Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
By Alan Decker
The Security Office on the lower level of Starfleet Square Mall was almost empty when she entered, which was something of a relief to Dr. Diantha. It was bad enough that she found herself in a situation that forced her to request assistance. There was no need to share her discomfort with the entire Security staff. In the best case scenario, she would be able to limit it to one, not that she was expecting to be so lucky. Luck and her had never exactly been close.
Therefore it was a bit of a surprise to find that her quarry, Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell, was both there and alone as she stepped into the office.
“Good afternoon, Commander,” she said curtly, which really wasn’t the tone she was going for. Unfortunately, it was kind of her default unless she really put a lot of effort into it to sound friendly, which she did with her follow up question of, “How are you today?”
Russell, who had been studying the console in front of him rather intently this entire time, barely glanced up at her and said a quick, “Be right with you.”
“I’m afraid this can’t wait,” Diantha said, her wings starting to tremble a little. “I know you have other duties, but the simple fact is you owe me a favor.”
The Waystation Chief of Security emitted a questioning grunt. At least that’s how Diantha chose to take it. “I accompanied you as your date to that dinner with Doctor Nelson last year. Now I know at the time I said I was doing it because I wanted to meet my predecessor, but the evening ended up being quite awkward and uncomfortable for me. Still I remained. That sacrifice on my part warrants a return gesture on your part, hence the favor. Believe me I wouldn’t ask this unless it was absolutely necessary, which it is. And time is running out. I hoped something would happen to prevent these events from occurring, but it didn’t and they are. So I must insist that you help me.”
She finished and watched Russell expectantly.
“Are you even listening to me?” she demanded, leaning over the console toward Russell.
“With you in a minute,” he replied. Suddenly, he clapped his hand to his ear, which Diantha now realized held a small earpiece. “He’s spotted you. He’s coming over,” Russell said urgently.
“Who are you talking to?” Diantha said angrily.
At the bottom of Waystation’s lower saucer, in the Spacescape Room, better known to most station residents as the Vertigo Lounge due to its transparent aluminum floor which provided a wonderful view of the vast void outside, Captain Lisa Beck flinched at the loud hissing in her ear.
“Did you just shush me, Russell?” she whispered, hoping none of the other guests at the reception for the visiting dignitaries from Marfneh Six noticed that she was having a conversation with empty air.
“Sorry, ma’am,” Russell’s voice said in her earpiece. “Someone else just came into the office.”
“Ahh,” Beck said, then quickly extended the word into a yawn as Federation President Bradley Dillon approached.
“Are we boring you, Captain?” Bradley asked.
“Sorry. Long night of station business,” Beck replied.
“I wasn’t aware that the station faced any threats last night.”
“We didn’t. I had forms to fill out. That kind of thing.”
“Of course. All the same, I thank you for coming to the reception. Minister Kak’a’Do’Del would have been quite disappointed if you had decided not to appear.”
“I wouldn’t be doing my duty to Starfleet or the Federation if I skipped out on it,” Beck said, forcing a smile she hoped appeared to be at least something remotely close to genuine.
“I’m glad to hear you say that. In the end, the Federation is what’s important,” Bradley replied. “If we can keep that in mind, perhaps we can put the tension of the last few weeks behind us.”
“Tension?” Beck said innocently. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Come now, Captain. You haven’t spoken to me since…well, since that little bit of unpleasantness in your office regarding our would-be assassin.”
Beck swallowed down a surge of anger and willed herself to be diplomatic. “I have to admit a certain amount of concern about the girl,” she said.
“There’s no need really.”
“I think there is.”
Bradley looked around for a moment, then took a step closer to Beck.
“Here we go,” Russell said expectantly. He focused on the speaker in his ear, then…
“What the hell?” he shouted, yanking the earpiece away from his head. “Russell to Porter! Craig!”
“We lost the signal,” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter’s voice said over the comm. “It’s almost like she stepped into a jamming field.”
“Or one stepped up to her,” Russell said.
“It is a sensible precaution against eavesdropping,” Dr. Diantha observed, looking between Russell and the patrons passing by out in the mall. “Now that you’ve been cut out of their conversation, can we discuss…”
“We need to get her to back away from him. I’ll comm Tina,” Russell said, unaware that the avian doctor standing on the other side of his console was mere moments away from giving in to the temptation to peck him to death.
