If you haven't figured it out by now, may your nightmares be plagued with visions of giant lips. Anyway, Alan Decker owns Star Traks. Viacom owns Paramount and CBS, and, therefore, Star Trek. Moving on...

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 1998



“Critical Mass”

By Alan Decker

“Renovations” concept by Alan Decker and Anthony Butler

Once again, Leximas awoke with a feeling of unease. It was a sensation that had grown steadily in the three weeks since she first became aware of the lip-like entities that had taken an interest in Waystation. Thus far nothing really overt had happened, but she could still feel them. They were out there, waiting and growing stronger. The moment of crisis was approaching rapidly.

“Station log. Stardate 51972.4. They say that all good things must come to an end, but Hell is eternal. Okay, so I added that last part. Anyway, we’re finally about to be released from our Hell. Waystation, Version II, the new and improved model, is now sitting a few hundred kilometers away complete and waiting for its new occupants. Mainly us. The only problem is we have to go through a bunch of Federation pomp and circumstance before they’ll let us on board. We’re expecting the Starship Orleans to arrive in about four hours with a small delegation of dignitaries, including Admiral Thomas Wagner, the charming man I have to thank or blame for being stationed out here, and the Vice-President of the entire Federation. I’ll be giving them, along with Yeoman Jones and Bradley Dillon, who invited himself along, a tour of the new facilities then tomorrow, we’ll finally hold the Opening Ceremony, so we can get out of these damn cargo modules.”

“I don’t know,” Lieutenant Craig Porter said once Commander Lisa Beck had finished recording her log. “I’m going to kind of miss this place. The claustrophobia, bonking my head once a day, no turbolifts; it’s been great.”

“A thrill and a half,” Beck replied. “I’m going to be so sad to not room next to Dr. Nelson anymore. I was getting used to hearing Bracktian heavy metal at two in the morning.”

“I just want to have some weapons systems back,” Lieutenant Sean Russell, Waystation’s security chief, said.

“Still paranoid about those lips, huh?” Porter said.

“We all need some space and time to relax,” Beck said. “And speaking of relaxing, I have an appointment in the holomodule. You have ops, Porter.”

“Have fun, Commander. We’ll let you know when the brass arrives.”

“Do you have to?”

“Afraid so.”


Sesil smiled warmly down at his followers that had gathered in the Starshine Kids temple as he stood on the stage next to his ever-present pulsating white sphere. Of course, this was Version II of the sphere, the new and improved model that the Critics had helped him complete.

And the results had been dramatic. In three short weeks, the ranks of the Starshine Kids had almost doubled. Sitting out on the floor in front of the stage were fifty, gloriously bald devotees. Just as the Critics had ordered, Sesil had gathered people from all over the station. The ranks of the Starshine Kids now contained not only civilians, but several Starfleet crewmembers, Federation Marines, and Zenedron construction workers. Also, most importantly, two of the staff of the Andorian restaurant. Sesil wasn’t sure yet why the Critics felt they were the most important, but he knew all would be explained.

Right here, right now, they gathered waiting for the appearance of their masters, The Critics. And they sang, signaling their readiness to receive the wisdom of the lips.

Good morning, Starshine!

“And a good morning to you all,” a voice boomed. Slowly, a giant pair of lips materialized in the air above the Starshine Kids. And the lips spoke. “The great day of our ascendance has come!”

The disturbance Leximas felt totally destroyed her concentration, sending several candles and her own body falling to the floor of the meditation alcove she’d set up in her private module.

The presence had entered this plane again. It was here and very strong. She had to determine its location and what vessel it was using this time.

Leximas picked herself up off the floor and moved determinedly out of her module into the next one, which the marines used as a meeting center.

Colonel Martin Lazlo was in the middle of a loud lecture when Leximas glided in. He was already furious since seven of his marines hadn’t shown up for training exercises, but Leximas’ unwanted interruption just pushed him over the edge.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE?” he bellowed. Leximas ignored him, and continued walking through to the junction tube that would allow her to descend to the next level of modules.

