Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
By Alan Decker
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 56277.4. Have I mentioned lately how much easier my job is without Bradley Dillon around? I have to admit that I’m still not completely sure that his motives for running off on the Explorer are completely pure…I take that back. I know they’re not pure. This is Bradley Dillon we’re talking about. The point is that he’s gone, taking with him his Presidential ego and the assorted crap that came our way because we had the leader of the Federation on board. I know that he’ll be back…unless Baxter manages to get them all blown up. Anyway, I know he’ll be back, but for now I’m enjoying having issues relating to him off of my plate. He can bug Baxter and friends for as long as he wants.
“With Bradley gone, we’ve been able to focus on the usual assortment of traffic and mini-crises that heads our way. Lieutenant Commander Porter and his staff have completed repairs to the phaser array, which were required after…never mind. I really don’t want to get into it.
“Despite station duties keeping me busy, I can’t help but notice that we’re going on three months now since I gave my spiel to the Multek Council of Elder Wizards, and we still haven’t heard a peep out of them. After the Council accepted my argument that they needed to open up to the rest of the galaxy, I kind of expected them to, you know, open up. Dr. Nelson hasn’t even seen Frequoq Wuddle in all of this time. From what she tells me, his comms to her all say that things are happening in the Enclave and that he’ll see her soon. I know the long distance relationship thing stinks for her, but at least she has one. A long distance relationship is better than…no wait. I don’t really want to get into that either.
“Back to the station issues at hand, there really aren’t any. We have the usual comings and goings of ships and a distinct lack of hostile threats. The Collectors, if they are even calling themselves that anymore, haven’t been heard from since we delivered the last group of them back to their homeworld. The vault-ship we captured is now in the hands of Starfleet. And with Bradley gone, Starfleet has gone back to pretending we don’t exist. Therefore, I am going to take advantage of the relative lull to deal with a situation that has been unresolved since the Collectors’ attack.”
“Come in,” Captain Lisa Beck called as the sound of her office door chime faded from the air. The office doors slid open revealing Yeoman Tina Jones.
“I’m here for our meeting,” Jones said hesitantly. “I’m a little early, though, so I can come back if I’m catching you at a bad time. I’ll just be out here.”
“It’s fine,” Beck said, waving Jones into the office. She got up from her desk and led Jones over to the little seating area over by the side wall of the office. Beck settled onto the couch as Jones took a seat in one of the armchairs, her hands clasped awkwardly in her lap as her left leg tapped up and down so fast it was almost vibrating.
“Relax, Tina,” Beck said with a smile. “We’re here to talk about good things for you. That is if you’re still interested in getting into Security.”
“I am!” Jones said quickly. “I really am. I just didn’t know if…well…”
“If it was going to happen,” Beck said nodding. “I know. It’s taken me way too long to get back to you about this, but I had to check into a few things first. Now if you wanted, we could move you into the Security department right now; however, since you’re enlisted personnel, you’d just be another crewman assigned to that section. I don’t think that’s what you had in mind.”
“No,” Jones said, shaking her head vigorously. “I want to be an officer.”
“I thought so, but that means you need to go back to school.”
“Right. Fortunately for all of us, we have an Academy Annex on board. I didn’t like the idea of losing my liaison officer while you off to Earth for classes.”
“But can I even get in?” Jones asked worried.
“Your service record speaks for itself, and you’ve got some solid recommendations. I don’t think it will be a problem. All you’ll have to do is…”
“Ops to Captain Beck!” Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell’s voice said urgently over the comm.
“Go ahead,” Beck said, tensing as she waited for the report.
“Long range sensors just picked up several contacts heading this way from the Multek Enclave at high warp.”
“Several!” Beck said, leaping up from the sofa. “An attack fleet?”
“We don’t know.”
“I’ll be right there.” She turned to Jones. “We’ll talk about this more later.”
“Um…sure,” Jones said. Beck was already heading out the door. “But what do I have to do?” Jones asked herself softly.
“How many are there?” Beck asked, striding out of her office into the Ops main command area.
“Twenty-two,” Russell said from the tactical console.
“Nineteen of the contacts match the configuration of the Multek military ships we’ve encountered before,” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter reported from the science/operations console. “We don’t have records of the other three.”
“What’s their tactical status?” Beck asked Russell.
“Shields are down, and I’m not reading any weapons ready to fire.”
“Keep our shields down, but be ready to get them up in a hurry if things get ugly.”
“This can’t really be an attack, can it?” Porter said. “We saved them. I thought it was traditional to send flowers for something like that, not an assault fleet.”
“Maybe the Council of Elders decided to stick with their stance that we don’t exist by seeing to it that we don’t exist,” Beck said.
“But why now?” Russell asked. “We haven’t heard from them in months.”
“Yeah, but maybe they heard about the damage to our phaser array,” Porter said. “Too bad for them that we fixed it.”
“Let’s just hang on a little bit longer before we start with the blasting, okay?” Beck said. “There could be a very good reason for the Multeks to bring a fleet here that doesn’t involve blowing us up.”
“Such as?” Porter asked.
“Not a clue. Russell, hail them.”
“Too late,” Russell said.
“What?” Beck exclaimed, spinning toward the viewscreen with the full expectation of seeing a rain of weapons’ fire heading their way. It wasn’t there.
“They’re already hailing us,” Russell explained sheepishly as Beck turned back to him glaring.
“On screen,” she said, resisting the urge to throttle her Chief of Security.
The Multek fleet looming on the viewscreen vanished and was quickly replaced by a familiar smiling face.
“Frequoq Wuddle!” Beck said surprised.
“Captain Beck, it is a pleasure to see you,” Wuddle said warmly.
“And you as well, but…um…what are you doing here?”
“We have come for your help.”
“Yes. The Enclave has been very busy preparing ourselves for the rest of the galaxy, as you told us to do.”
“Well…it wasn’t really so much an order as a suggestion,” Beck said wondering just where this conversation was going.
“It was what needed to happen, as we both know. The Multek people have been informed of this as well. Acceptance took a little time, but now we are going forward with the plans set forth by the Council of Elder Wizards. That plan is why we are here.”
“Uh huh,” Beck said, still not understanding.
“So you will help us!” Wuddle exclaimed.
“Our training! You have skills that we need in order to achieve our goal.”
“Okay. Why don’t you transport aboard and we’ll discuss just what we’re talking about here?”
“Of course!” Wuddle said happily. “I was hoping you would ask.”
“I’m sure you were,” Beck said with a smirk. She’d have to comm Dr. Nelson and let her know that her loverboy was on his way. “Oh, Wuddle?”
“Yes, Captain Beck.”
“Next time you plan to drop by with friends, call first. Unexpected fleets make us all a little jumpy, and jumpy leads to unfortunate misunderstandings.”
“I see,” Wuddle said nodding. “I will comm first from now on.”
“Thank you. Now come on over and you can tell me all about this goal of yours.”
“It’s very simple, Captain. We want to be…”
“…THE Number One vacation destination in the galaxy!” Wuddle announced, throwing his arms in the air dramatically as he stood at the front of the Ops briefing room where the Waystation command crew had gathered along with several Multek representatives.
Beck blinked a few times, considering what she had just heard.
“And that’s the goal,” she said finally.
