Author: Brendan Chris
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“Sean! Wait up!”
Lt. Commander Sean Russell turned, wondering who he knew that had so much energy so early in the morning. He wasn’t really surprised to see Tina Jones walking quickly his way.
“Morning,” Russell gave her a half-wave, his voice carrying far less energy than Jones’.
“How’s it going? All set for another day in station security?” Jones almost bounced on her feet.
“Yeah, set,” Russell grunted. Truth be told, he wasn’t sure just how comfortable he was with the notion that Jones may someday soon be serving under him. And not in the way that he preferred to have women serving under him, but as a security officer.
That particular line of deep thought didn’t last very long before becoming lost in the hazy murk of Sean Russell’s brain. Depth just wasn’t his thing.
“What’s taking so long?” Jones asked, oblivious to Russell’s partial musing, “This place usually has better service than this.”
A rumble in his stomach informed Russell that whoever was working the booth at ‘Sandwich or What’, the establishment Russell had chosen as the lucky recipient of his patronage that morning, was running a LOT slower than usual. Most of the time, he could swing by and grab a Breakfast Burger in less time than it took to change his socks.
“Must be something going on at the head of the line,” Russell said, straightening his shoulders, “I’ll handle this.”
He was about to step out of the line to investigate when he noticed that the line had grown behind Jones.
“Er, you’re going to hold my spot, right?” he asked.
“Sure!” Jones said agreeably.
With that settled, Russell strode forward toward the order counter.
“Is there a problem?” he asked, using his best ‘Starfleet Security’ voice.
Behind the counter a Vulcan teen was patiently holding a bag with the ‘Sandwich or What’ logo on the side while his customer counted out latinum slips.
“Let’s see. I know have another slip in my purse here. Just let me look.”
As Russell watched, the customer started emptying out what looked like half of a convenience store on the counter. He was unable to see the customer’s face, but the voice sounded female.
“Excuse me,” Russell said, “Could you hurry it up a bit? Some of us have places to be?”
The customer turned around, revealing the face of an old woman. Her brilliant silver hair was mostly hidden by the scarf she’d wrapped around her head. Her eyes were large and innocent looking, and her hands trembled slightly as she held her purse.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” she said, sounding as though she’d just destroyed his only chance for real happiness in life, “I didn’t mean to be such a bother.”
“Oh, no, I’m sorry,” Russell heard himself saying, “I was just…you know…being impatient. My fault entirely!” He turned to the Vulcan behind the counter, “Just put it on my tab, OK?”
“As you wish,” the Vulcan nodded.
“Oh, thank you, dear,” the woman said, clutching her breakfast baggie and shuffling away.
Russell walked back to his spot in the line, which was now moving more rapidly.
“That was awfully nice of you,” Jones commented, “But, you know, I really didn’t think she was your type.”
“What the hell was that?” he asked, “I went up there to get this line moving, and wound up buying some old lady breakfast?”
“You did get the line moving,” Jones pointed out.
“Yeah, but,” Russell shook his head, “But now I’m out two slips of latinum!”
Scarfing down the last remnants of his Breakfast Burger, Russell exited the turbolift into the Waystation Operations center. He was late for the morning staff meeting for the third time that week, and he knew Captain Beck was going to be pissed.
“Sorry everybody,” he announced, stepping into the conference room, Yeoman Jones close behind, “We had this problem with…hey…” he looked around, “Where is everybody?”
“The Great Dog of the Galaxy took them as chew toys,” Lt. Commander Craig Porter said, seated at the table. Porter, Jones and Russell were the only people in the room. Russell stared at him blankly.
“Somebody has to keep the Great Bird company,” Porter added innocently.
“Sorry folks,” Commander Walter Morales said, stepping through the door, “There was a pair of civilians in the turbolift and…hey…” Morales looked around, “Where is everybody?”
“My apologies for my tardiness,” Dr. Diantha said, her beak proceeding her as she entered the room, “I was accosted by an elderly…wait. Where is everyone else?”
“The question of the day!” Porter quipped, “Everybody scream!”
“Sorry, people,” Captain Beck stormed in through the doors before anybody could tell Porter how strange he was, her arms loaded with padds, “There were a bunch of people walking really, really slowly down the corridor. I swear it was impossible to get past them!”
“There weren’t old by chance, were they?” Russell asked.
“Well, now that you mention it…” Beck replied.
“I’m detecting a pattern here,” Porter said.
“People get older the longer they live?” Morales suggested dryly.
“We’ve got a lot of old people on the station right now!” Russell exclaimed, looking as though a light bulb had gone off over his head.
“It’s not the first time,” Porter said, “Remember the convoy that came through here a few months ago, bound for the Multek casinos?”
“Yes” Morales said, “But I don’t remember them getting in the way back then,”
“That’s because they were just passing through,” Beck said, “If some of these folks get their way, they’re going to be staying here for a long, long time.”
“Just how long are we looking at?” Diantha asked, “Because quite frankly I was not advised that I would need to provide long-term care to a large senior citizen population when I took this post!”
“How long?” Beck consulted one of her padds, “Hmm. According to this, until they’re dead.”
There was surprised silence around the room.
“I’ve got phasers and several security teams,” Russell offered.
“Sean!” Jones snapped, “Show some respect for the elderly!”
“You want to explain that a little, please?” Porter requested, “The death thing, not the respect thing.”
“Sure,” Beck pulled a datachip out of her padd and plugged it into a slot in the table. The large viewscreen lit up with a schematic of Waystation. The viewpoint suddenly shifted, zooming in to a section of the lower saucer. The hull suddenly turned transparent, affording a cutaway view into the station.
“Waystation Country Club and Retirement Suites?” Porter read from the screen, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
“I wish I was,” Beck said honestly.
“Remind me again: who’s bright idea is this?” Morales asked. He was aware that Beck had been negotiating with somebody interested in renting space on the station, but he hadn’t heard most of the details.
“Not mine,” Beck said, crossing her arms, “It seems Starfleet has received a lot of feedback from current and potential station residents that we don’t have a long-term facility that properly caters to the ‘Leisure Class.’”
“I thought the leisure class was a bunch of wine-sipping, cheese-nibbling snobs that spent their time lounging around Starfleet Suites,” Russell said, referring to Bradley Dillon’s luxury hotel.
“Apparently,” Beck explained, “some of those wine-sipping, cheese-nibbling snobs like the idea of living out on ‘the frontier’, where they can feel like they’re part of the action.”
“We aren’t exactly the frontier anymore,” Russell pointed out.
“We’re not exactly the secure center of Federation space, either,” Morales added.
“Does the Federation have a gooey, caramel center?” Porter wondered.
“Look at this,” Morales went on, ignoring Porter and taking a closer look at the schematic on the viewscreen, “They want 3 decks of the lower saucer! Big decks, too! And accommodations for a thousand!”
“One thousand late-middle-aged and elderly beings would overwhelm our medical facilities,” Diantha said bluntly, “It is out of the question.”
“I wouldn’t worry,” Porter said, joining Morales at the viewscreen, “Looks like they want their own surgical center, too.”
“Oh.” Diantha rearranged her feathers, “Very well. I have no objections.”
“I do!” Russell said, “I don’t want this place to turn into the retirement home of the sector! What’s next, are they going to turn The Gravity Well into a shuffleboard court?”
“Actually,” Beck said holding up a padd, “That’s request number 287 on their list.”
“We can’t give them this much space,” Porter said, pointing at the schematic, “We just don’t have the room in the lower saucer for these kinds of facilities.”
“I’m open to alternatives,” Beck said, “In fact, I’m desperate for alternatives. We need something that appeals to beings in their retirement years, and we need it to be something reasonable!”
Everybody turned to look at Yeoman Jones.
“What?” she asked.
“You ARE the station liaison,” Russell said.
“Right,” Jones agreed, “But-“
“Please, Yeoman,” Beck said, “See if there’s something else you can come up with. Anything else!”
THE NEXT DAY-
Beck was in the fitness facilities in the lower saucer, waiting patiently for her squash court to become available.
