Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“Hail to the Chief”
By Alan Decker
Once you get past the initial “Oooh wow” of it, space travel really isn’t all that exciting. Space is big. Really, really big, so, barring the occasional anomaly or alien attack, you really aren’t bound to run into much on your way between here and there. Engineers and warp physicists do all they can to make trips faster, but at some point a space traveler is bound to find himself uttering that sentiment which has passed across the lips and other speech organs of every spacefaring species known to the galaxy: I’m bored.
As an organization dedicated to space exploration (which by its very nature involves a great deal of time spent going from one place to the next), Starfleet realized very early on that something had to be done to keep starship crews entertained as they traveled. The pinnacle of their efforts, the holodeck, was now standard issue on just about every Starfleet vessel.
Runabouts, however, were unfortunately not on that list, a fact that Captain Lisa Beck became more and more acutely aware of as she spent several days trapped on one with Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter and Lieutenant Sean Russell traversing the distance between the Hujinor System and Waystation. In all honesty, what Beck really wanted was to be on Waystation right then and there, so she could track down Phillip Harper and set a time to go out on an actual date with him. With their schedules as busy as they had been of late, the couple hadn’t really been out in what seemed like months. At best, one of them would head to the other’s quarters late in the evening after a long day of work, meaning that most of their time together was spent asleep.
That needed to change, and it needed to change quickly, something that was rather difficult to accomplish while she was sitting in a runabout cockpit, bored out of her skull. Ideally, this was where a holodeck would come in, but, since Beck was on the aforementioned runabout, that option was unavailable to her.
“You could read a book, you know?” Lieutenant Commander Porter said from the pilot’s seat as Beck shifted yet again in the co-pilot’s chair beside him.
“We’ll be there soon,” Beck said. “I wouldn’t have time to get very far.”
“Take a nap? It’s working for Sean.”
“Am I bothering you that much?” Beck asked.
“Only when you break into those abrupt shift-fidget-seizure moves you’ve been doing in that chair every fifteen seconds since you sat down.”
“Sorry. I’ll be still.”
Five seconds later, Porter chuckled.
“I did it again, didn’t I?” Beck said.
“Something on your mind?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so,” Beck said with a sigh as the stars streaked by in front of her. She was quiet for a moment. “He seemed happy.”
“Captain Rydell? Yeah. Of course, it was his wedding, so I’d hope he was happy.”
“Karina is good for him.”
“Are you trying to convince someone?” Porter asked.
“No. It’s just…I can’t believe he went and did this. Retired. Married. Running a resort. I just can’t see Alex that way.”
“I don’t know. I’d have a hard time believing that Starfleet would ever promote him to Admiral, so what else was he going to do? Stay a captain forever? I don’t think Captain Rydell ever intended to grow old in Starfleet. Don’t get me wrong. I loved serving under him, but I always got the sense he was only going to stay in command while it was fun for him. There was always something else that he wanted.”
“I guess you’re right,” Beck said.
“The evidence is certainly working in my favor. But what about you? Is Starfleet your career or just something to pass the time?”
“Career,” Beck said without a trace of uncertainty. “I’ve wanted this for as long as I can remember. And someday when I’ve had enough of being out here, I’m going to settle into a nice cushy admiralty at Starfleet Command with a big office and a giant desk.”
“Sounds good to me,” Porter said.
“What about you?”
“To be honest I don’t know. I like what I’m doing now, but I can’t keep up this kind of pace forever.”
“Heading up science and operations is a lot,” Beck said. She’d never really thought about it before now, but expecting Porter to oversee two major departments was borderline crazy. It made more sense when Waystation was just a tiny outpost, but that hadn’t been the case for over three years now. “Do you have a preference?”
“Depends on when you ask me,” Porter replied. “But I can’t imagine leaving Starfleet. It’s been good to me, and I like the people.”
“The people are a plus,” Beck said. “Even if they don’t always stick around.” She laughed to herself. “You want to hear something crazy?”
“Sure. Lay it on me.”
“I think I’m jealous.”
“Of Captain Rydell?”
Beck shook her head. “No. Karina Durham.”
“Oh really?” Porter said, pulling his attention away from the flight console to look at Beck. “You and Captain Rydell?”
“We never went out or anything. Nothing at all really. I just always thought that he and I kind of clicked somehow. It never would have worked. Not with our respective commands, but if we ever ended up stranded on a deserted planet or something, I bet it would have happened. Of course, now he has Karina and I have Phillip, so it doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“As long as you’re happy.”
“I will be if we ever get back to the station,” Beck said.
“All you had to do was ask,” Porter said as he dropped the runabout our of warp. “Entering Sector 41.25 now.”
At first glance, all that appeared to be in front of the runabout was more empty space, but gradually a familiar object began to grow as the craft approached. Soon the two massive saucers of Waystation loomed over the runabout. Beck found herself studying every meter of the station as they passed, thinking that she really didn’t spend enough time appreciating her command from the outside. Her command. One hundred decks of responsibility, not that she felt weighed down by it. In her early months on board, she’d actually wondered if she’d made the right decision as the boredom of being in the middle of nowhere pressed down upon her. Waystation was not nowhere anymore. Several thriving colonies now existed in their neighborhood of the Beta Quadrant (well away from the nearby Multek Enclave, of course), and Waystation itself had become a major point of call along the shipping and travel lanes passing through the region. Beyond that, Waystation was now the de facto seat of the Federation government, since Bradley Dillon had become president and decided to remain on board rather than relocate to Earth. Boredom was rarely a part of Beck’s existence anymore, which was fine by her. She’d never considered herself to be particularly interested in power, but Beck liked being in charge of Waystation. She watched a bit more of her command pass by. Some people said it looked like a giant dumbbell in space, but to Beck it was beautiful, and all hers.
Porter steered the ship along the upper saucer, past several small freighters and other vessels docked at the stubby docking arms extending from the saucer’s outer edge, then skirted up toward the doors of Docking Bay Two.
“Runabout Cumberland to Waystation. Request permission to dock,” Captain Beck said, activating the ship’s comm system.
The docking bay doors began to slide open even before Commander Walter Morales’s voice gave a response. “You’re clear, Cumberland. Welcome home.”
“Thanks. We’re glad to be back,” Beck said.
“Will we see you in Ops?” Morales asked.
“At tomorrow morning’s command staff meeting…unless you need me for something now. I’d really like to get back to my own quarters and settle in.”
“No. I mean there’s no crisis,” Morales said. “We’ll see you tomorrow. Get some rest.”
“Planning on it. Cumberland out,” Beck said.
“Home sweet home,” Porter said, sliding the runabout into the docking bay and setting it down between the USS Wayward and the Runabout Roanoke. “You want to wake Sean or should I?”
“I’ll leave that particular honor to you,” Captain Beck replied, activating the hatch, which spread open out to the docking bay. “And he can clean up whatever the heck that was he spilled in the common area.”
