Author: Brendan Chris
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“The Joy of Snigglesnooshes”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY SHIP HAS BEEN DELAYED??”
Crewman Jinesek took a moment to wonder just which omnipotent being she had offended to get assigned to what was best described as ‘customer service’ in Docking Bay 3. Her day-to-day duties generally included standing behind one of the curved consoles near the exits and helping to direct travelers to and from incoming ships. It wasn’t the worst job; she encountered the most interesting people as they passed through Waystation. Still, she couldn’t help the occasional longing glance when the Wayward eased out of its berth on the upper level of the docking bay, soared out the open bay door and vanished in search of adventure and excitement.
“I said, WHAT DO YOU MEAN-“
“Uh,” Jinesek took a moment to glance at her display where the irate traveler’s name, destination, credentials and, most importantly, proper form of address were listed.
“High Chancellor-General Vudca of the Most Splendid and Ostentatious World of Glizbar,” Jinesek gave a formal half-bow as indicated in the ‘Protocol Instructions’ section of the file, “I see here that your transport to Earth has arrived and is docked at Docking Arm 4-“
“Then I fail to see the problem!” Vudca declared, his long, limp ears quivering as he trembled with anger, “Do you know who I am? I happen to be on a very important diplomatic…”
Jinesek zoned out slightly as the High Chancellor rambled on. One constant of the universe: No matter how rich, powerful or well-cultured they were, the rich and powerful never seemed to have much in the way of good manners when dealing with the lowly peons.
“High Chancellor,” Jinesek said, “I’m very sorry to have to tell you this, but the USS Intrepid has been quarantined. Departure has been delayed at least 48 hours,”
“Then get me another ship!” Vudca said coldly.
“There are none,” Jinesek said, “All ships have been quarantined until further notice,” she noted that the High-Chancellor was turning an even deeper and likely very unhealthy shade of purple, “Uh, may I help arrange accommodations for you and your entourage?”
“I told you it wasn’t pretty,” Porter said to Captain Beck as the two stood in the empty Departures lounge of Docking Bay 3. Looking out the windows, Beck could see 4 separate arguments taking place on the upper level of the bay.
“It’s not that I don’t understand the importance of a quarantine,” Beck sighed, wincing as a large walrus-looking creature tried to take a bite out of one of the dock workers, “It would just be so much easier if we had a better idea of WHY exactly we’re being ordered to lock everything up!”
“I’m sure the Frequoq has a good reason for it,” Porter said. At the far end of the docking bay the huge space door was slowly grinding closed. Nobody would be going in or out anytime soon.
“Sure he does,” Beck said, crossing her arms, “I know he has a perfectly good reason for telling us to detain hundreds of people and dozens of ships and pissing every single one of them off. And when he gets here, he can explain it!”
“Yes, we still have quarters available,” Yeamon Jones said for what felt like the millionth time that morning, “I have openings in the lower saucer and in the connecting tube,”
“Do you have something with a window?” the little old Bolian woman asked, “I would so like to see outside,”
“Er, let me check,” Jones tapped at her panel, “Yes, I have a window suite open on Deck 53,”
“Oh that would be lovely,” the woman smiled. Jones handed her an info-chip with her room assignment and directions. Thanking her, the blue-skinned woman started shuffling out the door and towards the turbolift.
Blowing out a deep breath and trying to pull her hair under some semblance of control, Jones looked out of the Waystation Welcome Center and into the main concourse of the Starfleet Square Mall.
The place was packed.
Passengers, officers and crewmembers of a dozen different stranded ships surged through the mall, some shopping, some looking for something eat and others just desperate for something to do other than sit in their temporary quarters. Further down the concourse, President Dillon was making his way to a public appearance at the AWN studio, his always-present bodyguards causing a new wave of chaos as they cleared a path for the President. ‘The Vonna Show’ was playing on one of the display screens in the food court, along with ‘Warrior Guy’ and ‘As the Starbase Turns’.
Normally, Jones would meet almost everybody who passed through the station. Agents in the docking bays and the docking arms arranged transport, checked luggage and ensured that passengers boarded the correct transports, but it was Jones who would arrange accommodations and assist new arrivals in finding their way around the huge station. With the chaos of the quarantine, everybody working the customer service side of Waystation’s day-to-day operations was swamped with the task of getting hundreds if not thousands of people berthed, fed and entertained.
Jones’ break was short lived as a short Ferengi pushed his way into the Welcome Center.
“You are the one in charge of housing?” the snaggle-toothed being said, his huge ears framing a face that only a mother could love.
“Yeaman Jones, at your service,” Jones forced a smile.
“Ah,” the Ferengi looked uncomfortable.
