Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“Acts of Desperation”
By Alan Decker
BRADLEY DILLON’S WAYSTATION
The officers gathered in the Ops briefing room stared at the words displayed on the main wall monitor in a confused silence.
“What the hell does that mean?” Doctor Amedon Nelson finally asked.
“Bradley bought the station?” Yeoman Tina Jones said hesitantly.
“It’s not quite that bad,” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter said from his seat at the head of the briefing room table. It still didn’t feel right for him to be in that position, but until Commander Morales returned, hopefully with Captain Beck, Porter was stuck with command and all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that came with it.
“Then how bad is it?” Lieutenant Sean Russell, the final member of the group, asked.
“He bought the naming rights.”
“Naming rights? We had naming rights?”
“Evidently,” Porter replied. “Bradley contacted the Federation Council and made them an offer. They said yes, so here we are on Bradley Dillon’s Waystation.”
“Lovely,” Nelson muttered.
“It could be worse,” Russell said. “He could have renamed the place Dillon-onia or something.”
“I just can’t believe he would do something like this,” Jones said. “Doesn’t he have enough already?”
“There’s no such thing as enough for some people,” Nelson said.
“Are we just going to let this happen?” Jones asked, turning to Porter.
“Unless you’ve got whole lotta credits for a counter-offer, I don’t know that there’s much we can do about it,” Porter replied with a sigh. “But this is the least of our problems right now. Don’t forget we have a missing captain, an absent first officer, and a corpse no one knows about. With all that going on, Bradley Dillon can put a giant statue of himself on the roof for all I care.”
“About that, Joan Redding came by the security office prying about where Captain Beck is,” Russell said. “She’s having a hard time believing that Phillip Harper would be gone this long without contacting AWN.”
“She’s going to have to believe it for now. Doctor, any ideas to get this Selvan thing out of Captain Beck if Morales can bring her back?”
“The energy readings aren’t much to work with, so I’ve been digging for any similar instances that Starfleet Medical has encountered. I’ve got some things I can try when Beck is back, but no guarantees any of it will work.”
“Do what you can. I’m still working on the sensor logs as well. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
“As long as Commander Morales gets lucky first,” Jones said, drawing several amused glances. “Wow, that came out wrong,” she muttered, turning red.
Why this? Why would the Selvan go through all the trouble to swipe a piece of metal from a museum?
As the S.S. Penzance made its way toward the core Federation worlds in pursuit of the Runabout Roanoke, Commander Walter Morales stared at the monitor in front of him displaying the image of the item stolen from the Amitoriate Museum of Antiquities on Vega Two. At first glance, the object appeared to be little more than an ornately-shaped golden-hued metal rod, approximately half a meter in length. The metal had been twisted and turned near the end creating spirals and pretzel-like forms while the other end seemed to be little more than a handle that had at one time, according to the museum documentation, most-likely been covered in leather or some such animal hide.
Morales continued on in through the report filed by the archaeologists who had unearthed the item on Landris II a few years earlier until a piece of the analysis caught his attention. The archaeologists detected strange low-level energy readings inside the artifact, readings that they couldn’t explain. The metals used in the creation of the item were unexceptional, yet, somehow, this energy was present. After determining that this energy was not harmful, the object was turned over to the museum on Vega Two, where it sat until the Selvan stole it.
Obviously the Selvan knew something about these readings that the archaeologists did not. Was the Selvan perhaps a former resident of Landris II? Morales couldn’t say, but it was all he had to work with at the moment. He laid in a course for Landris II, then, as the Penzance changed direction, Morales began retrieving any records he could locate from around the Federation concerning the civilization that once existed on Landris II. If the Selvan was mentioned anywhere in those records, he would find out about it.
To be this close after so long was almost too much for the Selvan to bear. He wanted to act now. Immediately to form the bridge and take the vengeance that his kind had been denied for millennia. He had the necessary elements in his possession. Lisa Beck’s body was his to use as he needed, and in its hand, the Selvan grasped the Glyph of Ranit-Del, recently acquired from the Amitoriate Museum of Antiquities on Vega Two.
