And now we've come to the final Waystation short story disclaimer. Is anyone else getting choked up? Why don't we all do this one together, for old times' sake? Star Trek is owned by Paramount, CBS, and Viacom. Star Traks and Star Traks: Waystation are owned by Alan Decker.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 2010

PREVIOUSLY ON STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION:


In an effort to gain information that he could use against Kathryn Janeway in their debate, Bradley made a copy of the memories of Voyager’s holodoc. Unfortunately, he ended up with a bit more than the memories, so Bradley ordered Dr. Fouklok to destroy the copied hologram. Fouklok informed Tina Jones, who then told Captain Beck. Beck sent in Banyon Kovacs to get the hologram, but the Ops crew lost contact with him. Meanwhile, disgusted with the way his marines have been behaving, Colonel Lazlo decided that he was going to take them away from the bad influences on the station permanently.


AND NOW, THE CONCLUSION…



STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION

“Going My Way?”

By Alan Decker


“Tina Jones’s Personal Log. Stardate 58994.3. Twelve hours ago, I made the captain’s new boyfriend disappear. I know it’s not really my fault, but I can’t help feeling responsible. I was the one who told Captain Beck about Doctor Fouklok and the hologram Bradley wanted deleted. I should have gone to Bradley myself. I know it probably wouldn’t have helped, but at least no one else would have been put in danger. Now Banyon Kovacs is gone, just like what happened with that girl who blew up Krilik’s. Bradley is somehow hiding them from the station’s sensors, no matter what Craig tries to do. The Captain is trying to come up with some kind of plan to get Mister Kovacs back, but what can we do against the President of the Federation…if he is still the president after today’s election is over. But even if he isn’t, he’s got resources beyond even what we have. I want to do something to help. I told Captain Beck that I could still talk to Bradley, but she wants me to stay away from him for now. She’s probably right. And she said she needs me to deal with the other crisis that popped up during all of this. Not that I want to.”


“Why are you here, Ensign?” Colonel Martin Lazlo of the Federation Marines snapped as he tossed his belongings into a small cargo container while Jones stood across his desk from him in his office on the marines’ deck of Waystation. Or what used to be their deck. Colonel Lazlo had taken the oh-so-opportune moment when Banyon Kovacs disappeared to inform Captain Beck that he was leaving the station and that he was taking his marines with him.

“Captain Beck felt that you needed…liaisoning.”

“Point One: we don’t. Point Two: you’re supposed to be in Security now. Point Three: get out!”

“With all due respect, Colonel, I have my orders. I’m going to ease your transition off of the station whether you like it or not.”

“Ease my transition?” Lazlo laughed. “This is the best thing that could happen to my platoon. We don’t need to be eased into paradise.”

“Is the Space Lodge really that nice?” Jones asked.

“It’s not here. That makes it wonderful.”

“But why there? It’s alien. It may not even be safe…okay, so you probably don’t care about the safe part, but what about the alien? It won’t be up to your standards.”

The colonel snorted. “Have you even read Porter’s reports on the place? I can make it look like anything I want. I’m going to have the finest training and staging facilities in the quadrant. And we’ll be closer to the front lines.”

“What front lines? We aren’t at war.”

“For now, but you don’t know what’s out there. Nobody does. We need to be in position to strike once some horrible danger shows up, which it will. Waystation has gotten to be too far away from it all. Look at this region. It’s practically…domestic. Why would we want to stay here?”

“Yeah? Well Captain Beck wanted you to know that she is protesting your attempt to take over the Space Lodge from Starfleet Sciences,” Jones said, getting irritated. “And if her protest is accepted, your move could be delayed by…”

Lazlo stopped packing and fixed an unsettling grin on Jones. He took hold of a padd sitting on his desk and turned it to face Jones. On it was a memo from the Security Committee of the Federation Council approving the marines’ annexing of the Space Lodge. And that approval had in turn been approved by the Federation President’s office. Bradley had no love for Lazlo, so Jones wasn’t exactly surprised to see that he’d given the move his okay. That didn’t make it any less annoying. “Tell Captain Beck she can stuff her protest in the orifice of her choosing,” Lazlo said.

“Fine! I will!” Jones said, turning to storm out. She stopped. “Okay actually I won’t because that’s really gross, but I’m going to tell her…something!”

“You do that,” Lazlo said. “Dismissed.”

“I don’t serve under you. You can’t dismiss me!”

“I just did.”

Jones balled up her fists, but held in her rising anger and turned to leave again.

“Oh Jones?” Lazlo said.

“WHAT?” she shouted back.

“You’ve gotten more of an attitude since you joined Security. I like it.”

To her credit, Jones held it together and left Lazlo’s office. Okay, so she smashed one of his chairs on the way out, but we’ll give her that one.


While Colonel Lazlo was reveling in the future he saw for his marines, far different conversations were taking place around Waystation. Many of the Federation Marines had established friendships and in some cases romantic entanglements with other station residents, which in all honesty was one of the main reasons Lazlo was so determined to get his platoon the hell away from there. Now these relationships were facing separation unless people took drastic action such as…

“You resigned?” Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell exclaimed, almost choking on his coffee.

Across their table in the Beanus Coffee Hut, Lieutenant Colonel Dan O’Neal nodded grimly. “It needed to happen.”

“What do you mean ‘it needed to happen’? It sounds to me like you let Lazlo drive you out of there.”

“I’ll admit he was a lot of it, but…I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore. And don’t get me wrong, I used to love being a marine, especially once I made Lieutenant Colonel. Do you have any idea how therapeutic shouting at people can be? At least it used to be. Now…I want…I want to see some stuff.”

“Stuff,” Russell said, not really understanding.

“I’ve spent the last eight years sitting here on this station, most of it on the same couple of decks. Sure we get the occasional training mission, but how often are we called into combat? We sit, we drill, we sit, we drill. I’ve had it. And if I’m going to be leaving here anyway, it’s not going to be to sit in some alien bunker, or whatever the hell it is, while we sit and drill some more. So I talked to some people, and I’m joining Starfleet.”

“Starfleet! So then you could stay here.”

O’Neal shook his head. “I told you, I want to see stuff. I’ve requested starship duty. My marine rank and experience is going to allow me to come in as a lieutenant, and I’m a good fit for security and tactical.” O’Neal smiled. “Hell, if you can do it…”

“It isn’t as easy as it looks. Just you wait. And never stand near the captain on an away mission. That’s death.”

“I’ll remember that.”

“So Lieutenant O’Neal, huh?” Russell said, his mouth spreading into a grin. “That means I outrank you.”

“Don’t push it, Russell.”


“You could resign.”

Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges rolled over in bed to look at the source of the voice…and the owner of the bed, Commander Walter Morales. After Lazlo’s announcement of the Federation Marines’ planned departure, Morales had invited Hodges to his quarters for a private farewell breakfast. In the end, there hadn’t been a lot of breakfast involved. And now Morales was hoping that they could get rid of the farewell part while they were at it.

“Walter…” Hodges began.

“Resign and join Starfleet. You’re practically one of us anyway. And I know Captain Beck would work it out with Command to keep you here. It not like you’re a big fan of Lazlo. It makes sense.”

Hodges smiled back at him, but it wasn’t what he would have called an enthusiastic grin. It was more indulgent.

“Do you know why I became a marine?” she asked, running her hand along Morales’s cheek. “Because I wanted to be a marine. I still want to be a marine, Walter.”

“Starfleet isn’t that much different.”

“It really is. You guys are great at what you do. You explore. You run places like Waystation. You even get into the occasional fight, but only when you can’t avoid it. But it’s all about seeing what’s out there. Honestly, I don’t care. I never have. My only concern is making sure that the people and places I love are kept safe. If you and Lisa and my brother are going to be out here, then I’m going to make damn sure that I’m around to protect you. The Corps is the best place for me to do that. And yes, Lazlo is an ass sometimes, but he also believes in the Corps and its mission more than anyone I’ve ever known. It’s not an easy life. It’s not supposed to be. Living here as long as we have has made us all forget that.”

“So you’re just going to leave us all behind,” Morales said, rolling out of bed and grabbing up his underwear. “Glad to know we meant so much to you.”

“Did you miss the people I love part?” Hodges said, leaping up after him. She wrapped her arms around Morales and pulled him close to her. “I do love you.”

“This isn’t fair,” Morales said.

“What?”

“You’re naked. I can’t argue with you like this.”

“Then don’t argue,” Hodges said, her voice almost a whisper.

“I don’t want you to go.”

“It’s only a couple of hours away.”

“You really want this?”

“It’s who I am.”

“This is where I say that I love who you are, so I’m going to be an adult and accept that you’re going, right?”

Hodges nodded and then kissed him.

“Lazlo is going to allow visits?” Morales said.

“Damn right, he will,” Hodges said.

They kissed again, the kiss deepening to the point that a return to the bed seemed to be in order until…

“All senior officers to Ops,” Captain Beck’s voice said, breaking in over the comm system.

