Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“Words From On High”
By Alan Decker
Considering their long friendship together, it wasn’t at all unusual for Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell and Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter to be at the same location on Waystation at the same time when they were off duty. Usually, though, these locations were places such as the food court or Victoria’s Pub. They did not usually include anything remotely associated with work. Russell especially had a very strict policy about that. So when Captain Lisa Beck noticed that her Chief of Security and Chief of Operations/Science Officer were both in a docking bay on their off hours overseeing the unloading of cargo from a newly- arrived freighter, she decided the anomaly of it all was more than enough to warrant a visit to the cargo bay in question.
“Don’t you two have lives?” she asked, walking up behind Russell and Porter as the two men looked over the contents of a crate that had just come off of the freighter in the arms of one of the docking bay crewmen.
“Used to,” Porter said without looking away from his tricorder readings. “Then I got assigned here.”
“I’m such a slave driver,” Beck replied, peering over Porter’s shoulder into the open crate. It was filled with pottery and small figurines. “But I didn’t order either of you to be here. You guys starting a new hobby?”
“Inhaling ancient dust,” Porter said.
“Am I going to have to get direct, Craig?” Beck asked.
“Yeoman Jones thought we should check this stuff out,” Russell said.
“Uh huh,” Beck said. “And you’re taking orders from her now?”
“She asks nicely,” Porter said.
“So what does she think is so interesting about all of this?”
“She wasn’t sure,” Russell said. “It’s a collection of Piranthi relics that are going to be auctioned off. Evidently when the Piranthi contacted her, they were very insistent that the auction had to take place on Waystation on a particular day at a particular time. She’s worried it’s a cover for some kind of attack.”
“I really have to get her Security training started,” Beck muttered as she looked across the docking bay at three figures standing by the freighter. They were completely hidden by the enveloping deep blue robes they wore.
“Is that them?” she asked, gesturing toward them with a move of her head.
“Some of them,” Porter said. “They just seem to be watching over the relics, though. The pilot and auctioneer are much less creepy.”
“Why would they want to hold the auction on Waystation?” Beck said, thinking out loud more than anything else. “Piranthi is on the other side of the quadrant from here.”
“That could be the point,” Russell said. “Stolen goods maybe, but if they’re stolen, nothing about them has hit the Galacti- Pol network. I checked before I came down here.”
“Thorough, ain’t he?” Porter said, closing the tricorder and signaling for the docking bay crewman to continue on with the crate.
“Maybe an interested buyer requested that they come here,” Beck said.
“Possibly,” Porter said. “Still, Tina seemed a little freaked out about the whole thing. She said people usually don’t get that worked up about reserving space on the station for an event. We told her we’d check it out, so here we are…checking.”
“It’s a bunch of really old stuff desperately in need of dusting.”
“Thrilling,” Beck said.
“You’re telling us,” Russell said as a crewman approached with the next crate.
“Ops to Beck,” Commander Walter Morales’s voice said over the comm system.
“Go ahead,” Beck called.
“Admiral Wagner is on the comm asking to speak with you…privately.”
“All right,” Beck said. “Transfer him down to the docking control room in Docking Bay Nine.”
“He’ll be waiting for you. Ops out.”
“Maybe the Admiral wants to tell me all about some massive Piranthi conspiracy Starfleet has just uncovered,” Beck said to Russell and Porter with a slight smirk before she headed into the small docking control room at the far end of the docking bay. She slid into the chair in front of the control console and activated the monitor. The view of the docking bay beyond on the screen shifted to the face of Admiral Thomas Wagner. Normally Wagner had a smile for Beck. Despite the fact that Beck had come from the Secondprize, she and Wagner had developed something of a friendly relationship. Today, though, his face was a cold mask.
“Captain Beck,” he said with a slight nod of his head.
“Admiral,” Beck replied, reflexively tensing. Something was definitely up, and it was obviously not good.
“Captain, I have been ordered to inform you that a runabout carrying Admiral Leelan Fonn is en route to you. It should arrive tomorrow evening. Upon his arrival, Admiral Fonn will be assuming command of Waystation.”
Beck’s jaw dropped as Wagner’s words registered with her, hitting with the force of a blow to her gut. She tried to cover her reaction as a wave of nausea radiated out from her mid-section, but she knew she wasn’t doing a very good job of it.
“I’m sorry, Lisa,” Wagner said, the mask slipping into sadness. “There was nothing I could do.”
“Uh huh,” she replied, nodding numbly. “Was it…was it something I did?” she asked. It was a stupid, unprofessional question to ask, but her station was being ripped away from her. Who the hell cared about professionalism now?
“Not at all,” Wagner said. “Admiral Fonn requested the posting. Fleet Admiral Ra’al actually tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted that Waystation was where he wanted to be.”
“So he has the power to just come in and take over?”
“He is an admiral. Over half of our starbases have admirals in command. Waystation has become high profile enough that it caught an admiral’s eye. You could consider that a testament to the work you’ve done out there.”
“Yay, me,” Beck said flatly.
“I know there’s no way to make this news easy to take, but I thought I should be the one to tell you instead of someone from Ra’al’s office.”
“Thank you,” Beck said trying to force a smile. She couldn’t manage it. “What does this mean for me? Am I being transferred?”
“No,” Wagner said. “But I don’t think anyone would blame you if you put in a request. I can’t guarantee anything, but I can’t imagine you wouldn’t get a starship command when one became available.”
“If I request a transfer. What if I don’t? What am I supposed to do if I stay here?”
“You’ll be second in command. Realistically, you’ll probably end up doing all of the administrative things you do now while Admiral Fonn handles the actual command duties.”
“So he’s in charge, and I get to do the paperwork.”
“If I ever make admiral, remind me never to pull something like this.”
