Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“She Blinded Me With Science”
By Alan Decker
“Okay, Cindy,” Lieutenant Craig Porter said paternally to the seven-year-old girl standing beside him as he sat at his console in Ops, “do we understand now why babies and Borg nanoprobes don’t mix?”
“Yes, Mister Porter,” Cindy Robbins said, her eyes cast downward to the floor. “I’m sorry I assimilated my brother.”
“Don’t you worry. We’ll get him back,” Porter said, turning his attention to the implant-laden youngster on his monitor, who was currently toddling down a corridor on Deck 76 uttering sounds in a computer-enhanced monotone babble that probably translated to “Resistance is futile. Your bottles, blankets, and teddy bears will be assimilated.” Actually, little Isaac Robbins had already tried to assimilate his teddy, which was his parents’, Drs. Bernard and Pauline Robbins, first big hint that something was wrong with their son.
The implants bursting out of his skin were a slight tip-off as well.
Unfortunately, the Robbins ran off to call for help without thinking to secure the door to their son’s room, and now he’d escaped their quarters and was off terrorizing the station population. Okay, so he was kind of a cute terror, but terror was being felt nonetheless. And somehow Porter couldn’t help but feel slightly responsible. He was in charge of the station’s science division. He should have known that a member of his staff had somehow managed to smuggle a vial of Borg nanoprobes on board (Illicitly removed, so he’d been told, from a certain Seven of Nine while she was on a drunken bender in New Orleans. Evidently, she was adjusting to life on Earth just fine.).
It was bad enough that Dr. Robbins (one or both of them) had brought the nanoprobes on board, but then they’d left them out where their daughter could find them. Frankly, they were lucky she hadn’t been assimilated, too. As it was, she just thought they were special pepper and had slipped them into her brother’s baby food in a bout of sibling rivalry. Now it was left to Porter to resolve the situation while Captain Beck had a few words with the Robbins in her office. Somehow Porter imagined those words would be rather loud.
“Russell to Porter,” the voice of Waystation’s Chief of Security, Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell, said over the comm. “The target is getting closer. Are you ready up there yet? I don’t want to have to shoot.”
“Shoot? He’s not even a year old. Can’t you just out-walk him?”
“Borg make me nervous.”
“Even ones wearing diapers?”
“Craig, are you ready or not?”
“I’m ready. I’ve reconfigured the security force field at that junction to hopefully knock him out without harming him.”
“What if it doesn’t work and he gets through?”
“Then walk five meters to the next set of force field emitters, and we’ll try again.”
“You don’t seem to be taking my peril here very seriously,” Russell groused.
“How can I? Especially when you use words like peril.”
“He’s almost here!”
“I can see him,” Porter said, watching the monitor. “As soon as he’s down, just scoop him up and take him to the Infirmary. Dr. Nelson is waiting for him.”
“I know. I know. Just make sure he’s really down.”
“Trust me,” Porter said. “A little closer. A little closer. Wait for it. Now!” He banged a control on his console, activating the force field on Deck 84 just as the assimilated Isaac reached it. Isaac jerked momentarily, then dropped to the deck immobile.
“That was cool!” Cindy exclaimed. “Can you zap him again?”
“No,” Porter said. “And you need counseling.”
“Counselor Miller isn’t here anymore, so blbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbt,” Cindy replied, giving Porter a nice long raspberry.
“Did you see him when he was?”
“No. Mommy said he was creepy.”
“She’s not wrong,” Porter said, shutting down the forcefield. “Okay, Sean, you can pick him up now.”
“I’m going. I’m going,” Russell said, moving into the frame of Porter’s monitor and scooping up the fallen Borg baby. “Ohhh! No! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
“Sean! SEAN!” Porter cried. “Are you all right?”
“He drooled on me! EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! And I think his diaper is full.”
“That makes two of us,” Porter muttered.
At least Captain Lisa Beck didn’t look mad as she strode into the Infirmary. Porter had to believe that was something of a positive sign.
“How’s the baby?” Beck asked, stepping up to Porter and Russell, who were sitting in the surgical waiting area. “Let me guess. You don’t know yet.”
