in unison.


Commander Lisa Beck was busy packing up her belongings when she heard her door chime.

“Come in,” she said as she put her Idorian gas sculpture carefully into a box. The door whooshed open.

“Am I disturbing you?” Captain Rydell asked. Beck finished packing the sculpture and turned to her former captain.

“Not at all, sir,” Beck said. “What can I do for you?” Rydell walked over to her replicator.

“Two cherry icees,” he ordered. The two drinks appeared in a bluish flurry of molecules. Rydell picked up the drinks and handed one to Beck. “I came by to wish you luck, Lieutenant…excuse me, Commander.”

“Thank you, sir,” Beck replied after taking a sip of her icee. “It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet.”

“It won’t until you’re standing in the station operations center with an entire crew around you waiting for your commands,” Rydell said. “It’s a strange experience, but very…rewarding.”

“You sound a bit hesitant about that.”

“Well, the Secondprize is my first command, and it hasn’t exactly been all that I expected. This crew is nothing like anything I heard about at the Academy,” Rydell said.

“I think the word you’re looking for is eclectic,” Beck replied smiling.

“Whatever the word, they’re still my crew, and I hate to lose any of them. Especially someone like you, Beck. You’ve been a real asset to this ship. We’re going to miss you.”

“Thank you, Captain. I’ve really enjoyed serving under you. I’m going to miss you, too. I can’t say that about everyone on board.”

“Well, I hope your new command gives you what you’ve been looking for.”

“What do you mean?” Beck asked.

“I heard about your dissatisfaction with your position,” Rydell replied. “I can’t say that I blame you. You needed something like this to happen. I’m very happy for you.”

“That means a lot, sir.”

“Well then, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, how about some dinner?” Rydell asked attempting to lighten the mood. “It seems that we’re going to be stuck on the starbase for the next two weeks anyway. We might as well make the most of it.”

“Sounds good, sir.”

“Great. I’ll meet you in the starbase lounge in two hours,” Rydell said. “I can give you some command tips.”

“I’ll take any advice you can give me. See you then, sir,” Beck said. Rydell walked out of the quarters leaving Beck alone. She took a look around the rooms that had been her home for the last three years and felt some regret pulling at her. Was she actually going to miss this place? The weirdness, the idiocy, the craziness. The Secondprize was…unique to say the least.


“Commander,” Jaroch mumbled from the rear of the shuttlecraft.

“What?” Dillon said.

“Commander.”

“What?”

“Commander.”

“What?!”

“Commander.”

“WHAT!?!” Dillon screamed.

“I was not talking to you,” Jaroch said.

“You’ve been saying commander over and over for the last couple of minutes,” Dillon said. “Who were you talking to if you weren’t talking to me?”

“No one. I was just thinking about Lieutenant Beck’s promotion.”

“Annoying, isn’t it?” Dillon said. “I can’t believe that Starfleet would look over me for that position.”

“There were other choices as well,” Jaroch said.

“Who?”

“Me!” Jaroch shouted.

“Oh yeah,” Dillon said. “Sorry. Well, I guess we both got shafted.”

“If this an attempt to establish a friendly camaraderie with me, please stop. It is making me angry.”

“Oh.” Dillon stood up and moved to the front row of seats in the shuttle next to Lieutenant Hawkins. “Jaroch seems a bit on edge.”

“Really, why?”

“He’s jealous that Beck got promoted instead of him.”

“I AM NOT JEALOUS!” Jaroch screamed.

“See what I mean,” Dillon said. Dillon’s unconscious body his the floor a second later after experiencing a forceful collision between it and Jaroch’s foot.

“And you actually like him?” Jaroch said to Hawkins.

“He’s not all bad,” she replied as she tried to pull Dillon back up into a seat.

“That may be; however, I hope that you and Commander Dillon are not pursuing a relationship at any level higher than platonic friendship,” Jaroch said.

“We’re just friends,” Hawkins said. “But what if we were more? What would be the big deal?”

“Well, aside from making me violently ill, it would be potentially dangerous for you.”

“What?”

“You have thus far only dealt with the commander in small doses,” Jaroch replied. “A romantic entanglement would require that you spend much more time together, which could lead to you killing him.”

“What Travis and I do is our business. If I want to be friends with him or date him, it’s for me to say.”

“But, Lieutenant…”

“But nothing!” Hawkins shouted. “I can sleep with him if I want to! Got it!”

“Is there something going on back there I should know about?” Ensign Carr asked from the cockpit.

“NO!” Hawkins shouted. “Just fly the damn ship!”

“Excuse me for asking!” Carr shouted back angrily.

“I take it that this is not open for discussion,” Jaroch said.

“No. Go back to wallowing in self-pity over Lisa getting promoted over you,” Hawkins said.

“Thank you for reminding me. I just wanted to prevent you from going where Commander Baird and Lieutenant Sullivan have gone before.” Jaroch said.

“What are you talking about?”

“I believe that my meaning is clear enough,” Jaroch said.

“What happened?” Dillon asked groggily as he rubbed the back of his head.

“Turbulence,” Jaroch said.

“Is everyone alright?”

“Just peachy,” Jaroch said. “I will be returning to my meditations now, Commander. You can continue being sickening with Lieutenant Hawkins.”

“How long have I been out of it?” Dillon asked confused.

“About thirty years,” Jaroch said. “And you will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.”

“I get the distinct feeling that I was better off unconscious,” Dillon said.

“And so were we,” Jaroch snapped.

“Speak for yourself,” Hawkins said. She grabbed Dillon and kissed him.

“I am going to be sick,” Jaroch said as he ran to the bathroom at the back of the shuttle.

“Patricia,” Dillon said. “What was…?”

“Nothing. Never mind. Just sit there and rest your head,” Hawkins said.

Dillon’s mind was starting to overload. Events had lost all coherence from the moment he’d regained consciousness, and he wasn’t happy about it. On top of that, his head was killing him. Hawkins moved up to the cockpit with Carr without saying another word to him, and Jaroch was in the bathroom suffering from some mysterious illness.

What the hell was going on? This mission was just getting worse and worse by the second. Except for the kiss, of course. That was nice and unexpected. Did Hawkins mean that or was it done for Jaroch’s benefit? Was she trying to make Jaroch jealous? Had she been seeing him without Dillon knowing it? If she had, it was certainly within her rights, since she and Dillon were just friends, but he had hoped that maybe one day she’d like him. So much for that. Patricia and Jaroch. The thought of it was making Dillon’s head hurt even more. He stretched out across the seats and tried to go to sleep. Patricia and Jaroch. This was not the way he had pictured things going. He drifted off to sleep with images of a wedding filling his head, a wedding where Patricia married Jaroch while Dillon could only stand by and watch.


Chapter Ten


Admiral Thomas Wagner spotted his quarry the moment he walked into the starbase lounge. Captain Rydell and Commander Beck were sitting together over by the viewports. Perfect. He could get all of this out at once.

“Come on, Terris,” Wagner said to the lieutenant who had come in with him. They walked over to Rydell and Beck’s table.

“Oh boy,” Rydell muttered upon spotting Wagner and Terris heading toward them. “I bet this is more good news.”

“Good evening, Captain, Commander,” Wagner said smiling. “Mind if we join you?”

“Not at all,” Rydell said, trying to sound happy to see them.

“Good.” Wagner and Terris sat down, and Terris put a small holoprojector on the table. “Alex, Lisa, this is Lieutenant James Terris. He’s the refit supervisor on board this starbase. Brilliant mind and a top notch officer. Terris will be handling the construction of Waystation and the Secondprize refit.”

“I thought that Commander Baird was handling the Secondprize refit,” Rydell said.

“He’ll be reporting to me,” Terris replied.

“Oh, he’s going to love that,” Beck said.

“James, show them the designs,” Wagner said. Terris reached forward and activated the holoprojector. Instantly, the image of…something appeared in the space over the table. Beck wasn’t sure what it was, but she had the sinking feeling that it was going to be her command.

“This is Waystation,” Terris said. Waystation appeared to be nothing more than two saucer sections from a couple of old Enterprise class starships joined by a thin tube. There were four docking modules protruding from the sides of the top saucer, and a smaller tube rose up from where the top saucer’s bridge should have been. One top of that tube, was a slowly rotating room. “Due to the necessity of getting this station operational as quickly as possible, we have constructed it completely out of pre-existing materials.”

“You mean you threw some obsolete junk together,” Beck said. “The saucer sections alone have to be seventy years old.”

“Yes, but they’re still in tip top shape,” Terris said. “The upper saucer will be the docking saucer. Besides the docking modules, it will have cargo areas, supply depots, space for shops and recreational facilities, and the operations center.”

“Is that the rotating thing on top?” Beck asked afraid that she already knew the answer.

“Yes,” Terris replied. “We were most fortunate to find an old rotating restaurant that fit our space needs perfectly.”

“Oh God,” Rydell said putting his head down on the table.

“Continuing on down the station,” Terris said, irritation growing in his voice. “We have the connecting tube between the two saucers. This tube will be well shielded to prevent enemy fire from disconnecting the two saucers.”

“That’s comforting,” Beck said smiling weakly.

“The lower saucer will contain the quarters for the station’s crew and residents as well as visitors from other ships,” Terris said.

“You see, Commander, Starfleet wants Waystation to be the gateway to the unexplored sections of Beta Quadrant. With your docking facilities and supply depots, you will become a key stop for pioneers and exploratory vessels,” Wagner said.

“What about the Multeks?” Beck asked.

“You will be responsible for handling them as well,” Wagner said. “Waystation will be the staging center for a battalion of Federation Marines whose job it will be to protect colonies from Multek intrusion.”

“Marines? Not Starfleet?”

“No, Commander. The Federation Council felt that the Marines would be more suited to the ground-based operations that would be required if the Multeks invaded any colonies. But don’t worry about the Marines. They are under your command as long as they are on the station,” Wagner said.

“Great,” Beck said. “What if the Multeks come to us?”

“Waystation is equipped with four phaser rings, one around the top and bottom of each saucer, and has eight pairs of photon torpedo tubes. You will be sufficiently armed,” Terris said.

“See, Commander, you’re going to be in command of the most exciting post in the galaxy,” Wagner said smiling.

“Lucky me,” Beck replied. Suddenly, having her own command wasn’t sounding so good. She was going to be a sitting duck in unfamiliar space. If the Multeks decided to retaliate, it could be a really short assignment.

“What about the Secondprize?” Rydell asked. “You aren’t turning it into a restaurant or anything, are you?”

“No, Captain,” Terris said as he hit another switch on the holoprojector. The image of a starship’s bridge appeared, but it wasn’t Rydell’s bridge. It looked too new, too sleek, too nice. “This will be the Secondprize’s bridge after the refit. You will have the fleet standard conn and ops consoles rather than helm and navigation. Also your communications and tactical consoles will be combined into the standard one station. Normally, a bridge refit is a simple matter of removing one bridge and plugging in a new one. Unfortunately, in this case, the shipyards wired the ship for the old style consoles. We have to basically rewire the entire network between the bridge and the new subsystems.”

“And what do you need me for?” Rydell asked. “This is way out of my line.”

“You have to approve every change we make. I’ll be bringing you updates at the end of each day,” Terris said.

“Lucky me,” Rydell said. He was starting to get the distinct feeling that his was going to be the most boring two weeks of his life.


Across the lounge from Rydell and Beck, Lieutenant Craig Porter and Lieutenant Sean Russell were discussing the day’s turn of events.

“I don’t believe this,” Russell said running his hands through the patch of sythehair that was covering up his bald streak. “I’m going to be a security chief. No more risking my neck for stupid reasons. I can send other people to do it for me.”

“Good to see that you’re being such a humanitarian about this,” Porter commented.

“Self preservation is one of humanity’s most basic instincts, thank you,” Russell said. “Seriously though, I hope that I’m up to this. Chief of Security is a bit more important than being a plain, old security officer.”

“I’m sure you’ll do fine,” Porter said. “Besides, you can always be replaced.” Russell glared at him. “I was just kidding.”

“Sirs! Sirs!” a female voice started shouting from across the room. Porter and Russell looked and saw Yeoman Tina Jones heading toward them. She was smiling broadly and almost bouncing. “Did you hear the news? We’re being transferred!”

“We’re about four hours ahead of you,” Porter said.

“Oh,” Jones said, her buoyance deflated briefly. “Isn’t it exciting? Our own station, and I’m going to be the liaison officer.”

“Jones, what exactly is a liaison officer?” Russell asked.

“I have no idea,” she replied. “I’ve been wondering that since I first heard about the transfer.”

“Well, Admiral Wagner is right over there with Captain Rydell and Commander Beck. Why don’t you go ask him?” Porter said.

“I don’t think that would be such a good idea,” Jones replied. “I don’t want the first impression I make on my new commanding officer to be asking what the heck my job is.”

“I can see your point,” Russell said. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out soon enough.”

“I just hope that I won’t need to do anything liaison officerish on this mission tomorrow,” Jones said.

“We’ll cover for you,” Porter said. “But, I’m not real thrilled about this whole thing.”

“Why not?” Russell asked.

“Why are they sending four of us to pick up a doctor? And who the hell is this Walter Morales guy anyway? I’ve never heard of him even though he’s supposedly been on the Secondprize as long as we have.”

“I don’t know, and I don’t know,” Russell said. “We’ll just have to be prepared for anything, but I’m betting it will be a boring trip. Starfleet probably just overstaffed it, that’s all.”

“I’m not sure whether I hope you’re right or not,” Porter said.


“We’ll be landing shortly,” Ensign Carr reported. Lieutenant Hawkins looked up from the padd she’d been writing on and saw that they were approaching a large green planet.

“Where are we?” she asked.

“I can’t tell you that,” Carr said. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah yeah.” Hawkins got up and walked into the back. Jaroch was seated on the floor against the rear wall of the passenger compartment. “We’re there,” she said.

“Good,” Jaroch replied. “I was finished anyway.”

“What were you doing?”

“I was attempting to contact each one of my past lives in order to ascertain whether or not I committed some horrendous crime in any of them.”

“Why?”

“That is the only explanation I can come up with for being stuck with Commander Dillon in this life,” Jaroch said.

“Oh, get over it,” Hawkins said. She turned to Dillon who was still sleeping. “Travis,” she said softly. “Wake up.”

“No,” Dillon replied, still asleep. “Don’t go with Jaroch. I need…”

“TRAVIS!” Hawkins shouted. Dillon sprung up.

“What? Where am I? I’m up. What’s going on?” Dillon asked.

“We’ve arrived,” Hawkins said.

“What were you dreaming about?” Jaroch asked. “You mentioned my name, and the thought of being trapped in one of your dreams frightens me immensely.” Dillon looked back and forth between Jaroch and Hawkins.

“Nothing,” he said quietly. “It was just a dream.” They felt a slight thud as the shuttle touched down. Carr opened the shuttle hatch, allowing the occupants to step outside where they found themselves inside of a large landing bay. A couple of small spacecraft were parked next to their shuttle, but the bulk of the landing area was empty.

“Not a real popular place,” Hawkins said.

“It will be soon,” an unfamiliar female voice said from off to their left. They turned and saw and older woman, about fifty-five, walking towards them from a large set of double doors. She was tall and thin with long black hair. Her resemblance to Admiral Wagner was obvious. They had the same grey eyes and aquiline nose.

“Debbie Wagner, I presume,” Jaroch said.

“Yes, welcome to the Starfleet Memorial Gardens,” she replied.

“Ms. Wagner. I’m Commander Travis Michael Dillon from the starship Secondprize. This is Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins, and Ensign Andrea Carr. We’ve been ordered to inspect your facility for any scientific or security hazards.”

“Relax, Commander,” Wagner said. “You’re away from Starfleet for now. Enjoy it. You can call me Debbie. I just want you all to have a good time while you’re here. I’ve arranged for you to take a private tour tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you, Debbie,” Hawkins said, pushing past Dillon. “You’ll have to excuse Commander Dillon. He gets a little too enveloped in protocol sometimes.”

“Sometimes?” Jaroch said.

“I’ll show you all to your rooms. I would be honored if you would join me for dinner in an hour in our main dining room. Formal dress please, but no uniforms,” Debbie said.

“No uniforms!” Dillon said. “What’s that leave?”

“Try a tuxedo,” Debbie said. “The replicator in your room can scan you and make one to your liking.”

“I like my uniform,” Dillon muttered.

“It sounds great,” Hawkins said, elbowing Dillon.

“Good. Now, if you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to your rooms.”

“Debbie, what is this place exactly?” Jaroch asked.

“You’ll see tomorrow,” she replied. “For now, just relax, enjoy dinner, and have a good time. Can you boys handle that?”

“I can, but he can’t,” Dillon and Jaroch said in unison, pointing at each other.

“I don’t envy you two,” Debbie said to Hawkins and Carr.

“They’re really not so bad,” Hawkins said. “After about three years you become desensitized.”

“I don’t think I want to wait that long,” Debbie said.

“Good choice,” Hawkins said.


Chapter Eleven


Commander Travis Dillon stared at himself in the mirror in the room Debbie Wagner had assigned him then pulled at the black bowtie constricting his neck. This whole thing just seemed so wrong. He was a Starfleet officer. At formal occasions, he should wear the Starfleet dress uniform, not some stupid tuxedo. He felt that he looked like a refugee from one of those twentieth-century film musicals. The tuxedo just was not him. It didn’t have any flair to it. What he needed was…tails! And a cane! That would be the perfect touch this ridiculous outfit work. Debbie wanted formal, she’d get formal. He walked back over to the replicator.

“Computer, give me a tuxedo coat with tails matching the measurements of the one you gave me earlier,” he ordered. The replicator hummed and produced his new coat. “Now, I want a four foot long, black cane. Smooth. No decorations.”

“That object is not on file,” the replicator replied.

“What? It’s just a stupid stick! Give me a stick!” The replicator produced a nice twig. “Forget it.” Dillon put the coat with tails on and admired himself in the mirror. Much better. It made him seem taller, more impressive. A knock on the door interrupted his fashion show. “Come in. No wait. I’ll be right there.” He gave himself one last look, then walked over to the door and opened it.

Lieutenant Hawkins was there in a floor length, form-fitting, silver sequined gown. Dillon felt the breath rush out of his body.

“Tails,” she said surprised. “Very nice, Commander.”

“Thank you. Your attire selection was excellent as well, Lieutenant,” he replied, trying not to sound too taken aback by Hawkins’ appearance.

“Is that a compliment?” she said smiling. She had noticed Dillon’s eyes practically jump out of his head when he opened the door, so she knew the answer to this one. She just wanted to hear him say it.

“Yes, Patricia. You look great,” Dillon said.

“Fine. I guess I’ll allow you to escort me to dinner then,” she replied.

“I would be honored.” Dillon held out his arm like he’d seen in the old movies. Hawkins wrapped her arm around his, and they walked off down the corridor. Dillon was concentrating on his every movement. He was going to be suave and debonair. If this meant there was even a chance that she was interested in him and not Jaroch, he was going to be sure not to blow it. Sophistication and poise was the key.

Jaroch, Carr and Debbie Wagner were already in the dining room when Dillon and Hawkins arrived. A long table set for five dominated the room. Debbie Wagner was seated on one end, Jaroch was seated at her left elbow, and Ensign Carr was at her right. Hawkins detached herself from Dillon and sat down next to Jaroch. Dillon went around the table and sat next to Carr. Well, at least he was across from Patricia. He glanced around at the dining room. It was a simple room, grey walls with a few plants scattered around for decoration, but, like every other room he’d seen in the place, there were no windows.

“Since we’re all here, I guess we can start,” Debbie said. She picked up a small remote that was sitting by her right hand and pressed a button. There was the sound of a transporter, and dinner materialized on their plates. “I love doing that. It’s the first time I’ve been able to do it for guests. Now then, how are your rooms?”

“Very comfortable,” Hawkins said. Dillon shoved a big fork-full of pasta into his mouth.

“Agreed,” Jaroch said.

“Mine’s fine,” Carr said.

“Commander Dillon?” Debbie said. Dillon suddenly realized that he was supposed to answer that question. He put his fork down and tried to talk through the noodles in his mouth.

“Ibt’s grrt.”

“Ahh,” Debbie said. “Good.”

“Ms. Wagner, thank you for the hospitality and all, but you are not helping us complete our mission here,” Jaroch said. “What is this park?”

Having finally finished swallowing the pasta, Dillon reached for his fork and knocked it onto the floor. It hit the carpet without a sound.

“This park is the culmination of centuries of research,” Debbie said.

“That is a bit vague,” Jaroch said.

Dillon pushed his chair back as inconspicuously as possible and looked under the table. His fork had landed beside Hawkins’ foot. He scooted his chair back in quickly.

“I don’t want to spoil the surprise,” Debbie said. “But I can tell you that we are building upon the work of…” She launched into a technical spiel about a lot of scientists and theories Dillon had never heard of. He extended his leg and tried to get his fork with his foot. His leg accidently rubbed up against Hawkins’ leg. She looked at him and smiled. He felt her push her leg against his leg. He smiled back and tried again to get his fork. It should have been right under his foot, but it wasn’t. Dillon stole another look under the table. Hawkins must have kicked his fork when she pushed against his leg because it was now by Jaroch.

Dillon smiled at Hawkins again and gradually shifted his leg over toward Jaroch. It was a bit of a stretch. He was starting to feel himself slipping off of the chair, but he almost had the fork. His leg bumped against Jaroch’s as he put his foot down on the fork. Jaroch glared at him angrily. Dillon smiled weakly and started to pull the fork back toward him. He suddenly felt a sharp pain in his shin as Jaroch kicked it. Dillon’s foot involuntarily slipped backwards off the fork as he tried to keep himself from shouting in pain.

The fork was now over in front of Carr. Determined not to get kicked again, Dillon carefully maneuvered his leg toward the fork. Almost there. Almost…there. He had. He let out a sigh of relief and started pulling back toward himself. He felt his leg brush past a knee. Carr turned toward him angrily.

“Sorry,” he whispered. She picked up her fork and stabbed him in the side with it. Then, she shifted her feet, knocking the fork back between her and Jaroch. Dillon sighed and pushed his chair back a little bit. “Excuse me,” he said finally, “I dropped my fork.” He hadn’t wanted Hawkins to know, but now it just didn’t matter. He’d pick up his fork and not make any more mistakes for the rest of the night. One little blunder wouldn’t destroy everything…he hoped. He slid forward in his chair to get his fork. Suddenly, his butt slipped off the front of the chair, sending him falling to the floor. His tails got caught in the back of his chair somehow and refused to fall down with him. Dillon heard a loud rip and looked back fearing the worst. The tails were still in the chair, free of the jacket they had once been a part of. Dillon reached back to pull them off the chair, but they were firmly attached. He ended up pulling the chair forcefully into his skull. Rubbing his head where the chair had collided with it, Dillon decided to just get his fork and forget it.

Dillon crawled underneath the table and grabbed his wayward utensil. Suddenly, Jaroch and Carr started kicking him repeatedly in the sides. He quickly backed up toward his chair to get away from the unrelenting barrage of feet. One particularly solid hit from Jaroch sent him jerking upwards into the bottom of the table, which raised up sending everything on it sliding into Debbie’s lap. Dillon let the table fall again and threw himself back into his chair.

“Are you finished?” Debbie said angrily. Dillon could tell that she was on the edge of losing her temper. He wasn’t sure why until he noticed the devastation on the table and the new red stripes on Debbie’s white dress.

“Sorry,” he said as he leaned back into his chair. At least Hawkins wasn’t mad at him. He stretched his leg back out toward hers and rubbed against it again. She didn’t respond. She didn’t even look at him. Maybe she was mad at him. She was just sitting there, and her leg was as stiff as a board. Wait a second. Dillon looked back under the table. He’d been rubbing the table leg. Writing dinner off as a total loss, Dillon decided just to be quiet until he could get the hell back to his room and go to sleep.


Chapter Twelve


Lieutenant Commander Morales was in the main shuttlebay at 0530 the next morning to get a runabout ready for the mission to Bracktia Prime. He could have assigned one of the other shuttlebay workers to do it, but he was nervous as hell and needed something to occupy his mind. It wasn’t working, though. He’d already almost screwed up and realigned the warp core’s energy output to match the phaser harmonics. Luckily, he caught it before he blew up the entire shuttlebay.

