Author: Alan Decker
Star Traks: Waystation
by Alan Decker
“Station Log. Stardate 50357.4. With Federation interest in this sector of space increasing, we have increased the number of scouting missions we’re sending into the uncharted reaches beyond Waystation. So far, only one colony has actually been founded in the area, but Starfleet Command assures me that other colony ships will be coming.
Since Waystation is deep into the unsettled territory, it’s up to us to find likely planets for colonization. Despite the ever- present threat of the Multeks, scout duty has been fairly routine.
For this reason, and since I haven’t been off of the damn station in months, I’ve decided to help out with the scouting missions.”
Commander Lisa Beck steered the runabout Yadkin around the moon of the fourth planet of the Wogelia solar system while Lieutenant Craig Porter sat next to her, carefully monitoring the sensor readings coming in from the lush, green world below them.
“It’s looks good,” Porter said, looking up from the console. “The moon is Class-M, no advanced life-forms, tropical climate. I’d love to set up a beach resort here.”
“I’m sure someone will,” Beck said. Porter thought he detected a hint of depression in her voice. Actually, it was a lot more than a hint.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Why do you ask?” Beck said. Porter didn’t buy it.
He’d known Beck too long for that. They were almost always on the bridge of the Secondprize together when the command crew was off getting themselves into trouble. Invariably, he and Beck had to help bail them out. Over the three years they served on the Secondprize, they had become friends.
“Because you sound like you’re about to eject yourself into that star over there. Come on, Lisa, what’s up?” Porter asked.
“I don’t know,” Beck replied. “I guess I just expected more than this.”
“These scouting missions are not exactly exciting.”
“That’s not what I meant. I have my own command out on the frontier, and almost nothing has happened the entire time we’ve been out here.”
“I don’t call getting attacked by the Multeks and the Romulans at the same time nothing,” Porter said even though he knew what Beck’s response would be.
“That happened right after we got here and there’s been nothing since,” Beck said. Yep, she said exactly what Porter was expecting.
“We could go invade the Multeks,” Porter said jokingly.
“Craig, I’m serious. I’m thinking about requesting a transfer. Maybe back to a starship. I mean, at least on the Secondprize we were always running into interesting situations.”
“And then we’d run away from them,” Porter said. Beck glared at him. “Okay, okay. I’ll be serious.”
“Look, Lisa, I know this command hasn’t been excitement central, but it is your command. If you ask for a transfer now, this early in the game, you’ll be lucky if Starfleet makes you an inventory clerk, much less a bridge officer. You’ll be giving up everything you’ve worked for.”
“Inventory clerk, huh?” Beck asked, the disgust clear on her face.
“Besides, if you left, who would I have left to help me pick on Russell? Or to keep Lazlo from trying to take over the station?”
Beck laughed. “Are you trying to tell me that you’d miss me, Craig?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“I guess I have to stay then.”
“Damn right,” Porter said. “Things will probably get interesting around here soon, anyway.”
The sensors suddenly started flashing. Porter quickly turned back to his console.
“Why did I open my big mouth?” Porter said.
“What is it?”
A ship ten times larger than the Yadkin slowly came around the planet and into view.
“Oh,” Beck said softly.
“They appeared just on the other side of Wogelia Four,” Porter said.
“What do you mean appeared?” Beck demanded.
“I think they were hiding in the planet’s sensor mask where we couldn’t detect them….Oh shit!. More good news.”
“They’ve got Multek energy signatures.”
“Great. Hail them,” Beck ordered. Porter frantically worked his console.
“Why should they?” Beck said. “They don’t believe that we exist.” Beck activated the shields and steered the runabout away from the Multek vessel.
“They’re following us,” Porter said. “Wait! I’m reading an energy build-up on the Multek ship.”
“Most likely.” A blast seared by the runabout. “Considering they don’t think we exist, they sure seem real intent on killing us.”
“Hold on!” Beck straightened the runabout’s path and tried to jump to warp. Just before she could hit the final command, the runabout jerked violently, tossing her and Porter out of their seats. The interior lights flickered ominously as Beck and Porter scrambled back to their seats.
“Damage report,” Beck said.
“Shields down ninety percent. Warp engines off line. And the replicator’s busted.”