“Dr. Nelson does love to keep us in suspense,” Porter said.
“She hasn’t even given us an update,” Russell said.
“She has, however, reminded us that she’s getting married about fifteen times.”
“Oh, so she’s calming down then,” Beck said with a smirk.
Porter took a deep breath. Might as well deal with this preemptively. “Captain, I don’t know how to apologize enough for this. Dr. and Dr. Robbins had no business bringing Borg nanoprobes onto Waystation and…”
Beck held her hands up for Porter to stop. “There’s no way you could have known, Craig,” she said. “Yeah, I expect you to take responsibility for their actions on duty, but you can’t keep an eye on them every second of the day. If they choose to be idiotic and criminally irresponsible in their private life, that’s on them. And believe me, it’s on them.”
“All right,” Dr. Amedon Nelson said, emerging from the operating suite and ripping the red cap of her surgical gown off of her head. “I’m finished.”
“Is he going to be okay?” Porter asked.
“Just fine. Our de-assimilation techniques have come a long way, especially if we catch the nanoprobes within the first couple of days. He’ll never know it even happened.”
“Until I send him the security footage for his eighteenth birthday,” Porter said.
“And now you’re free to perform your next procedure,” Beck said.
“What procedure?” Nelson asked.
“Removing my foot from his parents’ asses.”
“They’re on their own,” Nelson said.
“Hey!” Russell exclaimed suddenly. “Do you know what this means? We just survived our first Borg attack!”
“And hopefully our last one,” Beck said.
“We should go out and celebrate!” Russell continued undeterred. “The Gravity Well anyone? Or Victoria’s?”
“A certain doctor we know will probably be spending half the night on the comm with her fiance, but I could handle a trip to The Gravity Well tonight,” Beck said. “What about you, Craig?”
“Don’t I hang out with you people enough when I’m on duty?” Porter asked in a deadpan.
“You’re implying that you can get enough of me,” Beck said grinning. “I don’t think that’s possible.”
“Dammit. There she goes with that logic again,” Porter said. “I guess I’m coming with you.”
“Good,” Russell said. “Oh, I should comm Jones, huh?”
“I think Tina has class tonight,” Beck said.
“Then she misses the party. The fun begins at 2100. Don’t be late.”
“Okay, but you two have to promise that you won’t ditch me to go chase other women,” Beck said.
“Excuse me?” Porter said. “As I recall, last time you ditched us for that Kirothan freighter captain!”
“Oh yeah,” Beck said wistfully. “He was ripply.”
“More like ripped,” Porter said. “He could have torn Sean and I in half with his pinky.”
“He was a kitten once you got to know him.”
“The point is,” Russell insisted, breaking into the conversation, “we’re going there together to have a good time. No one is ditching anyone!”
“He’s ditched us,” Porter said to Beck as they sat at a table along the side wall of The Gravity Well night club watching Russell chat up some woman at the nearby bar. “We have been ditched. Ditched are we.”
“Like you didn’t know that was going to happen. It’s Sean.”
“Yeah. I know. I just didn’t think it would be this soon. We’ve been here what? Ten minutes?”
“You’d think he could at least pretend he was going to hang out with us before he took off.”
“You’re the one who sent him to the bar to get our drinks,” Beck said.
“So now we’re ditched and thirsty. Thanks a whole hell of a lot, Sean,” Porter grumbled.
“Um…again, you sent him.”
“Okay. So this is my fault.”
“And suddenly I want to ditch you, too,” Beck said.
“I’m sorry,” Porter said. “I can’t even really be mad at him. Jealous, sure, but not mad…much.”
“Ahh. Is the legendary Russell prowess with the ladies getting to you?” Beck asked. At the bar, they watched as the blonde Russell was chatting with suddenly reared back and slapped him before storming off. Russell shrugged and immediately started looking for the next object of his affections. Mere seconds later, he began talking to a incredibly attractive brunette who’d slid up beside him. “Okay. Maybe prowess is the wrong word,” Beck added. “Persistence is more like it.”