“I think it was chili. I’d need a tricorder for a thorough analysis, though,” Porter replied.
“You have fun with that,” Beck said, gulping down her disgust. “And Craig?”
“Thanks for listening.”
“Any time. I mean that.”
“I know,” Beck said with a smile before heading down the steps out of the runabout. Porter watched her go, then headed back through the runabout’s common area to the two small bedrooms at the rear of the vessel.
Lieutenant Sean Russell was laying on the lower bunk of the room he and Porter had shared for the voyage, staring at the top bunk above him.
“You’re awake,” Porter said surprised.
“Have been for a while,” Russell replied.
“Any particular reason you decided to stay back here instead of joining us in the cockpit for witty repartee and sparkling conversation.”
“I kind of wanted to think,” Russell said.
“Fair enough,” Porter said, sitting on the edge of the bed. Neither man spoke for several moments.
“Aren’t you going to ask what I was thinking about?” Russell said.
“Too predictable,” Porter replied. “I figured if I sat here long enough, you’d tell me…or it’d be time for my duty shift. One or the other.”
“I was thinking about Monica.”
“Vaughn?” Porter asked. At Alex Rydell’s wedding, Russell and Monica Vaughn had run off together for a little private time. Obviously the experience had stuck with Waystation’s Chief of Security.
“Do I even want to know about this?” Porter continued.
“Why wouldn’t you?”
“Well, if you’re about to give me a blow-by-blow of you two… Wait. Yeah. I do want to know. The woman’s a legend. How was she?”
“Wonderful, but that’s not what I’m thinking about.”
“And I’m suddenly disappointed,” Porter said.
“Sorry. I’m new at this.”
“New at what?”
“This! Counselor Miller’s gone for a few weeks, and suddenly everyone needs a counselor.”
“Who else wanted a counselor?”
“Captain Beck?” Russell pressed.
“I can’t tell you that. Doctor-patient confidentiality. Now what’s wrong with you?”
“Yeah, I got that part,” Porter said. “What about her?”
“Did you know she’s a lieutenant commander now?”
“Oh,” Porter said understanding. “I see.”
“And she’s the Secondprize’s chief engineer.”
“So? You’ve been Waystation’s Chief of Security for years now.”
“But I’m not a lieutenant commander.”
“I’ve been doing everything I can think of to get a promotion for a year or more now, Craig. It’s not going to happen. The captain hates me.”
“Captain Beck doesn’t hate you.”
“She fired me!” Russell exclaimed.
“Once! And that was years ago. And you deserved it. AND you earned your job back.”
“Not that it’s helped.”
“Your day will come, Sean. I’m certain of it. Just maybe not today…or tomorrow.”
“Or ever. Nothing ever happens here.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Porter said. “Besides, the station is peaceful most of the time because you do a good job.”
Russell rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah. That’s going to get me noticed.” He sat up quickly. “It doesn’t matter,” he grumbled. “I don’t care anymore. None of it’s important.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Porter said.
“Sex with Vaughn induces depression. A counselor should probably know that.”
“You’re not helping.”
“Sorry. Was I supposed to?” Porter said.
“Yes. Say something. Tell me what I should do.”
“Your job…because you’re good at it. The extra pip doesn’t matter that much.”
“So says the man with the extra pip,” Russell muttered as he stood up.
“You’re just in a funk. Sleep it off. You’ll be fine in the morning.”
“Uh huh,” Russell said, leaving the room.
Porter let him go, then suddenly came to one horrifying realization: now he was the one who had to clean up the chili.
As soon as she entered her quarters, Beck asked the computer to connect her via video to Phillip Harper while she unzipped her uniform jacket and threw it on the bed. Sure the runabouts were climate controlled and all, but after spending a couple of days in one, Beck wanted nothing more than to put on some clean, casual clothes.
While the computer connected her to Phillip, Beck ordered up a new set of clothes and got changed.
“Now that’s a new way to start a conversation,” Phillip’s voice said bemused from behind her as Beck slid on her shirt. She turned around to face him, or rather his image on the wall monitor.
“Anything for a cheap thrill, huh?” she said with a grin.
“Nothing about you is a cheap thrill.”
“Are you saying that I’m high maintenance?”
“Never. Just refined.”
“I’ll remember that next time I take you to the holodeck for fried chicken.”
“It doesn’t get much more refined than that,” Phillip said. “So how was the wedding?”
“Fine. No problems. I didn’t stumble over my lines or anything.”
“I doubt they would have cared what you said as long as they were married by the end of it.”
“Probably not,” Beck said. “I wanted to do it right, though. This was the captain’s big day.”
“I’m always going to think of Alex that way. But right now I’m kind of thinking of dinner. Are you free this evening?”
Phillip looked around at his surroundings. “Um…”
Beck suddenly realized that that wasn’t Phillip’s quarters or his office at the Associated Worlds Network behind him. “Where are you?”
“On my way to Earth,” Phillip replied. “I thought you knew when you commed me.”
“I just told the computer to find you,” Beck said. “Guess it did a good job.”
“Well, I did leave forwarding info in my system just in case you tried to reach me.”
“Was this a scheduled trip?” Beck asked. “I don’t remember you mentioning it…not that I’m trying to control your movements.”
“I know. The trip was last minute. One of my partners on Earth got us a meeting with a potential investor.”
“No. SolTerra.” Phillip saw the confused expression on Beck’s face. “SolTerra Industries. That company I’ve been babbling about for the last three months.”
“Oh yeah,” Beck said, still not sure what Phillip was talking about. As much as she hated to admit it, she tended to zone out whenever he started in about his business dealings. She assumed he did the same thing whenever she discussed Starfleet business.
“We’re close to being able to move some of these ideas out of the prototype phase and into production, but we need more backing. I needed to be at this meeting.”
“I understand completely,” Beck said. “You’ve got your business to attend to.”
“It will hopefully be a business one day. AWN is great and all, but I want something bigger.”
“You’ve been hanging around Bradley Dillon too long.”
“The man is extremely successful. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
“Now you’re starting to scare me.”
“Be nice, Lisa.”
“Why? Bradley’s the president and has more credits than most Federation worlds. I don’t think whether I talk nicely about him or not is going to affect his life in the slightest.”
“He’s given me a lot of good advice.”
“Are you sure he’s not trying to ruin you, so he can pick up AWN cheap?”
“Give me a little credit,” Phillip said, showing a bit of irritation.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m just a tired.”
“Get some sleep then.”
“As soon as I find some food, I will,” Beck said.
“All right. Well have a good night.”
“You too. Have a good trip.”
“I’m certainly going to try. Love you.”
“I love you, too. Night.”
“Good night.” Phillip leaned forward and cut the comm channel, leaving Beck gazing at a Federation logo.
