Viacom, a massive conglomerate, owns Star Trek. Alan Decker, a semi-independent corporation, owns Star Traks.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 2002

STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION

“Collectibles - Part Two”

By Alan Decker


Federation Marine Colonel Martin Lazlo was looking at a slug in a box. Why in the world would he give a damn about a slug in a box? And how did Lieutenant Commander Porter know what this thing being held inside a stasis field was? It was time to get some answers.

“What’s a Midon?” Lazlo demanded after hearing Porter identify the thing as though they should all know what he was talking about.

“Midon is her…his…its name,” Captain Lisa Beck said, beginning to pace the Wayward’s small cockpit anxiously. “It’s Doctor Nelson’s symbiont.”

“You’re looking at the ‘don’ of Amedon,” Porter added.

Marine Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges swiveled her seat at the helm around to face the group. “Um…I’m no expert, but isn’t removing one of those things supposed to be fatal to the host?”

“Normally,” Porter said.

“Wait,” Lazlo said. “How can you even be sure that this is really Nelson’s slug?”

“I’m the one who put it in Nelson in the first place. I think I can recognize it,” Porter replied distractedly. His mind was obviously wandering elsewhere.

“All right. Then the bastards have killed Nelson. That just gives me another reason to blast them,” Lazlo said.

“What’s going on up there, Craig?” Beck asked softly, sliding up beside Porter and tapping his head as Lazlo began hatching exceptionally violently battle plans.

“Why?”

“I just want to know what you’re thinking.”

“No. ‘Why?’ IS what I’m thinking. Why did they remove Midon?”

“I don’t know. Maybe they don’t like symbionts,” Beck said.

“Or maybe Midon was in the way,” Porter replied. “We were able to take apart a Collectors’ helmet when we ran into them on Falinor. It had contacts on the inside to interface with a being’s neural pathways, allowing them to take over control of that person.”

“But with Amedon, half of her brain is in her abdomen,” Beck said, understanding.

“Exactly. If they wanted to collect Doctor Nelson, they had to get rid of Midon.”

“So she could still be alive,” Hodges said, ignoring Lazlo, who was currently detailing a way that he could single- handed liberate an entire Collector-controlled world. Of course, almost every one on the planet would be dead when he finished, but at least they’d be free to be dead.

“She’s alive,” Beck said firmly. “If the Collectors have the surgical know-how to remove Midon, leaving it alive, they have to have a way to keep Nelson alive after the procedure is complete. In any case, our top priority stays the same: get her, Morales, and Wuddle back. That means we have to find the Collectors.”

“I’m open to suggestions,” Hodges said. “They could have gone anywhere from here.”

“Get on it, Porter,” Lazlo ordered. “Find a trail or analyze a warp field or whatever it is you do.”

“I’d love to, but there’s nothing for me to find,” Porter replied, closing the stasis box and returning to his seat at the cockpit’s small science console. “Too much time has passed.”

Beck stepped up beside Hodges and peered out the front viewport at the planets beyond. “Why?” she asked.

“I thought that was my question,” Porter replied, drawing a slight smile from his commanding officer.

“It’s so good of a question that I had to steal it. Why were the Collectors here?” She looked over Porter’s shoulder at the scans of the various worlds of the solar system. “No one lives here. There’s nothing to collect.”

“The Cumberland’s message said that the Collectors were sending ships to the third and fourth planets, so something obviously grabbed their interest. Maybe we should go take a look- see for ourselves,” Porter said.


“Well, this is certainly underwhelming,” Porter remarked as he swept his tricorder in an arc at the barren rocky surface stretching out before him and Colonel Lazlo.

“I don’t know why I even came. There’s nothing here,” Lazlo muttered.

“You’re here to protect me just in case we’re wrong,” Porter said. “I didn’t beam down here to get shot or collected.”

“Don’t worry. If those bubble headed bastards show themselves, I’m going to frag them into the next millennium.”

“Glad to hear it,” Porter replied looking more closely at his tricorder. “I’m getting some residual energy signatures about a half kilometer that way,” he said, pointing off toward a slight rise in the topography.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means someone was there. You never know, Colonel. Sometimes those energy readings can be from weapons fire. Your favorite.”

“I’d like you better without the jokes, Porter,” Lazlo said, stalking off in the direction Porter had indicated.

“But then I wouldn’t be me,” Porter said following.

“Exactly.”

“You know you love me.”

“Can it, Porter.”

“Kissy-kissy.”

“I could shoot you, you know.”

“Nah. Captain Beck would kick your ass across every single planet in this system.”

“Fat chance. I’d hit her so quick she’d… Hey! Why are you laughing?”

“No reason.”

“Porter!”

“Energy readings, Colonel. I must focus,” Porter said, peering intently at his tricorder.

A brief walk put them in the middle of the ruins of a foundation of what had once been a fairly expansive structure. Judging by the wear and erosion, though, no one had lived here for centuries.

“Energy readings, huh?” Lazlo snorted.

“What do you call this then?” Porter said, showing the tricorder display to Lazlo as he held the device over a circular hole about half a meter in diameter.

“A bunch of squiggly lines I don’t give a damn about.”

“Somebody used a cutting beam here,” Porter explained.

“Yippee for them,” Lazlo said, wandering over to another part of the foundation. A shiny black object resembling a Starfleet padd laying on a waist-high wall remnant caught his attention. Idly, he picked his find up and looked it over while Porter continued his scans.

“There must be two hundred holes here,” Porter said, his face never looking up from the tricorder. “I don’t know what they pulled out of here, but it looks like the Collectors picked the place clean. There’s not even…wait. I’m getting another reading. It’s…in your hand.”

“Huh?” Lazlo said, glancing up. He hadn’t been paying attention to a word coming out of the Starfleet officer’s mouth.

“Where did you find that?”

“Over here.”

“Can I see it?”

“Enjoy,” Lazlo growled, tossing the object at Porter, who bobbled it and his tricorder for a few moments before dropping both in the dirt.

“You’re too kind,” Porter mumbled, retrieving both items.

“Well…” Lazlo said expectantly.

“Give me a second.” Porter ran his hand along the surface of the object, triggering a small display screen. He smiled triumphantly.

