Author: Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“That’s the Spirit”
By Anthony Butler
“Renovations” concept by Alan Decker and Anthony Butler
THE TENUOUS BELT BORDER PATROL SHIP USS EXETER
“Doctor, I don’t advise this maneuver,” Nurse Jim said warningly, staring at the Exeter’s Chief Medical Officer.
“I don’t care. I have faith that I can get it done and I’m the decision maker around here.”
“No but’s. Throw!”
As ordered, Nurse Jim hurled the tiny Vienna sausage through the air, and, like a prize athelete, the Chief Medical Officer sprung off the biobed and gobbled up the processed meat snack before hitting the ground and doing a neat tuck-and-roll.
“Excellent, Dr. Browning,” Jim said, clapping. “Excellent!”
Dr. Janice Browning lept to her feet, still chewing, and bowed. “It takes practice, Jim. A lot of practice.”
“Kri’bron to Dr. Browning.”
“Mmph, go ahead,” Browning said, swallowing the last hunk of sausage.
“We’ve detected a badly damaged transport ship in the radiation belt. We’re beaming the only survivior to Sickbay. She’s in need of immediate treatment.”
“Bring her on over, sir, “Browning said cheerily. “Jim, prep the diagnostic bed.”
Browning ambled over to the supply cabinet and grabbed her medical tricorder and hypospray kit, as her new patient materialized on the bed at the center of Sickbay in a blue glow. Jim immediately began checking the woman out with his tricorder.
“Okay, what’ve we got, Jimmy?”
“Middle-aged human female. Suffers from radiation poisoning, oxygen depravation and late-stage hypothermia.”
Browning leaned over the medtable. “Is she concious?”
Browning nodded, turning back to face the patient. “Good afternoon, ma’am. And how are we today?”
“Ungggggggggg…” the woman moaned.
“Great,” Browning said, clacking a cartridge into her hypospray. “I’m going to give you another injection that should bring your vital readings back to normal…okay?”
“Yes, it certainly is,” Browning agreed, plunging the hypo into the woman’s arm. “So,” she said, as she monitored the woman’s vitals. “What brings you to this part of the Cardassian border?”
Browning clicked her tongue, checking the woman’s eyes for dilation. “Tsk tsk tsk. That’s dirty business, Miss…”
“Ms. Maguire. You’re lucky you weren’t killed out here. What happened, anyway?”
“Jem’Hadar attack. Took my cargo…” she moaned.
“In that case, you’re lucky you weren’t taken hostage. I heard those Jem’Hadar prisons are no fun.”
“Well,” Browning said, putting away her equipment. “You’re out of the woods, Ms. Maguire. We’ll keep you here for observation then set you up in some quarters. I imagine the captain would like to talk to you as soon as you’re feeling better.”
Ms. Maguire smiled. “Thank you, Doctor.”
Browning grinned. “Not a problem.” She glanced down at the surface of the biobed. Some kind of thick liquid was oozing from somewhere on Maquire’s body. “Hey, that’s not right…”
Maquire’s eyes grew wide as Browning reached out to touch the liquid. Suddenly the liquid seemed to suck right back into Maguire’s shoulder.
“Hmm,” Browning said. “Has that ever happened before?”
“Uhhh…you know how space is. If you fly around long enough you’re bound to pick up…something gross.”
“Want me to take a blood sample and check it out?” Browning offered.
“NO!” Maguire said quickly. “I mean, I’ll get it checked when I get back to port.”
Browning shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
“Oh, and Dr. Browning…” the woman said, as Browning turned back toward her office.
“I could use something to pass the time until your medicines take effect.”
“We don’t have much in the way of amusements…” Browning said. “I could give you a padd that patches into the main computer, if you like.”
Maguire’s eyes shined. “That would be marvelous.”
“Coming right up!”
“Dinner,” Dr. Browning said cheerfully, setting a tray down on the table next to Ms. Maguire’s bed. The woman had been very quiet all afternoon, which meant, Browning reasoned, that she’d found some excellent reading in the ship’s database. “So, what are you reading?”
“Nothing of importance,” Maguire said, shrugging away and covering her padd.
Browning leaned over Maguire’s shoulder. “Come on. Let me see.”
Browning plunged a finger into Maguire’s armpit and began tickling, using the moment of distraction to rip the padd out of the woman’s hands.
“Let’s see what you’ve got. A steTina romance novel, perhaps?” Browning asked, paging through the padd. “IPS power flow regulation? Warp containment control? Those are strange names for novels.”
“They aren’t novels,” Maguire growled, as suddenly her arm stretched across the space between her and Browning and wrapped around the padd.
Browning stumbled backward as the arm changed into a long, slippery flipper and smacked her in the face.
“Ow! That isn’t nice!”
“You’re all dead!” Maguire cried, turning liquid and hurling herself into an air vent.