“So much for that,” she muttered.
Experience had taught Lieutenant Commander Porter that timing was everything, particularly when it came to dropping in on Joan Redding while she was at work. Several weeks earlier, Porter had discovered that his hostile relationship with AWN’s star reporter had somehow progressed into something more resembling a friendly banter. And then one night he ended up asking her to dinner (or she asked him. He still wasn’t quite sure what had happened there). Yes, she was certainly attractive, and he’d enjoyed having a woman in his life, but somehow he still felt like this was a relationship he’d stumbled into rather than pursued. He wasn’t even sure that that was such a bad thing.
What he was sure of, however, was that showing up at the AWN broadcast studios just before or during one of Redding’s newscasts was a bad thing. He’d made that mistake once and never again. Redding had just gone ballistic, accusing him of completely disrupting her concentration. On the one hand, it was nice to know that he had that kind of effect on her. But on the other, Porter kind of wanted to continue his bodily existence, so he’d made absolutely positive that his arrival at AWN that evening occurred after Redding’s broadcast.
Porter exchanged friendly smiles and nods with the various AWN employees he encountered as he made his way through the corridors of the AWN offices to the broadcast studio, which was little more than a small holodeck that could be altered whenever the AWN powers that be (usually Phillip Harper and his advisors) felt that a set change was in order for their newscasts. Entering the studio itself, Porter spotted Redding talking with one of AWN’s producers while the holocam operators and stage hands scurried about their usual post-broadcast routines. He hovered near the door, giving Redding time to finish her conversation before attempting to catch her eye.
Redding spotted him almost the moment her producer stepped away and broke into a big smile as she walked over to him. “The prodigal officer has returned,” she said crossing her arms and smirking.
“Yeah. This place keeps sucking me back in,” Porter replied.
“Sure. It’s just the place. Right. So how was the wedding? Did you dance with anyone?”
“Dancing really isn’t my thing,” Porter said, confused as to why Redding would care.
“Did anyone ask you?”
“No. I just spent my time talking to people. Catching up with Secondprize folks. Nothing too exciting. The food was really good, though.”
Redding smiled. “Good boy.”
“You mentioned food. Let’s go eat,” she said, taking Porter by the arm and leading him out of the studio. Porter stifled a sigh as he realized that, not for the first time in his life, a woman was making his head hurt.
After a quiet dinner in her quarters, Beck turned in for the evening and headed up to Ops the next morning ready to bury herself in station business for a while. Taking a cue from Captain Rydell’s play book, she arrived for the staff meeting a few minutes late, just to make sure that everyone else had had time to settle in before she got there, not that the command staff was all that big.
Beck exited the turbolift into the center of Ops, then, after taking a quick glance at the viewscreen just to make sure nothing nasty was hovering outside, she walked around the turbolift shaft to the rear of Ops and the door to the briefing room.
Commander Walter Morales, Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter, Lieutenant Sean Russell, and Dr. Amelia Nelson were waiting for her inside. Nelson broke into a big smile.
“There she is!” Nelson exclaimed happily. “All rested and raring to go.”
“Yeah,” Beck replied hesitantly as she took her seat. “Sure.” Ever since having the Midon symbiont removed, Dr. Nelson had been a bit different, which Beck supposed was to be expected with half of her former personality no longer present. Nelson was still the same competent doctor and prone to being a bit too driven at times, but these occasional outbursts of exuberance were a little disconcerting. Beck was sure she was adjust to the new Nelson before too long, though.
“So what did we miss?” Beck asked Commander Morales.
Morales and Nelson exchanged a brief look before the commander replied. “Well…”
The briefing room doors opened suddenly, interrupting Morales as Bradley Dillon strode into the room. “I apologize for my tardiness,” Bradley said a bit too dramatically to be convincing. “I had other urgent matters to attend to. Now where were we?”
“Um…what’s he doing here?” Beck asked, focusing a none-too-happy glare on Morales.
“And good morning to you as well, Captain,” Bradley said, settling into the head chair at the opposite end of the table.
“Hi,” Beck said, shooting Bradley a quick, forced smile before turning back to Morales. “Commander?”
“I would think the reason for my presence would be obvious,” Bradley said, clasping his hands together on the table.
“Morales,” Beck pressed.
“He’s the president,” Morales squeaked.
“I don’t really care. That doesn’t mean he can come into my staff meetings without being invited.”
“Actually, it does,” Bradley said. “While I remain on board Waystation, this is the de facto seat of the Federation government. As such, the running of this station is of great interest to me. I need to know promptly about anything that could affect my ability to run this government.”
“We’ll send you the meeting minutes. I promise,” Beck said.
“I believe I need a more active role than that, Captain.”
“This is a Starfleet station, and I am its commander.”
“And as president, I am Supreme Commander of all Federation forces,” Bradley said smiling.
Beck clenched and unclenched her fist a couple of times as she struggled to come up with an effective counter-argument to Bradley’s last statement. Unfortunately, nothing was springing to mind. Therefore, she decided to fall back on plain old obstinance.
“You may be the Supreme Commander, but you don’t know anything about the day-to-day running of this station.”
“Then enlighten me,” Bradley said. “I want to know…”
The doors opened again, cutting Bradley off as Colonel Martin Lazlo, head of the station’s Federation Marine contingent, barreled into the briefing room and threw himself into a chair.
“Go on,” Lazlo said.
“What is he doing here?” Beck and Bradley demanded of each other in unison.
Realizing quickly that neither of them was responsible, they turned on Morales. “I didn’t invite him,” Morales insisted.
“I’m here because he’s here,” Lazlo said, pointing at Bradley.
“He’s leaving,” Beck said. “Follow him out.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Bradley said.
“Then neither am I,” Lazlo said.
“We have nothing to say to each other, Colonel.”
“Of course we do.”
“Do they?” Beck asked as she and the other Starfleet officers huddled at the other end of the table while Bradley and Lazlo’s argument grew more heated.
“Do we care?” Porter asked.
“And do I have permission to hit them?” Russell asked.
“You don’t need to hit people,” Nelson said disapprovingly, drawing a surprised glance from Beck.
“A stun blast is far less messy,” Nelson added. Okay. That was a bit more like the Nelson Beck was used to.
“Look, before I step in and ask them what this is about, I want to know if I want to know what this is about,” Beck said.
“Oh wait,” Morales said. “This might be that thing Steph was telling us about.”
“What thing?” Beck asked. “And when did you start calling her Steph?” she added with a smirk.
“Sorry. I meant Lieutenant Hodges.”
“Uh huh,” Beck said bemused. “What about her?”
“Remember she told us that Lazlo was trying to convince Bradley to let the Marines handle Presidential security on Waystation. He ordered Hodges to pull that mock assassination just to show Bradley he was vulnerable.”
“That was a couple of months ago! They’re STILL going on about it.”