“Is something wrong?” Jones asked.
“I thought a being in such an important position would be male,” the Ferengi said.
Jones’ smile slid off her face.
“Did I mention,” she said coldly, “That I’ll be a security officer soon too? And that the Federation has some VERY firm policies on gender equality, unlike SOME species!”
“Apologies, apologies,” the Ferengi sniveled, cringing politely. Only in Ferengi society could a cringe be considered polite, Jones mused.
“What do you want?” she asked.
“I must find housing for my, er, pet,” he produced a small, furry creature and set it on the desk.
“It’s adorable!” Jones exclaimed, her irritation with the small alien forgotten. The critter was about the size of a softball and covered in soft, downy pink fur. A cute little squirrel-like face featured a pair of beautiful blue eyes, and a wiggling nose. At the other end was a cotton-ball tail that Bugs Bunny would have been proud of. On the animal’s underside, the fur was shorter, thicker and ended in tiny buds, almost like tiny closed flowers.
“What’s its name?” Jones asked, looking up.
The Welcome Center was empty.
Jones darted out the front door onto the mall concourse, but the Ferengi had vanished into the crowd.
Crewman Jinesek was just about ready to die. Or kill somebody.
Docking Bay 3 was finally empty, all the passengers having been sent off to temporary quarters or choosing to remain on their more cramped but familiar quarters on their ships. Docking Arm 1 however was temporary home to the USS Petunia, a Nebula-class ship that had been caught pants-down or rather airlocks open when the quarantine hit. This normally wouldn’t have been much of a problem except that the Petunia was carrying nearly a thousand refugees from a colony that had been dismantled after it was learned they had setup shop on the back of a 100-mile wide, hibernating sea turtle. The Petunia was even more overcrowded than Waystation, sending a steady stream of passengers through the Arrivals/Departures section adjacent to the docking arm. Bioscanners at every airlock and docking port ensured that nothing would pass from ship to station or vice versa, but the severity of a quarantine alert meant that no matter what precautions were taken, no ship with any direct contact with the station could be permitted to leave. The bright side was that the bioscanners allowed for a relatively safe passage of personnel, at least when the quarantine wasn’t some kind of virus or disease.
As she directed an elderly couple to temporary quarters in the lower saucer, Jinesek considered briefly. While it was fortunate for these people that the ships had been included in the quarantine, thus allowing passenger movement, Jinesek’s job would have been much easier if Captain Beck had been able to order the ships to button up and keep their passengers on board.
“I wish to place a formal protest!” snapped a haughty, authoritative voice.
Numbed by hours of frustrated passengers, Jinesek simply looked up to see High-whatever Vudca, arms crossed and looking twice as angry as the two bodyguards standing behind him.
“Was there a problem with your quarters?” Jinesek asked.
“They were small and unbefitting a being of my stature!” Vudca snapped, “This entire situation is unacceptable! I wish to file a protest at once!”
“Of course,” Jinesek said dully, digging under the console and pulling out yet another disposable complaint padd, “Just fill this out and upload the complaint to the main computer-“
“I will not be lost in your bureaucratic shuffle!” Vudca snapped, “Do you have any idea who I am? I demand to speak to the station commander immediately!”
Fat chance, Jinesek though to herself.
“Fat chance!” Beck snapped.
“I know you’re busy, Captain,” Commander Morales, “But we have tell these people something!”
“I know,” Beck sighed, “But I really don’t think me doing an all-station broadcast would really help at this point! Not until we have more information!”
“Public Service Announcements or ‘PSAs’ are always informative and helpful,” Porter quipped from the Operations console.
“I think you’ve been spending too much time with Russell,” Beck complained.
“It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it,” Porter replied in a world-weary tone. His eyes met Beck’s for a second, then the two of them looked abruptly away.
“All we know at this point is that we have something or someone on board that can’t be allowed to leave,” Beck said, turning her back on Porter, “Frequoq Wuddle really wasn’t very clear except that it’s not a disease, it’s not a dangerous criminal and it’s not a good thing,”
“What did he say it was again?’ Morales asked, “A snikywhazit?”
“A snigglesnoosh,” Beck said, “Which, knowing the Multeks choice of language could mean either an animal of some kind, or Wuddle’s mother,”
“Amedon probably wouldn’t see the difference there,” Porter said.
“Actually,” Morales said, “I hear that Wuddle’s mother is quite delightful,”
“Anyway,” Beck went on, “Russell has security teams from the station and the visiting starships sweeping every possibly nook and cranny they can get at for anything unusual,”
“What the hell do you want me to do with that thing?” Lieutenant Command Russell asked, briefly eyeing the pink fuzzball Jones had just deposited on his desk before returning his attention to the boring task of coordinating a search of 100 decks worth of space station. Not to mention all the docked ships.
