My fellow Traksians, I come before you on this glorious day to announce that Paramount, Viacom, CBS, or some combination thereof own Star Trek. However, I strenuously deny the accusation that I had any idea that Alan Decker owned Star Traks and Star Traks: Waystation.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 2010


“Life of the Party”

By Alan Decker

She didn’t want to watch it. Why was she activating the holovision? She didn’t want to…

The image of Joan Redding appeared on Fleet Admiral Nosira Ra’al’s holovision.

Too late. She was watching it.

“…less than eight months to go until election day, and neither of the major parties has announced a candidate. Political observers speculate that both the Federation party and the Republicrats are courting President Dillon, who has never affiliated himself with any established party. With the president holding a more-than-commanding lead in the polls, any party that he sided with would no doubt enjoy a tremendous boost to their candidates in other races.”

Ra’al shut off the holovision in disgust. Why had she watched that? All it did was make her angry. The entire Federation was falling all over itself to usher Bradley Dillon back into office.

Didn’t anyone else in this damn quadrant want to be president?

Well, anyone other than the whack jobs and weirdos who were already running for the minor parties.

Bradley Dillon couldn’t just waltz into another term.

Surely there was some decent opposition out there somewhere.



“Oh yeah. This is a good use of my time,” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter said, as he leaned back in his chair in the cockpit of the Runabout Cumberland and put his feet up on the console in front of him.

“Can you not do that?” Commander Walter Morales said from the pilot’s seat beside him.

“It’s fine. I deactivated the console.”

“It’s not fine! I’m trying to fly over here!”

“I didn’t realize my legs were that big of a distraction. Want me to hike up my pant leg a little bit?”

“I can order you to the back, you know?”

“Can you order me back to the station?” Porter asked.

“If I’m stuck on this trip, so are you. This is more your thing anyway. Don’t you have a spirit of scientific curiosity or something like that?”

“Not when I’m in the middle of something.”

“That makes two of us,” Morales muttered.

Porter suddenly swung his legs down and slapped his hand against his dormant console. “I’m so close! The chroniton panels are…”

“Oh great bird. Please tell me you’re not building a time machine. Those are never helpful.”

“This is different. I promise,” Porter said.

“Sure it is. Until it gets us all killed.”

“What’s got you in such a cheery mood?”

“It’s just what you said. This is a waste of my time.”

“And what were you going to be doing if we hadn’t been sent away on this little jaunt to Hauser Colony?”

“Nothing. I didn’t have any specific plans.”

“Those plans that you didn’t have wouldn’t happen to involve Stephanie, would they?

“Lazlo has had her pulling some kind of evening duty shift for the last couple of months. We haven’t been able to see much of each other, but it ended yesterday so…”

“Bom chicky bom bom?”

“I was aiming more for a romantic dinner,” Morales said.

“And then the bom chicky bom bom.”

“I was just about to be annoyed, but then I remembered something.”

“What’s that?” Porter asked.

“I’m the only one on this ship who’s actually in a relationship.”

Porter’s smirk vanished. “Are we there yet?” he said.

Leverage was a beautiful thing. Bradley Dillon felt that leverage was right up there with air, water, and a good brandy on the list of life’s necessities. Fortunately for him, leverage was something he usually had in the proverbial spades considering his positions as CEO of one of the Alpha Quadrant’s largest business conglomerates and President of the United Federation of Planets.

In his current negotiations, that all-important leverage was once again on his side as both the Federation Party and the Republicrats were doing everything they could to woo him onto their side. In all honesty, Bradley wasn’t interested in joining either party. He liked his independence and didn’t really relish the idea of suddenly receiving “help” from the leadership of whatever party he selected. On the other hand, each party already had a massive network in place and could ease his re-election campaign work considerably…while spending their own credits rather than his.

Bradley wasn’t one to seek advice very often, preferring to keep his own counsel (as well as not tip off anyone else as to what he might be planning), but he found himself making an excursion to Starfleet Square Mall, with Special Secret Section officers in tow, to have a chat about matters with the one person he’d consider speaking with about such things: Yeoman Tina Jones.

As he entered the Welcome Center on the mall’s lower level, Bradley spotted Jones sitting at the curved desk that dominated the rear of the room. He gave her a warm smile and a wave, but before he could get much farther, he was intercepted by Hypple, Jones’s Multek assistant, whose pale complexion somehow looked a bit more blanched even than usual.

“Greetings, Mister President Dillon, sir,” Hypple said, his voice on the edge of stammering. “How may we assist you today?”

“You can back up about five steps,” Agent Anderson said gruffly.

“Tina!” Hypple cried, backing away.

“What’s the matter?” Jones said, rushing over.

“Nothing at all, Yeoman” Bradley said. “Agent Anderson was being bit overprotective,” he added, shooting a glare toward Anderson. “I apologize for his rudeness, Hypple. But I really just came to speak to Yeoman Jones.”

“Yes. Sure,” Hypple said, glancing at Anderson again before moving off to straighten some brochures.

“How was he?” Jones asked.

“He who?” Bradley replied.

“Hypple. He’s in training. Was he friendly? Helpful?”

“He was fine,” Bradley said.

“Good. He’s been a bit nervous about talking to people, but you can’t run this place without speaking. It takes a certain personality.”

“It takes you.”

“Pretty soon I’m not going to be here all the time…assuming I pass my finals.”

“Are you graduating already?” Bradley said. “That’s wonderful.”

“It was only a two year program,” Jones said. “That’s the great thing about having prior on-the-job experience.”

“So I guess I’m going to have to get used to calling you Ensign Jones.”

“Tina still works,” Jones said with a smile. “And I’m glad you’re happy for me. After I turned you down for that job offer, I wasn’t sure if…”

“Don’t think anything of it. I would have loved to have you in my organization, but I know your heart lies with Starfleet. Also, I came to realize that being your employer might hurt our friendship, and I would never want that to happen.”

“I don’t want anything to happen to it either,” Jones said. Although, if she was honest with herself, she wasn’t real thrilled with the way Bradley treated the teenaged girl who accidentally almost blew him up. Well, the explosion wasn’t an accident, but Bradley had never been the target. Still, according to Captain Beck, Tiffany Beecher was back home with her parents now, so Bradley had made things right…sort of.

“Then we’re agreed,” Bradley said. “Now onto business.”


“Absolutely. The business of lunch. May I entice you to join me? We have a reservation waiting at Dillon’s.”

“I’d love to go, but we don’t have to do anything that nice. The food court is fine for me.”

“Nonsense. I want to take you. Consider it an early graduation present.”

One glorious meal and several helpings of enjoyable small talk later, Bradley looked intently at the woman seated across the table from him. “I have to admit something to you,” he said.

“What’s that?”

“I did have something of a ulterior motive for asking you here.”

“You did? What is it?” Jones asked, leaning forward. Hmmm…Bradley’s eyes were bluer than she thought. She’d never really noticed before.

“What political party are you registered with?”

Jones blinked several times, her mouth dropping open slightly. After almost eight years, she’d come to believe that she knew Bradley relatively well. Still she never would have guessed that he would ask her something so…odd.

“Err…I’m not really that political, Bradley. And you didn’t have to take me to lunch to get me to vote for you.”