“It’s…


“…an ad,” Porter said, handing the black object to Captain Beck as she, Porter, Lazlo, and Hodges gathered in the Wayward’s cockpit. “Once I knew what to look for, I was able to narrow my scan parameters. The Collectors left these things everywhere.”

“I haven’t picked up the Collectors’ language yet,” Beck said. “What’s it say?”

Porter held up another padd and read. “Welcome to Nerewari Two. The archaeological and anthropological remains of this planet’s former occupants have been collected. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you. If you are interested in acquiring any of the objects once found on this planet, please join us on Collector Vault-Ship O-97 for a spectacular auction featuring items from this world along with many others as well as space craft, fractigenial processors, and much much more!”

“The rest of it is just the date, time, and coordinates,” Porter finished.

“How much time do we have?”

“A little less than three days.

“But the site is only about a day from here,” Hodges said.

“Good. Then let’s get moving,” Lazlo said. “We can decimate the whole bunch of them before they sell the first item.”

“As tempting as that is, I don’t think I’m ready to throw one ship against the Collectors when they won’t have anything else going on to keep them occupied,” Beck said.

“So we’ll wait for the Mongoose,” Lazlo said. “It should be here in…” He shot a glance at Hodges.

“Six hours,” she replied.

“Plenty of time. And that will give us another ship and more firepower.”

“Um…the Mongoose isn’t exactly built for combat,” Hodges said. “She’s sturdy, but she’s really just a troop transport.”

“We’ll be taking it, Steph, but not into battle,” Beck said. “I’ve got another idea.” She caught Lazlo glaring at her, about to protest. “Don’t worry, Colonel. You and your marines will still get your chance to do what you do best.”

“We’d better,” Lazlo said, storming out of the cockpit.

“And what exactly do they do best?” Porter asked.

“Chaos and destruction,” Beck said smiling. “And I’m more than happy to let them go at it. Meanwhile, the three of us have some work to do before the Mongoose gets here.”

“The three of us?” Hodges asked.

“Sorry, Steph. Starfleet just drafted you.”


A soft beep in his ear indicated to Greeter 23 of Collector Vault-Ship O-97 that another vessel was entering the area and attempting comm the Collectors. Taking up position next to Greeter 24, he activated the comm unit at their joint console in the Vault-Ship’s control center to welcome the new arrival. The black screen mounted within the black wall in front of them flared to life, revealing three pale humanoids, two female and one male assuming their anatomies were standard, seated in a cramped, utilitarian cockpit.

“Ooooh,” Collector 24 said, examining the blocky vessel on a side monitor. “We don’t have one of those.”

“We do not Collect customers,” Greeter 23 scolded before addressing the newcomers. “Please identify yourselves.”

The red headed woman seated next to the ship’s blonde pilot stood dramatically. “Good afternoon, sirs. Professor Lisa Beck. Tantalus V Institute of Antiquities. I believe you have acquired several relics pertaining to the civilization once located in the Nerewari system. My colleagues and I have recently dedicated ourselves to the study of this fascinating species and are quite interested in seeing what you have to offer.”

“Those artifacts belong in a museum!” the blonde woman exclaimed, slamming her fist on her arm rest.

“Oh do stay calm, Doctor Hodges. I’m quite positive that we can come to some arrangement, can we not?” Beck asked with a polite smile.

“Welcome to Collectors Liquidation Sale 753,” Collector 23 replied robotically, running through his script. “The auction will commence in one hour. In the meantime, please feel free to land in our spacious docking facilities and enjoy the complimentary amenities we have provided for you. Remember, all sales are final, and we accept hillicas and Galacti-Card. In special circumstances, though, we will consider barter. Enjoy your stay and obey all Sales Coordinator instructions while on the Vault-Ship.”

“Your offer is most gracious,” Beck said. “We shall certainly accept the invitation. Professor Beck out.”

Greeter 23 closed the channel and quickly turned his attention to another more urgent matter: The reception hall was dangerously low on sausage puffs.


“I wasn’t expecting to have to dock in there,” Hodges said warily as she steered the Mongoose toward the bright green lights of the docking bay in the fourth of the massive Collectors’ ship’s five oval modules. If it weren’t for the lights, Hodges would not have been able to see the bay at all against the ship’s reflective black exterior.

“What is it with these guys and black?” she added.

“Maybe they’re just waiting for something darker,” Lieutenant Commander Porter remarked, straightening the long jacket he was now clad in. The trio had switched to civilian garb, since the Collectors might have found their Starfleet uniforms slightly suspicious.

“What?”

“Sorry. Old joke.”

“Just fly us in nice and steady,” Beck said. “No hesitation that might tip them off.”

“Nobody here but us academics,” Porter said.

“Exactly.”

“Well Doctor Hodges really isn’t liking this,” Hodges said as the Mongoose slipped into the vast docking bay, which was already occupied by several small craft of various configurations she didn’t recognize as well as fifteen small black oval craft with stubby wings that she had to assume were the Collectors’ assault craft that had overwhelmed the Runabout Cumberland days earlier.

“Actually, they’re making our lives a lot easier in some ways,” Beck replied.

“Tell that to me when we have to blast our way out of here.”

“Maybe it won’t come to that…no laughing, Craig!”

“Moi?” Porter replied innocently, hiding a smirk as the ship touched down on the deck. The docking bay doors slowly slid closed, cutting off the only avenue of escape.

“All right,” Beck said. “The plan hasn’t changed. Porter, find the runabout. I’m guessing it’s one of the ships they’re offering for sale, so it’s probably unguarded. Be careful, though.”

“Always.”

“Steph and I will head to the relics. No showing off, Steph. This isn’t like convincing those third graders that we were actually the only fifth graders in Starfleet. Somebody here might actually be an archaeologist. Stick to the indignant routine.”

“Indignant I can do,” Hodges replied.

“No doubt about that.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Kyle Rhodebeck.”

“You stole him!” Hodges snapped. “He was so going to ask me to homecoming!”

“See,” Beck said, glancing at Porter. “This happened in ninth grade, and she’s still upset.”

“Do I even want to know how you stole this guy?”

“She asked him first. And he said YES!” Hodges said.

“The boy liked assertive women,” Beck said with a shrug.

“Plan,” Porter said, bringing them back to the present.

“Right. While Steph is being indignant, I’m going to see if I can locate Nelson, Morales, and Wuddle.”

“Any idea how you’re going to accomplish that?” Porter asked.

