Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“All Ahead Full”
By Alan Decker
There were so many better ways Captain Lisa Beck could have been spending her time at that moment. The never-ending pile of padds on her desk dealing with various aspects of station business needed to be dealt with, the Chief Administrator of Ghorlin Colony was waiting for her to comm him back, and she really could use a bit of lunch.
Instead, she was trapped in her office listening to this.
“If you think you can tarnish the fine name of the Double D Diner and Dillon Enterprises with this desperate and pathetic maneuver, you are quite mistaken,” Mister Auditmi, the acting CEO of Dillon Enterprises stated, waving a threatening finger at Baughb, the Andorian proprietor of McBaughb’s. Beck had known Baughb for many years. He was her usual waiter at the Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet Andorian restaurant long before he opened his own place on the upper level of Starfleet Square Mall. In all that time, she’d never seen him irritated, much less angry…until now.
“If you think I am responsible for this, you have no respect for much less understanding of Andorian culture!” Baughb snapped, his antennae quivering.
“No one throws up after eating at the Double D! It just doesn’t happen! You sent those two Nausicaans! Admit it!”
Beck resisted the urge to crack a joke about Nausea-caans and let the two businessmen continue their “discussion.”
“I have nothing to admit.”
“It was deliberate sabotage!”
“If an Andorian wishes to sabotage your establishment, you will know it! All that will be left of your k’svarting excuse for a restaurant is a smoking pile of debris!”
“You hear that, Captain?” Auditmi said, whirling toward Beck as fast as his hefty Zakdorn frame would allow. “He’s threatening me.”
“Actually, he’s just stating a fact,” Beck said, resting her head on her hands as she leaned on her desk. “Andorian tactics are rather straight-forward.”
“Just ask Mister Dillon when he returns,” Baughb said. “He has seen Andorians in action.”
Yes, he has, Beck thought. But I don’t think he’s coming back. It had been three months since President Bradley Dillon disappeared along with a handful of officers from the USS Explorer. In his absence Vice President Heran Roloi had been running the Federation from Earth, which had made life on Waystation a tad less hectic, and thus far the general populace was unaware that Bradley might be gone forever. Life in the Federation would go on, but Beck’s life wasn’t going to get any better until she got Baughb and Auditmi out of her office.
“What about the Nausicaans?” she asked, breaking into the argument.
“What about them?” Auditmi said.
“Are they okay?”
“As far as I know, they are still in the Infirmary. The staff there cannot determine what is really wrong with them. Of course, considering that they are functioning without a qualified Chief Medical Officer…”
“Our new doctor is en route and will be here tomorrow,” Beck said, cutting him off. “But I’m sure the Infirmary staff can handle a simple case of food poisoning.”
“We did not poison anyone!” Auditmi insisted.
“And I did not send them,” Baughb said.
“And maybe they got too drunk last night and their stomachs weren’t quite ready to eat this morning,” Beck said with a tired sigh. “Corporate sabotage is not the most logical conclusion here, Mister Auditmi.”
“I knew you’d take his side.”
“I’m not taking anyone’s side.”
“You like their food better than ours.”
“Yes. I do. But that has nothing to do with this,” Beck said. “I…” She was cut off by the sound of her desk comm unit bleeping. “Excuse me,” she said, turning her attention to the comm unit. Any sort of interruption would be welcome right now. She activated the comm.
“Beck here. Go ahead,” she said. She was expecting to see Commander Walter Morales or one of the other Waystation command officers on the comm screen. It was more than a little surprising to instead see the thin graceful features of Fleet Admiral Nosira Ra’al. “Admiral Ra’al!” Beck exclaimed, proving the whole being surprised thing.
“Captain Beck,” Ra’al said, all business. “I assume you’ve heard the news about President Dillon’s return.”
“He’s returned!” Auditmi cried excitedly. He grabbed Beck’s desk monitor and turned it to face him. “Where is he? Is he okay?”
Beck snatched the monitor back and put it in its proper position. “I’m not alone at the moment, Admiral.”
“I can see that,” Ra’al said darkly.
“Would you gentlemen excuse me?” Beck asked.
“I must hear about Mister Dillon!” Auditmi demanded.
“You’ll hear it later,” Beck said. “Now get out!”
“Thank you for your time, Captain Beck,” Baughb said with a slight bow before exiting. Auditmi gave the desk monitor one last longing look, then followed.
“Sorry about that, Admiral,” Beck said. “Please continue.”
“I’m guessing by your response that you had not been informed about the President after all.”
“It takes news a while to get out to us sometimes.”
“In this instance, he almost got to you before it did. You can expect the President to be arriving tomorrow on the Aerostar-A. The USS Explorer will be arriving as well to pick up its officers.”
“So everyone is okay?”
“As far as we’re aware.”
“What happened to them?”
“That is what I wanted to speak with you about, Beck,” Ra’al said. “Based on the debriefings of the participants in this incident, it appears that President Dillon was secretly working on a time travel device and used it to go back into Earth’s past.”
“Time travel?” Beck said surprised. “Why would he want to do that?”
“We’re not certain. But, as you can imagine, that has been quite the topic of discussion in the Federation Council since they received word of his return. This lack of certainty is also a problem for us.”
“President Dillon commandeered Starfleet resources and personnel for actions which could have easily resulted in a disruption of the timeline. Quite frankly, we no longer trust him…not that we really trusted him before, but until now we didn’t have any reasons to believe that he might be acting against Starfleet’s best interests. From now on, Beck, I want you to keep an eye on him.”
“You want me to spy on the President?”
“Just monitor his activities. If he has some other plans in the works that could put us at risk, we need to know about them.”
“With all due respect, Admiral, I don’t think…”
“This isn’t open for discussion, Captain,” Ra’al snapped. “I’ll be expecting weekly reports. Starfleet out.”
As the screen went blank, Beck leaned back in her chair and groaned. She was relieved to hear that Bradley Dillon was safe. Despite their differences in the past, she did consider him to be a friend…of a sort. But his return had just complicated her life in oh so many ways. Why did he have to show up tomorrow? The station’s new Chief Medical Officer, a Dr. Diantha, was arriving then. Now Beck would be lucky to say two words to the new doctor. And the spying? Was Ra’al serious? Of course she was serious. That was the problem.
Beck groaned again. Why had she wanted command of the station back from Admiral Fonn so badly?
“He isn’t here,” Beck said to Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter as they stood in Docking Bay Four watching the runabout carrying the station’s new Chief Medical Officer make its final approach. She pulled at the collar of her dress uniform in a futile attempt to make it stop choking her. Unfortunately, strangulation seemed to come standard with the dress whites. That’s why they were universally reviled by Starfleet Officers. She didn’t know a single person who liked them. The grey and black standard duty uniforms weren’t bad. Comfortable. Smart-looking. But the whites… Confining and they showed every single stain. Who had come up with these awful things?
“I told Russell to be here,” Beck continued.
“There was some kind of situation at McBaughb’s.”
“Please tell me it involved Baughb skewering Auditmi with something long and sharp.”
“Couldn’t tell you,” Porter said as the runabout passed through the forcefield at the docking bay entrance and touched down on the deck.
“I guess we’re doing this then,” Beck said, straightening her pose a bit to appear more formal. “Quickly. The Aerostar-A docked five minutes ago.”
“Greet and run. Got it. You know anything about this new doctor?”
“Just her name. Dr. Diantha.”
“That’s what was in the information from Starfleet. No species. No personnel history. No nothing.”
The runabout hatch opened. “Looks like we’re about to find out,” Porter said.
“Remember, we’re going for a good first impression here.”
“Before we run away.”
“Exactly,” Beck said, taking a step forward to greet whomever was about to emerge from the runabout.
Honestly Beck hadn’t formed any real expectations about the new doctor assigned to be Waystation’s Chief Medical Officer. But even with no expectations, the woman who came into view was something of a surprise.
Mostly it was the feathers.
