Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“Fraternizing With The Enemy”
By Alan Decker
“Would you please stop pacing?” Federation President Bradley Dillon asked, looking across his desk at his campaign manger, Donna Lymon, who was currently attempting to wear a hole through his hand-woven Antaran rugs to the metal deck plating below.
“Maybe you can relax, but I can’t. Not with those numbers,” Lymon shot back.
Bradley raised the padd again and looked over the polling data Lymon had presented to him (well, shoved into his hands really) when she’d stormed into his office a few minute prior. He was really going to have to ask Gisele to keep Lymon out unless she was in a calmer mood.
In her defense, though, the numbers weren’t exactly good. Bradley’s commanding lead of a few months ago had long-since evaporated. When Kathryn Janeway entered the race, Bradley took a serious hit, but after he missed their first debate several weeks ago, things had gone downhill quickly. In that moment, Janeway got a public forum all to herself, an opportunity she had capitalized on admirably. Bradley, meanwhile, looked, at best, overconfident in his own prospects for re-election, or, at worst, scared to face Janeway.
Nothing could be further from the truth. He just had a more pressing duty to attend to.
“If you hadn’t made us turn around,” Lymon said, her thoughts evidently moving down a similar path as Bradley’s.
“I don’t regret what I did.”
“Throwing the election away, so you could mount an ill- advised rescue of some nobody Starfleet Officer? Fine. Don’t regret it. I’ve got enough regret for both of us,” Lymon said.
She stopped pacing suddenly as a thought struck her. “We could use this.”
“Ms. Lymon,” Bradley began.
“Just hold on. I should have thought of this right after it happened. We’ll hold a press conference. Better yet, an exclusive interview. Reporters love those things. We’ll get you and what’s her name here.”
“Yeah. Her. We’ll get you two together to tell what really happened.”
“Absolutely not,” Bradley said.
“We’ll get a ton of sympathy, plus the heroism, and probably put a dent in the Starfleet vote situation.”
“I said NO!” Bradley shouted, slamming his fist on his desk. He quickly calmed himself. “I will not have Tina Jones dragged into this as some kind of…publicity stunt. I did what I did for personal reasons. They’re not the business of the rest of the quadrant.”
“Do you want to win this election or not?”
“We’ll win it. But not that way.”
“At this point, I’m open to suggestions,” Lymon said.
Bradley steepled his fingers and leaned back in his chair. “I don’t have any, I’m afraid.”
Lymon opened her mouth to retort, but Bradley continued on before she could. “Yet,” he said. “And I stress, yet. I refuse to believe that the universe would be so capricious as to punish me for assisting a friend in need.”
Lymon snorted. “What universe have you been living in?” she muttered.
Colonel Martin Lazlo of the Federation Marines gave his all to the Corps and fully intended to be a marine until the day he died. As such, he literally ate, breathed, and slept the Corps. As far as he was concerned, he put the “professional” in “professional solider.” Still, like anyone else, he had moments when he needed to unwind. Usually ordering his troops around in a drill or a visit to the shooting range was enough to relax him. There were times, though, such as this evening, when even that wasn’t enough.
The pressure had been building for months now. Years even. It was the curse of peacetime. Now even he wasn’t crazy enough to wish for war, but some kind of localized conflict wouldn’t be so bad, would it?
When he was assigned to Waystation years earlier, he was certain that such dust-ups would be a frequent occurrence. This was the frontier, after all. The edge of the unknown with countless hostile species just waiting to cause trouble. He and his Marines would be constantly called upon to protect Federation citizens from these terrible threats.
Only the threats never materialized.
Sure there was the occasional problem, but the last big threat was the Collectors almost three years earlier. Since then, their foes had been balls of fur, nanite-possessed furniture, and paintball gun-wielding Multeks.
Okay, there was the Romulan takeover, but he’d been unconscious for that one.
And the incident with the residents seizing control of the station.
The less said about that one, the better.
Thinking about it all, Lazlo had been led to one inescapable conclusion. His dangerous frontier was gone. There would be no constant parade of threats to the safety and security of the Federation. The Collectors were gone, and the Multeks were now running one of the hottest vacation destinations in the known galaxy.
As much as it pained him to admit it, he and his platoon were smack dab in the middle of civilization.
If that wasn’t a good reason to be tense, he didn’t know what was.
And he only knew one cure for this kind of tension: Basketball.
So with ball in hand (well, not really in hand. He was dribbling), he strolled around the deck assigned to the Federation Marines looking for a few good men and women to join him in an invigorating game of hoops in the rec room.
What he found instead were a lot of empty barracks (Truth be told, Lazlo felt that the cushy accommodations provided to Federation Marines were something of an insult to the word “barracks.” To him, barracks meant communal living in spartan conditions conducive to the constant state of readiness required to be the Federation’s first line of defense. A long time ago, though, the higher-ups at HQ had decided that barracks now meant semi- private quarters with their own bathrooms. Today’s marines had to deal with the “hardship” of a roommate.).
Back to the empty barracks, well, they were empty. All of them. Before Lazlo could wonder about the situation too much, one of the marines actually on duty that night turned the corner at the end of the corridor as he made his way through his evening patrols.
“Copeland!” Lazlo called.
“Yes, sir!” Copeland said, racing up to his commanding officer. “Corporal Copeland reporting as ordered, SIR!” Copeland was still beaming about his promotion to corporal a couple of months earlier and made a point to announce his rank whenever the opportunity presented itself. Considering that Copeland had spent almost a decade as a private, Lazlo almost couldn’t blame him. Almost. Mostly he just thought it was annoying.
“Where the hell is everyone?” Lazlo asked instead of acknowledging Copeland’s exuberance.
“Which everyone is that, sir?” Copeland asked.
“This may come as news to you, Copeland, but there are many many people who live on this deck. They are called marines. Believe it or not, YOU are one of them. Now, do you have any idea where the others are?”
“The evening patrol squad all reported in at the beginning of our duty shift,” Copeland said, “so I imagine they’re around.”
“What about all those other fine people who are not on duty this evening?”
“I don’t know. The places people usually go when they’re not on duty. The mall. The Gravity Well. Victoria’s.”
“Do you know where I spend my off hours, Copeland?”
“Yes. Here! We have exercise and recreation facilities. We have training areas. We have everything I need.”
“Yes, sir, but you’re…you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lazlo snapped.
“Well…we…I mean, some people…relax differently than you.”
“You know how I want to relax? I want to play some basketball, but there’s not a single person here that I can play with. And don’t suggest yourself! You’re on duty. I need players, and my marines are all off cavorting who knows where!”
“You could use a holodeck. Make your own players.”
“I DON’T WANT TO USE A HOLODECK!”
“Yes, sir,” Copeland squeaked.
“Dismissed!” Lazlo shouted, then stormed off down the corridor, leaving a relieved Copeland to return to his patrol. Lazlo, meanwhile, was far from relieved. Something was very wrong with his troops. He was sure of it. And he was just as certain that all of this civilization around them was the cause of it.
They needed to be reminded of what truly mattered in their lives, and what mattered at the moment was his basketball game.
How could anyone turn that down?
While she knew that chunks in the water were part of the authentic Andorian ambiance provided by the Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet Andorian restaurant, Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges just couldn’t adjust to the idea.
“That’s why I order my water without chunks,” Captain Lisa Beck said from her seat across the table from Hodges as Hodges spooned another large gray block out onto her napkin.
“And you call yourself a fan of Andorian food,” Hodges said.
