Star Trek is not a free for all. It's actually tightly controlled by Viacom. Star Traks, however, is very quickly becoming a free for all as Alan Decker loses his grip.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 2002

STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION

“Free For All”

By Alan Decker


There were those who thought of Odubumpa as the hinterlands. Well…actually everyone thought of Odubumpa as the hinterlands because it was. The planet was the world farthest away from Multos in this particular direction, serving as both the outer border of the Multek Enclave and, therefore, the end of occupied space in the universe. Beyond Odubumpa lay the vast barren void of the cold, dead cosmos. Perhaps one day the Multek population would grow to the point that new worlds were needed. At that time, some poor souls would have to venture away from the comfortable embrace of the Enclave and locate new planets for possible colonization.

Frankly it sounded like an awful lot of work to Zemlotz. He was quite content to sit on his front porch watching the hovercars bumping merrily off of each other as they made their way to and from the center of Loodelo, one of three major cities on Odubumpa. Half a century ago, the planet was little more than a colony itself, but now the world had grown to have most of the same pleasures and comforts as Multos, but without the huge population. It was the perfect mix for a man like Zemlotz. He could engage in his trade from here as well (he specialized in designing footie pajamas and was considered to have the softest PJs on the planet). The regular transports to and from Multos were more than sufficient to ship his wares to the Multek homeworld, where they were then distributed to other planets in the Enclave.

On this particular morning, Zemlotz had poured himself a nice glass of bruga juice and stepped out onto his porch to drink it while enjoying the gentle swaying of his automated porch swing, when he realized that the sky was far more overcast than he’d been led to believe from the day’s schedule of programmed weather. It was almost as though a giant shadow was covering the whole region.

He craned his neck out beyond his porch and looked up into the sky. Evidently there was actually a giant shadow covering the whole region, and it was being cast by some gigantic thing hovering over the planet. Had the homeworld developed a new super-transport ship?

Before Zemlotz could go much farther with his thoughts, two figures dressed completely in black materialized on his front lawn. Presumably they’d come from the transport, but Zemlotz couldn’t say that he thought much of the uniforms. And the black helmets covering their entire heads were borderline creepy.

Ignoring Zemlotz completely, the two figures stepped over to the statue of a winged pelogi beast, which were quite popular lawn ornaments in the Enclave, and considered it briefly.

“Five hillicas,” one of them said finally. The other nodded, then pressed a small black device in his right hand against the statue, which affixed a tiny metal tag.

“Hi!” Zemlotz shouted from the porch. “The pajamas for this week’s shipment are in my sewing shed, as usual. And I’ve made a bunch extra of the extra-larges this time. You know. The ones with the pictures of the Frequoq on them.” The two figures stepped up onto the porch and walked over to him.

“How are you folks doing?” Zemlotz asked.

“We’re collecting your planet.”

“Huh?”

“We may be collecting you, too. We’re not sure yet. No one’s told us.”

“I don’t get it.”

Suddenly, Zemlotz’s glass of juice was snatched away from him by one of the figures. “Hey! That’s mine!”

“Not anymore. One half hillica.” The glass was dutifully tagged and placed on the porch railing. “We’ll be going inside now. Is there anything good in there?”

“Just my stuff,” Zemlotz said growing more and more confused. The two figures stopped suddenly, as though listening to something that only they could hear (which was actually exactly what was happening). An instant later, a black helmet materialized on the porch. One of them picked it up, and the pair reapproached Zemlotz.

“Wait. Who are you guys?” the Multek asked.

“We’re from The Collectors.”

“Who are The Collectors?”

“We are. And now, so are you.” Before Zemlotz could get out another “huh?” the empty helmet was snapped over his head, pretty much rendering the question moot.


The giant object producing the shadow over Zemlotz’s home and a fair portion of the surrounding area was properly known as Collector Vault-Ship O-97. In the Command Center, the ship’s Chief Assessor watched the progress as his band of Collectors moved across the planet, efficiently examining everything and either tagging it for later sale or calling for the most interesting items to be beamed up for storage in the Collector’s vaults. For the first time in a while, things were going the way they should.

This was a day long in coming. Under normal circumstances, Vault-Ship O-97 would have reached this world months ago, but there had been that little run-in with the beings from something called “The Federation.” They had boarded the Vault-Ship under the guise of attending an auction, but, instead, they had completely disrupted said auction, inflicted severe damage on the ship, and freed the members of the crew that had been collected from other species. The Chief Assessor had been forced to order his crippled ship to limp back toward home. Along the way, they were met by Vault-Ship O-65. Normally, this meeting would have consisted of little more than a quick exchange of strained pleasantries before each vessel went on its way, but not this time. An assault team from O-97 caught the Chief Assessor of O-65 completely off-guard, seizing control of O-65’s Command Center without so much as a shot fired. Then, after moving all of the remaining valuables and crew on O-97 to O-65, the Chief Assessor of O-97 banished O-65’s Chief Assessor to the empty hulk of O-97 and blasted it to atoms before renaming O-65 to O-97 and returning to their original course.

Possibly this was a slightly extreme course of action, but the Chief Assessor of O-97 had been attacked, violated, and robbed. He would be the one to set things right.

First and foremost, though, he wanted to find out where the blue-haired guys with the white skin they captured a few months earlier were from. Their ship had been rather unique, so it was the Chief Assessor’s solemn duty to collect more from this culture.

Following the captured ship’s course backwards, they had run across this little world, which, conveniently enough, held more of the blue-haired guys. There didn’t seem to be a lot of spacecraft moving around here, though, and certainly nothing that matched the beauty of the vessel currently in the Vault-Ship’s hold. That meant there were probably more planets in the area with the blue-hairs. After they finished collecting here, they’d move on and see.


While the Chief Assessor’s mood could be described as relaxed confidence, Branfle, the Administrator of Odubumpa, was lingering somewhere near mind-blazing panic. But then who could blame him? Not only was he now faced with fairly irrefutable evidence that alien life existed, a thought which had never even crossed his mind until said life had shown up a short time ago, but the alien visitors were now systematically rampaging across the planet. Okay, so it was a fairly orderly rampage, but this tagging or taking of everything they came across was way beyond disconcerting. And reports were coming in that some Multeks were being fitted with helmets that made them start acting like the aliens.