“Captain Beck, I presume,” Dr. Diantha said, striding down the runabout ramp to Beck and Porter. She was tall, even taller than Beck, and easily pushing two meters. Most of her body was covered in white feathers, which ran down her arms to her wrists. From there, long jagged fingers extended. The doctor’s head reminded Beck most of a Bald Eagle. Diantha had the same regal head structure and piercing eyes, but a snubbed soft beak that moved almost like lips when she spoke. The feature that really caught Beck’s attention, though, was the doctor’s two large wings, which at this time were folded behind her, the mid-joints jutting up halfway up the avian’s officer’s head, and covered in golden feathers. The uniform top she wore was more of a wrap than a shirt, allowing the wings to be accommodated.
“Y-yes,” Beck said, recovering herself. “I’m Captain Lisa Beck. This is our Science and Operations Officer, Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter.”
“Nice to meet you,” Porter said warmly, extending a hand to Diantha.
“Hello,” Diantha said, her voice exuding the exact opposite of warm as she eyed Porter’s hand disdainfully.
“Welcome to Waystation,” Beck said.
“Thank you, Captain. I understand that…”
“I’m sorry to do this, but we really have to go. If you’ll remain here, our Chief of Security will be here in just a moment to help get you settled in.”
“But…” Diantha began to protest as Beck and Porter raced for the exit.
“We’ll talk later,” Beck said, dashing out of the docking back with Porter and leaving Diantha alone.
Out in the corridor, the pair almost ran over Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell, who was rushing toward them.
“Is she here yet?” Russell asked, out of breath.
“Just arrived,” Beck said. “Get in there.”
“But she seems kind of flighty,” Porter said. “Try not to ruffle her feathers.”
“I’ll be all charm,” Russell said, pasting on a smile.
“I don’t doubt it,” Beck said.
“And I wouldn’t worry,” Porter said. “It will just take her some time to get used to the pecking order around here.”
“I’ll tell her everything she needs to know,” Russell replied. “But now for the important thing. How does she look?”
“Oh, she’s quite a chick,” Porter said.
“Really?” Russell said his smile broadening. “You two get going. The welcome wagon has arrived.” He gave his uniform a straightening tug and strolled into the docking bay.
“You’re terrible,” Beck said to Porter as they quickly headed off toward the docking arm where the Aerostar-A waited.
“No, really. I think you hit actual evil on that one.”
“I’m sure I owe it to him for something or other.”
“Do you owe me for anything?”
“I guess we’ll have to find out, won’t we?” Porter replied with a wag of his eyebrows.
The airlock to the Aerostar-A was still closed when Porter and Beck arrived, which was at it should be. Beck had asked Commander Morales to stall them as much as possible to give her and Porter time to get down there. Normally, she just would have had Yeoman Tina Jones meet the Aerostar-A and be done with it, but with President Dillon on board, Beck felt she really needed to meet the ship herself, especially considering her orders from Fleet Admiral Ra’al. Instead, she’d told Jones to wait in the Welcome Center to assist anyone else who might be boarding the station from the Aerostar-A. Hopefully that wouldn’t require much work, since anyone coming from that ship should be leaving on the USS Explorer, which was due to arrive before too much longer. At least Beck hoped it wouldn’t be much longer. She really didn’t need those people sticking around and making her life difficult.
“Beck to Morales,” she said, slapping her commbadge once she and Porter were in position. “We’re ready.”
“I’m giving them the all-clear,” Morales replied over the comm. Almost immediately, through the widow in the airlock door, Beck saw the door on the Aerostar’s end of the docking arm open…and nothing happened.
Almost a minute later, Bradley Dillon stepped into view, head held high and decked out, as usual, in an impeccably tailored suit. One thing Beck had always felt about Bradley was that he had presence and he knew how to use it. It seemed natural somehow that he’d ended up in politics (even if he hadn’t actually been elected). Several members of his Special Secret Section (who had swarmed to the Aerostar-A as soon as it was known that Bradley was on board) were behind him, looking around for any possible threat to the Federation’s Commander-In-Chief.
The group reached the Waystation end of the docking arm and opened the door. Spotting Beck, Bradley broke into a large smile. “Captain!” he said, shaking her hand. “It’s good to see you again.” He turned to Porter, and repeated the handshake. “Mister Porter.”
“Mister President,” Porter said.
Bradley fixed his attention back on Beck. “I trust all has been well while I was away.”
“Busy, but we’ve muddled through,” Beck said. “I’m happy to see you’re all right. We were worried when we heard about your disappearance.”
“Ah…well…as you know, Captain, the universe can be a dangerous place. The unexpected can happen at any moment.”
“And was what happened to you unexpected?”
The genial smile on Bradley’s face never wavered. “Some aspects, but this is neither the time nor the place to discuss such things. I’ve just come home, after all, and I would very much like to return to my quarters.”
“They’re just like you left them…over a year ago,” Beck said.
“I would expect nothing less.”
“You’re really not going to talk to me.”
“We are talking.”
“Captain, I have no intention of just standing here. If you wish to continue this conversation, we can do so as we walk.”
“Fine,” Beck said, falling into step beside Bradley as the Special Secret Section took up positions both in front of and behind the President and the Captain. The group quickly moved off down the corridor, leaving Porter behind. He was about to head off himself when we spotted the group of officers from the USS Explorer who had disappeared with President Dillon entering the docking arm from the Aerostar-A. While Captain Beck had pretty much nothing but disdain for Captain Andy Baxter, Porter didn’t have anything against the man. Of course, he didn’t really have anything for him either. Baxter, did, however, have the lovely Ariel Tilleran under his command. Maybe Porter could start a little small talk and find a way to casually ask how Tilleran was doing.
He quickly changed his plan when he got a good look at the faces of Baxter, Counselor Kelly Peterman, and Dr. Janice Browning. All three of them just looked…beaten. Baxter, who was pushing a little girl in a hover-stroller, came out first.
“Captain,” Porter said, with a nod of his head.
“Yeah,” Baxter replied flatly. And that was it. Peterman and Browning didn’t so much as glance at Porter. Instead, they silently made their way into the nearest turbolift. Porter heard Baxter order it to the Welcome Center, and then they were gone.
So much for small talk.
“Was there something specific that you wished to discuss?” Bradley asked as he and Beck moved along the corridor.
“I wanted to know how you were doing,” Beck replied, quickly growing irritated.
“It’s a bit complicated to get into, but I promise that I’m planning to make a speech that will clear up everything.”
“A speech. I have to wait for a speech. How long have we known each other?”
“Many years, but I doubt even you would go so far as to say that we’re good friends,” Bradley said.
“No, but I was concerned about you. I don’t dislike you, you know.”
“I’m sure that’s not even true some days,” Bradley said with a smirk.
“And I’m sure there are days that the feeling is mutual,” Beck replied.
“Even so, the fact that I don’t want to tell you my story at the moment is no reflection on my feelings toward you. I simply don’t feel like repeating myself over and over, as I’m sure would end up happening if I let it. To allay your concerns, though, I’m fine. And I’m very glad to be back.”
“So you’re staying?”
“This is my home,” Bradley said. “I’m looking forward to being back in my own environment and getting back to the business of running the Federation and Dillon Enterprises.”
“Are you sure Mister Auditmi is going to give you control back?” Beck asked with a grin.
“Took to the job, did he?”
“Somewhat. He certainly seemed to be keeping a close eye on things.”
“That’s why I hired a Zakdorn. It’s what they do.”
“Yes, indeed,” Beck said. She let the conversation falter for a moment. There was no real smooth way to move the conversation to what Ra’al want to know, so… “So…any big plans now that you’re back?”
“I have a few new business ventures in mind, but nothing all that exciting,” Bradley said.
“Okay. So nothing that I, as station commander, should be aware of?”
“If there is, I’ll be sure to let you know.”
