Author: Alan Decker
CONTINUITY NOTE: For anyone who also reads Star Traks: The Vexed Generation, the following story occurs early in Vexed Gen’s Year Four.
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“Best Laid Plans”
By Alan Decker
At the borders of consciousness, the Selvan watched. Watched and waited for a new opportunity to present itself. It had underestimated Lisa Beck the first time, underestimated her sense of self and strength of mind. Another approach was required, as was patience. Time was a factor but not critical.
For now, it would continue to wait…
This was taking forever, Captain Lisa Beck thought to herself as she stood in front of the viewscreen that dominated the front of Waystation’s Operations Center listening while the image of Captain Kieal of Bechode Prime, babbled onward. Kieal’s ship was the first vessel from Bechode Prime to encounter the Federation, and, happily for Beck, Kieal came from a friendly culture. According to Kieal, Bechode Prime was located several hundred light years away and was interested in meeting its galactic neighbors. Assuming Kieal was representative of other Bechodians, they were a bumpy race. He had a row of circular…bumps running up his nose to his forehead, which was dominated by four far larger “bumps,” two in the front and one at each temple.
If Captain Kieal was any indication, the Bechodians were also exceptionally talkative.
“…honored to meet representatives of a government as seemingly-enlightened as your own. Several months ago we encountered to group claiming to be Collectors who tried to take this vessel right out from under us. I do have to ask you one question, though, Captain.”
“Of course,” Beck said, forcing a smile as she stole a glance at the chronometer. She was supposed to be off-shift twenty minutes ago. As it was, she was tempted just to hand things off to Commander Morales and be done with it, but she seemed to remember that was listed as a big no-no in the First Contact 101 manual.
“One of our long range probes passed this way approximately one of your months ago. At that time, we did not detect this station, yet now you’re here. Can you explain this?”
“We went missing for a while,” Beck replied, seeing no need to give any more details about the whole situation. The station had been stuffed into a subspace pocket briefly by a rogue admiral who intended to use it as a staging platform for his attempted coup. That generally wasn’t the sort of thing that you wanted to mention to potential new allies.
“Ahh…” Kieal said hesitantly. “Does this happen often?”
“Never before and never again,” Beck said. And now that she had the proverbial talking stick, it was time to wrap this up. “Captain, I’d like to extend an invitation for you and your crew to dock with us and take advantage of the facilities Waystation has to offer. I can have my Liaison Officer meet you and handle any orientation to the Federation that you might like.”
“We are most grateful for your offer. These deep space exploration missions can be rather tedious, and we rarely get the opportunity to disembark at a friendly port-of-call such as this. We would love to…”
“Fantastic! I’ll contact Yeoman Jones right away. My First Officer, Commander Morales, will see to your docking assignment. I look forward to meeting you in person, Captain.”
“Yes,” Kieal said, thrown by Beck’s sudden burst of information. “Perhaps we could dine together…”
“Sounds wonderful. I’ll see you tomorrow, then. Please hold for Commander Morales.” Beck quickly gestured to Morales, who, as ordered, put Kieal on hold. “It’s all yours,” Beck said, making for the turbolift.
“Is there something wrong?” Commander Walter Morales asked as he located a vacant docking arm for the Bechodian ship. The vessel was small enough to fit in the main docking bay, but Morales just wasn’t ready to allow a completely alien vessel into the confines of Waystation’s superstructure without getting to know them a little better…a lot better really.
“Not a thing. Why?”
“You just seem to be in big hurry.”
The turbolift doors opened, allowing Beck to enter. She turned back to Morales and smiled. “I’ve got plans. See you tomorrow.” The lift doors closed, sending Beck on her way.
“Plans,” Morales muttered to himself. He knew exactly what that meant. Another date with Phillip Harper. Lovely. But Morales couldn’t dwell on that now. He had some obnoxious aliens to direct into a parking space. The excitement was just overwhelming.
The last thing Dr. Amedon Nelson expected when she exited her quarters and stepped into the corridor was to be almost run over by a red-headed blur.
“Woah!” Nelson shouted. “No killing the doctor!”
“Sorry!” Captain Beck called as she charged away.
“Oh no you don’t,” Nelson said, jogging to catch up with Beck. “Where the hell are you going?”
“Shower. I’m running late.”
“Was I uninvited to another official dinner that I didn’t know about?”