The Ev’ianis of Da’saani, a world known as Landris II to Lisa Beck and the beings of her time, had valued the Glyph of Ranit-Del above all other icons in their society. Just before the death of each of their High Priests, the Glyph was be brought to dying man’s bedside, at which time he would transfer his very essence, his ju’netru, into the Glyph where it would join with the ju’netru of all those High Priests that had come before.
During their travels of the stars before their near-attainment of joining with the Great Ether, the Selvan had observed the Ranit-Del ceremony on a number of occasions. The mental powers of the Ev’ianis showed them to be a species with great potential, potential that was evidently not turned into reality, judging by the fact that others were now removing relics from their world. A tragedy, perhaps, but none of the Selvan’s concern currently.
For now he would return to where it all began, where his species, on the brink of joining with the Great Ether, had been assaulted and imprisoned by a self-righteous foe. There the enemy had sat, so smug in their superiority as they judged the Selvan to be unworthy of what they had struggled for so long to obtain. All would soon be avenged. The bridge would be formed.
And the Q would suffer.
A Few Millennia Ago…
The time was at hand. Reports from across the world had been flooding in for days now, not that anyone was very surprised. The Selvan had come as far as any species could go without actually joining with the Great Ether that surrounded their world. For a millennia or more, their physical forms had been little more than shells containing and in many ways constraining the burgeoning consciousness of the Selvan.
But the transfigurations had begun. Across the globe, one Selvan after another felt the call of the Ether and responded, matter becoming energy, the physical giving way to the ethereal. At long last, the final Selvan transfigured and joined his fellows…
…in a box.
Not a literal box, mind you, but a box all the same. Millions of consciousnesses trapped, unable to reach out into the universe and melt into the either.
The box lid opened allowing another being to peer in.
“Woah now. Where do you all think you’re going?” the being asked imperiously.
“We must join with the Ether,” a Selvan responded. “Our destiny awaits. You cannot impede us.”
“Oh yes, we can,” the being said. “I don’t remember seeing your invite to the omnipotence party. Do you have any idea what kind of responsibility this type of existence entails?”
“We don’t care. We will join with the Great Ether.”
“That attitude is exactly what we cannot allow to run rampant throughout the multiverse. We Q have standards.”
“Q?” a Selvan asked confused.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of us! Q! The Q Continuum? Anything ringing a bladgkrit here?”
“We do not know you, nor do we care to. Release us to the Ether!”
The Q clucked his tongue…assuming there was a tongue to cluck somewhere. “How some species evolve to omnipotence is beyond me. Oh well. There’s nothing for it.”
“So you will release us.”
“My you’re a one-track species. No I’m not going to release you. That would be completely irresponsible. You folks can just stay right here. Enjoy your eternity.”
As the cold realization of their imprisonment spread across the Selvan, millions of consciousnesses screamed.
Back to Waystation…
“Mister Dillon. Yeoman Tina Jones is here to see you.”
Bradley Dillon leaned back in his desk chair as Gisele’s words faded from the air. He had, of course, expected that someone from the Waystation command staff would pay him a call concerning his acquisition of the station’s naming rights; however, he had expected that this visit would either come from Lieutenant Commander Porter, as the station’s current ranking officer, Lieutenant Russell, in an effort at intimidation, or possibly both. In retrospect, though, Jones was the logical choice for Porter to send. As the station’s liaison officer, it was her job to be diplomatic, not that diplomacy would help in this instance.
“Please send her in,” Bradley said, then closed the comm channel and rose from his chair in preparation to meet his visitor.
The doors to his office opened moments later, allowing Yeoman Tina Jones to enter, and she looked none too pleased.
“Good afternoon, Yeoman. To what do I owe this pleasure?” Bradley asked warmly. “Wait. Where are my manners? Can I get you something to drink?”
“Why did you do it?”
“Drink? It’s only a little wine. Nothing overindulgent. Are you sure I can’t offer you some?” Bradley asked as he tapped a switch on his desk causing the bookcase on the right wall to spin around revealing a well-stocked mini-bar.
“You know what I mean, Mister Dillon. Why did you buy the naming rights?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Bradley asked. “I do live here.”
“You’re not the only one, though.”
“True, but I’m the only one with means. Would you rather that the Federation had sold the rights to someone who didn’t value this place? This is my home. I only want what’s best.”
“You could have just left it as Waystation, you know,” Jones said.