Jim rushed into the intensive care ward. “Doctor! What happened?”
“I’m not sure, but there’s a possibility we have a changeling aboard.”
“What makes you say that?”
Captain Kri’Bron was heading toward Sickbay to check on the injured woman that had been beamed aboard, when suddenly Dr. Browning slammed into him just as he was rounding a corner.
“Doctor, what is wrong?” the Vulcan asked calmly.
“Changeling. In ship. Warp core…” Browning managed to choke out.
Nurse Jim was right on Browning’s heels. “We have to stop that Changeling, sir!”
“Affirmative,” Kri’Bron said. “Kri’Bron to Security. Intruder alert. There is a changeling aboard.”
“She had a padd with her that’s tied into the main computer,” Dr. Browning said hurriedly. “I think she could use it to screw up the ship!”
“Yes, Ms. Maguire.”
“The woman we rescued?”
Browning bobbed her head.
“That is the Changeling? Did you not examine her blood when you treated her?’
Browning shook her head.
“And how exactly did she get control of our computer?”
Browning waffled. “I sort of…gave it to her.”
Kri’Bron’s expression darkened. “Then we have little time to act. In which direction did the Changeling go?”
Browning pointed, and Kri’Bron turned around and hurried down the corridor. “Accompany me,” he said tersely.
Jim and Browning hurried after.
“Sir, are you mad at me?” Browning asked meekly.
“Vulcans are not capable of anger,” Kri’Bron tossed back.
“You didn’t answer my question. Are you mad at me?”
“It must have been that orange jelly I saw leaking out of her,” Browning said, as she and Jim followed Kri’Bron through the Jefferies tube, phaser rifles at the ready.
Kri’Bron stopped moving and turned his attention away from his tricorder. “You saw orange gel leak out of her?”
Browning shrugged. “I thought it may have been marmalade.”
“Structure. Logic. Function. Control,” Kri’Bron muttered, gripping his phaser rifle and continuing through the tube.
Suddenly Kri’Bron’s communicator chirped. “Lt. Falco to Kri’Bron. We just got a massive power disruption in the warp core power network! I can’t seem to stop it from cascading through the entire system! If I can’t stop it, it will destroy the containment field system in minutes!”
“Very well,” Kri’Bron said grimly. “Seal off engineering and get your people out of there. There is nothing more you can do.”
“Gee, I feel partly responsible for this,” Browning said worriedly.
“You are completely responsible for this!” Kri’Bron said, trying to control his anger. “Now we must continue to search for the–”
“Changeling!” Jim cried, as a slippery orange tentacle slapped Kri’Bron back against Dr. Browning.
The Vulcan’s phaser wildy shot through the air as the tentacle wrapped around him.
“I’ll help you, Captain!” Browning cried, firing her phaser at the tentacle.
The phaser beam severed the tentacle and continued right through into Kri’Bron’s shoulder.
The Vulcan’s face scrunched up as he suppressed the urge to cry out in pain. “Someone…stop…it…”
“Right!” Browning cried, scrambling over Kri’Bron and giving chase down the tube.
“Captain Kri’Bron! This is Falco. I can’t get the magnetic interlocks on the saucer section to release. The Changeling must have destroyed the command pathways. Someone will have to manually blow the release charges!”
“Jim,” Kri’Bron choked out, gripping his shoulder. “Go.”
“Yes, sir,” Jim said, once again crawling over Kri’Bron.
Kri’Bron stifled a yelp. “Structure! Function! Logic! Control!”
Dr. Browning slid out of the Jefferies tube and into the cramped chamber that served as the nerve center for the saucer separation process. From here, one could activate the manual charges that would blow the saucer free of the engineering section.
Already hunched over the controls was Nurse Jim.
“Hey, Jim!” Browning said. “What are you doing in here?”
“Trying to separate the ship,” Jim replied. “What happened to the Changeling?”
“Oh. I don’t know. I lost him in the tubes. Man, those things are like a maze!”
“No kidding,” Jim said. “Then again, a simpleton like yourself couldn’t find her way across an empty room.”
“Yep, that’s sure…” Browning stopped. “What?”
Jim turned around, a manaical grin spreading across his face. “You imbecile!”
His hand stretched out into a huge flipper, knocking Browning across the cramped compartment.
Browning’s phaser rifle went flying as she struggled to right herself. “Where’s Nurse Jim?” she asked, tumbling to her feet.
“Nursing his own wounds about now,” the Changeling replied. “But I’d be more worried about myself if I were you.”
“Why would I worry about you?”
“No, I mean…never mind!”
“Core breach in three minutes.”
“As your people say,” the Changeling said, grabbing the phaser rifle and walking over to Browning. “That is all she wrote.”