“That explains it. Whose quarters is dinner in tonight?”
“Neither,” Beck said as they approached her door. “Tonight I’m taking him out. The man has been here for over a month and hasn’t really been anywhere other than Ih’mad’s restaurant and the food court, not that he’s had much in the way of free time.”
“Owning a network is a full-time job I suppose.”
“That’s exactly why I’m using tonight to show him some other places on the station. We’ve got a lot to offer,” Beck replied, opening the doors.
“True,” Nelson said, following Beck into her quarters. “So where are you taking him?”
“Dillon’s. I figured I might as well go straight for the four star dining experience.”
“It’ll certainly be better than that Andorian crap you two insist on poisoning yourselves with.”
“You can keep the culinary critique to yourself, Amedon.” Beck looked around at her quarters. “Um…Amedon?”
“What are you doing in here?”
“Uh huh. Well, I think I can take it from here.”
“You don’t want to show me what you’re going to wear?”
“No. Thanks anyway. Bye bye.”
“Fine,” Nelson groused, heading toward the door. “This isn’t fair, though. Wuddle’s not here, so I have every right to meddle in other people’s love lives.”
“Then meddle with someone else.”
“I would, but you’re the only one with a love life. Pathetic really,” Nelson said, heading out the door. “Have fun tonight, Lisa.”
“I will. No doubt about that,” Beck said as the doors closed.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Bradley Dillon sat at his massive desk in his wood-paneled office in the Dillon Enterprises complex staring blankly at the monitor in front of him.
The monitor was currently displaying a text message of a mere 5 words:
HAVE SOLD TO SIMMS - MENNIN
But the import of those words had sent Bradley into near catatonia. Higal Mennin was the owner of OmegaMart, a retail chain headquartered on Alpha Centauri that had stores spread across that world as well as Tellar, Andor, Vega, and even a couple on Vulcan (a notoriously hard market to crack).
Word had reached Bradley that Higal Mennin was tiring of the day to day strain of running the OmegaMart Corporation and had not selected a successor from inside the corporate ranks. Before Higal, the stores had been run by Mennins for six generations, but Higal had never married, meaning there were no more Mennins to inherit the business.
Learning this through his contacts on Alpha Centauri, Bradley had sent Mennin a communique offering to purchase OmegaMart for a fairly generous sum. The deal would solve Mennin’s problem and also remove one of the major competitors of Dillon’s Supply Depots on the core Federation worlds.
But Mennin sold to Simms. John Edward Simms, Jr. of all people. Simms was owner of Simms Ship Lines, but until now the man had shown no interest in expanding beyond his starliner business.
That had evidently changed. Simms now had several hundred retail outlets under his control, and who knew what steps he would take from there? Would he expand, attempting to go head to head with Dillon’s Supply Depot? Would he change the OmegaMart name to something with Simms in the title, thus expanding the power of his brand?
Why was Bradley even worrying? Simms’s financial power was insignificant compared to his own. As far as Bradley knew, Simms didn’t even have the resources to make a competitive offer for OmegaMart.
But if that was the case, how come he now owned it?
And then the light dawned.
“The G-Pulsar,” he muttered, understanding.
Eight years ago while he was still running his Used Starship Alley on Alpha Centauri, Bradley has sold Higal Mennin’s boyfriend a “gently-used” G-Pulsar, which, three weeks later, said boyfriend flew into the Alpha Centauri star at an exceptionally high rate of speed.
The official explanation (and Bradley’s firm belief) was pilot error, but Higal blamed Bradley Dillon. And now, years later, Higal Mennin had gotten her revenge by refusing Bradley’s offer and giving her company to that upstart Simms.
“Some people really need to learn to let go of a grudge,” Bradley muttered unhappily to himself.
Phillip Harper responded to his door chime in less than five seconds, surprising Captain Beck, who was tossing her head back after making a last-minute readjustment to her hair.
“Um…hi,” Beck said as she realized Phillip was watching her.
“Evening,” he replied smiling. “There’s nothing like opening your door and seeing a beautiful woman in mid-hair flip to start your evening off right. Was that just for my benefit?”
