Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“A Door Is Ajar”
By Alan Decker
At the borders of consciousness, the Selvan watched. Watched and waited for an opening through which it could take control of Lisa Beck. But if anything, her borders had grown stronger of late. She was happy. She was completely sure of and secure in herself. The Selvan’s patience was wearing thin. The door had to be opened, but a direct assault would surely fail.
Perhaps there was another possibility…
And another way to open the door.
One of the hardest things for most people to adjust to when they first venture into space for long periods of time is the complete and utter lack of a sunrise or sunset. Beings, no matter their planet of origin, have a built-in-chronometer that expects to see a sun or suns when they get up in the morning.
Having spent the better part of the last fifteen years in space, Captain Lisa Beck was well beyond needing sun to tell her it was morning. Her internal workings were now set to Waystation time, and, as she slowly drifted awake, she instinctively knew that she had slept in.
Beck rolled over lazily and found herself face-to-face with Phillip Harper, president of the Associated Worlds holovision network and Beck’s significant other for the last couple of months.
“Good morning,” he said groggily. “I didn’t hear you come in last night.”
“It was late,” Beck said as Harper reached over and ran his hand through her tousled red hair, brushing it out of her face. “A Benzite colony ship got a little too close to a freighter headed toward the Andorian colony, so the freighter calmly and rationally opened fire.”
“Gotta love those Andorians.”
“Oh yeah. The colony ship lost propulsion and started drifting toward the Multek border. It took the Wayward and both runabouts to tow that heifer back into open space while Porter and his crew got the engines up and running again.”
“Craig thought the ship resembled a cow.”
Beck nodded and chuckled. “Complete with udders.”
“Sorry I missed it.”
“I would have invited you along if I’d know you were going to be here. It was kind of a surprise to come home and find a man in my bed.”
“A good surprise, I hope.”
Beck leaned over and kissed him. “Best I can think of. But what happened? I thought you were going to be gone for another week.”
“I got two days out, and the Yridians commed me,” Phillip said. “They’d discussed it and decided that they’d carry AWN. That pretty much wiped out my whole reason for going to Yridia, so I turned around.”
“See. You’re so charismatic, you can negotiate for satellite usage without even being present.”
“Or opening my mouth,” Phillip said. “Not that I’m complaining. I’ll take any planet I can get.”
“Don’t worry. You’re going to make AWN huge and then I’m sure some of Krinokom’s thugs will be banging down your door to wipe out their competition.”
“Yeesh. There’s a happy thought,” Phillip winced.
“No big deal. You’ll be here, so they won’t find you.”
“My heroine,” Phillip said. He gazed at her intently for several moment. “I mean that, you know.”
“I know,” Beck said with a soft smile. “Hungry?”
“I could eat. Food court?”
Twenty minutes later, the couple finally managed to emerge from the bed and start their day.
“I don’t know,” Commander Walter Morales said thoughtfully as he sat across from Yeoman Tina Jones in the food court of Starfleet Square Mall, a mostly eaten Belgian waffle sitting on the plate in front of him. “You’re talking about holding a single species to a completely different standard than the rest of the Federation.”
“Yeah, but they’re shape-shifters. They can do things the rest of us can’t. You have to take that into consideration.”
“They’re unique, but you can’t ban Changelings from shape-shifting by law. We don’t prohibit Betazoids from reading minds.”
“That’s different. Changelings can be anything anywhere. If they ever wanted to join the Federation, there would have to be conditions.”
“Like I said, Tina, we don’t put those conditions on anyone else. Do you have idea how many Betazoids there could be in this food court right now? They could be reading my mind as we…” Morales trailed off as his eyes locked on something behind Jones.
“Captain Beck and Mister Harper just came by, didn’t they?”
Morales grunted, his face darkening as he watched Beck and Phillip get in line at one of the food court stands.
“See. Who needs a Betazoid to read your mind?”
“They’re glowing,” Morales muttered.
“How nice for them,” Jones said.
“Walter,” Jones said, placing a hand on his arm.
“What?” Morales replied, finally returning his gaze to the other person at his table.
“I’m getting worried about you.”
“No, you’re not. You’re obsessed with Captain Beck. It’s not healthy. I’m not trying to be mean here, Walter, but she said no. You’ve got to move on.”
“I don’t want to move on.”
“Why? There are hundreds of other women on this station. You’re a great guy. Why are you driving yourself crazy over this!” Jones said.
“I’m around her all the time,” Morales said softly. “I see her day in and day out. How intelligent she is, and strong, and funny, and beautiful. She’s incredible, Tina. Do you know what it’s like to be so close to something wonderful constantly, but you can’t do anything about it?”
“Yes, you can,” Jones said.
Jones got up from her seat. “You can go see Counselor Miller. You’re torturing yourself, Walter, and I don’t want to watch you do it anymore.”
Jones kept on walking and didn’t look back.
There were times when Bradley Dillon felt that running Dillon Enterprises required more tactical knowledge and combat savvy than anything Captain Beck had to do as Waystation’s commanding officer. Bradley had to watch markets on fifty worlds as well as what was happening with his suppliers and other trends that could impact sales.
Weather trends, sport scores, natural catastrophes, movements of his business rivals. It was almost too much to process.