“Even I have my limits,” Beck said. She took another sip of her chunk-free water and chuckled.
“Nothing. I was just remembering the lunches we used to have at Dougherty’s. I think we divvied up the entire male population of the school in that place.”
“Hey. Those were important lunches. We had to make sure we didn’t poach each other’s prospects.”
“Yeah. That turned out so well.”
“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” Hodges said.
“I’m glad you could make it tonight, Steph. We don’t get to do this enough.”
“Well considering some slave-driving captain has my boyfriend trapped in Ops running things for her tonight, I had some free time.”
“How lucky for me,” Beck said. “Things going okay with you two?”
“Fine,” Hodges replied. “I’m still having a good time, and I’m pretty sure Walter is too.”
“I’m not hearing any complaints…not that he talks about you in Ops. That’s just not him. Good thing you’ve got a big mouth, or I wouldn’t know anything that was going on between you.”
“We’ve really got to get you another boyfriend. You’re spending way too much time watching other people’s lives instead of having one of your own.”
“My life is plenty busy, thank you very much,” Beck said.
“Oh yeah. I’m sure the constant mind-numbing bureaucracy of running this place sends you home every night feeling complete and content.”
“After last year, I’ll take mind-numbing for a little while. That was way too much drama for my tastes.”
“Uh huh,” Hodges replied flatly. Beck was about to ask just what that tone was supposed to mean when she realized that Hodges was currently staring out the windows of the restaurant toward the lower concourse of Starfleet Square Mall.
“Steph? What is it?”
“Lazlo? He’s here?” Beck asked surprised. Sure enough, Colonel Martin Lazlo was currently passing by the restaurant. “I didn’t think he liked the mall.”
“He doesn’t. It’s too…civilian. But the more important question here is what the hell is he wearing?”
“Yeah, those are some short shorts. And some really hairy legs. It’s like each knee has its very own mustache.”
“The tank-top isn’t helping matters.”
“It’s certainly an interesting fashion choice. Should we go see if he’s okay?” Beck asked.
“Definitely not,” Hodges said. “I’m off duty. And I swear, if you call him in here, I’ll…do something nasty. I don’t know what yet, but it won’t be pleasant!”
“Your affection for your commanding officer is touching.”
“And how much affection do you have for my commanding officer?”
“Point taken,” Beck said, covering her face with her menu. “Let me know when he’s gone.”
“No way. You’re not leaving me out in the open like this,” Hodges said, quickly flipping up her own menu.
They were silent for several moments, hiding behind their respective menus.
“Think he’s gone yet?” Hodges asked finally.
“Probably,” Beck said. She lowered her menu slightly so she could see out. “Yep. All clear.”
“Good,” Hodges said, putting her menu back down on the table.
“Nice to see we’ve got this maturity thing down pat,” Beck replied as their waiter approached to take their orders.
Despite Lieutenant Hodges’ fears, Colonel Lazlo didn’t so much as glance into the Andorian restaurant, so she had no chance of being spotted. Quite frankly, Lazlo was a little freaked out by Ih’mad and his cohorts, not that he would ever admit that to anyone. It was their whole fascination with flamethrowers. That was just…wrong.
He continued past the restaurant, completely unaware of the looks his workout clothes were getting on the mall concourse (not that he would have cared anyway). His marines were around here somewhere, wasting their time shopping and eating and…
Lazlo didn’t want to believe what he was seeing, but there it was right in front of him. Sergeant Dawn Sheppard was skating hand-in-hand with some man and looking more like a smitten schoolgirl than a highly-trained member of the Federation’s most elite military force.
She was missing a basketball game for this?
“Sheppard!” Lazlo shouted, striding up to the edge of the hover-rink. He caught more than one skater off guard. A second later, half of the patrons were flat on their backs, their feet still floating in their hover-skates.
Sheppard and her male companion managed to stay upright and glided over to Lazlo’s position. “Is there a problem, sir?”
“Get the skates off. I’m putting a game together.”
“Yeah. Let’s go.”
“Um…I’m on a date here.”
“Basketball,” Lazlo replied as though that was all that needed to be said.
“I think I’ll pass, sir. Thank you for the invitation, though.”
Lazlo glared at her. “You’re saying no.”
“I have plans.”
“With this guy?” Lazlo said.
“Ensign Brendan Shust, Colonel,” Sheppard’s date said, extending his hand for Lazlo to shake. The colonel declined the offer.
“Sergeant, are you aware that your date is…Starfleet?”
“The uniform he had on when we first met did tip me off.”
“Don’t get smart with me, Sheppard.”
“Sorry, sir. I’ll be getting back to my date now.”
Lazlo gave a dismissive wave then stormed off.
Sheppard was dating a Starfleeter? What was going on with his marines? Had he taught them nothing?
Sure Stephanie Hodges was seeing Commander Walter Morales, but Hodges had been trouble from the start. Pilots usually were. Lazlo had written her off from the moment he discovered she and Captain Beck were old friends.
But Sheppard? She was always so disciplined. A model marine.
Suddenly he’d completely lost his urge to play basketball.
Disgusted, he stormed into the nearest turbolift and went back to the marines’ deck. Back to where things made sense.
She’d been a bit of a pig tonight, but Captain Beck couldn’t pass it up when Ih’mad got in a fresh shipment of yaxxik lung. As a result of her overindulgence, though, she was feeling a wee bit on the bloated side. It was nothing a post-meal stroll around the mall couldn’t fix. Besides, when she’d walked enough of dinner off, she and Steph Hodges could grab some dessert in the food court.
Hodges, meanwhile, was also looking forward to the idea of dessert in the food court…mainly to get the taste of whatever the hell she’d just eaten out of her mouth. Time after time she let Beck talk her into giving Andorian another try, and she had yet to find something that she actually liked. On the upside, tonight’s selection had not induced instant vomiting, so she was making progress.
“I’m not picking up another show,” Beck said as she and Hodges made their way along the upper concourse of Starfleet Square Mall. “I don’t have time. How do you have time? I didn’t think Lazlo let you guys sit around and watch holovision.”
“Walter records it for me,” Hodges replied. “And you’ve got to watch. You’d love it.”
“Uh huh. A bunch of people stranded on a planet.”
“And it’s not a game show?”
“No! The planet is weird, and there’s some kind of monster we can’t see, and there’s the Them! The Them are great!”
“I don’t think so, Steph.”
“You’re missing out. Most of the quadrant is watching this show.”
“I’d just be lost.”
“The show is called Misplaced.”
“Whatever. I just don’t have any interest in getting involved in a long-term series that’s… What? What is it now?” Beck asked. Hodges was staring off into the distance again. Beck followed her gaze down the concourse, but couldn’t figure out what had her friend’s attention. If it was Lazlo again, he was hiding well. She couldn’t see anything but the usual crowd of mall patrons.
“Steph,” Beck said.
Captain Beck did as she was told, but she still wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be looking at. She did quickly realize that someone else had spotted her. An elegantly-dressed older woman (who looked damn good for her age, Beck had to admit) and her much-younger male companion approached. Hodges was practically quivering at this point.
“Do you need to go to the Infirmary?” Beck whispered.
“Are you blind?” Hodges hissed back.
By this point, the woman was upon them, extending her hand to Beck. “You must be Captain Beck. I’ve heard so much about you, and I wanted to let you know how much I’ve enjoyed my visits to your station.”
“Thank you, ma’am. That’s very kind of you to say,” Beck replied.