Hodges let out a long sigh. “Remind me to have a word with Lisa about her timing.”

“I’ll do that,” Morales said. “I guess I should go.”

“I need to get my gear stowed on the Mongoose anyway. Lazlo wants us out of here by ten hundred.”

“Not wasting any time.”

“No. I’ll see you soon,” Hodges said, picking up the scattered parts of her uniform as Morales did the same.

“Yeah.”


Morales couldn’t remember a time when he felt less like going to Ops. It had taken all he had to pull himself away from Hodges and leave his quarters. At least there was the small chance that being around his friends would help take his mind off of how miserable he was.

That chance, remote as it was, vanished as soon as he stepped out of the turbolift into Waystation’s command center. The first thing he saw was Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter slumped across his console. Hearing the turbolift doors open and shut, Porter looked up at Morales, eyes bleary, muttered an unenthusiastic “Hey,” then he forced himself to focus on the monitor in front of him as he tapped in a couple of commands.

Morales glanced over at Lieutenant Mike Waits, who was manning tactical. Waits just shrugged, then, as Lieutenant Commander Russell entered from the turbolift a moment later, Waits made a break for it, dashing into the turbolift without so much as a goodbye. Captain Lisa Beck exited her office just as Waits was departing.

“What’s going on?” Morales asked.

“And what happened to Craig?” Russell asked.

“He’s been at it all night,” Beck said.

“Bradley’s computer system?” Morales said.

Beck nodded. “That and scanning every deck for hidden rooms and outside for cloaked ships. Anything.” She looked past Morales and Russell toward the turbolift. “What are you doing here?”

Ensign Tina Jones had just arrived via turbolift with Dr. Diantha. “I…I know I’m not a senior officer,” Jones said. “But I thought this might be about…you know. Bradley.”

“It is,” Beck said.

“Did you find something?” Jones asked hopefully.

“No,” Porter moaned from his console.

“Craig?” Jones said, rushing over to him. “Are you okay?”

“Can’t find him.”

“He’s been at it all night,” Russell said, stealing Beck’s line.

“You can’t do this to yourself,” Jones said.

“You should go to bed immediately,” Dr. Diantha said, locking a taloned hand on Porter’s shoulder.

“Can’t,” Porter said, pushing Diantha’s hand off of him.

Jones shook her head and moved over to Beck and the others. “Captain, can’t you order him to get some rest?”

“Craig’s taking this personally,” Beck said. “He thinks the data storage pants he designed for Banyon are what got him captured.”

“Do you think that?”

“I don’t care one way or the other,” Beck said, an unmistakable edge of anger in her voice. “Bradley doesn’t have the right to just make people disappear. He already pulled this crap with Tiffany Beecher, and I’ll be damned if I’m letting him get away with it again. That’s why I called you up here. We’re going in after Banyon. I want a full security team ready to go this afternoon.”

“All right!” Russell said, slapping his fist into his hand.

“Captain!” Morales exclaimed. “No! You cannot send an armed raiding party against Bradley. I don’t care what he’s done! It’s going to look like a military coup. It will be your career!”

“That’s why you’re not going to be here when it happens,” Beck said. “The rest of you will just be following orders.”

“Captain!” Morales shouted.

Beck grabbed Morales’s arm and pulled him toward her office, away from the rest of the group. “I don’t want you here for this, Walter. The others can deny responsibility, but Command will say that as First Officer, you should have stopped me.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do.”

“Steph’s leaving, isn’t she?” Beck said. Morales was silent for several moments, then finally nodded. “Go with her,” Beck said. “Someone from Starfleet needs to tell the science team at the Space Lodge that they’re being kicked out anyway. Go.”

“Lisa…”

“I’ll be fine. And when you get back, the station will probably be yours.”

“That’s not what I want.”

“It’s what I want,” Beck said. “You’ve got to run things for me if I’m not here. I’m not letting some stranger march in and take over. It’s got to be one of us. It’s got to be you. Now get your ass in a runabout and escort the marines to the Space Lodge. That’s an order.”

Morales didn’t respond right away. Beck could see that he wanted to protest, but finally he said, “Yes, ma’am,” and rejoined the rest of the command staff.

“Bradley’s going to be preoccupied today with the election,” Beck said to the group. “But that doesn’t mean the rest of his staff will be. There could be heavy resistance from the Special Secret Section, and we don’t know what kinds of automated defenses Bradley has set up on the Dillon Enterprises’ levels.”

“His defenses took out a whole squad of Collectors during the invasion a couple of years ago,” Russell said. “It could be ugly. And we still don’t really know where we’re going once we get in there.”

“Working on it,” Porter hissed.

“That wasn’t an attack on you, bud,” Russell. “I know you’re doing all you can.”

“He should be asleep,” Dr. Diantha said. “And this entire scheme is ill-advised. President Dillon released the human adolescent after a brief period of time. He will most likely do the same with Mister Kovacs. You are risking your position and physical harm for no reason.”

“I’m seeing plenty of reasons,” Beck said. “Bradley doesn’t get carte blanche to do whatever the hell he wants. Especially not on my station. We’re going in this afternoon.”

“I can have the team together in half an hour, Captain,” Russell said. “We don’t need to wait.”

Beck glanced over at Morales. “Yes, we do. Commander, you have your orders.”

Morales nodded. “Be careful.”

“You, too,” Beck said as Morales headed for the turbolift. He looked back at her quizzically. “You haven’t met Commander Teague from the survey team. You may be in more danger than we are once you tell her she has to pack up and get out.”

“Hide behind Lazlo when you tell her,” Porter said, forcing his head up. “And film it. I want video!”

Morales rolled his eyes and stepped into the lift. A slight smile crept across his face as the doors closed. Even with everything that was happening and what was possibly to come, Porter still couldn’t pass up a chance for a joke. And Captain Beck was actually trying to protect him because she wanted him in command of Waystation. No, this was not going to go down as one of his best days ever, but he was never going to complain about having these people in his life.


Ensign Jones left Ops a short time after Morales did. With everything planned but on hold until after Morales and the marines departed the station, there was little for her to do but wait. More annoyingly, though, Captain Beck and Lieutenant Commander Russell wouldn’t tell her if she was going to be on the Security team that would be raiding the Dillon Enterprises complex. She knew it would be best if she stayed behind, but she also knew those corridors better than anyone else in Security. She could help. Also, despite Porter’s efforts to take the blame for Kovacs’ disappearance, Jones still couldn’t help feeling that it was her fault. She would obey the captain’s orders, though, whatever they ended up being. For now, though, she was heading back to the Security office in order to follow Beck’s other command: stay away from Bradley Dillon.

So, of course, when the turbolift deposited her on the lower level of Starfleet Square Mall, she ran right into him.

Actually, first she was swarmed by a cadre of Special Secret Section operatives, which made her fear in a moment of panic that Ops had been bugged and that Bradley already knew that Beck and the others were plotting against him. Instead the Special Secret Section officers, upon recognizing Jones, moved aside, allowing her a clear view of President Dillon…and the team of reporters and folks wielding holocameras that were accompanying him.

“Ensign Jones!” Bradley said warmly as he approached her. He took her hand as though he was going to kiss it, but quickly caught himself and shifted to a handshake. “I apologize for that reception, Ensign, but you know how concerned my staff can become when someone suddenly darts out of a turbolift near me.”

“It…it’s okay,” Jones said, her nerves returning to a calmer state. Wait a second. She wasn’t supposed to be talking to Bradley! What if she let something slip? Her nerves immediately jumped back to being…er…nervous. “Well…um…I should let you…go to wherever you were going.”

“I am just heading off to do the traditional photo-op of the candidate voting on election day. Admiral Janeway did hers about a half hour ago at the scene of her Waterloo.”

“Huh?”

“The high school in Indiana where we had the debate.”

“Oh,” Jones said; although, she still had no idea what a waterloo was or what it had to do with anything.

“Have you voted yet?” Bradley asked.

“No. I haven’t had a chance.”

“Ah. I would invite you along with me; however, I wouldn’t want anyone to feel that I was pressuring you to vote for a particular candidate.”

“I’ll get to it. We’ve just had a lot going on,” Jones said. “With the marines leaving, I mean,” she added quickly.

“Of course. That was a bit abrupt. Although, it will free some space up on the station.”

“Are you planning to rent out their deck, too?”

“No no. Approving their request to move just so I could take over their space is a bit mercenary. And an abuse of my presidential authority. I hope you don’t think me capable of such a thing,” Bradley said.

“No!” Jones exclaimed. “Of course not. I just meant…well, it doesn’t matter what I meant, but I didn’t mean…”

“It’s all right,” Bradley replied with a smile. “I should be on my way.”

“Me too,” Jones said. “It was good to see you. Um…good luck with the voting.”

“Thank you,” Bradley said with a slight bow of his head, and then he was off with his horde in tow, leaving Jones alone on the mall concourse.