“Damn! And I really wanted a cup of coffee right now,” Beck said. Porter laughed weakly at her bit of gallows humor.
“Maybe the Multeks will give us a cup,” Porter said.
“Not if I can help it.” Using the runabout’s impulse engines, Beck looped around Wogelia Three and raced back toward the moon of Wogelia Four.
“You know, if we’d been on the station, that hit wouldn’t have even made a dent in our shields,” Porter said.
“That’s the fun of using runabouts. Fly into the face of danger with one-tenth of the power.”
“That’s not what I meant. I don’t think that’s a military ship. It’s not even as heavily armed as that passenger liner we encountered on the Secondprize.”
“So, is this some family out for a Sunday drive?”
“I don’t know, but I think we’re about to find out. Here they come again.”
Beck put the runabout into a hard turn, narrowly evading another shot from the Multek ship.
“I’m going to try to land. I doubt these guys can take their ship into an atmosphere,” Beck said.
The runabout dove toward the moon of Wogelia Four. Just before entering the atmosphere, another blast slammed into the runabout’s hull.
“That’s it!” Porter said. “Shields are gone. Impulse engines are down. We’ve got thrusters and life-support…barely” The planet’s surface grew larger and larger in the front viewport.
“We’re going in for a landing!” Beck said.
“No, this would be a crashing.”
“Transfer all power to thrusters.” Beck leveled the falling craft’s descent toward the moon’s dense forests, but her engine readouts told her that they wouldn’t have thruster power for much longer. “We have to put her down now!”
“All right,” Porter said, studying the sensors. “Turn forty degrees to port. We should be coming up on a plain soon.”
“I see it.” She slowed the runabout and came to a stop over the plain near a pond. Then, she gently set the craft down on the moon’s surface.
“Not bad for what started out as a crash landing,” Porter said. Beck jumped out of her seat and threw open the equipment locker near the back of the cockpit.
“Here,” she said, tossing Porter a phaser and a tricorder. She equipped herself similarly, then headed to the rear of the runabout. “Activate the emergency beacon and let’s get moving.” Porter activated the beacon and followed Beck, running to catch up.
“I take it that you have a plan,” Porter said.
“Yes, get the engines on line as quickly as possible, but first you have to get some kind of jamming field up so that the Multeks can’t…”
She and Porter suddenly dematerialized and reformed in what looked like a bedroom.
“…transport us off the surface,” Beck finished slowly.
“Just a little bit late on that one,” Porter said.
The door to the room opened and a smiling Multek walked in, her white teeth matching nicely with her pale skin. The deep blue hair and red eyes were a bit unsettling, though.
“I don’t believe it,” she said. “I got them.”
“I am Commander Lisa Beck of the Federation Outpost Waystation,” Beck said stepping forward.
“And they even talk!”
“Commander,” Porter said, waving her back to him. “I think you two are on different channels here.”
“Trust me, Craig. I was a communications officer.” Beck walked back toward the Multek woman.
“Yes, we do exist and we do talk,” Beck said. “And we want to go back to our ship.”
“They’re so real,” the Multek said, obviously to herself. She started walking around Beck and Porter staring at them with excitement.
“We are real,” Beck said, growing a bit annoyed at being ignored. The woman poked her, then jumped back, startled to hit solid flesh.
“Incredible,” she said. She looked directly at Beck. “You call yourself Commander Lisa Beck?”
“Yes,” Beck said. “And this is Lieutenant Craig Porter.”
“Hi there,” Porter said, waiving.
“I am Pophlie.” the woman said. She turned back to Beck. “I have seen you before. I was on the transport to Edgeworld that you appeared on.”
“We didn’t appear there. Your captain transported us on board against our will, much like you just did,” Beck replied.
“You don’t have a will. You’re just very real hallucinations created by anomalies in this part of space,” Pophlie said, laughing at the ridiculousness of the idea that she was speaking to real beings.
“Who told you that?” Porter asked.
“Frequoq Juletz himself went on the pictocube to give us the news. This sector of space is now off-limits to the entire Multek Enclave, not that we ever went out here much anyway. Why should we leave our own space when we know that we’re the only ones out here?”
“Good question,” Porter said. “Why don’t you go back to your own space and leave us here?”