“Not even close, you pervert,” Beck said with a grin. Every person had their little kinks, and Beck had found out fairly early on that Phillip Harper’s was hair, particularly long red hair, of which Beck had plenty. Of course, she wouldn’t admit to anyone that she’d spent a little extra time after her sonic shower giving her hair a little extra wave and body for this evening. Otherwise, she was dressed in a pair of flowing black slacks and a burgundy Antarian silk blouse. Phillip, meanwhile, was in a dark blue suit that would give Bradley Dillon’s usual dapper attire a run for its money. Bradley also didn’t have the benefit of being a fit 6’2”, which made the overall effect of Phillip’s appearance rather striking.
“You did say to dress nicely for dinner,” Phillip said as he noticed Beck looking him over appreciatively.
“That I did. But no fair outdoing me.”
“Impossible. You look amazing, as always.”
“That’d be more believable if you hadn’t said the same thing after I captured that escaped Botalian slime bear last week.”
“But that slime gave your hair such a wonderful shine!”
“You’re sick. You know that?”
“I thought you liked that about me.”
“Damn. You figured me out.”
“I don’t think there’s much of a chance of that either,” Phillip said, offering his arm to Beck.
“Oooh, and he’s smart, too,” Beck said, taking the offered arm.
“So where are you whisking me away to this evening?”
“Well, since we seem to always have Andorian when we go out, I thought we’d try something a little different. Some place with a bit classier atmosphere.”
“The food court?” Phillip replied.
“Just wait until I tell Ih’mad you said that.”
“No. Please no! I’ll end up in tomorrow’s lunch special!” Phillip begged mockingly.
“How someone like you owns his own holovision network, I’ll never know.”
“It requires just the right level of insanity. Kind of like commanding a space station.”
“I knew I liked you for a reason,” Beck said as the pair entered a turbolift.
“So?” Lisa Beck asked as Phillip Harper looked around at their surroundings.
“Swanky,” Phillip replied. The couple was currently sitting at a candlelit table in a dim corner of one of the side dining rooms in Dillon’s Restaurant located inside Bradley Dillon’s Starfleet Suites Hotel. While the side dining room didn’t have the massive gold and crystal chandelier that was present in the main dining room, it also didn’t have the main dining room’s bright lighting and incessant piano playing. The side dining room did, however, sport an impressive collection of bronze and plaster statuary from Earth’s Renaissance era. Reproductions of them anyway. At least Beck assumed they were reproductions. With Bradley, you never could tell. He might have bought the originals.
“It just seemed like a shame that you’d never been here,” Beck said. “The food’s great, and you don’t see the owner very often.”
“Come on. Bradley Dillon seems like a decent enough guy.”
“He is…if you can get through his general air of smug arrogance and superiority. General rule for you: if you meet a Dillon, run.”
“You know more than one?”
“Let’s not go there, I’m eating,” Beck said, taking a spoonful of the French onion soup she’d ordered.
“Oooookay. Did you follow any of that mess with the Maloxitarian cult on Neptune last month? KNN monopolized the whole story, but I’m thinking about having Joan Redding try to get an interview with the Starfleet captain involved. Brewer or Baxter or something.”
Beck choked on a bit of onion. “Baxter,” she gasped. “You don’t want to interview him. Trust me.”
“Oookay. Is there anyone that you do like?”
“Oh no. Bradley,” she muttered in reply.
“Now I’m lost.”
Beck silently pointed toward the door behind Phillip, a door that Bradley Dillon was just entering in something of a hurry.
“Good evening, Mister Harper!” Bradley exclaimed. “I had no idea that you would be joining us for dinner tonight.”
“You didn’t get the memo?” Beck asked sarcastically.
“Good evening to you as well, Captain. It’s a pleasure to see you, as always.”
“Actually, Mister Harper, I’m glad I ran into you this evening. I was going to be contacting you in the morning anyway. You see, I’m interested in purchasing some ad time on your network.”
“Kedalfip in our Sales Department will be happy to set that up for you,” Phillip replied. “He’s in at 0800 hours every morning. Just contact him then.”
“I would prefer to deal with you personally. There are other…factors involved.”
“Such as the placement of a story on this evening’s AWN newscast.”
“You want to place a news story?”
“I would prefer to have one displaced…possibly two.”
“This wouldn’t have anything to do with that sales hologram malfunction at the Dillon’s Supply Depot on Rigel Eight, would it?”
“The girl’s eyebrows are going to grow back!” Bradley said. “And she shouldn’t have been trying to get behind the sales counter in the first place!”