“Call me Lusenkia please. No formalities are necessary.”
Lusenkia, Beck thought. As in Lusenkia Dekelina, owner of the Velvane Corporation, the largest cosmetics company in the known galaxy, or so Bradley Dillon’s assistant, Gisele, had claimed when she’d explained to Beck who Ms. Dekelina was a few months earlier. Lusenkia Dekelina was one of the ‘leisure class’ types who now docked their yachts in Docking Bay Eight. Or what used to be Docking Bay Eight. Now it was called Waypoint Harbor and had been redecorated into a hotspot for rich people with too much time on their hands.
“Thank you, Lusenkia, then. I hope you continue to enjoy your time here.” She turned to Lusenkia’s companion. “And you as well,” she added, finally focusing on the man’s features. That face.
“Thank you, Captain. Oh, I’m being rude. Arthur Mills.” He shook her hand, but Beck was too distracted to notice. That voice…
Hodges was suddenly yanking on the back of her uniform. “We need to get dessert. Now.”
“Uh huh,” Beck said, pulling her eyes off of Arthur Mills, a man who she was absolutely certain she knew. But when she’d known him, his name was Banyon Kovacs, and he was with Starfleet Intelligence, which meant…
“We have to go,” Beck said quickly.
“For dessert,” Hodges added. “It’s a…sugar deficiency.”
“Yes. Absolutely,” Beck said. “Nasty condition. She gets ugly if she doesn’t get sugar every few hours. Oh, it’s happening already. Gotta run.” She grabbed Hodges’ sleeve and dashed off down the concourse.
“She gets ugly?” Hodges said when they were out of earshot.
“It was the best I could do,” Beck said, resisting the urge to look back. “Was that him?”
“It had to be,” Hodges said.
“You saw him for a few days seven years ago. How can you be sure?”
“Hey, you saw a lot more of him than I did. All of him actually. Multiple times. What do you think?”
“It’s him,” Beck said.
“So what are you going to do?”
“I’m not doing anything,” Beck said. “We had two weeks of fun a bunch of years ago, and I haven’t seen or talked to him since. Why would I do anything?”
“Because he’s here.”
“And on assignment. Unless you think Arthur Mills is his real name.”
“Hell of a lot more believable than Banyon Kovacs.”
“Fine. I’ll give you that one. But it doesn’t change the situation. I am not doing anything. Period,” Beck said.
She wasn’t doing anything all right…including sleeping. Why was seeing Banyon Kovacs again bothering her so much? They’d had a fling, just a two-week fling, seven years ago. She’d helped him get a valuable item…okay, it was a bowling trophy, back from the Orion Syndicate while she was on a ski vacation with Steph. Thanks to the whole Orion Syndicate thing, the skiing on Sargonis was cut short in favor of spending time on Starbase 78 not being killed.
Still Beck remembered the time fondly, but that was no reason for her to be losing sleep over Kovacs’ sudden appearance on the station. She tried to tell herself that she was just concerned about his presence because of his line of work. Generally having Starfleet Intelligence officers running around was a bad thing. Maybe. For all she knew, she had Starfleet Intel people on board all the time. As a rule, they didn’t announce that they were there. Except for that Dallas woman with the fish-guy for a partner, but then she seemed to have issues.
The Starfleet Intel thing was just a distraction, though. Beck was thinking about Banyon Kovacs for one reason and one reason only.
She was lonely.
Not lonely in the traditional sense, mind you. She had lots of friends on the station, and she spent most of her time both on and off duty with them. What she’d been missing from her life was any sort of romantic entanglements. Hmm…that made it sound so…formal. And really she wasn’t even sure that she wanted a full-on relationship. Her two years with Phillip Harper had been nice enough, but there were certainly aspects of that time that she didn’t miss. Since their break-up almost three years ago (Had it been that long?), Beck just hadn’t had any inclination to get deeply involved with anyone…or involved at all really.
Granted, there had been an encounter here and there (one of which had been unplanned and almost destroyed a friendship), but for the most part she’d been focusing her attention on running Waystation. Maybe this tension at seeing Banyon Kovacs was just her sign that it was time to get back out there. She was more than just a Starfleet captain, after all. The rest of her would like some attention, too.
She rolled over in bed. Tomorrow night she would go to The Gravity Well and see who was out there. Right now, though, she needed to get some sleep. Otherwise, she would be too tired to even make it to the station dance club tomorrow night. Sleep. That would take care of things.
So why wasn’t she sleeping?
And why was her door chime now sounding?
Beck climbed out of bed, grabbed a robe to throw over her t-shirt and shorts, and padded out into her living room in her bare feet to answer the door. She didn’t know who would be at her door at this hour, but she knew it would be foolish to hope that it would be Banyon Kovacs.
Even so she couldn’t prevent herself from hoping for just that.
And for once such pointless hoping was answered as she opened the door to her quarters.
“May I come in,” Banyon Kovacs said.
“I don’t know,” Beck replied. “I just met Arthur Mills, and I don’t usually let strange people into my quarters.” Even as she said this, she was standing aside so Kovacs could enter.
“Well?” Beck asked once the door was closed and they were alone.
“Right to the explanations, huh?” Kovacs said.
“Actually, I was hoping for a proper hello, since you seem to be acknowledging that you know me now.”
“I’m sorry about that, but I couldn’t say anything in front of Lusenkia. If she had any idea that…”
“Just say ‘hello.’ That’s all I’m asking.”
Kovacs smiled. “Hello, Lisa.”
“Hi, Banyon. Or is it Arthur?”
“For now, call me Arthur. Get yourself into the habit.”
“Is that your real name?”
“I’m on assignment.”
“You were on an assignment when you met me. Is Banyon your real name?”
“I didn’t come here to argue with you, Lisa.”
Beck stopped herself and shook her head. “I know. I’m sorry. I just…I didn’t expect to see you again. Certainly not here.”
“It’s where the job brought me,” Kovacs said with a shrug. “Not that I mind. You look…fantastic.”
“Does Ms. Dekelina know that you’re out and about?” Beck said, taking a step toward him.
“She’s a sound sleeper,” Kovacs replied, wrapping his arms around her.
“And why do you know that?”
“She’s my assignment.”
“Does she know that?”
“Of course not.”
“So she thinks you’re her what? Manservant? Traveling companion? Boyfriend?” Beck could see the answer on Kovacs face as she reached “boyfriend.”
“She has allowed me to get close,” he said.
“Why?” Beck said, pulling away from him.
“She thinks I love her.”
“No. Why are you close to her?”
“I can’t tell you that, Lisa. I’m sorry.”
“The hell you can’t! This is my station. If there’s a threat, I need to know about it!”
“There is no threat to your station. I swear.”
“And I’m just supposed to accept that?”
“You trust me, don’t you? I’ve never lied to you.”
“The bowling trophy.”
“Hey! I didn’t lie about that.”
“You said the thing was important!”
“It was! Why are we arguing about this?” Kovacs snapped
“What are you doing here?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“No. Here! In my quarters. Why did you come here?”
“I wanted to see you.”
“You’re on assignment, and I’m not going to be a distraction. You have to go be in love with Lusenkia Dekelina.”
“Is that a ‘get out’?” Kovacs asked.
Beck didn’t respond. She just tightened her robe.
Kovacs nodded. “I’ll see you around, Captain,” he said, then headed out the door.