Starfleet must be insane to be giving me command, he thought as he checked the runabout’s systems for the fourth time. He looked at the chronometer in the control panel. 0600 hours. They would be here in a second. His crew. His team. The lives that he was responsible for. Morales could not remember the last time that he this anxious not to do something.

The shuttlebay doors opened, and Morales heard the sound of voices. He walked to the runabout hatch and stepped out into the main shuttlebay.

“After sleeping on it,” Lieutenant Craig Porter was saying. “I’ve decided that this could be really bad.”

“What gives you that idea?” Lieutenant Sean Russell asked.

“We’re going into an unknown situation with an unknown commanding officer. That tends to make me nervous,” Porter replied.

“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” Yeoman Tina Jones said. Morales cleared his throat to get their attention.

“Hello, everyone. The runabout is all set,” he said.

“Thanks,” Russell said. “We’ll be ready in a minute. We’re waiting for someone.” That took Morales by surprise. As far as he knew, the team was going to be him and three others. They were all here. Who were they waiting for? Whoever it was, it didn’t matter. They were supposed to leave at 0600 hours. They were already a little behind schedule. It was time to be a commanding officer.

“I think leaving now would be good,” Morales said.

“Yeah? And who are you?” Porter asked.

“Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales.” Saying his full title like that was giving Morales confidence. “I’m your commanding officer. Now, let’s go.” Porter, Russell, and Jones stared at him.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” Jones said nervously. “We didn’t know…”

“It’s OK,” Morales said. “I just think that we need to leave now. Who were you waiting for?”

“You. We didn’t know who was in command of this mission,” Porter said.

“That would be me,” Morales said. “Shall we go?”

“Aye, sir,” Porter, Russell, and Jones said in unison. They walked past him into the runabout. Morales let out a big sigh of relief and headed in after them. He’d gotten through the first real command he’d ever had to give. Somehow it was never like this when he was running the shuttlebays. They worked more as a team. Morales was just the one who gave the reports to the captain. This was a whole new game.

Lieutenant Porter was seated at the runabout controls when Morales entered the cockpit. Russell was seated next to him checking the sensors and weapons systems. Jones had grabbed the chair behind Russell.

“We’re ready for departure, sir,” Porter reported. Morales sat down in the chair behind Porter uncomfortably. They were going to fly the runabout for him. Well, of course they were. He was in command. Subordinates take care of the routine stuff. All he had to do was give orders. Morales felt this sudden longing to be a subordinate again, to be the one flying the ship.

“Let’s go,” he said finally and without enthusiasm.

“This is Runabout Hudson. We’re heading out,” Porter said.

“Acknowledged, Hudson. You’re cleared for departure.” a voice said over the comm system. Morales recognized it. It was Lieutenant Kaplan, his second-in-command in the shuttlebay. He guessed she was probably in command of the shuttlebay now. Good for her. She deserved it. Morales felt a pang in his stomach. It wasn’t hunger; it was regret. He was going to miss those people. What had Starfleet done to him? This transfer was going to be hell.

The giant hanger doors leading into space opened in front of the runabout. Porter flew the runabout out of the shuttlebay and steered it around past the Secondprize. Off to their left, they could see the giant form of Starbase 219. The Secondprize would be entering the starbase’s hangar soon to start its refit. And somewhere inside that hanger sat the space station that they would all soon call home.

“How come I feel like I’m going to a funeral?” Jones said softly.

“You aren’t the only one,” Russell said.

“Porter, turn us around and give us a good pass by the ship,” Morales said.

“You got it,” Porter said. He steered the runabout back around until the Secondprize was directly in front of them. It may have only been an old Excelsior class ship, but it was still impressive. Morales thought that he could almost look into the windows of Seven Backward. He’d never understood why they called it that, since it was at the front of the ship.

Porter flew them over the saucer section and the bridge. They descended down to the secondary hull. The runabout’s navigation lights glinted off the white hull of the ship. Above them to their left and right sat the warp nacelles, Commander Baird’s babies. He’d never tell you that to your face though.

The runabout flew over the main shuttlebay finally, and then into the emptiness of space. The Secondprize wasn’t a very large ship in the cosmic scheme of things, but it had been their home for the last three years.

“I think I speak for all of us when I say that I’m really going to miss that ship,” Russell said. “There’s no other one like it, and no other people like her crew.”

“And I think the universe is better off that way,” Porter said. The four of them laughed.

“Agreed,” Morales said. “Get us to Bracktia Prime. Warp five.” Porter’s hands flew across the console. The runabout’s warp engines hummed and propelled the ship forward, making the stars appear to be nothing more than streaks of light.

“Answering warp five, sir,” Porter said. “We’ll arrive at Bracktia Prime in three hours twenty minutes.”

“I guess that gives us some time to get to know each other,” Morales said, trying to break the ice. “Who wants to go first?”

“Excuse me?” Russell said.

“Introduce yourself.”

“Well…my name’s Sean Russell. I’m your new security chief.”

“Anything else?” Morales asked.

“I’m a lieutenant.”

“Um…OK…thank you. Next.”

“My name’s Tina Jones. And I’m really happy to be here and not on Odala Two. That’s where I grew up. It was really, really boring, so I left on a freighter and enlisted in Starfleet as soon as I got a chance. I’ve always wanted to see the galaxy and meet all kinds of strange beings…as long as they didn’t try to hurt me or anything. But so far, I haven’t met any real violent ones, but that…”

“Thank you, Yeoman,” Morales said, cutting her off. “How about you, Lieutenant?” he said to Porter.

“My name’s Craig Porter. My hobbies include skiing and solving the secrets of the universe. I keep my weight at…”

“OK. OK. I get the point,” Morales said. “How much time did we use?”

“About two minutes,” Porter said. “Three hours eighteen minutes to go.”

“With your permission, sir, I’m going to go to the back and read or something,” Russell said.

“Good idea,” Jones said. “Do you need us for anything else?”

“No. Dismissed,” Morales said. Russell and Jones retreated to the rear passenger compartment. Morales moved up to the seat beside Porter. “If you want someone else to fly for a while, let me know.”

“Aye, sir,” Porter replied. The two men sat in silence for a moment. Morales stared out the window at the stars streaking by. “If you don’t mind me asking, sir, is this your first time commanding an away mission?”

“This is my first time commanding any mission,” Morales replied. “Is it that obvious?”

“Just relax. I’m sure you’ll get used to it.”

“I hope so. I’m just glad that this is a simple pick-up trip instead of something sticky and complicated,” Morales said.

“I wish that you hadn’t said that.”

“Why?”

“Whenever commanding officers say something like that, the universe laughs,” Porter replied.

“Great. Just the confidence builder I needed.”

“Sorry, but it’s the truth.”

“Well, lie to me next time,” Morales said.

“Is that an order?”

“No. Let’s just get through this. Maybe nothing will happen.”

“Yeah, right,” Porter said.


Commander Lisa Beck pressed the door chime outside of Lieutenant James Terris’ office just after 0830. Admiral Wagner had finished his pep talk with Rydell and Beck the night before by ordering them both to meet with Terris and Commander Baird in Terris’ office early the next morning. She was not looking forward to the sheer number of meetings this whole process seemed like it was going to take.

“You may enter,” Terris’ voice said from inside. The doors parted for Beck, allowing her to see the inside of the office. Actually the office held no interest for her. The windows, however, did. Terris’ office looked out into the vast hanger facility inside Starbase 219. The Secondprize had been moved inside and now occupied a docking slip on the other side of the hanger from the office. At a slip almost right outside of the window, surrounded in scaffolding, sat Waystation. The two Enterprise class saucer sections had been connected into one seamless whole. Two workbee shuttlepods were maneuvering a large docking arm into position on the side of the upper saucer. On top of the entire structure, a small room slowly rotated. The night before, Beck hadn’t liked the idea of the operations center being an old rotating restaurant, but upon actually seeing it, it kind of worked. The station had a certain grace to it.

“Impressive, isn’t it,” Terris said, breaking into her thoughts.

“I’d have to say yes,” Beck replied.

“Have a seat. Captain Rydell and Commander Baird should be here any second.” Suddenly, the doors slid open, and Commander Baird rushed in. The chief engineer lunged across Terris’ desk, grabbed the lieutenant by the front of his uniform, and started shaking him.

“There’s no fucking way we can rewire the whole damn ship in two weeks!” Baird shouted. Captain Rydell ran into the office.

“Sorry, he got away from me,” Rydell said.

“Commander Baird, I assure you that you can,” Terris said, trying to pry Baird’s hands off of his uniform. “My staff will assist you.”

“Yeah, like I’m going to let your minions on board. They have no clue what our systems are like.”

“They’ve studied the specs,” Terris said.

“Fuck the specs!” Baird threw Terris back into his desk chair and began pacing the office. “You desk-jockeys have no idea what the reality of a ship’s innards are like. Specs won’t do a damn thing but confuse people.”

“Baird, I’m sure that you can do this,” Rydell said soothingly. “Consider it a challenge.”

“I consider it moronic,” Baird replied. “I’m not surprised though. You always expect the engineers to save your asses. Get this done now. I need the warp drive in two minutes or we’re all dead. Why don’t you come do it for a change?”

“Commander Baird, the Secondprize will be refitted and ready to go in two weeks. Understood,” Rydell said angrily. “That is an order. If you can’t do it, I’ll find someone who can while you sit in a brig somewhere rotting for insubordination. And I promise that you won’t see the light of any sun until the Borg open up a maid service. Got it!”

“Aye, sir!” Baird shouted. He turned on Terris. “Have your trained chimps meet me in the Secondprize’s engine room in half an hour.” Baird stormed out of the office.

“Is he always like that?” Terris asked.

“Actually, that was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” Rydell said, taking a seat in front of Terris’ desk.

“He seems to be mellowing in his old age,” Beck said.

“I don’t even think I want to know,” Terris said. “Anyway, the reason the admiral asked you here is that I need you both to give me full reports of the Multek situation, so that I may plan your defensive systems accordingly.”

“Didn’t Admiral Wagner give you all of that?” Rydell asked.

“No, and he left this morning to head back to Starfleet Headquarters.”

“Can’t you just contact him over subspace?” Beck asked.

“Why bother? You’re already here,” Terris said. “I can just get it from you.”

“That’s not really for us to do,” Rydell said. “There are the security protocols.”

“I am talking about the safety of Waystation and its crew, Captain. This no time for bureaucratic delays!” Terris insisted, standing up from his desk and staring down Rydell.

“You know what?” Rydell said, flashing a smile. “You’re right. We’ll bundle up what you need right away.” He stood up and touched Beck on the shoulder to signal her to follow him. “How about we meet back here this afternoon?”

“1500 hours alright?” Terris asked.

“Perfect,” Rydell said. “We’ll see you later.” He and Beck walked out into the hall.

“What was all that about?” Beck asked when they had gotten a few meters from Terris’ office.

“I’m not sure,” Rydell replied. “Something just seems a bit off.”

“Command intuition?” Beck asked.

“I guess you could call it that. I have a feeling that there’s something going on with Terris that we don’t know about.”

“I just thought I didn’t like him,” Beck said. “Maybe that was my intuition.”

“Most likely,” Rydell said. “The question is how are we going to see if our intuition is correct?”

“Let’s give him what he wants and see what he does with it,” Beck said. “Do you think we could program fake sensor logs of a Multek encounter by 1500?” Rydell’s face lit up.

“We don’t have to. We’ll just alter some logs that are already there,” he said. “Let’s go.” He and Beck jogged down the corridor toward the starbase’s transporter room.


Chapter Thirteen


“Federation vessel, please identify yourself,” the voice of a Bracktia Control officer said over the runabout’s comm system.

“This is the Federation Runabout Hudson,” Lieutenant Porter replied. “We’re here to pick up Dr. Amelia Nelson.”

“We’ve been expecting you, Hudson,” the voice interrupted. “You may enter orbit above our world. The coordinates of Dr. Nelson’s lab are being sent to you now. Bracktia Control out.”

“They don’t waste any time,” Porter said to Lieutenant Commander Morales who was seated beside him.

“No kidding,” Morales said. “But you heard the man. Standard orbit. We’ll beam down as soon as you’re ready.”

“Aye, sir.”


Morales, Porter, Russell, and Jones materialized inside of a sterile white corridor. The white of the walls was enough to make the away team shield their eyes. A man in a dark blue jumpsuit walked over to them, giving them something not so bright to focus on.

“Welcome, my name is Dr. Landris. We’ve been expecting you,” the man said. Morales thought that Landris seemed anxious or agitated or something. He just couldn’t put his finger on it.

“So we heard,” Morales replied. “I’m Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales. This is Lieutenant Craig Porter, Lieutenant Sean Russell, and Yeoman Tina Jones.”

“Delighted. Come on,” Landris said. He turned and practically started jogging down the corridor. The team followed Landris into a large room. Various computer consoles ringed the room, but the space was dominated by a smoky pool of green, glowing liquid. A woman was leaning over the tank scanning something in the liquid with a tricorder. “Dr. Nelson, your ride’s here.” The woman slammed her tricorder shut violently and turned toward Landris and the away team.

“Go away,” she said angrily.

“Doctor, my name’s Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales. I’ve been ordered to take you back to Starbase 219, so that you may take the position of chief medical officer on our station. I can’t go away.”

“Then you’re going to be in for a long wait, Morales, because I’m not leaving until I finish my work,” Nelson snapped.

“How long will that be?” Russell asked. “A couple of days?”

“Try months to years, pal,” Nelson said.

“What are you doing?” Porter asked.

“Wasting time with you people at the moment,” Nelson said. “But normally, I’m studying Midon.”

“What’s a Midon?” Morales said.

“Perhaps I should explain,” Landris said, jumping into the conversation. “The people of my world are capable of joining with a species indigenous to our planet. We call them Brackto. The Midon that Dr. Nelson refers to is a Brackto.”

“So it’s a symbiont like the Trill have,” Porter said.

“The symbionts are genetically similar,” Nelson said. “I’m attempting to trace the evolution of the Brackto to determine if there is some kind of common ancestry between them and the Trill.”

“But the Trill homeworld is on the other side of the quadrant,” Morales said. Nelson looked at him and smiled.

“Exactly,” she said. “I believe that there may be some other force involved. Now, if you will excuse me, I have work to do and time is precious.”

“Why is everybody around here in such a hurry?” Morales asked.

“There are rumors that the Hinaree have determined the location of this lab,” Landris said.

“Yeoman, remind me in the future to read the reports on planets I’m visiting before I get there,” Morales said to Jones.

“Yes, sir,” she said confused.

“OK, who are the Hinaree?” Morales asked.

“They are a radical terrorist group,” Landris replied.

“They’re murderers!” Nelson shouted without looking away from her tricorder.

“Unlike the Trill, not all of our population believes it to be a great honor to be joined with a symbiont,” Landris said. “The Hinaree feel that the symbionts are trying to take over our society and destroy our individual identities.”

“They’re nuts,” Nelson said.

“Since Dr. Nelson is human, she tends to overlook the sensitive political situation brought up by the Hinaree,” Landris said. “I do not blame her for this, but there is more going on here than a simple terrorism issue. A large portion of our population thinks like the Hinaree. We are lucky that so few of them have turned violent.”

“What do you mean by violent?” Russell asked. This whole situation had just turned dangerous, and, as the security officer on the mission, it was his job to be ready.

“Several joined Bracktians have been killed. Those who have symbionts now try to keep it secret in order to avoid becoming a target. Hinaree supporters in our legislative body are attempting to make joining illegal, or, if they cannot accomplish that, take away most of the rights of joined Bracktians.”

“And the Hinaree know where this lab is?” Jones said uncomfortably.

“We believe so.”

“Then I think it would be a good idea if we left right now,” Morales said. “Dr. Nelson, I’m afraid that…”

“I’m not leaving until I finish my research on Midon,” Nelson said.

“Then bring it with us,” Morales said. “We need to leave.”

“The government will not allow any Brackto to be taken off the planet,” Landris said.

“You’re kidding,” Porter said. “But you said more of the population wanted them killed. Why not just let them leave?”

“Bureaucracy,” Landris said.

“Understood,” Porter said.

“Dr. Landris, can you take us to the President?” Morales asked. “Surely he can make an exception.”

“I can take you, but I don’t know how much good it will do.”

“I’m willing to take a chance.”

“I’d like to stay here and help Doctor Nelson,” Porter said.

“Fine,” Morales replied. “Russell, Jones, let’s go.” Dr. Landris, Morales, Russell, and Jones walked out of the lab.

“I hope that you weren’t staying to hit on me, Lieutenant,” Nelson said.

“Why would you say that?” Porter asked.

“Most people don’t find researching creatures that look like giant slugs to be that interesting.”

“Well, I find meetings with stuffy politicians to be even less interesting,” Porter said. “Besides, if you’re going to be bringing that thing to Waystation, it’s my job as science officer to know what the hell it is.”

“Then step over to that console,” Nelson said gesturing to a computer sitting beside the tank. “There’s two years of research in there.”

“I probably won’t be able to read all of that in one sitting,” Porter said. “If you don’t mind, I’ll just dump it into my tricorder to look at later.”

“Up to you, but if you aren’t reading, you’re going to be helping me,” Nelson said.

“Got it.” Porter connected the console to his tricorder and started dumping the computer’s files into it.

“Now, come over here and pick up Midon for me,” Nelson ordered.

“Pick it up?”

“Yes, the sterilization field will take care of your hands as you reach into the tank.”

“But the slime…”

“Porter, I was starting to like you. Please don’t make me change my mind,” Nelson said. Porter walked over to the tank and slowly stuck his hands into it. The green liquid was had a consistency somewhere between liquid soap and jello. It was disgusting. Trying not to think about it, Porter grabbed Midon and lifted it out of the liquid. Nelson was right, it did kind of look like a giant slug. It was about a foot long and had grayish-green skin that had the texture of wet rubber. Four long tendrils protruded from each side of its body. Porter assumed that it used those to connect itself to its host. He couldn’t help but shudder at the thought of something crawling inside of and attaching itself. People did this willingly?

Nelson grabbed another scanner from an instrument table next to the tank and ran another series of tests. She seemed completely enthralled in her research. Five minutes later, she was still scanning and oblivious that Porter’s arms were getting tired.

“Doctor, can I put Midon back any time soon?” he asked finally. Nelson looked up at him and smiled slightly.

“Sorry, I just get a little involved sometimes,” she replied.

“I think obsessed is a better word for it.” He gently put Midon back into the tank and put his hands in the sonic sink mounted nearby.

“I’ve been at this for two years, Lieutenant, and I’m just now getting close to finding the link between the Brackto and the Trill. I think a bit of obsession after all this time is only natural.”

“Whatever you say, Doc.” Porter went over to check his tricorder’s progress. It had completed recording Nelson’s files, so he put it back in his uniform pocket. Once he had time to study the information, he might be able to give Nelson a hand with her research.

“Unauthorized personnel are attempting to gain entry to the laboratory facility,” a loud computer voice barked suddenly.

“Oh no!” Nelson shouted. She rushed over to a computer near the door and frantically started pushing buttons.

“Maybe it’s just Lieutenant Commander Morales and the others,” Porter suggested.

“Not unless they brought explosives.”

“What?”

The building rocked under the force of an explosion.

“It’s the Hinaree,” Nelson said. “I’ve activated the defensive barrier doors, but that won’t hold them long.”

“We don’t need very long,” Porter said. He slapped his commbadge. “Porter to Hudson.” Nothing happened. “Porter to Morales.” Still nothing. He pulled out his tricorder and started scanning. “There’s a jamming field around the building. Is that one of your defensive measures?”

“No. They just don’t want us calling for help? What are we going to do? We have no weapons.”

“What are they after?”

“Midon. They’ll have no interest in us,” Nelson said.

“Is there any place we can hide Midon?” Porter asked. Maybe if the Hinaree didn’t find a symbiont in the lab, they’d just leave.

“Yes. Inside me,” Nelson said.

“Are you insane?” Porter shouted. Another explosion shook the lab.

“We don’t have time to argue about this. It’s a fairly simple procedure. I just need you to put Midon in me and monitor my vital signs. A Brackto has never been joined to a human before.”

“But I’m not a doctor,” Porter insisted.

“I’ll talk you through it. Come on.” Nelson gingerly picked up Midon and cleaned it off in the sonic sink. “Grab the laser scalpel, the anesthesia pad, and the skin sealer.” Porter found the items on the instrument table and ran over to Nelson. She had lain across an examining table and pushed her shirt up exposing her stomach. He handed her the anesthesia pad which she placed across her forehead. The red and green lights on the pad started blinking signaling that it was working. Nelson wouldn’t feel a thing, but she’d be conscious through the whole procedure.

“Are you absolutely sure that you want to do this?” Porter asked. A bigger explosion sent bits of ceiling falling to the floor behind him.

“Yes. Now make a six inch incision in my abdomen,” she ordered. Porter activated the beam and made the cut. Nelson winced a little more out of reflex than as a result of any pain. “Put Midon in front of the cut.” Porter put the symbiont on Nelson’s stomach. It found the opening and slowly moved inside of it. Porter couldn’t watch. Nelson suddenly moaned.

“Are you alright?” Porter asked.

“Yes,” she said gasping. “Midon’s getting situated.” She winced. “It’s a bit uncomfortable.” Nelson screamed.

“I’m pulling it out,” Porter said.

“No! I’m fine. Give Midon time.” Another explosion shook the room. It sounded much closer than the last one.

“This had better be quick.”

“Close us up,” Nelson ordered. Her voice sounded different. More calm than before. “We are joined.” Porter ran the skin sealer across the incision on Nelson’s stomach and pulled her shirt down. He could hear footsteps and shouting voices outside the door.

“Just lie still for now,” Porter said. “I’ll handle this.” He ran over to a corner of the lab, grabbed a large plastic container, and started throwing tools and data chips into it. The lab doors exploded inward violently, knocking Porter off his feet. Five people carrying rifles charged into the lab.

“Kill the symbiont,” the woman in the lead ordered.

“It’s not here,” Porter shouted.

“Find it,” the leader said to her followers. She approached Porter. “If you’re lying, I will kill you myself.”

“Why would I lie? I’m just here to clean up the lab and get Dr. Nelson out of here,” Porter said.

“What happened to her?” the leader asked walking over to Nelson.

“She got hit by a piece of ceiling debris after one of the explosions. I was trying to finish up and beam us out of here before arrived.”

“You would not have been able to leave. We have jammed all communications.”

“Oh,” Porter said. Play dumb. Play dumb.

“It’s not here,” one of the Hinaree reported.

“Where is the Midon symbiont?” the leader said. She pointed her rifle at Porter’s face.

“Dr. Landris took it yesterday,” Nelson said weakly. “He said that the Bracktia Science Council had sole rights to the symbionts. He called the Federation to have me removed.” Porter was impressed. Dr. Nelson was adding to the lie quite nicely.

“We have no quarrel with the Federation,” the Hinaree leader said.

“That’s good,” Porter said. “Can you let us leave now?”

“I don’t think so,” the leader said, a smile crossing her face. “You’ll make such great hostages. The Bracktia government wants Federation membership so badly that they will meet any of our demands to ensure your safe return. Bring them.” Two Hinaree grabbed Porter and pushed him towards the door, while the two others picked up Nelson.

Porter just knew that the universe was having a good laugh about all of this.


Chapter Fourteen


After a good night’s sleep, Commander Dillon was feeling better about life. Nothing else humiliating had happened after the fork incident at dinner. Of course, it helped that he excused himself right afterwards and hid in his room for the rest of the night.

Today, however, was a new day, and he had a mission to complete. He straightened his uniform, checked his commbadge and phaser, and walked out of his quarters. Jaroch was just passing his room as Dillon walked out the door.

“Jaroch, good, just the person I wanted to see,” he said warmly.

“What about?” Jaroch said wearily. It was too early in the day to have Dillon getting on his nerves. As it was, he was going to have to deal with Dillon all day.

“What did Debbie tell you about the park last night? I got kind of distracted.”

“I noticed. She didn’t tell me anything very useful. All I know is that this place has some kind of genetic manipulation involved.”

“That’s not a lot to go on,” Dillon said. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

“A brilliant plan, sir,” Jaroch said and walked off down the hall.

Hawkins and Carr were seated at the dining room table with Debbie when Jaroch and Dillon walked in. The table was full of doughnuts, muffins, and juices.