“Yes! It’s the perfect way to introduce ourselves to the galaxy while maintaining our way of life! The Multek Enclave has always been dedicated to the pleasure and amusement of its citizens. Now we will open our borders to provide those same services to others.”
Porter scratched at his beard idly and nodded. “Makes sense to me.”
“It is what the Multeks specialize in,” Commander Walter Morales agreed.
Beck tried very hard to keep her face neutral. Somehow she’d hoped that the Multeks would choose a less…flashy route to learning about the galaxy, but she had to admit that they were certainly casting their xenophobia aside. The least she could do was be supportive.
“It’s an ambitious idea, but I’m still not sure what help we can give you,” she said.
“Teach us,” Wuddle said. “Your station receives visitors from all over the galaxy every single day. You know the ins and outs of the interstellar hospitality business better than anyone I can think of. We need information about how to meet their vacation needs and about how to care for them medically, should anything go wrong.” He aimed this last statement at Dr. Amedon Nelson, smiled, then turned his focus back to Beck. “You are also strong. The Collectors proved to me that our military is not ready for potential threats to the Enclave, and we cannot expect you to defend us forever. Our pilots and troops need training that only you can provide. You made us take the first step, and now I’m asking you to help us stand on our own.”
“Would you mind if I spoke with my officers for a moment?”
“Of course,” Wuddle said with a nod.
“Doctor, could you escort our guests into my office? We’ll be just a minute.”
Dr. Nelson rose from her chair. “Come on, Wuddy.” She glanced quickly at the other two Multeks present, who were staring at their leader with confused expressions. “Er…I mean Frequoq Wuddle. Right this way, Frequoq.” The three Multeks filed past Nelson out of the room. Nelson mouthed a quick “whoops” to her colleagues, then quickly followed her charges through the exit.
“What do you think?” Beck asked when they were gone.
“It’s unoriginal,” Porter said. “You’d think after all this time she’d have come up with something better than ‘Wuddy.’ Wuddlekins maybe?”
“Wuddly-Poo?” Russell said.
“Wuddlelicious?” Morales offered.
“Not you too,” Beck said to her First Officer.
“Thank you. Besides, it’s got to be Widdle Wuddle Love Muffin,” Beck said.
“Of course,” Porter said grinning.
“Now that that’s settled, what do you think about the Multeks?”
“They could use a little sun.”
Beck rolled her eyes. “I’ve been trying to figure out if their requests cross any boundaries. I mean, we’re talking about military training here.”
“Yes, but they haven’t actually asked for any technology,” Morales said. “You did tell the Multeks that the Federation would be here to assist them.”
“Do we trust them enough to give them combat training, though?” Russell asked. “What if they turn those skills against us? I’d hate to think we gave them the way to kill us.”
“He’s got a point. I like a good joke as much as the next guy, but I really don’t feel like being killed by the giant fist of irony,” Porter said.
“Do you honestly believe that’s going to happen?” Beck said.
“No,” Russell said.
“Not unless Amedon and her Widdle Wuddle Love Muffin have a really bad breakup,” Porter said.
“All right then. Is anyone opposed to helping them?” Beck asked.
No one spoke.
“Good. I’ll tell Wuddle, and we’ll get on with the whole opening a new era of trust and cooperation and such,” Beck said, getting up from her chair.
“Very inspiring, Captain,” Porter said.
Porter didn’t quite catch Beck’s response as she headed out the door. Of course, it was in Andorian, so he wouldn’t have understood it anyway. If, however, he had heard the word and been able to look it up in an Andorian dictionary, he would have found that it translated roughly as “bite me.”
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 56278.3. After careful consideration, I have decided to grant the Multek’s request for assistance. Commander Morales will work with the Multek space fleet while Dr. Nelson trains the members of the Multek medical community that have come aboard. While I feel that Lieutenant Commander Russell is fully capable of training the Multek ground forces, I have asked Colonel Lazlo to handle this, freeing Russell to keep an eye on station security matters. The idea of working with the Multeks also aggravated Lazlo, so it’s a win-win. Finally, I have been asked to meet with the heads of the Multeks’ newly-formed Department of Hospitality Services; although, I’m not sure how much help I’ll be to them. I mean, what the hell do I know about hospitality? I’m a Starfleet Officer. I run a space station. I don’t deal with visitor relations. This is why I have a liaison officer and why said liaison officer will be sitting in on this meeting with me. With any luck, she’ll be able to handle all of it, allowing me to just sit there and look helpful.”
“Thank you so much for meeting with us, Captain,” Frequoq Wuddle said as he sat across the conference table from her in the Rand Room of the Waystation Conference Center on Deck 26. Yeoman Jones had felt that these surroundings would be more…hospitable than the Ops briefing room. And, since the conference center was one of the services available to Waystation visitors and residents, meeting there would give the Multeks a view of how these sorts of things were handled on Waystation. Of course, if they’d wanted to have a really fancy meeting, they would have rented out space in the Starfleet Suites Hotel Conference Center, but Beck didn’t see any real need to bring that up.
“Of course,” Beck replied looking from Wuddle to the four Multeks he’d brought with him to the meeting. “This is Yeoman Tina Jones,” she continued, gesturing to her liaison officer. “She is in charge of our…welcome center and the point of contact for visitors to the station.”
“Ohhhhhhh,” the Multeks said, nodding at Jones appreciatively. “So you are the one who serves the guests of this station?”
“I guess…” Jones said hesitantly.
“Don’t be so modest,” Beck said. “When our visitors need something, they go to Tina Jones. She is your one-stop source when it comes to visitor relations.”
“Wonderful!” Wuddle said. “In that case, we don’t really need you here at all, Captain. Thank you.”
“We won’t take up any more of your valuable time.” Wuddle focused his full attention on Jones. “Before we get started, allow me to introduce the heads of our Department of Hospitality Services. This is Director Krusitz, Director Dibbu, Director Polyp, and Director Oolnk. As you can imagine, we are very interested in how you service the needs of a wide variety of alien creatures.”
“I guess I’ll just be going then,” Beck said, standing up from her chair. No one so much as glanced her way. “Just comm me if I can answer any questions. So long then. Bye.”
“…beds in our hotels can handle the varying body types, and what sort of toilet facilities will need to be installed to deal with the…you know…excretions of alien beings,” Wuddle continued as Beck slipped out of the room.
She returned to Ops a few moments later, where Lieutenant Commander Porter was slouched casually in his seat at his console watching the various readouts on his monitors scroll by.
“Very commanding presence you’re projecting there, Craig,” Beck said as she exited the turbolift. “I’m glad I left you in charge.”
“I like to set a relaxed example. It’s good for morale,” he said. “Weren’t you supposed to be trapped in a meeting somewhere?”
“Turns out they didn’t need me,” Beck replied.
“You don’t exactly sound happy about it. I didn’t think you wanted to be in that meeting in the first place.”
“I didn’t. But…” Beck trailed off.
“They kicked me out!” she said. “Sure, I didn’t want to be there, but I didn’t expect them to go and not want me. They just want to talk to Tina.”
“Lucky her,” Porter muttered.
“That’s it!” Beck announced, stalking back toward the turbolift. “I’m going to lunch!”
“That’s the spirit.”
“And it’s going to be a long one.”
“Go for it.”
“And I’m having Andorian!”
“Which means you’re eating alone,” Porter said.