“Good. Because if you need…”
“Mister President! Mister President!” Beck and Bradley both turned to look for the source of the insistent voice heading their way. Beck inwardly groaned. Joan Redding. Of course she wouldn’t let a story like the President’s return slip by her without trying for an exclusive interview. Redding quickly reached the group and practically shoved Beck out of the way to get right in Bradley’s face. “Mister President, Joan Redding. AWN News.”
“I am well aware of who you are, Ms. Redding,” Bradley replied.
“Then are you also aware of the rumors swirling around your extended-absence?” Redding said. Beck stepped back, allowing Bradley’s group to move off down the corridor without her. Redding wouldn’t get anywhere with Bradley, and Beck had absolutely no interesting in watching her try. Bradley was not one to provide information unless he wanted to, which would make what Fleet Admiral Ra’al had asked of Beck all the more difficult. Didn’t Starfleet have actual spies for this kind of thing?
Yeoman Tina Jones was too involved in the padd she was reading to notice the two men looming over her table in Victoria’s Pub that evening. They both suddenly slammed their beer mugs down on the table, causing her to scream and leap up in alarm.
“Now those are the reflexes of a security officer,” Porter said, sliding into a chair next to Jones.
“She could be a bit more observant of her surroundings, though,” Russell said.
“You have no room to talk on that subject,” Porter replied.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You don’t notice things either.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Oh really? What about that mugging in the mall last week?”
“It was a Horta. Two of them. They’re rocks. How was I supposed to know what they were doing? They’re ROCKS!”
Jones tossed her padd in front of Russell. “Wanna look at my Xeno-criminology textbook?” she asked.
Russell winced. “Ewww. You’ve got that this semester?”
“Yep. And Introduction to Unarmed Combat.”
“Good class,” Russell said nodding. “Painful, but good.”
“What do you mean painful?”
“The instructor liked to use me to demonstrate the techniques.”
“I can see that,” Porter said. “Practice dummy works for you.”
“Don’t you even start with me after what you pulled this afternoon.”
“What’d I pull?” Porter asked innocently.
“Yeah. What’d he pull?” Jones added eagerly.
“Diantha,” Russell said flatly.
“The new doctor?” Jones asked.
“Striking, isn’t she?” Porter said grinning.
“She’s a bird.”
“Does that mean attractive?” Jones asked confused.
“No, she’s a bird!” Russell repeated. “With wings and everything.”
“She’s avian?” Jones exclaimed. “Wow! I can’t wait to see her!”
“I’ll bet she can wait to see you,” Russell groused. “The woman didn’t stop complaining from the moment I stepped into the docking bay.”
“Well, the captain and I did run out on her kind of abruptly to meet the Aerostar-A,” Porter said.
“Did you see President Dillon?” Jones asked. “How did he look?”
“Fine. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, though. I need to try to track him down tomorrow.”
“What for?” Russell asked.
“Rumor is he built a time machine,” Porter replied. “If it’s true, I want to see it. Or at least hear what technology he used.”
“Typical,” Russell said. “The universe could be coming to an end, but as long as there was a time machine involved, Craig wouldn’t care.”
“At least death by temporal erasure wouldn’t hurt,” Porter said.
“Maybe we could try it on Doctor Diantha.”
“Come on, Sean. She can’t be that bad,” Jones said.
Russell launched into an impression of the avian officer’s haughty tone, “The captain is rude. Dumping me with you is very inappropriate. These corridors are too cramped. The ceiling in these quarters is too low. This replicator doesn’t have an adequate selection of meals. This sofa is making me molt.”
“She molted?” Porter asked.
“Okay, I made that last bit up, but she said every bit of the rest of it. The infirmary staff is in for a real treat when she shows up for her first shift tomorrow.”
“Just be glad the Explorer and the Aerostar both left already,” Porter said. “If they’d stuck around, we’d be getting a real treat as well. You know how Captain Beck feels about Baxter and friends. Speaking of, did you talk to them, Tina? They looked pretty miserable when they got off of the Aerostar.”
Jones bit her lip. “Um…yeah. They…they definitely weren’t acting real happy. And the captain may not be off the hook completely. They didn’t all…”
“Waits to Russell,” Russell’s commbadge barked suddenly.
“What is it, Mike?” Russell asked, slapping his commbadge.
“I’m not sure, sir. We’re getting some weird reports from the arboretum.”
“What kind of reports?”
“Panic. Screaming. That sort of thing. I was about to send Shust down to check it out, but I thought I’d better let you know first, since…you know…it’s weird that anything would be happening…there.”
“Tell Shust I’ll meet him down there,” Russell said as he stood up from the table. “He is NOT to go in without me.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll let him know. Waits out.”
“The flowers are pissed and they aren’t going to take it anymore,” Porter said chuckling.
“With our luck, you’re probably right. See you guys later,” Russell replied then headed for the door.
“If it does turn out to be a sentient plant species, save some for me,” Porter called after him. “I could get a good paper out of it.” He finished off the last of his beer then drummed his hands on the table a bit. “I guess I should let you study,” he said to Jones then got up from his seat.
“Um…okay,” Jones said. “Enjoy your evening.”
“Will do,” Porter said before strolling out of the pub.
Best he enjoy himself now, Jones thought. Because when the captain found out that not all of the Explorer officers had left with their ship, no one in Ops would going to be in a very good mood tomorrow.
As ordered, Ensign Brendan Shust was waiting at the arboretum doors when Russell approached. Seeing his commanding officer, Shust got his phaser rifle into position. “I’m ready to go in, sir,” he said.
“Do we have any idea what’s actually inside?”
“Not really. The last couple of people who ran out were screaming something about a monster. Good thing I brought the big gun.”
“You always bring the big gun,” Russell said.
“And this is why.”
Russell decided that there was absolutely no reason for this conversation to continue and instead approached the arboretum door, trying as best he could to peer through the frosted viewport in the door to get a look at the room’s interior. He wasn’t having much luck, with it being frosted and all, so, seeing little in the way of other options, he pulled out his phaser and stepped inside, Shust following close behind.
“What does this monster look like?” Russell whispered.
“I don’t know. They just said monster,” Shust whispered back.
“You didn’t ask them any other questions?”
“They seemed kind of busy with their screaming and fleeing.”
Just inside the doors was a tree-lined path that led to the main gardens inside the three-story chamber that took up a good portion of levels 38 through 40. And while there were trees in the arboretum, it wasn’t like the room was a thick forest. Russell was certain they’d spot whatever was running around soon enough.
Shust wasn’t taking any chances. He had his rifle at the ready and was constantly sweeping the trees, looking for even the slightest sign of movement. Finally, the pair reached the end of the tree-lined path and emerged into the center of the arboretum, where several other paths led off into the various sections of plants, shrubs, and flowers from around the galaxy.
Russell looked around and shook his head. “I’m not seeing a thing here, Shust. Maybe those people where just…GREAT BIRD!” Russell grabbed Shust and hit the deck as what he’d very accurately described as a great bird buzzed over their position.
“I’ve got it!” Shust exclaimed, scrambling back to his feet and aiming his rifle.
Russell uncovered his head and followed the track of the soaring creature. It took a couple of moments for it to click in his mind what he was seeing and then…
“I’ve got a shot!” Shust protested.
“I know her!”
Shust lowered the rifle and turned on Russell. “Her? HER? You…know. Wow. You really do get around, sir.”
“Not like that!” Russell snapped. “That’s Doctor Diantha.” Shust looked back at him blankly. “Our new CMO?”
“We got one?”
“Yes! Commander Morales announced it this morning in the daily station notes he sends around. You’re supposed to read those things, you know.”
“With all due respect, sir, but don’t you just have Lieutenant Waits tell you the highlights?”
“Yes, but…that’s not the point.”
While this conversation was proceeding, Dr. Diantha had reached the far wall of the arboretum and had turned and was making her way back to Russell and Shust’s position. Russell leapt up and started waving his arms in an attempt to flag the soaring doctor down.