But he did it, mostly without assistance. Sure, he had Gisele, his personal assistant, as well as a veritable army of analysts with high-powered computers, but in the end Bradley felt every decision should be made by him. This was his business, after all.
Of late, though, he’d found himself distracted. Well, distracted wasn’t really the right word. Focused was more appropriate. Bradley had found himself focused on the movements of one particular rival, a man who didn’t even qualify as a rival two months ago: John Edward Simms, Jr.
With his acquisition of the OmegaMart chain, Simms, who up until then had been solely in the starliner industry, controlled a large and very profitable group of retail stores located on most of the core Federation worlds. Bradley had planned to buy OmegaMart himself. His own Dillon’s Supply Depots were strongest on the fringe worlds of the Federation, but, while he had a few stores on the core worlds, buying OmegaMart would have given him a much stronger hold on worlds like Alpha Centauri and Andor.
However, this was not to be.
And now John Simms, Jr. not only controlled OmegaMart, but he’d also been making rumblings to the press about expanding the operation.
Bradley sat at his desk in his wood-paneled office drinking his morning coffee while his computer scanned the various news and business wires for any updates on Simms’s dealings. Seconds later, the system chirped, signaling that the search was complete and that nothing had been found.
He leaned back in his chair with a satisfied sigh. No new surprises on the Simms front. The day was off to a good start. Now he could concentrate on figuring out where Simms intended to take OmegaMart next. The safe route would be to open more stores on the core worlds, but there was no press in that. No glory.
Simms would go someplace else. Someplace with an emerging economy and bright prospects for the future. Possibly Bajor or Cardassia. But then Bradley wouldn’t put it past Simms to be really obnoxious and open the first Federation retail outlet in the Romulan Empire.
Bradley’s door gong sounded the first few notes of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue, indicating someone was at the door.
“Come in,” he said, pressing the door-comm button. His assistant, Gisele, strode in, carrying a padd. Gisele was only about 160 centimeters tall, but she carried herself with an air of power and confidence that Bradley always appreciated. She was good at her job and knew it, which was why Bradley felt fortunate to have her working for him. They certainly weren’t friends socially, but they got along well at the office and made for an efficient team.
“I’m sorry to bother you, sir, but we just received a comm I thought you should be made aware of.”
“Another death threat from that Daimon Gribnob.”
“No, sir. And Gribnob had his Daimon status revoked, if you recall.”
Bradley smiled. “Oh yes.” He took the padd as Gisele handed it to him across the desk. “Let’s see what is so…HE’S COMING HERE!” Bradley bellowed suddenly.
“Shall I make the appointment on your calendar?” Gisele asked nonplused.
Bradley nodded numbly as he let the padd fall to his desk. On it was the message that had Bradley’s mind racing.
COMING TO WAYSTATION TOMORROW. LET’S HAVE LUNCH.
J.E. SIMMS, JR.
“He’s coming here,” Bradley mumbled. What the hell was the man up to?
The blue ball careened away from Captain Beck’s racquet, hit the front wall, then sailed back, skimming just centimeters away from the left wall as it traveled.
“Dammit!” Federation Marine Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges cried, throwing herself across the racquetball court in an effort to intercept the oncoming orb. She swung in a wild backhand shot, just catching the ball and smacking it back to the front wall.
“You weren’t supposed to return that,” Beck shouted, suddenly having to rush to the other side of the court. Beck missed and instead collided roughly with the wall as the ball whizzed by her, then hit the floor.
“That’s what you get for being cocky,” Hodges said.
“Just serve the damn ball,” Beck snapped back, wiping sweat off of her brow, then checking to make sure her ponytail was still secure.
“Watch carefully,” Hodges said dramatically, stepping into the serve box and smacking the ball toward the front wall. Beck jogged to the right side of the court and returned the serve with ease.
“Oooh,” Beck mocked.
“Watch it, Beck, or you’re going to be eating this thing,” Hodges said, sending the ball back to the front wall. “And you wouldn’t want Phil-boy to see you with anything less than a perfect dopey grin.”
“Dopey?” Beck said as the pair continued their volley.
“Dopey!” Hodges said, swatting the ball. “You’re ga-ga for this guy.”
Beck slapped the ball, sending it into the corner and bouncing out again. Hodges misjudged the angle and futilely tried to swing behind herself as she ran by.
“I am not ga-ga. I don’t even do ga-ga period,” Beck said. “My serve.”
“Can’t you just admit that you’re happy?”
“Fourteen serving eighteen.” Beck hit the ball. “And I’m very happy. Just not ga-ga. I will never be ga-ga.
SWAT. “Okay. Fine. No ga-ga.”
SWAT. “Thank you.”
SWAT. “But he is sleeping over?”
SWAT. “So? We’re adults.”
SWAT. “Just asking.”
SWAT. “What’s with the glint?”
SWAT. “I don’t have a glint.”
SWAT. “You do so, Steph!”
SWAT. “Is there any reason for me not to?”
“I’m not going there, Steph,” Beck said, completely missing her return swing.
“Did I ask for details?” Hodges replied as Beck tossed her the racquetball.
