Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“Romulans on the Edge”
By Alan Decker
“You’re hiding something,” Dr. Amedon Nelson said as she eyed Frequoq Wuddle suspiciously.
“Of course, I’m hiding something,” Wuddle replied, turning his attention away from the flight controls of his personal spacecraft to look at her sitting in the chair next to him as the ship made its way past Edgeworld and out of the borders of Multek Enclave on its way back to Waystation.
“But why?” Nelson said, sliding into Wuddle’s lap and wrapping her arms around his neck. “I’ve already been to Multos once. You can take me there now.”
“Not until the preparations for the Grand Opening are complete. We don’t open for business to the rest of the galaxy for a few months yet. Besides, I promised Captain Beck that I would have you back to Waystation today.”
“Oh come on. Who listens to her anyway?” Nelson said grinning.
“From my experience, anyone who wants to live.”
“Are you scared of her?”
“She is…formidable. She’s told you about the first time she and I encountered each other, hasn’t she?” Wuddle asked.
“Just the basics. She was on an away team investigating Edgeworld when you beamed her team off of the planet and took them prisoner. Later, the away team escaped.”
“Ahh. So she left out the part where she nearly pummeled me senseless. Kind of her. Although the beating she gave me is the primary reason I started believing aliens existed. The bruises were hard to argue with.”
“It’s just too bad I wasn’t there to take care of them for you,” Nelson cooed. “Now what’s happening on Multos?”
“I’m not telling.”
“We’ve just spent four days at Mebblibinabble Springs! Wasn’t that enough for you?”
“It was beautiful. I loved it, but I don’t like that you know something that I don’t.”
“You know many things that I don’t.”
“Just a little? What are you guys doing to that planet?”
“You’ll see soon enough. I promise,” Wuddle said, looking past Nelson as he adjusted the ship’s course slightly. “But I want it to be a surprise. You’re going to AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH HHHHHHH!”
“What?” Nelson cried, whipping her head around in time to see a ship heading right at them. The compact craft zoomed over them without so much as pausing.
“Who was that?” Wuddle demanded.
“How can you tell?”
“The ship was green.”
“What are they doing out here?”
“Probably just looking around,” Nelson said. “No big deal. They are our friends now, after all…sort of. There was that whole thing with the fake treaty they tried to get President Dillon to sign a couple of years ago, but other than that, things have been good. Besides, that wasn’t a warbird or anything. It looked more like a scout ship.”
“So it’s nothing to worry about?”
“Nah. Nothing at all.”
The flight back to Multos the next morning gave Frequoq Wuddle a great deal of time to think. Foremost on his mind - how had it gotten to be the next morning? His intention had been just to take Amedon back to Waystation and then return to Multos. He was supposed to be in his office at that very moment. Yet he found himself unwilling to leave Amedon yet again. And so he had been more than happy to accept her invitation to stay for dinner…and then to stay the night…and then to have breakfast.
But now he had finally pulled himself away in order to head back home, knowing that he probably would not see her again for weeks, possibly even a month or more.
This long distance relationship stuff sucked swabbip.
He really needed to…
Wuddle slammed his ship hard to starboard as another craft zoomed past him. It was the same one from yesterday! The Romulans!
He moved to open a comm channel but found that he was already being hailed.
“This is Frequoq Wuddle of the Multek Enclave,” he said as he responded to the hail, emulating the standard greeting he had heard the Federation officers use on countless occasions. “Why do you keep buzzing my ship?”
“Multek vessel, you are in territory claimed by the Romulan Star Empire. You will alter course at once, or we will open fire,” a curt female voice replied sternly.
“What? What territory? This is open space?”
“We have claimed everything within 100 million kilometers of the nearby planet.”
“Planet? You mean Edgeworld? That’s ours!”
“The world was uninhabited. We have established a colony there. It is ours.”
A disruptor blast seared across Wuddle’s bow, missing him by millimeters but still giving his small ship a good jolt.
“It is ours!” the Romulan repeated forcefully.
“But…how do I get home?”
“We won’t stand for this, you know. That’s Multek space you’re occupying,” Wuddle said.
The only reply he heard was laughter. Obviously the Romulans were not impressed.
Not anxious to get into a firefight, Wuddle changed course. But he wasn’t going around. Instead, he headed straight back to Waystation. As much as he hated the idea of running to the Federation every time the Multeks had a problem, they had far more experience with these Romulans than the Multeks did. From what Amedon had said, the Romulans and the Federation were practically allies. Captain Beck would have all of this sorted out in no time.
“A colony? On Edgeworld?” Captain Lisa Beck said as she listened to Wuddle’s description of events. She leaned back thoughtfully in her armchair in the sitting area of her office while Wuddle and Dr. Nelson sat hand-in-hand on the nearby sofa. Actually, saying that she was thoughtful was something of an overstatement. Confused was far more accurate. What possible reason could the Romulans have for wanting to take over Edgeworld? There was nothing there except for a couple of buildings that made up a hotel complex that the Multeks rarely used.
“I’m guessing there are no Multeks on Edgeworld currently,” Beck said.
“Oh no,” Wuddle replied. “The resort there seemed like a good idea when it was established. Our recreational engineers felt that seeing the edge of the inhabited universe would be a big draw. It wasn’t. We thought about adding an outlet mall, but nothing ever really came of it. Mostly our starliners just go out that way on their cruise routes, let the passengers look out the windows, then head off to the Shonabli Nebula or something more scenic. But it is still our planet, Captain.”
“I know, Wuddle,” Beck said. “The Romulans probably just don’t like the idea that the Federation is expanding into the Beta Quadrant, and they’re trying to set up their own presence here. That’s fine, but they can do it without taking one of your planets.”
“The Council of Elder Wizards will not stand for it. They are liable to tell me to send in the fleet. I only saw one Romulan vessel, so I am sure we could handle this ourselves if we had to. I just felt that I should consult you, since you have more experience with these Romulans than I do. My only other contact with them was in battle.”
“I remember,” Beck said. Days after Waystation had first been established several years earlier, the station ended up in a confrontation with a Romulan ship, and Wuddle’s vessel got caught right in the middle of it. “And I don’t think the Multeks should take any action against the Romulans. They might be looking for an excuse to declare war on you and take over the Enclave. And since the Federation does not have an official alliance with the Multeks, we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it without possibly going to war with the Romulans ourselves. These guys are not the Collectors, Wuddle. We have to proceed a lot more carefully.”
“But you will remove them from Edgeworld.”
“Not directly,” Beck said. “I’m going to try to deal with this through diplomatic channels first. That should take care of things.”
“And if it doesn’t?” Nelson asked.
“Then the problem becomes a lot more interesting.”
In general Romulans tended to have nothing but disdain for their distant Vulcan cousins and tried to differentiate themselves from Vulcans as much as possible. But considering the dead-on Vulcan impression that Nonplust, the Romulan Ambassador to the Federation, was doing at the moment, you could have fooled Captain Beck.