“Eat quickly, gentlemen,” Debbie said. “Your tour leaves in twenty minutes.”

“Commander Dillon, as per Admiral Wagner’s orders, I’ll be remaining here while you take your tour,” Ensign Carr said.

“Fine,” Dillon said, gulping down a bit of doughnut.

Twenty minutes later, Debbie led Dillon, Jaroch, and Hawkins to a large room, which opened to the outside. A passenger conveyance of some kind hung from a track in the ceiling. It had room for about six people, and a Starfleet insignia was painted on the side as well as the words “Starfleet Memorial Gardens.”

“Hop in,” Debbie said. “As soon as I get to the control room, we’ll start the tour.” She turned and walked out of the room just as the door of their tram slid open automatically. Dillon, Jaroch, and Hawkins stepped inside and sat down. With them settled, the door slid shut, and the car moved began to move forward along the track and out of the building. Dillon, Jaroch, and Hawkins found themselves suspended at least fifty feet above the ground passing over a thickly forested area.

“Welcome to Starfleet Memorial Gardens,” Debbie’s voice said over the loudspeaker inside the passenger car. “This park is dedicated to honoring the legends of Starfleet. And, through some wonderful advances in cloning technology, you will actually be able to meet legends like Pike, Kirk, Spock, and Picard. They’re all here and larger than life: about fifty feet larger to be exact. Starfleet’s giants have become literal giants, and they’re all here for you at Starfleet Memorial Gardens.”

“I am suddenly very unhappy about this,” Dillon said. “A fifty-foot tall clone of Captain Pike? That’s ludicrous. That’s insulting.”

“That’s technology,” Debbie’s voice said. “Now sit down, shut up, and enjoy it.”


“God, he’s annoying,” Debbie said, turning to Ensign Carr. They were in the control center of the gardens watching the other’s progress through the park on a huge view screen.

“I know,” Carr replied. “But he outranks us, so we have to put up with him.”

“All systems nominal,” the woman seated at a console across the room said.

“Thanks, Claudia,” Debbie said. “Let me know if anything starts acting weird.” She walked over to a large window on the far side of the room, which looked in on a large power reactor. An electronically sealed door, similar to the ones all over the building, was next to the window and allowed access to the reactor.

“Have things started acting weird in the past?” Carr asked concerned.

“Nothing major,” Debbie replied. “The clones aren’t exactly normal, but other than that, things here work pretty well.”

“What’s so abnormal about the clones?”

“Nothing,” Debbie said quickly. “Nothing dangerous anyway.”

“Well, that’s comforting…I think.”


“Commander, I am not sure that I can approve of this place on an ethical level,” Jaroch said as they passed over the trees of the Starfleet Memorial Gardens.

“What do you mean?” Dillon said.

“The cloning of people is shaky enough ethically, but making them fifty feet high? That sounds rather…awful.”

“Come on, Jaroch. I was a bit taken aback by the idea at first, but think about it. This is our one chance to meet the greatest leaders in Starfleet history,” Dillon said. “I don’t care if they’re fifty feet high or two feet high, they’re still legends.”

They heard loud screaming off in the distance.

“What the hell was that?” Hawkins said, going instinctively for her phaser.

“I have no idea,” Jaroch said.

“I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about,” Dillon said uncomfortably. “It’s probably some of the planet’s native fauna. We’re fine up here.” Another scream, closer this time, shook the passenger car.

“I’m starting to understand why Starfleet wanted me to check on the security of this place,” Hawkins said. “What kind of animals are living on this planet?”

“MAAAAKKKISOOOO!!” the scream bellowed.

“Whatever it is, we’re getting closer to it now,” Dillon said.

“I’m really wishing that I brought a bigger phaser,” Hawkins said, looking down at the tiny personal phaser she was carrying.

“MAAKKITTTTTTTSOOOO!” The car was shaking violently.

“You are now approaching our first legend,” Debbie’s voice said over the speakers. “Jean Luc Picard.”

“Oh no,” Dillon said. “That scream…”

“I am afraid it is, sir,” Jaroch said. The car rounded a curve in the track, revealing their worst fears. It was Picard all right, dressed in the burgundy uniforms that had been Starfleet standard until they were recently replaced by the black and gray ones. He bald head glistened in the sun, but said head was bigger that their entire passenger car.

“MAKE IT SO!” the giant Picard shouted to no one in particular.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or throw up,” Hawkins said quietly.

“I’ve met Picard. He was nothing like this,” Jaroch said.

“Of course he isn’t!” Dillon shouted horrified. “How could they do this? WHY would they do this?!?” This wasn’t honoring his heroes; it was making complete fools out of them.

“MAKE IT SO!” The car came to a stop in front of Picard. They were at eye level with the giant.

“MAKE IT SO!” Picard shouted, his voice full of anger this time. He rushed toward the car, but, before he could get to it, he was stopped by a force field.

“Nothing to worry about folks,” Debbie said.

“What have you done?” Dillon screamed indignantly. “You’ve reduced one of Starfleet’s finest to a blithering…”

“Commander, please. You aren’t helping,” Jaroch said.

“Look, we were able to clone the bodies, but not the minds of our exhibits,” Debbie said. “We had to program the minds ourselves. It wasn’t easy. We only managed to ingrain a couple of major characteristics.”

“MAKE IT SO!”

“We were lucky to get that,” Debbie continued. “This is tricky work, and Picard isn’t our best effort. Just wait until you see the others.”

“I’m not sure that I’ll be able to stand it,” Dillon mumbled.


“That man has no sense of what a scientific achievement this is,” Debbie said after switching off the comm system. On the main viewscreen, they could see the car moving off toward the next exhibit.

“It’s probably just a bit of a surprise to him. Give him some time,” Carr said. She actually didn’t believe or care that Dillon would get over it, but she didn’t want to listen to Debbie complain about him.

The door of the control room opened, revealing an older man carrying a basket of cleaning supplies. His face was covered in wrinkles, but he didn’t appear haggard. Instead, they seemed more like laugh lines.

“Morning folks,” the man said warmly. “Just here for my rounds.”

“Hi, Ray,” Debbie said. “Could you start in the reactor room?”

“Sure thing,” Ray said. He tipped his blue hat to Carr. “Morning, young lady. Hope you’re enjoying the place.”

“It’s quite impressive,” Carr replied. Ray smiled and opened the door into the reactor room to begin cleaning.

“He’s smitten again,” Claudia said.

“Surprise, surprise,” Debbie said smiling. Carr laughed. Ray suddenly came rushing out of the reactor room.

“I…I forgot something,” he said quickly and ran out of the control room. As soon as the control room door closed behind Ray, alarms starting blaring. Claudia whirled back around to her console.

“I’m reading a severe power drop!” she shouted.

“Get it back up!” Debbie said.

“I can’t.”

The control center went dark.


The passenger car jerked to a sudden stop.

“What happened?” Dillon asked alarmed.

“We have stopped,” Jaroch said. “I believe that we have lost power.”

A loud scream sounded in the distance.

Then another.

It was getting closer.


Chapter Fifteen


The Presidential Palace on Bracktia Prime was in chaos when Lieutenant Commander Morales, Lieutenant Russell, Yeoman Jones, and Dr. Landris arrived. Landris was able to get them past the two hulking security guards at the palace door by just flashing his identification card, but the President’s office was a different story. Aides were running in and out of the office while a man in a black suit sat a desk outside of the office monitoring who came and went.

“Let me handle this,” Landris said to Morales before walking over to the man at the desk. Morales couldn’t hear their discussion, but the man at the desk shook his head a lot while Landris gestured angrily.

“I get the feeling he’s not doing too well,” Yeoman Jones said softly.

“I think you’re right,” Morales replied. “Why don’t you go give him a hand?”

“Me? Why me?”

“You’re the liaison officer. Go liaison,” Morales said.

“Well…I’d love to, but I don’t know what a liaison officer does,” Jones said nervously.

“You’re supposed to smooth over relations between us and anyone we encounter,” Morales said. “Think of it as kind of like being a diplomat.”

“Oh. But…”

“Go, Yeoman!” Morales said.

“Gotcha,” Jones said. “I’m on my way.”

“Jones.”

“Yes, sir,” she said.

“Be tough,” Morales said. He smiled hoping to reassure her.

“Aye, sir,” she said. Jones charged over to the man’s desk and joined the fray. Things continued pretty much as they had before except now both Landris and Jones were gesturing angrily. Morales could see Jones’s face slowly turning red.

“Do you know Jones real well?” Morales asked Russell.

“Not really,” Russell said. “She’s generally pretty quiet.”

“So you’ve never seen her angry?”

“Tina? No, sir. I can’t imagine it,” Morales noticed that Jones was now bright red and her eyes were wide.

“I think you’re about to be able to do a lot more than imagine it,” Morales said.

“HIIIIIIYAAAAA!!!!” Jones screamed suddenly. She raised her right arm and did a karate chop on the man’s desk. The desk split in two and fell to the floor. The entire office became completely silent. “I think you should let us in now,” Jones said, breathing heavily.

“Right away,” the man said shakily. He went over to the President’s door, entered, then returned a minute later.

“President Bathena will see you now,” he said.

“Thank you,” Jones said. She turned to Morales. “Liaisoning complete, sir.”

“Good job,” Morales replied, walking over to Jones. “You’re a natural.

President Bathena’s office was calm compared to the outer office area. The President was seated at a large wooden desk looking at a map of the area on a viewscreen on the side wall.

“Have a seat,” she said distractedly as she watched blips moving across the map.

“Thank you, Ms. President,” Morales said. “My name’s Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales. My team and I were sent here to pick up Dr. Amelia Nelson, but she refuses to leave the planet unless you allow her to take a symbiont with her.”

“I appreciate your problem, Commander Morales, but I’m a little busy right now,” Bathena replied. “We’ve just had a terrorist attack at the… Wait a minute! You were here for Nelson?”

“Yes,” Morales said, confused.

“Is she with you?”

“No, we left her and one of my men at the lab,” Morales said.

“At the lab. Damn!”

“What is it, Ms. President?” Landris asked.

“I hate to be the one to tell you this, but that lab was where the latest attack took place,” Bathena said. “The Hinaree went in, planted a few bombs, and blew the place up. There’s very little left.”

“Oh god,” Russell said. “Craig’s…”

“Dead,” Bathena said. “But you’re more than welcome to go tell Starfleet all about this, so they’ll help us put a stop to the Hinaree.”

“The Prime Directive…” Morales began.

“Oh, shut up about the damn Prime Directive!” Bathena said. “I’ve practically got a civil war going on here!”

“Can we look at the explosion site?” Russell asked.

“What good is that going to do?” Bathena asked. “Read my lips. They are dead.”

“I’d like to look anyway,” Russell said.

“Agreed. Besides, it’d get us out of your way,” Morales said.

“Feel free,” Bathena said. “I’ll have my secretary tell them you’re coming.”

“Thank you,” Morales said. “If you need anything from us, don’t hesitate to let me know.” They walked out of the office.

“How about a few thousand phaser rifles?” Bathena shouted after him.


Twenty minutes later, Morales, Russell, and Jones had returned to the site of what used to be Nelson’s laboratory. The building had been leveled by the blast, leaving debris everywhere. The Bracktian Military officer who was in charge of the investigation, Major Kergin, grudgingly let them look around, but assigned one of his men to be with them at all times. Russell tried to ignore this and started scanning the site with his tricorder.

“You Starfleet people and your toys,” the soldier said annoyed.

“You got a problem,” Russell said.

“Yeah, you,” the solder replied. “You people have it so easy. You don’t know what real danger is.”

“We don’t!” Russell said angrily. “I think I do. Real danger is getting chased by three hundred angry Joegonots! Real danger is…”

“Get off it!” the soldier shouted. “You can’t talk to me about real danger. Real danger is crawling past ten armed Hinaree naked because you think your uniform would make too much noise. Real danger is…”

“Yeoman Jones,” Morales said. “Could you liaison him into unconsciousness please?”

“Aye, sir,” Jones said. She walked over to the soldier. “Shut up, or I’m going to hurt you,” she said very matter-of-factly.

“Right,” the soldier said stifling a laugh. “I suppose you think you know real danger too, huh?”

“Real danger is what you’re in right now,” Jones said.

“I’m not…” The soldier didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence. Russell stunned the soldier with his phaser before Jones could even get her arm raised.

“Sorry, Tina,” Russell said. “I wanted to do it.”

“Thanks. I don’t think I was really angry enough to hurt him,” she replied.

“By any chance, have you found anything yet?” Morales asked.

“No, and that’s what’s interesting,” Russell said.

“What do you mean?” Morales said.

“I was scanning for organic material, so we could locate Porter and Dr. Nelson’s remains, but I’m not finding anything in the debris,” Russell said. “The explosive used was a thermocorbonite which is incapable of completely obliterating organic matter. Even if Porter and Nelson were at the blast’s origin, there should still be something left. If anything, I should be able to find the symbiont.”

“But there’s nothing,” Morales said.

“No, sir.”

“Then we have to assume that they got out somehow and are still alive.” Morales slapped his commbadge. “Morales to Porter.” There was no response. “Morales to Hudson.”

“Runabout computer responding,” the Hudson’s computer replied.

“Locate Lieutenant Craig Porter.”

“Lieutenant Porter is not within scanning range.”

“I don’t buy that, sir,” Russell said.

“Neither do I,” Morales replied. “Adjust the tricorder to look for traces of vehicles that have been here within the last hour. I want to know what direction they went. Jones, come with me.” Morales and Jones walked over to the makeshift command tent that Major Kergin was running his investigation from.

“Find your people?” Kergin asked chuckling.

“That’s not very funny,” Jones said.

“That’s a matter of opinion,” Kergin replied. He tried to hold back another laugh, but failed and fell to the ground laughing hysterically.

“I’m starting to really dislike this planet,” Jones said.

“Major Kergin,” Morales said, ignoring Jones. “We believe that our people are still alive.” Kergin looked at him and started laughing even harder. “I’m serious. We think that they left the site somehow. Now, I need to know, does the Hinaree take hostages?”

“You Starfleet never give up hope do you?” Kergin said.

“Not unless contract negotiations are going badly,” Morales replied.

“What?”

“Never mind.”

“Look, the Hinaree kill symbionts. That’s all. What would they want hostages for?” Kergin said. A computer console on the other side of the tent started beeping. “Excuse me.” Kergin walked over and pressed a couple of buttons. Morales saw President Bathena’s face appear.

“Kergin, is Morales there?” she asked.

“Yeah, he’s right here. He was just telling me that he thinks his people are still alive,” Kergin started laughing again.

“Well, he’s right,” Bathena said. Morales and Jones looked at each other hopefully.

“Tell Russell to hurry up with that scan,” Morales said. Jones ran out of the tent.

“We just got ransom demands from Serland, the Hinaree commander. She will return the two Starfleet people if we agree to outlaw symbionts,” Bathena said.

“You aren’t going to do it, are you?” Kergin asked.

“Are you nuts?” Bathena replied. “I value our relations with the Federation, but I’m not going to change our whole society for the lives of two off-worlders. I just wanted you to tell Morales about his people and have him come to my office to discuss the situation. Bathena out.” The screen went blank.

“You heard her,” Kergin said. “I wouldn’t keep her waiting.”

“We’ll be leaving momentarily. Thank you for you hospitality,” Morales said sarcastically. He walked out of the tent deep in thought. Bathena was right; she couldn’t give into the Hinaree just for Porter and Nelson’s lives. The Federation could never ask her to do that. He, Russell, and Jones were going to have to find a way to save Porter and Nelson themselves. And they had to do it without interfering with the political situation on Bracktia Prime.

“I’ve finished, sir,” Russell said, walking over to him.

“Any luck?” Morales said.

“Yes and no. There were two large vehicles other than Dr. Landris’ hovercar, and they both went north from here. I didn’t find any trace of Porter or Nelson, however.”

“Well, it’s a start. Come on. We’ve got a meeting with President Bathena.”

“What about Craig and Nelson?” Jones asked.

“That’s what we’re meeting about, but I don’t expect any help from the government,” Morales said. “If we find them, we’re going to have to get them out on our own.”

“I think I prefer it that way,” Russell said. “Thus far, I haven’t enjoyed our dealings with their military.”

“Starfreeks!” a voice screamed. Russell, Morales, and Jones turned and saw the soldier they had stunned earlier running at them. Russell pulled out his phaser and stunned him again.

“See what I mean,” Russell said.


Chapter Sixteen


“I don’t think I even want to know what that was,” Hawkins said, face pressed against the glass of the car as she tried to see what had made the noise.

“WOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!” The scream rocked the car violently.

“It’s right on us!” Dillon shouted. “Can you see it?”

“No!” Hawkins shouted, turning on him irritatedly. Just as she turned away from the window, a huge face rose up by the glass. She couldn’t see it, but Jaroch and Dillon had front row seats.

“Pa…pa…pa…Patricia…” Dillon stammered. Jaroch walked backwards and pressed himself against the rear wall of the car.

“I believe that the correct response right now is HOLY SHIT!!!” Jaroch said.

“What?” Hawkins said angrily. She turned around and saw the huge face looking in at them.

“WOMAN!” the face shouted.

“You can field this one, Patricia,” Dillon said, attempting to smile.

“Who is that?” Hawkins asked.

“I believe that it is Captain James Tiberius Kirk,” Jaroch said.

“WOMAN!” The giant Kirk’s hand rose up and grabbed the car. Jaroch, Hawkins, and Dillon were knocked off of their feet and sent hurtling forward. Dillon hit the wall first, followed quickly by Jaroch and Hawkins.

“I’ve had enough of this,” Hawkins said, pulling out her hand phaser.

“Good,” Dillon gasped. “Get off me and do something.” The side window shattered, and a giant finger came in, probing for the car’s occupants. Hawkins crawled over towards the finger, raised her phaser and fired. At first, Kirk didn’t seem to notice the beam frying a small speck of skin on his finger, but a few seconds later, the finger was pulled out quickly.

“OWWWW!” Kirk screamed. He raised a giant arm and slapped the car. The cables suspending the car above the forest floor strained, then snapped, sending the car hurtling downward. Hawkins and Jaroch slid back into Dillon, leaving the three officer huddled together as they plummeted.

The car hit several tree branches on the way down, jolting the occupants and slowing their descent. Finally, the car smashed into the dirt, knocking the wind out of Dillon, Jaroch, and Hawkins. The glass windows all shattered outward violently upon impact as the side structural supports moaned, then failed, allowing the sides to bend outward, which lowered the ceiling a good three feet.

Dillon was sure that it was the end of the line for him. After the car landed, he expected to be dead, but, as he lay on the metal floor gasping for breath, he realized that he’d made it. Every part of his body ached from the jarring impact of the car’s landing. A moan from Hawkins followed quickly by one from Jaroch told Dillon that the others were as bad off as he was.

“Everyone…Ok?” he said weakly. Every syllable hurt.

“Peachy,” Jaroch said, his voice straining to form the word.

“This has become my new permanent residence. I refuse to move,” Hawkins said.

“I hope that Captain Kirk gives us that luxury,” Jaroch said.

“WOMAN!”

Dillon looked over toward what used to be the window and saw two giant feet.

“No such luck. I think we’re about to get our eviction notice,” Dillon said. He tried to pull himself to his feet, but was knocked right back down as the car started shaking again. Screws and other bits of metal rained down on them as Kirk slowly pulled the car’s roof off.

“WOMAN!”

“Where’s my phaser?” Hawkins shouted.

“I do not see it, Lieutenant,” Jaroch said as he started crawling toward Hawkins.

“WOMAN! WOMAN!” The roof was completely off now. Dillon saw it hit the ground twenty feet away from the car with a thud and an explosion of dirt. Above them, Kirk was leering. His arm descended slowly toward the car like some kind of crane. Dillon wanted to move; he wanted to rush over and jump in front of Patricia so that Kirk wouldn’t get her. But he couldn’t. Pain and fear pinned him to the front wall of the car. All he could do was scream.

“Patricia!” Even that hurt… a lot. Dillon closed his eyes in pain. Besides that, he just couldn’t bring himself to watch. The hand reached in, grabbed, and rose back up, leaving one less person in the car.

“He got Jaroch!” Hawkins shouted. Dillon opened his eyes to see that he and Hawkins were the only ones in the car. He looked to his left and saw the giant legs walking away.

“WOMAN!”

“I think he’s going to be surprised,” Dillon said.

“I just hope he has a sense of humor or else Jaroch’s…” Hawkins trailed off. They sat in silence watching the colossal Kirk moving off with his prize.


“What the hell happened?” Debbie demanded. As soon as the lights went out, she, Claudia, and Ensign Carr had grabbed emergency flashlights to try and figure out what had gone wrong.

“I don’t know,” Claudia said. “Everything was fine, then suddenly, it wasn’t.”

“Just a thought here, folks, but why don’t we check out the reactor,” Carr said, walking over to the reactor room door.

“We can’t,” Debbie said.

“Why not?”

“The doors operate on electronic locks. When the power went out, so did all the power to the locks. We can’t open them without power from the reactor.”

“Can we get to the reactor through another room?” Carr asked.

“Maybe,” Debbie replied. “If we could leave this one, which we can’t because the door’s locked.”

“Let me get this straight,” Carr said. She held her hands together to keep from lashing out and hurting someone. “We can’t get out without power. But to get power, we have to get out.”

“That’s about the size of it,” Claudia said.

“Whose moronic idea was that!” Carr screamed angrily.

“It’s just a little design flaw,” Debbie said. “We’ll know better next time around.”

“Next time! What about now? We’re trapped in here! And what about my people? Are they stuck too?”

“The loss of power would shut down the car,” Claudia said quietly.

“What about the security force fields?” Carr asked, dreading the answer.

“Those are down, too.”

“Fantastic. Just fantastic. You’ve built a real death trap here, Ms. Wagner,” Carr said.

“They’re just bugs in the system,” Debbie said. “We’ll get everything straightened out.”

“How?” Carr said.

“I don’t know, but I’m sure we’ll think of something. Maybe Ray will come get us.”

“Ray!” Carr said. “He ran out of here just before we lost power. Could he have done something?”

“Perhaps, but I don’t see what,” Claudia said. Carr ran over to the window looking into the reactor room and pointed her flashlight inside. The room was square with fifteen foot long walls lined with computer consoles and monitors. The center of the room was dominated by a cylindrical metal column, which housed the park’s power reactor. A large black outlet was its main external feature. On the ground lay a wire which ended in a plug that looked suspiciously like it fit into the outlet on the reactor.

“I think I found the problem,” Carr said gravely.

“You did? Great,” Debbie said, running over. Carr shined her flashlight on the outlet, then the plug. “Oh, Ray must have accidently knocked the plug out of the reactor. No problem. We just have to plug it back in.”

“Which means that we have to get in the room to plug it in. Which means that we need power to open the damn door,” Carr said angrily.

“Well, yes, there is that problem,” Debbie said.

“And why does it even have a plug! This is the 24th century! We’re in serious trouble here. My people are too.”

“We’re fine, and so are they,” Debbie said. “Claudia, what was the car’s last position.”

“They were just about to arrive at the Kirk exhibit.”

“Well, Commander Dillon and Lieutenant Commander Jaroch are fine anyway,” Debbie said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Carr said.

“Lieutenant Hawkins is female. And Kirk has a…let’s call it a tendency…to…go after anything that happens to be…female.” Carr slumped against the reactor room door and put her head in her hands.

“Are you all right, Ensign?” Debbie asked.

“I…am…going…to…KILL…you,” Carr replied, breathing heavily.

“Calm down,” Debbie said. Carr let out a scream and lunged at Debbie.

“This is all your fault!” Carr shouted. She tackled Debbie, grabbed her by the throat, and started pounding it into the floor. “Your fault! Your fault! Your fault!”

“Claudia!” Debbie gasped. Claudia grabbed Carr and dragged her off of Debbie.

“Your fault. I committed assault, because it’s your fault.” Carr started giggling hysterically.

“I think she’s losing it,” Debbie said, picking herself up off the floor.

“You’re a moron, so you can’t live on,” Carr said.

“Why is she rhyming everything?” Debbie asked.

“I don’t know,” Claudia said.

“So to death you go,” Carr said.

“You’re not helping the situation,” Debbie said.