“You’ve been asking for details ever since Larry Blevins kissed me in the girls’ bathroom in elementary school.”
“And you never did tell me what he was doing in there.”
“You. Ball. Hit.”
Hodges served, and the duo played in silence for a few moments. “You seeing him tonight?” she asked finally.
“Dinner. We’ve been doing the holodeck tour of our favorite restaurants. Then we might head to the theater…assuming Colonel Lazlo won’t be showing you all another one of his ‘training films.’”
“I think he’s done. After that one with the brain-sucking giant bugs, I tried to make sure I was on duty whenever he scheduled one, so I could say I had to be near the Mongoose or something.”
“Good plan.” Beck smacked the ball into the corner again, but this time Hodges was able to return the shot. Beck, however, wasn’t able to get back in time to continue the volley.
“Okay,” Hodges said heading to the serve box. “Time to end this thing.”
“Hit me with your best shot.”
Hodges served, sending the ball sailing mere centimeters above the floor. It suddenly dropped and bounced just past the serve box.
“Nineteen serving fourteen,” Hodges said. “Wanna see it again?”
“Oh, could I?” Beck groused, crouching in readiness for the next shot. Hodges caught her off-guard by lobbing a high one. Beck managed to return it only by thwacking the ball against the back wall and sending it bouncing all the way back to the front. Hodges was ready for it, and barely tapped the ball. It bounced off the front wall again, but then its momentum died. It hit the ground before Beck had managed to run halfway back toward the front.
“Twenty serving fourteen. Game point.”
“Just serve it.”
“If you say so,” Hodges said. She sent Beck another gentle serve, then jogged back to get in position for the return shot.
SWAT. “I do like him. A lot.”
SWAT. “I hadn’t noticed,” Hodges said with a smirk. “Any thoughts about the future?”
SWAT. “Can’t I just enjoy the present for now?”
SWAT. “Sure. It’s only been a couple of months. It’s a bit early to be planning a wedding.”
SWAT. “Who said anything about a wedding?”
SWAT. “No one. That’s my point. I think it’s great that you’re willing to just see where the relationship goes. No expectations.”
SWAT. “Exactly. No expectations.”
SWAT. Hodges zipped the ball past Beck. “Game.”
A streak of blue paint struck the canvas at a 70 degree angle, creating a large blotch near the top right corner of the painting with several dollops of decreasing size moving away from it. Against the blood red background, the azure blue paint stood out awkwardly. Clashing.
It was exactly what Morales wanted.
He rinsed his brush, then hit the canary yellow, sending another streak at the canvas that cris-crossed the first.
Red, blue and yellow. How primary.
What a bunch of crap.
Morales glared at the painting in disgust as though he could will it to become something decent. Something worth looking at.
Maybe Tina was right about needing to talk to Counselor Miller. He couldn’t remember a time in his life when he’d been this angry for such a sustained period. If he didn’t snap out of it, something was bound to happen.
Fine, he told himself. I’ll just stop thinking about her. People found themselves attracted to their coworkers all the time and didn’t lose their minds over it.
Maybe it was just frustration. He hadn’t had so much as a date in a couple of years now, not that he’d tried. When Morales first came to Waystation, there weren’t many people on board, and he was also nervous about being the first officer. Then as time went by, he realized that everything he’d ever wanted in a woman was right next to him every single day. The only problem was that she didn’t have any feelings for him.
A logical person would have pushed it from his mind and moved on. For some reason, Morales couldn’t do that. He wanted Lisa Beck. If only she’d give him a chance, he could show her that he was right for her, too. How could he move on and date someone else when his ideal was so close, so very close?
Only two minor things stood in his way: her lack of feelings for him and Phillip Harper.
Dr. Nelson had explained to Morales what Beck most likely saw in Phillip Harper. Sure he was charismatic and successful, but he also understood what Beck’s life as a commanding officer was like. Harper owned and operated the Associated Worlds Network. It was the private sector version of being in command. And while Morales also had a command position, in the end, Beck was in command over him. His only chance to be seen as a true equal by her was to get a command of his own, but that meant leaving Waystation and her.
In the end, he couldn’t bring himself to give up being near her everyday to chase the remote chance that she’d feel differently about him once he got his fourth pip.
Maybe if Phillip Harper hadn’t come along, Beck would have been able to look past the rank difference. If that bastard hadn’t shown up and swept her off her feet…
Morales jabbed his brush into the olive paint and swept stroke after stroke onto the canvas, grinding the paint in to the point that bristles were being ripped from the brush and stuck to the surface of the painting.
In a final burst of fury, Morales punched the canvas, knocking it and the easel to the floor as he stood above them breathing heavily.
Oh yeah. This was healthy.
His body sagged as the anger seeped out of him. He couldn’t go on like this. He was obsessing his life away. Tomorrow he’d make an appointment with Counselor Miller.
Right now he was going to bed.
He was in Operations. The room was empty, empty and quiet. The stations were there, but somehow wrong. A shape was off here. A placement wrong there. A haze hung over everything making it impossible for him to bring things into proper focus.
“There you are.” She was here. He turned around to face her, but she was just disappearing behind the turbolift shaft at the center of Operations.