“Another 5 minutes,” Stephanie Hodges of the Federation Marines said, “Then we use the marine facilities.”
“I’m not letting Lazlo watch you kick my ass,” Beck said firmly, “I’m sure it’s just a minor problem.”
“Medical emergency! Coming through!”
With a flurry of feathers, Dr. Diantha rushed through the fitness facility lounge, two medtechs following behind her.
“I cannot work this way, Captain!” Diantha declared as she passed by, “This is intolerable!”
“What?” Beck called, but Diantha had already ducked down the corridor leading to the squash courts.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Hodges said.
“Yeah,” Beck agreed. Taking Hodges arm, she led her to the upper floor of the lounge where it overlooked the squash courts.
“That explains that,” Beck said, pointing.
Down below, on the hardwood floor, Dr. Diantha was administering to not one but two patients. Both appeared to be roughly 70 standard years old and both appeared to have had heart attacks. Even as they watched, Diantha finished treating the first patient, who calmly climbed to his feet.
“I have been running around the station all morning,” Diantha declared, “Why are these people here at all? There has been no approval for any expanded facilities.”
“They’re retired. It’s not like they have anything better to do,” Hodges said.
“The vultures are circling,” Beck said darkly, “How about those two, are they going to be OK?”
“Of course,” Diantha waved one wingtip, “Minor heart attacks. Nothing they could not handle themselves, if either of them had the motivation to open a med-kit once in a while,” She stormed off, a few features fluttering to the deck as she departed.
“We need to get this situation settled,” Beck said, “And soon.”
“Why?” Hodges asked, “Because they’re making your doctor molt?”
“No,” Beck said, “Because we have a Presidential Election coming up and seniors vote in record numbers. Can you image the kind of propaganda we’d have to deal with if the candidates discovered we had that kind of voting power on board?”
“Crape paper,” Hodges wrinkled her nose, “Signs on the bulkheads. ‘Dillon for President’ ads running on the station comm system,”
“Shhh,” Beck shushed her, “Dillon’s got ears everywhere, and I don’t want you giving him ideas!”
“I have an idea,” Jones said, standing across from Beck’s desk in the station commander’s office.
“I’m listening,” Beck said, “Intently.”
“Well, I posted a message on the Liaison Officer’s Message Board on the Federnet,” Jones said, “And I got a reply from the liaison officer of Starbase 347. He in turn put me in touch with a facilities manager on Deep Space 4, who referred me to a janitor that worked on the Farpoint Station project. This janitor happens to know-“
“Can you cut to the end of this chain?” Beck requested.
“Uh,” Jones colored slightly, “Anyway, I wound up in touch with the dockmaster on Starbase 45. He told about this group that was petitioning the station commander to let them run some kind of private yacht club out of their hanger.”
“And they turned it down?”
“Dropped it like a rock,” Jones said, “See, they only have a few sets of space doors leading in and out of this huge hanger, and they didn’t want to handle all the private traffic. Y’know, first they want in…then they all want out again. And then back in.”
“And I guess they don’t make kitty doors big enough for a starbase,” Beck mused, “We, on the other hand, have 8 main docking bays, each with its own private entrance.”
“Exactly,” Jones nodded.
“Can you get in touch with this group?” Beck asked.
“Sure,” Jones said, “The lady I need to talk to is Claurice Thenian. She was on the starbase waiting for some kind of family reunion-“
“Get in touch with her, and get her out here,” Beck said, “Quickly!”
Craig Porter strolled along the concourse of Starfleet Square Mall, noticing that Nandigar’s Secret was having a special on electrified bustiers. Not his cup of tea, but interesting none the less.
“Lt. Cmdr. Porter.”
Porter turned to see Commander Morales easing his way through a throng of elderly sight-seers.
“My, what formal words you have, Grandma,” Porter said, deadpan.
“Craig,” Morales replied in the same tone, “Do you have a minute?”
Morales and Porter turned to face the source of the shout. Over by the food court, Ensign Jacob was running all-out, chasing after a speeding blur that moved too quickly for Porter to see. As they watched, Jacob pushed an elderly lady out of the way and dove, landing on the perpetrator and driving him to the deck.”
“Yeah!” Jacob snarled gleefully, “You take my pile-driver of justice, scum-bag!”
Porter and Morales exchanged a look.
“Is everything all right, Ensign?” Morales asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Jacob looked up, noticing them for the first time, “Another purse-snatcher!” He took several deep breaths, “We’re really getting good cardio workouts in security today!”
“Uh, carry on,” Morales nodded, noticing a med-tech rushing to help the woman Jacob had pushed. (She had apparently broken her hip).
“You wanted to talk to me about something?” Porter asked as the two continued on their way.
“Yes, right,” Morales nodded, “Doesn’t it seem a bit odd to you that something as big as a retirement home can be pushed onto the station soo…”
“Quickly?” Porter offered.
“Forcefully,” Morales corrected, “We don’t seem to have much choice here, and Captain Beck doesn’t even seem to be fighting it.”
“That is strange,” Porter frowned, “Have you asked Beck about it?”
“Well…no,” Morales admitted, “I wanted to talk to you first…y’know…because you’re…”
“Intelligent? Witty? Debonair?”
Morales shook his head.
“Let’s go with ‘interesting’,” Morales muttered. He didn’t want to say it, but after the recent string of events including the lockdown, the encounter with Picard’s visit and the mess with Beck’s sister, he wasn’t sure how much Beck would appreciate him questioning her handling of the situation right about now.
“Hey, hey,” Porter grinned, “not TOO interesting, I hope!”
“Ugh,” Morales shook his head again, ‘Maybe ‘strange’ was a better word.”
“What’s the difference between an orange?” Porter asked suddenly.
“What? Morales looked at him, totally confused.
“A bicycle!” Porter ginned, “Because a vest has no sleeves!”
The operations officer broke into a fit of giggles.
“Strange,” Morales repeated before walking off.
He’d only gone a short way before running into Yeoman Jones. Literally.
“Commander!” Jones gasped as Morales stumbled, nearly falling to the deck, “I’m so sorry! I was studying! I didn’t see-“
“Quite all right,” Morales grunted, steadying himself. He saw that Jones was clutching a large padd, probably from one of her Academy Annex courses, “But you should know that most people find a comfortable spot to sit down and study. Maybe you should try the Beanus Coffee Hut that just opened?”
“Oh no,” Jones said, “Caffeine makes me act funny,”
Seeing another opportunity, Morales started walking with Jones.
“Lots of things make people act funny,” he said, “Speaking of which, have you noticed anything…funny about what’s going on right now?”
“Well, I saw 10 old people trying to fit into a turbolift,” Jones said, “It was kinda funny, until one of them started getting claustrophobic-“
“I meant with this retirement home and country club thing,” Morales cut in, “You’re the liaison officer, you should be in the loop on this stuff. Don’t you think it’s odd that the first you’ve heard of it is when Beck announces it to the rest of us?”
“Well, yeah,” Jones admitted, “Hmmm. Weird.”
“Yeah, weird,” Morales grinned inwardly, “Anyway, Tina, I have to run. Have fun studying.”
TWO DAYS LATER-
“Which one is hers?” Beck asked.
Yeoman Jones looked out the slanted windows of the Docking Bay 8 control booth. Far below them, the upper level of the bay was nearly empty; only two small scoutships sat on the landing pads. One of the customs/bioscan stations was closed down; the other was manned by a very bored looking crewman. From this angle, Beck couldn’t see in the windows of the twin Arrival and Departure lounges, but she was pretty sure they were pretty empty as well. And there was still the lower level of the bay, which at the moment was completely out of use. Looking out through the open docking bay door, Beck and Jones could see several small points of light, enhanced by the control booth’s Head’s Up Display. The largest point, which soon would become a distinctly visible starship, was labeled as the USS Endurance, on approach for Docking Arm 4. There were also three private yachts, the larger two of which were heading towards the docking ports that ringed the outer edge of Waystation’s upper saucer. The third was the Lady’s Choice, a civilian yacht piloted by Claurice Thenian.