The lines on the screen in front of him were going all squiggly. Of course, they were normally squiggly, being sensor readings and all, but usually Porter could make some kind of sense out of them. These were just nonsensical. And he had the distinct suspicion that they were taunting him. If he wasn’t so damn exhausted, he’d get his tools out and show those sensors a thing or two, but instead he was just going to have to content himself with staring blankly in the general direction of the screen.

Drip.

And drooling a bit. That would show them.

Porter was yanked (well, lazily dragged) away from his focus (or lack thereof) on his console by the opening and closing of the Ops turbolift doors as Dr. Diantha returned to the bridge.

“I see that you are still here,” the avian medical officer said disapprovingly as she strode over to Porter, her wings spreading a bit behind her in a way that Porter found more than a little intimidating.

“Uh huh,” he replied. “Got work to do.”

“It is one thing to stay up all night, but quite another to stay up all night while also attempting to perform tasks that require a high level of concentration and skill. I can request that Captain Beck order you to bed, and if she won’t, I have the authority to override her and send you to bed myself.”

“You could,” Porter said.

“I prefer not to take that step, though, so I must ask you this question: Do you truly believe that you have anything left to offer this effort?”

Porter was quiet for several moments. Sleep did sound good. And what was he really doing here? He’d been through it all multiple times. If he was just torturing himself with some misguided belief that he had to save the day… No, it was more than that.

“In a couple of hours, a bunch of my friends are going to go get themselves shot at and possibly killed trying to rescue a guy I helped lose in the first place,” Porter said, drawing on his last reserves of coherence. “That’s big fun and all, but what makes it really over-the-top wacky is that they don’t have a clue where to look. And the only way they’re going to get a clue is if I figure out where the hell Bradley’s hiding him.”

“But do you have a clue where do look yourself? Has something changed since Tiffany Beecher was taken by the President?”

“He got away with it then, but not this time. I know this station better than anyone. There’s an answer here, and I’m going to find it.”

“In other words, no. Nothing has changed,” Diantha said. “Except, of course, the additional lives and careers involved.”

“Yep. So I’m staying right here,” Porter said, turning back to her work.

“I see,” Diantha said. A few seconds later, Porter felt a hypospray press against the side of his neck and the hiss of its contents entering his bloodstream.

“What the hell!” he cried. She’d drugged him! She’d actually drugged him! “You can’t…” Then suddenly he felt better. Much better. And awake! Oh so very awake!

“That should help,” Diantha said, closing her medkit. “I wish you luck.” She gave Porter a stately nod, then headed back into the turbolift.

Re-energized, Porter dove back toward his console. Bradley wasn’t going to get away with this again. One time was too many, but twice? No. He couldn’t. This was Porter’s backyard. He literally knew it inside and out. There was something Bradley had missed with his little magic trick, and Porter was damn sure going to find it.


The hangar bay on the deck occupied by the Federation Marines near the lower part of Waystation’s upper saucer was not a huge facility, but as it was only needed to house the Mongoose, the marine’s transport ship, the lack of space usually wasn’t an issue. Currently it was. The neatly-packed belongings of every marine on the station (short of Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal, of course) were lined up along with their owners waiting to be loaded on the Mongoose or into one of the large cargo containers Lazlo had commandeered with the idea of towing them behind the Mongoose out to the Space Lodge. Since Lazlo was in such a good mood about the move, none of the marines themselves would have to ride in the cargo containers.

With Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal defecting for Starfleet, Colonel Lazlo was supervising the loading operation himself. “KINTASA, MOVE IT!”

“He’s in a good mood,” Captain Beck said sliding up beside Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges. “I can tell by the happy tone in his screaming.”

“Yeah, he’s been practically giddy,” Hodges said. “When’d you get here?”

“Just a few seconds ago. Everyone is so busy packing that they don’t seem to care there’s one of us Starfleet types roaming around. You doing okay?”

“Yeah. All set. I was pretty much packed before I had breakfast with Walter this morning. How’s he’s holding up?”

“He’s got a lot on his mind right now,” Beck said. “That’s why I’m sending him with you.”

Hodges coughed and turned on Beck. “What?”

“He’ll be escorting you there in the Cumberland, then he’ll square things away with the survey team and come right back. Or come back a little later if that’s what needs to happen.”

“So you’re misusing your authority as captain to give your friend and First Officer a little more goodbye time.”

“I have my reasons,” Beck said.

Hodges stared at her for a moment. “That wasn’t a joke. What’s going on, Lisa?”

“It’s a protocol thing,” Beck said. “Morales has to deal with the survey team. No biggie.” It wasn’t a lie exactly, but there was certainly a large bit of omitting going on.

“Oh. Right,” Hodges said.

“HODGES!” Lazlo bellowed. “STOW IT AND START YOUR PREFLIGHT!”

“There’s my boarding call,” Hodges said. She gave Beck a hug. “See you soon.”

“Definitely. I’ll come there if I have to.”

“Lazlo would be thrilled, I’m sure,” Hodges said, picking up her stuff. As she made her way into the Mongoose, Beck approached Colonel Lazlo.

“Colonel,” Beck said.

“Beck,” Lazlo said with a nod and, disturbingly, a smile. “Came down to beg us to stay?”

“Nah. Just trying to figure out how I’m going to redecorate the place when you’re gone. I’m thinking chartreuse.”

Lazlo laughed. He actually laughed. “Good to know there will be no hard feelings.”

“From me? Why would there be?”

“Exactly. We both knew this wasn’t working. It was a bad idea from the start. I fully expect that if events in the future require cooperation between our forces, we’ll be able to bypass the stupid posturing we’ve been doing up to now.”

“Who was posturing?” Beck said. Was Lazlo actually trying to take the moral high ground here? The nerve!

“Come by after we get the base set up. I’ll give you a tour,” Lazlo said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some maggots to load.” Only Lazlo could almost make “maggot” sound like a term of endearment.

“Understood,” Beck said. “Have fun at your new home.”

“Oh, I will.” And with that Lazlo started shouting again. “COPELAND! HOW MANY DAMN BOXES ARE YOU TAKING? DID YOU BUY OUT THE DAMN MALL BEFORE YOU LEFT?”

Beck left the hangar deck feeling a bit cheated. After all the years she’d put up with Lazlo, that was the way he left things? Was a “I know we had our differences, but I respect you” too much to ask? Evidently that kind of thing only happened in holovision shows.

Steph leaving was something else altogether, though. Having her lifelong friend on board had been one of the perks of the job for Beck, but she was realistic about what they both did for a living. Transfers were just part of the deal. She was grateful that they’d been in the same place for this long. And it wasn’t like the Space Lodge was that far away. Hmmm…somehow she had a feeling that Lazlo would be coming up with a new name. “Lodge” just didn’t have a violent enough ring to it.

“Porter to Beck,” her Science and Operations officer’s voice said over her commbadge.

“Beck here,” she replied after tapping the device. Porter sounded surprisingly awake.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

Okay. Awake and mildly insane.

“Stop cackling!” Beck ordered.

“Sorry,” Porter said, struggling to control himself. “Can you come back to Ops?”

“Have you got something?”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

“That sure as hell had better be a yes,” Beck said, slapping the channel closed.


Ops was a bit louder and more boisterous than Beck was expecting when she stepped out of the turbolift.

“There!” Lieutenant Commander Russell shouted from his post at tactical. “She’s here. Now tell me!”

“Patience, grasshopper,” Porter replied grinning as he leaned back in his seat at the operations/science console.

“Grasshopper me again, and I’ll break your legs.”

Ensign Jones let out an exasperated breath of air, “If I had the rank to threaten you two…”

“Conveniently, I do,” Beck said. “Tell what the hell that cackling was about, Porter, or I’ll let Russell break your legs.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Russell said. He attention was drawn to a flashing on his console. “The Mongoose is requesting permission to depart. And now so is the Cumberland.”

“Granted,” Beck said with a distracted wave. Under normal circumstances, the departure of the Federation Marines from the station would be more of an event, but Beck had bigger issues on her mind right now. “Unless you’ve got something big to show me Porter, I have to get ready to blast my way into Dillon Enterprises.”

“Look at this!” Porter exclaimed, but two side by side images of squiggly lines onto the Ops viewscreen. He immediately started cackling again.

Beck did as Porter requested. Lines. Yep. Squiggles. Yep. “It’s sensor readings,” she said. “Now comes the part where you calm down and tell us all what they mean.”

“I know. I just like watching you all stare at them with that adorable expression of complete confusion.”

“Russell. Legs,” Beck said.

“Okay!” Porter cried as Russell started to move toward him. “Sorry. It’s the drugs.”

“What drugs?”

“Diantha gave me this great shot and…”

“Never mind. Just tell the damn story!” Beck said.

“Right. You remember how I scanned the entire station when Bradley grabbed Tiffany, right?”

“I remember a whole lot of you not finding anything,” Beck replied.