“From what I understand, your hologram went after her with a plasma torch. What happened to the customer is always right?”
“Now it’s the customer is always charcoal,” Beck remarked.
“I can’t interfere with the integrity of our news operation, Mister Dillon,” Phillip said. “No one will trust our reporting anymore if I can be bribed into cutting stories.”
“Bribed?” Bradley cried. “No one said anything about a bribe.”
“Would you prefer extorted?” Beck asked.
“I did no such thing.”
“You said you’d buy advertising on his network if he cut the story. Sounds like extortion to me.”
“This is business, Captain, something Starfleet does not engage it. While I value your input on all things military, this is really not your arena,” Bradley said.
“Don’t be too hard on the guy. He had a rough day with the OmegaMart announcement and all,” Phillip said with a smirk.
“Announcement!” Bradley said in alarm. “There was an announcement to the press!”
“We received the vid clip at 1300,” Phillip replied.
“That was before she even commed me,” Bradley mumbled. “Vengeful little…”
“As fascinating as all of this ‘business’ is, we’d really like to get back to our dinner…ALONE,” Beck said sternly.
“Hang on,” Phillip said. “Mister Dillon might want to make a statement for our viewers.” He turned to Bradley. “Should I get Joan Redding down here?”
“You think this is funny now,” Bradley said darkly. “But you wait. If John Simms, Junior just thinks he’s going to waltz in and have the same success in retail that he’s had in the ship business, he’s in for a rude awakening. Bradley Dillon controls this particular dance floor, and I’m NOT playing his tune!”
“Somebody stop this metaphor. I want to get off,” Beck said.
“OmegaMart was mine! Mine, dammit!” Bradley shouted. “I will not stand by while that nobody…”
As Bradley was raving, Beck noticed his personal assistant, Gisele (Beck assumed she had a last name, but she’d never heard it), enter quietly. She slipped up beside Bradley and placed a hand on his arm. Bradley stopped in mid-bellow, leaning toward Gisele as she whispered something in his ear.
“Of course,” he said finally. He glanced at Phillip and Beck. “Enjoy your meals,” he said, then followed Gisele out the door.
“Suddenly, I’m really not enjoying the ambiance here,” Beck said rising from her chair. “Let’s go.”
“Oookay. We could always reserve a holodeck,” Phillip offered.
“Definitely not. There are plenty of other places to go on Waystation. Trust me,” Beck said, pulling Phillip past their confused waiter and toward the door.
“But…” the waiter stammered. “Mister Dillon said the meal is complimentary!”
“Box it up and send it to Ops,” Beck shouted back.
“Oooh. The night shift eats well tonight,” Phillip said.
“And so will we. Come on.”
“They seem nice,” Yeoman Tina Jones commented.
“Oh yeah. Absolutely,” Commander Walter Morales replied, spinning his synth-ale around in its mug as he and Jones sat at a table in Victoria’s Pub watching Captain Kieal and the other five Bechodians from his crew attempt to play snooker at the table in the back corner of the pub.
“And it gets you out of Ops.”
“Hooray for diplomacy.”
“I think the Bechodians can merge into one giant creature that will kill us all with its plasma breath.”
“How nice for them.”
“You’re not listening to me at all. There’s a surprise.”
Morales snapped out of his funk for a moment. “Sorry, Tina. I’m just having a hard time putting on a grin for the meet-and-greet this evening.”
“It could be worse. Remember those Voulads a couple of years ago who just wanted to see our waste extraction systems.”
Morales shuddered. “I still don’t know how you talked Russell into his…demonstration.”
“Can I tell you a secret?”
“I had Craig rig Sean’s replicator so it added a ‘special ingredient’ to everything Sean ordered.”
“Special ingredient, huh?” Morales said, cracking a smile. “Why do I get the feeling Doctor Nelson was involved in this somehow?”
“Well, I did get her advice on what laxative would work the fastest.”
“Tina, did anyone ever tell you that you have a streak of pure evil inside you?”
“Anything to keep our guests happy,” Jones replied with a grin.
“Do you want another synthi-cider?”
“Please,” Jones said, pushing her mug to Morales, who then got up and headed toward the bar. A few seconds later, Jones saw Captain Beck and Phillip Harper entering Victoria’s. Mister Harper gave Jones a friendly wave, then he and Beck sat down at a table in a corner as far from the snooker table as they could get. Captain Beck obviously didn’t feel like having a chat with the Bechodians.