“I don’t know!” Jones exclaimed, “You’re the Security Chief! Don’t you take care of missing things?”
“That doesn’t mean I’m running the ‘Waystation Humane Society’ here, you know,” Russell muttered, tapping at a console, “Russell to Jacob, are you almost finished on that passenger shuttle? I need you and Shust to help out on the Intrepid, ASAP!”
“I think so,” Jacob replied over the comm, “That depends. Does a lesbian couple in leather bondage gear count as unusual?”
“I’ll be right there!” Russell snapped, “Don’t do anything!”
“Er, if you say so,” Jacob replied.
“But what about this thing?” Jones said loudly as Russell rushed at the door.
“What thing?” Russell asked as he slipped out the doors.
Jones looked back to the desk. Sure enough, the fuzzy pink critter was gone.
Crawling through the maintenance crawl-way behind the security office, the snigglesnoosh twitched its nose for several seconds.
There was no way for Yeoman Jones to know it, but the organ in the middle of the creatures face wasn’t a nose at all. It was in fact an energy field detector. Following its ‘e-nose’, the snigglesnoosh scampered at full speed down the crawl-way until it found a Jefferies tube leading deeper into the station core. A sudden thunk perked up the small animals ears as it slipped behind a wall support. A large two-legged scary-thing dropped from an opening in the ceiling then proceeded to crawl back towards the mall. Once the sounds of the scary-thing’s passage had faded, the snigglesnoosh resumed its trek deeper into the core of the station.
After several minutes, the creature found its goal: one of the main power transfer conduits that radiated out from the station’s power core.
The snigglesnoosh’s tail, which Yeoman Jones had mistaken for a cotton-ball tail similar to a rabbit’s, was in fact a collection of thousands of micron-thin, energy-absorbing filaments. Now that the creature had found a suitable food source, the filaments extended, tripling in length and fusing into the power conduit.
Absorbing energy, the snigglesnoosh began to grow.
In less than 10 minutes the critter had tripled in size. Suddenly its own rate of growth slowed dramatically.
Instead, the tiny buds on the animal’s stomach began to grow, doubling in size as miniscule paws, heads and energy-collecting tails began to develop.
High-something-or-other Vudca had arrived at The Gilded Tribble, ready for a good meal after a long day.
His attempts to contact Captain Beck had hit brick walls at every turn. Her army of customer service workers apologized endlessly while informing him that Captain Beck was unavailable. The Starfleet officers he had cornered had informed him that she was unavailable. Even her comm voice-mail said she was unavailable! Infuriated, he had decided to have a satisfying meal, followed by a relaxing soak in the exclusive spas above the mall.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the maitre-de said, looking down his nose at Vudca, “But we are quite full at the moment,”
“I made a reservation!” Vudca exploded, “How can you be full!”
“Your reservation was for 19:30 hours,” the maitre-de said, “It is now 19:33. Your reservation has expired,”
“3 minutes?” Vudca screamed, “Do you know who I am?”
“I’m sure you are just as influential and highly placed as our other diners, all of whom arrived on time for their reservations,” the maitre-de sniffed, “Perhaps you’d like to make another reservation?”
Fuming, Vudca stormed out. Maybe Dillon’s Starfleet Suites restaurant would be less pretentious.
10 Minutes Later…
Fuming, Vudca stormed out of Starfleet Suites on his way to Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet, the local Andorian restaurant. Vudca hated Andorian food, but he’d eat that before lowering himself to the Double ‘D’ Diner.
“Yes, we can seat you immediately,” Ih’mad, the owner of the restaurant was acting as host during the very busy evening, “Right this way,”
“Finally, some respect,” Vudca replied, following Ih’mad. He didn’t have far to go, his table was near the front of the restaurant, looking out into the mall. And right next to a dirt pit.
“What is that?” Vudca asked, disdainfully.
“The Mishtak pit!” Ih’mad explained, delighted, “Used in the event of a good fight! The winner receives a free meal!”
“That’s a rather barbaric customer, is it not?” Vudca sneered.
“So are the things I would do to you should you insult my people again!” Ih’mad fumed, expression darkening, “Your waiter will disembowel, er, be with you shortly,”
Both looked to the ceiling as the lights dimmed for several seconds before recovering.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Ih’mad shrugged as he walked back to the host station.
“Captain, we’ve got a power drain!” Porter reported.
“Gee,” Beck said, descending the steps from her office, “It’s a good thing you told me. Those dim lights sure never would have tipped me off,”
Porter gave Beck a slightly offended look.
“Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it,” Morales advised him.
“I’m sorry, Craig,” Beck sighed, “It’s been a long day,”
“If it makes you feel better, I’ve already dispatched somebody to check it out,” Porter said, “Looks like a problem with out of the power conduits,”
“That’s JUST what we need,” Beck groaned.
“I’m compensating for the drain,” Porter reported, “We should be OK until Mason gets that thing fixed,”
“Anything I should be worried about?” Beck asked.
“It’s probably nothing,” he said, “We’ve got some pretty heavy power demands right now that could be causing problems,” Porter frowned, “Or it could mean the station is about to explode,”
“You’re kidding, right?” Beck asked.
Porter’s answer was lost as Waystation exploded with a space-shaking BOOM!!!!!!
Meanwhile, in our universe…
“You’re kidding, right?” Beck asked.
“Yeah,” Porter replied, oblivious to the fact that in a parallel universe far from his own he was little more than free-floating debris, “There’s no way we’d explode from something this trivial.”
Lieutenant Oliver Mason cursed as he banged his tricorder on yet another maintenance hatch, knocking the instrument to the floor with a clatter.
Picking the tricorder back up and pointedly ignoring the dent in the casing, Mason continued tracing the power flow. From the readings on the tricorder, he should be getting pretty close to the drain.
Turning the corner into another Jefferies tube, Mason yelped and jerked back, cracking his head on the ceiling and letting out a fresh cry of pain. Swearing under his breath, Mason looked around the corner again.
Something big and fluffy was blocking off the entire Jefferies tube, it’s hind end apparently fused to the power conduit exposed by an access panel.
“Mason to Porter,”
“I’ve found the source of our drain,” Mason reported. He described what he was seeing. Beck’s voice came onto the line.
“Can you get a closer look?” she asked.
“Uh, sure,” Mason said, “It looks a little too pink and fluffy to be dangerous,”
“Remind to tell you a story about mutant squirrels sometime,” Porter said darkly.
Mason frowned as he took a closer look at the creature. As he watched, something dropped from its belly and skittered across the deck.
Mason moved even closer.
The creature’s underside was covered with hundreds of small nodes, each about the size of a cherry. Each one was the same soft pink of the creature itself. And each one had four little legs, a tiny squirrel head and a miniscule cotton-tail.
Even as Mason took this in, 3 more sniggleshnooshes budded off their parent and were lost in the bowels of the station.
“Oh, shit,” Mason breathed.
“They’re called sniggleshnooshes,” Frequoq Wuddle, leader of the Multek Enclave explained.
“You’ve already told us that, Wuddle,” Beck said.
“Er, yes,” Wuddle swallowed and bit his lip.
The Frequoq was enclosed in a solid transparent aluminum enclosure with an independent life-support system and a built-in communications system. The contraption had been beamed into the wardroom, then the Frequoq had been beamed into the contraption.
“They’re vermin,” Wuddle said, “Annoying, pesky vermin,”
“They’re cute though,” Jones added from her place on the table.
“If somebody had been paying proper attention to his duties,” Morales said with a pointed look at Russell, “We might have caught this thing sooner,”
“Hey,” Russell said, sporting an impressive black eye, “Nobody told me to look out for pink rabbits!”
“It’s not your fault,” Beck agreed, “But really, Wuddle, why couldn’t you have told us what this thing looked like?”
“Er,” Wuddle looked even more embarrassed, “I didn’t want to cause a panic,”
“A panic?” Beck raised an eyebrow.
“If word got out that you had one of these, which by the way are known to the general Multek population under a different name, it would seriously harm relations between Multos and the Federation,”
“Are we going to die?” Porter asked.
“Of course not,” Wuddle assured him, “Not yet at least,”
“YET?” everybody shouted.
“Sniggleshnooses, or vlaxen as they are actually called, breed uncontrollably provided they have sufficient energy,” Wuddle gulped, “Has this one started, um, budding yet?”
“You mean spawning little sniggleshnooshes or vlaxen or whatever?” Porter asked.
“Yes,” Wuddle nodded.
“Yup,” Porter affirmed.
“Oh dear,” Wuddle looked imploringly at Beck, “Captain, you must destroy these vermin at once!”
“We would,” Beck said, “Except now we have about 30 more of them we have to track down!”
“I doubt that,” Wuddle sighed.
“Indeed,” Dr. Diantha ruffled her wings, “Animals that spawn at such a rate often due so because they have low survival rates. There may be as few as 10 by now.”
“I don’t think that’s what Wuddle meant, is it,” Beck said.