“My bowels appreciate my lack of culture.”
“Oh, thanks for bringing that up before I go eat,” Beck said.
“Anytime. Bon appetit.”
Beck started to say something in reply (the same Andorian pleasantry she’d sent Porter’s way after the briefing the day before), but it was cut off by the closing of the turbolift doors. Even so, Porter had a feeling he understood the general sense of her message.
Colonel Martin Lazlo, decked out in a perfectly crisp, freshly replicated and hand- pressed, navy blue Federation Marine uniform, paced back in forth imperiously in front of the rows of Multek Defense Force troops lined up before him in the Marines training center/recreation room.
He hadn’t wanted to do this. Why should he impart the skills of the Federation Marines to a species that was not directly allied with the Federation? All he would be doing is giving them an advantage should they turn hostile at some time in the future.
But looking out at the pathetic display before him, Lazlo couldn’t help but smile. These beings didn’t know the first thing about defending a planet, facing down an alien menace, or, most importantly, about being marines.
It was time to give them an education.
“Listen up, maggots!”
The Multeks looked at each other confused.
“Did I tell you to look at each other? You look at me! I am the one in charge here, maggots!”
A Multek in the front row raised his hand. “What’s a maggot?”
“DID I TELL YOU TO SPEAK?!?” Lazlo thundered, getting right in the Multek’s face.
“I can hear you, you know,” the Multek said. “OH! I’m sorry. Is talking loudly traditional in your culture?”
“Are you apologizing to me, little girl?” Lazlo shouted.
“Actually, I’m a fully grown male of our species. And all of the females here are fully grown as well. Our forces don’t allow children. Do yours?”
“SHUT UP, MAGGOT!”
“I still don’t know what maggot means. Is that a human word for soldier?”
“A maggot is an Earth insect that feeds on decaying matter,” Lieutenant Colonel Dan O’Neal offered helpfully, stepping up from his position by the Federation flag draped on a pole near the front of the room. “The Colonel is using humiliating terms such as maggot and little girl as a motivational tool to increase your desire to follow his orders and become proper soldiers.”
“AHHHHHHHH!” the Multeks exclaimed, understanding.
“Do you mind, O’Neal?” Lazlo said, eyes flashing angrily at his subordinate.
“Sorry, sir,” O’Neal said, snapping to attention.
Lazlo turned back to the Multek troops. “As I was saying, girls…”
“Colonel Lazlo?” another Multek said, raising his hand. “I don’t think this humiliation technique of yours is very effective.”
“We don’t really think so either,” O’Neal said. “But he just loves doing it.”
“Drop and give me 100!”
“Yes, sir.” O’Neal quickly got to the floor and started his push ups.
“Um…are we going to have to do that?” another Multek asked.
“Unless all of you shut up right now and start listening to me, YES!” Lazlo screamed.
Eyes locked in terror on O’Neal as he continued his punishment, the Multeks all fell completely silent, waiting for the Colonel’s kernels of knowledge.
This was somewhat new, Commander Walter Morales thought as he looked at the readouts on the Wayward’s scopes. Behind him, the nineteen Multek military vessels that had traveled to Waystation for training were spread out in formation: a formation he’d devised.
He had a fleet at his command. Definitely a new circumstance, but he liked it.
Now if only he had something to go attack.
Actually, he was fine to skip anything resembling combat for right now. He’d just start out by putting the Multek ships through some simple maneuvers to see what they could and could not handle.
Multek Military Vessels all adhered to the same design and looked like winged obelisks sailing through space. Each one was larger than the Wayward and crewed by 40-50 Multeks. Before now, they were used mostly to deal with pirates or smugglers within the Enclave, and each craft had a docking bay large enough to impound a small ship. From what Morales had gathered from Wuddle, though, piracy and smuggling had dropped off to almost nothing over the last few years, leaving the military with little to do beyond flying around the Enclave in circles looking for non-existent trouble. This lack of action had left the Multek fleet completely ill-equipped to deal with the Collectors’ invasion, and most of their vessels were crippled or outright destroyed in the attack.
Now it was up to Morales to get them back into some kind of fighting shape. Why did he volunteer for this job again? Oh wait. He didn’t. Captain Beck ordered him to be out here.
On the bright side, he did get to command a fleet.
He reached forward and activated the comm on the flight console in front of him. “This is Wayward to all ships. We’re going to start out with a little bit of follow the leader. Just do what I do, and make sure to keep your distance from the other ships.”
He was met by several responses of “Standing by,” a few “Let’s do this,” and one “Wait! My helm officer isn’t back from the bathroom yet!” A few moments later, though, all of the Multek ships were ready.
Morales looked out at the star system where he’d brought the fleet for training and thought out his next moves. He then increased speed, and went into a smooth dive as the Multek vessels effortlessly matched his movements. He flattened out his course, then zipped toward a ringed gas giant at the outer edge of the system, looping around the planet quickly before bringing the Wayward down to a point where it just skitted above the debris chunks making up the rings. The Multeks stayed with him without a problem. He had to admit being somewhat impressed. Their ships were more agile than they looked.
Breaking away from the planet into open space, he zigged and zagged in an evasive pattern, then sped into a hard, banking turn. A few of the Multek ships took a second or two longer than Morales would like with the rapid course corrections, but overall they were doing pretty well.
Time to try something a little tougher.
He rapidly worked the helm, sending the Wayward into a starboard barrel roll. The Multek ships moved to follow and…
“I’m going to be sick!”
“I AM SICK!”
Maybe that was a little much.
“Good morning, everyone. I’m Doctor Amedon Nelson,” Dr. Nelson said warmly as she and three Multek physicians gathered in Waystation’s infirmary. She usually wouldn’t be this cheery in this type of situation, but there was no way to hide how excited she felt. It was happening. It was really happening. The Multeks were opening up to the Federation, which meant she and Wuddle could stop hiding their relationship from his people and start seeing each other on a much more regular basis. She’d already been able to visit Multos once. Maybe it could even become a regular thing. It was a pretty planet, with clean, gleaming cities. Okay, the giant roller coasters in town were a bit odd, but she could get used to it.
“Good morning, Doctor Nelson,” the three Multek doctors replied just above a mutter as they looked around at their surroundings nervously. Nelson wasn’t sure what the big issue was. Multek technology was advanced enough that the infirmary shouldn’t be intimidating to them.
“Frequoq Wuddle has asked me to try to give you some insights into xeno-medicine.” The Multeks looked at her with confusion. “Caring for aliens,” she clarified.
“Now obviously I can’t show you every alien species in the Federation in the short amount of time we have.”
“There are that many?!?” one of the Multeks gasped in alarm.
“More than you can imagine, I’ll bet,” Nelson said. “But I thought we’d start off with a fairly standard humanoid. That is, an alien with a body structure like yours and mine.”
“There are aliens with different body structures?!?”
“Yes, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s start with a human male from my home planet of Earth. Lieutenant Mike Waits of our Security staff has graciously agreed to allow us to examine him.” On cue, Waits emerged from the surgical area dressed in a exam gown and waved to the Multeks.
“Hi, folks,” he said before laying down on a biobed.
“Since you’ll be using your own instruments on Multos, I’d like you to do the same here,” Nelson said. “Just take some time to look over Lieutenant Waits, scan him, and familiarize yourself with the human form.”