“And you’re a major irritation,” Carr shot back. “But now we must restart the reactor post haste, so no more time in bickering can we waste. My friends’ lives are most assuredly at stake, and if they die, your necks I will break. I hope I’ve made myself perfectly clear; I expect that you’ll cooperate if you hold your lives dear.”

“So, do you have a plan?” Debbie asked.

“Not as of yet, but in time, a plan I shall get.”

“Good. But in the meantime, please don’t talk,” Debbie said.


Chapter Seventeen


Lieutenant Craig Porter paced the small room he and Dr. Nelson had been placed in looking for a way to escape, all the while wondering if he should even try to escape. Nelson was recovering from her surgery well, but she was still in no condition to do anything as active and dangerous as attempting to escape from the Hinaree. The Hinaree leader, who had introduced herself as Ouren Preol, seemed friendly enough now, but Porter was sure that she wouldn’t hesitate to have them killed if they tried to escape. What a waste that would be. Nelson risks her life and has Midon put inside her only to be killed an hour after the operation. Escape would have to wait. Besides, Lieutenant Commander Morales could save them. Of course, first he’d have to figure out that they hadn’t been obliterated in the explosion at the lab. It just did not look like a good situation.

“I’m really starting to wish I was still a minor character,” Porter muttered.

“Please repeat yourself. I did not hear you,” Nelson said softly, startling Porter. She had been laying on the one cot in the small, wooden room from the moment that they had been put there and hadn’t said a word.

“It was nothing,” Porter replied. “I didn’t realize that you were awake.”

“I have not slept,” Nelson said. She sat up slowly. “I…we have needed time to adjust.”

“I’d guess so. I would think that it’d be kind of a big deal to suddenly have another mind inside you.”

“It is not quite like that. It’s more like our two minds have become one…most of the time.”

“I don’t like the sound of that,” Porter said.

“It’s strange. Most Bracktians, upon joining with a Brackto, immediately become one new consciousness. I feel more like I have three,” Nelson replied.

“Three! Hold on a second.”

“It’s really quite simple. There is Amelia, Midon, and the combination of the two.”

“Amelia, it doesn’t sound like this is working,” Porter said. “We’ve got to get you to a doctor.”

“Please call me Amedon, and I…we…are a doctor.”

“I mean a doctor with some scanners. You both…all three of you…god, this sounds weird…you all could be in danger.”

“I thank you for your concern, Lieutenant, but I believe that I, meaning Amedon, am fine,” Nelson said.

“Just the same, I want to get you checked out.”

“Fine, but I don’t think that our current situation is lending itself to hopping down to a hospital.”

“Good point,” Porter said. “Hopefully, Lieutenant Commander Morales is looking…” They heard footsteps outside the door. Porter fell silent. The door swung open, and Preol entered with an armed guard.

“Are you both well?” Preol asked.

“Well, the room’s clean, but we’re out of towels and the view sucks,” Porter said.

“I think that the only thing I like less than Starfleet officers’ high and mighty attitudes is their sense of humor,” Preol said.

“But we’re lots of fun at parties,” Porter replied.

“Lieutenant, please shut up before you get us both killed,” Nelson said.

“Oh, there’s no danger of that, Doctor,” Preol said. “Your value as hostages far exceeds any annoyance that Lieutenant Porter’s jokes could cause.”

“I don’t think that the Federation will do anything to get our release,” Nelson said.

“Thanks for the optimism, Doc,” Porter said.

“I do not need the Federation to do anything,” Preol replied. “I am counting on the government’s desire to gain entrance into the Federation. I think that President Bathena will do anything to ensure your release.”


“I don’t care if they start sending them here a piece at a time, I’m not giving the Hinaree a damn thing,” President Bathena shouted, rising from her desk as Lieutenant Commander Morales, Lieutenant Russell, and Yeoman Jones sat across from her watching her tirade.

“We are not asking you to do anything,” Morales said. “The knowledge that they’re alive gives us some hope of rescuing them, however.”

“Rescue? Right. That means you have to get to their base, which is impossible,” Bathena said.

“Do you know where their base is?” Russell asked.

“They have a little fort up in the mountains north of town. We’ve sent fighters and ground units, but they’ve all been destroyed. But if you gave us some of your technology…”

“We can’t do that,” Morales said. “But, if you give us permission, we may be able to handle the Hinaree ourselves.”

“Feel free. Our air space is your air space,” Bathena said, sitting down with a sigh.

“Thank you, Ms. President,” Morales said, rising from his chair. “I’m sure that the Federation Council will take how cooperative you’ve been into consideration when they review your application for membership.” He walked out of the office followed by Russell and Jones.

“So what do we do now?” Jones asked.

“Russell, how easy do you think it’ll be to find this base with the runabout’s sensors?” Morales asked.

“Incredibly easy…unless they’ve got a lot of settlements up in those mountains,” Russell replied.

“I doubt it. I don’t think the government would send fully armed attack units into populated areas.”

“I hope not,” Jones said.

“Morales to Hudson,” Morales said, slapping his commbadge. “Three to beam up. Energize.”

The three officers rematerialized in the cockpit of the runabout. Russell immediately sat down in the co-pilot’s seat and started running scans.

“Jones, I need a complete run-down of all the equipment that we have on board,” Morales said as he headed to the pilot’s chair. “Focus on what we could use to get in and out of a heavily-armed installation.”

“We’ve got phasers,” Jones said, feeling like she was stating the obvious.

“I know that. I mean like rope and stuff,” Morales said.

“I’ll go look,” Jones said confused.

“I think I’ve found them,” Russell said as soon as Jones left the cockpit. He hit a few buttons causing an image of the planet’s surface to appear on the monitor next to Morales. It showed mountains, but no structures. The only weird thing was a black spot in the middle of the map.

“Where?” Morales asked.

“The black spot. Our sensors can’t scan it, which says to me that somebody’s trying to hide something there and is jamming our sensors.”

“You know, if this planet had put its technological research into something other than jamming fields, this would all be a hell of a lot easier,” Morales said. “Actually, I’d prefer that they devoted themselves to farming or something, so we didn’t have to deal with them.”

“Jones to Morales.”

“What is it, Yeoman?” Morales said.

“We’ve got four phasers, two med-kits, and a couple of emergency transport beacons and emergency transport armbands,” she said.

“No rope?”

“No rope.”

“What is it with you and rope?” Russell asked.

“It’s useful stuff,” Morales said. “You should always have rope with you.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Russell said, turning back to his console.

“Try replicating a fifty foot coil of rope,” Morales said.

“I’ll see what I can do. Jones out.”

“We’ve got ten photon torpedoes, right?” Morales asked.

“What? Oh yeah, ten photo-torps and eight phaser banks,” Russell said, reciting the tech specs of the runabout.

“All right, we’ll save the torpedoes for any ground based missile launchers. You’ll have to take out any air vehicles with the phasers,” Morales said.

“What are you talking about?” Russell said. “You aren’t thinking of taking this thing down to the surface are you?”

“That’s exactly what I’m going to do,” Morales said.

“That would take an expert pilot, which I’m not.”

“But I am,” Morales said. “I joined Starfleet as a shuttle pilot. I’m going to fly us down, then you and Jones can beam in and find Porter and Nelson.”

“Then why are you worried about the weapons? We’ll just go down with the shields up and…”

“Lieutenant, you of all people know that shields and planetary atmospheres don’t get along,” Morales said. “We’ll be fine as long as no missiles hit us. I’m sure that you won’t let that happen.”

“Gotcha,” Russell said. Russell brought up a tactical readout as Morales started the runabout on its descent. Russell’s hands started to sweat. He wasn’t used to operating ship’s weapons; he was used to a hand phaser. Oh well. No pressure. Yeah, right.


Chapter Eighteen


A weight pulled at Ensign Carr’s mind. She was overlooking a very obvious solution to her problem. The feeling tugged at her mind, her legs, and her chest…her chest. She slapped her commbadge quickly, silently cursing herself for not noticing it sooner.

“Carr to Dillon.” Nothing.

“Carr to Jaroch.” Nothing.

“Carr to Hawkins.”


Lieutenant Hawkins felt a slight vibration coming from the communicator on her chest. She wasn’t sure whether or not it was somebody trying to reach her, but she wasn’t going to take that risk. If it was someone, then the speaker module in the commbadge had been busted in the fall. Hopefully, the transmitter was still working, though.

“Hawkins here, can you read me?” she said, tapping her badge. She looked over at Dillon who was sitting next to her anxiously. His commbadge had come off completely during the crash. It was probably on the forest floor somewhere.


“Haw….re….ed…e.” These few syllables were almost buried in the deafening static emanating from Carr’s commbadge. She could tell that it was Lieutenant Hawkins’ voice, but she couldn’t understand a bit of what Hawkins was telling her. Hopefully, Hawkins and the others were OK. At least she knew that Hawkins was alive.

“I don’t see how they could help us,” Debbie said from a chair across the room. “They’re at least five miles from this building, and, even if they got back her, they couldn’t get in because the doors are locked.”

“I wanted to know if they were alive. Is that okay with you?” Carr said angrily. Debbie did have a point though. Dillon, Jaroch, and Hawkins couldn’t help her out of this mess. Somehow, she had do get into the reactor room and plug it back in.

The first thing to do was try the obvious. She walked over to one of the computer consoles, grabbed a chair, and rolled it back over to the window. With an angry cry, she hoisted it up and threw the chair against the window with all of her might. The chair bounced off and hit the floor. The window didn’t so much as quiver.

So much for that, Carr thought.

“It’s transparent aluminum,” Debbie said. “Unbreakable.”

“Great. Just great,” Carr said.


“Was that a person?” Dillon asked.

“I don’t know,” Hawkins said. With the speaker on the commbadge broken, she had no idea if anyone had tried to contact her or not.

“That could have been Jaroch. He could be in trouble,” Dillon said. He stood up, wincing in pain as he did so, and started pacing the wreckage of the passenger car.

“Could be in trouble?” Hawkins said. “He was carried away by a fifty-foot-high sex fiend. I think that goes beyond trouble.”

“Sorry,” Dillon said softly. Hawkins got up and walked over to him.

“You okay?”

“This isn’t the way I had pictured going out,” Dillon said.

“We aren’t going to die here,” Hawkins said firmly. “We are going to make it.”

“I meant us,” Dillon said.

“What?” A cold blast of realization went through Hawkins. Dillon meant going out in a completely different sense. “Travis, I didn’t know that you…”

“Well, I do.” He walked over to the window. “I just didn’t realize that you and Jaroch were already seeing each other.”

“Me and Jaroch? What gave you that idea?” Hawkins said almost laughing. Dillon turned around and stared at her.

“You mean you two aren’t… But I thought you kissed me to try and make Jaroch jealous, so I thought you two were seeing each other already.”

“Travis, that’s the most fucked up logic I ever heard!”

“I’m glad. So you really kissed me because it was me?” His heart raced. There was hope now that she really did feel something for him.

“Actually, at the time I was trying to make Jaroch sick,” Hawkins said. Dillon’s face drooped. “But afterwards I think it meant something. It did mean something.” Hawkins sat back down on the floor. Admitting that to Dillon had taken more out of her than she had expected. This revealing feelings stuff was tough. And if was this bad for her, Dillon must be having an all-out internal war with himself. He was the king of not saying what he was feeling. It had taken her two months to get him to be open with her about his normal feelings. This was a whole new deal.

Dillon came over and sat down next to her. He rubbed his hands back and forth across his knees nervously.

“I’m in love with you, Patricia,” he said. The words came out so quickly that they blended into each other.

“I…” Another loud scream sounded very close by and shook the entire passenger car.


Lieutenant Commander Jaroch had lost consciousness the second that Kirk’s giant hand wrapped around him. Upon waking up, Jaroch decided that going unconscious had probably been a good move. He wished he was still there. As it was, he was still in Kirk’s hand and being waved back and forth as Kirk walked. The impact as Kirk’s feet hit the ground with each step rattled Jaroch’s whole body. Escape did not seem possible at the moment, but Jaroch found himself wondering why he was in this predicament in the first place. Kirk had been quite clearly shouting “woman,” and Jaroch was definitely not a woman.

He would have really liked to get to his commbadge and call for help, but, as it was, his left arm was pinned between his side and Kirk’s palm and his right arm was pointed straight up and pressing against the side of his head. Jaroch decided that, all in all, he was not in the most comfortable position.

Kirk finally stopped his walking and, by the sudden loss of altitude, Jaroch gathered he sat down. The hand surrounding Jaroch opened revealing the giant face of Kirk staring right at him.

“Woman?” Kirk gently prodded Jaroch’s chest.

“NO WOMAN!”

Jaroch gathered that he was in big trouble.


“It’s not going to work.” Carr ignored Debbie’s pessimism and continued trying to get her newly-found strip of metal between the window frame and the wall itself. After two more minutes of attempts, she flung the metal to the ground angrily.

“Damn it! I need a phaser to get into that thing!” Carr shouted.

“The doors and walls are duranium,” Debbie said. “You’d need one hell of a big phaser, which, considering you don’t even have a small phaser, is a pointless dream.” Carr really wished that she’d brought some kind of weapon off of the shuttlecraft. Shuttlecraft! No wait, they aren’t armed. Damn! She’d forgotten the obvious again.

Well, she thought, if I knew everything, I’d be an admiral by now. She tapped her commbadge.

“Carr to Ballard.”

“Shuttlecraft computer responding,” the monotone computer voice replied.

“Lock transporter on my coordinates and energize.”

“What about us?” Debbie shouted as the blue energy surrounded Carr. Carr just waved until there was nothing left of her in the room.


“Start pre-flight check,” Carr ordered as soon as she materialized on the shuttle.

“System check engaged.” Carr sat down in the pilot’s chair and activated the scanners. She was getting life-signs inside the building, but nothing outside. She slammed her fist down on the controls.

“Damn it! The outside wall of this whole damn building is duranium.” The shuttle’s sensors were useless to check where Dillon, Hawkins, and Jaroch were, but they still could scan the building. She checked the readouts. The control center was on the top floor, but she wasn’t getting a reading on the reactor room. The duranium was seeing to it that the computer just registered a blank space in the floor plan. Normally, she could just beam in and plug the reactor back in, but without accurate scans of the room, Carr was afraid of accidently beaming inside a piece of equipment or something.

“Pre-flight check complete,” the computer reported.

“Computer, open the docking bay doors.”

“Unable to comply. Door system has no power.” Carr was expecting that. Well, on the bright side, she wasn’t trapped in the control center anymore. Unfortunately, she was now trapped in the docking bay.

Carr looked back down at the scan of the building. A spot in the upper left hand corner of the blank area covering the reactor room caught her eye.

“Computer, identify image in section L-L-Five of the sensor scan.”

“This is a ventilation shaft. The room beyond is unable to be scanned due to the presence of a material…”

“That’s enough.” A ventilation shaft…which probably led to the roof, which she couldn’t get to because she was stuck in the docking bay. She needed a way to get up to the roof.

Carr got up and walked out of the shuttle. The docking bay was empty except for two hovercars parked near the right wall. She looked up at the roof and back at the hovercars. If one of them hit the roof with enough force, it might be enough to at least weaken the duranium. She ran over to the hovercar and programmed the course into it.

The hovercar rose up into the air and started doing laps around the docking bay to build up speed. It wasn’t a large vehicle, so it needed to build up as much momentum as possible before it hit in order to even make a dent.

After a few seconds, the car shot upward, slamming into the ceiling of the docking bay. The room shook from the force of the blow, and metal debris rained down from the demolished vehicle. Carr dove inside the shuttle for cover, just avoiding a massive chunk that would have sliced her in two.

Once the metal storm had subsided, Carr grabbed a tricorder and walked back out into the bay. A small shaft of sunlight shone onto the front of the shuttle through a new little hole in the roof of the docking bay. She scanned it with her tricorder revealing that the duranium around the hole had been weakened considerably.

“Jackpot,” Carr said. She got a phaser rifle out of the shuttle’s weapon’s locker, powered it up to maximum, then opened fire on the small hole in the ceiling. The roof around it glowed red then white then finally gave way, opening a six foot diameter gap to the outdoors.

Carr climbed into the other hovercar and flew it up to the ceiling. The vehicle wasn’t narrow enough to make it through, but she able to climb out of it, through the hole, and onto the roof. Phaser rifle in one hand and tricorder in the other, Carr made her way towards the ventilation shaft.


Chapter Nineteen


After Preol had finished her gloating or intimidating or whatever she was trying to accomplish by visiting them, Lieutenant Porter and Dr. Nelson had been left alone again.

Nelson had recovered from her operation well enough to stand up and start moving around the room by herself. Porter took the time to lay down on the cot to rest. He knew that an escape opportunity would present itself. He just had to be ready for it.

Nelson’s abdominal area growled loudly startling Porter. He leapt off of the cot and rushed over to her.

“Are you okay?” he demanded. “Is something wrong with Midon?”

“I’m hungry,” Nelson said.

“Oh. I thought that…”

“I know. Thanks for your concern, but I would just like some food.”

“Good point. We haven’t been fed yet,” Porter said. He walked over and pounded on the room door.

“What?” the guard outside shouted.

“We need to eat. You can’t just keep us in here without feeding us,” Porter said.

“All right. I’ll see what I can do,” the guard replied. Through the door, Porter could hear his footsteps fading down the corridor. He took up position beside the door so that when the guard returned and entered the room, Porter would be hidden from view.

“Please tell me that you aren’t about to do what I think you’re going to,” Nelson said, shaking her head.

“What? It’s an escape plan,” Porter said.

“I seriously doubt that it’s going to work.”

“Is that you or Midon talking?”

“Both of us,” Nelson said. “We both think it’s a stupid idea.”

“Fine. I’ll accept your apologies when I’ve gotten us out of here.”

“Right.”

Porter heard two sets of footsteps approaching and motioned for Nelson to be quiet.

The door opened, and an armed guard stepped in, weapon raised. Beyond the guard, Nelson could see another Hinaree holding a food tray.

“Where’s the other one?” the guard demanded.

“Right here!” Porter shouted from behind the door. He slammed the door onto the guard. The guard, knocked off-balance, staggered sideways. The other Hinaree dropped the food tray and charged into the room. Nelson raced over to the off-kilter guard and grabbed his weapon. Porter intercepted the other Hinaree, blocking his attempt to help the guard. The guard, having recovered enough to notice that someone was taking his weapon, slammed Nelson in the gut with the hand he wasn’t using to hold onto his gun. Nelson felt Midon convulse inside of her. Amedon ceased to exist as Amelia and Midon fell to the ground and separately dealt with the pain inflicted on them. Another convulsion. Something was definitely wrong.

The Hinaree in front of Porter grabbed Porter’s shoulders and attempted to slam him into the back wall of the cell. Porter smashed his knee into the Hinaree’s groin. The Hinaree hit the ground with a thud and started wailing. Pleased with himself, Porter turned to go after the guard and found himself staring into barrel of the guard’s gun.

“I should kill you right now,” the guard said.

“Come on,” Porter said, smiling weakly. “Don’t we even get points for effort?”

“When Preol is informed of this, you will have much less to smile about. She may decide that one hostage is more than sufficient.”

“Porter…Craig,” Nelson gasped, painfully pulling herself up off the floor. “The symbiont. In trouble.” She clutched her stomach as another wave of pain rolled through her abdomen.

“She is joined!” the guard shouted, turning his weapon on Nelson.

“Wait a second!” Porter shouted. “You can’t just…” An alarm started blaring.

“All personnel to battle stations!” Preol’s voice said over the loudspeakers. “We are under attack!” The guard looked at the door, then back at Nelson.

“I’ll inform Preol, and, after we repel the invaders, you both will be dealt with.” He stormed out of the room, followed by the other Hinaree who was walking a bit funny now. They slammed the cell door shut, locking Porter and Nelson back in.

“Well, that could have gone better,” Porter mumbled.


“Preol! Preol! The human female is joined!”

Preol turned away from the tactical display in front of her to see who was shouting. Koller had just run in. He was panting from lack of air.

“The human woman is carrying a Brackto,” Koller gasped.

“Did you kill it?” Preol asked.

“No. I wanted to inform you first.”

“You should have killed her, but we have no time for that now. Man your station,” Preol said. Koller went over to his station. All eight of Preol’s group of Hinaree had now assembled.

“The intruder is entering range.”

“Identify,” Preol said.

“It’s nothing I recognize. The government must have something new, or it’s…”

“Starfleet,” Preol said. “Lock all weapons and fire. Launch all of the robotic drones.”


“Incoming,” Russell said. His scopes had suddenly filled with targets, all of which were homing in on the runabout.

“I see them. Fire away, Lieutenant,” Morales said. He put the runabout into a dive.

“They’re moving so fast that I can’t get a phaser lock!”

“Then, I guess you’re going to have to improvise.”

“Aye, sir. Speed up and try to get them behind us.”

“Got it.” The runabout shot forward forcing the missiles to loop around to reacquire the ship. Russell quickly reprogrammed the phaser banks and got ready to fire. “They’re all back there and gaining. Whatever you’re going to do, do it fast.”

“Aye, sir. Pull up, now!” Russell pressed the fire button just as Morales changed course. The rear phaser banks fired a wide beam into the mass of missiles. As the runabout rose, the beam fanned downward, destroying the entire barrage.

“Good work, Russell!” Morales said. More contacts appeared on his monitor. “But we’ve got more guests coming.”

Russell looked back at his tactical scope. “They aren’t missiles this time,” he said, looking at a scan of one of the twenty objects heading toward the runabout. “They’re some kind of unmanned craft.”

“Weapons?”

“Projectiles. Not even capable of penetrating the runabout’s hull…sir! I’m reading energy surges beyond the craft! I read something similar just before those missiles came at us. They could be the launch sites preparing to fire again.”

“Transfer the coordinates to my screen,” Morales said. He flew past the drones, ignoring the shower of bullets they rained on the runabout. The launchers were coming into view. A ring of them sat on the face of a mountain. On top of that mountain, Morales could see the fort. “Lock phasers and fire!” Russell obeyed. In seconds, the runabout’s phasers obliterated the missiles launchers before they could fire their next volley.

“That’s all of them,” Russell said.

“Get Jones and beam down. Contact me as soon as you’ve found Porter and Dr. Nelson.”


“Launchers destroyed.”

“The drones’ weapon systems have had no effect.”

“Damn!” Preol shouted. “Send the drones after that ship. Ram it to the ground!”


Russell and Jones materialized in an empty hallway, phasers drawn. The wood planks reminded Jones of one of the original buildings on her home colony. She shuddered.

“Something wrong?” Russell asked.

“This place reminds me of home.”

“Usually that’s a good thing.”

“Not for me,” Jones said.

“Gotcha.” With his free hand, he pulled out his tricorder. He felt kind of weird carrying two phasers, but he’d brought an extra along for Porter when they found him. “I’m reading eleven life-forms in all. Eight behind us. Three to our right.”

“There’s a wall to our right,” Jones said, looking at the wood beside her.

“I didn’t mean directly to our right. Come on.” He walked down the hall followed by Jones.


Morales circled above the fort waiting for Russell and Jones to signal him. He almost didn’t notice the targets on his scope getting closer.

What the hell are they doing, he thought. They were still coming, and they were accelerating. Morales was confused. The drones’ weapons couldn’t possibly harm the runabout. The only thing they could be doing was…trying to ram him!

“Computer, lock phasers on incoming targets and fire!” The computer fired. Two drones were destroyed leaving eighteen more. The phasers weren’t going to work on narrow beam, and, without Russell, he couldn’t reprogram them.

Morales turned the runabout away from the fort and headed into the maze of mountain peaks.

“Computer, continue firing phasers at any targets you can get a lock on.”

He soared in close to one of the peaks then, as soon as he had passed it, turned in a bit so that the peak was directly behind the runabout. Four of the drones rammed into the peak before the dirt and stone gave way, sending a hail of debris hurtling down the mountain side.

“Firing phasers,” the computer said. Two more blips disappeared from the scope.

“A few more minutes, and I’m going to be all out of guests,” Morales said laughing.


“Intruder alert!”

“How did they get in?” Koller asked.

“Damn Starfleet technology!” Preol said. “Where are they?”

“Approaching the prisoners.”

“Let’s go,” Preol said, heading toward the weapon’s locker on the other side of the control room.

“What about the Starfleet ship?”

“Our drones will keep it busy.”


“They’re in here,” Russell said.