Jones glanced over at Morales, who was being talked at by Sanders, the pub proprietor. Sanders was as good at listening as most people of his trade were purported to be, but what he really liked was to have an audience as he gave his views at length about whatever issue happened to be on his mind. Morales was doing his best to pay attention, which, on the bright side, meant he hadn’t seen Beck and Phillip Harper enter the establishment.
The captain had been seeing Mister Harper for a couple of months now. Jones would have thought that Morales would be over it, but Jones could see Morales’ face darken every time Phillip Harper was mentioned. Jones knew a few things about unrequited love, having had a few crushes of her own over the years, but Morales’ obsession, if that was even the word for it, with Lisa Beck was entering its third year. This was getting ridiculous…and possibly unhealthy.
“Here you go,” Morales said, putting a fresh mug of synthi-cider down in front of Jones. “And did you know Sanders has come to the conclusion that all circuses are dens of evil?”
“The last one we had here certainly wasn’t very nice,” Jones said. “So did you want to play snooker with the Bechodians? I’m sure they’d let you in for a round.”
“I’ll pass,” Morales said.
“Okay. What about that new painting you said you were working on? Did you still need a model?”
“I decided to cut the person out of it all together. It works better that way. Besides, I don’t think anyone on board would have been up for the ‘pose naked’ part of the modeling.”
“Why would they have to be naked?”
“Because that’s what the painting required.”
“But you’re the painter. Can’t you not require that?”
“It’s art, Tina. I don’t control what is and is not required.”
“But you’re the guy with the paint brush.”
“Just trust me. It’s better without the person,” Morales said with a chuckle. He raised his mug of synth-ale to his lips, looking around the pub as he did so. Jones groaned inwardly as Morales’ eyes locked on Beck and Phillip Harper.
“When did they get here?”
“They who here where?” Jones replied quickly.
“Them,” Morales said, pointing toward the table where Beck and Harper were looking over a menu padd.
“Them? Oh! Them! I have no idea. I didn’t see them come in.”
“Uh huh.” Morales started to get up from his chair.
“Where are you going?”
“They’re on a date, Walt. It’s not really the time for business.”
“Sure,” Morales mumbled, moving off.
Captain Beck and Phillip Harper were still perusing their menus when Morales approached their table.
“Captain. Mister Harper,” he said flatly.
“Commander,” Harper acknowledged with a nod of his head.
“Did you decide to move Ops down here?” Beck asked with a smile.
“The Bechodians requested my presence, and you did ask me to deal with them.”
“True,” Beck said. “We seem to be emergency-free this evening, so enjoy yourself. Just stick to the synthehol.”
“Of course. Would you like me to introduce you to Captain Kieal?”
“We met by way of viewscreen. That was enough for me. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Sure,” Morales said. “Have a nice evening.”
“Goodbye, Commander,” Harper said.
Morales nodded and headed back to his table where Yeoman Jones waited. “Did you resolve whatever galactic crisis was bugging you?” Jones asked.
“Did Phillip Harper just get sucked into a black hole?”
“Then no.” Morales took another long drink from his mug. “I’ll be right back. I forgot something.”
“Walt! Dinner is going to be here in a second.”
“I won’t be long.”
Jones groaned, this time audibly, and put her head in her hands as Morales made his way back to Beck’s table.
“I’m sorry to bother you again, Captain, but I was wondering if you’d had a chance to look over Lieutenant Commander Porter’s report concerning the variance in the tertiary plasma relay in the secondary core,” Morales said.
“No. Is it urgent?”
“Probably not, but you never know with these variances. There’s always the chance that it could cause a cascade failure, igniting all of the plasma in the conduits, which could end up destroying the station.”
“Uh huh,” Beck said skeptically. “What’s Porter doing about it?”
“Running a diagnostic.”
“Then everything’s under control. Night, Walt.”
“What? Oh, yes. Good night.” Morales once again returned to his table, where, as Jones predicted, their dinners were waiting.
“Mmmm! Fish and chips!” Jones said, waving a hand over Morales’ meal like some spokesmodel. “Dig in!”