The Multek doctors opened their medkits that were waiting on a nearby lab cart and approached Waits.
“Yes, but you’ll see many different shades of humanoids,” Nelson explained as the Multeks began their exam. “Andorians, for example, have blue skin. And the…”
Waits’ pained scream echoed through the infirmary.
“What did you do?” Nelson demanded, rushing toward the biobed.
One of the doctors (Dr. Scapple, if Nelson remembered correctly) withdrew a thick, ten centimeter long needle from Waits’ neck. The needle was attached by leads to a device resembling a bulky tricorder. “I was attempting to scan him. I don’t understand why he screamed.”
“Maybe because it hurt! A lot!” Nelson said.
“Oh. We do not have pain sensors in that region.”
“Most species do,” Nelson said, trying to calm her anger.
“He’s not moving,” one of the other doctors observed.
Nelson checked Waits over. “He must have passed out from the pain.”
“Ahh,” Dr. Scapple said, idly waving the needle back and forth. “Does that mean I can scan him now?”
Colonel Lazlo resisted the urge to laugh as he watched the Multek troops slowly filtering back into the rec room, each one dripping with sweat from the five kilometer jog through the corridors of the Marine’s section of the station. They all looked exhausted and about to drop.
Oh wait. A few of them were dropping. Wonderful.
Of course, the several hours of drilling, marching, etc. that he’d put them through before the little jog may have done a bit to wipe them all out.
Now they would learn what it meant to be marines.
Finally, the last of the Multeks stumbled in and collapsed at Lazlo’s feet. With his last ounce of strength and gasping for breath, he looked up at the Colonel.
“Is it time now…for milk…and cookies?”
“WHAT?” Lazlo bellowed.
“At home…after training…we get…milk and cookies?”
“Madre de dios. Do I look like your mother, boy?”
“No…well, maybe if I squint…and try not to look…at that hairy thing on your face.”
“That is my mustache. You WILL respect my mustache.”
“Sorry, sir,” the Multek said. “About the milk and cookies…”
“I am not giving you milk and cookies.”
“…and so each set of quarters is capable of providing individualized gravity levels and atmospheres. And our replicator database has a wide variety of meals available from all over the galaxy,” Yeoman Jones explained. “So it’s really about a lot more than just giving someone a different mattress.”
“This is…complicated,” Director Krusitz said as the other directors and Wuddle nodded sagely. “You’re sure that a softer mattress won’t help?”
“It will depend on the guest. Klingons actually like to sleep on metal slabs.”
“Doesn’t that hurt?” Director Polyp asked in horror.
“I think that’s the point.”
“We have been at this for several hours and should probably break for the day soon,” Frequoq Wuddle said.
“That’s fine with me,” Jones said. Yes, it had been a long day of answering all sorts of questions about food and lodging for various aliens, but having this group of Multeks hanging on her every word was kind of fun! “Does anyone have anything else they’d like to ask before we stop?”
Director Oolnk, a small, thin woman, cleared her throat.
“Um…where are the rides?”
As the heavy beat of a classic bit of Denebian funk pounded all around her (and through her for that matter), Captain Beck sat in one of the curved booths along the side wall of The Gravity Well, the large dance club located on Deck Seven, watching a few hundred Multeks doing their thing on the dance floor.
At first she hadn’t been sure if Yeoman Jones’s plan to hold the evening’s reception at The Gravity Well was such a good idea. Frankly, Beck was used to these affairs being a bit more formal, but she hadn’t taken the Multek personality into account. These people lived to have a good time. A dance club was right up their alley, as was evidenced by the fact that not a single one of them was currently manning a seat along the wall, unlike a certain Starfleet captain she could mention.
It also pleased her to see that several members of the station crew had accepted the invitation to come meet the Multeks. The Multeks were still adjusting to the idea of other life in the universe, but gradually Beck was seeing Starfleet officers and Multeks talking and dancing together.
The Multeks were turning out to be the better dancers, though. And they were taking a definite interest in the club’s unique feature, the zero gravity section in the center of the dance floor. Poles rose from floor to ceiling in this section, allowing for hand holds from which to launch into airborne acrobatics. The Starfleet officers had been the ones to show the Multeks the first few moves, but the Multeks quickly started making attempts of their own, flipping about from pole to pole as the music thudded around them.
Beck’s attention was pulled back to the booth as Commander Morales and Marine Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges slid in beside her.
“Hey there!” Hodges exclaimed. “Isn’t this fantastic? Holding this party here was a GREAT idea!”
“All Tina Jones,” Beck said.
“Tina knows how to throw a party,” Morales said wincing slightly. “It’s a bit loud, though.”
Hodges playfully slapped his arm. “Fuddy-duddy.”
“No, I’m not.”
Beck rolled her eyes as the couple bantered, then finally decided to break it up. “How did the flight go?” she asked Morales.
“Very well, actually,” he shouted back over the music. “They handled the basic maneuvers well, and they’re very skilled at intercepting and penning in ships. The problem I see is that they have no real experience dealing with multiple targets or ships with superior fire power.”
“No kidding,” Beck shouted back. “The Collectors were the first time they encountered somebody bigger than them.”
“I’m going to try and teach them some tactics tomorrow, but I don’t know how much good it will do.”
“All we can do is try.”
Lieutenant Commander Porter suddenly slid in beside Beck. “Looks like I found the party table of people not partying,” he said.
“This is a temporary stop on the way to the dance floor for us,” Hodges said, a statement that evidently surprised Morales. “Let’s go.”
“Go? As in dance?”
“That is what people do here,” she said, grabbing his hands and pulling him up out of the booth. “Let’s go,” she repeated, wrapping her arms around him. “I’ll make it worth your while.”
“Well, when you put it that way,” Morales replied with a smile and a glint in his eyes as he allowed himself to be led off into the throng of Multeks.
“Now don’t they look happy,” Porter said.
“That they do,” Beck said. Her eyes were drawn to the club entrance as the doors opened and Joan Redding walked in followed by a hovercam operator. “You might want to duck,” Beck said.
“Why?” Porter asked, following her gaze to the door. “Oh. Don’t worry about it.”
“She’s not mad at you for breaking up with her?”
“Who knows? She’s not speaking to me at all. Actually, she’s pretty much not acknowledging my existence.”
“It could be easier that way,” Beck said.
Beck sighed. “Easier than sending perfectly pleasant, incredibly stiff comms out of some obligation to stay cordial.”
“Phillip’s doing that?”
“We both are,” Beck said. “And even worse, I started it,” she said, putting her head down in her arms on the table.
“Do you think he’ll care if you stop?”
“Just hmmm,” Porter said, watching Joan dive into the crowd with her usual determination. She’d wanted a story on the Multeks for a couple of years now, and she was finally getting her chance. She’d probably actually be in a good mood tonight, but Porter had spent more than enough time at the mercy of her moods while he was dating her. Now he was just glad to be free of her.
“Uh oh,” Beck said.
“What?” Porter replied. “Is she coming this way?”
“Not her,” she said.
Porter turned back to the entrance and saw a well-dressed Zakdorn storming toward their table. The Zakdorn, a Mr. Auditmi, was the Acting CEO of Dillon Enterprises while Bradley Dillon was off on his little excursion on the USS Explorer, and based on the look on his face when he reached the table, he was taking acting like Bradley very seriously.
