Author: Alan Decker
Star Traks: Waystation
That Sinking Feeling
by Alan Decker
Karyna held no regrets as she sped away from the Enrathi system. Her visit there, as with all of her other travels across the reaches of space, was full of pleasure and many wonderful beings. She could not feel sadness or sorrow for leaving them, however. The types of serious attachments that led to such feelings were something she avoided. Pleasure, hedonism, satisfaction: these were the driving forces of her existence.
Concerns such as friendship had no place in that schema.
Years ago, before Karyna discovered her true way, she was one of many acolytes on her home world trying to achieve peace and enlightenment and other such garbage. Her teacher, a sage named Leximas, just oozed serenity, as did most of the other pupils. Karyna’s mind and body struggled to go another way. Leximas, realizing that her pupil would not, and possibly could not achieve the peace of others on their homeworld, sent Karyna away, out into the stars, to follow her own path.
She had been exiled from her home, sent away to prevent her radical ideas about fun and pleasure from infecting others on her world. From that day, Karyna traveled the galaxy, enjoying the best each world she encountered had to offer. The only thought that clouded her hedonist existence was a desire for revenge. One day, Leximas would see that her high and mighty serenity was not so wonderful. There was power and freedom in living for pleasure. Leximas would see the light, and so would the rest of her homeworld.
On Enrathi, Karyna had heard rumors of a vast empire called the Federation spanning hundreds of worlds and races. Such a place intrigued her. The wonders they must have. Such an opportunity could not be missed, so she set her ship on a course for the rumored border of this Federation. In such a large and enlightened society, the pursuit of pure pleasure must be common. She would find others like herself and greater joys than she could possibly imagine.
Her thoughts of the joyous destination that awaited her were interrupted by an almost overwhelming psychic wave crashing through her mind. Struggling to fight through it and clear her head, Karyna reached out with her mind to locate the source of such immense energy.
There was a presence, quite clearly a presence, but it was unlike any she had encountered before. This person, if such a powerful life force could even be described as such, was close by, but she could not ascertain where.
Her ship’s sensors only detected a small spatial anomaly a few thousand kilometers off to port. Pink and purple gasses swirled within in it like a mini-nebula. Without allowing Karyna to make a conscious decision of her own, the guide within her mind had her steer the ship directly into the nebula.
Tendrils of gas from it seemed to reach out and surround the ship, forming a net. Before the net could finish, Karyna put her engines to full and surged into the center of the anomaly. Suddenly, she and the ship were engulfed in a bright flash of whiteness.
She found herself standing in a universe of white. Her body and clothing provided the only color. There was no sky, no ground, no boundaries: only white.
A man, dressed totally in black, stepped toward her out of the white. He was thin with blond hair and an angular face.
“Go away,” he said simply. Her mind was buffeted by more waves of power. This was the entity she detected. This person, if that’s what he was, had more power in its body than she could possibly comprehend.
“Who are you?” Karyna asked.
“I might ask you the same, but I already know. You are Karyna, an outcast, a loner, a nomad. How sad. Now leave.”
“If you truly knew me, you would know that I feel no sadness.”
“You still have not answered my question?”
“Why should I? It wouldn’t mean anything to you,” the entity said.
“But I would have something to call you during our conversation.”
“Look, Miss Karyna, I have been quite content to sit here disguised as that nebula for a good couple of millennia now. What makes you think that I have any desire to talk to you?”
“Because you’re alone, like me. And like me, you are alone of your own volition. We are kindred spirits,” Karyna replied.
“You believe so.”
“I do. So, why have you chosen to be this anomaly.”
“I grew tired of the universe. My species was bickering amongst themselves, so I decided I’d had enough. I went off to be alone with my thoughts.”
“Surely the universe must hold some pleasure for you.”
“Should it? I could wipe it out with a wave of my hand,” the entity said.
“But there are pleasures there that you could enjoy.”
“Like me,” Karyna said, walking over to him and running her hand along the side of his face. She could feel his energy crackling through her fingers.
“You’re very forward, Miss Karyna.”
“It’s how I get what I want. Now then, who are you?”
“Well, my name is Q, but most people just call me Q.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Q,” Karyna said smiling. “A great pleasure indeed.”
Bradley Dillon closed out the credit register of Dillon’s Supply Depot whistling happily to himself. Business was going well enough that he had decided to treat himself to a little vacation time. Three days on the holodeck living out one of his biggest fantasies. Now, all he needed was a traveling companion.
Outside of his shop in the corridor of Starfleet Square Mall, Bradley noticed several security officers sneaking around and concealing themselves behind support beams, potted plants, and whatever else they could hide behind.
Unconcerned, Bradley closed his register and turned off the shop’s lights.
Lieutenant Sean Russell, Waystation’s chief of security monitored the action taking place in the small corridor from his temporary command post at the ice cream cart thirty yards away from their quarry.
“Bishop to Russell. We’re in position,” Russell’s commbadge said softly.
“Is he there?”
“I don’t see him,” Ensign Bishop replied.
“He’s got to be there,” Russell snapped. This ambush was the culmination of a two week investigation of shoplifting incidents at the Klingon formal wear shop. Tonight, Russell would get his thief, though. The new shipment of dresses from the very fashionable Klingon designer Krilik would be too big of a temptation for any respectable formal wear thief to pass up.
“Still no movement inside,” Bishop said.
“There will be,” Russell said. “Just stay out of sight.”
Bradley pressed the door control of his shop and locked the place up tight. A sign reading “Be Back In Three Days” hung on the door. Bradley smiled to himself and, tightly gripping the package under his arm, walked down the corridor past the formal wear shop. He had to hand it to Russell’s security officers; they had managed to hide themselves really well. The only officer he could see was Russell far down the corridor towards Leximas’ temple standing under the ice cream cart’s cheesy umbrella.
“Good luck, Lieutenant,” Bradley said quietly as he walked past Russell and entered the alcove Leximas used for meditation.
Leximas sat quietly, her legs crossed, hovering over the deep red carpet surrounded by a ring of candles, each of which hovered an inch or so above their candlesticks.
“I will be with you shortly, Mister Dillon,” Leximas said softly without looking at him. That trick always unnerved him. It was like she was psychic or something. Actually, she probably was psychic to some degree.
One by one, the candles descended into their appropriate holders. Suddenly, they all flashed a bright red and went out.
Leximas turned in mid-air and floated over to Bradley. She uncrossed her legs and put them down on the carpet.
“May I ask what brings you by my place of contemplation?”
Leximas said, clasping her hands in front of her.
“I’ve come to give you a one of a kind opportunity,” Bradley said.
“I do not wish to buy anything,” Leximas said, turning away from him.
“And I don’t want you to,” Bradley replied. Leximas turned back to him. Bradley smiled inwardly knowing he’d aroused her curiosity. “This is an opportunity of an entirely different sort.”
“I see. You may continue.”
“Thank you. I know that you have been endeavoring to learn more about us humans, so I’ve decided to help.”
“If what you have in mind is to teach me about your sexual practices, I must decline.”
“Leximas, I’m trying to be serious here. If I wanted to ask you out, I’d just do it.”
“You do not wish me to purchase anything, and you are not trying to gain sexual gratification. What then are you after?” Leximas asked.
“I’m not a Ferengi for god’s sake; I’m just after some company. And you will get to learn a great deal about humanity. We are shaped by our past, and I intend to take you with me to experience one of the pivotal moments in human history.”
“On the holodeck, I take it.”
“No, I’ve built a time machine. Of course, it’s on the holodeck, but it will be the best vacation you’ve ever had.”
Suddenly, they heard a loud shout from the corridor.
“Oh my God! The mannequin is moving!”
“That’s no mannequin! We’ve got a dress on the go!”
Down the corridor, a figure in a fabulous Krilik Original dress burst out of the Klingon formal shop, a long, blood-red train trailing behind it. Two security officers leapt from their hiding places and converged on the dress thief. Once they were close enough, they jumped, attempting to tackle the thief. An instant before impact, the thief grabbed both officers in mid-air and slammed them together. Tossing their unconscious bodies to the floor, the thief kept running, heading straight for Lieutenant Russell’s position.
“Stop that dress!” Russell shouted. No one responded. His officers were frozen with fear, and the large figure in the dress was getting closer. Realizing that he was going to have to handle this himself, Russell stepped out from behind the ice cream cart and aimed his phaser.
“Halt! You’re under arrest,” Russell shouted at the red veiled
figure headed his way. There was no response. “Don’t make me fire.” The figure kept coming.
“You asked for it,” Russell said. Just as his finger pressed down on the firing trigger, the thief dove forward and rolled right under the phaser beam. Russell gaped in astonishment as the figure completed the roll, fluidly stood back up and continued running past him. Russell recovered enough to rip the veil off of the thief as the thief ran by him, revealing a very large, very angry looking Klingon male.
The Klingon swatted Russell with his forearm, flipping the security chief back over the ice cream cart. Russell hit the floor with a painful thud as the Klingon passed by. Russell was able to reach out and grab the end of the train before the thief was completely out of reach. It didn’t even slow the Klingon down; Russell was yanked from behind the cart and dragged quickly behind the speeding Klingon. Slowly, he started pulling himself up the train.
“It seems that our intrepid law enforcement officers are experiencing difficulties,” Leximas observed flatly.
“What else is new?” Bradley replied. He quickly reached behind Leximas and grabbed a candlestick off of a small table.
“They are doing their best,” Leximas said, not noticing Bradley’s movements. Suddenly, he reached up and threw the candlestick past her head and out of the alcove. It sailed through the corridor with the precision of a guided missile and slammed right into the Klingon’s forehead. The Klingon fell backwards unconscious and landed right on top of Lieutenant Russell.
“I was unaware that you possessed such a skill, Mister Dillon,” Leximas said.
“Yeah, well. It’s not one of those things that comes up in conversation much. So, are you going to come with me or not.”
“Just where is it that we are going?”
“You and I will be taking a three-day cruise on the most luxurious ocean-going ship in the history of mankind.”
“Ocean-going…as in water.”
“That will definitely be an experience. I shall join you. When should we meet?”
“Be in the holodeck in an hour,” Bradley said, heading for the entrance. “You’ll enter onto a dock. Look for a ship called the Titanic.”
“Titanic. That name should not be hard to remember.”
“Don’t worry,” Bradley said. “It won’t be.”
Q could not believe what was happening to him. His whole being was becoming consumed with thoughts of this small, corporeal being who had invaded his solitude. Yet, he found her silver eyes captivating. Her petite form was complemented by short-cropped black hair and ears that swept upward to gentle points. In many societies she would be considered an elf or sprite or nymph, but to Q, Karyna was the most incredible being in the universe. Her mind had reached out and connected with his, a joining that gave him something he thought he would never experience: pleasure. Let the other Q go out and fight amongst themselves or pester little humans, Q had Karyna and that was all he would need for eternity.
“Chief Medical Officer’s Log. Stardate 50786.4. After treating the accused-mall dress thief for a nasty blow to the head, I have released the suspect into Lieutenant Russell’s hands. Lieutenant Russell suffered only minor injuries from his run-in with the thief.
On a personal note, I would like to thank Starfleet for this assignment. I was promised that I would be given adequate time to study the Midon symbiont which now resides inside my body, and they have lived up to that promise. Other than the occasional holodeck injury or other scrapes and bruises, Waystation is remarkably free of medical emergencies.”
Dr. Amedon Nelson switched off her log recorder and returned to the biomonitor chair Lieutenant Porter had constructed for her. She could sit in the chair, which would perform various bioscans on her, the symbiont, and their combined interactions while still allowing her to sit up and write down her observations and direct the scans. It was much easier to work this way than lying down.
Nelson felt a brief wave of nausea wash over her then checked her chronometer. It had been six hours since her last dose of unlogi, the chemical which allowed her body and that of Midon’s to maintain their symbiosis.
She climbed out of the chair and walked over to get her hypospray just as Lieutenant Russell walked into the infirmary.
“Back so soon,” Nelson said. “What’d you do, prick your finger on the turbolift call button?”
“Uh…no,” Russell said, looking around.
“Is there something I can do for you?”
“You haven’t seen a large, angry looking Klingon, have you?”
“He wouldn’t happen to match the description of the Klingon male I treated in here about ten minutes ago, would he?”
“That possibility should not be ruled out.”
“You lost him!”
“Yeah,” Russell said, bowing his head.
“You idiot! Have you called security?”
“I am security.”
“I meant your other officers.”
“I don’t want them to know.”
“Of course not. That would make you look foolish. Maybe the nice Klingon will just go away and not let anyone know he escaped.”
“I doubt it,” Russell said.
“No kidding,” Nelson said, grabbing her medical bag. “Come on. Let’s see if we can find this guy.” She pulled out her tricorder and set it to find Klingon lifesigns.
“You owe me for this, Russell,” Nelson mumbled. “I had a whole afternoon of research planned.”
“Then this should be a fun diversion.”
“A walk on a beach at sunset would be a fun diversion; this is just plain annoying.”
“What?” Nelson snapped.
“Were you nicer before or after joining with Midon?”
Commander Lisa Beck watched as Kernok, the owner of the Klingon formal wear shop in Starfleet Square Mall, placed one of the dresses recovered from the thief back onto a bulky mannequin.
“There. Much better,” Kernok said, stepping away from the dress. “I would like to thank you, Commander, for your crew’s excellent handling of this problem.”
“It was our pleasure,” Commander Beck replied, all the while wondering how Klingons could stand dresses with metal shoulder pads sewn into them.
“Please excuse me for a moment. I must get another mannequin out of the back,” Kernok said, heading for the rear of his shop.
“Of course,” Beck said, nodding courteously. Just as Kernok disappeared into the back, Beck noticed some movement out of the corner of her eye. Before she could turn to see what it was, a reddish blur from that direction leapt at her, grabbed her roughly and pressed a blade against her throat.
“Utter a sound and you will die,” a deep voice said from behind her. The lace covered arm that held her gave Beck a sneaking suspicion that the dress thief had escaped.
The thief practically carried her out into the corridor. Patrons enjoying the mall gasped and ran for cover as they saw the large Klingon holding Commander Beck hostage.
Lieutenant Russell and Dr. Nelson ran into the area at about that time.
“So much for no one finding out he escaped,” Nelson said.
“Commander Beck is not going to be happy about this.”
“You had just better hope that she survives long enough to be pissed at you,” Nelson said, pushing her way through the crowd followed by Russell.
“Don’t move!” Russell ordered, aiming his phaser at the Klingon.
“You cannot fire without risking your commander,” the Klingon replied. Russell glanced at Beck. She looked madder than he had ever seen her. The thought of letting the Klingon kill her so that she wouldn’t kill him raced quickly through his mind. There was no way he could do that, though.
“There is no need to hurt anyone,” Nelson said, becoming very serene. “Perhaps we can discuss a credit plan so that you may pay for the lovely garment you have chosen.”
“It would have to be very low interest,” the Klingon said.
“Of course,” Nelson replied. She saw Kernok walking toward the front of his store.
“Qolesh!” Kernok shouted, startling the Klingon.
“You know him?” Russell said.
“He was my finest dressmaker many years ago,” Kernok said. “But he became too attached to the merchandise.”
“Obviously,” Nelson said.
“Why, Qolesh? Why?”
“It is…pretty,” Qolesh said.
“Oh please,” Beck said.
“Silence!” Qolesh shouted, pressing the blade harder against her throat. “Now let us pass.”
“What about our easy credit terms?” Nelson asked.
“I do not think so,” Qolesh said, pushing Beck forward. Beck finally saw her opportunity. She slammed her heel into Qolesh’s shin, then quickly grabbed the arm holding the knife and pulled it away from her. Holding the arm in her left hand, she turned in to face Qolesh and smashed her elbow into his nose then raked her nails across his eyes.
Howling in pain, Qolesh attempted to strike back. Before he could swing, Beck jabbed her knee into the Klingon’s crotch, sending him to his knees. Then, she kicked him in the head, right where Bradley’s candlestick had landed earlier. Qolesh’s world went blurry, then completely dark.
The gathered crowd erupted into applause as Beck straightened her uniform. She smiled, bowed graciously, and blew the crowd a kiss. By the time she had turned back toward Russell, her face was pure rage.
“Doctor Nelson, get this piece of trash to the infirmary and fix him up. I think you’ll find he’s a little more damaged this time. And you…” She pointed at Russell. “I want five security officers in the infirmary watching our cross-dressing friend. After that, he goes in the brig. Got it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Russell said quickly, turning toward his office.
“I’m not finished yet,” Beck said. Russell stopped and shuddered involuntarily. So much for getting off easy.
“Yes, ma’am?” Russell asked, his voice about three octaves higher than he would have liked it to be.
“Yes, ma’am,” Russell said, turning and heading toward the turbolift.
“Should I prepare sickbay for another incoming patient?” Nelson asked as she and Beck watched Russell go.
“There’s not going to be enough of him left for that,” Beck said.
“I am afraid that I do not see the point of this program,” Leximas said as she and Bradley strolled along the deck of the Titanic passing several lavishly-dressed couples. Bradley had dressed for the occasion in a very dapper suit and hat. Leximas, however, had thus far refused to change out of her meditation robes.
“Relaxation, pure and simple,” Bradley said. “This ship was the paramount of luxury in its day. It had everything from gymnasiums to ballrooms to saunas. And look at the power!” He gazed up at one of the four mammoth smokestacks sending huge black plumes out into the atmosphere.
“Lovely,” Leximas said. Bradley could almost swear it was sarcasm, although he’d never heard the mystic use that sort of humor. He decided to let it pass.
“We’re only a few hours out of Southhampton. We still have a couple of days left to enjoy. Just let yourself go and get into the spirit of things.”
“How should I do that?”
“Try to blend in a little. Put on one of the gowns I picked out for you.”
“I do not think that a dress will distract these humans from noticing my pointed ears and silver eyes.”
“So, I’ll tell the computer not to have the passengers notice.”
“Then, why not have them not notice my attire?” Leximas asked.
“Because I’m noticing your attire, and it’s distracting. This is supposed to an English ship in 1912, not some Buddhist monk convention in Tibet.”
“Mister Dillon, have I ever told you that I find your continual use of reference points that I have no knowledge of to be extremely…how should I say this?”
“No,” Leximas said simply. She fell silent and continued walking down the deck. Bradley shook his head and followed after her. She was turning out to be a much less enjoyable traveling companion than he had anticipated.
Russell was standing in Beck’s office looking much like a child sent to the principal’s office as Beck stepped out of the turbolift into ops.
“Take it easy on him,” Lieutenant Craig Porter said from the science/operations console.
“No,” Beck said. She entered her office without another word.
“Well, someone’s a dead man,” Porter said.
“No kidding,” Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales, Waystation’s first officer, replied from his position at the docking control console.
Beck didn’t say a word to Russell as she walked into her office and sat down at her desk. She just let him stand uncomfortably waiting for what was about to happen to him.
“Did I say talk?” Beck snapped.
“Then shut up.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Russell stood in silence again. Beck finally stood up and started pacing the office.
“Do you have any idea how much I dislike almost being killed?”
“Excuse me?” Russell asked.
“You heard me?”
“Uh…I don’t know. I guess you pretty much hate it.”
“Yes! And I especially don’t like almost being killed by a cross-dressing Klingon. Do you realize how bad that would look on my service record?”
“Pretty bad,” Russell said, chuckling a little.
“Damn right! I should demote your ass right back down to ensign right now,” Beck said. Russell stopped chuckling.
“Ma’am, I did not mean for Qolesh to escape.”
“Unfortunately for you, he did. You had him in custody, and he was injured. How incompetent do you have to be to let someone like that escape?”
“With all due respect, I was injured as well,” Russell said.
“Then you should have had more officers assisting you. That’s what they’re there for.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m very sorry about everything.”
“Sorry! You’re sorry! I almost died, you…you…”
“Morales to Beck,” the commsystem barked, interrupting her.
“Beck here. This is not the best time, Commander.”
“I know, but we just received a communication from the colony on Geranis Two. They said that they were waiting for some official documents from you.”
“Sh**! I never sent them their charter and defense agreement contracts.”
“Should I transmit them now?” Morales asked.
“No. We’re going to have to do the diplomatic ‘yes, you really mean something to us’ crap,” Beck replied.
“I take it that this is going to require a personal visit to deliver the documents,” Morales said.
“How’d you guess? Have a good trip, Commander.” Beck noticed Russell trying hard not to laugh. “Something funny, Lieutenant?” Beck snapped.
“With all due respect, ma’am, I guess I’m not the only one who’s messed up his duties today. And you’re sending your subordinates to clean up after you.”
“Damn right,” Beck said. “That’s the joy of being in command. So is this: you’re going too.”
“What?” Russell gasped, all humor draining from his face. “I don’t want to go brownnose the leader of some dirtball colony world.”
“Me either, that’s why I’m ordering you to go. Have fun. You and Morales will leave immediately. Dismissed.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Russell said defeated as he turned to go.
“If you play your part well on Geranis Two, your job might still be here when you get back,” Beck said. Russell walked out without another word.
Beck leaned back in her chair wondering if she had been a little too hard on Russell. As she always did in this type of situation, she tried to think about what Captain Rydell, her commanding officer on the USS Secondprize would do. Most likely, it would have been pretty much the same thing. Of course, then he would follow it up with some kind of horrible practical joke to hammer the point home. This trip to Geranis wasn’t quite a joke, but it definitely was horrible.