Diantha complied, touching down next to Russell and Shust and folding her wings back in as she eyed the intruders with displeasure. “What do you want, Mister Russell? I am attempting to exercise, even though this facility is less than adequate. Actually, that statement implies that this room is somewhere in the general range of adequate, which it most certainly is not. It’s terrible, and…”
“You can’t fly here,” Russell said firmly. In all honesty, he wasn’t aware that Diantha could fly at all. When he first met her, he assumed the wings were just a leftover part of their evolution and incapable of actually propelling her through the air. Whoops.
“I…can’t,” Diantha said frowning. At least Russell hoped that was a frown on her beak and not a sign of imminent attack.
“You’re scaring the other arboretum visitors. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Then just where do you suggest that I exercise?”
“I am going to have words with the captain,” Diantha spat, stalking past Russell toward the path to the exit.
“Try her tomorrow morning,” Russell called after Diantha. “She might be able to fit you in.”
“Oh do not worry. She WILL see me.”
“What do you mean she can’t see me?” Dr. Diantha demanded the next morning.
“She’s in with someone right now,” Commander Walter Morales replied apologetically. “I’m sure she’ll be done soon, if you’d like to wait.”
“You are certain it will be soon?”
Morales glanced over at Beck’s office door. “It will if Captain Beck has anything to say about it.”
The office had been quiet for several moments now as Captain Beck let out several deep breaths and fidgeted with her ear. Across the desk from Beck, Kelly Peterman, who at that moment should have been on the USS Explorer rapidly speeding away from Waystation if there was any justice in the universe, sat unmoving in her chair, her eyes locked on Waystation’s commanding officer waiting for a response.
“You want to be our counselor?” Beck said finally. Someway, somehow, Captain Andy Baxter was responsible for this. He wasn’t here to annoy Beck in person, so now he was sending members of his family after her. What had she ever done to him?
“Yes, ma’am,” Peterman said eagerly.
“Aren’t you already the Explorer’s counselor?”
“They found a replacement while we were…in my absence. Besides, I would like a change. Look for new challenges, you know?”
“I think I could be useful on Waystation.”
“And you don’t have a counselor currently,” Peterman stated.
“That’s true,” Beck said hesitantly. Waystation’s previous counselor, Ray Miller, had left under mysterious circumstances about two years earlier. He said it was some kind of secret project, but Beck couldn’t imagine what kind of secret project would need a counselor…especially one like Miller.
“Then this would fit both of our needs perfectly,” Peterman said.
“Counselor,” Beck said, putting her hands together and resting them on her desk as she leaned forward to address Peterman. “This just isn’t the way Starfleet does things. There are forms to fill out. Oh Great Bird are there forms to fill out. I’d be surprised if Command had even gotten around to completing the ‘Missing Officer’ work on you, much less the ‘Oh Wait, She’s Not Missing’ and the ‘What Was She Doing While She Was Gone’ pieces.”
“Actually, Commander Larkin took care of all of that when the Aerostar-A brought us back to the 24th century,” Peterman replied.
Beck smiled weakly. “Nothing like having an android on your side,” she said.
“Absolutely. Of course, she’s not really on my side anymore. She’s on Captain Conway’s. Well technically we’re all on the same side, but she serves at his side…and on his ship…and not on mine…not that I’m on a ship anymore.”
“I got it,” Beck said, holding up her hand for Peterman to stop. If that didn’t work, she would either resort to begging or a phaser.
“In any case, I’m free to be your counselor.”
“Uh huh. Can I be blunt with you for a moment, Peterman?”
“We don’t need you.”
“Don’t be silly. Of course you do.” Her eyes narrowed at Beck. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those people who doesn’t believe in counseling.”
“Not at all. It’s just…to be honest the Waniquanbi Group has been satisfying all of our counseling needs.”
“The Waniquanbi Group?” Peterman asked confused. “Who is that?”
“It’s a private psychology practice that opened up here nine months ago. In exchange for space on the station, they provide mental health care to all Starfleet personnel on board. So far, it’s been a great arrangement for all concerned.”
“You privatized your counseling?” Peterman asked in horror.
“Um…yes,” Beck said confused as to why this was an issue.
“But another Starfleet counselor could have…”
“No one wanted to come out here,” Beck snapped, finally having had enough. “We solved the problem, though. We’re fine. Thanks for the offer. Now if you don’t mind, I have work to do. Feel free to talk to Commander Morales or Yeoman Jones about arranging transportation back to the Explorer. Goodbye.”
“I still want the position,” Peterman said firmly.
“You never filled the Counselor post, so it’s available. I want it.”
“Weren’t you listening? You won’t have any clients.”
“Maybe. Maybe not,” Peterman said. “Maybe some of the crew would prefer an actual Starfleet counselor over some civilian.” That was of secondary concern to her, though. President Dillon wouldn’t be going to the Waniquanbi Group. In fact, unless Peterman took action, Bradley probably wouldn’t talk through his problems with anyone at all. He was the only client she needed on Waystation.
“Fine,” Beck said, throwing her hands up. “If I say no, you’ll probably just go above my head anyway. If you want the job, it’s yours. Have fun.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Peterman said grinning as she stood up from her chair. “You have my word that I will do my best for the sake of the Federation.”
Beck stared at her blankly. “Yeah,” she said after a couple of moments. “You do that. Bye now.”
Peterman gave her a jovial wave, then headed out of Beck’s office. Before Beck could even lean back in her seat to try to deal with what had just happened (Why her? Why here? Would this mean even more visits from the Explorer? What had she done to deserve that?), her office doors slid open and Dr. Diantha charged in without so much as a warning knock.
“This is unacceptable!” Diantha announced, slamming her fist down on Beck’s desk.
“You got that right,” Beck said, fighting down a flash of anger. “I don’t know what things were like at your last posting, Doctor, but I like people to ring the door chime before the come in. It’s called courtesy.”
“When some is shown to me, I will consider it,” Diantha replied. “But I have experienced nothing of the sort since I arrived in this gireth-forsaken place.”
“If this is about our abbreviated greeting yesterday, you just need to get over it. This is a busy place. Stuff like that is going to happen,” Beck said.
“That is the least of my concerns,” Diantha retorted. “What I cannot accept is the blatant disregard for my requirements.”
Diantha let out an exasperated hiss. “Did you even read them?”
“I don’t think I even got them.”
“You…didn’t…get them?” Diantha said, cocking her head. Her eyes bulged slightly. “Personnel.”
“Probably didn’t send whatever it is you’re talking about,” Beck said. “They aren’t exactly known for their customer service. Now that what requirements are we talking about here.”
“I need a place to fly.”
“Fly? You can fly?”
“I am Keetooan,” Diantha said, as though that should have explained everything.
“Oh,” Beck said, pretending that it did indeed explain everything.
“And there is no room on this station large enough to accommodate me.”
“While holodecks are more than capable of simulating large landscapes for the grounded by moving the floor under your feet, it has a bit more difficulty dealing with avians.”
“But can’t it…”
“I fly into the walls.”
“Oh,” Beck said again. “Maybe the arboretum…”
“Mister Russell already banned me from there. Evidently there were…complaints. But I must have a place to exercise.”
“I understand. Let me see what I can figure out,” Beck said.
“Please do so quickly.”
“You wouldn’t want to see a counselor, would you?”
Diantha glared at Beck. “Certainly not!” she said.
“Just asking,” Beck said.
“I will await the results of your figuring. In the meantime, I will explore other options,” Diantha said with a curt nod of her head, then swept out of the office.
Moments later, Beck’s door chime sounded. “Come in,” Beck said tiredly.
The door opened and Commander Morales stuck his head in. “You okay?” he asked sympathetically.
“I have a headache,” Beck replied.
“I could ask the doctor to prescribe you something.”
“She is the headache,” Beck said. “Half of it anyway.”
“Do I need to guess who the other half is?”
“Well, look at it this way, at least President Dillon isn’t the one annoying you,” Morales said.
“Yet, Walter. The key word is yet.”
Moments after he stepped into the reception area of his office, Bradley Dillon found himself trapped inside a pair of steely arms.