As Planetary Administrator, Branfle knew that it was his duty to stay out of danger, so he had taken up a position under his desk along with a portable comm unit, which he was using to do the only thing he could think of: call for HELP!

After five minutes of waiting for his comm signal to be bounced from Odubumpa to the Multos civilian network to the military network and then to the closest vessel of the Multek fleet, he was put on hold while the ship’s captain was located. On the upside, the hold system had a very entertaining trivia game to keep Branfle occupied while he waited.

At long last, the image of a smiling female Multek filled the tiny screen.

“Yekkle Flakes,” Branfle said.

“I’m sorry?”

“That was the answer to the trivia question. You broke in before I could tell the computer.”

“Oh. Do you want me to put you back on hold?”

Branfle almost said yes, but then remembered there was actually something more pressing than his entertainment happening. “NO! I need help! Are you in charge?”

“I am Captain Supple. What can I do for you?”

“We’re under attack!”

“Attack? Who is it? Pirates? I thought we’d dealt with all of them.”

“No! It’s aliens!”

Supple started laughing. “Is it Xixble’s Fool’s Day?” she asked grinning. Supple turned and shouted off screen. “Did I miss Xixble’s Fool’s Day again?”

“NO!” Branfle shouted. “There is a giant alien ship over our planet. There are alien beings walking our streets and taking our stuff! It’s an alien invasion!”

“Calm down. You mean you’re imagining an alien invasion!”

“I’m not imagining this! This is real! Help us!”

“Sir, maybe you ate some bad food. That can cause hallucinations, you know. Perhaps some spoiled hundi fungi?”

“Would you listen to me?” Branfle screamed. “I am not imagining this! No one else on my planet is imagining this! This is happening! We are…” Branfle trailed off as he realized two black helmeted figures we’re peering into his hiding place. One of them reached in and grabbed the comm unit away.

“Ten hillicas,” the figure said, handing it to the other, who then tagged it.


“Sir?” Captain Supple called at the viewscreen in front of her. The view was changing rapidly as though someone was moving the camera. Finally it came to a stop. “Sir? Where are you sir? Hey, what’s with the black helmet?”

“This item has been collected,” a voice emanating from the black-helmeted being said. “It will be available for purchase when the Collectors complete the acquisition phase and begin the planet-wide liquidation. Our prices can’t be beat.” And with that the comm channel was abruptly closed.

“Hmmm…” Supple said, leaning back in her command chair on the bridge of the Multek Military Marauder Fendril.

“Was that…an alien?” her helm officer asked nervously.

“Couldn’t be,” Supple replied. “But I guess we should go see what’s really going on. Where was that signal from?”

“Odubumpa.”

“Oooooh! Good! I’ve heard they’ve got the best derbis ribs in the Enclave. We’ll check things out, then grab some dinner.”

With visions of succulent meat on their minds, the crew of the Fendril rocketed off toward Odubumpa.


Dinner was canceled a short time later as their vessel was blasted to bits by what surprisingly turned out to actually be an alien ship.


“People of Multos,” Frequoq Wuddle, leader of the Multek Enclave, announced, standing high on a platform above the gathered throng as his voice was carried over loudspeakers across the area. “We are here today to celebrate a grand achievement. Years of hard work and dedication have brought us to this moment when we can once again say without a doubt that there is nothing we cannot do when we put our minds, our hearts, and our bodies to the task. Therefore, it is with great pride that I declare this water slide open!”

Wuddle dove forward through the thin layer of red ribbon, breaking it before he landed on the top of the slide and traveled down and around its many twists, turns, and curves laughing with joy until he splashed down into the pool below. He swam to the edge, where he was met by several reporters and Multek citizens waiting for his review of the slide.

“Wonderful,” he said, dripping water. “That’s a lot of fun!”

A cheer went up through the crowd, which then moved to get in line at Multos’ latest attraction.

“Excellent speech, your Frequoqness,” Faddle, Wuddle’s personal assistant said, handing him a towel. The specially designed cloth dried him from head to toe in an instant.

“Thank you,” Wuddle said. “I’ve figured out that short and to the point is best. The people aren’t here to listen to me. They’re here for the slide. Speaking of, why are you here? Planning to take a dip?”

“If I get a moment. I actually came to speak to you, if I could. We may have a situation developing.”

“What kind of situation?”


“Alien invasion!” Wuddle cried, storming into his office with Faddle close behind.

“I know. It sounds ridiculous. I almost didn’t bother coming to the water park to tell you about it, but after what happened to our ships…”

“What happened to our ships?” Wuddle demanded, sitting down at his desk and activating the Enclave Status Display, which took up the entire right wall of the office.

“Well…from what we can tell, the Fendril received a comm from Odubumpa claiming that they were being attacked by aliens. The Fendril went to check it out, but never reported back to command. So then the Grugitz went to check on the Fendril, but they didn’t report back. So then we sent out…”

“Wait,” Wuddle said. “How many ships are missing now?”

“Eleven.”

“ELEVEN!”

“Admiral Nemotz decided he’d better not send any more until he had a better idea what was happening. I mean, you have to admit that eleven ships in a row going missing is a little weird.”

“Weird? That’s a lot more than weird.”

“But I’m sure there’s an explanation,” Faddle said.

“Of course there is. Aliens.”

“Are you feeling all right, your Frequoqness?” Faddle asked concerned. He’d seen this before. The previous Frequoq had to be sent off to a Recovery Ranch because he started ranting about an alien space station. Maybe the pressures of the job were getting to Wuddle too. Faddle hoped not. It was hard to find anyone willing to take on the responsibility of being Frequoq. When you lived in an idyllic paradise and could spend all day on roller coasters and water slides, why would you want to be head of the government and have to deal with the day-to-day drudgery of keeping the Enclave running smoothly? It had to be too much to bear.

“I’m fine, Faddle,” Wuddle said. “But I need to tell you something, and I want you to listen to me.”

“Of course.”

“We are not the only beings in the universe. There are others. Lots of others. Some of them are friendly. And others…well, one of the other species that isn’t so nice may be attacking us as we speak. Did the comm from Odubumpa say anything else?”

“There was something about the Collectors and planet-wide liquidation.”

If Wuddle’s face wasn’t already incredibly pale white, it would have blanched. “Oh no. No no.”