“Um…not really.”

“You said they used mind control helmets, right?” Hodges said. “Maybe we could find some way to protect you from the effects, and you could go get yourself collected. I bet that’d make it easier to find them.”

Beck glared at her longtime friend. “That’s right up there with voluntarily getting yourself assimilated by the Borg. What kind of moron would do something like that?”

“Jeeze. Forget I mentioned it,” Hodges said following Beck and Porter out of the cockpit.


True to Colonel Lazlo’s descriptions from his one visit to a Collector ship, the walls, carpet, and pretty much everything else Lieutenant Commander Porter could see as he made his way through the corridors of the Vault-Ship were black. Recessed lighting near the ceiling gave the place something of an elegant feel, but Porter didn’t want to spend any more time there than he had to.

He came upon another Collector at a corridor junction, who silently pointed the way for Porter. Up ahead in the next hallway, he could see a pair of chirping feathered beings turning left through a set a double doors. This must be the place.

Following the avians, Porter found himself inside another docking bay, this one substantially less vast than the one where the Mongoose was currently parked.

“All ships are sold as is,” a Collector just inside the door barked at him, causing Porter to jump slightly. “You may inspect the vessels; however, test flights are not allowed. Thank you for shopping Vault-Ship O-97.”

“It’s a pleasure,” Porter muttered stepping deeper into the docking bay without so much as a glance at the Collector. Nine ships were parked throughout the bay, four of which all seemed of the same general design; although, Porter had no idea whose ships they were. The remaining five were all different, but only one caught Porter’s eye: the Runabout Cumberland.

Having spotted his quarry, Porter took a leisurely stroll around the docking bay, checking out the various ships and trying not to let on that he had a particular target in mind. Honestly, Porter wouldn’t have minded getting to spend a bit of time in each of the vessels to see how they ran, but there were bigger issues at hand.

Porter ran his hand along the hull of a sleek silver dart of a ship parked next to the runabout. This one was definitely built for speed and not much else. You’d be lucky to fit two humans in there. Of course, for all he knew this was a starship for a race of sentient chipmunks.

He took another look around the docking bay. The Weeble wasn’t here. Were they wrong about what had happened to the Multek ship?

Porter spotted another door in the side wall with a small window looking into an adjoining docking bay. He strolled over casually and peered inside. There was the Weeble, parked next to a small ship that looked most like a bunch of red grapes on legs. Almost instantly, one of the Collectors monitoring the docking bay was beside him.

“May I help you, sir?” the Collector asked.

“What about that ship?” Porter asked, pointing through the window.

“Those ships are not included in this auction.”

“Why not?”

“They have been chosen for our private collection.”

“Really?” Porter said. And what? Our runabout isn’t good enough for you? he added to himself.

“Please limit your shopping to the vessels in this docking facility,” the Collector said firmly.

“Absolutely. Sorry for the trouble.”

The Collector nodded slightly, his huge helmet reflecting Porter’s image, then stalked back to his post. Porter, meanwhile, made his way to the Cumberland, looking the ship over from the outside, allowing him to look like a potential buyer while also checking to see how badly the ship had been damaged. It looked surprisingly good. Either the Cumberland hadn’t been hit too hard or the Collectors fixed their captures up before selling them off.

Porter climbed the stairs and stepped through the hatch into the runabout’s cockpit, which was practically glistening. The consoles had been cleaned and shined to the point that the light reflecting off of them was blinding. If the Collectors ever decided to dump their current line of work, Starfleet should consider hiring them as the new janitorial staff. But somehow the Custodians didn’t sound nearly as impressive.

With the coast clear, Porter sat down at the runabout’s main console and got to work.


“Wow,” Steph Hodges said appreciatively as she surveyed the buffet that had been laid out along one wall of the Vault-Ship’s Primary Auction Hall. “These guys should dump the whole collecting thing and go into party planning. They’d make a killing.”

“Yeah, but somehow the Caterers doesn’t sound nearly as impressive,” Beck said just before popping a small puff pastry into her mouth.

“Aren’t you supposed to be scanning or something?” Hodges asked.

“I am,” Beck said, flashing the tricorder she was holding unobtrusively in her other hand. “It’s not helping though. The outfits the Collectors wear makes them all read the same.”

“So much for finding Walter and Dr. Nelson that way. Do we have a Plan B?”

“Plan B is the same as Plan A, just much less organized.”

“Wonderful,” Hodges said.

“Let’s get over to the display cases and pretend like we belong at this auction…right after I try one of those little chocolate things over there.”


For the most part, the various beings strolling in and out of the Cumberland ignored Porter as he sat at the front console inputting commands. Only one had gone so far as to sit in the pilot’s chair, indicating to Porter that no one was all that interested in buying the ship anyway, not that he’d be giving them a chance.

Sooner or later, though, Porter knew that the time he was spending in the runabout was bound to draw some attention. Actually, a good fifteen minutes had gone by before one of the obsidian-domed Collectors strode into the cockpit.

“May I help you?” the Collector asked, his voice threatening.

“Nope. Doing fine,” Porter replied tapping a control on the console just before the Collector stepped up behind his chair.

“What are you doing on this vessel?”

“Just looking around. You wouldn’t believe the number of games in this computer,” Porter said pointing at the solitaire game displaying on his monitor. “I think they’ve got some two-player ones if you want to take me on.”

“The auction will begin in ten minutes,” the Collector said, turning on his heel and heading toward the exit.

“Can’t wait,” Porter said. He gave the departing Collector a friendly wave then switched back to his work.


Hodges had quickly lost interest in the line of cases displaying the various artifacts and wares soon to be auctioned and wandered off to mingle with the other attendees, leaving Captain Beck to peruse the items the Collectors had swiped and scavenged from the surrounding star systems.

Nearby, the Collector on duty stood with a jet black padd, using it to open cases as people asked to take a look at items up close. Beck had expected armed Collectors to be everywhere watching over the crowd, but this was turning out to be an exceptionally orderly and civil affair. The other beings attending the auction behaved as though they’d been through this before, which bothered Beck to no end. It was bad enough that the Collectors swooped in and took whatever they wanted, but the beings attending these auctions were benefitting from the Collectors’ ill-gotten gains and didn’t seem to mind at all how these items were obtained.