“If this space is off-limits, why are you here?” Beck asked.
“I was hoping to catch a hallucination,” Pophlie said. “I’m going to make a fortune off of you two.” She walked out of the room, allowing the door to close behind her.
“Who the hell does she think she is?” Beck said.
“I don’t know,” Porter said. “But she’s not real intelligent.
That door isn’t even locked.”
Beck and Porter left the bedroom and entered a plush living area.
“She may not believe in us, but she gave us a nice room,” Porter said appreciatively.
“Well, I’m not planning on staying,” Beck said. She walked toward a door on the other side of the living area. It opened revealing a corridor. Beck stepped forward, then was thrown backwards roughly by a force-field that suddenly sprang into existence in the doorway. Porter rushed over to her as she lay motionless on the floor.
“Are you hurt?”
“Yes,” Beck said weakly. “I’m going to lie here for a very long time.” Porter scanned her with his tricorder. She had taken the brunt of a severe shock. If she had been just a little bit farther through the doorway when the field activated, she’d probably be dead right now.
“I’m going to move you,” Porter said. He gently put Beck over his shoulder and carried her into the bedroom. Then, just as gently, he put her on the bed.
“This is no time to be taking advantage of me,” Beck said with a weak smile.
“Get some rest, Commander,” Porter said. He turned off the lights in the bedroom and went out to the living area to try to figure out some way out of this.
“I definitely don’t like the looks of this,” Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales said as he surveyed the condition of the Yadkin. Upon receiving the signal from the emergency beacon, he had immediately taken off from Waystation with Lieutenant Sean Russell, Waystation’s chief of security, and Dr. Amedon Nelson.
They found the runabout on an uninhabited moon and landed in the runabout Cumberland to check things out.
“I’m still not getting anything on the runabout’s sensors,” Dr. Nelson said, walking up next to Morales. “If they’re here, they found a wonderful place to hide.”
“Well, they had to land,” Morales said. He looked at the scorch marks covering the Yadkin. “Actually, I’d say they were lucky to land.”
Lieutenant Russell stepped out of the Yadkin and walked over to them.
“What’s the word, Lieutenant?” Morales said.
“Not good, sir,” Russell replied. “The blast patterns on the Yadkin’s hull are consistent with Multek weaponry. Also, there are residual traces of two Multek transporter beams in the ship. My best guess is that the Multek’s have them.”
“At least they’re alive,” Nelson said.
“And hopefully armed,” Russell said. “There are two phasers and tricorders missing from the storage locker.”
Morales turned and walked off away from the runabouts, lost in thought. This was the part of the job he hated. He had to make a decision. If he chased after Beck and Porter, he risked getting blasted out of space and starting a war with the Multeks. If he went back to Waystation, Beck and Porter could be lost forever. Beck and Porter were both good officers. There was no way that he could just give them up.
“Let’s go,” he called to Russell and Nelson as he headed back to the Cumberland. Once all three of them were on board, Morales lifted the craft off the surface and headed toward open space.
“Russell, send a message to Waystation. Tell them to get an engineering crew here pronto and retrieve the Yadkin,” Morales said.
“Sir, we only have two runabouts. How are they going to get here?”
“The marines have one. Take theirs. If Colonel Lazlo has a problem with it, he can complain to Commander Beck when she gets back. Now, let’s see if we can find the ion trail from that Multek ship.”
Three hours later, Lieutenant Porter was still trying to calibrate his tricorder to read through the force-field surrounding the quarters they had been put in. Pophlie may not have been in the military, but somehow she’d gotten enough information about Federation technology to put in place a field that resisted all of Porter’s attempts to read through it.
Of course, that could have just been a coincidence. The way Pophlie had talked about making a fortune off of Porter and Beck and the fact that she had broken Multek law to do it made Porter wonder if perhaps she were some type of smuggler. The force-field could come in handy against scans by her own people as well.
Before he could wonder too much more about it, Pophlie walked into the quarters flanked by two bulky-looking Multeks. Porter quickly pocketed his tricorder again.
“It’s time to leave,” Pophlie said. “Get the other one.”
“She’s hurt,” Porter said as the two large Multeks pushed past him and entered the bedroom.