As soon as he was gone, Beck slumped down on her couch, drained and exhausted. That…that was horrible. What the hell had she just done there? She’d been hoping to see him, and then, when he shows up on her doorstep, she blasts the crap out of him. Well, she’d pretty much ensured he wouldn’t be trying to spend any more time with her on this trip.
Frankly, at the moment, she didn’t even want to spend time with herself.
What was she thinking?
Beck barely looked up from her coffee at the source of the voice. “Morning ain’t getting any better.”
“Ah. I see you still have some sort of issue with me,” Bradley Dillon said, taking the seat across from her at her table in the Beanus Coffee Hut as his Special Secret Section agents took up positions around them. “I thought we were past that.”
“I don’t get past the extermination of a sentient race that quickly,” Beck said.
“I am not going to rehash the nanite situation with you, Captain.”
“What do you want?”
“Nothing really. I was out for a stroll and stopped in for a coffee.”
“Gotta get those public appearances in.”
“If that’s how you choose to see it,” Bradley said, taking a sip of the latte he’d ordered as he leaned back in his chair.
“Okay. I’ll try again. What do you want from me?” Beck asked now that it was abundantly clear that Bradley wasn’t going anywhere.
“Since you brought it up, I do have question,” Bradley said.
“Why do many people prefer Kathryn Janeway to me?”
“Because they know you,” Beck muttered.
Bradley opened his mouth to respond to her retort, then froze as a thought struck him. “Yes!” he exclaimed suddenly. “You’re absolutely right. Thank you, Captain! You’ve been incredibly helpful.” He practically leapt up from his seat and rushed out of the coffee shop.
Beck wasn’t exactly sure what was so helpful about her sarcasm, but she didn’t have much time to think about it before Steph Hodges settled into the chair Bradley had recently vacated.
“Rough night?” Hodges asked.
“Why do people keep asking me that?”
“You obviously haven’t seen yourself this morning. What happened?”
“Couldn’t sleep,” Beck said. “I kept thinking about Banyon, and then he came by.”
“Oh, he did, did he?” Hodges said with a grin. “That explains the exhaustion.”
“Not really. I threw him out.”
“I can’t explain it, Steph. He was there. We were talking. And suddenly I flipped out. Okay, he’s here on an assignment that I don’t know about, but that was no reason for… I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I screwed it up. He left, and I spent the rest of the night on the sofa. I just didn’t have the energy to crawl back to bed.”
“What? Why aren’t you saying anything?” Beck said.
“What do you want me to say?”
“That I’m an idiot. I’m crazy. I drove him away for no good reason. Something. What are you thinking?”
“No. Lie to me. Yes, honestly.”
“He got close, and you got scared.”
“I’m not scared of him.”
“Now you’re being an idiot. That’s not what I meant,” Hodges said irritated.
“I know,” Beck replied quietly.
“You like him. You liked him seven years ago more than you wanted to admit. Especially to yourself. And after what happened with Phillip…”
“That was mutual.”
“That doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt like hell. I know it did. And you don’t want to go down that path again with someone else that you really like, so you weren’t going to give Banyon a chance to get close. That’s what I think anyway.”
“Remind me not to ask you anymore,” Beck said.
“So are you going to get over your hang-ups and go fix it?” Hodges asked.
“I don’t see how. And he’s with that Dekelina woman.”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Uh huh. Go talk to him.”
“We’ll see,” Beck said.
“We’ll see. That’s all I can give you right now.”
A relatively short distance away from Captain Beck and the Beanus Coffee Hut, Arthur Mills, a.k.a. Banyon Kovacs, slowly swirled his spoon around a bowl of oatmeal he’d purchased a few minutes earlier from the Cardassians running Fred’s Flapjacks. The oatmeal, which had the consistency of freshly poured concrete, was cinnamon flavored…in theory at any rate. Kovacs had thus far only been able to taste incredibly pasty oats, not that he was paying all that much attention.
“I really don’t see why you wanted to eat here,” Lusenkia Dekelina said from across the table, looking at her surroundings with distaste. “The bistro in Waypoint Harbor certainly has oatmeal.”
“Hmmm?” Kovacs asked.
“I said the bistro is Waypoint Harbor has oatmeal.”
“I like this kind.”
“But you’ve hardly touched it.”
Kovacs didn’t respond. He honestly hadn’t even heard Lusenkia’s comment, distracted as he was by Captain Beck’s exit from the Beanus Coffee Hut. Despite her rather firm rejection of him the night before…or was it a firm rejection? Really, he wasn’t sure what exactly had happened there. The overall message was fairly clear, though. Even so, he couldn’t keep his eyes off of Beck as she made her way down the concourse.
“Arthur,” Lusenkia said firmly. Judging by the sound of her voice, this was not the first time she’d said his assumed name in the last few seconds.
“I’m sorry, my darling,” he said, throwing himself back into character. “I was having difficulty sleeping last night, and it’s obviously taking its toll on me today. It’s the new environment, I imagine. You have remarkable strength to be able to go from place to place without having your rhythms horribly disrupted.”
Lusenkia smiled and grasped his hand. “It’s all right, Arthur. I know you’ll adjust as I have. But for now, maybe you should return to the yacht for a nap. Rest a bit.”
“Nonsense. I wouldn’t want to leave you alone for the day. I’ll be fine.”
“Now you’re the one spouting nonsense, dear. Get some sleep, so you’ll be refreshed for tonight. I was thinking of making a reservation at Dillon’s. The restaurant is highly regarded.”
“That sounds lovely,” Kovacs said, rising from his chair. “I will rejoin you later in the day.” He tried not to show his eagerness to leave as he headed off in the direction Captain Beck had gone. He was also too focused on catching up with Beck to notice the half-hearted “Until then,” he got in return from Lusenkia, who herself was distracted by the approach of her manservant, Mr. Lerk.
“Was that Mister Mills I saw departing?” Lerk asked confused as he stepped up to the table.
“Yes, but never mind him. Did you find Russell?”
This would probably be a good time to mention that, as well as being the head of a large galactic corporation, Lusenkia Dekelina was something of a master criminal. Not that she would describe herself as such. Really she fell more in the category of bored rich person. She was so rich that she could buy anything that was for sale, so she developed an interest in things that weren’t for sale. Acquiring these required a slightly different technique: theft. Not being a thief herself, Dekelina contracted with a specialist. This specialist, Olivia Russell, had been caught and sent off to a rehabilitation colony by her own cousin, Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell, an action that didn’t exactly thrill Dekelina. She’d tried to exact a bit of vengeance on Russell during a visit to the station earlier in the year, but it didn’t go so well. Dekelina had spent the ensuing months stewing and becoming more and more obsessed with revenge. Fortunately Arthur Mills had entered her life and provided someone else to obsess over in a more positive way. Still, Dekelina wasn’t about to let Russell waltz around unpunished, hence her return visit to Waystation and hence her question to her subordinate about his location. We’ll get back to his answer now…
“Yes, ma’am,” Lerk replied. “He and another officer were having their morning meal in a diner-type establishment on the lower level of this shopping facility. I was able to brush past him and secrete the tracking tag on his person without his knowledge.”
“Wonderful,” Lusenkia said with a pleased laugh that quickly turned to a slightly-mad cackle. “At last I will be able to obtain the revenge I was denied on our last encounter. Did you overhear any of his conversation perhaps?”
“Of course, ma’am. He and the other man were discussing holodeck programs.”
“Were they now? Let’s be ready if that is where our quarry leads, shall we?”