“I hate marmalade!” Browning screamed, hurling herself against the Changeling, who simply made himself liquid.
The CMO passed right through the Changeling, coming out on the other side covered in slimy orange gook.
“Ewww!” Browning cried, stumbling around the room and reaching out blindly with her hands.
“Come back!” the changeling cried. “Those are pieces of me sticking to you!”
“Core breach in two minutes.”
Browning’s hands found the saucer connection control panel, and as her fingers felt for purchase, she rapped several important buttons.
“Manual override selected. Use command authorization to initiate manual saucer separation.”
“Browning…” Browning thought really hard. She’d never used her command authorization before. Why hadn’t she written it down.
A huge tentacle slapped her away. “No you don’t!” The Changeling cried. “I refuse to let an imbecile like you get in the way of my mission!”
“You don’t have much of a choice!” Browning said, fancying that a pretty good comeback. She still had a hard time remembering that command authorization.
The Changeling continued to slap at Browning. “Forget about it, Doctor. You’ll never stop me! You’ll find that I am not one to…”
“That’s it!” Browning cried. “Computer, command authorization Browning Omicron One-two-one-two!”
“Acknowledged. Initiating saucer separation.”
“That was too easy,” the Changeling muttered, as Browning pushed past him and barreled through the closing doors to the Jefferies tube that led back into the saucer section.
Before the changeling could follow, explosions ripped through the deck below him, as the saucer section blew free of the secondary hull.
Browning stumbled out into the corridor and wiped a hand over her forehead as the saucer section shuddered, apparently from the explosion of the engineering section.
“Computer, locate Nurse Jim,” Browning said, falling to the deck in a heap.
“Nurse Jim is not aboard the Exeter.”
Browning pounded the deck. “Oh, poor poor Nurse Jim!”
“Doctor…” Kri’Bron said, looming over Browning.
Browning looked up. “Yes, Captain?”
“I see you were successful in separating the ship?”
“Yes, sir. Sorry I helped that Changeling destroy half the Exeter.”
“Do not worry. I am sure we will get a new ship,” Kri’Bron said.
Browning’s expression brightened. “Really?”
“Affirmative. However, you will not serve on it. You are without question the most incompetent crewmember I have ever served with. I will reccomend to Starfleet that your commission and license to practice be suspended until you undergo a heavy referesher course in military and medical protocol. And even if you pass that refresher course, I can assure you that you will never serve under my command again.”
Browning watched Kri’Bron walk away. “So you’re telling me I have a chance?”
STARDATE 51602 INTERIM WAYSTATION OFFICE AND HOUSING COMPLEX A.K.A “WAYSTATION VILLAGE”
“Would you look at that,” Bradley Dillon said, watching through the massive viewport that had been built into one of the several adjoined cargo modules that had been home to the Waystation crew for three weeks now.
Yeoman Tina Jones sipped at her chilled v’haspant coolatta. “They’re much bigger than the old ones.”
Bradley was referring to the two Ambassador-class saucer sections that were being tractored into place by runabouts approximately forty thousand kilometers away from Waystation Village.
According to what Tina Jones had learned from Lt. Porter, the plan was to extensively renovate the used, or as Starfleet liked to say, “nused,” saucer sections, then add additional decks and docking ports. Afterwards, the saucers would be joined together using a rebuilt and enlarged connecting tube.
It was an ambitious project to be sure, and would likely take months to complete.
Of course, in the meantime, Tina Jones didn’t even have a Liason Office to oversee. What would she busy herself with all those months? It was a scary prospect, spending the time sharing a cargo module with Bradley Dillon and the two Andorians that ran the restaurant in Waystation’s food court.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Bradley said, glancing over his shoulder at Jones.
Jones shrugged. “Just looking forward to the end of this whole renovation thing.”
“Come on,” Bradley said, pulling up a chair in the stark observation cabin, turning it backwards and lowering himself. “Think of this as a great adventure. Here we are, stuck in these cargo containers…helpless in the heart of the great unknown. Hmm…I could write a novel about it.”
“I wouldn’t read it,” Jones said, knocking back the rest of her coolatta and ducking out of the observation cabin.
Bradley smiled. “Perhaps, but I’m sure someone would.”
“MAKE IT STOP!” Beck rolled over in her bed and pressed her pillow harder against her ears. Dr. Nelson had been playing a strange mix of Earth and Braktian music for hours each night ever since she’d moved in to the cabin adjacent to Beck’s, and it was beginning to drive Beck crazy. Just as the remix “Don’t Stop Thinking About Ztarro” by Fleetwood Shrak began, Beck decided that enough was enough.
Beck rolled out of bed and stomped over to the door that adjoined her cabin with Nelson’s.
“Doctor Nelson,” Beck snapped, pounding the door chime.
“The music. Stop it. Now.”
“Hey, Commander. I have rights, you know.”