“It’s nothing like that,” Bradley said with a chuckle. “This lunch is because I wanted to spend some time with you. And the question isn’t about me. Actually, it is, but not in the way you think.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I have two parties after me to join them. And let’s be honest here, they just aren’t that different in their political philosophies. Not that it matters, since I’m going to do things my way anyway. So, with all things being pretty much equal, I wanted to see what you thought.”

“Oh…well, I normally vote Federation party…”

“There. That settles it then,” Bradley said, slapping his hand lightly against the table.

“Don’t you want to know why?”

“I’m sure you have your reasons, but the fact that you picked them is enough for me.”

“So you’re going to join the Federation party…because of me?” Jones asked in shock.

“Can you think of a better reason?” Bradley replied grinning before taking a sip of the wonderfully sweet dessert wine he’d chosen.

Jones laughed. “You’re not serious.”

“This is Joan Redding with an AWN Breaking News Alert. President Bradley Dillon has officially declared himself to be the Federation Party candidate for Federation President. When reached for comment, Federation Party chairman Senderis Okale said, quote, ‘Eat that, Republicrats.’ We also attempted to reach someone at Republicrat campaign headquarters, but could not hear their response over all the sobbing.”

Hauser Colony really wasn’t that bad of a place to visit as far as assignments went. Certainly Porter and Morales had been to far worse places. Of course those visits usually ended with a fight for their lives or something equally unpleasant. Hauser Colony, meanwhile, had been placed in the temperate zone of a unremarkable Class M world, a world free of hostile aliens, nasty critters, or anything even as pesky as a mosquito. While it possibly wasn’t paradise, Morales couldn’t help letting out a contented sigh as he and Porter were led by one of the colony officials along a tree-lined path toward the colony’s administration building, which had been erected in the middle of a grassy clearing a short distance away from the main cluster of dwellings.

The colony official, one Jordan Beals, was being fairly laid back about this whole thing, not that Porter and Morales really knew what said whole thing was about. All they’d been told in the message from the colony that Waystation received was that there was a problem with the new sensor array that had been erected at the colony. Porter had been sent since he was the science and engineering guy. That was obvious. Morales, however, was there to do the old ‘your concerns are our concerns’ bit and show that Starfleet really cared about the colonies in the region. Morales did care…to an extent. That extent didn’t usually involve making personal visits, but, as First Officer, it was his duty to make the trip…at least that’s what Captain Beck told him.

Beals led the pair into the administration building, where he flashed a smile at the comely receptionist in the lobby and then took Morales and Porter up a couple of floors and through a few corridors into a darkened monitoring room.

“Hey, Fred,” he said by way of greeting to the mustached older man sitting in front of the room’s bank of consoles. On the large screen above the consoles was a view of the local area of space around the colony.

“Morning,” Fred replied warmly. “These our experts?”

“Yes, sir,” Jordan said.

“Commander Walter Morales from Waystation,” Morales said, stepping forward to shake Fred’s hand. He was really liking these people. Everyone was so nice. “And this is Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter, our Operations and Engineering specialist.”

“Nice to meet you,” Fred said, shaking Porter’s hand.

“You as well,” Porter said. “So what seems to be the problem?”

“Well you know we just got this new array to give us a more long-range view of the region, alert us to incoming problems, and all that.”

“Yes, sir. I put together the specs of the array myself when your colony put in the request,” Porter said.

“It’s great stuff. And the installers Starfleet sent had it set up in no time, but then we started looking at the data we were getting and…” Fred typed a few commands into his console, shifting the view on the main screen to what looked like just another section of starfield.

Porter looked up at it for a moment searching for anything amiss. Then he noticed a small, pulsing red indicator near the top center of the screen, at the very edge of sensor range. “What is that?”

“It’s a blip,” Fred replied.

“What kind of blip?” Morales asked.

“We have no idea,” Jordan said. “It’s been there ever since we brought the array online and hasn’t moved so much as a micrometer. At first we thought it was some kind of glitch in the system, but it only appears in the one spot in the sky. We’ve run every diagnostic in the manual, and the sensors check out fine.”

“Anybody been out there to take a look?” Porter asked.

“That’s why we sent for you fellas,” Fred said. “Frankly, this exploring the mysteries of space stuff isn’t our job.”

“Right,” Morales said. “So I guess we’ll be going to check it out.”

“You guys want some lunch first?” Jordan asked.

“Yes, thank you. That’d be great.”

“Follow me,” Jordan said, heading a couple of steps toward the door before calling out, “Thanks, Fred.”

“Anytime, fellas,” Fred said, turning back to his work.

“How many times do we get offered a meal?” Morales asked Porter quietly.

“Never,” Porter said.

“They’re a nice bunch of people. Real nice.”

“Yeah. It’ll be a shame if that blip is some horrible thing that’s going to kill them all.”

“This is why we don’t get invited to more lunches.”

“What? What’d I say?”

One quite satisfying meal later (when was the last time they’d had real fried chicken with potato salad and corn on the cob?), Morales and Porter lifted off in the Cumberland on their way to investigate the blip. The runabout’s sensors weren’t telling Porter much more information as they made their approach. There was definitely something there, but he couldn’t make out any details about its shape, composition, energy levels, exact size, or anything else except for the fact that it existed and was probably a bit larger than the runabout.

Porter had been quietly focused on the sensors for several minutes, adjusting this and that trying to get better readings, when Morales, who up until that point had been equally quiet, broke the silence.

“Do you ever think about getting married?”

“I don’t know,” Porter replied without looking up from his work. “Can you cook?”

“Why am I even talking to you?”

“Because I’m the only one here,” Porter said. He sat up and turned his seat toward Morales. “And maybe because you know I’m a friend and I’ll listen. What’s going on with Stephanie?”

“Who said this was about Steph?”

“You just asked me about marriage. It wasn’t exactly a big leap. Are you thinking about proposing?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. It’s not something we ever really talked about, but we’ve been together for a couple of years now. Isn’t marriage what you’re supposed to do next?”

“Is there a ‘supposed to’?”

“People get married. My mom and dad got married. Lots of people we know have gotten married.”

“Okay, so ask her to marry you.”

“How do I know if she’s really the one?”

“You’re asking me?”

“I know you haven’t had a lot of luck in relationships, but…”

“That’s not what I meant!” Porter cried. “Look, Walter, no one is going to give you advice on that one. Okay, maybe some people would, but they shouldn’t. You’re the only one who can answer that question. But you know that already.”

“She could say no,” Morales said.

“You could always wait her out and hope she asks you first.”

“Do you think that would work?”

“Can we drop the ranks for a moment?” Porter asked.


Porter suddenly hauled back and slapped Morales. Hard.

“Oh,” Morales mumbled, holding the side of his face.

“That’s nicer than what Captain Beck would have done.”

“I got the message.”

“Good. Now you can take some time to mull over your personal life…later. We’re almost in visual range of the…thing.”

“Sensors still aren’t saying much, huh?”

“No. I’m half-expecting to get there and not see a…oh.” Morales followed Porter’s stare out the front viewport where there was indeed something. The something in question was a large gray ring, about a meter thick, two meters deep, and twice the width of the runabout in diameter. It would have been almost invisible if not for the blackness of space around it and the even blacker blackness of its interior.

“Somebody’s trash?” Morales offered.

“Only if the somebody made absolutely sure that their trash wasn’t drifting at all when they dumped it.”

“Possible, but I’m going to guess probably not. Any other ideas?”

“None that you’re going to like,” Porter said.