Beck’s indignance was side-tracked as she came across a display case containing some familiar items, namely two Starfleet phaser rifles, two commbadges, a med kit, and a tricorder.

Steph Hodges suddenly slipped up beside her, smiling giddily as she clutched a wad of paper in her hand.

“You won’t believe what just happened,” Hodges said excitedly.

“What did you do?” Beck demanded, turning on her long- time friend.

“I got us hillicas. Five thousand of them,” Hodges replied, holding up the papers, which Beck saw where actually bills of currency.

“Is that a lot?” Beck asked.

“I have no clue. Who cares as long as we can buy something?”

“We’re not buying anything, Steph,” Beck said. “How did you get those?”

“That guy gave them to me,” Hodges said, pointing at a creature seated in the back row of seats facing the auction podium. How Hodges knew it was a guy, Beck would never know. To her, it just looked like a giant grey spikey ball with two eyestalks, a small mouth that was constantly opening and closing, and two giant holes between the eyestalks and the mouth that Beck assumed were part of a massive nose.

“He gave them to you?” Beck asked skeptically.

“Yeah. All he wanted in return was to smell my breath. Weird huh?”

“So you let yourself get sniffed up by a walking pair of nostrils.”

“And I got five thousand hillicas for doing almost nothing,” Hodges said. “You should go talk to him. Maybe he’ll pay you, too.”

“No way. I’m not selling myself.”

“Lighten up, Lisa. I just breathed on the guy.”

“Uh huh. But do you know what that felt like to him? For all you know, you just made him VERY happy.”

Hodges shuddered. “Just forget it, okay?”

“Fine. But this better be the end of it. I won’t stand for you opening up a breath brothel when we get back to Waystation.”

“Aren’t those Starfleet phaser rifles?” Hodges said, pointing into the case.

“Subject changer.”

“Don’t make me grab one of these guns.”

“Good luck getting to them. These cases aren’t made out of glass, you know. If you want in, you have to talk to our ball- headed friend over there.”

“Um…I think I’ll pass.”

“Wise plan,” Beck said, moving on to the next display case.

Moments later, her thigh started vibrating, almost causing her to jump into one of the cases. Beck quickly steadied herself, reached into her pants pocket, and subtly pulled out the source of the vibrations: her commbadge. She faked a yawn, putting the device close to her mouth.

“Beck,” she said quietly, then shifted her hand to her ear, holding the badge against her head as she scratched her hair with her fingers.

“We’re all set,” Porter’s voice replied. “But since the Mongoose is docked on board as well, I really had to scale back the power. Otherwise, we could wipe out our escape route.”

“How much will you get?” Beck asked, sliding her hand back to her mouth, then back to her ear.

“Pretty much everything from this module forward. The Mongoose and the auction hall are in the module in behind of this one, so I had to direct the pulse to fully toward the front.”

Beck faked a cough, giving her a reason to put her hand back to her mouth. “Understood,” Beck said. “That should be enough of a disruption to get their attention. Get back here as soon as you can. We’ll go a few minutes into the auction.”

“On my way. Porter out.”


In the runabout’s cockpit, Porter made a last check of the tricorder he’d brought along with him. Satisfied that its interfaces with the runabout and the Mongoose were in place and functioning properly, he made his way out of the ship and out of the docking bay, following the path of ever-helpful Collectors back through the corridors to the module of the segmented Vault-Ship where the auction would be starting momentarily.

They sure were a hospitable bunch of plunderers, Porter thought as a Collector stepped aside to allow him to enter a turbolift. The Collector entered behind him and stood silently as Porter asked the lift to take him to the auction hall level. The turbolift began its ascent, leaving Porter and the Collector standing in silence.

“Nice place you’ve got here,” Porter said, unable to bear the quiet any longer.

The Collector didn’t respond.

“I guess you guys don’t make a lot of small talk, huh?” Porter said, turning to look at his companion. The Collector’s hands suddenly latched onto Porter’s arms, pulling his face right up against the Collector’s helmet.

“Know…you,” the Collector’s mechanized voice croaked in a hoarse, strained whisper as though it was fighting for each word. “Know…Porter.”

“Morales?” Porter asked, trying to peer through the helmet. “Wuddle?”

The Collector didn’t respond. Instead, his arms fell limply to his sides.

“Just hang on,” Porter said, pulling his commbadge out of his pocket and tapping it, sending a signal to Beck.

“Bad time,” Beck’s voice whispered over the comm line. “The auction is about to start.”

“Sorry, Captain. I found Morales or Wuddle. I can’t tell which. He recognized me, though.”

“Can you get him back to the Mongoose?”

“I can try,” Porter replied as the turbolift slowed to a halt. Porter made a move for the exit, but suddenly the lift began to descend.

“You will not reclaim this Collector,” the Collector said ominously, pulling a small black device from a holster on his belt and leveling it at Porter, who had the distinct feeling that the object wasn’t anything friendly.

“I think the Mongoose is out,” Porter said, swallowing a nervous gulp.

“Are you in trouble?” Beck asked.

“Oh yeah.”

“Do not move,” the Collector said, reaching for Porter’s commbadge with his free hand while continuing to cover Porter with his weapon.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Porter said, slipping his other hand to his tricorder in his pocket. There was very little he could do without being able to see the tricorder, but he did know the exact location of one button, which he pressed.

“Tricorder,” Porter said just before the Collector pressed the commbadge, closing the channel. Hopefully, Beck would get the message.

“This is not a tricorder,” the Collector said.

“No. This is,” Porter said, pulling it out of his pocket.

“You will give it to me.”

“Sure thing. I’m here to cooperate,” Porter said, switching off the tricorder’s power then handing it to the Collector.

“That is best.”

“Are you guys going to collect me?”

“Most likely.”

“Ah. Mind if I ask you a question then?”

“Please.”

“How do you eat in those helmets?”


“They have to know Craig came with us,” Lieutenant Hodges said, her eyes darting around the auction hall looking for any sign that the Collectors there were making a move toward them. So far, everything seemed normal. Just a few moments earlier, the Collectors had requested that all auction participants take their seats, so Beck and Hodges were about the only stragglers still lingering by the display cases. “Maybe we should get out of here.”

“Might be a little conspicuous,” Beck said, pulling out her tricorder.

“I’m not just going to sit around waiting for them to come get us while you scan things.”