“Oh, please don’t tell me that you’re trying the old ‘she’s hurt so you’ve got to help her’ escape trick. That never works,” Pophlie said.
“This isn’t a trick,” Porter said. “She really is hurt. Your damn force-field almost killed her.” Pophlie started laughing, which angered Porter to no end.
“Come on. You can’t hurt an imaginary being.”
The two Multeks emerged from the bedroom holding Beck up between them. They tossed her down roughly at Porter’s feet. He bent down to see if she was all right.
“Is it time to get up already?” Beck said.
“I’m afraid so. That was your six o’clock wake up call,” Porter replied as he helped her to her feet. “Do you want to thank them?” He put his hand on his phaser.
“Not yet,” Beck said, shaking her head. “We don’t know how many we’ll have to thank. There’ll be a better time.”
“Let’s get moving,” Pophlie said, walking out into the corridor. Beck and Porter went after her followed by the two Multek thugs.
“Where are you taking us?” Beck asked.
“Just to slightly different accommodations. We’re not likely to be scanned by the military anytime soon, so I can move you.”
Pophlie walked through another door leading to a cargo bay. Inside were several large metal boxes with holes punched in them. Sounds from several life-forms that Beck couldn’t identify emanated from the boxes. Pophlie opened up one of the boxes and waived Beck and Porter inside.
“Sorry it’s a little cramped, but I was only expecting one of you. Don’t worry, though, we’ll be in orbit soon.”
“Get moving!” the Multek behind Porter said, shoving him forward roughly. He almost flew into the box. The Multek behind Beck repeated the gesture, sending her slamming into Porter. The metal door of the box closed behind them with a clank, then they heard the soft hum of a force-field being activated.
“Well, this is cozy,” Porter gasped. His body was being crushed against the back wall of the box by Beck.
“Really,” Beck said. She adjusted herself so that she wasn’t pressing quite so hard against Porter, but the close quarters were not giving her a lot of room to move. It was enough, though, for Porter to pull out his tricorder.
“The good news is that I can scan outside of this force- field,” Porter said a few moments later.
“What’s the bad news?”
“There are twelve people on board and no shuttles that I can locate. Also, the force-field generator is in the ceiling above us, which will make it kind of hard for us to blast it without someone noticing.”
“Pophlie said that we would be in orbit soon,” Beck said. “If they’re going to transport us down to a planet, we may find a better opportunity to escape.”
“But escape to where?” Porter said. “Even if we do somehow get our hands on a ship, we don’t know where we are.”
Morales turned the runabout in another big circle. Ten minutes earlier, they had lost the ion trail of the Multek ship. Now, they were frantically trying to find it again. Every minute they lost was another more time that the Multeks had to get away from them.
“Got it!” Russell said suddenly. “Bearing two-seven-five mark eight.” Morales quickly turned the ship to port and resumed the trail.
“Good work, Lieutenant,” Morales said.
“Yeah,” Nelson said. “Just don’t lose it again like you did last time.”
“Hey! I got it mixed up with a comet’s trail. It could have happened to anybody,” Russell said defensively.
“No, just you,” Nelson said.
“You’re still mad at me about that whole mess with the drugs for your symbiont, aren’t you?” Russell said.
“Yes, we are,” Nelson said, eyes flaring. Russell almost thought he could see the Midon symbiont thrashing angrily in Nelson’s stomach. A shudder went through him.
“Jees, I’m sorry,” he said, turning back to his console.
“Russell, where’s that ion trail?” Morales demanded.
“Uh…I lost it,” Russell replied meekly.
“This may be the wrong time to ask this, but whatever happened with you and that guy you were seeing on Earth?” Porter said, trying to make conversation.
“The artist guy.”
“Oh. He was an exterior designer.”
“An architect. I haven’t seen him in almost a year. With the Secondprize away from Earth so much, there just wasn’t a lot of point in trying.”
“He didn’t want to follow you into space?” Porter said.
“I didn’t want him to follow me into space,” Beck replied. “I like my freedom, besides he was a bit stuck on himself.”
“That whole exterior designer title kind of gave me that idea.”
“Well, since we’re digging into each other’s personal lives, what about you? Do you have anybody pining away for you somewhere?”