“Captain Beck!” Auditmi snapped angrily. “This is an outrage! I demand that you do something about this situation at once!”
“You don’t like to dance?” Porter asked, drawing a quick glare from Beck.
“First off, you could stand to learn a little courtesy,” Beck said, locking a more steady glare on Auditmi. “And second, I’m not going to do a damn thing, since I don’t have a clue what situation are you referring to?”
“The Multeks!” Auditmi exclaimed in exasperation.
“What about them?”
“I know why they’re here.”
“I didn’t realize it was a secret.”
“Don’t patronize me, Captain. The Multeks are here to learn about the hospitality industry, yet you have purposefully kept them away from the only establishments on this station that have any real skill in this arena.”
“Establishments run by Dillon Enterprises.”
“Of course! How can these beings expect to learn anything when they have not set foot in the Starfleet Suites Hotel or dined at Dillon’s? What excuse can you possibly have for not bringing them to us?”
“They didn’t ask,” Beck said flatly.
“I’ll talk to them,” Beck said, heading off Auditmi before he could launch into another tirade. “If they are interested, I’ll bring them by tomorrow.”
“I will see you tomorrow then,” Auditmi said, bowing slightly before stalking away from the table.
“He almost makes me miss Bradley,” Beck said once the Zakdorn was gone.
“Almost? Bradley at least was charming in his way, even when he was making your life miserable,” Porter said.
“True, but Auditmi isn’t the President of the Federation.”
“You’ve got a point,” Porter said. The pair was silent for a few moments. “You wanna dance?” Porter asked finally.
“With you?” Beck said surprised.
“Sure. Why not?”
“I never pictured you as a dancer.”
“I’m not, but they’re making it look like fun out there. Maybe we’ll even find Sean.”
“Oh, he came too?”
“Yep. He’s out there somewhere looking for an open- minded lady Multek.”
“So I should be prepared hear about an intergalactic incident in the morning, huh?” Beck said smiling.
“Probably,” Porter replied as Beck got up from the table. “Does this mean we’re dancing?”
“Yeah. Let’s go show those Multeks how its done.”
“Have you been watching them? There’s absolutely no chance of that.”
“Then lets go look ridiculous for a while.”
“Now that’s more like it,” Porter said as Beck hooked her arm in his and the pair headed off onto the dance floor.
Shaking his head to try to dislodge the fatigue clouding his brain, Commander Morales looked over the sensor readouts in the Wayward’s cockpit as his Multek charges cruised along in formation behind him.
“Long night?” Lieutenant Commander Porter asked with a grin from the co-pilot’s seat beside him.
“Longer than I was intending,” Morales said.
“Oh really? I thought you and Steph left The Gravity Well before we did.”
“I didn’t notice.”
“Uh huh. Of course, leaving and going to bed are two very different things now, aren’t they?”
“Mind if I make an observation, Porter?”
“You’re taking way too much of an interest in my personal life.”
“It’s not so much an interest as a scientific inquiry.”
“Be inquiring about somebody else.”
“Can’t. I’ve invested too much time in watching you.”
“I don’t even want to know what that means,” Morales said.
“Probably not,” Porter assented, turning his attention back to his console.
Morales was silent for several moments. “What does that mean?” he asked finally.
“What does what mean?”
“You know what I’m talking about!”
“Well, let’s face it. Before Steph came along, you were a bit on the obsessed side with a certain captain we both know. And after watching you pine away for her for so long, I was starting to wonder if you were ever going to get a clue and move on.” Porter watched Morales’s face darken. “Guess I should have prefaced this with a ‘permission to speak freely’ huh?”
Morales let the anger crossing his features slip away. “I take it as a given with you,” he said. “And it’s not like you’re wrong.”
“I know,” Porter said.
“And I’m happy. Steph is great. It makes me wonder why I wasted so much time…”
“The Multeks are waiting.”
“You’re cutting me off? You’re the one who brought this up in the first place!”
“Yes, but I prefer to keep my scientific inquiry free from the influence of your personal opinions.”
“You’re annoying. How’s that for an opinion?”
“The Multeks,” Porter said smiling innocently.
Morales rolled his eyes and activated the Wayward’s comm. “Wayward to all ships. I hope you had a good night and got some rest.” He ignored the slight chuckle that escaped from Porter and continued. “Today we’re going to try and put the maneuvers and formations we worked on yesterday to use in some combat simulations. Lieutenant Commander Porter has tied our ships’ computer systems together, allowing us to engage in mock battles. Damage will be simulated and tracked by the computer, so focus on the situation at hand and behave as you would if it were real. So let’s get started with the first scenario. I’m transmitting the particulars to your ships now. Keep what we worked on yesterday in mind, and try to resist the urge to shove any of your fellow officers out an airlock.”
One of the Multek captains responded, obviously confused, “Why would we shove…”
“Begin scenario,” Morales snapped, cutting him off and closing the channel as beside him Porter lost his efforts to control his laughter.
Back on the station, another combat simulation was about to get underway in far more confined quarters.
“I hope you slept, maggots!” Colonel Lazlo barked as he strode in front of the Multek troops, who had once again gathered in the Marines’ training center. “Because you’re going to need it today. It’s game time, and unless you’re ready, I guarantee you it’s not going to be any fun.” The Multek faces that lit up at the mention of a game quickly fell as they heard the rest of Lazlo’s statement.
The Colonel continued on. “Each of you is now holding a rather unusual piece of equipment. What could it be? Why, it’s a gun! Could this possibly have something to do with what we’re doing today? You’re damn right it does.
“The name of today’s game is WAR, and the gun in your hand is your new best friend. You girls will be taking on the Federation Marines in a battle down to the last man. Now normally these games are played with friendly little light guns, and when you’re shot, a little sensor on your body beeps ever so sweetly. But I don’t run things that way. War doesn’t work that way. When you’re hit, I want you to feel it. I want you to see it, which is why each one of you has been armed with a projectile rifle. These projectiles are filled with paint, so when you’re shot, you WILL feel the impact, and you WILL see a big ass paint splatter on those oh so clean silver uniforms of yours. You get hit, you’re dead. It’s that simple.
“Any questions? Good,” Lazlo said, ignoring the sea of hands that went up in the crowd as he started toward the exit. “The game starts as soon as I leave the room. Good luck, girls. You’re going to need it.” He was out of the training center’s main door a moment later, leaving the Multeks in a mass of confusion.
“Silence!” the voice of Major Bummko, one of the most senior officers present, shouted above the din. “We need to make a plan! Everybody break up into…”
Before he could finish, the main training center doors at the front of the room slid open. A split second later, the auxiliary exits at the right, left, and rear of the room opened as well. Each doorway was filled with a horde of armed marines.
The hail of paintballs started immediately, sending a punishing barrage of high-velocity color projectiles into the panicking jumble of Multek troops.
It was over in seconds. The Marines backed away from the doors allowing a cackling Colonel Lazlo to stroll back in.
“Excellent!” Lazlo said clapping. “That was really an incredible showing. Did any of you wastes of DNA even get a shot off? Anyone?”
The Multeks didn’t reply. Lazlo assumed that they were all too ashamed, but if he’d been paying attention, he would have noticed that more than a few of them were glaring in his direction with what could only be described as intense hatred.