“Hi, Immovable Object,” Porter muttered. “Meet Mister Irresistible Force.”
“And they just had to do this in the middle of our staff meeting.”
“They seem to be ignoring us,” Morales said. “Maybe we can just have it now.”
“Fine. Anything I should know about?” Beck asked.
“Two freighters arriving. One freighter and three transports departing,” Morales reported.
“There were three arrests last night for minor disorderly conduct as some patrons left Ih’mad’s restaurant,” Russell said. “All have been released after sleeping it off.”
“No engineering problems to report,” Porter said.
“And the infirmary’s pretty much empty. We treated a couple of minor injuries sustained by the Nelosians that security arrested, but that’s it other than one guy with Denobulan flu.”
“Serious?” Beck asked.
“Annoying more than anything. I’ve never seen anyone’s toenails grow like that. Ten centimeters in a matter of minutes. He just has to keep cutting them until the treatment kicks in.”
“And that’s it?” Beck said. Her officers nodded. “Hmm…quiet day. All right then. Meeting adjourned,” she announced, smacking her hand down on the table.
Bradley and Lazlo’s attention instantly shot to Beck. “Now wait just a moment,” Bradley demanded as Lazlo sputtered.
“Not happening,” Beck said as she and the others rose from the table. “And next time, don’t come. Either of you.”
“You cannot stop me, Captain,” Bradley said. “I have the authority.”
“We’ll just see about that.”
“He has the authority,” Admiral Thomas Wagner said with a sigh as he sat at his desk on the monitor in Beck’s office. “There’s nothing I can do.”
“He’s a distraction,” Beck insisted.
“He’s the President of the Federation, and, therefore, Supreme Commander of all Federation forces.”
“Yeah. He mentioned that.”
“I’m not surprised.”
“And when was the last time anyone used that title anyway? It’s obnoxious.”
“Most presidents have not felt the need to invoke that particular aspect of their authority. President Dillon is obviously not following that precedent,” Admiral Wagner said.
“You make it all sound so civilized.”
“Would prefer he threatened you with a phaser?”
“It might make this easier to swallow,” Beck muttered. “So there’s nothing I can do?”
“Run against him in the next election,” Admiral Wagner said.
“Thanks but no thanks.”
“I’m sorry, Lisa. I wish I could help, but I’ve got my hands full as it is. Now that Captain Rydell has retired, Fleet Admiral Ra’al is determined to, as she puts in, bring the Secondprize back into the fold. I’ve had to send some new first officer candidate off to his doom.”
“New first officer? What happened to Commander Dillon?”
“Special assignment,” Wagner replied hesitantly. Obviously it was something he didn’t feel at liberty to discuss. Beck couldn’t imagine what kind of special assignment Commander Dillon would be qualified for anyway. That wasn’t her problem, though. She was more concerned about Dillon’s brother.
“So the vibe I’m getting here is that if President Dillon wants to sit in on my staff meetings, I have to let him,” Beck said.
“Pretty much,” Wagner replied. “But I wouldn’t worry about it. My bet is that he’ll get bored and stop coming fairly quickly.”
“Are you suggesting my meetings are boring?”
“At my age, all meetings are boring,” Wagner said. “Hell, Rydell even had a buffet at his, and I still wouldn’t want to sit through them.”
“Point taken.” Beck thought for a moment. “I may actually try to up the boredom factor for the next few.”
“That’s the spirit. I’ll let you take it from here. Wagner out.”
As the monitor image switched to the ever-present Federation logo, Beck leaned back in her chair to contemplate ways to bore the will to live out of Bradley Dillon.
“…measurements of the space in question indication that a conduit length of 0.976 meters was required to replace the damaged section,” Lieutenant Commander Porter droned in the briefing room the next morning. “Repairs were performed by Lieutenant Mason and myself and lasted approximately 5 minutes. Our next repair call was from a Mister Fideoli Rennel on Deck 68…”
Beck had to hand it to the members of her command crew. Despite the fact that Porter had been plodding through every single detail of every single call the engineering crew responded to yesterday, they were giving off the appearance of paying rapt attention. It made Beck a bit suspicious about her usual briefings. They always seemed attentive there as well. Bunch of fakers.
President Dillon, meanwhile, was starting to look a bit antsy as was Colonel Lazlo, whom Beck had allowed to attend mainly because she knew it would be a further annoyance to Bradley. He wouldn’t be able to hold out for much longer. Beck was sure of it.
“…ship’s manifest includes fourteen crates of Aldeberan spice wine, sixteen containers of lonik’s liver pate, eight barrels of…” Commander Morales hadn’t managed to slip into the same trance-inducing drone that Porter had, but his lifeless delivery of the contents of every ship expected to arrive at Waystation today was having its desired effect. Bradley’s head looked moments away from collapsing to the table, where it would join Colonel Lazlo’s in dreamland. Unfortunately, Beck’s wasn’t far away from being lulled to sleep either.
“…I proceeded to remove the lesion by cutting a three centimeter incision…”
“Thank you, Doctor!” Bradley announced suddenly, cutting Dr. Nelson off.
“I was just getting to the good part.”
“We’ve been in this room for over an hour, Doctor, and I am firmly convinced that there will not be ANY good parts,” Bradley said.
“You don’t have to stay,” Beck remarked.
The president’s eyes narrowed at her. “Don’t think that I don’t know what you’re trying to do here, Captain. I would have thought that our long standing friendship would preclude this sort of foolishness.”
“Our past relationship was based on boundaries, Bradley,” Beck said. “You ran your business, and I ran this station. I stayed out of your affairs, and you stayed out of mine.”
“The situation has changed, Captain. Your affairs are now my affairs.”
“I’ve commanded Waystation for five years without your help.”
“And from now on you’ll have the benefit of my input. I will be back tomorrow, Captain, and we will have a proper meeting,” Bradley said, rising from his seat.
“I’ll be here too,” Lazlo said, snapping awake and wiping drool off of his chin.
“No, you won’t,” Bradley said.
“Yes, he will,” Beck said.
“I will?” Lazlo said, turning to Beck surprised. He quickly recovered. “That’s right. I will. You and I have unfinished business.”
“Believe me, Colonel. I never leave my business unfinished,” Bradley said. “You and I, however, have no business to discuss. Good day to you all.” Bradley turned on his heel and strode out of the briefing room.
“It’s the new and improved Bradley Dillon,” Porter said. “Now 300 percent more pompous!”
“Whoever made him president should be shot,” Russell muttered.
“That would be us,” Beck said.
“It was Captain Baxter’s idea,” Morales said.
“Good point,” Beck said. “We’ll shoot him.”
Later that day, Captain Beck wandered in to the infirmary not at all sure as to why she’d ended up there. Yes, she wanted to see how Dr. Nelson was doing, but Beck suspected that part of her was just looking for a place to hide out for a bit where Bradley Dillon and Colonel Lazlo weren’t liable to look.
