Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“News At Eleven”
By Alan Decker
“Hmm…nothing…nothing…ooh, that sounds nice…nothing.” Yeoman Tina Jones continued muttering to herself as she sat at her desk in the Liaison Office on the lower level of Starfleet Square Mall perusing the latest travel advisories to arrive over the Starfleet Data Network. As usual, there wasn’t much relating to Waystation’s sector, not that Jones was complaining. Sure the occasional supernova or rampaging alien fleet could be interesting every once in a while, but the last thing she wanted was that kind of stress every day. Not to worry, though. She could once again assure visitors to her office that the sights of the local region would be relatively danger-free.
Jones glanced at the chronometer display in the corner of her monitor. 1500 hours. If Captain Beck’s schedule held, she’d be comming Jones any minute now. She looked up from the computer and found herself staring into a very agitated and extremely pale white face.
“AHHHH!” Jones screamed, toppling backwards in her chair.
“Ohhhhh! I’m sorry, Tina Jones!” Hypple, Waystation’s lone Multek resident, exclaimed as he rushed to help the yeoman back to her feet. Hypple had arrived on Waystation a year earlier after he and another Multek, Wuddle, became convinced that, despite Multek doctrine, other species did exist in the universe. Through a convoluted series of events, Wuddle had actually ended up as the leader of the Multek Enclave and returned home. Hypple, however, remained on Waystation as part of a cultural exchange arranged by Frequoq Wuddle. The xenophobic nature of the Multek Enclave at large made it impossible for Wuddle to simply announce the existence of alien life, but, through Hypple, he hoped to learn enough about the ‘Federations’ to find a way to introduce the concept slowly to his people.
Wuddle also used his position as Frequoq to make occasional, secret visits to the station, which Jones had a feeling was the reason Hypple had made his unannounced appearance in her office.
“The Frequoq is still here, isn’t he?” Hypple asked eagerly. “I haven’t missed him, have I?”
“Wuddle is not going to leave without seeing you,” Jones said soothingly. Since his arrival on the station, Hypple had basically been Yeoman Jones’s responsibility. She’d helped him get settled into his new quarters, set him up with various holovids about the Federation, and convinced Lieutenant Commander Porter to take him on in the science department, which Hypple found fascinating. The other side of the responsibility, though, was acting as Hypple’s de facto counselor in the times when the excitable Multek started to come unhinged, which now seemed to happen more and more now that Wuddle had another reason to visit the station.
“I wonder sometimes,” Hypple groused. “The only person he comes to see anymore is Doctor Nelson.”
“Yes, he has seen her this trip, but he’s meeting with Captain Beck right now,” Jones continued. “I’m expecting her to comm shortly signaling that he’s waiting to see you.”
“Okay…is that how you say it? Okay?”
“Good. I always want to say olay for some reason. Okay. I’ll wait. Mind if I turn on the holovision? I heard that AWN finally got some shows,” Hypple said, heading over to the small lounge area at the side of the Liaison Office.
AWN, or the Associated Worlds Network, had just set up shop on Waystation within the last two weeks in an attempt to horn their way into the holovision business already dominated by UFPN and Krinokor. Waystation, AWN’s owners hoped, would provide two key things: cheap space for their studios and a location on the edge of adventure. At least they got the cheap space part right.
Jones soon heard an unbelievable amount of thudding and scraping coming from the direction of the lounge area. Hypple was engrossed in the program in question, which seemed to be showing a bunch of rocks tumbling together.
“That’s a show?” Jones asked.
“Sports,” Hypple replied distractedly. “AWN bought the rights to air the HFL.”
“Horta Football League. Isn’t football an Earth game?”
“Was,” Jones said. “But there are a few humans trying to bring it back from what I’ve heard.”
“Beck to Yeoman Jones,” the comm system interrupted.
“Yes, Captain?” Jones said.
“Are you trapped in an avalanche?”
“Hypple is watching Horta football.”
She heard Beck chuckle. “I guess I don’t need to mention that Hortas don’t have feet.”
“I don’t think Hypple cares.”
“Well, ask him if he cares about seeing Frequoq Wuddle. He’s just about ready to head back to the Enclave.”
The holovision abruptly shut off as Hypple leapt out of his seat. “I think we’ll be right there,” Jones said bemused.
Yeoman Jones and Hypple headed to Docking Bay Eight, one of the station’s smallest, and thus least used, docking bays where Frequoq Wuddle’s private ship was being stored. While Wuddle’s visits were not a classified event as such, Captain Beck did her best to keep them low key, so that Wuddle would not be bothered by people just itching to try to expand their business interests into Multek space. Several months ago, Bradley Dillon had invited Wuddle to a meal at Dillon’s Restaurant inside the Starfleet Suites Hotel, which turned out to be little more than a sales presentation for Dillon Enterprises. Since then, Beck did her best to spare Wuddle from such intrusions. His burgeoning relationship with Amedon Nelson had made this much easier, though. No one was willing to risk pissing off Nelson.
Frequoq Wuddle soon entered the docking bay flanked by Captain Lisa Beck and Doctor Nelson. Upon seeing his leader, Hypple’s face lit up.
“Your Frequoqness,” he exclaimed happily. “I’m so glad you came!”
Wuddle gave Hypple a warm hug. “How is the adjustment progressing?”
“I’m doing very well…thanks to Tina Jones,” Hypple replied, gesturing toward Jones. “She has taught me a lot about the Federation and Earth. Did you know they had a war recently? Have we ever had one of those?”