“Again true,” Bradley replied thoughtfully. “But I can’t say that I’d feel like I was getting my money’s worth. All in all, I have to say I’m pleased with what I selected. I think it represents a happy medium. Bradley Dillon’s Waystation. It just kind of rolls off the tongue.”
“I’m afraid so. Once this deal is finalized, all Waystation personnel will be required to refer to it as Bradley Dillon’s Waystation.”
“Then we have time to stop you.”
“The contract goes into effect at zero hundred hours tomorrow morning San Francisco time.”
Jones thought for a bit. Zero hundred hours in San Francisco…let’s see. Starfleet ships and outposts away from a planet are set to Starfleet Headquarters time, which is in San Francisco which meant.
“That’s zero hundred hours here, too!” Jones exclaimed.
“Uh huh,” Bradley replied smiling.
“Midnight! We need a few million credits by midnight!”
“One hundred twenty two million, to be exact, but yes. That’s the gist of it.”
“Okay. Fine,” Jones said, practically hyperventilating. “We’re still going to prevent this!”
Bradley chuckled. “I’m sure you will be buying the name back anytime now with your vast fortune.”
“Now you’re just being mean!”
“I prefer to think of it as being realistic, Yeoman. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have several other matters to attend to.”
Jones let out a huff, then stormed toward the door. “I’m getting that name back!” she shouted on her way out.
“Have fun,” Bradley called after her with a wave.
Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter attempted to rub the fatigue out of his brain as he headed down the corridor toward Science Lab Two to continue his work on the security logs. He honestly didn’t know how much more he could expect to learn from them, but if there was even a slight hope of finding a way to save Captain Beck in the recordings, Porter was determined to locate it.
Stepping into the lab, he found that the room was already occupied. Federation Marine Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges stood at his primary analysis console intently watching something on the monitors. Porter had the sinking feeling he knew exactly what it was.
“Computer, stop playback,” he stated, causing Hodges to jump.
“Sorry. Did I scare you?” Porter asked coldly. “I’d hate to think that I did anything to upset you after you took the time to break into my lab.”
“The door was unlocked,” Hodges replied.
“Maybe, but somehow I don’t remember inviting you to drop by,” Porter shot back.
“I guess you were too busy covering this up,” Hodges said, pointing at the screen. “What the hell is going on? And I want an answer this time!”
“We’re handling it.”
“Come on, Craig. I know what I saw there.”
“What did you see?” he asked.
“I didn’t have audio, but I got the general idea, especially when Commander Morales filleted Phillip Harper. And you let him just waltz off the station!” Hodges said.
“Computer,” Porter said with a sigh. “Access file Selvan Three and begin playback.” This was becoming the worst-kept secret in galactic history.
The sensor logs from Captain Beck’s quarters started again, this time with sound. Porter let it play all the way, right through Beck’s possession by the Selvan and the subsequent attack on Commander Morales.
“Where is she?” Hodges asked softly as the recording ended.
“We don’t know,” Porter replied.
“What is that thing?”
“We don’t know that either. Commander Morales is trying to find her. If he can get her back here, we’re going to do everything we can to get that Selvan thing out of her, but right now we don’t know much of anything beyond that it has her. We don’t know why. We don’t know where.”
“And one guy is supposed to track her down?”
“Commander Morales felt this was best. If we called in all of Starfleet to look for her, Captain Beck’s life would effectively be over. Assuming the Selvan didn’t kill her, she’d probably spend the next several years on a lab table at Starfleet Medical. And forget her returning to command.”
“Do you think Morales can do it? Can he bring her back?” Hodges asked.
“I think he’ll do what he has to to get the job done. People forget that he was the main reason we saved this place from the Starshine Kids a couple of years ago.”
“I hope you’re right.”
The comm system suddenly barked to life. “All senior officers report to the Ops briefing room,” Yeoman Tina Jones’s voice said. “I repeat, all senior officers are to report to the Ops briefing room.”
Porter looked up at the speaker confused. “Can she order me around like that?”
“I think she just did,” Hodges said, cracking a slight smile.
“All right. Let’s go.”
“Let’s? As in we?”
“You’re the lone Federation Marine left on board, so you’re their senior officer. You heard the lady. Let’s go.”
“This had better be important,” Hodges groused as she followed Porter out of Science Lab Two.