“No. I just never really had the time, and I moved around a lot at first. I was on eight different ships before getting assigned to the Secondprize.”
“Yeah, in only two years. Needless to say, it would have been tough to hold down a stable relationship.”
The hum of the force-field suddenly stopped. Porter tried to peer out of one of the air holes in the box, but couldn’t see anything. Then, they felt a transporter beam lock onto them.
Moments later, they rematerialized in a large cage. A cloth was covering the cage, blocking their view beyond the bars, but from the brightness of the light beyond, Beck deduced that they were outside. She could just make out Pophlie’s voice coming over some kind of loudspeaker in the distance.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls. Have I got something for you! That’s right, step right up for the most astounding display of creatures and critters ever seen by Multek eyes. I have scoured the known universe for animal species beyond your imagination. And today I have a special treat. You may have heard our beloved Frequoqness speaking of the hallucinatory creatures on the pictocube. Well, I’ve got two of them here to show you, and believe me, they are unlike anything that exists in reality.”
“Great. We’re zoo animals,” Porter said.
“Try side-show freaks,” Beck said.
“What should we do?”
“Well, I’d rather not be here when they try to display us. As much as I’d love for the Multeks to believe that we exist, we still have the Prime Directive to consider.”
“Not to dispute my commanding officer here, but I don’t think the Prime Directive matters too much when no one is going to believe anything we do anyway.”
“You’ve spent way too much time listening to Captain Rydell reinterpret the Prime Directive,” Beck said.
“I’m just trying to be practical here.”
“We’re coming up on the Multek ship now,” Russell said, watching the sensors carefully. “It’s in orbit around the fifth planet in this solar system.”
Morales kept the runabout in the sensor shadows of the outer planets of the solar system as he brought the ship in towards the fifth planet. The Multek ship did not make any movements suggesting that they had not detected the Cumberland.
“So far, so good,” Morales said. “Now for the tricky part.” He took the runabout in close to the fifth planet’s moon and brought the craft in for a landing right on the edge of the moon’s sensor shadow. With any luck, they were close enough to the moon’s blind side that the Multek’s sensors would overlook them.
“Hurry up,” Nelson said, pushing Russell’s back.
“I’m trying,” Russell said. “I’m not detecting any human life-signs on the ship.”
“What about the planet?” Morales asked.
“No. Wait! There we go. Two humans. They’re right next to each other, but the signal is moving.”
“Well, don’t just sit there. Beam them up,” Nelson said.
“We’re out of transporter range, Doctor,” Morales said. “Besides, Commander Beck could be in the middle of some type of diplomatic overtures with the Multeks. We’ll call first.”
The cage was being rolled up a ramp onto another flat surface.
Beck and Porter could hear the noises of a whole crowd of people just outside of the cage.
“Morales to Beck,” the voice of Waystation’s first officer said suddenly over Beck’s commbadge.
“Beck here,” she said, slapping her commbadge. “You have fantastic timing, Commander. Get us out of here!”
“It may not be that easy. There’s a Multek ship orbiting above your position.”
“We know, but we’re about to become the major attraction in some kind of wild animal show. I’d really like to depart soon,” Beck said.
“We’ll be right there. Morales out.”
“You’d better be,” Beck said to herself as the cage stopped moving and the crowd fell silent.
“Russell, reconfigure a probe to emit signals like it’s a runabout and launch it,” Morales said, bringing the runabout’s engines back on line.
“Which way?” Russell said, quickly working at his console.
“Right past that Multek ship. Hopefully, they’ll start chasing it before they have time to get a visual of it.” The runabout lifted slowly off of the surface of the moon.
“Probe ready,” Russell said.
The probe sped out away from the runabout headed toward the Multek ship. A few seconds later, it slammed into the side of the Multek craft and exploded violently.
“Wrong trajectory,” Russell said shrugging.
“No sh**!” Nelson said.
“Hey, I’m a security officer. I shoot things,” Russell said.
“Anyway, it got their attention.” The Multek ship was breaking orbit and heading toward the moon.
“Yeah, but we wanted their attention away from us, not on us,” Morales said as he quickly pulled the runabout around the moon. He might still be able to pull this off, but he was going to have to move fast.