His conscious mind realized he was dreaming. He’d been here before many times. She would ask him to follow, and he’d chase her but never actually catch up. He could never even get close.
Still he couldn’t refuse. He followed, rounding the turbolift and finding himself in a long metallic corridor, as though someone had placed the hallways of the cargo level in ops and stretched them off into infinity.
“Come to me,” her voice called, the promise of fulfillment in her words.
He heard the warning and stopped, looking for the source. None was apparent.
“Come to me,” she repeated more urgently, breathily.
He resumed his pursuit, rounding a corner, then another and another. He ran faster and faster, deciding which turns to make based on pure instinct.
Another turn, then another, then…
He was surrounded by candles, beyond which only lay darkness.
And she was there. He could see her dimly-lit form in front of him, the glow of the candles flickering off of her bare skin.
“I’ve been a fool, Walter,” she said. “Come to me.” A door appeared behind her, bright red. Something inside him wanted to run, to flee.
“Come to me,” she repeated, reaching for the door knob.
“What about Phillip?” he asked.
“I don’t want him. I want you,” she replied, opening the red door. Inside, he could see nothing. “Come to me,” she said again, then stepped inside, closing the door behind her.
He looked around again for the source of the warning.
No one was there.
He turned his attention back to the door and once again felt fear coursing through his body.
“Come to me,” she called.
That was enough. Walter Morales opened the door and stepped inside.
The Selvan awoke to sensation. Sensations throughout his newly-taken physical body. Dryness in his mouth. A pressure in his lower abdomen. An emptiness in his stomach. A cramp in his right leg.
The experience was a bit overwhelming at first. He had not been in corporeal form in so long that he’d forgotten what many of these sensations indicated. For example, what was this pressure coming from his lower abdomen?
And why was there now a warm wetness spreading across his front?
He picked up the covers and looked down, trying to comprehend what was occurring. Hmm…the wetness was emanating from a part of his own body down there, and the pressure inside his abdomen was being relieved. Ah yes, this was a normal function. But in the future, he would make sure to perform said function in a room designed specifically for that purpose.
The Selvan also felt a rumbling coming from his lower torso. To remedy this, he must…consume items through his mouth. That must be done to relieve the emptiness inside him now that was causing mild discomfort. The Selvan would consume items as well, but first to deal with the wetness.
After exploring’s Morales quarters and piecing together what to do from his prior observations of Waystation and vague recollections from his long ago physical existence, the Selvan managed to get cleaned up and dressed and to order a meal out of the replicator. This new physical form had many requirements that the Selvan hadn’t needed deal with in a millennium. Every movement, every touch, brought new sensations. Smells fascinated the Selvan. A dimension had reopened in his universe.
It would have been easy for the Selvan to get lost in his new humanity, spending hour upon hour exploring and experiencing what it had to offer, but that was not why the Selvan had come to Waystation.
The Selvan had come for Lisa Beck.
That goal had yet to be accomplished, but the Selvan now felt certain that she would belong to him shortly. However, the Selvan now found that his new form would allow him to begin his other preparations for the next phase. He needed information, and judging from his previous observations of Waystation, there was a library on board that just might have what the Selvan was looking for.
Bradley Dillon checked the chronometer again, then immediately cursed himself for doing so. He’d left specific instructions with Gisele to inform him as soon as John Simms, Jr. had arrived and was seated in the private dining room in Dillon’s Restaurant that Bradley had reserved for this lunch. Bradley wasn’t going to budge from his office until Simms was waiting for him. That’s the way the order of the galaxy worked. Simms waited for him, not the other way around.
Yet here Bradley was glancing over at the chronometer every couple of minutes waiting for word that Simms had arrived. Why was he letting himself get worked up like this?
In all likelihood, Bradley was worried about nothing. Yes, Simms had gotten control of OmegaMart, making him possibly the first business rival of note that Bradley had had in a long while. Maybe that was what Bradley was anticipating: the thrill of going head-to-head with another mind in a chess game of financial risk.
Simms would soon find that he was terribly overmatched. Running a starliner company couldn’t prepare him to take on Dillon Enterprises. Dillon’s Supply Depot was just one facet of Bradley’s business. His R&D division was working on new products all the time, his Starfleet Suites Hotel in Waystation had rightfully earned a galaxy-wide reputation for excellence, Dillon’s Restaurant in the hotel lobby employed award-winning chefs, and he had helped finance several lucrative mining expeditions. Dillon Enterprises’ future was even brighter as Bradley prepared to expand Starfleet Suites to other worlds and possibly open additional resorts. In his mind, he could see a casino/resort complex encompassing an entire world. Perhaps he would even purchase a planetoid for that purpose.
His desk comm buzzed, pulling Bradley out of his revelry. “Go ahead,” he said after reaching forward to answer the comm.
“Your lunch appointment has arrived, Mister Dillon,” Gisele’s voice replied. “He is currently waiting in the dining room as you requested.”
“Excellent,” Bradley said, rising from his seat and straightening his suit coat. “I’ll be right there. Make sure that the waitstaff gives him nothing but water until I arrive.” Bradley closed the comm channel, then rubbed his hands together expectantly.