“Stand back,” Jones said. “HIYAA!” She kicked in the door. Russell ran in and was immediately clubbed to the ground. Jones raised her phaser and fired a blast into the room. “Surrender or die!” It was melodramatic, but if it worked, who cared?

“Jones?” Porter’s voice asked.

“Are you alright?” she asked walking into the room. Porter was standing by the door and Nelson was laying on a cot. She did not look well.

“I’m fine. Sean…not so much. Sorry about that, buddy.”

“It’s ok,” Russell said with a grunt, getting back to his feet. “You still don’t have any upper body strength.”

“Uh huh. That’s why you hit the floor so quickly.”

“Can we do this later? Where’s the Hinaree?” Jones asked.

“What Hinaree?” Porter said.

“We read three life-forms in here. We assumed that…”

“That would be Amedon,” Porter said, gesturing at the cot.

“What?”

“In order to save Midon from the Hinaree, Nelson joined with it.”

“Is she alright?”

“I don’t think so. She lost consciousness a few minutes ago. A Hinaree hit her in the gut.”

“Get ready,” they heard someone shout from down the hall. There was a rush of footsteps.

“Oh boy,” Jones said. Russell tossed Porter the extra phaser.

“Get Nelson under the cot,” Russell said. “Jones, you and I will cover the door. Russell crouched in a corner near the door, and Jones took up position behind the door. Porter gently picked up Nelson and placed her under the cot. He lay down beside her, blocking her from any incoming fire, and aimed his phaser at the door.

Russell picked off the first Hinaree through the door. Jones hit two more before the Hinaree stopped charging in.

“Contact the runabout!” Russell shouted to Porter.

“Oh yeah.” Porter slapped his commbadge. “Porter to Hudson.” He didn’t get a response.

Two Hinaree aimed their rifles into the room and started firing. Russell was able to pick one of them off, but the other ducked back.

“The jamming field is still on!” Porter shouted.

“But the runabout was inside of the field’s boundaries,” Russell said. “The only prevents scans and communications from getting inside or outside of it.”

“Then, Commander Morales must have gone outside of the field,” Porter said. “We have to shut it down.”

“Understood.” Russell changed the setting on his phaser, aimed at the wall beside the door, and fired, obliterating the wall. Three surprised Hinaree were standing on the other side. Before they had a chance to react, Jones and Porter stunned them into unconsciousness.

“Cover me,” Jones shouted. She slammed the door shut, and rushed toward the hole in the wall. She had just passed the door when it was punctured by about seventy bullets. Jones crouched down by the hole, looked out into the hall, then rolled through the hole. Two Hinaree were directly behind her and one was ahead of her. She phasered the one in front of her, and kicked out behind her, knocking the other two off-balance.

Realizing what Jones was up to, Russell got up and headed toward the hole. He saw the two Hinaree Jones had kicked staggering. With two quick phaser blasts, the rendered them immobile. Jones picked herself up, and Russell stepped out into the hallway.

“Is that all of them?” he asked. They heard footsteps fading in the distance.

“Guess not,” Jones said.


Morales looped around another mountain peak and headed straight toward the last three drones.

“Phasers firing,” the computer said. Two of the drones were destroyed.

“Raise forward shields, minimum strength,” Morales said.

“Raising shields in a planetary atmosphere is…”

“Do it anyway!” The shields crackled to life in front of the runabout, sending electric charges through the air. The last drone flew into this disturbance, frying its flight systems. The drone plummeted and crashed into the ground below. Morales headed back toward the fort.


“Where’s Preol?” Porter shouted from inside the room.

“Which one’s Preol?” Russell said.

“The female one!” Russell and Jones looked around. There were seven male bodies.

“She’s the one who got away,” Jones said. “I’ll get her.”

“No way. Give me your tricorder,” Porter said, coming through the hole. Russell handed the tricorder to him. “Keep trying to contact Commander Morales. If we don’t get Amedon help soon, she might…”

“Yeah, we know,” Russell said. Porter ran off down the hall.

“What? Did he fall for her already?” Jones asked.

“Craig? Nah. He just really hates being taken hostage,” Russell said.

“Does this happen to him often?”

“This is the first time. But he always despised it in training at the Academy. He almost shot my face off during one exercise.”


“PREOL!!!” Porter shouted. The tricorder said that she was in the room ahead of him. He pressed himself up against the wall, and opened the door. A barrage of bullets flew passed him.

“Goodbye, Stargeek!” Preol shouted, then started laughing hysterically. Porter stepped into the room.

“You were going to say goodbye without giving me a kiss?” Porter said, aiming his phaser at Preol.

“Who me?” Preol said. In a blur of movement, she raised her rifle at Porter. Porter fired and dove for the floor. The phaser bolt hit Preol just as she pulled the trigger. She fell, firing all the way. A second later, the room was silent. Porter stood up and headed back to the others.

“Did you find Preol?” Russell asked.

“She’s catching some beauty sleep. I guess I was too much for her,” Porter said.

“Morales to away team,” their commbadges barked.

“Russell here. Where were you? We almost got killed down here!”

“Sorry. I was trying to avoid being killed up here!”

“Beam us up, now,” Porter interrupted. “We have to get Dr. Nelson medical attention.”

“What about the Hinaree?” Jones asked.

“Leave them there,” Morales said.

“Leave them?”

“Yes, this isn’t our fight. We’d be interfering in the normal development of their war if we gave the Hinaree to the government.”

“But we just blew up all of their defenses. Isn’t that interfering?” Jones asked.

“Fine. We won’t interfere any more. Is that good enough for everybody? Energizing.” The away team vanished just as the Hinaree outside the room started to wake up.


The away team rematerialized in the rear section of the runabout where Morales was waiting for them.

“Get us to the nearest hospital,” Porter said as he helped Nelson to a nearby chair.

“No,” Nelson said weakly. “Get us out of here. They’ll take…” She winced as a wave of pain slammed over her.

“Take what?” Morales said.

“Terrible care of her,” Porter said. “The hospitals here have no idea how to treat a human.”

“Don’t worry, Doctor. I’ll have us back to the starbase as fast as I can,” Morales said before rushing back to the cockpit.

“You lied to him,” Jones said to Porter once Morales was gone.

“Not really. The Bracktians probably don’t know how to treat a human,” Russell said.

“And you’re backing him up,” Jones said.

“Have you got a problem with that…Yeoman?” Russell said.

“I…I guess not.”

“Good.”

The runabout raced back to Starbase 219.


Chapter Twenty


“NO WOMAN!” Kirk screamed again. He raised the arm that Jaroch was in up into the air. Jaroch could guess what would come next. Kirk would throw him down, then he would die rather horribly and painfully.

“I now entrust my life-experiences as well as those of the Yynsians of the past that reside within me,” Jaroch said, beginning the Yynsian death ritual. He was interrupted by another giant figure.

“LOGIC! LOGIC!” a giant Spock screamed. Kirk whirled around to face Spock.

“NO WOMAN!” He started swinging his arm down.

“LOGIC!” Spock reached up and grabbed Kirk’s neck. One Vulcan nerve pinch later, Kirk was falling toward the forest floor. Jaroch was able to pull himself out of Kirk’s hand before Kirk hit the ground. He saw Kirk’s toupee fly off and start floating toward him. Jaroch jumped for it, grabbed on to a tuft of fake hair, and rode the hairpiece to the ground. It provided enough padding to spare him the full force of the impact.

“Make it so!” Jaroch heard shouted in the distance, from what he believed to be the direction of the car.

“Great. I just save myself, and now I have to go after them,” Jaroch mumbled. He leapt off the toupee and ran off toward Picard’s screams.


“He’s back!” Dillon shouted. Picard’s giant face was looking down at them.

“MAKE IT SO?” Picard asked.

“What’s that supposed to me?” Hawkins asked.

“I have no idea.”

“MAKE IT SO?” Picard said, more insistently.

“I think that we’d better figure it out quick,” Hawkins said. Dillon stood up and tried to look as commanding as possible.

“I am Commander Travis Michael Dillon of the Federation Starship Secondprize. I respectfully request that you inform us of your intentions or else we will be forced to…” He fell silent. Hawkins started laughing.

“Or else we’ll what?” she said. “Travis, sometimes you are just so…”

“Can we save the insults for later?” Dillon asked.

“I was going to say adorable.”

“Really?” Dillon said, his face brightening. “Does that mean that you…?”

“Later. We have too large of an audience.”

“Right.” Dillon turned back to Picard. “Can you understand me?”

“MAKE IT SO?” Picard demanded.

“What do you want?” Dillon asked.

“MAKE IT SO!”

“What does that mean?”

“MAKE IT SO!!”

“Tell me what the hell you want before that bald head of yours blinds me, you damn moron!”

“MAKE IT SO!!!” Picard screamed angrily.

“Travis, next time, control your temper,” Hawkins said.

“MAKE IT SO!” Picard picked up the passenger car, turned it upside down, and started shaking it violently.


The sensor map made the ventilation shaft look a hell of a lot larger than it was in real life. Ensign Carr looked at it, then down at herself.

“Not a chance in hell,” she said. “A four-year-old would have trouble with this one.” She raised the phaser rifle and fired. The top of the shaft disintegrated revealing a wider shaft descending into the building. “Much better.”

Carr crawled inside, quickly making her way to the metal mesh panel leading into the reactor room. One well-placed phaser blast later, and she was able to drop down into the dim chamber. The light from outside coming through the ventilation shaft was the only illumination in the reactor room. It wasn’t much, but it was enough that she could make out the power cord.

“So much trouble for this stupid thing,” Carr muttered as she snatched it up and plugged it back in.

The entire complex lit up, blinding her briefly. The door into the reactor room opened moments later, and Debbie rushed in.

“You saved my project!” Debbie exclaimed, grabbing Andrea in a bear hug that would have put Counselor Webber to shame.

“I don’t care about your damn project,” Carr said, pushing Debbie off of her then running out into the control center. “Where are my people?!?”

“I can’t find the car,” Claudia said. “While the power was off, something must have happened. The car’s missing, and the force field emitters are damaged and inoperable.”

“Translation. My friends are out there with a bunch of giant monsters,” Carr said. She ran out of the control room.

“Does she have to call them monsters?” Debbie said.


“Hold on, Patricia!” Dillon shouted, hanging onto one of the support poles for dear life. Hawkins was clutching his leg in a death grip. If she let go, she’d fly toward the hole in the car and fall to the ground below.

“MAKE IT SO! MAKE IT SO! MAKE IT SO!” Picard screamed.

“If you’ve got any plans, Commander, now is the time,” Hawkins said. Picard shook the car again. Dillon’s lost his grip on the pole with his left arm. He and Hawkins were hanging on by the strength in his right hand, and he could feel that strength draining quickly. Dillon swung his left arm back up, trying to get his grip back, but Hawkins’ weight was pulling him down.

“I’m losing it!” he shouted.

“Travis.”

“What?”

“I love you, too.”


Jaroch ran into the clearing that the car had crashed into ready for the worst. The car wasn’t there. There were, however, two giant legs in black pants and boots. He looked up to see the giant Picard shaking the car upside down. If Dillon and Hawkins were still in there, they wouldn’t be for long with Picard shaking it like that.

“Hey, baldy!” Jaroch shouted. “I am over here!” Picard stopped shaking the car and looked down at Jaroch.

“MAKE IT SO?”

“I doubt that you have made it in years,” Jaroch said. “You’re an old loser. You lost your hair, two ships… Shall I go on? You are a waste of time.”

“MAKE IT SO!” Picard threw the car to the ground and advanced toward Jaroch. Jaroch ran off into the forest, hoping that the trees would slow Picard down enough for him to stay ahead of the giant.


“Second time today,” Dillon gasped after the car hit the ground, knocking him and Hawkins around badly. Dillon was pretty sure that a couple of ribs and his left arm were broken.

“We’re getting good at this,” Hawkins said. She was sure that she’d broken a rib and her left foot. She pulled herself over to Dillon.

“Too good. The cavalry can show up any time now,” Dillon said. Hawkins pulled herself up next to him.

“They can wait a few minutes.” She kissed him.

“Yeah, definitely,” Dillon said. They kissed again.

“Ow, that was my rib.”


Jaroch raced through the forest, dodging branches and leaping over fallen limbs. Picard was right behind him. At one point, Jaroch felt a giant foot whoosh past his head. He was getting tired, but he had to keep moving or Picard would crush him. There wasn’t too much farther to go anyway.

“MAKE IT SO!” Picard screamed.

“WOMAN!” Kirk’s voice screamed from nearby.

Perfect, Jaroch thought. Kirk pushed through a few trees and charged Picard.

“NO WOMAN!” Kirk pulled his fist back and punched Picard in the face. Picard looked at Kirk in astonishment.

“MAKE IT SO!” Picard leapt at Kirk, knocking him to the ground. Jaroch ducked behind a tree and started making his way back toward the car.

Kirk and Picard were really going at each other, exchanging volley after volley of punishing blows. Just before Jaroch moved out of sight, he saw Spock walk up to Kirk and Picard.

“LOGIC!” he screamed. Kirk and Picard stopped fighting, looked at each other, then dove at Spock. Jaroch could hear his cries of “LOGIC! LOGIC!” all the way back to the car.

Dillon and Hawkins were seated next to each other when he arrived. Both of them looked horrible. They were battered and beaten, but they were both smiling. And it wasn’t even a normal smile; it was a goofy grin. Jaroch wondered if they’d fallen into some kind of near-death delirium. Before he had a chance to find out, he heard the familiar hum of a shuttle’s engines. He looked up and saw the Secondprize shuttlecraft coming in for a landing. Seconds later, Ensign Carr ran out of the vehicle.

“Is everyone alive?” she asked anxiously.

“I believe so,” Jaroch said. “But Commander Dillon and Lieutenant Hawkins do not look well.”

“We’re fine, Jaroch,” Hawkins said. “But we would really, really like to leave now.”

“And get a great deal of medical attention,” Dillon added.

“I can fly us back to the visitor’s center right away,” Carr said.

“Forget the visitor’s center. Get us back to the starbase,” Dillon said. “I think we’ve got more than enough information for our reports.” He stood up painfully and helped Hawkins to her feet. She leaned against him, keeping the weight off of her broken foot. The two of them hobbled out of the passenger car and into the shuttle.

“Something is not right,” Jaroch said.

“What do you mean?” Carr asked.

“I cannot put my finger on it yet, but there is something very wrong with the universe.” He and Carr walked into the shuttle, where they immediately spotted Dillon and Hawkins lip-locked on the bench at the rear of the compartment. Carr screamed.

“That would be it,” Jaroch said.


Chapter Twenty-one


Captain Rydell paced the bridge of the Secondprize anxiously as Commander Beck finished up the last of the fake sensor logs. The bridge was eerily quiet. He wasn’t used to seeing it this empty. It just felt wrong. This bridge was supposed to be alive with people and voices. It was times like this that Rydell realized that the Secondprize really was just an inanimate mass of metal and circuits. The crew was what made the ship what it was.

“I’m done, sir,” Beck said, breaking into Rydell’s thoughts.

“Good.” He walked to the rear of the bridge where she was sitting at a console. “You know, Lisa, you don’t really have to call me sir anymore. We’re fellow command officers.”

“I’ve been calling you sir since you set foot on this bridge three years ago. I can’t just stop overnight,” Beck said.

The turbolift doors near Rydell’s ready room opened, and Commander Scott Baird stepped out onto the bridge.

“What the hell are you two doing here?” Baird demanded. “Don’t I have enough to do without you do getting in my way?”

“We’re just leaving,” Beck said. “We have to be in Lieutenant Terris’ office in ten minutes.”

“Give Lieutenant Pencil-neck my regards,” Baird said, walking over to the helm console. He pulled some type of tool out of his engineering kit, knelt down beside the console, and set to work.

“Captain, I’m really starting to wonder if we should be doing this,” Beck said. “Maybe Terris just needs the information for Waystation. If we give him these fakes, he could royally screw up my chances of surviving a real Multek assault.”

“What do your instincts tell you?” Rydell asked.

“That Terris is up to something.”

“Mine too. There’s always a risk in following your instincts, but most of the time, it pays off,” Rydell said. There was a loud crash from Commander Baird’s direction. Rydell and Beck whirled around and saw that Baird had completely removed the helm console, which was now sitting on the floor on its side. “What the hell are you doing?” Rydell shouted.

“It’s all gotta go,” Baird said. “The refit calls for us to get a whole new bridge.” Rydell looked around again. This was the last time he was going to see the bridge as it originally was.

“Come on, Captain,” Beck said. She had the isolinear chip with the fake sensor logs on it and was heading toward the turbolift. Rydell followed her reluctantly.

“Don’t worry, sir, you won’t even recognize the place when you get back,” Baird said.

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Rydell said just before the turbolift doors closed.

He and Beck rode down to deck eight where the docking arm from the starbase was attached to the Secondprize. On their way off the ship, Rydell ducked into an equipment room and grabbed a tricorder.

“It will be a hell of a lot easier to keep an eye on Terris this way,” he explained. Beck pulled a hand phaser out of the pocket on her uniform.

“It will be a hell of a lot easier to stop him this way,” she said.

“Good idea…just in case.”


“Enter,” Terris’ voice called after Rydell pressed the door chime outside of his office. Rydell and Beck entered just as Terris jumped up out his desk chair to greet them. “Thank you for being so punctual.”

“What? Did you expect us to be late?” Rydell asked.

“Well, Captain, you do have a certain reputation among the top brass. Admiral Wagner told me that you were even fifteen minutes late to your promotion ceremony,” Terris said, laughing. Rydell was now absolutely positive that he didn’t like Terris.

“Yeah yeah,” Rydell said.

“Here’s the information you wanted,” Beck said holding out the isolinear chip. She was getting impatient. With every passing moment, she was more and more certain that Terris was a slimeball, and she wanted to hurry up and prove it. Terris immediately stopped laughing and reached for the chip.

“Thank you very much,” he said a bit too enthusiastically for Beck’s tastes. He took the chip out of her hand and went back to his desk. “I have much work to do now. I’ll hopefully see you both later.” He popped the chip into the console on his desk and started reading.

“Come on, Beck,” Rydell said. They stepped out into the corridor and sat down on the floor directly across from Terris’ office. Rydell pulled out the tricorder and started scanning.

“My instincts are screaming now,” Beck whispered.

“Mine too. But so far, he’s just sitting at his desk. He’s not trying to transmit the information anywhere or anything.”

“Well, I put an information protection program on there, so he won’t be able to alter the chip’s contents if sabotage is his motive,” Beck said.

“Motive? We haven’t even established that he’s guilty of anything,” Rydell said. He looked back at the tricorder. “He’s coming this way!” Rydell and Beck got up and ran down the corridor and around a corner. Peeking back around, they saw Terris’ office door open and Terris exit carrying the chip. He walked off in the other direction. Beck and Rydell waited a few seconds then followed him.

Tracking the isolinear chip with the tricorder allowed Rydell and Beck to stay at a discreet distance behind Terris. He descended down the decks of the starbase, stopping just two floors above the lower reactor.

“The signal’s not moving anymore,” Rydell said. “Come on.” They walked to the room where Terris went. It was a cargo bay.

“If he were innocent, why would he come here?” Beck said drawing her phaser. “Let’s go.”

“On what grounds?” Rydell asked. “If we arrest him, we have to have some kind of proof. Damn! He’s coming toward us.” He and Beck raced down the hall and ducked around another corner. Terris left the cargo bay and headed back toward the turbolift. Rydell and Beck headed for the cargo bay as soon as he was out of sight.

“What’s in here?” Beck asked looking around at the stacks of cargo containers.

“The chip for one thing,” Rydell said, looking at the tricorder. “He put it in this container.” Rydell walked over to the container he’d specified and checked its manifest. “Check the destination on container four-four-four-D.” Beck activated the cargo bay computer and checked the records.

“It’s scheduled to be picked up by the freighter Denaba in about an hour. The Denaba flight plan has it headed to the Benaki system,” Beck said.

“Which is suspiciously close to Romulan space,” Rydell said.

“The Romulans! Terris is a spy! I knew it.”

“Then you should have said something earlier, Lieutenant,” Terris said. Rydell and Beck hadn’t heard him enter the cargo bay, and now he was aiming a phaser at them. “I thought I heard some noise back here as I was getting into the turbolift.”

“I don’t think Admiral Wagner’s going to enjoy finding out that his number one boy is working for the enemy,” Rydell said.

“I’m not going to tell him,” Terris replied. “And you two definitely aren’t going to tell him.”

“You’re going to kill us?” Beck said. “You don’t think that’s going to arouse just a little suspicion?”

“Not really. But maybe it will get the starbase administrators to check the maintenance of their cargo bay airlocks a bit more closely,” Terris said. “Don’t worry, though. It won’t hurt. I’ll make sure that I stun you before ejecting you into space.”

“That’s awfully kind of you,” Rydell said.

“But we respectfully decline,” Beck said, drawing her phaser. Terris fired at her, just missing as he dove behind some containers.

“Keep him busy!” Rydell shouted. He opened up the cargo container and started digging for the isolinear chip. A phaser beam passed dangerously close to his rear end.

“You’re outnumbered, Terris!” Beck shouted, cautiously walking around the cargo bay. In the maze of containers and barrels, he could be anywhere.

“Numbers mean so little when brains are on your side,” Terris said from behind her. Beck dove to the ground just before a phaser bolt flashed over her head. She fired back blindly in his direction.

“I’ve got it!” Rydell said.

“Too bad it won’t do you any good,” Terris said. He was at the controls of the cargo transporter.

“Oh shit” were the last words Rydell managed to get out of his mouth before he and Beck dissolved in a flurry of molecules.


Chapter Twenty-two


“I don’t think I even want to know where we are,” Beck said. She and Rydell had appeared in the middle of some type of jungle at night. Alien trees towered above them as the calls various insects and animals came from all sides.

“He must have beamed us down to the planet that the starbase orbits,” Rydell said.

“Beck to starbase control,” Beck said slapping her commbadge.

“Starbase control here. What do you need?” a tired voice replied.

“Captain Alex Rydell and I are on the planet’s surface. Request immediate beam up.”

“Yeah, right. Nobody goes down there. Quit playing jokes or…”

“I’m not joking.”

“Stop wasting my time!”

“I’m not…are you still there? Hello?!? That little bastard closed the channel on me. Maybe I can get somebody else.”

“And tell them what?” Rydell asked. “That Terris beamed us down here? He’s a colleague of theirs. Our statements aren’t going to hold a lot of credibility.”

“And with the Secondprize inside the starbase we can’t contact Commander Baird either,” Beck said.

“Not unless he leaves the ship and goes out onto the starbase itself where its communications network will take over,” Rydell said.

“Fat chance of that. Remind me to write Starfleet a memo about the stupidity of the current comm systems when we get back,” Beck said.

“Will do.” He slumped down a little more.

“So we’re just going to sit here.” This inability to do anything about their situation was really getting to her.

“At least we’re alive.”

“For now.”

“That’s a real positive attitude.”

“Unfortunately, it may be a realistic one,” Rydell said, sitting down against the trunk of a tree. “I was on the original survey mission that explored this planet before the starbase was put here. Planet Nu Epsilon Twelve. Class M…barely.”

“Barely!”

“The atmosphere has high concentrations of oxygen, methane, and chlorine. The oxygen concentrations are high enough to keep us alive, but over time, the methane and chlorine will kill us.”

“Great,” Beck said, slumping down against another tree.

“If it’s any consolation, we probably won’t be here that long,” Rydell said. “The indigenous life-forms are very vicious and very carnivorous.”

“And we only have one little phaser.”

“Yep.”

“And it’s dark.”

“Yep.”

“And I bet the local animals are night-feeders.”

“Yep.”

“And we’re in really big trouble.”

“Yep.”


Commander Baird looked around the bridge at his handiwork. Actually, there wasn’t much left that could be called a bridge. Baird had ripped out every chair, every console, and every bit of carpet. It was an empty world ready to be reformed. His mind started working on new designs even though he knew that Starfleet had already finalized everything.

And we could put automatic arm restraints, a gag, and an electric shock generator in Dillon’s chair,” he thought. The turbolift opened behind him.

“It’s not done yet, O.K.?” he said.

“That’s not my problem,” an unfamiliar female voice said. He turned around and saw a woman in a blue Starfleet uniform. “I’m looking for Captain Alex Rydell,” she said, before Baird could speak.