“But, sir, think about this. There are no other beings in the universe. You know that. All of Multos knows that. You’re just under a lot of stress. Opening a new water slide is a big deal, especially coming so soon after Multeks on Ice. You need time to relax. Maybe you should go back to the water park.”

Wuddle ignored him and walked over to the status display. “Mappy mappy on the wall, show me Odubumpa.”

A small world at the far corner of the Enclave began to blink.

“Now show me the last known positions of our missing ships.”

Nothing happened.

Wuddle sighed. “Mappy mappy on the wall, show me the last known positions of our missing ships.”

Ten blips all appeared right over Odubumpa. The eleventh, though, showed up a short distance away, between Odubumpa and Multos.

“They’re coming,” Wuddle said.

“Are you sure? Maybe we should send another ship to…”

“We’re not sending another ship out by itself!” Wuddle snapped. “You and Nemotz have managed to wipe out more than ten percent of our fleet as it is!”

“That’s awfully harsh.”

“Tell Admiral Nemotz to gather the fleet here,” Wuddle said, pointing at a position along the path between Odubumpa and Multos.

“Gather the fleet?”

“Yes. And hurry. Our fastest ships can’t make it from Multos to Odubumpa in less than a day. I have to believe we have at least that long,” Wuddle said, heading toward the elevator to his private docking bay.

“Where are you going?” Faddle asked, his voice quivering slightly. He didn’t believe in aliens, but this was starting to freak him out a little.

“To get help.”

“Other than the fleet? You mean alien help!”

“Yes.”

“Frequoq?” Faddle said.

“What?”

“Who else knows? I mean, if there are aliens, and you know about them, does anyone else?”

“I know, and so the Elder Wizards.”

“The Elder Wizards!” Faddle gasped. “But if they know, why haven’t we been told?”

“That was their decision,” Wuddle said. “They felt such knowledge, if widely known, would destroy our way of life. Now it may be destroyed anyway.”

“Well, that’s dark,” Faddle pouted.

“Sorry. Hold things together until I return. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“With help?” Faddle said hopefully.

“With help,” Wuddle said, stepping into the elevator.


“This is a big opportunity, Captain,” Federation President Bradley Dillon said, leaning across the desk where Captain Lisa Beck sat, and smiling. “Just think of the exposure.”

“I don’t need to be exposed. Thank you very much,” Beck said, pushing her chair back as Bradley drew closer. This trying to act chummy thing he was doing was a little creepy.

“But this speech is going to be broadcast to the entire Federation. The entire quadrant will see you standing by my side.”

“I’m trying to be polite here, Bradley. The answer is no,” Beck said, standing up from her chair and walking to the other side of her office to get away from the pressing politico. “And, frankly, I don’t appreciate you trying to use me like this.”

“Use you?” Bradley said aghast. “I would never. I just thought that having you with me as I celebrate my first year in office would be a good opportunity for you to impress the admiralty.”

“No. You thought having a Starfleet Captain with you would give your presidency some legitimacy in the eyes of Starfleet and the Federation Council. If you want to do that, fine, but get somebody else. Someone like Jean-Luc Picard would mean a lot more than I would.”

“Hmmm…I did hear that woman from the lost starship was looking for speaking engagements. Maybe she’d take a standing one.”

“Janeway? No. You don’t want to do that. There’s a reason she’s an admiral now. No one wanted to risk putting her in command of another ship. Have you read Voyager’s mission logs? I’d be surprised if anyone in the Delta Quadrant ever spoke to the Federation again after her spin through there.”

“I don’t want her anyway. I don’t want any other captain. I want you. You’re the commanding officer of Waystation. Waystation is where I live and govern from. Therefore, the commander of Waystation should be with me. I could order you, you know.”

“I’ll make faces at the camera.”

“Beck!” Bradley snapped.

The comm interrupted suddenly. “Morales to Beck.”

“Go ahead, Commander,” Beck said, shooting an “nyah nyah” smile at Bradley.

“We’ve got a vessel approaching from Multek space. It looks like Wuddle’s ship. And he’s in a big hurry.”

“Tell Doctor Nelson. I’ll be available if Wuddle wants to speak to me for some reason.”

“Ahem!” Bradley said pointedly.

“And I think the President will be waiting will bells on as well.”

“I’ll let him know. Ops out,” Morales said before closing the channel.

“Now then, Captain,” Bradley said, clasping his hands behind his back.

“Morales to Beck,” the comm barked again.

“Go ahead,” Beck said as Bradley glared.

“Wuddle wants to talk to you all right. He says it’s an emergency.”

Beck exchanged a glance with Bradley. “Inform Nelson, Porter, and Russell, and bring Wuddle to the briefing room as soon as he docks. We’ll be waiting.”

“Acknowledged. Morales out.”

“This is going to have to wait, Bradley,” Beck said, heading for the door.

“Fine. We can continue this after we deal with Wuddle’s little ‘emergency.’”

“Wuddle’s last little ‘emergency’ almost cost me two of my crew. I’m not taking this one lightly.”

“Please, Captain. I’m sure it’s nothing.”


“An invasion!” Beck exclaimed.

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Frequoq Wuddle said as he, Beck, Bradley Dillon, Commander Walter Morales, Dr. Amedon Nelson, Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter, and Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell sat around the table in the Ops briefing room. Wuddle was taking care not to look directly at Nelson as he spoke. “We’ve lost contact with Planet Odubumpa and eleven of our ships that were sent to investigate.” Wuddle decided not to mention that they’d been sent to investigate one at a time.

The Frequoq stood up and walked over to a map of the Multek Enclave that was being displayed on the briefing room viewscreen. “The last ship was lost here,” he said, pointing at the map, “which suggests to me that the vessel that was seen at Odubumpa is on the move.”

“Or there’s more than one of them,” Russell said.

“Either way, that heading tracks back to Multos. I’ve ordered the rest of our fleet to gather here,” Wuddle continued, pointing at a set of coordinates about two-thirds of the way from Odubumpa to Multos. “Hopefully we’ll be able to destroy the Collectors’ ship ourselves.”

“Or you could have your very own Wolf-359 on your hands,” Beck said, drawing a confused look from the Multek. “I’ll explain it to you later…when this is all over,” she added.

“We really don’t know what one of the Collectors’ Vault-Ships can do,” Morales said. “Both times we’ve encountered them, we’ve only engaged the small fighters they have with them.”