“I’ll do that,” Wagner said. “And for your own sake, consider that transfer request. You’ll be expected to stay there to help with the transition, but after that think about your career. This is no time to be stubborn.”
“I’ll think about it,” Beck said. “It’s just hard to imagine leaving.”
“You always feel that way about your first command, but you’ll have other opportunities as long as you leave. You aren’t going to get anywhere if you sit on Waystation working as Fonn’s secretary.”
“I will not be a secretary. Of that you can be certain.”
Wagner smiled. “I know you won’t. Good luck, Lisa. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
“I will. Thank you, Admiral.”
Wagner nodded, then closed the channel.
Beck rolled the chair back from the console and just sat for several moments in the empty room. Waystation was no longer hers. Someone else would be taking command. She was out.
What the hell was she going to do now?
Once thing was certain. She wasn’t going to figure it out sitting there. She needed more information, and she needed it fast.
Lieutenant Commander Porter was too engrossed in his tricorder readings to notice Captain Beck stride out of the docking control room, a look of fierce determination on her face.
“Look at this,” Porter said to Russell as he ran the tricorder across a smooth oval onyx stone he held in his left hand.
“What am I looking at?” Russell asked confused.
“Russell,” Beck interrupted as she reached them. “We need a briefing. Now.”
“Look at this,” Porter said, turning the tricorder to Beck. “The level of chroniton radiation leeching out this stone is…”
“It can wait,” Beck snapped. “Did you hear me, Russell?”
“A briefing. Now. But…”
“Find out everything you can about an Admiral Leelan Fonn. We’ll meet in Ops in twenty minutes.”
“So now means twenty minutes from now because you want me to look up this Fonn guy,” Russell said, clarifying.
Beck was already on her way toward the exit. “Twenty minutes!” she shouted back.
“We’re going to have to leave for a bit,” Porter called over to the robed figures standing next to the freighter. “But I’m confiscating this rock!” he added, holding up the onyx stone.
The hoods of the robes nodded slowly in acknowledgment.
“I expected more of an argument,” Porter said.
Russell agreed. “Yeah. That nod was just…”
Commander Walter Morales, Dr. Amedon Nelson, and Yeoman Tina Jones were understandably confused when they were summoned to a last-minute briefing. Russell hadn’t been willing to call it an emergency briefing, since he and Porter weren’t exactly sure that there was an emergency going on. In fact, knowing that somehow an Admiral Leelan Fonn was involved in Beck’s demand for a briefing hadn’t done much to make them any less confused than Morales, Nelson, or Jones as to what all of this was about.
The group gathered in the Ops briefing room as ordered, though, and waited for their commanding officer to arrive and hopefully explain what the heck was going on.
Captain Beck didn’t keep them waiting long. Without a word, she entered the briefing room and moved to the head of the table. She didn’t sit, though, instead choosing to rest her hands against the table and address the group.
“I just got off the comm with Admiral Wagner, and there is a situation that I need to make you aware of. First, let me assure you that we’re not about to be attacked,” she said. “The station is not in any danger.”
“Why am I sensing a huge ‘but’ here?” Dr. Nelson said.
Beck took a deep breath, steeling herself to say her next words. “There’s going to be a change in personnel. As soon as he arrives, Admiral Leelan Fonn will be assuming command of Waystation.”
As she expected, the room soon erupted into a loud cry of “WHAT?” followed by a cacophony of protests and shouting. After several moments, Beck was finally able to calm them all down.
“Why is Starfleet doing this?” Nelson demanded. “Are you being punished for something?”
“It’s nothing like that,” Beck said. “Admiral Fonn is…well…an admiral. They get certain perks, one of which is the ability to choose their own posting in some circumstances. Fonn decided that he wanted to be here, and Starfleet granted his request. It’s pretty much that simple.”
“You’re getting shafted,” Nelson said. “It’s that simple.”
“I’ll still be here. I don’t pretend to know exactly how it’s all going to work, but I’ll be here. But before Fonn arrives, I felt we should find out as much as we could. I asked Mister Russell to prepare a brief biography of the admiral. Russell?”
“I wouldn’t call it a complete bio, but it’s what I could pull together in twenty minutes,” Russell said, getting up from his chair and walking to the viewscreen at the front of the briefing room, padd in hand. He tapped the padd, causing the briefing room viewscreen to activate and display the image of an Efrosian male. All Efrosian males had long white hair and accompanying long mustaches, but this Efrosian’s dark orange skin was somewhat wrinkled, betraying his age.
“Admiral Leelan Fonn. Seventy-six years old. Efrosian,” Russell said, reading from his padd. “Distinguished career. Enough awards, honors, and medals to fill a bathtub. Served as Captain of the USS Forman for twenty years. He was promoted to admiral seventeen years ago, and since that time he’s commanded Starbase 689, near the Romulan Neutral Zone. During the Dominion War, Starbase 689 was attacked nine times by Jem’Hadar forces but never taken.”
“Sounds like we’re getting an old war horse,” Porter said.
“But why would someone with that kind of career want to come all the way out here?” Morales asked.
“I have no idea,” Beck said. “But he’s coming. Was there anything else, Russell?”
“That’s the main stuff…unless you want to know who he was dancing with at the Admiral’s Ball last year.”
“We’ll pass. I guess that’s it then.”
“What should we tell our staffs?” Porter asked.
“Nothing,” Beck said. “I’ll make some kind of announcement. Actually, it’s not like I’m dying or anything. I’ll just send a text comm stationwide. It’s no big deal.” Nelson opened her mouth to speak, but Beck cut her off with a curt “Dismissed.” The other officers exchanged glances, then headed for the exit. Nelson, however, remained. Beck tried to get out of the briefing room, but the doctor was blocking her path.
“I don’t want to talk about this, Amedon.”