“He’s not on board,” Baird said. “What did you need to see him about?”

“I’m the new Chief Medical Officer,” she said, extending her hand to Baird. “Doctor Elizabeth Aldridge.”

“Commander Scott Baird. I’m the Chief Engineer.”

“Looks like you’ve got your hands full,” Aldridge said, looking around.

“The joys of a refit. And it’s about damn time we had one, too.”

“I’m sure you’re very proud,” Aldridge said. “I’ll leave you to it.” She turned and headed back to the turbolift.

“Captain Rydell had a meeting with Lieutenant Terris on the starbase,” Baird called after her. “Check there.”

“Thank you.” She stepped into the turbolift. This was annoying. She gets dragged a few hundred light years to join the Secondprize, and the ship’s captain doesn’t even have the common courtesy to be around. Aldridge was getting even less pleased than she was before. What right did Starfleet have to put her on a starship anyway? She was a forensic pathologist, not a general practitioner. Dead people don’t complain about cuts and bruises, and surgery on corpses was a hell of a lot less tricky than on live beings. Starfleet didn’t understand that, however. She was a Starfleet doctor, and she had dealt with live patients in the past. That was enough for them.

It wasn’t until she was on the transport on her way to Starbase 219 that she found out that three doctors before her had turned the position down. She was the last one on the list, and Starfleet wasn’t giving her the option of saying no. She went to the Secondprize or to the brig to await a court-martial.

She finally managed to find Terris’ office fifteen minutes later. The directions that the starbase’s computer had given her ended up doing more harm than good. Grateful, to have finally navigated her way through the labyrinth, she pressed Terris’ door chime.

“Enter,” a voice called. Enter, Aldridge thought. What kind of greeting was that? It sounded so high and mighty. Too high and mighty for a lowly lieutenant.

“That’s no way to talk to a superior officer,” she said as she charged into Terris’ office. Terris was alone and seated at his desk. He stared at her, stunned.

“Who…”

“Commander Elizabeth Aldridge,” she snapped. “Where is Captain Rydell?”

Terris leapt to his feet and offered Aldridge a chair. He had no idea who this woman was, but he was sure that she had to be onto him. Why else would she come in to his office demanding to know Rydell’s whereabouts? She didn’t look like security though. She was wearing Starfleet blues, not the mustard color that security wore. A chill rushed through his body. Maybe she was S.I. Starfleet Intelligence. He had to get rid of her.

“I’m afraid that I haven’t seen him, Commander,” he said, forcing a smile.

“He had a meeting with you,” Aldridge said. She thought that Terris looked really nervous for some reason. She just wanted to know where Captain Rydell was. Why was he hiding something from her?

“Nope,” Terris said. “I’d love to chat, but I have a ton of work to do.”

“You haven’t seen Captain Rydell then?”

“Not since last night.”

“I see.” Aldridge stood up. “Sorry I bothered you.” She walked out of the office.

Something was really wrong with that boy, she thought.

She headed back toward the Secondprize to see Commander Baird. At the moment, he was the only person that she knew on the starbase besides Terris, and Terris was up to something. And that something probably concerned the whereabouts of the Secondprize’s captain.


“Make sure you use a low setting,” Rydell said. “We have to keep as much charge in that phaser as possible.” Beck aimed the phaser at the pile of sticks and dry leaves that Rydell had gathered and fired. The pile glowed and crackled as the fire spread.

“That takes care of our light problems for the time being.”

“Yep,” Rydell said softly.

“With all due respect, sir, would you please stop being so damn accepting of all of this?” Beck said.

“Accepting?”

“You haven’t said one thing about how we’re going to get out of this mess. Or done anything towards that end. Or anything at all!”

“Lisa, unless you have some old, dear friend on that starbase that you can convince to help us, we’re stuck. The crew is all either on shore-leave elsewhere, on a mission, or helping with the refit.”

“So what do you think our odds are of getting out of this?” Beck asked. Rydell pulled out his tricorder and did a quick scan.

“Well, if the atmosphere stays at its current levels, we can survive a week without significant damage. We can stay alive for two weeks.”

“Someone will surely start looking for us before then,” Beck said. “All we have to do is hold off the area wildlife until then.”

“Which is something we’re about to get some practice at. Something big is heading this way,” Rydell said. Beck aimed her phaser off into the darkness while Rydell picked up a long, sturdy-looking branch.

A soft rustling in the distance grew louder and louder.


Chapter Twenty-three


“What do you mean Terris hasn’t seen him all fucking day?” Commander Baird shouted angrily after Aldridge told him about her visit with the lieutenant. “He had a meeting with us this morning!”

“That’s what he said,” Aldridge said. She was right; Terris was hiding something.

“Why would he lie about that?” Baird said.

“You’re sure Rydell’s not on the ship?”

“Computer, locate Captain Rydell,” Baird said.

“Captain Rydell is not on the Secondprize,” the computer reported.

“Like I told you, he’s not here,” Baird said. “Did you ask the starbase computer?”

“No, after Terris acted so weird, I came straight to find you,” Aldridge said.

“Come on.” Baird grabbed Aldridge’s arm and dragged her off the bridge into the turbolift. A minute later, they walked out of the docking arm onto the starbase. “Computer, locate Captain Rydell.”

“Captain Rydell is not on Starbase 219.”

“Locate Commander Beck.”

“Commander Beck is not on Starbase 219.”

“Fuck.”

“I think we need to go have another talk with Lieutenant Terris,” Aldridge said.

“No kidding.” Baird and Aldridge headed back toward the lieutenant’s office.


The rustling of the branches became louder and more violent. Suddenly, a giant creature burst through the trees at Beck and Rydell. It was only partially lit by the fire, but Beck could see that it was about ten feet tall, five feet wide, and generally shaped like a giant rectangle with legs and a mouth. Said mouth took up almost all of the creature’s torso and was filled with long, pointy teeth. Beck couldn’t see any eyes on the thing at all. She aimed her phaser and fired. It reeled back and let out a high-pitched squeal. After one more blast, the creature turned and ran out of the clearing.

“What the hell was that?” she shouted.

“We called it a basahm. Big ass scary as hell monster.”

“Fitting,” Beck said. “Are they common?”

“You don’t want to know,” Rydell said. “On the bright side, it should be dawn in a few hours. The basahms sleep during the day.”

“I hope so. That second shot I fired was set at full power, and I just sent him running away. I don’t think I made a real dent.”

“You didn’t. We managed to kill one at around setting twelve.”

“And hand phasers only go up setting eight. Perfect.”

“The basahm will return, and he’s going to bring friends,” Rydell said.

“We’ve got to get out of here.”

“Don’t worry. Someone will realize we’re missing,” Rydell said.


“Enter,” Lieutenant Terris shouted upon hearing the door chime. These interruptions were getting annoying. It was bad enough that Rydell took the chip with the Multek information before he could ship it to his Romulan bosses. Now he had to find a way to explain it, and these interruptions were messing up his train of thought. All hopes of getting any more work done vanished when his office door opened.

Commander Baird was on him in an instant.

“If you don’t tell me what the fuck you’ve done with Captain Rydell and Commander Beck, I’m going to fucking re-upholster your chair with your fucking face,” Baird said, his hands wrapped around Terris’ throat.

“I would suggest cooperating, Lieutenant,” Aldridge said calmly from the other side of the desk. “Commander Baird’s restraint may give out soon.”

“This is restraint,” Terris gasped. They knew. They had to know. Starfleet Intelligence was going to eliminate him unless he told them what he’d done with Rydell and Beck. He felt Baird’s hands grip his neck a little tighter.

“Where are they?” Baird demanded.

“On the planet,” Terris croaked. Baird stood up without letting go of Terris, then, with a swift yank, threw him over the desk. Terris hit the ground and started moaning.

“Get the fuck up!” Baird shouted.

“Come on,” Aldridge said. Terris pulled himself up off the floor. Baird and Aldridge each grabbed an arm and led him out of the office.

Terris took them to the cargo bay where he had fought Rydell and Beck. Baird rushed over to the transporter controls while Aldridge stayed with Terris. Terris decided that he had one chance. He had to get rid of Baird and Aldridge. He swung his fist around and caught Aldridge in the gut. She doubled over as he darted toward the weapon’s locker on the far side of the cargo bay. He already had a phaser in his hand by the time Aldridge managed to call Baird’s name.

“Move away from the transporter,” Terris said. “Get over by your partner.” Baird looked down at the transporter controls. He had a lock on Beck and Rydell, but he couldn’t beam them up with Terris holding a phaser on him. Five large life-forms were moving toward Beck and Rydell’s position. He had a feeling that they probably weren’t friendly either. Baird had to act fast.


“I really don’t like the sound of this,” Beck said. Leaves were rustling louder than a torrential downpour of rain.

“Set the phaser on overload and throw it towards them,” Rydell said.

“That’ll leave us defenseless!”

“But it may send them packing and buy us some time.”

The outline of the first basahm was coming into view. Beck wasn’t positive that this was a good idea, but she set the phaser on overload anyway and threw it. Night became day for an instant as the phaser vaporized. Beck and Rydell were blinded for a few seconds, but could hear several pained basahm howls. As their vision returned, they could see that all but one of the basahms had fled. And that one was heading straight towards them.


Baird’s mind raced trying to think of a way out of the mess he and Aldridge were in. Terris was armed and too far away for him to really do anything.

“Hey, Terris,” Aldridge said. Baird and Terris turned towards her. She had taken off her commbadge, which she quickly hurled at Terris. The apex of the Starfleet insignia stabbed into his face, sending him falling backwards screaming. The phaser clattered to the floor as Terris clutched his bleeding cheek.

“Get the phaser!” Baird shouted. Aldridge was already halfway to Terris before he could get the words out of his mouth. Baird dove for the transporter console and activated it.


Rydell smacked the basahm with his stick. Before it could turn its anger on Rydell, Beck threw another stick like a javelin into its open mouth. The basahm let out another high-pitched roar and turned on Beck.

“We can’t keep this up forever!” she shouted.

“I’m open to suggestions.” Suddenly, he felt the familiar tingle of a transporter taking him apart. “This is a good one,” he said just before being turned to pure energy.


Beck and Rydell rematerialized a few seconds later in the cargo bay on Starbase 219. Commander Baird was standing at the transporter console while, on the other side of the room, a woman they didn’t recognize was attacking Lieutenant Terris.

“Glad to have you back, sir,” Baird said quickly. “I’d love to talk, but I have a butt to kick.” He ran over to the scuffle. Seconds later, Aldridge and Baird were shaking hands as Terris’ unconscious form lay on the floor.

“Good work,” Rydell said, walking over to the two of them. “I was starting to get worried down there.”

“We had things under control,” Baird said.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” Rydell said turning to Aldridge. “Who are you?”

“Doctor Elizabeth Aldridge. I’m your new Chief Medical Officer,” Aldridge said.

“I like you already.”

Terris started groaning on the floor.

“Dickhead’s awake,” Baird said.

“May I?” Rydell asked.

“By all means, sir,” Baird replied, stepping aside. Rydell gave Terris a swift kick in the head, sending him back into dreamland. “You get to do the next one, Commander,” he said to Beck.


Chapter Twenty-four


Two hours later, Terris was safely locked away in the starbase’s brig. Between the testimony of Rydell, Beck, Baird, and Aldridge and the records of Terris’ dealings with the Romulans found in his office, Terris was, as Commander Baird put it, pretty well fucked.

The four officers had gone their separate ways after giving their statements to the security officers. Dr. Aldridge went to check out the Secondprize’s sickbay, a place that she was going to be spending a lot of time from now on.

“Porter to sickbay,” a voice barked urgently over the comm system.

“Sickbay. Dr. Aldridge here,” she replied. She looked around the room quickly. As she feared, she was the only one around. If there was a medical emergency, she was going to have to handle it alone. Great. Her first time in five years dealing with a real patient, and it was an emergency situation.

“We’re on final approach to the Secondprize now, but we have an injured crewmember here. We have to get her help now!”

“I’m ready,” Aldridge said, sounding more confident than she felt. She ran over to a supply cabinet and pulled out everything useful in sight.

“We’re beaming her there now.” Seconds later, two figures materialized in sickbay. One was a bearded man in a mustard uniform. The other was a woman in science blues. She was lying on the floor and obviously in pain. “Help me get her up on the bed,” Aldridge said, rushing over to them. She and the man lifted the woman.

“My name’s Lieutenant Porter. This is Doctor Nelson,” Porter said quickly. “She’s got a symbiont inside her, and both of them are in distress.”

“Doctor Aldridge,” Aldridge said, quickly introducing herself. This situation was getting worse all the time. A symbiont! The only experience she had with those was an autopsy she’d done on a murdered Trill two years earlier. Determined to do what she could, Aldridge grabbed a medical tricorder and ran it over Nelson.

“Her system’s in some kind of shock. So is the symbiont’s,” she said. “What happened to them?”

“They were hit in a fight,” Porter said.

“That explains it.” She checked the tricorder again. “The symbiont was cut somehow. My guess is that it was slashed against a rib. The symbiont’s immune system has started reaching out and attacking Nelson’s and vice versa.”

“What can you do?” Porter asked. Aldridge grabbed a hypospray, put a cartridge in it, and pressed it against Nelson’s neck.

“I’ve just administered an immuno-suppressant. It should reduce their immune systems’ activities enough for them both to heal.”

“She’s going to be O.K.? Thank you, doctor.”

“No problem, but let’s wait to see if this works before we get too excited.”

The sickbay doors opened and three more people hobbled into the room. A man and a woman both looked really beat up. The other man with them had some minor abrasions and was helping the other two walk.

“What the hell happened to you?” Aldridge said. Jaroch, Dillon, and Hawkins stopped in their tracks and stared at the stranger in front of them.

“Uh…we…” Dillon stammered.

“We were dropped to the ground several times from a great height by fifty-foot tall Starfleet captains,” Jaroch said. Aldridge reconsidered her evaluation of the not-so-badly-injured one. He must have hit his head pretty hard to come up with something like that.

“Well, grab a bed. I’ll take care of you,” she said.

“Thank you, Doctor…” Hawkins said, fishing for Aldridge’s name.

“Aldridge. Elizabeth Aldridge.”

“Ah. Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins.”

“Commander Travis Michael Dillon, First Officer,” Dillon said. Even in severe pain, he still had to say his whole name and position.

“Lieutenant Commander Jaroch,” Jaroch said, helping Hawkins up onto a bed.

“Delighted,” Aldridge said. “Now get out of the way.”

A few minutes later, all of her patients were resting comfortably. She went into her office to take a break. In the last two hours, she’d rescued her new captain, been in a fight, mended five bones, and saved the life of one person and symbiont. It was one hell of a first day.

Her office door chime sounded.

“Come in,” she said wearily. Captain Rydell stepped into the room.

“I just came by to see how you were doing,” he said. “And to officially welcome you to the Secondprize.”

“You people certainly know how to make a first impression,” Aldridge said. “I’ve practically got a full sickbay now, and we came real close to joining them. Are things always this interesting?”

“You don’t know the meaning of interesting yet, Doctor. You’ve only met a small fraction of the crew and dealt with some run-of-the-mill injuries. Once you’ve seen Joegonitis, full-body hot chocolate burns, and a stupidity virus, then you’ll know interesting.” Rydell laughed and walked out of the office leaving Aldridge to consider what she’d gotten herself into. Joegonitis? Hot chocolate burns? Stupidity viruses?

Aldridge wondered if it was too late to accept that court-martial.


Over in the main part of sickbay, Commander Dillon looked at the other patients. They all appeared to be asleep, and Lieutenant Porter had finally left Dr. Nelson and gone back to his quarters. Dillon rolled over to face Hawkins.

“Patricia?” he whispered. She moved a bit but didn’t show any other signs of life. “Patricia?” Nothing. He reached over and touched her arm. In a streak of movement, Hawkins grabbed his wrist and yanked him to the floor. Dillon hit with a dull thud and started groaning, his knitting bones telling him that they weren’t quite knitted yet.

“Travis! I’m sorry,” Hawkins said. “It’s just a reflex. I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s O.K. I’m fine,” Dillon said, pulling himself back into bed.

They both lay in silence for a few seconds.

“Patricia?” Dillon said softly.

“What?”

“Now that we’re here and out of danger, I need to ask you something.”

“What is it, Travis?”

Dillon lay silent for a second to calm his nerves. He was scared to ask this question, but he had to know.

“Did you mean what you said? About loving me?”

“Go back to sleep, Travis,” Hawkins said.

“But…”

“Travis. Sleep.” Dillon gave up and rolled over. Hawkins fell back to sleep, smiling contentedly.


SECOND INTERMISSION:


The Destination


Chapter Twenty-five


“Captain’s Log. Stardate 50236.4. With the refit of the Secondprize and the construction of Waystation complete, the Secondprize is preparing to leave Starbase 219. The crew have returned from their various missions and shore-leaves and are in good spirits.

“The Starfleet Memorial Gardens project has been shut down after the incident that took place while my officers were there. Debbie Wagner will be staying there a long time though. She has been ordered to care for the clones she’s created for the rest of their lives.

“Much to Dr. Aldridge’s relief, sickbay has cleared out. Everyone, including Dr. Amelia Nelson and her symbiont have fully recovered. Since any attempt to remove Midon from Nelson’s body would result in both of their deaths, Starfleet and Bracktia Prime have decided to leave things as they are. Nelson won’t be prosecuted for stealing the symbiont, since she acted to save Midon’s life.

“Now that everything’s back to normal, we’re preparing to tow Waystation to its new home at the edge of Federation space near the Multek border. In a way, I envy Commander Beck. She’s about to experience the thrill of her first command. Then again, I wouldn’t want to be that close to the Multeks for that long. But I’m sure Lisa can handle it.

“Meanwhile, I get to enjoy the refitted Secondprize. It’s like we’ve been given a new start. The ship looks new. There are some new faces on board. But underneath it all, I think I’m in for at least three more bizarre years, boldly going places that even crazy people would think twice about before visiting.”


“Starbase control says we’re clear for departure,” Lieutenant Hawkins said from her newly enlarged tactical console behind the command chair. She now had one of the long, curvy ones like the ones on Galaxy class ships. It was heaven.

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Captain Rydell said. He stood up from the command chair and took a step toward the viewscreen. “Clear all moorings,” Commander Dillon said from his seat at Rydell’s right.

“I’ll handle this one if you don’t mind, Number One,” Rydell said. “Clear all moorings.”

“Cleared,” Lieutenant Emily Sullivan said from the conn console.

“Ahead half thrusters. Take us into position in front of Waystation,” Rydell said. The Secondprize eased forward and maneuvered inside the giant starbase hangar until it was in front of the double saucer structure of Waystation. “Engage tractor beam.”

“Tractor beam engaged,” Ensign Kristen Larkin reported at the ops console.

“Take us out of here. Thrusters at one-third,” Rydell said.

“Aye, sir,” Sullivan replied.

“Rydell to engineering.”

“Baird here.”

“Prepare to enlarge the warp field to encompass Waystation,” Rydell said.

“All right. But don’t take us above warp four, or the field integrity will disintegrate and Waystation and us will be fucked.”

“Understood, Commander. Bridge out.”

“We’re clear of Starbase 219,” Sullivan said.

“Then let’s get going. Warp three point nine,” Rydell said. “Just to keep Commander Baird happy.”

The Secondprize leaped into warp, Waystation snugly in tow, speeding toward the edge of charted space.


“Cargo transfer with the freighter Denaba complete, Commander Salbok.”

“Thank you, Sub-Commander. Inform me when you have found our quarry.” Salbok closed the channel and looked out at the starfield in front of him. He didn’t like bringing his warbird into Federation space like this, but his superiors on Romulus had insisted upon it. Reports had reached the Romulans that the Federation had discovered a powerful race near the edge of their borders. Unfortunately, no other information was available. That was why Salbok’s warbird had been ordered to meet the Denaba. A Romulan spy was transporting complete information on the new race to them.

“Penla to Salbok.”

“Have you found the chip, Sub-Commander?”

“No, sir. We have checked all of the cargo containers, but it is not here.”

“I see.” Salbok leaned back in his chair to think. Something must have gone wrong. His superiors were not going to be very happy about this. “Thank you, Sub-Commander. I will inform Romulus. Salbok out.”


“I take it that you did not find the chip, Commander Salbok,” Senator Keldek said.

“You speak as if you expected this,” Salbok replied to the senator’s image on the viewscreen.

“We received word less than an hour ago that our operative on Starbase 219 was discovered and taken into custody.”

“Have any alternate information sources been found?” Salbok asked.

“No. The Federation is guarding its information about this better than usual. The only thing we’ve found out is that the race calls itself the Multeks and where they are located.”

“Then what is to be done?”

“I am glad you asked, Commander,” Senator Keldek said, a smile spreading across his face. Salbok started to get nervous. When a senator smiled, trouble was usually ahead. “You will go to Multek space yourself and find out all that you can.”

“Me? But taking the Kleenix that far through Federation space is inadvisable at best.”

“That’s what cloaking devices are for, Salbok. Go to the Multeks and, if they are as powerful as the reports suggest, attempt to form an alliance with them. Or, at the very least, provoke them into attacking the Federation. Keldek out.”

The screen in front of Commander Salbok went blank. Just then, the turbolift doors opened, and Sub-Commander Penla stepped out onto the bridge.

“You do not looked pleased,” Penla said.

“You are correct,” Salbok replied to his first officer. “We have been given a mission that I do not look forward to performing.”

“It’s all for the glory of the Praetor,” Penla replied with a hint of a sarcastic smile tugging at her lips.

“I don’t think that there is going to be any glory involved in this mission,” Salbok said. He turned to his helmsman. “Plot a course to Sector Forty-one point two five.”

“Course plotted and laid in.”

“Engage cloak. Ahead warp factor seven,” Salbok said. The stars on the viewscreen elongated into thin white bands as the Kleenix sped forward toward its destination.


ACT III:


The Defense


Chapter Twenty-six


“Station Log. Stardate 50248.3. Commander Lisa Beck recording. It has been a week since the Secondprize left Waystation. We are now firmly situated in Sector Forty-one point two five. The question is what happens now?

“The Multeks haven’t come anywhere near us. We can just pick up Edgeworld at the edge of our long range sensors. So far, no Multek ships have approached Edgeworld, much less us.

“The battalion of Federation Marines that are supposed to be stationed here have yet to arrive. Starfleet Command tells me that they’re waiting for someone to establish a colony first. This could mean that they won’t be here for a long time. No Federation ships have passed this way since the Secondprize dropped us off.

“The truth is that we’re out here in the middle of nowhere. This station is capable of housing six-hundred people. We currently have seventy on board, and that’s just the basic crew of the station. Starfleet Square Mall on deck three and four is empty except for Lieutenant Russell’s security office and Yeoman Jones’ Liaison Office, neither of which are doing much of anything right now. The hordes of civilian merchants and consumers that Starfleet was expecting have yet to appear. Frankly, I don’t blame them.

“On the bright side, I have my own command. I hope I don’t sound like Commander Dillon here, but this is great. I am in charge. No one questions my authority. And best of all, I finally get to do something I’ve been wanting to do since I first signed onto the Secondprize: the opening credits!


“Space… We’re in the middle of it. These are the adventures


The Producers would like to state that, since opening monologues like the one Commander Beck was about to perform have gone out of style, Star Traks: Waystation will have silent credits. Thank You.


STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION


“Damn, that felt great! This place really feels like it’s mine now.”


Commander Beck stepped out of her office in the operations center of Waystation and took a deep breath. The smile that spread across her face since taking command of Waystation hadn’t faded one bit in the week since they arrived. She wondered how she could have been so worried about this assignment. It was a gravy job. The Multeks were staying in their borders, and there was no one else around.

Ops slowly rotated as the stars outside moved past the small portholes near the ceiling of the room. The starfield on the viewscreen which dominated the front of Waystation’s round command center was stationary, however.

Beck walked past the turbolift shaft in the center of Ops, down the step to the area in front of the viewscreen. Starfields were much more interesting to her now. These were her stars, the stars Waystation was there to watch over. She was starting to sound like a bad Starfleet training holovid.

“Enjoying the view?” Lieutenant Craig Porter said. Beck whirled toward the operations and science console to her right. He was standing right there, but she could have sworn that his console, which was right next to her office, was empty a moment ago.

“Where…?”