“Er…let’s not get into that, Hypple,” Jones said quickly. “There are many other happy things to think about.”
“Oh yeah. You should taste some of the alcohols they have! I had such a hangover after this one night when Tina Jones and I…”
“Hypple,” Jones said, smiling weakly.
Wuddle laughed. “Don’t worry. I can see that you’ve been taking care of him.”
“She is,” Hypple said. “But this place needs rides. They’ve got turbolifts, but they don’t do loop-de-loops or anything.”
“We’ll get right on that,” Beck joked as Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter jogged into the docking bay carrying a padd.
“Here you go, Frequoq,” Porter said, handing him the padd. “The storm doesn’t look all that severe, but if it stays on its current course, it’s going to be passing very close to Multos.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Wuddle said. “I will see about spreading a warning as soon as I get back, which I should do now.”
“As always, you’re welcome back anytime,” Captain Beck said, shaking Wuddle’s hand.
“The sooner the better,” Hypple said.
“That goes double for me,” Doctor Nelson said. Wuddle wrapped his arms around her as Nelson glared at the onlookers. “All right, move away, you nosy bastards. Give us a second to ourselves.”
“You heard the lady,” Beck said jovially as she, Porter, Jones, and Hypple moved a few steps away, allowing the couple to share some private words. Finally, Wuddle’s head moved closer to Nelson’s. Their lips met.
That’s when Jones noticed the movement behind the cargo containers along the side wall. Beck must have noticed it as well, since she was now staring in that direction. The mystery was quickly solved as a smartly-dressed woman charged out from behind the containers, a small cylindrical device strapped to the side of her head.
“Frequoq Wuddle!” she called, racing to Wuddle. “Joan Redding. AWN News. Do your visits to Waystation mean that the Multeks will be allying themselves with the Federation? How long have you been seeing Doctor Nelson? Will your people accept that their leader is involved with a being they do not believe exists? Can you confirm that…”
Nelson’s fist met the approaching reporter head on, sending Joan Redding to the deck in an unconscious heap. The doctor followed up by yanking the camera off of Redding’s head and crunching it under her boots.
For her part, Captain Beck was furious, but she quickly masked it as she stepped over to Wuddle. “You may want to get underway, Wuddle. We’ve got a mess here we’re going to have to deal with.”
“I agree,” Wuddle said. He and Nelson exchanged one last kiss, then he entered his small ship and took off, sailing gracefully out of the docking bay into space beyond.
“I didn’t break anything,” Nelson said after looking Redding over quickly.
“I’m almost sorry to hear that,” Beck replied, standing over the fallen reporter. “All right. You and Porter get out of here. You too, Hypple. Yeoman Jones and I will handle Miss Redding.”
Beck’s last statement caught Jones off guard. How was she supposed to “handle” Joan Redding. Just what did Beck mean by “handle” anyway? Jones realized that Hypple was looking to her, his face filled with concern. “Go on,” she said. “You can probably catch the rest of that football game. I’ll be there in bit.” Hypple nodded and quickly left, stealing a glance at the unconscious reporter as he did so. Porter and Nelson soon followed.
“Relax, Tina,” Beck said, taking a seat on one of the cargo crates. “We’re just going to have a little talk with her when she wakes up. She and AWN are new to Waystation, and they obviously don’t understand how things run around here.”
Jones got the distinct impression that Captain Beck was going to clear that up very quickly.
As Hypple headed off down the corridor on his own (he tended to prefer keeping to himself when he wasn’t with Yeoman Jones), Lieutenant Commander Porter and Doctor Nelson stepped into a nearby turbolift.
The doctor’s fists were still clenched as she ordered the lift to take her back to the Infirmary.
“Deck 48,” Porter added as the lift took off on a horizontal track toward Starfleet Square Mall. “You’d better check that,” he said with a smirk.
“Your fist. I’d hate to think that that mean old reporter’s face broke one of your bones or something.”
“It’d be a small price to pay. Some people just need to learn when to butt out.”
Porter chuckled. “Then I guess I’m tempting fate here.”
Nelson glared at him. “What do you want?”
“I was just curious. Why him?”
“He would be the him in question.”
“Does it matter?”
“Speaking as someone who ventured into the same terrain and was summarily shot down, I’m going to go with a yes,” Porter replied.
“I just want to know what you’re looking for in a man. Call it scientific curiosity. What’s he got that I haven’t got?”
Nelson smiled. “A planet.” She patted Porter gently on the cheek as the turbolift slowed to a stop at the mall. Leaving a silenced Porter in her wake, Nelson exited the turbolift just as Lieutenant Sean Russell, Waystation’s Security Chief, stepped on, taking the time to watch Nelson walk away as he did so.
“Deck 86,” Russell said, sending the turbolift on its way again. “You know, she just seems sexier somehow. Wuddle must be doing good things for her.”
“Something wrong?” Russell asked.
“Never ask why a woman wouldn’t date you,” Porter said slowly.
Russell nodded, understanding. “You asked about Wuddle, huh?”
“Yeah. I just wanted to know what she saw in him.”
“Well, he does rule a planet.”
“Oh shut up.”
A short time after Hypple, Porter, and Nelson left the docking bay, Joan Redding began to stir. Captain Beck was right there, offering Redding a hand in getting to her feet. Jones, meanwhile, under Beck’s strict instructions remained silent and stood to the side of Beck.