“We’re getting our name back!” Yeoman Jones stated firmly, smacking her hand down on the briefing room table for emphasis.
“I’m here for this?” Hodges said, glaring at Porter, who just shrugged.
“I second that,” Dr. Nelson added.
“Do you want to live on Bradley Dillon’s Waystation?” Jones asked.
“Bradley Dillon’s Waystation?” Hodges exclaimed. “Wait! What’s this about?”
“Depends,” Lieutenant Russell said ignoring Hodges. “Do I get that nice wood paneling in my quarters?”
“I’m being serious here!” Jones said.
“So am I!” Hodges said. “What is going on?”
“Look, Tina,” Porter said as Jones’s cheeks started turning red with frustration. “I don’t think anyone in this room is really happy about the Bradley situation, but I seem to remember a meeting earlier today where we decided that we had bigger problems to deal with.”
“It seems to me that we’re sitting around waiting for Commander Morales to get back,” Jones retorted. “This is something we can fix ourselves.”
“And just how do you suggest we fix things?” Nelson demanded. “Did you suddenly come into some money?”
“We’ll get it.”
“A what-a-hoogle?” Russell asked.
“A telethon. It’s a way to raise money. All we have to do is get AWN to broadcast it.”
“Woah. Just what are we broadcasting here? Us asking for money?” Porter said.
“That’s part of it, but we have to make it entertaining. Somebody does an act, then we ask for money.”
“Did someone say act?” Russell said, perking up.
“Oh no,” Porter muttered.
“Some Ferengi came up with this, didn’t he?” Nelson groused.
“Actually, I found it in records from Earth. They can be very effective.”
“Well I think it’s a great idea,” Russell said, already planning what to perform.
“Come on, Commander,” Jones said, pleading to Porter. “What have we got to lose?”
“Our dignity,” Nelson said. “Self-respect. Status. The ability to look others straight in the eye.”
“But what’s a little public humiliation if it gets us our name back?” Jones said. “I already contacted Earth. They said if we can match Bradley’s offer, they’ll give us the naming rights instead.”
“What was his offer?” Porter asked, afraid to hear the answer.
“One hundred twenty-two million credits.”
“One hundred twenty-two million!”
“We can still match it. We have to try.”
Porter put his head in his hands. As much as he hated to admit it, Jones had a point. They really weren’t doing much other than waiting, and the idea that Bradley Dillon’s name would be on Waystation rankled him to no end.
“Sir?” Jones said hopefully.
“All right,” he muttered.
“All right! We’ll do it!”
“We will?” Nelson asked in shock.
“Great!” Jones said, clapping her hands. “Everyone get an act together and meet in the auditorium in two hours! Craig and I have to go talk to AWN!”
“Is she in command now?” Nelson asked.
“She’s doing a pretty good imitation of it,” Porter said. “Any other questions?”
“Just one,” Stephanie Hodges said. “Bradley Dillon bought Waystation’s name?”
“I’ll explain later,” Porter said. “Everyone is dismissed…if that’s okay with Tina.”
“Yes yes!” Jones said.
“Thank you. Dismissed.”
Time had not been kind. Where once the Selvan civilization existed in its physical form before the transfiguration, only barren wastes remained, the buildings, monuments, and statues long ago lost to the forces that had ravaged this world. Six hundred years before, a brutal cosmic storm had passed through the system, scouring the evidence of the Selvan race’s existence from the planet, but that did not matter to the Selvan as it landed the Runabout Roanoke on the surface.
Sensors indicated that the world had managed to hold onto its atmosphere, which pleased the Selvan. It would be good to breathe the air of its homeworld again, even if it was through the alien lungs of Lisa Beck. Gripping the Glyph of Ranit-Del in Beck’s hand, the Selvan opened the runabout hatch and stepped outside into the pale daylight, the sun obscured behind a thick blanket of sienna clouds.
This was where it had all began.
This was where it would all end.
This was where vengeance would be achieved.
The Selvan raised the Glyph into the air, reaching out with its essence to bend the power of the High Priests’ consciousnesses trapped within to its will as it spoke in low tones. “Ghemorra lokk ni soon. Khanit raal lenik kaa.”
