Another Piece of the Action by John Erik Ege - HTML preview

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Borg? “I thought you were supposed to be heading to Doruf One.”
“I have my suspicions that that particular terra-forming project will be delayed, or canceled
completely,” Picard said. “If you aren’t too busy, perhaps you’d like to volunteer. We can turn the supplies
over to you,” Captain Picard asked.
“Actually, I’m here to collect Garcia and head in the opposite direction,” Munoz said. “Excuse me?” Garcia asked.
“I suppose I can tell you with present company listening in,” Munoz said. “Star Fleet has lost contact
with the USS Minnesota.”
“That was Captain Heller’s ship,” Captain Picard said, concern evident on his face. “It would be out of
character for him to not report in at regular intervals.”
“I know,” Captain Munoz agreed.
Tammas flashed back to a meeting with McCoy, Thalymum, Admiral Ventox, and Captain George
Heller. They were discussing a mission to the Iotian planet based on a sociological paper he had written. That
was only a few months ago, and now, McCoy was gone forever, sleeping next to his beloved wife, Natira “I’ve been ordered to go and investigate and Star Fleet wants me to take you, Garcia,” Captain Munoz
said. “I will provide you with more information once we’re on our way.”
“No disrespect intended, but I’m not going with you,” Tammas said. “I’m going with the Enterprise to
Vulcan to clear up… um, some issues I have with T’Pau and family.”
“Star Fleet said you might balk,” Captain Munoz said. “But I need you. Star Fleet needs you. I’m
prepared to offer you an in-field promotion to the rank of Ensign.”
Picard grinned. Troi merely observed Garcia’s reaction.
Tammas turned to Picard. “Is this your doing?” Tammas asked.
“Captain Janeway and I made some recommendations on promoting you,” Picard said. “But I have
nothing to do with this assignment, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Iotia is four weeks away at warp nine,” Tammas protested. “Don’t you have any closer ships? If it is
an emergency, I would think closer and faster is paramount.”
“It will take us six weeks,” Munoz said. “And the only thing Star Fleet has made paramount is that
you come with me. The fact that you’re one of the Federation brightest, up and coming sociologist, and the
fact that you’re familiar with the Iotian culture, and the fact that Star Fleet technically owns you, makes you
invaluable to this mission.”
Tammas didn’t look at Picard or Deanna. He had to make this choice, not them. He just focused on
Captain Munoz’s eyes, wondering if he refused if she’d pull rank and make him go anyway. He believed she
would indeed abduct him and take him against his will. But he would go willingly. This is what he had joined
Star Fleet for.
“Very well,” he said, finally. “I’m ready when you are.”
“Congratulations on your promotion,” Picard said, offering his hand. “I’ll have the Enterprise send
your things over right away.”
Counselor Troi was still in observation mode, neither commenting nor questioning. He saw more in
her eyes than her voice would have offered anyway.
“I have no personal affects,” Tammas said. “Thank you, Captain, for everything. Counselor, I
suppose we’ll have to reschedule my next appointment.”
“I’m sure the Philadelphia Freedom has a Counselor,” Deana said.
“The best,” Captain Munoz said. “Are you finished here? Do you need to say good bye to anyone?” “No,” Tammas said. “Let’s go.”
Captain Munoz and Tammas stepped away from the Enterprise Captain and Counselor and then she
called her ship. Deanna read Garcia’s lips as he mumbled something as the beam took hold. She wondered
what one hundred and ten meant. She’d have to remember to ask him.
“One hundred and ten what?” Captain Munoz asked as she stepped down from the Transporter alcove. “Transports,” Tammas said.
“I’ll show you to your quarters if you like?” Captain Munoz offered.
“It would be better if I familiarized myself with the ship,” Tammas said.
“Very well, consider yourself on active duty,” Captain Munoz said. “I’ll have the duty master slot you
into the rotation. You have access to the Iotian files. There’s a lot there, so the sooner you get started the
quicker you can advise me on what we’re getting into. I’m holding a conference in one hour.” Conference in one hour? He thought. What’s the hurry? We got six weeks to think about this mess.
But he kept it to himself. No need to unnecessarily antagonize the Captain this early in the game. After all,
six weeks was a long time in space. He would have plenty of time to be antagonistic later, after he got to
know everyone.
The Philadelphia Freedom was an Oberth class starship, named after the 20th century rocket scientist,
Herman Oberth. It was primarily used for scientific research, but could easily be converted to a cargo carrier
in a pinch, should the need arise. The decks were not as computer friendly as the Enterprise D. He couldn’t
just go up to any wall and ask for internal navigation information. This ship required you to carry a Personal
Access Display Devise, or PADD, if you wanted specific information. Or, you could have a neural implant,
which he did. Finding his quarters was a cinch after he grew bored of wandering aimlessly and decided to
access the computer via his implant. At any time he could have asked one of the crew members passing him
in the corridors. Some of them had even seemed interested in engaging him in conversation, but he detoured
around them.
Once in his quarters he found himself being hailed, a call from the Enterprise. He took it. Had he
placed a bet that it would be Simone, he would have won. She didn’t look happy.
“I do not understand this,” Simone said. “You and I must return to Vulcan. Together.” “I’ll meet you there right after I finish this mission,” Tammas said.
Simone seemed to pass through several emotions, including anger, before returning to her neutral
expression, with maybe a hint of sadness if you were human and inclined to such interpretation. “You did not
say good bye.”
“Goodbye?” Tammas said, pretending to be hurt. “When we’re parted but never parted, goodbye
seems a bit queer.”
Simone put her hand against the screen, her fingers spread in the familiar Vulcan gesture. Tammas
sighed, approached the screen and mirrored her gesture.
“Be safe,” she said.
“I will,” Tammas assured her. “Garcia out.”
Simone’s image vanished and was replaced by the screen saver, a star field where the stars blew like
glitter across a felt background. Before he dropped his hand, the screen alerted him to another incoming call.
He guessed it was Jaxa. He was right.
“Oh my god! I heard you just got promoted to Ensign,” Jaxa said.
Tammas responded: “I’m always amazed at how fast gossip travels.”
“It couldn’t have happened to a better person,” Jaxa said, genuinely happy for him. “Thank you,” Tammas said. What else could he say?
Jaxa frowned. “I only wish you had come to say good bye.”
“I’ll ask Captain Munoz to turn the ship right around,” Tammas offered.
Jaxa smiled. “Silly. I’ll see you when you get back to Earth.”
“Promise?” Tammas said.
“Promise?” Jaxa asked. “Are you kidding me? A battalion of Cardassians couldn’t keep me away
from you! Tam? You know I love you, don’t you?”
Tammas thought about it, never dropping his gaze from her, and then finally nodded. “I know,” he
said.
Jaxa pouted. “That’s all?” she asked.
“Is what all?” Garcia asked.
“Aren’t you going to return the sentiment?” Jaxa asked.
“Whether I love you or not doesn’t change my situation,” Tammas told her, trying not to sound too
cold. “We did talk about this before…”
“I know,” Jaxa said. “But would it kill you to say it?”
“No, it wouldn’t kill me to say it,” Tammas said.
“Well?” Jaxa asked. After an uncomfortable pause she decided to push on, not wanting to dwell on her
hurt. “The Enterprise should be at Starbase 234 by Stardate 45233 if you need to get in touch with me for
anything. I and some of the other cadets will disembark there and take a long range shuttle back to Earth.
You’ll be gone for three months I take it?”
“I really don’t know. Roughly six weeks to get there from here,” Tammas said. “A proper analysis of
the situation could take several months. I’ll probably have to change my graduation date. I really don’t have
any idea how this is all going to play out.”
“Well, just play it by ear,” Jaxa said. “You’re good at that. Jaxa out.”
The screen saver returned. Tammas wondered if there was a jab in that last bit, but decided even if
there was, he probably deserved it. He stared at the blowing glitter of a screen saver, waiting for another call.
It didn’t come. He turned to the sound of a door opening, only it wasn’t a real door, just one in his
imagination. Duana walked into the room and plopped herself on the couch.
“So, how’s the new pad?” Duana asked.
“It’s alright,” he said, frowning. “Where’s your other half?”
Duana shrugged and picked up the coffee table book. Garcia left his quarters and was halfway down
the corridor when he realized he didn’t have a clue where he was going or what he wanted. Not completely
true. He wanted to escape his hallucination. But, since technically Duana was in his head, and not his quarters,
leaving wouldn’t provide him with any more privacy. Was that what he wanted? To be alone? Was that the
message he was giving Jaxa? He called up the ship’s map and searched for a holodeck. Nothing came up. He
stopped a crew member.
“Um, excuse me,” Tammas asked the man. “Where’s the holodeck?”
“There isn’t one,” the man answered, pausing in his stride only long enough to give a reply.
“Recreation rooms are on decks four and ten.”
“No holodeck?” Tammas asked, feeling a tinge of panic. Six weeks on this tub and no holodeck? “No holodeck,” a familiar voice confirmed.
Tammas turned to discover Tatiana Kletsova directly behind him.
“Tatiana!” Tammas sang, surprising her with a hug. “You’re here!”
“I’m here,” Tatiana said, staring at him queerly because of that hug. “Our training mission just got
extended, that’s all.”
“Our training mission?” Tammas asked.
“There he is,” came another familiar voice. It belonged to Afuhaamango, but everyone that knew him
just called him Afu.
Tammas reached for the Tongan but before he could shake hands the girl to Afu’s right pushed herself
inside his reach and hugged him fiercely.
“Yuh have ah gyal rush me haircut o’ what?” Trini asked, laughing and kissing him quick on the
mouth. Her name was Indira Sookanan, but everyone called her Trini, short for Trinidad. The question that
she had greeted Tammas with was broken English, a Trinidadian dialect. The direct translation was: “You
have a girl rush me haircut or what.” Or trimmed down, “Is it your hair cut that brings you all these women?” Tammas hugged her, picking her up off the floor. “I’m so happy to see you, Trini,” Tammas said. “And you actually seem happy to see us,” Afu commented. “You’re always so stoic, Tam, while
Trini’s perfervid mannerisms are so loud by comparison.”
Garcia dropped Trini and hugged Afu, knowing full well that the man hated public displays of
affection as much as he did, especially from a fellow male. He just couldn’t resist hugging Afu. “I’ll show
you stoic,” Garcia said. “So, is there anyone else on board I know?”
“Lenar,” Tatiana said. “He’s on duty right now, though.”
“We’re all sorry about your losses,” Trini said.
“You guys know?” Tammas asked.
“We were told the moment we were diverted to go pick you up,” Afu said. “You’re a very popular guy
all of a sudden.”
“He was always popular,” Trini corrected.
“So, are you saying when I save the galaxy I won’t be equally as popular?” Afu asked. Trini slapped him playfully. “You’ll always be popular with us,” she said, and then back to Tammas.
“Rivan sends her love.”
“How is she?” Tammas asked.
“She’s been a bit moody since you’ve been gone,” Afu said.
“I’ll send her a letter,” Tammas said.
“It isn’t a letter that she wants,” Tatiana said.
“So, where were you off to?” Trini asked, not giving Garcia time to respond to Kletsova’s snide
remark.
“He was looking for a holodeck,” Tatiana said, crossing her arms.
“But this ship doesn’t have one,” Trini said.
“No doubt that was something Captain Munoz failed to mention in her recruitment speech,” Tatiana
said. And then, rich with sarcasm, she said: “What ever are you going to do?”
“I guess I will just have to spar with you,” Tammas said, feigning grumpy.
“Cadet Kletsova, report to security,” a voice called over her comm. badge.
“Work calls. Spar with you later,” Tatiana excused herself.
As she was departing Afu declared his hunger. “Are you with me?”
“No. I don’t feel like eating right now,” Tammas said.
“Alright, then I’ll catch you later. I need to eat before my shift starts,” Afu said. “Later, Trini.” The explosion of friends and happiness was short lived. Though he was still with Trini, he felt himself
sinking again. Trini smiled at him.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Trini asked. “You seem sad.”
He wanted to say, “Nay, I know not seems,” quoting Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Instead, he just affirmed,
“I’m fine.”
Trini touched his face. “I’m here for you. We all are.”