“You can’t win the game if you don’t play,” Porter muttered. “It’s his motto.”
“He does practice what he preaches. No way can he be called a hypocrite.”
“You could do the same thing, you know.”
“No. I can’t. I never could. Joan Redding is the only real relationship I’ve had in years, and I fell into that one.”
Beck opened her mouth to speak.
“And don’t give me the whole ‘the right woman hasn’t come along yet’ talk,” Porter said. “I’ve heard it.”
Beck closed her mouth.
“Wow. I’m a barrel of laughs tonight, aren’t I?” Porter said, shaking his head.
“It’s nothing that a stiff drink won’t fix,” Beck said, getting to her feet. “Or possibly exacerbate horribly. Either way, I’m going to the bar, since Sean obviously isn’t coming back. What do you want?”
“Beer. Something dark and bitter.”
“That seems to be your motif for the evening,” Beck said. “I’ll see what I can find.” She headed off to the bar leaving Porter to watch Russell and his new target. How did he do it? What the hell did he say to them?
“Wanna see my phaser?” Russell asked the brunette next to him conspiratorially.
“Is it safe?” the brunette replied with a giggle. “I don’t want to get hurt.”
“Don’t worry, gorgeous. I always keep it on stun….until it’s time to move in for the kill that is.”
“How about moving it aside so other people can get something to drink around here?” Captain Beck said, pressing up to the bar on the other side of Russell.
“Aren’t you the captain of the station?” the brunette asked Beck excitedly.
“Yes, I am,” Beck replied after putting in her and Porter’s drink orders. “But if you’ve got any official business, why don’t you direct it at my Chief of Security here? He’s seems free at the moment, since he’s certainly not bothering to deliver drinks to his friends.”
“You have my undivided attention,” Russell said, completely missing the swipe Beck had just made at him. “Now what can I do for you, Miss…”
“Alice. Just call me Alice.”
“Alice, this is Sean,” Beck said after collecting the drinks. “You two have fun.” With that, she headed back to the table where Porter was waiting.
“Chief of Security!” Alice said, obviously impressed. “That’s got to be such an amazing job to have in a place like this.”
“It has its moments,” Russell said, flashing a smile. “And I’d be more than happy to tell you all about them, but we’d need to go someplace quiet.”
“We could do that,” Alice said, returning the smile. “I want to hear everything. I mean, I can’t imagine having something like the Bermuda Expanse so close all the time. What’s it like in there anyway?”
“In the Bermuda Expanse? Um…swirly? I guess. I’ve never really been in there. It’s dangerous, and I really don’t feel like getting sucked to the other side of the galaxy.” Waystation’s proximity to the Bermuda Expanse was one of those things that Lieutenant Commander Russell preferred not to think about. Fortunately, Waystation hadn’t had to deal with the anomaly or the Directors, the omnipotent beings that resided inside it (or communicated through it or something along those lines), very often. The Bermuda Expanse, however, was responsible for throwing the USS Aerostar and a number of other ships into the Delta Quadrant.
“So it can really do that?” Alice asked in wonder.
“And the Directors and the Critics? They’re real, too?”
Russell suppressed a shudder as he forced the smile to stay on his face. He certainly knew that the Critics were real. He’d seen them close-up and personal and didn’t particularly feel like being reminded of the experience. “We don’t really need to talk about any of that stuff,” he said. “It’s not that interesting.”
“I’m sorry, Sean,” Alice said, running her hand slowly and seductively along his arm. “You must think I’m boring for wondering how a place like that ticks.”
“No. You’re definitely not boring,” Russell said. “But Craig’s the Bermuda Expanse guy. Not me.”
“Craig? Who’s Craig?”
“Craig Porter,” Russell said, pointing at Porter’s table, where the man in question was glumly nursing the beer Captain Beck had brought him. “He’s our guy for all of the science-type stuff. I can introduce you to him if you want…tomorrow.”
“Uh huh,” Alice said, clearly no longer paying any attention to Russell as she looked Porter over from afar.