“Maybe that’s all they have,” Nelson said.

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Beck said. “If these guys can take over whole planets, they’re doing it with more than a few tiny ships. I’m guessing the big boy has some major firepower as well.”

“So you’ll help us?” Wuddle said.

“We…” Beck began.

“We’ll take it under advisement,” Bradley said quickly.

Wuddle looked at the Federation President in shock. “Our fleet could engage the Collectors in a matter of hours. If they’re not successful, the Collectors will reach Multos not long after that.”

“I understand that,” Bradley said gravely. “And I will keep all of these facts in mind as I consider my thoughts on the matter.”

“How long are these thoughts going to take?” Wuddle demanded. “This could be the end of our civilization!”

“I think the President understands your concerns,” Beck said. “Why don’t we call an end to the meeting and let him start deliberating? Okay? Amedon, could you show Frequoq Wuddle to my office? Or yours if you’d prefer.” Hearing the name “Amedon” spoken, Wuddle turned his full attention to Waystation’s Chief Medical Officer.

“This way,” she said, leading a dazed Wuddle out of the briefing room followed by Morales, Porter, and Russell. Bradley was about to depart as well when Beck stepped into his path.

“Can I talk to you a minute?” she said pointedly.

“Of course,” Bradley replied, taking a step back. “We still had issues to address.”

“You’re damn right we do!” Beck snapped. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Concerning what specifically?”

“The Multeks! Are you seriously going to have us sit by and do nothing while the Collectors roll over them?”

“You yourself said that your last encounter with the Collectors almost cost you two of your crew. Why should I risk getting us into a war that could cost many more lives? This isn’t our fight. Besides, the Multeks may very well be able to handle it themselves.”

“Come on, Bradley! They don’t know how to fight. Their military chases the occasional pirate or smuggler. They don’t have a clue what real combat is like. They’re going to get creamed.”

“I doubt Frequoq Wuddle would appreciate your assessment of their abilities.”

“Are you kidding? He’d probably agree with me!” Beck said. “They need our help.”

“What happens after that? What happens after you antagonize the Collectors?”

“We’ve attacked their ships on two separate occasions. I think we’ve already antagonized them.”

“Then let’s not do it any more!” Bradley said, growing angry. “Because if you hadn’t noticed, we’re the closest Starfleet outpost to their space. If you piss them off any farther, they may very well attack Waystation! I have not gone through the time and effort I’ve spent building what I have here to watch it get blown up for no good reason. I am not going to risk everything by starting a war!”

“This isn’t about you, Bradley!” Beck shouted, causing Bradley to reel back as though slapped. “The Federation is not a business. You can’t manage it. You have to lead. That means doing some things you might not want to do. What did you think being President was about? Glory and prestige? You have a responsibility to trillions of beings living on hundreds of worlds. Every single one of them expects you to be working for them. President isn’t some title you can just parade around in. There are decisions to be made. Hard decisions.

“You don’t want to get into a fight? Well, guess what? None of us do. But sometimes fights are necessary. Unless we make a stand, the Collectors are going to destroy the Multeks and then probably come after us anyway. It’s your job to make sure that doesn’t happen. You have a duty to protect the people of the Federation. And the Federation has a duty to protect species like the Multeks when they can’t protect themselves. It’s what we do. You wanted this job, Bradley, and you got it. You’re the President of the United Federation of Planets. Now start acting like it!”

“Go,” Bradley said, staring blankly at the viewscreen still displaying Multek space.

“I’m not going anywhere until you…”

“Go to Multos,” Bradley said. “Do what you have to do.”

“We’ll need reenforcements.”

“I’ll contact the Admiralty. You’ll get ships.”

“Thank you,” Beck said, heading toward the door. “This is the right decision.”

“Then why do I feel like I’m telling people to go die?” Bradley asked softly.

Beck stopped and turned back to him, her voice quiet. “Because you possibly are. That’s part of the job, too.”

“I didn’t take this position to get people killed.”


“But we could lose more if the Collectors attack us when they finish with the Multeks.”

“I don’t like it either way.”

“Good,” Beck said. “And as long as you remember that these are people’s lives you’re dealing with, you’ll be okay. Just stay focused on what’s important in the end.”


“Amedon?” Wuddle said, once he and Nelson were alone inside Beck’s office. “But you said you weren’t Amedon any longer? You and the crea…symbiont were no longer together.”

“The situation has changed,” Nelson replied.

“Changed?”

“We have rejoined.”

“I thought you wanted to find out who you were without the symbiont.”

“I did, but in the end, we needed each other. It’s better this way,” Nelson said.

“So…it went smoothly? There were no problems rejoining after whatever the Collectors did to remove the symbiont in the first place?” Wuddle asked concerned.

“We’re fine,” Nelson said with a soft smile. “I’m fine.”

“I’m glad.”

“I tried to comm you about it, actually. But you don’t seem to be checking your messages.”

“I didn’t expect to hear from you,” Wuddle said. “The way we left things…”

“I know. I wanted to tell you, though. Even if it doesn’t matter in the end. For what’s it’s worth, I’m sorry I never told you about the way I am. I never gave you a chance to deal with it.”

“I’ve had plenty of time now,” Wuddle said.

“And?”

“I was in love with Amedon Nelson, and I think she was in love with me,” he said, stepping close to Nelson and running his hand along her face. “I’ve already adjusted to pink skin and brown hair. What does a symbiont matter?” he added with a smile.

“This coming from the ghostly blue-haired freak,” Nelson replied, returning the smile.

“When all of this is over, I would like to see you again, if you’ll let me.”

“I think we can arrange that.”

“Wuddle?” Beck’s voice said from the door. Nelson and the Multek Frequoq turned to face Waystation’s commanding officer. “We’re coming to help,” she said.

“Thank you,” Wuddle said, visibly relieved.

“Don’t thank us yet. It’s just going to be your fleet and the Wayward until Starfleet can get some other ships out this way. We’re going to do everything we can, though.”

“I know you will,” Wuddle said. He gave Nelson one last, loving look, then headed for the door. “I need to get back to Multos. Contact me when you’ve arrived. I’ll send you the comm frequency.”

Beck nodded as she let Wuddle race off toward the Ops turbolift.