“Bet they didn’t cover that one in any of your Journalism classes,” Beck said with a smirk.
“On the first day, actually,” Redding replied. “Occupational hazard.”
“Funny you should say that because that’s exactly what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Am I about to be threatened, Captain?”
“I wouldn’t call it that.”
“That’s a damn shame. Being threatened by the station commander would certainly be newsworthy,” Redding said, straightening out her suit. She then checked the camera Nelson had ripped off of her head. It was completely demolished. So much for getting this little conversation on the record.
“Let me ask you something, Redding. Consider it a hypothetical question. Say you saw a news story. Something that appeared innocent enough on the surface, but, if it were to become known in certain areas of the galaxy, it could possibly endanger one of the parties involved and maybe even destabilize a government and drag the Federation into a war. Would you still report on it?”
“You’re going to have to be a lot less hypothetical than that, Captain. Without the individual circumstances, I couldn’t begin to make that kind of judgment.” Redding began headed toward the exit. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I…”
“You’re staying right here until I’m finished,” Beck said, anger growing in her voice as Redding stopped in her tracks.
“I’m not Starfleet, Captain,” Redding said, turning to face Beck.
“No, but you’re a resident of MY station. This is a Starfleet outpost, which means you will abide by Starfleet’s rules. Rule Number One: I am in charge here. Now if you want to test that by walking out that door, I can assure you that you’ll be spending tonight in the brig.”
“Say what you have to say, Captain. I have a job to do.”
“There are elements in the Multek Enclave that receive our holovision broadcasts. Those elements are very aware that we exist, but they have chosen to conceal that fact from the Multek population at large. I may not fully agree with their reasons, but I can respect them. What these Multeks do not know, however, is that their leader has not only befriended us but also comes to visit fairly regularly. Do you see where I’m going here?”
“Absolutely. You want to infringe upon my rights as a reporter by censoring the news I present to my viewers.”
Beck took Redding’s response surprisingly well in Yeoman Jones’s opinion. Jones noticed the captain’s fists clench slightly, but her face remained unchanged.
“I want,” Beck replied slowly, “you to think about what the repercussions of such a report would be. Wuddle could be removed as Frequoq, possibly even killed. The Multeks who are aware of our existence could decide to make another attempt to destroy Waystation. I want you to leave this one alone, Redding.”
“Is that an order?”
“You want me to make this a Freedom of the Press issue, and I’m not going to do that. But there’s more to being a reporter than that. There are things such as ethics and integrity and working for the greater good.”
Redding took a step toward Beck, going toe to toe with the captain even though she stood a good three inches shorter than Beck. “My job, Beck, is to be objective. Good and bad have no place in that. I’m running the story, just as I will continue to do whenever I see something newsworthy. Am I coming across clearly enough?”
Beck said nothing as she pointed at the exit. Redding nodded and smiled. “Thank you, Captain. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around.” The reporter walked smartly out the door, never once glancing back.
Captain Beck was silent for several more seconds as Jones grew more and more uncomfortable. “Um…Captain?” Jones said finally.
“You want to know why I made you stay,” Beck said.
“Well, yeah. I was curious.”
“I wanted you to see who you’d be dealing with.”
“Dealing with?” Jones asked hesitantly.
“I’ll take care of the Wuddle story, but Redding is now your responsibility. I don’t care what stories she does if she behaves herself, but you’re putting a stop to stunts like we saw today.”
Beck charged toward the exit.
“But, Captain,” Jones called after her. “How am I supposed to do that?”
“You’ll figure something out,” Beck said.
The doors closed, leaving Jones alone in the empty docking bay. She sighed and sat down on the nearest cargo container, lost in thought. Somehow, she didn’t think shadowing reporters was part of her job description.
To someone who actually enjoyed playing spy, this might actually be somewhat entertaining. Instead, Yeoman Tina Jones was just bored, exceptionally bored, as she sat at a table in the Starfleet Square Mall food court trying not to be too obvious about the fact that she was watching Joan Redding.
For her part, Redding had left her quarters in the morning, gone to Sandwich or What? and ordered an omelet wrap. Jones didn’t catch what variety of omelet it was, but somehow she didn’t think Captain Beck would care. After that, Redding sat down at a nearby table with a padd, which she silently read while consuming her breakfast. Nothing odd there.
But then Captain Beck walked by. How Redding knew this, Jones had no clue. The padd should have completely blocked her view. Instead, Redding was out of her seat in a flash and charging toward Beck.
“Don’t think for a moment that I’m won’t inform the Admirality about this!” Redding shouted as Jones slowly got up from her seat and drifted toward the conversation.
“Your breakfast not to your liking?” Captain Beck asked innocently.
“Our broadcasts weren’t leaving the station last night,” Redding snapped. “Right during my segment.”
“If it’s a technical problem, you’ll have to take it up with Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter,” Beck said calmly. “He’ll do his best to look into it, but we aren’t responsible for your equipment.”
“Our equipment is fine.”
“So it was a one-time glitch? Good. I guess you’ll be back on the air tonight then. Thanks for the chat.” Beck patted Redding on the head condescendingly, then strolled off down the concourse. Jones had just enough time to scramble back to her table before Redding turned on her heel and stormed back to her seat.
The reporter studied her padd a bit longer in silence. Jones couldn’t see Redding’s face, but she was sure that she wasn’t happy.