“No surprises there. What are you thinking?”

“It’s a door.”

“To what? There’s nothing on the other side but space,” Morales said.

“That’s not space in there,” Porter said, pointing into the center of the ring. “Do you see a single star?”

“I’m guessing this means you want us to fly in there.”

“Are you crazy? This is why we have probes!” Porter said, tapping the commands to launch a small probe into the opening. The device sailed away from the runabout, reached the ring, then vanished as soon as it entered.

“I’ve got it,” Morales said. “This is part of a network of gates left by some ancient civilization. Like those Iconian gateways, only kind of different. Instead of gateways to other planets, these are gates to other star systems. A starg…”

“Don’t say it.”

“Why not?”

“Copyright issues.”

“Fine, but I’m right about this! The probe is now on the other side of the galaxy, isn’t it?”

“Um…no,” Porter said, watching the telemetry scrolling across his console. “Readings are sporadic, but the probe seems to be…indoors.”

“On the other side of the galaxy!”

“I don’t think so. These readings indicate… Crap!” Porter shouted just as his screen went crazy.

“What? Did some alien creature blast it?”

“No. It smashed into a wall.” Porter rubbed his beard. “So…are we going in?”

“Are we going to smash into a wall?”

“I don’t think so. Just take it slow.”

“I can do that. Drop a comm buoy, so people will know where we went.”

“Good idea. I can’t imagine how many people would just go blundering into this thing without leaving so much as a clue as to what they were up to.”


Morales eased the runabout forward into the ring. The nose of the runabout crossed the threshold and vanished into the incredibly dark black inky blackness of…er…black. Morales stopped the ship and went into reverse, bringing the front of the vessel back out of the dark.

“Just checking,” he said before pushing the ship forward again, the cockpit approaching the black barrier until…

Light. Bright. Way too bright. Morales blinked, hoping his force his eyes to adjust faster. Gradually their surroundings became clear and…

“WALL!” Porter screamed.

Morales slammed the Cumberland to full stop as his eyes focused on the barrier looming right in front of them. He quickly realized that it wasn’t just light bouncing off the walls that so bright. The walls themselves were a really horrible metallic neon yellow.

“Uggh. Who decided THAT was a good idea?” Morales said.

“You can complain to the interior decorator later,” Porter said. “Do you know where we are?”

Morales checked his readouts. “If I had to guess, I’d say some kind of landing bay.” He slowly rotated the ship around, bringing another vessel into view through the front viewport, a silver transport-type craft by the look of it. “Wow. How long has that been here?”

“Hard to say,” Porter replied. “It’s got power, but all systems are on standby and have been for quite some time. No lifesigns. No weapons. But I ask again, do you know where we are?”

“You’re building up to something here, aren’t you?”

“Are you going to guess or not?” Porter asked.

“I have no idea.”

“It’s a pocket!” Porter exclaimed. “I told you that thing wasn’t a gateway to somewhere else in the galaxy. We’re not even in the galaxy anymore.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. The sensor readings I took as we crossed in here indicated we were passing through a breach in subspace. I can’t even imagine the amount of power it’s taking to keep the breach open and stable like this.”

“Can you detect a power source?”

“Not from in here. Sensors can’t penetrate outside of this chamber, but there is that door,” Porter said, pointing to the doorway visible beyond the parked ship in front of them.

Morales’s hands hovered over his console. “So somebody put a stable entrance into a subspace pocket in the middle of a star system that until a couple of years ago was completely uninhabited.”


“And you want to get out and look around.”


“You’ve suddenly got that scientific curiosity back, huh?”


“Fine, but when something goes wrong, I’m blaming you,” Morales said as he set the Cumberland down gently. He grabbed a couple of phasers out of the equipment locker and handed one to Porter, who already had the runabout’s side hatch open and his eyes focused on his tricorder. As he stepped down onto the floor of the landing area, Morales couldn’t help but look back at the black disc-shaped exit on the far wall. They could have just flown away and reported their findings to someone more experienced in these matters…whatever these matters were.

No. They needed to check the place out. That was their job. And part of him was excited by the mystery of it all….even if he was certain something was going to go wrong.

He followed Porter to the doorway, watching for any sign of automated security systems, booby traps and the like. Porter had paused at the door, a fairly thick-looking pale green slab of metal (once again, Morales had to wonder who had picked the colors for this place), and was frowning at his tricorder.

“Is there a problem?” Morales asked.

“Can’t tell,” Porter replied. “I can’t scan past the door. I was hoping when I got closer…hmmm.”

“Hmmm?” Morales said, stepping up beside him and peering at the tricorder readouts.

“I think it moved.”


“The door.”

The door suddenly slid open. Porter and Morales looked up from the tricorder just in time to see arms reaching out for them. A second later, they were yanked inside.

Yep. Something had gone wrong. Even faster than Morales had thought it would.

Chicago. Columbus Park. Large shade tree. Two park benches back to back.

Fleet Admiral Nosira Ra’al concluded that this had to be the place. She casually strolled over and sat down on the one empty bench of the pair.

“Mister Carter?” Ra’al asked the occupant of the other bench hesitantly.

“Yes, it’s me.”

“Sorry. I didn’t recognize you with the wig and the parasol.”

“We’re not having this meeting.”

“Did I insult you somehow?”

“No. We’re not having this meeting. It isn’t happening. I’ll deny it ever happened. No one can know we talked.”

“Ahh. I see. And I won’t be telling anyone either. Why do you think I came in disguise?”

“What disguise?” Carter asked, craning his head to look the Hinaree admiral up and down.

“I’m not in my uniform.”

Carter groaned. “Listen, Admiral, if you hadn’t noticed, I have a real crisis on my hands at the moment. We don’t have President Dillon on our ticket, which means we don’t have a candidate at all. I have a party to run, so I don’t have a lot of time to run off to secret meetings with Starfleet officials. What did you want to see me about?”

“It’s about your problem,” Ra’al said. “The Republicrats need a candidate now that Bradley Dillon has thrown his lot in with the Federation party.”

“You?” Carter asked in shock.

“Not me!” Ra’al hissed. “I can’t run for office while I’m in Starfleet, and if you think I’m giving up my commission for this…”

“Fine. I get it. You’re not flashy enough anyway.”

“I agree. But someone with Starfleet credentials like mine would be a boon to you.”

“Absolutely. President Dillon has no Starfleet experience. But our candidate is a decorated Starfleet veteran.”

“A hero,” Ra’al added.

“A hero!” Carter repeated, his eyes lighting up as he began twirling his parasol. “A decorated Starfleet hero who is so concerned that our great Federation is in the hands of a cold-blooded businessman who bought his way into office that he is willing to take Bradley Dillon on for the good of us all. I love it. Even better, I can sell it to people. Who’d you have in mind?”

“I’d rather not say until I have a definite answer, but I’ll be back in touch,” Ra’al said.

“Soon,” Carter said emphatically, getting up from his bench. “We don’t have a lot of time left to build this campaign.” Hiking up his pretty pink petticoats, Carter raced off into the woods.

The Republicrats had seen things her way and were on board. Not that Ra’al had expected much resistance to her idea. They were out of options and running out of time.

Now who did she know in Starfleet who wasn’t doing anything important for the next four years or so?

Despite knowing that it came with the uniform, Lieutenant Commander Porter could never quite get used to the idea of being captured. That was actually something of an understatement.