“Hey! I’m yelling at you, freak!” Lazlo continued. Leximas exited the module as silently as she had come.

“I guess she didn’t feel like talking,” Lazlo’s second-in-command, Lieutenant Colonel O’Neal said.


“No, sir. Sorry, sir. Sorry.”

“Shut up!”


Leximas followed the urging of her mind guide and the growing presence in her own mind down to the lower levels of the station, through the docking module and Counselor Miller’s offices to the module now occupied by a sect on the station called the Starshine Kids.

Other than briefly seeing a virtual version of Sesil, the group’s leader, while helping Lieutenant Russell free himself of the influence of the lip entities, Leximas had had little contact with the Starshine Kids. From what she knew, they supposedly held the same ideals about enlightenment and inner peace that she did; however, she felt Sesil’s recruitment techniques bordered on brainwashing. How many people would willingly shave their heads?

Now, the possibility that the Starshine Kids and Sesil were being controlled by the lips presented itself. If that were so, the possible danger to Waystation had become even greater.

Cautiously, she looked inside the main hall of the Starshine Kids temple. They were in the middle of some sort of ceremony, but the Starshine Kids themselves were not what had Leximas’ attention. Instead, she focused on the giant pair of lips hovering over the assembly.

“All glory to the Critics,” Sesil said solemnly.

“To the Critics,” the group repeated.

“Yea us!” the lips said.

Leximas sped away to find Commander Beck. While before the commander could do nothing about the lips, now that there was a physical dimension of the problem to deal with, namely the Starshine Kids, Beck could take action.

She located Commander Beck in the holomodule. Normally, Leximas would politely wait for the program running to end, but she felt the urgency of this matter warranted more aggressive steps.

Entering the holomodule, she found herself outdoors at night in a vast field of rusty metal objects. The location was unusual to say the least; however, as Bradley Dillon had more than proved to her, humans found unusual places relaxing.

She soon spotted Commander Beck crouched anxiously behind one of the metal hulks peering out into the darkness. Not wishing to disturb Beck’s concentration, Leximas glided over silently behind her, coming within inches of the human woman. Beck did not notice her approach.

“Commander…” Leximas said.

“Sh**!” Beck screamed, whirling around and raising a long metal object she had gripped in her right hand into the air. Realizing it was Leximas, Beck let out a gasp of relief and slumped back against the metal hulk. “Don’t ever do that again. You scared the hell out of me.”

“I am sorry.” Leximas examined Beck. The commander seemed to be quite battered and bruised, and she had a long, bleeding gash stretching down her left arm.

“What are you doing here?” Beck asked.

“I have a matter of great urgency that we must discuss,” Leximas said. She looked at her surroundings again. “But where is here?”

“Something called a junkyard,” Beck said. “Humans used to send their modes of transportation to places like this when they didn’t work anymore.”

“And why then are you here?”

“We’re hiding,” Beck said.


“Dr. Nelson is up in that crane over there,” Beck said, pointing to another large metal object. This one had a large projection that stretched above their heads to which another of the metal hulks was attached.

“I see,” Leximas said. “I was under the impression that you and the doctor were not getting along.”

“We found a common interest,” Beck explained. “We’re bonding.”

“In a dark junkyard at night.”

“It’s a game,” Beck said. “Halloween 36: Termination Station. See, a mad scientist in the future built an android with the personality of a psychotic serial killer named Michael Myers, which he sends back to 20th century Earth to kill the woman who will somehow come forward in time and marry his son, thus ending a long line of mad scientists.”

Leximas stared at Beck blankly, her silver eyes glinting in the moonlight. Beck’s expression suddenly tensed.

“Here he comes,” she said softly, pulling Leximas behind the non- functioning Earth vehicle. In the distance, Leximas could see a male figure with a large butcher knife stalking steadily towards them, his face was white and completely expressionless due to a mask that he wore.

“This is the robot attempting to kill you?”