“Neither am I,” Beck replied, a slight smile crossing her face as she saw why Porter had mentioned ‘tricorder.’ He’d transmitted the control interfaces he’d been working on to her unit.

“So what are we going to do?”

“You’re going to tell that nice Collector over there about where these relics belong,” the captain said, gesturing slightly at the Collector holding the display case control padd. “I’ll join you in a minute.”

“You going somewhere?” Hodges asked.

“Nope. I’ll be right here.”

“How come I’m not liking this plan all of a sudden?”

“Just do it, Steph. Trust me.”

Hodges gave her friend a last look of “you’d better know what you’re doing” then approached the lone Collector standing watch over the display cases. “Could I have a word with you for a minute?” Hodges asked, crossing her arms and scowling her face in displeasure.

“The auction is about to begin,” the Collector replied flatly.

“There shouldn’t even be an auction!” Hodges exclaimed. “These relics belong in a museum! How dare you take the last remaining artifacts of such a great culture and use them for your own financial gain! What about the betterment of society? What about the enrichment of the universe? Do you have any idea what a loss this is for scholars around the galaxy?”

As Hodges dove into full rant, Captain Beck tapped a few final commands into her tricorder, then strolled over to join Hodges and the Collector. “Is this man bothering you, Doctor Hodges?”

“This entire situation bothers me, Professor Beck. The lack of respect shown to the Nefertiti…”

“Nerewari,” Beck corrected.

“Precisely my point,” Hodges said without missing a beat. “I’m so flustered I cannot even pronounce their name correctly.”

“Perhaps we should just adjourn to our seats,” Beck said, grabbing onto Hodges’ arm.


In a docking bay a module away, a console on the Runabout Cumberland’s activated silently, following the program Captain Beck had just activated through her tricorder. Energy began building in the sensor pod mounted over the runabout’s hull as shields crackled to life around the remainder of the vessel. With the auction participants all gathered in the auction hall, no Collectors had remained in this docking bay to notice.


Meanwhile, several decks below Beck and Hodges, Lieutenant Porter was just being led into a corridor where several more Collectors, one of whom was dressed in red instead of the usual black, were waiting for him. The red clad Collector stepped forward.

“I am Chief Assessor of this Vault-Ship. I demand to know why are you here?” he demanded.

“I heard there was an auction,” Porter replied with a shrug, keeping an eye on his captor, who had moved off to join his fellow Collectors. Porter still didn’t know if it was Morales or Wuddle in there, but he wasn’t about to lose him in the crowd of black helmets and uniforms.

“You have been recognized by one of the Collected.”

“Yeah, but I kind of have one of those faces. Everybody thinks they know me from somewhere. Happens all the time. Don’t worry about it.”

“You are here to free this Collected one,” the Chief Assessor said.

“Why would I want to do that?” Porter asked innocently.

“This will not be allowed. You will be Collected immediately.” The Chief Assessor nodded, signaling the horde of six Collectors to surround Porter.

“Thanks for the invite, but I’m in too many clubs already,” Porter replied.

The Collectors did not seem to care.


With the energy build-up in the sensor pod complete, the Runabout Cumberland moved to the next step of the program Porter had written. The sensor pod flared to life, sending a rapidly-expanding massive electromagnetic pulse searing through the forward modules of the Vault-Ship.


At that instant, a massive shudder rumbled through the vessel, knocking most of the Collectors and auction participants in the auction hall module aft of the Cumberland to the floor. With Beck holding her steady, Hodges managed to keep her footing while the rest of the beings in the room climbed back into their chairs and began excitedly talking amongst themselves about what had just happened and wondering if they were in any danger. They were far too distracted to notice the events unfolding at the rear of the room.

“I see we’ve started Plan B,” Hodges said.

“More like C or D at this point. Who can keep track?” Beck replied. She suddenly swiped the padd away from the fallen Collector in front of them. “Thanks for your time,” she said, jogging over to a nearby display case and tapping the control on the padd to open it. She grabbed the two stolen phaser rifles from inside and tossed one over to Hodges.

“Stop!” the Collector called, scrambling to his feet. “Those items won’t be available for purchase until hour three of the auction.”

“Consider this a preemptive bid,” Beck said, firing a stun blast into the Collector. Instantly, the other five Collectors posted in various places around the auction hall turned their heads toward Beck and Hodges as they went for their weapons.

“Time to go,” Beck said, backing toward the exit.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Hodges replied, moving with her. “What’s next in this great plan?”

“We find Porter and hope like hell the Cumberland did its job.”


Porter was just about to give up on Beck and attempt an ill-advised run for it when he and the Collectors surrounding him were all violently jostled around the corridor by the shuddering of the ship around them.

“Um…what was that?” the Chief Assessor asked, looking around nervously at the walls as though he expected them to collapse at any time. None of his lackeys responded, not that Porter would have expected them to.

“Control, report,” the Chief Assessor snapped. He suddenly staggered back, clapping his hands over his helmeted ears. “Close channel! CLOSE CHANNEL!!!” Recovering himself, the Chief Assessor turned on Porter. “You did this, didn’t you?” he shouted.

“Did what?” Porter asked. “I’ve been here with you.”

“You still did it.”

“Did what?”

“You know what you did!”

“Do I?”

“Yes you do! You did it, and you know it!”

“What do I know I did?”

“You may think that what you did is done forever, but I’m going to undo what you did, and when I’m through with you, it won’t matter what you know now because then you’ll only know what I tell you to know! Do you understand me?”

“Not a bit,” Porter said.

“I am SO Collecting you!” the Chief Assessor shouted. He whipped his head around to face his minions. “You four. Get to control,” he barked. Four Collectors nodded quickly, then jogged single file into the nearby turbolift. All the while, Porter kept his eye on the Collector holding his tricorder and commbadge. He still wasn’t sure if it was Morales or Wuddle under there, but at least whoever it was had stuck around instead of following the others to the Vault-Ship’s control center.

“Ready to become one of us,” the Chief Assessor said, taking a step toward Porter.

“I thought about it, but I don’t think the benefits package really fits my needs. Thanks, though.”

Before the Chief Assessor could even manage a “huh?”, Porter dove at the Collector holding his equipment and tackled him to the deck, frantically slapping the pockets on the Collector’s uniform until he heard the soft chirp of his commbadge activating. “Porter to Cumberland. Two to transport. Lower shields and energize.”