“Er, no,” Wuddle gulped, “By now, most of that brood has probably already started nesting. Within the hour, you will likely have no fewer than 900. Within 3 hours, you will have 27,000. By tomorrow-“
“Enough!” Beck snapped, “Russell, muster the security squads and start disposing of these things. Coordinate with Lazlo and the security teams on the other ships. Porter, get your people crawling through the conduits getting rid of these things and fixing any damage they case,”
“Disposing?” Yeoman Jones was shocked, “But they’re cute little animals!”
“Right now they’re a threat to my station,” Beck said, “We’re in a quarantine situation and I’m declaring martial law. I’m also issuing a ‘stomp on site’ order for these things,”
“Ewww,” Russell groaned. He started issuing orders to his security teams, updating them on what to look for and what to do.
“I’ll be keeping a close eye on the power grid,” Porter said once Russell had finished.
“Captain, there’s more,” Wuddle said.
“Er, to paraphrase one of your Earth movies,” Wuddle cleared his throat, “‘Captain, some things in here don’t react too well to bullets’,”
“That was a great movie,” Porter smiled.
“Wuddle,” Beck put both hands down on the table, “What exactly are you trying to say?”
Ensign Jacob and Ensign Shust walked purposefully through the crowded corridors of the upper saucer towards Docking Arm 7. Although most ships continued to provide their own power while docked, sometimes their reactors had to be shut down for repairs or maintenance. To allow Waystation to supply the ship’s power requirements in the meantime, each of the primary power conduits that radiated from the station core ended at one of the 8 docking arms that could be extended from the upper surface of the upper saucer.
Security had received reports of strange chirping coming from a maintenance hatch near the number 7 conduit and the Andorian transport docked there had reported fluctuations in the power flow from the station. Jacob and Shust had been promptly dispatched to deal with the problem.
“I’ve never seen anything grow this fast,” Shust said as the hour-old sniggleshnoosh came into view.
Feasting as it was on station energy, the critter already filled the cramped Jefferies tube completely. There was a flurry of energy discharge around its tail and the creature grew swiftly again, pressing out against the tube walls hard enough to dent the wall panels. There was another discharge and the buds dangling from the creatures underside expanded slightly.
“I’m thinking we should probably kill this thing before those pop,” Jacob said uneasily, gripping his phaser rifle tight.
“I think they come right off rather then popping,” Shust said, “Uh, any idea what we’re supposed to do with the body?”
“Body?” Jacob squeaked.
“Well, yeah,” Shust said, “We have to kill it, remember?”
“What, haven’t you even gone hunting before?”
“No!” Jacob shot back, “Have you?”
“Sure,” Shust shrugged, “Er, once,”
“So how did you dispose of the poor animal’s corpse?”
“Uh,” Shust blushed, “My cousin did it for me. He cleaned it, then we ate it,”
“Look, let’s just disintegrate the damned thing, OK?”
“Ok,” Jacobs dialed up the power on his phaser rifle, “Ready?”
“Ready,” Shust replied.
“One, two, three-“
The two phaser beams hit the sniggleshnoosh dead center, but rather than vaporizing it, the creature absorbed the energy.
“That didn’t work,” Shust sounded disappointed.
Suddenly the creature let out a high-pitched squeal as it started to convulse, energy discharges snapping down the length of its body.
“Er,” Jacob looked to Shust, then the creature, then Shust again.
“Run?” Shust suggested in a very small voice.
Just as they made it out of the Jefferies tube the sniggleshnoosh detonated in a massive release of energy, sending a plume of flame shooting out the Jefferies tube hatch and setting fire to a rhododendron that was busy adding ambiance to the docking arm Departures lounge. Wall panels burst out as the force of the explosion warped plating and vaporized vital systems. The backlash through the power conduit tripped relays, shorted plasma shunts and blew out systems all through the sections surrounding Arm 8. By the time the energy released in the sniggleshnoosh’s death had dissipated, a full eighth of the upper saucer had gone dark.
“Oops,” Jacobs said softly as emergency power kicked in.
I DON’T KNOW BUT I’VE BEEN TOLD
FEDERATION MARINES ARE MIGHTY BOLD
I DON’T KNOW BUT IT’S BEEN SAID
WE KILL CRITTERS GOOD AND DEAD
“Sound off!” Colonel Lazlo commanded, then waited as each member of his squad of Federation Marines called their numbers. Making a left, he led them into a cross-corridor that would take them to one of the main replicator centers in the upper saucer.
Beck’s description of the aliens had been vague, but Lazlo was confident that his Marines would blast the Federation’s enemies to dust. At least Beck wasn’t bothering with any of that wimpy Starfleet negotiation crap!