“All right. Let’s go see what old Johnny-boy is doing in my neighborhood,” Bradley said, striding confidently toward the door.
Bradley entered the private dining room several minutes later after taking the time to exchange greetings with several of the lunch customers at Dillon’s Restaurant. He knew that the chance to see one of the Federation’s richest men was a primary reason visitors to Waystation chose to eat at Dillon’s, and far be it from him to disappoint his public.
Simms rose from his seat as Bradley stepped through the doors, giving Bradley a chance to size up his adversary. Simms was broad shouldered and appeared to be in his early-to-mid-50’s. He’d kept himself in shape and presented something of an imposing figure, standing a good 15 centimeters above Bradley’s 170 centimeter frame.
“Good afternoon, Mister Simms,” Bradley said, extending his hand. “I apologize for my tardiness, but I was delayed by other business. A man such as yourself surely understands such things.”
“Absolutely,” Simms said, smiling congenially as he shook Bradley’s hand. “I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me on such short notice.”
“My pleasure,” Bradley replied, sitting down across from Simms. “I have to admit being a bit surprised by your comm, though. What brings you all the way out here to Waystation?”
“It’s not so way out anymore, Bradley,” Simms said, galling Bradley with his immediate jump to using his first name. Simms immediately turned his attention to the menu. “So what do you recommend? I’m starved.”
“I’m sure that whatever you choose will be excellent.”
“Of course. Pride in your employees. That’s good to see.”
“I’ve worked very hard to ensure that my name stands for quality,” Bradley said as the waiter approached. Simms ordered Oysters ala Risa. Bradley countered with the Filet Mignon. The waiter nodded curtly, then headed off to the kitchen to place the orders, leaving Bradley and Simms alone again.
“How long will you be staying with us?” Bradley asked, hoping he could get away without having to offer Simms a room at the Starfleet Suites. Courtesy among business rivals could be something of a nuisance when it came to the complimentary meals and accommodations that were basically an expectation.
“Just the afternoon,” Simms said. “I’ll have seen what I need to see by then.”
“And what would that be?” Bradley said, trying to sound as casual and disinterested as possible.
“The facilities,” Simms replied cryptically as the waiter returned with a wine cart. Bradley preferred to have a selection of wines on hand for his meals. His palette got bored quickly. Also, this would allow him the opportunity to observe how Simms handled himself.
Simms picked a 2354 vintage white from the Pregas Vineyards on Keralbis Two. An excellent choice, and one particularly suited to shellfish. Bradley’s estimation of Simms rose another notch.
“This is quite a place,” Simms said appreciatively as he poured his glass of wine. “Is the hospitality industry treating you well?”
“Very. Our reputation speaks for itself.”
“That is important, I can tell you,” Simms said. “Simms Ship Lines’ record is nearly spotless.”
Bradley suppressed a smirk. Yes, it was nearly spotless except for the disastrous launch of the S.S. Pomposity almost three years ago. The ship had been infiltrated by a Dominion spy and sent barreling into Klingon space at a time when the Klingons weren’t all that interested in seeing a Federation vessel. Bradley normally wouldn’t have taken notice of the event, but his parents and brother were on board the Pomposity. Bradley had been forced to arrange passage for his parents to Vulcan after the Pomposity was rescued, and this was before his financial windfall.
“Have you considered adding entertainment?” Simms continued.
“Excuse me?” Bradley asked.
“Entertainment. A pianist. A harpist. Maybe even a singer. Do you need a singer?”
“No,” Bradley said firmly. It was something of a lie. He did have a pianist in the restaurant most evenings, but he did not wants to encourage Simms.
“Too bad. My Mindy misses singing for an audience,” Simms said, referring to Mindy Dawes Simms, his wife. “She’s been pretty glum since she stopped singing our jingle in the commercials.”
“Why did she stop then?” Bradley asked.
“Market research. Turns out her voice was driving away customers.”
“Imagine that,” Bradley muttered.
Simms took another sip from his glass. “I suppose I’ve kept you in suspense long enough,” he said, looking across at Bradley.
“I’m in suspense?” Bradley asked, matching Simms’s gaze unflinchingly. Time for the game to begin.
“You want to know why I’m here. I’d certainly want to know the same if you showed up sniffing around near my headquarters.”
As if I would do that, Bradley thought to himself. I have people for that sort of thing.
“Waystation isn’t as remote as it used to be,” Simms said. “You’ve got several thriving colonies sitting out there, and, let’s face it, people want to visit your establishments. I’m going to help them.”
“Help them how?” Bradley said, already knowing the answer.
“By coming here. Starting Stardate 55000, Simms Ship Lines will offer a regular route to Waystation. I still need to get the final clearances from Starfleet, but I expect we’ll start construction on a new docking arm for our use in the next month or so.”
“Waystation already has ample docking arms,” Bradley said. Simms’s announcement that his starliners would be coming here was expected and actually welcome. As Simms admitted, Bradley’s businesses on Waystation were a draw. Simms would actually be feeding him customers. But, as Bradley had suspected, there was more to it than that.
Simms smiled and poured himself another glass of wine. In the meantime, the waiter approached with their salads, placing them down in front of each man before retreating to the kitchen again.