“Get out of my sight,” Lazlo said. “Go get cleaned up and meet back here in two hours. And then we’re going to do it again. And we’ll keep doing it until you pathetic losers start behaving like soldiers! Dismissed!”
The Multeks filed out of the training center muttering amongst themselves. Very quickly, a single sentiment spread through their ranks.
This WOULD NOT happen again.
“Ah good. You all came back,” Dr. Nelson said with a welcoming grin as the Multek physicians entered the infirmary. “I’d hoped none of what you saw yesterday scared you off.”
“It was…new,” Dr. Scapple said as the other two doctors nodded their agreement.
“And you haven’t seen anything yet,” Nelson said. “But first, are you feeling more comfortable with the tricorders?”
“Yes,” Dr. Quibble said hesitantly, raising the device in her hand. “But it’s so much less…”
“Invasive? That’s the idea,” Nelson said. “Now for this morning, we’ve gotten very lucky. We don’t often see Jelateons out this way, but one arrived on a freighter last night. The problem is that his ship is due to depart within the hour, so we have to be quick with our exam.” She turned back toward the corridor leading to the surgical area. “We’re ready, Kchlorch.” This last bit sounded more like a hacking noise than a word.
Moments later, a large glob of translucent lime cytoplasm bounced into the room. Reaching the biobed, it extended itself up and basically poured itself into place on the bed.
The Multeks watched this display in wide-eyed shock. Nelson stepped up to the bed between the Multeks, all of whom were immobile, their gaze locked on Kchlorch.
“Let’s get started,” Nelson said. “Dr. Scapple, what do you want to do first?”
“Ooookay. Anyone else?”
“How’d I guess?”
As promised, Mr. Auditmi was waiting in the mall concourse just outside the entrance to the Starfleet Suites Hotel on the mall’s second level as Yeoman Jones arrived with Frequoq Wuddle and the Directors of the Multek Department of Hospitality Services in tow.
Auditmi gave the Multeks a wide smile, then turned on Jones. “Where is Captain Beck?” he demanded.
“In Ops, I guess. I’m really not sure,” Jones said.
“Why isn’t she here?”
“Um…why would she be?”
“She’s not showing these important guests around personally?” Auditmi asked.
“No. I am.”
Auditmi shook his head disdainfully. “She has absolutely no comprehension of proper guest relations.”
“I thought we were here for a tour,” Jones said.
“Yes, yes,” Auditmi said. A second later, Jones might as well have not even been there for all of the attention Auditmi was paying to her. “Greetings to you, ladies and gentlemen. I am Mister Auditmi, Acting Chief Executive Officer of Dillon Enterprises and your host this morning. On behalf of Dillon Enterprises CEO and President of the United Federation of Planets Bradley Dillon, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the Starfleet Suites Hotel. Inside, you will see the latinum standard for accommodations and dining in the known galaxy. Now, if you will follow me…”
Auditmi led the group into the hotel lobby. The Multeks stopped in mid-step, gawking at the opulence around them. Burgundy marble columns rose up from a floor of white marble. At the rear of the lobby, two staircases headed up to the second level. All around, stately armchairs and sofas and ornately carved dark wood tables were gathered in small sitting areas. The lobby’s centerpiece, though, was a golden fountain carved in the shape of the Starfleet delta from which water arced up gracefully before cascading into a pool below.
“This, as you can see, is the lobby,” Auditmi said. “President Dillon believes that the hotel entrance should be representative of the hotel as a whole, and the rooms at the Starfleet Suites have each been meticulously designed and outfitted to live up to the promise made by this magnificent space.”
“Will we be seeing one of these rooms?” Director Dibbu asked.
“No,” Auditmi said.
“We won’t?” Wuddle said surprised.
“The rooms are for paying guests. It would not do for us to show them to a potential competitor in the hospitality market in this region without some kind of financial compensation. Now are there any other questions before we move on?”
“Where did this amazing stone come from?” Director Polyp asked, running a hand along the burgundy marble column.
“President Dillon insists that we keep our suppliers confidential in order to ensure that the unique elegance of the Starfleet Suites is not compromised by imitators. Anyone else? No? Very well. Let’s move on, shall we?”
As the group made their way through the lobby toward a side corridor, Frequoq Wuddle caught Yeoman Jones’s attention and mouthed, “Why are we here?”
She could only shrug.
“That was nicely done,” Commander Morales said into the comm system as the Wayward and the Multek ships regrouped inside of the star system he had chosen for their training maneuvers. Thus far, he’d taken them through several combat scenarios, first with the fleet against the Wayward, then gradually pulling more and more ships over to his side until the teams were evenly matched. Now it was time to up the stakes a bit.
“We’re going to keep the fleet divided in two for this next scenario,” he said as Porter cleared out the simulated damage from the ships’ computers and reset the system. “But this time we’re going to add a new element. One team will be attempting to defend their homeworld from the other. The fourth planet of this system will be designated Homeworld. If the attacking team is able to break through the defenders and assault Homeworld, they will win the simulation. Team Captains…”
“I want to defend,” Captain Laddle, who had been leading one of the teams said quickly.
“No, I do!” the other team leader, Captain Pubbitz, insisted.
“We’re not the bad guys!”
“And neither are we!”
“It’s our planet!”
“No! It’s ours!”
“Captains!” Morales said loudly. “No one is the bad guy here!”
“But they’re going to attack my planet!” Pubbitz said. “That’s bad!”
“It’s just a simulation…”
“It’s our planet,” Laddle said firmly.
“I’ll fight you for it,”Pubbitz said.
Unable to take it, Morales put his head in his arms on the console.
“I can reactivate their weapons, if you want,” Porter said as the Multek ships squared off outside and began scoring simulated hits on each other in a pitched battle to not be the bad guys. “That would end this real quickly.”
“Don’t tempt me,” Morales muttered.
“Listen up, maggots!” Colonel Lazlo bellowed as he once again stood before the Multek troops. Troops? Hah! These pathetic pansies made Starfleet look rugged. A few more rounds on the losing end of a paintball rifle would be enough to send them crying back to Multos. And they would know that when a real crisis arose, they should just step back and let the professionals handle it. His marines were going to eat these wimps for breakfast…and lunch…and for an afternoon snack. “Time for Round Two. Good to see you all went and got so nice and clean. It won’t last long. I can assure you of that. The game begins as soon as I walk out the door. Good lu…”
Major Bummko was on the move before Lazlo could finish. “Into teams now! Cocoa, with me! Go go go!”
Lazlo dove aside, barely clearing out of the way before clusters of suddenly very-determined looking Multeks poured out into the corridors, rifles at the ready. Moments later, he heard shouts and the repeated pops of paint projectiles firing. The shouting was getting louder…and more angry. And then it dropped off. What the hell was going on out there?
He peered out of the training center into an interior decorator’s worst nightmare. The walls of the corridor beyond were literally dripping in various colors. Almost no spot remained untouched. The hall was empty, though. At least it was until five of his marines raced around the corner, running toward him.
“They’ve gone mad!” Private Copeland cried as he sped past Lazlo with the others. Dead center on his back was a massive yellow paint splotch. Moments later, Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal stormed around the corner, seething mad, his face half purple from a paint ball impact.
“You’re dead!” Lazlo shouted half in shock, half furious.