“So…how about that quiet place where we can talk?”
“Nice meeting you,” Alice said without looking back at Russell as she walked away from the bar on a course toward Porter and Beck’s table.
“Hey! Wait! Don’t you want to see my phaser?”
Porter was more than a little surprised to see the beautiful brunette who had been speaking to Russell just a few moments ago suddenly walking toward his table, her eyes locked on him and an alluring half-smile on her face. Just what had Captain Beck put into his drink to make him start hallucinating such things?
“Looks like you’ve reeled one in, Craig,” Beck said from beside him before taking another sip of her tequila sunrise.
Okay. So maybe he wasn’t hallucinating, but there was no way that a woman like her would want to have anything to do with…
“Um…hi,” the brunette said to Porter. “I know this is kind of forward and all, but…um…do you want to dance?”
Porter looked at her sadly, still cradling his beer in his hands. “I’m not really much of a OWWWWWWWWWWW!” Captain Beck was evidently trying to send him a message of some kind, a message that involved her boot slamming into his shin with great force and at a high rate of speed. “I’d love to dance,” Porter said, recovering from the blow.
“You kids have fun,” Beck said with a wave as Porter pulled himself up from his seat and limped off onto the dance floor with his new partner.
A short time later, Russell dejectedly slid into the chair Porter had just vacated. “Unbelievable,” he said to Beck. “How could Craig do that to me?”
“Do what?” Beck asked.
“Steal her away. Alice was mine!”
“I’d say Alice had a different opinion on the matter. Maybe you’re just not her type.”
“Come on. I’m every woman’s type.”
“Sean, for both of our sakes, shut up.”
“What?” Russell exclaimed. “What’d I say?”
Beck just rolled her eyes and refocused her attention on the other patrons of The Gravity Well, her gaze coming to rest on a particularly intriguing figure sitting over by the bar. Tall, striking looks, nice taste in clothes. And he was at the bar alone. How tragic. For the good of station relations, she really needed to go over there right now and introduce herself.
“Wait. Where are you going?” Russell asked as Beck suddenly got up from her seat.
“I’m off to mingle,” Beck replied with a glint in her eyes. “Have fun without me.”
As Beck rushed off to the bar, Russell rested his head in his hands and sighed. “They ditched me. We were supposed to be here together and they ditched me!”
“So…” Porter began hesitantly as his mystery date wrapped her arms around his neck and began swaying back and forth to the Cardassian love ballad playing over The Gravity Well’s sound system, “What’s your name?”
“Alice,” she replied with an alluring smile. “Alice Gantry.”
“Nice to meet you, Craig. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Oh really?” Porter said. “From Sean?”
“Yes. He’s speaks quite highly of you.”
Warning klaxons were now blazing in Porter’s mind. If Sean had not only let this woman get away but had actually gone so far as to send her in Porter’s direction, something had to be wrong with her.
“Honestly, I think he’s a little upset that I decided I’d rather spend my time with you,” Alice continued. Porter shot a glance over to the table he’d abandoned where Russell now sat sullenly glaring at him. Ha! Nothing was wrong with her after all!
Just taking stock here, she was gorgeous, friendly, and obviously had good taste in men. Tonight was looking up.
“Would you like to go somewhere more quiet?” Alice asked, pressing herself closer against him.
Porter resisted the urge to scream an ecstatic “YES!” Forget looking up. Tonight had officially hit fantastic!
As consciousness slowly seeped back into his brain, Porter was filled with an overwhelming sensation that he hadn’t felt in quite a while. He was content. And after a night like that, why shouldn’t he be?
He rolled over in bed to find the space beside him empty, not that that fact was all that surprising. Alice had told him that she had to leave early in the morning.
“I have to leave early in the morning,” Alice had said to him as they were urgently removing each other’s clothes the night before.
Porter rolled flat onto his back, put his hands behind his head, and sighed dreamily. Great Bird, that had been amazing. Sex with Joan had never been that…that…primal. Primal was really the only word for it. He and Alice had practically devoured each other. He could still feel her body against his. Her perfect form and…
When was she coming back? Was she coming back?