“Fine, but don’t say crap like ‘it’s no big deal.’ It is a big deal. You’re…”
“…getting shafted. I know. You already mentioned it.”
“Fine,” Nelson said. “Just answer me one thing.”
“Are you really going to be here?”
“I said I would.”
“For how long?”
Beck didn’t answer.
“That’s what I thought,” Nelson said, walking out the door.
Captain Beck’s memo went out over the station comm-net later that evening, and her “no big deal” sent shockwaves throughout the station. Ih’mad, proprietor of the station’s Andorian restaurant, immediately petitioned his government to protest Beck’s removal, and, if that didn’t work, to declare war on the Federation. Earthly Eats promptly decided to honor the captain with “Beck Night.” All the authentic North Carolina Barbequed Squid you could eat for eight credits (this was, of course, ignoring the fact that squid were rarely, if ever barbequed, a detail that Beck had tried to explain to the Bolians who ran the restaurant on several occasions).
In the Dillon Enterprises’ suites, Auditmi, the Zakdorn Acting CEO of Bradley Dillon’s massive corporation, tried to fend off a heart attack. President Dillon was determined that both Waystation and the Federation as a whole remain relatively unchanged while he was away on the USS Explorer on his mission to locate the Bast. Auditmi and Federation Vice President Roloi had been explicitly ordered to do whatever was in their power to head-off or stall anything that would result in massive changes to either the business or political climate to which Bradley would be returning.
Auditmi was fairly certainly that President Dillon would consider an alteration in the station’s command structure of this magnitude to be a change to be avoided. He would have to inform the President during their daily comm conference in the morning.
Until then, he was fairly certain that he would not be getting much sleep.
The next morning, Auditmi was in his office right on schedule waiting for his comm signal to be acknowledged by the President’s office on the Explorer. If this had happened just a few weeks later, the Explorer would have been out of instantaneous communications range, and he could have just sent President Dillon a letter.
Now, though, he was going to have to do this face to face.
After a veritable eternity of staring at the UFP Symbol on his monitor, Auditmi finally saw the image shift to the inside of President Dillon’s office on the Explorer, which pretty much looked like his office on Waystation. The man did like keeping his creature comforts close to him.
“Good morning, Auditmi,” Bradley Dillon said, reclining in his massive faux leather chair with his fingers steepled in front of him. “How is my business empire today?”
“All is well on that front, Mister President,” Auditmi said. “The daily ledger reports for the Dillon’s Supply Depots are all in line with what we would expect for this time at the various locations. The other holdings of Dillon Enterprises are all veritably unchanged since yesterday.”
“Very good,” Bradley said. “You are aware that we will soon be outside of direct comm range?”
“Yes, Mister President.”
“This means, of course, that we’ll have to forego our daily chats. Since everything seems to be in order, perhaps you could send a weekly status report. If something that requires my attention occurs, by all means contact me immediately, but matters seem to be well in hand.”
“I am trying my best, sir.”
“I would expect nothing less from you, Auditmi. But if that’s everything, I will bring this comm to an end.”
“There is one small matter,” Auditmi said hesitantly.
“Yes?” Bradley asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“It’s a small thing concerning the Waystation command crew. Honestly, I do not see how it would affect the Federation or Dillon Enterprises, but you wanted to know of any changes.”
“What is it, Auditmi?” Bradley asked placidly.
“Captain Beck has been replaced. An admiral will be arriving this evening to assume command.”
“What?” Bradley exclaimed, rocketing forward in his chair. “This isn’t proceeding according to plan! I didn’t foresee this at all!”
“It did come as something of a surprise to everyone on board,” Auditmi said.
“This can’t happen. I know Beck. I understand Beck. I do not need some interloper from Starfleet affecting that.”
“Surely the change in command will not affect us that much.”
“Instability is bad for business,” Bradley said. “Who knows what kind of ramifications this will have on my business operations across the quadrant while Waystation adjusts? Yes, it seems minor, but what if confusion in Ops causes a failure in the comm system, which prevents vital news from Antares from reaching you? It’s this kind of ripple effect that you have to watch out for!”
“But you’re the president. Can’t you just order Starfleet to recall this admiral?”
Bradley sighed (something Auditmi had never seen the President and CEO of Dillon Enterprises do) and leaned back in his chair. “I do not believe that it would be wise for me to act directly in this matter. I doubt my request would be met favorably.”
“So there is nothing we can do,” Auditmi said.
“No. There is nothing I can do,” Bradley replied.
“Good day, Auditmi,” Bradley said, then closed the channel, leaving the Zakdorn to ponder the President’s words. Bradley’s instructions were clear. Auditmi was to take some kind of action to stop the arrival of Admiral Fonn.
Part of Captain Beck (a very large part of her actually) wanted to spend the day hiding in her quarters. She just didn’t want to deal with the sympathetic looks and well-wishes from the residents and crew of the station. The sting of her demotion was bad enough as it was. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t technically a demotion. She would still be a captain and all, but this sure as hell felt like she was being busted down a few pegs.
Hiding wouldn’t help, though. If anything, it would probably just make her seem petty and damage her ability to do her job once Admiral Fonn was in place as the new commanding officer. No, she was just going to have to leave her quarters and get on with the business of running the station for the few hours that she had left to be in charge.
She could go to Ops, but that would also mean visiting her office, an office that would no longer be hers by the end of the day. If she went up there, she’d feel obligated to pack, and she just couldn’t face that prospect right now.
Instead, she chose to see to the issue Lieutenant Commander Porter tried to bring to her attention the evening before. Something in the Piranthi relics due to be auctioned off today was giving off a great deal of chroniton radiation, and that was never good. Of course, with chronitons involved, Porter’s interest would be peaked. The man just couldn’t resist anything with temporal implications.