“Mind if I join you?” a voice broke in, interrupting Jones’s surveillance. Hypple was standing nearby with a large plate of waffles drowning in syrup. He’d taken an instant liking to Earth food…at least the foods with little to no redeeming nutritional value.
“Sure,” Jones said distractedly. Redding still hadn’t moved.
“The Silicon Avatars won,” Hypple said. “24 to 10.”
“The football game.”
“Oh, the Hortas. Good for them,” Jones replied flatly.
“Is something wrong? Have I upset you?” Hypple asked concerned.
“Oh no. Not at all,” Jones said, turning her attention to the Multek. “I’m just preoccupied.”
“With the reporter?” Hypple asked.
“How did you know that?”
“You’ve been staring at her for the last several minutes. I noticed that even before I walked over here.”
“Whoops. Guess I’d better be a little less obvious.”
“It would be very difficult for you to be more obvious,” Hypple said with a smile. “Did you like that? Lieutenant Commander Porter has been trying to teach me sarcasm. He says it’s an important human survival technique.”
“For some people, I guess,” Jones said. “I never really used it. I always thought it would upset people, and that was the last thing I wanted to do after getting away from home. Eighteen years in the middle of nowhere really makes you eager to meet new friends and keep them as friends. I guess that’s why…where is she going now?” Jones trailed off as Redding gathered up her padd and headed off along the upper shopping level.
“Perhaps she is done eating,” Hypple said.
“I’m sorry to do this, Hypple, but I have to follow her.”
“Is she in trouble?”
“She may BE trouble,” Jones replied. “Have a nice breakfast. I’ll find you later, if I can.”
“Grand luck, Tina Jones.”
“Good luck. Good.”
“Ahh…thank you,” Hypple said just before stuffing a big fork-full of waffle into his mouth. He waved quickly as Jones chased after her quarry all the while trying not to make it look like she was chasing anyone.
This spy stuff was really annoying.
Redding ducked into a turbolift a short time later, forcing Jones to race to catch the next car. “Computer, where did the last passenger picked up at this location disembark?” she demanded. “Never mind. Just take me there.”
The turbolift ascended briefly, then slid sideways through the station until it finally slowed to a halt, the doors opening to allow Jones to emerge into a wood-paneled corridor.
Bradley Dillon was the only person on the station who would bother with this kind of decor. Greek-style statues stood in alcoves placed every so often along the corridor as a soft symphony score filled the air. At the corridor junction up ahead, a fountain flowed soothingly.
“Nice,” Jones said to herself. If she’d known the Dillon Enterprises levels looked like this, she would have visited months ago.
She really didn’t have time to enjoy her surroundings, though. Joan Redding was somewhere along here, and Captain Beck would be none too happy if Jones lost her. Jones checked down the adjoining corridors until finally she spotted Redding standing outside a set of faux wood doors studying her padd, which she had pressed against the doors themselves.
Odd, Jones thought to herself. What was so interesting on that padd? Redding always seemed to be looking at it.
Redding suddenly looked over in Jones’s direction, her eyes widening in alarm. The reporter quickly tucked her padd under her arm and charged toward the Yeoman.
“Excuse me,” Redding said pointedly, passing Jones then entering the turbolift. “AWN Studios,” she ordered just as the doors began to close.
Well that took care of where Redding was headed now, but why was she up here in the first place. Jones headed down the corridor toward the faux wood doors. Where was everybody? Bradley Dillon employed close to one hundred people at his Waystation offices, but this corridor was completely deserted.
The doors whooshed open, catching Jones by surprise. She gasped and leapt back just as Bradley Dillon, dressed in an even classier suit than usual, stepped out into the corridor.
“Tina!” Bradley exclaimed, clearly caught off guard by her presence in the corridor. He quickly recovered himself. “My apologies, Yeoman Jones. What brings you up this way?”
“Honestly, I just wanted to see what you’d done with the place,” Jones said weakly. “It’s beautiful, by the way.”
“Isn’t it? I think it just exudes class…and hopefully wealth. Add a feeling of power to the mix, and you’re all set,” Bradley said smiling. “Do you have time for the full tour?” he continued, taking Jones by the arm.
“Um…I guess,” she said hesitantly as Bradley practically dragged her off down the corridor. Hopefully Redding wouldn’t get into any trouble while Jones was occupied.
Oh no. This was trouble, Jones thought as she watched the evening’s AWN News broadcast. Seated next to her co-anchor, the ever-severe Vulcan Sokaw, Joan Redding delivered her latest news coup.
“A source close to AWN alleges that a top-secret prototype was recently stolen from a Dillon Enterprises Research and Development facility at an undisclosed location. The exact nature of this prototype is not known, but, according to this source, Dillon Enterprises President and CEO Bradley Dillon is very concerned about locating the device before it is quote ‘put to a nefarious use.’”
The comm the next morning ordering Yeoman Jones to report to Captain Beck’s office in Ops was not unexpected. Actually, Jones was surprised Beck hadn’t called her in immediately after the AWN News went off the air the night before.
Equally expected was the fact that Bradley Dillon was already sitting (well, pacing actually) in Beck’s office by the time Jones arrived. Beck, who was standing behind her desk talking to Bradley, spotted Jones and waved for her to come in to the office.
“I’m guessing you know why you’re here,” Beck said calmly.
“Joan Redding?” Jones replied weakly.
“Saboteur!” Bradley shouted without breaking his anxious stride.
“Bradley tells me that he saw you outside of his conference room yesterday,” Beck continued
“Well…yeah. I followed Ms. Redding there.”