Having comforted herself that she was measuring up to the Rydell standard, Beck turned to the day to day business of running the station, not that it was all that thrilling. Mountains of paperwork. Endless drudgery. Only occasionally did anything interesting happen. She’d had these feelings for a while. She thought she’d overcome them after getting kidnaped by the Multeks a little while back, but obviously she hadn’t.
The fact was that life on a space station was boring. At least on a starship she was constantly traveling. On Waystation, she just sat there. Plus, she had to run the place, handling discipline and dealing with Starfleet Command. Beck had no problem with responsibility; it was just that this responsibility was no fun. What happened to the adventure? What happened to exploring and marveling in the wonders of the universe? Somehow, she never thought that a career in Starfleet would be this…dull.
Karyna was not quite sure if she had a body anymore. Joining her mind to that of Q has caused her to lose almost all track of her physical form. Occasionally, a sizzling jolt of pleasure would course through her body telling her it was still there, but for the most part, her mind was what was being stimulated. Q had seen and done things she could not even comprehend. He had time and space at his command. As the projections from her mind intertwined with his, she felt more intense pleasure than she ever had before in both her mind and body. Her mind guide called to her to regain control of herself, but Karyna let herself be swept away by Q’s energy and power. This was the ultimate hedonistic experience, and she was determined to ride it out to the end.
Lieutenant Russell finished leaving instructions with one of his subordinates and headed out of the security office in Starfleet Square Mall to go meet Lieutenant Commander Morales in the docking bay. Russell was disgusted. He didn’t want to go on some stupid diplomatic chore. So the Klingon got away from him and almost killed Commander Beck. Big deal. Beck lived and Qolesh was now safely in the brig. One little mistake, and he was being punished this severely. Captain Rydell never would have done that to him.
Besides, he had plans tonight. Big plans. Ensign Krause had finally agreed to a romantic evening with him, and he was not about to pass that up. There had to be another option.
Russell walked passed Yeoman Tina Jones’s Liaison Office. The yeoman sat inside with her head resting in her hands staring blankly at the walls. Noticing her condition, Russell ducked his head into the office.
“Slow day?” Russell asked.
“Yes,” Jones replied. “We haven’t had a ship request permission to dock in the last two days. Nobody told me that this liaisoning stuff would be this dull.”
“Want to get off the station for a while?”
Jones immediately perked up and leapt out of her desk chair.
“Well…I was supposed to go on an important diplomatic mission with Commander Morales, but I could probably convince him to let you go in my place…seeing as how you’re so bored and all.”
“Oh, Sean, that would be wonderful. I’d really appreciate it.”
“Gather your gear and get to the Docking Bay One. Morales should be leaving soon.”
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” Jones exclaimed happily. She ran past Russell and headed off down the mall.
“No. Thank you,” Russell said smiling to himself. That took care of the boring diplomacy stuff. Now, all he had to do was figure out a way to make sure Beck didn’t kill him when she discovered that he passed the mission onto Jones.
Commander Beck dashed forward and swung, catching the ball with her racket just before it bounced a second time. The racquetball sailed back to the front wall as Beck leapt back out of Major Stephanie Hodges way. Hodges returned Beck’s shot with a vicious slam. The blue ball hit the front wall, then, flying low to the floor, bounced three quick bounces.
“Nice shot,” Beck gasped.
“Thanks,” Hodges said.
“That’s what? Fourteen to four?”
“We can stop.”
“I’ll never get better unless I keep at this.”
“Your call, Lisa,” Hodges said to her friend. She walked back up to the serving area and started another volley. Beck returned the serve, but smacked full-force into the side wall in the process. Shaking it off quickly, she waited for Hodges’ return shot.
“How’s Russell?” Hodges asked. Beck was having a hard enough time just keeping track of the speeding racquetball, much less try to hold a conversation. Hodges made it all look so easy.
“Fine…I guess,” Beck said. “Why?”
“So, you didn’t kill him?”
“No. Thought about it. But no. Why are you interested in Sean?”
“Colonel Lazlo mentioned him in our briefing this morning,” Hodges said, scoring another point on Beck. “That’s game.”
“Let’s go to 21,” Beck said, determined to score a few more points. Besides, she wanted to know why the head of the Federation Marine battalion on the station would have any interest in her security chief.
“It’s your funeral,” Hodges said, preparing another serve.
“What did Lazlo have to say?” Beck asked. Hodges hit the ball sending Beck diving to the left side of the court to return it.
“Not much. Just that Russell was incompetent and that a marine would be a better security chief,” Hodges said.
“Interesting?” Hodges surprise at Beck’s nonchalant reply caused her to miss returning Beck’s shot.
“My serve,” Beck said, walking past Hodges.
“What do you mean interesting? Aren’t you going to yell and scream about Lazlo trying to take over the station again?”
“No.” Beck served the ball. Hodges didn’t even move to stop it.
“Five serving fifteen. Pay attention to the game.”
“You’re actually thinking about it!”
“I’m serving again.” Beck hit the ball. Hodges hit the ball back into the corner, killing its momentum. Beck didn’t even have a chance to move toward it.
“You can’t be serious,” Hodges said.
“A marine might make a good security chief. They understand discipline and tactics. They’re fiercely loyal…”
“Yeah, to Martin Lazlo.”
“And they’d never let anyone compromise the safety and security of this station.”
“Just think through this carefully before you do anything crazy.”
“Don’t worry, Steph. Russell’s job is safe as long as he doesn’t do anything really stupid before I’m through being mad at him. Now, serve.”
The runabout Cumberland was all set to depart in Commander Walter Morales’s expert opinion. All that was missing was his traveling companion. In answer to his thoughts, the doors to Docking Hanger One opened and Yeoman Tina Jones bounded in enthusiastically. This was not who Morales was expecting.
“Where’s Russell?” Morales asked, ducking his head out of the runabout hatch.
“I’ve been assigned to go instead,” Jones said.
“Fine with me,” Morales said. The important thing was that he had somebody to talk to on this boring diplomatic chore. Jones would probably be better at sucking up to offended colony leaders than Russell anyway. “The pre-flight’s all done. We’re all set.”
“All right! I’m getting off the station. I’m getting off the station,” Jones said happily as she ran into the runabout.
“I think you’ve severely overestimated the entertainment value of this trip,” Morales said taking a seat in the pilot’s chair.
“I don’t care. It’s still something different.”
“Glad you’re looking forward to it.”
The mall was pretty much bustling with activity when Lieutenant Porter exited the turbolift onto that level. Of course, most of the occupants were station personnel. A new ship had docked an hour ago, but it was just a small freighter. The odd thing was that Yeoman Jones, who usual greeted new ships, was nowhere in sight.
Porter spotted Sean Russell coming out of the Galactic Delights Gift Shop carrying a small black box. He walked over to the security chief.
“Did you miss your flight?” Porter asked.
“The Cumberland left hours ago. I thought you were supposed to be on it.”
“Oh that. I sent Jones instead.”
“Commander Beck is not going to like that.”
“I don’t see any reason I should have to go on some stupid trip when I’m needed here,” Russell said.
“Needed? Everything’s quiet.”
“Not for long. I’m needed in Ensign Krause’s quarters in five minutes with this,” Russell said, holding up the box.
“What’s in there? No. Never mind. I don’t want to know,” Porter said. “You just make sure she’s not late for her shift tomorrow morning, young man.”
“I’ll have her home before curfew,” Russell replied smiling. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, paradise awaits.” Russell bowed dramatically and raced off toward the turbolift.
“He’s a dead man,” Porter said, continuing on his to his intended destination.
Porter entered the infirmary a few minutes later and found it practically deserted. Nurse Wendy Kendall sat at the front desk watching some holovision film. Obviously, things were quiet on the medical front.
“Is Doctor Nelson here?” Porter asked, trying to control the growing feeling of nervousness in his gut.
“Yeah,” Kendall said. “Check the lab. She’s playing with the slug.”
“Thanks.” Porter headed back into the lab area where Nelson was performing tests on the symbiont in her belly.
“Whatever it is, the answer’s no,” Nelson said as Porter entered. “I already helped Russell out. That was my good deed for this millennium.”
“I don’t need anything like that,” Porter said.
“Then, can this wait, Craig? I’m busy.”
“I…I just wanted to see what you were doing for dinner tonight.”
Nelson stopped her scan and looked up at him. He looked so serious, much more serious than she’d ever seen him behave before.
“Are you asking me out?” Nelson said.
Nelson laughed. Not exactly the reaction Porter had been hoping for.
“Ooh, way to make a guy feel wanted,” Porter quipped.
“I’m sorry, Craig. I just wasn’t expecting that.”
“It’s just dinner.”
“I’m flattered, really, but…”
“But you don’t think of me in that way, and you’ve got plans with your slug,” Porter said, seeing very quickly where this was going.
“That’s pretty much it.”
“Thanks anyway. Sorry I bothered you.” Porter turned and headed toward the door.
“If you’re looking for company, why don’t you ask Ensign Krause,” Nelson called after him. “She’s seems very nice.”
“And taken,” Porter said, walking out of the room.
Yeoman Jones’s mind screamed a silent prayer for the torture to end. Upon their arrival at Geranis Two, Jones and Lieutenant Commander Morales had been taken directly to the colony administrator’s office for the charter signing and a lot of pointless speeches. That was the high point. What came after that was a seemingly never-ending series of introductions and discussions of the colony’s place in the Federation, etc.
Now, they were touring the colony’s power facility. Morales was managing to keep himself distracted by talking to whoever would listen about his shuttle pilot experiences. It wasn’t bragging, more like a defense mechanism against the abyss of boredom surrounding them.
Jones glanced around like a caged animal. She had to escape. The hell with diplomacy. If she had to look at one more reactor, she was going to go insane. Who cared about power output and efficiency and…She couldn’t take it anymore.
“AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Jones screamed to the sky.
“Something wrong, Yeoman?” Morales asked pointedly. He had a pretty good idea what it was, but they were on a mission. Personal pain would just have to wait.
“I thought I saw a bug,” she said quickly.
“No matter,” the colony administrator said. “Now, let’s move on to the number six reactor chamber.”
Jones tried to calm herself. She would not hurt anyone. She would not hurt anyone. She would not hurt anyone.
But, boy would it make her feel better.
In the holodeck, darkness surrounded the R.M.S. Titanic as she cut through the North Atlantic on her voyage into history. Inside the first class ballroom, vibrant waltz music filled the air, moving many of the rich and powerful passengers to dance. At a table in one corner, Leximas sat watching the activity with an air of interested detachment. Bradley Dillon pushed an olive around his empty martini glass and hummed along to the music. He was on his fourth martini, but somehow they weren’t improving his mood. This was definitely not the vacation he had hoped for. He might as well have brought along a Vulcan.
“I take it that you are not enjoying yourself,” Leximas said, noticing her companion’s activity.
“Me? I’m having a blast. I’ve almost pushed this olive around the glass one hundred and fifty times.”
“Why do you not get up and dance then?”
“With who?” Bradley said. “The women in here are the wives of the most powerful men in the industrialized world.”
“I see. Perhaps we should go then,” Leximas said, standing up.
“You go,” Bradley said. “I’m going to get a bit drunker first.” He raised his hand to flag down a waiter.
“I do not believe that you will find holographic alcohol to be that intoxicating.”
“We’ll see,” Bradley replied.
“As you wish.” Leximas turned and moved toward the door. In her meditation robes, she almost appeared to be floating rather than walking. Actually, Bradley wouldn’t have been surprised if she was floating.
The waiter set down another drink in front of Bradley. “May I get you anything else, sir?” the waiter asked.
“A new companion,” Bradley mumbled.
“Excuse my frankness, sir, but your companion was dressed quite strangely.”
“Her robes are the most normal part about her,” Bradley said.
“Indeed. Well, just let me know if there us anything else I can do.”
“Thanks, but I doubt it.” Bradley sipped on his fifth martini and watched the couples spinning around the floor.
Several minutes later, he saw the ballroom doors open again. A woman in a floor length, glittering gown stepped into the room. Only the pointed ears and silver eyes gave away the dress-wearer’s true identity.
Bradley stood up as she approached. He was too stunned to speak. The tune the band was playing finished and they launched into a tango number.
“May I interest you in a dance, Mister Dillon?” Leximas said, extending her small hand toward Bradley.
“Yeah…I mean, most definitely, madam,” Bradley said, taking her hand and bowing slightly. He led her onto the dance floor and pulled her close to begin the tango. Surprisingly, she seemed to know every step, every move he was going to make. They moved as a unified whole, dominating the ballroom floor as they danced across it. Gradually, couples stopped to watch as Bradley and Leximas continued their graceful, yet passionate motions.
As the tango came to an end, the gathered crowd began to applaud, but Bradley didn’t hear them. He turned to his partner and bowed again.
“Thank you,” he said. “That meant more to me that you can guess.”
“I do not need to guess, Mister Dillon. I know.”
Karyna still felt resistance from Q. There was some part of his being that he would still not share with her: a great, powerful part. Karyna, exhausted yet exhilarated from their joining, pushed forward with her mind, pressing against the barriers to the core of Q.
He couldn’t believe it. He was really going to let her in. Into the essence of Q. He felt that Karyna’s remarkable soul would be strong enough for what was to come, but if she wasn’t… That was too horrible to contemplate. She was a part of him now. Q could not bear to lose her. Still, he must risk it in order to truly enjoy this union to the fullest. Slowly, carefully, he began to relax the barriers to the core Q-ness of the Q.
Lieutenant Craig Porter yawned loudly as he stepped out of the turbolift into ops to start another glorious day of feeling sorry for himself. How could Nelson have brushed him off so callously? He’d saved her life a few months ago. Didn’t she at least owe him dinner?
“Exciting night, sir?” Lieutenant J.G. Peter Mazzone asked from the science console.
“Oh yeah. I went to my quarters, read for three hours, and fell asleep. It was a thrill a minute.”
“What the hell are you apologizing for? It’s not your fault that I have no social life.”
“Don’t even try to say something comforting. What’s been going on up here?”
“Not a thing, sir.”
“Then, you’re relieved. Go have a nice day.”
“Yes, sir. I have a date…oh, sorry.”
“Let’s try and jab that knife in a little deeper next time, Mazzone.”
“Yes, sir.” Mazzone practically ran into the turbolift to get out of ops. Porter sat down at his console and checked the readouts. Everything seemed to be in order. He glanced over at the tactical console and saw Ensign Stanton, one of Russell’s deputy’s asleep and drooling.
“Red Alert!” Porter screamed suddenly. Stanton shot up and looked around like a frightened deer.
“Calm down, Ensign,” Porter said. “I hope I didn’t interrupt your nap.”
“Don’t apologize. If one more person apologizes to me today, I’m going to kill them.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Craig,” Commander Beck said smiling as she stepped out of her office.
“Commanding officers excepted, of course,” Porter said.
“Of course,” Beck replied. “What’s got you in such a lovely mood this fine morning, Craig?”
“What are you doing up here this early?” Porter asked dodging the question. “Shouldn’t you be asleep or something?”
“Yeah, but I was meeting Colonel Lazlo for breakfast,” Beck replied deciding not to push Porter. She’d corner him later about what was bugging him. After three years of friendship, she should be able to pull it out of him.
“Lazlo? What does he want?”
“More room for his marines. Fewer restrictions on his marines. Me to resign and give him control of the station. The usual stuff.”
“And you agreed to meet him to listen to this?”
“Hey, he was buying. Besides, he’s funny when he’s angry. His cheeks get all red and that mustache starts vibrating like an epileptic chipmunk.”
“I’ll have to find some reason to piss him off, just for the hell of it,” Porter said.
“Sorry to rush off, but breakfast awaits and I left something in my quarters,” Beck said. “See you in a while.”
“I take it I have ops,” Porter said as Beck stepped into the turbolift.
“Keep it in good health,” Beck said. “Oh, let me know as soon as Morales and Russell get back from Geranis.” Fortunately, the turbolift doors closed before Porter could tell her about Russell’s current location. He didn’t want to rat on his friend, but this concealing information from a senior officer was messy stuff.
Colonel Martin Lazlo checked his wrist chronometer as he sat down at a table in the Andorian restaurant in Starfleet Square Mall. Commander Beck was due to meet with him in four minutes. She would be late, of course. Starfleet had no respect for punctuality. The time he spent waiting would be helpful, though. He had a battle strategy to work out against a formidable adversary: Commander Beck.
The gentle hum of the engines woke Bradley Dillon up. He opened his eyes a little and was blinded by the sunlight pouring in through his stateroom window. Suddenly, his head informed him that last night’s drinking had not gone unnoticed. That was the last time he’d program the holodeck to produce real alcohol.
Groaning, Bradley rolled to the edge of the bed and searched for the floor. The rocking of the Titanic on the ocean was all but imperceptible to the normal person, but Bradley’s hangover- sharpened senses felt every movement.
He found the floor. This was an accomplishment. Slowly, he crawled toward the bathroom to find a nice cool spot to curl up and die.
Bradley crawled into the middle of a bizarre shadow covering part of his floor. It seemed awfully out of place. Curiosity getting the better of him, he looked up to see what was causing it and immediately wished he hadn’t.
Leximas was floating serenely above him wearing absolutely nothing.
“Oh my God,” Bradley whispered.
Leximas opened her eyes from her meditation and glanced down at him. A faint smile crossed her lips.
“I take it you are paying the price for your overindulgence last evening,” the guru said.
“Uh huh,” Bradley said nodding. Moving his head like that almost made him throw up. “Leximas, about last night. I had no idea we were…that we…”
“That we what?”
“You needed someone to stay with you, Mister Dillon. After our dances, the alcohol hit you rather hard. I seemed appropriate for me to sleep in here to monitor you.”
“But the sex…”
“We had…didn’t we? I mean, you’re naked!”
“I found the evening gown to be too confining for meditation, so I removed it. Does my nakedness make you uncomfortable?”
“Uh…no. I just thought that we…”
“Engaged in intercourse. No. My apologies to your ego, but we did nothing of the kind.”
“It was a great evening anyway,” Bradley said. “Very wonderful. I would have hated for some stupid drunken escapade to screw it up.”
“Then you are happy we did not have sex?”
“Yes. Very. It would have spoiled the fantasy.”
“Once again, you have surprised me, Mister Dillon. You are not the man I thought you to be,” Leximas said, floating down to the floor beside him.
“I hope that’s a good thing.”
“Most definitely. I was wrong about you, and since I am somewhat to blame for your current condition, I will assist you.”
“How will you…” Bradley was unable to finish the question. Leximas placed her hands on the sides of his head and closed her eyes. Bradley’s mind seemed to explode with energy, but rather than pain, he just felt exhilaration. He gasped deeply, overwhelmed by the energy running through him.
“There. That should help you.”
Bradley took stock of himself. Everything was still there, and, best of all, his hangover was completely gone. He looked at Leximas in amazement.
“Wow! That was incredible!”
“That was basic. I do not believe you could handle incredible,” Leximas said with an enigmatic smile.
Suddenly, a cold blast of dread washed over her. She stood up quickly and let her mind-guide speak to her. Something was happening, the effects of which would reach her soon. Should she leave the holodeck? Her mind-guide did not feel it would be wise. This was where she should stay. Bradley Dillon’s assistance may be required.
“Are you okay?” Bradley asked.
“Yes,” Leximas replied. She would inform Bradley of her premonition if it became necessary. Until then, she would let him enjoy his vacation and try to enjoy it as well.
Beck strolled out of her quarters with her bag of Fodri equipment. Stephanie Hodges may have been able to kick her ass in racquetball, but Beck was pretty sure Hodges had never even heard of Fodri. Beck had picked up the sport from her roommate at the Academy, an Andorian who also gave Beck her love of Andorian cuisine. Steph wouldn’t know what hit her.
She walked into the turbolift and gave it her destination. Lazlo would probably be all worked up about her being late to breakfast, but who cared. He could wait a little bit. It’d be good for him.
The turbolift stopped at the next deck and opened up. Beck was so preoccupied with her Fodri strategy, she almost didn’t notice the officer waiting for the lift.
“I’ll get the next car,” Lieutenant Russell said, and retreated down the hall.
“Get back here!” Beck shouted, wedging her equipment bag in the closing turbolift doors. Russell sheepishly returned to the turbolift. Beck grabbed him by the collar and yanked him inside, kicking her bag in at the same time.
“Computer, hold lift,” Beck ordered. Russell was trapped in the small turbolift alone with his very angry commanding officer.
“Good morning, Commander,” Russell said, forcing a smile. “How are you doing today?”
“I’m confused, Sean. I just can’t figure out how my security chief could be two places at once. I mean, you’re on your way back from Geranis Two right now.”
“Absolutely. I must just be a hallucination.”
“Let’s find out,” Beck said. She smacked Russell upside the head. “Nope. You seem real to me.”
“I can explain…” Keeping that date with Ensign Krause suddenly did not seem to be worth it.
“No, you can’t. Why bother trying? Resume lift.” The turbolift started its ascent toward the upper saucer.
“Shut the hell up, Russell,” Beck snapped. “I just cannot believe that you would flat out disobey a direct order like this.”
“Right.” The lift slowed to a stop at Starfleet Square Mall and Beck stepped out into the corridor. “You’ve got twelve hours.”