He hated it.

He hated it with a passion that he reserved for…well…being captured. As he was dragged down a short dark corridor toward another door, he could feel his muscles tensing, ready to strike out at his two captors as soon as they gave him the slightest chance.

The two figures in front of him holding Morales paused, one reaching out to open the door before them. Porter’s chance was coming. He could feel it.

The door opened, and Porter’s ears were suddenly assaulted by pounding music.

Music? Huh?

He was unfortunately too confused by this turn of events to realize that he was being released. Shoved, really, into the center of a dance floor.

No. This couldn’t be a dance floor. They’d been captured, phasers ripped right out of their hands before they knew what was happening. No one captured you and then took you to a night club. But the pounding music. The strobing lights. The sweaty people gyrating against each other.

It sure as hell looked like a dance floor.

Morales’s eyes met his. He’d evidently come to the same conclusion based on the “What the hell?” look on the First Officer’s face.

The music came to abrupt halt as the lights stopped strobing and went to being plain old lights. A grey-haired man broke through the crowd, striding toward Porter and Morales imperiously. It would have been a bit more impressive if he wasn’t a good head shorter than Porter, who wasn’t exactly a giant himself.

“WHO invited THEM?” the man demanded, glaring at the others. Porter had a few moments to look over these others. They all looked basically human (They didn’t even have any bumps or ridges anywhere on their heads, which seemed to be a prerequisite for most alien species). Like the demanding one, they had grey hair…a few wrinkles. In short, they were…old. Older at any rate. If Porter had to guess, he’d put them all somewhere in their seventies or eighties. He and Morales should have put up more of a fight when they were grabbed. They probably could have overwhelmed their captors. Hell, they could probably take the whole lot of them.

Porter did a quick count. 25. 30. 35. 42. Okay, so maybe taking on 21 each was a bit much to ask. Even so, he felt his anger at being captured subsiding. Somehow the situation didn’t seem all that threatening anymore. Now he was back to scientific curiosity: what in the name of the Great Bird was this edition of geriatric dance party doing inside a subspace pocket? Okay, so maybe there wasn’t a lot of science involved in that question.

“Anyone?” the imperious one asked again.

“We weren’t invited,” Morales said, stepping forward. “I am Commander Walter Morales of the United Federation of Planets. This is Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter. We apologize for the intrusion, but we were investigating…”

“Unnh! Babble babble babble from the soldier man. I’ve got news for you, Mister Official, you don’t have any authority here. This is MY place, and I say who is and is not allowed to party with us. And you two…are the most unthwarip groosnels that I think I have ever seen, and you should have seen my parents.” This last remark garnered several laughs and snickers from the surrounding crowd.

Porter slid over to Morales. “Are they mocking us? I think they’re mocking us.”

“You noticed that, huh?” Morales replied.

“You want us to toss them, Bachloss?” one of the not-so- kindly older gentlemen who’d dragged Morales and Porter into the room asked.

“Yeah. Let ‘em be stodgy somewhere else,” the one giving the orders replied. Arms started to reach for Morales and Porter. Then Bachloss held up his hand. “Hang on a gric,” he said, stepping right up to the Starfleet Officers. “You two have those job things, right?” he asked disdainfully.

“Um…yes,” Morales said. “We’re with Starfleet, which is the exploratory arm of the United Federation of…”

“You see what’s happening?” Bachloss interrupted. “My ears are actually trying to close themselves to make the yammering stop. What do you do?”

“I’m trying to tell you.”

“Can you possibly give me the non-boring version, or do you have any idea what that even means?”

“I bet they don’t,” a voice called from the crowd.

“I’m the second-in-command of a space station in this region,” Morales said.

“Ooooh. Aren’t you just the big man?” Bachloss said, rolling his eyes. “I wanna be just like you when I grow up.” He turned on Porter. “What about you?”

Porter opened his mouth to reply just as Morales said, “Diplomatic answer.”

Porter’s mouth snapped shut as his teeth clenched. “Sciences and engineering,” he said without unclenching.

“So you fix things,” Bachloss said.

“That is part of what I do, but…”

“Save it for somebody who cares, pops. You got some tools somewhere?”

“Back on our ship…”

Bachloss turned to a group of four of the larger men of the group. “Take him to get his tools. He’ll try to intimidate you. Don’t listen. I run the party here, and it’s not going to end just because a couple of establishment types found us. They’re going to work for us for a change.”

“Come on,” one of the men growled, waving Porter’s own phaser at him. Suddenly Porter was feeling captured and threatened again.

Morales was also feeling more than a little threatened. Bachloss had pretty much come out and said that he needed Porter for something. That would keep Porter alive. All Morales had to do was keep quiet and stay out of the way. No drawing attention to himself. That was probably the smart thing to do, at least, but he knew that he couldn’t take that route. This was his mission, and Porter was his responsibility. Morales had a duty to find out what exactly was going on and what this Bachloss intended to do with them.

“Excuse me,” Morales said, taking a step toward Bachloss.

“Woah,” Bachloss snapped, spinning toward Morales. “Did I put in an order for old and boring? No, I don’t think so. Go sit your tired burax against that wall until we need someone to put us to sleep.”

“I’m sure we can help you with anything you need, but you have to…”

“Have to? HAVE TO? I don’t have to do anything you say, you nurek. This is my pad.”

“Your pad?”

“Somebody get him away from me,” Bachloss ordered. Two septuagenarians got between Bachloss and Morales. While they were taller than him and had their arms crossed in what he imagined was supposed to be a threatening manner, Morales was fairly certain he could render both men unconscious in a matter of seconds. In the ensuing chaos, he might even be able to get out the door and help Porter overwhelm his captors (assuming they could deal with the guy holding the phaser…and find the other phaser. Who had ended up with it?) and get the hell out of there in the runabout. Really it was all just too risky, and, if it succeeded, Morales wouldn’t be any closer to knowing what was going on.

Instead Morales held up his hands to show his acquiescence, then headed toward the wall Bachloss had indicated, where he found a clusters of plush chairs surrounding a small table. A few glasses in various states of emptiness littered the table, but the chairs were all unoccupied. The owners of the glasses were probably all up dancing. Or they had been until he and Porter crashed the party. If this was the Gravity Well back on Waystation, Morales wouldn’t have dreamed of taking someone else’s table, but here he was finding it hard to give a damn.

Bachloss told him to sit there, so he was going to sit there. Sit there and observe. Maybe then he’d be able to make some sense of all of this.

Before too long, Porter was paraded back into the room, his tool kit in hand. Bachloss immediately led Porter and his escorts out through a door leading deeper into the complex. Bachloss was gone, and not a single person remaining seemed to care that Morales was still sitting there. Instead they’d all gone back to dancing.

Morales was just about to get out of his seat to see if he was really being that ignored, when a voice stopped him.

“You want something to drink?”

Morales looked to his left and came face to face with his grandmother. He did a quick double take and blinked several times as the elderly woman moved a bit closer. Okay. It wasn’t his grandmother. But the resemblance was frightening. Right down to the hairstyle. But Grandma wouldn’t ever wear a dress with that little…dress. At least he hoped not.

“Um…thanks, but no. I’m fine.”

The woman hesitated a bit, then sat down next to Morales, tugging the bottom of her mini-dress down as she sat. “He’s always like that.”