“I fail to see how the presence of our colony in any way affects the Federation,” the Ambassador said with the same annoyingly flat monotone he’d used throughout the entire conversation thus far.
“It affects the Multeks. You’ve taken possession of the property of a sovereign government,” Beck said to the Romulan on her desk monitor, who was currently sitting in his office on Earth.
“I sincerely doubt that my people would actively invade an inhabited planet,” Nonplust replied.
“It’s not inhabited, but that’s not the point. It’s a Multek world and has been for decades.”
“If they wish to lodge a protest, they are welcome to do so; however, since the Romulan Empire has not established formal diplomatic relations with these Multeks, I doubt that the Senate will pay much attention to their claims. Particularly since, as you have just admitted, the planet in question was unoccupied.”
“I’ll have to remember to pass that along to my colleagues in Starfleet. Uninhabited planets in Romulan space are fair game.”
“Fortunately for you, your colleagues are not foolish enough to act on such a reckless notion.”
“You obviously haven’t met some of my colleagues,” Beck said.
“Are you threatening me, Captain?”
“Not at all. My whole hope in contacting you was that we could resolve this situation before it escalated. The Multeks do not want a conflict with the Romulans, but they want their planet back.”
“I suggest you inform them that it is no longer their planet. The sooner they accept that fact, they happier they will be. If they were rash enough to strike at our colony, we would not stop until we had laid waste to their entire civilization. And, Captain, just to make sure we are clear on this, that was a threat, and I would appreciate it if you would pass it along to whatever Multeks you happen to be in contact with. Now, if you will excuse me, I am running late for a squash game with the Horta’s Federation Council Representative. Good day to you, Captain. I best not hear of this issue again.”
The Ambassador cut the channel, leaving Beck staring at the winged emblem of the Romulan Star Empire on her monitor.
Things had officially gotten interesting. Just her luck.
Wuddle had taken the news of the Romulan Ambassador’s response surprisingly well. Of course, there wasn’t much that he could do about it at the moment. Captain Beck certainly didn’t envy Wuddle at times like these. Sure she was in command of a fairly large space station, but he was the leader of an entire species. It certainly wasn’t a job he had asked for. From what Beck had gathered, Multeks generally weren’t real big on taking on leadership roles. It was too much like work in a civilization that had devoted itself to pleasure.
Federation leaders had been trying to deal with the Romulans for generations. Hell, Starfleet’s first war was against them. Wuddle was in way over his head, which, to the Multek’s credit, he knew. That was why he had come to Beck, and why she couldn’t just send him away after the Romulan Ambassador rebuffed her.
She was able to convince him to spend another night on the station while she tried to come up with some kind of game plan. She’d even gone so far as to send Ensign Laru out in the Cumberland on an incredibly roundabout route to Multos so as to avoid detection by the Romulans and to let the Multeks know that their leader was fine and that he’d be returning home as soon as he could.
Unfortunately, all Beck had managed to come up with overnight was a headache. She could not think of a way to get the Romulans off of Edgeworld that didn’t lead directly to some kind of interstellar incident, either between the Multeks and the Romulans or between the Romulans and the Federation.
After getting showered and dressed and taking something for her pounding head, Beck was just about to leave her quarters to meet Wuddle and Dr. Nelson for breakfast when her door chime sounded.
“Hang on,” Beck called, pulling her long red hair up into a pony tail as she strode through her living room to answer the door. After being kidnapped by Joel Hodges and his Andorian followers a year earlier, she no longer just said “come in” when someone rang her door chime.
With her hair secured, she opened the door and found Admiral Fonn standing on the other side, his long, white hair flowing freely. Actually, it didn’t look like he’d so much as brushed it this morning. The Efrosian was also missing his usual warm smile, which put Beck on alert. Something was obviously wrong. She couldn’t imagine what Fonn would care about, though, beyond a station-wide holodeck malfunction. The Admiral expected to be able to relax and enjoy his pseudo-retirement when he wanted and where he wanted. Still holodeck problems were Lieutenant Commander Porter’s area. Not hers.
“Admiral,” she said by way of greeting. “This is a surprise. What can I do for you?”
“You contacted the Romulan Ambassador?” he said, striding into her quarters. The question was not so much a “Did you do it?” but a “How could you do it?”
“Yes,” Beck said, allowing the doors to the corridor to close so that she and Fonn were now alone in her living room and away from prying ears. “I was trying to help the Multeks with a problem.”
“I heard,” Fonn said tiredly, tossing himself onto Beck’s sofa. “Fleet Admiral Ra’al commed me an hour ago demanding to know why I allowed a subordinate to comm the Romulan Ambassador.”
“What did you tell her?” Beck asked.
“What do you think I told her? I said you were acting on my orders,” Fonn replied. “But I don’t have a damn clue what any of this is about.”
“You said you didn’t want to be bothered with station business. You’re here to relax.”
“Yes, but now station business is bothering me. I don’t like having to tap dance in front of the Fleet Admiral and pretend that I know all about something I haven’t even heard of. My whole point in coming here was to be in a place that Command didn’t care about!”
“I’m sorry the Multeks’ crisis is inconveniencing you, sir,” Beck remarked.
“Don’t you think it’s a little much to be calling this a crisis?”
“Not if you’re the Multeks. That was one of their planets that was taken over.”
“A planet with nobody on it.”
“Since when did that matter? We’re talking about the sovereign territory of a foreign power.”
“Which is currently occupied by a far more relevant foreign power,” Fonn said.
“Again, since when did that matter?”
“It matters when we’re talking about the Romulans. Relations between the Federation and the Romulan Empire have not been this good…well…ever, and short of someone wiping out the Praetor and the entire Senate, they are liable to stay that way for some time to come…unless we mess it up. And, to be absolutely clear, by mess it up I mean sticking our noses where they don’t belong. This is between the Romulans and the Multeks. You stay out of it.”
“I promised the Multeks that the Federation would be there to help them if they were ever invaded,” Beck said. “This sure as hell looks like an invasion to me.”
“The Romulans aren’t going to invade. They just set up a colony on an abandoned world,” Fonn said. “Maybe this will teach the Multeks a lesson. They need to watch their borders.”
“Or maybe they’ll learn that the Federation breaks its promises.”
“Lay off it, Beck. Things like this happen all the time. They have to give a little to get a little. That’s how treaties work. Look at our treaty with the Cardassians before the Dominion War. We gave up some planets, and they gave up some planets.”
“Ah yes. The treaty that brought us the Maquis. A shining example to follow, sir.”
“You know what I mean. They give up a planet, and in return they know that not one, but two major powers will be around in case any aggressor species come calling. There’s no reason for you to get involved.”
“Let me make sure I have this straight. I am not to get involved,” Beck said.
“You heard me. Stay out of it, Beck.”
“All right,” Beck said, holding her hands up. “I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to Frequoq Wuddle, but I will stay out of it.”
“Thanks, Lisa. I’m sorry about this, but I don’t want us getting embroiled in this kind of mess, and I pretty damn sure that Command doesn’t want us involved either.”
“I understand that, sir,” Beck said.