“Exactly. So now the same thing has happened again,” Porter said.

“Complete with you not finding anything,” Russell said.

“Sean, be nice,” Jones said. “Craig has been trying.”

“Yeah, but I was doing it the wrong way,” Porter said.

Russell opened his mouth to respond, but Beck, anticipating the smart remark, silenced him with a glance.

“I was treating each disappearance as a separate incident,” Porter continued, “when what I really needed to be doing was comparing them. And when I did, I got that!” He pointed at the scans on the viewscreen. “And there go the confused looks again.” Porter sighed. “This is a scan of a portion of Deck 97 behind Bradley’s casino. Officially it’s listed as storage. The scans show, surprise surprise, a large storage room complete with boxes and stuff. I scanned the place both when Tiffany vanished and yesterday.”

“And?” Beck said.

“They’re the same! Exactly the same!”

“It’s a cargo bay. Would you expect big changes?” Jones asked.

“I’d expect some kind of change if this is storing supplies for the casino. Something added. Something moved,” Porter said. “But that’s not all. The sensor readings of the environment are exactly the same down to the number of nitrogen molecules in the air. It’s absolutely impossible!”

“Unless you’re looking at a recording,” Beck said, understanding.

Porter nodded. “It’s a feed loop. I’m not sure how it’s being generated, but it’s running the same 15 minutes of sensor readings over and over again. Now I can’t guarantee that Kovacs is inside of whatever this feed is hiding, but…”

“It’s more than we had,” Beck said.

“I’ll get the team together,” Russell said, moving toward the turbolift.

“Hang on a second,” Beck said, holding up her hand to stop him.

“Is it too soon?” Russell asked. “Want to wait until Commander Morales has been gone a little longer?”

“Well that and I don’t think we need to send in the troops for this one,” Beck replied. “We’re looking at a relatively small space here. It’s out of the way and hidden, so I’m betting a lot of Bradley’s own people don’t know about it. I’ll go with a small group.”

“With that feed loop you’re going to need someone from sciences and probably an engineer,” Porter said. “Lucky for you, I’m both.”

“And you’ve got to take some security with you,” Jones said.

Beck looked over to Jones. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes. I want to go.”

“Woah,” Russell protested. “I’m Chief of Security here. I’m going in!”

“No, you’re in command,” Beck said. “Porter, Jones, and I are being called away to Multos this afternoon to…”

“…review some new ride technology,” Porter finished.

“That works. Russell, have Laru get the Roanoke prepped. When I give the order, she’s to head into the Multek Enclave and not come back until she hears from us. Tina, do you have any idea what Bradley’s schedule is like today?”

“Not really,” Jones said.

“Porter, turn AWN on. Surely they’re covering this election in painful detail,” Beck said.

“I could just comm Gisele,” Jones added.

“Do you think she’d tell you?”

“Yes. She sees me and Bradley together all the time,” Jones said. “Jones to Gisele.”

“You have reached Dillon Enterprises. Gisele speaking,” came the voice of Bradley’s personal assistant.

“Hi, Gisele. It’s Tina.”

“Oh hello, Tina! How are you?”

“Fine. Big day, huh?”

“Oh yes. Mister Dillon has been very…energized,” Gisele said.

“I ran into him earlier when he was on his way to vote, but I didn’t get to talk to him much. Do you know if he’s going to be in his office this afternoon?”

“I don’t believe so. He has a reception with a group of supporters in the campaign headquarters that’s scheduled to last for three hours. If Ms. Lymon has her way, though, I imagine he will be forced to stay there for far longer than he would like,” Gisele said, referring to Bradley’s campaign manager.

“Oh. Okay. Well I’ll catch up with him later. Maybe tomorrow after all of this craziness is over. Thanks, Gisele,” Jones said.

“No problem at all,” Gisele replied. “Dillon Enterprises out.”

“You did that too well,” Beck said after the channel was closed.

“What?” Jones said confused.

“Lied to her.”

“I didn’t lie about anything. I really did run into Bradley earlier.”

“I think our esteemed captain is just surprised that you were able to gather information to be used for nefarious purposes so easily,” Porter said.

“We’re not doing anything nefarious,” Jones said firmly. “We’re the good guys.”

“Damn right,” Beck said. “Now we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to do some breaking and entering. Porter, find something to fix on the casino level and scout out the situation. I want an entry plan in two hours. Dismissed.”


Commander Morales felt that he probably would have gotten a lot more out of traveling to the Space Lodge with Hodges if he had been…well…with Hodges. As it stood, she was flying the Mongoose and he was alone in the Runabout Cumberland. Comm conversations weren’t much of a possibility either with Colonel Lazlo insisting on sitting in the Marine ship’s cockpit with Hodges. So apart from a couple of all-business comms with Hodges about course and speed, Morales spent the trip out to the Space Lodge in silence and wondering if there was anything he could have done differently.

Well, for starters, he could have asked her to marry him.

That was the next logical step, wasn’t it? At least that’s what he’d told Porter several months earlier. Right before they discovered the Space Lodge, oddly enough. In all the time that had passed since then, though, Morales hadn’t made a move toward actually proposing. He’d never even brought up the subject of marriage at all, and neither had Hodges.

But, if he was honest with himself, it wasn’t fear of rejection or anything like that that prevented himself from proposing to Hodges. The truth was that he wasn’t sure that getting married because it was the next logical step was really a good enough reason. There had to be more to it than that.

Was he ready to be married? Did he even have a clue what being married would mean? And what if he had married Hodges? Was that any guarantee that he wouldn’t be in this exact same situation, except instead of saying goodbye to his girlfriend, he’d be saying goodbye to his wife? Many many many many people in Starfleet had spouses who were stationed somewhere else. Morales just didn’t think that he wanted his marriage, if he ever had one, to be that way.

So where did that leave him?

At the Space Lodge, for one thing. The Cumberland dropped out of warp alongside the Mongoose at the coordinates of the entry to the subspace phenomenon. From this perspective it wasn’t much to see. Just a thin grey ring with a diameter about twice the width of the runabout. Once a vessel passed through the ring, though, they would enter the subspace pocket containing the Space Lodge, a structure created by beings unknown. Hodges took the lead with the Mongoose, carefully lining the larger craft up with the ring. At best, she would have a couple of inches on either side of the wings where the Mongoose’s nacelles were mounted. For Hodges, though, it was more than enough room. It was a silly thing, but Morales couldn’t help but smile as he watched the Mongoose sail through the ring with ease, towing several cargo containers behind it. Hodges was a hell of a pilot.

He steered the Cumberland in after her, passing through the subspace threshold into the garishly-bright yellow docking bay of the Space Lodge. Hodges had landed the Mongoose beside the small scout ship of the Starfleet Sciences survey team that was currently occupying the structure. Morales set down on the other side of the survey craft and disembarked.

As soon as he opened the Cumberland’s hatch, he heard Lazlo’s voice bellowing orders at his marines.

“I SAID MOVE, MAGGOTS! YOU’VE HAD HOURS TO SIT ON YOUR LAZY ASSES! GET UP AND UNLOAD YOUR GEAR!!”

Charming as ever.

“WHERE THE HELL IS OUR ESCORT?” Lazlo demanded, putting as much disdain as possible into the word escort. That was Morales’s cue. Resisting the urge to pull a Porter and saunter over with some kind of sarcastic remark, Morales decided to be professional and act like a proper Starfleet Officer. Of course, if he could have come up with a sarcastic remark quickly enough, he would have been far more tempted to go with the Porter version of things.

“I will go speak to the survey team,” Morales said, striding up to Lazlo and speaking before Lazlo could yell at him. “You and your platoon need to remain in the docking bay until I’ve had a chance to inform the Commander Teague of the situation.” With that, he stole a glance at Hodges, who gave him a little smile, then he headed through the door leading deeper into the Space Lodge.

He quickly came to the large chamber that the previous occupants, a group from Induskera, had been using as their dance hall/party room. Now it was filled with portable consoles and scanning gear as well as three Starfleet Science officers who were huddled around a monitor. They looked up surprised as Morales entered.

“What are you doing here? Who are you? What the hell do you want?” a dark haired human woman, whom Morales assumed was Commander Teague snapped, charging over to him.

“Commander Walter Morales from Waystation,” Morales replied. He took a deep breath and launched into the bad news. “On the authority of the President of the Federation, the Federation Science Council, and Starfleet Command, you are hereby ordered to immediately vacate this location.”

Commander Teague stared at him for a few moments.

“I’m sorry,” Morales added uncomfortably. “If it were up to me, you’d be staying here, but it’s not. There’s a bunch of Federation Marines in the docking bay waiting to take possession. And they won’t wait long. Believe me. Do you need help packing?”

Teague stared at him for a few more seconds then finally said, “No.”

“Are you sure?” Morales said, trying to hide his relief that she wasn’t shouting at him. “I don’t mind helping out.”