“Yes, ma’am. Will there be anything else, ma’am, or may I return to the Beauty Queen to begin our preparations?”
“There is one more item, Mister Lerk. I’m concerned about Arthur.”
“Is Mister Mills unwell?”
“I don’t follow.”
“Actually, you will. You will follow him and observe to whom he speaks. When you return to the ship, I want you to look into his movements last night. Find out if he went anywhere.”
“Yes, ma’am. But may I say that I sincerely hope that your suspicions, whatever they may be, about Mister Mills are mistaken.”
“No, you don’t. You’ve hated him from the start.”
“Of course, ma’am,” Lerk said with a slight bow before leaving to follow Kovacs.
She was technically due in Ops five minutes ago, but Beck wanted a bit more time to stroll and think about things in her personal life before burying herself in the usual mix of brief chaos and sustained bureaucratic tedium that made up her professional life. Hodges had been characteristically blunt in her assessment of Beck’s situation, but Beck wasn’t certain that her friend was right. She didn’t think she was scared to get into a new relationship. Yes, things with Phillip Harper hadn’t ended incredibly well, but she didn’t have any hard feelings toward him. They grew apart. It happens.
That didn’t mean that she wasn’t willing to try again with someone else. She was. Really. She was sure she just hadn’t found the right guy to…
“I’m sorry,” a familiar voice said from behind her.
Beck turned to see Banyon Kovacs. “Sorry for what?” Beck said.
“For whatever I need to be sorry about,” Kovacs said. “Consider it a blanket apology.”
“Thanks, but you don’t have anything to apologize for.”
“Really? That’s nice to hear.” He fell into step beside her as they continued around the upper concourse of Starfleet Square Mall toward the Starfleet Suites Hotel.
After a few seconds of silent walking, Beck glanced over at him. “You’re not waiting for an apology from me, are you?”
“No. Just checking something.”
“Well, if you hated me, you would have told me to get lost by now. But you haven’t, which means…”
“Nothing. It means nothing,” Beck said.
“Did it mean something? Because it did to me.”
“We’re talking about a different something now.”
“What do you want me to say? It was seven years ago. And we didn’t exactly keep in touch, did we?”
“Did you want to?” Kovacs asked.
“I…I don’t know. I wasn’t looking for anything serious.”
“I know. But?”
“But what? Who said there was a but?”
“It sounded like one was coming.”
“Why is this all about me? You knew where I was all this time.”
“I didn’t want to be a pest.”
“Right. I’ve got to get to Ops.”
“Lisa, wait. I want to see you.”
“You can’t. Not now. You’ve got an assignment.”
“It’s not going to last forever. When it’s over, I could come back here.”
“The station’s open to everyone.”
“I’m not interested in the station.”
“And I’m not a one-night-stand,” Beck said.
“Good,” Kovacs said. He suddenly broke off and headed into a turbolift. “That means we’ll have to take this up again later.” He ordered the turbolift to Waypoint Harbor and was gone.
Beck stood for a moment, surprised by his abrupt departure. She was equally surprised by the smile that broke out across her face. Shaking her head and chuckling, she waited for the next turbolift car to arrive and headed up to Ops.
“Well?” Lusenkia demanded as she strode into her private study aboard her yacht, the Beauty Queen. She was rather anxious to hear Lerk’s report about Arthur. Entertaining nasty suspicions about her boyfriend was distracting her from her plans to crush Sean Russell, so she wanted to get the truth as quickly as possible.
Lerk pulled out her desk chair for her, so that she could sit down in front of her lunch, which he had waiting for her.
“Mister Mills has been in his quarters all morning.”
“And that’s it?”
“Well, he did have a brief conversation with the station commander just after he left you this morning, but otherwise he has been here.”
“The station commander?”
“The tall, attractive, and very female person in charge of this station?”
“Er…yes, ma’am,” Lerk said.
“What did they talk about?”
“I couldn’t say, ma’am. I had to remain at a discreet distance in order to avoid being spotted.”
“Did he touch her?” Lusenkia asked.
“Not at all. There was no contact between them in the slightest. Mister Mills then ended the conversation and entered a turbolift.”
“And she didn’t go with him?”
“Oh. Hmmm,” Lusenkia said confused. Maybe he was just tired. Maybe she was wrong about Arthur’s faithfulness.
“Perhaps he is planning a surprise for you, ma’am.”
“I suppose. You didn’t see anything else?”
“Not really,” Lerk said. “Well…after Mister Mills left, Captain Beck…laughed.”
“That cheating son of a bitch!”
In truth Kovacs really was tired. Between thinking about seeing Captain Beck and then wondering what he’d done wrong after he saw her, he hadn’t slept at all the night before. Coming back to his room on the Beauty Queen for a bit of a nap also fit into his overall assignment. Various threads had led Starfleet Intelligence to suspect that Lusenkia Dekelina was somehow involved in the thefts of several incredibly rare objects from around the Federation. There was no proof as yet and only the slightly of circumstantial evidence even pointed to the connection. Kovacs had been ordered to get close to her to see if the suspicions were founded, but after two months of close surveillance (really close surveillance), he had seen nothing. Perhaps in the throws of a new relationship, she hadn’t been focusing on her illicit acquisitions. But surely they had come to Waystation for a reason. Perhaps there was an item on board or scheduled to arrive soon that had piqued her interest. His own searches had come up empty, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t targeting something. Bradley Dillon’s home and headquarters was here, after all. If anyone was going to be in possession of rare and valuable items, it was him.
Banyon just needed to give Lusenkia some time alone and room to maneuver. Let her plan her theft. Whenever she carried it off, he’d be ready.
Until then, he’d take a nap.
His nap extended a bit longer than he’d intended, though.
Particularly when, right around lunch time, a large quantity of anesthezine was pumped into his room bumping him from light snooze to comatose.
Another day without a crisis. Another day of drills, drills, drills. Still Colonel Lazlo would not shirk in his duty to keep his fighting force primed and ready for any possible emergency. Left to their own devices, he knew his troops would go soft. These evening excursions off of the deck assigned to the Federation Marines were already causing enough damage to their discipline. Perhaps a gentle reminder of the recreation facilities available in their very own barracks was in order.
“Listen up, maggots!” Lazlo bellowed as he stood before his troops in the large recreation room the marines also used for formation. “It’s been a light day, but you prissy little weaklings look like I just made you run a marathon on Vulcan with full gear. You’re Federation Marines! Right now I could take you all out with a gang of cranky preschoolers. If you want to be able to work hard and protect this Federation, you’ve got to start playing hard!”
Several of the marines looked at each other with confusion.
“Think carefully about how you’re spending your downtime. Are you wasting it? Gorging yourself on crap food? Blowing credits? Or are you pushing yourself with a run, strengthening your body in the weight room, and improving your coordination and conditioning playing a sport like…basketball at 1900 hours? You want to be marines? You have to start acting like it on and OFF duty. Dismissed!”
The gathered marines didn’t waste any time responding to that order and fled the rec room hastily as Lazlo strode over to his second in command, Lieutenant Colonel Dan O’Neal.
“I think I got my point across,” Lazlo said.
“Yes, sir,” O’Neal replied crisply, adding a beat later, “And what point was that, sir?”
“Not wasting time!”
“Right. Yes, sir! There’s no time to waste!”
“Damn right!” Lazlo snapped. “I will see you later, O’Neal.”
