Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
By Alan Decker
Yeoman Tina Jones barely had time to register that there was some kind of commotion out in Starfleet Square Mall before said commotion had moved from the mall concourse into the Waystation Welcome Center where Jones was located.
As it turned out, the commotion in question was Federation President Bradley Dillon, or rather the actions of his entourage of Special Secret Section bodyguards who seemed to take great pleasure in moving people out of Bradley’s path with the greatest possible force. At least Jones had to believe they were taking pleasure from it. Their faces never registered anything beyond grim…grimnity, but she knew deep down they were laughing.
For his part, Bradley was all smiles, striding through the platoon of guards toward the Welcome Center reception desk, where Jones was currently standing.
“Good morning, Tina!” Bradley exclaimed jovially. “But what are you doing here at this unreasonably early hour? Surely Captain Beck is not asking you to man a desk before you’ve had a chance to rub the sleep from your eyes.”
“Er…no,” Jones said. “I think I left a padd here last night, so I was…”
“Splendid,” Bradley said, cutting her off. “Well since you’re not on duty, perhaps you could accompany me to my ship.”
“Your ship? Are you…”
“Leaving, yes. But it’s only temporary,” Bradley said, wrapping an arm around Jones’s shoulder and walking her toward the exit, the Special Secret Section officers silently surrounding them and eyeing Jones’s proximity to the president with displeasure.
“Um…I still need to find…”
“We haven’t seen nearly enough of each other since I returned to Waystation.”
“You visit the Welcome Center a couple of times a week and…”
“And here I am running off again. Ah well. Such is life in my line of work.” Bradley steered Jones into a turbolift (which quickly filled with Special Secret Section operatives, making movement, much less breathing, difficult) and ordered it to Docking Bay Seven, which was generally reserved for Bradley’s private ship, the S.S. Penzance. “Well, lines really. With my schedule being what it is, I have to make trips like this when I have the chance. As we speak, there sits a lovely little world in the Multek Enclave that may very well be the future home of Bradley Dillon’s CasinoWorld. That is what we must determine.”
“We?” Jones said in alarm. “But I can’t…”
“Mister Auditmi and myself. He should be waiting for us in the docking bay,” Bradley clarified. “At least he’d better be,” he added darkly.
The turbolift deposited Bradley, Jones, and company into the corridor just outside the docking bay. The vanguard of the Special Secret Section was inside the docking bay and looking for threats before Bradley made his first step, not that Bradley seemed to notice. Of course, considering these folks were around Bradley at all times, Jones imagined that he’d gotten used to them.
“Ah good,” Bradley said, stepping into the docking bay and seeing Auditmi standing near the Penzance, fidgeting nervously with his own fingers. That was all the acknowledgment he gave the Zakdorn as he turned his full attention back to Jones. “As you can imagine, choosing a planet is a big decision. You have to ask yourself why the Multeks are willing to part with it. Yes, there are mutual benefits to be had when the Multeks go into business with me, but are they tilting things to their advantage? For example, the colony world the Romulans established just outside the Enclave borders…”
“Finally,” Jones muttered. “I didn’t think they’d ever…”
“It did take them a while to settle on a place, but I needed to be certain that the Multeks weren’t handing me a planet in striking distance of the Romulans…not that the Romulans would strike. Still, one can’t be too careful in these sorts of decisions. Fortunately, the coordinates place our candidate on the opposite side of the Enclave from the Romulan colony.” He suddenly looked back at his employee. “Isn’t that fortunate, Mister Auditmi?”
“Yes, sir,” Auditmi said softly, his head bowed.
“Is he okay? He looks…” Jones asked.
“Of course he’s okay,” Bradley replied quickly. “He’s looking forward to his next challenge. Right, Auditmi?”
Jones bit her lip. “Um…”
“Assuming that the world we’re visiting is suitable to my needs, Mister Auditmi will be taking up residence there immediately to oversee the construction of the first phase of the CasinoWorld complex.”
“Immediately? Isn’t that kind of short…”
“I believe the change of scenery will do him some good. Just between you and me, I think life on Waystation has been getting to him. I do understand, though. Really I do. For a year, he was in charge of the entirety of Dillon Enterprises, and now that I have returned, he’s not. But he was still living every day in the seat of power. It was bound to affect him. I just wish I had seen it sooner before…well, the less said about that the better.”
“That” being Auditmi’s escalating feud with Baughb as McBaughb’s and the Double D Diner struggled for breakfast dominance on the station. Auditmi took the struggle personally, even more so after Bradley returned, finally resorting to an attempt to frame Baughb for threatening to blow up the Double D.
“But Mister Auditmi’s impending relocation is why I wanted to speak with you this morning,” Bradley continued.
Jones’s thought process was also continuing. Sure trying to frame Baughb wasn’t a nice thing to do, but sending Auditmi off to an empty planet was kind of harsh. Wait. What did Bradley just say. Huh?
“Huh?” Jones said, verbalizing her last thought. “I mean…”
“Would you wait in the ship please, Auditmi?” Bradley said.
“Yes, sir,” Auditmi said dejectedly before shuffling up the ramp into the Penzance.
“There. Now we can talk in private.”
“Um,” Jones replied, looking around at the horde of Special Secret Section agents milling about. “What about…”
“This recent Auditmi unpleasantness made me realize a few things. First, the man should stick to numbers. He’s amazingly able. Finds trends and potential trouble spots faster than any computer I’ve ever seen. You need a real living being working on these things with the intuition to see past the numbers and understand what they mean to your business. That Auditmi can do. Dealing with other living beings is another matter. However, his attempts, misguided as they were, showed me the value of having someone taking a more hands-on role with the Dillon Enterprises businesses on Waystation. A liaison, if you will, between our establishments and the public. Your work on the station over the years has given you more than a little expertise in this arena.”
Jones nodded, understanding. “So you want me to train a liaison…”
“I want you to be our liaison.”