“Wait just one second…” Morales turned on his heel and charged back the way he had come, almost running headlong into Captain Beck, who was in the process of leaving her table with Harper in tow, as he did so.
“Captain!” he exclaimed surprised.
“Whatever it is, tell me in the morning,” Beck said as she and Harper headed toward the exit.
“You’re leaving?” Morales asked.
“Yeah. Nothing looked appealing. Good night, Walter. Go eat your dinner.”
“Yes, Captain. Good night.”
“Good job,” Jones said as Morales returned to their table. “You drove them right out of the pub.”
“They didn’t like the menu.”
“Maybe it was the atmosphere.”
Morales grunted in response, then ripped into his fish with a vengeance. Jones sighed. Oh well. Better he vented against a bit of fried food than Phillip Harper.
Phillip Harper chuckled softly as he and Beck made their way back out into the main concourse of Starfleet Square Mall.
“What’s so funny?” Beck asked.
“I was just marveling at your popularity. Aliens want to meet you. Your first officer constantly wants to consult you. I hope Starfleet gives you enough credits for doing this job.”
“Not even close,” Beck replied. “Come on. This hunger thing is starting to make me cranky.”
“We could always go eat on the holodeck?” Phillip offered.
“We’re enjoying the amenities of my station whether you like it or not!” Beck replied. “Even if we have to go the same place we always go.”
“Andorian is fine by me.”
“Who asked you?” Beck replied, nudging Phillip’s body playfully with her own. “What do you think this is? A democracy?”
“How in the hell did I let you talk me into this?” Doctor Amedon Nelson grumbled as she sat in a booth in the Andorian Restaurant cramped between the wall and Lieutenant Sean Russell.
“What else did you have to do tonight?” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter asked from across the table. He was currently decked out what Nelson had called a “crappy looking” purple tunic covering a simple white shirt and brown pants. It was supposed to be medieval, or so he claimed. Everyone else in the Ic’hasssssst V’Kelsnet Andorian Restaurant was similarly attired…everyone except for Russell and Nelson anyway. Of course, considering this was supposed to be a medieval dinner for Porter’s Society for Creative Anachronisms group, the attire was appropriate.
“You promised castles and jousting, not chunky water and deadly food.”
“Well SOMEBODY didn’t reserve our holodeck space when we told him too!” Porter shouted.
“I screwed up! Okay! I get it!” Ensign Mike Waits shouted back from across the room where he was slipping into his armor. His punishment for his transgression was to fight everyone who wanted to have a go at him. Porter’s hope was at the end of the night, Waits’ arms would just fall off from holding up his sword.
Ih’mad and the rest of the Andorian staff of the restaurant had been watching the evening’s proceedings with near glee. Their establishment was full, and combat was in the offing! There had been a little bit of initial disappointment when they’d learned that flamethrowers weren’t a part of Earth’s medieval era, but that was a small price to pay in return for having the music of swords clanging throughout the restaurant for the evening.
Porter turned his attention back to Nelson. “Besides, we gave Ih’mad a menu to prepare. There won’t be anything Andorian here. I promise. Just roast boar and mead and ale and wine and more mead.”
“Great. At least I can get thoroughly sloshed before you morons start beating yourselves up with swords,” Nelson muttered. She elbowed Russell in the side. “And what the hell’s with you? You haven’t said a word since we got here.”
“Nothin’,” Russell replied glumly.
“Starfleet Headquarters sent out the quarterly promotions listing this morning,” Porter explained. “Sean wasn’t on it.”
“Captain Beck would of told you if she was promoting you,” Nelson said.
“He could also be promoted by Headquarters. They do personnel reviews every couple of months and hand down promotions to people who deserve them.”
“I’m never gonna get promoted!” Russell cried, slamming his fist down on the table.
“Sure you will,” Porter replied.
“That’s easy for you to say…Lieutenant Commander!”
“I should have made Wuddle come here today,” Nelson groaned. “But no. He had some damn Future of Merriment conference. Damn politicians.”
“You’re the one dating him,” Porter replied. “You knew he was the Multek Frequoq beforehand.”
“And I fell for him anyway. Stupid me.”
“Can I quote you on that?” Porter said with a smirk. Nelson’s boot suddenly slammed into his shin. “OWWWW!”
“That you can quote,” Nelson said.