Nelson was sealing a long cut on the arm of a young Bajoran girl when Beck entered. The doctor glanced up at the new arrival and smiled. “Be with you in a moment, Captain.”
“Take your time,” Beck said as she exchanged a nod of greeting with the girl’s father, who was standing by watching Nelson work.
“I’m all done here,” Nelson said, standing up from her work. “Now you be more careful next time you’re realigning a plasma injector, young lady,” Nelson said with a mock scold.
“I will!” the girl, who couldn’t have been any more than eleven, said hopping down from the biobed.
“Plasma injectors?” Beck asked the girl’s father with a bemused smile.
“She’s got a knack for engines,” the man replied with a shrug.
“And I need to get back to it if you want to get going before tonight,” the girl said impatiently.
“Sounds like a captain in training to me,” Beck said.
“Tell me about it,” the girl’s father said as his daughter dragged him out of sickbay.
“So what brings you down here?” Nelson asked once she and Beck were alone.
“Nothing really. Just wanted to see how you were.”
“Fine and dandy, but I think you’re overdue for your yearly physical. Lie down,” Nelson said, pointing at the biobed.
“Now? I don’t really want…”
“Then you should have thought of that before you came in here,” Nelson said, cutting Beck off. “Get on the bed before I call security.”
“And here I thought Midon was responsible for your sunny bedside manner,” Beck said, acquiescing to Nelson’s commands.
Nelson frowned slightly at the mention of the symbiont’s name but didn’t reply.
“How are you feeling?” Beck asked as Nelson watched the biobed readouts. “Still having the nausea?”
“You getting into the medical profession, Captain?”
“I’m fine, Lisa. I had to stay on the unlogi for a little while after Midon was removed to wean myself off of the drug, but other than that, I haven’t had any problems.”
“Floating away in a little pool in my office. The symbiont is in perfect health.”
“Good. Good. Have you heard from Wuddle?”
“What is this? An interrogation?” Nelson asked.
“Nah. I bring Russell along for those. I just wanted to know.”
“He’s contacted me a couple of times…by letter. I don’t think he wants to look at me right now. The letters are friendly…well cordial anyway…mostly.”
“He’s having a hard time dealing with this,” Beck said.
“Yeah, well this isn’t about him. It’s about me. Amelia. Remember her? She should get to exist too!” Nelson exclaimed.
“No one’s saying you should put Midon back inside you.”
Nelson calmed herself. “I know.”
“You’re adjusting. It’s understandable. You need time.”
“Thank you, but I don’t think that’s all you came down here for.”
“Can’t a friend be concerned?” Beck asked innocently. Nelson glared at her, drawing a sigh from Beck. “I’m hiding,” she said finally.
“Kind of. I’m less inclined to want to kill him if I can’t see him.”
“Come on, Lisa. Bradley Dillon has been annoying you in one way or another for years now.”
“Yeah, but he didn’t have the power to back his annoyances up before,” Beck said. “Isn’t being president enough? Why does he have to act like he wants to take over the station? He doesn’t have a clue about the day-to-day crap I deal with in my position.”
“You could teach him,” Nelson said thoughtfully.
“How? Have him shadow me for a day? Yeah. That’s exactly what I want to do,” Beck said, rolling her eyes.
“Why do you even have to be involved?”
“What do you mean?”
“Give him what he wants.”
Beck’s eyes widened in protest. “But he wants…” She trailed off as a thought struck her. An evil grin spread slowly across her face. “I need to go.”
“You have fun,” Nelson said with a chuckle.
“Oh, believe me, I will.”
“Craig!” Joan Redding’s voice called out, stopping Porter just before he stepped into a turbolift in Starfleet Square Mall. Toolkit in hand, Porter turned to see Redding jogging up to him.
“Hi there,” he said warmly just before planting a quick peck on her lips. No sense in sinking into too deep of a public display of affection in the middle of the mall.
“Where are you off to?”
“Something to fix,” Porter replied, hefting his tool kit.
“Wanna come watch the press conference about that bovax stampede on Risa?”
“Um…no. I’ve got this repair call…”
“Are you telling me that you don’t want to see a planetary leader try to explain how a massive herd of purple bovines got loose in Risa’s biggest city? It’ll be fun to watch him squirm…especially when I get my questions in.”
“Joan, I have work to do,” Porter said.
“You’re the head of the department. Assign someone else.”
“I assigned me. I’m not going to just dump it on another one of my people.”
“Fine,” Redding snapped in a huff. “See you later.”
“Have fun at your press conference,” Porter said, hopefully sweetly.
“Yeah yeah,” Redding muttered, storming off.
Porter shook his head and entered the turbolift, trying to figure out what exactly he’d done wrong in that particular exchange. He decided to do his job, so he was bad. Huh?
He pushed thoughts of Redding out of his mind as the turbolift arrived at his destination. While eating lunch in the mall food court a short time earlier, he’d received a report that the doors to stellar cartography were not responding, leaving the officers assigned to that section locked out after they returned from lunch.
By the time Porter arrived to deal with the problem, the stellar cartography staff was nowhere to be seen. So much for devotion to duty. He checked the doors and verified that, no, they would not open. After opening his tool kit, he checked the control panel beside the door for any sign of a malfunction. Everything appeared to be in working order, but for some reason the doors claimed there was a command lockout in effect. Only someone with proper authorization could enter. Odd.
Porter selected a few choice items out of his tool kit and set to work. A few moments later, the doors to stellar cartography relented and slid open, allowing him to peer inside. He quickly discovered that the room was already occupied.
“So the command lockout was put in effect by someone in command,” Porter said, stepping into the room. “How weird is that?”
Captain Beck looked away from the massive image of a planet being displayed on the room’s floor to ceiling screen. “I see ‘command authorization required’ isn’t a direct enough message for you,” she said amused.
“It was reported as a malfunction. You know, you could take the radical step of telling people you want to use this room instead of just locking them out.”
“Too much hassle,” Beck said, working the console in front of her and causing the planetary image to zoom in on a bit of coastline. “You want to tell me how you managed to get around my command lockout?”
“I like to keep a few tricks on hand just in case the day ever comes when my captain goes insane and locks herself inside a room. Oh wait. That was today.”
“I just wanted to look for something. No insanity here.”
“Do you need any help?”
“Nope. Found what I wanted.”
“The Gabrellis Colony?” Porter asked, looking at the readout. “That’s awfully close to here. Is something going on there I should know about?”
“Nope,” Beck repeated. “It’s perfectly peaceful.”
“You’re being evasive.”
“Oookay. So you’re not going to tell me what you’re up to.”
“Who says I’m up to something?”
“That right there proves it.”
“What?” Beck asked.
“Forget it. I don’t want to pry,” Porter said, turning to leave.