“All right then. I won’t keep you,” Fonn said, hopping up from the sofa. “I’ve got a tee time on the holodeck in an hour anyway. You have a good day.”
“I’ll probably just grab a bite to eat in the mall then head up to Ops. Nothing exciting.”
“Sounds like my kind of day. See you later, Beck.”
“Goodbye, Admiral,” Beck replied as Fonn strolled out of her quarters, whistling as he went. And why shouldn’t he whistle? As far as he was concerned, as long as there wasn’t a problem for him, there wasn’t a problem at all.
But Beck would follow the Admiral’s orders. She would stay out of it. Yes, she would. She wouldn’t get involved at all.
Commander Walter Morales stopped in mid-bite of his Z’ikMuffin as he saw Captain Beck storm into McBaughb’s like a woman on a mission. Of course, she wasn’t actually on a mission, since being on a mission would imply that she was getting involved in something, which she wasn’t. Beck looked around the restaurant for a moment, then, spotting Morales, set a direct course for his table.
“Uh oh,” Marine Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges said from across the table. “She’s after one of us. No doubt about that. What did you do?”
“Me?” Morales said after choking down his bite of breakfast sandwich. “Who says I did anything?”
“Well, I know I didn’t.”
Beck slid into the booth beside Hodges, put her elbows up on the table and rested her head in her hands and she pasted a big fake smile on her face. “Good morning, you two! How’s your breakfast?” she said way too happily.
“Um…fine,” Morales said. “Is something wrong?”
“Wrong? What could possibly be wrong? I just happened to be wandering by this fine establishment and saw two of my good friends enjoying a hearty breakfast. I simply wanted to come in and say hello.”
“Okay, Lisa. What are you up to?” Hodges said.
“Me? Up to something? No. Not at all. I was going to try to help the Multeks get the Romulans off of Edgeworld, but Admiral Fonn doesn’t want me to get involved. Nope. I cannot get involved. Someone else will have to help them. Actually, anyone could help them as long as it’s not me, because I am not getting involved. Those are my orders, and I’m going to follow them. Yes, sir-ee.”
Morales exchanged a look with Hodges. “You want me to get the Romulans off of Edgeworld?” he asked Beck.
“I never said that. I’m not getting involved. Whoever did get involved, though, would need to make sure that the Federation was never implicated in anything at all because this is between the Multeks and the Romulans. And I’m not to get involved.”
“Yeah. You mentioned that,” Hodges said.
“You know, I don’t think our junior officers have been getting enough command experience,” Beck said thoughtfully. “I’m going to start training some of them for Ops duty. That means that my regular command staff won’t have anything to do for the next few days, but I’m sure they’ll find ways to keep themselves occupied. Right, Commander?”
“I get the feeling something will turn up,” Morales said, not feeling all that sure that he was pleased by this turn of events. His quiet breakfast had suddenly turned into a covert mission. Covert missions were not exactly his field of expertise. At least he would be getting some help.
“I’m due in Ops,” Beck said suddenly. “You two have a nice breakfast.”
“We’ll try,” Hodges said. Beck was already out of the booth and halfway toward the exit.
“Hmmm,” Morales said.
“Hmmm what?” Hodges asked.
“You have no idea what to do next, do you?”
“Not a clue,” Morales said.
“I wish I could help, but Colonel Lazlo has us doing maneuvers all day in preparation for a couple of weeks from now, when we’re going to some hell-hole of a planet to do even more maneuvers.”
“Suddenly dealing with the Romulans doesn’t sound so bad.”
“What are we doing here?” Frequoq Wuddle asked confused as Dr. Nelson practically dragged him down the corridor on one of the Waystation residence decks. “We were supposed to meet with Captain Beck.”
“I told you. There’s been a slight change of plans.”
“What kind of change? Why is there a change?”
“If you’d shut up for two seconds, you’d find out,” Nelson said.
“Just be quiet!” Nelson said, clapping a hand over Wuddle’s mouth. “And trust me. You trust me, don’t you?”
Wuddle nodded, his mouth still covered.
“Good. Everything will make sense in a couple of minutes,” Nelson said as she led Wuddle up to a door and pressed the chime. “Room service,” she said.
The door slid open revealing a set of quarters and Commander Morales standing in the doorway. Past Morales, Wuddle could see Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter and Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell sitting on the sofa.
“Just what we ordered,” Porter called.
Wuddle was now even more confused. “Is this a…” Before he could finish the question, Nelson shoved him into the room and entered as well, allowing Morales to close the doors behind them.
“And that’s everyone,” Morales said.
“What’s going on here?” Wuddle demanded. “Where is Captain Beck?”
“This is a meeting,” Morales said. “We’re going to see what we can do about your Romulan problem. As for Captain Beck, she has been ordered to not get involved in this situation. Therefore, she has asked us to deal with things.”
“Can you do that without her?”
“I’m feeling sincerely doubted here,” Porter said.
“That makes two of us,” Russell said.
“We’re going to do what we can,” Morales said. “But because of the tenuous nature of the relationship between the Federation and the Romulans, we have to make sure that the Romulans do not find out that we are interfering in this situation.”
“Oooh. Nice use of ‘tenuous’,” Porter said.
“I agree,” Nelson said.
“Are you guys just going to do anything other than critique my presentation?” Morales snapped.
“Well, I was going to critique your artwork,” Porter said, gesturing to one of the many paintings on the wall, all of which were done by Morales, “but I have a feeling that would get me hurt.”
“Go ahead,” Nelson said with a glint in her eye. “Medical help is standing by.”
“Thanks, but I make it a point to try to avoid needing medical help in the first place.”
“Romulans!” Wuddle exclaimed.
“Huh?” Russell said, snapping alert and looking around quickly.
“What are we doing about them?”
“That’s what we need to figure out,” Morales said. “First, I think we need to find out just what kind of set up they have on Edgeworld. You’ve actually been there, haven’t you, Sean?”
“Yeah. It was pretty barren except for the hotel buildings,” Russell said.
“Barren?” Wuddle said. “Oh wait. It was the winter season when we captured your people from there as I recall. You should see it now when the lorbeldolises are in bloom. The entire valley below the hotel plateau is a sea of aqua and crimson.”
“Poetic, isn’t he?” Nelson said, giving Wuddle a kiss on the cheek.
“Do you remember anything else?” Morales said. “Anything about the buildings? The Romulans may be using them.”
“They were buildings,” Russell replied, shaking his head. “I did get an incredible massage, though. There was this little robot, and it worked my back over better than anyone since a masseuse I visited on Risa. Well, she was technically a masseuse…and a bit more. You remember her, Craig? The Orion with the huge…”
“We get the idea,” Morales said quickly.
“Does any of that help?” Wuddle asked. “I can certainly get you detailed blueprints of the hotel complex if you think they will help.”
“Thanks,” Morales said. “But I think I need to take a look around in person if I’m going to get an accurate gauge of the situation.”
“In person? As in going to Edgeworld yourself?” Wuddle asked. “I thought you said that you wanted to keep the Federation’s involvement in this secret.”