“All right,” Lazlo said as they reached the doors to the center, “We’re the Pest Control Squad. We go in phasers firing, clear the room and move on. Go!”
The doors hissed open and every marine, Lazlo included, gasped in shock.
“CUDDLY SQUIRRELS!” they shrieked in terror, firing weapons like mad. The little sniggleshnooses didn’t have the oomph of their larger cousins, but the effect was still like setting off a room full of firecrackers.
High Chancellor-General Vudca was, again, fuming. As were several annoyed looking passengers behind him.
“I will ask one, last time,” he said, very slowly, “Where is my luggage?”
“Er,” Crewman Jinesek couldn’t understand why she kept having to deal with this annoying little man, no matter how many times she was reassigned, “It was already loaded onto the Intrepid before it was locked down,”
“But I only just arrived!”
“We have a very efficient luggage-handling system,” Jinesek said proudly. She slouched again, “It’s just not working right now,”
“This is not acceptable!” Vudca fumed, “I must have my ritual scented baths! I must have my idol to Iskoort for evening prayers! Do you not comprehend the DISRESPECT??”
“I know, I know,” Jinesek was losing her patience, “Look, the cargo transporters are offline; something about power requirements. Don’t worry, we have a backup system,”
“Oh, really,” Vudca was skeptical.
Jinesek gestured to the airlock leading to the Intrepid. A covered anti-gravity conveyer had been setup, running the full length of the docking arm, all the way to the ship.
“The bags come down the conveyer, pass through the bioscanner and sterilization fields and are deposited over there,” she pointed to an unoccupied corner of the Docking Arm 4 Arrivals lounge.
“THEN WHAT IS THE PROBLEM??” Vudca snapped.
“We had to set the damned thing up first!” Jinesek snapped right back, “You think these things just happen by themselves? And HERE!” Jinesek slapped another disposable complaint padd down on the counter before Vudca could even speak, “It’s spelled ‘J-i-n-e-s-e-k!”
Vudca tried to collect the shred of his dignity.
“That will not be necessary,” he said haughtily, “I will wait for my bag,”
And so, Vudca stepped over to the business end of the conveyor and waited.
About this time, a certain security ensign was blowing up cuddly pink animals with a phaser rifle, sending power surges through the grid. Vudca was slammed against the wall 10 feet behind him as luggage started shooting out of the conveyor like bullets from a machine gun.
Hitting the emergency cutoff switch, Jinesek rushed over to help Vudca out of the luggage pile, even as others happily identified their bags and departed.
“I will take that complaint form now,” Vudca said weakly.
Krilik, the owner of Krilik’s Klingon Formal Wear Shop, stumbled as he tried to slice a snigglesnoosh in half with his bat’leth. Being used to fighting enemies closer to his own size he succeeded only in jamming his bat’leth into the deck plates.
Perhaps there was a better way to destroy his enemy.
With a surprisingly graceful lunge he leapt away from his stuck sword and landed on a pink fuzzball, spraying guts in all directions. Summoning the memory of his many lessons at Kenton’s Klingon Stomp-Dance Studio, he slammed his other foot down before performing a slam-spin.
“This is NOT honorable combat!” shouted Krilik as he performed a stunning stomp-dance routine in the center of the Starfleet Square Mall concourse. His brothers had teased him mercilessly, telling him that dancing was not a warrior’s pastime and that it would never get him to Sto-Vor-Kor, but who was engaged in rampant slaughter now!
“Maybe not,” Ih’mad shouted, brandishing a bladed weapon in each hand as he hacked at any intruder foolish enough to come his way, “but it is fun!”
“GOT YOU!” Krilick howled, jumping into the air and landing hard on one of the pink menaces.
“All hands, this is the Captain,” Beck said, her voice ringing throughout the station, “Do NOT shoot the fuzzy pink animals! Repeat, do NOT shoot the fuzzy pink animals!”
“Phew,” Jones signed, “That’s a relief,”
“I’ve got a lock on another one,” Morales said, “Plasma relay 23-G. But if we don’t beam it out fast, we won’t be able to!”
“Energize!” Beck ordered.
Morales tapped the controls, dematerializing one of the larger sniggleshnooses and dispersing its molecules into space.
“We can’t keep this up,” Morals said, “The bigger they get, the more their energy fields disrupt the transporters!”
“Russell, tell me what’s happening,” Beck said as people ran back and forth through Ops, coordinating the search and destroy operation.
“Didn’t have much luck attacking them with phasers,” Porter interrupted, “We’ve got serious damage to Docking Arm 8 and power fluctuations all over the upper saucer,”
“What about the lower saucer and the connecting tube?” Beck asked.
Porter checked his panel.