Yeoman Tina Jones was finally starting to relax a little and enjoy the reception. As the planner of said event, she’d been on edge making sure that everything was just as President Dillon had requested. But now, half an hour into the festivities, everything seemed to be going quite well. The lighting was elegant, the music soft, and the buffet had the right foods and was being continuously restocked by the Starfleet Catering staff (Now there was an unusual career choice, Jones thought. You go into Starfleet and spend your time serving food at parties. Of course, it was better than being shot at, which was a good possibility in the line of work Jones was trying to get into).
Her tension level immediately jumped as the small earpiece stuck in her ear canal began whispering at her in Russell’s voice. “Tina? Tina!”
“What?” she hissed.
“Can you see the captain?”
“Get her to back up.”
“Back up? She’s talking to Bradley…I mean President Dillon. Wasn’t that what you wanted?”
“Just do it!”
“Okay!” Jones snapped, drawing confused stares from a pair of Marfnehian delegates who were passing by, plates piled high with food. She started waving in Beck’s direction, hoping she could catch the captain’s eye.
“Is there a problem?” Bradley asked, noticing that Beck’s attention had drifted away from him.
“No. Not a one,” she replied as she watched Yeoman Jones gesturing at her with some kind of fanning motion. It looked like Jones was telling her to… She took a step back and instantly winced as Russell’s voice erupted in her ear.
“Captain! Can you read me?”
“Oh yeah,” she said, shaking her head.
“Don’t let Bradley get close. He’s wearing a jammer of some kind. We missed the last minute or so of your conversation. Did he tell you what he did with Tiffany Beecher?”
“Are you sure there isn’t a problem?” Bradley asked. “Too much wine perhaps?”
“No, no, and no,” Beck said. “Now about the girl…”
“The situation has been taken care of,” Bradley said, moving a step closer. Immediately Beck leaned back without trying to look like she was leaning back.
Bradley paused, his eyes narrowing at Beck. A split second later, they widened with alarm. He clapped his hand over his mouth. “I’m sorry, Captain,” he said, his voice muffled behind his hand. “I neglected to think that some of the foods I consumed tonight my have an adverse affect on my breath. Please excuse me.” He nodded his head slightly, then rushed off toward one of his ever present Special Secret Section bodyguards. This one obviously had the job of carrying the presidential breath mints.
“What happened?” Russell’s voice said in Beck’s ear. “We lost you again for a second, and then the president scampered.”
“I scared him off,” Beck said.
“You scared him? How?”
“What were you eating down there?” Russell demanded.
“Not me. Him!”
“The president has halitosis?”
“No! He thought that I… Never mind. He’s gone. He’s not telling me where Tiffany Beecher is. Now I am going to eat something, schmooze a bit, and then I’m leaving. If I learn anything, I’ll let you know. Beck OUT.” She wrenched the earpiece out of her ear and shoved it into her pocket before storming over to Yeoman Jones.
“You eat yet?” Beck asked.
“No,” Jones said.
“Then let’s get to it. The food isn’t getting any warmer.”
“I could have it heated more, if you’d like.”
“Shut up and eat.”
And so they did.
“Well that was a huge waste of time,” Russell said, yanking out his own earpiece and tossing it down on his console.
“Not just for you,” Diantha muttered. She suddenly caught sight of something out in the mall concourse.
“I’m sorry about that, Doc?” Russell asked as he got up from his seat and walked around the console towards her. “We were in the middle of an operation…not your kind of operation. It doesn’t really matter, but I couldn’t stop when you came in. Was there something I could do for…MMMPPPPHHHHH!
There was a beak in his mouth. It had arrived rather abruptly, and now there it was, filling most of his oral cavity.
Just as quickly as it arrived, the beak was gone.
“That was the beginning of the favor,” Diantha said, releasing her grip on Russell. “I will inform you of the rest as needed.” And with that, she strode out of the Security Office.
“She kissed you?” Porter asked that evening as he and Russell sat in the mall food court having dinner.
“I think that’s what it was. Her mouth was definitely inside of mine,” Russell replied.