“That one’s hers,” Jones said, highlighting the indicated vessel, “They’re requesting permission to dock.”
“Granted,” Beck sighed.
Jones tapped the panel, activating the bay’s navigational beacon and automated tractor beam protocols.
“I know it’s really none of my business,” Jones said, “But I’ve kinda been wondering…how come we’re being forced into this retirement thingy?”
Beck sighed again.
“Somebody with connections,” she grumbled. Looked uncomfortable, she stopped.
“Captain, I know I’m not really an officer yet,” Jones said timidly, “But if you want to talk about it…”
“I’m sure the story’s going to get out sooner or later anyway,” Beck said, “The truth is, Tina, Admiral Ra’al has basically OK’d the construction of some kind of facility on the station for the ‘Leisure Class’. And she’s really throwing her weight around on it, God knows why. I can’t stop it, but if I can at least get an alternative, we can try to minimize the damage.”
“Why would she do that?” Jones asked.
“She’s…not happy…about what happened on her last visit here,” Beck said, running her fingers through her hair with an air of frustration, “Dillon won’t let her put anything in my file, or register any kind of formal complaint, so this is her way of getting back at us.”
“And Bradley, I mean, President Dillon won’t do anything to stop her?”
“You kidding?” Beck raised an eyebrow, “More facilities on board to attract just the kind of people who have the latinum to spend on places like his fancy restaurant? Or relatives that might need a place like the Starfleet Suites to stay in while they visit friends and family in a glorified nursing home? He probably wishes he’d come up with the idea sooner,”
One of the control panels started beeping.
“The Lady’s Choice has arrived, ma’am,” the crewman sitting at the other console reported.
“Let’s go great our last hope, shall we?” Beck asked. Jones rose from her seat to follow as the Captain led the way out of the control booth.
Claurice was waiting next to her ship. The Lady’s Choice was a small but elegant vessel, roughly the size of a runabout. Unlike a runabout, it sat above the deck on a graceful tripod of landing gear, a small ramp leading into the ship. The ship was clearly designed for extensive use in the atmosphere, as a large section of the upper surface contained what looked like a patio, with tables, chairs and a replicator that appeared to fold out of one bulkhead. It was obviously a luxury craft.
“Captain Beck, I presume?” Claurice asked. Her tone was polite in a no-nonsense kind of way and the smile on her face was genuine. Her hair was done up in a very flattering hairdo, the brown curls flowing around her head and down to her shoulders. She wore tasteful jewelry and carefully applied makeup. Beck judged her to be roughly the same age her own mother would have been, had she been alive. A brief wave of pain passed through her as she was reminded of her recent family problems.
“Yes, I’m Lisa Beck,” Beck smiled, reaching out to shake Claurice’s hand, noticing the long painted fingernails.
“My husband, Dwayne,” Claurice said graciously, gesturing to her side. Beck looked. Nobody was there. Frowning, Claurice looked back towards the ship. “DWAYNE!”
A slim man a few years older than Claurice stepped carefully out of ship. His hair was grey and he wore clothes that were very casual, in contrast to Claurice’s stylish dress.
Claurice made introductions again.
“Now,” Claurice said, getting to business, “I understand you have a space to rent out,”
“Yes,” Beck nodded, “You see, we, er, want to try to expand the appeal of Waystation to as many different walks of life as possible.”
“Word on the grapevine is that Zemtek Corporation wants to build a retirement home here,” Dwayne cut in.
“That’s one possibility,” Beck said cautiously.
“But not one you’re in favor of,” Claurice said bluntly.
“Let me look around here,” Claurice said, waving one hand. She walked around her ship, eyeing the cavernous docking bay.
“It’s certainly large enough,” she commented, delicately craning her neck to look up at the vaulted ceiling, “My nephew runs a starship, but I don’t recall any part of it being this big.”
“Uh,” Beck swallowed, “Your nephew’s name isn’t ‘Baxter’, is it?”
“No,” Claurice responded absently.
“No, not at all,” Claurice waved one hand dismissively.
“Oh thank God,” Beck blew out a relieved breath.
“Put some holographic projectors up on the ceiling,” Claurice muttered, strolling towards the edge of the ‘shelf’ that formed the upper landing deck, “Add a third level…none of the ships we’ll be dealing with are big enough to need this huge space. Maybe a nice bistro in one of the lounges…”
Beck and Jones followed as Claurice continued wandering, past the customs stations, through the Departure Lounge, up to the control tower.
“Yes, this space will be acceptable,” Claurice said finally, “I’ll need to bring in some designers, of course, but I do believe we can do business.”
“I hope so,” Beck smiled.
“I’ll have my designer send you the plans by the end of the week.”
“So soon?” Beck asked.
“I don’t move slowly,” Claurice said seriously. She turned and started walking back towards her ship, “And God help anybody who can’t keep up!”
Beck and Jones exchanged a nervous glance.
Several days later Russell and Porter wandered down the concourse of Starfleet Square Mall. Russell was on one of his standard security patrols (which really were nothing more than an excuse to check out the female shoppers) and Porter was on his way to Ops.
“Does something feel…different about this place to you?” Russell asked.
“Come to think of it,” Porter said, “Yeah, it does. It feels…empty somehow.”
“I haven’t had to stop a single purse-snatcher all day,” Russell said, sounding a little proud, “I think it’s a sign. We’ve got such an efficient security team that criminals are learning to fear and obey us!”
“Or maybe,” Porter said, the realization hitting him, “It’s because all the purse-toting old ladies have left.”
Russell looked around.
“Hey, you’re right. All the fossils are gone.”
“Sean, that’s no way to talk about the elderly.”
“Why not?” Russell shrugged, “They’re not here anymore.”
“I guess the word’s out that the retirement home is a no-go,” Porter shrugged.
“Yeah, I am SO glad we’ve heard the last of that,” Russell said, “The last thing we need around here is more change!”
“Hmmm,” Porter said absently, “You up for a holo-program later?”
“Since when do we do holo-programs together?” Russell asked.
“Hardly ever,” Porter shrugged, “I just thought it’d be nice to do something that’s not related to work. It sure helped out Beck and Nelson.”
“Craig, that was years ago, when the station was being renovated!” Russell said, “Nelson doesn’t even live here anymore!”
“It’s the thought that counts,” Porter said, moving off towards the turbolift that would take him to Ops, “Forget it.”
“I’d totally be in,” Russell called, “But I have a date tonight!”
“Good for you,” Porter said, nodding as the turbolift doors closed, “Hope you have fun.”
“Me too,” Russell muttered, turning back to his ‘patrol’, “Now I just have to find a date…”
Continuing down the concourse, Russell’s eyes moved the practice ease of a security officer, quickly scanning the area, identifying items of interest, assessing them and either moving on or further investigating said item of interest. Of course, most security officers focused on identifying and assessing threats to station security, while Russell was more focused on identifying smooth skin, slender legs and firm, supple…er, bodies. Especially the more feminine body parts. No, the ones higher up. No, not the eyelashes! For crying out loud, he was looking for a hot set of breasts, OK? Geez, what do the men on YOUR planet look for?
Waystation Management would like to apologize for our guest writer’s thoughtless comments regarding area’s of interest on the female body. We at Star Traks: Waystation realize that our readers come from a wide range of backgrounds, interests and planets of origin. It is our hope to provide a welcoming, inclusive environment for all, regardless of which portion of the female body you prefer to gaze upon. To our female readers, we understand that Sean Russell is beyond apologizing for, and hope that you can find it in your hearts to forgive the little bastard. Thank you, and please enjoy the story. *********************************************************************
“Hey gorgeous,” Russell said, putting on what he felt was an alluring smile as he leaned on the counter of the Sandwich or What? stand, facing a very attractive brunette as she waited for her order, “Welcome to Waystation. I’m Lt. Cmdr Russell, station security. I hope you’re enjoying your stay?”
The brunette turned to him, the expression on her face somewhere between Grim Reaper and a Great White shark.
“I live here, SEAN!” she snapped, “You took me out for dinner last year and you never called back after that night!”
