Author: Alan Decker
Star Traks: Waystation
Win or Else!
By Alan Decker
“Sean Russell’s personal log. Stardate: who the hell cares?
I’m on vacation! I’m here on the Klingon homeworld enjoying my two weeks of accumulated leave. Now, most people would prefer to spend their leave time at someplace like Raisa or maybe a tropical resort on Earth. I’m one of those people, but I decided to try something different this year. I figure, what the hell, you only live once. Of course, the odds of me finding any cute babes has dropped precipitously because of this decision. Somehow, I just don’t find head ridges all that attractive. Call me weird. Anyway, I plan to spend my time here really experiencing what Klingon life is like.”
Sean Russell felt his stomach clinch up and then start having an epileptic seizure. He started running toward relief. He jumped up onto a table, stepping in the other restaurant patron’s dinners and kept on going. The door seemed like it was miles away. He tried to run faster. One half of his stomach started doing the rumba while the other jerked around like it was possessed. The door was getting closer. Behind him, he could hear the angry shouts of the people whose dinner he’d just ruined. At that moment, a table of angry Klingons didn’t scare him; what was happening in his stomach did. He burst into the little warriors’ room and dove toward what the Klingons called a toilet. The sandpaper and sharp pebbles on the seat were supposed to make going to the bathroom a warrior training exercise that bestowed honor on those who could do their business without screaming. Sean, fortunately, didn’t need to sit down. He leaned over and covered the toilet with the contents of his stomach. His stomach slowly came to a halt. Wiping his mouth, Sean made a mental note to never, ever have any dish with the word blood in the title and to be sure to try harder to get everything in the toilet bowl next time. Oh well, now this toilet would be a true test of a warrior’s mettle.
Out in the dining room, the three Klingons that Sean had disturbed decided to return the favor. The largest of the three pushed his chair back forcefully and stood up. His chair flew backwards and hit another patron knocking him into his plate to broiled bloodworms. This patron and his five companions, feeling that they had to defend their honor, jumped up and started throwing chairs. The Klingons that Sean had originally angered quickly forgot about him and turned on their attackers. The other customers, sensing a fight brewing, jumped up to join in. Every Klingon loves a good fight.
Sean slowly opened the bathroom door expecting the Klingons to be waiting there to discuss his dining etiquette. To his great relief, they were otherwise occupied. That relief soon turned to fear as he noticed a body flying toward him. He quickly slammed the door shut and headed toward the window. As the body slammed against the door with a dull thud, Sean realized that this bathroom was missing a window. He was going to have to exit through the dining room. He moved back to the door and peered out.
The room was deserted except for a few unconscious bodies strewn about the room. Cautiously, Sean stepped all the way into the dining room. He half-expected an ambush, but when it didn’t happen, his cautiousness turned to confusion. A flash of movement in the corner of his eye caught Sean’s attention. Turning toward it, he saw where everyone had gone. A huge mob had gathered in front of a building across the street. Curious, Sean went outside to check things out. A well-dressed Klingon was addressing the crowd and obviously getting them very excited. Sean reached down to his belt and switched back on his universal translator. He had turned it off in the restaurant so that he could complain about his food without drawing the waiter’s attention. The waiter hadn’t struck him as someone who could take criticism well.
“…and fame and fortune,” were the only words that Sean caught before the crowd erupted in cheers and shouts. The mass of people pushed through the doors of the building. Anything involving fame and fortune sounded good to Sean, so he joined the crowd. Just as he was about to enter the building, a strong hand grabbed his shoulder. Sean turned toward his captor expecting the worst.
“Hello, human,” the smiling Klingon began. Somehow, Sean found the sight of a smiling Klingon very disconcerting. “How would you like an opportunity that no other human has had?” Thus was what Sean had come here for: new experiences.
“Sure,” Sean replied. “What do I have to do?”
“Just come with me,” the Klingon said. He led Sean around the building and they entered through the rear door leading to a dark hallway. They ended up in a small room where an elderly Klingon woman was standing beside a chair and a cart of supplies..
“Sit down,” she ordered gruffly. Sean did as he was told. She began covering his face with make-up.
“Now, I’ll need you do sign this liability waiver form,” the man said as he pushed a contract in front of Sean’s face. “It’s just a basic agreement that states that anything that happens to you isn’t our fault.”
“Uh… O.K. I guess,” Sean stammered as he signed the document.
“All done,” the woman said. “Just don’t mess it up before you get on the air.”
“On the air? What is this?”
“Come with me,” the man said pulling Sean out of the chair roughly and leading down another hallway. “You are about to have the distinct honor of being the first human contestant on the top- rated game on holovision. Now just stand right here.” He positioned Sean in front of a small podium on a stage. A Klingon woman standing at an identical podium to his left glared at him angrily. Beyond her was a lowered curtain. The man started walking back off stage.
“Wait,” Sean demanded. “What is this show?”
“WIN! OR! ELSE!” hundreds of voices chanted. The curtain flew up revealing a gigantic auditorium filled with people. Lights came on and flashed around everywhere. Annoyingly loud music filled the air.