“No, I mean ‘no’ as in we’re not going anywhere,” Teague said. “You’ve got a hell of a lot of nerve marching in here and telling us to pack it in. I don’t care who you’ve got waiting out in the docking bay. I’m not leaving. I’ll fight this all the way up to President Dillon, if I have to!”

There was the shouting. Oh well. It was to be expected.

“President Dillon is the one who signed the order,” Morales said, positive this was going to bring on more shouting.

“He can just unsign it then!”

Yep. More shouting.

“I don’t think he’s going to do that.”

“Then he can come here himself and tell me that, because until that happens WE’RE STAYING PUT!”

Morales forced a smile. “Of course you are,” he said, before turning on his heel and making a hasty retreat back to the docking bay.


After slowly lowering herself out of the jefferies tube hatch, Captain Beck dropped down into a corridor on Deck 97. Normally using a ceiling hatch like this wouldn’t have been her first choice, but as all of the usual wall hatches had been sealed up from the outside, there weren’t many other options. Commander Porter dropped down beside her a moment later followed by Ensign Jones soon after that.

Porter looked around, taking in the wood paneled corridor walls and golden crown molding and trim. “Hmm,” he said, nodding appreciatively. “Bradley redecorated.”

“Considering this is supposed to be a cargo bay, I would say so,” Beck replied. If Porter’s sense of direction was correct, they were just inside the mystery region. The corridor dead ended at a wall off to her left, beyond which was Bradley’s casino. “Let’s get moving,” she added, heading off in the opposite direction.

“Captain,” Jones said hesitantly. “I think I should go first. I’m the security here.”

“I’m not too worried about the protocol,” Beck said, approaching the first door. She expected it to be sealed, but instead the doors slid aside allowing her and the others to enter.

“What is this place?” Porter said, looking around. The room was filled with racks and shelves of various devices and doo-dads, most of which Porter couldn’t even begin to identify. The property tag on an item he picked up did tell him one bit of information: “Property of Dillon Enterprises Research & Development.” Putting the device back down, his eyes locked on a tall blue wooden cabinet standing in one corner. “What the hell is a police box?”

“He’s not here,” Beck said, clearly not interested in the room’s contents. The scientist inside Porter wanted to protest. The guy who loved gadgets even more so. But there were bigger concerns than whatever cool stuff Bradley Dillon had secreted away down here. Besides, he could always come back later.

The three officers moved back out into the hallway and quickly headed to the next door. With the hallway decor, it really felt like being on one of the main Dillon Enterprises levels. Possibly even a bit nicer, judging by the marble bathroom they encountered. Most of the rooms, though, were labs. And all were empty. Beck really couldn’t complain too much about that, though, since stunning Dillon Enterprises employees really wasn’t high up on her list of things to do today. She just wanted to get in, get Banyon Kovacs, and get out.

Finally, down a short side corridor leading off of the main one, they hit a locked door. Beck nodded at Porter, who immediately pried off the access panel beside the door and got to work on the lock. Within seconds, he had it opened.

“I was expecting more of a challenge,” he said.

“I guess a basic locked door is enough to tell Bradley’s employees to keep out,” Beck said, peering into the dark room beyond the doors. She cautiously stepped inside, phaser drawn, as Jones pulled out her own weapon and flanked Beck. Porter, content to let the people with guns go first, brought up the rear. As their eyes adjusted to the dim light of the room, Porter’s interest was immediately drawn to a large mass of metal hanging down from the ceiling. It was covered in various pointy-bits and things that almost looked like blades, giving the contraption a very menacing look overall.

Beck, meanwhile, was far more concerned with what she found hanging on the far wall of the room: Banyon Kovacs. He’d been stretched into a spread eagle position and mounted on the wall by metal bands around his wrists, ankles, waist, and neck. It certainly didn’t look remotely comfortable, but you never would have guessed by the bored look on his face. The look quickly changed to a big grin when he spotted Beck.

“Hey there! I’d give you a hug, but…” He glanced over at the binding on his right wrist.

“But someone decided to use you as a tapestry,” Beck said as she stepped over to a small pedestal console sitting between the large metal device Porter was examining and Kovacs’ wall prison.

“Watch what you’re doing over there,” Kovacs said sounding more than a little concerned. “Please.”

“I’m trying to release you.”

“Which I think is a great idea, but I don’t want you to wake up big and nasty over there,” Kovacs said, pointing as well as he could at the metal monstrosity.

“Did they use that on you?” Beck asked in horror.

“Not yet,” Kovacs replied. “They keep threatening to, though, if I don’t tell them what happened to the hologram.”

“They didn’t check your pants?” Beck said. Kovacs was currently wearing a pair of pants Porter had fitted with data storage in order to get the sentient hologram Bradley was trying to delete safely out of Dillon Enterprises. Obviously the getting out part hadn’t gone quite according to plan, but at least the pants were still intact.

“Nope. Just the padd I brought along as a prop, but unless they want to play solitaire, there isn’t much they’re going to get out of it,” Kovacs said. A second later, the bindings holding him retracted into the wall, sending him dropping to the floor. Beck rushed over and helped him to his feet.

“Thanks,” Kovacs said, still a bit wobbly after spending the last day mounted to a wall. “You guys run across a bathroom anywhere? I’ve been holding it for hours.”

“There’s one down the hall,” Porter said.

“Can we wait on this until we’re out of here?” Jones asked.

“But they’ve got a really nice bathroom,” Porter said.

“I’d take a spare pot at this point,” Kovacs said.

“You can go in Ops,” Beck said, slapping her commbadge. “Beck to Russell.”

The commbadge responded with a sickening chirp and then silence.

“I was afraid of that,” Porter said as he opened his tool kit and took out a handful of black armbands with small white devices mounted on them. “Plan B. Put these on,” he ordered, handing them out. “I’ve tied them into the Wayward’s transporter, in case Bradley had compromised Waystation’s system. And I’ve boosted the signal enough that they should be able detect it on Multos.” Porter slid his armband up his arm and pressed down on the activation button.

The next few seconds were distressingly short of transporter activity.

“Wow. Good jamming field,” Porter said.

“I’ll be sure to compliment Bradley on it later,” Beck muttered.

“Do you have a Plan C?” Jones asked.

“I think it’s something along the line of get out the way we came in,” Beck said, heading for the doors. She suddenly heard the sound of a transporter. Porter’s system must have just taken a little bit longer than expected to activate. Relieved, she turned to Porter, expecting to see him dematerialize. He was remarkably non-sparkly. There was, however, a blue-suited Special Secret Section agent materializing right behind him.

“DOWN!” Beck shouted, aiming her phaser. Porter dropped to the floor and Beck fired, stunning the agent just as his transporter sequence finished.

“I suddenly don’t need to pee anymore,” Kovacs said.

“Let’s go!” Beck said. She charged out into the corridor. A phaser blast seared past her, coming from behind. She didn’t have much time to worry about that, though, since another Special Secret Section agent was in front of her, raising his weapon. She fired at her forward attacker just as she heard another phaser blast sound. She reflexively tensed, expecting a blast to slam into her. Instead she heard the thud of a body hitting the floor.

Jones rushed up beside her, phaser in hand. “We really need to go,” Jones said. As soon as the words left her mouth, more transporter beams were coalescing in the corridor around them.

“How come they can beam in here?” Porter demanded.

“Care later!” Beck said, racing down the corridor while firing two quick shots into the agents that had just materialized in front of her.

“We’re never going to be able to get back up into the hatch without getting shot,” Jones said.

“I know.”

“And I didn’t see another door out of here.”

“I know! Not helping!”

“Sorry.”

They had just about reached the jefferies tube hatch, but as though to emphasize Jones’s point, another trio of agents began to materialize ahead of them.

“Go!” Beck snapped, shoving Kovacs through the nearest set of doors and leaping in after him, Porter and Jones close behind.

They were back in the device and doo-dad storage room they’d found earlier, except…

“Hey! Where did that big blue box thing go?” Porter asked, staring at the now-empty corner.

“Don’t care right now. Lock that door!” Beck said, quickly looking around for another way out. Porter pushed the mystery of the disappearing police box out of his head, ripped the access panel off of the wall, and set to work sealing the doors. And this wasn’t going to be any basic lock job either. Bradley’s little friends would need explosives to get through those doors when he was finished.

Porter just hoped they wouldn’t resort to that. From what he’d gathered from Captain Beck, being blown up hurt…a lot.

The sound of a transporter beam pulled him out of his thoughts of explosives. Hmm…if the agents could just beam in, his door locking did seem a bit useless.

Jones zapped the agent before he had a chance to react to materializing.

“WE CAN DO THIS ALL DAY!” Beck shouted to the air.

The group waited tensely for several moments, but no other agents tried to transport in.

“They could still try to beam us out,” Porter said, yanking out his tricorder and quickly hitting commands. “I’m setting up a low-level jamming field. It will hopefully be enough to stop them from getting a good lock on us.”

“Good,” Beck said.

The room suddenly went dark.