“I do,” Morales said. “And we will. But you’re going to have to come with us if we’re going to pull this off..”
“We need you.”
“Are you absolutely sure you need me for this?” Wuddle asked nervously as Commander Morales piloted the Frequoq’s ship closer and closer to Edgeworld. They had left Waystation several hours earlier and plotted a roundabout route that now had them approaching the Romulan-occupied world from the direction of Multos, the Multek homeworld. “It looks more like you just need my ship. I would have loaned it to you.”
“No way. You’re absolutely vital,” Porter replied, clapping a hand on Wuddle’s shoulder. For a moment, Wuddle was actually taken aback by the paleness of it. Sure it was a normal hue (or lack of hue, really) for a Multek, but Wuddle had grown used to the darker variety of tones of human skin . Seeing Porter and the other Waystation officers made over as Multeks was actually a tad disconcerting…except for Amedon. He’d seen her this way before, and she was gorgeous. Of course, he felt she was gorgeous with her normal skin tone as well, but seeing her like this…well…it made him wish that they were the only two on board. They could adjourn to the bedchamber and…
“Romulan scout ship approaching,” Morales said, yanking Wuddle violently out of his pleasant fantasy.
“We’re not going to be able to fight him off in this thing if this gets ugly,” Russell warned.
“Then let’s make sure it doesn’t get ugly,” Morales said. “I’m hailing them. Everyone try to look as Multek as possible.”
“What does that mean?” Wuddle asked irritated.
“Not now, dear,” Nelson said as the small monitor on the flight console in front of Morales flashed to the image of a stern Romulan male.
“This is the territory of the Romulan Star Empire,” the Romulan said with a scowl. “State your business here.”
“My name is Mordle,” Commander Morales said. “Official Assistant Attache to Frequoq Wuddle, Supreme Leader of the Multek Enclave. His Frequoqness requests a meeting with your colony administrator to discuss future relations between the Romulan Star Empire and the Multek Enclave.”
“You mean like a diplomatic meeting?” the Romulan asked surprised.
“Er…yes. The Frequoq would like to beam down to the surface along with myself and my Official Assistant Assistant.”
“Hold,” the Romulan said, just before abruptly disappearing from the monitor, his image replaced with the familiar bird emblem of the Romulan Empire. The bird suddenly animated and began juggling the two planets of Romulus and Remus it held in its talons as the words “Your comm is important to us. Please continue to hold” scrolled by underneath.
The Romulan reappeared two minutes later, scowl still intact. “Three of you may transport down to the surface at coordinates I am sending to you now. No weapons.”
“This is a diplomatic visit,” Morales replied. “Why would we bring weapons?”
“Just don’t!” the Romulan ordered. “Commander Brella will meet you at the provided coordinates. Do not leave the beam down point until she arrives, or you will be arrested for espionage and executed at the first available opportunity. Do you understand these conditions as I have presented them?”
“They are quite clear,” Morales said as Wuddle gulped in the background.
“Very good. Thank you for your attention and enjoy your visit to Romulan Colony D-B 765.” Once again, the Romulan abruptly disappeared, this time due to his closing of the comm channel.
“Is anyone else here thinking that this is a trap?” Wuddle asked nervously.
“Actually, no,” Russell said. “The Romulans have no reason to take you hostage. They have their colony. While they might be able to get away with colonizing a planet that no one was living on, the Federation would see grabbing you as an outright attack on the Multeks, and we’d be forced to get involved officially.”
“So being taken hostage could be good,” Wuddle said.
“No it couldn’t,” Porter said adamantly. “I am not beaming down there to get captured. I mean it.”
“Russell’s right. Nobody will be captured,” Morales said. “Knowing the Romulans, they’ll probably just want to gloat that they have Edgeworld and act superior toward us. While they’re doing that, we’ll take a look around and see if we get any ideas for our next move.”
“What if you don’t get any ideas?” Wuddle asked.
“Then we’ll beam you back down and let them take you hostage,” Porter said, drawing a harsh smack to the back of the head from Nelson. “OWWWWW! Hey!”
Commander Morales, Lieutenant Commander Porter, and Frequoq Wuddle materialized on the surface of Edgeworld a short time later and found themselves in a courtyard area at the center of a cluster of six metal buildings. Wuddle was evidently right about the time of year. Far from being the dustball Russell had described, plants and flowers seemed to be blooming everywhere. Across the courtyard, a squat cylindrical robot tended a lovely garden, carefully pruning and weeding the plants within.
“This is actually pretty nice,” Porter said, looking around appreciatively. “I may have to come stay here sometime.”
Wuddle gasped. “Do you think the Romulans intend to go into the hospitality business?” he asked in alarm.
“I doubt it,” Morales said. “That’s really not their style.”
“Thank the Yerdle.”
“How long do you think they’re going to make us wait here?” Porter asked.
“Not too long,” Morales said.
“What makes you say that?”
“Her,” Morales said, pointing at the imperious Romulan woman striding out of the largest of the buildings and making her way toward them.
“Am I talking to her?” Wuddle asked nervously.
“I’ll handle it,” Morales said. “Just stand there and look leaderly.”
“Act like you’re too important to talk,” Porter said.
“Ahh. I see. I can do that.”
“I am Commander Brella,” the Romulan stated as she completed her approach and surveyed the three Multeks (Or what she thought were Multeks. She was only 33% right) in front of her with a disapproving eye. “State your business and then leave our territory.”
“Frequoq Wuddle of the Multek Enclave extends his most sincere greetings,” Morales said with a deferential bow. “His Frequoqness wishes to open a dialogue with our new neighbor and begin what promises to be a beneficial and peaceful friendship between our two peoples.”
“And you’re this Frequoq?” Brella asked, locking her gaze on Wuddle.
“Yes, he is,” Morales said.
“Then why…why…why…ACHOOOOOOOOOOO!” The Romulan officer’s stately demeanor vanished in an instant as she convulsed with the force of a violent sneeze.
“Why can’t he speak for himself?” she asked quickly as she yanked a dark green handkerchief out of her uniform pocket and began dabbing her aquiline nose.
“It is my role to speak for him,” Morales said.
“So he feels that he is too good to speak to…to…ACHOO…a Romulan!”
“Not at all. It is simply our custom.”
“You’re on our colony, so I suggest that you start abiding by our customs.”
“Very well,” Morales said. “Your Frequoqness?”
Wuddle’s eyes widened. “Me?”
“Yes, Your Frequoqness. You will need to continue this dialogue yourself.”
“Oh…of course. It is a great honor to be here today, Commander Brella. I give you my most sincere thanks for the invitation.”
“ACHOOO! Get on with it.”
“There’s really nothing to get on with,” Wuddle said. “I came by to say hello and to hopefully establish a diplomatic relationship with you.”
“You’re not…ACHOOO ACHOOO ACHOOOOO…getting your planet back.”
“I understand that, but I do hope that you are enjoying its beauty.”
