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>> Star Trek fan fiction >> Paradigm Shift >> Baby You Can Fly My Shuttle

Baby You Can Fly My Shuttle

Lieutenant Commander Michael Parks sat at the shuttle's pilot seat in a somewhat unconventional manner. He had his hands behind his head with his legs crossed and propped atop his helm station. A wistful smile crossed his face. His attention not on his work, but on the melodious sounds filling the cabin.

Michael wasn't alone. His shipmate, Nicola Masters, was sitting at the copilot seat. She was equally relaxed, wearing a posture much like Michael's.

Nicola Masters had always considered herself a good little Starfleet officer, doing the best to serve her superiors. Even after she got herself stuck on the Condor, she managed to keep a positive attitude and keep her mind on her duty. It wasn't until she finally got to know Michael did she realize how fun life could be. In little time he had shown her how to not only get the job done, but also enjoy the ride.

She and Michael were alone, hurtling across space in a small Condor shuttlecraft. The two officers had been sent on a field mission. Commander Reed sent them off to scout ahead in a shuttle. The enchanted forest that was the Delta Quadrant held countless dangers. Better to scout ahead rather than leap without looking.

Michael wasn't all that interested in the mission. He only saw it as a chance to joy ride in a shuttle. Nicola remembered how Mike had strolled into the engine room yelling, "Road trip!" She jumped at Mike's offer to come along.

Nicola knew they were probably acting foolhardy, but she didn't see the point in worrying about it. Relaxing and listening to music while traveling at warp four through uncharted space wasn't exactly Starfleet protocol. But, then again, who would ever know? Besides, life is far too short to act professional all the time. It didn't matter how busy they made themselves. The shuttle's scanners were recording everything. The ship was pretty much flying itself. Why not kick back and relax?

Without looking over at his friend, Michael said, "Nicola, you know what?"

"What?" she asked, smiling happily.

"You know what I really love?"

Nicola lifted her head and looked over at Mike. "What?"

"I love your music collection."

Nicola relaxed and put her head back against her seat. "Oh, I know."

Mike pointed in the air. "Who's this again?"

"This is..." Nicola took a second to listen to the track. "heavy dirigible, or something."

"Another twentieth century band?"

"Twentieth or twenty-first, maybe - something like that. You know, back when music was good."

"Why have I never heard this stuff before?"

"Most of it was banned early in the twenty-first century. It was widely believed it invoked immoral behavior in young people of the times. Much of the music went unheard for centuries. Even now it's widely ignored. I only found it by accident while at the Academy. I stumbled over it in the old archives."

"Nobody at the academy gave you any guff about listening to it?"

"Nah, not really. I mean, I got some strange looks, but nobody told me not to listen to it. Most Starfleet officers have their own eclectic taste in music, anyway. Some like that dusty old stuff. Others like that Klingon noise. Look at Carol - she likes to listen to whale music. Go figure. Anyways, I don't go for any of that. I have my own taste. And I really love this rocking roll music."

Mike smiled. "That's what it's called? I love it too." He paused briefly then added, "and I love you, Nicola."

Nicola smiled, her cheeks turning a warm rosy color. "I know, Mike. I know."

"So you wanna mess around?" he asked, smiling devilishly.

Nicola looked over at him with bemusement. "I'm not that easy, mister."

"Ah baby, it's this music. It's having a curious effect on me."

Although Nicola didn't want to admit it, the music was having a similar effect on her as well. "Oh why not?" she said with a sigh.

The music continued to blare as both Nicola and Mike headed for the back of tiny shuttle. While they locked lips and rocked with the music, both were unaware of the mysterious white mist surrounding the shuttle.

* * * * *

Sometime later, Mike awoke. As he did, he noticed something odd about the shuttle. He thought he was dreaming at first. Soon he'd come to wish he were. He looked at the front of the shuttle and saw windows where pilot seats should be and pilot seats where windows should be. "What's going on?" he said softly.

"Wha?" mumbled Nicola. "What did you say?"

"Wake up!" he yelled, shoving her. "Tell me you don't see what I think I'm seeing."

Nicola looked up and tilted her head to one side. "Are we upside-down?"

Mike slapped his forehead. "I hoped I was dreaming."

Nicola turned onto her back and propped herself up on her elbows. "I heard of someone feeling the earth move, but this is a bit much."

"How is this even possible?"

Nicola bit her lower lip and furrowed her brow. "I don't know," she said, still feeling a bit groggy. "I suppose the artificial gravity could be off line. But we'd be floating, wouldn't we? What's that?"

"What's what?"

Nicola pointed at the front of the shuttle. "That - that light."

Mike noticed it, too. "I guess it's coming from outside."