“Ensign Garcia, report to the conference room.” The voice belonged to that of the Captain. “Are you going to respond, Ensign Garcia?” Trini said, emphasizing the “Ensign.” Tammas shook his head in disbelief that he had already forgotten about his promotion. He didn’t feel
any different. He touched his comm. badge. “On my way,” he said, and closed the channel. “I’m glad you’re
all here.”
She hugged him. “You better not keep the Captain waiting,” Trini said.
“That appears to be true of all Captains,” Tammas speculated.
CHAPTER FOUR
What the Federation knew about the Iotian culture and situation could fit in a nut shell, Garcia thought,
and that wasn’t a quip on the state of the electronic medium storage capacity. Information starts with a report
from the USS Horizon, before it was lost. The Horizon’s report described a race of humanoids that were
extremely intelligent, peaceful, and living in an agrarian society. The Horizon went on to describr the Iotian’s,
amazed by how human they were. They could not stress the human factor enough, and it was because of their
human qualities that the Horizon’s Captain was more than happy to share technological ideas with them. It
was a time before the Prime Directive. Their intentions were good, but the results were disastrous. The
Iotians were doing well enough, but he believed they had needs that could be easily met with very simple
technologies. It was without hesitation that the Horizon adopted these people, taught them to read and speak
English, and left them books on agriculture, medical care, and engineering.
The next recorded entry on the Iotians came from Captain Kirk. He had received an emergency
distress call from the Horizon and he was going to investigate. He was compelled to investigate, even though
the transmission he had intercepted was a hundred years old due to the distances involved. This was due to
the fact that the message was sent by standard radio waves as opposed to subspace radio. Something really
bad must have happened to the Horizon for them to have lost their subspace radio and their ability to fix it.
From the time the signal was received to the time the Enterprise arrived at the Horizon’s last known position,
it had taken less than a week at warp seven. Kirk really hadn’t expected survivors from the Horizon, but he
had to find out what had happened to the ship. Part of that was training, and the other part was loyalty; a
‘leave no one behind’ sort of motto. He would expect the same thing from Star Fleet if his ship were ever lost.
The best case scenario was that the crew of the Horizon made it safely back to Iotia and Kirk could rescue
their descendants. The best case scenario also meant that Kirk would have to evaluate the Iotian culture to
determine whether or not the Horizon’s crew had had a negative impact on the Iotian’s culture and make
repairs if need be.
The Horizon was never found. Kirk reported to Star Fleet what he did find: a world modeled after the
gangsters of twentieth century Earth. Flying by the seat of his pants, Kirk put together a solution, hoping to
unify the Iotian people into one nation: he consolidated the world government under one leader, The Boss. He
informed Star Fleet of his solution, and, in the manner typical of large bureaucracies, Star Fleet puzzled over
the situation for nearly a hundred years before sending another ship to see about the well fare of the Iotian
people. Part of the difficulty lied in the fact that Kirk’s solution was “intolerable” to most of the Federation
Congress. Kirk had bluffed the Iotians into believing that Star Fleet was taking over their world and that when
Star Fleet returned they would want “a piece” of the action. The percentage of that “piece” was beyond
reasonable taxation, but Kirk felt that had he not taken such a high percentage the Iotian’s profits, they
wouldn’t have bought his bluff.
Just this alone spelled trouble to Tammas and he had written as much in his essay that outlined the
research proposal he had submitted. Because of Kirk’s solution, the Iotian’s belief system hadn’t been
changed, but rather reinforced. They, the Iotians, would be even more territorial, more aggressive, and now
that they were unified under the central theme of Big Brother, Star Fleet, they would no doubt be fanatical in
their resolve to move out into the Universe with conquest on their mind. This had been the latest debate since
Garcia’s paper “resurfaced,” and was the current subject at hand in the conference room as Tammas entered
and sat down. The problem was that Star Fleet hadn’t been prepared to go in and try to explain to a radical
culture that they had truly misunderstood their first contact with aliens. The Iotians weren’t meant to be
gangsters, especially Americanized gangsters. They were meant to be something else. What that something
else was, well, was anybody’s guess. No one could say with any amount of certainty how the Iotians would
have developed had the Horizon never visited, but they were ninety nine point nine percent sure that it would
not have followed a gangster socio-evolutionary path.
The only face Tammas recognized was that of the Captain’s. As Garcia took one of the two remaining
seats, he took inventory of those sitting around him, pulling up the ship’s personnel profiles via his implant
and matching faces in order to quickly learn their names. Perhaps had he been on time he would have been
introduced to Captain Munoz’s Command Staff. He could see that the Captain was not pleased by his late
arrival, but she did not openly chastise him.
“The most recent ship sent to investigate the Iotian situation was the USS Minnesota, Captain Heller in
command,” the man to the Captain’s right said. He was the First Officer, Lt. Commander Osaka, and he
summarized the details they knew to date. Captain Heller had brought his ship out of warp, nine billion miles
from the Iotian sun, at the boundary known as the heliosheath where solar winds give way to interstellar gases.
Before passing through the terminal shock into the solar system itself, Captain Heller had scanned Iotian
space. He had found nothing out of the ordinary. There were seven planets, one of which, the furthest from
the sun, was a gas giant. Iotian prime was the second planet from the sun. Even if it hadn’t been a class M
planet, it would have been easily noticed by the Minnesota because of the number of artificial satellites in
orbit, and the fact that the radio and television broadcasts that were being beamed into space lit the planet up
like a small star. Captain Heller had sampled the media and sent it via subspace to Star Fleet command. He
had then notified Star Fleet that he was going in. That was his last broadcast.
Some of that media played in the back ground on several monitors in the conference room. Having not
taken time to study the materials, Tammas was not prepared to comment at this time, but he was not surprised
when the inquiry was presented to him anyway.
“So, Ensign Garcia, what do you expect us to find when we arrive?” Captain Munoz asked. “Judging by some of the media content, which appears to be commercials,” Tammas said off the cuff,
using a skill called “Fast and frugal” which tapped into the adaptive unconscious mind. He had enunciated
everything slowly, and carefully, as if he was being thoughtful, but really he was just thinking through
possible answers before committing. He made a prediction based on his first impressions of the media files
being displayed: “I would say that the Iotian culture is probably on the verge of collapse.” Lt. Osaka frowned, ingoring the commercial about guns, apparently machine gun type weapons, fully
automatic, and the “hot” women displaying them. “How did you come to that conclusion?” he asked, not
bothering to conceal his skepticism. “The broadcasts appear to be no different than what Earth was producing
in the twenty first century.”
“And if you recall your twenty first century history,” Tammas explained. “It was an extremely
unstable era. No matter which angle you approach it on, philosophically, politically, or economically, Earth
barely made it through that time period alive, and not without several wars. The Iotians have become even
more aggressive than Earth of the equivalent time period, and, if they have not found a way to curve their
population growth, which I believe put them in their initial crisis and, consequently, the reason for their
adopting the gangster mentality, then they will be on the verge of a global war, and or exhausting all of their
natural resources. This commercialization agenda we see here suggest that they are entrenched in a consumer
society and, as you recall from history, it is practically impossible for a materialistic society to expand
continuously, providing every citizen with an equitable level of material comfort. The demand for status,
demonstrated by a certain level of materialistic gain and power, coupled with dwindling resources, guarantee
conflict. The society will eventually implode, due to typical market forces of seeking to provide products and
services for the least amount of cost by means of reducing employee pay and benefits to finally having only a
few who can actually afford to buy the products or services. You end up having one percent ownership of
wealth, ninety percent abject poverty, and nine percent privilege class, if you consider sucking up to the one
percent a privilege.”
“It can’t be all that bad,” First Lt. Simmons objected. He was the ship’s Doctor, and from all
appearance, a man who enjoyed to eat. “America had the lowest poverty rates of any nation…” “Of any nation,” Tammas emphasized. “It still had poverty. The interesting thing about America
though, was not the fact that it was wealthy, but that they were using almost seventy percent of the world’s
resources to maintain that level of comfort. It was out of balance and because of that there were wars.
Everybody wants a piece of the action.”
“You’re forgetting how bright the Iotian people are said to be,” 2nd Lt Carl Lester said. He was the
ship’s counselor. “Surely they have managed to solve their psycho/social problems by now.” “Anything is possible,” Tammas agreed. “And bright is relative. They’re bright in the same way Idiot
Savants are brilliant. Sure, they can give you instantaneous results to large numbered equations, but if you ask
them to make something meaningful out of the data, you might as well be asking a child to explain the
complexity of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”
Lt. Anson, steepled his fingers. Even without technological assists, Tammas knew right away that the
pure blooded Vulcan was the ship’s Science Officer. “I find you to be unduly adversarial and biased against
their version of capitalism.”
Tammas stiffened, partly because of the jab and partly because Admiral Leonard H McCoy was taking
a seat next to him.
“Are you going to let that pointy eared, devil get away with that?” McCoy asked.
“I am,” Tammas began, shooting a quick glance at McCoy that he hoped no one else saw, “not being
adversarial. I consider myself to be participating in a lively discussion about what we’re most likely to find.” “Perhaps you should stick to writing fiction and leave the hard science to those better capable and
better trained,” Anson vituperated.
“Why you little…” McCoy snapped.
“Captain Munoz,” Anson pressed on, oblivious to the berating he was getting from the Good Doctor.
“We’ve all read Garcia’s paper on the Iotian culture. His suggestion that they adopted the gangster mentality
as a means of population control and resource management is highly speculative at best.” “But it does explain the why of it all,” Counselor Lester said. “That was something the Enterprise
crew failed to do. Why else would a peaceful society become barbaric? If we assume that they resorted to
violence because of limited resources and adopted territorial regimes to control population, then the measures
Kirk took would be insufficient to change that mind set.”
“Which Garcia bases completely on a data set that is now over a hundred years old,” Anson pointed
out.
“All the data still fits the parameters I’ve outlined…” Garcia began.
“Which is meaningless dribble,” Anson argued. “Without reliable data…”
“And that is no doubt the reason why you collected me,” Tammas offered. “I’m going into the field to
collect a new data set, evaluate it, and make a recommendation to Star Fleet based on that research.” “Which will no doubt be in direct conflict with the analysis provided by Spock, who observed the
situation first hand,” Anson said.
Tammas started when McCoy slammed his hand down on the table. “So, that’s what this is about!”
McCoy shouted. “Why, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the time Spock has been wrong over
the years.”
“You forget that the program that Spock utilized to make his assessment was faulty,” Tammas said. There was a collected gasp. “You’re saying Spock and his computer were in error?” Doctor Simmons
asked.
“Not only was the computer program not up to the task, but there were insufficient variables entered to
make a proper quantitative evaluation,” Tammas said. “And that was Spock’s first error. His second error
was accepting Kirk’s qualitative analysis as fact. And his third mistake was validating Kirk’s solution as a
reasonable course of action.”
“A course of action that did unify the Iotian government…” Anson pointed out.
“Hitler nearly unified Earth, would that have justified his solution?” Garcia asked, throwing the Hitler
trump card on the table. “Kirk may have unified the population, but he didn’t change their hearts and minds.
Kirk left them believing the Gangster Book was still gospel, the end all be all of moral teleology.” “Alright,” Captain Munoz interrupted. “That’s enough for now. We still have six weeks in which to
discuss this.”
Tammas and Anson exchanged glances. McCoy leaned over to Tammas. “Bet he wants to correct
her,” McCoy whispered. “It’s actually more like five weeks, six days, twenty two hours and forty three
minutes…” Tammas bit his lower lip in an attempt to suppress a smile. It was going to be a long six weeks. “Dismissed,” Captain Munoz said, and everyone stood up. “Except you, Ensign Garcia.” Garcia and McCoy sat back down. The conference room was smaller than the one on Enterprise D,
and he had to scoot in to let the Counselor and Doctor pass comfortably. The counselor patted Garcia’s
shoulder. It was probably a friendly gesture, but Garcia felt it was a violation of personal space given he had
not officially met the man. The wall opposite of where he sat had two large windows. Stars streamed by. Captain Munoz indicated a chair nearer hers. “Come closer, Ensign,” she said.
Garcia complied. So did McCoy. Garcia wanted to wave him off, but only gave him a passing glance. “So,” Captain Munoz said. “Are we alone now?”
Garcia looked around the room, puzzled. McCoy smiled at him and suddenly he understood. “She
knows,” McCoy said the obvious for him.
“Relax,” Captain Munoz said. “Only Doctor Simmons, Counselor Lester and I know about your
condition. Are you presently stable?”