“Yes, sir,” O’Neal replied as Lazlo marched out of the room. He let out a sigh of relief. Somehow he’d managed to fake his way through that conversation. In all honesty, he hadn’t been paying a bit of attention to Lazlo. He was more focused on his plans for the evening. Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell was going down!
Lazlo, meanwhile, was forming teams for tonight’s game in his mind. Kintasa was tall and pretty sharp. Lazlo would take him…and Grink and Samuels and…
Commander Walter Morales stepped out of the turbolift into the middle of a battlezone. Technically the battlezone was Ops, but at the present time balls of wadded up wiring were flying back and forth between Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter at the Operations/Science console, Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell at the Tactical Console, and Lieutenant Dena Horowitz at the Docking Control Console. Using padds as racquets, the three officers were managing to keep three wire balls moving along a triangular route around the Waystation command center. It was pretty impressive actually.
At least until one of the balls smacked into the side of Morales’s head.
“Aww, man! You messed up our rhythm!” Porter exclaimed.
“Do you want me to leave? You can cover my shift for me,” Morales asked, scooping up the ball and lobbing it toward Horowitz.
“Game over,” Porter said quickly.
“I’m guessing it’s been a slow day?”
“Except for one unexpected presidential exodus, yes.”
“President Dillon left the station about five hours ago,” Horowitz explained as Morales took over the console from her. “He hadn’t notified us in advance of his departure.”
“When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go,” Porter said.
“Um…is he fleeing some threat we should know about?” Morales asked.
“Sensors are clear, and the station is quiet,” Russell said. Just then, the turbolift opened again revealing Lieutenants Mason and Waits, the remainder of that day’s Beta shift. “See you folks later,” Russell said, rushing for the turbolift.
“What woman’s date will you being ruining tonight?” Morales asked.
“Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal,” Porter said.
“It’s not a date!” Russell said.
“Nope. They’re just meeting on a beautiful meadow to bang their balls around,” Porter said, eliciting another, louder choking sound from Morales.
“It’s croquet!” Russell shouted, storming into the turbolift.
“He’s leaving the station operations center,” Lerk reported, watching the path of the tiny tracer he had slipped into Russell’s uniform that morning.
“Is the device ready?”
“And waiting, ma’am.”
“Still unconscious. But…are you sure about this? Your revenge against Sean Russell is one thing, but Mister Mills…”
“I will not abide betrayal!” Lusenkia snapped.
Lusenkia smiled. “Relax, Lerk. Everything is falling into place. And if I’m not mistaken, very soon the party will begin. We just have one more invitation to send.”
“All right, losers! Let’s get ready to…” Lazlo trailed off as he realized that he’d just made his entrance into an empty gymnasium. He glanced at the wall chronometer. 1900 hours sharp. He was there. The basketballs were there. The hoops were certainly there.
So where the HELL were his marines?
Croquet would not be the first activity that would come to mind if you were to be asked how Lieutenant Commander Russell or Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal liked to spend their free time. The security chief and the marine both had grown up with croquet, though, and were happy to discover that there was another person on Waystation with an interest in the fairly obscure game. At least once a week, they’d get together in the holodeck for a few matches then head over to Victoria’s Pub for drinks, at which time Lieutenant Commander Porter would usually join them. Porter had tried to play with them once, but it just wasn’t his thing. Submarine battles were one thing, but this standing around some field smacking balls through hoops…sorry, wickets…was not for him.
Russell and O’Neal liked to play a warm-up game in a grassy field setting, but from there they liked to make it more interesting. They designed courses in forests with streams standing between them and wickets. O’Neal set up a particularly hellish course on Ferenginar while Russell struck back with a truly brutal course through The Forge on Vulcan. In their minds, Porter was missing out.
This evening, though, they hadn’t yet gotten to their more interesting match for the evening, which would be set on a Risan beach (The sand would be a nightmare to deal with, but you couldn’t beat the view. O’Neal assumed he’d win anyway. Russell lost his concentration whenever a woman walked by as it was. Put them in tiny bikinis, and Russell would be completely useless…which is why O’Neal put the course there. Tactics were everything in croquet.). For now, though, they were playing their warm-up match on the lawn of some stereotypically-stately English manor that Russell had found in the holodeck archives. O’Neal would have been fine with a plain meadow, but Russell said the manor setting put him in the proper spirit.
That spirit was interrupted as the holodeck doors slid open just as O’Neal was swinging his mallet. He jolted, startled by the unexpected noise, and ended up catching his ball along the side rather than dead on, sending it angling away from the wicket.
“Dammit!” O’Neal shouted, turning on the unwelcome intruders. “What the hell…” He stopped as realized that A) he didn’t recognize the man and woman who had just stepped onto the holodeck or the other man slumped in a hoverchair that was floating between them, B) the man in the hoverchair was either sleeping or unconscious and seemingly bound into said chair, and C) the conscious members of the trio were currently aiming blasters at him and Russell.
“Did we take somebody else’s holodeck time?” Russell asked O’Neal.
“You’re the one who made the reservation.”
“Oh yeah.” Russell turned back to the newcomers. “Um…could you leave? We’ve got about two hours left in here.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll make sure your time is much shorter than that, Mister Russell,” the woman said, striding forward. It took Russell half a second, but he suddenly realized that he knew these two. Ms. Decorina, or something like that, and her butler Lerk. He was at a party on her yacht when some psycho kidnapped him then tried to kill him because he’d gotten his cousin Olivia arrested.
“Ohhh,” Russell said.
“Oh what?” Lusenkia Dekelina asked.
“You’re the psycho.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“What did you do to her?” O’Neal demanded.
“I arrested my cousin,” Russell said.
“So this lady is your aunt?”
“You lost me. Is this an incest thing or what?”
“Incest? Where the hell did you get that? My cousin was a criminal,” Russell said. “She stole things for Ms. Dekelvakia there.”
“Dekelina!” Lusenkia snapped. “And yes, Olivia did obtain items for me, but she was much more than that! Do you have any idea how lonely my life is? Just me, Lerk and my money. But then I met Olivia. We had a connection! A bond! Yes, she worked for me, but there was so much more than that. She was the only person in my life that I really cared for!”
“Oh,” O’Neal said. “So it’s a lesbian thing.”
“Really?” Russell asked, more than a bit too eagerly.
“I am really going to enjoy watching you die,” Lusenkia said.
“Woah!” O’Neal exclaimed. “You’re going to kill him!”
“Both of you actually. No witnesses. You understand.”
“And the guy in the chair?”
“What’d he do?”
“He broke my heart,” Lusenkia said, tousling the hair of the unconscious Banyon Kovacs. “The cheating bastard. Which reminds me…” She leveled her weapon at Russell. “Comm your captain. I want that man-stealing bitch down here now! And don’t you dare tip her off that I’m waiting for her.”
“Then what am I supposed to tell her?” Russell asked. “I don’t think she likes croquet.”
“Think of something!” Lusenkia bellowed.
“New program you want to show her?” O’Neal suggested.
“Like what?” Russell asked.
“I don’t know. Anything she likes?”
“She’s big on spa treatments. Massages and that kind of thing.”
Lusenkia brightened. “Oh! So has she been to that Medusan spa on board?”
“Oh yeah. She’s a regular. She loves it.”
“I’ll have to try it out then.”
“Good luck. You have to get an appointment way in advance.”
“I am Lusenkia Dekelina. They will give me an appointment.”
“Sure they will.”
“Enough! I will go to the spa…after I kill you! Now get Beck down here!” Lusenkia shouted.