As she expected, Porter was holed up in Science Lab Two with his confiscated artifact. Beck hadn’t paid much attention to it when Porter waved it in her face the night before, but seeing it resting on an exam table in the lab, she realized she hadn’t missed much.
It was a rock.
A smooth black shiny rock.
Porter, however, was zipping back and forth from the table to his lab consoles like it was the most exciting thing ever. He was so enthralled that he didn’t even hear her enter the room.
“There’s nothing in the universe as touching as the relationship between a man and his rock,” she said, after standing unnoticed by the doors for several moments watching Porter work.
“Captain!” Porter exclaimed, spinning around. “I didn’t realize you’d come in.”
“That happens to me a lot down here. I think I need to alarm the door or something.”
“It just shows you like your work,” Beck said.
As though he just remembered her situation, Porter’s face filled with concern. “How are you doing?”
“I’m here about the rock, not for a counseling session,” Beck replied, stepping up to the lab table. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to talk with you about this last night.”
“You had other things on your mind. We all did.”
“Was this the only auction item giving off anomalous readings?” Beck asked, focusing on the issue at hand rather than the one that was at that very moment heading their way on a runabout.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m picking up significant amounts of chroniton radiation leeching out of this thing, but I can’t figure out why…or how. Other than the radiation, it’s just a rock.”
“May I?” Beck said, moving to pick up the stone.
“Sure. It seems safe,” Porter said, heading across the room to get the neutrino emission beam. “I’ve run every passive scan we have,” he continued, rolling the cart holding the neutrino beam over toward the lab table. “I don’t want to damage the stone, but I can’t risk giving it back to the Piranthi until I track down the source of this chroniton radiation. Next thing you know, somebody will plop it into their aquarium and accidentally rewrite the entire timeline.”
“Oh yeah. There’s a comforting thought,” Beck said, turning the rock over in her hands. It sure seemed like just a rock to her.
“We’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t…” Porter stopped suddenly as the cart hit the edge of one of the lab consoles. He tripped forward, knocking into the neutrino beam emitter and activating it.
Beck managed to turn part way toward him and utter “Are you ok…” before the neutrino beam slammed into her…
…and suddenly she was outside in the middle of what appeared to be a primitive village. Wooden structures with thatch roofs surrounded the central courtyard area where she was now standing. Several beings, who had been going about their business, screamed and gaped in horror and astonishment at the woman that had just materialized in their midst. They were all mostly hairless other than a long shock of deep red hair extending down their backs from the rear of their skulls. Between the hair and their pale-green skin, Beck quickly realized who she was looking at: the Piranthi.
She had larger concerns, though, such as the fact that Porter had zapped her and sent her into what appeared to be the Piranthi of the past. She suddenly realized that the rock she clutched in her hands was currently glowing a pale yellow, which probably wasn’t a good thing.
Reflexively, she dropped it as the Piranthi crowd gathered around, jabbering incoherently. The universal translator in her commbadge kicked in, allowing her to understand their frightened words. She was going to get lynched.
This was all Porter’s fault.
“When I get back to Waystation, I am going to have some words for…”
And suddenly she was back in the lab on Waystation again.
“…him,” she finished.
“Are you okay?” Porter asked in a near panic.
Beck checked herself over. “Fine, I think,” she said. “What the hell happened?”
“I accidentally zapped you with a highly-focused neutrino beam, and you vanished. Do you know where you went?”
“I was surrounded by Piranthi, but the place was very low-tech. I think I was in their past. How did you get me back?”
“I didn’t. I didn’t even have time to get a tricorder scan before you reappeared. Wait. Where’s the rock?”
“I dropped it.”
“You dropped it!” Porter exclaimed.
“It was glowing! It hadn’t glowed before!”
Porter calmed down, thinking things over. “That may be how you got back. The neutrino beam must have excited the chronitons in the stone, which took you to that place and time, but you somehow must have still been temporally anchored back here. When you dropped the stone, you snapped back to Waystation.”
“See! Dropping it was a good thing!”
“I can’t study it now!”
“You couldn’t study it while it was with me in the past either,” Beck said.
“Did you want your captain back?”
“Then forget the rock,” Beck said charging toward the door. “Or forget about it in a few minutes after we finish yelling at the Piranthi for bringing that thing onto my station!”
They found the Piranthi delegation in the auditorium making final preparations for the auction that was due to begin within the hour. Beck burst through the doors and stormed down the aisle toward the stage, her fury building with each step. Somewhere in her psyche, she knew there was no reason to be this upset. She was just transferring her anger about Admiral Fonn to this situation, and she if she wasn’t careful, she was going to go straight off the deep end.
But going off the deep end sounded pretty appealing to her at the moment.
She skipped the stairs and instead leapt up onto the auditorium stage as Porter jogged down the aisle behind her struggling to keep up.
“Who’s in charge here?” Beck demanded, planting her hands on her hips and glaring at the seven Piranthi on the stage. The three robed figures from the night before, who had been observing the preparations from the rear of the stage, stepped forward, their movements an eerily synchronized glide as they approached. The trio stopped just in front of Beck and pulled their hoods back, revealing three serenely smiling Piranthi faces.
“You are,” the central one of the three said adoringly.
“I’m in charge of this station,” Beck said impatiently. “I want to speak to the one of you who brought that rock here!”
“The stone was destined for you, just as you are destined to impart the words to us.”
Beck’s mind had a quick battle between the forces of confusion and the forces of anger. Fortunately, Porter reached her and put a calming hand on her arm before the forces of anger could bash the confusion into submission.
“This destiny stuff is interesting and all,” Porter said, “but you have transported an object with unpredictable temporal properties aboard a Starfleet facility. That’s kind of a crime. We just want to know where it came from and what you were doing with it.”
“Her Greatness brought it to us, and we have returned it to her, completing the circle. The time is at hand, and we are in the appointed place. We will now receive the words.”