“It does indeed have docking arms,” Simms said. “However, Simms Ship Lines believes in offering ultimate convenience to our passengers. The docking arm we’re planning will also contain shops, restaurants, and accommodations.”
“Convenient,” Bradley said darkly.
“Absolutely. This way our passengers will be able to get themselves settled in before they venture out to see Waystation’s other wonders. Or, if they’d like, they can simply remain on the docking arm until their connecting flight arrives.”
“You’ll pardon me if I think this docking arm seems somewhat superfluous. Waystation already offers everything a traveler could want.”
“Possibly, but people trust the Simms name.” He took another sip before another smile spread across his face. “And the OmegaMart name.”
Bradley’s immediate impulse was to reach across the table and throttle Simms, but he took a moment to consider the situation. Rather than carefully examining his options with OmegaMart and designing a carefully-thought-out expansion plan, Simms had instead decided to attack Bradley head on right from the start.
Why? This made no business sense at all. Sure bring the starliners to Waystation, but why spend countless credits to build something that wasn’t needed, much less wanted? Why would he…
Understanding hit. He would have thought Simms was above such primitive behavior, but obviously not.
“What do you want, Simms?” Bradley asked, feigning boredom. “A million credits? A billion? How much are you expecting to extort from me in exchange for you stopping this farce?”
“There’s no farce here, Bradley. And I don’t want your damn credits.”
Bradley leaned back reflexively as Simms’s demeanor suddenly turned angry. “I’m coming here,” Simms continued. “I’m going to destroy you. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.”
“Destroy me?” Bradley said, forcing a chuckle. “You must be joking.”
“No joke. It’s payback time.”
“Payback? For what?” Bradley exclaimed. “You and I never even met until today.”
“You’re still one of them,” Simms spat. “A Dillon. Your family made a fool out of me on the Pomposity. Then you come along and blunder into a fortune. I’ve worked my whole life to get where I am, and some twit just hands the galaxy to you on a platter!”
“Reality check, Simms. You inherited your money from your dad. Mine came from a wise investment. And I had nothing to do with the Pomposity.”
“Are you even listening to me? Your whole damn bloodline has caused me nothing but trouble, but no more! I can’t hurt your parents’ academic reputations. I can’t drum your brother out of Starfleet. But you…YOU I can hurt. I’ve got the will, and I’ve got the resources now. It starts here, but soon OmegaMart will be everywhere you look. Your hotel will be empty, your restaurant will be empty, and your stores will be empty.”
“There’s no need to make this personal, Simms.”
“You should have thought of that before your family got on my ship.”
“SHUT UP!” Simms snapped leaping up from the table. “You’re going down, and that’s final!”
“You’re making a mistake, Simms. Revenge has no place in business. And neither does psychosis. Why don’t you go get yourself an expensive psychologist or something? I could probably arrange for a room at Tantalus Five.”
“Down!” Simms shouted, then stormed out of the room just as the waiter was entering with their meals.
“It’s all right,” Bradley said, sensing the waiter’s confusion. “I’ll take mine. As for Mister Simms’s…have it boxed up and sent to his ship with my compliments.”
“Yes, Mister Dillon,” the waiter said, taking Simms’s plate away. Bradley sat for a moment, lost in thought. So Simms had a personal vendetta over some incident Bradley wasn’t even involved in. This was exactly why Bradley avoided contact with his brother. The man emitted trouble like a star emitted light.
Unfortunately, there was nothing to be done about the past. In truth, though, there was nothing Bradley would do even if he could. From the reports he’d seen, the Pomposity had been saved by his brother’s actions. Simms’s ego, however, obviously couldn’t take the bruising the event caused.
No matter. If Simms was going to let intense emotions rule his business decisions, Bradley was quite happy to sit back and watch the man destroy himself.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that that clock is right,” Captain Lisa Beck said, pointing at the chronometer positioned just to the right of Waystation’s viewscreen as she exited her office.
“As far as I know,” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter, Waystation’s science and operations officer, replied from his station. “That is, of course, unless Russell’s been playing with it again.”
“That was one time, and it was an accident!” Lieutenant Sean Russell shouted from the tactical console.
“Uh huh, sure it was,” Porter said. He left Russell to stew and turned his attention back to his commanding officer. “I’m guessing your interest in the chronometer has something to with the fact that Commander Morales was supposed to take over twenty-two…make that twenty-three minutes ago.”
“Good guess,” Beck said.
“Well, for a guy who’s always here on time, he’s surprisingly missing at the moment.”
“And you haven’t heard from him?”
“Not a peep. Haven’t seen him all day,” Porter said.
“Maybe he had a date last night and slept in today,” Russell offered.
Don’t I wish, Beck thought to herself. Maybe Morales would stop being such a hangdog if he had a relationship.
“Slept in today?” Porter said. “It’s almost tonight. If he’s having dates like that, I…I…well, life just wouldn’t be fair!”
“News flash, Craig. It isn’t,” Beck said.
“Would you like me to page, Commander Morales, ma’am?” Russell asked.
“I’ll take care of it, thanks. Beck to Commander Morales…”
“Beck to Commander Morales.”