“Those rights do not include keeping me up through the night with that infernal music!”
“I happen to like it. If you’d just open your mind to new…”
“Computer, override door lock, authorization Beck Kappa Four Two Zero.”
Beck thundered through the door to Nelson’s quarters and ripped the isolinear chip out of its receptacle on Nelson’s desk.
“Open your mind to this, doctor.” Beck snapped the isolinear chip in two between her thumb and forefinger and whirled around, bulling back into her quarters, her frilly housecoat waving behind her.
One minute later, the Braktian remix of “Stayin’ Alive” boomed between Beck’s ears.
“I have dozens more chips where that one came from, Commander!” Nelson said playfully over the comm.
“Porter to Beck.”
Beck pulled her hair back and sat up in bed. Obviously, she was not going to get to sleep any time soon. “What is it, Craig?”
“The work crews just contacted me. They’re ready for us to go through and inspect the new saucer sections.”
“I’m not going,” Beck muttered. “I am going to get seven full hours of sleep if I have to put myself under heavy sedation, is that clear?”
“Crystal. So who should I get to inspect the other saucer? Morales and Russell still haven’t returned from their meeting with the interior decorator on the Klingon homeworld.”
Beck scrubbed a hand over her face. “I don’t know. What’s Jones up to?”
“I don’t think she’s doing anything.”
“There you go. She’s yours, Craig.”
“Why thank you. I’ll go ahead and have her stuffed and mounted in my quarters.”
“Okay. I’m going to sleep now. Beck out.”
“Finally, something constructive to do,” Yeoman Jones said excitedly as Lt. Porter completed the preflight diagnostics on the runabout Yadkin.
“Don’t get your hopes up, Tina,” Porter said, warming up the runabout engines and disengaging the magnetic locks on the airlock tube that connected the Yadkin to a cargo module. “This is going to be an extremely tedious job. Starfleet wants us to inspect every inch of those two saucers to make sure they are clear of all top secret materiel before letting the construction company begin work.”
The runabout slowly arced around, bringing the scattering of parts and buzzing workbees that constituted the construction zone.
“Still. Anything is better than spending all day cooped up in that cargo module with Bradley Dillon and two Andorians.”
“Yeah. You’ll be cooped up in a powered-down Starfleet saucer section with a bunch of smelly construction workers. Oh, rapture!”
Porter bumped the engines up to half impulse as a glowing sign flew by the forward viewports.
A NEW, IMPROVED WAYSTATION!
BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS
IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE ZENEDRON CONSTRUCTION GROUP
“I hope Starfleet knows what it’s doing hiring outside contractors.”
“Hey, they were nearly wiped out by the Dominion. Engineers are not exactly plentiful right now. We have to take what we can get,” Porter said.
“I guess you’re right,” Jones agreed. “At least we’re getting our station back.”
Suddenly a tiny streak of gray whizzed in front of the runabout’s windows.
“What the hell was that?” Porter asked, as the Yadkin pitched to port to avoid a collision.
Jones punched the comm system. “Hailing the workbee off our starboard bow. This is the Starfleet runabout Yadkin. You almost hit us!”
“Watch your mouth, sweet cheeks! This is our operation and we’ll go wherever the hell we want. You’d better just steer clear!”
“Charming guy,” Porter quipped. “I hope all the construction workers are up to that standard.”
Jones found out quite soon after Porter beamed her aboard the saucer section she was assigned to investigate that, indeed, the other construction workers were not as mannerful as the one that had almost smashed into them.
“Welcome to the freaking Exeter,” a chubby, balding man barked, hitching his tool belt up around his expansive tummy and gesturing around the cargo bay. “It’s about time you got here. My men haven’t been allowed off this deck because of big ‘security’ matters. We can only sit around and drink Romulan Ale for so long! So why don’t you get your can in gear and start inspectin’, honey?”
Jones stepped back a bit. She could smell the Romulan Ale on the man’s breath. “Okay, okay. I’ll go as fast as I can.”
“Don’t strain yourself, doll.”
“Hey, I am not your doll!” Jones protested. “Mister…”
The fat man slapped Jones on the rear end. “Buck. Buck Winters. Now get along.”
Smouldering, Jones stomped out of the cargo bay, idly wondering if Lt. Porter was having equally bad luck aboard the saucer from the Cheever.
Who did those construction workers think they were, anyway? Didn’t they know that this was the seventies? No one in Starfleet would ever act so offensive. Probably no one in the Federation, for that matter, so why were these guys being so mean?
Jones resolved that she would keep as far away as possible from the construction workers during her inspection.
According to the padd Commander Beck had given her, Yeoman Jones’s first job was to climb a Jefferies tube to the bridge and reinitiate the computer core. After the Starfleet tugs had delivered the saucer sections, they were ordered to deactivate main power and computer control, so that unauthorized personnel such as the construction workers would not tamper with the Starfleet materiel still left aboard.