“We will…as soon as we eradicate every last flower from its surface! ACHOOO!”
“But some of the most beautiful lorbeldolises in the Enclave grow here!”
“Is that what these infernal flowers are called? ACHOO! They’re a menace!”
“To you perhaps.”
“Not just to me!” Brella exclaimed. “My whole crew is trapped inside because whenever we go out…ACHOO! That happens!”
“I would have thought that a species as advanced as yourselves would have eradicated allergies,” Porter said.
“We did! Or thought we did anyway,” Brella grumbled. As Brella succumbed to another sneezing fit, Morales noticed a small, spider-like robot heading their way. He assumed it was a maintenance bot until it stopped behind Brella, raised a spindly metal leg into the air, and tapped the Romulan’s calf.
“AUUUGGGH!” the Romulans screamed startled as she spun toward the source of the attack. “Not you again!” she screamed, spotting the robot.
“Massage?” the robot asked.
“Would you like to make an appointment for a massage later in the day?”
“Very well. I will check with you again later. Enjoy your stay.”
“Damn things…ACHOO!” Brella snapped, lashing out with her foot and kicking the robot onto its back, its legs flapping wildly as it tried to right itself.
“We could take that off of your hands if you don’t want it,” Porter said.
“Please do,” Brella said, giving the massage bot another kick and sending it sliding over to Porter, who scooped it up.
“Massage?” the robot asked.
“Maybe later,” Porter said.
“ACHOO! Are we done here?” Brella demanded. “My crew and I have a great deal of preparations to finish before the colony ship arrives.”
“Colony ship?” Morales said.
“What? Did you think that the fifteen of us were it?” Brella asked. “We’re just the advance occupation and scout force. A full colonization vessel will be here in two days along with the official Colony Administrator. If you want to come back then, he might be more receptive to this diplomacy business.”
“Ahh…I see,” Wuddle said. “Well…”
“We’ll do that,” Morales said quickly. “Thank you for your time.”
“You’re…ACHOO…welcome.” And with that, the Romulan spun on her heel and beat a hasty retreat back to the pollen-free safety of the buildings.
Lieutenant Commander Russell practically jumped Porter as the away team returned to the cockpit of Wuddle’s ship.
“You found one!” Russell exclaimed, snatching for the prize Porter held in his hands. “Give it up!”
“Never on the first date,” Porter replied, cradling the massage robot possessively.
“Don’t mess around here, Craig. I want the robot.”
“You two can fight over your new toy later,” Morales said as he slid back into the pilot’s seat and turned the ship away from Edgeworld toward Multos. “We’ve got bigger problems.”
“I just love it when commanding officer say things like that,” Dr. Nelson muttered. “What else is wrong?”
“That’s not the whole colony,” Morales replied. “There’s a transport heading this way with the colony’s full complement, and I’m betting a fair amount of planetary defense equipment as well.”
“Two days. If we don’t find a way to get the Romulans away from Edgeworld before then, we’re never going to get them off that planet. They’ll be too entrenched.”
The cockpit was silent for several moments.
“Russell and I will take care of the transport ship,” Dr. Nelson said finally.
“What?” Russell exclaimed. “How?”
“I’ve got an idea. But we need to get back to the station.”
“That’s where we’re heading,” Morales said. “And maybe on the way the rest of us will come up with some ideas of our own.”
“That would be nice,” Porter replied. “Especially since the Doc had to go and put pressure on us.” She glanced over at Nelson, whose eyes were gleaming mischievously. “And I’m heading to the back before she can start in with the ‘performance issues’ cracks.”
“Aw come on!” Nelson said. “You set me up for it!”
“Too well,” Porter said, exiting the cockpit.
“Hey! Get back here with that robot!” Russell cried, chasing after him.
Wuddle, who had settled into the co-pilot’s seat, looked over at Morales as the Commander let out a long sigh. “If you don’t mind my asking, Commander,” the Frequoq said, “are there days that you feel more like the father of small children than a military officer?”
“Every single one.”
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 56584.3. There’s absolutely nothing of interest to report. My command officers have returned to the station after taking a relaxing tour of the Multek Enclave courtesy of Frequoq Wuddle. Upon their return, Dr. Nelson consulted me concerning a medical situation that may be brewing in the region. At her recommendation, I have granted her request to borrow the Wayward and the services of Lieutenant Commander Russell.
“Meanwhile, Commander Morales and Lieutenant Commander Porter will be leaving again with Frequoq Wuddle on a mission to further our understanding of the Multek people.
“Admiral Fonn has, of course, been kept up to date on all matters.”
“What’s this?” Admiral Fonn asked, staring at the padd that Captain Beck had shoved into his arms as soon as he’d opened the doors to his quarters.
“Station status update, sir,” Beck said, standing stiffly at attention in the corridor.
“Oh for Nefert’s sake!” Fonn exclaimed in exasperation.
“Is there a problem, sir?”
“Get in here, Beck!” Fonn snapped, stepping aside to allow Beck to enter his quarters. “And relax, dammit!” He tossed the padd onto the sofa in his living room and gave the tie on his bathrobe a firm tug to make sure it was securely closed.
“Yes, sir,” Beck said, doing as ordered.
“What the hell is going on?” Fonn demanded as soon as the doors had closed behind Beck.
“I’m just trying to keep you in the loop, sir.”
“I don’t give a damn about the loop!”
“That’s news to me, sir.”
“Beck!” Fonn shouted. He caught himself and softened his tone. “Lisa. Look.. I’m not here to run your station. I don’t want to run it. The Romulan thing was a one time deal. You keep us under Command’s sensors, and you won’t hear a peep out of me.”
“So you don’t want to read the status report?”
“Does any of it involve you pestering the governments of rival quadrant powers?”
“I can honestly say no.”
“Then I don’t care,” Fonn said.
“If you’re sure.”
“I’m sure,” Fonn said with a smile. “I’m sure that you and your crew can handle whatever else is listed in there.”
“We’re working on it,” Beck said, returning the smile. “I just needed to know where we stand.”
“You stand in Ops. And I’ll probably be laying on a beach in the holodeck.”
“I’m all for that plan.”
“As am I. And you’re welcome to come join me, if you get some time.”
“I’ll see what I can do, sir.”
“It’s Leelan, remember?”
“All right, Leelan. I need to get back to Ops. I’ll see you later.”
“I look forward to it,” Fonn said with a slight bow of his head as Beck scooped her padd up off of the sofa then exited the Admiral’s quarters.
“Beck to Nelson,” she said once she was out in the corridor and making her way back to the turbolift.
“Nelson here. How’d it go?”
“Exactly like I expected.”
“He didn’t even read it?”
“Nope. Looks like you’re all clear.”
“Acknowledged. We’re on our way.”
“Keep safe out there.”
“We will. Nelson out.”
Commander Morales entered the docking bay where Frequoq Wuddle’s ship sat and wondered not for the first time if he was up for this. Dr. Nelson and Lieutenant Commander Russell had taken off in the Wayward a few minutes earlier to go intercept the Romulan colony ship. She had a plan. He, meanwhile, had nothing. The more he tried to come up with something, the more his brain seemed to resist him. He wanted to force a plan out of his mind and only ended up with a complete blank. His mind whirred, but nothing was clicking.