“Yep,” Beck said. “But don’t worry. We’ve got it covered…I hope.”

“About what I needed to discuss…”

“Just give me one minute,” Beck said, watching Myers’ approach. “Come on, buddy. Just a little farther…”

“NOW!” she suddenly screamed at the top of her lungs, managing to startle even the normally placid Leximas. The metal object hanging from the crane plummeted to the ground, smashing down right on top of Myers and crushing him.

“Did we get him?” Dr. Amedon Nelson asked, running over from the crane. She looked equally battered and bloody.

“Direct hit,” Beck said.

“When’d she get here?” Nelson asked, pointing at Leximas.

“Couple seconds ago. Don’t worry about it.”

“Is the game over?” Leximas asked.

“We weren’t really playing the game,” Nelson said.

“You weren’t,” Leximas said flatly. This was starting to try her almost inexhaustible patience.

“In the game, you’re supposed to stay away from Myers, find his time pod and go to the future,” Beck explained.

“We solved it in about ten minutes,” Nelson said. “Boring. So we turned the holomodule safeties off and decided to see if we could kill Myers. Much more exciting.”

“If that is how you define exciting,” Leximas said. “Although, I do not understand how getting sliced up could be exciting.”

“Gets the adrenaline pumping,” Beck said. “We had a couple of close calls.”

“As your cuts attest. Now then, I am here about a matter of great urgency.”

“I’m all ears,” Beck said.

“The lips have returned. We must prepare.”

“What? Those things Russell was babbling about a couple of weeks ago?” Nelson said.

“That was far more than babble, Doctor,” Leximas said. “The lips are an entity called the Critics. I cannot say for sure what they are planning, but I sense malevolence.”

“I’m sorry, Leximas, but I don’t know what I can do about it,” Beck said. “Porter’s run every scan in the book and can’t find a thing. Until we get something concrete…”

“The Critics now control the Starshine Kids. Does that not worry you?”

“The Starshine Kids alone worry me,” Nelson said. “Do you realize they now make up a fifth of the population of Waystation Village. Once we get moved into the real station and thousands of people take residence, I won’t care. But right now, the fifty of those weirdos scare me.”

“And you say these Critics now control them?” Beck said.

“That appears to be the unfortunate reality,” Leximas said.

“Oh hell,” Beck said softly, looking past Leximas towards the smashed pile of metal. Michael Myers slowly pulled himself out of it and started towards Beck again.

“You got any more great ideas?” Nelson said fearfully.

“Fresh out,” Beck said, backing up.

“We have not finished discussing the Critics,” Leximas said, unconcerned about the approaching robotic killer.

“Later,” Beck said.

“You said the car would work!” Nelson said.

“I thought it would!”

“Well, you were wrong!”


“This is all rather tiring,” Leximas said. Myers was now right behind her. She turned, facing the killer, her silver eyes staring deeply into his black ones.

“Lexi, run!” Beck said.

“That will not be necessary,” Leximas said. Myers raised his knife into the air to strike…then vanished. Leximas turned back to Beck and Nelson. “Now then, you will address this situation?”

“Uh…right,” Beck said, looking all around for any trace of Myers. “Well, I’ll send Russell and some security down to talk to the Kids. Other than that, I’m afraid there’s not a lot I can do.”

“Thank you,” Leximas said. “I will proceed on my own.”

“Sure thing,” Beck said. Leximas summoned the exit, then left the holomodule.

“You too hurt to keep going?” Nelson asked.

“It’s only a flesh wound,” Beck said, putting pressure on the slice in her arm. “Let’s go.”

“Computer, locate Michael Myers character,” Nelson said.

“Michael Myers is not in this program,” the computer replied.

“Computer, reinitialize Michael Myers character,” Beck said.

“Unable to comply. There is no Michael Myers character stored in memory.” Beck and Nelson looked at each other.

“She’s good,” Nelson said.

Sesil, at the bidding of the Critics, ended the Starshine Kids service for the day and set about assigning his followers their roles in the drama to come. Finally, only he and the Andorians from the restaurant remained.