Jones froze. Bradley was fixing her with his full-on smile now. “Er…wow. That’s…really nice of you. But I don’t think I’d have time, and I don’t know if I’m even allowed to work for a private entity when I’m…”
“No no. You’d have to leave Starfleet, of course.”
“Leave! I don’t want…”
“Tina, think about this before you make a hasty decision,” Bradley said. “You would be the public face of Dillon Enterprises on Waystation, and who knows where it could lead from there. From my perspective, there’s no one else for the job. You know the station, you know the people, and you’ve become quite the diplomat in your present position. Even more importantly, I trust you and value your input. With me, you’ll be entering a whole new arena of diplomacy. Station politics is one thing, but the business world is quite another. You would meet with me daily while getting to know the inner workings of Dillon Enterprises. This is a life-changing opportunity for you.”
“As I said, think about it,” Bradley said, striding off toward the ramp leading into the Penzance. “I’ll be back in a few days, and then we can talk about your future.” The Special Secret Section operatives jogged up the ramp behind Bradley, then the ramp retracted as the ship’s hatch closed. Moments later, the vessel was soaring out into space, leaving Jones standing alone in the empty docking bay.
“You look tired,” Commander Walter Morales said to Federation Marine Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges, who was currently sitting across from him at a table in the Starfleet Square Mall food court. Actually, “sitting” implies that there was some sort of posture involved. Hodges was really more slumped over, her head hovering mere inches above her plate of cheese-covered scrambled eggs. Then there was also the snoring issue.
“I said, you look tired,” Morales repeated…loudly.
Hodges jolted, slamming her back against the seat. “Locked and loaded, sir!” she shouted. She suddenly remembered where she was. “Sorry,” she said.
“It’s okay,” Morales replied chuckling. “Didn’t sleep well last night?”
“Colonel Lazlo ordered a surprise drill at 0200. And then another at 0400.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Does he do that often?”
“First time,” Hodges said, stifling a yawn. “I think he’s bored.”
“It has been pretty quiet around here for a while…not that I’m complaining.”
“I’m not either, but I think he’s losing it. We need a mission or an invasion or something. That mess with the snigglejuwhatsits a while ago just didn’t do the job.”
“I could talk to the captain about finding a species to declare war on if you’d like,” Morales said.
“Lisa does owe me a few favors.”
“Really? What for?”
Hodges smiled. “Boyfriend privileges only clear you for so much information.”
“So I can have access to every bit of you physically, but this is off-limits.”
“My body is yours. Some parts of my mind have to remain mine.”
“Your body is mine, huh?” Morales said with a glint in his eye. “How much time do we have until you’re duty shift starts?”
“Not enough. That goes for you too. You’re due in Ops soon, aren’t you?”
“I could just tell Captain Beck that you owed me a few favors.”
“No way, Mister. You keep our personal life out of your professional life,” Hodges said.
“Like she doesn’t hear it all from you anyway,” Morales said.
“That’s not the point.”
“I mean it, Walt.”
“I was agreeing with you.”
“Sure you were,” Hodges said. She leaned across the table and kissed him. “I’ve gotta go. I’m going to be late.”
“What about your eggs?”
Hodges grabbed the plate and took it with her. “Should have gone to McBaughb’s. Food’s more portable.”
“Tomorrow,” Morales said. “Will I see you before then?”
“Doubtful. As soon as my shift’s done, I’m going to bed.”
“Good plan. Talk to you later. I love you.”
“Mmmrf ffrr,” Hodges, who had just shoved a forkfull of eggs into her mouth, mumbled back before rushing off to the nearest turbolift. As the lift doors opened, she barreled inside, narrowly avoiding running over Yeoman Jones, who barely seemed to notice as she wandered out onto the mall’s upper concourse. She gradually made her way over to Morales, who was staring blankly at the now-closed turbolift doors.
“Hi,” Morales said distractedly.
“Hi,” Jones replied with a slight wave.
“Found my padd,” Jones said, holding up the padd she’d just retrieved from the Welcome Center.
“Good for you.”
“And Bradley just offered me a job.”
Honestly, she’d expected more of a reaction out of him, but then right now he looked as dazed as she felt. “You okay?” Jones asked.
“I just told Steph I love her.”
“Oh,” Jones said. “You going to Ops?”
“Yeah,” Morales said, getting up from his chair and following Jones down the concourse. “She didn’t even react. At least I don’t think she did. She said something, but her mouth was full and I couldn’t really understand her.”
“I’m going to say no to him, of course, but I guess I should tell Captain Beck he offered. She’d want to know that, don’t you think?”
“Maybe she didn’t hear me. She was in a rush. And really tired. She probably missed the whole thing.”
The pair stepped into the turbolift. “Ops,” Morales said.
“Is anybody listening to me today?” Jones said. “First Bradley won’t let me finish a complete sentence. Now you…”
“Never mind,” Jones said quietly.
The lift slowed then opened onto Deck Two, where Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter was waiting. “Oh good. My escorts have arrived. To Ops, Jeeves,” he said stepping inside. Jones and Morales just stared at him. “Wow. Lively bunch.” The turbolift doors closed, and the lift ascended the rest of the way to Ops in a matter of seconds.
“Better watch these two,” Porter said, exiting into Waystation’s command center and gesturing back toward Morales and Jones. “They’re on a roll today.”
“What they’d do?” Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell asked from his post at the tactical console.
“Not a thing.”
“Just ignore him,” Morales said. “For some reason, he’s being more obnoxious than usual.”
“I have to take my pain out on someone,” Porter said.
“Pain? What pain?” Jones asked concerned.
“I was rousted out of bed torturously early in order to examine the Ops emergency cut-off systems. Why else would I be on Deck Two?” Porter did have a point. Deck Two, which was fairly small due to its position at the top of the upper saucer, really only contained support systems for Ops. It wasn’t a place people generally went to hang out.
“Was there a problem?” Morales asked.
“Nope. Not a one. But the computer demanded that I check things over visually. Wouldn’t leave me alone until I did.”
“It can do that?” Jones asked.