The Chief Assessor tried to change his “huh?” to a “STOP!”, but it was too late. Porter and the Collector had already vanished in a cascade of energy.


At about that same moment, the Mongoose’s transporter activated causing several more cascades of energy to coalesce into the forms of Colonel Martin Lazlo and a cadre of his Federation Marines in a corridor in the Vault-Ship’s foremost module.

The Marines looked around woozily at the black corridor stretching off in either direction and tried to steady themselves.

“How long were we in that transport buffer?” Lt. Colonel Dan O’Neil asked, wobbling a bit.

“It doesn’t matter,” Lazlo snapped. “We’ve got work to do. All right, people. Remember the plan. If we’re here, that means the Starfleeters were able to set off an electromagnetic pulse. Some Collectors we encounter may just be confused and frightened aliens who were swiped and Collected. Others are going to be real Collectors. If you aren’t sure, shoot them anyway. Bravo Team, sweep for human and Multek lifesigns. Primary target is Doctor Nelson. She may be incapacitated. If the primary rendezvous point is unavailable, your top priority is to get her to the Mongoose and into stasis until she can receive medical attention. Move out!”

“You heard the Colonel. Let’s move,” O’Neil said, jogging off down the corridor with his team, phaser rifles at the ready.

“Charlie Team,” Lazlo continued, “Get to the hull and establish communication with the Wayward. Move out!”

“Why do I always get stuck with the heavy stuff?” Sergeant Rick Kyle whined as he struggled to jog off down the corridor under the weight of a portable subspace transceiver.

“Alpha Team,” Lazlo said once Kyle and his armed escorts had disappeared around the corner. “We’re taking the bridge.”


Porter and his kidnapped Collector rematerialized inside the Runabout Cumberland and immediately resumed their struggle on the runabout’s transporter pad. The Collector obviously wasn’t happy about being transported against his will and continually tried to head-butt Porter with his helmet. After dodging several head attacks, Porter managed to roll them both off of the transporter pad and into the runabout’s cockpit. Unfortunately, the maneuver left him open to a knee in the side, knocking the wind out of him.

Gasping for breath, Porter kicked away from the Collector and scrambled across the deck toward the supply locker as the Collector went for his own weapon, which had been knocked out of its holster and sent flying in the opposite direction.

Porter threw open the locker.

No phasers.

No anything actually.

The Collectors had stripped the locker clean.

So much for that plan.

Seeing that the Collector was very near its own weapon, Porter let out a wild cry and charged, hoping for the best. The cry was enough to make the Collector freeze for the half-second Porter needed to close the gap. He dove on the Collector’s back, slammed its helmeted head against the deck a few times, then reached over him and grabbed the blaster.

“Don’t move,” Porter ordered, aiming the weapon down at the Collector’s back.

The Collector suddenly reared up, toppling Porter backwards. Porter let himself fall and went into a back roll, coming up with the blaster squarely aimed at the Collector’s chest.

“I said don’t move.”

“Shoot,” the Collector said, advancing on forward.

“Stop!”

“Shoot…Porter.”

Assuming that was a request rather than a statement of the Collector’s intended course of action, Porter fired, dropping the Collector to the deck in a heap.


Finding Porter in a vessel the size of the Vault-Ship was looking like a daunting task to say the least Captain Beck decided as she and Lieutenant Hodges made their way through the corridors of the craft.

“Porter to Beck,” her commbadge barked suddenly.

The captain quickly pulled the device out of her pocket. “Beck,” she said. “Are you all right, Craig?”

“Just dandy,” he replied. “Frequoq Wuddle and I are just taking a little breather on board the Cumberland.”

“You found Wuddle.”

“Yep. Just got his helmet off. From what I’ve been able to tell, the Mongoose’s transporter activated as planned, and Lazlo and his people were unharmed by their stay in the transporter buffer. They’re currently rampaging through the control module.”

“Think of all the fun I’m missing,” Hodges said.

“Was that sarcasm?” Porter asked.

“I’m not sure,” Beck said.

“A little…maybe half,” Hodges said.

“Craig, is your position secure?” Beck asked.

“Seems to be. Say the word, and I’ll fly us out of here.”

“Stand by. We may need a diversion later on. But if things get ugly down there, get the hell out.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice.”

“See what you can do about finding Morales, Nelson, and the other Multeks. We’re making for the Mongoose. We’ll let you know if we run into any trouble. Beck out.”

Beck closed the channel and started off down the corridor.

“We do have a transporter on the Mongoose, you know,” Hodges said, falling into step beside her.

“Yes, but we’ve got two modules worth of Collectors that weren’t affected by the EM pulse. Our people are just as likely to be here as they are up front.”

“So what? We’re going to check every single Collector we come across until we find them?” Hodges asked.

“That’s the general idea.”

“I hate this idea then.”

“You could head on back to the Mongoose,” Beck said.

“Right. Like I’m going to just leave you here alone.”

“In that case, get ready. I think our first contestants on ‘What’s Under That Helmet?’ are heading our way.”


The corridors of the primary module of the Vault-Ship were filled with disoriented former Collectors stumbling (and in some cases running in an all-out panic) around the vessel desperate for some clue as to where they were.

Lazlo and his team were finding their every step bogged down by some poor sap or another begging for information or a ride home. Every so often, they’d run across a true Collector attempting to restore order, but most often the de-Collected masses were taking their anger and confusion out on the real Collectors, leaving the marines with no one to shoot. Finally, Lazlo’s team reached the doors of the ship’s control room (at least that’s what the badly-beaten Collector down the hall had told them just before losing consciousness).

With rifles at the ready, the marines forced the sealed doors open, revealing the scene of utter chaos within. Chairs had been thrown in every direction, smashing consoles and more than a few bones of the beings unfortunate enough to be within the flight trajectory. The true Collectors and the recently de-Collected were equally numbered and struggling hand-to-hand as those few consoles unaffected by the EM pulse or hit by a chair blinked around them.

Lazlo smiled. Finally some viable targets.

“Take them…”

A chair suddenly slammed into the side of his head, knocking the colonel into a rather instant state of oblivion. Fortunately, his troops knew him well enough to conclude that his next word was going to be “out” or “down” (instead of something less aggressive like “to lunch”), and they had a grand old time stunning everything that moved.