“I didn’t see her,” Bradley shot back.
“She left before you came out into the hall.”
“You just stood there and let her spy on me!”
“She didn’t look like she was doing much of anything really,” Jones said. “She just stood in the hall reading her padd.”
“And then you let me lead you all around my offices without once mentioning that a reporter had been snooping around my private conference comm with a few of my select investors.”
“You didn’t ask,” Jones said. “Was any real harm done?”
“The public now believes that Dillon Enterprises has been robbed. How is that a good thing?”
“Maybe it will speed up the investigation,” Jones offered.
“I already know who robbed the R&D facility! I arranged the whole thing in the first place to catch him!”
“Oh, so you got your prototype back.”
“Not as such,” Bradley mumbled unhappily. “Let’s just drop it.”
“Okay,” Beck said. “Obviously Joan Redding has a few tricks at her disposal that we didn’t know about. We’ll keep a closer eye on her from now on.” This last statement was aimed directly at Jones.
“Yes, ma’am,” Jones said quickly. “I’ll track her down right now.”
“You do that,” Bradley said. “And tell her that if she trespasses into the domain of Dillon Enterprises ever again, I’ll see to it that she spends the rest of her life reporting the weather on Ferenginar!”
Jones took Bradley’s declaration as a welcome chance to bolt from Beck’s office back into Ops. She wanted to talk to Lieutenant Commander Porter anyway. Something about Redding’s knack for finding a story was bothering her.
“Do you have a minute?” she asked, leaning over Porter’s console as he lay on the floor, half inside a panel, making adjustments.
“For you, always,” Porter’s muffled voice replied from inside the machinery. He continued working.
“Um…okay.” Obviously, he wasn’t coming out. “Do you know if Wuddle’s visit was logged anywhere?”
“What kind of log?” Porter asked. “Our security sensors tracked him. Science will show a second Mutlek on board besides Hypple. What sort of thing do you want?”
“Joan Redding knew he was here and where his ship was soon enough to hide in the docking bay before he left.”
“I don’t think there’s anything weird about that. She may have spotted him in the corridors and just checked the docking bays until she found his ship.”
“Maybe,” Jones said thoughtfully. “But that still doesn’t explain Bradley.”
“Nothing can explain Bradley.”
“Sorry. The comment was just hanging there. I had to take it. What about Bradley?”
“Ms. Redding knew he was having a meeting.”
“Maybe one of his staff told her.”
“Do you want me to check something, Tina? You seem like you’re dancing around a request,” Porter said, finally extricating himself from his console and standing up to face her.
“She’s got this padd, and she’s always staring at it. I thought maybe she could be monitoring people somehow.”
“There are a lot of people on this station,” Porter said. “She’d need some sort of central resource to hit the highlights. Hmm…Bradley asked us to give him some extra comm bands temporarily, for this meeting he was having, I guess. And Wuddle’s docking assignment was strictly need-to-know. There’s one possibility.”
Porter trailed off as he tapped a few commands into his console, bringing up a display of information. “Uh huh. Yep. She could be in OpsNet.”
“OpsNet?” Jones asked confused. The downside of being the liaison officer was that she didn’t know all of the ins and outs of the how the station operated.
“It’s kind of a scheduling network for the operations staff. We can check on upcoming events, requests for service, or in Bradley’s case resources, docking bay assignments and such. If Redding hacked into OpsNet, she’d know when Bradley’s conference comm was and what room he was holding it in.”
“And Wuddle’s visit is in there as well?”
“Can we put something else in?”
“You have something in particular in mind?”
“I think so. And I’ll need your help this afternoon if you’ve got some time.”
“If it involves messing with Joan Redding, I’m there,” Porter replied with a grin.
STARDATE 53886::1400 HOURS
DOCKING BAY SIX
NOTES: THE DOKALAN REGENT INSISTS THAT HE BE MET ACCORDING TO THE CUSTOMS OF DOKALAN RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE. IN ORDER NOT TO OFFEND THIS NEWLY-DISCOVERED BETA QUADRANT SPECIES DURING OUR FIRST FACE-TO-FACE CONTACT, ALL THOSE IN ATTENDANCE AT THE REGENT’S ARRIVAL WILL WEAR IRON CLOTHING.
END OPSNET ENTRY::
Iron? What a ridiculous religion, Joan Redding thought to herself as she crouched behind a wall of cargo containers in Docking Bay Six the next afternoon. Getting the replicator in her quarters to produce the garment had been difficult enough. Then she had to attach a couple of low-power anti-grav generators just to be able to walk in the thing.
But if she got an exclusive on a new species’ first contact with the Federation, any and all suffering would be worth it.
The doors from the corridor opened, causing Redding to crouch down a little lower. The last thing she needed was for Captain Beck to spot her again. At least she’d managed to ditch that blundering yeoman Beck had assigned to tail her.
What was that humming?
Suddenly, Redding was rudely yanked out from her hiding place and straight up into the air, causing the seasoned reporter to do something that she normally didn’t: scream. Seconds later, she collided against a circular object near the roof of the docking bay with metallic clang, gripping her padd for dear life in order not to lose it.
“She looks a little small,” Lieutenant Commander Porter commented from the floor below. “Let’s throw her back.”
“I don’t know,” Yeoman Jones said. “I think Captain Beck would love to toss her on the nearest grill. Do you think Ih’mad would mind if we brought our own meat?”