No. He couldn’t think about that. Alice had made it very plain that this was most likely the one and only time they would ever be together.
That was really a shame. And not just because of the sex. Even before then they had talked and talked and talked. Never had he met a woman who was so interested both in him and his work. After dancing for a little while (a very little while) and learning each other’s names, she’d suggested that they go somewhere quiet where they could talk. Not wanting to be too presumptuous, Porter had taken her to Earthly Eats for a late dinner. That’s when the questions started.
“What is the Bermuda Expanse?”
He’d broken it down into pretty basic terms, not that there was all that much to break down. Even after being in close proximity to the anomaly for six years now, Porter wasn’t exactly sure what was going on in there. Probes had been launched, sensor readings had been taken, blah blah blah, but he’d never discovered a definitive explanation for it being there beyond “The Directors put it there,” an explanation he wasn’t entirely happy with. Of course, if it was good enough for the Prophets and the Bajoran wormhole, then why not the Bermuda Expanse? And with all of the time Porter had spent close to the Bermuda Expanse and looking at the scans of it, he supposed he was the closest thing to an expert on the phenomenon that existed in the galaxy.
“Are the Directors and Critics really in there?”
Now that question had been a bit more metaphysical, not that Porter really minded. He liked a woman with layers. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a lot of science to base his answer on. All he really had were logs from the USS Aerostar and the USS Explorer, neither of which were considered the most reputable of sources. That was a shame too really, since he knew that the Explorer’s science officer was quite wonderful in her own right.
“How does the Bermuda Expanse work?”
If he could answer that one, he’d have a Cochrane Prize sewn up for sure. All he could tell her was what he knew about the underlying structure of the Bermuda Expanse and the effect it had on the regions surrounding it. It was mostly babble about subspace stresses and such, but Alice had listened to him with rapt attention and even asked a follow-up question.
“So what would happen if the Bermuda Expanse were struck with…say…a blast of triphasic radiation?”
He hadn’t been sure, but he doubted the results would be good. Most likely, the stresses on subspace at the edges of the anomaly would become outright tears, destroying the space-time fabric in the region for a long time to come. Even if the influence of the Directors somehow prevented the Bermuda Expanse from being completely destroyed, no one would be able to get near the phenomenon due to the catastrophic damage to the space around it. Alice seemed satisfied with that answer and moved the conversation in another direction.
“I’m going to blow up the Bermuda Expanse.”
Okay, so she hadn’t really said that last bit, but she might as well have!
Porter sat bolt upright in bed, eyes wide with horror. How could he have been so stupid? He’d just handed Alice step-by-step directions to destroying the Bermuda Expanse without so much as a single suspicion crossing his mind as to why she was asking all of those questions.
Stupid stupid STUPID!
No wait. Just relax. Surely he was being paranoid. What possible reason could Alice have to want to blow up the Bermuda Expanse? It didn’t make any sense. There wasn’t a thing to worry about.
Not a bit.
Porter was out of bed in a flash.
The quiet of the morning in Ops was shattered as the turbolift doors opened and a wild-eyed unkempt figure burst into the Waystation command center. It took Commander Walter Morales a moment to realize that the figure in question was actually Lieutenant Commander Porter.
“Craig?” Morales asked concerned as Porter bounded over to his console, shoving Lieutenant Mason out of the way before he began pounding commands into madly.
“Ha!” Porter exclaimed. This was quickly followed by a far less excited, “Oh.”
“What is it?”
“You just gave her departure clearance,” Porter snapped accusingly.
“Um…maybe?” Morales replied, not sure what ‘her’ Porter was referring to. “I just cleared a private craft that was docked in Bay Seven. We held it for a few minutes because Mason thought he saw a quick flash of something on the sensors during the standard departure scan, but it turned out to be nothing.”
“Nothing!” Porter cried. He turned on Mason, grabbing the younger officer by the shoulders. “What did you see? What was it?”
“Some kind of radiation, I think, but I couldn’t find it again. I ran every scan I could. There was nothing there. It had to be a glitch. Just a glitch.”