He climbed up the ramp into the ship and found Porter and Wuddle in the craft’s small living compartment. Porter was stretched out on a sofa letting the massage bot work on his back while Wuddle sat in an armchair staring ahead blankly, obviously weighed down by the thoughts coursing through his skull.
“Any revelations?” Porter asked, his voice a sleepy slur as he spotted Morales stepping into the room.
“We’re in deep trouble.”
“Maybe later,” Morales said, plopping down in a chair across from Wuddle. Part of him wanted to snap at Porter for relaxing at a time like this, but years of serving with Waystation’s Chief of Operations and Science Officer had taught Morales that Porter had his own methods. He was undoubtedly working through the situation in his mind right now.
He was also drooling.
“I only have one option,” Wuddle said softly. “I have to order an attack.”
“No,” Morales said firmly. “It’s not going to come to that. I promise.”
The trio fell silent again for several moments until Porter let out a relaxed sigh.
“Is that helping?” Morales asked.
“Oh yeah. I’m going to come up with something any second now.”
“I’m just surprised you managed to pry that thing away from Russell.”
“He’s very predictable at Rock, Paper, Scissors,” Porter said before letting out another little groan. “Those Romulans don’t know what they were giving up.”
“They didn’t give anything up,” Wuddle said.
“Tell that to my leggy friend back there,” Porter said, gesturing at the robot on his back.
“As soon as its absence was detected by the system, another was created its place,” Wuddle said. “The Romulans can have all of the massages they want from our robots…on our planet.”
“Wait,” Morales said, leaning forward in his chair. “There’s an automated robot construction facility on Edgeworld?”
“You make it sound rather grandiose. It’s only a fabricator. I believe you call them industrial replicators.”
“I’m sure the Romulans will be thrilled to see another one show up,” Porter said, managing to get a bit of sarcasm through his contentedness.
“I bet they will,” Morales said, a smile slowly spreading across his face as his mind raced, usefully this time.
“Uh oh. He’s plotting something,” Porter said.
“Are you?” Wuddle asked hopefully.
“I think so. Can you still get us those schematics of the structures on Edgeworld?”
“Of course,” Wuddle said. “Anything you need.”
“I need the schematics. And we’ll also need one of your military vessels.”
“I thought you said that we were trying to avoid an attack!”
“We are,” Morales said. “Just get another ship and have it meet up with us inside the Enclave. We don’t have a lot of time.”
“Does this mean my massage is over?” Porter asked.
“Sorry. Duty calls,” Morales said, striding toward the cockpit.
Sub-Commander Zocor of the Romulan Colonization Cruiser Rainex frowned as he watched the sensor blip approaching their vessel.
“They still haven’t armed their weapons,” Centurion Dredlox reported from the cruiser’s tactical console.
“Of course they haven’t,” the ship’s commanding officer, Commander Nasdak, said as he strode out of the turbolift onto the cruiser’s bridge. “We have every right to be here. They may simply be here to provide an escort as a show of friendship and all that nonsense.”
“They are hailing us,” Dredlox said.
“Very well. Put them on,” Nasdak said, taking up a position standing in front of his command chair as Zocor moved to his side. “Have you ever spoken to a Starfleet Officer?” Nasdak asked his second-in-command.
“No, Commander. My career has kept me inside the Empire until now.”
“They are a friendly sort, and trusting, both of which work to our advantage. Above all, though, they believe in diplomacy. Show the slightest sign of cooperation, and they’ll talk to you until the universe ends.”
“They are responding,” Dredlox said just as the image on the viewscreen switched from the approaching Federation starship to a dark-haired woman wearing a blue lab coat over the usual Starfleet uniform.
“Greetings, Federation vessel,” Nasdak said before the woman could speak. “I am Commander Nasdak of the Rainex. How may I be of service?”
“You can cut your engines and let us come aboard.”
“Cut our engines? Why would we do that?”
“You went through the Leopred Expanse on your way here, didn’t you?”
“Of course. There’s no way to get from the Empire to this position without passing through there. Why?”
“A ship showed up at Starbase 274 three days ago carrying Gerafelian Mumps. They went through the Leopred Expanse just before heading to the starbase, so we’re quarantining any ships coming from that direction until we can definitively establish that no one on board has it.”
“We are all fine.”
“Maybe. And maybe the symptoms just haven’t shown up yet. Now obviously we can’t force you to comply, but I’m asking you as a doctor to let me run these scans. Think of it as a way to strengthen the growing bond of friendship between our peoples.”
“A moment, if you please,” Nasdak said, before putting the human doctor on hold.
On the Wayward, Lieutenant Commander Russell glanced over at Dr. Nelson. “Do you think he’s going to go for it?”
“Probably. My guess is that his superiors are as anxious to avoid a confrontation as ours are.”
Commander Nasdak reappeared on the viewscreen a split- second later. “My Chief Medical Officer has assured me that these Gerafelian Mumps are not to be trifled with, so, in the interest of the health of my crew and passengers and in the spirit of friendship, we will assent to your request.”
“Thank you, Commander,” Nelson said. “We’ll be waiting to receive transporter coordinates. In the meantime, tell your people to form a nice, orderly single-file line and to put on clothes they can take off easily.”
“We have to be sure, now don’t we?” Nelson replied sweetly. “Besides, I’m a doctor. I’ve seen it all before.”
“Of course. Rainex out.”
The uncomfortable Romulan commander vanished.
“Ooooh!” Nelson exclaimed. “My first naked Romulans!”
“Seen it all before, huh?” Russell said with a smirk.
To use a human phrase, this sucked, Centurion Limpix thought as he stared blankly at the viewscreen of his scout ship while slumped back in his chair at the vessel’s helm console. Everyone else was down on Edgeworld while he sat idly orbiting the planet on the off chance that anyone showed up. The only excitement had been the arrival of a Multek ship the day before, but he wasn’t even on shift then. His counterpart, Centurion Altel, who was currently asleep in the back of the ship, had dealt with that one. Why couldn’t he be on the planet right now? Granted, Commander Brella had told him that conditions were pretty miserable, but it had to be more interesting that being alone in the scout ship’s bridge.
A sudden beeping from his console snapped him out of his boredom. The sensors had detected something. Checking the readouts, he spotted a Multek ship hovering just at the edge of sensor range, where it probably believed that it wouldn’t be detected.
Obviously, the Multeks had underestimated Romulan sensors. And if they thought that they could just sit there and spy on the colony, they had another thing coming. Limpix abruptly broke from orbit and sped off toward the unwelcome Multek guest.
Actually, he did welcome their arrival and the distraction it provided. But the Multeks sure weren’t going to be thrilled about it once he got through with them.
“He’s moving away,” Frequoq Wuddle reported as he watched the sensor display in the cockpit of his ship.