“Good,” Beck sighed in relief. As soon as they’d understood the energy-greedy nature of the critters, Beck had ordered the lower part of the station sealed off, gambling that the invading pests would stay close to the very appetizing main power core of the upper saucer, rather than making the long trek to the secondary core of the lower saucer. Unfortunately, the inside of the station didn’t have the same kind of bioscanning and sterilization equipment as the docking ports, which meant that anybody in the lower saucer was there for the duration.
But at least they’d won that gamble. The sniggleshnooses couldn’t get onto any of the docked ships or into the lower sections of the station. As long as they could eliminate the foul beasts in the upper saucer, all would be well.
“If you’re finished,” Russell said, “I’d like to give MY report now. Since MY name is Russell and Captain Beck very clearly said ‘Russell, tell me what’-“
“Just shut up and tell me!” Beck snapped.
Russell was quiet.
“Er, you told him to shut up,” Morales whispered.
“Just talk already!” Beck sighed.
“You’re ‘Whack-a-Critter’ idea’s working way better than the phasers did,” Russell said, “Although we’ve started getting complaints from the cleaning crews. I guess sniggleshnoosh guts are hard to wash out of the carpet,”
“Gross,” Morales exclaimed.
Lights dimmed in Ops as a warning tone sounded on Porter’s panel.
“Uh-oh,” he said.
“Uh-oh?” Beck asked.
Porter looked up.
“Power drain in the main power core,” Porter gulped.
In Upper Saucer Engineering, Ensign Zabesh backed frantically away as a wall of fur advanced steadily on him.
The sniggleshnoosh had started off no bigger than a softball, giving an adorable little squeak as it wiggled its nose and looked around the core room. Zabesh had been preparing himself to come down hard on the thing, but before he could put his foot down the critter had darted straight for the core, plunging its energy filaments right into the core housing.
The creature grew so quickly that it was all Zabesh and the rest of the crew could do to get out in time before the entrance to the core room was blocked by a wall of pink fur. Zabesh could hear creaking in the walls as the creature’s girth pressed against them, and for a moment Zabesh was worried the entire compartment would burst. But the sniggleshnoosh stopped growing.
And started giving birth.
Wave after wave of tiny pink fluffballs budded off the engorged parent, burrowing between conduits and into maintenance crawlways or just scurrying down the main corridors.
Clutching his carry-on bag, the rest of his luggage being toted by his two aids, Vudca staggered across Starfleet Square Mall, trying to make his way through the confusion and chaos to his quarters. People were running left and right chasing little pink creatures with makeshift clubs, or simply stomping them on sight. Retching, Vudca walked quickly past smears on the floor as he tried to orient himself in the chaos. Even as he passed the Breen lingerie shop, the mall was filled with the sounds of chatters, squeaks and the pitter-patter of little rodent feet as a fresh flood of pink fuzzballs flooded out of access panels and corridors into the mall.
There! The unpronounceable name of the Andorian restaurant was a beacon in the darkness. Now he could get his bearings, find the turbolift to his quarters-
And fly through the front window of the restaurant, courtesy of a very enthusiastic dancing Klingon, crashing into a Rigellian and falling into the Mishtak pit. Snarling in rage, the Rigellian pounced on Vudca, who wailed for his bodyguards as he tried to defend himself.
“Ih’mad!” an Andorian waiter shouted through the broken window, “We have Mishtak!”
“Idiot!” Ihmad shouted as he dispatched another furry alien, “How many times have I told you, Mishtak is for paying customers only!”
“But he was in here two hours ago!” the waiter pointed out, “Can we at least declare half-Mishtak?”
“It doesn’t work that way!” Ih’mad snapped, “But give the winner a free appetizer,” he decapitated another sniggleshnoosh, punting the body through the food court and onto the hover-rink, “I am in a very good mood today!”
“This can’t be good,” Beck mused as the lights in Ops dimmed again.
“It’s not,” Porter replied, “Our gluttonous little friend is sucking the core dry and churning out babies at an incredible rate. I wonder how they evolved to use this kind of matter-energy conversion?”
“That’s why we were studying them,” Wuddle interjected. He had returned to his ship but was keeping an open channel to Ops, “Somebody stole one from a top secret Multek laboratory. We wanted to see if we could make bees that converted energy directly into honey, thus easing our current candy shortage,”
“Their anatomy must be fascinating,” Porter mused.
The turbolift doors opened, disgorging Yeoman Jones and a swarm of sniggleshnooshes. “The Mall’s practically overrun!” Jones reported.
“Craig, just figure out how to kill them!” Morales stated, stepping back and trying to avoid the critters.