“Mister Dillon!” Gisele, his assistant of many years exclaimed happily, squeezing Bradley one more time before releasing him and retreating back to her desk. Bradley grinned as he smoothed out his slightly-rumpled suit. He’d never seen Gisele react like that, but it was nice to know she was doing it for him. “We’ve missed you, sir,” she said, forcing herself back into a more professional demeanor.
“I’ve missed you as well,” Bradley said, patting her warmly on the hand. “Is everything where I left it?”
“Most certainly. I checked it myself as soon as I got back to Waystation from the Explorer.”
“Ah yes. I hope the trip back wasn’t too stressful for you. I know my departure was rather…abrupt.”
“I’m just glad to know you’re okay. What happened?”
“A lot and nothing,” Bradley replied enigmatically. “I’ll explain it all to everyone in my speech this evening. I can’t have the populous thinking I abandoned them.”
“No one would ever believe that.”
“Of course they would,” Bradley said heading toward his office doors. “But not after they’ve heard what I have to say. I expect to be working for most of the morning, Gisele. Please alert me should anything urgent arise.”
“Yes, Mister Dillon.”
Bradley entered the confines of his office, allowed the doors to close behind him, and let out a contented sigh as he surveyed its majesty. Dark wood paneling. Floor to ceiling bookcases filled with antique leather-bound volumes. A desk that practically had its own gravitational pull. This was the place he felt most himself. His very own private sanctum sanctorum.
He strolled happily over to the desk and tapped a switch, causing a bookcase on the right wall to spin around revealing a mini-bar and replicator, then went and ordered up his morning meal. Initially he’d entertained the thought of having breakfast at the Waystation food court, just to mingle with his constituents a little bit, but he’d awakened that morning so rested and refreshed that he’d wanted to get to his office and get right to work. He knew that he was anxious to be home and in his own bed, but he hadn’t expected to sleep so soundly. Evidently the relief he’d felt at disposing of that infernal temporal vortex generator and finally finishing this chaotic phase of his life had allowed him to go positively unconscious.
But now it was time for work! As was his custom, he started his morning with a perusal of the states of his various business ventures and accounts. Construction was proceeding apace on the new Starfleet Suites Hotel being built within easy reach of the Mall of Antares. His chain of Dillon’s Supply Depots was performing adequately, but not spectacularly. Over the next few days, he would have to hold a conference comm with his store managers to discuss marketing possibilities to push things along. They were usually a good group when they put their heads together.
Satisfied that his business affairs were in order, Bradley pulled up his personal messages as he prepared to comm Gerald Bouvier, his presidential aide who acted as his eyes and ears in the Federation Capital on Earth. As he expected, there was not much there. Very few people were able to comm him directly without going through Gisele or his aides in the Federation government. There were, however, five comms from his parents. He idly activated the most recent one.
“Bradley, it’s your mother. Are you ever coming back? Well, when you do, give us a comm. Oh, have you heard from your brother lately? We haven’t had a peep out of him in a couple of years now! Go use some of that power of yours to make him comm his parents. Bye.”
Bradley rolled his eyes. He was the President of the United Federation of Planets and the CEO of an interplanetary business conglomerate. He had far better things to do with his time than track down wayward family members. His brother would turn up. He always did. If their parents wanted to talk to him that badly, they could find him themselves.
Shoving that particular bit of nonsense forcefully out of his mind, Bradley activated the comm unit in his desk and attempted to contact Gerald Bouvier’s office on Earth. Moments later, the thin face of his aide appeared on the viewscreen.
“Mister President!” Bouvier exclaimed in his heavy French accent. “It is good to see you again, sir.”
“And you, Gerald. How is my Federation this morning?”
Gerald frowned. “You do not know?”
“I assumed they would have… Ah. Wait. Allow me to start over.”
“Perhaps you should,” Bradley said, his mood darkening rapidly.
“All of Paris is abuzz with the news of your return, but your absence has raised even more questions in the Federation Council. Many of them were not happy with your mission on the Explorer to begin with, but now…if the rumors are true…”
“And what rumors would those be?”
“That you attempted to alter the timeline for your own gain.”
Bradley threw his head back and laughed. “Is that what they’re saying?” he asked, regaining control of himself.
“Yes, Mister President. The Council is quite disturbed by this perceived misuse of your office.”
“And they would have every right to be…if it were true.”
“Which it is not,” Gerald said, relief evident in his voice.
“Not at all,” Bradley said. “But these rumors must be dispelled. I’ve prepared a speech that I would like to deliver across the Federation this evening.”
“You prepared? But your speech writers…”
“I needed to handle this one myself, Gerald. Just make sure that AWN and UFPN are on board to carry the broadcast. If Krinokor wants in, that’s fine, too. The Klingons may be interested in what I have to say.”
Gerald shifted uncomfortably. “Tonight may be a problem,” he said.
“And why is that?”
“When the Council learned that you had returned, they quickly formed a committee to investigate your activities. Their ship should be arriving at Waystation sometime today. That’s what I thought you were comming about.”
“Who’s on the committee?” Bradley asked.
“Councilor P’Kee of Vulcan, Nransk of Andor, Drubk of Tellar, Lundhet of Althos Four, and Oncan Gresell of Napea.”
“Some of my biggest fans,” Bradley muttered sarcastically.
“I don’t doubt it. Thank you for the information, Gerald. I’ll prepare for their arrival.”
“Will you be canceling your speech?”
“Yes, but get the networks on board for tomorrow. If P’Kee and his cohorts want to have an inquisition, they can do it in front of a live Federation audience.”
Gerald nodded. “Good luck, Mister President.”
“I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t think luck is going to resolve this situation. I’ll be in touch.” Bradley smacked his hand against the comm panel, cutting the channel, then leaned back in his desk chair, lost in thought.
None of the five Councilors on the committee had been pleased that Bradley had bought his way into power three years earlier. He had hoped that after some time had passed, they would let the matter drop and get on with the business of government. Obviously, that was not the case. They seemed to believe that recent events had given them the opportunity they needed to start the process of removing him from power.
They were mistaken.
Of course, that was no reason for him not to be a gracious host. He would be very gracious…within reason.
He tapped the comm panel on his desk again. “Gisele?”
“Yes, Mister Dillon?” Gisele’s voice replied.
“I will be visiting Starfleet Square Mall shortly.”
“I’ll alert the Special Secret Section for you.”
As Bradley left his office and stepped back out into the outer reception area, he found Mr. Auditmi pacing the floor in front of Gisele’s desk. “Waiting for me?” Bradley asked.
“Mister Dillon!” Auditmi said happily, rushing over to shake Bradley’s hand. “It’s a pleasure to see you safe and sound, sir.”
“Are you sure about that?” Bradley asked as members of his Special Secret Section subtly slid up on either side of him in their customary protective positions.
“I’m afraid I don’t follow,” Auditmi said confused, falling into step beside Bradley (or beside the Special Secret Section operative beside Bradley rather) and walking with him out into the main corridor of the Dillon Enterprises complex toward the nearest turbolift.
“I just wondered if you really wanted to hand control of Dillon Enterprises back over to me.”
“Oh most definitely. I had no idea how much you had to do in a day.”
“Sure you did. I delegated most of it to you even before I left.”
“But not all of it. The decisions you have to make…and the planning.”
“Not your area. I know. That’s why I picked you,” Bradley said, patting Auditmi on the shoulder. Auditmi stopped at looked at Bradley in confusion as Bradley stepped into a turbolift with his bodyguards. “I wanted someone who would do things my way,” Bradley explained. “So it was either you or a hologram of me. I was tempted to go with the hologram, but, frankly, those things have a troubling tendency to start thinking for themselves. But you did an excellent job while I was gone, so I know I made the right decision. Thank you very much.”
Bradley ordered the turbolift to the lower level of Starfleet Square Mall, and the doors closed, leaving a stunned Auditmi in his wake.