“I was working on the sensor relays,” Porter said, holding up a kenospanner.

“Oh.” Beck looked around at the rest of Ops again to make sure nobody else was going to sneak up on her. Russell’s tactical console on the other side of the view screen was vacant. The docking control board beyond that was unoccupied as well. That was all Beck could see from her position since the other consoles were on the other side of the main turbolift shaft that jutted up into the center of the circular room. She was pretty sure that no one was at the environmental control board or in the briefing room on that side of Ops, though.

“Somehow, I thought this assignment was going to be more exciting,” Porter said. “It’s been so quiet that I’ve had time to repair every screw up Starfleet made when they constructed this place.”

“I’m enjoying it,” Beck said. “I am finally stationed with a sane, competent crew away from egotistical martinets, psychotic weirdos, and belligerent assholes!”

“You’re not missing the Secondprize, I take it,” Porter said smiling.

“I miss some of the people, but not the overall situation.”

The turbolift behind Beck opened, and Lieutenant Sean Russell stepped out into Ops.

“No incidents to report, Commander,” Russell said. Beck turned and stared at him.

“Why would there be?” Beck asked.

“Uh…I don’t know. I was just trying to…”

“Sean, relax, will you?” Beck said. “Take it easy. I’m sure at some point you’ll have to act like a security chief, but for now, treat it as shore leave.”

Russell’s face brightened. “I’ll be in the holodeck,” he said, turning back to the turbolift. At that moment, the turbolift doors opened, and Dr. Nelson stormed out of it.

“There you are,” she said angrily, grabbing Russell by the collar. “Where’d you put it?”

“Wh…what?” Russell stammered.

“My unlogi!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Russell said, confused. Nelson pushed him, sending him falling down the step into the area in front of the viewscreen. Beck jumped out of the way to dodge her security chief’s body.

“You took my entire supply of unlogi out of sickbay!” Nelson said.

“Oh, you mean the drug,” Russell said, realizing what Nelson was talking about. “The security scanners detected a contraband substance, so I confiscated it.”

“I thought you said there were no incidents to report,” Beck said.

“That drug is vital to my well-being,” Nelson said. “I have to have that to continue living inside this body.” Her face contorted. “Calm down, Midon. We’ll get it back.” Another contortion. “I need the drug for the continued existence of my joined mind.”

“Can’t you replicate a legal substitute?” Russell asked weakly.

“NO!”

“Sean, you got all three of them really pissed at you in one fell swoop. Is that some kind of record for you?” Porter said.

“And you’re commanding officer isn’t pleased either,” Beck said. “I’d call this an incident to report, Lieutenant.”

Russell looked back and forth between Nelson and Beck.

“I…well…but…AAAAUUUGHHH!”

“GET ME MY DRUGS!!!” Nelson shouted. Beck wasn’t sure which mind was in control, but it definitely wasn’t happy.

“Okay. Okay,” Russell said. He stood up and ran for the turbolift.

“I want to see you when you’re done, Russell,” Beck called after him.

“Yes, Commander,” Russell said.

“DRUGS NOW!” Nelson charged into the turbolift after him. The doors shut leaving Beck and Porter in silence except for the bleeping of the consoles.

“What was that about being with a sane crew, Commander?” Porter said, trying to suppress a smile.

“Forget I ever said anything.”


“Has anyone else seen this report, Captain Wuddle?” Frequoq Juletz asked.

“No, your Frequoqness,” Wuddle said. As the only Multek commander to have contact with the race of perhaps-not-imaginary beings encountered near Edgeworld, Wuddle had been given a military commission and put in charge of the task-force created to deal with the perhaps-not-imaginary menace. This report was the first he’d been able to give since taking command.

“So, there is an imaginary outpost close to our borders,” Juletz said.

“If it’s imaginary,” Wuddle said.

“I wouldn’t express these views around any of the citizenry, Captain.”

“I would never, your Frequoqness, but surely we must face the possibility of there being non-imaginary races beyond our borders.”

“Our entire society is built on the fact that we are the masters of all space. We are it! If there are any others, they must be destroyed at all costs. Our way of life depends on it. Understand?”

“I believe so, sir.”

“Good, then go get those… What did they call themselves?”

“Federations, your Frequoqness,” Wuddle said.

“Kill the Federations, then!” Juletz said. Wuddle stood up and headed toward the door of Juletz’s office. “And kill anything else you run into along the way!”

“Yes, your Frequoqness,” Wuddle said, letting the door close behind him, shutting him off from the leader of the Multek Enclave. Destroy the Federations? This could be difficult. The Federations had escaped from his brig, caused chaos among his crew and passengers, kidnapped his security chief, and damaged his ship. This time he would have a military vessel, but he was still concerned that, if the imaginaries were as real as he thought they were, he could be in some real trouble.


Chapter Twenty-seven


The Atalanta sped along at warp eight headed towards the edge of Federation space. The small ship’s one occupant was displeased at the turn his life had taken to say the least.

“Damn Alpha Centaurians,” Bradley Dillon muttered to himself. For several years, Bradley had been the owner and president of the U.S.A.: the Used Starship Alley. Unfortunately, some senile Tellarite had been unsatisfied with her spaceship purchase and reported Bradley to the Alpha Centauri authorities. They shut his lot down, confiscated all of his ships except for the Atalanta, and forcefully suggested that he find a new system in which to reside.

Bradley was irate about the whole thing. The Tellarite bought the ship “as is.” Bradley never promised that the life-support system was capable of producing oxygen. It was a travesty of justice. He was an honest businessman. What was the Alpha Centaurians problem?

To make matters worse, the Tellarite was the mother of the head of the Tellar military. Her daughter sent Bradley a loosely veiled threat that if he ever set foot near that sector again, he’d be served up for somebody’s dinner. Actually, the threat wasn’t all that loosely veiled, and Bradley took the hint.

He had heard about the new Federation outpost at the edge of explored space. He also heard that they were looking for merchants to set up shop there. It wasn’t the best possible location, but considering that his reputation was destroyed in the core worlds of the Federation, Bradley decided to head out there anyway. Surely, a business opportunity would present itself.


“Russell to Beck.”

“What is it, Lieutenant?” Beck asked, leaning back in her desk chair. She’d been trying to take a nap in her office, but hadn’t been having much luck.

“I’m detecting a ship heading toward our position from Federation space,” Lieutenant Russell reported.

“What?” Beck said, leaping out of her chair.

“There’s a ship coming in.”

Beck was out of her office and at Russell’s console before he could finish the sentence. Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales looked up from the file he had been reading and checked the docking control console.

“Confirmed, Commander,” Morales said. As Waystation’s first officer, Morales had been assigned to supervise all ships docking at the station.

“Hail them,” Beck said.

“On screen,” Morales replied.

Beck stepped down to the area in front of the viewscreen as the face of a smiling man appeared. He had red, round cheeks that reminded Beck of Santa Claus. On second look, there was something about that smile that she didn’t trust. She changed her evaluation from Santa Claus to evangelist.

“This is Commander Lisa Beck of the Federation outpost Waystation. Can we assist you?”

“Commander, what a delight,” the man replied. “Thank you for your kind offer, but I believe the question is, can I assist you? I’ve come to open a business on your facility.”

“What sort of business?”

“Details. Details. May I dock?”

“Bring him into docking arm one,” Beck said, turning to Morales.

“Thank you, Commander. Atalanta out.” The man’s face was replaced by the starfield. Something about the name Atalanta was bugging Beck. She’d heard it before but she couldn’t remember where.

“Beck to Jones.”

Down in the deserted Starfleet Square Mall, Yeoman Tina Jones sat in her Liaison Office bored out of her skull. As liaison officer, she was supposed to greet the crews of incoming ships and see to their needs, but since no one had come to Waystation yet, she’d been sitting around with nothing to do. The call from Commander Beck scared her so badly she almost fell out of her chair.

“Jones here,” she said, regaining her composure.

“There’s a ship docking at arm one. Go greet it. Beck out.”

Jones straightened her uniform and rushed out of her office. Finally, a ship had come! Commander Beck had sounded like there was something wrong, though. Jones wondered what it was, then decided that if it was anything too dangerous, Beck would have had Russell meet her at the airlock.


Back in Ops, Commander Beck rolled the name Atalanta around in her head a few more times. Where had she heard it? It was on the Secondprize, she was pretty sure. Had they encountered the ship? No. Beck had never seen this ship or this man before in her life. Somebody else saw the ship. Yes. Patricia! Patricia Hawkins had talked about it. Patricia was trapped in the holodeck…with Dillon, and they took the ship from…

“Oh no no no,” Beck said softly.


Yeoman Jones arrived at the airlock just as the Atalanta completed its docking maneuvers. The doors slid open, and a man walked out of the airlock, a big smile plastered on his face. He had a warm, round face combined with a stocky build that just emanated a kind of presence. He wasn’t very tall, no more than five foot six, but Jones was sure that he could easily dominate any room he wanted to just by walking in.

“Welcome to Waystation,” Jones said warmly. “My name’s Tina Jones, and if there’s anything you need during your stay here, don’t hesitate to let me know.”

“That’s very nice of you,” the man said. “I’m sure I’ll be taking you up on that at some point. My name’s Bradley Dillon, and I plan on being here a long time.” He held out his hand for Jones to shake. Jones’s smile vanished and was replied by a look of absolute horror.

“You…you’re…” She screamed and ran down the hall.

“DILLON! WE’VE GOT A DILLON ON BOARD!”

Bradley let his still outstretched hand fall to his side, shrugged, and walked off down the corridor. Waystation, he thought. That name indicated that they’re expecting a number of ships to be passing through here. Exploratory vessels, science ships, and colony ships. Colony ships! That was it! He had to send a few messages, but with any luck, he would be in business within the week.


“DILLON!” Jones screamed as she ran out of the turbolift into Ops.

“We know! Now, shut up!” Beck said.

“You knew? How could you…?”

“I didn’t figure it out until a couple minutes ago,” Beck said, cutting off Jones.

“Let me make sure that I’m getting all this straight,” Porter said. “The ship that Lieutenant Hawkins and Commander Dillon used to get back to the Secondprize when they were trapped by Myna in the holodeck is now docked out there.”

“That’s about the size of it,” Beck said.

“But that ship wasn’t real,” Russell said.

“The holodeck created a holographic representation of our universe, so even though the Atalanta was fake on the holodeck, there is a real one in reality,” Beck said, not sure if she was making any sense at all.

“So instead of the holographic version of Dillon’s brother that Hawkins and Dillon were trapped with, we’ve got the real thing roaming the halls of Waystation,” Morales said.

“And he just had to be the first person to come visit,” Porter said. “I’m sure some people would take this as a bad omen.”

“Are you one of them?” Beck asked.

“Yeah. I think I am.”

“Too bad,” Beck replied. “We’re going to treat Bradley Dillon like he’s not related to the Commander Dillon we know. This is a separate individual, and he deserves a chance to gain our friendship. Besides, he is the first merchant to come here. We need him to get things rolling if Waystation is ever to become successful. Understood?”

“Aye, Commander,” four dejected voices said in unison.

“Good. Now, I am going to greet our new arrival in person. You have Ops, Morales.” Beck walked into the turbolift.

“We’ve got a Dillon,” Jones squeaked weakly.


Commander Beck found Bradley Dillon wandering the Starfleet Square Mall. He was looking at the various empty storefronts, appraising each one’s benefits and drawbacks.

“Mr. Dillon?” Beck said. Bradley turned around, saw Beck, and smiled.

“Commander, how good to meet you in person,” Bradley said, coming toward her to shake her hand.

“Are you finding everything in order?”

“Order? Honestly, no. I don’t know what kind of station you’re running here, but your crew could stand to brush up on their people skills.”

“Yeoman Jones was just a little surprised to find out who you were,” Beck said.

“You’ve heard of me?”

“We served with your brother,” Beck said as evenly as possible. She wasn’t sure exactly how Bradley felt about his brother and didn’t want to offend him.

“Travis? Say no more. I’m sorry.”

“Not that we think you’re anything like him,” Beck said quickly.

“That’s comforting. I assure you that Travis and I have practically nothing in common. It’s hard to believe that we’re even from the same gene pool. But we are…I checked.” He started laughing. Beck joined him.

“He is a bit of…”

“A dork,” Bradley said.

“Tactfully put.”

“Well, enough of that. We have business to discuss. I would like to set up shop in that store space right over there.” He pointed down the hall a little bit.

“We can arrange that. What kind of business are you opening?”

“Dillon’s Pioneer Supply Depot! I plan to be the indispensable stop for any colonists heading out toward the great reaches of unexplored space.” He moved his arm in a large sweeping motion. “Anything, they’ll need, I’ll have. That reminds me. I need access to a subspace transmitter as soon as possible.”

“We’ll take care of it.”

“And permanent quarters would also be good.”

“I’ll have Yeoman Jones take care of it right away.”

“Will my quarters have a replicator?”

“Yes.”

“A good one?”

“Goodbye, Mr. Dillon,” Beck turned and walked back toward the turbolift shaft. Demanding guy, she thought. Suddenly, Lieutenant Russell ran past her at top speed. Dr. Nelson was right behind him.

“Good afternoon, Commander,” Russell shouted as he sped by.

“Where’s the rest of my unlogi?!?” Nelson screamed. She ran past Beck and slammed into Bradley, sending them both crashing to the deck. Nelson crawled over the fallen would-be businessman, scrambled to her feet, and resumed her pursuit of Russell.

“People skills, Commander,” Bradley gasped painfully.

Beck just shook her head and stepped into the turbolift.


Chapter Twenty-eight


“Station Log. Stardate 50254.7. Things at Waystation are still pretty quiet. The most activity has been down at the mall, where Bradley Dillon is setting up shop. A supply ship arrived for him yesterday, and right now Yeoman Jones is helping him with the task of getting ready to open his doors. I don’t know who he’s going to be opening for, however. We still haven’t had any colony ships head out this way.

“In brighter news, Starfleet has informed me that a small group of the Federation Marines are on their way here to make sure that everything is suitable. I’m not sure what they mean by suitable, but I guess I’m going to find out.”


“Morales to Jones.”

“Jones here.”

“There’s another ship approaching the station. Russell will meet you at arm two. Take a phaser.”

“A phaser?” Jones said nervously. “Are these people that dangerous?”

“We don’t know. This ship’s coming in from uncharted space, and we’ve only had audio contact with them.”

“Understood. Jones out.” She put down the box she was carrying and headed down the hallway of Starfleet Square Mall towards the turbolift shaft.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Bradley asked, sticking his head out of his soon-to-be-open shop.

“A ship just arrived. I’m going to meet it. It’s my job.”

“A ship? Customers!”

“We don’t know yet. It’s either customers or conquerors,” Jones said.

“Please ensure it’s the former,” Bradley said.

“Um…I don’t think I can control that, but I’ll try.”


Lieutenant Russell was already waiting outside of the airlock when Jones arrived. His phaser was drawn and ready to fire. Jones drew her phaser and took up position beside him.

“Russell to Ops. We’re ready down here.”

“All right,” Morales replied. “I’m opening the outer door.” Russell and Jones saw the door on the far side of the airlock open and a single humanoid stepped into the airlock chamber. Russell stepped closer to the airlock door and peered through the transparent aluminum window. The newcomer was humanoid, about five feet tall, and dressed totally in black. Its head was covered by a hood making it look like a fairly short grim reaper.

“It doesn’t look armed,” Russell said.

“I’m not picking up any weapons on the scanners either,” Morales said over the comm line.

“Open the airlock,” Russell said, taking a step back. The door slid aside with a hiss, allowing the figure to step into the corridor.

“On behalf of the United Federation of Planets, I would like to welcome you to Waystation,” Jones said nervously, the phaser shaking in her right hand. The hooded figure looked from Russell to Jones, then touched both of them gently on the forehead. It then pulled the hood away from its face revealing an elfish looking woman. She had short cropped back hair, thin pointy ears, similar to a Vulcan’s, but it was her eyes that caught Russell and Jones by surprise. There was no visible iris or anything, just a smooth silver surface.

“This is where I was to arrive at,” she said.

“Excuse me?” Jones said.

“The directive has been followed. I desire quarters and a chamber in which to meditate, where I may receive the curious and the needful.”

“I can help you with that, ma’am. Can I start by asking your name?” Jones said.

“I am Leximas. Take me to my quarters, and tell Commander Beck to prepare herself.”

“Looks like you’ve got this under control, Jones,” Russell said with a smirk. “No need for the security chief.”

“Go to your Operations Center now,” Leximas said to Russell. “You ARE needed there.”

“I’m getting the distinct feeling that she knows more than she’s telling us,” Russell said.

“I’m going to take her down to the civilian area and assign her a room,” Jones said. She turned to Leximas. “Please follow me.” She and the newcomer headed off down the corridor.

“Hurry up while there’s still space down there,” Russell called after her sarcastically. “We’re really starting to fill up. Two whole residents already!” Despite his tone, Russell found the encounter with Leximas very unsettling. He got in a turbolift and ordered it to Ops, just in case.


Ops was in chaos when Russell stepped out of the turbolift.

“Fantastic timing, Lieutenant,” Beck said from over by Porter’s station. “I was just about to comm you. Man your station. We’ve detected a ship headed our way from Multek space.”

“Oh, shit!” Russell said. He ran over to his tactical console and tied it in with Porter’s scanners.

“You’re absolutely positive it’s the Multeks?” Morales asked.

“The power signatures coming from the ship’s systems are very similar to those of the ship we encountered near Edgeworld,” Porter reported. “Except…”

“Except what?” Beck said.

“These are about ten times more powerful,” Porter said.

“Lovely. How long until they get here?” Beck asked.

“At present speed, twenty minutes,” Porter said.

“Morales, start hailing them on all frequencies,” Beck ordered.

“Aye, Commander.”

“Are the shield frequency modulators on line?”

“Yes, Commander,” Russell said. “Phaser banks are charged and photon torpedoes tubes are loaded.”

“I just hope that we don’t need them,” Beck said softly.


“I no longer require your presence,” Leximas said once Jones showed her to her quarters. “Thank you for your assistance.”

“You’re welcome,” Jones said. “Do you have anything that you need brought from your ship?”

“That will not be necessary.” Leximas reached inside of her robe and pulled out a small, green metal box. She touched a button on it, and a large crate appeared in the room.


“Commander!”

“What is it, Morales?” Beck asked. She hoped it wasn’t another problem.

“Leximas’ ship at arm two! It just vanished!”

“Beck to Jones.”

“Jones here.”

“Are you with Leximas?”

“Yes.”

“Tell her that her ship just disappeared.”


Jones looked a Leximas astonished.

“Tell them that all is well,” Leximas said.

“Leximas says that everything’s fine,” Jones said.

“Her ship vanishing is…fine?”

Leximas nodded sagely.

“Apparently yes.”

“If we weren’t in a crisis, but I’d probably be questioning that. No time now. Beck out.”

“Is that your ship in that crate?” Jones asked once the comm channel closed.

“No,” Leximas said, the faintest hint of a smile flashing across her face. “The transport has returned from whence it came. You may leave me now.”

“Gotcha,” Jones said, retreating gladly to the door. “Just contact me on the comm system if you need anything.”

“Thank you.”

Jones departed, leaving Leximas alone. Leximas waited a few moments, then walked out into the corridor. She found her way back to the turbolift shaft.

“Mall level,” she ordered. The turbolift shot upwards, quickly ascending through the lower saucer, up the decks of the connecting tube to the upper saucer. It finally stopped twenty decks above its starting point.

The doors opened, and Leximas stepped out into the Starfleet Square Mall. The only sign of life was coming from a storefront about fifty feet away from the turbolift shaft. Leximas walked along the corridor around to the store, where Bradley Dillon was busy unpacking merchandise.

He will be unhelpful to our future activities, her mind-guide said inside her.

I am aware, Leximas thought back.

Bradley didn’t notice her entrance into his store.

“I am Leximas,” she said. Startled, Bradley dropped the object he was holding and whirled around. “Did I scare you?”

“Not at all. The name’s Bradley Dillon,” Bradley said, walking over to Leximas. “You must be the new arrival.”

“That would be correct,” she said.

“Excellent. So, what can I do for you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, anything you could possibly need, I’ve got. This is Dillon’s Pioneer Supply Depot,” Bradley said. “The sign will be up tomorrow,” he added quickly.

“I only seek wisdom and follow my guide.”

“Guide! Have I got a guide for you?” Bradley dove into a box and pulled out a couple of isolinear chips. “This is the Official Locaaser Guide to Federation Space. It’s got every piece of information any traveler could need. And for a small additional fee, I’ll throw in Locaaser’s Risa on Five Credits a Day.”

“I believe that we are operating on differing levels of communication. I desire only wisdom and to give that wisdom to others.”

“I don’t foresee a real bright future for you in the business world,” Bradley said, turning back to his work.

“I suggest that we retreat to our quarters,” Leximas said.

“Excuse me, Miss Non-sequitur? What the hell does that have to do with anything?”

“All Waystation personnel, man your battlestations,” Beck’s voice suddenly barked over the station’s comm system.

“How’d you know this was about to happen?” Bradley demanded, turning on Leximas. She just smiled and tapped her forehead with her index finger.

“We must leave,” she said.

“I’m right behind you,” Bradley said. The two of them ran out of the store towards the turbolift. Bradley pulled a device out of his pocket, aimed it back towards his store, and pushed a button. The lights in the store went out and a security gate slammed shut. “You’ve gotta love remote controls,” Bradley said as they stepped into the turbolift.

Leximas stood silently. Her mind-guide had led her to Waystation, led her to these people. Why was still a question, but she was sure that things would become clear in time. She just had to avoid death until that time.

Bradley, rather than contemplating his own death, wondered if his store was going to be safe. A hull rupture on that level could do nasty things to his merchandise.


Chapter Twenty-nine


“The Multek ship has closed to one hundred thousand kilometers,” Russell said. On the viewscreen, the image of the sleek, Multek warship was clearly visible. It had a long, smooth hull, only broken by the two wings jutting out of the top and bottom of the vessel.

“Any response to our hails?” Beck asked.

“No,” Morales replied.

“Alright, then. Shields up. Lock weapons on target,” Beck said. She didn’t want to have to do this, but the Multeks weren’t giving her much choice.

“Energy surge on the Multek ship!” Porter shouted.

“Brace yourselves!” Beck said. The Multeks fired, sending a blue blast crashing against Waystation’s shields. “Damage report!”

“The modulator worked. Shields are holding…for now,” Russell said.

“Return fire,” Beck said. The ringed phaser banks on the tops and bottoms of each saucer section flared to life, tracking the Multek ship as it flew by Waystation. The phaser barrage was punctuated by a volley of photon torpedoes that slammed into the Multeks’ shields.

“No effect, Commander,” Porter said. “Their shields just shrugged it off.”

“This is useful,” Beck said. “Morales, keep hailing them.”

“They’re coming around again,” Russell said.

“Fire,” Beck said. “Concentrate on the source of that damn weapon.”

“Commander, I suggest that we recalibrate the phasers to the frequency that we used to get through the Multeks’ shields back on the Secondprize,” Porter said.

“Best idea I’ve heard all day,” Beck said. “Do it.” Porter ran over to Russell’s console and started working, while Russell continued hammering the Multek ship with torpedoes.

The station was rocked by another blast.

“Shields at 95 percent,” Russell said.

“How are the Multeks?” Beck asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.

“About the same,” Russell replied.

“Great, if we keep this stupidity up, we’re going to get their shields down just in time for them to destroy us,” Beck said.

“Phasers ready,” Porter said.

“Fire.”

“That hurt them!” Russell said as Porter hurried back to his console.

“Confirmed. Their shields are down fifty percent,” Porter said. “Damage to their engines.”

“We’re being hailed, Commander,” Morales said.

“So now they want to talk,” Beck said. “On screen.” A blue-haired, red-eyed Multek appeared on the screen. Beck wasn’t real sure that she was able to tell Multeks apart that well, but she thought that this one really looked like the captain of the passenger ship they encountered originally.

“This is Captain Wuddle of the Multek Enclave warship Sequaa. I demand that you surrender your imaginary selves and cease inflicting pretend damage on my ship.”

“These guys are just too adorable,” Porter muttered. Beck shot him a quick glare then turned back to the viewscreen.

“My name is Lisa Beck, commander of the Federation outpost Waystation. I thank you for ceasing these hostilities long enough for us to discuss the situation.”