“Oh, I’ve got some words,” Beck said, winding up for one hell of a tirade. Before she could start, Porter yanked her off to the side of the stage. “What are you doing?” she demanded.
“Stopping you,” he said. “Do you realize what’s happened here?”
“Cryptic robed guys are pissing me off.”
“You’re a part of a predestination paradox! Well, actually, it’s more of an ontological paradox, but…”
“Oh no. No no no. No time crap,” Beck said with growing alarm. If there was a way to make today worse, this was it.
Porter continued undaunted. “You said the stone sent you to what looked like the past on Piranthi, right?”
“And you dropped the rock.”
“And what else?”
“What do you mean what else? I was there, I dropped the rock, and then I was back here.”
“You were talking when you reappeared. What exactly did you say?”
“I don’t know exactly. I was blaming you for sending back there. I said something about having some words for you when I got back to Waystation,” Beck replied.
“Words,” Porter said. “Someone who saw you appear must have written down what you said and saved the stone.”
“So wait. I went back in time and gave them a stone which they then gave to me now, so I could take it back in time and give it to them?”
“So where did the stone come from?”
“That’s why it’s an ontological paradox,” Porter said.
“Um…right. Now that we’ve settled that we can get back to…” Beck trailed off as the full import of what this all meant struck her. “Oh no. They made me part of their religion, didn’t they?”
“Looks like it. You’ve possibly been a part of their belief system for thousands of years.”
“And they want me to say something to them.”
“That’s why they’re here.”
“And if I don’t, I could be shattering their society.”
“What the hell am I supposed to tell them?”
“Not much. Probably just the wisdom of the ages,” Porter said.
“Great. No pressure,” Beck muttered.
“You could just go talk to them,” Porter said. “At this point they might think anything you tell them is some kind of revelation.”
“No way. I’m not going to do that. This is possibly the future of their planet we’re messing around with here. I need time to prepare something. Stall them.”
“What?” Porter exclaimed as Beck hopped off the stage and started toward the doors.
“Tell them to expect me at 1700 hours,” Beck called back.
“Is that enough time to come up with the meaning of life?”
“I damn sure hope so.”
“This is Fleet Admiral Ra’al,” the delicate-featured Hinaree woman on Auditmi’s monitor said, a hint of irritation evident in her voice. “You wished to speak with me.”
“Yes, Admiral Ra’al. I appreciate you allowing me to take up a little bit of your time,” Auditmi said with a quick bow of his head. “My name is Auditmi. I am the Acting CEO of Dillon Enterprises.”
“Yes yes. Commodore Gould told me who you were before he put you through to me. Frankly, Mister Auditmi, I am not in the habit of receiving or responding to comms from civilians. You told the Commodore that this was a matter of some urgency; although, I cannot imagine what issues of yours could possibly concern me.”
“I can certainly understand why you would feel that way, and, to be perfectly honest, what I am about to request does not really concern you at all. However, I hope you will hear me out.”
“You have my attention, but my patience is not infinite.”
“Of course. I have recently learned that Captain Lisa Beck of Waystation is about to be replaced. As you know, the headquarters of Dillon Enterprises is also on Waystation, and we do not agree with this decision at all. Captain Beck is an excellent officer, and we would ask that Starfleet keep her here in command where she belongs.”
“You want me to recall my admiral.”
“Yes. That is exactly what I want.”
Ra’al smiled slightly. “Now why, pray tell, should I allow a business such as yours to dictate where my officers are posted?”
“I am not trying to dictate anything, but I would hope that out of respect for President Dillon, you would consider my request.”
“Ahhh,” Ra’al said nodding. “So this was Bradley Dillon’s idea.”
“Absolutely not. He has no idea that I am speaking to you. However, I am sure he would consider the recall of your admiral to be a personal favor.”
“Starfleet has done more than enough favors for Bradley Dillon,” Ra’al said. “In case you had not noticed, he currently has an entire Galaxy class starship and crew at his disposal, so that he can run around the galaxy chasing myths.”
“With all due respect, the Bast are not myths.”
“They might as well be,” Ra’al snapped.
“I understand your feelings, but President Dillon and the Bast are not really the issue here. A fine officer is about to be summarily displaced at the whim of Starfleet, and I can see no reason for it!” Auditmi said, growing flustered.
“This was not done on whim. Admiral Fonn has had a distinguished career in this organization and has earned some say in the direction of his career. Despite my efforts to dissuade him, he wanted to go to Waystation, and that’s where he is going. I will not deny his request just because Dillon Enterprises is more comfortable with Captain Beck. Change happens, Mister Auditmi. The sooner you and Bradley Dillon understand that, the better for you. Good day. Ra’al out.”
The channel was cut abruptly, leaving Auditmi gaping impotently at a blank screen.
So much for that. It was evidently time for Plan B.
Now he just had to figure out what Plan B was.
With work to be done, Beck had retreated to the quiet of her office. Since she had a task to focus on, namely setting the course for the future of an entire world, petty matters such as packing up her belongings didn’t cross her mind.
In fact, the only thing that pulled her away from her computer screen after several hours of intense concentration was the sound of her door chime.
“Come on in,” she called, looking up from her screen to see Commander Morales stepping into the office.
“Am I disturbing you?” he asked.
“No. Not really,” Beck said, leaning back in her chair. “Just trying to get my thoughts together.”
“How is it coming?”
“Wonderful,” Beck said, spinning the desk console toward Morales. The screen was completely blank.
“Hmmm…an interesting approach,” he said diplomatically.
“Great huh?” she replied, shaking her head in exasperation. “Is there something you need me for in Ops?”
“No. We just received word from Admiral Fonn’s runabout. He’s three hours out. I thought I would tell you in person instead of broadcasting it over the comm for all of Ops to hear.”