The life energy of the High Priests joined with the Selvan’s own energy, augmenting its strength to powers it never thought possible. All was ready.
Reaching through Lisa Beck’s mind, the Selvan found the shadow, the remnant of Q that still remaining in this human woman after her contact with the Continuum. Yet this scrap would lead to their destruction.
The Selvan touched the remnant and initiated the bridge.
The not-Gurat watched Captain Lisa Beck with an empty detached expression as she stomped up and down the beach of the recreation of her family’s vacation home off the coast of North Carolina that she’d found herself in after the Selvan usurped her body. She had to do something. She had to find a way out. Her dreams in this realm had been filled with images, some familiar from her past and some that she did not recognize at all. Had she been able to see her body’s current activities? If that were true, did that mean she could force her way back into control?
Beck didn’t know. And the being watching her, which was a representation of whatever lived in this realm, was not being real forthcoming with anything resembling useful information. She was once again left feeling helpless, which was not a sensation she enjoyed. At least she had some nice scenery to go with her frustration.
Then she felt the tremble. It was soft at first, little more than a buzz beneath her feet. The buzz continued to grow to the point that she could see the sands on the beach jumping up and down.
“Um…are we vibrating?” Beck asked not-Gurat.
The being’s eyes, growing wide with excitement, were locked on Beck. “Something is happening!” not-Gurat exclaimed.
“I never would have guessed,” Beck muttered as the vibration grew into an all-out rumbling. She toppled to the ground, landing in the soft sand as not-Gurat stood seemingly unaffected by the quake going on around her.
Beck scrambled over to her, crawling quickly across the sand. “What is this? What’s happening? Can you tell…UNNNNH!”
The captain collapsed to the sand as a wave of pain unlike anything she had ever experienced assaulted her from head-to-toe all at once. She was on fire, burning in agony from flames she could not see. Curling up into a ball, Beck did the only thing she could.
The Selvan could feel the barriers of reality moving aside as the bridge was formed. The Q Continuum was slowly becoming accessible to him, fading into existence around the Selvan’s consciousness as though a curtain was being pulled away.
Close now. Very very close.
The Selvan could sense the Q almost as though he were a part of the Continuum. Their power was extraordinary, unlike anything else in the cosmos.
And he would be the one to bring that power to an end.
Just a little closer…
But the last gap just would not close. The final curtain would not move aside. The Selvan could not breach the last barrier into the Continuum.
The Selvan had failed. The bridge would not span the distance.
With the fury of millennia of imprisonment welling inside the Selvan, demanding to be released against the enemy, the Selvan found itself with no choice but to end the bridge.
The Selvan slumped to the dusty ground, its physical form drained from the effort and the bitterness of his defeat filling his consciousness.
The Q could not be reached from here. The distance was too far; the barriers too strong. The Selvan homeworld would not be the site of his revenge.
An idea flickered in the Selvan’s mind. Its contact with the Q had not been a complete loss. He now knew the Continuum. He had almost been among them. He had touched their essence and their history.
There was still hope for vengeance, but it would not come from here. The Selvan picked himself up from the dirt and stumbled back to the Runabout Roanoke. There were preparations to attend to and a journey to begin…after it got some rest.
As suddenly as it had come, the pain ravaging Lisa Beck vanished, leaving her drained and gasping on the illusory sands of the beach.
“What…was that?” she said weakly, trying to regain the ability to move.
“The Selvan,” not-Gurat replied, eyes downcast. “We have failed.”
“You failed?” Beck said, pushing herself to her knees, her anger growing. “What did you do?”
“The Selvan was to avenge us. The bridge did not reach. We have failed.” The not-Gurat cocked her head suddenly. A smile slowly spread across her face. “Ahh. We have not failed. We will be avenged. The location must be changed.”
“Wait. Avenged? What are you being avenged for? What the hell are you talking about? Are you controlling the Selvan?” Beck demanded.
The not-Gurat laughed. “We do not control the Selvan. We were of the Selvan. Now the Selvan is the Selvan, and we made it so.”
“And it made no sense.”
“It does not need to make sense to you,” not-Gurat replied, her voice growing threatening. “Your physical form is the bridge. It is all that is required. We have no use for this part of you. You are here at our indulgence. Push us, and you will be discarded.”
“You’ll kill me?”