“Get me down!” Redding seethed, craning her neck to glare at the gloating Starfleet officers below.
“So soon?” Porter said, feigning hurt. “After all the time it took me to rig that magnet up there?”
“You set me up!”
“Actually, you have Yeoman Jones here to thank for that,” Porter replied.
“Gotcha,” Jones said with a smile.
“Fine. Joke’s over. Let me down.”
“Drop the padd, then we’ll talk,” Porter said.
“This is private property.”
“Damn, Tina. She’s good,” Porter said, stifling a chuckle. “Okay. You win. We’ll turn it off.”
“OFF! WAIT!” Redding cried.
“Drop the padd, or you go splat,” Jones said with surprising force.
Redding emitted what sounded almost like a growl, then released her grip on the padd, which Porter caught before it could hit the deck. He spent the next several seconds checking its systems.
“Hmm…looks like you’ve got a defective padd here, Miss Redding. It’s tied into our OpsNet. I’ll see if I can’t fix that for you. Oh wait. Seems somebody accidentally put a few sensors on here as well. I’d hate for you to be bothered with hearing other people’s conversations on this thing as you stood outside their meeting rooms. Tell you what. I’ll have a new one sent to your quarters. Bye bye now.”
“What about me?” Redding demanded as Porter and Jones headed toward the exit.
“If Craig programmed this right, you should float gently to the ground in about ten minutes,” Jones said. She turned to Porter. “You did program it right, didn’t you?”
“I hope so,” Porter said with a grin. “Guess she’ll find out soon enough.”
“Good point,” Jones said. She waved at Redding jovially. “Bye!”
Jones and Porter headed out of the docking bay, followed by an exceptionally vitriolic stream of profanity.
That night, after confirming that Joan Redding didn’t have any new scoops on her evening broadcast, Yeoman Jones slept well. Very well, actually. Hopefully, Redding had learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of crossing the boundaries between solid journalism and espionage. To be honest, that last bit came from Captain Beck. Jones thought it sounded good, though.
Jones’s sonic shower the next morning felt particularly cleansing. “Computer,” she said as she stepped out of it and headed to the sink. “Locate Joan Redding.” It was probably a good idea to check up on the reporter, just in case.
“Joan Redding is in the Starfleet Square Mall Food Court.”
Good. That was a far more comforting answer than something like “Joan Redding is prowling around engineering” or “Joan Redding is crouching behind a plant in Captain Beck’s office.”
Duty was duty, though, so Jones decided to head toward the Food Court for some breakfast. Redding would probably spend most of the meal glaring at her from across the Food Court, but that was a small price to pay for reminding Redding that she was still being watched.
“May I join you?”
Hypple looked up from his meal with a smile at the newcomer. “Of course, Tina…you’re not Tina Jones,” the Multek said warily.
“Afraid not,” the woman standing before him replied. “Joan Redding. AWN News. I’ve been wanting to meet you for a long time.” Without waiting for Hypple’s assent, Redding sat down.
“Me?” Hypple said confused.
“You,” Redding said intensely, leaning forward. “You and your people are such a mystery to me. A fascinating mystery, but still a mystery.”
“I’m just your average Multek…well except that I believe you exist.”
“Which makes you the ideal person for what I’m interested in.”
“Cultural exchange. My viewers should know about your home. They want to know about your home. I’d even guess that they need to know about it.”
“I don’t know about need…”
“I do,” Redding said quickly. “Now let’s talk exclusives.”
“But Tina Jones…”
“Let me tell you something, Hypple. And it’s not going to be something you want to hear. Yeoman Jones is Starfleet. That means she’s military. Of course she’s not going to want you to talk to me. The military is all about keeping their secrets to themselves. What about universal understanding, Hypple? What about bridging the gap between our cultures so that we may live together in peace?”
Hypple hesitated. “Well…that would be good…I suppose.”
“Good? It would be astounding. And here’s the best part. We’re the bridge. You and I. Together, we can do this. Take me to the Multek Enclave. You’ll guide me and all of the Federation through the wonders of your home.”
“Take you? I can’t take you there! If you were spotted…”
“We’ll be careful. A little make up. A little hair dye. I’ll be indistinguishable from any other Multek.”
“I don’t have a ship.”
“AWN does.” Redding could tell Hypple was still unsure. She reached across the table, taking the Multek’s pale white hands. “Think of the galaxy, Hypple.”
Yeoman Jones spotted Hypple immediately as she approached the food court. It was just hard to miss a whiter-than-white alien with blue hair. She was already on her way to his table when she noticed that he wasn’t alone. Joan Redding was with him. And Jones had a feeling there was something bigger going on than a little bit of handholding.
“Is there room for one more?” Jones asked as warmly as possible as she stepped up to the table.
“Good morning, Tina Jones!” Hypple said happily. “Please sit down.”
“Not eating?” Redding asked flatly.
“In a minute,” Jones said, a smile plastered over her face. “So what were you two talking about?”
“Nothing,” Redding retorted before Hypple could utter a sound.
“It must have been a pretty intense nothing.”
“We’d love to stay and chat, but we have a pressing engagement,” Redding said, rising from the table. “Come on, Hypple.”
Hypple looked back and forth between Jones and Redding, obviously torn. Finally, he stood up. “I will not be able to have breakfast with you today.”
“That’s okay,” Jones said kindly. “You know I’m here for you.”
“Yes. You are my friend, and we will eat together again when I get back.”