Jones kicked open the panel that led out onto the bridge and slid out of the Jefferies tube, surveying her surroundings.
The bridge was about the size of the Secondprize bridge, and set up in the traditional forward conn/ops, center command arena, and rear science, tactical, and engineering configuration. Jones considered that Starfleet would be much more interesting if the bridge designs had a little more variety.
Once she had found the computer access console, Jones sat down and began the work of restoring internal sensors.
Engineers at Starbase 211 had already blanked most of the computer core and stripped out the phaser banks, shield generators, and photon tubes, but there was still some very sensitive equipment left aboard the Exeter saucer and it was Jones’s job to inventory all of it and earmark it for removal by Porter’s subsequently arriving engineering team.
It was times like this that made Yeoman Jones wish that Waystation had an inventory officer.
Jones whirled around in her chair. “What?”
There was nobody there.
Wheeling back toward the console, Jones called up the internal sensors for the bridge. She was the only person there. And no one had transported in, used the comm system, or come in through any of the enty/egress hatches.
Jones squeezed her hands into fists. “What?”
In one swift, acrobatic movement, Jones was inside the Jefferies tube again.
Porter grimaced, deactivating his protoplaser and glancing over his shoudler. “Deactivating the shield control sequencers, Carl.”
“No kiddin’? What’s that like?”
“It’s like…it’s like….I don’t know.” Porter sighed. “Listen, Carl, you seem like a nice guy, but I have a lot to do and I can’t get it all done if I have to describe each and every aspect!”
The stocky, barrel-chested construction worker removed his hardhat and scratched his head. “So what are you tryin’ to say?”
“I’m trying to–”
“Jones to Porter!”
“Hold on a second.” Porter slapped his comm badge. “What is it, Tina?”
Porter was up and moving across the Cheever’s auxilliary engineering compartment in seconds. “Carl, I have an important job for you. I need you to stay here and watch this compartment until I get back. Don’t let anyone touch anything, got it?”
Carl stiffened and saluted awkwardly, his tool belt clanging around his belly. “You can count on me, Lieutenant!”
“Good. Porter to Yadkin. Initiate site-to-site transport from here to the Yeoman Tina Jones’s location immediately.”
“Acknowledged,” replied the runabout computer.
“Ouch!” Porter said, as his head clanged against the inside of the Jefferies tube. The runabout computer had neglected to tell him that he’d be beamed horizontally into a cramped space.
“Craig! Thank goodness you’re here!” Yeoman Jones said, engulfing Porter with her arms.
“What’s wrong, Tina…” Porter choked out.
“There’s a ghost out on the bridge!”
“Ha ha. Very funny. Can I get back to work now?”
“I’m not kidding,” Jones whispered.
“Tina…there is no such thing as ghosts. You know that. You took Superstition 101 at the Academy, didn’t you.”
“Listen, I know what I saw…I mean heard. Someone was talking to me out there, and he didn’t show up on internal sensors and he wasn’t using the comm system!”
“I’m sure it was just your imagination,” Porter said. “Would it make you feel better if I went out there and checked just to make sure?”
Jones nodded briskly.
“Fine.” Porter removed the phaser from his belt, more to humor Jones than anything else, and slid out of the Jefferies tube. “Hello…ghosty? Where are you? Hello? Mr. Ghost? Can I call you Casper? Helloooooo?”
Jones peeked fearfully out of the tube. “Well?”
Porter looked around the bridge and shook his head, holstering his phaser. “Nothing.” He pulled out his tricorder and began to scan. “But just for the sake of argument, I’ll check the subspace and interphase areas around us. It could be some kind of creature that doesn’t exist in our space.”
“Whatever the case,” Jones said, creeping out of the tube. “He knew my name.”
“I see. Well, the tricorder doesn’t show anything out of the ordinary.” Porter closed the tricorder. “Do you want me to send you back to the Village and call Ensign Stanton out here, Tina?”
Jones shook her head. “No. No, I don’t want to spend any more time in that boring place than I have to. I guess my imagination could have just ran away with me. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Porter grinned, patting Jones on the shoulder. “Okay. If you have any more problems, just call.”
Over the next several hours, Yeoman Jones continued her inspection of the Exeter’s saucer section without incident.
The computer core was up and running, main power was restored, and she’d secured all the command pathways on the ship with her own access code. Now all that was left was the tedious cataloguing of all the sensitive Starfleet materiel. In short, fun and games.
“Winters to Jones. Are we clear to start ripping out deck three yet?”
“Yep,” Jones said, closing her tricorder. “It’s all clear.”
“Good. We’ve been itching for some serious demo work.”
“I’m sure you have. Have fun.”