“Hey!” Porter snapped, chasing after a sniggleshnoosh as it vanished into his console, which promptly started to sputter, “Get out of there!”
“We could evacuate the station,” Morales suggested, climbing onto his chair, “Then let the air out?”
“Let’s avoid that,” Beck said firmly, kicking a pink, squeaking fuzzball away from her.
“Ooops,” Russell said, lifting his foot, “Man, they sure DO make a mess on the carpet!”
“Ewww,” Jones said, “It’s eyes bugged out,”
“OW!” Porter cursed, pulling his hand out, “Son of a bitch! The little bastard bit me!”
“Hope they don’t have rabies,” Russell quipped.
“What, like your last girlfriend?”
“Touche,” Russell grunted.
“Craig,” Beck pointed, “Your panel,”
Craig’s panel, despite having an energy-sucking rodent in it, had stopped flickering.
Porter looked back inside, then eased his non-bleeding hand inside and drew out a dead sniggleshnoosh.
“What happened?” Beck asked, walking over and managing to step on 3 rodents on the way.
Porter’s tricorder was already out and scanning.
“Anaphylactic shock, I think,” he said.
“From your blood?”
“I doubt they eat solid food,” Porter said, “Maybe…ah-huh!” Dropping the dead alien, he rummaged around in a storage bin behind his console until he came out with a Klingon painstick.
“Why on Earth do you keep one of those on the station?” Morales asked.
“Is there something about you we should know?” Russel had an evil look in his eye.
“Somebody jammed it in an ODN access port last month,” Porter replied, tinkering with the device, “I was keeping for when I found the jerk that did it,” Reassembling the painstick, he promptly lunged and speared a sniggleshnoosh with the pointy business end. There was a crackling energy discharge and the creature collapsed, dead.
“What did you do?” Beck demanded.
“I changed the energy output to match the bioelectric field generated by humans,” Porter explained, “I figured that if it feeds on energy, it probably wasn’t my blood that it was allergic to but the bioelectricity in my hand when it bit me,”
“So you killed one critter,” Russell said. He put his boot down, crushing another, “I can do that too!”
“But I can adapt our energy systems to match my bioelectric field,” Porter explained, tapping away on his console and kicking away another pink furball, “But first, I have to crank up the power output so I can attract as many as possible,”
“What’ll that do?” Russell asked.
“Have you ever heard of something called a ‘bug zapper’?” Porter smiled.
Residents in the upper saucer of Waystation, had they been focused on ambient sounds rather than the chasing, killing or hiding from sniggleshnooshes, would have noticed a high-pitched whine as Porter increased the power flow through all station systems. The aliens, small and large alike, renewed their rush towards exposed systems and into access panels.
“Where are they going?” demanded Krilik.
“I do not know,” Ih’mad replied, “But they flee from us!”
“We are victorious!” Krilik declared.
“You bring the blood wine,” Ih’mad said, happily scooping up a pile of dead aliens, “And I will see how these taste in a savory bile sauce!”
“We’re as charged as we’re going to get,” Porter said. All around Ops, the critters had rushed to attach themselves to any energy source available, attracted by the increased power flow.
“Do your thing,” Beck ordered.
There was a sizzle of power as every pink alien spasmed, trying frantically to withdraw their energy-collecting tails from the station systems. All over Ops and throughout the rest of the station, sniggleshnooshes dropped like flies.
Station Log, Stardate 57553.1
“After maintaining quarantine for two more days, we’ve finally been able to reopen the station for business. Wuddle assures me that our actions should have been sufficient to eradicate the little buggers, and our internal sensors show no signs of power drains or furry aliens. After the luck we’ve had with furry little rodents, I’m reasonably certain that the pet store in the mall has little chance of selling their hamsters, gerbils or hedgehogs,”
“On an unrelated note, Ih’mad has had the same dinner special on for two days straight. I’m not sure what he’s cooking, but it’s absolutely divine!”
“And on that note,” Beck said, walking out of her office, “I’m going to dinner. See you tomorrow, all,”
Her departure was blocked as the turbolift doors opened, revealing a short and angry looking alien with purplish skin and ears like damp socks.
“CAPTAIN BECK!” he yelled, “I will have you know that I have NEVER in my life experienced such despicable treatment! I have been detained, delayed, mistreated, forced to endure an infestation, and BEATEN in a DIRT PIT! I spit upon your station, and I spit upon YOU!” Vudca drew himself up to his full height, “I am going home at once, and I can assure you, Glizbar will be withdrawing its application for Federation membership quite soon!”
With that, Vudca made a complex gesture, meant to curse Beck with aural fungus and stormed out of Ops.
“Who was that guy?” Beck asked.