“Thanks. I appreciate that,” Beck said. “Well, I’m supposed to speak to the Piranthi in about 40 minutes. Maybe I can convince them to take me as a ritual sacrifice.”
“Starfleet tends to frown on that kind of thing.”
“Yeah well, they don’t generally like their officers to become deities either.”
“There is a precedent,” Morales said. “Benjamin Sisko was the Emissary of the Bajoran people.”
“Oh right, and we all know how well that worked out for him,” Beck remarked sarcastically. “Still, I guess I have something else in common with Steph’s older brother now. We could start a deity’s club. He’d probably like that a little too much.”
“Probably,” Morales said.
Beck groaned. “Oh, Morales! What am I going to tell these people? I’m not a writer, and I sure as hell don’t have some great philosophy to impart to them.”
“Maybe you’re trying too hard.”
“Sure. I’m expected to fulfil a prophecy that’s been around for a few thousand years, but no biggie. I’ll just wing it.”
“Did you plan out the speech you gave to the Multek Council of Elders a few months ago?” Morales asked undaunted.
“And that seemed to go okay. You convinced them to open the Enclave to outsiders, which isn’t exactly a small thing.”
“So you’re saying I should wing it.”
“I’m saying you should think about what you believe in, and then tell that to the Piranthi. If they want a philosophy, give them yours. They couldn’t do any better than that.”
“You’re about to get sappy on me, aren’t you?” Beck said with a warm smile.
“A little,” Morales said. “If the Piranthi asked me what I believe in, I’d have an easy answer. I believe in you. I’ve served under you for almost six years now, and not once have I ever seen you act with anything other than the best interests of your crew in mind.”
“I accepted the power of the Q, tortured Russell, rampaged around the galaxy, and almost let you all be killed by a vindictive semi-omnipotent being,” Beck said flatly.
“One minor lapse in judgment. But you came out of it. The point is that you’re a good captain and a great person. The Piranthi couldn’t have a better model to emulate. And there’s no other person in the universe who can command Waystation better than you.”
“Thank you, Walter,” Beck said softly. “That means a lot. It really does.”
“Good,” Morales said. “I meant every word of it.”
“I know. You should get back out there. I need to figure out how to write about what I believe in.”
“If all else fails, just use quotes from other people that express what you want to say.”
“Let somebody else do the writing. I like that,” Beck said.
“I’m happy I could help,” Morales said. “I’ll see you later on then.” He moved to leave.
“Thank you again. You’ve helped a lot. I was nowhere on this before you came by. You may have just helped set the course for the future of an entire planet.”
Morales grinned. “That will be a nice response when Steph asks me how my day was at dinner tonight. I determined the future of an entire planet.”
“Don’t get cocky,” Beck said with a chuckle.
“Yes, ma’am,” Morales said, heading out the door and leaving Beck to her work.
Quotes that sum up her beliefs. Now that shouldn’t be too hard. Time to hit the computer banks.
Well, it wasn’t a speech. That much was certain. After a mad dash through the station’s databanks, Captain Beck had managed to assemble more of a list of ideas than anything else, but, as Morales had pointed out, she’d winged it in the past. At least this time she’d have some words in front of her.
By the time she compiled her list of ideas and made her way back to the auditorium, she was running a good ten minutes late. But then the Piranthi had been waiting for her pronouncement for a few thousand years. Ten more minutes wasn’t going to kill them…she hoped. They weren’t going to commit ritual suicide or anything if their deity didn’t show up at the pronounced time were they?
Beck jogged the last bit of the way to the auditorium and rushed through the doors to find the room quiet. The auction had ended over an hour earlier, and now there were eight Piranthi, including the three robed ones, sitting patiently in the front row.
“Are they upset?” Beck asked Lieutenant Commander Porter, who had been waiting at the rear of the auditorium for her to arrive.
“If they are, they aren’t showing it,” he replied. “It’s a quiet bunch.”
“Good. How did their auction go?” At least if they’d made some latinum or a few credits, they might be in a happy mood and more receptive to her words, even if she did end up feeding them a load of crap.
“Hard to say. Can you really put a value on a dirty pot?” Porter said. “Everything sold, but honestly, I don’t think they cared much about any of it. They’re here for you.”
Beck tapped the padd she was carrying. “I guess I’d better not keep them waiting any longer then,” she said, starting down the aisle toward the stage.
“Knock ‘em dead,” Porter said with a grin. “You’re a deity now, so you can. Just smite them or something.”
Beck chuckled but continued on her way as Porter moved to take a seat at the rear of the auditorium. Just as he sat down, Commander Morales and Marine Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges quietly slipped in through the doors.
“Did we miss it?” Hodges whispered taking a seat beside Porter.
“You’re just in time,” Porter replied as Morales settled in beside Hodges.
“Good afternoon, everyone,” Beck said, taking the stage. “You’ve come a long way to be here today, and I know that you’ve been waiting a long time to hear from me. Your entire view of the universe around you has in a way been leading you to now. You knew I was coming. It was ordained. You had a goal to reach. A finish line to look to. But what happens now? What happens when you go home to Piranthi and have to figure out what’s next for your society?
“The honest truth is that I don’t know. I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t know your species well enough to even ask the questions. The best I can hope to do is share with you a little of the wisdom of my homeworld, Earth. Everything I’m about to tell you has been said before. They are the words of others. But they sum up what I think it means to be a citizen of the universe, and each and everyone of you is part of that citizenry.”