“They’ve cut the power,” Porter said, rushing back over to the doors as two emergency lights flared to life in the rear corners of the room. “That isn’t going to help with the whole door staying locked thing.”

While that was a problem, Beck had a more pressing concern leap into her mind. “Check your phasers!” she ordered, tapping the setting controls on her own weapon. Nothing. No lights. It just sounded…

“Dead,” Jones said.

“Dammit!” Porter shouted, almost throwing his tricorder to the ground in frustration. He thought better of it, though, considering that it was the only thing preventing them from being snatched out of the room by a transporter beam.

“They must have gotten access to the security override on the phasers and shut them down,” Jones said.

“I always thought that system was a bad idea,” Beck said.

“It is…until some bad guy grabs your phaser and starts pointing it at you,” Kovacs said.

“That happen to you much?”

“No comment,” Kovacs said quickly.

A metallic clang echoed through the room from the direction of the door.

“I think the lockpick has arrived,” Porter said.

Several more clangs and bangs sounded.

“How soon until Russell sends in the cavalry?” Kovacs asked.

“He’s not going to,” Beck replied. “He’s under orders to stay out of this.”

“Ah. Well…I guess that means we’re back to planning our own rescue.”

“Then we’d better hope there’s something in here we can use,” Beck said.


Morales was going over phrasing in his head as he returned to the Space Lodge docking bay, trying to figure out how best to present the situation to Colonel Lazlo. He wasn’t naive enough to believe that any words he could use would result in anything other than Lazlo screaming at him, but he was aiming for the word choice that would lead to the shortest bit of shouting.

Lazlo was standing in the middle of the bay, relentlessly berating the marines as they labored to unload their gear and possessions from the Mongoose. Morales expected Lazlo to charge at him as soon he stepped into the docking bay, but the colonel ignored him until Morales was right beside him.

“Took you long enough,” Lazlo said.

Long enough? Morales was only in there for as long as it took to get yelled at and leave again. What would Lazlo have said if an actual conversation had taken place?

“The survey team has been informed, and they are…confirming the orders with Command,” Morales said.

Lazlo glared at him. “What the hell is there to confirm? We’re here. They’re leaving. End of story.”

“They…don’t really want to go,” Morales said.

“I DON’T GIVE A DAMN WHAT THEY WANT!”

“I think they feel the same way about you. And they have refused to leave the Space Lodge until they’re told they have to.”

“YOU TOLD THEM!”

“Told by someone higher up than me. Higher up than pretty much everyone really. They want it from the President.”

Lazlo’s mustache twitched. A split second later he screamed, “ANERASISS!” With Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal’s departure from the Marines, Lieutenant Anerasiss, a Caitian, had become Lazlo’s go-to person. The Caitian gracefully bounded over.

“Yes, sir!” she said, saluting. Lazlo glanced at Morales, then whispered something into Anerasiss’ upraised ear. She nodded crisply, then rushed away. A short time later, a squad of marines stormed through the door into the interior of the Space Lodge

“What are you doing?” Morales demanded.

“You don’t honestly think I’m going to let those people stand in my way, do you?” Lazlo said. Anerasiss had already returned with a Vulcan scientist tucked under her muscular arm, whom she deposited into the survey team’s scout ship. “We outnumber them about 20 to 1, and we have all of the guns.”

The Vulcan was soon joined by his colleagues and several piles of equipment, which were unceremoniously dumped into the scout ship. Commander Teague was the last to emerge from the Space Lodge, ranting and flailing as she was hoisted above the heads of three marines.

“I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS, MORALES!” she screamed just before being tossed through the hatch into her ship.

“Me?” Morales exclaimed. “I didn’t do anything!”

Lazlo snorted. “Pathetic,” he muttered before turning to Anerasiss and shouting, “Lieutenant, if they haven’t launched in the next 30 seconds, you are to open fire!”

The scout ship lifted off in 24 seconds and zoomed out of the ring just as the count hit 30.

“You’re done here, Commander,” Lazlo said.

“Thanks,” Morales said flatly.

“Let’s load it in!” Lazlo ordered, striding through the doors into the Space Lodge as his marines scrambled to pick up crates and carry them in behind their commanding officer.

Morales soon found himself alone in the docking bay.

Alone except for Stephanie Hodges.

“Hey,” she said smiling.

“Hey, yourself,” Morales replied. Wow. That was incredibly lame.

Hodges shuffled her feet a bit. “I’d invite you to stick around, but…”

“I know. I think Lazlo will throw me out into space himself if I’m still here when he gets back,” Morales said.

“I’m glad you came along, though.”

“Me too.”

There were a few lovely seconds of uncomfortable silence before…

“We kind of did the big goodbye scene earlier, didn’t we?” Morales said.

“Yeah.”

“Good seeing you, though.”

“Oh definitely!” Hodges said. “And you’ll be back soon. Or I’ll come to Waystation.”

“Please do. You always have a bed to sleep in at my place.”

“I bet I do,” Hodges said, wrapping her arms around him. They settled into a long comfortable kiss. Morales didn’t want to let go, but he knew that they couldn’t stay this way forever.

When the kiss did finally end, he looked into her eyes for several long moments. “I…,” he began. What? What was he really going to say now? That he wanted her to leave the Marines? That he wanted her to come back to Waystation with him? What would any of that accomplish except ending things on a bad note?

“I should get going,” he finished.

“Yeah,” Hodges said before giving him another quick kiss. “See you soon.”

“I’ll be waiting,” Morales replied. After one last kiss, he entered the runabout, closed the hatch, and started his preflight sequence.

Hodges remained in the docking bay, watching him, until he lifted off and sailed through the subspace gateway out into normal space.


Determining whether or not there actually was anything useful in the shelves and bins of the Dillon Enterprises R&D storage room was something of a challenge considering that the R&D staff hadn’t bothered to put anything in the way of descriptive names on any of the various gizmos and gadgets. Instead, Captain Beck and the others were faced with oh-so-helpful nameplates reading “XF-2004J,” “PCK-900DF,” and such. Beck resorted to grabbing anything that looked like it might have any kind of offensive capability, which left her with a couple of vaguely gun-shaped objects as well as a few egg-shaped devices that she hoped were in the grenade family.

Another loud clang was followed up by an unwelcome creaking sound and a thin shaft of light from the doors as they were pried a small way apart.

“Jones!” Beck called, tossing what she hoped was a rifle to the security officer.

Jones, not expecting the incoming weapon, let out a surprised cry and bobbled it before dropping it to the deck. “Sorry,” she said sheepishly, quickly scooping it back up. “What is this thing?”

“No idea. You and I will take point. Banyon, you get to throw those things,” Beck said, pointing at the oval devices she’d gathered. “Porter…”

“I get to keep searching,” Porter said for her.

“You got it.”

As Porter made for the rear of the storeroom to get as far away from the firefight to come as possible while he looked for something else useful, Beck, Jones, and Kovacs took up positions behind shelving units.

“Don’t do anything until you can get a clear shot,” Beck said.

Something inside the door mechanism cracked loudly, and the doors to the room sprang open, sending a large prybar on the other side clattering to the floor. It was quickly kicked aside as two hulking agents stepped into the door frame and shined flashlights into the room.

“You can come out now,” a voice Beck immediately recognized as Agent Anderson’s, the head of Bradley’s Special Secret Section, called into the room sounding way too smug for Beck’s tastes.

“Really?” Beck shouted back. “Does that mean you’re surrendering?”

Beck expected some kind of pithy comeback. Instead a phaser blast slammed into the frame of the shelving she was using as cover. What the hell was Anderson doing? There was a protocol for these things! Banter, failed diplomacy, and THEN start shooting! He couldn’t just skip to the shooting part!

Jones seemed to be equally put out by Agent Anderson’s breach of etiquette. With a cry of, “HEY! That wasn’t very nice!” she ducked out from behind her set of shelves and quickly returned fire before dodging to safety again. From Beck’s perspective she could see a blue beam lance out from Jones’s weapon, but that was about it. Judging by the horrified gasps coming from the direction of the door, Jones had evidently scored a hit.

The gasps were then followed up by…a cluck.

Unable to resist a look, Beck peered around the shelving toward the door. The lighting was dim, but there was definitely something remarkably resembling a chicken strutting around at the entrance to the room.

“Jones!” Beck called.

“Yes, Captain.”

“Did you do that?”

“Um…I think so, Captain.”