“And you are sure everything is on schedule for today?” the lips said.

“Yes, Critics,” the Andorians replied with a bow.

“Excellent, as the other Kids complete their assigned tasks, they will meet you to begin the next step.”

“Of course, Critics.” The Andorians bowed again and hurried off.

“You have done well, Sesil,” the lips said.

“Thank you. It is all in the name of Starshine.”

“Right. Sure. You just remember to keep focused on the goal. You’re our Number One Guy!”

“I’m the Number One Guy,” Sesil repeated.

“You have to be in charge of this. And if it doesn’t work…”

“It will work, Critics,” Sesil said. “We can’t fail.”

“That’s what they all say,” the lips replied. “Just get to it.”

Sesil rushed off to do the Critics bidding as the lips faded back to their own plane of existence.

“That strange woman has been close by.”

“I know. And her name is Leximas.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Whatever. What are we going to do about it?”

“Why should we do anything? The plan is already in motion. I do not believe she understands that there even is a plan. By the time she realizes it, it will be far too late for her…or anyone else.”

Vinnz, the Andorian captain of the new and improved freighter, Hvark II sat in his command chair watching Waystation grow on the viewscreen. He actually felt that this trip here was completely appropriate.

Several months earlier, when he was first officer of the first Hvark, he’d been involved in the accident…well, accidents, that led to the renovation of Waystation in the first place. Now here he was, back again, and delivering another load of supplies to the Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet Andorian restaurant locations on both Waystation Village and the newly-completed Waystation itself.

Since some Federation officials were coming to tour the station, all supply runs were supposed to be suspended for the day, but Ih’mad, the owner of the restaurant, had a bit of pull with the station’s commander. She’d seen to it that Vinnz and the Hvark would be the only ship allowed near the station on this very special day. But first, he had some fresh spleen pie to deliver to the modules.

He had to admit that the module set up made deliveries a bit easier. Rather than waiting for a docking port, like at the old station, he could just pull up behind the restaurant module and dock with it. Vinnz casually wondered if Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet’s location on the outer ring of modules was purposeful just so Waystation Village could avoid any collisions with other Andorian freighters.

Well, they didn’t have to worry about the Hvark II. Vinnz ran a well- oiled and level-headed operation, unlike his previous commander who was currently sitting in a Federation rehabilitation colony. Vinnz just wanted to make his deliveries without any fuss and get back to Andor.

After the Hvark II had completed its docking maneuver, Vinnz was met at the airlock by two of the restaurant staff and a Vulcan. Oddly enough, all three of them were bald.

“Right on time,” the Vulcan said smiling. Vinnz wasn’t sure what was more disconcerting: the Vulcan’s tone of voice or his smile.

“Yes,” Vinnz replied. “And I have the spleen.”

“Excellent,” one of the Andorians said. “Unload it. Also, we have a couple of things we need taken over to the station, if you could.” The Andorians smiled warm, sickeningly sweet smiles.

“Uh, sure,” Vinnz said. “What is it?”

“Just those,” the Andorians said, pointing at two large cargo crates sitting in the restaurant storage area.

“By the hive! Those things could hold a k’vaarrtz!”

“We have a lot to move,” the second Andorian said.

“All right. My crew will load them, but you’ll have to do the unpacking yourselves.”

“Absolutely,” the Vulcan said. “Once you drop us off, please leave as soon as possible.”


Lieutenant Russell practically had to force his feet to walk in order to get into the Starshine Kids temple. This was not a place he’d been looking forward to coming back to. The two security officers with him, however, seemed completely unconcerned. Of course, they’d never had giant lips invade their dreams or strange Vulcans try to brain wash them. He smiled grimly remembering a comment Porter had made shortly after they’d arrived on Waystation. Porter had said that these sorts of traumatic experiences usually only happened to the command crew. They were better off on the Secondprize, where they’d just had minor roles.