“I’ve got to stop her,” Porter said, rushing from behind the console. “I’m taking the Cumberland.”
“What?” Morales exclaimed.
“Do you need security backup?” Lieutenant Mike Waits asked eagerly from the tactical console.
“No,” Porter said, shooting a glance at Waits before focusing his attention on Morales. “If I don’t stop that ship, something really REALLY bad could happen.”
“Like you won’t be here to know how bad it really is.”
“I’m convinced,” Morales said. “But I don’t think you should go alone.”
“You of all people have no leg to stand on in this area. Just beam me to the Cumberland.”
“So I’m guessing this is personal, too, huh?” Morales said as his hands started across his console.
“Just a little,” Porter replied as he began to dematerialize.
Alice Gantry had a feeling that pulling this off would be pretty easy, but she had no idea that it was going to be THIS easy. No heavy research required. No hacking into Starfleet systems. Just one very pleasant evening of drinking and dancing capped off by one hell of a roll in the proverbial hay (whatever the hell that meant. Despite hearing that saying for years growing up on Earth in Kentucky, she had no idea why anyone would want to roll around in hay. The stuff was itchy and uncomfortable and full of bugs. Ewww!) had given her everything she’d needed to know courtesy of one Craig Porter. What a guy. She’d have to remember to thank him when this was all over.
Alice steered her small craft away from Waystation and set a course toward the Bermuda Expanse. After activating the auto-pilot, she headed back to the ship’s small cargo hold where her prize awaited its voyage to destiny. She opened the sensor shielded crate and looked down at her triphasic device. Before she left the station, she’d been stupid enough to open the crate briefly just to check on the device. Fortunately, she’d only opened it a crack before her intelligence kicked back in and she let the crate slam closed again. The station’s sensors must have detected some radiation from the device when the crate was open because they delayed her departure. Luckily, they didn’t bother to come look in person, and she was allowed to go after a little while.
Out here, though, she was free of Waystation’s prying eyes. She opened a trap door in the cargo area floor revealing the loading mechanism for the small launcher mounted to the bottom of her ship. Then after grabbing an anti-grav lift, Alice moved the triphasic device from its crate and into the launcher. It slid into place with a satisfying series of clicks. Alice closed the hatch then returned to the cockpit of her ship.
Before she could reach the pilot’s seat, the chair started to spin around toward her seemingly on its own. Very quickly, though, she realized that the chair was actually occupied.
“You ran off without a decent breakfast, young lady,” Craig Porter said, shaking his finger at her scoldingly.
“Craig!” Alice exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
“Um…hmm…let’s see. What am I doing here? What could it be? Oh, I don’t know. How about stopping you!”
“Stopping me?” Alice asked, trying to sound innocent. “You mean from leaving? That’s so sweet.”
“You know what I’m talking about. I know what you’re planning.”
“And what am I planning?”
“You’re going to destroy the Bermuda Expanse.”
Alice gasped slightly. Great Bird, he DID know what she was planning! How was that possible? Oh well. It was too late to worry about that now.
“So what if I am?” Alice asked haughtily. “What’s it to you?”
“Er…did you notice the uniform?” Porter asked. “I’m Starfleet. I can’t just let you go and blow things up.”
“It’s not really any of your business.”
“You’re unbelievable! Of course it’s my business!”
“You’re getting too worked up about this, Craig. Why are you making things more difficult than they need to be? We had one little night together. It was fun. We had some laughs.”
“Yes, and then you tried to rip a hole in the universe!”
“It’s for a good cause!” Alice snapped back.
“What cause? Killing us all? Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen if you detonate a triphasic device inside the Bermuda Expanse!”
“I’ll be a safe distance away before it goes off,” Alice said.
“But what about us? The damage to subspace will probably ripple to Waystation and tear the place apart! Did you think of that?”
Alice eyes widened and she hesitated slightly before catching herself and steeling her resolve. “It has to be done.”
“Why? What did the Bermuda Expanse ever do to you?”
“They’re in there!” Alice shouted.