“Starfleet takes its preventative maintenance very seriously,” Porter replied as he headed over to the Operations/Science console where Lieutenant Mason was standing. “Anything going on, Mason?”
“Er…no, sir,” Mason said, barely looking at Porter. “Captain Beck is already in her office meeting with the civilian rep.”
“This early? She must be thrilled,” Porter said.
“I don’t know. But nothing else is happening. All systems are operating normally, and nothing unusual has shown up on the internal or external sensors,” Mason reported.
“That’s the way I like it. Go get some food or some sleep or something.”
“Yes, sir.” He stepped out from behind the console and past Porter, moving slowly toward the turbolift. Just before stepping inside, he looked back at the officers that had just come on duty. “Bye, everybody.”
“See you later, Mason,” Porter said distractedly, pulling up the latest system status updates on his console.
“Okay. Good luck.”
Mason took one more look around then entered the turbolift.
Just a few feet away inside her office, Captain Lisa Beck was indeed thrilled (if your definition of thrilled includes wishing to be suddenly knocked unconscious by a bit of falling ceiling) to be meeting with Richard Theroll, the duly-elected representation of the Waystation Residents’ Council. The WRC was not normally something Beck thought much about. Waystation was a Starfleet station and therefore under Starfleet jurisdiction, which, in this case, meant her. However, with non-Starfleet personnel living and working on board, it was inevitable that they would want some kind of voice in station affairs. Over time, two such “voices” had developed. The first, and the one with which Beck had the most dealings, was the Waystation Merchants’ Association, which represented the interests of business owners on the station. Everyone else was invited to join the WRC. At first most people hadn’t been interested in taking the WRC up on their offer, but, if Richard Theroll’s membership data was to be believed, they’d experienced a marked upswing in applications after the Collectors’ assault on the station almost two years earlier. Even after that, the WRC had mostly stayed out of Beck’s way. Unfortunately, that had all changed a couple of months ago when Theroll was elected President of the Council. In his day job, Theroll worked for Waystation’s Colony Administration office, which handled most of the issues colonies face when they’re first starting up. Applications to start a colony, planetary selection forms, surveys, charters, and such. In short, he was a bureaucrat. Porter knew Theroll more from their dealings in Waystation’s small Society for Creative Anachronisms group, which Theroll was also in charge of. So, in short, he was a bureaucrat with a thing for swords. Fortunately he wasn’t swinging one as he made his current demands.
“He’s got to go!” Theroll said, smacking his hand down on Beck’s desk. Beck’s first instinct was to break said hand for hitting her desk, but she decided that wasn’t the best way to maintain a cordial relationship with Theroll and the WRC.
“Bradley Dillon is the President of the United Federation of Planets. Just how do you propose to make him go anywhere?”
“Starfleet can request that his offices be moved to another location…for reasons of Federation security.”
“Is there a particular reason you suddenly want your own president to be moved elsewhere? Particularly considering he basically just got back.”
“That’s exactly the problem. Things were fine while he wasn’t here. But now that he’s back, this station is a target again.”
“A target for who?”
“Assassins! Aggressive races looking to hurt the Federation! Madmen! Anyone! What about those little aliens who shot up the mall a couple of months ago?”
“They were not here because of President Dillon.”
“But the next attackers might be! While President Dillon is here, the rest of us are not safe! For the sake of his citizens, he needs to be someplace more secure.”
“You don’t think we can protect him?”
“You shouldn’t have to protect him. Your job is to protect us, and that means removing threats to our well-being. Having President Dillon here is that kind of threat. Remember all of those assassination attempts before he left?” Theroll demanded.
“All of which were related to his efforts to see the Bast…which are over now. As you may have noticed, he’s been back on Waystation for several months now, and we all seem to be alive and well,” Beck said.
“But how long until the honeymoon is over? And what if he gets reelected next year?”
“Don’t you have to be elected before you can be reelected?”
“That’s not the point!”
“No, the point is that I agreed to meet with you at a ludicrously early hour with the understanding that you had pressing station issues to discuss me with. Instead, I’m getting this garbage. With all due respect to you and the WRC, I don’t have time for this. Bradley Dillon isn’t leaving, and I couldn’t make him leave even if I wanted to. That said, your life isn’t in danger just because he’s around. End of discussion. Good day!”
“You haven’t listened…”
“I said ‘end of discussion.’ That means stop talking. I was listening. Now I’m not.”
“Nice to see that Starfleet has such respect for Federation citizens,” Theroll snapped before charging toward the door.
“Oh yeah! Well I didn’t hear you complaining when we were evacuating your ass to protect you from the Collectors!” Beck called after him. “Next time, your ass can evacuate itself!”
“It will!” Theroll shouted, turning back to Beck.
They glared at each other for a few moments, their words sinking in.
“I’ll pretend you didn’t say that, if you’ll do the same for me,” Beck said.
“Agreed,” Theroll replied quickly. He turned on his heel and exited the office. Beck gave him a few seconds to get into the turbolift and away from Ops before she let out a long sigh and headed out of her door.
“Good meeting?” Commander Morales asked, struggling not to smile.
“How much did you hear?”
“Only the bit where you told Theroll he’d have to supply his own enemas from now on,” Porter said.
“Eww! Craig!” Yeoman Jones cried.
“What?” Porter said innocently. “Did I misinterpret something? Could someone draw me a picture?”
“Oooh!” Russell exclaimed excitedly.
“I was kidding, Sean.”
“No! I forgot to show you guys. I got a letter from my cousin, Olivia! It came in on a transport this morning, and I picked it up on the way here.”
“That explains how you got here before I did,” Porter said.
“Yeah. The transport captain wouldn’t wait, so I had to get out of bed early.”
“Awwww. Poor Sean.”
“What did she send you?” Jones asked.
“Um…isn’t this the same Olivia you got sentenced to a rehabilitation colony?” Morales asked.
“Yeah. And?” Russell said.
“And maybe we shouldn’t be opening mail from her without taking a few precautions?”