Steeling himself, Russell stepped into the main Starshine Kids temple and was surprised to find it completely deserted. From what he’d heard, they never left the temple unoccupied. And more disturbingly, the sphere that normally sat on the stage was gone.

“Russell to Beck.”

“What is it, Lieutenant,” Beck replied. She sounded out of breath.

“Are you all right?” Russell asked. A deafening boom sounded over the comm system.

“Got him!” he heard a voice that sounded a lot like Dr. Nelson’s scream in the background.

“We’re fine now,” Beck replied. “Although, I’m now covered in android bits.”

“Excuse me?”

“Never mind. What’s up?”

“I’m down here in the Starshine Kids module like you asked. There’s no one here.”

“No one at all?”

“Nope. Empty.”

“Hmm…that’s odd. No lips around, huh?”

“Was that a joke?” Russell demanded.

“Sorry. Station a couple of officers down there and have them let us know if the Starshiners return. You get to ops; the Orleans is going to be here soon,” Beck said.

“Sure thing. Russell out.”

Commander Beck knocked a couple of chunks of robot parts off of her clothes and headed over to Dr. Nelson. The makeshift explosive they’d constructed had done the trick. Michael Myers was now debris.

“That was relaxing,” Nelson said smiling.

“Completely,” Beck said. “I may actually be able to put up with this tour group after all.”

“It’s a holoprogram, not a miracle worker,” Nelson said.

“I’m trying to keep a positive attitude,” Beck replied. “And I guess I’d better get cleaned up and strap myself into that damn dress uniform.”

“Probably. I’ll be there in a minute with a med-kit to take care of those cuts. And if you’re nice, I’ll do your hair too.”

“Triage and a trim. Sounds great,” Beck said, heading to the holomodule exit. “How much for the perm and appendectomy?”

“Don’t push me, Beck.”

Leximas closed her eyes and opened her mind, allowing her essence to reach out beyond the physical plane of her existence. The presence of the Critics was still heavy over the station, but she had been able to erect mental shields to block out most of their disturbing effects. She couldn’t block them all, though. And she didn’t want to. The Critics may have been the problem, but they also held the answers.

Deep in her consciousness, Leximas felt the tug of her mind guide. It was a different pull than ever before, something larger and more powerful than she’d ever encountered. This was it; this was why she’d been led here.

Leximas had known she had some sort of course ever since her early years as an acolyte on her home planet. Very few of her people were chosen by the greater forces for duty. Leximas had been one of those few, the first in a generation to receive a mind guide. Her gift had led her to a position of authority on her planet, a position she then left when her guide pulled her elsewhere.

For anyone else, being led from planet to planet, system to system by some unseen force would be a cause of frustration, but Leximas’ years of training had given her the inner peace that allowed her to accept the guidance given to her. There had been tests along the way, not all of which she had passed spectacularly, but they had all helped her attain the center and focus she now possessed.

Using this focus, she pushed outwards on the walls bordering her consciousness and strove to enter the greater realms. Out there, she could find the answers she sought. Out there, perhaps the big picture would become clear.

“How are we doing?” Commander Beck asked, fastening the collar on her dress uniform as she entered the operations module.

“We’re good,” Lieutenant Commander Walter Morales replied. “The final supply ship has just left Waystation and is on its way back to Andor. Ih’mad once again sends his thanks for allowing them to deliver today.”

“He’d just better save that first spleen pie for me.”

“Yum yum,” Porter said flatly.

“This coming from the man who likes calamari,” Beck said.

“It’s just squid,” Porter protested.

“Exactly,” Beck said. “How about those Starshine Kiddies?”

“Not a peep out of them,” Russell said. “I’m not sure whether to be nervous or relieved.”

“Stay on your toes, but we’ve got bigger things to deal with. Where’s the Orleans?”

“Just entering sensor range,” Porter replied.

“Good. Keep an eye on those sensors. I’m not expecting any problems, but you never know when some edgy malcontents could decide to take a crack at the Vice-President.”