“If I wanted to have fun, I’d go down there and…”
“That’s enough, Buck!” Jones said, slapping her comm badge to close the channel. She resolved that, when this assignment was over, she’d put that son of a bitch on report.
Jones considered how to phrase the misconduct report as she continued down the corridor of Deck Seven.
“Let’s see,” Jones said, pulling out her data padd. “Sickbay. Remove all biomemetic gels and nucleic testing equipment. Sounds simple enough.”
The Yeoman proceeded through the doors to Sickbay and looked around. It was really dark–and more decorative than the other sections of the Exeter’s saucer that she’d seen.
Lavender curtains surrounded the biobed at the center of sickbay, and unlit candles peppered the room. And Jones wasn’t sure, but she was almost certain she could smell incense burning.
“Must be some kind of failure in the air recycling system,” Jones said to herself, as she searched the operating room.
That incense smell seemed to keep getting stronger.
By the time Jones returned to the main area of Sickbay, her arms and legs felt like sandbags were tied to them.
And then the music started.
First with a booming chorus of….
“Ooka chaka ooka ooka ooka chaka ooka ooka ooka chaka”
Jones rubbed her head and collapsed on to the biobed at the center of Sickbay. “So tired…” she murmurred.
I can’t stop this feeling,
Deep inside of me.
Girl you just don’t realize,
what you do to me.
“Computer…where is that music coming from?”
“Can you deactivate it?”
“That’s okay. It’s kind of nice.” Jones laid back on the medtable and swung the curtains around her. A nice nap would do her wonders.
When you hold me,
In your arms so tight,
You let me know everything’s all right.
Yeoman Jones suddenly found herself playing in a field of flower petals, as sunshine showered down on her. She skipped along, throwing handfuls of petals into the air. Oh, what a beautiful day!
I-I-I-I’m hooked on a feeling,
I’m high on believing
That you’re in love with me.
Lips as sweet as candy,
Its taste is on my mind,
Girl you’ve got me thirsty
for another cup of wine.
“Hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm,” Jones sang, skipping through the field. Then, suddenly, she took flight, and the purple petals shrank in the distance. She was floating through the clouds!
Got a bug from you girl,
But I don’t need no cure.
I just stay a victim,
If I can for sure.
All the good love,
When we’re all alone.
Keep it up girl.
Yeah, you turn me on.
Jones soared through the air, executing perfect barrel rolls and flips …oh, to be free and unencumbered!
I-I-I-I’m hooked on a feeling,
I’m high on believing
That you’re in love with me.
All the good love,
When we’re all alone.
Keep it up girl.
Yeah, you turn me on.
Then suddenly Jones felt her limbs grow limp, and she coasted back to Earth, floating downward until her body brushed against a huge pile of lavender petals. “Mmm…” Jones said, closing her eyes and rolling in the petals. “This is the stuff!”
I said I’m hooked on a feeling,
and I’m high on believing,
that you’re in love with me!
Hooked on a feeling!
“Patient responding favorably to anesthesia. Appears to be in semi-concious state. Good coloring. Vitals all appear normal.”
“Hmm?” Jones asked, opening her eyes. Everything was still dark. She felt some kind of soft fabric over her eyes. A blindfold!
“Oh, good. You’re awake.”
“Hello? Is this Buck?” Jones asked angrily.
Suddenly a creepy feeling found its way up Jones’s spine. “You’re not the ghost, are you?”
“Ha ha. I suppose you could call me that.”
“AAAHHHHHHH!” Jones screamed, struggling to get up. She slammed against a painful forcefield and smacked back against the biobed. “Who are you? What are you doing?”
“I’m just a lonely spirit looking for some company, madam,” the voice said darkly. “Surely you could offer me at least that.”
“I don’t think so. How about you just let me go?”
“Hmmm…let’s see…um, no?”
“JONES TO PORTER!”
The voice clikced its tongue. “Sorry. I had to destroy your communicator.”
“I should still be able to use the ship’s internal comm…”
“How could you have done that? I’m the only one with the password!”
“That’s what you think. You see, Tina, I was there when you created the password! Spying on you from an air duct and hiding in a sensor shadow. I then used your password…then changed it! So I guess the joke is on you, huh?”
“So you are the ghost!”
“In a sense. Like I said, I’m just lonesome.”
“That’s what Orion slave girls are for, buster!”
“Not that kind of lonesome. My, you must take me for a complete cad.”
“What’s a cad?”
The voice just laughed. A deep, remorseful, resounding laugh. “You see, Yeoman Jones, I have been on this ship alone for a long while. I have mastered all its hidden crawlways and secret systems. There’s no escape from the phantom!”
“LET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!”
Lt. Porter gritted his teeth. “I’m cataloguing the external sensor matrices, Carl.”
“Is that fun?”
“Are you almost done?”