“I’m just messing with you, Craig. Actually, I need you to do something for me.”
“Am I going to enjoy it?” Porter asked.
“I think you just might,” Beck said with a smile.
“What do you mean she’s not here?” Bradley Dillon demanded as he, Colonel Lazlo and the Waystation command crew sans Captain Beck sat gathered in the briefing room the next morning.
“The captain is not on board at the moment,” Commander Morales explained. “Therefore, command reverts to the next senior officer on board, which, as you already pointed out, is you.”
“She didn’t tell me she was leaving,” Bradley said angrily.
“What? Are you her activities coordinator now?” Porter asked.
“She did this just to annoy me.”
“Huh?” Russell said. “The captain leaves you in command and you’re annoyed. I never get to be in command.”
“She could have left me in command,” Lazlo said.
“I think every single other life form on this station would have to be dead first,” Porter said.
“Don’t push me, Porter.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Porter replied.
“We all have duties to attend to, Mister President. Can we continue?” Morales asked.
“Please. The last thing I want to do is sit in here all day,” Dr. Nelson said.
“Very well,” Bradley said, collecting himself. “If that is the way today is to play out, so be it. What is the first issue?”
“Presidential security,” Colonel Lazlo said.
“What is the first real issue?” Bradley said, refusing to look at the colonel.
“Today is the weekly report on resident and merchant issues,” Morales said. “Morales to Yeoman Jones. We’re ready for you.”
Moments later, Yeoman Tina Jones, who had been waiting out in Ops, entered the briefing room, padd in hand.
“Good morning, everybody,” she said brightly, taking a seat across from Lazlo at Bradley’s end of the table. “It’s a long list today.”
“We can handle it. Right, Mister President,” Morales said.
“Of course,” Bradley said impatiently. “Please begin, Yeoman.”
“Nandegar’s Secret and The Abyss are fighting over the empty storefront between their stores. Both stores want to expand and insist they have a legal claim on it, but…”
“Wait,” Bradley said. “Who really has the claim?”
“Um…what do you mean?”
“Have either of them filled out a lease?”
“No. I think they’re too busy fighting with each other.”
“Who’s willing to pay more?” Bradley asked.
“This is a Federation facility,” Morales said. “Rents are at a flat rate.”
“Don’t remind me,” Bradley said before turning his attention back to Jones. “Tell them whoever files a contract first gets the storefront.”
“I don’t think they’ll go for that. Neither group is going to budge until they hear a decision from the station commander. And both sides have sworn to seek vengeance if they lose.”
“But that’s completely ridiculous,” Bradley said. “This is a business transaction. Not a blood feud!”
“Tell that to the Breen and the Nausicaans who run the stores,” Jones said with a shrug.
“Oooh! Can I watch?” Porter said.
“I’ll bring the body bag,” Nelson said.
“Porter, build a wall,” Bradley ordered.
“Is that some esoteric way of telling me to shut up?”
“In the store. Build a wall in the empty store front right down the middle. Jones, tell each side that they can have half of the empty storefront, but they’ll be paying full rent for the trouble of constructing the wall.”
Jones’s mouth gaped slightly. “But…”
“Just do it. Next item.”
“So wait. She thinks the banana split was a death threat?”
“What does he need that kind of power for? Has he got a warp core in there? Er…Russell, check out what he’s powering in there.”
“We don’t have a fashion police on board. We don’t, do we?”
“Can’t these people settle anything themselves? Buy one, get one free is not a choice. You buy one, then you get one free. You cannot choose to buy one or get one free. That’s just silly, and you can tell the Klingons I said so!” Bradley said, his voice almost at a full shout of frustration as the Waystation command officers looked on, amused. Hopefully Beck was having a good time because she was missing quite a show here.
Captain Beck was indeed having a good time. She sighed and settled a little deeper into her lounge chair as the sparkling blue ocean stretched out before her. A slight breeze blowing in from the water rustled the palm trees behind her and provided just the right amount of cool to offset the bright sun glistening down on her private patch of beach.
One day the residents of the Gabrellis Colony would probably take over this little bit of paradise, but for now they and their homes were all on the opposite side of the planet, leaving Beck to relax in solitude while Bradley had his fun running the station.
She’d have to commend Bradley when she got back. The Dillon Enterprises Cart-A-Cabana had performed as advertised, providing Beck with an instant beach house. And, as promised, the Dillon Enterprises Risan-Runt mini- replicator she’d set up by her beach chair was stocked with a thorough selection of tropical beverages.
With clear weather forecast for the next several days, all Beck had to look forward to was doing absolutely nothing. Perfect.
He could find her, Bradley Dillon thought as he rode the turbolift down from Ops to the Dillon Enterprises complex. He was the President of the Federation now. He had resources. But that was probably what she wanted him to do. She wanted him to overreact and call out the fleet because she defied him. Beck was probably hiding somewhere on the station waiting to get her big laugh. And her crew was certainly in on it. They probably made up all of those ridiculous “issues” he spent most of the meeting trying to resolve.
There were so many of these so-called problems that, after an hour, Bradley had decided to adjourn the meeting and deal with the rest tomorrow. After the rest of the command crew and, thankfully, Lazlo had left the briefing room, Bradley had pressed Commander Morales concerning Captain Beck’s whereabouts. All Morales would tell him was that Beck was not on the station. Bradley probed further, but did not get anywhere. By the end of his talk with Morales, he wasn’t even positive that the commander knew where she was. The entire conversation turned out to be pointless.
If there was one thing Bradley couldn’t stand, it was having his time wasted, and there seemed to be a lot of that going on of late, Bradley thought unhappily. The turbolift doors opened into Dillon Enterprises, revealing Colonel Lazlo waiting outside the entrance to Bradley’s office suite.
Speaking of time wasters…
Spotting Bradley, Lazlo opened his mouth to speak, but Bradley cut him off before he could even start. “I know why you’re here, Colonel. I know what you’re going to say. And I believe you know by now what I’m going to say, so let’s just skip the conversation entirely and go about our business.”
“You don’t need to bring in another security force when my highly-trained troops are already here and ready to give their lives for you,” Lazlo said undeterred.
Bradley sighed and lowered his head. “What did I just say?”
“My people have the added benefit of already knowing this station inside and out. We can give you a home field advantage against any attackers that the Special Secret Section just can’t match.”
“Lazlo, I don’t have time to listen to you prattle on about something I’ve already made a decision about. I am a very busy man. If you had not noticed, I have a government and a business empire to run.”
“Don’t you have people for that?”
“I like to be involved personally.”
“So you don’t trust any of them.”
“My subordinates have been hand-picked, and every one of them will be prepared to function without me in my absence.”
“Absence? Are you going somewhere?”
“Good day, Colonel,” Bradley said firmly before turning to leave. Lazlo was on him in an instant, quickly forcing the president into a full-nelson.