Jones did indeed do that. The weapon she was holding was not designed to be a weapon, actually. Instead, the KL-83-X, as it was known by the Dillon Enterprises R&D staff, was intended for use by colonists or other individuals that found themselves on unfamiliar worlds. The device had gotten far enough along that some potential names had been chosen for it before it was shelved, the most popular of which was “Pickin’ Chicken.” The idea was this: if you were on an unfamiliar world, you would also most likely be faced with an equally unfamiliar array of fauna, and, therefore, finding out which of these animals made for good eating, as it were, could be a long and potentially deadly process. Working from the old cliche that many things, when cooked, tasted like chicken, the Dillon Enterprises R&D staff decided to go all the way and create a device that would actually reconfigure the DNA of any creature into that of a chicken, thereby creating a friendly and familiar food source for the colonists or whoever needed it. The product’s progress along the path to availability on the shelves of Dillon’s Supply Depot was brought to a screeching halt by four minor factors:

* First, despite the popularity of poultry on Earth, many Federation member species did not like chicken. Keetooans seemed to have a particular objection for some reason.

* Second, considering the ready availability of replicators, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of need for a device that produced nothing but chicken.

* Third, the chicken produced were still alive, which led to some messy slaughtering business that many people just were not thrilled about.

* And finally, the Pickin’ Chicken was rather indiscriminate about its targets, which could potentially lead to some unfortunate diplomatic situations. Sure that creepy squid-thing with all of the spiked tentacles looked nasty enough, but matters would get a bit uncomfortable when you found out later on that that was the leader of the planet’s sentient native species that you just fried up in the Colonel’s special blend of eleven herbs and spices.

The indiscriminate nature of the Pickin’ Chicken had also resulted in the current situation. Believing the occupants of the store room to be complete unarmed, since their phasers had been deactivated thanks to an unauthorized use of the station security’s weapons override system, Agent Anderson had entered the room eagerly awaiting the opportunity to smack around the trespassers personally. Instead he now found himself covered in feathers and experiencing an unrelenting craving for corn.

His fellow agents momentary shock and horror at seeing what had become of their leader quickly abated. Diving for the safety of the door frame (and snatching up the poultry-fied Anderson), the other Special Secret Section operatives began to return fire in earnest. Beck was ready to do the same when she realized that no blasts were coming from Jones’s direction.

“Jones! Is your gun functional?”

“Um…I think so.”

“Then why aren’t you shooting it!”

“I turned him into a chicken!” Jones cried, obviously upset. “What if they can’t turn him back?”

“What if we’re too dead to find out?”

“Oh. Good point.”

“I thought so!” Beck said. In all honestly, though, Jones had a good point as well. Just not quite as good as the “ending up dead” one. Beck, however, couldn’t help being a bit apprehensive, wondering what she held in her hands. After turning the dial on top as low as it would go (at least she hoped she was turning it toward the low end), she ducked around the shelving with her own vaguely-gun-shaped device and fired.

What resulted didn’t so much fall into the “firing” category. Instead of any type of energy beam blasting toward the agents at the door, a near-blinding glow emanated at the front of the device. This glow soon subsided leaving a rather crappy-looking metal folding chair hovering in front of Beck. The hovering didn’t last long. But, rather than gravity kicking in and the chair dropping to the deck, as Beck would have expected, the chair suddenly rocketed toward the door and slammed into the head of an agent unfortunate enough to duck into view long enough to fire his weapon.

This was not the sort of thing that chairs did normally, and while it was surprising to Beck and everyone else involved in the present battle, it was downright infuriating to the Dillon Enterprises R&D staff that had worked on the BHJ-0998, also known at the “Select-A-Seat.” The idea had been simple. Food replicators were fairly compact and able to be taken from place to place, yet the larger replicators used to make furniture and the like generally were not. But what if you were someplace and you wanted a chair? There was always the collapsible type, as found in the classic “Sprout-A-Stool,” brought to you by the geniuses behind “Base-In-A-Briefcase.”

But what if you wanted more options? The “Select-A-Seat” was basically a replicator which used an experimental process called molecular hyper-compression to store the raw materials necessary to make the various seating selections available in its memory. The act of decompressing the molecules during the replication process, however, had the minor side-effect of launching the resulting bit of furniture across the room.

This unfortunate issue brought the “Select-A-Seat” project to a halt and derailed its sister projects “Try-A-Table” and “Add-An-Anvil.”

So while the Dillon Enterprises R&D staff had been disgusted at their failure, Captain Beck, after getting over the initial shock, was delighted. She turned the dial up and few ticks and fired again. Instantly, a plush armchair formed in front of her, then careened toward the door.

“That was a warning shot!” Beck shouted. “Don’t make me turn this thing up to sectional sofa!”

The phaser blasts that headed her way in response gave her the impression that the Special Secret Section agents had not been as intimidated as she might have hoped.

“Fire in the hole!” Kovacs shouted from behind her. She ducked down as one of the egg-shaped devices sailed by, landing in the corridor beyond. For several moments nothing happened…

…then the corridor was filled with a deafening roar as the egg burst open, releasing gale-force winds that tossed the agents around like so many dried leaves. As the winds reached into the storeroom, the various gadgets and gizmos sailed off of the shelves, slamming into the walls, the floor, and…

“OW! HEY!”

…Lieutenant Commander Porter.

“Hit them again!” Beck shouted.

“WHAT?” Porter cried. “NO!”

Kovacs wasn’t listening to Porter, though, which wasn’t surprising considering that Beck outranked Porter and Beck was the one Kovacs was sleeping with. He lobbed another egg out into the hall, which promptly burst into another barrage of gale-force winds.

The eggs were another result of the hyper-compression experiments. This one was designed to quickly create a breathable atmosphere in an enclosed space without requiring that large tanks of air be used. One egg had enough compressed atmosphere to fill a cargo bay. Unfortunately, the release of said air from the egg would reduce any cargo in said bay to battered rubble.

While the Special Secret Section agents were experiencing another round of this first hand, Beck turned the dial on the “Select-A-Seat” to maximum and fired. The result wasn’t quite the sectional sofa she had been hoping for. Instead, a lovely Louis XIV style sofa with ornately-carved legs appeared and launched toward the door. Wide as it was, it slammed into either side of the door fame and collapsed to the deck. The winds buffeting the agents were already dying down as Beck launched sofa after sofa at the door, creating as much of a barricade as she could.

As the gusts fell to a gentle breeze, she could hear several pained groans (and one pained cluck) coming from the opposite side of her makeshift wall.

Beck rushed back to Porter. “Those couches aren’t going to stand up to phasers, so this may be the only window we get, Craig. Can you get us out of here?”

Porter brandished something that looked like a cross between a chainsaw and a plasma torch. “Stand back,” he said. “We’re going down.” He moved to start cutting into the deck plating when…

“CAPTAIN BECK!”

The voice was familiar. Unmistakably familiar.

“Bradley!” Jones exclaimed in alarm.

“Get to work,” Beck said to Porter before turning to Jones. “Hide behind something, so he doesn’t see you. I’ll handle things.”

Jones shook her head. “No. I’m coming. He needs to know I’m here.”

Together they approached the wall of sofas.

“Captain!” Bradley shouted again.

“What do you want, Bradley?” Beck growled back.

The response was several seconds in coming. Beck guessed…or hoped really, that it was because her words had had their intended effect. No formal title. No pleasantries. The message should be loud and clear: she was pissed off.

“I would ask you the same question, Captain. This facility isn’t open to the public,” Bradley said finally.

“This facility, as you call it, is on MY station, and I ain’t exactly the public,” Beck shot back.

“Please, Captain. I cannot have a civil conversation with you through this mass of wood and upholstery. Can you move this, so we can speak face-to-face?”

“Or so your goons can shoot me?”

“You have my word that nothing will happen.”

“I’m not sure how much I think your word is worth right now, Bradley.”

Another silence. “I should think that we have known each other long enough to have a bit of trust,” Bradley said.

“Do you have any idea what that sounds like coming from you after the shit you’ve pulled?”

“Captain Beck…Lisa…please.”

Beck rolled her eyes. “Don’t make me regret this,” she said. She nodded at Jones, who moved to one end of the sofa stack as Beck moved to the other. With a shove, they toppled the top couch and then the next, opening up the top half of the door frame.

Bradley Dillon was on the other side, his Special Secret Section agents standing back a bit, weapons holstered. Bradley started to flash the charming smile he used for public appearances at Beck, but froze as he spotted Jones.

“Tina,” he said shocked. It came out more as a croak.

“Hi, Bradley,” Jones said flatly.

“You…”

“No, it was you,” Beck snapped. “You created this situation. Kidnapping. Intimidation. Now you’re trying to destroy sentient beings.”

“The hologram was not supposed to exist,” Bradley said.

“Well, he does!” Jones said. “You can’t just kill him! I didn’t think you could be this…evil!”

Bradley jolted as though struck. He stared at Tina, hurt plain in his eyes. “I…I’m not. You can’t believe that of me.”

“Why not? I saw what you were going to do to him!” Jones said, pointing at Banyon Kovacs. “And what have you done to Doctor Fouklok?” she demanded.

“Fouklok is fine. We had a chat about respecting Dillon Enterprises confidentiality agreements, but I do not make a habit of discarding my best scientists. Geniuses on Fouklok’s level do not come around often.”

“How nice for him,” Beck said. “Meanwhile, you had my boyfriend stuck to a wall about to be pulverized into a mass of ground beef.”