Captain Beck and Phillip Harper stopped in their tracks as soon as they stepped into the Ic’hasssssst V’Kelsnet Andorian Restaurant and saw the crowd of people decked out in armor and other medieval garb.
“Did we throw a crusade no one told me about?” Beck asked.
“Have at you!” In the nearby Mishtak pit, Richard Theroll, Colonization Administration bureaucrat by day/Society for Creative Anachronisms president by night, charged at Ensign Waits, sword at the ready. Waits parried the blow, knocking Theroll’s sword upward, then swung at Theroll’s armored torso.
“Maybe it’s dinner theater,” Phillip remarked as Ih’mad rushed over to greet the newcomers.
“A wonderful evening to you, Captain Beck,” Ih’mad said.
“You’ve got quite a crowd here tonight,” Beck said.
“A last minute banquet, but I can make room for you. We have a massive grizniizk roasting in the back as we speak. I’m sure there’s enough for you and Mister Harper.”
“I shall smite thee in the name of King Arthur!” Richard Theroll shouted, taking another wild swing at Mike Waits.
“Er…I don’t think so,” Beck said. “You folks have fun with your weapons.” She noticed Dr. Nelson sitting across the restaurant. “At least medical help is standing by.” Nelson took a long, long drink from her mug of mead. “On second thought, it appears the medical help won’t be standing for too much longer,” Beck added. “Good night, Ih’mad.”
“Good night, Captain. Come by for breakfast! I’ll make you a wonderful grizniizk and mushroom omelet!”
“I’ll do that.”
Beck and Phillip headed back out into the mall concourse.
“Holodeck?” Phillip asked.
“No,” Beck said, biting her lower lip as she considered her next move. Aha! “I have one more idea…and we can get food while we’re there.”
Lieutenant Russell was watching Waits and Theroll’s battle with disinterest when his commbadge chirped. “Watson to Lieutenant Russell.”
“Go ahead,” he replied after tapping the badge.
“We just got a red light on the monitor from Trinkets of Tellar.”
“Red light as in break-in?”
“I think so. The shop was closed today for the Festival of Gribnak.”
“I’ll be right there,” Russell said.
“Right here or right there meaning the shop?”
“The shop, Watson. The shop. Russell out.”
“Go stop some crime,” Porter said.
“Save me some boar,” Russell replied. Waystation’s Chief of Security hopped up from the table and charged toward the Mishtak pit. “Waits, let’s go!”
“But I’m beating him!” Waits replied as Theroll staggered backwards from a bonk to the helmet from the pommel of Waits’ sword.
“He’ll be here when you get back,” Russell said. “We have work to do.”
“All right,” Waits whined, clanking out the door after Russell.
Russell hadn’t made it five steps into the mall concourse before he was run over by a rapidly moving figure. Honestly, he didn’t mind so much because it was a fantastically-toned female figure wearing a skin tight body-suit.
“It’s a good thing I don’t give out speeding tickets,” Russell said as he and the woman lay in a heap on the deck. “But I’m pretty sure that outfit deserves a warning.”
The woman laughed weakly as she scrambled to her feet, checking to make sure the small pack she had flung across her back was still there. “I’m very sorry. I’m just late to meet a friend.”
“I could be your friend,” Russell replied with a grin as he stood up.
“I really need to go.”
“So do I actually. Possible robbery at the Tellarite jewelry store. Say, you wouldn’t mind if I looked in that bag, would you?” he asked casually.
The woman blanched, then bolted toward the nearest turbolift.
“Dammit! Why are all the gorgeous ones criminals!” Russell cried, running after her. Waits was right at his side…then fell behind…then farther behind…then stopped altogether as the armor wore him out.
“I’ll get back to the office and track the turbolift!” Waits called after Russell.
“Gee thanks,” Russell shouted back sarcastically.
“I don’t think I’ve been down here,” Phillip Harper said as Captain Beck led him to a set of double doors on Deck 87. “I thought it was all quarters.”
“Mostly, but we have a few recreational facilities around.”
“Recreation, huh? What did you have in mind?”
“A private showing of some appropriate film or another. No one really uses this theater, so we should have it all to ourselves. What will it be? We’ve got a huge collection of holovids and a bunch of the old 2-D-ers, if you like the classics.”
Beck opened the door to the theater and was greeted by the image of some poor sap being attacked by a massive bug on the room’s large screen.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” the crowd gathered in the theater screamed in disgust. Beck squinted her eyes against the darkness trying to see who was in there.