Beck glanced down at her padd. “The individual is the central, rarest, most precious capital resource of our society,” she read. “What can you or I do? Alone, almost nothing. Yet one person - you alone - can make the difference…. The failure of just one person to join, to participate, to do whatever he or she can - your failure or my failure - may mean that there is just one too few to win the fight for sanity, and so leave the universe on the road to destruction. Each of us, all of us, must do what we can. The universe is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. Every man must decide whether he will walk in the creative light of altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgement. Life’s persistent and most urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
“This idea extends beyond the individual to the institutions of government that lead your world and to the United Federation of Planets to which your world belongs,” Beck continued, before referring back to her padd. “The care of sentient life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
“We have had, continue to have, and will always have wars, and grief, and struggle…we will climb up and fall down…but each time we climb a little higher, and in the end, we do build the world that our ancestors would have wanted for us… we do leave the cradle at last, and we take our place among the stars teaching those who follow us.
“But what got us to the stars? What leads to the progress of our societies? It’s a willingness to look beyond the past and reach for the future. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant beings. It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. Your current safety zones were once unknown frontiers. These frontiers are where the mysteries lie. The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.
“The fundamental fact about the Greeks, who were an ancient culture on my world, was that they had to use their minds. The ancient priests had said, ‘This far and no farther. We set the limits of thought.’ The Greeks said, ‘All things are to be examined and called into question. There are no limits set on thought.’ Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.
“Limitless thought. Imagination. Dreams. These are what lead us to new ideas and ways of looking at the universe that we may never have considered before. Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
Beck scrolled farther down her padd. She was quickly running out of material here. “And…um…you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Er…you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you just might find, you get what you need. Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, ‘til you find your dream. You’ve got to follow that dream, wherever that dream may lead. You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, and know when to run. In your life expect some trouble, when you worry you make it double. Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting my friend. Time is a valuable thing, watch it fly by as the pendulum swings. Watch it count down to the end of the day, the clock ticks life away. It’s a hard knock life. I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.”
“So…er…remember, only you can set you free. Oz never did give anything to the Tin Man, that he didn’t, didn’t already have. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. To right the unrightable wrong, to be better far than you are, to try when your arms are to weary, to reach the unreachable star. Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me. There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there you’ll be free If you truly wish to be. And…um…and if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”
“That’s pretty much it,” Beck said, looking expectantly at the Piranthi. “I hope that helps. Thanks for listening.”
The robed figures looked at each other, then turned back to Beck. “Thank you, She Who Spans Time. We will consider your words,” their leader said. “You’re sure that’s all of them?”
“Yep. That’s all I’ve got.”
“Ahh. I see.”
“Well…not to be ungrateful Your Greatness, but we were expecting something more…revelatory.”
“You mean like a prophecy?”
“We have been waiting for you for millennia. And now that you’re here, we kind of thought that you would tell us what we should be doing for the next few millennia.”
“Er…live like I just told you?”
“No offense to you, Your Grace, but we pretty much already do. You’re positive you don’t have a grand quest for us or anything?”
“Ahh. Okay then. Thanks for your time.” The three robed figures stood in unison and made for the exit, the other Piranthi following close behind and muttering amongst themselves.
Beck shrugged and descended from the stage as Porter, Morales and Hodges approached her. “You just had to come watch me make a fool of myself, huh?” Beck said.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Hodges said.
“Russell wanted to be here too, but there was a disturbance at the Bye Bye Beck sale at Nandegar’s Secret that he had to deal with,” Morales said. He immediately blanched. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to mention that.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Beck replied. “Just a bit more crappy news to go with my crappy day and my crappy speech.”
“Well, I liked it,” Hodges said. “But you kind of lost me with the whole Tin Man, rainbow connection thing.”
“I wasn’t sure about that either,” Morales said. “But it was a great speech,” he added quickly.
“Thanks, but I think I just disappointed a planet.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it too much,” Porter said.
“Sure. It’s only one planet-full of people,” Beck remarked.
“And all of about fifty-six of them are members of the Cult of She Who Spans Time,” Porter said.
“Fifty-six?” Beck gaped. “Total?”
“Yep. I contacted Piranthi this afternoon and had a very pleasant chat with one of their census clerks.”
“You could have told me that before I gave my speech!” Beck said.
“I didn’t want to distract you with petty details,” Porter replied. “You had a lot on your mind.”
“Just so you know, I’ll be killing you for this at some time in the future,” Beck said, unable to stop a grin from crossing her face. “Fifty-six worshippers. Damn. And here I thought I was a major goddess.”
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 56342.7. After my address to them, the Prianthi beat a hasty retreat from Waystation. I guess this just goes to show that you should never worship something or someone that you’re actually going to get to meet live and in person. You’re bound to be disappointed. Hmm…maybe I should have put that in the speech as well. I could have told them about that time when I was twelve and I met Kyler Kyoll after one of his concerts. I had everything he’d ever done and more holos of him in my room than Hikaru Sulu. Then I met him, and he basically shoved me out of the way and told me to get lost, which was a bit disappointing considering I expected him to instantly fall madly in love with me and sweep me off to Alpha Centauri.”
I’m stalling here, and I know it. All right. Back to business. With the Pirathi gone, I still find myself with one nagging question: how did they know when to come find me? I mean I get that I mentioned Waystation and that I was going to have some words, but where did the when come from? Maybe the rock told them. At any rate, Lieutenant Commander Porter is happy because he now has an article to write and submit to Popular Temporal Mechanics.”
Now I must turn my attention to the next issue facing Waystation: the arrival of Admiral Fonn. His runabout will be here soon, at which point it will be time for me to perform my last official act as the commanding officer of this station.”
The Waystation command crew hadn’t had much call for their dress whites, but the arrival of a new station commander certainly qualified as a reason to put them on as far as Captain Beck was concerned. She was going to be a professional about this and handle the transfer of command in as professional of a way as she possibly could. Her officers were informed that they were to do the same as the group watched Admiral Fonn’s runabout land in Docking Bay Three. Beck didn’t actually think they would do anything to express their displeasure, but it never hurt to remind them to put on the full Starfleet Officer act. At the very least, it might head off an ill-timed wisecrack from Porter.