The Selvan involuntarily jumped when the emblem worn on his clothing erupted into speech. He had seen Walter Morales wearing the item during his earlier observations but hadn’t realized its true purpose until now. Its purpose was evidently to interrupt him right in the middle of his research. Waystation’s library was fairly extensive and contained digital versions of several volumes held at the Federation Archaeological Society archives on Earth. No one book would have the complete information the Selvan required; however, if one knew where to look, as he did, a piece of data here and a long lost myth there would add up to the complete whole.
The pieces pointed to his next destination, but first the Selvan needed to acquire one vital component: Lisa Beck. The very Lisa Beck who was currently speaking to him.
“Yes?” the Selvan replied.
“Isn’t there someplace you’re supposed to be, Commander?”
“I have an obligation.” It wasn’t a question or an excuse, simply a statement of understanding. The Selvan should have realized that this human would have a job to do on the station.
“You could say that,” Beck said. “So will I see you in Ops shortly, or do I need to have Lieutenant Russell send out the dogs?”
“I will be in Ops shortly.”
“Glad to hear it. Beck out.” The Selvan rose from his seat as the comm channel closed.
“Did you find everything you needed?” Yeoman Beevo, the Bolian librarian, asked.
“I have to go.”
“If you didn’t get finished, I can download your research onto a chip for you. It’d be a shame to lose it.”
“That it would,” the Selvan replied as Beevo took a blank chip over to the terminal the Selvan had been using and saved the data.
“There you are.”
“Thank you,” the Selvan said, taking the chip. “You have been a tremendous help. I will remember your kindness for a long time.” That was true. This chip would simplify the Selvan’s task immensely.
“Um…just doing my job,” Beevo said uncomfortably as the Selvan left the library.
The Selvan ordered the turbolift to Ops and prepared himself for his first face-to-face encounter with Lisa Beck. Granted, she would not realize the importance of the occasion. For the Selvan, though, it was a chance to size up his adversary for the struggle to come. He would study her for as long as it took to gauge her weaknesses and plan a new line of attack. He would…
The turbolift doors opened into Ops, and Beck almost ran over him. “Ops is yours,” she said, dragging him out of the lift, then entering it herself. “I’m sure you have a fantastic excuse for being late, but let’s just not worry about it, huh? We all lose track of time occasionally. Gotta go. Bye.”
The turbolift doors closed again, separating the Selvan from his quarry. He stood in the center of Ops stunned for several moments as he tried to process what had just occurred. His quarry seemed to be in something of a rush.
“Wow,” Lieutenant Russell said. “I thought she’d be more upset that you almost made her late for her Harper-time.”
“Harper-time?” the Selvan asked. “Ah yes…Phillip Harper,” he added a moment later, remembering the person from his invasion of Walter Morales’ dreamscape. Morales resented this Harper’s place in Lisa Beck’s life, and that anger was what had opened the door for the Selvan to seize control.
“Mister Phil’s home early,” Porter said. “Which means the Captain’s social calendar in full.”
“Quite,” the Selvan said, continuing to stand motionless in the center of Ops.
“Sir? We’ve got a lovely console for your use right over here,” Porter said, gesturing to the docking control station Commander Morales customarily occupied.
“I am fine.”
“Okey-dokey,” Porter said confused. “Whatever you’d like, sir.”
“Well…this is…interesting,” Phillip Harper said looking around at his surroundings. In truth, there wasn’t much to look at. Just dilapidated white walls with the occasional picture hanging on them, plaid-curtained windows, and square metal tables surrounded by a hodge-podge of different chairs.
“You don’t eat here for the decor,” Captain Beck replied.
“I never would have guessed,” Phillip said with a grin. “How did you find this place?”
“It was near my grandparents’ house in North Carolina. They lived in a small town outside of Asheville, and Dougherty’s was about the only restaurant in the area. It doesn’t look like much, but all the food is prepared by hand from fresh ingredients. You won’t find better fried chicken in the state.” She noticed the smirk on Phillip’s face. “What?” she demanded.
“Nothing. I just love finding out new things about you.”
“Like that inside that Andorian food loving Starfleet Captain is a down-home country girl.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Beck said. “And if you call me ‘girl’ again, I’m going to slug you,” she added with a grin.
“Do you think he’s the one?” Lieutenant Russell asked, breaking the silence that had fallen over Ops in the last couple of hours since Commander Morales had assumed command.
“He’s one of what?” Lieutenant Commander Porter asked.
“Phillip Harper. Do you think he’s the one for the captain?”
“I have no opinion on Captain Beck’s love life,” Porter replied, holding up his hand. “Absolutely none of my business.”
“I’m just asking. She seems pretty attached to him. A lot more than she was to that guy she met on her vacation a couple of years ago.”
“Sean,” Porter said, pointing subtly at Morales, who was still standing silently in the center of Ops watching the stars on the viewscreen. “I don’t think we should be discussing this now.” Commander Morales’ interest in Captain Beck was one of the command crew’s worst kept secrets. Morales hadn’t done much to hide the fact, considering the way he’d been moping since Beck and Phillip Harper began seeing each other. Of course, none of that meant that Russell had figured it out, or even if he did know that it would be enough to stop him from asking possibly painful questions.