“Fairly stable,” Garcia said, not sure what she meant. “For a crazy man.”
Munoz chuckled. “You passed Troi’s psyche evaluation. The problem is, I believe these
manifestations of yours might be too much of a distraction to allow you to accompany an Away Team planet
side.”
A perplexed look came over his face. He wanted to tell Troi he was right: he didn’t even need to be
labeled schizophrenic to be discriminated against. They only needed to know you were talking to people that
weren’t there, whether it was a legit thing or not. “My understanding is that you’re bringing me along as an
expert, and as an expert I need to be in the field in order to provide you with a reliable analysis,” Tammas
said.
“You’ll have to rely on second hand information to make your assessments,” Captain Munoz said. “If you’ll permit a protest, that’s what got us into this mess to begin with,” Garcia said. “Protest noted and logged,” Captain Munoz said. “It doesn’t change my perspective. You’re a
liability.”
“That wasn’t the song you were singing when you picked me up!” Garcia pointed out. “Well, that was before I learned that you were having hallucinations,” Captain Munoz said. “They’re not hallucinations,” Tammas said. “They are fully formed personalities that happen to be
sharing my living space, if you’ll permit the analogy. Look, you have Trills on board. They’re blended
personalities. It’s not much different than that!”
“It’s not the same and you know it,” Captain Munoz said.
“She should be happy for getting six for the price of one,” McCoy said.
“So, why don’t you just relieve me of duty,” Garcia asked.
“I would,” Captain Munoz said. “Only, Star Fleet has advised me against it. Apparently you have
guardian angels in high places. That, or there’s a precedent for your condition that I just haven’t been able to
locate. This is all new territory for me, and I don’t know what to expect. It doesn’t ease my mind knowing
that because of these psychic manifestations you incapacitated the entire Enterprise crew, stole a shuttle, and
went off on a suicide mission.”
“I was unduly influenced,” Garcia began.
“My point exactly,” Captain Munoz interrupted. “It doesn’t help any that you’re still just a cadet with
delusions of grandeur. You have a reputation for being an arrogant know it all that scoffs at tradition, likes to
grand stand, and argues contemptuously with authority figures.”
“I wouldn’t say that it’s with contempt,” Garcia argued.
Munoz made a gesture as if he had just proven her point. “You don’t play well with others, and, quite
frankly, I don’t fully trust you. I will, however, provide you with opportunities to succeed and build some
trust with me. And at anytime I feel that your performance is less than perfect, or that you are endangering my
mission, I’ll relieve you of duty so fast your head will spin.”
Garcia checked his anger. “I would expect nothing less,” Garcia said. “Is there anything else you’d
like me to know?”
“I told the Quarter Master to give you three days off before slotting you in, to give you time to mourn
your losses. Will that be adequate?’ Munoz asked.
“I can start work now,” Garcia told her.
“Take the three days, my compliments,” Munoz told him. “Dismissed.”
McCoy followed Garcia, saying, “I think she likes you.”
Before thinking about his action, Garcia turned back to scowl at McCoy’s for his comment, only to
realize too late that Captain Munoz was scrutinizing him. He sighed, believing that she no doubt assumed that
the glower was for her. He didn’t bother to correct her assumptions, but only because the explanation would only add to the concerns that she had just revealed. His career was certainly not going the way he had imagined.
kjº
Back in his quarters, Tammas Parkin Arblaster Garcia paced. “This is unacceptable,” he complained.
His complaint didn’t fall on deaf ears. Duana, McCoy, and Ilona sat on the couch watching him exhaust
himself. Lal was examining the paintings in the room. Troi was talking to Lal, explaining the details in the
painting, which was distracting. He kept looking over to hear if he had heard her right.
“Her position is completely untenable,” Garcia continued. “Why even bring me along if she doesn’t
intend to use me? My entire class schedule is now off, so I won’t be able to graduate with my friends, I have a
choir and an orchestra that needs my attention, and I’m supposed to be flying with Sierra Squadron next
month in the pre-qualifying race for the Rigel cup. Even going to Vulcan and completing my civil
responsibilities with Simone would be more enjoyable than this.”
“I really like it when he’s angry,” Duana said.
“I wonder where he gets his temper,” McCoy mused.
Ilona and Duana looked to McCoy to see if he were being funny. They determined he was serious. He
really didn’t know where Tam’s temper came from. Neither volunteered suggestions.
“I’m sure that whoever is on the Away Team will be qualified to make detailed reports,” Ilona said. “Reports are insufficient,” Garcia said. “I need to experience what life is like down there. My eyes
need to be there.”
“Aren’t you the one that was just complaining about Kirk’s qualitative response?” McCoy asked. “Your point?” Garcia asked.
“Well, what makes your qualitative assessment any better than Kirk’s?” McCoy asked. “If you’re
thinking of using cowboy diplomacy, relying more own instinct than contemplative thought and statistical
analysis, flying by the seat of your pants, then you should be less critical about people who operated by the
same instincts. Quite frankly, I don’t want to hear you dissparage Kirk in public again. He was my Captain
and my friend and you were out of line in there. Throwing the Hitler card, indeed! Where do you go from
there? You better not have been comparing Kirk to Hitler.”
“I wasn’t,” Garcia said, and resumed pacing.
“If you didn’t want my opinion, you should have left my Katra alone,” McCoy snapped. “I told you
not to do it and you went ahead and did it anyway, so now you’re just going to have to listen to me. I’m
getting too old and tired to be having my mind tampered with by every Tom, Spock, and Harry who thinks he
has the right to do with it as he pleases just because he can.”
“I did not violate your last request,” Garcia pointed a finger at McCoy. “The way I see it is when the
bell started to toll, you jumped ship because you didn’t want to die.”
McCoy stood up. “Now, you get this straight. I put my life on the line too many times for you to be
suggesting that I am afraid of death. I’ve sacrificed myself more than once for the well being of my crew and
people I didn’t even know.”
“Well, you didn’t have to sacrifice yourself this time,” Garcia argued. “I could have saved you. With
the Kelvan technology, I could have healed you.”
“It was time to let me go,” McCoy said, softer. “All my people are gone, don’t you get it? You need
to let me go.”
“Your people aren’t gone,” Garcia said. “I’m your people. And you taught me that as long as there is
a fighting chance, and there is dignity in life, then you have to do all you can to save your patient, to save your
own life. You quit. You gave up. And I think it was because you wanted me to experience what you
experienced with the passing of your own father.”
“So help me, if I were physical I’d kick your butt,” McCoy said.
“I wish you could,” Garcia said.
“Tam, why don’t you just send down an ROV in your place?” Ilona asked, still musing on the
seemingly dilemma about Garcia not being able to join an Away Team. “That way you still can experience
Iotia, at least virtually. You still meet the Captain’s parameters of not leaving the ship, and if she feels the
need, she could always pull the plug on your robot.”
“An ROV,” McCoy mused, sitting back down.
“A Remotely Operated Vehicle,” Garcia mused, aloud.
“I know what it is,” McCoy snapped. “I am a doctor, you know. Not an idiot.”
“I wonder how the Iotians would react to such a device?” Duana wondered
“Surely they have robots,” Ilona said.
“They don’t have robots,” Garcia and McCoy said, simultaneously.
“How do you know? Ever been there?” Ilona asked.
“They don’t have robots!” Garcia repeated, over McCoy’s “Yes.” “And I don’t have time to build a
remote controlled android. Not in six weeks.”
“Maybe you don’t have to build an android,” Duana said. “Surely there are ROV’s patterned in the
replicator. Maybe we can modify one or camouflage it to look like a normal terrestrial object that an Iotian
would naturally encounter.”
“I like robots,” Ilona pouted. “I was kind of hoping that we could get Garcia to build a robot and
download our minds into it.”
“Actually, a robot might not be a bad idea,” McCoy said.
“What I need is a class one probe that can defy gravity and can be cloaked,” Garcia said. “Nomad,” McCoy said, reminiscing. “That’s what you need.”
“Nomad?” Garcia asked. He linked to the main computer via his neural implant and downloaded the
specs as McCoy rambled about the machine. In his mind, the details of Nomad became available in three
dimensions, with text. Nomad was an Earth probe that had been in an accident with an alien probe called Tan
Ru. Their programs merged, and Nomad went on a killing spree, not too dissimilar from the V’Ger incident.
Funny how both of those probes ended up with Kirk. The important detail about Nomad, though, was that it
was about a meter in length, and weighed only five hundred kilograms.
“Of course,” McCoy continued to muse. “Flint had a pretty good floating robotic servant, which was
similar to Nomad in many respects.”
“Flint?” Ilona asked.
“Flint, Methuselah, Brahms,” McCoy said. “He had many names before he departed Earth. Built some
pretty attractive androids, if I remember correctly. What was her name? Give me a moment. On the tip of
my tongue. Oh, yeah. Rayna. That was it. Nothing wrong with my memory. She was one beautiful peace of
sculpture.”
“You mean Tam’s memory?” Duana asked.
“What’s that?” McCoy asked.
“You said your memory,” Duana said. “But you mean Tam’s memory.”
“It’s all the same,” McCoy waved.
“I wonder if Flint’s androids are still laying around?” Ilona mused. “Maybe we could download our
minds into those.”
Only Duana seemed to notice that Tam was staring at the wall, completely zoned out. “Tam?” she
asked.
Though Garcia was indeed staring at the wall, no longer pacing, he wasn’t just zoning out. He was
running through a series of calculations, shifting through blue prints, and assessing material requirements. He
smiled. “I can build a comparable device to Nomad, half the weight and half the size, and I can use one of the
ROV body design, already patterned in the replicator. A floating robot. Necessary components: antigravity
base, discreet propulsion unit, an atom laser gyroscopic device for stability and navigational aid, micro
processor array with simulated AI capabilities, audio interface, miniature sensor array…” “Hell, just drop a tricorder in it,” McCoy offered.
“Yeah!” Garcia agreed, shaking a finger at McCoy. “Force field generator, miniature tractor beam,
mobile field replicator, power supply, portable fusion generator…”
“Want to throw in a kitchen sink?” McCoy chided.
“Oh, my god,” Garcia stammered, resuming his pacing. “Why didn’t I think of this? Oh my god! Of
course it will work. This would so work.”
“I think he’s loosing it,” Ilona said.
“No,” Garcia said, speaking to the computer, trying to construct a virtual model in his mind. “The RF
modulator has to be smaller. Find a comparable component from another pattern and swap it out. Hold.
Rotate it to the left. No. Try another.”
“You’re crazy,” Ilona told him.
“You may be right,” Garcia said, part of his mind drawing on a song as the other part continued to
work out the technical details of his ROV. “I may be crazy. But it might just be a lunatic you’re looking for.” “Turn out the light,” Duana sang with him. Garcia stopped the song and gave Duana an angry look.
“Oh, come on. You never sing for us any more.”
“Stop trying to distract me with music,” he said, and resumed his pacing. He was reading through four
screens in his head at one time. One of the screens was responding to his voice command, the second screen
was responding to the movement of his right hand, as if he were interfacing a holographic display that only he
could see, and the third was being controlled simply by thought, while the fourth one was responding to his
pacing. He was literally walking through a blue print, his circling, reversing, left or right, back or forth,
correlating to a change on the screen. He highlighted the chip alignment on the third screen in order to copy
and paste it into a new location, which would make it easier to swap out the Isoliniar chips should the need
arise. “Try a different capacitor. That will work.”
“What?” his mental companions asked as they watched him circling like a hamster in a cage. “What
will work?”
“No, that won’t work. Change, change, no delete that, computer, try reversing the coupling energy
manifold, smaller, no, change… Alright, hold that. Run a virtual diagnostic. I don’t understand why no one
has thought to do this before. It’s so simple. More simple than the one I built as a kid, and that took up ten
times more space. Computer, what just happened to my simulation? Okay, okay, okay, that’s why we’re
running the virtual sim. Relax, Tam, you’re okay. Try again. Replace the power supply and go with higher
terawatt… Use two of the type 4 phaser battery with two backup capacitors. Run the virtual program again
please.”
“Tam, maybe you should take a break. When was the last time you ate something?” McCoy asked. Garcia didn’t take a break immediately, but kept working until he was too exhausted to continue. It
took him nearly a day and half to get the virtual model working to his satisfaction. Only then did he lie down
to take a nap, but he continued his work from a lucid dream state, so that all in all, it took just over four days
to complete his project. During that time, he took no calls, and didn’t answer the door. He left an automated
note that said he was meditating, please leave a message.