“It would be a pity. We like the beach.”
“Glad to hear it,” Beck muttered.
“I still can’t believe you talked Tanika into this,” AWN News Correspondent Joan Redding growled as she stood next to Lieutenant Commander Porter backstage at what was about to be the site of the “Save Waystation Telethon.”
“She was very accommodating,” Porter replied distractedly, lacing up his gauntlets. Joan Redding was nowhere on the list of people he wanted to talk to right now. On the bright side, as long as she was aggravated about the telethon, she wouldn’t be focusing on where her station owner was. “Evidently Ms. Tanika has standing orders from Mister Harper to help Waystation out in any way possible.”
“She always was a suck-up,” Redding snapped. “She’s just waiting for the day that Mister Harper lets her run AWN. Great Bird help us all.”
“I’ll certainly take the Great Bird’s help right now, but for other reasons.”
“Saving you from public humiliation perhaps? Sorry. You’re way too late for that one.”
“I’m so glad you came over to talk to me.”
“Anytime,” Redding said, patting Porter on the arm before walking away. Porter didn’t have much time alone before Yeoman Tina Jones raced over.
“They’re ready! We’re starting! It’s time!” Jones said, her voice coming out at a staccato clip.
“You okay?” Porter asked.
“Fine. Just fine. Really fine. Why did I want to do this again?”
“You want to pull out? Sean said he’d love to handle the emcee job.”
“No. I came up with this, and I’m going to see it through,” Jones said, taking a big breath as the AWN director signaled her from the other side of the stage. He began counting down with his fingers. Five…
Jones bounded out onto the stage, a huge smile plastered across her face. “Greetings, one and all!” she exclaimed, full of energy. “Thank you for joining us for the first, and hopefully last, Save Waystation Telethon! For four years now, Waystation has been a shining beacon on the way to the Beta Quadrant, but now forces are threatening to take away her identity. Without your support, the only Federation outpost in this sector will soon be known as Bradley Dillon’s Waystation. As much as we respect Mister Dillon, we cannot allow this to happen to our home, which is why we’re coming to you, the AWN viewers. We need to raise 122 million credits in the next eight hours. Please. Help us save our name. You’re our only hope.”
Jones paused for a moment to let that sink in, then…
“All right! Let’s this shindig a movin’! And to start things off with a bang…or a bunch of crashes and smashes really…we’re proud to bring you Waystation’s very own Society for Creative Anachronisms recreating for you the Battle of…” She looked to Porter. “What battle is it?”
Off stage, Porter shrugged. “Random people beating each other up with swords.”
“Ahh…” Jones smiled weakly. “Here it is folks. The Battle of Waystation. Take it away, guys!” Jones dashed off stage just as hordes of armor-clad wanna-be-knights raced in from both directions, howling battle cries as they charged.
“I had no idea she could move like that,” Commander Walter Morales muttered to himself as he watched the AWN feed of the Save Waystation Telethon on one of the monitors in the S.S. Penzance. Currently, Stephanie Hodges was making her way through a tap dance routine that was just getting faster and faster. It was an impressive display, and far less unsettling than Dr. Nelson’s act that had just been on, an appendectomy performed to “The Flight of the Bumblebee.”
Morales had to hand it to the crew. They were certainly giving their all to stop Bradley Dillon from getting the naming rights, something he was sure the billionaire wouldn’t have tried if Captain Beck had been there. He was actually a bit surprised that Bradley was bothering with this at all. When Morales had met with him to ask about borrowing a ship, Bradley had seemed too obsessed with his feud with John Simms, Jr. to worry about things as petty as buying a name. Evidently he was wrong.
The goings on at Waystation were of secondary concern now, though, as Morales steered the Penzance around the Landris system. So far, he hadn’t found a sign of the Runabout Roanoke, but his search of the Federation’s various archaeological and anthropological databases had turned up something that could be a reference to the Selvan.
One segment of the Landrisians (or whatever they had called themselves) at one point in their past had a theocratic culture centered around a High Priest or Priest-King that resided inside a massive temple at the center of a sprawling metropolis. Paintings found inside the remains of this temple showed what seemed to be visitors from the sky. Writings inside the temple did not seem to indicate that these beings were gods. Instead, they were given the status of visiting royalty. The anthropologists had no idea how the language of these people sounded, so it was impossible to say if the visitors were called Selvan, but there was a painting clearly showing the beings in the presence of a group of Landrisians holding what appeared to be the Glyph of Ranit-Del over the body of a High Priest.