“She didn’t leave a worm in there or anything, did she? Maybe she just thought you looked hungry.”
“No. There was more to this. She said something about a favor.”
“Favor? What kind of favor?” Porter asked.
“You know what kind of favor,” Russell said with a glint in his eye.
“This is Diantha we’re talking about.”
“I think it’s a front.”
“Stop it, Sean. Stop it now.”
“I already did some research.”
“I’m going to regret asking this, but what kind of research?”
“Compatibility research,” Russell said. There was that damn glint again.
“I wanted to know if it was even possible.”
“No no no.”
“Don’t you want to hear what I found out?”
“No!” Porter cried, covering his ears. He put his hands back down a moment later. “Okay, yes.”
“Actually Keetooan females have…AAUUUUUGGGGHHHHHH!!!!” The scream at the end of Russell’s sentence came about as the Security Chief was abruptly yanked up from his seat by two powerful (and feathered) hands. He soon found himself soaring near the ceiling, well above the lower level of the mall.
“I’m sorry!” Russell cried, grabbing frantically onto the arms that were holding him above the mall concourse. “I didn’t know you were listening! Or that you were sensitive about your…female bits! I won’t talk about them again, Diantha! I swear!”
“What do you know of her female bits?” his captor bellowed. The voice was decidedly not Diantha’s.
“Owylin! Put him down right now!” another voice that actually was Diantha’s ordered. Russell craned his neck to see Diantha swooping toward him. “I said PUT HIM DOWN NOW!”
“No! Not right now! Land first! Land!” Russell shouted.
Much to Russell’s surprise (since he expected to find himself either plummeting to the deck below or as the unwilling participant in an airborne chase), the Keetooan holding him descended back toward the food court and placed Russell gently on the floor before touching down beside him with Diantha arriving a split-second later. Normally this would have been the time for him to say some harsh words to this Owylin guy and drag him off to the brig for assaulting him, but he didn’t get the chance.
“What was that?” Diantha shouted angrily at Owylin.
“This…groundling has no rights to you!”
“YOU don’t have any rights to me.”
“That is not true.”
Porter strolled over to Russell, chewing up the last bit of his lunch. “Nice flight?” he asked as Diantha and Owylin continued yelling at each other.
“Thanks for the concern,” Russell muttered.
“I commed security, but the I saw Diantha heading up there. Looks like she was able to handle things. So what’s this about?”
Russell shrugged. “Sounds like the typical possessive father. Maybe an older brother.”
”..you are still MY WIFE!” Owylin bellowed.
“Or that,” Russell said.
“Hmmph. Never took her for married,” Porter said.
“Neither did I.”
“Guess you can cancel any plans of putting your research into practice.”
“You seem spectacularly non-plussed by all of this.”
“Ehhh. Something of an occupational hazard for me.”
“Yeah. I guess it would be,” Porter said. “Think we should break this up?”
“Nah. Domestic dispute. I hate getting involved in those.”
Owylin suddenly pointed an accusing talon-like finger at Russell. “That man was all over you.”
“It’s none of your business,” Diantha said.
“You have taken up with a human! How long has this been going on?”
“I’m starting to think you got used,” Porter said.
“It’s certainly looking like it. She kissed me the one time to make him jealous. I’m okay with that.”
“It has been many months now,” Diantha said, folding her arms. “Again, not that it is any business of yours.”
Owylin suddenly turned on Russell, his giant round eyes somehow seeming even bigger as they glared hated at the Security Chief.
“Woah! Hang on,” Russell said.
“You have…been intimate!”
“Many many times,” Diantha said.
“WHAT?” Russell shouted.
“You been holding out on me?” Porter said with a smirk.
“No!” Russell cried. “NO!” he repeated to Owylin. “We haven’t. Ask him,” he said, pointing at Porter. “Earlier I had to look up even how we could! Not that we were going to! She kissed ME!”
Owylin made a move for Russell, but Diantha grabbed his arm and swung him around to face her. “We are not married any longer, Owylin. That was over long ago.”
“We mate for life!”
“I did my part, Owylin. I bonded with you, as our parents expected. I told you then, though, that it was only temporary. And when you, your parents, and my parents wouldn’t stop chirping about a damn hatchling, I did my part then, too. I nested and I laid the egg. After that, it was your problem.”