“They are very happy together,” the Selvan said flatly, startling Porter. The Selvan knew that much from the solid wall that had gone up in Beck’s psyche as her relationship with Phillip Harper had progressed.
“Maybe if they get married, she’ll be so happy that she’ll promote me,” Russell said.
“I wouldn’t count on it,” Porter replied. “I think you’re going to have to earn that promotion the old-fashioned way.”
“By seducing an admiral?” Russell asked with mock sincerity before he broke out laughing.
“They are very happy together,” the Selvan repeated.
“We already covered that part, Commander,” Porter said, eyeing the Selvan. “Are you feeling all right?”
“I am fine,” the Selvan said, annoyed by the suspicion he was arousing. Perhaps his behavior was out of the norm for Commander Morales. He would need to do something to allay any additional suspicions.
“I’m sorry. I did not sleep well,” the Selvan said.
“Nothing like a sleepless night to turn you into a mindless zombie,” Russell said congenially.
“I should go.”
“Huh?” Russell asked surprised.
The Selvan was already entering the turbolift.
Porter and Russell exchanged a confused glance as the turbolift doors closed. “I guess it’s bedtime,” Porter said.
“He didn’t say who was in command now. Can I take it?” Russell asked a bit too eagerly.
“All right, but I’m not following any orders I don’t like.”
Captain Beck was never much for public displays of affection. Frankly, her relationship happiness was no business of her crew’s, but she also understood that gossip and rumors would fly around the station anyway. That was just the nature of things when a relatively-small group of people lived in a fairly closed environment.
Therefore, she saw no reason not to stroll through the corridors hand-in-hand with Phillip as they made their way toward her quarters.
“So did you have fun?” Beck asked.
“Loads. I should have laid off the chicken, though. Of course, if you’d warned me that we were parasailing afterwards…”
“What? And spoil the surprise?” Beck asked innocently.
The pair arrived at her door. “So,” she said, taking Phillip by the hands. “Is this just walking me to my door, or does your schedule allow for a longer visit?”
“As long as you can have me to work by ten tomorrow,” Phillip said. “Big time meetings and such.”
“You and your high-powered life,” Beck muttered. “I’ll just be off saving the Federation as we know it from some nasty alien baddie.”
“Therefore making it possible for me to have my big time meeting. I’m forever in your debt.”
“Yeah yeah,” Beck said, opening the door to her darkened quarters and entering followed by Phillip.
The doors slid closed behind her. An unexpected chirp of the lock engaging then sounded.
“Lights,” Beck said, spinning around toward the door. The lights blazed to life, revealing Commander Morales standing between her and the exit, a long knife clenched in his hand.
“Walter! What in the hell…”
“Quiet!” the Selvan controlling Morales snapped.
“I don’t think so,” Beck said. “I don’t know what the hell is going on here, Walter, but you’re way over a line you shouldn’t have gotten near.”
“Lisa,” Phillip said. “Maybe antagonizing him isn’t the way to go here.”
“You’re right. Beck to security.”
No response. The comm system didn’t even chirp.
Beck exchanged a glance with Phillip. “Guess we’re handling this ourselves.”
“You don’t even know what ‘this’ is,” the Selvan said. “But you will soon enough once you give yourself to me.”
“Walter, we’ve been over this. I don’t think of you that way.”
“This human’s feelings for you mean nothing to me. They were just the conduit for me to assume control. He was so blinded with love for you that he was more than willing to open the door.”
Beck’s mouth opened as a memory stirred. Open the door? Open the door. “You’re the one…from my dream.”
“I am the Selvan.”
“You dreamed this guy?” Phillip asked confused.
“You couldn’t get me, so you took Morales. What do you want?” Beck demanded.
“The same thing I wanted before. You.”
“You’re not getting me,” Beck said, suddenly launching forward, going for the Selvan’s knife arm. The Selvan blocked her, grabbing Beck by the uniform and tossing her with amazing strength into the wall.
“Lisa!” Phillip cried, charging. The Selvan spun back to this new attacker, catching Phillip in the gut with the knife. Phillip’s eyes widened in shock and horror as the blade pierced his skin. The Selvan grinned cruelly then yanked the knife sideways, slicing through skin and organs before he finally shoved Phillip to the ground.
Beck was raw fury at this point. She shook off the pain filling her body and leapt to her feet. She didn’t get three paces before the Selvan stopped her, not with a blow but by leaning down to Phillip, knife in hand.
“Give yourself to me,” the Selvan said.
Phillip’s hand suddenly locked onto the Selvan’s arm. The Selvan reacted viciously, slicing backwards and nearly severing Phillip’s head from his shoulders. Beck watched helpless as the life drained from Phillip’s eyes.
The Selvan was back on his feet in a flash, knife aimed at his own neck. “You have lost one, Lisa Beck. Give yourself to me or this human dies, too.”
“You’ll be gone,” she seethed.
“No. I’ll find another door. I’ll come back again and again killing each and every host I control until…”
“ALL RIGHT!” Beck bellowed, eyes blazing. She deflated almost instantly, her voice dropping to a whisper. “You win.”
The Selvan felt her surrender.
The door opened…
…and the Selvan stepped through.
TO BE CONTINUED…