“I…think,” Auditmi said, protesting to no one in particular. He quickly shrugged off the slight. Really, it wasn’t even a slight. Mr. Dillon had congratulated him on a job well done. And now he had monthly ledgers to review! With that happy thought it mind, Auditmi headed back to his office with a spring in his step.
Bradley’s turbolift deposited him and his small entourage onto the lower lever of Starfleet Square Mall a short time later, and he started a casual stroll toward the Waystation Welcome Center, which didn’t exist when he left on the Explorer a year ago. Evidently Captain Beck had seen fit to expand Yeoman Jones’s operation while Bradley was away. It was a wise move. Waystation’s visitors needed more than the old Liaison Office could provide.
He nodded and waved at a few patrons in the mall, who were currently gaping at him. He never did get tired of seeing that reaction to his presence. It was something he missed on the Explorer.
“Just the man I wanted to see,” a jovial voice called from behind him. Bradley turned to see Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter jogging toward him. The Special Secret Section operatives had their phasers out in an instant.
“Woah, fellas!” Porter said, sliding to a halt and putting his hands in the air. “I just wanted to talk to the President for a moment.”
“How are you, Mister Porter?” Bradley said. “It’s good to see you.”
“You, too. We thought we’d lost you there for a bit.”
“Yes. The situation was… Well, it was what it was.”
“I heard part of that ‘was’ involved time travel. Is that true?”
“Yes, but, as I told Captain Beck, I’ll be explaining it all later. I had a speech, but plans have changed slightly. Still, I will have my say.”
“I’m sure you will, but I was more interested in how you accomplished your time travel,” Porter replied.
Bradley smiled. “Of course. Always the scientist.”
“It is kind of what I do around here. So how did you do it?”
“I obtained certain technologies from the Bast that allowed me to generate a temporal vortex. I’m afraid I can’t explain it much better than that. I was using the work of others throughout most of the process.”
“Do you still have it?” Porter asked eagerly.
“The vortex generator,” Porter said, even more eagerly.
Bradley opened his mouth to speak, then stopped, frowning. His eyes widened a bit and went glassy. “I disposed of it,” he said flatly.
“You what?” Porter exclaimed.
“I disposed of the infernal contraption. It brought me nothing but trouble. And she was never here.”
“Huh? Who wasn’t here?”
“What who?” Bradley asked.
“You just said ‘she was never here’?”
“That’s what I was asking you.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You were the one talking about it!”
“Not to be rude, Mister Porter, but I really must excuse myself from this insane conversation. Good day.” And with that, Bradley turned and strode off toward the Welcome Center, his Special Secret Section matching him step-for-step as Porter watched and wondered what the hell had just happened.
“I’m telling you, it was weird,” Porter said that evening as he and Russell left the mall food court after dinner. “I asked him about the time machine, and suddenly he’s babbling about some woman not being there.
“Well was she?” Russell asked.
“Was she what?”
“No. It was just me, Bradley, and two of his big, musclely friends, both male.”
“What do you mean? Aren’t you already spoken for?” Porter asked grinning.
“I heard you and the new doctor have become pretty close.”
“She’s complained and yelled at me, and I had to chase her out of the arboretum. How is that close?”
“I don’t know. Sounds like your average relationship to me…except maybe for the arboretum part.”
“Weren’t we talking about President Dillon?”
“Awww. Don’t want to discuss your personal life?”
“No,” Russell said firmly.
“Thank you. So he was acting weird.”
“Yeah, he was. He seemed…dazed when I asked him about his temporal vortex generator,” Porter said.
“Maybe he doesn’t like technobabble.”
“I don’t think that was it.”
“Honestly, I’m sure he’s got a lot on his mind. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Federation Council has sent several representatives to talk to him about his disappearance. They’re evidently having some kind of inquest tomorrow.”
“Yikes,” Porter said. “That could definitely qualify as a distraction.”
“Exactly. I’m sure it’s got him distracted and edgy. Tina told me he had a confrontation with Counselor Peterman in the Welcome Center. Tina blamed it more on Peterman and said she seemed more worked up than Bradley, but…”
A white and gold blur suddenly soared over the officers’ heads, drawing a surprised cry out of Russell.
“Was that…?” Porter asked, pointing at the rapidly retreating flying figure.
“Diantha,” Russell grumbled, slapping his commbadge. “Russell to Doctor Diantha. Land immediately.”
“I just got started,” the doctor replied over the comm.
“I don’t care. Land!”
“You can’t fly here!”
“Because…this is a mall! There’s no flying here!”
“I do not see that regulation posted anywhere.”
“Don’t make me shoot you down when you come around again,” Russell threatened.
“I do not appreciate your tone.”
“I don’t appreciate yours either. And weren’t you going to talk to the captain or something?”
“I did. She has not provided me with an answer yet.”
“So you took matters into your own hands.”
“Wings,” Porter offered.
“Wings,” Russell said.
“Do not mock me!” Diantha snapped.
Russell turned on Porter. “Thanks. Now she thinks I’m mocking her.”
“Weren’t you?” Porter asked innocently.
“I will not listen to that kind of talk,” Diantha said.
“It wasn’t aimed at you anyway, but my phaser will be if you don’t LAND!”
“Very well,” Diantha said in a huff. In the distance, Russell could see her land on the mall’s lower level. “But I will be speaking to Captain Beck about this tomorrow!”
“You do that.”
“And I’m going to the holodeck,” Porter said.
“You do that, too!” Russell bellowed. Porter waved and headed off, leaving Russell alone. A sudden realization struck him. “Hey!” he shouted, jogging after Porter. “That was my holodeck reservation.”
“Guess you’d better hurry up then,” Porter called back.
Captain Lisa Beck opened the lid of carry-out cup of steaming hot mizz’nit that she’d picked up as a part of her breakfast from Waystation’s Andorian restaurant and sighed, leaning back in her desk chair. “I told them no chunks,” she muttered. Beck had the morning duty shift, and, rather than just getting breakfast from her office replicator, she’d decided to place a pickup order. Maybe that had been a mistake. She’d know for sure when she opened her omelet. If they’d forgotten the extra kelzts fungus, there’d be hell to pay.
Expecting the worst, Beck unwrapped the omelet and was hit by an oh-so-welcome smell. They’d remembered the kelzts. All was right with the universe.
She’d just managed to get the first bite into her mouth when her office door chime sounded.
“Come in,” she called through a mouthful of Andorian breakfast goodness. As the doors opened and Counselor Peterman stepped into her office, Beck instantly regretted not actually looking up to see who was at the door before granting them entry. The woman had only been on board for two days. What could she possibly want from Beck already?
Beck gulped down the bite in her mouth. “Good morning, Counselor.”
“Morning, Captain. Do you have a minute?”
“As long as you don’t mind me eating while we talk.”
“No no. You go ahead,” Peterman said, taking a seat across from Beck. “I just came by to talk to you about Bradley Dillon.”
“What about him?” Beck asked before putting another fork-full into her mouth.
“How well do you know him?”
“We’ve been on the same station for seven years. Well six really, since he was on your ship for a year. I wouldn’t say we’re close friends, though. Why do you ask?”
Peterman shifted in her chair. “I really shouldn’t be discussing this with you considering doctor-patient privilege and all, but since the safety of the Federation is at stake, I kind of have to. The man needs counseling.”
“Counseling,” Beck said flatly.
“Yes. We can’t have a person with this much responsibility on his shoulders feeling this much pain.”
“Granted I haven’t seen much of Bradley since he returned to the station, but he seemed fine to me.”
“Exactly my point. He’s in denial. You have to help me get through to him.”
“Let’s back up here a second, if we could. Just why do you think he’s in so much pain?”
“How much do you know about what happened to us?”
“Just what was in the official report,” Beck replied. “There was an accident on the Explorer, and you, Bradley, and three other Explorer officers were sent back in time. I may be remembering this wrong, but wasn’t there a baby involved, too?”
“Ah. I didn’t realize you’d brought a baby on board with you.”
“I didn’t,” Peterman said uncomfortably. “She’s on the Explorer.”