“Okay! Okay!” Russell said, slapping his commbadge. “Russell to Beck.”
“What is it, Commander?” Captain Beck’s voice asked. She sounded tired and not exactly thrilled at receiving the comm.
“Um…I’m in Holodeck Four with Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal, and he just showed me this…um…Medusan spa program he wrote.”
O’Neal’s eyes widened as he mouthed an angry “ME?” before backhanding Russell’s arm.
Russell swallowed the “OW!” building in his mouth and continued, “And I…um…thought you might like to see it.”
The commline was silent for a moment, then he heard Beck sigh. “You know, Sean, that actually sounds great. I’ll be right down. Beck out.”
“Happy now?” Russell said.
“I will be soon,” Lusenkia replied. “Wake him,” she ordered Lerk, who pulled a small hypospray out of his pocket and injected it into Banyon Kovacs’ neck.
Kovacs jerked in his chair as he snapped back to consciousness. It didn’t take him long to assess the situation. “Who tied me up?” he demanded.
“That would be me, darling,” Lusenkia said, stepping into his field of view.
“But Lusy, why?” Kovacs asked.
“I know about you.”
“You do?” Kovacs said, trying to mask the cold rush of fear that shot through him. His cover had been blown. How? Who? Did Starfleet Intel have a mole?
“Yes. You thought I wouldn’t find out. You’ve been sneaking around with that Beck woman behind my back!”
“No, I haven’t!” he shot back surprised.
“Don’t deny it! Lerk saw you two talking.”
“So I spoke to her. Nothing else happened. I swear!”
“Liar! I can stand for many things, but betrayal is not one of them!”
“A conversation is betrayal!”
“You had a conversation with a WOMAN. And she LAUGHED! So now you’re going to suffer!”
Kovacs looked around at his surroundings. “You’re making me play croquet? I’m not a fan of the game, but…”
“Typical,” O’Neal interrupted with a huff.
“Did you even give it a chance?” Russell said.
“Shut up, all of you!” Lusenkia cried. “Lerk, the device!”
Lerk obediently removed a small blinking device from his other pocket and, after calling for the holodeck arch, attached it to the controls.
“What is that?” Kovacs said.
“Just a minor holodeck malfunction,” Lusenkia replied. “Unfortunately this one will cause the loss of four lives, but these things happen sometimes. Now while we’re waiting for Captain Beck to arrive, we should get you three ready for your upcoming death. Who wants to go first?”
Captain Beck had actually planned on going to bed early tonight. She hadn’t slept much the night before, so getting some rest was the sensible thing to do. But she couldn’t exactly pass up a massage. A Medusan one at that. She’d tried holodeck spas before, but they were just never as good as the real thing. As long as O’Neal’s version was somewhat close, though, Beck would be more than happy. Maybe a mud bath was in order as well, she thought as she stepped through the doors of Holodeck Four. But first on her list would be…
…figuring out why she was standing in the middle of a field.
Ahead of her, she could see O’Neal and Russell standing next to a pair of metal poles placed about ten feet apart. On second glance, she realized that the poles were actually connected in one large arch.
“Hey! Where’s my spa?” she asked, striding toward Russell.
He called back something that sounded like “load of crap,” but she couldn’t really make him out over O’Neal, who was also shouting something from the opposite post.
“I believe he said, ‘It’s a trap,’” a vaguely-familiar female voice said from behind her. Beck spun around and discovered a blaster aimed at her face. She was right about the wielder being familiar, though.
“Ms. Dekelina,” Beck said. “Er…is there a problem?”
“I’m afraid so. It seems that you’re a horrible slut,” Lusenkia replied.
Beck stiffened. “Now hang on a damn minute.”
“Lerk!” Lusenkia called. Her manservant appeared seemingly from out of nowhere. Literally he appeared from thin air, having been hidden in a cloaked area provided by the device he’d attached to the holodeck. Beck couldn’t mistake the set of binders in his hand. “If you fight him, I will shoot you now, and I assure you this weapon doesn’t have a stun setting,” Lusenkia told Beck.
“What do you want?” Beck said.
“For what? I never did anything to you!”
“I know all about you and Arthur. I won’t put up with that kind of betrayal. I just won’t.”
Beck was now close enough to see that he and O’Neal were bound to the poles they stood near. In the distance, she could make out another figure she could only assume was Banyon Kovacs attached to another pole while its companion pole stood empty, presumably waiting for her.
“And Russell? He betrayed you somehow, too?” Beck said as Lerk pulled her hands behind her back and put the binder on her wrists..
“She was Olivia’s boss,” Russell said.
“Innocent bystander,” O’Neal said.
“So you’re just going to kill four people?” Beck said as Lusenkia prodded her to walk to the pole opposite Kovacs.
“I won’t be doing anything of the kind. It will be a holodeck malfunction. A croquet game gone horribly wrong due to a tragic miscalculation of scale by the computer.
“Croquet? Then these arches are…” Beck suddenly got the picture. She and the others were going to be smashed by giant wooden balls. Lerk undid the binder on one wrist long enough to attach Beck’s hands around the pole as Beck considered what she should say next. She knew that she and Kovacs hadn’t done anything, but convincing Lusenkia would be…
Beck’s head whipped to the side from the impact of Lusenkia’s hand. She gaped in shock for a moment. Lusenkia had slapped her. She SLAPPED her! When Beck got out of this, she was so going to beat the living crap out of that woman.
Lusenkia meanwhile had already focused her attention on Kovacs. “I’m sorry it had to end this way, dear, but you must learn how to treat a lady.”
“I’m not going to learn anything if I’m dead,” Kovacs said.
“Don’t beg for your life, Arthur. It’s unseemly.”
“I wasn’t begging!”
“Shouting at me doesn’t help either,” Lusenkia said before turning on her heel and striding off with Lerk close behind.
“Sorry about this,” Kovacs said once she was gone.
“Yeah. But I’m in Starfleet. There are risks. Granted ‘death by criminally-insane jealous girlfriend wasn’t in the brochure,” Beck said.
“The insanity is new. I think having you steal away her man pushed her over the edge.”
“I didn’t steal you!”
“On the bright side, if we get out of this, I have more than enough evidence to arrest her.”
“That’s a comfort.”
By this time, Lusenkia and Lerk had reached their safe zone near Russell and O’Neal. “Activate the players,” Lusenkia ordered. A split-second later, the holodeck doors opened again. This time Colonel Lazlo, basketball tucked under his arm, came storming through in full shouting mode as Lerk dove into the cloaked area.
“O’Neal!” Lazlo raged. “What the hell do you think you’re doing in here with this Starfleeter instead of reporting your ass to the basketball court, so I can thoroughly kick it!”
“Colonel! Sit-Code Henry Alpha Tango!” O’Neal shouted back. Lazlo instantly sprang into action, lobbing the basketball at Lusenkia, who was training her phaser on him. The ball slammed into her arm, knocking her blast wide. Lazlo was on her before she had a chance to recover. He took the wealthy socialite down with a quick forearm to the throat, then wrenched the blaster from her hand and spun around in time to nail Lerk in the shoulder as the lackey raced out of the cloaked portion of the croquet field. Leaving Lusenkia gasping for breath, Lazlo charged the wounded Lerk and yanked the blaster from his grasp before tagging the staggering man with a boot to the skull.
“Henry Alpha Tango?” Lazlo said to O’Neal as he aimed the blasters at Lusenkia and Lerk. “It’s a damn good thing I knew what you meant.”