“Silly target, if you ask me,” Russell said. “I’ve never heard a peep out of the guy. He just stands in the background during Enyo’s speeches.”

“Just stay alert.”

“No problem.”

“We’re being hailed,” Morales said.

“On screen,” Beck said, turning to the little 19 inch viewer Starfleet had so kindly provided for them. Admiral Thomas Wagner’s face appeared on the screen. There may have been some others standing behind him, but it was hard to tell in an image that small.

“Welcome, Admiral,” Beck said.

“Yeah. Yeah. Hi. Hi,” Wagner replied. “You ready to start that tour?”

“Sure, I guess, but wouldn’t your party like to eat first or something?”

“What we’d like is to get this over with and go home,” Wagner said. “This isn’t exactly the center of civilization out here. And frankly, you Secondprize people scare me.”

“We’re not, as you put it, Secondprize people anymore,” Beck replied, a little irritated.

“Close enough,” Wagner said. “Admiral McGrath, Vice-President Maruac, and I wish to beam over to Waystation immediately.”

“Okay,” Beck said. “We’ll send you coordinates and meet you there. Waystation Village out.”

“He’s always such a fun guy,” Porter said.

“I’m sure it’s nothing personal,” Beck said, heading towards the hatch. “He probably just hates this bureaucratic ceremony crap as much as I do. It’s not the most exciting way to spend a day.”

“You’ve got a point.”

“Tell Jones and Bradley Dillon to meet me in the transporter module. We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

“No problem,” Morales said. “We’ve got you covered on this end.”

In a way, Sesil regretted that he couldn’t show Vinnz and his crew the joys to be had as members of the Starshine Kids, but he understood why the Critics had forbidden it. There was a much, much greater prize to be had.

As it was, the Starshine Kids had piled out of the cargo crates Vinnz had so nicely transported to Waystation for them, and they had set about the task of obtaining the necessary equipment.

Just as the Critics had said, the Starfleet members of the Starshine Kids were easily able to access the weapons armory and retrieve several shiny new phasers and phaser rifles. Similarly, the Federation marines had been able to quickly teach the civilians how to handle said weaponry. And, finally, the Zenedron construction workers had done an excellent job of leading the Kids through the various jefferies tubes that cris-crossed the station, so that they wouldn’t possibly be spotted by the very important people that were about to visit.

Sesil reached into his robe and rubbed his hand against the device sitting in his pocket. His Kids had told him that the diversion was in place. All he had to do was activate it when the time was right. The time would come soon. So very soon.

Commander Beck had thought that Vice-President Maruac looked pale on holovision, but in person, he was whiter than white. He also didn’t talk much…at all really…as the tour group made their way through the new and improved Starfleet Square Mall.

“We’re a three-level mall area now,” Beck said, walking at the head of the group. She looked back and noticed Maruac was acting strangely. He had his head bent down and seemed to be struggling to keep up.

“Is he okay?” Beck asked Admiral Frank McGrath, the third member of the group.

“Fine. Why?” McGrath asked.

“Nothing.” Beck walked on ahead. At least, Bradley Dillon had been behaving himself so far. Not once had he tried to sell anything to anyone, or bribe them for that matter.

“Should I be doing something in particular?” Yeoman Tina Jones whispered, walking up close to Beck.

“Not really,” Beck said. “You’re here just in case.”

“In case of what?”

“In case,” Beck said. “Go mingle.” Jones shrugged and dropped back to walk next to McGrath.

“Do you like the place?” she asked.

“Lovely,” McGrath grumbled. “But I have important work.”

“The Explorer isn’t going anywhere,” Admiral Wagner said from behind them.

“We’re so close to being done.”

“Look, your name came up on the duty roster. Deal with it. We all have to put up with this crap.”

“And this particular piece of crap,” Beck said, gesturing at a door. “…will be Dillon’s Supply Depot.”