“Hmmph. She’s got a kid, too,” Porter said.
“Wow. I never took her for a mother,” Russell said.
“Evidently neither did she.”
“You have abrogated your responsibilities to your family for long enough,” Owylin said. “Falenin is coming of age and she needs your guidance.”
“I’m not going back to Keetoo,” Diantha said.
“You do not have to. I brought her to you.”
“You…brought… Stop. What are we doing here?”
“Excuse me?” Owylin asked.
“I’m not talking to you,” Diantha snapped before looking up at the ceiling and shouting. “What are we doing here?” She strode away from a rather surprised Owylin, Porter, and Russell and then surprised them even more by walking right through the nearest wall where she…
“You can stop describing my movements now. I’m out of the story,” Diantha said.
I’M THE AUTHOR. I HAVE TO TELL THE READERS WHERE YOU ARE. IT’S PART OF MY JOB.
“I wouldn’t worry about it. I can’t imagine that anyone is still reading at this point. And stop with the speaker attributions. I’m the only character talking here.”
YOU CAN’T ORDER ME AROUND. I’M THE ONE WRITING THE STORY.
“Oh is that what you think you’re doing out there?”
LAST TIME I CHECKED. WHAT DO YOU THINK I’M DOING?
“Not trying to be original. That’s for sure. Are you really carting out the ‘child I never knew’ bit? How many times has that been done? How many times on Star Trek alone? I’m pretty sure Worf and Alexander covered all the territory anyone ever wanted to see from that plot. Can you honestly tell me that what you were planning for me and my daughter was all that different?”
“Is she sticking around after the story is over?”
“So is there a point to any of this at all?”
I WAS BUILDING TO A JOKE.
“Rehashing this entire lame plot for a joke? It’d better be a great one.”
“Oh that inspires confidence. What’s the joke?”
IT’S NOT GOING TO WORK IF I JUST TELL IT TO YOU. THERE’S GOT TO BE BUILD UP.
“What kind of build up?”
YOU TRY TO BE A MOTHER TO FALENIN WHILE SHE’S ON BOARD. AND THEN, WHEN SHE LEAVES, YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT HOW HARD IT IS TO BE A PARENT. AND THEN PORTER…OR MAYBE SOMEBODY ELSE SAYS, “YEAH. I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU MADE IT THROUGH THAT WHOLE DAY AND A HALF.”
“That’s the joke.”
IT’D BE BETTER IN CONTEXT.
“I don’t think any amount of context in the universe could help that joke. And you want to make it the centerpiece of this entire story?”
NOT REALLY. THE STORY IS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT YOU.
“I never asked to be the center of a story.”
YOU FOLKS ARE MY CHARACTERS. YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO ASK FOR ANYTHING…OR TALK BACK, I MIGHT ADD.
“The others have never come after you?”
NOT SO FAR. I’D KIND OF LIKE TO KEEP IT THAT WAY.
“Then leave me alone.”
LOOK, DIANTHA. I’M IN BETWEEN THE PROVERBIAL ROCK AND A HARD PLACE WITH YOU.
“Oh goody. Another cliche.”
I MEAN IT. I INTRODUCED YOU IN THE LAST RUN AND REALLY DIDN’T DEVELOP YOU AT ALL.
SO READERS WANT DEVELOPED CHARACTERS. I CAN’T JUST PLOP YOU IN NEAR THE END OF THE SERIES AND THEN IGNORE YOU. BUT I ALSO HAVE OTHER STORYLINES TO DEAL WITH THAT YOU’RE NOT A PART OF.
“Do the words Ezri Dax mean anything to you?”
THAT’S WHAT I WAS TRYING TO AVOID. WHAT DID WE GET THERE? TWO? THREE EPISODES ABOUT HER AND HER BACKGROUND THAT STOPPED THE MAIN ARC OF THE SEASON DEAD IN ITS TRACKS? I DIDN’T WANT TO DO THAT.
“And the story you’re writing now is doing what exactly?”
THERE’S THE HARD PLACE. YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE A BACKGROUND.
“No, I really don’t. I’m more than fine in my supporting role. Besides, if this so-called background is as unoriginal as where you were headed in this story, I’ll pass.