“Really?” Russell frowned, “Well, why don’t we try it again? I never forget a-“
“And get a new pickup line too, you pig!”
Russell rubbed his face as the brunette stormed off, leaving her Pakled Panzorotte behind. Had he really gone out with her? Slept with her even? Possible, he supposed. He did live on the station, it was inevitable that sooner or later he’d run into somebody he’d already been with. Was it his fault that she took a night of fun and turned it into some kind of unlivable commitment? Surely not. If she was that broken up over him, that was her problem, right?
Anyway, there was no way he could make that kind of mistake twice.
“You asked to see me, oh Captain, my Captain?” Porter asked, arriving at Beck’s office.
“Yes, Craig,” Beck said, standing, “Have you met Mrs. Thenian?”
“Ma’am,” Porter nodded.
“We were just going over the final designs for Waypoint Harbor,” Claurice explained, gesturing to a large schematic on Beck’s desk. The schematic was actual paper, which seemed to Porter to be both wasteful and classy at the same time.
“Waypoint Harbor?” Porter asked.
“Yes!” Claurice smiled, “A cozy, luxurious little get-away, with the excitement of the unknown Beta Quadrant and the fun-filled Multek Enclave right at your doorstep!” Claurice chuckled to herself, “I’m sorry, Mr. Porter. I’ve been practicing my sales pitch.”
“Good start on that,” Porter said politely, “Uh, so what do you need me for?”
“I need your opinion on the designs, Craig,” Beck said, gesturing at the paper, “Before I let anybody make changes to MY station.”
Was it Porter’s imagination, or did Beck’s eyes flicker towards Claurice as she said ‘my’?
Porter studied the paper.
“Uh,” he frowned, “I don’t really see anything different. I mean, it looks like you’re making a couple of changes to accommodate a large number of smaller ships…three internal levels instead of two, more landing pads, additional fueling and power hookups. But the docking bay already has maintenance facilities and-“
“We will be renovating extensively,” Claurice interrupted, “The dull Starfleet grey simply must go. When our members arrive at Waypoint Harbor, I want them to experience a homey, friendly atmosphere. We’ll be transforming the Arrivals lounge into a bistro and the Departures lounge into a combination bar/theatre/concert hall, adding in holographic scenery-“
“Looks OK to me,” Porter shrugged. He frowned at one item.
“Uh, except these external docking ports you want to add onto the bay. We’d have to tear out a good bit of the hull and rework the structural supports to-“
“We’ve already decided against those,” Beck cut in.
“For now,” Claurice added, glancing at Beck before returning her attention to Porter, “If our membership increases we may need the additional docking space.”
“We’ll cross that road when we come to it,” Beck said.
“Of course,” Claurice gave a small smile.
Porter looked between the two women.
“Uh, OK,” he smiled again, “Happy building.”
“Thank you,” Claurice gave a graceful nod.
“Dismissed,” Beck nodded.
Porter turned to leave, almost running into Marine Colonel Lazlo on his way out.
“Out of my way, Porter,” Lazlo snapped, storming into Beck’s office, “Beck, this is an outrage!”
“Clearly,” Claurice said, raising one eyebrow.
“Who the hell are you?” Lazlo snapped.
“Claurice Thenian,” Claurice replied, rising to her feet, “Who the hell are you?”
“A very large pain in my ass,” Beck sighed.
“I,” Lazlo repeated, glaring at Beck, “Am the leader of the greatest force for security on this station! What makes you think you can give a pack of civilians an entire docking bay when my marines are still confined to-“
“I don’t think I like your tone,” Claurice interrupted.
“Mrs. Thenian,” Beck also jumped to her feet, “I’ll handle-“
“I’m a Federation Marine, lady!” Lazlo snapped, his moustache starting to twitch, “And as long as I’m protecting your ass, I’ll talk however I like!”
“Oh really?” Claurice put her hands on her hips, “Last time I checked, the Marines worked FOR the citizens of the Federation!”
“Get this civilian out of my face,” Lazlo grimaced.
“Listen here, you jerk,” Claurice snapped, stabbing one finger against Lazlo’s chest “I don’t know what your problem is, but the Yachting Organization of Upper Centaurian Hospitality as already been granted a lease on the docking bay. You can whine and complain all you like, but the fact of the matter is that we are here, we are staying and if you don’t like it there is very little you can do about it.”
Lazlo eyed Claurice warily. Suddenly, she was no longer an annoying civilian. Now, she was a potential adversary. One who apparently would not bow down and submit to his authority.
“We’ll see,” he glanced at Beck, moustache now positively vibrating. He stormed out the office door.
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” Claurice said, composing herself.
“Likewise,” Beck sighed.
The doors hissed open again.
“What happened to the day when people actually rang my door chime?” Beck seethed.
“Captain Beck, Mrs. Thenian,” President Dillon smiled as he stepped into the office, two members of his Super Secret Section taking up position in the back quarters. Inwardly, Beck was about two minutes from kicking everybody out and locking the door. Outwardly, she smiled as Dillon kissed the back of Thenian’s hand, “Welcome to Waystation, Mrs. Thenian,” Dillon said.
“Claurice, please, Mr. President,” Claurice blushed.
“Claurice,” Dillon nodded, taking Claurice by the arm and leading her out of the office, “I just want to make sure you know how happy we at Waystation are to have the Y.O.U.C.H establishing a harbor on our humble station. I assure you, Starfleet Suites, Dillon’s Restaurant and all the merchants in Starfleet Square Mall are here to serve.”
Beck was relieved as Dillon’s voice faded out. Fine, so Dillon wanted a chance to drum up business for his swanky restaurant (not that it needed it) and Lazlo was angry about something (as usual). Hopefully now things could go back to normal. This was HER station, and be damned if she was going to let this situation spiral out of control!
“Hey,” Russell said pleasantly as he approached a beautiful blond woman waiting in line at Soup on a Stick, “Try the Bajoran bat-bird stew on a stick, it’s great.”
The blond gave a smile.
“Thank you, I will.”
Good sign! Russell cheered inwardly.
“Sean Russell,” he said, reaching for her hand.
“A pleasure to meet you,” Russell said, “Y’know, I consider it part of my duty to make sure a woman as beautiful as you gets the full hospitality of the station.”
“How thoughtful,” Bethany said, placing her order.
“I’m a thoughtful kinda guy,” Russell said, “So, shall we say my place around 2000 hours?”
“That sounds lovely,” Bethany smiled again, reaching for her soup on a stick. Suddenly, her expression darkened, “But I said no before, and I’m saying no now. AND MAYBE THIS TIME YOU’LL REMEMBER MY NAME, YOU PIG!”
With that she slammed her soup against Russell’s head, sending scalding hot pieces of Bajoran bat-bird flying all over him as she stormed off.
“Two in a row?” Porter was grinning, “Ouch.”
“It’s not funny,” Russell grumbled, “This is a sign, Craig! I’ve been living here too long! It’s just like 4th year at the Academy-“
“Right, I can remember,” Porter sighed, “Face it, Sean, when you go through women the way you do, sooner or later you’re going to start running out.”
“I wouldn’t go through as many if more of them would just say yes,” Russell grunted, “Why are we running this program again?”
“Because you couldn’t get a date and this is what I had planned for the evening,” Porter said.
“Yeah, but it’s soo….”
“Boring,” Russell said.
The two of them were walking through a re-creation of the Museum of Alpha Centauri. Porter had just received a program recreating the Medieval Centauri Times exhibit the museum had held several months ago. Being a fan of swords, armor and other archaic items, Porter was having a great time comparing the Alpha Centaurian chain mail to its Terran equivalent. Russell was very bored, and was totally unimpressed with the heavy cloaks the medieval Centauri women had apparently worn.
“I can change the program,” Porter offered.
“Risan Jamaharon Review?” Russell asked, perking up.
“I don’t think so,” Porter said.
“Vulcan Pon Farr Fantasy?”
“Sean, those are programs you’re just going to have to run by yourself.”
“Miss America 2006?”