“It’s okay. I opened it on the way up here. It’s just a painting she did for me.” Russell pulled the folded-up paper from his pocket and spread it out on his console as Beck, Porter, Morales, and Jones came over to take a look.
“Hmmm…‘I hate you, you fucking bastard,’” Porter read. “How sweet.”
“It’s a good likeness, though,” Jones said.
“I don’t know. In real life he isn’t that smudgy,” Beck said.
“Still, it’s not bad for fingerpaint,” Morales said.
“I like it,” Russell said. “She even painted herself giving me flowers.”
“Um…I think that’s your heart she’s just ripped from your chest,” Porter said.
“Oh. That would explain the red on my uniform.”
“If art appreciation is over for today, could we maybe have our morning staff meeting a little early and get it over with?” Beck said.
“I’ll see if Doctor Diantha is available,” Morales said, heading back to his console.
He made it exactly two and a half steps before alarms began blaring. This wasn’t the usual red alert klaxon, though.
“What the hell is that?” Beck shouted over the din as her officers raced back to their consoles.
“I don’t know!” Porter shouted back. “The station status board is green. I don’t see anything.” He suddenly did a double-take at the display. “And now I really don’t see anything.”
“The readouts are gone! All of them.”
“Mine too!” Russell said.
“Same here!” Morales added.
“What’s happening?” Jones shouted.
The alarm suddenly stopped.
“Operations lockdown complete,” the ever-calm voice of the computer announced.
“Lockdown?” Beck snapped, turning on Porter. “I never ordered a lockdown. What did that?”
Porter looked up at Beck to say something that, judging by the look of confusion on his face, was probably going to go something along the lines of “I have no idea,” but before he could say a word, he stopped, mouth gaping, and pointed behind Beck.
Beck spun around and found herself face to face with Fleet Admiral Nosira Ra’al. Ra’al suddenly stepped forward and walked through Beck. Okay, so maybe it was a hologram of Fleet Admiral Ra’al.
“Greetings to you, Officers of Waystation. I am Nosira Ra’al. In our continuing efforts to ensure that Starfleet personnel have the highest levels of training and preparedness, I have asked that the command staffs of our various ships and outposts be put through different emergency drills to test their ability to deal with certain scenarios. As you have no doubt gathered, you are now in lockdown mode. The Operations Center of Waystation has been cut off from the rest of the station and its resources. For the next 48 hours…”
“48 hours!” Russell cried.
“Shhhhhh!” snapped everyone else.
“…this lockdown will be in effect. You will, therefore…act accordingly. Fleet Admiral Ra’al out.” The hologram abruptly vanished.
“Act accordingly?” Commander Morales asked.
“Is there a particular way we’re supposed to be acting?”
“Bored,” Porter said.
“Isn’t this supposed to be a simulated emergency?”
“Yeah, but the emergency is that we’re cutoff from everything and everyone. That means no computer access, no sensor readings, no replicators…”
“We’re going to have to eat ration packs?” Russell said in disgust.
“You’re welcome to try. I think I can hold out for two days,” Porter replied. “At least it all makes sense now.”
“What makes sense?” Morales asked.
“The computer summoning me this morning. Command could remotely program the drill, but they’d want to make sure all of the Ops systems and lockdown components were functioning properly beforehand.”
“That’s fascinating and all, but I’d really love it if somebody could tell me who’s running my station right now,” Beck said.
Morales, Porter, and Russell all exchanged looks. “Um…”
“Mason,” Jones said.
“How do you know that?” Morales said.
“He said ‘good luck’ to us before he left. I didn’t know what he meant at the time, but he must have known about this.”
“He could have told me,” Porter muttered.
“Probably not without risking a court martial,” Beck said. “Act accordingly, my ass. This is Ra’al getting back at me.”
“What did you do?” Morales said.
“I wouldn’t spy on President Dillon for her. Damn her! I spent weeks waiting for retribution after I told her, but nothing happened. I assumed she was over it, but no! That b-…admiral was just lulling me into a false sense of security until she could pull this!”
“Nice of her to invite the rest of us along as well,” Porter said.
“Oh come on,” Jones said. “It like we’re getting to spend a two-day vacation together. This will be fun! Right? RIGHT?”
“Er…right.” “Yeah.” “Sure.”
LOCKDOWN PLUS 5 MINUTES -
“Shut up, Sean.”
LOCKDOWN PLUS 4 HOURS -
“Shut… No wait. I’m hungry, too.”
“I thought you were going to hold out until this was over,” Commander Morales said.
“I was,” Porter said. “But I don’t think I’m going to make it.”
“It was a good run, though. You endured all the way until lunchtime.”
“Are we really stuck with ration packs?” Russell asked.
“You’re the one who said he was hungry,” Porter replied.
“Yeah, but can’t you get the replicator in Captain Beck’s office working or something?”
“Power is limited to essential systems, which during lockdown is limited to life support,” Porter replied. “And even if I rerouted power, we’re cut off from the rest of the station, so the replicator can’t access the matter stores to make anything.”
“I’ll take a ration bar,” Russell muttered.
“Anyone else?” Porter asked, heading around the turbolift shaft toward the emergency supply stores hidden behind a set of wall panels between the doors to the conference room and the bathroom at the rear of Ops. After receiving a series of unenthusiastic grunts from Beck, Morales and Jones that he took to mean yes, Porter opened up the wall panel…
…and stopped, staring at a whole lot of nothing.
He stared some more. Water, check. Non-edible supplies, check. Rations…nope. There was a note, though.
“Hey! Are you eating them all yourself?” Russell demanded, coming up behind him. Russell looked over Porter’s shoulder into the supply store.
“Um…” Porter said.
“I don’t see the food.”
“You ate it?”
“Yeah, Sean. I ate a gross of ration bars by myself in the last few seconds.”
“Well, I don’t see them.”
“Amazing observation.” Porter snatched up the note and shoved it into Russell’s hand. “Get solving, pal.”
“‘I owe you: 144 ration bars. - Tyler,’” Russell read. “Do you know a Tyler?”