“I do not see that there is much to discuss, Commander,” Wuddle replied. “You are a menace to everything we hold dear, and, therefore, you must be destroyed.”

“We are outside of your borders. How can we be a threat?” Beck asked.

“That is something that I cannot discuss in front of my subordinates.”

“Then, as a show of our peaceful intentions, I invite you to come on board Waystation,” Beck said.

“Why should I transport over to what may very well be an illusion, pretend-Commander?” Wuddle said.

“Please don’t start in with the imaginary business again,” Beck said. “If you’re who I think you are, you know as well as I do that we’re real. I hit you hard enough at our first meeting to prove that.”

“Again, that is something that I cannot discuss in front of my subordinates.”

“Fine. Then come over here. I personally guarantee your safety, and, as a further sign of our goodwill, we will not raise our shields after you have beamed on board. That way, your ship can transport you back at any time,” Beck said. Wuddle sat silently for a moment, apparently thinking about his options.

“Agreed, Commander,” Wuddle said finally. “I shall teleport over momentarily.” The screen went blank as he closed the communication.

“Lower our shields and send them the coordinates of the transporter room, Lieutenant,” Beck ordered Russell.

“Are you sure that this is such a good idea?” Russell asked.

“We’ll find out in a minute,” Beck said. “Morales, go meet our guest.” Lieutenant Commander Morales left the docking control station and stepped into the turbolift. All they could do was wait and see what the Multeks did next.


“Captain, I don’t think that this is a good idea,” Wuddle’s first officer said.

“Relax, Nubbid. I have a feeling about this,” Wuddle replied. He didn’t want to say what he really thought, which was that the imaginaries were definitely real.

“You are going to transport into the middle of empty space, sir. Even though we think that we see something out there, you and I both know that it’s only an illusion of something.”

“I’m going.”

“Wear an environmental suit.”

“No,” Wuddle said.

“At the very least, take along a security detail just in case…”

“In case of what?”

“In case the imaginaries are… Never mind. That’s silly.”

“Nubbid, I really don’t know what’s going to happen when I transport, but it’s something that I feel I have to do. Just keep a teleport lock on me. I’ll contact you if there’s a problem.” Wuddle walked off of the bridge.

“He’s lost his mind,” Nubbid said softly.


Lieutenant Commander Morales hadn’t been waiting in the transporter room long when Captain Wuddle materialized. Instead of the familiar blue effect the Federation transporter had, the Multek transporter was a gold flash rising quickly from the floor.

“Welcome aboard Waystation, Captain,” Morales said as he stepped forward. He was about to hold his hand out for Wuddle to shake, but, upon noticing the blaster at Wuddle’s side, decided that it might be interpreted as a hostile action. “My name is Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales. I’m the station’s first officer.”

“It’s real,” Wuddle said softly, looking around. He pounded his foot on the deck a few times to make sure that it was solid. Wuddle had known deep inside that the imaginaries were real ever since their fight on the bridge of his passenger ship, but actually being in their environment was another thing all together. “This is incredible.”

“I’m glad that you like it,” Morales said. “Please follow me, and I’ll take you to Commander Beck.”

“Certainly,” Wuddle said excitedly.

Wuddle couldn’t help reaching out and touching the walls around him. His mind raced. There was life outside of the Enclave. These Federations had proved it. And if the Federations existed, why not other species? There could be thousands of planets full of new life-forms and new civilizations. The possibilities were endless.

Morales and Wuddle stepped into the turbolift and ascended to Ops. Once again, Wuddle was overwhelmed by what he encountered. The entire room was filled with technology that he had never seen and had no clue how to operate. In the center of it all, stood a tall woman, with long red hair that Wuddle recognized. She was the one who first made him believe in the imaginaries when she hit him. He had a decent imagination, but it definitely wasn’t as vivid as the pain caused by her boot slamming into his midsection.

“Welcome aboard,” she said, walking over to him. “I hope that we’ve proved ourselves to you.”

“Most definitely, Commander,” Wuddle replied. She grabbed his hand and shook it.

“Good. Now then, we can try and work through this mess.”

“It’s not quite that simple, I’m afraid,” Wuddle said. Suddenly, a device on his belt started beeping. Russell had his phaser drawn and pointed at Wuddle in an instant. “It’s just my communicator,” Wuddle said nervously.

“Put it away, Lieutenant,” Beck said. Russell reluctantly holstered his phaser as Wuddle pulled out his communicator.

“Wuddle here.”

“Are you alive, sir?”

“Yes, Nubbid. I’ll contact you if I need you. Wuddle out.” He put the communicator back on his belt. “You see, Commander, my people are the problem. Our society is built on the idea that we are the only ones in the universe. We aren’t ready to accept the alternative.”

“You seem to have made the adjustment,” Beck said.

“I had no choice really. It was either that or go insane.”

“But your people can…”

“My people will do anything not to have their views challenged. Our leader has ordered me to destroy you, which I don’t want to do, but it shows you the attitude of my government. Like it or not, you are a threat to the Multek Enclave.”

“Then why did you come here?” Beck asked.

“I had to make sure that you were real. You are, but I must ask that you return me to my ship. I promise to leave here. Others will likely come, but I refuse to be the one to end your existence.”

“I’m reading a neutrino surge off to our port side,” Porter said.

“Is it the Multeks?” Beck asked.

“Negative, it’s wrong side of the station for it to be them,” Porter replied.

“Romulan warbird decloaking to port!” Russell shouted.

“That explains it,” Porter said. Beck’s command instincts took over and led her to make the next logical statement.

“Shit!”


Chapter Thirty


“Shields up,” Beck said.

“Treachery!” Wuddle shouted, drawing his blaster.

“Captain, this isn’t…”

Beck was cut off by an energy blast that narrowly missed removing her head. Russell had his phaser drawn before Wuddle could fire another shot.

“Hold it!” Russell said. Wuddle, seeing that things were not looking good, ran for the turbolift. Russell’s phaser blast hit the turbolift doors just as they closed, cutting Wuddle off from the bridge.

“Go get him. Without killing him!” Beck ordered. Russell ran into the turbolift while Morales moved to take over the tactical console. “Hail the Romulans.”

“Aye…uh…the Multeks are hailing us, but I’ve got the Romulan commander,” Morales said.

“Put the Multeks on.”

“Return Captain Wuddle, imaginary ones, or we shall pretend to destroy you for this unreal betrayal,” the image of one very angry Multek shouted.

“The other ship is not with us,” Beck said. “They are our enemies.”

“So, you have trapped us in your imaginary war. You will both be destroyed!” The Multek ended the transmission.

“Put the Romulan on,” Beck said.

“They’ve cut communication,” Morales replied. “I guess that they didn’t want to wait.”


On board the Romulan warbird Kleenix, Commander Salbok was attempting to get a reading on the situation he had blundered into. The Multek ship near the Federation outpost was defying all attempts by their sensors to scan it. This was a problem his Federation counterparts had no doubt solved, judging by the battle damage on the Multek vessel and the Federation commander’s unwillingness to talk to him. Tired of waiting for the Federation to talk to him, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

“Hail the alien vessel,” Salbok ordered.

“They’re responding.”

“On screen.”

“My name is Commander Salbok of the Romulan Empire.” All that came in reply was a deafening squeal.

“Is that a language?” Sub-Commander Penla asked.

“The Federation must be jamming communications,” Salbok said. “Power up the disruptors and prepare to fire”


“The Romulans are powering up their weapons systems,” Porter said.

“Lock weapons on the warbird,” Beck ordered.

“What about the Multeks?” Morales said.

“Keep an eye on them, too.” This was really, really getting obnoxious.

“The Romulans are firing!” Porter said just Ops was rocked by another blast.

“Shields down to seventy percent,” Morales said.

“Return fire.” On the viewscreen, they saw the Romulan ship pounded by phaser and torpedo fire.

“Their shields were weakened. Minor damage to their starboard shield generator.” Porter said.


Nubbid watched the events taking place on his viewscreen with growing anger. The newcomers had contacted him, but only to insult him by speaking gibberish. Now, they were attacking the Federations. Their little imaginary war wouldn’t have bothered Nubbid normally, but Captain Wuddle was with the Federations and in danger.

“Bring us about,” Nubbid ordered. “Lock weapons on the new imaginary vessel.”

The Multek ship turned away from Waystation and headed towards the warbird.

“Fire!” Nubbid ordered.


“They attacked us!” Penla shouted in disbelief.

“Shields down fifty percent,” the tactical officer said.

“Fifty percent! What are they shooting?” Salbok said. “Return Fire!” The Romulan weapons flared to life again, firing at the Multek ship.


“Heavy damage to the Multek vessel,” Porter said. “The disruptors cut through their shields like they weren’t even there.”

“We’ve got to do something,” Beck said.

“Our weapons aren’t going to be able to even hurt the Romulans before they have a chance to destroy the Multeks,” Morales said.

“Porter, get down to docking arm one,” Beck said.

“Arm one?” Porter asked confused. “The only thing there is…” His face brightened as he got the idea. “Bradley’s ship!”

“Now you’re with me,” Beck said. “Go!” Porter ran into the turbolift.

“There’s another ship dropping out of warp,” Morales said.

“Oh God! Who now?” Beck said as she went over to man the science console.

“It’s a runabout. They’re hailing us.”

“On screen.” The image of a tall, thin man with a thick black mustache and short cropped hair appeared on the screen. He was wearing the blue uniform of the Federation Marines.

“This is Colonel Martin Lazlo of the Federation Marine Corps. I demand to know what the hell is going on around here!”

“No time to explain,” Beck said. Suddenly, the runabout shook violently, tossing Lazlo out of his chair.

“The Romulans are attacking the runabout,” Morales said.

“At least that buys us some time for the Multeks,” Beck replied. “Lazlo, get your ship close to the station. We’ll try and cover you. There’s a docking bay at the bottom of the upper saucer. We’ll lower shields to let you in as soon as we can. Waystation out.”

“Russell to Beck.”

“Go ahead, Lieutenant,” Beck said.

“I can’t find him.”

“Hold on.” Beck checked the sensors. “He’s on deck eight near the upper saucer engineering section.”

“I’m on it. Russell out.”


“Stay ahead of them, Corporal,” Lazlo said to his pilot who was frantically trying to avoid the warbird’s disruptors. As it was, the runabout’s shields were almost gone.

“Colonel, I’m detecting a Multek on board Waystation. He’s near their engineering section,” Sergeant Kyle said from the console behind him.

“A saboteur!” Lazlo shouted. “We’ve got to get on board that station before he does anything.”

“Why don’t we just tell the station commander about him?” Kyle asked.

“We’re the marines, damn it! We don’t need Starfleet to handle things for us. We do it ourselves!”


“Beck to Porter.”

“Porter here,” Lieutenant Porter said from underneath the pilot’s console on Bradley Dillon’s ship.

“How’s it coming?”

“Not as well as I’d like. I had to get past some hellish security measures to even get on board. I’m now trying to get past the command lockout on the consoles, so we can control this thing.”

“Make it quick. The Multeks have been bought a little time, but the Romulans are going to lose interest in out runabout real quick.”

“There’s a runabout out there!” Porter shouted. “Who the hell…”

“It’s the marines,” Beck replied.

“I’ll see what short-cuts I can take. Porter out.”


“The Multek ship is closing to aft, Commander.”

“Fire rear disruptors,” Salbok ordered. He watched the image of the Federation runabout weaving around in front of the warbird.

“We missed. They’re firing.” The warbird shook slightly. “It glanced off the shields. Shields down to forty-eight percent.”


Nubbid cursed to himself as the Multeks’ blast just missed the newcomer ship.

“They’re headed back toward the imaginary Federations outpost,” his helmsman said.

“Stay with them,” Nubbid ordered. “Fire again as soon as the distortion beam is recharged.”

“The newcomer ship is firing again!” The bridge of the Multek ship shook violently as the ship was hit. “Shield generators destroyed.”

“It’s all in my head. It’s all in my head,” Nubbid chanted to himself, hoping by all that was good, decent, and Multek that he was right.


“Fire phasers on the warbird,” Beck said.

“The runabout’s too close to them,” Morales said. He saw the runabout take another glancing hit from the warbird’s disrupters. “Runabout’s shields are down!”

“Damn!” Beck watched the runabout and the warbird get closer. “Get a tractor beam on the runabout.”

“What?” Morales said.

“Do it! Then, pull them up hard. As soon as they’re clear, open fire.”

“Okay,” Morales said, his hands flying across the tactical console. The tractor beam lanced out of Waystation, catching the runabout and flinging it upwards. Before the warbird could react, a barrage of phaser fire slammed into its shields. The warbird altered its course and moved off towards the Multeks.

“Get the runabout on board,” Beck said.


Nubbid watched as the Romulan warbird closed in on his ship. The Multek vessel’s engines were severely damaged, the shields were inoperative, and the distortion beam was still a minute away from being fully charged.

“Orders, sir?” the helmsman said. Nubbid just sat in silence wondering if he was about to become the first Multek killed by figments of his imagination.


Chapter Thirty-one


Colonel Lazlo and his three subordinates charged out of their runabout the second that it touched down in the Waystation docking bay.

“Where is it, Kyle?” Lazlo demanded, lowering his phaser rifle.

“The Multek is still near engineering,” Sergeant Kyle replied, checking his tricorder. “Someone is getting close to his position, though.”

“Come on! We have to get to him before Starfleet,” Lazlo said as he started running toward the doors.


“Beck to Porter.”

“Porter here.”

“We’re running out of time, Lieutenant. The Romulans are closing in on the Multek ship fast,” Beck said.

“Just another couple of seconds, Commander.”


“Captain Wuddle, I know you’re around here,” Lieutenant Russell said, as he cautiously walked down the corridors on deck eight. “I don’t want to hurt you. I just need to take you back to Ops.”

“You have betrayed me!” Wuddle’s voice shouted from somewhere.

“No. The Romulans that showed up are not on our side. They have attacked us and your ship.”

“They have?” Wuddle asked, stepping out into view a few meters down the corridor.

“Yes, now please come with me,” Russell said, lowering his phaser.

“GET HIM!” a voice shouted from behind him. Russell whirled around and saw four heavily armed Federation marines running towards his position.

“Liar!” Wuddle screamed. “You’ve done it to me again!” Wuddle turned and ran off down the hall.

“Stop!” Russell shouted. Wuddle ignored him and charged into a turbolift. Furious, Russell aimed his phaser at the marines.

“Out of the way, Starfleeter,” Lazlo said.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Russell said.

“Eliminating a saboteur. Something you bleeding-heart Starfleet type don’t have the guts to do,” Lazlo replied. Russell lashed out with his phaser, striking Lazlo across the face. The colonel fell to the ground, clutching his injury.

“You’ll have to catch him first,” Russell said, running off down the hall.

“Are you alright, sir?” Kyle asked, helping Lazlo up.

“Kill them both,” Lazlo gasped.


Salbok leaned back in his chair as the Romulan warbird moved into position in front of the helpless Multek vessel. A smug smile spread across his lips.

“Hail the Multek vessel,” he said. “Let’s give them another chance to see the wisdom of the Romulan way.”

“We’re getting the same screeching noise,” the communications officer said.

“Fine, lock weapons and prepare to fire,” Salbok said.


“Porter to bridge. Everything’s a go,” Porter’s voice said, interrupting Beck’s anxious pacing.

“You’re cutting thing’s almost too close, Craig,” Beck said.

“I’ll try to do better next time. Porter out.”

“You heard the man,” Beck said, turning to Morales. “Let’s get to it.”

“The Atalanta is responding,” Morales said. “Where to you want me to take her?”

“Right into the Romulans,” Beck said. Morales, using the remote control link-up Porter had established, disengaged the Atalanta from docking arm one and fired up its engines. The ship darted forward, then looped around the station under Morales’s control. Porter emerged from the turbolift into Ops just in time to see Morales steer the Atalanta onto its final heading. The ship plowed head-on into the starboard side of the Romulan warbird and exploded in a blinding flash.

“Their shields are down,” Porter said, checking the sensors. “Weapons systems have been destroyed. Engines are severely damaged. The ship is operating on emergency power.”


“Get us out of here!” Salbok shouted, picking himself up off of the deck after the collision.

“We have impulse power only,” the helmsman said.

“Whatever. Just do it! Engage cloak, and let’s go!” Another shot from either the Federation or the Multeks, and his ship would be destroyed. There was no hope of success. It was better to escape than face certain death.


On board Waystation, Beck, Porter, and Morales watched as half of the Romulan warbird vanished and the ship limped back toward Romulan space.

“Come back and see us next time you’re in the sector,” Porter said.

“Which hopefully won’t be anytime soon,” Morales said.

“Come on. You didn’t enjoy being a sitting duck in the middle of a galactic war?” Porter said.

“You two are hysterical,” Beck said sarcastically.

“Russell to bridge.”

“Beck here. How’s it going, Lieutenant?”

“Terrible. Wuddle’s run off again, and the marines are after us. When the hell did they get here?” Russell said.

“While you were playing hide and seek with Wuddle,” Beck replied. “I’ll take care of them. Beck out.”

“Colonel Lazlo is a man of action, I see,” Porter said.

“Yeah, well he’s going to be out of action for a damn long time if he lays a finger on Wuddle,” Beck said.

“I’d worry more about him laying a phaser on Wuddle,” Porter said.

“Let me know when you start your galactic comedy tour. I’ll be sure to avoid those planets,” Beck said.

“Ouch,” Porter said.

“Beck to Lazlo.” No response. “Beck to Lazlo. I know you’re on board, and I know you’re chasing a Multek. Stop your pursuit immediately.”

“This is now a marine affair,” Lazlo replied. “Keep your Starfleet wimps out of my way. Lazlo out.”

Porter and Morales could practically see the fire shooting out of Beck’s eyes.

“You have Ops, Morales,” she said and stormed into the turbolift.

“I think somebody’s about to have their playground privileges revoked,” Porter said.

“I think somebody’s about to get their head split open,” Morales said.


Captain Wuddle decided to hide in the lowest part of Waystation until either his ship rescued him or he found some way out of the Federations’ web of deceit and betrayal. The turbolift stopped at the bottom of the station. Wuddle stepped out and immediately wished that he hadn’t. He froze, staring down in complete and abject fear.

Lieutenant Russell was close. His tricorder showed Wuddle heading down the length of the station to the bottom, then the signal stopped moving. Russell checked to make sure that his phaser was still on stun, then waited for the inevitable confrontation.

The turbolift stopped, and he stepped out.

At first, Russell was confused as to why Wuddle was just standing across the room staring down. The Multek was so scared that he’d gotten even paler. Then Russell looked down. The expanse of space opened up below him, and he was overwhelmed with vertigo. His stomach started trying to climb out of the top of his head as every bit of heat in his body seeped out of his feet.

The bottom deck of Waystation was somebody at Starfleet’s notion of a good idea. Since the saucers of Waystation were connected bottom to bottom, it was in the position on the bottom saucer that would have been the bridge. Instead, the designers had made the domed floor out of transparent aluminum so that people could look down at the universe. It was supposed to be inspiring.

It was inspiring a hell of a lot of fear in Russell and Wuddle.

“Ev…everything’s fine,” Russell said weakly. “We’re safe. Just come with me, and we’ll get out of here.”

“I’m not moving!” Wuddle said.

“The marines are on their way. We have to get out of here, or they’ll kill you.”

“They’re not on your side either?” Wuddle said. These Federations were not very popular.

“It’s a long story,” Russell said. He inched his way along the transparent floor, trying not to look down at the open expanse of space stretching out beneath him.


“He’s four decks down from us,” Sergeant Kyle said after checking his tricorder.

“Back to the turbolift,” Lazlo ordered.

The marines rushed back down the corridor and waited in front of the turbolift doors. When they opened a few moments later, the marine in front hit the deck, felled by a fist to his face. Commander Beck leapt out of the turbolift, tackling another marine and Sergeant Kyle. Beck scrambled back up and stunned the two of them with her hand phaser. She turned and aimed her phaser at Lazlo, who was pointing his rifle right back at her.

“I guess we’ll be staying here for a while,” Beck said.

“Out of the way, Beck. This isn’t a Starfleet problem anymore,” Lazlo said.

“This is a Starfleet station. Therefore, anything that happens on board is a Starfleet affair.”

“Have it your way,” Lazlo said, turning away from her. Beck was expecting his next move. She stunned him before he could even start to turn back around to fire at her.

“Beck to Russell,” she said. “The marines are out of the picture.”


“You’re safe now,” Russell told Wuddle after receiving Beck’s message. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Twice I have trusted you, and twice I have been betrayed,” Wuddle said. He looked back down at the gaping expanse of space below him. “In spite of that, I’m going to trust you again.”

“Good. You won’t regret it.” He finally had reached Wuddle, and started edging his way toward the turbolift.

“I hope not, but if you Federations pull anything this time, I swear that my people will destroy you,” Wuddle said.

“Your race is so violent. Have you looking into getting some counseling?” Russell said.

“What?”

“Never mind.”


Chapter Thirty-two


“Station Log. Stardate 50255.0. Captain Wuddle has returned to his ship, which has headed back to Multek space. I’m not sure that we gained Wuddle’s trust, but he does at least believe that we exist. The rest of the Multeks, on the other hand, are still refusing to acknowledge that we are real. In any case, they didn’t destroy us. I don’t think they’re exactly our friends either, though. We’ll just have to see how things go in the future.

“Speaking of future relations. I’m about to go explain to a less than receptive audience how our future relations are going to go.”


“Are they awake yet, Lieutenant?” Beck asked as she walked into the security office.

“Yep, and they aren’t happy,” Lieutenant Russell replied. He led Beck to the brig area, where Colonel Lazlo and his men sat in separate cells.

“BECK! I demand that you release us!” Lazlo shouted.

“That depends on you, Colonel,” Beck said. “You see, I’m not going to let you out of there until we get some things straight.”

“You have no authority to make any demands on me,” Lazlo said.

“Okay. Have a nice life. Come on, Russell.” She turned to go.

“Get comfy, fellas,” Russell said, moving to follow her.

“You’re not serious,” Laslo said.

“He doesn’t know me very well, does he?” Beck asked Russell.

“He’ll figure it out after a year or two in here.”

“Want to get some coffee?”

“Good idea.”

“Wait! What do you want?” Lazlo said.

“Hmmm…maybe a cappuccino? I don’t think the replicator can handle Andorian coffee.”

“Beck!” Lazlo growled, his mustache was practically vibrating.

“I think you know what I want,” Beck said. She took another couple of steps toward the door.

“All right! This is your station. We’ll obey your rules while we’re on board,” Lazlo said.

“You’ve read my mind, Colonel,” Beck said, turning around and smiling. “I will, of course, require that in writing.”

“Whatever you want; just get us out of here. Please,” Lazlo said.

“I had a feeling that you were a big softy at heart,” Beck said. “See to it, Lieutenant.”

“You got it, Commander,” Russell said. Beck walked out of the brig and headed out of the office into the main corridor of Starfleet Square Mall.

“Commander! Commander!” a voice called from behind her. She turned around and saw Bradley Dillon running toward her. “I need to talk to you.”

“What can I do for you?” Beck asked. She knew what he was going to say, though.

“You destroyed my ship! My only source of transportation. I demand recompense!”

“Of course, Mr. Dillon. I am going to discuss the matter with Starfleet Command.”

“Discuss it?!? I want action,” Bradley said.

“Look. I am going to see to it that you are given your store space rent free for the duration of your stay here,” Beck said.

“Free. That sounds most equitable.”

“I thought so, too. And since you sacrificed your ship to defend this station, I will also see if I can convince certain members of the Tellar and Alpha Centauri governments to forget about their claims against you,” Beck said.

“That was simply a misunderstanding,” Bradley protested.

“So you don’t want my help?”

“No no no,” Bradley said quickly. “Your assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Commander.” He ran off back to his store.

“Morales to Beck.”

“Go ahead.”

“We have a transport ship requesting permission to dock.”

“Send them to arm one,” Beck said.

“Acknowledged. Morales out.”

Beck looked around at the empty storefronts and sighed. Soon all of these would be filled, and the corridors would be alive with all kinds of races. It was all starting to take shape. Overall, it was a pretty satisfying first command.

Beck smiled and headed towards the turbolift. The bustling crowds would have to wait for just a few hours. She really needed some sleep.