“You really should take time out from this,” McCoy said.
“Later,” Garcia snapped, having finished his latest rounds of virtual testing. “Excellent. Alright,
computer, create a replicator pattern for the ROV schematic I just created. I know my replicator isn’t big
enough for the whole unit, so we’ll just replicate it in parts. Reorganize the components within the framework
provided in such a way as to make it possible to replicate the whole functioning device in the least number of
replications and the least amount of reassembly. That will be fine, computer. Replicate the first piece now,”
Garcia said, and altered his pacing to go right to the replicator in his quarters.
His mental companions went to the table to watch as he assembled “the greatest advancement in
robotic science since Arthur C Clarke,” which came in six, semi easy to assemble pieces. They simply
snapped and twisted together so that what remained of the finish product was a sphere the size of a soccer ball.
He then replicated seven isolinear chips, opened a compartment by depressing a panel on the sphere, and
began to insert them. Each chip lit up as it fitted into the slot. Garcia closed the panel. Nothing happened.
His companions looked at him as if to say, “We waited four days for this?”
“Someone should have thought of this before,” Tammas said, opening up a second panel and activating
the unit for the first time. “This could totally change the face of robotics.”
“So you keep saying,” Ilona said.
“What is it?” Duana asked.
Still nothing happened.
“A disappointment,” Ilona said.
“Give it a moment,” Garcia said. “The AI simulator is booting up for the first time and it has to
recognize all of its components, virtually integrate them, then it will probably take inventory of its
surrounding…”
The sphere rose from the table. Two antennae, one at the sphere’s north and south poles extended two
centimeters, then flared at the tips.
“It just astounds me that this hasn’t been done somewhere before,” Tammas mumbled. “What, floating soccer balls?” Ilona asked.
“The problem with building androids, such as Data, is it takes parts. No offense, Lal. In one sense, it’s
really a waste of resources, and it’s extremely inefficient, when all you really need is a brain and a holographic
interface,” Garcia said, and paused to observe what his glorified soccer ball was doing. He was receiving
telemetry from the probe, now. He could see exactly what it could see. “Its sensor array is fully functioning.
I can access it with my neural implant and see what the ROV sees, and hear what it hears, and even smell what
it smells. Of course, it can sense things beyond human capabilities, so I have access to information like the
entire electromagnetic spectrum. I can maneuver it around the room…”
“Very impressive,” McCoy said. “But how is this revolutionary?”
Using his neral implant, Garcia connected his creation to the ship’s computer in order to download the
Terra Tarkington program from his gaming files into the ROV to give it a personality. Garcia’s rogue Troi
program interrupted the process.
“Here,” she said, walking up to interface, as if she intended to mind meld with it. “Let me help you
with the final programming...” and before he could stop her, she disappeared into the ROV. Technically, she
hadn’t touched the device or been anywhere near it, but she was able to access it through Garcia’s implant the
same as he had.
The sphere illuminated, shooting beams of light straight up and down. At the ends of the beam, light
pooled and spilled outward, as if coating the surface of a ball. The light began to wrap around the ROV
sphere, creating a secondary sphere of light that encapsulated the ROV. The light began to divide into shades,
pulling and stretching. It was as if they were witnessing a human egg dividing for the first time under a
microscope. It continued in this manner at an ever accelerating rate, mixing colors and textures, folding and
wrapping in on itself until a glowing silhouette of a person stood before them. There was a flash of light and
suddenly a fully formed, three dimensional, person appeared. She was female and she was wearing an old
style, blue uniform, skirt and boots, with textured hose. It was the dress McCoy was most familiar with, since
Nurse Chapel wore an identical uniform.
Rogue Deanna Troi walked right up to Garcia and kissed him hard on the mouth. “I know you’ve been
waiting for me to do that for a long time.”
“Whoa,” Duana said. “Hey, I want a turn.”
Ilona gagged. “This makes me sick,” she said, and left the room.
“But this was your idea!” Duana called after her.
“I wish they had made toys like this when I was a kid,” McCoy said.
“You would have never left the holodeck,” Duana smirked.
“Holodeck?” Garcia asked. “Who needs a holodeck when you can have a Hologrpaghic Remotely
Operated Vehicle?”
CHAPTER FIVE
Outside the door to Garcia’s quarters, Lenar directed a question to the girls. “So, are you two going to
draw straws to see who saves him?”
“What do you mean by that?” Tatiana asked.
“You know,” Lenar said. “Without a holodeck he’s going to go crazy.”
“Please,” Tatiana said. “He’ll do what every grown man does in his situation.”
“Go without?” Afu asked.
“It’s not like it would kill him,” Kletsova said.
“It might kill me,” Lenar said.
Trini pushed the door chime to Garcia’s quarters. A moment later, the door opened. Because Garcia was not ready to share his invention, he closed out the Troi program, made the sphere
invisible through holographic trickery, and sent it to its designated corner, hovering just one centimeter from
the ceiling. His friends entered never suspecting a thing. In fact, as far as they knew, he had been engaged in
work the whole time he had been shut in his quarters. Indeed, it had not been all play, for he was in the
process of reviewing the media files that had been captured by the USS Minnesota, watching it on his viewer
in the background. Even Rogue Troi had been adding her own observations to the material. The wall monitor
was divided into four parts and was displaying news from various cities. The sound that went with these
images was muted, but there were subtitles for each. What played over his room’s speaker system was a thing
called “talk radio,” which had various political discussions in process where regular citizens could participate
by calling and offering their opinions.
On entering, they found Garcia exercising while watching the Iotian news footage. He was throwing
quick punches at an invisible opponent’s nose with five pound weights and silently counting the number of
reps.
“Tam, we’ve been worried about you,” Kletsova said. “You haven’t answered any of our emails or
pages.”
“Busy,” Garcia said.
“Have you eaten?” Trini asked.
He thought about it. He was hungry, but he couldn’t remember the last meal he had consumed. Had
he been that engaged in his project? He increased the frequency of the punches.
“What are you listening to?” Lenar asked.
“They call it talk radio,” Garcia offered, setting the weights down in the Replicator. He recycled them
into a glass of water. “Can I get any of you something to drink?”
“We’re alright,” Lenar said. “But we’re worried about you.”
“You haven’t eaten, have you?” Trini asked, joining him by the replicator. “Computer, roti and mango
chutney.”
“I’m alright,” Tammas said.
“This is the Iotians?” Tatiana asked, indicating the screen. She was, at least, interested in the project at
hand.
“Yes,” Garcia said, actually enthusiastic about the work. His passion was revealed by the inflections
in his voice. He was not his usual, stoic self. “The USS Minnesota recorded for over a period of twenty four
hours, collecting material from a range of spectrums including AM, FM, VHF and UHF signals, coming from
a number of broadcast regions planet side. Even though they had only recorded a seventytwo hour sample,
they captured over two thousand channels or frequencies if you will, which means I have more material to
examine than I have time for. It would take years to digest all of this. Different regions, different dialects,
variations in fashion and cultures. There is a much more dynamic and complex society here than I was first
led to believe.”
“Come and eat,” Trini ordered.
The food actually smelled so good that he couldn’t refuse and because Indian food was best eaten with
hands, he had to sit down and pay attention to what he was doing. The food was served on a leaf that acted as
the plate. The first time Trini had served it this way, Garcia had rolled the leaf up like a big burrito and started to eat the whole thing, leaf and all, and she had literally slapped it out of his hands. He had made sure he was
more familiar with her customs after that. Even so, he still spilled food on his shirt.
He noted something on the screen and got up and walked over. “Freeze four,” he said, covering his
mouth. “Look at the fashion. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that was LA in the early eighties.
Computer, tag this scene. Proceed, normal speed.”
“Sit down and eat,” Trini insisted.
“But there’s so much material…” Garcia said.
“Sit!” Trini said, using her command voice.
“You’ll just have to sample the material,” Tatiana suggested, wanting to help him with his work. “That’s what I’ve been doing,” Garcia said, pushing more into his mouth. These were his friends, so he
didn’t mind speaking with his mouth full. “This is great. You’re going to have to give me your secret recipe,
Trini.”
“Are you kidding?” Trini asked. “I would never see you again.”
He laughed. After finishing the meal, he requested a hot, wet towel to clean his hands and face. There
was just no clean way to eat Indian food. Though the girls had made themselves semi comfortable on the
couch, there seemed to be something bothering them. Afu crossed his arms, standing in the center of the
room. Lenar leaned against the wall near the door. It almost looked like an intercession. “Okay, what’s going on?” Garcia asked.
“We’re concerned,” Afu said. “We’ve been leaving you alone so you can grieve, but, enough is
enough already.”
“You haven’t left your room in six days,” Tatiana said. “It’s not healthy staying cooped up in this
room alone.”
“As opposed to staying cooped up on a ship?” Garcia asked.
“The operative word was ‘alone,’” Afu said.
“You have to get out and mingle with the crew and with us,” Trini said.
“Why?” Tammas asked. “What difference does it make which end of this ship I’m cooped up in. The
galley or my quarters, it’s all the same.”
“You turned down two duty shifts,” Tatiana said. “That looks bad.”
“No, I gave my shifts away,” Garcia said. “Not showing up for my shift would be negligent, giving it
away is responsible. I have work here.”
“Either you come out and play, or we’re going to force you out,” Afu said.
Garcia gave them each a once over, and then decided they weren’t joking. “Computer, freeze and save
my work,” Garcia said. “Alright, what would you like me to do?”
“Come with us to the recreation room and have fun,” Trini said.
“It’s actually an order,” Tatiana said. “Captain Munoz sent us.”
“Alright,” Garcia agreed, throwing his hands up to surrender.
They made their way to the rec. room on deck ten. It was more spacious than he had imagined, but a
complete waste of space when one considered that a holodeck took up much less room and offered so much
more. Then again, four holodecks wouldn’t have accommodated all of these people at the same time, so there
were always trade offs. At the far end there was a small stage and a theatre, with seating for about ninety
people. On the stage two people were rehearsing a sword fight. There was a lap pool with a volley ball net
stretched across it and a group engaged in a serious competition. There were two enclosed racket ball courts,
transparent walls, and they were both occupied. A row of game stations lined the wall that could play
practically any known board game available, seating anywhere from two to six people comfortably. Even that
didn’t limit games since each station could play in tandem with any other station. Most of these were empty,
but there were two guys playing chess. There was a bar with someone playing waiter, and several people
sitting or leaning on the bar chatting and laughing. There was exercise equipment, a quarter of which were
being utilized, and a three lane bowling alley. As strange as it was to see the whole assortment of
entertainment opportunities, it somehow worked well enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable to see people in
swimming suits, or exercise clothes, in uniform or even casual wear. People were here to relax, and for a couple of those people, relaxing meant arguing about work. On seeing the free lane, Trini jumped and clapped
her hands.
“Look, one of the lanes is open,” Trini said, tagging Tatiana and sprinting over to acquire the lane. “I guess that decides that,” Tatiana said, and she grabbed one of Tam’s arms. Afu grabbed his other
arm, and they both dragged him towards the lane.
“You don’t have to drag me,” Garcia complained. “I already acquiesced to being here.” “Let Trini win,” Afu whispered.
“Let her win?” Garcia asked, and then looked to Tatiana to confirm he had heard this correctly. “How
about we settle for a tie?”
“I would be interested in seeing you pull that off,” Lenar said, hoping to engage him in ‘play’
sufficiently to hold his interest.
Trini started the game, girls against the boys, with Trini taking an extra turn to balance the players. No
matter how many pins Trini knocked down, Garcia knocked down an equal number. After about his third
turn, though, she became suspicious because the pins left standing were in the exact same position as hers had
been. On the fourth turn, when he missed the same spare, she pushed past suspicions.
“I’m going to go get a drink. Anyone else want anything?” Garcia asked.
“Beer,” Afu said, stepping up for his turn.
“Same,” Tatiana echoed. “Room temperature.”
“That’s really disgusting,” Afu told her.
“You’re too Americanized. Civilized Europeans do not ice or chill their drinks,” Tatiana argued.
“And we don’t eat the eyes out of fish.”
“But that’s the best part…” Afu went on.