“And now here’s the host of Win Or Else, Krinok!” a deep voice announced over the auditorium’s speaker system. A Klingon male dressed in an incredibly gaudy gold and silver outfit ran on stage from the side opposite Sean. The audience went wild with applause and shouts. Sean was sure that the expression of total lack of comprehension on his face must look pretty stupid, so he tried to pull himself together. He was representing all of Earth here.
“Thank you. Thank you,” Krinok said with an even more disconcerting smile. He looked like he was tried to hard to appear friendly and nice. “Welcome to Win Or Else! Before we jump into the game, I’d like to introduce our contestants. First, we have Gern who came here all the way from Jopak. Welcome to the show.”
“Thank you,” the woman to Sean’s left said curtly. “I watch your show all the time.”
“Glad to hear it. Now, Gern, our producers told me that you murdered one of your own children.”
“That’s true, Krinok.”
“Why don’t you tell us about it?” Sean tried to keep the shock off of his face. This woman killed one of her own kids, and Krinok was smiling and laughing like she’d won Mother of the Year.
“Well, Krinok,” Gern explained. “I was at the park with my youngest child when he started crying. I could not allow him to dishonor himself and his family like that so I ripped his head off and ate his vocal cords.”
“And how old was your son then?”
“I’m impressed, Gern. You know the true meaning of honor.”
“Thank you, Krinok.”
“Our second contestant is… a human,” Krinok said. Sean noticed a few harsh mumblings from the audience. “He was selected from among you moments before show time, so I don’t know a thing about him. Why don’t you tell us about yourself?” Sean was still trying to get over what Gern had done to her kid. “Human?” Sean realized he was being spoken to.
“What? Oh! My name is Sean Russell, and I’m in Starfleet.”
“Starfleet? Well, well. What is your position?”
“I’m a security officer.”
“You’re a brave man, Sean. People in your line of work tend to have short life expectancies. Well, good luck on the show. Our first round is Name that Scream and today’s special guest is Captain Kolak from our Imperial Fleet.” A man chained to a section of wall was wheeled out onto the stage by two men holding Klingon pain sticks. “Now, Sean, what noise do you think Kolak will make when we zap him?” Sean couldn’t believe what he was being asked.
How the hell was he supposed to know? Finally, he hazarded a guess.
“O.K. Sean says arrrgh. What do you think, Kern?”
“I think it will be much more guttural, kind of an unnnnh.”
“Arrrgh and unnnnh. Well, let’s see who’s right. Zap him,” Krinok ordered. The two men jabbed their pain sticks into Kolak’s sides.
“And Sean wins the round. We’ll be right back after these messages.” The lights dimmed slightly as the two men wheeled Kolak off stage and more stage hands ran out rearranging the set.
“What’s going on?” Sean asked no one in particular hoping against hope that someone would give him a straight answer. No one did. The stage hands pulled away two sections of the stage floor revealing two huge, water-filled tanks. Gern rubbed her hands together expectantly. Sean was starting to realize that it would have helped a lot if he’d actually seen this show before. One of the stage hands walked over to Sean, pushed him roughly to the tank’s edge, and shoved a long pole with a string attached into his hand. The lights returned to their original blinding intensity as Krinok resumed his place at the front of the stage.
“And we’re back,” Krinok announced way too enthusiastically. “It’s time for round two, so let’s get right to it.”
“Hey!” Sean shouted. “Wait a second!”
“What is it?!” Krinok demanded.
“What do I have to do?”
“Fish or die!” Krinok said happily as he ran to the back of the stage. Fishing? He’d never gone fishing in his life. Sean looked at the pole in his hand and then down at the water. There didn’t seem to be any fish in there. Then, he heard a loud clang, and the water rippled a bit. He glanced over at Gern. She was hunched expectantly over the tank with her fishing line in the water. Suddenly, a black, shuttlecraft-sized monstrosity leapt up out of the tank and swallowed Gern. Sean let out the same high- pitched scream of terror that Fay Wray did when she first saw King Kong. He jumped back a couple of feet and shifted the pole in his hands so that he was holding it like a spear. Another one of the monsters jumped up from his tank and landed on the stage in the exact spot where Sean had been standing seconds earlier. Its teeth were like two rows of butcher knives. Sean stabbed at it with the fishing pole which immediately broke upon contact with the hell-fish’s skin. He could swear that the thing was laughing at him. It started wiggling its body and moving toward Sean uncomfortably quickly. Realizing that he was in deep trouble, Sean turned and ran off stage straight into a very startled stage hand.
“Where are they?” Sean screamed in a voice four octaves higher than usual.
“What?” the stage hand asked confused. Sean spotted what he was looking for and pushed the stage hand aside to get to it. He picked up one of the pain sticks lying in the corner and walked back on stage. The “fish” had cornered Krinok who was standing on top of his podium dodging its attacks. Sean charged toward it screaming a high pitched war-cry. The fish turned just as Sean rammed the pain stick at it. The stick hit the fish right in the eye. Sparks flew everywhere. The fish let out a warbling squeal and dove back into its tank yipping like an injured puppy. Krinok jumped down off his podium and walked back to the front of the stage as if he had never been in danger of becoming fish bait.