Landing maneuvers complete, the runabout’s hatch opened, allowing the crew to get their first look at Admiral Fonn. He was taller than Beck was expecting, just a bit under two meters tall or six foot two using the old Imperial scale. His long white hair was pulled back into a tight pony-tail, while his long white mustache was perfectly groomed with not a single stray whisker in sight.
He crisply descended the runabout steps and strode over to the delegation of officers that had gathered to meet him. “Captain Beck,” he said, bowing his head curtly to her. “I am Leelan Fonn. I believe you’ve been told to expect me.”
“That we have, Admiral. Welcome to Waystation,” Beck said. “This is my…”
“FLEE WHILE YOU CAN!” The suddenly shrill cry echoed through the docking bay, sending the command crew whirling around to locate its source. They quickly spotted a wide-eyed Auditmi charging toward Admiral Fonn. “This station is a den of horrors! Evil wanders its very halls! Escape now before it consumes you!”
The Zakdorn lunged at Fonn, but was knocked out of mid-air by a flying tackle from Russell. The pair hit the ground with a smack. On impact, Russell quickly pinned his opponent down as Beck rushed over.
“Auditmi!” she shouted. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Get him out of here,” Beck ordered Russell, who quickly hoisted Auditmi to his feet. “And find out what he’s babbling about.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Russell said, dragging the Zakdorn toward the exit.
Auditmi, meanwhile, had shifted from a babble to a full-on ramble. “Why am I doing this? This isn’t my type of thing. I’m a numbers guy. That’s what I’m good at. I don’t plot against…”
And then he was gone, yanked out into the corridor by Russell.
“I’m sorry about that, Admiral,” Beck said, turning back to Admiral Fonn, who had been watching the scene play out before him with cold detachment. “As James Kirk himself once said, ‘People can be very frightened of change.’ I’m sure it won’t happen again, though. But you must want to settle in. I can have Yeoman Jones show you to your quarters…”
“Actually, I would like to speak with you…in private,” Fonn said.
“Of course,” Beck said. “There is an office in Ops.”
“That would be fine,” Fonn replied, striding past her toward the corridor. Beck exchanged a look with her officers. The look on every one of their faces was sending a clear message: “uh oh.”
Admiral Fonn was silent during the ride up to Ops and exchanged only cursory nods with the officers manning the Ops consoles. Beck led him to her office (soon to be his office) and gestured for him to head inside, which he did, standing stiffly in the middle of her office until the doors closed.
“I apologize for not having the office cleared out for you,” Beck said. “It’s been a busy…”
“Oh Great Bird, I’m glad that’s over!” Fonn exclaimed suddenly, collapsing on the office sofa. He exhaled a deep breath as he untied his pony in a smooth motion.
“Excuse me?” Beck asked in shock. They were pretty much the only coherent words she could form at the moment.
“All that pomp and circumstance is such a pain in follicles,” the Efrosian admiral said, reclining languidly on the sofa. “That’s one of the things I hate about Headquarters. Every time you turn around, they want you back in that awful white get-up for some function or another. Do you know what happens when you put that uniform on a guy with hair and a mustache like mine? I practically vanish! Where’s Fonn? Oh wait. He might be that tiny patch of orange over there.”
He looked up at Beck and realized she was still standing there gawking at him.
“Sit down, Captain,” he said warmly, patting the armchair across from the sofa.
“Okay,” she said, still confused. “I mean, yes, sir.”
“Relax,” Fonn said as Beck sat down across from him. “Starfleet gave you the whole ‘you’re being replaced’ line, didn’t they?”
“Well, technically I guess my name’s going to be at the top of the command chart now, but I can assure you I want nothing to do with running this place. That’s what I’m trying to get away from.”
“I don’t understand. A man with your service record…”
“That’s just it!” Fonn interrupted. “Do you know how much work it was for me to compile that record? I’m tired! I’m done! But I’ve got three more years until I can retire at my goal level, so I’m going to spend them as far from Headquarters and the frontier as I possibly can.”
“But this is the frontier,” Beck said.
“It was once, but not any more. I’ve read up on you Beck. You’ve got the Multeks opening up to us. Your big threat, the Collectors, seems to have gotten out of the attacking business. And with President Dillon gone, nobody is going to be paying a bit of attention to what goes on here, which is fine by me. You keep on running this station, Captain. Just pretend I’m not here.”
“Pretend you’re not here.”
“Is this some kind of test?”
“NO! No tests. No nothing. I just want to be left alone to enjoy myself. My retirement starts now.”
“…can talk to you. It’s pretty standard for most business to be handled by subordinates anyway. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing. And look at it this way, you’ve now got somebody on board with some influence at Headquarters. I might be able to make your life a little easier.”
Beck rubbed her hand over her mouth, taking this all in. “So…you don’t want my office?”
“And you don’t want to be in the daily briefings?”
“Absolutely not. All you have to remember is three little words: I’m not here.”
Beck smiled, feeling a massive weight lifting off of her shoulders and the semi-nausea evaporating from her stomach. “I think I can handle that.”
“I knew you could,” Fonn said, getting to his feet. “Now what about those quarters?”
“I’ll take you,” Beck said. “And Admiral?”
Beck extended her hand to him. “Welcome to Waystation.”
“Thank you,” Fonn said, shaking the offered hand. “Hmmm…on second thought, the quarters can wait. How about showing me where I can get a beer?”
“Now that I can definitely handle,” Beck said. “After you, Admiral.”
“Please. Call me Leelan.”
“All right, Leelan. After you. And the first round’s on me.”
* AUTHOR’S NOTE: Captain Beck’s speech is indeed made up of bits and pieces of many many quotes. Collect them all!