“Ooookay,” Porter stopped walking, “Sean, I hate to say this, but you either need to find a woman or spend the night alone in your quarters. You’re getting on my nerves.”
“I’ll be good,” Russell said, sounding glum.
“Why don’t we try to get your mind off your many and varied dating shortcomings?” Porter said, “Computer, run program Porter 3B.”
“Hey!” Russell objected as the museum around them vanished, to be replaced by the control room of a 20th Century nuclear submarine, “The navy?”
“Yup,” Porter said, “Weapons, bad guys, and a no-girls allowed policy. The grown man’s treehouse.”
“Forget it,” Russell shook his head, calling for the exit.
“I guess I’ll play with the torpedoes myself then,” Porter sighed.
The next day, Porter arrived at the Starfleet entrance to Docking Bay 8. Each docking bay was designed to serve as a full-serviced travel facility, with arrival and departure lounges, cargo unloading and maintenance facilities, customs and bioscan stations, the works. Of course, since the Starfleet officers on the station often had to jump into a runabout and leave the station in a moments notice, their security clearance gave them more direct access to the docking bays. Porter stepped through the door, surprised to find Captain Beck already there. She was standing in the corner of the bay, watching as yet another construction barge eased in the door. Engineers in civilian garb were already tearing out wall panels, adjusting structural supports and gutting the Arrivals lounge.
“Heya, Cap,” he said, waving, “Whatcha doing here?”
“Construction on this…this,” Beck rolled her eyes, “Harbor thing is kicking into high gear.”
“Yup,” Porter held up his toolkit, “I’m just removing some highly classified Starfleet tractor beam equipment, just in case one of these devious construction types-“
“I just don’t like it when people start touching my station,” Beck said suddenly, not paying much attention to Porter.
“Yes, because THAT never happens,” Porter said, “Never, nope. Not a station with several thousand people living on it.”
“This is different,” Beck said, wincing as one of the huge overhead lighting panels, larger than some ships, swung precariously as technicians attempted to free it from its mounts, “I feel…violated…”
Porter tried to think up a joke, but given his past history with Beck, his sense of humor seemed to have taken a sudden vacation.
“Sorry,” Beck grimaced, noticing his discomfort, “Look, Craig, let’s go get lunch or something. If I keep watching this I’m going to go nuts,”
“McBaughb’s?” Porter suggested.
“Race ya!” Beck said playfully.
“It has begun,” Lerk said, carefully not to meet the mysterious figures’s eyes.
“Hmm,” the figure said, looking thoughtful, “Waypoint Harbor, they’re calling it?”
“That could be a pleasant little…diversion,” the mysterious figure examined one hand, on which her long, carefully polished fingernails gleamed blood-red. She looked over to the nearby mirror, then made the slightest adjustment to her silvery hair, “A woman my age does need her little retreats.”
She turned more sharply towards her assistant.
“Is he still there?” she demanded.
“Yes ma’am,” Lerk said, nodding nervously, “He’s still assigned to the station.”
“Excellent,” the woman steeled her fingers in front of her face, lost in thought for several minutes.
“Arrange a berth for my ship at the Waypoint Harbor opening,” she said finally, “And advise Claurice that I wish to arrange a congratulatory luncheon, and that her family simply must attend.”
She giggled, the sound coming out as more of a cackle than anything out.
“Revenge will be so sweet!”
“You know, madam,” Lerk said meekly, “Is it really necessary to go through with this? I mean, it is risky, even with your precautions, and-“
“That man,” the woman interrupted, “Has cost me a great deal. Both in terms of merchandise and in people. He will pay for what he has done.”
“But surely there are others,” Lerk went on, “I mean, you have plenty of friends-‘
“I have pathetic, sniveling little underlings like you,” the woman said sharply, “Who think that because they work with me they have my ear. Or I have greedy investors, eager to share in my success!” Her lips tightened.
“No, Mr. Lerk, there can be no replacement for what he took from me!”
TWO WEEKS LATER-
“Jaws of Delight, you are cleared to dock in Docking Bay 8.”
“We have the Filligans Folly on approach; they are requesting a vector.”
“I don’t want to dock at Bay 8! I’m supposed to dock at Waypoint-“
“Operations to PuppetMaster, break to port! You’re on a collision course with the Operations tower!”
“Docking Bay 8 IS Waypoint Harbor!”
“Carried Away, permission to depart is denied, repeat, DENIED! All vectors for Bay 8 are currently in use.”
“They way don’t you just call it Waypoint Harbor?”
Captain Beck and Lt. Cmdr Russell watched with a combination of amusement and horror as Commander Morales and two junior officers played the Docking Control consoles like pianos.
“How’s it going, Commander?” Beck asked.
“Everythings under cont…NO! PupperMaster, come to PORT not Starboard!” Morales shouted.
Beck winced as a small civilian yacht flashed by Ops, the lettering on one warp nacelle clearly visible through the window.
“Russell, log the PuppetMaster for reckless endangerment,” she ordered.
“Got it,” Russell replied, tapping his padd.
“We’re not telling Lazlo about this, right?” Morales asked, still looking at his console, “the last time we had a traffic situation like this, he tried to play traffic cop and wound up ripping the station in two.”
“Stephanie talked him into staging another combat drill,” Beck said, “Not that he needed much convincing.”
“No, Big Banger, permission to dock in Bay 8, I mean, Waypoint Harbor is denied. Only Y.O.U.C.H. members have access to that bay. We’ve got a lovely docking port for you-“
Morales winced, pulling the small earpiece out of his ear as a loud burst of profanity emerged.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Stafford, but it doesn’t matter if you’re related to Mrs. Thenian-“
“Give me that,” Beck said, reaching for the earpiece, “This is Captain Beck. I really don’t care who you are, but I am the commander of this station. You will follow your docking instructions exactly or I will blast your engines to pieces and have your vessel towed. Do I make myself clear?”
She handed the earpiece back to Morales.
“Russell, arm phasers.”
“Uh, are you sure-“ Russell looked at Beck uneasily.
“Actually, make that quantum torpedoes,” Beck corrected.
Russell tapped at his panel, wondering if the pressure had finally caused his CO to snap.
There was a moment of silence.
“Big Banger is proceeding towards their assigned docking port,” Morales reported.
“I thought he might,” Beck grinned, “Disarm weapons.”
“Nice touch,” Russell added, relieved.
“I just really needed to do that,” Beck said. Something about the pilot’s name was bugging her. Oh well.
“Please tell me this kind of traffic isn’t going to be the norm,” Morales said, “Because if it is, I can see why Starbase 45 turned these people down!”
“This is just for the Grand Opening,” Beck assured him, “Once our new…residents…are settled in and the Y.O.U.C.H. takes over traffic control for Bay 8, things will be back to normal.”
“Gisele to Captain Beck.”
Beck rolled her eyes.
“Just when I was starting to feel better,” she grumbled, “Beck here!”
“Captain. Greetings and salutations. I do hope you realize how much the President appreciates the flexibility you’ve shown in your dealings with-“
Beck started rubbing her face with one hand.
“Gisele,” she said, the name less a word and more a growl in the back of her throat.
“President Dillon thought you may wish to know that a Ms. Dekelina will be arriving within the hour,” Gisele said crisply.
“Great,” Beck said flatly as Morales started shouting at somebody over the comm, “Who’s that?”
Beck could have sworn the usually unflappable secretary had suddenly gagged on something.
“Captain Beck,” Gisele said, “Ms. Dekelina is the sole owner of Velvane Corporation!”
“And?” Beck asked after a moment.
“Velvane is the single largest manufacturer of multi-species cosmetics in the quadrant!” Gisele said, “Their research facilities into cosmetic surgery are unrivaled in the known galaxy!”
“Uh-huh,” Beck replied, “So it’s yet another powerful business person. Why do I care?”
There was a click as the comm went dead.
“I think you actually upset her,” Russell said, watching as Morales pounded his console with one fist.
“Yeah,” Beck smiled, “It felt good. Why don’t you head down to Bay 8 and keep an eye on things? I have plenty more steam to blow off.”