Lieutenant Colonel Dan O’Neil didn’t mind the occasional search and rescue operation. It was part of the whole marine gig, but this operation was really starting to get on his nerves. How was he supposed to find five particular beings on a ship this size when EVERYONE looked exactly the same?

On the upside, resistance had been light. There didn’t seem to be enough real Collectors left to cause much trouble, and most of them had enough sense to flee when they saw a team of heavily-armed Federation Marines sweeping down the corridor.

“Colonel,” Private Copeland said suddenly, holding up his tricorder. “Human life-signs.”

“Where?”

“Turn left at the next junction.”

“Let’s move!” O’Neil jogged off down the corridor, his troops close behind, and turned the corner to find a lone Collector sitting dazed against the wall. O’Neil knelt down, unlatched the Collector’s helmet, and slowly pulled it off revealing Dr. Nelson underneath, her eyes glazed as she muttered softly to herself.

“Doctor, are you all right?” O’Neil asked. “Can you hear me?”

Nelson’s head turned slightly, looking at him but not really focusing. “I can hear. We can’t. But I can. Not a we anymore.”

“Can you walk?”

“I’m fine,” Nelson replied as O’Neil pulled her to her feet. “Just fine. Alone and not dying. Just me.”

“Colonel!” McCabe cried, yanking O’Neil’s attention away from the doctor. A cadre of four Collectors had just turned the corner, weapons drawn.

“Sorry, Doctor,” O’Neil said, shoving Nelson back to the deck as the marines opened fire on the new arrivals. Despite having their weapons out, the surprised Collectors obviously hadn’t expected to find a team of marines waiting around the corner. The two who weren’t dropped in the first volley of phaser blasts fell back to the junction and returned fire from the cover of the corners.

Lacking cover of any sort, the marines quickly found themselves on the wrong end of this particular firefight.

“Everybody back,” O’Neil ordered, yanking a small stun grenade off of his belt. He armed the device and lobbed it down the corridor toward the Collectors, then quickly scooped Nelson back up off of the deck and started running in the opposite direction with the doctor unceremoniously slumped over his shoulder.

The grenade landed perfectly in between the two Collectors, who had just enough time to notice its arrival before it detonated, blasting them both into unconscious heaps on the deck.

With the threat taken care of, O’Neil set Nelson back down on her feet and let her get her bearings back.

“Are you still all right?” he asked.

“Uh huh,” Nelson replied nodding numbly.

“My orders are to get you to medical attention, ma’am.”

“Okay. That sounds good.”

“It will be just a moment.” O’Neil said, activating his wrist communicator. “O’Neil to Lazlo.”

Silence.

“O’Neil to Lazlo,” he repeated.

“Um…this is Sherwood,” a female voice replied finally. “The colonel is kind of unconscious right now. Did you want me to give him a message when he wakes up?”

“Are the rest of you safe?”

“Oh, we’re fine. The control center is secure.”

“Good. Is the Wayward here yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Okay. Stay there. And tell the colonel that we have Nelson. O’Neil out.” He closed the channel. “So much for Plan A,” he muttered. A thought struck him. “O’Neil to Captain Beck.”

The shrieking of energy blasts squealed back over the commline.

“Busy!” Beck’s voice shouted back.

“Oh. Sorry, Captain,” O’Neil said, quickly closing the channel. One more thought. “O’Neil to Lieutenant Commander Porter.”

“Present and accounted for,” Porter’s voice replied calmly. “What can I do you for?”

“I have Doctor Nelson.”

“Then we’re up to four out of five. I’ve managed to find all three of our missing Multeks. We’re all camped out on the Cumberland if you’d care to join us.”

“Our orders are to get to the Mongoose. I was supposed to take Nelson with us, but I thought…”

“We’d want to take care of her,” Porter said understanding. “Thanks, O’Neil. You’re officially on my good guy list.”

O’Neil pulled a transporter tag out of a pouch on his belt and stuck it on Nelson’s sleeve. “We’re in the second module. You should be able to detect the tag I just put on her.”

“Got it. Energizing now.”

Dr. Nelson waved slowly at O’Neil as her body dematerialized. A moment later, she was gone.

“O’Neil to Mongoose.” The marine transport ship’s computer chirped a brief acknowledgment. “Lock onto my signal and transport all Federation Marines in the vicinity aboard. Energize when ready.”


Why couldn’t they have just beamed in closer to the hull? Would that have been so difficult? Sergeant Rick Kyle shifted the bulk on his back one more time as he trudged a few additional steps along the corridor. The marines sent as his escorts had long since switched from a rapid jog to a leisurely saunter along the Vault-Ship’s corridors, and even that was almost too rapid a pace for Kyle.

The former Collectors now running through the corridors in states of abject confusion weren’t exactly helping matters either. Invariably, they’d bump into him as they ran past, almost sending him toppling backwards. Somehow Kyle didn’t think that the subspace transmitter strapped to his back would respond well to slamming into the floor.

Just a hunch.

Finally, he caught up with his so-called escorts, who were now leaning up against a wall, chatting casually.

“Oh so NOW you decide we need a break!” Kyle seethed.

“We’re here, Sergeant,” Corporal Kintasa replied.

“Thank the Great Bird!” Kyle exclaimed. “Get this thing off of me.”

Within moments, the marines had the transmitter array set up as close to the outer hull as possible and broadcasting a signal through the thick metal toward a set of pre-arranged coordinates in the space beyond.

“Mission accomplished,” Kyle said, slumping down to the deck. “So who’s carrying the refreshments?”


“Mind if I tell you something, Lisa?” Stephanie Hodges asked as three energy bolts seared past her while she hid around a corner.

“Sure,” Captain Beck replied from the opposite corner, firing a couple of shots back at their attackers.

“This whole taking out the Collectors one-by-one to find Morales thing was not one of your better plans.”

“I’m getting that impression. Ready?”

“I guess so.”

“One…two…THREE!”

Beck and Hodges hit the deck and rolled out into the corridor, firing as they went and quickly dropping the five Collectors blocking their path.

“There. Five more down,” Beck said, picking herself up and heading toward their latest victims.

“Who knows how many more hundreds to go?” Hodges muttered, following along. Beck had already unlatched one helmet, revealing a greyish-blue skinned hairless alien of the type they’d found several of as they went through the ship. Beck had concluded that these were the real Collectors.