“There’s Jane Tyler. She’s on the Operations staff in…”
“Oh yeah. Brown hair. Good body. Great smile. I remember her.” Russell saw Porter narrowing his eyes at him. “What? That’s her, right?”
“Are we eating or what?” Captain Beck asked, walking up to the pair.
“What,” Porter and Russell said.
“WHAT?” Beck exclaimed.
“Someone borrowed the rations,” Porter explained.
“I don’t remember authorizing that.”
“Funny. Neither do I.”
“Then why aren’t we calling this a theft?”
“Because she left an I.O.U.,” Russell said, handing Beck the note.
“We need to have a word with Tyler when this is over.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Russell said.
“Oh no,” Porter said quickly. “I don’t want you ‘interrogating’ her. We all know how that works.”
“I don’t,” Beck said.
“Well…I…er…” Russell stammered.
“And I really don’t care,” Beck continued. “I just came back here to hit the head.” She took a step toward the bathroom doors, which didn’t open for her. “No power, huh?”
“Nope,” Porter said.
“If I pry these doors open, will there be a working toilet in there?”
“Nope.” Porter said. He reached into the supplies, grabbed a box about a foot square, and handed it to Beck.
“Mister Sani?” Beck said, eyeing the box unhappily.
“It’s what we’ve got.”
“Uggh,” Russell said. “Starfleet couldn’t spring for Dillon’s Potty in a Pouch?”
“Both of you go away,” Beck said, pulling the bathroom doors open. “Mister Sani and I would like a little privacy.”
“Have fun,” Porter said, heading back toward the main part of Ops.
“There wasn’t any alcohol in that panel was there?” Russell asked, following Porter.
“Jeeze. Okay. You don’t have to get so nasty about it. I just wanted a drink.”
“No drinks! NOBODY needs a drink!”
“Okay. I didn’t know you felt that strongly about it.”
“Well, I do.”
“Any particular reason?”
LOCKDOWN PLUS 9 HOURS -
“You guys aren’t singing,” Jones said, scolding her comrades. “The whole point of a sing-along is that you sing along.”
“I’m really not in a singing mood,” Morales said, trying to be kind about it.
“Come on. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to keep us busy and pass the time. It’s fun!”
The others looked at her incredulously.
“Well, back home we thought it was fun,” Jones muttered.
LOCKDOWN PLUS 16 HOURS -
Russell was fine. He was there. He was listening. He was…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
“Wha!” Russell exclaimed, his head jolting up from where it had been resting on his chest.
“Yep. He was asleep,” Porter said.
“We probably all should follow his lead,” Beck said.
“There are a couple of bedrolls in the supply panel,” Porter said. “And by a couple I mean two.”
“And the sofa-bed in the captain’s office,” Morales said.
“That’s a bed?” Beck said surprised.
“It’s a Starfleet standard issue sofa, so it should be,” Morales said. “You’ve never checked?”
“Never needed to. I try to avoid sleeping in my office, and up until now, I’ve been doing a pretty good job of it.”
“Well, you and Jones can have the bed. Porter, Russell and I will…”
“Hang on. How come we automatically get the bed?” Jones asked.
Morales froze. “Er…well…I thought it would be good to…”
“It’s because we’re women.”
“Thanks, but we don’t need your chauvinism.”
“I think he was going more for chivalry,” Porter said.
“Either way, we don’t need it. We can sleep on the floor just as well as you can,” Jones said, folding her arms and glaring at Porter and Morales.
“Speak for yourself. It’s my office. I’m taking the bed,” Beck said. “There’s room for one more. We’ll make it fair. Pick a number between one and fifty.”
“Forty-two!” Russell called out.
“Morales?” Beck asked.
“Craig?” Beck said, turning to look at Porter. She suddenly stopped, the two staring uncomfortably at each other for a moment until Porter looked away.
“I’m fine out here,” he said. “You guys go ahead.”
“Are you sure, Craig?” Jones asked.
“Oh yeah. Sleeping on the floor every once in a while realigns my back. It’s good.”
“Okay,” Jones said. “Twenty-five.”
“It was twenty-six,” Beck said. “Come on, Tina. I’m exhausted.”
“Okay. See, Commander. We did it fairly. No sexism involved,” Jones said to Morales.
“I’m sorry,” Morales said. “Good night. And no hard feelings.”
“None,” Jones said.
“Enjoy the bed.”
“I will. But I won it fairly,” Jones said, not looking all that convinced, before she followed Beck to the office. They pried the door open, then forced it closed again.
“Whew,” Beck said, leaning against the closed door. “That was close.”
“Tina, next time someone offers you a bed, just take it. Okay?”
“Do you think I wanted to share a bed with Morales or Russell? Help me pull this bed out.”
“But I won…” Jones said, picking up the last sofa cushion as Beck extended the bed from the sofa and collapsed onto it.
“Uh huh. It’s just a damn good thing they didn’t make me write down the number in advance.”
“It wasn’t fair?” Jones said weakly as she picked up a sofa cushion.
Back out in Ops proper, Porter had given Morales and Russell the two bed rolls and was in the process of trying to find the softest piece of carpet. Finally, he gave up, grabbed two chairs, and put them facing each other to create a makeshift bed.
“I thought the floor was good for your back,” Russell said.
“Good night,” Porter said firmly.
The room was silent for several moments.
“I’m really hungry.”
LOCKDOWN PLUS 24 HOURS -
“Great Bird, am I…”
“Don’t say it!” Porter warned. Russell closed his mouth.
“We’re all hungry,” Jones said, sitting with her legs crossed on the floor nearby.
“How come she gets to say it?” Russell asked.
“Everybody gets one,” Porter replied.
“How was the floor?” Beck asked.
“He used chairs,” Morales said.
“Didn’t help,” Porter replied.
“I would have traded you,” Jones said.
“That’s okay,” Porter said quickly.
“You were better off out here,” Beck said. “That hide-a- bed was really uncomfortable.”
“It wasn’t that bad,” Jones said.
“I was fine,” Porter said.