Maybe it was the Selvan. They might not have been non-corporeal forever. If they at one point had physical forms, they might have visited Landris II. Morales wasn’t sure, but it was obvious that the Selvan wanted the Glyph of Ranit-Del for a reason. What that reason was…
Morales’s train of thought was interrupted by a beeping coming from the sensor console. Long range sensors had just picked up the Roanoke’s transponder in a nearby system.
“Gotcha!” Morales exclaimed, firing up the Penzance’s engines and steering toward the source of the signal. Maybe his hunch had been right after all.
With a quick warp hop, he was on the Roanoke in an instant. The runabout’s pilot, who evidently hadn’t been expecting company, suddenly veered off, powering up the craft’s weapon systems as he went.
“So much for the talking approach,” Morales said, bringing online the shields and weapons that had been installed in the Penzance before his departure from Waystation. Knowing it was probably futile, he activated the comm anyway.
“Runabout Roanoke, this is Commander Walter Morales of the Federation Outpost Waystation. Captain Beck, if you can hear me, please stand down. I’m here to help you.”
“You’re not supposed to be here at all,” Beck’s voice replied sharply. The inflections were all wrong, though. It wasn’t her, Morales told himself. It definitely wasn’t her.
“Sorry to drop in unannounced.”
“You were supposed to drop dead,” the Selvan spat through Beck as the runabout made a quick turn, trying to get a bead on the Penzance while Morales kept his ship out of the runabout’s firing arcs as well as he could.
“I just want Captain Beck returned unharmed.”
“Why? So you can go back to being miserable around her? So you can pine away for a woman that you will never have?”
“This isn’t about me. You’ve taken over a person’s life,” Morales said. “Please release her.”
“I haven’t finished what I started.”
“There doesn’t have to be any more violence.”
Beck’s voice laughed cruelly. “No more violence? Violence is all I have left!”
The runabout suddenly jolted to a halt. In the second it took Morales to react, the Penzance zipped past the runabout, then rocked roughly as a barrage of phaser fire slammed into the aft section. Power throughout the ship flickered, interrupting the AWN feed of the telethon, which currently was running a Breen lingerie show. Too bad Morales was too busy to enjoy it.
Instead, Morales pushed the Penzance to full impulse, racing behind a small moon orbiting a nearby planet. He whipped the Penzance around the small moon, ready to send a phaser barrage of his own at the Roanoke…
…But there was nothing to be found.
The Roanoke was gone.
Lieutenant Sean Russell lay on the stage, his arm outstretched, reaching toward some unseen companion.
“O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o’er-crows my spirit
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest…is silence.”
Russell collapsed to the stage fully, rolling over and letting his tongue loll out of his mouth.
“Thank you, Lieutenant Russell!” Yeoman Jones said clapping as she ran back out onto the stage. Russell picked himself up, gave the holovision cameras a deep bow, then jogged off stage. “That was Lieutenant Sean Russell, ladies and gentlemen, with his selections from William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet.’ And it’s that kind of dramatic spirit that’s going to be squashed in the residents of Waystation if we lose our name.”
In the wings, Lieutenant Commander Porter, back in uniform and out of his armor, watched Jones’s pleadings silently.
“Why do people always have to do Shakespeare?” Joan Redding asked, suddenly standing at Porter’s side again. “The galaxy has other playwrights. Hell, Earth has other playwrights. Would it kill you people to try a little Sophocles? Maybe a bit of Ibsen? Soyinka? Manicalli? Anything?”
“Blame the Academy,” Porter replied.
“What did they have to do with it?”
“We’re taught that Shakespeare is pretty much the short-hand for humanity. He explains it all. Love, death, betrayal, joy, sorrow, madness. It’s all there. Need to explain something to an alien? Whip out the Shakespeare. Need to sound intelligent and pensive for a moment? Old Bill is there for you.”
“I’m not sure that I’m happier to know the explanation for that or not.”
Porter shrugged. “I’m just stating the facts, Ms. Reporter.”