“And now, the greatest wonder in the universe, the imaginary people!” Pophlie announced. The two Multek thugs threw the cloth covering off of the cage allowing the fifty member audience to see the great curiosities. The entire crowd gasped. Beck and Porter just stood there motionless.
As the Multek ship headed toward the Cumberland’s former position, Morales brought the runabout around the other side of the moon and made a break for the planet.
The Multek ship quickly detected them and turned to pursue, firing its weapons wildly.
“Should I return fire?” Russell said.
“Why bother? You’ll probably miss and find a way to blow us up instead,” Nelson said.
“Leave me alone,” Russell said.
“Ooh, scathing comeback.”
“Shut up!” Morales shouted, frantically trying to keep the runabout out of the Multek’s line of fire. “Russell, get ready on that transporter.”
“Why don’t they do something?” a voice in the crowd shouted.
“They’re just statues!”
“So what do we do now?” Porter whispered.
“How about a light show?” Beck said, her fingers wrapping around her phaser. “And then get out of sight fast. Morales will be beaming us up any second now.”
“Ready when you are.”
“Now!” Beck and Porter pulled out their phasers and blasted the front off of the cage. The audience screamed and jumped back in their seats.
“Stay calm folks,” Pophlie said. “Enjoy the show!”
“Enjoy this, bitch,” Beck said. She reset her phaser to stun and shot Pophlie, sending the Multek collapsing to the stage.
Beck and Porter ran off the stage and back among the various cages of animals that had been beamed down from Pophlie’s ship. The two Multek thugs were right behind them followed by some of Pophlie’s other employees.
“We’ve got to get out of sight fast,” Beck said.
“Too late,” Porter said. The horde of Pophlie’s employees was right on them.
“Now, we see if hallucinations can die,” the lead thug said.
“Why don’t I save you the trouble?” Porter said, backing up with Beck. “We can. It’s rather grisly and disgusting. You really don’t want to see it.”
“Sure we do.”
“Maybe later,” Beck said. She fired past the crowd and hit a cage containing a large, red, snarling creature that she couldn’t identify. It looked mean and hungry. That was enough for her.
Seeing that it was free, the creature lunged forward at the group of Multeks in front of it and started licking them furiously. Slobber flew everywhere as the Multeks went down in a heap underneath the vicious tongue assault.
“Help us!” one of them screamed.
“Should we?” Porter asked, looking at Beck. They were dematerialized before she could respond.
“They’re on board,” Russell said, looking back at Beck and Porter to make sure they were alright.
“Making a hasty retreat,” Morales said, swerving the runabout away from the planet moments before another barrage of Multek weapons fire flew through their last position. Morales engaged the warp drive, speeding them away from Multek space.
“It’s about time you guys showed up,” Porter said.
“We would have been here sooner if it weren’t for Russell,” Nelson said, running her tricorder over Porter.
“Thanks, Sean,” Porter said. “Doc, you should be checking out the commander, not me. I’m fine.” Nelson quickly moved over to Beck, who had sat down wearily in the chair behind Morales.
“You shouldn’t be walking, much less running away from Multeks,” Nelson said, checking her readings.
“It was just a little shock,” Beck said.
“Right. And the Borg only made a little dent in Starfleet at Wolf 359. When we get back to the station, you’re coming straight to sickbay. Lieutenant Porter, help me get her to the back. She should be laying down.”
“I can walk just fine,” Beck said, standing up.
“Yes, but you shouldn’t. Let us help you,” Nelson said as she and Porter took up positions on either side of Beck and started leading her to the back. “I swear, Porter, people should be afraid to go on missions with you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Both Commander Beck and I have ended up needing medical attention after spending time with you. You’re bad news.”
“It’s not my fault,” Porter protested.
“Right. And the occupation of Bajor wasn’t the Cardassians fault.”
They reached the sleeping quarters at the rear of the runabout and put Beck in bed. Nelson gave her a mild sedative to help her rest then left the room. Porter was about to leave as well when Beck grabbed his uniform sleeve.
“Thanks for the trip.”
“You’re the one who asked for excitement,” Porter said.
“I know. I enjoyed it, despite the minor electrocution.”
“So, you’re going to stick around for a while?”
“Definitely.” She smiled. “Besides, you’d miss me if I left.”