“Subtle,” Nelson said, walking past Beck to escort Wuddle back to his ship.

“What?” Beck said innocently.

“Calling me Amedon in front of him.”

“I thought it might break the ice.”

“Thanks,” Nelson said genuinely.

“Any time,” Beck said. After watching Nelson and Wuddle step into the turbolift, she walked out into the main part of Ops where Morales, Porter, and Russell were waiting.

“So we’re going?” Morales asked.

“Yes we are,” Beck said.

“Bradley didn’t look very happy about it when he got into the turbolift a little bit ago,” Russell said.

“He’s not enjoying his line of work at the moment,” Beck said. “We need to get the Wayward prepped and ready to go.”

“Already in progress,” Porter said.

“Anticipating me now, huh?”

“We saw Bradley’s face,” Porter replied.

“You and Russell are with me. Morales, you’ve got Ops.”

“Captain?” Morales said surprised.

“I need to be there, Walter, and I can’t send us both. Besides, if we get into a situation where your piloting skills would be the only thing keeping us alive, the situation will be too far gone for it to matter.”

“Well, that’s certainly cheerful,” Porter muttered.

“Get whatever you think you’ll need,” Beck said. “We’ll meet on the Wayward in fifteen minutes.”

Russell and Porter nodded, then headed into the turbolift as Beck walked back to her office to deal with a bit of personal business that needed to be addressed before she ran off.


It took Phillip Harper several moments to answer the comm as Captain Beck sat at her desk watching the hold screen on her desktop monitor. At long last, Phillip’s face appeared, the environs of his office in the AWN studios visible behind him.

“Lisa!” he said surprised. “I thought we weren’t seeing each other until tonight.”

“Change of plans. I’ve got a mission.”

“Oh. Okay. We’ll reschedule for when you get back.”

“All right.”

“I need to go. I’m in the middle of something here.”

“No problem. I understand,” Beck said. “Have fun.”

“You too,” Phillip said distractedly, glancing at something off screen.

“Yeah. Bye,” Beck said simply before tapping the comm console, closing the channel. For a brief moment, Beck wondered if she should have said something more. Shrugging the thought off, she stood up from her chair and strode out of her office toward the turbolift.


Lieutenant Commander Porter also had a similar bit of personal business to attend to before heading off to Multek Space. He was more or less inclined to ignore it, though. Sure he’d catch hell from Joan Redding from running off without an explanation, but better that than…

“Craig!”

Uh oh.

Porter turned to see Joan Redding storming down the corridor toward him. A few more meters and he would have made it to the docking bay. So much for a clean getaway.

“Joan,” he said warmly. “What are you doing down here?”

“I was about to ask you the same thing. I asked the computer where you were, and instead of being in Ops, you were down here heading toward the docking bay. You’re not leaving, are you?”

“Um…well…you see we have a mission we have to deal with, so yeah, I’m leaving with the captain for a little bit.”

“How little is a little bit?” Joan asked, her face darkening.

“I don’t know.”

“We’re supposed to have dinner tonight.”

“We may need to reschedule.”

“Craig!”

“I’m sorry, Joan, but I have to go.”

“Do you? Couldn’t you have just said ‘no’?”

Porter laughed, sending Joan’s eyes blazing. “I’m in Starfleet!” he said quickly. “I don’t get to say ‘no’ when I don’t want to go on a mission. I have responsibilities.”

“What about your responsibility to me?” Joan demanded.

“I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you when I get back. I promise. We’ll do something really nice. Maybe we could even go away for a couple of days.”

Joan’s gaze locked onto something down the corridor behind Porter. “Oh great,” she said annoyed.

“Time to go, pal,” Lieutenant Commander Russell said, walking up to the pair. “Sorry I have to steal him away, Joan, but we’ll get him back real soon.”

“Uh huh,” Joan said. She shot a long, piercing glare at Porter, then spun on her heel and charged away.

Porter watched her go, then realized that Russell was looking at him with an expression somewhere between pity and amusement.

“Don’t say it,” Porter warned.

“Don’t say what?” Russell asked innocently.

“Anything,” Porter replied, moving off toward the docking bay door. “Just don’t say anything.”


“Captain’s Log. Stardate 55813.7. The Wayward is traveling to Multos at maximum warp, but I wonder how much help we’re going to actually be. I’ve seen the size of the Collectors’ Vault-Ships, and we might as well be going after Tarkalian razorbeast with one of those little plastic swords you get in mixed drinks down at Earthly Eats. If we can marshal the Multeks’ forces, though, we might be able to organize some kind of offensive strategy to hold the Collectors off until we get backup from Starfleet. In the meantime, we’re going to have to do the best we can with the options we have available to us.”


“So what do we know?” Beck asked as she, Porter, and Russell sat in the Wayward’s cockpit looking at a schematic of a Collector Vault-Ship.

“Not much, unfortunately,” Porter said. “We weren’t exactly able to do a lot of reconnaissance during either of our run-ins with these guys. We know more about their interior decorating choices than about their weapon systems.”

“I’m betting they’re heavily armed, though,” Russell said.

“Probably a safe bet,” Beck said. “You don’t waltz in and liquidate the assets of entire planets without some serious firepower backing you up.”

“So far, their biggest weakness seems to be that they use members of other species as a large part of their crews,” Porter said. “That fact alone brings up some interesting questions about their society.”

“Questions we can ask another time,” Beck said. “What about disabling those mind-control helmets? The EM pulses we used the last time were effective but too uncontrolled to use in a close-quarters combat situation.”

“I’ve been working on that,” Porter replied. “I’ve been able to modify the Wayward’s phaser banks to fire directed pulses, but I haven’t had a chance to give the system much of a field test yet.”

“You modified the phasers?” Russell exclaimed in alarm. “What if we actually have to shoot someone with real weapons?”

“Don’t worry. You can switch back and forth in no time. I even gave you a new button to make the switch.”

“Oooh. New button.”

“There. Russell’s happy,” Beck said grinning.

“I hate to ask this, Captain, but do we actually have a plan?” Porter said.

“Not so much. A lot is going to depend on what happens when the Vault-Ship runs into the Multek fleet.”

“The Multeks could take them out,” Russell said. “Multek weapons did a number on us the first time we ran into them.”