“Good,” Commander Morales said, easing the Frequoq’s ship closer to Edgeworld. “Your people understand that they are not to open fire, right?”
“I have explained it to them repeatedly. At the first sign of open hostility, they will retreat.”
“You make it sound so negative,” Porter said from the rear of the cockpit. “Think of it more as a strategic running away.”
“As long as it gets us Edgeworld back, I don’t care what we call it,” Wuddle said.
“How are we coming, Craig?” Morales asked.
“I’m accessing the resort’s central computer now. Hopefully the Romulans haven’t fiddled with anything.”
“I’m sure they brought their own computers and didn’t give the Multek systems a second glance,” Morales replied.
“Why? What’s wrong with our computers?” Wuddle asked offended.
“Nothing. It’s just the Romulan Way.”
“And their raging superiority complex,” Porter said. “Okay. I’m in, and I’ve got complete control.”
“Get started,” Morales said. “And let’s hope this works.”
Commander Brella glared at the two Sub-Lieutenants in front of her with unbridled disgust. “This is supposed to be the office of the colony administrator. What is the colony administrator going to do with a heart-shaped bathtub?”
“Bathe?” one of the Sub-Lieutenant’s offered hesitantly.
“Get it out of here!”
“But it’s built into the floor!”
“Then cover it. Just do something with it before…before…ACHOOOOO!”
Brella froze, looking around at the air suspiciously. Why did she just sneeze? She was inside. Surely there was no…
“ACHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” the Sub-Lieutenants echoed, nearly knocking themselves over with the forces of their sneezes.
“What…ACHOO…is happening?” Brella demanded.
The Sub-Lieutenants shrugged, then sneezed again.
Determined to get to the bottom of the situation, the Romulan commander stormed out of what was once the Edgeworld Resort Honeymoon Suite and made her way back to the lobby, sneezing several more times on the way.
“Who left the door open?” she shouted, charging into the lobby where most of the rest of her crew was working to redecorate the chamber into something more Romulan. At least they were supposed to be redecorating. At the moment, most of them were convulsing in the midst of allergy attacks. And the doors weren’t actually open. But someway, somehow their environment had been compromised.
“Commander…ACHOOO,” her Sub-Commander cried, stumbling over to her. “We…ACHOO…ACHOOO…ACHOOACHOOOACHOOOO!”
“I…ACHOO…understand. Get everyone…ACHOOO…back here and…ACHOOO…Seal the…ACHOOO…room.”
The Sub-Commander nodded and rushed off, sneezing as he went. Seconds later, he came running back into the lobby. “Commander!” he screamed pointing back at the doorway.
Over the sneezing, Commander Brella was able to hear the clack-clack-clack of something moving along the stone floor of the hotel. Moments later, that something came into view. Actually, it was a lot of somethings.
“Massage?” several hundred of the spider-limbed massage bots asked in unison.
“Oh no,” Brella said as a cold chill of fear coursed through her. The massage bots charged, quickly swarming the hapless pair of Sub-Lieutenants who had just jogged into the lobby from another corridor. Despite their pleading for mercy, the Sub-Lieutenants were knocked to the floor, flipped onto their stomachs, then forcibly-massaged by dozens of robot legs.
“RUN!” Brella screamed, adding an achoo as she shoved her Sub-Commander aside and made a break for the exit, scrambling for her communicator as she went. Her Sub-Commander went for his disruptor, firing blindly into the horde of robot relaxation experts as the remainder of the crew fell one by one to the devices. He was able to destroy a number of the robots, but more and more swooped in to take their place. Seeing that the situation was hopeless, the Sub-Commander raced for the doors behind Brella. She managed to get the doors open and dash outside, but as her Sub-Commander took a single step toward the outside he was caught from behind and dragged back into the hotel by a small horde of robots intent on dealing with his tension.
“Brella to Limpix!” Commander Brella shouted into her communicator, watching in horror as the Sub-Commander disappeared from view.
“Limpix,” the Centurion replied from the safety of the bridge of the scout ship.
“GET US OUT OF HERE!”
“But I am dealing with a Multek…”
“On my way.”
“What do you mean ‘on your way’?” Brella demanded. “Transport us up now!”
“I will as soon as I’m back in range.”
“Then get back in range!” Brella shouted as a half dozen massage bots emerged from the hotel and started scampering in her direction. “AND HURRY!” she added, taking off at a run.
“Are you a human?” the little Romulan girl Dr. Nelson was examining asked, her eyes wide.
“Mostly,” Nelson said.
“My mommy says humans are stupid.”
Nelson glanced up at the girl’s mother, who was standing with her daughter. The mother forced a weak smile. “Kids are cute, aren’t they?” she said.
“Adorable,” Nelson replied. “All right. You’re both clean and clear. Get dressed and send in the next person.”
“We are the last ones,” the mother said.
“Wow, Mommy. You’re right! Humans are stupid!” the little girl exclaimed.
“Would you like me to immunize your daughter against possible future Gerafelian Mumps outbreaks?” Nelson asked helpfully. “The immunization hypo should only cause her a few days of discomfort.”
“That would be amenable to me. Thank you,” the mother said as her daughter looked from her to Nelson in alarm.
Having immunized the girl and ensured that a couple of days of dull pain would make her think twice before she called humans stupid again, Dr. Nelson was escorted back to the Rainex’s bridge by a stone-faced Centurion, who led her before Commander Nasdak.
“I have been told that your work here is complete.”
“So I’ve heard,” Nelson said.
“In that case, I would ask you to depart, so that we may be on our way.”
Nelson shuffled slightly. She’d been waiting for a signal from Russell that Morales and his team had resolved the issue on Edgeworld, but so far she hadn’t heard anything. She needed to stall for more time, but with the Gerafelian Mumps inspections complete, there wasn’t much she could do to…
“Vessel approaching at high warp!” the Centurion at tactical announced suddenly. “It’s the scout force.”
“Hail Commander Brella,” Nasdak snapped, instantly forgetting that Nelson was present.
“She is already hailing us.”
“Put her on.”
The wide-eyed face of a very disheveled Romulan woman appeared on the screen. “Commander Brella, what is the meaning of this? Why aren’t you at the colony?” Nasdak demanded.
“We can’t go back to that place!” Brella cried. “Find somewhere else. We have to find somewhere else!”
“But that site already had usable structures in place.”
“They’re uninhabitable. We have to go elsewhere.”
Nasdak frowned, considering Brella’s words.
“From a medical standpoint,” Nelson said, “there are indications that the environment of Edgeworld may have detrimental effects on copper-based physiologies.”
“Listen to her!” Brella screamed. “It’s terrible there!”
“I did not bring this ship all this way to deal with one medical crisis after another,” Nasdak said with displeasure. “And since the buildings at the colony site have been deemed uninhabitable, there appears to me to be no reason not to pursue other options.”
“THANK YOU!” Brella exclaimed.