O’Neal turned on him, eyes blazing. “Dead? I’m not dead. They are. We’re taking them down! Every single one of them!”
Copeland and the other marines ran back toward them from the other direction, each carrying a backpack dribbling paintballs. “Ammo secured, sir,” Corporal Sherwood said with a salute.
“Kintasa to O’Neal,” O’Neal’s communicator barked suddenly.
“Go ahead,” O’Neal said to the device on his wrist.
“They backed us into the turbolifts. The couple that was already in here was heading toward the mall, so I guess that’s where we’re going.”
“Are the Multeks pursuing you?” Lazlo asked, snatching O’Neal’s arm.
“Maybe. They heard the mall mentioned and started running toward the turbolift shaft down the corridor.”
“This could get out of hand real quickly, sir,” O’Neal said, coming to his senses. “Do you want me to call my men back?”
“No,” Lazlo said. “War knows no boundaries. And we will fight these little wimps wherever they want to face us. Proceed with your original intentions.”
O’Neal smiled grimly. “Yes, sir! Taking them down, sir!”
In her professional opinion, the Multek physicians in front of her looked slightly traumatized, Dr. Nelson thought as the three Multeks sat together on a biobed staring forward blankly.
“The universe is a big place, huh?” she said consolingly.
“Big,” Dr. Scapple said numbly. “So many aliens.”
“And I didn’t show you even a fraction of them,” Nelson said. “The simple fact is that you can’t know everything about every single species in the galaxy. There are just too many. This is why we have medical databases, and I’m sure the Federation will share our medical knowledge with you in exchange for learning about your species’ biology. Beyond that, though, there is your intuition as a doctor. You use that intuition at home everyday on your Multek patients. Trust it with your alien patients as well.
“Tell you what. Let’s get you three some practice. The next patient that comes through the door is all yours. We have no idea what species it will be, so don’t even try to anticipate it.”
Before Nelson’s words could even fade from the air, three Multek soldiers tore into the infirmary at a full-on run.
“Oh come on!” Nelson exclaimed.
“We can handle this!” Dr. Scapple said happily.
The Multek soldiers, meanwhile, didn’t seem all that concerned about the doctors or any medical maladies. Instead, they took up positions behind a few of the biobeds and looked back at the infirmary entrance with concern. The reason why became apparent soon thereafter as four Federation Marines trotted into the infirmary.
The officer in the lead locked eyes on Dr. Nelson. “Doctor, have you seen…”
The Multeks suddenly let out a battle cry and leapt from their positions. The infirmary was instantly filled with paintballs, trapping Nelson and the Multek doctors in the crossfire. Within seconds, both battling groups had charged out into the mall concourse, leaving four doctors groaning on the floor and colored destruction in their wake.
For globs of paint, those things really hurt! Dr. Nelson moaned again and rolled over, her head throbbing from multiple impacts. “Nelson…to Security.”
“Are you okay, Doc?” Lieutenant Commander Russell’s voice asked, alarmed.
“No. They’re in the mall.”
“Who? Who’s in the mall?” Russell demanded.
She was in too much pain for this. “Shut up and go look! Nelson out!” she shouted, closing the channel and sending another wave of pain through her skull.
This just proved her belief that medicine was full of surprises. For example, evidently the first patients the Multek doctors would care for would be themselves. Funny universe.
At least it would be funny if she didn’t ache so damn badly.
She started crawling toward the lab cart where her hypospray and sweet relief waited.
“Through these doors is Dillon’s, the most exclusive restaurant on Waystation or in any of the neighboring sectors,” Mr. Auditmi said grandly as he, the Multeks, and Yeoman Jones stood outside the frosted glass doors of the eating establishment.
The Multeks squinted and futilely attempted to peer through the opaque doors.
Jones didn’t want to ask the question. She knew the answer. But something inside her just had to do it.
“Are we going inside?”
“No,” Auditmi said.
“Why not?” Frequoq Wuddle demanded. His patience had been wearing thinner and thinner as door after door was closed to them.
“I would not dream of disturbing the diners enjoying our spectacular lunch selections.”
“Then let’s have lunch,” Jones said.
Auditmi slowly looked her way, his face filled with amusement. “And will you be footing the bill for this meal, Yeoman? I was not aware that your credit allowance was robust enough to feed six.”
“Six!” Jones exclaimed. “I’d have to pay for you, too!”
“It seems only appropriate, since I am taking the time to serve as your host.”
“If you were really our host, you’d be paying for it!” Jones shot back. “Or does Bradley’s hospitality not extend that far.”
“You cannot seriously expect President Dillon to subsidize a meal for people who may very well go back to their planet and attempt to duplicate his recipes in order to lure away his customers!” Auditmi said. “If you think that I would jeopardize Dillon Enterprises in that way, you must be…MMMMPH! MMMPH! MMMMMPH!”
From out of nowhere, a projectile had slammed into the Zakdorn’s head, exploding into a bright glob of color that covered his face and filled his mouth, effectively rendering him mute.
“Get down!” Jones screamed, grabbing Wuddle’s arm and yanking him to the deck as three Federation Marines charged toward them firing more paintballs. Following Jones’s lead, the Department of Hospitality Services Directors dropped to the floor as paint splattered against the walls and doors above them.
“What the hell are you doing?” Jones demanded, jumping to her feet as the marines surrounded the Multeks.
“Prepare to fire,” the corporal leading the marine group said, ignoring Jones.
“Fire?” Jones exclaimed. “Why? And with paint? What is going on?”
Before the marines could answer (assuming that they were even going to bother to answer), they were pelted with a barrage of paintballs from down the corridor leading from the Starfleet Suites lobby to Dillon’s. The marines quickly spotted the source of the fire: four Multek soldiers.
“Take them down!” the corporal shouted, storming back down the corridor with the other marines.
“What was that?” Frequoq Wuddle asked in shock once they were gone. “And those were my people! Why were they shooting at the marines? And what’s with the paint?”
“I have no idea,” Jones said. “But I think we’d better comm Ops.”
Auditmi agreed emphatically. “MMMMMPH!”
The was all somehow Colonel Lazlo’s fault. Captain Beck was sure of it. Maybe she would have been better off just leaving the training of the Multek troops in Russell’s hands, but no. She just had to give Lazlo the benefit of the doubt and let him use his techniques. And now she had a borderline riot on her hands.
“Lieutenant Commander Porter isn’t going to be happy about this,” Lieutenant Mason observed from the Operations/Science console as the main viewscreen in Ops panned across the lower level concourse of Starfleet Square Mall. The place was a wreck. Beck knew that it couldn’t be quite as bad as when the Collectors had attacked a couple of months earlier, but somehow with the paint splatters everywhere, it looked worse.
Beck looked over at Lieutenant Laru Hassna, who was currently manning the tactical console. “Any word from Russell?”
“Not specifically. I’m sure security teams are responding, though.”
“And the latinum is in the mail.”
“Excuse me, Captain?”
Lieutenant Waits jogged passed the mall’s Andorian restaurant, his four member security squad close behind. As they passed, they could see several marines and Multeks firing back and forth.
“Sir,” Ensign Brendan Shust called to Waits. “Aren’t we going to go in and break that up?”
“In there? Are you nuts?” Waits shouted back. “I am not getting between them and the Andorians. We’d be lucky to get out alive.”