“Tea,” Lenar said, amused by his friends’ determination to civilize each other.
“I’ll help you,” Trini said, and followed him to the replicator. The replicator was beside the bar. The
bar tended nodded at her, but she didn’t seem to notice. She turned to Tam. “You’re not throwing the game,
are you?”
“Me? No, I wouldn’t do that,” Garcia assured her, ordering their drinks via his implant so he could
continue the conversation. The bar tender was puzzled by his method of ordering, but didn’t intrude: he could
see very well that Trini was upset. “I find it very challenging to leave up the same number of pins in the same
position as you.”
Trini punched his arm. “That’s what I mean. You are throwing the game,” Trini said, not hiding the
fact that she was angry. “I don’t approve.”
“What do you want?” Garcia asked.
“I want you to play right,” Trini said.
“Let me clarify: what do you want to drink?” Garcia ask.
“Stop being difficult,” she said.
“How is asking you what you want to drink being difficult?” Garcia asked.
“I’m talking about how you’re throwing the game,” Trini said. Garcia waited. “Water. With a hint of
lemon.”
“As to playing right, you’re making several assumptions that we’re playing the same game. If
everyone’s goal is to bowl a perfect game, then, yes, I’m technically throwing the game,” Garcia agreed with
her, handing her Tatiana’s warm beer and Afu’s cold beer. He didn’t have to tell her which was which.
“However, my goal is not to bowl a perfect game. I already know I can do that. There is no challenge in it for
me. Trying to emulate your performance is, however, a challenge.”
Trini didn’t know what to say.
“Besides, I thought that our mutual goal was to spend time together, not to try and win by traditional
bowling rules,” Garcia reminded her. He collected his, Trini’s and Lenar’s drinks and accompanied Trini
back to the lanes.
“Thank you,” Afu said, taking a beer from Trini. Tatiana agreed, relieving Trini of the second drink. Garcia set the three drinks he was carrying on the table and Lenar collected his tea. The sound of pins
being knocked over carried from the second lane was accompanied by the cheers of the neigboring party. “Your turn,” Tatiana told Trini.
As Trini went to collect her ball, she paused at the score terminal to reset the board. She turned to her
friends. “Tam said he could bowl a perfect game if he wanted to and I bet he couldn’t. So we’re starting
over.”
“What are the stakes?” Afu asked.
“If he can bowl a perfect game, I have to sleep with him,” Trini said.
Tatiana choked on her beer, spraying it on Lenar. She gave Garcia an evil look. Afu merely grinned,
appraising Garcia. No one seemed to be pitying Lenar, who had just been sprayed with luke warm beer. Trini
smiled with her eyes.
Garcia stoically raised an eyebrow. “I don’t recall making such a bet,” he said, knowing full well that
Tatiana believed otherwise, judging by her face.
“You’re not going to back out of it now, are you?” Trini challenged.
Garcia sighed. This was a trap if he ever saw it. If he said “no bet,” Trini could be offended because
she would believe that he wasn’t interested in her. Of course, if he took the bet, it would show an obvious
interest, and his friends, especially Tatiana, might think the worse of him for taking advantage of her. It was
the Kobayashi Maru all over again.
“What do you get if he looses?” Tatiana asked.
“Weekly massages for the four of us, for the duration of this voyage,” Trini said.
Garcia swiveled his chair back and forth, still uncommitted. “You know, I never loose,” he said. It
wasn’t bragging. He wouldn’t loose at this game.
Trini smiled, fluttering her eye lids. “So, are you game?”
Tammas did the math. If he won, he had no doubt that Trini would follow through with her end of the
deal. She had hinted at a relationship before, so even if he lost on purpose, it was a fairly good bet that she
would attempt to hook up with him regardless, especially factoring in the limits of recreation and the amount
of time they were to be couped up in a confined space. Sex was a natural stress relief, so the longer the
duration of travel, the more likely people were to hook up. So, this really wasn’t about her wanting to hook up
with him, per say, but it left the doors open if she chose to pursue it. It was possible that she simply wanted
him to prove that he could bowl a perfect game. Maybe she was just trying to get him to perform at his best,
believing it would bring him out of his depression. If he lost, he would have to do the massages, which really
wasn’t a loss, since he would do that on request anyway. And, maybe that was the point. Maybe it was more
fun to have the massages because they earned it as opposed to him giving it to them freely. And perhaps it
was just the playful bantering that comes with friends and the illusion of some risk that made this “fun.” He
could analyze the sociological themes all day, he realized, but actual joking and playing didn’t come as easy to
him as it seemed to come for the others.
Afu hit his arm. “So, is it on?”
“I don’t think it’s a fair bet,” Garcia said, still rocking back and forth.
“Alright, how about three perfect games in a row,” Trini offered. “And I have to make a 200 average
of my three games combined for it to be valid.”
Garcia stood up and reached out his hand. He and Trini shook on it. “I get to pick your outfit,” he said. “Who said anything about wearing an outfit?” Trini asked, and turned to start the game. Garcia’s turn fell after Trini. When he returned to his “camp site” at the table, he found a newcomer
had taken his seat. She was a human female about the age of thirty seven, and Lenar appeared to be chatting
her up.
“Tam, I want you to meet my friend, Nancy Carter,” Lenar said. “Sorry. 2nd Lt Nancy Carter,
engineering section.”
“Nice to finally meet you,” Carter said, as she shook his hand. “Where have you been hiding?” “In my quarters,” Garcia said. He then dropped into an exaggerated whisper. “I’m being abducted,
can you help me?”
“Don’t listen to anything he says,” Lenar warned her. Tatiana called for Lenar to take his turn. He
excused himself.
“So,” Garcia said, taking the seat across from her that Lenar had just vacated. “How is life in
Engineering, Lt. Carter?”
“Please, call me Nancy,” Carter said.
“Your turn again, play boy,” Afu called.
“Excuse me,” Garcia said, taking his turn. He didn’t even pause to aim. Strike. After his turn, he
returned to the table, passing an unhappy Tatiana. “You could at least make it look like it’s difficult,” she
mumbled as he passed. Lenar was back in the seat across from Nancy.
“Nancy, can I get you anything to drink?” Garcia asked.
“Oh, let me,” Lenar said, jumping up. “Cranberry juice, hot, right?”
“Thank you, Lenar,” Carter said. She watched him go and then turned her attention back to Garcia.
“I’ve been wanting to talk to you ever since I learned you were aboard. I know a lot about you.” “From Lenar? Oh, dear,” Garcia said, sitting back down.
“No, actually. From my daughter,” Carter said. She seemed a bit hesitant, but she pushed on through
her discomfort. “She’s one of your biggest fans. Even has an official web site. Let me tell you, the day you
approved her site, and gave her original songs to keep there, was probably the most exciting day of her life.
She still talks about it to this day.”
Garcia’s eyes went up and to the left as he recalled all the people who he had authorized special
websites. There were thirty people on the list, and they ranged in age from eight to seventy two. He identified
Nikita Carter easily enough, which triggered a memory of why he had approved her website. She had actually
contributed her own music, had demonstrated talent, and he had wanted to encourage her to go further. Nikita
had been twelve when he had authorized her web site, which meant she was now fourteen, soon to be fifteen. “Nikita Carter?” Garcia asked.
“You remember her?” Carter asked, surprised.
“I remember everyone I meet,” Garcia said. “Not that I met her, but when her email got through my
filters, and I visited her site, and liked what I saw, I wrote her back, giving her authorization. She seems like a
good kid.”
“Well, good is relative,” Carter laughed. “Kidding. She is my daughter. She doesn’t know you are on
board, yet, and I was hoping I could arrange something to surprise her. Would you be willing to have lunch
with us? It would really make my day, seeing her happy. It gets pretty boring out here in space, and we really
hadn’t expected to be out here this long, this time, and....”
“Say no more,” Garcia said. “How about lunch, Friday?”
Tatiana only heard a part of the conversation and she rolled her eyes. Lenar seemed puzzled as he reentered the area. “He’s not hitting on you, is he?” Lenar asked.
“Oh, no,” Carter said. “He’s doing me a favor.”
“I bet,” Tatiana said. “Your turn, Tam.”
“Excuse me,” he said to Nancy. “It’s a very serious game we’re playing.” As he passed Tatiana,
Garcia whispered, “Easy.”
“Just the way you like them,” Tatiana returned.
Garcia lobbed the ball with anger and it landed half way down the lane, shattering the first pin it hit.
Strike. As he turned to retrieve his ball, which had just materialized, he could see Trini and Afu were
suddenly tense. So was Tatiana. The sound of the previous bowling ball being lobbed caused quite a few
heads to turn towards the bowling aisle and their way. The sound level in the rec. room diminished
momentarily. He set the next one down much gentler and immediately turned and headed towards Tatiana,
not waiting for visual confirmation that he tumbled all ten. The sound of the ball sliding, then rolling,
followed by the collision told him everything he needed to know. The old pins were beamed out and the new
pins were beamed in.
“Is there something you want to say to me?” Garcia asked Tatiana, trying to keep his voice low so that
it stayed between the two of them. His eyes were fierce and challenging.
“No,” Tatiana said, not looking away.
“Good,” Garcia said. “Because I don’t want to do this little dance with you the whole voyage.” Tatiana didn’t say anything.
“Everything all right?” Trini asked.
“Everything is just fine,” Tatiana said, not sounding truthful.
“Fine,” Garcia said, with equal sincerity, not shifting his eyes from Tatiana until they mutually nodded
that it was over. He returned to his seat at the table.
“What was that all about?” Lenar asked.
“Nothing,” Garcia said, brushing Lenar off. He downed his Raktajino, his favorite Klingon coffee.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Is it because of me?” Carter asked.
Garcia softened. “No, Nancy. Really, no worries,” he said. “I guess you’d like to do this before she
discovers I’m on board.”
“That would be nice,” Carter said.
“Can we move it to tomorrow then?” Garcia asked.
“Thank you,” Carter beamed, shaking his hand profusely. “Thank you so much. Is there any special
meal requirements that I should know?”
“No limits, well, no limit as long as it’s all synthetic. I’m a vegetarian, but I will eat synthetic proteins
that resemble meat products,” Garcia said.
kjº
Nikita Carter was bouncing a tennis ball off the bulkhead, occasionally bouncing it off the window.
Nancy Carter came out of her bedroom and paused. “I’ve asked you not to throw that against the window.” “It is transparent duranium, mother,” Nikita countered. “It won’t break.”
“That’s not the point,” Nancy said, catching the ball and confiscating it as she passed. “Now go
change. We’re having company for lunch.”
“Oh, mother,” Nikita tossed herself on the couch. She rolled so that her legs were on the back of the
couch and her feet were on the window. She hugged a pillow to her stomach. “Who is it this time? That Trill
you’ve been hanging out with?”
“My dating life is not opened for discussion, young lady. Now, I highly recommend you go change,”
Nancy said, punching in her preset numbers to order up her favorite meal. She removed the dishes from the
machine and began setting the table for three.
“This mission has turned into a nightmare,” Nikita complained. “We’re never going to get back to
Jupiter Station at this rate. You should have just left me at home with Dad.”
“Your Dad wasn’t staying on Jupiter Station,” Nancy said.
“Well, I’ve never been to Vulcan. I might have liked it,” Nikita said. She tossed the pillow up into the
air, catching it, tossing it back up so that it spun, and caught it again. She entertained the idea of visiting
Tammas Garcia’s home on Vulcan, day dreaming of a chance encounter with him. Maybe she would build a
shrine. A real one as opposed to the virtual one she had created.
“You hate the sun and heat,” Nancy reminded her.
“Sure beats being cooped up on this ship for the next rest of my life. I bet I won’t even be able to go
planet side at this Iotia place,” Nikita said.
“I can guarantee that you will not be going planet side,” Nancy affirmed. “The people we’re visiting
have a history of violence.”
“Klingon influence?” Nikita asked.
“Old Earth influence,” Nancy corrected.
“Old Earth as in Kahn influence?” Nikita asked.
“Older,” Nancy said.
“Strange. How can it be older than that? You mean like old Earth broadcast influence?” Nikita asked.
“Someone tuned in to a radio station and freaked out? What was it? Bach? Big Band? Country and Western?
Without the proper context, that might mess an alien people up. Lost my girl, lost my mom, lost my dog, and
all I got left is this beer.”