“Bachloss. He’s always like that. Don’t take it personally.”

“So he’s holding the rest of you here at phaser-point, too?” Morales asked, unable to keep the edge of derision out of his voice.

His companion completely missed it. “What’s a phaser?”

“Never mind,” Morales said kindly, realizing that a potential informant had fallen into his lap. Er…maybe he wanted to rephrase that. And scrub that mental image from every last synapse in his brain. “This is quite a set-up you all have here.”

“You like it? I wasn’t too sure when Bachloss first showed it to us, but you go where the party is, you know? Well…maybe you wouldn’t.”

“I enjoy a party as much as the next person,” Morales protested, half-trying to ingratiate himself to her and half out of a desire not to be out-cooled by a member of the geriatric set.

“I bet you’ve never been to a party like this,” his companion replied proudly.

“Can’t say that I have. I’m Walter Morales, by the way. Just call me Walter.”

“Krasadora. It’s nice to meet you, Walter,” she replied extending her hand to him coquettishly. He shook it gently. Was she batting her eyelashes at him? “Now tell me all about yourself.”

“There’s not much to tell really. I live on a space station a little ways from here.”

“Seeing anyone?”

A reply of “Yes” almost leapt out of his mouth, but he thought better of it. As distasteful as he found lying…and the idea of leading this woman on, it was for the good of the mission. “I’m seeing you sitting across from me,” he said flirtatiously, pulling out a reply one of his Academy pals was fond of using when faced with the same question.

Krasadora giggled and blushed slightly. “Now tell me ALL about yourself,” Morales said, bouncing her own inquiry back at her.

“Oh, there’s nothing special about me,” she said.

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Really. I’m just lucky enough to know Bachloss. When his Mom and Dad found this place for him, he invited a bunch of us along for a graduation party.”


“Yeah. We’d all finished University together and weren’t really ready to head out into the world. A party sounded like just the thing. And it’s one fralno of a party. Constant food and drinking and dancing and nureking and… I’m sorry. I got a little carried away there.”

“It’s all right,” Morales said. “This might sound like kind of a strange question, but how long has this been going on?”

“Wow. I don’t know. A few months maybe. Maybe a year. Could be a couple of years. I kind of lost track.”

“That’s some party.”

“You’re telling me.”

“Fix it!” Bachloss ordered, pointing at the pulsating mass of conduits, circuits, and other items Porter couldn’t identify that dominated the center of the fifty meter square chamber he’d been brought into.

“What’s wrong with it?” Porter asked, resisting the urge to reach out and touch the thing. He wasn’t used to machines that pulsated. Something about it was more than a little unsettling. And red glows were never good.

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t need an engineer. Fix it!”

“Okay. Let’s step back a bit.”

“I’m fine right where I am,” Bachloss snapped.

“Not what I meant. What is it?”

“The core, I guess. It runs this place.”

“And it’s not working.”

“Not like it used to. We’re down to only four kinds of beer, seven liquors, and light appetizers! And half of the music archives just vanished! My party is being seriously brought down by this thing’s kuop-ups!”

“Uh huh. Gotcha. So you’re holding me hostage until I get this party rockin’ again?”

“Some of us haven’t gotten so old that we’ve forgotten how to let loose.”

“Riiiight,” Porter said. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Bachloss turned to the armed old codger next to him. “If he does anything that even looks wrong, shoot him in the leg.”

“Who did you learn you employee motivational techniques from?” Porter called as Bachloss strode out of the chamber leaving two party people behind to watch over Porter.

“Smartass son of a jumjut,” one of his guards growled.

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” Porter replied, opening his tricorder. “Now I’m going to be walking around the room for a bit to get a look at the situation. Don’t shoot me.”

“That’s up to you.”

“Fine. Then don’t shoot me.”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it.”

“You’re an alien species to me. You’ll have to be more specific with your language,” Porter said as he began strolling around the room with his tricorder.

“I already want to shoot him.”

“I get that a lot, too,” Porter said. His attention was soon focused on the readings coming out of his tricorder. The walls had already struck him as odd, looking as they did like sandstone. Turns out they were actually sandstone. A giant room made of sandstone in a hole in space. He focused his scans on the core or whatever it was. After a few moments, he let out a low whistle.

“What? What does that mean?” the one of the two elderly men holding the phaser demanded, waving the weapon at Porter.

“It’s fine. You guys have a technical background, right?”


“Just hand me that coriatic stabilizer in my case?”


“It’s the long, blinky thing next to the multi-phasic spanner.”


“Across from the nebitzulating embobulator.”


“Can’t you even recognize a undulatorating fringleneffer?”

“You made that up!”

“Did not.”

“Yes, you did!”

“Prove it!”

“I’m warning you!”

“Fine. Hand me the bublisudsorator, and we’ll call it a day.”


“No need to get testy just because you don’t understand engineering.”

Krasadora had leaned in quite close to him now. Of course, Morales couldn’t be sure if she was trying to be intimate or just trying to hear him over the pounding music of the dance floor.

“So Bachloss was the richest guy in your school, huh?”

“Oh yeah. Ever since primary,” Krasadora replied. “He lorded it over all of us all through our schooling, even into University. He could have gone anywhere, but he stayed with us. I think he liked the control.”

“Very likely,” Morales said. “But it sounds like his mom and dad just bought him whatever he wanted. He didn’t earn any of it himself.”

“Why earn it when you can have handed to you on a franita- gilded platter?”

“You’ve got a point.”

“He’s got it so easy.”

“Looks like he took the rest of you along with him, though. You’ve had one long party for most of your lives.”

“Nah. We’ll go home eventually.”

“Where’s home?”

“Induskera. It’s a few systems away from here, but I guess Bachloss’ folks wanted to give him a place away from it all. It’s certainly allowed us to party without any interruptions…at least until you came along. Not that you’re an interruption. I think you make a nice addition to things.”

“Thanks,” Morales said. “But my friend and I can’t stay forever. We have our lives to get back to.”

“We have lives, too!” Krasadora said defensively.

“I know. I know. But…you’ve…been away…longer than you may think…I’m guessing,” Morales said. Before Krasadora could respond, Bachloss, followed by two of his party guests, broke through the dancing crowd and stormed over to Morales.

“There’s the other one.”

“I’m right where you told me to be,” Morales said.

“Not interested,” Bachloss snapped.

“Hi, Bachloss,” Krasadora said with a little wave.

“Yeah. Uh…hi,” Bachloss said, barely glancing at her before continuing with Morales. “Your employee, or whoever he is, is taking care of things for me, which means you’re waiting until he’s done. I don’t need you bringing down the broni of the room, though, so you’re out of here.”

“I’m waiting but I’m out of here?”

“We’ve got a room for you. I’m sure it must be past your bedtime, old man.”

“Doesn’t anybody around here have a mirror?”

“What the nurek is that supposed to mean?”

“Never mind.”

“He says strange things like that sometimes,” Krasadora said.

“Uh huh. Put him to bed, boys,” Bachloss snapped before spinning on his heel and disappearing back into the crowd.

“You’d think he’d know my name by now,” Krasadora muttered as the two seniors accompanying Bachloss each grabbed one of Morales’s arms and yanked him up from his seat.

At least they tried to. Morales watched as both men winced and grabbed for their backs. Suppressing the urge to gloat, he rose from his chair. “I guess I’m going to have to say goodnight, Krasadora. It was nice talking to you.”