“Yes, but we figured out how to compensate really quickly. And Collector shields may work differently. They may not have to compensate at all,” Porter said.

“Way to think positive, Craig.”

“We aren’t going to know what we’re getting into until we get there,” Beck said. “It sucks, but that’s just the way it is.”

“It’s fun to be the good guys,” Porter muttered.

“So what do we do until then?” Russell asked.

“Root for the Multeks,” Beck said grimly.


“Is this some kind of training exercise?”

“I had a mud bath scheduled!”

“Uggh! They were supposed to put an air freshener on this bridge.”

“Can we go home now?”

Fleet Commander Gurple fought the urge to shut off his comm system as he listened to the crews of the sixty plus Multek vessels gathered at the rendezvous coordinates gripe about having to be there. In a way he couldn’t blame them. Gathering the whole fleet out here in the middle of nowhere seemed absolutely ludicrous. The orders said something about stopping an alien invasion, but that was just silly. This was starting to sound a lot like that drill a couple of years earlier when the fleet was sent to blow up an imaginary alien space station. Maybe they should all just make some battle noises for a few minutes, then leave. He had a mini-golf tee time to get to on Multos, and this was so not worth missing a shot at finally getting the ball through the windmill.

Before Gurple could order his comm officer to order the fleet to disperse, his tactical officer let out a horrified gasp.

“What is it?” Gurple demanded, spinning his command chair to face the tactical station of his Marauder’s spacious bridge.

“B-b-b-b-big,” the tactical officer stammered. “Too big!”

“What are you blathering about?”

“Coming. Big. So big. Huge even. Big, huge and coming.”

Gurple closed his eyes and shook his head in disgust. “Just put it on the viewscreen.”

The tactical officer complied, his hand shaking as he tapped the controls. The starfield on the viewscreen shifted to the tactical view. At the edge of their sensors and moving closer was an absolutely massive object. It looked like five spheres lined up and pointed right at them.

“Woah. What’s that?” one of the other ship commanders asked over the comm.

“Maybe it’s a mutant comet.”

“It looks like a big bug.”

“Um…I’m confused. Are we supposed to be imagining this or not?”

“Oooooooh! Good question.”

Gurple gathered himself back together. Alien invasion or no, something was coming their way, and by the Frequoq, he was going to blow it up!

“All ships, this is Gurple. Get ready to engage the enemy!”

“Engage that thing? Are you kidding?”

“No. Prepare to attack.”

“I don’t like this drill.”

“THIS IS NOT A DRILL!” Gurple bellowed.

“Fine. Sheesh. We’ll play it your way.”

Much to the relief of Gurple and his blood pressure, the fleet fanned out and took up positions in front of and to the sides of the incoming ship’s course. The intruder would sail right into the trap and be destroyed.

The intruder arrived a few minutes later and slowed to a halt in the field of Multek vessels.

Gurple smiled a feral grin. “All ships…FIRE!”

The Multek fleet opened up with everything it had.

And then the intruder responded…

ZAP! POW! BOOM! REPEAT!

The Multeks swiftly responded to this response…

“YIKES!”

“AUUUGGGGGGHHH!”

“RUN!”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”


“Incoming transmission,” Russell said, checking his console. “It’s Wuddle.”

“Put him on,” Beck said, turning toward the small viewscreen mounted to her left. The image of the Multek Frequoq appeared on it an instant later.

“Wuddle, what’s going on?” she asked urgently.

“I’ve heard from the fleet,” he said.

“And? What’s happened?”

“It was hard to make out what they were saying over the screams and the explosions, but I gather it’s not going well. The Collectors’ ship is underway again and coming right toward us.”

“Order what’s left of the fleet to regroup at Multos,” Beck said. “How is your planetary defense network?”

“Our what?”

“Planetary defense? Big guns pointed into space? Armed satellites? Torpedo launchers?”

Wuddle just stared at her blankly.

“You have no way to defend your homeworld,” Beck said in disbelief.

“We didn’t think we needed to,” Wuddle said.

“He’s got a point,” Porter said.

“All right. We’ll be at Multos within the hour, and we’ll join up with your fleet then.”

“Tell them not to shoot us,” Russell said.

“That would be nice,” Beck said.

Wuddle nodded. “They have to work with one alien ship in order to stop another.”

“It’s a wild galaxy, ain’t it?” Porter said.

“Too wild sometimes. But I’ll find some way to explain it to them.”

“And you may want to alert the populace,” Beck said. “If we’re not successful, they’re going to be getting some company.”

“I can’t do that, Captain. My people wouldn’t know what to do with that kind of information.”

“You’d rather that the Collectors just showed up and surprised them?”

“That might actually be better.”

“It’s your planet,” Beck said.

“And if we’re lucky, it might even stay that way,” Porter added.

“I know you’ll do everything you can,” Wuddle said.

“That’s a promise,” Beck replied. “Wayward out.”


Now THAT was a liquidation!

With the full crew of the former Vault-Ship O-65 combined with what remained of his original O-97 crew (namely the beings who were actually Collectors in the first place) at his disposal, the Chief Assessor was able to oversee the complete and total cataloguing of the blue-hairs’ planet in near record time. Of course, it helped that it was rather sparsely populated, but that fact didn’t take away from the Chief Assessor’s feeling of accomplishment.

Now under normal circumstances, the Vault-Ship would have remained in orbit above the planet for some time until proper advertising could be distributed to their usual customer base and a sale or auction held. However, some pieces of information acquired during their visit made the Chief Assessor limit this endeavor to taking the truly unique treasures for eventual return home.

The first piece of information was that the blue hairs actually called themselves Multeks. Not really vital to know, but the Chief Assessor did like the way it rolled off his tongue. Multek. Mulllllllllllltek.

Secondly, and far more important, they found the coordinates of the Multek homeworld, which, judging by the vids the Collectors recovered, was a motherload of all kinds of trinkets, baubles, and gadgets. They could swing back by the measly colony world later. Now it was time to hit the bit score.

Of course, the Multeks had tried to put up some resistance with their measly fleet, but the Vault-Ship made quick work of them. Even now, the few vessels that were still functional were racing ahead of them, probably planning some kind of last stand in defense of their home planet. Quaint, but useless. Unless the Multeks had some really serious firepower hiding somewhere, which, judging by what the Collectors had observed so far, they didn’t, this “battle” would be over shortly.