“I’m guessing we don’t have any Dillon’s Shower in a Sacks back there,” Beck said, changing the subject.
“Sorry,” Porter replied. “You could try pouring some of the emergency water on your head.”
“I’d rather pour it on you,” Russell muttered.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Porter shot back.
“Nothing,” Russell said, this time at an almost inaudible mumble.
“No. There was most definitely something there.”
“Just forget it!” Russell snapped.
“I’ve got some ideas for things we could do today,” Jones said, trying to brighten the mood. “You know, to pass the time.”
No one responded.
“This would go a lot faster if you guys would participate. Really.”
“Tina, I know you mean well, but don’t. Okay?” Beck said.
“Yes, ma’am,” Jones pouted.
“Don’t take it too hard,” Morales said. “I don’t think President Dillon would have gone for the idea either.”
“This wouldn’t be happening to President Dillon,” Jones replied.
“What’s he got to do with anything?” Beck asked.
“Nothing,” Jones said then quickly added, “ma’am.”
“Didn’t we already establish there’s always a something to the ‘nothing’?” Porter said.
“Craig!” Jones said, turning on him.
“Well, there is.”
“And if Bradley Dillon is somehow involved in all this, I want to know about it,” Beck said. Bradley and Ra’al wouldn’t team up to put her through this drill, would they? No. That was ridiculous. They hated each other. Or at least Ra’al hated Bradley. Bradley probably didn’t even know who Ra’al was. Well, he probably did, but he certainly didn’t care.
“He offered Jones a job,” Morales said.
“HE WHAT?” Porter and Russell shouted.
Beck stopped herself before her gaping could become too apparent. Didn’t see that one coming.
“What do you mean he offered her a job?” Beck asked before turning to Jones. “He wants you to join the president’s office?”
“He asked me to basically do what I do now…”
“You mean liaisoning.”
“…but for Dillon Enterprises,” Jones finished sheepishly.
“Dillon Enterprises is a private company. You can’t do that while you’re…” Beck trailed off. “He asked you to leave Starfleet.”
“You’re not going to, though, right? You’re in the Academy now. You’ll be a Security Officer by the end of next year, and with your talent, you’ll go a lot farther than that.”
“I know,” Jones said. “But…”
“But who cares?” Russell shouted.
“Russell!” Beck snapped angrily.
“Can we talk about the real issue here?” Russell demanded, jabbing an accusing finger toward Porter. “HIM!”
“Me?” Porter said. “What did I do?”
“Definitely not your job!” Russell shouted back.
“You think this lockdown is my fault?”
“No, but the lack of food sure as hell is.”
“I didn’t know…”
“But you should have! Emergency supplies fall under Operations, right?”
“And Tyler works for you! Your own person swiped the crate of rations, and no one on your staff even noticed! Don’t you check those things?”
“I’m sorry, okay!” Porter said.
“Tell that to my stomach. And my back!”
“I gave you one of the bedrolls, and I didn’t try to sleep with the captain!” Porter’s eyes widened. “I mean sleep in the bed…in the office…that she happened to be in!”
“Oh yeah. There’s a sacrifice. You gave up a night on a crappy hide-a-bed,” Russell said. “It wasn’t like you were passing up some big sexcapade with her!”
“I know,” Porter said, suddenly finding the wall very interesting to look at.
“So that doesn’t…” Russell stopped. “Craig?”
“Why are you looking at the wall?”
“Craig?” Russell’s anger suddenly vanished as a grin began to spread across his face.
“Look at me.”
“You had sex with her!” Russell exclaimed laughing.
“No, I didn’t,” Porter protested, his eyes meeting Russell’s. That was a mistake.
“Ha! Yes you did!”
“Mister Russell!” Beck thundered.
“They slept together?” Morales asked in disbelief.
“Sean!” Jones said in horror. “How can you…”
“I’ve known this man since the Academy, and when it comes to things like this, he cannot lie for anything. I can see it in his eyes.”
“Yeah? So what!” Porter shouted back.
“Then it’s true!” Morales said.
“Are you two dating?” Jones asked.
“We’re done here! End of conversation!” Beck declared.
Morales took a step toward her. “You can’t just…”
“I’m the captain, so yes I can. Everybody pick a spot, sit in it, and SHUT UP!”
“This is still your fault,” Russell whispered as he passed Porter. “But I want details.”
“I SAID SHUT UP ALL OF YOU!!!!!” Beck screamed.
LOCKDOWN PLUS 30 HOURS -
“I can’t take this anymore,” Beck said, jumping to her feet and starting to pace the Ops command area. “Can we all talk to each other without it devolving into a fight?”
“Or an orgy,” Russell snickered.
“Shut up, Sean,” Porter snapped.
“No way. You don’t get to tell me to shut up, Craig. Maybe if you weren’t the reason I haven’t eaten in over a day…”
“Let it go.”
“Why the hell should I?”
“I see that’s a big no on the not fighting,” Beck muttered.
“Guys,” Jones said. “Stop. Please. None of this is helping make our situation any more pleasant.”
“You want to make it pleasant?” Russell said. “Find me a slab of ribs.”
“Find me a phaser,” Porter said.
“You’re welcome to take a shot at me without a phaser. Go ahead.,” Russell said.
As Russell and Porter glared at each other, Beck walker over to where Morales was seated, staring blankly at nothing in particular. “At least you’ve decided to remain in the land of the sane,” she said.
Morales looked up at her, his blank expression hardening. “You slept with him!” he shouted suddenly, jumping to his feet as Beck reflexively leapt back from him. “How? Why? WHY?”
“What the hell business is it of yours?” Jones demanded, storming between Morales and Beck. Jones’s angry shout, which wasn’t the kind of thing she did very often, drew Porter and Russell’s attention over to the newly-developing drama.
Morales was practically shaking with rage at this point. “She…she…she had sex with a junior officer!”
“Like you care about that!”
“Why do you care about…what I care about!”
“You’ve got a girlfriend. You told her you love her. But here you are all pissed off that Craig got the captain and you didn’t!”