“They who? You mean the Directors?”
“SO?” Alice cried. “Have you ever seen them?”
“Um…no. Have you?”
“No! And thank the Great Bird for that! They’re giant eyeballs! I mean ICK!!!”
“Okay. But what do you have against them?”
“Hello? They’re giant eyeballs! That’s just gross!”
“Hold on here a second,” Porter said. “Let me make sure I’m following you. You want to destroy the Bermuda Expanse and quite possibly wipe out every man, woman, and child on Waystation because eyeballs are icky.”
“Come on, Craig! Giant eyeballs! Eyeballs! EWWWWWWWWW! And what about the lips? That’s not any better!”
“I don’t think the Critics are in the Bermuda Expanse.”
“But do you know that for sure?” Alice pressed.
“But nothing. I’m not going to just sit and do nothing while a bunch of gross body parts run around the universe. Like I said, something has to be done, and I’ve got just the thing to do it.”
“Yeah, about that. Where the hell did you manage to get your hands on a triphasic device?” Porter demanded.
“I found it at an estate sale.” This was actually the truth. In her normal life, Alice Gantry organized and ran estate sales for a living. While preparing the belongings left behind by one Dr. Emile Kenara in his secret underground lair and laboratory on a barren moon of the Voxis System, Alice had stumbled across the triphasic device in a crate underneath the stuffed and mounted carcass of a three-headed targ and several back issues of Mad Scientist Monthly. Realizing that the key to achieving her goal of removing icky disembodied body parts from universe was at hand, she put a reasonable sum in the estate sale coffers and swiped the device for herself. Granted, the triphasic device might well have earned more at the actual sale, but Alice was sure that the profit derived from Dr. Kenara’s complete set of Insane Geniuses of History collectible beer steins more than made up for it.
“Nice to know somebody had one of those laying around,” Porter muttered.
“All that really matters is that I’m going to use it. Now get out of my way.”
Porter chuckled. “You don’t honestly think that I’m going to…HEY!” Porter dodged quickly as Alice suddenly whipped off her shoe and flung it at him. He unfortunately didn’t expect her aim to be as bad as it was and ended up dodging right into the path of the oncoming footwear.
Alice was on him in a flash, slamming her knee into his crotch then shoving him aside as she dove for her ship’s control console.
A shoe and a crotch shot? Was this woman going to use every stereotypical female attack method? Of course, as Porter lay on the deck moaning, he had to admit that they were damn effective. Why mess with the classics?
Grabbing onto the back of the pilot’s seat for support, Porter dragged himself to his feet just in time to see the triphasic device streaking away from the ship toward the Bermuda Expanse.
“There,” Alice said defiantly as she plopped down into the pilot’s seat and began turning the craft away from the Bermuda Expanse. “It’s done. In five minutes, it will all be over. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be retreating to a safe distance.”
“The hell you will,” Porter gasped, slapping his commbadge. “Porter to Cumberland. Two to beam aboard. Energize!”
“Hey!” Alice cried as Porter locked his hand around her arm. “You can’t…”
Her protests were cut off as the pair dematerialized.
After rematerializing at the rear of the Runabout Cumberland’s cockpit, Porter sprang into action. Or hobbled really. He was still in more than a little pain. Fortunately, he was also more than a little bit stronger than Alice. He dragged her over to the runabout’s supply locker, snatched a phaser out of it, then took Alice to the runabout’s co-pilot seat and pushed her down into it.
“Stay there!” he ordered.
“Or what?” she snapped.
“Or I shoot you, and believe me it isn’t going to take much to push me in that direction,” he replied, sitting down gingerly at the pilot’s console and deactivating the auto-pilot system that had kept the Cumberland in close proximity to Alice’s ship.
“It doesn’t matter,” Alice huffed. “I already launched the device. It’s over.”
“Not when I’ve got five minutes to work with,” Porter replied, gunning the runabout’s engines and sending the ship rocketing toward the Bermuda Expanse.
“You’re going in there!” Alice shouted in horror.
“Only because you made me,” Porter said.