“Captain, please,” Bradley said with a disgusted wince. “I assure you that all of it was just for show in a effort to convince…your boyfriend?”

Beck nodded.

“Oh dear. Well… Really we just wanted to know where the hologram was. Agent Anderson had found the technique to be rather effective on the Beecher girl after the bombing.” Bradley looked around. “Where is Anderson?”

“Buck-Awwwk!”

“Ah. You found the ‘Pickin’ Chicken,’ I see. That would explain the feathers everywhere.”

“What’s the plan now, Bradley?” Beck said. “Are you going to make us disappear for a while, too? Forever maybe?”

“I can assure that is not my intention. If it was, I could have just allowed the Special Secret Section to deal with you. As it stands, I have a number of people waiting for me to put in an appearance at my campaign headquarters, but I am here to make sure that no one is harmed.”

“Buck-AWWWWK!”

“No one ELSE is harmed,” Bradley said.

“Touching that you thought of us,” Beck said darkly. “Go back to your party. We’ll be fine. And if you win the election, we can celebrate with a nice impeachment.”

Bradley and Beck stared at each across the sofas for several moments. Bradley nodded, then turned to the closest Special Secret Section agent. “Clear out,” he ordered. “They’re free to leave.”

“Mister President…” the agent began to protest.

“They can go,” Bradley said. The agents exchanged some low grumbled comments and one incensed cluck, but they did as they were told, leaving Bradley behind. Beck and Jones moved the last couple of sofas aside as Porter and Kovacs approached from the rear of the storeroom.

“We’re escaping through the front door?” Porter said. “Bold move.”

“Get back to Ops,” Beck said. “We’ll be right there.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Porter said.

“Thanks for the hospitality,” Kovacs said to Bradley as he walked by.

“There’s a bit of a hole in the floor at the back of the room now,” Porter called. “Sorry about that. Watch your step.”

Once they were gone, Bradley focused his attention back on Beck. “Well, Captain, it is, as the saying goes, your move.”

“Damn right, it is,” she snapped before striding off down the corridor. She’d made it about three steps before she stopped and turned on him. “I…I really could just reach out and strangle you right now! You’ve spent the last year acting like you can do whatever you want to whomever you want! Being president doesn’t mean you own us all, Bradley! We weren’t trying to keep you out of our computer system to be cute! And what about this place? You CANNOT hide entire sections of the station from us! This probably didn’t even cross your mind as you were off playing Lord of the Universe, but you’re compromising station security!

“But none of that, none of that, compares to what you’ve done to other people. Terrorizing a young girl. Wiping out a nanite society. Interrogating everyone on the station like we’re a bunch of criminals. Copying the Voyager Doctor’s program without his knowledge. Banyon!”

Bradley frowned. “Who?”

“My boyfriend!”

“Ah. Yes. Him. Sorry. Continue.”

“We’re not your playthings! And we’re not going to be stepped on while you make your way up to whatever peak you’re off to next. Hell, you’re already president. I have no idea where you have left to go!”

Beck stopped her tirade and took several deep breaths.

“But here’s the thing: I don’t want to destroy you. I really don’t. Despite my occasional urge to wring your neck, we are friends…of some kind. And you have done a decent job as President. Even with all this going on, I voted for you today. Not that I had a lot of choice, considering the alternative. The point is I don’t want to see you impeached.”

“I appreciate that,” Bradley said. “Perhaps then we can just put all this unpleasantness behind us.”

“It’s not that easy,” Beck replied. “There are some conditions.”

“Extortion?” Bradley asked with a slight smile, attempting to lighten the mood.

Beck wasn’t going for it. “I don’t care what the hell you call it, but this is the way it is. First, I deal with the hologram.”

“Agreed,” Bradley said, returning to all-business.

“Second, you are OUT of our computer systems. If Porter so much as suspects that you’ve been in there…”

“I understand,” Bradley said.

“And this place gets registered properly with station operations,” Beck said.

“Captain, the research and development work done in these labs is highly sensitive. I cannot have their existence become common knowledge.”

“It will be command level only, but I have to have some idea of what’s going on on my station.”

“Very well,” Bradley said, clearly displeased at the idea.

“Finally, there will be no more disappearances, kidnappings, interrogations, intimidations, or anything like that.”

“Of course.”

“Good,” Beck said. “Then we’re done here. Good luck with the vote.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Bradley said before turning to Jones. “Ensign…”

“And you can’t speak to me anymore,” Jones said without looking back at him.

Bradley drew back.

“You’re not who I thought you were,” Jones continued. She paused, then shook her head. “No. That’s not true. You’re who I should have known you are. And I can’t be with you.”

“Tina…”

“Goodbye, Bradley.”

Jones walked passed him and joined Beck. Beck could see that Jones was struggling to keep it together. Without another word, she led Jones down the hallway toward the exit, hoping that Bradley would not call after them.

He didn’t.

As Bradley watched them go, he wanted to say something to Jones. He wanted to chase after her and make her understand.

But he knew that she did understand.

All too well.


“…with 93 percent of the precincts reporting, AWN is ready to call the election for the incumbent, Federation President Bradley Dillon. At present, he has 65 percent of the vote in his re-election bid to Kathryn Janeway’s 32 percent. Republicrat Party representatives report that they are already planning a legal challenge to the results, citing President Dillon’s victories on several starbases. Republicrat Party Chairman Abraham Carter says that they cannot accept that any member of Starfleet would not vote for the former-Admiral Janeway. In other election news, the Path of Khan party has had a remarkably strong showing with 0.038 percent of the vote so far.”

“He pulled it off,” Commander Morales said, switching off the report from Joan Redding. The AWN reporter’s face vanished from the Ops viewscreen, revealing the starfield out of the window beyond.

“Yep,” Ensign Jones said.

“Is that all you have to say about it?” Morales asked. He immediately caught the pained look on Jones’s face. “Are you okay, Tina?” he asked concerned.

“Leave it alone, Walter,” Captain Beck said softly. She quickly changed the subject. “What about Steph? Were there any problems?”

“Commander Teague swore vengeance against me, but otherwise no. It’s just…it’s going to be strange not having her here.”

“I know,” Beck said. “And I’m not thrilled that Lazlo has decided to set up camp inside an alien structure we know almost nothing about.”

“At the very least he could have let the survey team stay to study the place,” Lieutenant Commander Porter said. “He can make as many rooms as he wants, so he’d probably never run into them.”

“Teague didn’t want to leave either. She was going to go straight to Bradley to lodge a protest,” Morales said.

“I’m guessing he’s not going to be caring much right now,” Beck said.

“And I’m guessing we aren’t invited to the victory party,” Porter said.

“Actually, Gisele sent up the invitations already. They’re in my office,” Beck said.

“That’s awfully sporting of him” Banyon Kovacs said, leaning casually against Porter’s console.

“As station commander, I’m obligated to put in an appearance. The rest of you are off of the hook.”

“Is there going to be food?” Lieutenant Commander Russell asked.

“Nah. I hear Bradley’s into the whole fasting thing now,” Porter said. “Penance and spiritual growth and all that.”

“Oh,” Russell said disappointed.

“There will be food, Russell,” Beck said.

“I’m in.”

“Me too,” Porter said. “But don’t eat the chicken.”

“Why not?”

“Just trust me.”

“What are you going to do about Doc?” Jones asked, referring to the rescued hologram.

“Banyon will be delivering him to Doctor Zimmerman on Jupiter Station.”

“And where are we saying he came from?” Porter said.

“We found him in the station computer after an ion storm. Apparently the storm activated a damaged copy of the EMH Mark One that was residing in an old computer that was mistakenly not removed from one of the Ambassador-class saucers they used as the foundation for the station.”

“Really?” Porter said. “That’s quite a story. Wouldn’t it be something if our records corroborated it?”

“It would,” Beck said. “But on that note, I think we’ve had a long enough day. Porter, you especially. You can start manufacturing evidence in the morning. Get Mason to cover the night shift for you.”

“Gladly,” Porter replied.

“Tomorrow’s going to be weird,” Russell said.

“What do you mean?” Morales asked.

“The election’s over. The marines are gone. I don’t think anyone’s even trying to kill us at the moment. It’s going to be so…quiet.”

“You make that sound like a bad thing,” Jones said.

“I could try to rip a hole in the space-time continuum,” Porter offered.

“I vote no,” Beck said.

“Seconded,” Morales added.

“The nays have it,” Porter said. “I’ll just go with Plan B. Sleep until next week.”

“I just don’t know what we’re going to do now,” Russell said.

“We could try our jobs,” Beck said.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Porter said.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Beck said, heading toward the turbolift with Porter and Jones close behind. “Something always seems to turn up.”

“And we thought this place was going to be so boring when we first got here,” Porter said.

“I could go for boring,” Jones said.

“Me too,” Beck said. She smiled to herself. “But just for a little while.”


The End


Tags: Waystation