I WAS GOING TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING.
“Going to? You don’t even have this entire thing planned out yet? What did you do? Pick a crappy plot and start making it up as you went along?”
NO! DID YOU PAY ATTENTION DURING THAT OPENING SEQUENCE? THERE WAS SOME REAL PLANNING AND CHOREOGRAPHY THERE! AND I ALREADY TOLD YOU ABOUT THE ENDING. I’M JUST WORKING ON…THE SQUISHY MIDDLE BITS.
BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT FIRMED UP IN MY MIND YET.
“So you don’t have it planned. You’re just winging…”
DON’T SAY IT.
“I don’t have to. You made it the title of the damn story. Look can we just forget about this whole thing and move on to the next story? One that doesn’t involve me preferably?”
“Why the hell not?”
YOU SEE, THERE’S THE B-PLOT I HAVE TO DEAL WITH.
“B-plot? You mean that stuff with President Dillon that Russell was listening to at the beginning of the story?”
YEAH. THAT WOULD BE IT. AFTER BEING THWARTED IN THEIR EFFORTS TO GET THE LOCATION OF TIFFANY BEECHER OUT OF PRESIDENT DILLON AT THE RECEPTION, THE CREW HAS TO START TRYING OTHER MEANS.
“Thanks for the summary blurb. Does anything really important happen in the story?”
“Can I go out on a limb and say no? It’s going to be an entire story of the crew running around and not getting anywhere.”
I HAVE TO BUILD UP THEIR FRUSTRATION AT THEIR INABILITY TO DEAL WITH PRESIDENT DILLON.
“In other words, it’s only the second story of the run, so you’re not going to do anything really important yet.”
YOU DON’T KNOW THAT. I COULD HAVE AN EARLY SURPRISE UP MY SLEEVE. I COULD BE KILLING SOMEBODY OFF!
“Are you going to kill anybody?”
WELL…ACTUALLY I CAN’T.
“Uh huh. See. It’s too early in the run.”
NO. I REALLY CAN’T. ALL OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS ARE IN STORIES THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN BUT THAT ARE SET A FEW YEARS AFTER THIS ONE. ALL OF THEM EXCEPT YOU, ANYWAY.
“So are you going to kill me?”
I WASN’T PLANNING ON IT. AT LEAST NOT UNTIL WE HAD THIS LOVELY CONVERSATION.
“To sum up then, my plot is a useless rehash and the B-plot is pointless.”
HEY! THERE’S A REVELATION AT THE END.
“Does it involve me?”
“Then can we leave me out of this altogether? Hell, can you put the revelation at the beginning of the next story and end this mess before it gets any worse?”
I CAN’T JUST LEAVE THE OTHER CHARACTERS HANGING LIKE THAT. I DID THE WHOLE SET-UP AT THE BEGINNING.
“Fine. Skip ahead to your ‘big revelation.’”
WHY DO I FEEL LIKE I LOST CONTROL SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY HERE?
“No idea. I work for you. Remember? I’m going back to my office. Let me know when a scene comes up that I should actually be in.”
HMMM…I GUESS I HAVE TO GO BACK TO NARRATING NOW.
And with that last jab, Diantha stormed back into the reality of her world and went to her office, which, oddly enough, is exactly what she said she was going to do. As for her husband and all that…oh just forget it!
Meanwhile, in the B-plot, Captain Beck and the command crew have been futily trying to locate Tiffany Beecher, only to be thwarted at every turn (Didn’t I mention this earlier?). Let’s join them now, shall we?
Lieutenant Commander Porter suddenly looked up from his console in Ops, his face filled with confusion. “Did anybody else feel that?” he asked.
“Feel what?” Commander Walter Morales asked from his post at the docking control console.
“Like the universe just fast-forwarded past the boring parts and dumped us here to clean up the mess.”
“I…don’t know what that would even feel like.”
Captain Beck exited her office practically at a jog. “Do we have anything yet?” she asked quickly.
“No more than we did before,” Porter replied. “I’ve run every scan I can think of and even had Lieutenant Mason scan the station from the outside with the Wayward. We’ve accounted for just about every nook and cranny we can. As far as I can tell, Tiffany Beecher is not on this station.”