“If they don’t listen to Wuddle, we may need to get out of here real quickly,” Lieutenant Commander Porter said as he watched the twenty or so blips of what was left of the Multek fleet approaching on the Wayward’s sensors.

“I know,” Beck said, keeping her hands in place above the flight controls while Multos rotated below them. It was a little harder to help people after being blown up, so she had no intention of sticking around if the fleet came in looking for a fight. Hopefully, though, Wuddle would straighten this all out before that became a problem.

“Wuddle’s comming again,” Russell reported from the tactical console behind Porter. “Audio only.”

“Go ahead, Wuddle,” Beck said.

“I wanted you to be on with me when I spoke to the fleet. I’m opening the channel now.”

“Okay.”

“This is Frequoq Wuddle to all Multek Military Marauders. Do not…I repeat DO NOT attack the alien ship currently in position above Multos. They are friends and here to help.”

“More aliens!”

“AUUGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!”

“Is this still part of the drill?”

“You call what happened back there a drill?”

“Quiet!” Wuddle cried. “Just listen to me. Admiral Nemotz and I want you to obey the alien commander. She will lead the battle against the invaders’ ship.”

“I think you just got promoted to fleet captain,” Porter whispered to Beck.

“Wait! We’re supposed to listen to this alien so we can fight the other alien. How do we know they’re not working together?”

“How do we know they’re even real at all?”

“Would you stop that?”

“We don’t have time for this!” Beck snapped.

“Um…who was that?”

“Captain Lisa Beck. I’m with the United Federation of Planets. I’m here to help you stop the Collectors before they decimate your entire homeworld.”

“You’re going to help? In that tiny thing? Don’t you have a fleet of your own?”

“I got here first.”

“Well, I hope you’ve got some really big blasters on that little ship because our weapons didn’t do a thing against those Collector guys.”

“And they’ve got blasters everywhere!”

“And they’re entering the system,” Russell said.

“All right! Listen up!” Beck commanded. “I want you to send any sensor readings you were able to get of the Collectors’ ship to me. We’re not going to be able to stop them from entering orbit, but if our past experience with these guys is any indication, once they’re parked, they’ll send out small fighters to sweep up any local vessels. Stay away from the Vault-Ship until the fighters have been dealt with. Teams of two. Watch each others’ backs! Now get out of their way!”

The Multek ships took Beck’s advice and scattered as the Collectors Vault-Ship slid into orbit above Multos.

“You still with us, Wuddle?” Beck asked.

“I’m here.”

“I doubt this will help, but try to hail them.”

“You want me to just ask them to leave?”

“Couldn’t hurt.”

“Easy for you to say,” Wuddle muttered, then closed the channel.

“Anything?” Beck asked Porter, who was looking over the various sensor scans taken by the Multek Military Marauders.

“It’s big, black, and shiny,” Porter replied.

“Is that it?”

“Sorry. Their sensors seemed to have been designed by the Obvious Institute. Of course, they never really had any need to develop anything more penetrating, did they?”

“Not until now.”

“When you think about it, that’s not a bad run,” Russell said. “Think of how long they were able to go without a single aggressive species stopping in. I mean how many times has Earth been threatened?”

“We just need to stop advertising that we’re the heart of the Federation,” Porter said. “Tell people it’s on Pluto or something.”

“Wuddle knew the Multeks would have to acknowledge the rest of the galaxy at some point. I just don’t think this was the way he had in mind,” Beck said.

“I’m detecting multiple transports to the surface,” Porter said suddenly. “At least fifty Collectors…seventy…and more coming.”

“Wuddle’s hailing again,” Russell said.

“Anyone want to bet things didn’t go well?” Beck asked. “Put him on.”

The Multek Frequoq had gone back to a video signal, all the better to show the panic in his eyes. “Captain!”

“They’re on the surface. We know.”

“What should we do?”

“Call out the planetary guard. I know you have one.”

“It’s a small force. And mostly ceremonial. They’ll be slaughtered!”

Beck ran an agitated hand through her hair. “All right. We’ll try to get the Vault-Ship’s attention. At the very least we may be able to prevent them from beaming down any more Collectors. Stand by. Beck out.” She closed the comm channel, then reopened another one to the Multek fleet.

“All ships, prepare to attack the Vault-Ship.”

“What about the fighters? You said there would be fighters!”

“Change in plans,” Beck said. “Go at the Vault-Ship. Quick strikes. Launch everything you have, then get out of there. Send it all. Beam weapons. Torpedoes…”

“Torpedoes?”

“Please tell me you have…” Beck trailed off. “No. Of course you don’t. All right. Make your strikes, then give us some room. Wayward out.”

“What’s a Wayward?”

“Our ship!” Beck snapped, then slammed her fist down on the console to close the channel.

“Still want to save them?” Porter asked.

“Don’t make me think about it too much,” Beck replied. “All right, Sean. You’re on. We’ve got a couple of tri-cobalts, don’t we?”

“A couple as in two,” Russell replied.

“It will have to do. I’m taking us in.”

Beck steered the Wayward from its position close to Multos’ south pole around the planet toward the looming Vault-Ship. Ahead of them, she could see the flashes of the Multek’s beam weapons slashing against the Vault-Ship’s shields as the Multeks made their attack runs.

“Any effect?” she asked.

Porter chuckled. “Ever see a wasp sting a starship?”

“That much, huh? Well, that would explain why they aren’t even bothering to shoot back this time. Let’s see if we can shake them up a bit.” Beck pushed the engines faster, bringing the Vault-Ship into range in seconds. The Wayward streaked over the massive vessel’s aft section moving forward toward the bow as Russell let loose with volleys of phasers and photon and quantum torpedoes, then, just as they reached the front sphere section, he launched the tri-cobalt device. The ensuing blast rattled the Wayward as the ship zipped away from the scene.

Suddenly, they were slammed by more violent jolts.

“That woke them up!” Porter said as Beck put the Wayward into a rolling dive into Multos’ atmosphere to get away from the weapons’ fire buffeting them.

“They must have blasters everywhere,” Russell said in awe as he watched the Vault-Ship’s defense systems blasting from almost every conceivable point on the spheres. “But I can’t get a lock on one of the actual emitters.”

“What about their shields?” Beck demanded, streaking back out into open space beyond the range of the Vault-Ship.