Hodges quickly unlatched three of the other helmets, revealing another Collector and aliens of two different species Beck didn’t recognize.

The captain reached down to the last Collector, unlatched his helmet, and gently lifted it off of his head.

Underneath was…

…absolutely no one they knew.

“So much for this bunch,” Hodges said.

“At least we’re getting some great target practice.”

“So are they.”

Beck’s commbadge chirped again. “Beck,” she said after tapping it quickly.

“This is the Wayward, Captain. We’re on approach. Are you ready for transport?”

“We just have to find Commander Morales. Standby. Wait. Don’t standby. Is the deflector dish configured for EM pulses?”

“Yes, ma’am. We followed Commander Porter’s instructions to the letter.”

“Good. Contact the Mongoose and tell O’Neil to get it out of the Vault-Ship, then blast the aft two modules.”

“Understood. Wayward out.”

“Beck to Porter,” she said, tapping her commbadge.

“Porter.”

“Do you have some extra room on that runabout?”

“I always like more company.”

“Good. Lock onto Steph and I and energize.”

“Had enough fun for one day?”

“Hell yes.”


“Captain’s Log. Stardate 54952.6. We found Commander Morales. Granted we had to take over the Vault-Ship, disable most of its systems, search it from stem to stern, and anger several dozen folks who came for an auction to do it, but we found him.

He was scrubbing toilets.

Poor guy. The Collectors had sent him to clean their barracks bathroom, and he’d become trapped inside when our EM pulses disabled the electronics in the doors. Other than a slight allergic reaction to the cleaning chemicals, he seems fine, as do the Multeks.

Dr. Nelson is another matter entirely.”


“Any idea what you’re going to tell Starfleet?” Lieutenant Commander Porter asked as he and Captain Beck approached the door of the Wayward’s mess hall/sickbay.

“I think I’m pretty much stuck with the truth,” Beck replied. “We did what we had to do to retrieve Starfleet personnel and property. It wasn’t exactly diplomatic, but diplomacy doesn’t seem to work with the Collectors. Starfleet is just going to have to deal with it.”

“They do that so well.”

“Hey. At least we helped the Collectors get their engines running again. And the beings we freed seemed really grateful. I’m not going to be losing any sleep over this one.”

Beck and Porter stepped into the mess hall/sickbay. Currently, only one of the tables was still flipped over to be a biobed, and it was hidden behind a divider, giving its occupant, Dr. Amelia Nelson, a modicum of privacy.

Beck poked her head around the divider. Inside the makeshift-room, Nelson was gazing blankly at the liquid-filled tank beside her bed where Midon floated.

“Are you up for some company?” Beck asked. Nelson silently waved her and Porter in. “How are you feeling?” Beck asked.

“Fine,” Nelson said softly.

“That’s a good place to start,” Porter said, looking over the biobed readouts. “I’m no doctor, but it looks like everything here agrees with your diagnosis of fine.”

“The Collectors did a good job,” Nelson said, her gaze still locked on Midon.

“We’ll be back on Waystation in the next few hours,” Beck said. “You can check things out more thoroughly then.”

Frequoq Wuddle stepped behind the divider. “Captain,” he said by way of greeting.

“Wuddle,” Beck replied. “Is everything all right?”

“Yes. I was hoping to speak to Dr. Nelson,” Wuddle said, his eyes shifting back and forth from Nelson to the tank holding Midon.

Porter shook his head. “I don’t know if she’s up…”

“I’m fine, Craig,” Nelson interrupted. “Come sit down, Wuddle.”

“That would be our cue,” Beck said, grabbing Porter by the arm and pulling him out of the room as Wuddle gently sat down on the bed beside Nelson.

“I’m glad to see that you have recovered,” Wuddle said stiffly.

“I guess you could call it that,” Nelson said.

Wuddle looked from the tank to Nelson again, then started to stand. “I should let you rest.”

Nelson’s hand grabbed his, stopping his retreat. “I wanted to tell you. I just…it was never the right time.

“I don’t think there would ever be a right time.”

“Wuddle…”

“No!” Wuddle shouted suddenly, yanking his arm away. “Don’t give me platitudes. You lied to me. I thought you were human! All the while you were being controlled by that…that thing!”

“We were one being,” Nelson said, sitting up. “One mind. You can be pissed off about it all you want, but the fact is that the woman you loved was the result of that joining.”

“You are that woman.”

“No, I’m not, Wuddle. I’m just Amelia Nelson. I know this is hard for you to get your mind around, but Amedon doesn’t exist anymore. You’ve made it pretty clear that you wouldn’t want her if she did.”

“I never said that.”

“Sure. Referring to Midon as ‘that thing’ was meant to be endearing.”

Wuddle was silent for several moments, licking his wounds.

“Are you going to put it back in you?” he asked finally, eyes locked on the tank.

“I don’t know,” Nelson replied. “For the first time in almost five years, I’m just me. I didn’t really intend to join with Midon in the first place.”

“Mister Porter explained what happened. You were saving the creature’s life.”

“Midon is not some kind of monster. That symbiont has been alive for close to a century and has a great deal of knowledge to share. Half of Amedon that loved you was coming from Midon. Don’t forget that.”

“Loved,” Wuddle said softly. “You don’t…”

“I’m not Amedon,” Nelson replied, putting her hand on his. “The part of me that made up her loved you, but now…I need time. I don’t really know who Amelia Nelson is anymore. And the fact is, you never met her until now.”

“I would like to get to know you again.”

“What if I decide to rejoin with Midon? What then? Could you deal with that?”

Wuddle didn’t respond. In all honesty, he wasn’t sure how to respond.

“Looks like you need some time, too,” Nelson said. “You can’t hide from the rest of the galaxy forever, Wuddle. There are all kinds of beings out here, and one of these days, you and the rest of the Multeks are going to have to deal with them.”


Several light years away, the Chief Assessor of Vault-Ship O-97 stood in his ship’s command center watching space slowly sail by as the vessel limped back toward Collectors’ territory. The auction was a complete failure, but on the upside, the invaders had not made off with their prime acquisitions from this trip.

The ship they obtained from the pale guys with the blue hair was a particularly nice find.

The Collectors would have to find a way to get some more of them.


END


Tags: Waystation