“Well, with only one round remaining, Sean Russell is ahead two to zero, but it’s still anybody’s game. We’ll be right back with the final round as soon as we cut Gern out of the Olak’s stomach. The lights dimmed again. Sean stormed over to Krinok angrily.
“What do you mean it’s still anyone’s game?” Sean demanded. His voice had finally returned to its normal pitch. “I’ve won two out of three rounds. I can’t lose.”
“The final round counts as three,” Krinok explained.
“Then what the hell is the point of the first two rounds!?” Sean shouted. Krinok thought about it.
“There isn’t one, I guess,” he said finally and walked away. On the left side of the stage, two stage hands were slitting open the belly of an Olak. A flood of blood, bile, and bits of meat rushed out followed by Gern. Another stage hand pushed Sean back to his podium as others quickly returned the set to its original condition. Krinok got into position just as the lights went back up. A blast of the most foul stench Sean had ever encountered attacked his nose. He looked around and quickly discovered its origin. Gern was stood at her podium with slime dripping off of her. Sean smiled at her weakly and then turned his attention back to Krinok.
“Welcome back,” Krinok said. “Before we head into the final round, here’s our announcer to describe the prizes for today’s contestants.
“Thank you, Krinok,” the deep announcer’s voice boomed over the loudspeakers. “Today’s second place contestant will receive a two-week, all-expenses paid trip to the Rura Penthe resort asteroid. Yes, you’ll be able to enjoy this renovated penal colony where the air temperature never gets above zero. And for today’s winner we have our congratulations.” Sean was a bit confused. The second prize sounded more like a punishment than a prize and the winner didn’t get anything. Maybe that was the way things were supposed to be. The name Win Or Else! was starting to make more sense.
“All right, now let’s find our winner,” Krinok said. “It all hangs on the question that I’m about to ask our two contestants. Get your pens ready.” Sean picked up the light pen on his podium and positioned himself over the screen built into the podium. He got the distinct feeling that he was in real trouble. This question was probably going to be some obscure bit of Klingon trivia that he had no clue about. “Here’s the question… Wait! I can’t ask them this!”
“Just read the question,” the booming announcer’s voice ordered.
“But… it isn’t fair!”
“Since when has that mattered on this show?”
“Good point,” Krinok replied. “O.K. Name one Federation starship besides the Enterprise.”
“That’s so easy!” Sean exclaimed.
“Shut up!” Gern shouted angrily. Sean suddenly realized that this question would stump most Klingons. Actually, it would stump most humans too, unless they were in Starfleet. The Enterprise always seemed to get all the press. Its crew always saved the galaxy while the rest of the fleet was left to languish in obscurity. Someday, though, there would be justice. He scribbled down his answer and turned to watch Gern. She was squirming uncomfortably in front of her podium. In a sudden burst of frustration, she smashed the whole thing.
“I guess that means both players have finished,” Krinok said.
“Let’s see who’s won. Gern wrote down ‘I hope you rot in Hell, human’ before she broke her podium. I’m sorry, Gern, that’s incorrect. Now let’s check Sean. He wrote down ‘The Secondprize.’ I don’t have that one written on my answer card.”
“But that’s a ship I was assigned to,” Sean protested.
“I’ll have to check with the judges because I’ve never heard of it.”
“Oh come on!”
“Just a second. O.K. Our judges have checked the Federation database and there is a Secondprize.”
“No kidding!” Sean shouted.
“You win,” Krinok announced. “Goodbye, Gern. Your vacation on Rura Penthe begins immediately. Have a nice time.”
“But,” Gern stammered futily as two stagehands grabbed her and dragged her off stage. Krinok walked over to Sean and put his arm around him.
“Congratulations, Sean. You won’t be taking home any prizes, but you can live your life proudly knowing that you won on…”
“Win! Or! ELSE!!!” the audience chanted.
Ten minutes later, Sean was back out in the street in front of the auditorium. He returned to his hotel room to mull over what had just happened to him. He risked his life and his vacation for absolutely nothing. They didn’t even give him a copy of their home game. A knock on the door snapped him out of his musings. Sean got up and answered it. Krinok was standing outside holding a small box.
“What’s in the box?” Sean asked after inviting Krinok in.
“As you know, we normally don’t give prizes to our winners, but I felt that as our first human contestant, you deserved a souvenir.”
“That’s great. I’ll be able to prove to my crewmates that I was here. Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” Krinok replied as he left the room. Sean walked over to his gift and opened. A baby Olak stared back at him and gnashed its little teeth together. Sean picked up the box and ran to the window. Below him, Krinok was just exiting the hotel. Sean opened the window and leaned out.
“Hey, Krinok,” he shouted at the game show host.
“Keep it,” Sean replied as he threw the box out the window onto Krinok. It split open and the Olak started munching ravenously on Krinok. “I’m sure you’re much better with animals than I am. Just don’t forget to feed it. Oh wait, never mind. You’re doing a wonderful job of it right now.” The Olak wasn’t nearly big enough to eat him, but he’d sure feel like a chew toy in the morning. Sean shut the window and crawled into bed contently listening to Krinok’s shouts and screams.