“Twelve hours? For what?” Russell asked.
“Until I want you off this station,” Beck said. “You’re finished here, Russell. Starfleet can find somewhere else to let you screw up.”
The turbolift doors closed leaving Russell alone in stunned silence.
Colonel Lazlo spotted Beck as soon as she entered the restaurant. This may be more of a fight than he’d Waystationly thought. Beck looked incredibly pissed off. She stormed up to the table, but didn’t sit down.
“You want a marine for security chief?” Beck demanded. Uh oh, she’d somehow heard what he was going to ask for. Damn that Hodges.
“Fine. You’re hired. Be in ops in two hours,” Beck snapped. She left as quickly as she had come.
Lazlo looked down at his cup of coffee and stirred it thoughtfully. He just won the battle, but it felt like he’d done it on her terms. Not exactly the victory he’d been hoping for, but he’d take it.
Karyna was gone, overwhelmed by the immense power running through, past, beyond, around, over, ahead, behind, over the river and through the woods…oops. Sorry about that. Anyway, she was feeling the rush to end all rushes. The energy of the cosmos was a part of her now; it was her. She was energy. Q was with her, connected so closely as to almost be a part of her.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“Incredible,” Karyna managed to gasp. “Now, it’s my turn.” She reached out with the last part of herself she’d been holding back from Q.
Their essences intertwined one more time…
And both were changed.
“Never again,” Yeoman Jones muttered as she walked into the runabout cockpit rubbing her temples.
“Rough night?” Lieutenant Commander Morales asked from the pilot’s chair.
“The night was fine,” Jones said, taking a seat beside Morales. “This morning has been hell.”
“Hangovers will do that do you,” Morales said.
“I’ve never had real alcohol before. I always stuck to synthehol.”
“But I had to drink something. I had to get away from their incessant yammering. I have never been to a more boring place since my family’s colony.”
“So, instead you went to alcho-ville, and now you’re paying for it.”
“It’s worth every ache. I had fun last night,” Jones said.
“I kind of got that impression. I had no idea you liked Klingon Opera.”
“You grabbed the colony administrator and serenaded him with the aria from act three of Kahless’ Glory. Not a bad rendition either, although accompanying yourself with a pot and spoon was a bit…experimental.”
“Please tell me you’re joking.”
“Don’t you wish.”
“Hey, the administrator seemed to enjoy it. His wife on the other…”
The runabout cabin suddenly blazed blindingly from a flash of searing light.
“My eyes!” Jones screamed, falling out of her chair to shield herself.
“What the hell?”
“Make it stop! Oh, the pain! The pain!” Gradually, the light began to fade, dimming the runabout.
“Are you alright?”
“Too bright. Head pounding. I’m hurting.”
“That’s just the damn hangover,” Morales snapped. “You scared me to death.” He turned back to the sensors. “We’re fried,” he said finally. “Everything’s been overloaded.”
“What was it?”
“Did you miss the part about everything’s been overloaded?”
“Sorry,” Jones said, pulling herself back into her chair. Morales headed to the back of the cockpit and checked the engineering panel.
“Gone with everything else.”
“The one day I actually feel like dying, and the universe decides to take me up on my offer.”
“Oh no, you’re not getting off that easy,” Morales said.
“You’ve got an idea?”
“Jones, I know these ships inside and out. Shuttles and runabouts have been my life since I got out of the academy.
I can fix this ship as long as there’s enough undamaged transfer units, conduits, and cable strands. Get up, grab an engineering kit, and tear this ship apart until you’ve found those strands!”
“Goodbye, Q. It’s been fun,” Karyna said once she had recovered from the blast caused by their final joining.
“Fun! You can’t leave. I’ve given you everything. You’re a part of me now.”
“Come on, Q. Surely, you see that is not true. We shared a remarkable experience, but now I must move on.” With her new-found abilities given her by Q, Karyna was able to reach out across the universe looking for the cause of her exile.
Surprisingly, Leximas was not on the homeworld. She was much closer, on a space station. Interesting. Karyna would have to ask Leximas why just before she exiled Leximas from existence.
“But, Karyna, I…enjoy you.”
“And I have no further use for you. You really are too powerful to want petty little attachments to other beings. Think of the fun you could have roaming the galaxy.”
“I don’t want to.”
“But I do. I just have a little business to attend to first.” At that, she was gone. Q looked around at the emptiness surrounding him and wept. The universe, which had seemed so lonely before Karyna came, was now all but intolerable.
Lieutenant Russell gave his uniform a tug to straighten it as the turbolift slowed to a halt at ops. He’d given Commander Beck a couple of hours to calm down and think things through. Surely, she’d come to her senses by now. He stepped out into ops and looked around for Beck. Lieutenant Porter was working at his science console, but the commander was nowhere in sight.
“What are you doing up here?” Porter said softly. “If she sees you, you’re dead.”
“Where is she?”
“In her office,” Porter replied. Porter’s panel started beeping and flashing wildly. “Oh hell.”
“What is it?” Russell asked, racing over to tactical.
“Long range sensors just detected a massive, and I’m not using that word lightly, energy surge,” Porter said.
“I’m not seeing any ships nearby. Could that be natural?”
“If it is, I don’t know what could have caused it. There’s nothing out there but a tiny nebula.”
“And you don’t use the word tiny lightly.”
“Stop horning in on my area. Sarcasm is my department.”
“Porter to Beck.”
“I’m in a meeting, Lieutenant. This had better be important.”
“That depends. Do you consider a really big blast of energy important?” Porter said.
“I’m not in the mood, Craig,” Beck said.
“And something’s heading right at us.”
Commander Beck walked out of her office a moment later followed by Colonel Lazlo. Her eyes locked on Russell.
“You’re not authorized to be up here, Lieutenant,” Beck said coldly.
“Ma’am?” Russell said confused. She wasn’t still upset was she?
“But I’m the security chief.”
“Not anymore,” Lazlo said, stepping forward. “A marine now holds that spot, as it should be.”
“Don’t push it, Lazlo,” Beck said.
“Him? Are you serious?” Russell asked, a smile spreading across his face. “I get it. This is a joke to get back at me. Ha ha. You got me. I’m sorry I didn’t go with Commander Morales. You win.”
“May I?” Lazlo asked, gesturing toward Russell.
“Well, normally I’d say no,” Beck replied. “But since you actually asked permission this time, go ahead.”
“Thank you.” Lazlo grabbed Russell and threw him bodily toward the turbolift. “That’s as gentle as I get, Mister,” Lazlo said.
“Save it for your dates,” Russell snapped, picking himself up. “Oh wait, you never get any.”
“Russell, leave,” Beck said. “And you’re down to ten hours. I suggest you make those travel plans.”
In shock and disbelief, Russell stepped into the turbolift and left ops. Beck walked over to Porter’s console as Lazlo checked tactical.
“What was that about something coming toward us?” Beck asked.
“Don’t you think you’re being a little hard on him?” Porter said. “He screwed up. We all do it.”
“True, but he makes screwing up a way of life. And I really don’t take well to having my orders downright ignored.”
“…needs to wake up and figure out he’s a Starfleet officer,” Beck said. “I know he’s your friend. He’s mine too, but we aren’t helping him any by coddling him every time he screws up. Odds are we aren’t going to be serving together forever. Sooner or later, he’s bound to come across somebody who won’t put up with him. Maybe I can teach him that lesson before it’s too late.”
“That’s why I get the extra pips.”
“Excuse me, but isn’t the current threat a bit more important than Sean Russell’s life lessons?” Lazlo said testily. “This caring about each other crap is just how you Starfleet types end up so soft and lazy.”
“I’m going to ignore that comment, Colonel…for now,” Beck said. “Just remember that you can also be replaced. Go ahead, Craig.”
Porter outlined the energy surge he detected and the approaching object.
“How long until whatever it is gets here?” Beck asked.
“About ten minutes,” Porter replied.
“Ten minutes! And how much time did you just waste over Russell?” Lazlo said.
“Shut up!” Beck said.
“We have to launch a runabout right now and intercept this thing.”
“We’ve already got one out there. Contact Morales.” Lazlo worked at his console for a few moments.
“No response,” he said.
“What? Could interference from that thing…”
“Negative,” Porter said. “I had them on long range before the surge, but they’re gone now.”
“Let me take a runabout. I can take care of this threat myself,” Lazlo said.
“Commander, I think whatever is coming is intelligent,” Porter said. “It homed in on us and has been altering its trajectory to keep on a direct heading toward Waystation.”
“Then, it’s responsible for Morales and Jones’s deaths,” Lazlo said.
“No one’s saying they’re dead,” Beck said. “Get the shields up and arm all weapons.”
“Don’t get that trigger finger ready just yet, Lazlo. We’re going to try to communicate first.”
“Typical Starfleet wimpiness.”
Beck glared at him.
“If you want to see how much of a wimp I am, we’ll settle it on the rec deck…later. For right now, start sending out hails. All known frequencies and languages.”
“You haven’t quite figured out this sucking up to the boss stuff yet, have you Lazlo?” Porter said smiling.
“Oh, shut up.”
“You’re right, Commander. It does look like an epileptic chipmunk.”
“What?” Lazlo shouted.
“There it goes again,” Porter said. Lazlo realized what they were laughing at and put his hand over his mustache.
“I hate you both,” he mumbled.
“Feeling’s mutual,” Beck replied.
The gathered pile of parts looked more like a feeble attempt at abstract art than the raw materials needed to get the runabout operational. Commander Morales surveyed the scavenged pieces silently as he paced back and forth around the runabout’s rear compartment.
“How’d I do?” Jones asked, exhausted. Between ripping panels apart and her hangover, she’d had it. It was only sheer force of will and the threat of a painful suffocating death that kept her awake.
“Fine,” Morales said distractedly.
“Okay.” Silence. “So now what?”
“Obviously, life support is our first priority. After that, communications, propulsion, and sensors.”
“Sounds good. What’s the hold up?”
“Nothing. I was just talking myself out of starting with the replicators. I haven’t eaten yet.”
“Try some rations.”
“Something is coming,” Leximas said suddenly, breaking the silence. She and Bradley had been lounging in deck chairs watching the Atlantic Ocean sail by.
“Not for a while yet,” Bradley said automatically. “It’s only April 12th.”
“I do not see what the date in this holodeck program is has to do with the fact that something is coming.”
“I thought you were talking about…never mind. Best to keep it a surprise. What’s coming?”
“I do not know. Otherwise, I would have called it by name rather than referring to it as a something.”
“You know, you can be real obnoxious sometimes.”
“A recent trait I acquired from observing you,” Leximas said. “Now then, whatever is approaching Waystation is quite powerful. I have not sensed energies like this before.”
“Are we in danger?”
“I do not know. However, I feel we should remain here. This ship is appears to be extremely safe.”
“Unsinkable,” Bradley said, a trace of a smile crossing his face. Boy was Leximas going to be surprised when April 14th rolled around. This trip would probably be the most exciting vacation she’d ever had.
Porter watched the approaching energy burst with increasing alarm. Whatever it was had thus far resisted all of his attempts at identifying it. Scans were useless, and it wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
“It’s still at warp three,” Porter said. “ETA thirty seconds.”
“Arming quantum torpedoes,” Lazlo said.
“Belay that,” Beck said. “No shooting until I say so. Put it on screen, Porter.” The starfield on the viewscreen shifted slightly to show the pulse streaking toward them like a flaming meteor.
“Fifteen. Fourteen. Thirteen.”
“I don’t need the countdown. Go to red alert. Lazlo, lock phasers and prepare to fire.”
“Already locked,” Lazlo said.
“Somehow I knew they would be.”
“Commander!” Porter exclaimed. On the viewscreen, the energy ball slowed to almost a stop. The glow around it gradually dissipated.
“Magnify,” Beck ordered, unable to make out what she was looking at. The view shifted again. “What the hell?
“Holy sh**,” Lazlo said softly.
“It’s a woman,” Porter said, stating the obvious.
On the viewscreen, a robed woman with short black hair and silver eyes walked through space toward them, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was strolling through a cold vacuum.
“Is that Leximas?” Lazlo said.
“I don’t think so,” Porter said. “Same race, but my readings on this one are right off the scale. Should I open an airlock?”
“That won’t be necessary,” the woman said, stepping right out of the viewscreen into ops.
“Now that’s an entrance,” Porter said.
“I’m Commander Lisa Beck of the United Federation of Planets. Welcome to Waystation.”
“How nice. Not exactly the type of place I’d expect her to be, but that’s not important.”
“Can I help you?” Beck asked as the visitor looked around.
“Karyna,” the woman said simply. She finished her survey of ops and turned toward Beck. “So, you’re the one in charge around here.”
“Yes. These are some of my officers. Lieutenant Craig Porter and Colonel Martin Lazlo.”
“I’m not one of your officers,” Lazlo said.
“Not now,” Beck snapped. Karyna walked in a circle around Beck, looking the commander up and down.
“So many possibilities,” Karyna said. “Yet you choose not to indulge yourself.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Beck said.
“I think you do. But that’s not my concern right now.”
“Beck, don’t you think we should do something?” Lazlo said, reaching for his sidearm.
“What would you suggest?” Karyna asked.
“Our guest has shown no signs of being hostile,” Beck said.
“Quite right,” Karyna replied smiling. “Hostile would be more like this.” She raised her hand toward Lazlo, then swatted the air. Lazlo suddenly flew backwards into the bulkhead.
“Stop,” Beck shouted.
“Why?” Karyna said, turning toward Beck. “It was fun.” A phaser blast slammed against the side of her head from Lazlo’s weapon. Karyna didn’t even flinch. “Is that supposed to hurt?”
“Oh boy,” Porter said softly.
“Lazlo, cease fire,” Beck ordered. “What do you want here?”
“Nothing that concerns you at the moment,” Karyna said. She reached out and ran a hand along Beck’s cheek. Beck tried to pull away but found her body held motionless by some unseen force. “But I’ll be back to teach you soon. So many possibilities.”
Karyna then sank through the floor of ops like a ghost leaving Beck, Porter, and Lazlo in a stunned silence. Beck was the first to snap out of it.
“Ops to security. Intruder alert.”
“What the hell are they going to be able to do?” Porter asked.
“Lazlo to O’Neal,” the colonel said, picking himself up.
“O’Neal here,” the Lieutenant Colonel Dan O’Neal, Lazlo’s second-in-command replied.
“There is a dangerous entity loose on the station. She’s the same race as Leximas. Destroy her at all costs.”
“Lazlo!” Beck shouted. “O’Neal, do not follow that order. Is that understood?”
“Colonel?” O’Neal asked confused.
“Do it. Lazlo out.”
“You just disobeyed a direct order, mister,” Beck said angrily.
“I never have and never will take orders from Starfleet,” Lazlo said, moving toward the turbolift. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go exterminate an alien menace that should have been blasted out of space before it even got here.”
Lazlo stepped into the turbolift as he boosted the power setting on his phaser. Beck let him go without another word.
What was the point? If Karyna was half as powerful as she appeared, Lazlo wasn’t going to get very far anyway.
“Where’s Karyna headed?” Beck asked Porter.
“I’m not sure. She’s blinding the sensors. I don’t think she wants to be tracked.”
“Did you get any useful readings?”
“I don’t know that they’re useful, but they’re pretty damn disturbing,” Porter said. Beck moved over to his console to look over his findings.
“These are the readings I just took from Karyna before she started messing with the sensors,” Porter explained pointing at the incomprehensible series of lines and numbers on the monitor.
“Our records couldn’t find anything to match it.”
“There’s a surprise,” Beck said.
“So, I compared her readings to Leximas’, since they seem to be the same species. I found enough similarities to be certain that Karyna was one of Leximas’ people.”
“She’s now that and something else. Here’s what’s left when I screen out the readings consistent with Leximas’ species.” The image changed to show a different pattern of energy levels.
“Craig, I don’t know what any of this means.”
“Neither did I, but the computer found a match.” Porter brought up another screen of readings. Beck read the name of the species at the top of the screen and involuntarily shuddered.
“What a glorious day!” Bradley exclaimed, taking a deep breath as he and Leximas strolled along the Starboard boat deck.
“I had no idea cold Atlantic air could be so invigorating.”
“Or computer-simulated cold Atlantic air as the case may be,” Leximas said.
“You’re having real problems with letting yourself be sucked into the illusion, aren’t you?”
“The illusion is not important. I am enjoying myself in your company. This setting merely allows me some insight into your psyche. As I have said before, you surprise me.”
“How is this surprising?”
“Someone with your apparent drive for material things does not seem to be the type to enjoy several days of relaxation.”
“But what is the point of gaining wealth if you can’t enjoy it?” Bradley replied. “The whole point of the Titanic was wealth and opulence. This was the pinnacle of luxury.”
“Until the end,” a voice said from behind them. Leximas’ entire body tingled with energy as she and Bradley turned to face the newcomer. “Hi, Lexi.”
“Karyna,” Leximas said. “I did not expect to see you again.”
“I show up out of nowhere, and all you can say is ‘I did not expect to see you again.’ I’m disappointed. Not surprised, but disappointed. I’d hoped that you’d changed a little.”
“Who the hell is this?” Bradley asked.
“A former pupil.”
“A free spirit like yourself, Mister Dillon,” Karyna said, wrapping an arm around him.
“How’d you know my name?”
“How do you know your own?”
“Exactly. This is quite an interesting room. It creates whatever you imagine?”
“Whatever I program it to create,” Bradley said.
“How fun. Limited, but fun. It’s all fake, though.”
“What do you want here, Karyna?” Leximas said. It was one of the few times Bradley had heard anything even resembling anger in her voice.
“I’m sorry to keep you in suspense,” Karyna said. “How rude of me. Well, if you must know, I’m here to kill you.”
“Oh, don’t look so shocked. You’re the one who sent me away from my home. Granted, if you hadn’t, I couldn’t have acquired my new abilities, but it’s the principle of the thing, you see.”
“I…I can’t let you do this,” Bradley said, his voice wavering.
“I’m not,” Karyna said, pulling Bradley close conspiratorially.
“You already did it.”
“Yes, you. Look around. It’s a floating deathtrap.”
“Not in the holodeck.”
“Then, I guess we’ll just have to get rid of the holodeck.” Karyna waved her hand. Suddenly, day turned into night on the Titanic. Bradley shivered as a freezing wind blew through his clothes and against his skin.
“What have you done?” Leximas demanded.
“Fulfilled Bradley-boy’s life-long ambition.” She turned back to Bradley. “And I want to thank you for providing such a fitting way to end Leximas’ life. Far far away from her home. Brilliant.”
She kissed Bradley passionately, then pushed him away. “Ta ta.”
With another wave of her hand, Karyna was gone.
“Computer, end program,” Bradley said. No response.
“I do not believe that we are aboard Waystation any longer, but we do appear to still be on the Titanic,” Leximas said.
“Oh no no no no no,” Bradley stammered, wrapping his arms around himself to block out the cold. “She couldn’t.” He looked around again. “Oh sh**, she did. We’re really in 1912!”
“We must endeavor to get help.”
“Too late,” Bradley said. “Oh God.” He ran over to a passenger standing near the railing. “What day is it?”
“Are you daft, man?” the passenger said.
“The date. Please.”
“And the time? Please, it’s important.”
“Oh, very well.” The man pulled out his pocket watch. “It’s just about 11:40.”
“Is there a problem?” Leximas asked when Bradley walked back over to her. He looked like he’d just seen the Borg. Fear filled his eyes.
“Oh yes,” Bradley said. Leximas looked past him, her eyes locking on a large object they appeared to be heading straight toward.
“What is that?” She pointed past him. Bradley turned around to look, already knowing what he would see.
“That’s an iceberg.”
Yeoman Jones tried not to think about the fact that she was now one bad step away from floating off into the vacuum of space. Her spacesuit seemed way too thin to really provide adequate protection from the frozen void surrounding her. A fervent prayer of “Please let him order me back inside” chanted inside her head.
“Magnetic spooler,” Morales said, his voice barking out of the speaker in her helmet. Jones reached into the engineering toolkit she was holding and handed Morales the requested item.
“How long?” she asked.
“Not too much more,” he replied, concentrating on his repairs. The damage to the communications array had forced them to don spacesuits and exit the ship to perform direct repairs to the runabout.
“Hi,” a dejected voice said. It wasn’t coming over their helmet speakers. Morales looked up at Jones.
“I take it that wasn’t you,” Morales said.
“No,” Jones said. They turned around to look behind them. A man in dressed in a black jumpsuit was sitting on the sensor array near the rear of the ship. He was blond, thin, and looked slightly stuck up. If he’d been human, which considering he was sitting nonchalantly exposed to the vacuum of space Jones decided he wasn’t, she’d have guessed he was from England.
“Who are you?” Morales asked, hoping that this being which could obviously survive the vacuum of space could pick up his transmission.
“Sorry about your ship,” the man said, ignoring Morales’s question. “I guess it was kind of a good thing for me though. I’ve been feeling lonely. But I’m being rude. I should invite you in.” With a snap of his fingers, all three of them were gone.
“Holy hell,” Porter said, watching his panel flash.
“What happened?” Beck asked.
“Bradley and Leximas just vanished right out of Holodeck Two.”
“Take a guess,” Porter said.
“Karyna!” Beck said into the air. “Bring them back!”