“Thank you, Commander,” Bradley Dillon said, heading to the front of the group. “But it may interests our guests to know that Dillon’s has more than tripled in size. Also, the Starfleet Suites hotel located on the decks above us will provide unparalleled luxury for those guests visiting Waystation and Starfleet Square Mall. Our restaurant will provide the best cuisine the galaxy has to offer, with selections from over twenty worlds.”

Beck started to zone off while Bradley spoke, but noticed Maruac pretend to unwrap something and stick it in his mouth. The Vice-President then made a big show out of chewing the air. Beck just stared at him in astonishment.

“He a mute,” Wagner said, whispering in Beck’s ear. “Just let him do his thing. It’s how he communicates.”


“I know.”


“You don’t have to say it.”




Leximas felt a sudden rush of freedom as her consciousness transcended any place she had ever been before. The experience was almost too much to process. Her mind was awash in sounds and colors and smells and sensations and everything and anything at once. She forced herself to focus and attempt to create some sort of order out of the chaos. As of now, she couldn’t tell if she should turn left or purple. Was the universe round or chalky?

“Welcome,” a cacophony of voices said all around her. She heard them and sensed the word telepathically and somehow interpreted it from a smell. Her senses were all co-mingling.

“Hello?” Leximas ventured.

“You have taken a great risk,” the voices replied. They tasted familiar.

“Mind guide?”

“Yes and more. You have come for answers. You have come for the Critics.”

“Do you know them?”

“By reputation only. The Directors are the real experts, but they don’t tell us much. We’re only the Ushers.”


“Exactly. The big picture is composed of many parts, some of which haven’t even come into play yet.”

“What do the Critics want?”

“To control the picture, of course. They want it made their way rather than the Directors’ way.”

“But where do you fit in?”

“That’s easy,” the voices replied. “We usher.”

“I do not understand.”

“We ushered you here to meet the Critics.”

“Am I to fight them?” Leximas asked. The voices laughed, their laughter filling her nostrils.

“You cannot defeat them,” the voices said. “We cannot even defeat them.”

“But that is not the same as fighting them.”

“This is why you were chosen. The battle started in the outer planes, but it will end on the material plane, your plane.”

“So the Critics are here to start that battle.”

“In a sense, but the opening moves on this plane began years ago. This could be considered an escalation of hostilities. They have started to gather their forces. But armies require supplies and places from which to operate.”

“Waystation,” Leximas said, understanding.

“The rest is up to you.”

Lieutenant Commander Morales tried to ignore the flashing on the communications board, but eventually he felt forced to answer it. The last thing he needed to deal with right now, though, was an outside call.


“Is this Morales?” a rough voice said over the comm line.

“Yes. What can I do for you?” Morales was already tensing up. The voice on the other end was Buck, the head of the Zenedron group that built the station.

“I’m runnin’ a couple of guys short,” Buck said. “They over there?”

“I have no idea,” Morales said. He thought for a moment. “They aren’t on Waystation are they?” he asked in horror.

“Nah. All of my guys got off of there yesterday. We’re just sitting over here where you folks had us park.” Beck had ordered the construction fleet, tractor barges, space cranes, workbees, and all, to move to the other side of Waystation village so they would be out of the way when the brass arrived.

“Well, I don’t think we’ve seen them,” Morales said.

“Okay. Just let me know if you do. They’re the bald ones that joined up with that freaky Vulcan. Buck out.”

“Commander,” Russell said. “I don’t like this.”

“Me either,” Morales replied. “Get in touch with Lazlo and see if all of his marines are accounted for.”

“I’m on it,” Russell said, turning back to his console.

“They may be a bit strange, but those Starshine folks seem too happy to start any trouble,” Porter said.

“I hope so,” Morales said.

Sesil and the Starshine Kids were in position. The tour group was on the way. All was ready. He couldn’t believe how…fulfilled he felt at this moment. All hail the Critics.

“And this is ops,” Beck said as the turbolift opened into the empty command center of Waystation. She, Wagner, Maruac, McGrath, Jones, and Bradley filed out of the lift and looked around.