The door chime rang out, announcing a guest. Nikita didn’t budge. The way she saw it, it was her
mom’s guest, so her mom could answer the door.
“He’s here early,” Nancy said, sighing a little. “Niki, would you at least answer the door for me?” “Enter!” Nikita yelled.
“No! Computer, belay that order,” Nancy shouted, over riding the door control before it opened,
ruining her surprise prematurely. “I said answer it, like a civilized human being.”
Nikita kicked off the window, rolled off the couch, and came up on her feet, executed two perfect cart
wheels towards the door, and walked on her hands the last few paces. “Is this civilized enough for us?” Nikita
asked.
“Why are you being so difficult today?” Nancy asked. “Right side up, please.”
“We’re in space, mother. There is no right side up,” Nikita said. “And you never did answer me why
all ships we encounter are all orientated towards the same up.”
“I did so. We recognize a universal up based on Galactic North,” Nancy said. “Now, are you going
to let our guest in or not?”
“Well, maybe I don’t want to participate with that convention,” Nikita said, opening the door providing
the guest with a presentation of her feet. “Come in,” she said. “I’m a contrarian and we do everything
contrarily,” she said.
She was wearing a black skirt, a blouse which appeared as if someone had spilled splotches of bleach
on it, black leggings, and no shoes. She tumbled backwards and came up on her feet facing away from him.
“You’re not welcome, good bye…”
Nikita blinked once, perplexed. She turned around slowly, her jaw muscles failing slowly so that a
small O began to form on her mouth. She screamed, ran forwards, and shut the door, locking it. She ran to
her room screaming, saying something her mother couldn’t quite understand, but a threat of death seemed to
be involved. Shaking her head, slightly amused, Nancy opened the door to let Garcia in.
Garcia’s expression was stoic. “Should I come at another time?”
“Are you kidding?” Nancy asked, all smiles. “I need help with the contrairian! That was almost worth
all the hair I’ve pulled out dealing with her today. She’s been in rare form. Come in. Excuse the mess.” “What mess?” he asked, ignoring the signs of life. Of course, he wouldn’t have noticed the mess at all
had she not brought it to his attention.
“Mother!” Nikita called from her bed room.
“Would you excuse me?” Nancy asked.
“Sure,” Garcia said.
“Help your self to whatever,” Nancy said, as she disappeared into her daughter’s room. Garcia sat down on the couch, picking up the guitar that was cradled near by. He examined it,
checking the alignment of the neck. He strummed it and smiled. It was tuned to the D scale, which is a nice
way to start learning the guitar because no matter how you move your fingers along the frets while strumming
you never get a clashing chord. Still, he decided it needed a little adjustment and took liberty to do so. He had
the replicator produce a guitar tool kit and went back to the couch to work on the guitar. He adjusted the neck
and then tuned it by ear, popping the harmonics just for check. As he considered what he had just done, he
realized that the degree of improvement would be imperceptible to any one but him, and even so, he should
have asked permission. He put the tools back into the replicator and they were instantly recycled. “Sorry,” Nancy said, returning. “She’ll just be a few more moments.”
Garcia nodded, placing the guitar back into its cradle. “May I?” he asked, pointing to the photo album
on the coffee table. Nancy consented and continued with the meal preparation. He pushed a button and
watched the album cycle through the collection. It was surprisingly detailed, in the sense that there were
names and dates attached to all the photos. Other details were gleaned through viewing the images, such as
Nancy’s husband being an Engineer in fleet. Unlike most photo albums, where the content is usually highly
selective, this one had both happy and sad pictures. Of course, happy and sad were interpretations. How
many pictures had he seen with people smiling who may not have been smiling on the inside? He also thought
of Tatiana and suddenly realized that she wasn’t smiling in any of her pictures. For that matter, he couldn’t
think of any picture of any Russian smiling, and that was how he determined Nancy’s husband was Russian.
He would have it confirmed later and learned that Nancy had kept her maiden name. Nikita, on the other
hand, smiled for almost all her shots, as if she lighted up when ever a camera was aimed at her. There were moving pictures of Nikita doing ballet and tai bo, with classical music in the background. He recognized the
corridors of Jupiter station in several of the images.
“Do you miss Jupiter?” Garcia asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Nancy said, sighed. “I was born there. I met my ex there.”
Garcia thought more about smiling for photos and the history of pictures. Historically, people didn’t
always smile. It was a serious affair, having one’s photo taken, especially when you had to sit unmoving for
several minutes for the photo to turn out. Smiling for the camera seemed to be a social construct invented by
the Americans, but he would have to research that to be certain. He felt a bit uncomfortable as he moved
forward through the pictures. He discerned a clear moment of separation between Nancy and her husband.
From that point forward, it was either Nikita and her father, or Nikita and her mother, but never the three of
them, and never again the two adults alone. He closed the files, thinking about his own life. He had a photo
album that contained snapshots of people in his life, but there were no family pictures of him with family.
And his album was quite empty compared to this one.
“Can I get you a drink?” Nancy asked.
“I’d like to try a cranberry juice, room temperature, please,” Garcia said.
Nancy smiled. “Sure,” she said.
Nikita’s door opened and she hovered over the threshold, hesitant, nervous. She had obviously
showered, shampooed, for though her hair was mostly dry, Garcia could see that it was damp, and he could
smell the aromas she had used to bathe. She was wearing a knee length skirt, checkered in a light pink and
white diamond pattern, a white blouse, and a pink sweater, a striking contrast to how he had first saw her. She
almost appeared as if she had just stepped through a time warp from Earth, America, the 1950’s. She smiled,
a huge smile, and reached out her hand.
Garcia stood as Nikita entered, and as he reached to take her hand, she stumbled and nearly fell.
Tammas prevented her from falling. She felt weak, almost drunk, in his hands, surprised by the warmth
radiating through his hands into her arms.
“Sorry,” Nikita mumbled, looking away.
Garcia could feel that she was extremely tense and saw she was about to break into tears. Her
tenseness was probably why she had stumbled in the first place, he imagined. “It’s okay. If I had a dollar for
every time I stumbled, I’d be a wealthy man,” Garcia offered, reassuring her. “That was my number one
incentive for taking martial arts. I may not walk gracefully, but I know how to fall pretty good.” Nikita laughed, a little too easy, and she blushed from concern that her laughter was too loud. “Are
you hungry?”
“I am, actually,” Garcia said. “That’s why I am here.”
Nikita led him to the table and he pulled the seat for her. As he sat down next to her, Nancy set a plate
of fried chicken between them. “Mom, he’s a vegetarian!” Nikita yelled.
“It’s synthetic, dear,” Nancy said.
“Is that okay?” Nikita asked, touching Garcia’s arm in concern. She drew it back instantly, silently
reprimanding herself for violating his personal space. “Is it the principle of the thing, or the actual eating of
meat that’s the issue?”
“Synthetic is fine,” Garcia assured her.
“You’ll love my mother’s garlic, buttered, mash potatoes,” Nikita said.
A conversation about the food being served ensued. The tomatoes had actually come from a plant
growing in Nikita’s room, which made it all the more special since the rest came from the food replicator.
Nutritionally, there was no difference from a real tomato and a replicated one, but humans still had a strong
connection to tending plants and reaping the benefits, and that connection is what made it nice. There had also
been conversation about how Garcia ate the tomato. When Nikita had asked if he would like a tomatoe,
Garcia admitted he would indeed like one, chose a whole one from the center arrangement, and bit into it as if
it were an apple.
“That’s really good,” Garcia said with his mouth full, and then spied the sliced tomatoes on the plate
that Nancy was just about to hand him. He swallowed. “Sorry…”
Nikita laughed. “I guess there’s nothing wrong with eating it that way,” Nikita said. “Except it sprays
sometimes. You’ve had tomatoes before, haven’t you?”
“I’ve had tomato products, yes,” Garcia admitted. “But never a tomato from a live plant.” “So, what’s your favorite food?” Nikita asked. She regretted asking that as soon as it came out of her
mouth. It was a wasted question, wasted time.
“Ah,” Garcia waved a finger. He put the tomato on his plate and chose a chicken leg. “That’s a
frequently asked question that you should know the answer to.”
“Yes. I know. Sorry, I guess, I meant, has it changed?” Nikita asked, still fumbling for words. She
was trying to engage him in talk but it wasn’t going the way she wanted it to at all. She had imagined it so
perfectly, and now here he was, and she could hardly speak intelligibly. She hid her hands beneath the table
for fear that he would see her trembling.
“No,” Garcia admitted. “Peanut butter is still my favorite food group.”
“It’s not a food group,” Nikita said, laughing. She watched as he ate the food, favoring the mashed
potatoes.
Garcia noted she was watching and slowed his pace a little. She had hardly eaten her dinner, and
Nancy was almost finished with hers. He glanced back to Nikita, who now had tears rolling down her face. “You okay?” Garcia asked.
“I just can’t believe I’m sharing a meal with you,” Nikita said, wiping her tears.
Garcia wondered had there ever been anyone in his life that their mere presence had moved him to the
point of joyous tears. Picard was up there on his role model list, but he couldn’t say that Picard’s presence
stirred him that emotionally. Guinan came to mind. Yes, he could relate to how Nikita felt. Anytime he had
been in the presence of Guinan, he had felt an overwhelming since of love and peace emanating from her.
Being around Guinan was almost a transcendental experience, at least for him.
Garcia touched her hand. “I’m glad to meet you, too,” he told her.
“Can I ask you something?” Nikita asked. When he nodded consent, dipping his jalapeño corn bread
into his potatoes, she built up the courage to ask. “Would you be willing to create a theme song for me?” “Does it have to be written by me, or can I just perform it if I find or know an applicable song?” Garcia
asked.
“However you decide,” Nikita said.
“Give me some time to think on it,” Garcia said.
“Niki,” Nancy said, filling a moment of awkward silence. She was amused at her daughter’s sudden
self consciousness. “Why don’t you tell Garcia about being accepted into the correspondence program?” “Oh my god,” Niki said, grabbing Garcia’s arm. “The Gnesin School of Music in Moscow accepted
me into their program for advance training in musicology through correspondence and a Lt. Mathews on board
this ship has agreed to be my personal facilitator and coach…” Nikita paused, suddenly realizing had she
known Garcia was here she would have approached him to be her facilitator and to help her with techniques
that can’t be learned via mail and media. She considered asking Garcia, but then decided it would be
disrespectful to Mathews who had already agreed to assist her. Still, she could get training and experience
with Garcia that might count as extra credit. “Would you be willing to sing a couple of duets with me, record
them, and let me post them on my web site?” Nikita asked.
“Niki,” Nancy said. “Ensign Garcia is a busy man. He can’t spend all his free time with you.” “Well,” Garcia said, reflecting on the request, and trying to ease Nancy’s concerns. “You know, I was
thinking, this is going to be a long trip and all, so I was going to see about putting together a band, just for fun
and practice. Would you be interested if I got something going?”
“Yes!” Nikita shouted, clapping her hands.
Garcia glanced over to Nancy, who mouthed the words, “thank you,” and he nodded understandingly.
“I’ll also throw in music lessons, but we will have to negotiate reimbursement.”
“You want me to pay you or do chores for you?” Niki asked. “I’ll do your laundry.” “No, the replicator does that quite well,” Garcia said. “My standard contract is, if I teach you for free,
you have to teach someone else for free. Maybe not now, this week, or even this year, but sometime, in your life, a student will come to you and ask you for instruction, and you can’t turn them away. It doesn’t even
have to be about music.”
“Wow,” Niki said. “I can accept that.”
Garcia shook her hand. “Then it’s a deal,” he said, noting the internal alarm clock from his implant.
“Give me a little time to see what sort of talent I can stir up on this ship and I’ll get back to you about our jam
session. Meanwhile, I’ll also coordinate with Mathews to see if I can assist him in your training. Well, I hate
to eat and run, but I am actually going to have to go to work. I’ve not pulled a duty shift since I got on board
and I have to make an appearance.”
“I understand,” Nancy said, standing as Garcia pushed himself away from the table. Nikita stood as
well. “Thank you for coming.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Garcia said.
Nikita hugged him. “I love you,” she said, crying.