“I really enjoyed it, too,” Krasadora replied. “I hope I see you again soon.” There went those eyelashes again. Morales gave her a smile then left with his still wincing escorts confident in the knowledge that if Steph knew what was going on, she’d be laughing her ass off.

At that particular moment, Steph, or rather Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges of the Federation Marine Corps, was moving along the lower concourse of Starfleet Square Mall at a brisk jog in an attempt to catch up with Waystation’s Chief of Security, Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell. She overtook Russell just as he stuffed the last bit of something that looked rather like a burrito into his mouth (actually it was a burrito, but with the number of alien dishes out there, Hodges couldn’t be sure).

“Hey, Sean,” Hodges said.

“Oumph,” Russell replied with a nod.

“Any idea when Walter and Craig are getting back?”

Russell shook his head, “Norp.”

“Is this a problem? Are you guys sure they’re okay?”

“Obbeah.” Russell swallowed hard, disposing of the mass of food in their mouth. “They’re fine,” he said.

“How do you know?”

“We got a signal from a comm buoy they launched before they went to check something out.”

“And you haven’t heard from them since?” Hodges said, getting agitated. “That sounds to me like a problem!”

“Nah. They put out a buoy.”


“So you never get in trouble when you actually remember to put out a buoy. It’s when you don’t launch one that things go to hell.”

“I’m so relieved,” Hodges muttered.

“Glad I could help,” Russell replied with a grin, scooping a fallen dollop of sour cream off the front of his shirt with his finger and popping it in his mouth as he headed off into his office.

Morales was led out of the dance hall (or night club or whatever Bachloss and friends wanted to call it) through a door on the opposite side of the room from the one Porter was taken through. The door deposited him in a long corridor that seemed to stretch out into infinity, which, considering they were not in real space, was actually a possibility. The brooding oldsters behind him gave him a nudge, prodding him down the long wooden hallway. Wait. This place was made of wood? Morales reached his hand out and touched the surface. It sure felt like wood.

The group continued on past door after door after door, each in a different style. One was steel with visible rivets. Another was solid marble with golden accents. Another appeared to be made entirely of stained glass. A set of clear double doors led into an area with a swimming pool. Through another such set of doors, he could make out something that looked like a gymnasium.

“This is quite a place,” Morales said.

“Not for you,” came the clipped response.

“Bachloss’ parents built all this for him?”

One of the men snorted. “We made this.”

“Sounds like a lot of work for a party.”

“Not that kind of made.”

“Then what kind of made do you mean?”

“The kind that doesn’t involve you.” The pair of seniors stopped in front of a featureless wood door that matched the look of the rest of the corridor. They threw open the door revealing a very spartan room containing a twin bed, a desk, and a door leading into what appeared to be a bathroom. “In.”

“What about my friend?” Morales asked.

“He’s working.”

“I need to know that he’s okay.”

“He’ll be fine as long as he keeps working. You guys are going to work for us for a change.”

“You’ve never worked for me, so how could that be a change?”

Morales received a relatively solid shove in response. He allowed himself to be pushed into the room. His escorts slammed the door shut, and he heard the soft whir of a lock sliding into place.

That really wasn’t what he’d had in mind. He’d hoped that he’d be left with a couple of elderly sentries outside his door that he could lull into a false sense of security by doing nothing for about half an hour before leaping out of the room to surprise and overpower them. It would have been a good plan, but Bachloss had to go and do the obvious by locking him in.

Great tactical planning, Morales. Real Captain material.

He sat down on the bed to wait. Bachloss didn’t seem like a patient man. He’d probably send for Morales before too long. An hour at most.

Six hours later, Morales was getting a bit on the tense side. First off, counting seconds, while passing the time, had reached the point of insanity inducing. No one should count up to 21,600 without a good reason. And second, he was starting to worry that Bachloss intended to just stick him into this room and forget about him. Damn irresponsible…old person.

Just as he was near the breaking point and considering what he could use as a battering ram, he heard the lock unlatching and saw the door open slowly. Krasadora slipped inside and closed the door quickly behind her.

“Hi, Walter,” she said sheepishly. “I know this is kind of forward, but I wanted to see you, so I just came by. Is that okay?”

“That’s more than okay,” he said. “I’m glad you’re here. I need your help.”

“I brought you some food,” Krasadora continued, pulling a balled up napkin out from between her cleavage. “It’s only crettel poppers, but that’s all that was left.”

“Um…thanks,” Morales said, taking the proffered napkin and popping a popper into his mouth while trying to forget where it came from. “Hmm…tastes like artichoke.”

“What’s an…”

“Never mind,” Morales said quickly. “Do you know where my friend is being held?”

“Bachloss asked him to fix the core. I guess it’s a core. That’s what Bachloss calls it anyway.”

“Can you take me to him?”

“I don’t know. Bachloss…”

“…is going to hurt my friend and I, and you know it,” Morales said.

“He just seems a bit mean, but really he’s…” Krasadora trailed off.

“He’s the one who still doesn’t know your name. He’s the one who bullied you and all of your friends with his money. He’s the one who has dominated each and every one of you for years. Now that we’re here, he’s moved up to threatening people with weapons. And somebody is going to get hurt unless you help me.”

“Bachloss will kick me out of the party.”

“One quick conversation. Then we’ll come right back.”

“Back to your room?” Krasadora said hopefully.


“Okay. But only a quick one.”

“Absolutely,” Morales said, following Krasadora to the door. He had to get to Porter. After that, he’d worry about how to avoid coming back here with Krasadora and the inevitable awkwardness that would ensue. He’d find a way to let her down easy because even seeing to his and Porter’s safety wasn’t worth…that.

As they approached the door of the core room, Krasadora signaled for Morales to hang back while she checked out the situation. A moment later, she gestured for him to enter but put a finger to her lips in the universally-accepted sign for “be quiet.” He saw why as soon as he stepped into the room: two elderly gentlemen were propped up against a wall, fast asleep. One of said snoozers still had a phaser gripped in his hand.

Morales moved quickly over to Porter, who was busily puttering with various bits of tubing and conduit. “Status,” he said.

“The poor widdle guys just got all tuckered out,” Porter replied.

“And you’re still here?”


“And Grandpa Nappykins still has your phaser?”

“Nappykins,” Porter chuckled. “That’s good.”


“Shhhh!” Krasadora hissed.

“I was busy,” Porter said. “This thing is amazing.”

“What is it?”

“I’m not even really sure. I’ve been able to reroute some burnt out conduit and repair some other bits, though. It’s helping.”

“How can you tell?”

“It’s pulsating faster,” Porter said. “And watch this? Red brick walls.” In an instant, the pale sandstone surrounding them shifted to perfect red brick. “Restore,” Porter said a few moments later.

“It’s like a holodeck?” Morales asked.

“No. That was real brick just as this is real sandstone. I don’t know why whoever built this place wanted to be able to change the walls, but…”

“It’s not just in here,” Morales said, turning to Krasadora. “You can change this place, can’t you? Your rooms, the pool, the dance floor. You all created those, didn’t you?”

“Bachloss lets us do whatever we want in our rooms. The big things he has to approve, though. It’s pretty hygill, don’t you think?”


“It hasn’t been working real well lately, though. We haven’t been able to add anything new in…a while.”

“That’s what Bachloss has me fixing,” Porter said.