“No,” Karyna said, flashing into existence in front of Beck. “That was a personal matter between me and Leximas. You have no need to interfere.”
“And what did Bradley Dillon have to do with it?”
“Him? Oh, he was just a whim. Trust me, Commander, he’s thanking me right now. Oh, one little detail I forgot. I may come back to play later.” Karyna disappeared again.
Bradley grabbed Leximas and held on to the door handle of one of the deck cabins with all his might. The iceberg loomed closer, ready to play its historically determined role. With a sudden jolt, the ship collided with the chuck of floating ice. A horrendous metallic grinding sounded throughout the vessel as the iceberg scraped along 500 feet of the Titanic’s starboard side, buckling the hull and allowing water to gush inside the bowels of the ship.
“What has happened?” Leximas asked as she extricated herself from Bradley’s grip.
“We just hit an iceberg. In less than three hours, this ship will be on the bottom of the ocean.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course, I’m sure. The Titanic is the most famous shipwreck in all of human history. I’m an expert.”
“You knew this was going to happen?” Leximas said, realizing for the first time that Bradley’s innocent relaxation program was anything but innocent or relaxing.
“Yes. I thought it’d be fun.”
“You think that dying on a sinking ship in frigid water is fun?”
“We were supposed to escape on a lifeboat. It would have been exciting. Now, we’ve really got to get out of here.” Bradley led Leximas toward one of the lifeboats. Suddenly, Karyna appeared in front of them.
“Hello,” she said warmly. “How are things going?”
“Thank god,” Bradley said. “Okay, you’ve scared us. Let’s go home now.”
“I think you missed what’s going on here, Mister Dillon,” Karyna said. She turned to Leximas. “He’s so cute and naive. Wherever did you find him? Well, now’s not really the time. You’re on a sinking ship.”
Karyna snapped her fingers again. The three of them vanished and reappeared in a narrow, white hallway lined with metal doors.
“I think you should start here,” she said. “Oh, and I’ve put a Grecin on board just to make things more interesting. Let the games begin.” Karyna vanished again.
“Where are we?” Leximas asked. Bradley looked around, then noticed that Leximas was now wearing a battered brown dress rather than her fashionable deck attire. Checking his own clothes, he saw that he was in a worn brown suit.
“Third class,” Bradley said glumly. “Our odds of survival just took a major downturn.”
The sound of shouts and footsteps rushing by the infirmary drew Dr. Nelson out of her latest series of scans on Midon. With the station on red alert status, she decided that she’d better see what the hell was going on.
Out in the corridor of the mall, Federation Marines were running back and forth, barking reports at each other, and generally being a nuisance. She spotted Lieutenant Russell walking toward the security office. He was carrying a duffle bag and seemed unconcerned about the marines’ activities.
“Hey, Russell,” she said, running over to catch up with him. “Shouldn’t you be arresting those psychos?”
“Not my problem,” Russell said, continuing on to his office. “Talk to our new head of security, Colonel Lazlo.”
“Lazlo! What the hell happened?”
“I’m being shipped out for disobeying orders and general incompetence.”
“Well, I can’t argue with the incompetance, but I’d rather have you than Lazlo any day. Let me talk to Commander Beck. Maybe she’ll listen to reason.”
“I think she’s got her hands full right now,” Russell said. “We’ve got some super-powered alien thing on board. That’s why the marines are out in force.”
“Over there!” one of the marines shouted suddenly. Phaser fire ripped past Dr. Nelson, narrowly missing her.
“You damn fools!” Nelson screamed. “I’m Nelson.”
“I believe they were shooting at me,” Karyna said from behind her. “Find your own playmates.” Karyna vanished, then reappeared in the center of the food court standing on one of the tables.
“Over here, boys and girls,” she taunted, pulling up her grey robes to expose a bit of bare leg. “You can have me…if you can catch me.” Four marines tried to tackle her as the others opened fire. Karyna vanished just as the charging marines got to her position. They were met instead by the phaser blasts from the other marines and zapped into unconsciousness.
Karyna reappeared between Russell and Nelson and wrapped her arms around them like an old friend.
“Look at the morons,” Karyna said. “I’ve got them so worked up, they don’t know whether to shoot or drool. Hold this, will you?” She slipped out of her robes, leaving them in Nelson’s grip. Underneath, was a skimpy, Vegas showgirl-style outfit. “Music!”
Out of nowhere, Starfleet Square Mall filled with the sounds of an orchestra. Karyna wrapped Russell’s arms around her neck, and the two of them lifted up off the deck and into the performance of a mid-air dance. Karyna led the dance, dipping Russell occasionally and twirling him around wildly.
“Hold it!” she said suddenly, stopping in mid-turn. She looked down at the agape marines watching her show. “You all must feel so left out. I’ll take care of that.” She snapped her fingers causing ten more Karynas decked out in the same showgirl outfits to appear. Each of them grabbed a marine and lifted up into the air.
“Hey! What about me?” Nelson demanded, tossing Karyna’s robes to the floor.
“No dancing for the coat check girl. Especially not after that kind of service,” Karyna said. “Come on, everyone else!” And all the Karynas began to sing.
“I could have danced all night.
I could have danced all night.
And still have begged for more.
I could have spread my wings.
And done a thousand things.
I’ve never done before.”
“You know showtunes?” Russell asked in shock.
“I know everything, Sean,” Karyna said. “I know about you and Lisa Beck and what she’s done to you and what you’ve done to her. But don’t you worry my good man, I’m going to make everything all better.” She kissed him.
“Things are improving already,” Russell said, a smile spreading across his face. Who needed Beck and Starfleet? He had a god-like being interested in him.
“Let’s get out of here,” Karyna whispered seductively in his ear.
“Good idea. My place or yours.”
“It’s a surprise.” Karyna snapped her fingers, and she and Russell disappeared.
The music came to a sudden halt as all of the Karynas winked out of existence. Without their dance partners, the floating marines quickly became the screaming and falling marines, landing on the deck with several painful thuds.
“Medic,” one of the cried weakly.
“Not a chance,” Dr. Nelson said storming towards a turbolift. “Next time, maybe someone will dance with me!”
“Hey, this isn’t my place!” Russell said looking at his new surroundings. Karyna had brought him to ops, the last place he really wanted to be right now.
“And thank god for small favors,” Lieutenant Porter said from the science station.
Commander Beck advanced angrily on Karyna. She wasn’t quite sure how to threaten a being of immense power, but she was certainly going to try.
“I’ve had enough of you running around this station with absolutely no regard for me or Starfleet!” Beck said.
“I’m sorry, Commander,” Russell said. “She…”
“I wasn’t talking to you, Russell!”
“Oh, that little tirade was directed at me,” Karyna said. She was back in her subdued grey robes as opposed to the showgirl outfit.
“You’re damn right it was! I want you to bring back Leximas and Bradley Dillon and then get off my station.”
“All fire and no fun,” Karyna said. “This is your lucky day. You, my dear Lisa, are in great need of my services. I’ve decided to take pity on you.”
“Pity? Does that involve you leaving?” Beck said.
“Yes, this station is a bit limited for my needs. Let’s adjourn to somewhere more my style.”
“I’m staying right here,” Beck said. She was proven wrong by a snap of Karyna’s fingers. She, Karyna, and Russell disappeared leaving Porter alone in ops.
“And that about wraps it up for the command crew,” Porter said humorlessly.
“Where are we?” Yeoman Jones asked looking around at the room she and Morales had found themselves in. It appeared to be a plush den, but everything was black: the walls, the furniture, the flames in the fireplace, even the painting on the wall of dogs playing fizzbin.
“And who’s his decorator?” Morales said pulling off the helmet of his spacesuit. He and Jones looked comically out of place wearing their space gear inside someone’s living room.
“Actually, I did it all myself,” the being who had brought them there said, walking over to the fireplace to stoke the flames. “Some artists have a blue period. I guess you could say this is my black period.”
“Who are you?” Jones asked.
“The Q?” Morales said nervously.
“I am of the Q Continuum. But my name is Q.”
“How’s Captain Picard?”
“I’m afraid you’ve mistaken me for another Q.”
“My mistake,” Morales said relieved. “Just checking.”
Q threw himself into one of the plush end chairs flanking the fireplace. A pipe appeared in his mouth, already lit and spewing black smoke. He watched Morales and Jones intently, as if waiting for something.
“Uh…can we go now?” Jones asked. Q laughed a humorless, foreboding laugh.
“Go? Oh no. You cannot go. She already went, and you see what it did to me. I require companionship, Tina Jones.”
“He knows who I am,” Jones whispered to Morales fearfully.
“He’s a Q. Of course, he knows,” Morales replied.
“Mr. Q,” Morales said, not sure if “Mister” was the appropriate form of address for an immortal being with god-like powers. “With all due respect to your recent loss of whoever she was, you cannot keep us here. Yeoman Jones and I have positions of responsibility in Starfleet.”
“Walter, has anyone ever told you how boring you are?” Q said. “You’ve got to do better. Fortunately, you’ll have lots of time to practice.”
“I don’t think you’ve been listening to me,” Morales said.
“Practice at what?” Jones asked. She wasn’t listening to Morales either.
“Entertaining me. I’m tried being alone. I was good at it, but then she came and ruined it all. I just can’t be alone anymore. I’m just glad you two happened by when you did. I was in no mood to go out searching for company.”
“What do we do, Commander?” Jones asked.
“Anyone up for some chess?” Q asked. With a wave of his hand, a chess set appeared. Both sets of pieces were black. “I go first.”
“Where are we?” Leximas asked as Bradley led her through another drab room lined with benches.
“One of the third class dining halls,” Bradley said. “We’ve got to find a way up to the boat deck.” He knew that just below them in the engine room, water was rushing in starting the Titanic toward its inevitable rendezvous with the bottom of the icy Atlantic.
They entered the kitchen area where Bradley hoped to find crew stairs to the upper levels. The kitchen was empty except for the faint sound of snoring. Searching for the source of the sound, Bradley found a cook asleep under one of the prep tables.
“Hey, wake up,” Bradley said, shaking the cook. “We’re sinking.”
“Yeah right,” the groggy cook said. “This is the Titanic. She’s…”
“About to become a pile of wreckage. Get up!”
“Leave off you…”
“I would strongly suggest that you heed my companion’s warnings,” Leximas said. “We are all in grave danger.” The cook looked up at Leximas as if in a trance.
“We’re really sinking?” he asked.
“Yes,” Leximas said simply.
“Blimey! Let’s go!” The cook leapt up and raced out the rear door of the kitchen. Bradley and Leximas ran after him, catching up to him just as he pulled a steel gate across the crew stairs, cutting them off from safety.
“What are you doing?” Bradley demanded.
“Sorry, bloke, but you’re third class. I can’t let you up here. I’d lose my post.” The cook ran up the stairs leaving Bradley and Leximas trapped below.
“So much for gratitude,” Bradley said angrily. “I’d give real latinum for a phaser right now.”
“We may need it,” Leximas said. “For the Grecin.”
“Grecin? That thing Karyna mentioned? What the heck is it?”
“A genetically-engineered assassin used by the natives of Poydras in our solar system. Grecin have no thoughts or cares other than hunting down and killing their assigned prey.”
“And that would be us,” Bradley said. “Perfect. On the bright side, it’ll be going down with us.”
“Perhaps, although Grecin implode rather messily upon completing their kills. They can only have one target encoded in their gene structure.”
“I’m not the person to be in this situation,” Bradley muttered. “This is a Starfleet kind of thing. I’m a seller, not a fighter.”
“In this case, some new vocational training is in order,” Leximas replied. “Although, our first concern should be escaping this vessel. Being killed by the Grecin is only a possibility; if we go down with this ship, death will be a certainty.”
“Where are we?” Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal said weakly as he regained consciousness. A figure was looming over him, but his vision was too blurred to make it out.
“You’re on the floor, you idiot,” Colonel Lazlo said angrily. “Get up!”
O’Neal snapped to attention and looked around. He was still in Starfleet Square Mall with his squad, but how had they ended up unconscious. The memory floated back to him. Dancing, flying, falling, ouch. The intruder, Karyna, that’s what happened.
“Squad to your feet!” O’Neal ordered. With a lot of moaning and complaining, his marines formed a line.
“Disgraceful,” Lazlo said, marching up and down the line. “I send you out on one simple capture of a god-creature and what happens? I find you all asleep in the middle of the mall. You ought to be drummed out of the corps!”
“With all due respect, sir,” O’Neal said. “She overpowered us.”
“And made us dance,” Private Copeland added.
“Dance?” Lazlo said, his mustache starting to quiver as his anger grew. “Dance!”
“Yes, sir,” Copeland said meekly.
“Find her! Kill her! I want little bits of her ashes strewn across my desk by fourteen hundred hours! Is that understood?”
“YES, SIR!” the marines shouted in reply.
“Squad, move out,” O’Neal said. “Don’t worry, Colonel, we’ll take care of this.”
“Good. But if I find you’ve broken out into a Conga line, you’re all in big trouble.”
“No, sir. No Conga.” O’Neal ran off down the mall, phaser rifle at the ready. Lazlo shook his head and walked toward the turbolift near the infirmary.
“They’re actually pretty talented. I’m waiting for them to do ‘A Chorus Line,’” Dr. Nelson said, leaning against the entrance to the infirmary.
“Shut up, slug bitch,” Lazlo snapped.
“Sorry. I forgot. Marines don’t dance,” Nelson said, falling into step beside him.
“Where are you going?” Lazlo said.
“Ops. I want to know what’s going on around here. Isn’t that where you’re headed?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t ask for company.”
“Neither did I, but I’ve decided to put up with you anyway,” Nelson said.
“Where are we?” Lieutenant Russell asked. Beck tried to look over to him, but couldn’t. She couldn’t look at anything. Her body was gone. Somehow, she could sense Russell and Karyna, but they were no longer corporeal. The feeling was disconcerting to say the least. Her mind, used to being confined within and in control of a body, suddenly found itself without boundaries. Forced to deal with an environment it had no idea how to comprehend, Beck’s brain started filling in details; it was like sight, but her mind was creating all of it.
Greyness coalesced into a cloudy terrain. Russell was beside her, Karyna in front of her smiling with an annoying look of superiority. Even though her mind was creating it all, the effect was strangely real causing Beck to wonder just how much of what she thought she saw in her everyday life her eyes really responsible for.
“We’re nowhere,” Karyna replied. “At least it’s nowhere right now. Soon, it will become somewhere.”
“Do you understand any of this, Commander?” Russell asked.
“I believe so,” Beck said. “This place will become whatever our minds create.”
“Very good,” Karyna said, clapping. “I knew that deep down you were like me. You can comprehend the vastness of this opportunity.”
The clouds gradually dissipated, revealing a forest of thick tress. Sounds of moving water could be heard in the distance as birds sang all around them. The sun shone down with a warm caress making the day just about perfect. Idyllic.
“Your parents’ summer place off the coast of North Carolina,” Karyna said.
“Yes,” Beck replied. “It’s beautiful.”
“And you created it.”
Beck looked around and realized Russell was gone.
“What happened to Sean?”
“Oh, he’s fine. I just put him in storage until we’re ready for him. He should be suitably entertained. Now, show me around.”
“Don’t you know it all already?”
“But I don’t know it like you do.”
Beck walked off into the woods toward the house she could just make out through the trees, her parents’ house…her house now. Her life had changed a lot over the last thirty years, but this place always somehow managed to remain untouched. Its stability and beauty calmed her and made her wonder why she visited so infrequently.
All anger and resentment of Karyna and her intrusion in her life vanished as soon as Beck realized where she was and the gift Karyna had given her. Waystation would be fine for a while without her. This was where she needed to be right now.
“Come on,”Beck said. “Let me show you something.”
Sean Russell idly wondered where Karyna and Commander Beck had gone off to. It wasn’t of too great concern, though. The mansion he’d found himself in and the twenty gorgeous serving girls that came with the place were doing a marvelous job of keeping him company.
“More wine, grapes, sex?” one of the beautiful angels asked.
“Please,” Russell said. “And I’ll take a double helping of that last one.”
“Of course, sire,” another one of the ladies said, removing her top.
“Heaven. Pure heaven,” Russell said smiling.
Lieutenant Commander Morales watched Q make his next move. Not that it really mattered. Q had lost three pawns during the entire game, while Morales only had his king and a knight left. At one time in his life, like a couple of hours ago, Morales had considered himself to be pretty good at chess. Playing against an omnipotent being had pretty much squashed that belief.
“Checkmate,” Q said, sounding bored.
“Sorry I wasn’t much of a challenge,” Morales said irritated.
“I thought since your species invented the game that I’d be giving you a sporting chance. Obviously not.”
“Could we try something else?” Jones said from the recliner. She’d never played a game of chess in her life, and, if what she’d just witnessed was any indication, she didn’t really want to. She thought they were supposed to be entertaining Q, not putting him into a coma.
“What did you have in mind?” Q said.
“Let’s get out. Go somewhere with fresh air and food and rides and…”
Q waved his hand quickly. In a flash, the three of them were standing in the middle of a carnival with sprightly calliope music and happy shouts and laughter in the air.
“Someplace like this,” Q said.
“Exactly,” Jones said, grabbing Q’s arm and pulling him toward a roller coaster. “This is just what you need.”
“But I get sick on these things,” Morales protested. Jones looked back at him strangely.
“And you piloted shuttles for years?”
“Totally different thing,” Morales said, looking nervous as they approached the entrance to a coaster called The Gutwrencher.
“What about you?” Jones asked Q.
“I’m omnipotent. I do not fear this little ride.”
“Yeah, but are you going to puke on me?”
“Q do not puke.”
“We’ll see,” Jones said smiling.
After leaving the steerage dining room, Bradley Dillon’s first priority was to find a watch. He figured that they’d already lost twenty minutes fooling around with that damn cook, and Bradley wanted to be sure to keep a close eye on the time from then on. One way or another, he and Leximas had to be off of the Titanic before the ship went under at 2:20 a.m.
After busting into a couple of cabins and finding nothing, Bradley had pretty much given up hope that any of these poor passengers in third class owned a time piece.
“Perhaps we should forget this idea for now,” Leximas said. “Surely a watch will be available in on the upper decks.”
“You’re probably right,” Bradley said. “Let’s get mov…”
He stopped in mid-sentence and walked down the hall a bit.
“Someone’s coming,” he said. “A lot of someones.” Bradley pushed Leximas back into one of the cabins and closed the door, leaving himself a crack to look out of.
“Come on then, keep moving,” a white-clad steward shouted as he passed by the room. Close behind him was a whole group of shabbily-dressed men, women, and children looking confused and scared. Bringing up the rear was another steward. Bradley noticed a pocket watch chain sticking out of his pocket.
“I’ll be right back,” Bradley whispered, slipping silently out the door. He returned moments later with the watch.
“How did you acquire that?” Leximas asked.
“I swiped it,” Bradley said, putting the watch in his pocket. “Some people just don’t pay close enough attention to their belongings.”
“I had no idea you were so skilled at petty theft and pickpocketing.”
“It’s not something I advertise. They’re skills I save for special occasions,” Bradley replied. “Now, let’s go follow those stewards.”
“I do not think they are going to take us to the upper decks.”
“I’m not concerned about that,” Bradley said. “In the Titanic sinking, over 100 foreign steerage passengers were locked in a lounge and left there. The idea was to keep them out of the way until they could be rescued, but the stewards forgot about them.”
“So they all perished.”
“Yes. I’m going to let them out.”
“And what about the damage to the timeline this act could cause,” Leximas said. “The forces of time are not to be trifled with. Ramifications could stretch far beyond this one sinking.”
“Lexi, most of these people won’t survive no matter what I do. I just want to give them a fighting chance,” Bradley said leaving the cabin. He tracked the stewards to a third-class lounge near the front of the ship. Once they had moved on, Bradley unlocked the lounge and entered.
“We’re sinking! Get off the ship!” Bradley shouted to the huddled group. They stared at him blankly, not comprehending a word he said. Leximas calmly walked up beside him.
“I see that a universal translator would be rather useful to you,” she said.
“No kidding.” He tried arm gestures to show the ship sinking. They just didn’t understand.
“May I try?” Leximas asked.
“Sure,” Bradley said stepping back. “I can’t figure out how to make them leave.”
Leximas closed her eyes for a few moments then opened them.
“That should do it,” she said.
“Do what? Nothing happened.”
Bradley quickly realized he was wrong. All around the room, the passengers talked excitedly amongst themselves then started to rush out of the lounge.
“I believe they got the message.”
“What the devil?” an angry voice shouted from out of the room just as the door slammed shut. Bradley rushed over to the little window in the lounge door and saw a steward walking away. “I told him to lock this door.” he could hear the steward say.
Bradley tried the door handle. Not surprisingly, it was locked. He screamed and slumped down to the floor.
“On the bright side, the Grecin will probably not find us in here,” Leximas said.
“Not unless he can swim,” Bradley said, noticing water starting to trickle in on the far side of the room.
“Oh sh**!” Q screamed as The Gutwrencher plummeted towards the ground. He and Jones were sitting in the first car of the ride. She had her arms up in the air and was laughing at him, finding the omnipotent’s cursing hilarious.
“Let go!” she shouted.
“No way!” Q said. The track leveled off then sent the cars into a tight turn.
“Having fun yet?” Jones asked.