“Please shut her off,” Nasdak said, glancing back at his Centurion. Brella’s image vanished as Nasdak refocused his attention on Dr. Nelson. “I apologize for that unseemly display, Doctor,” he said. “We do appreciate your efforts on our behalf, but now I must ask that…”
“I’ll call for beam out,” Nelson said smiling.
“And I hope you find a new colony site. Just contact us at Waystation if you need any help.”
“We will be fine. Of that you can be assured,” Nasdak replied.
“All right then,” Nelson said, slapping her commbadge. “Nelson to Russell. I’m ready to go. Energize.” Nelson vanished moments later in a flurry of molecules.
“Help from Starfleet?” Nasdak scoffed. “Ha!”
After grabbing a quick breakfast in the food court of Starfleet Square Mall, Captain Beck was on her way to a turbolift when she heard footsteps quickly approaching from behind. She turned to see Admiral Fonn jogging up to her, a grin on his face.
“Good morning, Captain!” he said warmly. “You’ve heard the news, I trust?”
“News? What news?” Beck asked innocently.
“I heard from Command this morning that the Romulans have decided to move their colony elsewhere. Evidently Edgeworld didn’t suit their needs.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“So you see, there was no reason to worry after all. Everything worked itself out.”
“Funny how that happens sometimes,” Beck replied smiling. “So where are you off to?”
“It’s Fest-i-Bol day at Earthly Eats,” Fonn said. “Sixteen straight hours of Bolian food, culture, and entertainment.”
“Oh yes. I did see that on the events schedule. So they’re really going to skip preparing their usual attempts at Earth food for a day?” Beck asked.
“Not totally. I know they have Green Eggs and Ham on the menu.”
“Green Eggs and Ham?” Beck asked amused.
“The ads said something about it being a dish so amazing that it has been the subject of an epic poem.”
“Right,” Beck said. “Well you enjoy yourself.”
“Oh I will. You can count on it.” Fonn started to turn away, but stopped. “Oh, Beck?”
“Ambassador Nonplust did send his thanks for Dr. Nelson’s diligence and concern for their well being. Something about a Gerafelian Mumps outbreak?”
“Not an outbreak. Just a quick precautionary quarantine. It was in the padd I brought you that you didn’t want to read.”
“There was no need. You and your crew dealt with it. Nothing for me to worry about. Like I said, I’m not here to run your station. You can handle things yourself.”
“One way or another,” Beck said.
“Okay then. Off to the eats. Good day, Captain.” Fonn gave her a quick wave, then rushed off to the turbolift Beck was about to enter. She let him take it, then, after catching the next car, headed up to Ops, where she found Morales, Porter, Russell, Dr. Nelson, and Wuddle relaxing around the Waystation command center and looking rather pleased with themselves.
“Did somebody turn this place into a lounge without telling me?” Beck asked with a grin as she strode out of the turbolift.
“You didn’t get the memo?” Porter asked.
“I’m just glad to have my people back where they belong…even if they do look way too happy about it. What aren’t you telling me?”
“The Romulans found a new colony site,” Morales said.
“And that’s funny because?”
“They settled on Ridalis Four,” Morales replied.
“Ridalis Four. Ridalis Four. Why is that name familiar?”
“The planet of the evil mind-controlling squirrels,” Porter said.
“Ohhhh yeah! That one,” Beck said. “Guess we should have a rescue team standing by, huh?”
“I don’t know,” Nelson said. “The Romulans told me that they didn’t want our help.”
“We’ll see how long it takes them to change their mind,” Beck said. “Now I don’t want to turn this into a mush-fest, but you all did great work.”
“Awwww,” Porter said, wiping away a pretend tear.
“My people are very grateful,” Wuddle said.
“They have Commander Morales to thank,” Beck said. “He’s the one who pulled it off.”
“Only with a lot of help,” Morales said.
“I think we’re bordering on mush-fest,” Russell said.
“Then I’m getting out of here before things get ugly,” Dr. Nelson said, grabbing Wuddle by the arm. “Come on, honey. I’ll walk you to your ship.”
“Thank you all again,” Wuddle said as he was dragged into a turbolift.
“All right. That’s enough. You’ve had your fun. Back to work,” Beck said, clapping her hands. “That is if you can bring yourself to settle in back here after all the excitement of leading secret missions, Commander,” she added, giving Morales a smile.
Morales grinned in return. “I think I can handle it.”
“Great job, Walter. I mean that.”
“Thank you. Captain.”
Beck nodded in acknowledgment, then headed into her office, leaving Morales unable to remove the smile from his face.
“You know, not that long ago a compliment like that from her would have had you dreaming of wedding bells,” Porter said.
“Craig,” Morales said.
“I know. Shut up.”
Hand-in-hand, Dr. Nelson and Frequoq Wuddle strolled up the ramp into Wuddle’s ship, entering the vessel’s small living area. Wuddle had been silent for most of the walk to the docking bay from Ops as he contemplated yet another departure from the woman he loved.
“So I guess it’d be greedy of me to ask for a couple more days, huh?” Nelson said.
“I wish it were possible, but I need to get back to Multos,” Wuddle said.
“I know. You have a people to lead and a planet to prepare, a planet I’d better get to see soon.”
“It won’t be that much longer,” Wuddle said. “And when Multos is ready for visitors, you’ll be able to come there as much as you like. Hopefully, that will be often.”
“Probably,” Nelson said. “It doesn’t make this any easier.”
“No. It doesn’t.”
“You should get going.” Nelson leaned up and gave Wuddle a long soft kiss. “I’ll see you soon.”
He said nothing at first as she turned to go, but then…
“What is it, honey?” Nelson asked, turning back toward him.
“Would you consider marrying me?”
Nelson gaped. “What?”
“Did I phrase the question wrong? What I mean was…”
“I know what you meant,” Nelson interrupted. “But do you mean it?”
“Of course I mean it. I can’t stand these separations. I want to be with you for the rest of our lives. I love you.”
“Okay. So you mean it,” Nelson said softly.
“I know this is sudden, and you don’t have to answer now. I thought I would ask you in some more elaborate way, but…”
“…you were here, and I looked at you and…did you just say yes?”
“Yes,” Nelson said, breaking into a smile. “Yes!” she said again, louder as she jumped at Wuddle, wrapping herself around him.
“You said yes!”
“Yes, I did. Now get out of here before I never let you leave.”
“But we have so much to plan.”
“We’ll have time for that. We’ve got forever.”
“That we do,” Wuddle said smiling. He grabbed his wife-to-be in for another long kiss, then reluctantly released her. “I’ll comm you from Multos.”
“I’ll be here,” Nelson said. With a long, lingering look back at Wuddle, she slowly made her way back down the ramp into the docking bay, finally coming to a stop a safe distance away as the ramp closed and Wuddle’s ship lifted off and soared out into space.
Nelson didn’t move and instead continued to watch the space outside of the docking bay.
After not seeing Nelson move for several moments, the docking bay officer on duty walked over and tapped her gently on the shoulder. “Are you all right, Doctor?”
Nelson glanced over at him, smiling serenely. “Of course I’m all right. I’M GETTING MARRIED!!!”