She cracked her knuckles, then started towards the Docking Control console.
Russell walked down the corridor towards Bay 8, excuse me, Waypoint Harbor, tapping at his padd as he went.
“Hey, Sean,” Porter said, coming up from behind him.
“Hey,” Russell said, still tapping at his padd.
“Lisa told me to meet you down at Bay 8,” Porter went on, “I guess she wants the new residents to feel welcome?”
“Sure,” Russell said, barely paying attention, “Given the choice between these guys and a nursing home, I know who I want around.”
“Right,” Porter looked over at Russell’s padd.
“Hmm? Nothing,” Russell quickly held the padd to his chest, hiding the display.
“Sean…” Porter said.
“It’s something I should have done a long time ago,” Russell said enigmatically.
“What, a database of all the women you’ve ever hit on?” Porter laughed.
Russell remained quiet.
“Really?” Porter asked, grabbing for the padd, “How can you possibly remember all-“
“I don’t,” Russell said, keeping the padd out of Porter’s reach, “But I have to start somewhere, right?”
The two of them had reached the main entrance to Waypoint Harbor. The layout of the docking bay’s support facilities had been reworked considerably. Rather than the standard Starfleet doors, they now faced a double-sized, open entranceway. The grey and silver colors of the corridor gave way to a lobby furnished with painted wood paneling and tiled marble floors. Standing at a concierge stand beside the entrance was a tuxedoed man. As Russell and Porter stepped in, he immediately looked up at them.
“Welcome to Waypoint Harbor,” he said, his voice somewhat snooty, “And what is your business?”
“Station security,” Russell replied.
“Ahh,” the concierge quickly consulted a panel, “Of course, Lt. Cmdr. Russell. Do go in.”
“Uh, thanks,” Russell looked oddly at the man, then stepped through the door that opened behind him.
“This is still OUR docking bay, right?” Russell asked Porter.
“Well, we DID rent it to them…”
They walked down a short corridor to what had once been the security checkpoint and customs area. The standard Starfleet equipment had been replaced and scaled down, since the Harbor was now dedicated to residents rather than travelers. Nodding at a seated guard, Russell and Porter stepped into the renovated docking bay.
“Wow…” Porter said, eyes widening as he looked around.
The docking bay’s new holographic systems were clearly up and running. Rather than a utilitarian docking bay, Porter and Russell found themselves standing in the middle of a grassy plain. Behind them, the rear wall had the image of a building projected onto it, the doors leading into the station appearing to lead into a stone and brick structure. The illusion was perfect, even the windows looking into the renovated Arrivals and Departures lounges fit in perfectly. One wall was projecting the illusion of a towering waterfall, with a holographic river running towards the edge of the upper level before it fell down in a series of waterfalls to the lower two levels. The opposite wall projected mountains, giving the illusion that the ships sitting on the pad were actually sitting in a mountain clearing. The control booth was completely hidden by the clear blue holographic sky. Only the open docking bay door spoiled the image, and Porter was pretty sure that when the door was closed the holographic illusion would be complete.
“Very nice,” Porter admitted.
“Yeah, she is,” Russell said dreamily.
“I wonder what the power consumption is…” Porter frowned, “She?”
Russell handed his padd over to Porter and walked towards a very attractive blond girl standing next to one of the ships. She was around 5’10 with perfect, creamy skin and expressive blue eyes. Her hair flowed down her back, drawing Russell (and Porter’s) eyes down to a very attractive, curvaceous figure. As they watched, she tossed her hair and turned to address somebody inside the ship.
“Mom, do you have any idea how long it takes to get here? You’re not living in this place now, are you?”
“We have a wide range of visitor and permanent quarters available on the station, if you’d like to be closer to your mother,” Russell said smoothly, smiling at the woman.
“Thanks,” the woman gave Russell a quick once over, then turned back.
“Is there at least a place where I can get a cup of non-replicated coffee?”
“I really don’t know,” a familiar female voice said, “But it’s a big station. I’m sure if you look around you’ll find something.”
“We just opened up a new Beanus Coffee Hut in Starfleet Square Mall, ma’am,” Russell said with a smile, “I’d be more than happy to show it to you.”
The woman turned back to Russell.
“Oh,” she thought for a moment, then shrugged. “OK, I guess.”
“I’m Lt. Cmdr. Sean Russell, chief of security,” Russell gave a small bow.
“Debora Thenian,” Debora said, “My mother’s been here for like, the past 3 weeks getting this place setup. But don’t you have better things to do besides play tour guide?”
“My dear,” Russell said, “It’s my duty to make our visitors feel welcome.”
“Ugh,” Debora shook her head in disgust, “Fine, let’s go.”
“See you later,” Porter chuckled, giving a half-hearted wave. As Russell and Debora left, Porter turned to the padd Russell had given him. One column had a list of female names, the next said either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The names that had ‘yes’ next to them (and they were the minority) had additional details, some of which were enough to make Porter blush.
Porter read through the list of names, frowned, then hit the ‘next page’ button.
Then the ‘next page’ button again.
“And these are just the ones he remembers?” Porter wondered aloud.
“Anybody else I can yell at?” Beck asked Morales, still standing near the Docking Control station in Ops.
“Nope,” Morales replied, looking over his display, “Looks like that Andorian runabout was the last one. By the way, do I want to ask what a svetzzzzvisssnix is?”
“Only if you’re interested in cooking the internal organs of somebody while they’re still alive,” Beck smiled as Morales turned a distinct shade of green, “But it’s been a long time since I’ve used that one. Some curses just need to be saved for special occasions.”
“So the next time you’re stressed out, we just need to get a pack of rich idiots for you to shout at?” Porter commented.
“That or a good massage therapist,” Beck replied.
There was a soft beep from Porter’s console.
“Hmmm,” he frowned, tapping at his panel.
“Problem?” Beck asked.
“I don’t think so,” Porter replied, “The computer just logged a failed attempt to access our personnel database.”
“Probably nothing,” Porter shrugged, “Somebody tried to open the wrong file. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
“Ooops,” Lerk said, swallowing, “That one didn’t work,”
“What do you mean, it didn’t work?” the mysterious figure demanded.
“I mean the codes I had for their personnel database aren’t working!”
The mysterious figure thought for a moment.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said finally, “we don’t really need those details, we know enough. Proceed with our plans, and hope that your failure hasn’t tipped anybody off to our plans!”
Russell led Debora down the corridor to Starfleet Square Mall, then up to the second level. The Beanus Coffee Hut was positioned just down the concourse from the food court. Inside, the decor was dominated by deep browns, windows on one side looking out into the mall. Russell and Debora sat in a pair of armchairs next to a crackling holographic fireplace.
“This is cozy,” Debora said, settling herself in.
“I know a lot of cozy places,” Russell said, winking suggestively.
“Ugh,” Debora rolled her eyes. A waiter stopped by to take their order.
“Just a coffee for me,” Russell said, “But for this lovely lady, I think something from your Elite line will do.”
“Of course,” the waiter bowed, then left.
“Only the best for such a lovely woman,” Russell said.
At this, Debora almost gagged.
“Look, Sean,” she said, “If you want to have sex with me, just say it. I really don’t want to listen to cheesy lines and innuendos all evening.”
Russell’s brain immediately went into overdrive. Was this an invitation? A trap? Should he play it cool?
“Yeah, I’d love to!” Russell blurted. So much for keeping it cool.
Russell’s held his breath, waiting to see if he was about to get slapped or laid. (Or possibly both). Debora remained sitting, looking out at something in the hover-rink.
She wasn’t leaving. Good sign!
“So, did you want to finish our coffee first, or just head back to my place and do the-“
“I never said I was going to have sex with you,” Debora said.
“Oh,” Russell was confused, “Uh, OK.”
They sat in silence as their beverages arrived. Debora picked hers up and took a dainty sip.
“Well? Are you going to leave?” she asked.
“Why?” Russell’s brow shot up, “Do you want me to?”
“No,” Debora shrugged, “But I’m curious. If you’re after sex and I’m not promising you any, why stick around?”