“With your husband. I see.”
“Back to the point, we were sent back in time, but the President was responsible. The whole purpose of the mission to find the Bast was so that he could get a part for his time machine. Taking us back in time with him was an accident. He intended to go alone.”
“Why would he want to go back in time?”
“She was there?” Beck asked surprised.
“I don’t know why completely, but she was. Bradley went to the 21st century to find her and bring her back here,” Peterman said.
“So let me get this straight. Bradley Dillon built a time machine and sent a starship a thousand light years to the middle of nowhere just so he could find Leximas.”
“Yes. He was madly in love with her, and she could not be with him. But now he’s acting like nothing happened.”
“Well, he is kind of a pragmatic guy,” Beck said. “He may just be able to take no for an answer.” Or more likely, Peterman was nuts. Bradley could have a dramatic streak sometimes, but there wasn’t a gram of romance in his entire body.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Captain. This is love we’re talking about. No one deals with ‘No’ well in love. He has a problem, and he won’t face it.”
“I hate to break this to you, Counselor, but maybe he just has more pressing issues on his mind,” Beck said.
“What could be more pressing than his heart?”
Beck snorted. “You haven’t been watching the news, I guess. Several members of the Federation Council are on board currently, and this afternoon they’ll be raking Bradley over the proverbial coals about your little trip back in time. Rumor is that they’re going to hook him up to a lie detector, and, lucky us, we can all watch the fun live on holovision.”
“I had no idea,” Peterman said stunned.
“You can see why his attention might be focused elsewhere.”
“Yes,” Peterman replied distractedly as she stood up. “I need to go.”
“Don’t let me keep you,” Beck said, instantly returning to her omelet as Peterman exited her office.
She managed to get about three bites in before her door chime sounded again. “Come in,” she said, against her better judgement. Dr. Diantha stormed into the office, making Beck wonder if it would be possible to somehow suffocate herself in her omelet and end her misery. “Are you two a tag team?” she asked instead.
“What two?” Diantha demanded, obviously put out about something (and Beck had a good idea what).
“You and Counselor Peterman. This is the second day in a row you’ve been to my office within minutes of each other.”
“Does she have complaints about this poor excuse for a…”
“Just stop the tirade right there,” Beck said, holding her hand up. “I already know all about it.”
“Then you understand why I will be demanding a transfer,” Diantha said.
“I know we’ve had a bit of a bumpy start, Doctor, but I’m hoping that won’t be necessary,” Beck said. Especially after all the trouble I went through to get a new CMO in the first place, she added to herself. “I requested your file from Personnel, and it was waiting for me this morning. I’ve already asked Lieutenant Commander Porter to add the recipes that were in it to the replicator in your quarters. His staff will also be taking care of the specialized furniture requirements in your file.”
“Really,” Diantha said, her mood softening slightly. “What about my exercise?” she asked, still wary. “I must have room…”
“…to stretch your wings. I can imagine,” Beck said then sighed. “That’s the one thing we really don’t have here. The best I can offer you is the mall.”
“Mister Russell already evicted me from the mall.”
“I know, but I think we can arrange something,” Beck said. “I mean it’s not like anyone else is using the mall airspace. Will it be sufficient for your needs?”
“It will do,” Diantha said.
“So can agree to skip the transfer?” Because if you don’t, one of us will experience death by breakfast food, Beck thought.
“I am willing,” Diantha said. She bowed her head slightly. “Thank you, Captain.”
“You’re welcome,” Beck said.
“Now then, if you’ll excuse me, I must see to the infirmary. I do not know what your previous CMO was like, but the staff there has absolutely no concept of proper medical decorum.” Beck briefly considered defending Diantha’s predecessor, but, considering that Diantha had already turned and was halfway to the office door, Beck thought better of it. She was mere moments away from having her office to herself again.
Wait for it.
Just a second more and…
Diantha was gone, and one crisis had been resolved. Unfortunately the day’s larger crisis was out of her hands. While she didn’t approve of how Bradley had obtained the Federation Presidency, she didn’t relish the idea of seeing him publicly crucified by the Council members who had arrived the day before. Of course, in the end it would all come down to Bradley’s motives in going to the past, not to mention what happened while he was there. Peterman’s revelation that Leximas was on 21st century Earth was more than a little surprising. She could wait until the afternoon and get Bradley’s version of events during the inquest, but Beck was not that patient. And she wasn’t sure that she could stomach watching it anyway. She decided instead that it was time to do a little research of her own.
“Welcome back to this AWN News special presentation of…”
BA BA BABA BAAAAAAAAA
“…The Dillon Inquest. I’m Joan Redding.”
“Oh why are we watching her?” Captain Beck asked in disgust as she emerged from her office into Ops, where the officers on duty were watching AWN’s broadcast on the main viewscreen.
“Shouldn’t we support our local channel?” Commander Walter Morales asked. “They are right on board.”
“Besides,” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter said, “the commentators on UFPN won’t shut up about what everyone is wearing.”
“Isn’t Krinokor supposed to be showing this thing?” Beck asked.
“They were…for about five minutes,” Porter replied. “As soon as they figured out there wouldn’t be any blood, they went back into a rerun of last year’s Race To An Honorable Death.”
Beck frowned. “I already know who won that.”
“So do we. That’s why we’re watching this,” Morales said.
“All right,” Beck sighed, grabbing a chair. “Who’s got the popcorn?”
On the viewscreen, Bradley Dillon was front and center, seated in the middle of one of the Dillon Enterprises conference rooms, his right hand resting on a sensor for the Napean-made lie detector unit, while the Councilors questioning him sat at a long table facing him. Up until now, their questions had focused more on establishing the basic facts than anything else.
Did you order the Explorer to find the Bast? Yes.
Did you intend to obtain technology from the Bast? Yes.
Was this technology for a time machine? Yes.
Did you then use this time machine to travel to Earth’s past? Yes.
And so on.
“He’s a goner,” Porter commented.
“At least he’s telling the truth,” Beck said.
“Yeah, but the truth is going to send him to a rehabilitation colony,” Porter replied. “Tampering with the timeline…”
“Just wait,” Beck said.
“You know something, don’t you?” Commander Morales asked.
“Maybe,” Beck said. She was already getting annoyed with the proceedings. The Councilors all looked way too smug about the whole thing…even the Vulcan, P’Kee.
Councilor P’Kee rose from her chair again to address Bradley. “Mister President, you have thus far described to us the basic series of events that occurred in this incident. I will now to turn the panel’s attention to the motivation behind your actions.”
“By all means,” Bradley said.
“We know that you visited the past, which, as you know, is a most serious matter, hence the existence of a Department of Temporal Investigations in the Federation.”
“Yes, I am aware of that,” Bradley said.
“Why, then, did you feel it was necessary to visit the past?” P’Kee asked.
“The Directors sent me,” Bradley replied.
“What?” Porter exclaimed, his head whipping toward Beck. “Is he serious?”
“Captain Baxter’s debriefing seems to back him up.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Councilor P’Kee appeared to be equally skeptical of the statement. “The Directors?” she asked, glancing over at the lie detector monitor.
“That is correct.”
“Your visit to the past was in no way intended to extend the reach of your business empire or enrich you financially?”
“Absolutely not,” Bradley said.
The Andorian Councilor, Nransk stalked over to the lie detector and tapped it roughly several times. “Is this thing even on?”
“It’s functioning perfectly,” Councilor Gresell of Napea replied, the irritation evident in his voice that his world’s technology would be questioned.
P’Kee silenced her colleagues with a look, then turned back to Bradley. “What reason would the Directors have for sending you back in time?”
“I was there to help stop the Critics and their forces from disrupting the timeline and erasing the Federation as we know it from existence.”
“Oh come on!” Nransk shouted. “That thing didn’t even blink!”
“Because he’s telling the truth,” Gresell shot back.
“No he’s not!” a female voice shouted from the side of the room. Kelly Peterman strode into the center of the conference room and planted herself in front of Bradley’s chair. “Isn’t it true that you did all of this just for a woman?”