“One more thing,” Lazlo said as Bradley struggled against him. “My people will always stick with you. Where’s your Special Secret Section now?”
“Get off of me!” Bradley demanded.
“You need to…EEAAUGGGGGHHHHHH!” Lazlo flew backwards, releasing his grip on Bradley as electricity jolted through his body, sending the marine collapsing to the deck in a writhing heap.
“Are you all right, Mister President?” Agent Anderson, the head of Bradley’s Special Secret Section said as he collapsed the extendable electroshock wand in his hand and slipped it back inside his suitcoat.
“I’m fine,” Bradley said, straightening his suit.
“With all due respect, sir, this is why I discourage roaming Waystation without an escort,” Anderson said while Lazlo pushed himself back to his feet.
“I was…making…a point,” Lazlo said in pained gasps.
“Which was?” Bradley said. Before Lazlo could respond, Bradley continued. “As you can see, my security needs are well in hand. And that attack upon my person was way out of line.”
“I don’t care. You attacked me, and I want you gone.”
“Gone?” Lazlo said in shock.
“Yes. Gone. Off the station. As in now. President Dillon to Lieutenant Russell.”
“Russell here,” Waystation’s security chief’s voice replied, not sounding all that thrilled to be responding to Bradley. “What do you need?”
“If Colonel Lazlo is not off of this station within the hour, he is to be thrown in the brig. Is that understood?”
“Yes, but I can’t just put someone in the brig for no reason.”
“He assaulted me. I have a witness.”
“Oh. That’s a reason then. I’ll see to it. Russell out.”
Lazlo held himself at stiff attention, only the slight twitching of his bushy black mustache giving away the turmoil inside him. “Mister President, this incident is not…”
“This incident is over!” Bradley snapped. “Now get out before I have Mister Anderson here remove you.”
“I can do that,” Anderson said, eyeing Lazlo with a thin smile.
Without another word, Lazlo turned on his heel and marched back to the turbolift, his body shuddering every few steps as the after-effects of the electroshock wand coursed through him.
There are people in the universe who cannot imagine that just sitting on a beach could be anything but mind-numbingly dull. Beck was not one of these people. She had grown up visiting the ocean on a regular basis. Her parents had a beach house on Earth, a house that was now hers. So years of experience had taught Beck the simple joys to be had watching the surf roll in.
And as much as she loved the North Carolina coast, it was hard to top her current tropical surroundings. She put the Risan- Runt replicator on random and waited for whatever fruity syntheholic concoction it would produce.
An instant later, a hollowed out coconut with a long straw and an umbrella sticking out of it formed inside the replicator’s chamber. This certainly looked promising. She reached over to grab it just as a shadow fell across her body.
Beck looked up at the shadow’s source and resisted the urge to lob the coconut at it.
“Beck,” Colonel Lazlo said flatly.
“What are you doing here?” Beck asked, keeping her voice calm.
“Porter told me where I could find you.”
Beck made a mental note to kill Porter and forced a smile. “Is there a reason you wanted to see me?”
“President Dillon kicked me off the station.”
Beck considered this information for a moment. Honestly, she wasn’t sure whether to be upset or start laughing. “Um…okay. Why?”
“He says I attacked him.”
“And did you?”
“It was for demonstration purposes only.”
“Did he want to be demonstrated on?” Beck asked.
Lazlo looked off at the ocean.
“I see,” Beck continued. “What does any of this have to do with me?”
“Everything,” Lazlo said. “That’s your station he’s running. You and I have had our differences, but I’d rather have you in command any day than that…politician.”
“I think you actually have to run for office to be called a politician.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Yes. I do. And I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
“So you’ll come back and straighten him out.”
“What do you mean no?” Lazlo demanded.
“Bradley isn’t ready yet,” Beck said.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It means I’m still on vacation.”
Lazlo fumed for a moment. “Can I stay here then?” he asked finally.
“You have to find your own cabana.”
“I bought one before I left.”
“I don’t know…” Beck began.
“And I brought a volleyball set.”
“Okay. You’re in.”
“Mister Dillon?” Bradley’s personal assistant Gisele called over the comm system.
“Yes, Gisele,” Bradley replied without looking up from the rather disappointing report from the Dillon Enterprises Research and Development division currently displayed on his desk monitor.
“Commander Morales and party are here to see you.”
Bradley found himself clenching and unclenching his fist in frustration, something he very rarely did. “Is it important?” he asked, trying to keep the edge out of his voice but not entirely succeeding.
“Commander Morales says it’s station business.”
“Can’t he handle it?”
“He says no.”
“Fine. Let him in.”
“Him or them?”
“Send in the whole gang,” Bradley said exasperated. He regretted uttering the words a few moments later as Commander Morales entered Bradley’s office followed by a Breen and a Nausicaan, neither of whom looked happy. At least Bradley assumed the Breen was unhappy. Who could tell with that helmet on?
“I’m sorry to disturb you, Mister President, but I have some paperwork that needs to be filled out,” Morales said, putting a padd down on the desk in front of Bradley.
Bradley picked up the padd and looked it over, a frown spread across his face. “What is all this?”
Morales looked back at the Breen and the Nausicaan hesitantly. “Station business,” he said. “I can’t really discuss it outside of the command staff.”
“And you can’t do this yourself?” Bradley said, flipping through page after page of the forms.
“I’ve already done the portions I’m allowed to take care of myself. The rest are for the station commander, and you currently hold that position.”
“Very well. When are these due?”
“Tomorrow? Was Beck putting these off?”
“Not at all. Most of them just arrived.”
“These could take hours.”
“Station commander is a full time job,” Morales remarked. “And you’ve already got two of those.”
“I am well aware of my responsibilities, Commander,” Bradley said with a glare. “Now what about those two?”
“This is Supreme Manager Hurrrut of Nandegar’s Secret and Gulbrork, owner of The Abyss. They had a few concerns regarding your solution to their dispute that they wished to discuss with you.”
“All right. I’ll see to the paperwork and deal with them. Dismissed.”
“Dismissed?” Morales said surprised.
“If you cannot handle these issues yourself, I do not need you around, Commander. It’s nothing personal, but I don’t have time to waste today.”
“Are you sure?” Morales said, eyeing the Breen and the Nausicaan.
“I’ll be fine,” Bradley said as he typed a few commands into his system.
“Okay. You can reach me if you need me,” Morales said, heading for the door.
“Now then, gentlemen,” Bradley said gesturing for Hurrrut and Gulbrork to take the chairs opposite his desk. Let’s see if we can’t address your concerns and come to an equitable arrangement that benefits everyone.”
The Breen and the Nausicaan did not sit. Instead, they both started yelling, instantly filling Bradley’s office with a deafening cacophony of metallic blarts and booming grunts.