To be honest, Russell wasn’t really sure on that one. Sure, she was hot, but if he wasn’t going to get lucky, why not just head off in search of his next conquest? Surely some lovely young new arrival would like to experience what he had to offer.
On the other hand, there was something a bit different about Debora. Maybe it was the casual, almost flippant way she’d agreed to accompany him, or the direct way that she pushed through all of his one-liners and come-ons to just get right down to business and establish the rules of their outing, without seeming the least bit angry.
Or it could be the fact that she hadn’t said she wouldn’t have sex with him.
Russell and Debora looked up to see a tall, broad-chested male, Risan judging from his attire, standing next to their table.
“Ms. Thenian?” he asked politely.
“You never told me you had a boyfriend!” Russell exclaimed.
“He’s not my boyfriend!” Debora said, giving him an annoyed look, “I don’t even know him!”
“And I prefer men,” the Risan said, giving Russell a wink.
“Oh,” Russell gulped.
“In any event,” the Risan was immediately back in ‘Business Mode’, “I am Sekun, personal assistant to Ms. Dekelina. I have been sent to invite you and your,” he gave Russell another once-over, “companion to a luncheon aboard her ship, the Beauty Queen, this afternoon.”
“What? Companion?” now Debora looked surprised, “But I just met him!”
“Ms. Dekelina understands that your mother has put a great deal of work into the Waypoint Harbor project, and is most impressed. And, of course, a young woman like yourself must have a suitable escort.”
“OK, OK,” Debora sighed, “Look, just cut the flattery and we’ll go, OK?”
“As you wish,” Sekun bowed and left.
“We will” Russell asked in a small voice.
“Do you want to?” Debora asked casually.
“Good,” she finished the last of her coffee and stood, “Pick me up at 1900 hours.”
Beck, Porter and Jones stood in the docking control booth of Waypoint Harbor. Through the one-way holographic illusion, they could see several small craft parked on the holographic grassy plain of the upper lever. The two lower levels were likewise full. Beck had to admit it, Thenian’s little attraction certainly had appealed to the wealthy masses. She still hadn’t figured out just what they were going to do, sitting around in parked ships, but whatever kept them happy and Ra’al out of her hair.
As they watched, a number of Y.O.U.C.H employees were setting up a small stage for the opening ceremonies that would be taking place very soon.
“Ready to welcome them, Yeoman?” Beck asked.
“Yes ma’am,” Jones said said happily, “Service with a smile! You know me!”
“Craig?” Beck said, “You look…disturbed…”
“Hmm?” Porter turned to her, “No, it’s nothing. One of the ships down there just looked familiar. Probably nothing.
The welcome ceremony was actually very brief, to Beck’s pleasant surprise. A few members of the Y.O.U.C.H. Members Council stood up to welcome their residents to the newest Y.O.U.C.H. port, Ms. Thenian thanked the construction workers for their efforts and Beck was asked to say a few words. After giving her standard ‘Welcome to Waystation, we love our residents, go talk to Yeoman Jones if you have any problems’ speech, Beck was able to make a quick getaway. Russell, on the other hand, immediately followed Debora towards what was easily the largest yacht on deck.
It was a sleek Risan design, obviously built for luxury. A pair of streamlined nacelles were tucked in almost flush with the sleek hull. A hatch in one side led to a spacious main cabin with large, comfortable sofas, panoramic windows and a small hatch leading to a compact cockpit. But Sekun led them past the main cabin to a staircase that lead to the upper surface of the ship. Like the Lady’s Choice, the Beauty Queen had a large section on the upper hull designed for use while the ship was landed. Several chairs had been gathered around a table, where appetizers had already been set out. Russell recognized Claurice Thenian from Beck’s dealings with her, but he didn’t recognize the woman next to her. Russell wasn’t even sure how old she was, something that his security training (and eye for women) was usually pretty good at determining. He thought she might be older, but her skin was still smooth, her hair without a hint of gray. The luxurious looking synthe-furs she wore obscured most of her figure, but Russell finally decided that yes, regardless of age, he would do her.
“Debora,” Claurice smiled, “You remember Lusenkia Dekelina?”
“Hi,” Debora said politely.
“Darling,” Lusenkia smiled, “It’s been far too long. How is that handsome young man of yours…Mikel?”
“Actually,” Claurice said softly, “She and Mikel are no longer together.”
“Oh, such a shame,” Lusenkia said with a wave. Her words, while not insincere, were still said in such a way that Russell really didn’t think she was surprised at all. The woman absolutely oozed…something. Russell had the sense that every she said was carefully planned, and that she knew exactly what the people around her were going to say before they actually said it.
“This is Lt. Cmdr. Russell,” Debora introduced Sean, “He’s Chief of Security.”
“Mr. Russell,” Dekelina smiled, extended one hand, palm down. Russell stared for a moment before realizing he was supposed to kiss her knuckles.
“Ma’am,” he said.
“It’s such a pleasure to meet you at last,” she said.
“I’ve heard a lot about Waystation,” Lusenkia said graciously, “Especially after that little incident with Picard. How awful!”
Lunch went fairly smoothly from there. Russell was a little uncomfortable, as the manner and behavior of Lusenkia, the Thenians and the other guests were somewhat more upper-crust than he was used to. He honestly couldn’t tell the difference between a Merlot and a Chardonnay, but once Debora started playing footsie with him under the table, he resolved to stick around long enough to learn.
He was therefore very surprised when he heard the chime of a transporter beam and found himself in a dimly lit room.
Aboard the Beauty Queen, the guests jumped to their feet as Russell suddenly dematerialized.
“What on Earth?” Claurice declared.
“Where did he-“
“Call station security immediately,” Lusenkia said calmly to Sekun, her assistant.
“Everybody, please,” Lusenkia said, “Remain calm. I’m sure there is nothing to be concerned about.”
“That’s easy for you to say!” Debora said, annoyed, “My date just vanished!”
“I’ve heard of being stood-up,” her sister, Lindsey, said, “But this is a new one.”
Russell looked around, trying to take in his surroundings. There really wasn’t much to see. He was in a small room. A tiny room actually, almost more of a closet.
One corner of his brain realized that Porter would love to make some kind of joke about Russell being in a closet, but the majority of his brain was far too focused on the ‘Where am I and how do I survive?’ question.
The voice was androgynous, distorted. Russell recognized it, actually. It was voice he always heard in old movies when some secret organization was interrogating some hapless citizen and didn’t want to be identified.
“What do you want!” Russell called, “I warn you, I’m-“
“Shut up,” the voice said.
“Hey!” Russell crossed his arms, “I wasn’t finished my defiant speech yet!”
“We’ve made preparations for your…attitude,” the voice said.
There was a small hiss as the ceiling lowered itself by a few inches.
“H-hey,” Russell said, “Uh, it’s a little cramped in here-“
HSSSSS! The ceiling dropped down again.
Suddenly, it clicked. Russell stopped talked. The ceiling likewise stopped lowering itself.
“Took you long enough,” the voice sighed.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Lusenkia said, rising to her feet, “Please remain calm. My assistant is contacting the authorities at this very minute. For the moment, I suggest we return to our ships and ensure that our loved ones are safe.”
“Yes, of course,” Claurice said shakily, “You’re right. Come on kids.”
“I’m 30,” Debora grumbled, “I’m not a kid!”
Lusenkia graciously guided her guests back through the main cabin of her ship and out the hatch. As Debora passed, Lusenkia took her hand.
“Don’t worry darling,” she said, “I’m sure Mr. Russell will be well taken care of.”
“I just met him,” Debora shrugged, “Starfleet’s pretty good at taking care of their own.”
“What do we do?” Ensign Jacob asked, running back and forth through the security office, “WHAT DO WE DO?”
“Will you sit down?” Ensign Shust snapped, going through the internal sensor readings while Waits briefed Captain Beck on the situation, “You’re making me dizzy.”
“We have no leader! Leader’s gone! We have no leader! Leader’s gone!” Jacob started repeating over and over again.