“If we had about a couple dozen more of those tri-cobalts, we’d be getting somewhere.”

“Torpedoes!” Russell shouted suddenly.

“Hang on!” Beck said, putting on a burst of speed that moved the Wayward out of the path of the oncoming torpedoes. The torpedoes, rather rudely, altered their heading accordingly.

“Homing torpedoes!” Russell exclaimed.

“Thanks! We noticed,” Porter said, gripping onto his armrests as Beck bobbed and weaved the Wayward as best she could. “What was that part about not needing Morales’s piloting skills?”

“Not the time, Craig,” Beck grunted as the inertial dampeners struggled to compensate for her last hard turn to starboard. “This isn’t working!”

“I noticed that, too,” Porter said as the torpedoes closed in on them.

“New plan,” Beck said, pounding another control. The Wayward leapt into warp, leaving their automated pursuers far behind. The torpedoes, now lacking a target, went on to the next phase of their programming and blew themselves up.

Meanwhile, the Multek fleet panicked.

“They’re gone!”

“We’re doomed!”

“I hate this drill!”

A moment later, the Wayward streaked into view.

“Oh wait. They’re back.”

“Good. The big mean imaginary guys can pretend to attack their imaginary ship for a while.”

“Would you stop that?”

On the Wayward, Russell watched his scopes closely. “No sign of more torpedoes.”

“Good,” Beck said as the Vault-Ship hovered ahead of them. Whoever was in control of the massive vessel seemed to be completely unconcerned that the Wayward was back in the region.

“Can a ship be described as smug?” Porter asked.

“We’ve got one more tri-cobalt,” Russell offered.

“It won’t help,” Beck said, eyes locked on their adversary. “We need more firepower.”

“Isn’t Starfleet sending the cavalry.”

“A couple more starships isn’t going to do it either,” Beck said grimly. “We need to try something else to draw the Collectors away from here.”

“Any ideas?” Porter asked.

“Unfortunately,” Beck said.


It was them – those infernal interfering Federation beings who had messed up the last auction and crippled his Vault-Ship. The Chief Assessor was the one with the upper hand this time, though. Their ship had hit his with everything they had and done little more than glancing blows. And now all they could do was sit out there and watch helplessly as the Collectors took possession of another world.

He was tempted to send his fighters out to deal with them. The combined forces the O-97 fighters with the O-65 group gave him almost 30 vessels at his command, but with the Multek ships out there, the losses would be too great. The Chief Assessor decided that he was quite content to sit in his impervious vessel overseeing the collection of the Multek’s assets.

Or at least he was content until the Vault-Ship intercepted the comm being broadcast by the Federation ship.

“Attention all Multek vessels. This is Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell, Chief Tactical Officer of the Federation Starship Wayward. The battle here is going badly, so we will be returning to our space station to retrieve our secret weapon: the New and Improved Extra Super Duper Deluxe Blasting Cannon of Decimation. This unique one-of-a-kind item was hand-built by a team of specially-trained Alcasian monks and is coated in an extra-thick layer of gold-pressed latinum for ultimate durability and shine. As I said, we’re going to get this extremely-rare item, which is in our space station vault along with many other unique treasures of the galaxy. See the coordinates in the attached data file. Hold your ground until we return. Wayward out.”

The Chief Assessor considered the message for a brief moment.

“Retrieve everyone!” he exclaimed. “NOW!”


“Was that all right?” Russell asked after ending the transmission.

“See,” Porter said, smiling at Beck. “I told you we should go with the frustrated actor.”

“I don’t know,” Russell said. “It felt a little over the top.”

“We probably could have done without the ‘duper,’” Beck admitted. “The Alcasian monks were a nice touch, though. Let’s see if it worked.” She started to slowly move the Wayward away from Multos as Porter pored over his sensors.

“They’re beaming their people off of the surface. And I’m reading some energy build-up from the aft section. It could be the engines preparing to come online.”

The three Starfleet officers waited in silence for several more moments as Porter continued to observe.

“They’re moving. Heading this way.”

“Off we go,” Beck said, launching the Wayward ahead at maximum warp.


Commander Walter Morales took one more look at the padd in front of him to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. He felt bad for making Yeoman Tina Jones wait so long for a simple signature, but, as acting station commander, he wanted to make absolutely sure as to what he was signing. Jones didn’t seem to care as she stood across the Ops docking control console from Morales chatting merrily about whatever interesting being she’d met that day. Morales was too busy trying to focus on the requisition requests on the padd to pay much attention to her.

What did grab his attention was the sound of the turbolift doors opening and closing. He glanced over and saw Marine Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges stepping into Ops. Hodges served as the Marines’ go-between with Starfleet, and Morales had almost daily breakfast meetings with her. Add in their almost nightly dinner dates, and the pair was seeing quite a lot of each other, which suited both of them just fine.

“Hey!” Morales said warmly as Hodges strolled over.

“Hi there,” Hodges replied.

“Are Marines allowed in Ops?” Jones said coldly.

“Were they ever not?” Morales asked confused.

“Never mind,” Jones said, snatching the padd back from Morales. “We can deal with his later.”

“No. Hang on. I’ll be right with you,” Morales said before turning his attention back to Hodges. “What brings you up here?”

“I guess I could make up some flimsy excuse, but really I just came to see you.”

“He’s on duty,” Jones said.

“I know. I promise not to take him right here on this console.”

Morales let out something between a cough and a choke, then quickly recovered himself.

“Commander, we’re receiving a comm from the Wayward,” Ensign Laru Hassna, the Bajoran manning the tactical console, reported.

“Thank goodness,” Morales said, more than a little eager to distract himself with Starfleet business. “On screen.”

The slowly rotating image of the starfield outside of Ops vanished, replaced with the face of Captain Beck. “What’s your status, Commander?” she asked.

“Nothing to report, Captain,” Morales said.

“Good,” Beck said. “We don’t need any other complications right now.”

“What happened with the Collectors? Did you stop them?”

“Not exactly. We did manage to get them away from Multos, though.”

“Well that’s good news,” Morales said.

“Ehhhh…not so much,” Beck said. “You need to start an evacuation.”

“Evacuation!” Morales exclaimed.

“Uh huh. We’re coming home, and we’re bringing company.”


TO BE CONTINUED…


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