"You think we crashed landed somewhere?"

Mike didn't answer, but her explanation seemed the most probable. He remembered being in two ground car accidents. One, when he was a young man, was a minor accident. The other, when he was a kid, was more serious. The bump on the head he suffered had mercifully suppressed some of more frightening aspects of the accident. But, over time, some of the more horrifying memories began to slowly surface. His present state of confusion made him wonder if a similar form of amnesia wasn't affecting him and Nicola right now. "What's the last thing you do remember?"

"I remember you and I getting randy on the floor of the shuttle. I remember the music playing..."

Mike probed his memory, a distant look in his eye. "Collision alarms went off..." He looked back at Nicola. "You're bleeding."

She reached up and immediately felt the sting. The cut was along her scalp. The blood, now dry, had flowed down and mixed with her hair. "Ouch!" she said, wincing under the sting.

"It doesn't look too serious. Seems to have stopped bleeding."

Nicola looked at Mike with worry in her eyes. "How long were we out?"

Mike could see the panic growing on Nicola's face. He was a bit out of his element. Mike played the role of slacker pretty well. He had a knack of knowing just enough to keep those around him off balance. After all, no one expects the resident failure to have the right answers at exactly the right time. But when the situation required a man of action, Mike always found a way to disappear into the background. He wasn't skilled in pressure situations. And now here he was, knee deep in it. Nicola was turning into mush before his eyes. Mike decided he aught to try and calm her down. "Nicola, calm down," he said unconvincingly. "All we need to do is contact the Condor."

"And how are we going to do that?" squeaked Nicola. "We have no power."

She was right. Except for the white light flooding the fore windows, the shuttle was dark. Even though he knew it was useless, Mike tried the computer. "Computer, wake up. Computer, please respond. Yo, computer!"

When the computer did not answer, Nicola felt her hopes sink farther down. "What are we going to do, Mike?"

"First we're gonna get dressed. If I'm going to die, I want to at least be in uniform."

After a few minutes of fumbling in the near darkness for their garments and awkwardly bumping into one another, both had successfully managed to get back in uniform. Both, now standing, and more clear of mind, attempted to assess their situation once again.

"I think I remember screaming," admitted Nicola.

"I think I remember that, too," agreed Parks.

Nicola gave him a sharp punch in the shoulder. "Get serious."

"Ow! Hey, I am serious!" said Parks, rubbing his aching shoulder. "I remember a lot of shaking and alarms, but not much else. I guess we were knocked unconscious."

Nicola wrapped her arms around herself, trying to stop herself from shaking. "We should check for any reserve power. Maybe we can send out a distress signal or something?"

"Good idea," said Mike. He headed for the front cabin with Nicola not far behind.

Mike looked out the front windows. He pushed his glasses up his face, as he often did, and tried to squint past the foggy white light poring in though the windows. "I can't see anything. Can you?" Nicola shook her head in the negative.

Since looking out the windows yielded no quick answers, Mike returned to the issue at hand. He looked up at the command console dangling a few feet above his head. With a slight bit of difficulty, he reached up and hit the auxiliary power key. Nothing happened.

"Oh Mike, what are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do?" whined Nicola. Her panicked state was only getting worse. She was already beginning to repeat herself. "We'll run out of air before anybody even cares enough to come and look for us. What are we going to do? What are we going to do?"

Mike scratched his head. "Only one thing left to do. Go outside."

Nicola threw her hands up in frustration. "But we don't even know if we can survive out there. What if the air's poisonous?"

"Better than waiting to die in here," asserted Mike on is way past his companion.

"Is it?" sighed the petite female engineer.

"Just come on and help me with the manual hatch."

Looking like the only participants in a two-person parade, both marched the short distance to the rear of the shuttle, near the spot where the two had awakened not long ago.

Mike tilted his head to one side, trying to read the presently inverted manual hatch instructions. "I never took notice of these directions before. Memorizing probably would have been a good idea, come to think of it. I suppose I could stand on my head and read them."

"Let me," said Nicola. She turned and vaulted herself in one quick motion. Before Mike knew it, she was standing on her head. "Step One: Push tabs to open crank assembly."

Dumbfounded, Mike looked down at Nicola and then back at the door. "Uh, yeah, okay." And with only a small amount of effort, he undid the cover. If broke away, falling and hitting Nicola on the face.


"Sorry. What's next?"

Nicola continued to read. "Step Two: Unfold crank handle."

With one flip of a finger Mike plucked out the handle. It unfolded itself just as a good unfolding handle should. "There's good old fashioned Starfleet engineering for you. What now?"

"Turn crank to the left. Door will slowly open. Thank you for using Manu-Hatch brand manual hatch systems."