Up in Operations, Beck and her staff were gathered around the conference table.
“We’ve been trying to trace the transporter beam,” Waits reported, “But all the holographic equipment in there is interfering with our sensor readings.”
“Are we picking up on any transporter activity outside of the docking bay?”
“The Harbor,” Morales corrected. Beck glared at him.
“Uh, no,” Waits said.
“Then he’s still in there,” Porter spoke up, “He must be on one of the ships.”
“But which one?” Morales asked, “I mean, think about motive. How many rich, powerful retirement age people would want to kidnap Sean Russell?”
“That’s what we need to find out,” Beck said firmly, “And fast!”
Lusenkia watched carefully as the last of her guests made their way across the holographic grass and into their respective ships. As soon as they did, she closed the hatch and moved quickly to the cockpit.
“How is he, Lerk?”
“He’s figured out the trick ceiling,” Lerk reported, sounding nervous, “Uh, do you want to talk to him now?”
“Yes, that is rather the point.”
“Mr. Russell,” the voice had changed. Russell still couldn’t identify it through the distortion, but he knew somebody else was speaking, “Sorry to keep you waiting. Let us get down to business. You have caused me a great deal of trouble. You have cost me a great deal of time and money.”
“Uh, if this about something I did with one of your daughters,” Russell gulped, “You should know that as a Starfleet officer, it’s always consensual sex-“
“I HAVE NO DAUGHTERS!” the voice shrieked. The ceiling dropped a good foot this time, to the point where Russell had to duck. This was definitely becoming dangerously cramped, “YOU COST ME OLIVIA!”
“Olivia?” Russell was confused, “My cousin? She’s fine! She’s-“
“She’s in a rehabilitation facility! And she’s going to be there for several years!”
“Well, she did sort of break the law,” Russell pointed out.
“She was my best operative!” the voice snapped, “There was nothing she couldn’t get! No item she couldn’t obtain! She had the skills, the intelligence and the drive! Until YOU had to go and screw things up!”
“You were her client!” Russell exclaimed, wincing as he bumped his head on the lowered ceiling.
“I’m more than her client! I’m her mentor! I was shaping her to succeed me!”
The ceiling lowered again. Russell scrambled off his chair, crouching in the increasingly tiny room.
“What do you want from me??” Russell asked, cowering.
“I’m so glad you asked!”
Porter and Beck were back in Waypoint Harbor’s control booth, looking down through the holographic screen at the field of ships below.
“Anything?” Beck asked.
“No sign of his comm-badge,” Porter said, tapping at his tricorder, “I’m not picking up any unusual signals or transporter traces.”
“What if we shut down the holograms?” Beck asked.
“It’s a little late for that,” Porter said, “This isn’t exactly child’s play.”
His eyes widened.
“That’s it!” he said.
“What? Children?” Beck asked as she followed Porter out of the booth.
“I want Olivia back,” the voice said, “And I want her criminal record expunged.”
“Uh, sorry,” Russell said, “But I can’t do that.”
“Are you sure?”
The ceiling dropped by several more inches. Russell was now cowering on the floor, the ceiling barely half a foot about him.
“Well,” Russell’s voice was starting raise in pitch as panic began to overcome him, “There’s the whole lawbreaking thing…and the charges would have to be dropped…and criminal records don’t just disappear!”
“Mr. Russell,” the voice cut him off, “Do you know what it’s like to lose a close friend?”
“Uh, sure,” Russell gasped.
“I don’t think you do, Mr. Russell. I think if you had, you’d be more sympathetic to my feelings here.”
“You’re about to crush me, you crazy bastard!” Russell shouted.
“I just may be,” the voice replied nastily as the ceiling lowered again.
“Damned holographic gopher holes!” Porter swore as he stumbled, running across towards a small silver yacht parked near the edge of the upper level.
“Craig!” Beck snapped, her patience with people running around out of her control reaching an end, “What is going on!”
“When Russell’s cousin Olivia was here transformed into a ten-year-old, we detected that cloaked ship outside of the station,” Porter said. “She tried to escape back to it, but we disrupted the cloak, and the ship ran for it. I’m pretty sure it’s back.”
“This one?” Beck looked up at the yacht’s sleek side. The name ‘Langimodier’ was stenciled in elaborate script, “I don’t recognize the name. You sure it isn’t just the same model?”
“Maybe,” Porter said, running his hands over the ship’s side, “But I was trying to figure out who might have a grudge against Sean. And guess what I came up with?”
He found what he was looking for. Digging in his fingernails, he peeled a strip of metallic material off the side of the ship, taking the name off with it. Underneath was another name.
“This is the ship. Whoever hired Olivia is the one that took Russell!” Porter said.
“Beck to Ops. Who is the Langimodier registered to? I need to know now!”
But Porter was already tapping at the hatch controls, attempting to break in.
Lusenkia wished she could see Russell cowering on the deck.
“Wait! Wait!” Russell was saying, “Look, can we maybe talk about parole?”
“I’m afraid that just isn’t good enough, Sean,” she said, tapping the button to lower the roof again.
Lusenkia jerked. Somebody else’s voice was coming over her headset.
“Get me out of here!” Sean shouted.
There was assorted shuffling, then a clang as the door to Russell’s chamber was forced open.
She quickly tapped another button.
“Abort,” she said softly.
“Captain’s Log, Stardate 58274.5. We’ve successfully recovered Lt. Cmdr. Russell from the Ozymandias. It was easy actually. The ship was completely empty. All we found was Russell, a comm-link and an overly elaborate death-trap.
“On a related note, kidnapping aside, Waypoint Harbor appears to be a success. Traffic settled down once the residents arrived. It seems like most of the old folks would rather sit around watching the frontier instead of actually exploring it. We have some new residents, the mall has some new customers and Dillon has some new potential voters to suck up to. Once we finish adjusting their holographic equipment so that it doesn’t interfere with any future kidnappings, everything should be back to normal around here.”
“Any news from the penal colony?” Jones asked.
“Yeah,” Russell replied, “Olivia still refuses to name names. Whoever she was working for, he or she sure knows how to inspire loyalty.”
“And no luck with the scans?”
Russell shook his head.
“Porter was going through the computer access records…there was a failed access attempt earlier that caught his eye. Somebody tapped into the new docking bay systems and deliberately adjusted the holographic projectors to get in the way of our scans.”
“Whoever did this is good,” he said, “Really good. She knew exactly how to cover her tracks.”
“Only a woman could get this angry with me,” Russell said wistfully, “Anyway Tina, I’ve gotta run. Good luck with your studying.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Tina said, “Uh, where you going?”
“I have a date,” Russell said.
Captain Lisa Beck strolled down Starfleet Square Mall, nodding and smiling at the passers-by. Most of them she vaguely recognized, but there were some new faces. Waystation had grown again. Not exactly anything new, the station had been growing since day one. From a tiny, empty outpost at the very edge of unknown space to a tiny, overcrowded outpost…right through the renovations. Beck had to wonder: What would happen when the current version of the station became overcrowded?
Beck turned to see Claurice Thenian approaching.
“Claurice,” Beck said politely.
“I just finished a meeting with the Waystation Residents Council,” Claurice said, “We’re having some disagreements over whether our members are considered transients or residents.”
“Ohh, fun,” Beck said.
“We will work it out ourselves though,” Claurice went on.
“Glad to hear it,” Beck said sincerely.
“Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your patience and understanding with us as we get ourselves settled,” Claurice said.
“You’re welcome,” Beck shrugged, “Welcome to the station.”
“Yes, thank you,” Claurice nodded and went her way.
As Beck resumed her walk, Commander Morales joined her.
“Did you know Russell’s on a date with her daughter?” Morales asked.
“Really?” Beck raised an eyebrow, “Then I guess this is the last we’ll be seeing of ‘Polite Claurice.’”
“You never know. Maybe Russell’s finally found a girl he can settle down with?” Morales tried and failed to keep a straight face.
At that moment the peaceful shopping of the mall was broken by a loud shout.
“I guess not!” Beck and Morales laughed.