“All right,” Jones said as Redding and Hypple walked away.
Wait a second.
“Back?!? Where are you going?”
“Multos?” Lieutenant Commander Porter asked over Jones’s commbadge as the Yeoman raced through the corridors of the upper saucer toward the docking bays on the outer rim. She’d commed Ops in hopes of stopping Redding and Hypple before they left, but Porter had just told her that a ship registered to AWN News had just cleared the station. Now he wanted to know why the ship leaving was a problem. “Are you sure?”
“Mostly,” Jones said. “Where else would Hypple go?”
“With Joan Redding?”
“Okay. You got me there. What do you need?” Porter asked from ops.
“A runabout. Somebody has to talk Hypple out of this. They could be caught. Or worse, she could broadcast live from Multek space. I think that might be one of those things that could start a war.”
“Captain Beck would probably agree with you,” Porter replied. “Head to Docking Bay Two. I’ll meet you there.”
True to his word, Porter was in Docking Bay Two when Jones ran through the doors. Porter, who’d beamed there directly from Ops, was already performing the pre-flight check.
“You want to fly, or should I?” Porter asked with a grin as Jones entered the runabout cockpit.
“You fly,” Jones gasped, out of breath, then plopped into a chair. Fly? Her? Uggh. She’d had the required basic piloting competency class, but she had no desire to do it for any length of time…and certainly not in a crisis situation.
Porter didn’t press the issue. Instead, he completed his pre-flight check and, after checking with Commander Morales in Ops for final departure clearance, he steered the Runabout Roanoke out into space and quickly gunned the engines on a pursuit course toward the AWN ship.
While Hypple prattled away about some of the main sights of the Multek Capital (Multek Memorial Merryland, the Frequoq Family Funhouse, Bumper-Taxis), Joan Redding found herself wondering if Hypple was playing some kind of bizarre trick on her.
If he was telling the truth, the Multek homeworld was basically a giant amusement park. It just didn’t fit with the mental image she had of the Multeks. Beck had filled her head with images of a xenophobic species so determined to reject the existence of other races that they’d destroy anyone who tried to bring that knowledge to the Multek populace. How does a species like that spend all their time on rides?
Redding’s attention was pulled away from the issue by a blip on her monitor. A ship was coming up on them fast. The ship’s identification flashed up a moment later. Starfleet runabout. Jones must have figured out what Redding was planning. This wasn’t entirely unexpected, but Redding was surprised the Yeoman had put it together so soon. Sure Hypple had basically come out and told her, but Tina Jones had never seemed to Redding to be the sharpest one of the Waystation crew.
Seated in the co-pilot’s chair, Hypple seemed completely oblivious to the newcomer, though. Redding subtly touched a couple of controls on her helm console without breaking her gaze from the Multek. With any luck, Jones would take a hint and leave Redding to gather her story in peace.
“Um…what’s that?” Yeoman Jones asked, pointing out the Roanoke’s front viewport as a thick cylinder rose up from the top of the AWN ship ahead of them.
“I going to go out on a limb here and guess it’s not a docking port,” Lieutenant Commander Porter replied. “Check the sensors. I want to know if there’s any kind of power buildup from that thing.”
“Would that look like a sharp spiky thing on this chart here?”
“Then we have one.”
“Crap!” Porter exclaimed, sending the runabout into a quick roll just before a phaser beam lanced out of the cylinder toward them.
“They’re shooting at us!” Jones screamed.
“I can’t believe Hypple would do that!”
“What about Joan Redding?”
“Okay. Her I’d believe,” Jones replied. She reached forward and activated the comm. “Runabout Roanoke to AWN News ship. Please respond.”
Another phaser blast seared their way, just missing the port nacelle as Porter frantically sent the craft into a dive.
“That wasn’t the response I had in mind,” Jones said.
“Is something wrong?” Hypple asked, finally breaking out of his reveries about Multos.
“Not a thing,” Redding replied quickly. “Why do you ask?”
“You just seem distracted…and you were hitting buttons a lot just now.”
“Don’t mind me. It’s just spaceship stuff.”
Hypple looked over at Redding’s controls. “Is that light supposed to be blinking.”
“Yes. Nothing important,” Redding said, putting her hand over the Incoming Hail indicator.
“Oh. Okay,” Hypple said, settling deeper into his chair. “Do you want to hear about our Historical Waterslide Park?”
“Please,” Redding said, casually tapping the fire control again.
The runabout lurched to starboard, then jolted as Redding’s latest phaser blast grazed the underside of the Roanoke.
“We’re going to have to make a decision here, Tina,” Porter said. “Redding’s not talking, and they are about to head into the Enclave. I can’t let them do that.”
“Poor Hypple,” Jones said sadly.
“If Redding gets a couple good shots in, it’s going to be poor us. Actually, dead us.”
“Oh all right. I guess we should shoot back,” Jones said, bringing up the weapons control display.
“I’m sure Hypple will understand.”
“…then the First Quogin slid into the lake, making a large splash. His subsequent laughter drew the attention of…”
Hypple launched forward out of his seat, slamming painfully into the front of the AWN News ship as the Roanoke hit the craft with a dead-on phaser shot.
“Sorry about that,” Redding said, gritting her teeth angrily. “Technical difficulties. Excuse me for a moment.”
“I think we made her mad,” Porter observed as the AWN ship suddenly swung about.
“Another spiky thing. This one’s different, though!” Jones warned.