O’Neal would have smacked his own forehead if he had a hand free. “Oh! Henry Alpha Victor is the code for hostiles have taken over the holodeck.”
“Then what’s Henry Alpha Tango?” Russell asked.
“Rabid llama stampede.”
“Does that one happen much?”
“Better to be prepared if it does,” Lazlo said. He dug through Lerk’s pockets and found the keys to the binders. “Now would somebody tell me what the hell is going on around here?”
Before Russell could answer, the ground trembled. “Shut it down!” Russell screamed, seeing the giant croquet ball in the distance and the even larger mallet in the grasp of a massive individual swinging down toward it. “Down! Down! DOWN!”
Lazlo fired a couple of useless blasts at the oversized threat, then raced back to the holodeck arch as the mallet made contact with the ball and sent it racing toward the wicket O’Neal and Russell were bound to. Seconds before impact, the ball, the field, and the wicket vanished, replaced by the holodeck grid. Lazlo, with Lerk’s holodeck control device sparking in his hand, stepped out of the arch and headed toward O’Neal.
“If you’d been playing basketball like you were supposed to, you wouldn’t have been almost killed, now would you?” Lazlo said as he unlocked O’Neal’s binders.
“But then you wouldn’t have shown up, and they would have been killed,” O’Neal replied.
“That sounds like their problem,” Lazlo said, handing the keys and blasters to O’Neal before retrieving his basketball. “You’ve disappointed me, O’Neal. I thought you were a marine.”
And with that, Lazlo walked out of the holodeck.
“Uh…thanks!” Russell called after him.
“Don’t,” O’Neal said.
“What? He rescued us.”
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 58743.8. After avoiding a death trap straight out of those crappy superhero holovision shows I used to watch as a kid, we have taken Lusenkia Dekelina and her associate, Lerk, into custody. Right now the charges are assault, attempted murder, and damaging Starfleet property. I have assurances, though, that the list will be getting longer. I want to officially express my gratitude to Colonel Martin Lazlo for his timely arrival, but somehow I get the sense he’s upset at himself for rescuing us. That being the case, I’ll send him a commendation…and flowers. He’ll love that.”
Beck switched off the log recorder on the console on the desk in her quarters and stretched. Here it was past midnight, and she still wasn’t in bed. Two nights in a row of this not sleeping crap were not going to do anything for her consciousness level tomorrow morning.
She got up from her chair and had made it two steps toward her bedroom when her door chime sounded. Only one person that could be, she thought, a slight smile spreading across her lips as she opened the door.
“Doesn’t Starfleet Intel let you guys sleep?” she said to Banyon Kovacs, who was standing in the corridor.
“I slept all day. Not by choice,” Kovacs said, accepting Beck’s gestured invitation into her quarters.
“At least you were well-rested for our near-death experience. Are your superiors okay with what happened?”
“I can’t say that they’re thrilled, but they’ll accept the end result. Our agents raided Lusenkia’s house as soon as I commed Intel. They found a hidden room containing a few dozen stolen items. She’d evidently made herself a private museum.”
“But why? She was rich enough to get whatever she wanted?”
“Maybe that was the problem. There was no challenge anymore, so she moved on to stealing the things should couldn’t buy,” Kovacs said.
“Or getting Olivia Russell to steal it for her.”
“I should thank you then. If your security chief hadn’t arrested Olivia, Lusenkia would never have come after him, and this investigation could have taken a lot longer.”
“And now she and Olivia can be reunited in some nice rehabilitation colony.”
“Yes. And I have to admit that your idea to make her insanely jealous was a brilliant touch.”
“Oh, so that was my idea now?”
“That went over better with my bosses than the truth,” Kovacs said.
“That you got spotted hitting on the station commander?”
“I wouldn’t phrase it like that.”
“Neither would I,” Beck said. She stepped closer to Kovacs and wrapped her arms around him. “I think I owe you an apology. I’m sorry. And I do want to see you.”
“You’re not just saying that because we were almost killed, are you?”
“The occasional reminder that life is short isn’t a bad thing. But no, I’ve been thinking about you ever since I saw you in the mall last night.”
“You have, huh?”
“Yeah,” Beck said grinning. “I’m glad Starfleet Intel sent you here.”
“About that. I should tell you something, Lisa. I don’t know what you’ve been thinking about me, but I’m not any kind of super agent. I get sent after bowling trophies and thieves. The fate of the Federation is never going to rest in my hands.”
“I…I didn’t want you going into this believing you were getting someone I’m not.”
“Is your name really Banyon Kovacs?”
“And were you really almost killed by a croquet ball this evening?”
“Then we’re fine,” Beck said. “Now if you don’t mind, I need to get some sleep.”
“Oh! Yeah. Of course. I’m sorry I disturbed you.”
“After,” Beck said with a glint in her eye.
“After,” Beck repeated firmly, giving Kovacs a tug toward the bedroom.
“Because they know you.”
Captain Beck had intended the words to be a snide retort, but Bradley Dillon had instantly realized the truth contained within them. The citizens of the Federation did know him as President. They knew how he did the job. And while Bradley was confident that he had performed the role admirably, he also recognized the veracity of the old adage “familiarity breeds contempt.” Kathryn Janeway was a new commodity, but not a completely unknown one. Her return from the Delta Quadrant had given her a certain level of celebrity and an instant reputation as being an outstanding example of a Starfleet Officer.
Bradley had thus far spent the election talking about himself, his accomplishments, and his plans for his next term. Meanwhile, he’d barely acknowledged Janeway’s presence in the race. In retrospect, that was a tactical error. He needed to define Janeway for the people of the Federation.
The voters knew of her. That was very different than actually knowing her.
But in order for them to know her, Bradley had to get to know her first. Very well.
It had taken two hours of research and then six days of travel, but Bradley had finally located the person who seemed to be the best candidate for providing the information he sought.
Arranging this “chance” meeting required a little more effort, but Bradley was certain it would be well worth it.
Free of Special Secret Section agents, Bradley moved down the aisle of the balcony of the Royal Opera House on Caltor Prime and located his seat in the front row. The human in the seat next to him, a balding man with just a ring of dark hair encircling the back of his head, glanced over then did a double-take.
“Are you?” he said in astonishment.
“Yes,” Bradley replied. “But please don’t advertise my presence, if you don’t mind. It’s not often that I am able to slip out to the opera alone. I hope I won’t be disturbing you.”
“Not at all,” Bradley’s new companion said. “It’s always a pleasure to meet someone who appreciates the arts.”
“I have been a fan of the opera for many years. I actually sang a little in college.”
“Really? I dabble a bit myself.”
“You’ll have to let me hear you sometime, Mister?”
“Doctor,” the man who actually wasn’t human at all said. “Just Doctor.”
“Doctor?” Bradley said, feigning confusing. “Wait a moment. You’re the doctor from the USS Voyager, aren’t you?”
“That I am,” the holographic Doctor replied.
“Well I have to say that this is an unexpected honor. I read your memoirs shortly after their publication. Allow me to express my gratitude for your outstanding service to the Federation.”
“Thank you, Mister President. You’re too kind.”
“Not at all. Would you perhaps be interested in joining me for a drink after the performance? I know you have no need of beverages, but I hope the conversation will entice you.”
“I’d be delighted,” the Doctor said happily. “I believe this could be the beginning of a wonderful friendship.”
And a very beneficial one for me, Bradley thought as he returned the smile.