“I didn’t get her!” Porter protested.
“Stay out of my personal life!” Morales said.
“Oh fuck me!” Russell cried. “I thought we were done with this quadrangle shit! What are we up to now? Morales wants Beck. Jones wants Morales. Morales has Hodges. Craig had Beck. I want Hodges. What is that? A sextangle?” He started laughing madly.
“Nobody had me,” Beck said.
“You want Steph?” Morales said surprised.
“Just for one night. She’s hot.”
“Er…okay,” Morales said. Something suddenly registered in his brain. He whirled around toward Jones, who was at that moment having an internal battle between her anger at Morales and her mortification at what Russell had just said. “You…”
“Yes!” Jones shouted. “But since you’re evidently a complete ass and incapable of getting it through your thick head that you won’t be dating the captain ever, I’m wondering what the hell was wrong with me! When Beck’s around, do you even see Hodges? You never saw me, and I was right in front of you!”
“Oh just shut up,” Jones said.
“You tell him, Tina,” Russell said.
Jones whipped her head toward Russell, eyes blazing and said three words that no one ever thought they’d hear coming out of her mouth.
“Go FUCK yourself!”
LOCKDOWN PLUS 35 HOURS -
“Damn it, Sean. Can you not do that?”
“What? Breathe?” Russell shot back at Porter.
“Could both of you just shut up?” Jones snapped.
“Just shut up?” Russell said. “I thought I was supposed to go fuck myself too.”
“Lay off,” Beck ordered.
“Sure. Defend her. That’s predictable.”
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
“I’m sick of this fawning over Tina! You’ve practically handed her my office already! She’s one of your ‘do no wrongs.’ Just like Craig. I mean, if I was you, I’d be pissed as hell at Craig right now.”
“Hey! Leave me out of this!” Porter said.
“Right. Because you’re so innocent. It’s just a damn good thing this isn’t a real emergency, or we would all be FUCKED!” Russell jabbed an accusing finger at Beck. “But she doesn’t give a damn because it’s you! But if I so much as forget to sign a report…”
“I’ve never done a thing to you,” Beck said, her voice practically a growl.
“You’ve never done a thing for me either. But Tina…Tina’s being groomed. You got her into the Academy, and now you’re all upset that she’d even consider taking what is probably a much better offer.
“Of course I’m upset. I don’t want to lose her. And yes, I helped her get into the Academy, which I expect some gratitude for, but that doesn’t mean that she…”
“Gratitude?” Jones said. “What does that mean? Do I owe you now?”
“That’s not what I meant,” Beck said.
“Then what did you mean?”
“She means that she got you in, so you’d better be nice and do what she tells you,” Russell said.
“Tina got in on her own merits,” Morales said. “She’s a good officer.”
“I don’t need you defending me,” Jones said, turning angrily on Morales.
“Don’t! Don’t defend me. Don’t talk to me. Don’t look at me. Go back to staring at the captain.”
“I love Steph. I’m sorry if that…”
“Then why were you jumping down my throat about Craig?” Beck asked.
“I was surprised. That’s all.”
“You’re going to be really surprised if you hurt Steph,” Beck said. “I don’t know if you’ve got some lingering hang-ups about me or what, but you’d damn well better figure it out because if you hurt her because of me, I’m going to jam my foot so far up your…”
Beck lost her train of thought as Porter suddenly got up, stormed over to his powerless console, yanked a tool kit out of a storage panel near the floor, and then charged into Beck’s office, forcing the doors closed behind himself.
“What’s with him?” Jones said.
“He doesn’t like it when mommy and daddy fight,” Russell said, his voice dripping with contemptuous sarcasm.
Beck shot one last glare at Morales, then headed into her office.
“Sure. Go chase loverboy,” Morales muttered.
Porter already had his tool kit spread out on Beck’s desk when she entered.
“With all due respect, could you go away?” he said tensely.
“Craig, I know it’s gotten ugly out there, but you can’t hide…”
“Why not? We all should be hiding right now. Just pick a corner and hole up there because we sure as hell can’t seem to stand being in the same room with each other.”
“There’s some tension, but we’re all hungry. We’re all tired. Once this is over, things will go back to the way they were.”
“Even before this they weren’t back to the way they were between us,” Porter said. “Yeah, we talked. We’re okay, but it’s not the same. It’s probably never going to be the same.”
“Maybe not, but…”
“I really just need to be alone right now.”
Beck paused for a moment, debating whether or not to push the issue. Finally, she decided to give Porter his space. “Okay. But I’ll be out here if you need to talk to someone,” she said, forcing the doors back open.
“…solve a case without banging a witness!”
“You just wait until I get you under my command!”
“You’re both under my command, so…”
“Assuming we don’t kill each other first,” Beck added before heading back out into the maelstrom.
LOCKDOWN PLUS 38 HOURS -
“Stop that!” Jones shouted.
“I can’t! I’m hungry!” Russell shot back.
“Drink more water!”
“And we’re running out of Mister Sanis, so everyone stop drinking so much!” Morales said.
“You ordering me around now?” Beck said.
“I’m looking out for our resources.”
“That’s my job. I’m your commanding officer. NOTHING ELSE. I can monitor our supplies myself.”
“THEN DO IT!” Morales bellowed.
“STOP SHOUTING!” Jones screamed.
“YOU FIRST!” Russell thundered. “All of you can…” He stopped, his head whipping back and forth. “What’s that smell?”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Jones demanded.
“That smell!” Russell said, jumping to his feet. He followed the aroma to Beck’s office door, which Porter was just forcing open. On the small coffee table in the office sitting area there sat several plates of steak, pasta, and the like. Russell looked from them to Porter to them and finally back to Porter.
“You,” Russell said, grabbing Porter by the shoulders and pushing him back against the door frame. “You…magnificent bastard!” He planted a manic sloppy kiss on Porter’s forehead then charged past him into the office. Morales and Jones were at the door a moment later. Morales restrained himself, but Porter found himself on the receiving end of a long, passionate kiss from Jones, this one right on his lips.