Garcia hugged her. “You are very kind. I’ll chat with you soon.”
kjº
The Bridge layout on the Oberth Class starship was definitely less spacious than the Galaxy class
starship. It even seemed less spacious than the Constitution Class. Garcia didn’t like the lay out of his work
station, which combined Ops and Communication into one, but he could work with it. Science was to the
right of him and Engineering to his left. The Navigation station was forward and down, with a control panel
that almost encircled the pilot, necessitating the pilot to swivel his chair nearly 180 degrees to exit his station.
The Captain’s chair was center stage and slightly higher than any other chair on the Bridge, with the potential
for 360 degrees of swivel to take in the entire operation. Large monitors above each of the stations magnified
the work being done so that the person in the Big Chair didn’t have to squint or ask for details. The first
Officer, Osaka, was in the Big Chair when Garcia entered for duty. Osaka turned slightly to acknowledge
Garcia as he sat down at Ops/Com for the first time.
“Finally decided to pull your weight?” Osaka asked.
It was an unnecessary jab that Garcia couldn’t leave alone. “I’ve actually been working, reviewing the
media files obtained by the Minnesota in hopes of creating a useful profile that will benefit the Away Team,”
Garcia said.
“I’ve looked at some of it,” Osaka said. “It seems to me to be so much meaningless dribble.” “Most of it is comparable to media from the Twentieth Century Earth,” Garcia said. “It really tells us
loads about their nature as a people. For example, some of the lyrics to the songs I’ve been reviewing suggest
that they are capable of contemplating the deeper meaning of life. A society wouldn’t tolerate such concepts
in their arts if they were only about war, conquest, and material gain.”
“Well, I hope you’re right about that,” Osaka said. He puzzled over the headset that Garcia had
brought with him. It had an arm that branched off from the ear piece to an old style microphone boom that
typically hovered in front of the mouth, but could be bent away. The left side of the headset bracket was a
black cushion that rested on the external ear, while the other side of the head set bracket tapered off, curving
elegantly around the ear, but leaving the right ear free. “That’s not the standard ear piece.” “It’s regulation,” Garcia said. “I choose this version because I don’t like the ear inserts on the standard
ear equipment.”
“I think you just like to be different, and you push the boundaries of acceptable,” Osaka said, turning
back to main viewer, which displayed only a warped star field. “But carry on.”
Science Officer Anson didn’t even look up during Garcia’s and Osaka’s exchange. He was either
sending an overt message that Garcia had nothing of interest to say, or that he was simply concentrating on his
work. Garcia gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed the latter. As it was, the whole Bridge was all
business, with no idol chatter. The six weeks seemed to be getting longer, Garcia thought. His training
mission under the command of Captain Janeway had passed much more quickly.
Garcia’s station showed him that intra-ship communication levels were normal, and he could listen in
to any by directing it to his head set, or out loud over his station’s intercom, or by displaying the text
transcriptions on one of the seven monitors available to him. The Com/Ops Officer before him had been
listening to an exchange between two department heads over the intercom, but the volume level was low enough that it wasn’t disruptive to other Bridge activities. Garcia relieved the man and set about the task of configuring his station to draw on his own personal idiosyncrasies, increasing the amount of information being displayed ten times past what the average human could efficiently monitor. Indeed, the only other person on board that might have been able to keep up with Garcia was Lt. Anson, but the Vulcan would probably still suggest a more efficient system for optimizing data projection. Garcia’s set up was for him, though, not to appease a Vulcan sense of order. In addition to his Bridge duties, he chose to listen to one of the Iotian recordings, directing it to his headset. He also delegated some computer time to searching for poetry and or lyrics to come up with a theme song for Niki. Via his implant, he instructed the computer to do a search by theme or actual words of a song based on his esoteric list, which included: flying, falling for a celebrity,
music, stars, milky-way galaxy, fried chicken, wind, soul, earth, Jupiter station, dancing, martial arts… “Um, Commander,” tactical Officer, 2nd Lt Owen chimed up. “There’s a ship on the far end of our
long range sensor, and it appears to be on an intercept course with us.”
Osaka seemed grateful for the distraction. Anything to break the monotony of second shift. “One of
ours?”
“It’s Ferengi,” Garcia announced.
Osaka, Owens, and Anson looked at Garcia for an explanation. Helm started to turn around, but then
decided he would just stay focused, watching the computer fly the ship. Garcia felt compelled to respond to
Osaka’s questioning gaze.
“All ships emit a particular subspace wave distortion as they warp space,” Garcia said. “Ferengi ships,
for some unexplained reasons, create a specific noise interference on the lower subspace bands, outside of the
normal Star Fleet channels.”
“And you just happen to be monitoring these unused channels?” Anson asked.
“Just trying to be thorough, Sir,” Garcia said.
“I’ve never heard of identifying a ship in this manner,” Osaka said, turning to his science officer. Anson frowned. “All objects in space emit some sort of energy signature,” Anson agreed. “But I, too,
have never heard of identifying a ship by the distortions it makes through subspace.”
“In the old days a submarine commander could tell you the type of ship passing over head just by
engine noise alone,” Garcia offered. “Same principle here.”
“I got a make on it,” Owens announced. He smiled at Garcia. “It is Ferengi. And they’re still on an
intercept course with us.”
“Interesting,” Osaka said. “Let me know if it closes within five light years of us.” Garcia turned back to his duties, alert for any possible communications from the Ferengi vessel. He
noted three ‘planet to planet’ subspace communiqués, one of which required a relay and boost through the
Philadelphia Freedom’s subspace antennae. He validated the sending planet’s code and relayed the message,
as per the Federation Charter’s agreement with the said planet.
“The Ferengi ship is passing through our five light year perimeter,” Owens announced. “Garcia, see if you can hail that ship,” Osaka said.
“Approaching Ferengi vessel,” Garcia announced over standard frequencies, but directing the signal in
such a manner that the approaching craft could not mistake that the message was for anyone but them. “This
is USS Philadelphia Freedom. Please respond.”
“Philadelphia Freedom,” came a reply, audio only. “This is the starship Oman, requesting you heaveto in order to facilitate the exchange.”
Garcia waited for Osaka to give him instructions. “What exchange?” Osaka asked, and when Garcia
didn’t do anything, he prompted Garcia with both hands. “Ask him what exchange.”
“Starship Oman, clarify your intentions. What exchange?” Garcia asked.
“Who are we speaking with?” came the reply. “Is this the Captain?”
“I’ll take it from here, Ensign,” Osaka said, frustrated. “You’re going to have to learn to be more
assertive.”
Garcia did a double take. That was exactly what Munoz was advising him against, without actually
coming out and saying as much. He pushed down on his frustration, opened the Bridge audio, and nodded to
Osaka that he was on.
“This is Commander Osaka. Declare your intentions,” the First Officer said.
“I will speak only to your Captain,” challenged the caller.
Osaka mumbled, “How does he know I’m not the Captain?” Louder, he said, “The Captain is not
available, so perhaps you will communicate with me.”
Garcia verified the loss of transmission and took a moment to read the sensor sweep on the
approaching ship. They were close enough now that the sensor clearly indicated that their subspace radio
circuitry was functioning. “The communication exchange was terminated,” Garcia said. “There is nothing
wrong with their equipment.” He’d stake his reputation on that.
Osaka muttered a curse. “Alert the Captain,” Osaka said.
Garcia sighed, not really wanting to bother the Captain when she was off duty. Hopefully, she wasn’t
too indisposed. “Bridge to Captain,” Garcia said.
She answered almost immediately. “Garcia, is that you?”
“Yes, Sir,” Garcia said. “A Ferengi vessel, the Oman, is approaching, and would like to speak with
you.”
“What do they want?” the Captain asked.
“To speak with you,” Garcia repeated, and then because of the way Osaka was glaring at him, he
added: “Something vague concerning an exchange.” Only Five weeks, one day, sixteen hours, forty seven
minutes to go, he thought.
“Patch them through to my quarters,” Garcia said. “I’ll take it down here.”
“Aye, Captain,” Garcia said, and went about his businesses of re-establishing a connection to the
Oman. “I have Captain Munoz standing by to speak with you. Will you reply?”
“My DaiMon is ready to speak with her,” said the Ferengi on the other end. Garcia wondered if his
counterpart was equally frustrated by the game being played. What was his station like? Did he enjoy his
job?
Garcia hung on the line only long enough to verify the call went through. He turned off his channel,
following Star Fleet protocol.
“I’d like to hear that,” Osaka said.
“Sorry,” Garcia said. “I can not allow eaves dropping on my shift.”
“Excuse me?” Osaka asked. “I’ll make it an order.”
“You can’t give me an order that violates Star Fleet’s code of ethics,” Garcia said. “The Captain and I have an arrangement, and unless she specifically requests privacy, I am required to
listen to her conversations in order that I might be prepared to act according to her needs,” Osaka said. “That may be, but since I have not been informed of such a procedure, I am unable to comply with
your request,” Garcia held firm. A light on his panel went out, indicating the Captain and the DaiMon were
finished discussing the matter.
Osaka sat there, fuming, but he didn’t say anything further. Owens found something else to occupy
him at his station. So did the Science officer, Anson, and the Helm Officer Al Hubenka. A light on Garcia’s
panel lit up, and the Captain’s voice rang out.
“Captain to Bridge. Why haven’t we come out of warp yet?” Munoz asked. She didn’t sound amused,
but whether it was because of her conversation, or the fact that Garcia may have mishandled this ship’s
standard operating procedure, was anyone’s guess.
“I’m sorry, Captain,” Osaka said, his eyes boring a hole in Garcia. “What are your orders?” “Bring us out of warp,” Captain Munoz snapped. The helm immediately responded to the Captain’s
request. “And have Security Chief Owens meet me at transporter room four.”
“He’s on his way,” Osaka said, glancing at Garcia to see if he would page Owens replacement at
tactical without being instructed to do so.
Garcia was already alerting the next officer in the queue that their presence was now required on the
Bridge.
kjº
Owens slid to a halt at the transporter room, and then entered slowly, trying to look dignified. Captain
Munoz was there, pacing. The transporter technician on duty, a cadet Jody Newell, stood waiting. “What took you so long?” Munoz demanded.
“Um, Garcia was all about protecting your privacy on that call,” Owens said.
Munoz rolled her eyes. “Did anyone give him my SOP?” she asked, referring to her Standard
Operating Procedures.
Owens shrugged. “So, what’s the deal?”
The Captain tapped her badge. “Garcia, notify the Oman that we’re ready to receive their party.” “Aye,” Garcia responded over the transporter intercom system’s speakers.
“Got them,” Newell said. “Transport commencing.”
Four Ferengi appeared in the transporter alcove. At first they were all standing up right, but then one
stepped forward, and the two furthest back began to drag and wave their arms, slumping in something that
might have seemed like dancing chimpanzees as they cowed behind the second one, standing tall, but
remaining on the pad. They moaned and complained about the clothed women, apparently experiencing
culture shock.
“Oh, give it a rest,” the first one snapped at them and they paused behind the second, peering out from
either side of him. He turned back to the Captain, smiling broadly, and held out his hand in a very controlled
human gesture. “I’m DaiMon Tolro. You were chosen to facilitate an officer exchange.” “Excuse me?” Captain Munoz asked.
He held up a standard Ferengi PADD, changing it to English before offering it to her. “I have a
contract right here. It says you will participate in an officer exchange program.”
“Look, DaiMon Tolro,” Captain Munoz said, trying to sound patient. “I’m on an investigative
mission, possibly a rescue mission, and I don’t have time to nurse maid an officer exchange.” “But you will exchange officer with the Klingons?” the Ferengi asked.
“I never participated in an officer exchange period, much less with the Klingons,” Munoz assured him. “It says right here, on star date 42506.5 that there was an officer exchange with the Klingon vessel
Pagh and the USS Enterprise, condoned by Star Fleet,” DaiMon Tolro said. “We, the Ferengi Alliance, were
not invited to participate. I find this discrimination absolutely abominable. You Feds are all talk. You say you
want peaceful relations with us, but every time an opportunity comes along where we might actually have a
cultural exchange, you dismiss us.”
“I’m not dismissing you,” Captain Munoz said with extreme patience. “I’m happy to hear that you are
willing to broaden your horizons. It’s just not going to be today, on my ship.”
“According to this, Star Fleet says otherwise,” DaiMon Tolro said. “Unless, you want to start an
interstellar incident, I think you should reconsider your position.”