“Actually, maybe,” Q said. “Let’s go again.”
“Please no,” Morales said from the seat behind them.
“With all due respect, Commander, lighten up,” Jones said. Jones heard the sound of vomiting coming from Morales. “That’s one way to do it I guess.”
The opening of the turbolift doors just about scared the hell out of Lieutenant Porter. He’d gotten used to being alone in ops.
“What the hell is going on up here?” Colonel Lazlo shouted angrily as he and Dr. Nelson stormed out of the lift.. “Shouldn’t you be tracking that alien menace? Where’s Beck?”
“Nothing. It’s gone. And she’s gone,” Porter said. “That about brings you up to date.”
“Gone,” Nelson said.
“Karyna took her and Russell,” Porter replied. “I can’t get a fix on them anywhere. Of course, since Karyna’s part Q, she could have taken them anywhere.”
“Meanwhile, you’re running ops single-handed,” Lazlo said. “What if we’d been attacked? You need people up here.”
“I thought looking for the commander and Russell was just a bit more important,” Porter said.
“Not anymore. Your priority now is finding a way to defeat a Q,” Lazlo said.
“I believe Porter’s in charge here now,” Nelson said. “He’s the highest ranking command officer on board.”
“I’m a colonel.”
“You’re not Starfleet,” Nelson said. She turned to Porter. “Orders, sir.”
“Contact Starfleet and tell them what’s going on,” Porter said, grateful that Nelson was backing him up. “I’m going to get Mazzone and Stanton up here.”
“I don’t think you two get it,” Lazlo said aiming his phaser at them. “I’m in charge here.”
“Not now, Lazlo,” Nelson said heading toward the comm system. Lazlo fired, sending a precisely aimed blast into her arm. Nelson screamed and fell, clutching her stunned limb as Porter ran over to help her.
“That was the lowest setting, but I can and I will go higher,” Lazlo said. “As I said before, I am in charge here.”
Lisa Beck stood barefoot on the beach looking out at the Atlantic ocean. The sun was beginning to set behind her, casting long orange streaks of color along the water. She squished her toes into the wet sand, feeling it ooze between them. For the first time in a long time, she felt really relaxed and happy. Nothing could ever disturb her on this island.
“This place is very beautiful,” Karyna said from behind her.
“Always was. My parents brought my sister and I here every summer. Dad would spend his days out on his boat fishing. Mom and Kathy usually suntanned or worked in the house.”
“What about you?”
“I built a lot of sand castles in the early years. Or I’d play in the woods, climbing trees and stuff,” Beck said, starting to walk along the sand. “Once I got older, I studied.”
“For Starfleet Academy.”
“Right,” Beck said. “It’s all I wanted.”
“Or all your parents wanted for you,” Karyna said. “You probably would have much rather been out building sand castles.”
“Starfleet was my idea. I’d watch holos of Kirk and Pike and just dream of going out there someday.”
“Was it worth it? Spending your youth in books, watching your sister have fun while you thought of astronavigation and antimatter intermix ratios.”
“I got what I wanted,” Beck said.
“No, you got command of a station in the middle of nowhere. You aren’t exploring, and you probably won’t be advancing up the ranks any. You’re alone and going nowhere.”
Beck didn’t want to think that Karyna was right, but deep down, she knew that there was a lot of truth to what she was saying.
“What do I do?” Beck asked. “How do I change it?”
“Let go of your life and come join mine,” Karyna said. “I can sense that wanderlust in you, the same feeling that’s in me. Starfleet used to be your only hope for experiencing the galaxy, but now I can take you places you’ve never dreamed of. I’ll show you pleasures that will bring you to your knees throbbing with ecstasy. All you have to do is let me teach you to let loose your passion, the fire you have within.”
“You want me to travel with you?”
“Yes, Lisa Beck. I’ve never been one for emotional attachments. Like you, I’m a loner. Together then, we could be a fantastic team, living only for pleasure and providing companionship to each other. Companionship we both desperately need.”
Beck turned back to the water, lost in thought. Karyna came up close behind her and leaned her head close to Beck’s.
“I can give you the power to come back to this anytime you want,” Karyna whispered in her ear. “I can give you anything at all.”
Beck considered the offer. No more paperwork. No more holding the station together and having all those people depending on her. For once, she could live for solely for herself.
“Let’s do it,” Beck said. Karyna put her arm around Beck’s shoulder and kissed her on the cheek.
“You won’t regret it,” Karyna said sultrily. “I promise.” She snapped her fingers, and both of them were gone.
“I think I really got bored around the big bang,” Q said as The Gutwrencher sped through another turn pressing him and Jones against the side of the car. “I just didn’t know what to do with myself after that.”
“Didn’t you have any Q friends?” Yeoman Jones asked.
“Is this really the best place for therapy?” Morales said weakly from behind them. “I can’t take much more of this.”
“But I like it,” Q said. “And this is only our fourteenth time. Anyway, back to the Q, I got along with a few of them, but they always wanted to go mess with developing life-forms. I got that out of my system four universes ago. This time around, I decided to live a less destructive life and just travel. Unfortunately, when you’ve seen one universe, you’ve seen them all.”
“So you went away to be alone,” Jones said.
“Exactly. I wanted to be away from the temptation to meddle with some developing world. Q and Q do that all the time. I just don’t understand how they can still find it fun.”
“Loop!” Morales shouted, clamping his eyes shut as the coaster turned upside down.
“Really, Commander, I don’t see how you can stay in Starfleet with such a weak heart,” Q said. “Where’s your sense of fun?”
“I think it came up with the contents of my stomach a few turns back,” Morales said. “Can we please, please try another ride?”
“Oh all right,” Q said, waving his hand. The three of them vanished and reappeared in another ride. “How about The Scrambler?” The ride jerked into motion, throwing Morales against the safety bar in front of him, then against the side of the car as The Scrambler twirled and sped back and forth.
“Oh yeah, much better,” Morales said just before passing out.
Bradley and Leximas huddled as close to the door as they could but the frigid ocean water was rapidly flowing into the tilting room.
“Can’t you just telepathically unlock this thing?” Bradley asked after shaking the door violently for the fiftieth time.
“Yes,” Leximas said. “But I need to meditate to achieve the control necessary to move the lock bolt, and I do not believe we have that much time.”
“No kidding. We’re just going to have to find another way.” Bradley looked around the lounge. It was pretty bare except for a some chairs, a couple of benches, and a battered piano. He looked at the metal door blocking their escape. There was no way he was going to get through that metal with the junk in this room. At the very least, though, he could try and keep above the water. He started stacking the benches and chairs into a pile.
“Who designed this ship?” Leximas said, trying to mask her frustration. “It is a floating death trap.”
“It wasn’t supposed to sink,” Bradley replied. “Someone forgot to mention that to the iceberg.” He helped Leximas up to the top of pile of benches and climbed up behind her. They sat in silence for a few moments.
“Lexi…” Bradley said finally. “I’m sorry for this. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t invited you into that program.”
“Perhaps not, Mister Dillon,” Leximas replied. “However, Karyna would have still come to Waystation intent on killing me. Your program just happened to be the method she picked. If anything, I should apologize to you for causing you to be dragged into this. If it were not for me, you would still be safe on Waystation. The only one really to blame here is Karyna. I must find a way to stop her.”
“That’ll be a good trick considering she’s not here, and unless you can time travel, I don’t think we’re going to be seeing her any time soon.”
“Nevertheless, she is the wrong person to have that kind of power. However, you are not a fault for her actions.”
“Thanks,” Bradley said. “I just didn’t want to die with you hating me.”
“I have not ever hated you,” Leximas said. “You are a most intriguing man. Although, I am slightly upset that you did not inform me of the true nature of this program.”
“Surprise,” Bradley said. The water was starting to splash against the benches at the bottom of the pile. The deck tilted forward a little more. “No one’s ever going to know.”
“Know what exactly?” Leximas said.
“That we died here. We aren’t even going to be on the Titanic passenger lists. We’re just going to be a couple of nameless victims added to the 1,500 that are going to go down with this ship.”
“Not to criticize you in this time of crisis, Mister Dillon, but your attitude toward certain death is not very uplifting. Perhaps you should try meditating with me to clear your mind and body for the journey to come.”
“I’d rather mope,” Bradley said. Suddenly, the door clanged loudly as something thudded against it.
“We’re saved!” Bradley shouted, jumping down from the benches. He rushed through the cold water and looked out the small window imbedded in the door.
No one was in sight.
“I don’t see…”
A hideous orange face leapt up into view in front of the window, long fangs protruding from its mouth, neon green eyes flashing. Bradley screamed as the beast roared and slammed into the door again.
“I take it the Grecin has located us,” Leximas said.
“Good guess,” Bradley said, backing away from the door fearfully. “We’re dead.”
“If you remember, we were already going to die from the water. I do not see the cause for alarm.”
“Sorry, my annoying desire for self preservation is acting up again,” Bradley said.
The door shook again and started to dent.
“He may get through that metal,” Bradley said in disbelief.
“Most likely,” Leximas said, climbing down to join Bradley in the water. “Now then, if you are set on surviving, we must be ready when the Grecin breaks through.”
“Ready? What are we going to do? Bonk him on the head with a bench?”
“I doubt we would live long enough to get that close to it,” Leximas said.
Lazlo kept his phaser aimed at Porter and Nelson as he moved over to the comm panel. Nelson’s arm was numb from the stun blast, but Porter was pretty sure she could kill Lazlo without it if given the chance.
“Finally, this station is going to have some order,” Lazlo said. “Waystation is now a Federation Marine outpost. Any objections?” Porter opened his mouth to say something but decided the smart retort he had in mind just wasn’t worth getting shot. “I didn’t
think so,” Lazlo said, smiling smugly. He turned to the console and activated the stationwide intercom.
“Attention Waystation. This is Colonel Martin Lazlo. As of this stardate, I have assumed command of this station.”
Porter noticed Lazlo’s arm lower slightly. Nelson nudged him indicated she’d seen the same thing. Porter nodded, then leapt forward just as Nelson did the same. Before Lazlo could react, Porter and Nelson were on him, tackling the colonel to the deck.
“Security to ops,” Porter shouted.
“Marines, arrest all Starfleet personnel on sight,” Lazlo ordered.
“Marines, do not obey that order,” Nelson yelled. “Colonel Lazlo has lost his mind.”
“I have not.”
“O’Neal to ops,” Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal’s voice said hesitantly. “Are we supposed to take over Waystation or not?”
“Yes!” Lazlo shouted, pushing Nelson off of him and slamming an elbow into Porter’s gut.
“Yes, take over. Or yes, don’t take over.”
“Take over the damn station now!” Lazlo screamed. He punched Porter a few more times and regained control of his phaser.
“Starfleet personnel to battlestations. Defend the station,” Nelson said.
“Oh shut up,” Lazlo said, stunning Nelson. He stood up over Porter and aimed his phaser down at him.
“That wasn’t very nice,” Porter said weakly as he wiped blood away from his mouth.
“I’m not a nice man,” Lazlo said.
“That’s no way to be. Give me a hug, chipmunk lips.”
Lazlo started shaking with anger. Porter took the opportunity to kick Lazlo’s legs out from under him and lunge for the phaser. Lazlo recovered quickly and flipped Porter over his head and into the docking console. Porter landed on his back, across the console.
“See there!” Lazlo said, strutting toward Porter. “That’s what Marine training can do for you.” Porter’s ribs were in agony. He lay motionless, gasping for breath.
“What? Make you an asshole?” Porter said with all the energy he could muster.
Lazlo aimed his phaser and fired, relieving Porter of his pain and of consciousness.
Sean Russell wondered when things had gone wrong. One second, he was about to enjoy some incredible sex with women bent on pleasing his every whim, the next he was chained up somewhere. The worst part was, he had no idea where that somewhere was. He couldn’t see or hear a thing. His arms were being stretched painfully above his head as his legs were chained, spread, to the floor. Extreme arousal turned to extreme fear very quickly. He was blind, deaf, and helpless in the face of who knew what kind of monster.
“What do you think?” Karyna asked as Beck stared in shock at her former security chief. Russell’s eyes were moving around erratically, not focusing on anything.
“Sean! Are you okay?”
“He can’t see or hear you,” Karyna said. “I’ve taken care of that. I don’t see why you should care anyway, Lisa. This man has caused you no end of trouble. Here, I’ve practically gift wrapped him for you.”
“Gift wrapped? What am I supposed to do with him?”
“Anything you want. You have all the power. He’s just a pathetic nothing, quaking with fear and wondering what’s about to happen to him. Surely you see the possibilities.”
A smile spread across Beck’s face as she walked over to Russell. She walked around him a couple of times, then quickly slapped him across the face. Russell jerked back stunned.
“Who’s there?” he said frightened. “What do you want?
Beck laughed. He seemed so much less sure of himself now. The cocky Sean Russell had been reduced to a quivering worm.
“Perfect, Lisa,” Karyna said, stepping forward. She ran her hands along Sean’s chest. As she did so, his uniform top and turtleneck dissolved into nothing. “Enjoy yourself, my dear Lisa.” Beck walked around to Russell’s exposed back, allowing her anger to rise up. Sean Russell. Disobedient toad.
She quickly slashed her nails down his back, drawing blood. Russell gasped in pain and tried to pull away.
“There’s nowhere to run, Sean,” Beck said, unable to control her evil laughter. She slashed his back again and again until it was a cris-cross of red streaks.
“This is what power can be,” Karyna said. “No paperwork, no regulations. Just pleasure as you use your minions to indulge your every desire.”
Beck looked at her handiwork on Russell’s back. The anger was gone, but instead of guilt and remorse at what she’d done to him, she felt only satisfaction.
“Please,” Russell said weakly. “No more.” Beck walked in front of him and leaned right down into his face.
“Let him see and hear me,” Beck said.
“Done,” Karyna said.
Russell blinked several times as his vision came back into focus. Realizing Beck was in front of his, he relaxed, relieved.
“Commander, thank god. Get me out of here.”
“Why? I’m the one keeping you,” Beck said. She ran her nails down his chest, sending another stream of pain into Russell.
“Shut up!” Beck shouted. “You have no right to talk to me. You’re an incompetent worm! An imbecile! I should just throw you in some dark prison cell somewhere and let you rot!” God, this felt good, unlike anything she’d experienced before. Such complete freedom to do whatever she wanted to this quivering mass of flesh in front of her.
She slapped Russell again, watching the shocked and hurt expression on his face. He looked…crushed. He slumped down as far as his chains would let him, no longer looking at Beck. Uninvited compassion welled up in her. This was a person, a fellow officer, and a friend.
“You must press forward, Lisa. You’ve just about broken him,” Karyna said, sensing Beck’s will weakening. Beck took Russell’s chin in her hand and drew his head up to look at her.
“Sean…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…”
“Yes, you did,” he said softly. “You meant every word.”
“Punish him for his insolence!” Karyna said.
“No. Send him home.”
“Lisa. True power lies in taking what you want.”
“I’ve done what I want with Russell. Get him out of here!” Beck said angrily.
“Get away, Lisa,” Russell said. “She’s…”
Before he could finish, Karyna made him vanish with a snap of her fingers.
“I can see they’re too close to you,” Karyna said. “I should have started you somewhere else.”
“Is that what your idea of gaining pleasure from power is?” Beck demanded. “Torture? Pain?”
“We didn’t do anything permanent. Sean is safely back on your station. Do you want to go back with him? I can certainly return you to your paperwork, boredom, and bureaucracy.”
Beck stood in silence for a moment. Did she want to go home? Honestly, no. Until she yelled at Russell, the rush of power felt wonderful. Control with none of Starfleet’s restrictions. Karyna was taking her to a place within herself she never dreamed of. A place where Lisa Beck could be more than some mid-level officer. The entire universe was at Karyna’s command, and she wanted to share it with Beck, give Beck some of that rush.
“Show me more,” Beck said simply.
Yeoman Jones looked over at Morales and wondered if he was going to be okay. He’d been retching into the trash can by the snack bar for a good ten minutes. Only the occasional moan echoing out of the trash can assured her that he was still conscious.
“You humans are just not built for fun,” Q said just before taking a huge bite of his chili dog. “Of course, omnipotence is a great asset to enjoying the universe.”
“It doesn’t seem to have helped you much,” Jones replied. “You’ve been huddling in a nebula since the beginning of the universe.”
“Only this universe. You should have seen the times I had before then.”
“Can we go home now?” Morales said, collapsing on the bench beside her. He looked positively awful. “I have nothing left to give.”
“This is all becoming quite boring,” Q said. “How long is spinning around on rides supposed to be entertaining?”
“Usually, until you’re too tired to do it anymore,” Jones said.
“But I’m Q. I don’t get tired.”
“And I’m not getting on anything else,” Morales said. “If you even suggest it, Jones, I’ll have you court martialed when we get back to Waystation.”
“I was only trying to help,”Jones said.
“You aren’t succeeding.”
“Now this is more like it,” Q said.
“Like what?” Morales said.
“Entertaining. Finally, you two atom-brains are catching on. I really should not have let you drag me out here.”
“But we were trying to cheer you up,” Jones said.
“Impossible, but you can distract me by giving me something to watch,” Q said.
“I really don’t like the sound of this,” Morales said.
“What do you want to watch us do?” Jones said.
“Anything but sit around talking to me. That’s not interesting. There’s no drama there. I require diversion.”
“How about a nice hike in the woods of Relhanis Two?” Jones said hopefully. “They’re supposed to be lovely this time of year.”
“No no no. I have something entirely different in mind,” Q said. With a quick wave of his hand, all three of them vanished from the snack bar.
The icy Atlantic water was up to Bradley and Leximas’ thighs as the Grecin continued its assault on the door to the lounge. The door frame was twisting and groaning, moments away from busting in.
“That thing’s only going to be after you, right?” Bradley said.
“Yes. It can only be programmed with one target.”
“Great, get under the benches,” Bradley said, pushing Leximas toward the pile of benches and chairs he’d constructed to stay out of the water.
“This is gallant but futile, Mister Dillon”
“Would you just shut up for once and do what I ask?”
“As you wish,” the guru said, ducking down into the water to get under the pile of wood. Bradley steeled himself to face the hideous monster trying to enter the room. He wasn’t quite sure what he was going to do. Somehow he doubted that it would come in, see Lexi wasn’t there, then leave quietly, but he was not about to just let it charge in and kill her.
A moment later, the door busted off its hinges and flew past Bradley, colliding violently with the back wall of the tilting room. The Grecin, a six-foot tall orange mass of muscle and fangs stalked slowly into the room, looking around for its prey. It was like a bald ape with a skin condition.
“Leximas,” it growled almost incomprehensibly.
“Say again?” Bradley said, trying to approximate a British accent. Not that the creature would probably care.
“Christmas? No, not for another eight months I’m afraid. I am frightfully grateful to you for letting me out of here, though. I thought I was going to freeze or drown.”
“Are you saying Leximas? Never heard of the chap,” Bradley said. “Try down the hall.”
The Grecin sniffed the air gradually focusing on the pile of benches. It waded slowly over to the pile, seemingly unaware that it was standing naked in freezing water.
“Oh do stay away from that,” Bradley said, rushing over to the pile. “It’s quite unstable.”
The Grecin rammed its fist into the pile, attempting to grab whatever was inside. Bradley feared for the worst, but the Grecin didn’t latch onto anything. It growled angrily.
Out of the corner of his eye, Bradley noticed some movement near the door. Leximas slowly stood up in the water and motioned for him to follow her. She must have swam under the pile to get to the door.
Suddenly, the Grecin whirled around and spotted its target.
“Oh no you don’t!” Bradley said, pushing on the wood pile. The heavy stack of benches and chairs collapsed on top of the angry creature as Bradley raced toward the door, the water getting shallower and shallower as he went.
“Let’s get moving!” he shouted, grabbing Leximas’ arm and dragging her toward the dry stern of the Titanic. Behind them, he heard wood cracking and splintering as the Grecin busted its way out of the avalanche of seats.
“I believe that a way to the upper decks is a vital priority right now,” Leximas said.
“No kidding,” Bradley said. “I think I’ve got an idea, though.”
“Now that was pleasant,” Lieutenant Porter said softly as he regained consciousness. He was lying on a bed, a position he decided to stay in after an attempt to stand up caused every muscle and bone in his body to scream at him.
“Stay still,” Dr. Nelson’s voice said from beside him. Porter opened his eyes and struggled to focus. His surroundings were a blur, but he could tell they were very bland. Way too bland for his liking. He had a sinking feeling he knew where he was.
Finally, his vision cleared up totally and, as Dr. Nelson helped him to sit up, he took a look around. Yep, he was in the brig.
“Oh, this is just great,” Porter said.
“Tell me about it,” Nelson said. “On the bright side, we’re the only two in here.”
“So either the rest of the crew is fighting the marines, or they’ve decided to just follow Lazlo’s orders.”
“Most likely the latter I’m afraid,” Nelson said. “I mean considering now the entire command crew has either disappeared or been taken into custody.”
“We’ve got to get out of here.”
“I’d sure love to see you try.”
“Come on, Doc. We’ve been imprisoned together before, and we escaped.”
“No. Morales, Russell, and Jones rescued us,” Nelson replied. “As I recall, you almost got us killed.”
“So, you don’t think the sick symbiont trick is going to work this time.”