“I…you…THANK YOU!” Jones cried, diving in after Russell and Morales as Beck strolled over as casually as she could manage considering the demands for sustenance coming from her insides.
“Fixed the replicator,” Porter said.
“I can see that. I thought you couldn’t, though.”
“I syphoned power from the padds in your office into the replicator system, then tricked the matter feed into believing the drill was over, so it would allow the replicator access to the stores again. The power won’t last forever, but it should get us through the night.”
“You know you just invalidated the drill,” she said.
“Do you care?” Porter replied.
“No. You may have just saved us all.”
“Somebody had to do something,” Porter said with a shrug. “Nothing like an unpleasant situation to turn a bunch of minor issues into a full-fledged war.”
“Minor issues? Is that what all this was about?”
“No,” Porter said solemnly.
“We all have a box inside,” Beck said. “It’s the place where we stuff all the things that get to us that normally aren’t worth starting a fight over, all the perceived slights against us that we know we can’t fix, and all the things we desperately don’t want others to know. We shove them away, so that we don’t damage friendships and relationships with those we love. Every single person in the universe is going to annoy you in some way or another, even the people closest to you. Most of the time, though, we have enough sense not to tell them about the things that don’t really matter or the things we know matter too much.”
“Things have been weird enough between me and you. I’m not ready for it to be weird with everybody.”
“Is that why you didn’t lash out at anybody?”
Porter smiled. “Guess my box was empty.”
“Lucky you,” Beck said, patting Porter on the shoulder then heading to the food.
“Yeah,” Porter said softly, looking over at the group of people he hoped were still his friends. “Lucky me.”
LOCKDOWN PLUS 48 HOURS -
Porter was awakened by a noise that just wouldn’t go away. Gradually, as his conscious mind returned to the forefront, he realized it was not so much a noise but a bunch of noises together:
The sounds of Ops.
The sounds of Ops with power!
He moved to get up, causing the chair supporting his legs to roll backwards and drop him unceremoniously onto the carpet. Porter didn’t care, though. He scrambled to his feet and rushed over to his console. All the displays were back. The station was still there.
Seconds later, the hologram of Fleet Admiral Ra’al reappeared.
“Good morning!” she said quite loudly. Morales and Russell both jolted in their bedrolls and sat up startled. Beck and Jones came tumbling out of Beck’s office a moment later. “Congratulations on successfully completing your drill. Have a good day.” And with that the hologram was gone.
“Successfully completing?” Porter asked. “I cheated.”
“They evidently don’t care,” Morales said.
“Maybe you’ll get one of those commendations for original thinking,” Russell said.
“Actually, I don’t think they ever cared,” Beck said. “This was never about a drill.”
“No offense, Captain, but can we leave now? I really need a shower,” Jones said.
“How about breakfast first?”
“I’m still pretty stuffed after last night,” Morales said. “I could use a few more hours of sleep, though. I was really out.”
“Full bellies; contented minds,” Porter said.
“I could eat,” Russell remarked.
“We’re all going. Together,” Beck said. “McBaughb’s. And it’s my treat.”
“What about Ops?” Morales asked.
“Beck to Auxiliary Control,” the captain said.
“Captain!” Lieutenant Mason’s voice replied, sounding surprised. “We…”
“Have you been running the station during this drill?” she asked, cutting him off.
“You can keep doing it for a while longer. Beck out.” She gestured toward the turbolift. “After you all.”
The five officers piled into the turbolift and immediately regretted it. The intermingling odors of five bodies that hadn’t showered in two days was creating interesting traveling conditions.
“Mall. Upper concourse,” Beck gasped.
The ride seemed to last an eternity, but finally the group was deposited on the upper concourse of Starfleet Square Mall. Before she even realized it was happening, Beck found herself letting out a sigh of relief. Freedom felt good.
But what was with all the shouting?
Following the sounds of the commotion, Beck and the others looked over the railing down to the lower concourse below where a man in the uniform of the Federation Marines was running for his life.
But this wasn’t just any marine.
It was Colonel Martin Lazlo, and he seemed to have no interest in obeying the demands to stop being shouting at him. Phaser blasts suddenly began wildly searing past him, slamming haphazardly into the walls, the decorative plants, and innocent mall patrons.
Finally, a shot found its target, nailing Lazlo in the back and sending him sprawling to the deck unconscious.
“Russell, what the hell are your people doing?” Beck demanded.
“I don’t know. I just got here.”
“They know better than to start firing indiscriminately like that. Those are civilians down…”
Lazlo’s pursuers ran into view. And oddly enough, they were civilians. Five of them to be exact, all wielding phaser rifles. One immediately set upon Lazlo, forcing his limp arms behind his back and securing his wrists with binders while the other four searched the area for other potential threats.
“That’s Krilik,” Porter said, recognizing the proprietor of the station’s Klingon formal wear shop.
“And Lelia Nessel. And Fargan Napul,” Jones said.
“What the hell are they doing?” Morales said.
“I think she already asked that,” Russell said, looking to Beck.
“I’d better ask again,” Beck said, leaning over the railing. “HEY!” she called.
The five armed civilians all whirled in their direction, weapons raised.
“STOP!” Krilik said, stepping forward. “Remain where you are! You will be escorted to the Station Administrator.” Krilik pointed at three of his comrades, who nodded and rushed to the nearest turbolift.
“Krilik, I don’t know what the hell’s been going on around here for the last couple of days, but unless I missed a memo, I’m still in command around here.”
The turbolift behind Beck and her staff opened allowing the three armed civilians to race out, rifles trained on the Starfleet Officers.
“You will be escorted to the Station Administrator,” Krilik repeated.
“Guess we should have stayed in Ops,” Porter muttered.
“NO!” Beck, Morales, Jones, and Russell shouted reflexively.
Beck looked over at the gunmen menacing them and put her hands in the air. “Frankly, Craig, after the last forty-eight hours, even this is an improvement.”
TO BE CONTINUED…