“And you’re doing it?” Morales said angrily.

“I wasn’t planning to, but I got carried away.”

“Are these things common on your planet?” Morales asked Krasadora.

“What things?”

“Places like this.”

“Oh no! This is the only one I’ve ever heard of. Maybe there’s some factory making them for rich people like Bachloss’ parents.”

“His parents?” Porter said.

“We’re in Bachloss’ graduation present. He and his friends have been having a party here for…a long time now.”

“Not that long!” Krasadora protested.

“His parents didn’t buy this,” Porter said. “It’s way too old. They must have found it.”

“How old?” Morales said.

“Old. As in millennia.”

“Then who…”

“I have no idea, but whoever they were, they had command of sciences that we’re just starting to understand. The things we could learn from this place…”

“Somehow I don’t think Bachloss is going to let the Federation Science Council start poking around his private party pad,” Morales said.

“Maybe if they brought beer,” Krasadora offered.

“I could go for that,” Porter said.

“It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” Morales said.

“Uh oh. What did you have in mind?”

“You need supplies.”

“I do, huh?”


“And you think Bachloss is just going to let me leave to make a run to the store?”

“No, but he might let me go.”

“Oh. I see. Saving your own ass. That’s fine. Sacrifice Craig. See if I care.”


“I’ll make the request. On the bright side, I really could use some more conduit and plasma regulators.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Morales said.

“There’s more to this plan, isn’t there?”

“Hopefully,” Morales replied. “I’ll let you know. We’d better get out of here, Krasadora.”

“Okay!” Krasadora said eagerly, grabbing Morales’s hand and pulling him toward the door.

“You kids have fun,” Porter said with a wave. Once they were gone, he casually strolled over to the snoozing seniors “guarding” him, leaned down quietly, and…


The two older men jolted and scrambled back to their feet (in all honesty, it was a pretty long and pained scramble).

“What are you doing?” the phaser-wielding one demanded. “Trying to give us heart attacks?”

“Crossed my mind, but no. I need some things.”

“What kinds of things?”

“Things that we need to talk to your boss about.”

“He’s not our boss.”

“Yeah whatever.”

“What do you call this again?”


“Really? It feels like we’re just sitting here,” Krasadora said.

“It’s all part of how my people get in the mood,” Morales replied from his position on the far side of the room from her.

“How much longer do I have to stand in this corner?”

“As long as it takes.”

“For what?”

“Never mind,” Morales said, slinking a bit farther back into his corner. Krasadora wouldn’t go for this forever, but he just needed her to follow along until…

The door suddenly burst open as Bachloss charged into the room.

Until right now.

Bachloss’ eyes immediately locked on Krasadora. “What are you doing in here?”

“I was trying to mate,” she pouted, crossing her arms with a huff.

“With him?” Bachloss said, pointing at Morales. He started laughing. “Groax, you’re pathetic.”

“What do you want?” Morales said, stepping between Bachloss and Krasadora.

“Your friend says he needs parts.”


“And we don’t have them here, so you’re going to go get them.”

“I am?” Morales said, trying to sound surprised.

“Don’t get excited. Normally, I’d leave you here until you rotted the rest of the way, but your buddy’s actually made some progress. The beer-bongerator is working again, and we’ve got ventar puffs back on the bar menu.”

“Ventar puffs!” Krasadora exclaimed, clapping her hands. “Sorry, Walter. I need to go. Ventar puffs!” She dashed past Morales and Bachloss and took off down the corridor.

“Nice lady,” Morales remarked.

“Yeah whatever,” Bachloss said. “Now here’s the deal. You go, you get the stuff, and you come back. Otherwise your pal dies.”

“You’re not sending somebody with me?”

“And leave the party? Are you pracked? But don’t get any ideas. You’d better not run back to your people and bring a bunch of reinforcements.”

“I could always just go get the stuff from your planet. None of my people are there.”

“Yeah. You do that. But no shooting up the place.”

“Why don’t I take your ship? No weapons on that. And it’d be less suspicious anyway.”

“Damn right it would,” Bachloss said. “You take my ship, you go to my planet, you get the stuff, and you come back. Got it?”

“Got it,” Morales said. “But you will not harm Lieutenant Commander Porter while I’m gone.”

“Harm him? If he figures out how to get the dulourk flowing again, I’m giving him a full-time job here.”

“Anything?” Stephanie Hodges asked, taking a seat across from Russell, who was currently enjoying an Andorian breakfast burrito on a stick from Soup on a Stick. Fearing the competition from McBaughb’s while also wanting to expand into other mealtimes, the proprietor of Soup on a Stick, a particularly flighty Yridian named Vobrash, had begun offering his own version of McBaughb’s breakfast fare…on a stick. It hadn’t caught on yet, so he’d offered Russell a complimentary sample, hoping to use the Chief of Security as a bit of free advertising. If people saw Russell eating his food, they might decide to forego McBaughb’s.

“Well?” Hodges said, impatiently waiting for the narrator to get back to the actual narrative.

“This isn’t too bad,” Russell said, considering his meal.

“Sean, please don’t incite me to violence this early in the morning.”

“We haven’t heard anything.”

“And this doesn’t concern you.”


“Shut up about the damn buoy.”

“I’m telling you, they’re fine.”

“I’ll go talk to Lisa.”

“You can’t get to her because she’s in with the D’Ceti delegation all day.”

Hodges scowled. “I was hoping you didn’t know about that.”

“Why else would you be talking to me?” Russell replied.

“Fine, but if we don’t hear from them today, I’m going after them myself.”

“If we haven’t heard anything by dinner, I’ll go with you.”

“Deal. Where did you get that anyway?”

“Soup on a Stick.”

“Hmm…looks pretty good. I may have to head that way.”

And thus Vobrash’s clever plan netted him another customer.

Before Morales was even completely out of the hatchway of his borrowed vessel, Bachloss had stormed into the docking bay, phaser-wielding elderly lackeys in tow (Although it was obvious they were having a hard time keeping up with their leader. He was pretty spry for a guy his age.).

“Took you long enough,” Bachloss groused.

“I had a long shopping list,” Morales replied. That’s when his first surprise stepped off of the transport ship.

“Who is this?” Bachloss demanded.

“I thought the party need some new blood. This is Neeror,” Morales said, gesturing to the Induskeran teenager who’d just emerged from the craft. “I ran into her while I was getting the stuff on the list and told her about the party. She brought a few friends.” On cue, five more Induskeran teens stepped out of the ship. The group glanced around the docking bay.

“Looks like a dump,” Neeror muttered.

“You haven’t seen my real party yet,” Bachloss said, stiffening.

“Your party,” Neeror scoffed. “Please.”

“It’s right though there,” Morales offered helpfully, pointing the teens toward the door. “I’ll just get the stuff out of the back.”

Bachloss led the teens deeper into the complex, declaring all the while that they were about to experience the ultimate party in the galaxy. Morales gave him about thirty seconds, scooped up a crate, then wandered into the dance hall just in time to hear…

“LAME? MY PARTY IS NOT LAME!!!” Bachloss bellowed.

“Watch it, gramps,” one of Neeror compatriots said. “You’re going to give yourself a stroke.”

“Who are you calling gramps?”

“And where did you get this music?” another teen critic moaned. “My parents wouldn’t even listen to this grelp.”

Neeror rolled her eyes. “This place nureking krells.”