Colonel Lazlo stood in the center of ops feeling like an emperor. After months of having to obey goody-goody Starfleeters, he finally had command of Waystation.
“All decks are secured, sir,” Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal reported as he stepped out of the turbolift into ops. “And all Starfleet personnel have been accounted for…well, except for the missing command crew.”
“Don’t worry about them,” Lazlo said. “Now then, did the other Starfleet wimps give you any problems?”
“No, sir. I told them we’d taken over. They said okay and went back to work. No big deal.”
“I didn’t think it would be, but just in case I want marines stationed in the computer core, auxiliary control, engineering, and ops.”
“Yes, sir,” O’Neal said, saluting stiffly.
“And have Sergeant Kyle move my office things up here. I’ve decided to relocate,” Lazlo said smiling as he gestured toward what formerly was Commander Beck’s office. “Good work, O’Neal. Dismissed.”
“Thank you, sir.” O’Neal said, saluting again. He turned on his heel and headed back into the turbolift and Lazlo walked into his new office.
Lazlo look around at the paintings, the candles, a bizarre statue, and the model of the Secondprize, Beck’s former ship.
“Nope, it’s all got to go,” he said rubbing his hands together. He grabbed the model and tossed it with a smooth hook shot into the trashcan. “And the crowd goes wild.”
Karyna watched her new protégé closely as they stood on top of Mt. Soltinus, the highest peak on Romulus and, according to the Romulans, the highest peak in known space. They had come to watch the dawn as light slowly spread across the vast plain below then climbed up the mountain slope to the summit.
Commander Beck had disappointed Karyna with the compassion she showed to Sean Russell, but Karyna realized that perhaps Beck wasn’t the problem. Karyna had rushed her into that situation with almost no training in what it meant to be truly free from life’s little problems and moral ties. Beck just needed more time to push the limits of her own psyche, to understand that what she wanted was the only thing that mattered. Only then could she be the companion in hedonism that Karyna was looking for. Beck would soon be totally unencumbered by petty things like duty, morality, and friendship. Those were terms for mundane people trapped in mundane existences, not for the powerful and unfettered.
“I never thought I’d set foot on this world,” Beck said finally, breaking the silence.
“You can go anywhere you want to,” Karyna said. “Federation, Romulan, Dominion, Borg; it doesn’t matter. We are outside of their silly alliances and disputes. They are nothing before our power.”
“Your power, you mean,” Beck said. “I’m just along for the ride.”
“I can and will give you what I have,” Karyna said. “I just want to be sure you’ll use my gift to your full advantage.”
“And I can do anything?”
“Anything. Go anywhere. Be anyone. Take anyone. The power is limitless.”
“I want it,” Beck said. She wanted to do so many things, see the wonders of the galaxy, and, most of all, get back that feeling of complete power and mastery over everything that she’d had for a few moments tormenting Russell.
“How do I know you won’t just run off back to Waystation? Back to your friends,” Karyna said.
“Because there’s nothing for me there, and you know that. For the first time in my life, I’m free to do whatever I want with my life. I need this.”
Karyna walked over to Beck and placed her hands gently on the sides of Beck’s head. She slowly initiated a link, careful not to overwhelm the fragile human’s mind. Just a brief touch of their consciousnesses told Karyna what she needed to know: Beck was telling the truth.
“Just let me take over,” Karyna said. “Let go of everything you are.” She reached out further with her mind, wrapping the tendrils of her consciousness throughout Beck’s brain. Beck gasped and shuddered involuntarily.
“Surrender to it. Trust me,” Karyna said smiling. She finished the link, paralyzing Beck with the force of her will. Even though this was her protégé and future partner, Karyna couldn’t help but enjoy the look of helpless terror on Beck’s face. She’d planned on doing this transfer as painlessly as possible, but the power she now had over Beck was too great of a temptation. There had always been a hint of sadism in her hedonism; this time was no different.
Karyna let loose the energy of the Q in one ferocious blast, sending it tearing through Beck’s trapped consciousness. Beck screamed, yanking herself back from Karyna and falling to the ground writhing in agony. Every cell of her being was on fire from the immense energy surge that threatened to overwhelm her completely.
“Intense, isn’t it?” Karyna said laughing.
Gradually, the pain subsided. The energy blast faded, coursing through Beck occasionally as waves that made her convulse from their intensity. Beck finally regained the ability to focus and think clearly. Her first realization was that she was now very, very different. Her mind could sense the whole of the universe. The extent of her reach was limitless.
“Holy God,” she said softly picking herself up off the ground.
“I see you’re feeling better,” Karyna said.
“Incredible,” Beck replied. Another wave of power ran down her body, causing her to shudder. Where once there had been pain, there was now only pleasure.
“So, my dear goddess Lisa, what would you like to do now?”
Beck looked out across the plain and toward the infinite beyond, her infinite beyond. She could manipulate it any way she wanted. The universe and all of the puny beings in it were her playthings. No longer could any of them frighten her or push her around.
“Let’s go have some fun,” Beck said, an evil grin spreading across her face. With a snap of her fingers, they set off to do just that.
The first thing Sean Russell did after opening his eyes was scream bloody murder. He was looking straight down into endless space. Expecting to die instantly from exposure to the void, he clamped his eyes shut and held his breath. Nothing happened.
Reopening his eyes, Russell realized he was laying on something: transparent aluminum. He was back on Waystation! Karyna had put him back in his uniform and just dumped him in the observation room at the bottom of Waystation’s lower saucer. God, Russell hated that room. Whoever decided that a clear floor looking out into space was a good idea deserved to be killed slowly and painfully.
Trying not to look down, Russell inched his way toward the exit. He wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to do it, but Russell was determined to get Commander Beck away from Karyna. Hopefully, Porter would have some ideas on the subject.
Unaware that Lieutenant Porter was currently sitting in the brig, Russell stepped into a turbolift and headed to ops.
Commander Morales looked around at his surroundings trying to get his bearings. He was in somebody’s living room…well, a good approximation of someone’s living room anyway. Instead of a front wall, there was open space looking out into a vast auditorium. The seats were empty except for one chair three rows back in which Q sat. He was now wearing a large, white beret which matched his white poet’s shirt. Q picked up a bullhorn from beside his seat.
“Action!” he bellowed, the sound echoing throughout the empty theater.
“What?” Morales said, confused. “Where’s Yeoman Jones?”
“She’ll be along shortly,” Q said, annoyed at the interruption. “Now just do your part.”
“Part? What part? What the hell is going on?”
“Haven’t you ever heard of acting?” Q said. He vanished and reappeared at the foot of the stage. “We’re trying to do a play here. Just go with it.”
“I have no idea…”
“Walter Morales, even for a human you are remarkably unable to grasp simple concepts. This is a play. You are in it. When Jones comes out on stage, start acting.”
“Q, plays require a script, rehearsals, real actors. You’re going to have to find someone else for this.” Morales walked off stage. Q waved his hand causing Morales to reappear seated on the sofa.
“Did you miss the part about me being omnipotent? I don’t have to do anything I do not wish to do. You, however, are bound by my will. Now then, we are going to do a play about men and women. About love and betrayal. About pride and prejudice. Etcetera, etcetera. Jones is your wife. She’s been out late again. Confront her. That’s all I’m looking for.”
Q vanished again and reappeared back in his seat.
Jones suddenly appeared on the stage.
“Where are we?” she asked confused.
“Oh, don’t make me go through this again!” Q moaned. “Morales, bring her up to date.”
“We’re doing a play,” Morales said unenthusiastically. “You’re my wife. You’ve come home late. I think we’re supposed to have a fight.”
“Where’s the script?” Jones asked.
“No script. Just wing it, Yeoman.”
“Yes, sir,” Jones said, unsure about the whole thing.
“Right. Is everybody ready?” Q called. “Good. Take it from Jones’s entrance. And, action!”
Jones walked out of the fake living room door, then right back in again.
“Honey, I’m home,” Jones said flatly.
“Where have you been?” Morales said, standing up from the blue and green plaid sofa.
“Uh…I don’t know!” Jones shouted finally. “I’m not good at making things up quickly!”
“Stop!” Q said. He appeared on stage with his arm around Jones’s shoulder. “This just isn’t working out the way I’d hoped.” He fell silent and paced the stage a few times.
“Got it!” he said after a few moments. “You need motivation to understand your characters. Walter, buddy, you’re a good man, hard-working, caring, sensitive. A real Q’s Q. That all came crashing down when she…” Q pointed at Jones accusingly. “When she entered your life! She caught your heart, then ripped it still beating from your chest and tossed it into the nearest black hole like some worthless piece of space flotsam!”
“And you!” Q shouted, stalking over to Jones. “You are a cold, heartless, evil being who enjoys seducing warm, caring souls then leaving them just when they fall for you, you horrible, uncaring bitch! I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!”
Q fell to the stage floor and began sobbing like a big, omnipotent, baby.
“Q,” Jones said, leaning down and patting his head. “You have some issues that we really need to discuss.”
Finding every passage to the upper decks either locked or blocked off by the continually rising waters of the Atlantic, Bradley and Leximas were finding their hopes of survival dwindling fast. Especially since the Grecin could be on them at any time.
Since the kitchen and dining area had offered the most items to use as barricades, Bradley and Leximas blockaded themselves in there, hoping that the Grecin would not find them before they found some way through the gate the cook had locked earlier.
“I said it before, and I’ll say it again. I could really use a phaser right now,” Bradley said, examining the lock.
“I shall begin meditation,” Leximas said, sitting down cross- legged on the floor in front of the gate. “With luck, I can achieve the concentration necessary to open the lock before we are killed.”
“That’s comforting,” Bradley said. The idea of sitting there doing nothing while Leximas went into a trance screamed against his sense of danger. He had to do something…or at least try to do something.
Bradley headed back into the kitchen and rummaged through the utensils until he found what he was looking for. Forget meditation and all that guru crap. He had his own skills that could get them out of this mess. Breaking a few lengths of stiff metal wire off of a whisk, he went to attack the lock.
“You are standing in my aura,” Leximas said, as Bradley knelt down to work.
“Sorry,” Bradley said distractedly as he inserted two lengths of the whisk head into the lock. It’d been a long time since he’d had to pick a lock this primitive, but the method came flowing back to him quickly. You never forget the basics.
“Mister Dillon, if you wish us to get out of here, please allow me to concentrate,” Leximas said more forcefully. Ignoring her, Bradley turned the wires and heard a satisfying click of the lock opening.
“No need,” he said, pulling the gate open. “I’ve got it under control.”
“Once again, your various abilities surprise me,” Leximas said, standing up and straightening her robe.
“Please. No adulation is necessary,” Bradley said, gesturing for her to head up the stairs toward Second Class. Once they were both through, Bradley closed and locked the gate. No need to make things any easier on the Grecin than they had to.
The Second Class kitchen was also deserted, but, in their hurry to leave, the cooks had neglected to lock the gate leading up to First Class.
“Finally something’s going our way,” Bradley said, continuing on up the stairs. Just as an additional precaution, he shut the gate from Second to First class.
Bradley and Leximas found themselves in the First Class kitchen, an immense room of glistening pots, huge ovens, and fine dishes. The Titanic buff in Bradley would have loved to be able to take just a few of the dishes back to Waystation with him, but this was not the time or place to be scavenging for souvenirs.
He led Leximas out of the kitchen and into the First Class dining salon. This room was also deserted except for a huddled group of Steerage passengers looking around the room with awe.
“Would you look at this place?” a large, gruff man said indignantly. “And they have the nerve to tell us they’re short of potatoes for our suppers.”
“It’s a bloomin’ king’s ransom,” a young woman said softly.
“And it’s all going straight to the bottom of the ocean,” Bradley said. “None of you have time for this. Get moving!”
“Just who do you think you are?” the large man said, walking over to Bradley angrily. He was stocky, but obviously powerful. An ill-trimmed black mustache and beard covered most of his worn face.
“Your cruise director,” Bradley said quickly. “The next stop on your trip is a lifeboat. Let’s go.”
“Now, Bull, calm down,” a large matronly woman, who Bradley assumed was Bull’s wife said soothingly.
“Why you little…” Bull began, raising his fist to Bradley. Obviously, he hadn’t calmed down at all.
A loud crash followed by the squeal of metal being twisted cut Bull off. Another, much closer, crash quickly followed it.
“Saints preserve us!” Bull shouted, fearfully gazing upon something that had entered behind Bradley and Leximas.
“Is there a large, drooling, orange thing in the room?” Bradley said, not wanting to turn around. Bull nodded, clearly frightened out of his wits.
“RUN!” Bradley screamed. The Steerage passengers, Bradley, and Leximas all scattered as the Grecin charged into the dining room. They were all just able to get out of the room and slam the door shut before the Grecin got to them.
“Head to the boat deck!” Bradley said, practically dragging Leximas toward the doors leading to the lifeboats.
“No need to repeat that, sir,” Bull said, moving incredibly fast considering his bulk. “So much for our luck improving,” Leximas said.
When the turbolift doors opened into ops, Russell almost stepped right out to find Porter. The sight of five armed marines and Colonel Lazlo stopped him in his tracks.
“Starfleet!” one of the marines shouted, spotting Russell.
“Get him!” Lazlo ordered. All of the marines raised their weapons to fire.
“Computer, emergency close,” Russell said quickly. The turbolift doors whooshed shut just before several stun blasts slammed into them. “Rec deck. Rapid descent.” Russell said, his security officer instincts taking over.
Logically, Lazlo would order the turbolifts to shut down. Russell wanted to be as far down the station as he could before that happened. As the turbolift dropped, he started trying to open the emergency hatch at the top of the lift.
“Russell to Porter.” No response. He hoped Karyna hadn’t snatched Porter too.
“Computer, where is Lieutenant Porter.”
“Lieutenant Porter is in Holding Cell B.”
“That is what I just said,” the computer replied.
“That was Lieutenant Russell,” Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal said once the marines had stopped shooting. “If he’s back…”
“Computer, locate Commander Beck,” Lazlo said, cutting him off.
“Commander Beck is not on Waystation,” the computer replied.
“Thank God,” Lazlo said. He’d just gotten used to being in command; Beck returning would have ruined his whole day. “Now then, let’s take care of our pest. O’Neal, shut down Turbolift A7.”
By the time the turbolift finally stopped, Russell had the hatch open and was halfway onto the roof. The marines had slower reaction time than he had figured. The lift had already descended halfway down the connecting tunnel between the two saucers.
Russell pulled off his commbadge and tossed it down into the turbolift. Then, started the long climb back towards the mall level where his security office was located. He had to get Porter out of the brig, so they could come up with some plan to get Waystation back from Lazlo.
Just at the top of the connecting tunnel, Russell heard voices both above and below him. The marines had figured out he was no longer in the turbolift. Well, he’d hoped that he’d be able to take the turbolift shaft all the way up, but that obviously wasn’t going to work.
Russell forced open the turbolift doors leading to the next deck and climbed out into the corridor. The drab paint job and bright, sterile lighting told him exactly where he was: the marine deck. Perfect. Just the place to be when being chased by marines. This whole situation was getting way out of hand.
Two marines walked around the corner right in front of him.
“Hi,” Russell said quickly. “How are you both?”
“Good. And you?” the first marine asked amicably.
“Attention all marines. Find and arrest Lieutenant Sean Russell,” Colonel Lazlo’s voice barked suddenly over the comm system.
“I hate you, Lazlo,” Russell muttered as the two marines went for their weapons. Russell dove at the lead one, slamming him into a wall and wrestling for his weapon. He managed to get enough control of it to stun the other marine before she could fire at him. Smashing his elbow into the first marines face, Russell wrenched his phaser away from him and ran down the corridor.
“Copeland to ops,” he heard the marine gasp behind him. “He’s on marine level.”
Great. This deck would be swarming with marines in a matter of minutes. He needed a way out and fast.
Running down the corridor, he passed Lazlo’s office where Sergeant Rick Kyle was packing up the colonel’s belongings. Russell ran inside and grabbed Kyle from behind, pressing his stolen phaser against the surprised sergeant’s head.
“Don’t make me kill you,” Russell said harshly.
“You don’t have to be so rough,” Kyle said indignantly as Russell led him out into the corridor. Several more marines were just arriving, but froze when they saw Russell had their colleague hostage.
“Stay back!” Russell said, moving toward another turbolift entrance. “We’re just going for a little trip.”
Russell ordered the lift to take them to Starfleet Square Mall. Once there, he pushed Kyle toward the security office. Marines began pouring out of every turbolift, forming a wall of weapons behind Russell and his prisoner.
“Status report!” Lazlo’s voice shouted.
“He’s got me!” Kyle wailed.
“Shoot them both,” Lazlo ordered. Russell pushed Kyle toward the marines and dove for the security office just as Kyle was blasted by about twenty stun bolts.
“Ow,” Kyle said softly, then collapsed to the deck.
Russell ran into the security office then back to the cell block just ahead of a large group of marines. Porter and Nelson leapt out of their bunks as he entered.
“I made it, guys!” Russell said jubilantly, not noticing the marines charging in behind him.
“Oh goody,” Porter said sarcastically.
“What?” Russell stammered.
“You’re under arrest,” a marine said from behind him.
Lisa Beck looked out upon the vast undulating orange ocean stretched out before her. A casual visitor unaware of the true nature of the sea would have said that the water seemed more like goo than anything else. They would have been right about the goo comment, but this ocean was not water. It was the Great Link of the Founders of the Dominion, rulers of a vast empire that had time after time threatened the safety of the Federation.
“Yo! Founders! Get your asses up here!” Beck shouted. Beside her, Karyna smiled broadly. She was so proud of her protégé. This was exactly the sort of thing Beck needed to do to realize the full potential of her powers.
A bit of the goo rose up and gradually assumed female humanoid form. The figure then walked out onto the shore to Beck.
“You do not belong here, solid,” the Founder said gravely. “You will die for this trespass.” Several Jem’Hadar warriors appeared from out of nowhere. Beck snapped her fingers, vaporizing them all instantly.
“Try and stop me, you gelatinous bitch,” Beck said. “Now then, I said I wanted all of you Founders.” She snapped her fingers again. In a flash, the Great Link vanished, replaced by thousands of humanoid Founders.
“I’m glad you all could make it,” Beck continued. “Let’s have a little chat, shall we?”
“We have nothing to say to you,” the lead Founder said.
“Then, I’ll talk. It’s come to my attention that you disgusting blobs of ooze enjoy pushing around other races. I think it’s time to teach you all a lesson.”
“A lesson?” the female said, starting to laugh. “What could you possibly teach us?”
“The true meaning of solid,” Beck said, an evil smile crossing her lips. She snapped her fingers, instantly transforming the entire Link into a vast forest of white stone statues.
Each Founder now had the look of a Roman statue complete with heroic pose and no clothing.
“Now, I want you to sit here and think about what you’ve done,” Beck said to her silent audience. “See you later.”
Beck and Karyna walked away from the frozen Founders.
“You’ve just destroyed an entire race,” Karyna said beaming with pride.
“No,” Beck said. “They’ll revert to normal in a couple of days with no memory that this ever happened. I don’t want to put the Federation in danger of retaliation from the Dominion. This was just for me…and I loved it.”
“It’s a start,” Karyna said just before Beck snapped her fingers, whisking them away from the surface of the Founder’s planet. Beck was indulging herself now. Soon, Karyna knew, the seductive force of that power would totally consume Beck. She’d stop caring about the Federation or her pathetic friends. Then, she could truly join Karyna as her partner in pursuit of pleasure, a position that that small-minded Q just never could have. Q only wanted to sit in space and squander his wonderful gift. Beck understood now, though. She understood that power was meant to be indulged in for one’s personal pleasure. Very soon, everything else in her life would be meaningless.
Q lay on the stage floor sobbing like a big omnipotent baby. Actually, Jones figured omnipotent babies didn’t sob too much since they could get whatever they wanted just by snapping their fingers. Q, on the other hand, had obviously run into something, or more likely someone, he wanted that he couldn’t have. Jones decided it was time to get to the bottom of this, although she was pretty sure she already knew what the cause was. Omnipotent or no, Q still had feelings.
“Who was she?” Jones asked, leaning down and patting the crying demi-god on his blond head. Q looked up at her, his eyes red and wet from tears.
“How did you know?” he asked softly. Jones smiled and sat down beside Q, wrapping an arm around him.
“I’ve got three older brothers. Everyone of them turned into quivering blobs of goo after they got dumped by one of their girlfriends. It’s got to be a woman.”
“Karyna,” Q said, almost singing it. “She was a goddess. We had such times together until…until she left.”
“Why did she leave?” Morales asked, taking a seat on the sofa. Just what he wanted to listen to: a god’s girl trouble. This could turn into a really long day.
“I don’t know. We were so happy here. She seemed to understand me.”
“What did you do for her?” Jones asked.
“Come on, Q. Karyna’s a woman. She wants to go, get out, see the galaxy, get dressed up and party.”
“Yes. Did you spend all your time together at your place?”
“Well, yeah,” Q said sheepishly. “It’s not much, but…”
“But nothing. Did you even once take her out to dinner?”
“I don’t eat.”
“But she does! What about dancing? Or shopping? Or on a trip? You’re a Q, for god’s sake. You could have taken her anywhere in the cosmos. But did you?”
“Shut up! You men are all alike. No romance. No excitement. You should have shown that woman the universe. But no. You sat here with her doing what?”