Actually, it wasn’t that much larger than her old ops on the first Waystation. The lighting was brighter, shining off the new consoles and white-ish gray walls, but things were still in the places they used to be. The lift still came up in the center of the room with her office off to the right, the conference room to the rear, and the viewscreen in front. There were a few additional consoles in the room, but nothing too drastic. She looked around with satisfaction. This wasn’t going to be bad at all. She had her office; she had a nice ops. The Andorians would still have their restaurant. Life was sounding pretty good.

Then, she noticed the strange, pulsating white ball sitting on the science console to the right of the viewscreen.

“What in the world?”

Beck took two steps towards it, then white robed figures burst out of the jefferies tubes, her office, the bathroom, and the conference room, all aiming phasers at the tourists.

Sesil stepped to the head of the bunch holding a small device in his hands.

He pressed the button on the device and smiled.

“Welcome to Shining Time Station.”

Leximas had to find Commander Beck quickly. She was due to tour Waystation this afternoon, but the Starshine Kids would most likely pick that opportunity to strike.

She slowly pulled her consciousness back towards her physical body, the effort almost completely draining her. Gradually, the candles floating in the room came back into view.

Then, the world exploded.

The crew in ops was tossed violently across the module as Waystation Village rocked from a vicious blast.

“What the hell was that?” Morales demanded as Porter and Russell struggled back to their stations.

“Holy sh**!” Porter exclaimed.

“What?” Morales said, rushing over. He took a quick look down at the scanners.

“Looks like some sort of explosion,” Russell said. “Initial readouts look like a bomb.”

“We’ve lost Module 113,” Porter said. “Leximas’s module.”

“Was she in there?” Morales asked.

“I think so.”

“F***!” Morales shouted angrily, grabbing a padd off of Porter’s console and tossing it across the room. “Porter, get a team down there and start searching. I want to know exactly what happened.”

“Aye, sir,” Porter said, contacting his engineering crews.

“Russell, you find every single member of the Starshine Kids and arrest them. Got it!”

“Aye,” Russell said, sending out orders to his teams.

Colonel Martin Lazlo then stormed into ops fuming furiously. It looked like the blast has knocked him around quite a bit. Of course, the marines were stationed right next to Leximas’ module.

“Those damn Starshine Kids!” he seethed.

“We know,” Morales said.

“They’ve got some of my people, and that explosive was stolen from my ordinance,” Lazlo said. “You catch these bastards for me, Morales. We’ll bring back methods of torture this quadrant hasn’t seen for seven hundred years.”

“And I’ll be right there to help,” Morales said grimly. “They couldn’t have gotten far. It’s not that big of a station.”

“Uh…” Russell said.

“What is it, Lieutenant?” Morales said.

“I just checked the external scanners. Waystation’s shields popped up about thirty seconds ago. They’ve got all systems armed and operational.”

“Armed and… Oh sh**.”

“Looks like we’ve got a call coming through,” Porter said, noticing the hail flashing on Morales’ console. “You want to take a guess.”

“On screen,” Morales said, straightening his uniform as Lazlo did the same next to him. Sesil’s smiling face appeared on the screen. Behind him, Morales could see Beck and the others standing with their hands bound behind them and several phasers pointing at their heads.

“We just wanted to let you know that we like the new accommodations,” Sesil said. “The craftsmanship is truly superb. Our glorious Critics could not have asked for more.”

“Release the hostages,” Lazlo snapped. Normally, Morales would bristle at having Lazlo jump in like this, but he’d said exactly what was on Morales’ mind.

“What hostages?” Sesil replied. He gestured at the group behind him. “These are future Starshine Kids.” Morales could see Beck’s face tighten angrily. “They’ll come over to our way of thinking very, very soon. So long now. Let’s sing them goodbye, everyone.”

“Okay!” the other Starshine Kids said excitedly.

“It’ll be a bright, bright Starshiney Day!”


NEXT: The End of Renovations! All hell has already broken loose; now the crew has to find some way to clean it up…or else become slaves of the lips. The Starshiney Finale is coming in…