“Totally krells,” her companions agreed.

“Is that good?” Bachloss asked.

“Haven’t you keeled over yet?” Neeror said.

Whispers were already spreading through Bachloss’s party attendees. “Krells?” “Does this krell?” “Oh yeah. I always thought it krelled.” “What the nurek are we doing at this lame party?”

“Come on,” Neeror said. “We can still get back in time for the thing at Oloca’s tonight.”

“Yeah. That’s going to fraip!” one of the other teens said excitedly.

“I wanna go to the party that fraips!” one of the phaser-wielding elders whined, shoving his phaser into the crate in Morales’s hands.

“The ship heading home is right back through there,” Morales said, stepping out of the way as a torrent of people, young and decidedly not, flowed by, ignoring Bachloss’ demands that they stay. The second phaser was unceremoniously dumped into his crate just before Krasadora approached.

“I hope I see you there,” she said then planted a deep kiss on Morales.

“Uh…maybe,” Morales croaked as Krasadora continued on. In moments, Morales and Bachloss where the only ones left in the room.

“Did I miss something?” Porter asked, entering the room from the direction of the core room.

“I think the party’s over,” Morales said.

“NO!” Bachloss screamed. “This is my party! MINE! MINE! They can’t leave. I told them to stay! They have to listen to me.”

“You don’t own them anymore,” Morales said.

“Not that you ever did,” Porter replied.

“Actually, he kind of did,” Morales said. “I did some checking while I was on Induskera. Turns out Bachloss’ parents basically bought the others by paying off their parents. That was almost 65 years ago.”

“Sixty-five years!” Bachloss exclaimed.

“I know that’s got to be a shock to you.”

“Shock? It’s got to be a record! A 65 year party! How is that teeny-grobber twit going to beat that? They’ll see whose party krells. They’ll be back. I know it!”

“They can’t come back,” Porter said.

“They can. And they will!”

“There won’t be anything to come back to,” Porter said. “The core was too far gone. My repairs aren’t holding, and the whole thing in about to go into a cascade failure. In less than 20 minutes, the core is going to shut down and the subspace pocket is going to collapse on itself. If you’re still here, you’ll be killed…in a really nasty way. Subspace sheers will stretch you and shred you until nothing is left but bloody strips of flesh that will then be stretched and shredded some more, and with the time dilation effects, you’ll probably feel every bit of it.”

“Wait!” Bachloss cried, racing toward the docking bay. “Don’t leave me!”

Morales and Porter strolled into the docking behind Bachloss as he disappeared into the Induskeran transport ship, which took off seconds later, speeding through the gateway to normal space.

“What did you do to get the others to leave?” Porter asked.

“Brought teenagers. Bachloss had power while he was considered wealthy and cool. As soon as he lost that cool, though, the others fled him like he was…”

“A leper?”

“Yep,” Morales said.

“And you planned that all along.”

“Sure. No. Actually, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I thought maybe I could get some useful information on Induskera. Then some teenagers walked by and snickered at my uniform.”

“They snickered? No. How dare they.”

“You’re telling me. It gave me the idea, though. I’m glad it worked considered the situation here. Come on. I’ll help you gather your tools, and we can get out of here before it collapses.”

“No rush,” Porter said.

Morales stared at him for a moment. “The core is fine, isn’t it?”

“Of course it is. I was working on it,” Porter replied. “But I wasn’t about to leave this place in the hands of the ancient party animal. We don’t know who made it, what it’s for, or what else it can do.”

“Let’s go.”

“But the discoveries!”

“You can come back later. We left a buoy.”

“No! We take the buoy. It’s advertising the location of this place to everybody. Damn things are useless!”

“Okay. No buoy. But we’re going home now.”

“Yes, sir,” Porter said. “I’ll go get my tools.”

“What are you going to call this thing?” Morales asked.

“Ummm…the artificial subspace pocket in sector…”

“What about the Space Lodge?”

“Space Lodge? Are you serious?”

“I like it.”

“Space Lodge,” Porter muttered, shaking his head as he left the room.

“First Officer’s Log. Stardate 58387.6. With the comm buoy removed, the location of the Space Lodge should remain a secret from anyone passing by. We’ve told the residents of Hauser Colony not to worry about it, and that seems to be enough for them. Such a nice bunch of people. Lieutenant Commander Porter will be coordinating with Starfleet Sciences and the Federation Science Council to continue the investigation of the Space Lodge.”

“You couldn’t come up with anything better than Space Lodge?” Stephanie Hodges asked Morales over dinner that evening in the Double D Diner.

“I like it. It’s…”

“…incredibly dumb?”

“I thought it had a bit of romantic mystery to it.”

“Like my interest in you?” Hodges asked with a glint in her eye.

“Something like that,” Morales said, leaning in a bit closer to her.

“Too bad I’m losing you to the competition.”

“Steph! She was like 70 years old!”

“Uh huh. Sure she was. I bet you still remember her kiss.”

“Unfortunately,” Morales muttered.

“Well…maybe I can forgive you.”

“That’s awfully sweet of you,” Morales said. “You know, I thought about you a lot while I was gone.”

“Really? What were you thinking about?”

Morales looked across the table at the woman he loved, stared deeply into her eyes…

…and completely chickened out.

“Just about how much I love you,” he said.

“I love you, too,” Hodges replied with a warm smile. “And I’m glad you’re back. I was getting worried, but Russell kept talking about…”

“…the damn buoy. Yes, I know. That’s the last time I launch one of those things.”

“Glad to hear it…I think.” Steph’s gaze drifted from Morales to the mall concourse outside the diner. “Um…are we missing something?”

Morales followed her look. Sure enough, there seemed to be a lot of people scurrying about. “Morales to Ops,” he said, slapping his commbadge. “Are we having a crisis or something?”

“Not that I know of,” Captain Lisa Beck’s voice replied. “The Republicrats are about to announce their candidate.”

“Maybe that’s it. Thanks. Morales out.” He looked to Hodges. “Want to go up to Ops and see who they picked?”

“Sure,” Hodges said, following Morales out of the restaurant, where they were almost immediately run over by a Tellarite family, who mumbled something about being sorry and needing to get to a holovision.

“Nice to see so many people interested in the political process,” Morales said.

“Um…yeah,” Hodges said. They stepped into the nearest turbolift and took the quick ride up to Ops. As they emerged into Waystation’s command center, the chairman of the Republicrat party, Abraham Carter, was just wrapping up his speech on the viewscreen.

“…but these are unusual times, so we have foregone our usual primary process…”

“Because they were waiting for Bradley to join them,” Captain Beck said as she languidly rested against the science and operations console.

“…and nominated our candidate directly.”

“In a move chock full of last-minute panicked desperation,” Lieutenant Commander Porter added from his post on the other side of the console.

“…Now, ladies, gentlemen, and others, it is my great honor to introduce to you…”

“I can see movement,” Lieutenant Commander Russell said. “Who is that?”

“I can’t tell,” Beck said. “I’m just seeing a bobbing hair bun.”

“So it’s a woman,” Russell said.

“…the Republicrat nominee…”

“Not necessarily,” Beck said.

“Look at her height,” Russell protested.

“You haven’t met some of the men I’ve dated,” Beck said.

“…for President of the United Federation of Planets…”

“Wait. I can see now. Is that?”

“Oh Great Bird. It can’t be.”


Tags: Waystation