“But…but…we’ll be killed! Or thrown across the galaxy!”
“No we won’t!” Porter said confidently. Mostly confidently anyway. He’d only actually been in the Bermuda Expanse once before and that was two years ago when he’d been sent to retrieve Federation President Bradley Dillon, who’d evidently decided it’d be fun to go Nebula Jumping there. Porter had been able to get Bradley without so much as a burp coming from the Bermuda Expanse, so nothing would probably happen this time. Besides, if the Directors were really in there, how could they have a problem with Porter entering it to prevent the place from being destroyed?
“Eyeballs!” Alice screamed, covering her eyes.
“Where?” Porter said, peering out at the swirling purple mass of vapors and eddies stretching out before them.
“I don’t want to see any eyeballs!”
“Fine. Then just sit there and keep your eyes closed.”
“Stop talking about eyes!”
“You’ve got real problems. You know that?”
“NO!” Alice cried, blindly swatting at Porter and the controls with one hand as she kept her eyes covered with the other. “They’ve got to die!”
“I’m going to shoot you!” Porter warned. “I mean it!”
“I have a duty to the galaxy!” Alice replied, still slapping.
Porter smacked her hand away as the runabout’s sensors locked onto the triphasic device. “Great Bird!” he exclaimed as the runabout drew close to the device. “The Directors!”
“What?” Alice said, uncovering her eyes just as the triphasic device vanished. “They…they took it!”
“I guess I didn’t need to come in here after all,” Porter said, whipping the runabout around and getting them the hell out of there. “The Directors had matters well in hand.”
“I can’t destroy them?” Alice asked weakly, eyes glazed in shock.
“No,” she said softly. “No no no. Eyeballs. Ewwwwwwww.”
“I think there’s a lesson we can take away from all of this,” Lieutenant Commander Russell said thoughtfully as he and Porter sat in the Security Office watching the image on one of the monitors of Alice Gantry sitting in a brig cell muttering to herself. “You have lousy taste in women.”
“Hey now,” Porter protested. “You wanted her first.”
“Well, she is hot.”
“And pretty fantastic in bed,” Porter said.
“And probably heading to Tantalus V,” Russell shot back.
“What makes you think she’s crazy?”
“She picked you over me,” Russell said.
“I’m serious. What makes her crazy? Yeah, she took things too far, but wouldn’t you feel better if the Bermuda Expanse wasn’t sitting practically next door?”
“I honestly haven’t thought much about it,” Russell replied.
“Come on, Sean. How can you not have thought about it? You’ve had a run-in with the Critics. We were attacked by those lizard alien things that came out of there. It’s tossed starships to the other side of the galaxy. Maybe we should be looking for ways to destroy it. It’s dangerous!”
Russell shrugged. “There are a lot of dangerous things in the universe, Craig. I don’t think we can blow all of them up. Besides, didn’t the Directors stop Alice’s bomb or whatever?”
“That’s what she believes anyway,” Porter said.
“What’s that mean?”
“That means that the swirling clouds of the Bermuda Expanse cover up the use of a transporter quite well,” Porter replied. “All Alice saw was me reducing her triphasic device to its component atoms and dispersing them throughout the Bermuda Expanse. As far as I know, the Directors actually haven’t been heard from by anyone in a couple of years now.”
“That doesn’t change my point, though. You can’t go around destroying things just because they might hurt you someday. Hell, I might sock you in the mouth if you swipe another woman from me, but you’re not going to kill me now just because that could happen in the future.”
“Don’t be so sure of that,” Porter said. “No. You’re right. And as long as the Bermuda Expanse stays away from us, I’m content to stay away from it.”
“And you’re right about something else, too.”
“Alice is crazy,” Porter said, pointing at the monitor.
Alice had ripped her shirt off and wrapped it around her head as a giant blindfold. “No eyeballs! No eyeballs!” she screamed.
“She’s still hot,” Russell said.
“You’re awful. You know that.”
“Like you’re not looking at her breasts right now.”
“I’ve already seen them.”
“Oh shut up.”