“Oh no. No no no,” Beck mumbled, hiding her head in her hands. That room was supposed to be full of Councilors…not a Counselor.
“Um…what the hell is this?” Porter asked.
“It’s Counselor Peterman’s pet theory,” Beck said. “Bradley did all of this because he was in love with Leximas and couldn’t stand to be without her.”
The officers in Ops looked at each other for a few moments, then started laughing.
“Yeah right,” Porter said. “The only way he’d do that was if she was made of latinum.”
Bradley didn’t appear to be at all fazed by the interruption or the question. “No,” he said calmly. “I did it because the Directors needed me to.”
“But you were in love with her, weren’t you?”
“Madam, that will be quite enough,” P’Kee said, her voice booming through the conference room as two members of the Special Secret Section took hold of Peterman. “Please escort her from the chamber.”
“Just a moment,” Bradley said. “I want her to hear this. I want all of you to hear this. I realize that my actions have been rather unorthodox, but the Directors obviously deemed them necessary. Because of their guidance, I was able to travel back in time, and, by joining my efforts with those of some of Starfleet’s…officers…we were able to prevent the destruction of the galaxy as we know it and stop the Critics. If the citizens of the Federation wish to punish me for that, so be it!” Bradley finished, slamming his left fist down on the armrest of his chair.
“Oooh. Nicely done,” Porter said.
“The man is good with a speech,” Beck admitted. “Don’t you think, Morales?”
Morales, who had been lost in thought, jolted slightly. “Wha? Oh, yeah. Yes. He’s quite the speaker.”
On the viewscreen, the occupants of the conference room were watching Bradley silently, considering his words.
“You never answered my question,” Peterman said finally.
“Get her out of here!” Nransk ordered. The Special Secret Section got back to the business of dragging Peterman the hell out of there. To Bradley’s credit, Beck noted, he did not appear to be reveling in the Counselor’s misfortune. He didn’t even watch her unceremonious departure.
“Now Councilors,” Bradley said, addressing his interrogators once Peterman was gone. “I believe we should see about concluding this affair, if you would not mind.”
The Councilors could do little but acquiesce to Bradley’s request, and within five more minutes, Joan Redding was sputtering in an attempt to fill the air time left empty by the abruptly concluded inquest.
“Ladies and gentlemen, what we’ve seen here is…an…extraordinary series of events. We have expert commentary scheduled…in about an hour. Until then, I would just like…”
“Show’s over, people,” Beck said, signaling for Porter to shut off the viewscreen. Joan Redding disappeared, making way for the star-filled vista visible out of the Ops viewport.
Porter shook his head and let out a low whistle. “Remind me to never take Bradley on…in anything.”
“He’s not a man to underestimate,” Beck said.
“And he’s still the President,” Porter said.
“Yes. Yes, he is,” Beck said, her face filling with determination.
“Uh oh. What’d I just do?”
“Nothing. But I’ll be in my office. There is a comm I need to make.”
“Somebody’s in for it,” Porter said to Morales once Beck had entered her office.
“Yeah,” Morales said distractedly.
“Something wrong, sir?”
“What? No,” Morales said, shaking it off. “I’ll deal with it later.”
“Well, that’s two loops I’m officially out of,” Porter said, turning his attention back to his console. Morales didn’t respond, not that Porter expected him to. The Commander was a big boy. Whatever was on his mind, he could deal with himself.
“Captain Beck,” Fleet Admiral Ra’al said on the monitor on Beck’s desk. “I’m surprised to hear from you so soon. Do you have some information for me?”
“Of a sort,” Beck said. “I don’t suppose you watched what just happened out here.”
“The Council’s sideshow act? I caught the tail end of it. If they’d read the debriefings we conducted of Captain Baxter and his officers who were with President Dillon in the past, they would have known they were wasting their time.”
“So you believe him.”
“I have no reason not to.”
“I’m glad that you feel that way,” Beck said. “It makes saying this a bit easier.”
“I won’t be spying on President Dillon for you.”
“Excuse me?” Ra’al said, her face darkening. “Last time I checked, I was your superior officer, by a fair number of ranks.”
“And last time I checked Bradley Dillon was the President of the United Federation of Planets, the organization we serve, which makes him your superior by a fair margin as well.”
“His position does not shield his actions from scrutiny.”
“I think what we watched today certainly proved that,” Beck said. “Now I’m not saying I’m President Dillon’s biggest fan. We’ve had our differences on more than one occasion, but I have never known him to act against the interests of the Federation. He’s a businessman, Admiral. He is not about to hurt the society that provides his livelihood.”
“I do not trust him,” Ra’al said firmly.
“You’re certainly allowed, but I really don’t think it’s wise or helpful to make that Starfleet’s official policy on the subject. If Bradley suddenly starts trying to destroy the universe or something, I’ll let you know. Until then, I’m out of the espionage business. Beck out.” She closed the channel before Ra’al could stop her. Cutting off a Fleet Admiral probably wasn’t the smartest move, and it certainly wasn’t necessary, but damn it felt satisfying. Slowly, ever so slowly, Beck could sense her life struggling to reach something resembling normalcy. She felt better already.
He hadn’t actually expected to get in, so Commander Morales was a little surprised when Bradley Dillon’s personal assistant, Gisele, emerged from the corridor leading back to Bradley’s office and told him that Bradley would see him now. But then, flushed with his recent victory, Bradley was probably in a good mood and more than willing to share it with others.
That conclusion seemed to be borne out as Morales stepped through the great wooden double doors into Bradley’s office proper and found the president striding over to shake hands with him. “Commander Morales,” Bradley said warmly. “How nice of you to stop by. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I think I lied for you today,” Morales said. The smile disappeared from Bradley’s face as he studied Morales.
“I’m afraid that you’ve lost me, Commander,” Bradley said, returning to his high-back desk chair.
“Peterman was right. This was about Leximas.”
“There’s a Napean-built lie detector that would seem to disagree.”
“How did you beat it?”
“Who says that I had to?”
“So you can tell a lie so convincing that you even convince yourself,” Morales said.
“Why are you so certain that I lied?”
“I wasn’t at first,” Morales said. “But something started nagging at me, and then I remembered an evening you and I spent in Victoria’s a couple of years ago. You’d just tried to use a time machine to save Leximas from being blown up and failed.”
“The past can certainly come back to haunt you,” Bradley said, all traces of his good humor gone.
“So you lied.”
“No, I answered every question to the letter. I fail to see how it is my fault that they did not choose the right questions to ask. But in the end, what does it matter? The Directors were the ones behind it. They used my feelings for Leximas to set these events in motion, and in the end we prevented a great catastrophe from occurring. But none of that answers why you have anything to do with it, Commander.”
“I don’t like the position I was put in. My friends and colleagues were talking about how ridiculous the idea of you doing something like this for love was, and I just stood there and let them even though I knew better.”
“And where does the lying on my behalf come in?”
“I should have told them what I knew.”
“There’s a difference between lying and not speaking, Commander,” Bradley said.
“Yeah. You seem to know about a whole lot of things that aren’t lying but are.”
“Nevertheless,” Bradley continued, ignoring Morales’s last statement, “I do appreciate you remaining silent. It would appear that I owe you a favor.”
“A favor,” Morales said frowning.
“I wouldn’t discard the idea out of hand, Mister Morales. Not many people are owed favors by someone in my position. But if you’ll excuse me, I have many issues to attend to now that this business with the Council has been cleared up. Good evening.”
Bradley turned his attention to his desk console and began to work. Morales stood there for a moment, watching the Federation President. The man looked completely unconcerned about what had just transpired. Any why should he? He’d won. Even if Morales did go to Captain Beck with what he knew, it wouldn’t matter. It was one barroom conversation five years earlier with no witnesses. Really it was a miracle that Morales even remembered it.
And now Bradley owed him a favor. Yet despite that fact, Morales left the President’s office feeling worse than he had when he came in.