“Excellent point, sir.”
“We’ve got other problems anyway,” Waits said as they rounded the bend toward the zero-gravity hoverrink. Above them, in the food court that looked down on the hoverrink, was another group of Multeks. They were firing across the large gap of the hoverrink to the opposite ledge, where several marines had taken up positions.
“Cease fire!” Waits shouted, climbing up on the railing surrounding the hoverrink. “Drop your weapons or we will be forced to take action!”
He got his answer as a hail of paintballs rained down on them from both sides. “Shoot them! Shoot!” Waits screamed, covering his head with one hand as he fired upwards wildly with the other.
The other security officers opened fire.
“They hit my phaser!” Ensign Shust suddenly cried in alarm. Sure enough, the emitter was now coated in sludgy black paint. “Why you!” He upped the power setting to heavy stun and aimed back at the Multeks. He’d show them. He’d burn right through that paint and take them out in the process.
As soon as his thumb hit the fire control on the phaser, he sensed there was a slight problem with his plan. The beam didn’t break through the paint. Instead, the phaser began to hum…and the hum was getting louder.
“Overload!” Shust screamed, lobbing the phaser onto the hoverrink. The anti-grav effects of the rink actually bounced the phaser upwards and…
The ensuing explosion went off just as the phaser reached the upper level of the mall. Waits and the security officers were knocked to the deck by the force of the blast. They quickly scrambled back to their feet to get ready for the next assault from above.
It never came.
“I got them!” Shust exclaimed happily.
“Congratulations,” Waits said, craning his neck to see the upper level. “And you only had to blow up the whole food court to do it.”
Shust suddenly didn’t look quite so pleased with himself.
Lieutenant Commander Russell could hear the disturbance around the corner ahead. Shouts, threats, the “pffft” of paintballs firing, then the wet thud of the projectiles slamming into walls and people.
“Phasers on stun,” Russell said to the group of security officers with him. “Remember, stun! They are not carrying deadly weapons. Stun!”
“Okay. Okay,” Ensign Yuen said. “I get it. Sheesh. Accidentally blast off a leg off of one old woman, and you never hear the end of it.”
The sounds around the corner suddenly stopped. Russell froze in place, signaling for his team to do the same. “Jacob, Watson, check it out,” he whispered. Ensigns Jacob and Watson carefully crept around the corner. All was quiet for several seconds until.
PFFFT! PFFFT PFFFT PFFFFFT!
Watson raced back around the corner a moment later, out of breath.
“Jacob got mauved!” she exclaimed in a panic. Soon after, Ensign Jacob crawled around the corner, his body coated from head to toe in mauve paint.
“Owwwww,” he said weakly, then collapsed to the deck.
“Jacob!” Russell cried. “That’s it. No one gets mauved on my watch. GO!!!!!”
The security team stormed around the corner, phasers firing.
Throughout the station, similar scenes repeated themselves as the Multeks and the Federation Marines were all taught a very important fact of life:
Paintballs are no match for a good phaser.
“I really don’t know what to say, Captain,” Frequoq Wuddle said as he and Beck stood in front of the viewscreen in Ops looking at the view of Cargo Bay Three where the Multek Troops and Federation Marines were now being held. “I’m ashamed my people were a part of this.”
“Don’t take it too hard. There was a lack of cool heads on both sides,” Captain Beck said.
“Never mind. In any case, it wasn’t anything a bit of stunning couldn’t fix.”
“But look at them all now,” Wuddle said. “Multeks and Federation Marines in the same room, and not one single fight is breaking out.”
“I think they all realize they were being moronic,” Beck replied. “That’s one nice thing about the paint. It really drives home how stupid they look. Of course, it also helps that the primary instigator isn’t there.”
“Yes. Where is Colonel Lazlo?”
“My people are discussing the situation with him.”
“Why do I sense that this discussion does not actually involve speaking?”
“It might. Although, I would imagine that only the ‘cuss’ part of discussion is relevant to what’s happening.”
“F***!” Colonel Lazlo shouted as another paintball smacked into the back of his head while he ran around the marine training center trying to avoid the continuous stream of paintballs zipping at him from the line of rifles held by Lieutenant Commander Russell and eight of his security officers.
Back in Ops, Wuddle watched as something amazing was starting to happen on the viewscreen. His people and the marines were talking to each other. Not only talking, but in some cases they were actually laughing.
“Part of me never thought this was possible,” he said softly. “Even with incontrovertible proof, I worried that my people would refuse to accept that other life existed in the universe.”
“Maybe you weren’t giving them enough credit,” Beck said with a slight smile.
“Maybe not. Still it’s amazing to see Multeks interacting with others without fear.”
“They might even make some friends,” Beck said.
“Friends with people they were trying to kill just an hour ago.”
“They were only paintballs,” Beck said.
“The animosity was there.”
“Yeah. But now it’s not. Most people can be pretty decent if you give them a chance. I seem to remember you giving me a chance a few years ago. That first step is what led to this…this meaning the getting along part, not the paintball fight. We could skip that.”
“Oh well. Better get them cleaned up. Mason, get to it.”
Mason tapped a control on his console and instantly dozens of nozzles popped out of the walls of the cargo bay and started spraying intense jets of cold water into the crowd of Marines and Multeks.
As their surprised screams echoed through Ops, Beck grinned.
Maybe she was enjoying this a little too much.
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 56280.6. The Multeks have returned home after picking our brains for the last few days. Despite obstacles like a tight-lipped Zakdorn and a minor station-wide rampage, the Multeks seem to think their time here was useful. I guess we’ll find out when they open their doors to the universe. Frequoq Wuddle mentioned something about a big Grand Opening celebration in a few months. What do I get the feeling I’m getting an invite?
“That’s a long ways off, though, and I have far more pressing concerns. For one thing, my station currently looks like it was attacked by a horde of disgruntled abstract artists. Someone has to clean the place up, and fortunately I have just the people. Colonel Lazlo wasn’t very happy that I turned his entire battalion into wall washers, but he’s wisely decided not to fight me on this particular issue…most likely because he doesn’t want me to mention the interstellar incident he nearly caused to his superiors. Did I just say that in my log? Whoops. How careless of me.
“On the bright side, maybe in the future Lazlo will remember just who’s in charge here.”
STARFLEET COMMAND EARTH
“You are sure this is what you want?” Fleet Admiral Nosira Ra’al asked steepling her long elegant fingers as she rested her elbows on her desk. The Hinaree fixed the man across from her with a look somewhere between confusion and concern. “You have had an exceptional career. Any post in the fleet could be yours.”
“I know. This is the post that I want,” Admiral Leelan Fonn replied. Fonn had the long white hair and accompanying long white mustache typical of Efrosian males, but unlike most Efrosians, he kept his hair tightly bound in a ponytail down his back, giving him a rather stern appearance.
“You have read up on the place?”
“Yes, I have,” Fonn said simply.
“And you still want to go there?”
“All right,” Ra’al said, a soft smile crossing her the smooth lines of her porcelain features. “I guess a man like you just isn’t happy unless he’s out on the frontier.”
“So you will grant my request?”
“I wouldn’t dream of refusing it. I’ll have Commodore Gould handle the necessary arrangements. Once everything is finalized, we’ll contact Waystation and let them know to expect the arrival of their new station commander.”