“We linked our minds.”
“Exactly. That’s all you men think about: linking. Well, it’s great and all, but show us a good time first. Make us feel special. Give us a little present now and then just to let us know you remember we exist.”
“I gave her the power of the Q,” Q protested.
“Too little, too late obviously. She took that power and ran off to have fun.”
“Have fun. That’s exactly what she said she was going to do. Oh, I’ve been so stupid! What do I do now?”
“Get her back,” Morales said, picking up on Jones’s thread. “You’ve got to show that woman how much she means to you… before she finds somebody else.”
“Where is she now?” Jones said.
“Last I checked, she was pestering some humans,” Q said.
“Humans?” Morales asked in alarm. “Where?”
“Some puny space station.”
“Waystation!” Morales and Jones shouted.
“Let’s go!” Jones said, pulling Q to his feet. “Do the magic thingy and get us there?”
“The magic thingy?” Q said disdainfully, straightening his shirt. “What I do is a complex interaction of matter and…”
“Whatever,” Jones interrupted. “You’ve got a woman to pursue.”
“And could you bring along our runabout?” Morales asked. Q glared at him, then waved his hand causing them all, and Morales hoped the runabout too, to head to Waystation.
Bradley and Leximas ran out onto the boat deck and were immediately blasted by the cold Atlantic night air. The ship’s condition was worse than Bradley had thought. Somehow the slanting of the deck seemed more magnified outside. He checked the pocket watch he had swiped back in steerage. 1:45. How had it gotten that late? In mere minutes, the entire ship would be gone. They had to get on a lifeboat and fast. Hopefully, the Grecin would stay below long enough for them to accomplish that goal.
“There is a boat over there,” Leximas said, pointing to where a long, white lifeboat was loading. The scene was chaos. Men and women pushing toward the small craft as the Titanic’s officers shouted for calm and order.
In the background, Bradley could hear the ship’s band playing “Nearer My God to Thee.” The scene he’d witnessed in half a dozen old movies and read about in countless books was right there before him. He was a part of those fateful events in April 1912. Now that he was here, though, the scene just didn’t have a lot of allure for him. Mainly, he wanted off the boat, preferably back to his nice safe bed on Waystation.
Bradley was pulled out of his thoughts by a couple of familiar voices. Just a little ways down the boat deck, Bradley saw the two stewards from steerage who had locked them in the lounge.
“Hell of a night,” one of them said casually.
“Yeah,” the other replied. “Wish I had my watch, though. My father gave me that watch.”
“You’ll have to swim down there to get it.”
They were silent for a few moments.
“Did you ever find them Norwegians or whatever they were?” the first steward said finally. The other steward smacked his hand to his forehead.
“Those chaps! I clean forgot about them. I rounded them up and locked them in the stern gathering room to keep them out of the way until we figured out what was going on.”
“Bad luck for them.”
Leximas grabbed Bradley to keep him from attacking the two stewards.
“Bad luck!” he spat. “Those bastards! After what we went through to save those people.”
“Perhaps we were just not meant to interfere with history,” Leximas said calmly. “Or perhaps our intervention is a part of that recorded history already.”
“Would you shut up with all your calm and sage f***ing advice!” Bradley shouted, turning on her. “All you’ve done since this mess started is spout little nuggets of philosophy and wisdom! I’m going to die here! Because of you!”
“Earlier you said that you did not blame me for…”
“I lied! You’re the one who pissed off a god, so she dumped us here to die.”
“Karyna is not a god.”
“I don’t care! The point is she sent us here because she was mad at you. Now, I’ve got to save your damn life before it’s too late.” Bradley grabbed her wrist and practically dragged her toward the life boat.
“Any more women?” the boat officer was shouting, preparing to lower the lifeboat.
“Here,” Bradley called out, pushing through the gathered crowd of men with Leximas.
“Into the boat, madam,” the officer said. Leximas stared at Bradley.
“I do not understand,” she said.
“It’s women and children first,” Bradley said. “You’ve got to go now.”
“But you will die here alone.”
“Most likely,” Bradley said. He forced a smile. “But I’ve dreamed about this ship my entire life. Somehow it’s appropriate that I go down with her.”
“I cannot allow you to do this,” Leximas said. With one quick motion, Bradley scooped her small, elfish body up and set her in the lifeboat.
“I already did,” Bradley said. “Lower away.”
“Lower away!” the officer shouted. Two deckhands turned the cranks to lower the lifeboat towards the icy Atlantic. Leximas fixed her gaze on Bradley the entire way down.
“I see she meant a lot to you,” a man said from beside him. Bradley turned to him. He was tall, older, and dressed in a tuxedo. Bradley knew him on sight. The holodeck had done a remarkable job in recreating him. Now, Bradley was meeting John Jacob Astor in real life.
“We’re friends,” Bradley said. “One of the few I’ve got.”
“Did you want to be more?” Astor asked as the crowd dispersed.
“Not to be rude, Mister Astor, but we’re on a sinking ship. Is this really the time to be discussing my love life?”
“Is there going to be any other time?” Astor replied. He put his arm on Bradley’s shoulder and steered him over to the deck house. They didn’t go inside, but stood close to the wall, sheltered from the wind.
“I don’t think I wanted more,” Bradley said. “I’ve led a real good life and seen things you can only dream of. I’m just glad we got a chance to be friends before this happened.”
“No regrets then. That’s good. I just sent my wife away. She’s pregnant. I do have some regrets that I’ll never see that boy.”
“How do you know it’s a boy?”
“I’m John Jacob Astor, and I say it’s a boy.”
“Good enough, sir,” Bradley said. “Well, it was good talking to you.” Bradley turned to walk away, then thought better of it. Leximas said he couldn’t change the future, but he had to try in this instance.
“Mister Astor, don’t ask me how I know this, but very soon you’re going to be killed by that smokestack,” Bradley said, pointing up at the smokestack that was destined to fall and crush Astor. “Stay away from it. Get to the stern of the ship.”
Astor smiled and put his arm on Bradley’s shoulder again.
“All right, my boy,” he said. “I don’t want to meet my maker in that condition.”
Suddenly, Astor’s head was sliced off by several razor-sharp claws belonging to the Grecin. Astor’s body collapsed to the deck, revealing the very angry-looking creature standing behind him. Bradley had no idea how a monster that big had snuck up behind Astor unnoticed, and frankly, he was too frightened to care.
“Give me Leximas!” the creature shouted angrily, its horrible eyes boring into Bradley.
“So, Captain Amazing, what’s the plan now?” Dr. Nelson said, glaring at Russell. Thankfully, she was in a different cell than he was, otherwise he was sure she would have slapped him silly. He’d taken enough abuse from Commander Beck already today to last him for a while. Besides, he did have a plan. And a pretty damn good one too.
“Lay off of him,” Porter said. “Something will turn up. It always does.”
“Don’t worry,” Russell said. “I’ve got it all taken care of.”
“You called the cavalry?” Porter asked.
“Nope. We’re the cavalry. Computer, initiate Russell Help Protocol One.” The force fields imprisoning them suddenly flashed out of existence.
“What do you think of that?” Russell said smugly.
“Good trick,” Porter said.
“Thanks. I programmed it after that little mess with my security computer…just in case I should ever get locked in the brig again.”
“Mark this day on your calendars, boys and girls,” Nelson said. “Sean Russell had his first intelligent idea.”
“Later, you two,” Porter said. “I love smart ass remarks as much as the next guy, but we’ve got a station full of armed marines to take out.”
“Dinner and an ass-kicking. Sounds like a great date to me,” Nelson said. “I don’t suppose either of you geniuses have any idea how we should proceed.”
“I sure do,” Russell said. “Unless I miss my guess, most of the marines should still be in the mall.”
“Watch this. Computer, activate intruder neutralization procedure in Starfleet Square.”
“Access to this program is denied. All command functions have been rerouted to ops.”
“I guess you should have made your own personal program to do that, too,” Porter said.
“I will as soon as this is over,” Russell said. “Until then, we’ll have to move to Plan B.”
“What’s Plan B?” Nelson asked, not sure that she wanted to know. Russell just smiled.
A couple of minutes later, armed with a few phasers from the security office, they were in a jefferies tube running through the ceiling above the mall. Russell had pried open an access panel and was fiddling with a canister of anesthezine gas.
“I don’t think you should be doing this,” Nelson said, checking her gas mask again, just to make sure she had it on tight.
“Don’t worry,” Russell said. “I’m trained to do this.”
“That’s never helped you in the past.”
“Ooh, good one,” Porter said. “I wish I’d thought of it.”
“Thank you,” Nelson said.
“I’m all set,” Russell said finally. “Open the hatch.”
Porter pulled open a panel in the floor of the jefferies tube allowing them to look into Starfleet Square Mall. Sure enough, most of the Federation Marines were still there, gathered in the food court enjoying some cafe lattes, which seemed to be the marine corps’ drink of choice on Waystation.
Russell lugged the anesthezine canister over to the hatch and opened the valve.
“Good night, fellas,” he said softly. The gas hissed out of it’s container, seeping into the air below. At the high concentrations Russell was pumping in, the marines would be out cold in seconds.
A few seconds later, nothing had happened.
“Sean, what’s going on?” Nelson said.
Suddenly, everyone in the mall froze, their eyes widening in mad terror. Coffee cups smashed to the floor as the marines started screaming.
“I WILL SMITE THEE!”
The marines dove for their rifles as the civilians grabbed whatever loose objects they could possibly use for weapons.
“Anesthezine isn’t supposed to do this,” Russell said confused.
Starfleet Square Mall erupted in a violent free-for-all. Everyone seemed convinced that every other person down there was out to kill them.
Russell, Nelson, and Porter watched stupefied as the marines blasted each other into unconsciousness. Luckily, none of them had the sense to set their weapons above stun. The entire staff of waiters and cooks from the Andorian restaurant poured out into the mall brandishing bizarre cooking utensils and bits of raw animal. Phaser blasts and food bits flew around the mall at a frantic pace.
“Give me this,” Porter said, grabbing the can away from Russell. He turned the can over and looked at the bottom.
“This stuff’s expired!” Porter said. Nelson looked over his shoulder.
“Use by Stardate 47988.”
“So?” Russell demanded.
“So look!” Nelson said, pointing at the madness below.
“On the bright side, most of the marines are taken care of,” Porter said. “Let’s get to Ops and finish this. I’m in the mood to repay Lazlo for his earlier kindness to me.”
Dr. Nelson checked the power setting on her phaser and holstered it.
“Yeah, I’ve got a few kindnesses to repay myself.”
In the dark, unexplored void of the Delta Quadrant, a Borg cube unexpectedly collided with a solid object. The collective mind running the ship was confused. Sensors had not shown anything. There should be nothing there. This was out of the ordinary.
The Borg checked their sensors, comparing the mysterious object to all known items in the collective mind. They determined it to be a foot, a very very large foot. Further scans noted that the foot was attached to an equally large leg, which was attached to an equally large thigh, and so on. A hand grabbed the cube and lifted it up in front of a very large pair of eyes.
Evidently, they had hit a being of some sort. Since it was unknown, the collective demanded it be assimilated.
“We are the Borg. We will assimilate you and combine your biological uniqueness with our own.”
From nowhere and everywhere came the reply.
“Nah, I don’t think so.”
The being let go of the cube, and it began to fall. This confused the Borg since there was no gravity in space. Before they had too much time to ponder, their fall was abruptly ended by a collision from the foot, sending them flying away out of control.
The collective tried to find an adaptive defense to the drop kick as they hurtled away from the being, but the cube landed in a sun and was obliterated before they got much beyond “Damn, that was a big foot.”
“This is getting dull,” the giant Lisa Beck said, sitting down on a nearby asteroid. Karyna, still her normal size, stood on Beck’s shoulder listening to her pupil. “There’s just not a lot of satisfaction in destroying cube after cube. I mean, when you’ve seen one Borg, you’ve seen them all. That’s kind of the point.”
“Maybe you should go after someone more personally aggravating.”
“I’ve already done everything to Sean Russell I want to,” Beck said. Funny, somehow the name meant less to her now. He was just a name, a being she encountered. Serving together on the Secondprize and Waystation seemed to be in another life.
“Isn’t there anyone else?” Karyna asked.
“No one I hold a grudge with,” Beck said.
“What about someone doing something to you now?”
“How would I know that?”
Karyna laughed. “Just reach out with your mind and look.”
Beck closed her eyes and concentrated. Everything that everyone she ever knew was doing right at that moment appeared before her. Amazingly to her, she had no trouble keeping it all straight. All of it flickered away, though, as she focused in on one man: Colonel Martin Lazlo.
“That power hungry bastard,” Beck said softly.
“I see we’ve found someone,” Karyna said.
“Oh yes,” Beck said, opening her eyes. Karyna was almost taken aback by the dark look in them. “And he is going to pay very, very dearly for this one.” She snapped her fingers, sending them both towards Waystation.
Bradley looked down at John Jacob Astor’s decapitated corpse on the deck in front of him, then back up at the Grecin.
“Leximas!” it growled. Bradley quickly considered how to handle this situation. If he told the Grecin that Lexi was gone, it might kill him and chase the lifeboat, putting more people in danger. If he did nothing, it would kill him, then continue searching the ship, hopefully going down with the Titanic before it realized Leximas wasn’t on board. Or, there was Plan C. He knew he couldn’t change history, but perhaps he could make history work for him.
“She’s on the bridge,” Bradley said quickly, pointing down the deck toward the rising water.
“Bridge?” the Grecin asked, scratching its head in confusion.
“Yeah, down the deck. Last door on the right. You can’t miss it.” Bradley put his hands on the Grecin’s shoulders and spun him around in the right direction. “Now, remember, last door on the right.”
“Okay.” The Grecin lumbered off down the deck towards the bridge. Bradley watched him go, desperately hoping he’d timed this right. Once it got to the water, the Grecin stopped and turned back to Bradley.
“Last door under water!” it shouted.
“Don’t worry! She can hold her breath a really long time!” Bradley looked up above the Grecin. He was perfectly positioned.
The thunderous roar of buckling metal filled the air suddenly as Smokestack Number Two gave way and came crashing down towards the deck. The Grecin was about to say something else to Bradley but was silenced by several thousand tons of falling metal.
“That ought to hold you,” Bradley said smugly, wiping is hands of the whole affair. Now, he just had to find a way off of the ship before it was too late.
He watched the deckhands lowering another lifeboat, then checked his watch. 2:00. Twenty minutes until the end. That would be the last of the lifeboats to leave the Titanic in anything resembling an orderly fashion. His only hope now was one of the two collapsible lifeboats that the officers were trying to free from the roof of the officers’ quarters. One of these, Collapsible B, would overturn, leaving men clinging to its upside-down hull until they were rescued. The other, Collapsible A, would be washed off the ship as it sank, flooding the little lifeboat with water, but not enough to make it go down along with the Titanic.
Thinking about it, he couldn’t go to Collapsible B. If he took a position clinging to that lifeboat, another person who was supposed to survive the disaster may die. Collapsible A was riskier, but the best option considering the circumstances.
Out in her lifeboat, Leximas blocked out all that was going on around her. Concentration and inner peace were required at this time. She closed her eyes and began to chant softly to herself a little mantra that her teacher had given her for times of crisis.
Several minutes later, her arm was shaken by the woman sitting next to her.
“You alive there?”
“I am,” Leximas said without opening her eyes. Peace was attained; all was now possible.
“You’re about to miss the show, dearie.”
Leximas opened her eyes slowly and looked over at the Titanic, although she did not really need to. In her mind, she could see the vessel and everyone on board more clearly than her eyes could.
“I must go,” Leximas said.
“Go where?” the woman said with a humorless laugh. “There’s nowhere to go out here.”
In response to the woman’s comment, Leximas levitated up out of the lifeboat and floated back towards the Titanic.
“Then again…”. She pulled a flask out from under her shawl and took a swig of whiskey to clear her head. The cold air obviously had gotten her hallucinating.
Bradley climbed up to the top of the deckhouse and made his way towards Collapsible A, where several officers were desperately trying to free the boat before water swamped them. They weren’t having much luck, and the water was already splashing into the small lifeboat. Bradley raced over and set to work helping them. The icy Atlantic water nearly knocked him overboard as the first wave slammed into him. Bitter cold seeped through his clothes tormenting his skin. If he had any romantic illusions left about the Titanic sinking, that wave destroyed them.
“There she goes, lads!” the officer nominally in charge of the boat shouted. The boat slipped into the water just as the deck sunk away beneath their feet. Bradley was about to leap into the boat when a muscled hand grabbed him from behind and yanked him back onto the Titanic. The Grecin had him and was running toward the stern of the ship with Bradley tucked under its right arm.
“Give me Leximas now!” it shouted. Bradley looked around at his captor. The Grecin was missing its left arm and otherwise looked beat to total hell. The thing was damn persistent, though.
“Put me down first,” Bradley said. The ship was sinking faster now, and the Grecin was having to work harder to run uphill against the slanting vessel.
“No down! Leximas or die!”
“We’re both going to die if we don’t get out of here.”
“Grecin not die without Leximas.”
This conversation wasn’t getting him anywhere. As the Grecin ran up the deck, Bradley reached out with his free hand trying to grab some debris or anything he could use. A bit of piping that had come loose and was hanging from a ventilator shaft finally presented Bradley with an opportunity. He grabbed the pipe and slammed it into the Grecin’s already-battered kneecap. The Grecin howled in pain and dropped Bradley. Bradley scrambled to his feet and jabbed the pipe into the gaping hole where the creature’s left arm used to be. Not taking the time to see the results of his attack, Bradley pulled the pipe back out and sprinted towards the stern, stopping at the edge of the deck house. It was a long way back down to the deck; Bradley was sure if he jumped that he’d break something or seriously hurt one of the hundreds of people clamoring towards the stern in a futile attempt to avoid the advancing water.
Behind him, he could hear the Grecin charging. If Bradley jumped, the Grecin would jump, too, and start massacring the people below. They were all going to die anyway, but Bradley didn’t want them ripped limb from limb.
He turned to face the Grecin, raising his already-bloody pipe into the air.
“Stay back!” Bradley shouted.
“You can’t get her. She’s far away from here now.”
“Then you die for helping her.”
“I thought you were only supposed to kill your target.”
“Or anyone who gets in the way of target,” the Grecin said, grinning hideously with it’s pointed and mangled teeth. It started moving towards Bradley again. Bradley aimed the pipe and tested its weight again. He only had one shot at this.
The Grecin took two more steps, then Bradley threw the pipe. It flew straight into its target, piercing the Grecin through its left eye and lodging in what little brain the creature had. The Grecin staggered backwards, letting out the most agonized cry of pain Bradley had ever heard. Furious, it ripped the pipe out of its head and tossed it off the ship.
“Die,” it said weakly, hobbling toward Bradley. It weaved around like a drunk as it tried to get to its intending victim. Bradley backed up right to the edge of the deck. The Grecin was almost right on him. The monster may have been on the edge of death, but it was probably going to take Bradley with him.
Bradley felt two hands grab him under his arms and suddenly hoist him off the deckhouse just as the Grecin made its final charge. The creature plowed right through the empty air where Bradley had been a moment before and plunged toward the deck below.
A spontaneous hole opened up in the panicked crowd on the deck just at the spot where the Grecin was falling. It hit the deck, then was trampled as the hole closed just as spontaneously as it had opened.
“No Leximas,” the creature gasped, then died as yet another booted foot kicked it in the head.
“I am pleased I was not too late,” Leximas said, lifting Bradley a bit higher into the air. Below them, the Titanic tilted almost straight up, then made its final descent beneath the waves, carrying 1,500 unfortunates and one Grecin to their deaths.
“Your timing was perfect, actually,” Bradley said. “Very dramatic.”
“Thank you. And now that we have defeated Karyna’s plan for our demise, we must return to Waystation to end this madness.”
“If you’ve got any ideas, I’d love to hear them,” Bradley said. The Atlantic had covered over the Titanic, leaving only watery blackness beneath them. “They don’t have spaceflight or time travel yet.”
“This could present some difficulties,” Leximas said thoughtfully. Even with her great mental abilities and connections to the universe, she could not manipulate time and space sufficiently to return them home.
“Any other suggestions?” Bradley replied.
“Well, minus any means of transportation, my first suggestion is to find somewhere to land,” Leximas said. “You are quite heavy, Mister Dillon.”
“I prefer to think of it as a healthy build,” Bradley said, patting his stocky frame. “Not fat, just imposing.”
“I hear you. I hear you. Follow the lifeboats. The Carpathia will be arriving soon to rescue the survivors.”
“Ops to Starfleet Square. Report,” Lazlo ordered. Thus far, the responses from his marines had been incoherent.
“Get thee back to hell, demon!” a female voice screamed through the comm system.
“What the hell was that?” Lazlo said.
“Sounded like Corporal Sheppard,” Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal said from the tactical console.
“Find out what’s going on down there,” Lazlo said. O’Neal walked to the turbolift shaft and stepped inside thoroughly expecting there to be a car waiting for him.
A scream of surprise and alarm echoed through the shaft as O’Neal fell four stories down to the roof of a jammed turbolift and landed with a bone-crunching thud.
Lieutenant Porter, who had locked the turbolift down there and was in the process of trying to open the lift doors on the ops level, was also a bit surprised as O’Neal fell past him.