“What do you want, Beck?” a gruff voice demanded from her left. Colonel Martin Lazlo of the Federation Marine Corps was standing right beside her, glaring.
“Sorry, Lazlo. I didn’t realize the theater was occupied,” Beck said.
“I reserved the space with Morales. If you’d have looked at the scheduling chart, you’d know that.”
“Like I said, I’m sorry.” She winced as a giant bug rammed something into a man’s skull and started sucking. “What the hell are you watching?”
“Starship Troopers. Good military drama. And it gets the troops ready to face anything.”
“Like giant brain sucking bugs.”
“You never know. The galaxy is a dangerous place.”
“Uh huh. You folks have fun.”
“This isn’t fun. It’s training!” Lazlo snapped.
“Whatever. Night, Colonel.” Beck closed the theater door, leaving her and Phillip alone in the corridor. “So much for that,” she grumbled.
“Come on,” Phillip said, taking her hand and heading back toward the turbolift.
“Where are we going?”
“You’re just going to have to wait to find out, aren’t you?”
“The holodeck,” Beck said once they’d arrived at their destination a few minutes later. “What a surprise.”
“You sound disappointed,” Phillip said.
“I just…I wanted you to see more of what Waystation has to offer. You’ve only been here a couple of months, and half of that you’ve been away at meetings. I don’t think you’ve had the chance to really get to know the place.”
“You sound like you’re trying to sell it to me.”
“I just want you to be happy here.”
“I am, and that has nothing to do with whether or not I can get a meal in peace,” Phillip replied. “I have to admit I’ve grown pretty attached to the management around here.”
Beck wrapped her arms around Phillip’s waist. “The management is heading toward starvation. What have you got hiding in that holodeck?”
“Computer, start program Harper Three.”
“Program complete. Enter when ready,” the computer replied after a few chirps. The holodeck doors opened revealing the interior of a dimly lit club. On stage, a four piece band consisting of a guitarist, drummer, pianist, and sax player were deep into their own tunes.
“You like it?” Phillip asked. “It’s a little club I used to go to back in Boston. I did tweak the kitchen a bit, though. It’s got food from this place in Chicago I ate at all through college. Great stuff. And the band is the Ray Jenkins Quad. Late 22nd century Fission Jazz. And after dinner, we can head outside. There should be a horse-drawn carriage waiting to give us a night-time tour of the French Quarter.”
“I thought this was Boston.”
“This is my holodeck program,” Phillip said with a smile. “It’s everywhere I want to be.”
“Catchy,” Beck replied.
“And the evening will end with some dancing at a ball in Paris…if you’re up for it.”
“Dancing?” Beck said. “I don’t… Dancing has never been…”
“You want to give it a try?”
Beck grinned. “Sure. Why the hell not? I can make a fool of myself in front of some holograms.”
“Great. Then let’s eat!” Phillip said, moving toward a table.
“Lieutenant Russell to all security personnel,” Beck’s commbadge erupted suddenly. As captain, she A) had to keep her badge with her at all times, and B) got updated on all security alerts, neither fact she was thrilled about at the moment.
Russell’s voice continued its announcement. “Be on the lookout for a human female. Approximately 170 centimeters tall. Thirty years of age. Wearing a dark purple catsuit. Exceptionally form-fitting. Nice form, too. She’s wanted for questioning in connection with the robbery of Trinkets of Tellar. Russell out.”
“Something wrong?” Phillip asked.
“They can handle it,” Beck said.
“Russell to all security personnel. The suspect is on Deck 43, Section 29-Baker. Moving fast. 30-Baker.”
“So…did you want to sit down?” Phillip asked.
“Just one second,” Beck said. “Exit.” The holodeck doors appeared, then opened as Beck approached. Phillip watched in confusion as she stood at the exit, counting down on her fingers.
Beck stuck her arm out of the door, clotheslining Russell’s robbery suspect. The woman hit the ground in a heap, gasping for air. Seconds later, four of Russell’s officers and Russell himself converged onto the scene.
The captain nonchalantly allowed the holodeck doors to close and headed back over to Phillip. “Okay. Where’s the food?” she said, taking Phillip’s arm and leading him to a table for two near the stage. “I’ve got to keep my strength up for the rest of this date.”