Porter slammed his tool case closed and stood up. “Then I return to what I laughingly refer to as home’ nowadays.”
“Can I go?”
Carl frowned. “Why not?”
“Because you’re supposed to work on renovating this saucer section. Hasn’t your foreman gone over this with you?”
“On who the foreman is.”
Porter shook his head and ducked out of the Jefferies tube. He didn’t know much about the Zenedron Construction Group, but judging by his brief encounters with some of its employees, it didn’t seem like they had very high hiring standards.
“Porter to Jones. You almost ready to go?”
“Porter to Jones?”
“Where is she?” Carl asked.
“I don’t know,” Porter snapped. “Porter to Winters.”
“WHAT? I’m workin’ over here!”
“I’m well aware of that, Mr. Winters. Do you happen to know where Yeoman Jones is?”
“Nope. Haven’t heard from her in hours.”
“Just great,” Porter said. “Porter to Yadkin. Locate Yeoman Jones.”
“Yeoman Jones is not within sensor range,” replied the Yadkin computer.
“What?” Porter was beginning to become concerned. “Then transport me aboard, computer.”
Once aboard the Yadkin, Porter did a series of scans, confirming that no one transported away from the construction site or left aboard any kind of spacecraft. Thus, Tina Jones was still somewhere aboard the Exeter saucer.
“Computer, lock on to Yeoman Jones’s last known coordinates and beam me over to the Exeter immediatley.”
“Unable to comply. Yeoman Jones’s last known location was the Exeter Sickbay. That area is currently sealed off by forcefields.”
“Can they be disabled from here?”
“Something smells rotten around here. Transport me to the corridor outside sickbay and send a message telling the construction workers aboard Exeter to meet me there.”
“You know, there are easier ways to make friends,” Jones said, as she tried desparately to ignore the strains of electronic keyboard echoing throughout Sickbay.
“The phantom of the Exeter is here, right by your side!” the voice said eerily as the keyboarding continued.
Suddenly Jones heard the door chime.
“Hello?” a muffled voice said. “Yeoman Jones? Are you in there?”
“Lt. Porter!” Tina cried.
“Go away!” the phantom roared.
“And just who the heck are you?” Porter’s voice replied.
“The phantom of the Exeter!” sang the phantom.
“Yeah, right. And I’m the Great Bird of the Galaxy.”
“Leave us alone, you inept fool!” cried the phantom.
“Not until you release Yeoman Jones!”
“How about we make a compromise and I kill you?” the phantom offered.
“No! I don’t like that one bit!”
“Too bad!” the phantom said. “Computer, deactivate life support and evacuate the air from all sections of the ship except Sickbay, authorization Phantom Four Four Seven.”
“Don’t do that!” Jones shouted. “Just who do you think you are?”
The electronic piano again. “The phantom of the Exeter!”
“Hey, Porter,” Buck Winters said, looking around fearfully. “I hear a giant sucking sound, and it has nothin’ to do wit the economy!”
“Porter to Yadkin! Emergency transport…everyone you can lock on to!”
Porter felt elbows and knees jab into him from all sides as he materialized aboard the Yadkin. Additionally, his face was squished against the forward viewport.
Twisting his head around, Porter immediately figured out what was wrong. There were twenty-odd construction workers aboard the Exeter saucer, which well exceeded the reccomended seating capacity of the Danube-class runabout.
“Hey, guys, give me some room,” Porter said, sliding off the helm panel and pushing construction workers away. “Move back into the aft compartment or something.”
Winters stared over Porter’s shoulder as some of the other workers moved back into the aft compartment. “So what are you going to do?”
“I’m contacting Waystation Village and apprising them of the situation. Not that they can do much with both runabouts gone. Then I’m going to try to break through that shielding around Sickbay.”
“Well, if I was you, I’d take those there fancy Starfleet phasers and blow a hole right in the hull of that there saucer.”
“Well, you are not me. I am going to find a slightly less destructive way out of this. A way that won’t result in Yeoman Jones and this Phantom’ being blown out into space.”
Buck Winters huffed. “Fine. Have it your way.”
“The patient appears ready for surgery,” the voice said, as Jones heard the curtains whisk away.
Then suddenly the mask snapped off Jones’s face, and the glare of a palm beacon met her eyes.
“Are you ready for surgery?” a voice beyond the light asked. With an electrical hiss, Jones felt the restraining field give way as a cold hand gripped her wrist. “Let’s get you into the OR.”
Jones batted the light away and pushed off the biobed, running for the doors to Sickbay.
She slammed against them and a hand whipped her around. “Sorry. Locked.”
“Oh…my…goodness…” Jones gasped.
Before her stood a burly, moustached, balding man in Starfleet-issue medical scrubs…and he had a cape!
“Come now! You don’t want to miss your labotomy!” the phantom cried.