“Sorry about that,” Porter called down to him. Well, now that the doors were open, he could get to work on the whole business of retaking the station.
Porter dove through the turbolift doors, phaser drawn, and charged into ops. Russell and Nelson, who were on the shaft ladder just below the doors, scrambled up after him to provide back-up.
“Lazlo!” Porter shouted, aiming his weapon at Lazlo. Russell and Nelson jumped into ops and covered the three marines aiming rifles at Porter.
Lazlo whirled to face Porter, surprised at the newcomers. Then, a flash of white light to his left followed by the sudden appearance of Commander Beck and Karyna distracted his attention.
“LAZLO!” Beck shouted, her voice reverberating almost supernaturally throughout ops.
“Boy, Colonel, you’re becoming a popular guy,” Porter said smiling.
“I should disintegrate you slowly, atom by atom,” Beck said grabbing Lazlo by the collar and hoisting him into the air as if the large marine weighed nothing.
Another flash of light announcing the arrival of Q, Morales, and Jones interrupted Beck in mid-threat.
“Karyna, my love, I’ve come for you!” Q stated dramatically, going down on one knee.
“Oh goody,” Karyna said.
“Who is this?” Beck said.
“My ex,” Karyna said. “Go away, Q.”
“Can you put me down?” Lazlo gasped.
“No!” Beck shouted.
“Commander, are you all right?” Porter asked.
“She’s one of them,” Russell said.
“Should we shoot her, sir?” one of the marines asked.
“Yes,” Lazlo said.
“NO!” Beck, Porter, Nelson, Morales, Jones, and Russell shouted.
“Russell, put the marines under arrest,” Porter said.
“Hey, I’m security chief,” Lazlo said. Beck plopped him down on the deck roughly.
“Not anymore,” Beck said.
“Q, get to it,” Jones said.
“Are you guys okay?” Porter asked Morales and Jones.
“We’re fine,” Morales said. “Q’s just in love.”
“WOULD SOMEBODY TELL ME WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” Nelson screamed finally.
“Whose version would you like?” Karyna asked.
“We’re wasting time,” Beck said. Lazlo, who was trying to sneak toward the jefferies tube access hatch, suddenly found himself spread-eagled on a table in the middle of ops. Several mini-saw blades popped up at the edges of the table and started cutting their way towards his body.
“Let me go, Beck,” Lazlo shouted in a panic. “Marines, do something.”
The marines trained their rifles on Beck. Before they could fire, she snapped her fingers, causing the weapons to fly up into the air and stun the marines into unconsciousness.
“I can’t believe you gave her powers,” Q said to Karyna.
“She’s your replacement, Q. Get over it,” Karyna said.
“Replacement!” Morales, Jones, Porter, Russell, Lazlo, and Nelson shouted. The officers, except for Lazlo who was fastened down, surrounded Beck, demanding explanations and talking over each other in an incomprehensible babble. “You can’t go”
“What about Starfleet?”
“This is insane!”
“Let me off of this table first, damn you!”
“Don’t listen to Karyna. She’s nuts.”
“ENOUGH!” Karyna shouted above the din. She snapped her fingers; everyone except her, Q, and Beck found themselves encased in clear spheres and floating around ops.
Beck watched her crew and the marines bobbing around helplessly. She could see they were pounding on their floating prisons and shouting at her, but no sound could escape the bubble.
“Much better,” Karyna said. She turned on Q. “Now, to take care of my other annoyance.”
“Can they breathe in those things?” Beck asked, interrupting whatever Karyna had been about to do.
“Sure. Until the air runs out,” Karyna said smiling wickedly. “Watching them suffocate should be a kick.”
“I should never have granted you the gift of Q,” Q said, shaking his head sadly.
“You’re worried about these little maggots,” Karyna said. “They’re just the latest toys. We’ve already killed several Borg and, of course, my dear friend Leximas and her little companion.”
“Leximas?” Beck said. “What did you do with her and Bradley Dillon?”
“They had a boating accident a few hundred years ago,” Karyna snapped. “What does it matter?”
“This must end,” Q said.
“I don’t think so,” Karyna said, snapping her fingers.
Q vanished in a flash of light…
…then reappeared almost immediately.
“Don’t think your powers outstrip mine, my darling,” Q said, stalking over to her. With a wave of his hand, his black jumpsuit turned into a tuxedo with tails. “I know what you want.”
“To get away from you,” Karyna shouted. She snapped again. Nothing happened.
“You aren’t going anywhere,” Q said.
Karyna leapt at Q, slamming her hands against the sides of Q’s head and refusing to let go. Q staggered and fell back for a moment, then regained his balance and pushed back against Karyna. She screamed, but kept her hold on him. Energy crackled and flickered around their bodies as Karyna tried to destroy Q.
“Lisa,” Karyna gasped. “Help me!”
“Stay out of this, human,” Q said.
Beck took a step toward Karyna, ready to jump in to fight Q. Then, she stopped, looking around at her friends slowly dying in the bubbles floating around her. Karyna had done this to them. Not that Beck was much better. She’d been treating the universe like a toy. Karyna had completely seduced her with the idea of power and pleasure. Now, everyone was paying the price for her weakness. It couldn’t go on anymore. Despite what Karyna had shown her and given her, she was still Lisa Beck, a Starfleet officer.
Beck snapped her fingers, vaporizing the spheres. Her crew and the marines fell to the deck, gasping for air. Before Karyna could react to her protégé’s betrayal, Beck pushed her away from Q and slammed her into the viewscreen. Q fell backwards against the tactical console, trying to recover.
Karyna recovered quickly from Beck’s assault and attacked her, locking her hands on Beck’s head. Beck’s mind felt like it was being electrocuted. She tried to fight back with her powers, but the pain was too much for her. She collapsed to the deck as Karyna held on.
“We could have been so good together,” Karyna said softly. Beck heard the words and felt them in her mind. Karyna had completely invaded her being and was ripping her apart piece by piece, just as Beck had threatened to do to Lazlo moments earlier. Unable to take it anymore, Beck’s mind and body tried to shut down, but couldn’t. Karyna wouldn’t allow it.
“Oh no, you’re going to get to experience every bit of this,” Karyna’s voice echoed in her head.
Lieutenant Russell pulled himself to his feet, weak from lack of oxygen. Through the pain in his lungs and the pounding in his brain, he heard Beck scream. Forcing his head clear, he saw Karyna looming over Beck’s writhing body. If it weren’t for the fact that Beck was dying, Russell probably would have found the whole thing highly erotic. He started to charge.
Beck heard a faint shout from somewhere, then a collision. The pain suddenly stopped. Forcing her eyes open, she saw Russell tackling Karyna against the science console.
“Sean…no,” Beck whispered. Karyna would destroy him in a second.
“Get down, Sean!” Lieutenant Porter shouted. Russell dove to Karyna’s feet as Porter, Nelson, Morales, and Jones opened fire with their phasers. “Keep the frequencies modulating.” Porter knew it probably wouldn’t have any effect, but it would at least distract Karyna for a second.
Karyna turned toward her attackers as Russell scurried along the floor over to Beck. “Are you alright, Commander?” Russell asked. Beck smiled weakly. He could swear he saw her mouth, “I’m sorry.”
“I should have killed you all outright,” Karyna said, shrugging off the phaser assault. She raised her arm, preparing to end their lives. Suddenly, Q was behind her. He dipped her back and kissed her deeply on the lips.
“Let me go!” Karyna shouted, pushing Q away.
“Ah, my intemperant darling,” Q said. “You must come back to me. I have so much to show you, so many wonders to explore.”
“I’ll explore them alone, thank you.” She snapped her fingers. Nothing happened.
“I don’t think you’ll get very far,” Q said. Karyna snapped and snapped and snapped. Absolutely nothing was happening.
“My powers!” she wailed, realizing it was all over. She fell to the deck crying.
“I’ll get you something better,” Q said. The omnipotent being walked over to Beck and Russell and helped the commander to her feet. “Thank you for your interference,” Q said. “She’s a feisty one.”
“You’re welcome,” Beck said, barely holding herself upright. Q placed his hand on her forehead. All the pain and fatigue melted away.
“That should take care of things,” Q said. Beck snapped her fingers. Nothing happened. It was actually a relief. “My work here is done. I’ll be taking my lovely bride-to-be home now.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Karyna said picking herself up off the deck.
“This just is not getting us anywhere,” Q said. “Maybe if I put things another way.” With a wave of his hand, the lights in ops turned into multi-colored strobes. Q, the Waystation crew, and the marines were wearing purple-sequined tuxedos.
“What in the world?” Nelson exclaimed. Music started blaring through ops.
“Oh no,” Morales said. Involuntarily, his hips began to rock to the beat. The same force had overtaken the others as well.
“Please no. I can’t take this,” Lazlo said, his still unconscious marines dancing beside him.
“I get the feeling we don’t have a lot of choice,” Beck said.
“She catches on quick,” Q said. A microphone appeared in his hand as he turned back to Karyna.
I want you to know,
I’m crazy for you,
I won’t stop my quest,
Until you are mine.
“Come on, people. Don’t be shy,” Q said, waiving his hands at the crew. The song suddenly overtook their bodies.
“He’s got to be kidding,” Nelson said.
“What?” Russell said. “I kind of like it. What song is this?”
“I borrowed a hit from your planet’s library,” Q replied. “Alanis Morrisette is the singer’s name. I have, of course, taken a few liberties with the lyrics. Now, if we could get to the rest of the song please?
“Sorry,” Russell said.
“Thank you. Now, Mister Morales, Miss Jones, if you would be so kind?”
“We don’t know the words,” Morales said. Q smiled and waved his hand.
“Now you do.”
Q is a really cool guy;
He’s not a wimpy small fry.
All of the universe is his theater.
Q always knows how and why;
He’s just so smart you could cry.
Come live the life of an omnipotent creature.
And Karyna he wants you it is true don’t be blue because he wants you to be by his side.
Marines and Lazlo:
You should go!
And every time you see his face, you will know you are glad and not sad that you are his bride.
Marines and Lazlo:
Don’t say no!
‘Cause I’m here to romance you,
And convince you that you’re in love with me.
It’s no use to deny it.
To your heart, I’m the one that holds the key.
Q loves you so!
“What do you have to say?” Q said as the lights came back up.
“I used to be able to do that,” Karyna whined.
“She’s getting grumpy, I’m afraid,” Q said. “I better get her home to bed.”
“Wait!” Porter shouted. “Two of our people are still missing.”
“Karyna evidently did something to two of our colleagues,” Beck said to Q, pulling uncomfortably at the purple tux. “Could you try to find them for us?”
“Hold on.” Q stood silently for a moment, then started chuckling to himself. “Very nasty.”
“What?” Beck asked.
“Karyna put them on a sinking ship in your planet’s past hoping to kill them off. Your people were a bit too clever for her, though.”
“Can you bring them back?” Porter asked. Q stared at him a second, looking disgusted at the question.
“I am Q. Of course, I can bring them back.”
“Then, please do so,” Beck said. “And give us our uniforms back. These pants are giving me the mother of all wedgies.”
“Here you are, madam.” Q waved his hand in a broad, dramatic gesture, changing everyone’s clothes back to normal in a flash of light.
With another wave, two deck chairs holding Bradley Dillon and Leximas appeared in the middle of ops. They were bundled up in ratty clothes and blankets that read “S.S. Carpathia.” Each of them held a steaming mug of coffee. Surprised at the sudden scenery shift, Bradley tossed his mug into the air. It sailed across ops, landing on top of Karyna’s prone and sobbing form. She screamed and started pulling at her clothes to get the scalding liquid away from her skin.
“Sorry,” Bradley said, getting up out of his seat. He got a look at who he tossed the coffee on. “Never mind. I’m not sorry.”
“I am grateful to see all of you,” Leximas said, rising from her chair. “Mister Dillon and I were concerned that we were going to have to live out the rest of our lives in the distant past.”
“Q here was kind enough to rescue you,” Beck said, gesturing to Q, who bowed deeply.
“I am sorry that Karyna tried to kill you,” Q said. “It’s my fault really. I never should have given her those powers.”
“Shut up! All of you!” Karyna shouted. She had pulled herself together and was standing defiantly by the viewscreen. Leximas walked over to her former pupil, eying Karyna coldly.
“Greetings, Karyna,” Leximas said.
“How did you survive?” Karyna demanded flabbergasted.
“Teamwork,” Bradley called from behind Leximas.
“I am most unpleased with your behavior,” Leximas said. “I had hoped that time away from the Homeworld would show you the error of your hedonistic ways.”
“Wrong. They just set in more deeply,” Karyna said smiling. “I may have lost my powers, but I still have my way of life. You’re so pathetic with your so-called wisdom and damn inner peace. I tried to kill you, and the most your enlightened mind can come up with is ‘I am most unpleased.’ The Homeworld way is all you know. I’ve broadened my mind.”
“I too have learned from the cultures I’ve encountered,” Leximas said. “Humans especially.”
“And just what have you learned from the puny beings?”
Leximas hauled back and clobbered Karyna with a right cross, knocking Karyna’s smug self out cold.
“I found that extremely satisfying,” Leximas said.
“I’m so proud,” Bradley beamed.
“Well, if everyone’s finished harassing my beloved, I’ll be on my way,” Q said.
“Thanks for everything, Q,” Beck said, extending her hand. Instead of shaking it, Q kissed Beck’s hand softly.
“A pleasure, madam. Farewell.” Q waved his hand; he and Karyna vanished in a flash.
“Well, I’m glad that’s over,” Lazlo said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be returning to my office.” He headed towards the turbolift doors.
“Lazlo!” Beck said.
“Let him go, Commander,” Porter said, a smile tugging at his lips. Beck considered her science officer for a moment. “Trust me,” Porter said, eyes sparkling. Beck had known Craig Porter long enough to know he was up to something.
“Get out of here, Colonel,” Beck said.
“Thank you, Porter,” Lazlo said. “Nice to see you don’t hold a grudge.”
Lazlo walked into the turbolift…at least what he thought was going to be a turbolift. With a long scream, Lazlo plummetted down several decks smashing down on top of the stopped turbolift car next to Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal.
“Me? Hold a grudge? Never,” Porter said smiling.
Commander Lisa Beck sat at the head of the table in the ops conference room about to break several of the Starfleet regulations she was sworn to uphold. Considering the circumstances, though, it seemed like the best option. With her at the table sat Russell, Nelson, Lazlo, Morales, Jones, Bradley Dillon, and Leximas. Finally, Lieutenant Porter entered, completing the list.
“All surveillance equipment has been otherwise occupied,” Porter said, taking his seat at Beck’s left hand.
“Good,” Beck said. She leaned forward in her chair to address the group. “All right, as all of us know, the last couple days have been a bit out of the ordinary for us…for anyone, I imagine. In this time, most have us have done things that could have some negative repercussions on our careers.”
“No kidding,” Russell said.
“For you, Lieutenant, we have disobeying a direct order and exposing civilians to harmful substances just for starters. Mister Porter and Doctor Nelson have the same harmful substances charge along with Porter’s sabotage of the turbolifts. Yeoman Jones was drunk while on duty. Morales misplaced a runabout.”
“Q was supposed to bring it back,” Morales insisted.
“Well, he didn’t, and so far we haven’t been able to find it,” Beck said.
“Colonel Lazlo has mutiny, assault, and several other violations associated with the takeover of Waystation, any one of which could get him drummed out of the corps.”
“I’m taking you with me, Beck,” Lazlo spat angrily. “You’re far from innocent here.”
“Very true,” Beck said. “I’ve got my own list of crimes. Dereliction of duty, assault on a fellow officer, conduct unbecoming, accessory to attempted murder. I don’t think I need to go on.”
“Is there a point here?” Lazlo asked.
“Would you please shut up?” Bradley said.
“I agree, Colonel,” Leximas added. “And as civilians, we are immune to your barbaric yelling.”
“Thank you both,” Beck said. “Now then, Colonel Lazlo, my point is that I have decided to erase the last couple of days.”
“What do you mean erase?” Bradley said.
“We’re pressing the reset button, Mister Dillon,” Beck said. “As long as everyone in this room agrees, that is. This means that no charges will be filed, no reports will be sent to Starfleet, no log entries referring to these events will be made.”
“But the surveillance…” Russell began.
“…has been taken care of,” Porter finished.
“As far as I am concerned, things will go back to the way they were before any of this mess started,” Beck said. “Any objections?”
“Does this mean I get my job back?” Russell asked.
“Yes, Lieutenant. And if you keep performing like you did while I was gone, it won’t be in danger ever again.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Russell said.
“You’re really going to let me off that easy?” Lazlo asked.
“It depends on if you’re going to let me off easy,” Beck said.
“As tempting as it is to destroy you, Beck; it’s just not worth it.”
“Then we’re agreed?” Beck asked.
“I believe Mister Dillon would concur with me on this. We will not say anything if you don’t,” Leximas said.
“Hear hear,” Bradley said.
“I’d just rather forget the whole thing,” Nelson said.
“Ditto,” Morales said.
“It never happened,” Jones said.
“What are you talking about?” Porter said.
“Seems we’re unanimous,” Russell said.
The group quickly started to disperse.
“Russell, could you stay a second,” Beck said. Once everyone else was gone, she walked over to her security chief.
“Sean, I want to thank you for what you did for me,” Beck said. “You most likely saved all of our lives.”
“That’s what security chiefs do,” Russell said.
“I don’t think many security chiefs would charge headlong at an omnipotent being. But, I’m glad you did.”
“You were in danger,” Russell said. “I didn’t want anything to happen.”
“You’re a better friend than I am,” Beck said. “I don’t know how to begin to apologize for what I did to you. There was no reason…”
“I think Karyna and what she gave you was reason enough,” Russell said. “I don’t blame you. Besides, I’m the one who pissed you off in the first place. Karmic revenge, I guess.”
“Thanks, Sean,” Beck said. “Dismissed.”
“Well, that was one of the weirdest staff meetings I’ve ever been to,” Dr. Nelson said as she and Lieutenant Porter rode the turbolift towards the lower saucer.
“What meeting?” Porter said.
“Playing this one to the hilt, I see.”
“I don’t like to do things halfway. As far as I’m concerned, the last few days never happened.”
“Including asking me out, I assume,” Nelson said. For one of the few times in his life, Porter didn’t have a snappy comeback. He stared at the wall silently. “So much for my bedside manner.”
“Touchy subject,” Porter said.
“Would it help if I told you I changed my mind?” Nelson said. “As long as it’s understood that this is simply as friends.”
“Anything to pull you away from that research,” Porter said. “How about eighteen hundred at that new place that opened next to Bradley’s store, Victoria’s?”
“The old-style British pub place.”
“See you there.”
“I can’t come to your quarters to get you?”
“Don’t push your luck, Porter.”
Bradley walked Leximas back to her meditation alcove in Starfleet Square Mall even though he wasn’t sure that she wanted him there. She hadn’t spoken at all since they left ops.
“Thanks for coming along,” Bradley said once they’d reached the entrance.
“The experience was all you said it would be,” Leximas said.
“Well, I should go check on my shop. Make sure those rampaging marines didn’t do any damage.” Bradley turned to go.
“Bradley,” Leximas said. He was stunned by the sound of his first name. She never used it. “If you are free later, perhaps I could show you a holodeck program I have been working on.”
“What is it?”
“A mountain from my homeworld. I used to meditate at the summit.”
“That’s all we’re going to do? Meditate?”
“Sounds very relaxing,” Bradley said. “Just come and get me when you’re ready.”
“I will do that. Good evening, Mister Dillon.” He entered her alcove without another word. Bradley headed back to his shop feeling a lot less lonely than he had in years.
Lieutenant Commander Morales walked into his quarters ready to sleep for days. Unfortunately, his bed was occupied.
Laying on top of his covers, with a red bow wrapped around it, was the missing runabout, shrunk to six feet in length.
Q felt as though a whole new universe had been opened up to him. Thanks to Karyna, he was out exploring the cosmos, experiencing new sensations and reveling in them. Tina Jones had been right. No one wanted to mope around in some Q-created pocket dimension forever. Karyna needed to get out and see the wonders of space. And Q, acting as her guide, was enjoying their trips immensely. Now if only her could get Karyna to perk up. She’d seemed very depressed since their return from Waystation. She’d come around though.
She had to. Omnipotence was attractive, it was irresistible, it was…sexy.
Time had ceased to have any meaning for Karyna. Q had been yanking her around the universe to an endless series of parties, ceremonies, cosmic events, and spectacular views. She’d seen more places already than she could have in a lifetime of traveling on her own. Now if only she could get away from Q. He just couldn’t seem to take a hint. While she didn’t mind it in herself, omnipotence was really obnoxious in others.
“Time to go,” Q said.
“Not again,” Karyna replied. “We just got back from the firedancer planet.”
“Oh, but this is much better. Pofolos is about to go supernova. I can get us front row seats.”
“Yee haa. I’d rather stay here.”
“Would you prefer to link instead?”
“I’ve got a headache.”
“Fine. How about a dance?” He scooped Karyna up and started twirling her around the empty whiteness of the pocket dimension they called home. “What was the song you did for that human? Oh yes.”
I could have danced all night,
I could have danced all night,
And still have begged for more.
I could have spread my wings,
And done a thousand things,
I’ve never done before.