“Pardon me for not sticking around to investigate.” Porter slammed his hand down on the console, launching the runabout into warp for a split-second just before a barrage of micro-torpedoes spewed forth from two small tubes under the AWN News ship’s cockpit.
“Are reporters usually this well armed?” Jones asked.
“It would certainly explain how they get all of those exclusive interviews,” Porter replied as he brought the Roanoke around for another run on Redding’s ship.
“I’ve got to get over there and talk to Hypple,” Jones said. “He probably doesn’t even realize how dangerous this is.”
“I’d love to send you, but there’s the small matter of their shields.”
“Fine! No more Yeoman Nicey!” Jones snapped, activating the phaser banks again.
“Don’t mess with me now, Craig!”
Power flickered throughout the cockpit as Joan Redding tried to fan away the smoke billowing out of the helm. So much for Starfleet using a measured response. On that last run, the runabout had opened up at her with everything it had. That in itself was probably worth an investigative report during one of her news broadcasts.
Hypple, meanwhile, had fled to the rear of the cockpit, where he was cowering quite effectively while mumbling something about a Recovery Ranch. He seemed to believe that the Multek Military had intercepted them. If only they had. It would have made for a much better story.
Instead, Redding was faced with the blue cascade effect of a Starfleet transporter. Yeoman Tina Jones materialized a second later.
“Tina Jones!” Hypple exclaimed happily. “You’ve saved us!”
“She caused this!” Redding snapped, charging forward. “Look at what she and her Starfleet comrades did to this ship just to keep you from telling our citizens about Multos. You can’t trust her.”
“Hypple, I’m very sorry about the ship, but SOMEONE wouldn’t respond to our hails or lower her shields,” Jones replied pointedly.
“I was protecting him!” Redding insisted.
“I’m sorry about this, too,” Jones said.
“Sorry about what?” Hypple asked confused.
Jones suddenly slugged Redding, dropping the reporter to the deck.
“Personal Log. Stardate 53888.4. I can’t believe I hit her. That wasn’t the plan at all. I was just going to beam over and talk to Hypple until he realized that he was making a mistake. But that woman…ARGH! She just made me so mad! I just couldn’t stand to listen to her anymore, and then… Well, I guess this is what having three brothers and two sisters does to you.
“Unfortunately, I’ve probably just made Joan Redding even madder at me. And Captain Beck isn’t going to be real happy with me either. I was supposed to watch Redding, not beat her up.”
Another day; another comm to report to Captain Beck’s office. As the turbolift doors opened, Yeoman Jones released a deep sigh, then stepped out into Ops.
“How’s your hand?” Lieutenant Commander Porter asked jovially from his post at the Science/Operations Console.
Jones smiled weakly. “Okay, I guess. I didn’t hit her that hard.”
“Sure you didn’t,” Porter replied.
“Is Captain Beck still here?”
“If you’re asking if she was suddenly called away for an emergency, the answer is no. Sorry.”
“Oh. I’d better go then.” Steeling herself for a good dressing down, Jones walked around the large turbolift shaft jutting up through the center of Ops toward Beck’s office. The Captain was in there seated behind her desk…and smiling as she chatted with a man Jones had never seen before who sat across from her.
Beck spotted Jones outside and waved for her to enter. Jones complied as the man rose from his seat.
“Come on in, Tina,” Captain Beck said warmly. She turned to her guest. “This is Yeoman Tina Jones. I had her assigned to the Redding problem.”
“Phillip Harper,” the man said, shaking Jones’s hand.
“Phil…Mister Harper is the President of AWN,” Beck explained. “He just arrived this morning.”
“Oh really,” Jones squeaked, her face going ashen. This was bad. Very very bad. She’d best get it over with.
“I’m really sorry about what happened with Joan Redding,” Jones said quickly. “She was going to Multos with Hypple, and we tried to stop her, but she started shooting, and we had to do something. I didn’t mean to hit her, but I did, and that was a bad thing, but I did it, and I guess on some level she might have deserved it, but then does anybody really deserved to get slapped, well punched really. It wasn’t all that hard, though. I think she has a glass jaw or something. I was able to drop her awfully easily. So was Doctor Nelson. Remember that. One hit, and down Redding went. Sorry.”
“Relax, Tina,” Beck said with a chuckle. “Everything’s fine. You did a great job.”
“Phil,” Harper insisted.
“Phil and I have reached an understanding. He’ll reign in Joan Redding, and we won’t go after her or AWN for the damage caused to the Roanoke or for trying to cause an interstellar incident.”
Was it just Jones or were Beck’s eyes twinkling? The Captain was also talking more to Phillip Harper than she was to Jones. Actually, the two seemed to have completely forgotten that Jones was even in the room.
“That sounds perfectly fair to me,” Harper replied with a grin.
“Then that settles it.”
“Could I interest you in some lunch, Captain?”
“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Beck said, rising from her seat. “Do you like Andorian?”
“I love Andorian, and I’ve heard you’ve got a great place here on the station. But will we have a problem with the lunch rush?”
Beck took Harper’s arm and led him toward the door. “Ih’mad always takes care of me.”
“He’s obviously a wise man,” Harper replied, returning Beck’s smile as they headed out of the office, leaving Jones alone.
Jones sighed again and collapsed into a chair. Crisis averted. Hmm…Joan Redding would probably love to know that her station president and Captain Beck were making moon eyes at each other…not that Jones had any intention of telling her.
She’d had quite enough news for one week.