“And I’m guessing President Dillon hasn’t been real willing to discuss her,” Lieutenant Commander Russell said from the tactical console.
“I can’t even get through to him. He left this morning for a campaign appearance,” Beck said. “But I had another idea.”
“Is it the kind of idea that’s going to get us arrested and court-martialed and such?” Porter asked. “We’ve been treading that line pretty closely as it is.”
“It could…which is why I’m doing it myself. I want you guys to clear Ops. No one will be able to say that you were any part of this.”
“Won’t Starfleet have something to say about us leaving Ops unmanned?” Morales said.
“I’m pretty sure that’s against regulations,” Russell said.
“Respectfully, Captain, I think we’re staying, “ Porter said.
“All right. Don’t say I didn’t give you a chance, though. Morales, see if you can comm the Beechers.”
Morales stared back at his commanding officer as Porter said, “Your big plan is to comm her parents?”
“I never said it was big. But surely Tiffany’s parents want to know where she is even more than we do. If we get them to contact some of the members of the Federation Council who aren’t fans of Bradley, maybe we can get this thing brought out into the open without anyone knowing we were behind it.”
“Okay. That I can buy,” Porter said as Morales worked to locate the Beechers and comm them. After a few minutes (You think finding a phone number in your own town is annoying? Try the entire quadrant.) he made the connection, and the main viewscreen activated, displaying the image of a man. He appeared to be in his late 40s and, based on the fine suit he was wearing and the look of the decor in the room behind him, no stranger to a more upscale lifestyle.
“This is Howard Beecher,” he said. It was more of an announcement than a greeting.
“Mister Beecher, I am Captain Lisa Beck in command of Waystation. Several weeks ago, your family had a stopover here.”
“Yes, Captain. Is there a problem?”
Beck exchanged a quick glance with Porter. Did Beecher somehow miss the fact that his daughter wasn’t around any more? “Your daughter, Tiffany, was…”
“Tiffany is fine, and she is home with us where she belongs,” Beecher said quickly.
“She’s with you?” Beck said. “If I may ask, when did…”
“I am not discussing my daughter with you, Captain. She is home, and everything is fine. I’m sure you have far more important things to worry about.” As Beecher said this, Beck could see Tiffany and a woman Beck could only assume was Mrs. Beecher step into view, obviously curious as to who was on the comm. Mrs. Beecher had a protective arm wrapped around her daughter’s shoulder. Tiffany, meanwhile, gave Beck a slight wave, then looked at the floor.
“My information must have been in error,” Beck said. “I’m sorry to have bothered you, Mister Beecher. Thank you for your time.”
Beecher nodded then cut the channel.
“Guess we can stop looking for Tiffany now,” Porter said.
“Are you sure that was actually her?” Russell asked. “The Special Secret Section could have replaced her with an android or a clone or something.”
“It was her,” Beck said. “But did you see her face? She was terrified. All three of them were.”
“So Bradley and friends grabbed her away from us, intimidated the hell out of her, then sent her home and scared the hell out of her family for good measure so none of them would talk about what happened,” Porter said.
“I’d say that’s a pretty reasonable guess,” Beck said.
“What do we do now?” Morales asked.
“I don’t know,” Beck replied, shaking her head. “Do we even do anything? Yeah, Bradley went way over the line in my opinion, but he let her go. And she probably won’t be blowing up any more dress shops any time soon.”
“Bradley made himself the law in her case. I can’t believe that he won’t do it again.”
“You’re probably right,” Beck said. “But if he does, he’s going to find out damn fast who’s really in charge of this station.”
And while she’d never say it aloud, Beck couldn’t help but hope that she wouldn’t be the one finding out that it was President Dillon who was really in charge.
WAIT! DIANTHA! I’VE GOT ANOTHER IDEA! YOU WERE AN ELITE SOLDIER RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATHS OF HUNDREDS OF YOUR PEOPLE, BUT THEN OUT OF REMORSE YOU RAN OFF TO BE A DOCTOR IN STARFLEET AND…
OH, COME ON!”
OKAY. UM…RICH, DISAPPROVING PARENTS?
MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER?
YOU LAY GOLDEN EGGS?
“We’re done here.”