Munoz grabbed the PADD from Tolro, startling him enough that he yelled out and brought his arm up
to protect his head. The two littlest ones began their primitive dance again, arm swinging, hands dragging the
ground. “I’m not going to hit you,” Munoz assured him. “If you learn anything here today, at least know we
don’t hit unless seriously provoked, and even that is in self defense.”
Munoz scrolled through the electronic document. It actually seemed to be in order. “Would you
excuse me a moment?” Munoz asked.
“Of course,” DaiMon Tolro said, smiling ingratiatingly.
That smile didn’t help Munoz to feel less suspicious. It took all her strength just to keep from barfing
at the smell of his breath. Before exiting the transporter room, she communicated to Owens that he was not to
let them leave this room with a mere flash of her eyes. She went across the corridor and entered a small
armory. She activated one of the monitors inside, waited for it to boot up while looking around at all the
weapons locker. It was a tight fit in this particular armory, but all she needed was a screen. “Captain to
Bridge,” she called, rereading the Ferengi PADD.
“Bridge here,” Garcia answered. “Go ahead, Captain.”
“Patch me through to Star Fleet Command. I want to speak to Admiral Warren,” Munoz ordered.
“And, Garcia, let Osaka listen in.”
“Aye, Capatin,” Garcia answered.
A moment later an Admiral appeared on her screen. Garcia made the audio available to the Bridge
crew, as well as a split image of the two callers on the main viewer. “Ah, Captain Munoz. How are you
today?”
“Admiral Warren,” Munoz went right to business. “Did you authorize this officer exchange with the
Ferengi ship, Oman?”
“Nice to see you, too,” Warren said. “And, yes, I did.”
“You know I don’t have time for this,” Munoz said. “We’re on an important mission.” “You only have roughly five more weeks of space travel to go. I think you can spare a couple of those
weeks to participate in a cultural exchange event,” Warren said.
“None of my Officers are going to volunteer for an exchange with the Ferengi,” Munoz said. “I’m sorry to hear that prejudice runs so deep on one of our ships,” Warren said. “If no one volunteers,
assign one.”
“This is really ill timing and you know it,” Munoz said. “I have cadets on board, and I can’t spare my
experienced officers. Surely there is someone else…”
“Less busy?” Warren offered. “Or, how about, less important? Captain, in the interest of interstellar
harmony, on behalf of the Federation, and on the orders of Star Fleet command, you are herby authorized to
participate in this officer exchange program. Make it happen. Star Fleet out.”
“Osaka?” Munoz said more than asked, crossing her arms.
“I’m on it,” Osaka said, knowing exactly what she was looking for. He needed to scrounge up a
volunteer to spend a couple of weeks on a Ferengi Starship.
Munoz crossed the corridor and entered the transporter room.
“I really must protest this delay and this treatment,” DaiMon Tolro turned on her as she entered. He
took a step back as she raised her hand suddenly, and then realized she was merely handing him back his
PADD.
“I’m sorry,” Captain Munoz said. “Admiral Warren takes full reasonability for the delay, as he failed
to notify me that I should be expecting you. Now that the red tape is out of the way, can I assume one of these
is the Officer you’re providing us with?”
“Indeed,” Tolro said, pointing to the Ferengi not dancing, and still not slumping. “This is my First
Officer, Brock. The two behind him are his attendants.”
“This exchange is for one Officer,” Munoz pointed out. “My officers don’t have servants, so Brock
will have no servants.”
“Of course, I understand completely. If Brock has servants, then all your officers would want servants.
I will take them back with me,” Tolro acquiesced, offering a two palm’s up gesture. “And, what sort of
Officer will I be getting?”
“One of Star Fleet’s finest, I assure you,” Munoz said, and, as if on cue, A Lt. Stogner entered, a bag
slung over his shoulder.
“Captain,” Stogner said. “Reporting for volunteer duty.”
“Thank you, Lt.,” Munoz said. She didn’t have to say that she appreciated the sacrifice. “We’ll see
you back soon.”
He nodded and stepped up on the transporter platform, while the Ferengi known as Brock came down. “Take good care of my Officer,” Tolro said, stepping up with a salute farewell.
“I will. Please do the same for mine,” Munoz said.
“Of course,” Tolro said. “I wouldn’t dream of letting anything happen to him. Beam us back.” Newell transported them over to the Ferengi ship and powered down the system.
Munoz turned to Brock. “So, Brock, what field do you specialize in?”
“Communications,” Brock answered.
“Interesting. Lt. Owens, take Brock down to Sickbay and have the Doctor run him through the
standard physical assessment, which all new officers must comply with, and then assign him to one of the
guest quarters,” Munoz instructed. “I’ll assign a member of the communication department to guide you on
your stay, Brock.”
“You are most generous,” Brock said.
kjº The rest of Garcia’s shift was rather uneventful, except for the appearance of the Captain who went
right to the communications station and handed Garcia a PADD. Listed on the PADD was her standard
operating procedures for all Bridge Personnel.
“Take some time to get acquainted with it, please,” Captain Munoz said, turned and exited the Bridge. Garcia felt rather small, but no one on the Bridge snickered or gave him any glances. In fact, they
went so far to the other extreme that it seemed as if they were purposely shunning him. True, Garcia could
have accepted Osaka’s statement on faith value and allowed him to eavesdrop on the Captain’s conversation.
Worst case scenario was that the Captain would have been mad at him for doing so. No worse than his current
plight. Since he was pretty much left alone, with the only discourse being those necessary to comply with his
function on the Bridge, he was left to his own devices. He revisited Niki’s web site and studied some of her
musical performances. A true musican, she had a sampling of her favorite composures and genres from
various eras of music and then her attempts to emulate them. He did notice a slight weakness maintaining
tempo and considered some lessons plans that might help her with the same.
He was glad when the Op’s Officer came to relieve him from his shift. He took the lift down by
himself and returned to his quarters. The first thing he did was replicate a metronome as a gift for Niki. The
next thing he did was bring his HROV down for a sparring match.
CHAPTER SIX
Garcia was watching one specific Iotian news channel while simultaneously doing reps, holding ten
pound weights, when the chime to his door rang out. “Come,” he said, staying focused on the news cast. The
chime rang again, he did ten more quick reps, put the weights down, and then went to the door and opened it
manually. Niki was there smiling up at him.
“Hey, Tam…” She was professionally dressed, holding a PADD.
Tam frowned. “I’m sorry, Niki, but to visit my quarters you have to schedule an appointment and be
accompanied by your mom.”
Niki frowned. “I’m sorry,” she said, concern on her face. “I just wanted your opinion on this music
research paper I wrote. The intern gave me a C and I am thinking of appealing to the professor to have it reevaluated for a higher grade but I thought I would check with you before I did…” Niki pursed her lips into a
pout and rocked forwards on her toes, hopeful.
Garcia frowned, giving in. “Computer, pause my work,” he said, and stepped out into the corridor.
“Walk with me.”
Niki immediately started walking, struggling to keep up the pace. She was impressed that it didn’t
seem to bother him walking barefoot down the corridor. “So, would you mind reading it?” Niki asked,
offering the PADD
“I’m reading it now,” Garcia admitted.
“Oh?” Niki asked, looking to her PADD and back to Garcia. “Oh, your implant!” Before they rounded the corner, Garcia had read the paper. He grunted. “And she gave you a C?” “I know, right?” Niki said. “I think it’s at least a B paper.”
“No, it’s not,” Garcia corrected. “I would have flunked you.”
“What?” Niki nearly stumbled over her own two feet. “But why? Did you read it or just scan it?
Surely you couldn’t have read the whole thing so quickly.”
Garcia paused in his walking and looked at her. Niki looked up to him, wanting to understand, but she
was conflicted by the emotions she was feeling, unable to separate Garcia’s dissatisfaction with the paper from
a perceived dissatisfaction with her.
“You want my opinion?” he asked her
Niki nodded. Garcia turned and continued walking the corridor and she hustled to keep up. “You
always walk this fast?”
He ignored the question, keeping the pace up. “The basic premise of your research paper was a
dialectic on popular 80’s music,” Garcia said.
“Right,” Niki said.
“Which 80’s?” Garica asked. “The 1880’s? The 1380’s? Maybe 2180?”
“Surely you can tell by the context I’m discussing the 1980’s,” Niki complained.
“Of course I can. I imagine your professor can. And so could any computer that graded this paper, but
can the intern? Not likely, and she shouldn’t have to struggle or do her own research to end up on the same
page as you. That’s the purpose of the research paper, to define the parameters for those who lack knowledge
on the topic you’re discussing. You’re writing a college level paper here, Niki. Clarity is of the utmost
importance. I would require more specificity from you. You need to literally say 1980’s. You also need to
say Earth, because Vulcan 1980’s isn’t anything comparable to Earth’s 1980’s. And you can go deeper than
that by discussing regions because America’s 80’s won’t be the same as the European 80’s and the Asian’s
80’s. There will be similarities, because America was a great influencer of music at that time, but the other
regions deserve their own scrutiny.”
Niki pouted. “I see your point,” she conceded.
“Next issue,” Garcia said, ignoring how her shoulders slumped at the realization there was more than
one issue. “It appears that your definition of popular music is what appeals to you, not necessarily what
appealed to the society of that time. That’s fine, you can go that way, but then you’re not writing a research
paper but rather a personal essay, and doing that could be made better by you discussing the various tonalities
of the works in questions. Perhaps do a compare and contrast, explain why and how certain musical
compositions moved you emotionally and intellectually. If you go the research route, you need to define popularity in terms of sales, frequency of air time, or the longevity of a particular musical group or
composition.”
“And the frequency of downloads?” Niki added.
“I don’t think the downloading of music took off until late 1990s, Western Civilization. In the 80’s,
most people around the world had access to some form of media, radio, tapes, maybe eight tracks, but reel to
reels were dead by then, but computers were still limited in numbers and sophistication,” Garcia said. Garcia came to halt in front of the door to his quarters, for they had made a complete circuit of the
deck. Niki sighed, realizing her time with Garcia was up. “I guess I should postpone the appeal process,” she
said. “I’m sorry I bothered you.”
“No worries,” Garcia said. “I know you are capable of writing a better paper. Reread the interns
critiques, rewrite your paper, and then resubmit it to the same intern, and be sure to send her a note thanking
her for her evaluation and ask her kindly to consider reading your rewrite and ask if she will consider
reevaluating your grade for this particular project.”
“I’ll do that,” Niki said, and then hugged Garcia. “Thank you, Tam.”
“Hang on a second,” Garcia said, disappearing into his quarters. He came back out and handed her the
metronome.
“What’s this for?” Niki asked.
Garcia looked at her. “You’re joking?”
“Well, obviously it’s a metronome, but I don’t need it,” Niki said. “I like being free to change the
rhythms according to my musical whims.”
“Changing rhythm and changing tempo is two different things,” Garcia said. “You’re expressions of
musical phrases are good, but could be better. I have assigned some exercises for you to do with the
metronome. Let me know when you’ve completed the first five.”
Niki sighed. “Okay,” Niki said. She walked heavily away as if a weight had been added to her
shoulders.
Garcia entered his quarters and returned to his previous activity of reviewing the Iotian materials while
exercising. He didn’t make it to ten in his reps when the door chimed again. He called, but whoever it was
did not enter. He went to the door, imaging Niki had returned.
Trini smiled at him. “Surprise.”
“Hey,” he said. “Come in.”
Garcia returned to his position center of his room, took a fighter stance, and began throwing punches
with the weights still in hand, watching the video. After a moment he noticed that Trini was stuck between on
the door threshold. From Trini’s perspective, she was leaning seductively in the doorway, wearing a modern
day Indian Sari. He looked to her confused. “Yes?” he asked.
“Well?” she asked.
He blinked. “Did I miss something?”
“I don’t know, have you?” Trini asked.
“You want me to come out?” Garcia asked.
“No,” Trini said.
“Are you coming in?” Garcia asked.
“Are you inviting me?” Trini asked.
“You’re always welcome,” Garcia said, returning his focus to the news and accelerating his punches. Trini entered, the door closed, and she leaned back against his desk, watching him. “So, are we
alone?” she asked, trying harder to get his attention.
Garcia looked around. “Yeah,” he said, not being sarcastic. He knew she meant his invisible friends. “Tam, do you not like me?” Trini asked.
Garcia stopped his reps, puzzled by the question, and curious by the negative in the question. “Where
did that come from?”