Bradley clapped his hands to his ears and screamed. “Stop it! Both of you! STOP!!!”
Agent Anderson was in the office in a flash, emerging from a corridor hidden behind one of the wooden wall panels. Neither Hurrrut or Gulbrork appreciated the surprise arrival and turned on the Special Secret Section agent, who was brandishing his electroshock wand.
Realizing that he was in imminent danger, Anderson jabbed the wand into Hurrrut. The Breen was completely unaffected by it. Well, perhaps not unaffected. Actually, he seemed to become a bit more on the enraged side if that was possible. He grabbed onto Anderson’s right arm just as Gulbrork got a hold of the left. For a moment, Bradley was afraid that they were going to rip the agent right in two. He wasn’t about to stick around to find out, though.
“President Dillon to security,” Bradley said. “Report to my office.” He then activated his private transporter system and vanished just before Hurrrut and Gulbrork got sick of tugging on Anderson and flung him across the office, sending him smashing into one of Bradley’s bookcases before turning on each other.
“Fourteen to thirteen,” Beck said before smashing the volleyball across the net. Colonel Lazlo, now dressed in a pair of tropical flower print swim trunks, charged through the sand and smacked the ball back over to Beck’s side.
Beck took a flying leap, connected with the ball and sent it back across, then hit the ground and scrambled back up to her feet as Lazlo moved to make his return shot.
“Incoming,” he called after making his next hit.
“You don’t have to be over-dramatic about it,” Beck shot back, giving the ball another hit.
“No. Incoming,” Lazlo said, pointing off down the beach as he let the ball fall at his feet.
Beck turned around to see Bradley Dillon striding toward them, striding as well as he could through a bunch of sand anyway. The captain looked back at Lazlo and smiled. “I think he’s ready now.”
“You’re a difficult woman to reach,” Bradley said as he approached.
“I like my privacy,” Beck replied.
“Of course,” Bradley said, shooting a glance at Lazlo. “But were the transporter scramblers really necessary?”
“Did you try to beam us up from orbit?”
“That’s why they were necessary,” Beck said. “But as you can see, the Colonel and I are rather busy at the moment. Is there something I can help you with?”
“I think you know why I’m here.”
“Haven’t a clue,” Beck said off-handedly. “But you’re more than welcome to enlighten us. You are feeling like being enlightened, aren’t you, Colonel?”
“Why not?” Lazlo said walking up beside Beck.
“Your point has been made, Captain. There’s no need to be unpleasant,” Bradley said.
“Point?” Beck asked confused. “I was making a point? Was I trying to make a point, Colonel?”
“Absolutely. Every time you hit the ball.”
“You’re absolutely right. We should get back to our game,” Beck said, starting to turn around.
“Captain!” Bradley cried.
“What?” Beck said innocently.
“Come back. The station is yours. I was wrong to interfere.”
“Okay,” Beck said.
“Okay?” Lazlo exclaimed. “You’re not going to make him grovel?”
“Nah. Not interested in seeing that particular show. Bradley’s learned his lesson. Haven’t you, Bradley?”
“My office looks like it was redecorated by a herd of rabid targs, and Agent Anderson is in the infirmary after having 78% of the bones in his body knitted back together.”
“Sounds educational to me,” Beck said. “Come on, Lazlo. Let’s go home.”
“You’re bringing him back?” Bradley said.
Beck glared at him.
“It’s your decision, of course.”
“Yes, it is,” Beck said, strolling up to her cabana to gather her things.
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 55302.7. Now that President Dillon has realized the error of his micro-managing ways, I have returned to Waystation. My first act was to rescind the banishment of Colonel Lazlo. I did not make this decision hastily but instead made sure to obtain the evidence, namely the security recording from the Dillon Enterprises corridor, before allowing Lazlo to return. I reviewed said evidence thoroughly…multiple times…particularly the part with the electrocution. That’s just fun.
“With Lazlo’s situation resolved, I moved on to the dispute between Nandegar’s Secret and The Abyss. I had both store owners pick a number between one and ten, then gave the empty storefront to Nandegar’s because I’d rather see more Breen lingerie on board than Nausicaan goth-wear. Gulbrork has been informed that if he or any other Nausicaan take any actions in protest, they will find themselves on the wrong end of my fist. That seems to have settled the matter. Bradley just needs to learn how to deal with people on their terms.
“But now that Bradley has gone back to simply controlling Dillon Enterprises and the entire Federation, the rest of us can get back to the business of running Waystation.”
“Isn’t it a little late for you to be in here?” Lieutenant Commander Porter asked as he peered in the doorway of the security office where Sean Russell sat, feet propped up on his desk, as he stared blankly at the opposite wall where the latest Starfleet security alerts were displayed on various screens.
“Kind of,” Russell said, his voice barely audible.
“Well, I can see you’re busy, but I wanted to know if you could possibly pull yourself away from your mountains of work to get some dinner.”
“What about Joan?”
“What about her?”
“Aren’t you having dinner with her?”
“Nope. She’s trying to get an interview over subspace with some Cardassian legate before her next broadcast. I’m free. What about you?”
“Please tell me you’re not still moping about this promotion stuff,” Porter said, taking a seat across the desk from Russell.
“No. Not anymore,” Russell said, pushing a padd across the desk to Porter, who picked it up to read it.
“You made the promotion list!” Porter exclaimed.
“Yep. The captain came by to let me know personally a little while ago.”
“Congratulations!” Porter said. “Now we have to go to dinner. We need to celebrate the new Lieutenant Commander Russell!”
“Uh huh,” Russell replied, not sounding at all excited.
“Okay. You were all depressed because you hadn’t been promoted. And now you’ve got the promotion, and you’re still depressed. What the hell is the problem?”
“I didn’t earn it.”
“Of course you earned it!” Porter practically shouted. “You’ve been in charge of security on this station for five years now. Have you looked around lately? This place is huge, which means you have a big job, a job you’ve been doing pretty damn well at, and Starfleet is finally recognizing your efforts. What more do you want?”
“I think I need to leave.”
“What?” Porter exclaimed.
“Not forever. I’ve got a couple of months of leave saved up. I just need to get away for a while. Clear my head. Figure out why I’m in such a funk.”
“Well that’s the most sensible thing I’ve heard you say in a while. Where are you going to go?”
“My cousin, Olivia, has been begging me to come visit her on Halydol for months now,” Russell replied.
“That’s a bit of a haul from here.”
“The travel time will do me some good.”
“Can’t argue with that,” Porter said. “But you can’t go to Halydol on an empty stomach. Dinner?”
“Dinner,” Russell agreed, pulling himself up out of his chair. “Try not to let this place fall apart while I’m gone,” he said as he and Porter headed out into the mall concourse.
“Don’t worry about it. You won’t miss a thing,” Porter said.
“You do realize you’ve just doomed yourself.”