Back on stage, Jones was finishing her segue to the next act. “We’ve got a lot more great entertainment to come, and we still need your support. Let’s check that tally!” Jones looked over at the running donations display mounted at the rear of the stage. “Six million nine hundred fifty-two thousand seven hundred eight- five credits. Thank you all! We’ve only got one hundred fifteen million forty-seven thousand two hundred fifteen credits to go. Get those comms coming. In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, we’re proud to bring you Fuoatti Siuaat, Master of Technicolor Regurgitation!”
Porter and Redding stood in silent horror as the aforementioned Siuaat rolled a cart of various liquids out onto the stage. “Are we really going to watch this?” Redding asked.
“I don’t see you looking away,” Porter replied.
“I can’t. I’m disgusted, frightened, and insanely curious all at the same time.”
“That makes two of us.”
Redding glanced over at the chronometer sitting above the lighting board to their right. 2345 hours.
“You’re not going to make it, are you?” she asked softly.
Porter checked the chronometer, then shook his head solemnly. “Not unless we get 115 million credits in the next fifteen minutes.”
“Something could happen. You never know.”
“And you actually care?”
“Bradley Dillon’s got enough already,” Redding replied.
“Something else we agree on. Amazing.” Porter looked away from Siuaat long enough to check the tally board. The amount was increasing, but by very little. “I guess Mister Siuaat isn’t going over well.”
“Yeah. He’s kind of leaving a bad taste in my mouth, too,” Redding said.
Porter chuckled. “That was truly awful. I liked it.”
“Thanks. Oh no. Did he just say that was a glass of grease drippings?”
“Courtesy of Ih’mad,” Porter said grimacing. “He can’t drink… He wouldn’t.”
And for Siuaat’s grand finale…
Porter and Redding slapped their hands over their eyes and mouths.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Being threatened was just a part of the job when you were a Starfleet Officer. Captain Beck was fairly sure it was in the job description somewhere. That didn’t mean that she had to like it, especially when she wasn’t sure that the threat would even be carried out.
She sat in the sand, ostensibly watching the waves crashing against the shoreline, but really eying not-Gurat. The being who had taken the form of the Wok-A-Chodok fry cook had been practically immobile since her “conversation” with Beck. Was she in contact with the Selvan? Was she part of the Selvan?
Beck wasn’t sure of much of anything. Most of what not-Gurat had said up until now had been confusing, contradictory, and possibly insane. The not-Gurat did seem insistent that the Selvan was working to avenge some wrong that the not-Gurat felt was done to it. And that avenging involved some kind of bridge.
“I’m the bridge?” Beck asked herself softly. “Bridge to what?” And if the Selvan tried again to do whatever it was doing, was she going to be hit by that wave of pain again? Would she survive it this time?
Beck got to her feet and stormed over to not-Gurat. “What am I the bridge to? Tell me!”
“The bridge to vengeance.”
“I’d better be the bridge to a damn straight answer. What is the Selvan using me for? What are you avenging?”
“You are the bridge. You do not need to know more than that.”
“The hell I don’t! That’s my body you’re bridging with. What are you doing with it?”
“Continue this, and you will be discarded.”
“I don’t think I will,” Beck said. “You have to have me alive for some reason, or I’d already be dead. Just like your pal killed Phillip!”
“You are the bridge.”
Beck screamed and lunged at not-Gurat, unable to control her rage anymore. She tackled the being and let loose with everything she had, punching and punching until not-Gurat’s face was a mass of bloody pulp.
At least it should have been a mass of bloody pulp. The not-Gurat seemed completely unconcerned with and unaffected by Beck’s actions. Beck stopped, fist in mid-air, as she stared down at the being’s unblemished face.
“You are the bridge,” not-Gurat repeated.
“F*** you,” Beck spat, getting up and returning to the beach front. She glared out at the illusory ocean, arms folded, breaths coming in short huffs.
“You are indeed the bridge,” a new voice said from behind her.
Beck spun around to face the source of the voice. A woman with almost elfin features stood before her, her hands clasped in front of her as her silver eyes reflected the sunlight. She took a few steps forward, her gray robes swishing silently.
“But if the bridge reaches its destination, it may be the end of us all.”
The captain finally found her voice again.
TO BE CONTINUED…