And somewhere in the neighborhood of two-thirds of his face and neck were horribly scarred and burned.
“You’re not a phantom!” Jones cried. “You’re just a scarred-up nurse with a cape!”
“MEDICAL ASSISTANT!” the man cried. “Men are NOT nurses! I am Medical Assistant Jim Crawford. Got it? MEDICAL ASSISTANT!”
“Whatever you say. Bottom line, you’re a wacko!” Jones dove between Nurse Jim’s legs and scrambled toward the rear of Sickbay.
Jones heard a howl of anger as she slid through the opening door to the office at the rear of Sickbay. She pounded the panel to close and lock the transparent aluminum door, just in time to see Nurse Jim slam against it, banging it with his fists.
Wheeling around, Jones quickly scanned the cramped office. Nothing to help her. Desk, chair, padds, microscope…pizza oven?
Why would someone have a pizza oven in their office?
As Jones pondered this, the door to the doctor’s office swung open.
“You forget, my dear–I control all the access codes on the Exeter, thanks to you!” Nurse Jim shrieked, firing up a phaser scalpel and rushing Yeoman Jones. “Now let’s not get a-HEAD of ourselves!”
Jones yelped and dove inside the receiving end of the pizza oven, crawling through its cavernous inner structure as Nurse Jim followed after, grabbing for her ankles.
“Come here, you–”
Jones rolled out the other end of the oven and quickly tapped its control panel, turning the temperature to maximum.
Jones ignored the peals of laughter that ensued from within the oven, plunging out of the office and back into Sickbay proper.
“My pain receptors were burned to a crisp long ago, Sunshine!” Nurse Jim howled.
Jones searched sickbay for a weapon, finally coming upon a hypospray. It wasn’t quite as good as the phaser scalpel, but filled with tranquilizer it would do the job.
A furious battle cry suddenly ensued and Nurse Jim slammed into Jones, knocking her painfully to the deck as he stabbed his phaser scalpel into the air, preparing to go in for the kill.
“What’s your problem?” Jones asked, wrenching around as Nurse Jim waved the hot, shining phaser scalpel in her faec.
“My problem is, the former CMO of the Exeter, Doctor Janice Browning, was incompetent enough to let a Changeling destroy half the ship. Then she and the rest of the Exeter crew left me for dead as I was caught in the explosion of the manual saucer separation charges. Since the Changeling stowed me in a compartment between the two sections of the Exeter, I guess the computer didn’t register me as being aboard. When I finally came to, I was in the middle of a scrap yard and there was no one else around. You imagine how that could drive a guy a little crazy!”
“Yeah. I guess, but you don’t have to take it out on me. I’m not Dr. Browning,” Jones said, edging away from Jim. Jim clamped his hands over his ears and screamed.
“NOOO! Don’t say that cursed name!”
“But you said it?”
“Don’t contradict a phantom with a laser scalpel,” Jim snapped, raising the make-shift weapon into the air above Jones’s head. “You have no idea what I’ve been through. The pain. The lonliness.”
“Then let me get you some help. That’s my job.”
“You’re a psychiatrist!” Jim exclaimed. “My prayers have been answered! You’ll understand me!”
“Uh…I’m a liaison officer actually.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Well, I greet incoming ships and help their crews with any problems they might have on Waystation. I could set you up an appointment with our station counselor. No problem.”
“And some reconstructive surgery?” Jim asked hopefully, running a hand down his scarred face. “Sure.” “And can you help me track down and kill Janice Browning?” “Now you’re pushing it.”
Mission Log, Yeoman Tina Jones,
Stardate 51603.2. I’ve completed my investigation of the Exeter’s saucer section. After clearing out some…unneeded parts, I certify it ready for renovation.
“A little bit lacking in detail, but good enough,” Porter said, as he guided the Yadkin back toward Waystation Village.
“Hey, if Starfleet wants, they can look up my full report. I just see no reason to describe the incident twice. I’m just glad Jim will finally be getting some help. I hear Tantalus V is lovely this time of year “
“I just feel sorry for Nurse Jim. He didn’t ask for what happened to him. It just sounds like he ran into some bad luck..”
“Yeah, this Dr. Browning just seems to be a bad luck tractor beam,” Jones said, leaning back in her chair. “First a Changeling destroys half the Exeter, then she gets assigned to the Aerostar, which promptly vanishes.”
“Yeah. Too bad for them,” Porter said. “Who knows. Maybe they’ll turn up again.”
“Don’t hold your breath,” Jones said, smiling weakly. “Now initiate those docking maneuvers already. I can’t wait to get back to my cargo module.”
And NEXT TIME on STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION: RENOVATIONS -
Bradley Dillon receives news that will change his life forever…if he lives that long.
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION: RENOVATIONS #4 - Dividends