Mike scratched his head. "To the crank to the left? But it's upside down."

Nicola sighed in frustration. "It doesn't matter."

Mike looked at her perplexed. "What do you mean? It does matter!"

Barely able to hold her inverted position much longer, Nicola collapsed to the ground before leaping to her feet. "Ugh, I can't believe I'm going to die with a moron. Listen to me - it doesn't matter! Just turn it in the direction of least resistance." Nicola shoved Mike out of the way. "Move, I'll do it." She proceeded to crank the handle. Although it seemed easier to turn than she expected, the door didn't appear to be opening.

"You didn't have to call me a moron. And by the way - It's not opening. Maybe you need to turn it the other way?" But as Mike offered his unwanted input, the door hissed. It was opening after all.

"I guess we'll find out soon enough if the air will kill us," groused Nicola.

The air outside was beginning to fill the cabin. It was musty and a bit warm but not noxious. Mike kept looking at his hands for any outward signs of toxicity, but saw nothing. "I'm not noticing any negative effects yet."

"Maybe the air has ... a hallucination ... effect. It ... makes you think ... you're fine ... up until ... it kills you," struggled Nicola, still cranking away. Even though her arms felt as if they were about to fall off, she kept at it. The gap in the doorway was just a little more than a quarter of a meter now.

Mike chose to ignore Nicola's last paranoid comment. However, he did notice how she was struggling with the cranking device. "Just open the door enough for us to crawl under. You don't have to open it all the way."

His perturbed partner gave Mike a sideways glance. "Duh - thanks for your help, genius."

Mike pointed at the door. "Wait, that's enough."

An opening of a little more than half a meter had presented itself so slowly it almost went unnoticed. Although not a large space, it was enough to crawl out though. Nicola let her aching arms fall weakly to her sides. She rubbed her throbbing palms together. At last it was done.

Both Mike and Nicola got down on all fours and began to crawl under the door. The ground they fell upon was hard and perfectly flat - too flat. Both had crawled along the featureless ground without looking up. Content to first get clear of the shuttle, both continued to crawl until something interrupted their journey.

A pair of polished boots faced them. Their own reflections in the shiny black surface stared back at Mike and Nicola. As both slowly looked up, it became clear the boots were attached to legs. The legs were attached to a body. Farther up were arms and a head. It was a person - a person both recognized. It was their fearless leader and ex-Captain Phillip Reming.

Both Nicola and Mike quickly jumped to their feet and began gabbing away. They tried to explain their situation, blaming the other for their predicament while denying any personal fault. Reming smiled strangely while glancing from one to the other. Noticing their leader's odd silence, Nicola and Mike stopped their jawing and glanced at one another, then back at Reming.

Finally, after several awkward seconds had passed, Reming spoke. "Hello. I'm Your Captain. Who are you?"

* * * * *

With arms folded, the tall and lean Commander (well, former Commander) Donna Reed took the last step down from the shuttle bay control room to the main shuttle bay deck There she found Phillip Reming, defrocked of his rank but still acting Captain of the USS Condor.

Since their secession from the Federation, Reming had decided that all titles of rank were no longer justified. After all, no commission to the fleet meant no rank. Yet, with the continued ship-wide chain of command still in place, not referring to people by rank became almost impossible.

Reming had opened the shuttle bay doors and was looking out into the stars. Only a thin but fully capable force field separated him from the inhospitable environment of space.

Reed knew what Reming was doing there. Acting like an overprotective father, he stood there waiting for his irresponsible children to return home from wherever trouble they had gotten to. The problem children in question were Michael Parks and Nicola Masters, the two crewmen he and Reed had sent off on a now seemingly ill-fated scouting mission.

It was irrational to wait for them in the shuttle bay. Deck one had the advantage of a plethora of sensor equipment needed to detect their return long before he would. But, somehow, he felt they'd get back faster with him looking out into space with his own eyes. He was being irrational, something Phillip had become an expert at.

Reed slowly walked over to Reming, arms still folded. Before she could get a word out, he spoke first.

"So, where in the Hell are they?"

Reming had changed significantly since being sprung from custody on Starbase 47. He had become withdrawn, dark and distant, with unexpected busts of anger. Only occasionally did the old Phillip Reming show himself. And those moments grew fewer and fewer. As his old personality ebbed, Reed wondered if the man she'd known and grown to love would ever return to her again. Even now, as she approached, she could see that strange look in his eye. It was time to handle with care.

Timidly, and with a comforting voice, she tried to answer his question. "I'm sure they're fine, Phillip. Mike can take care of himself."

"It's been over twenty-two hours. They should have checked in long ago. We can't sit here and wait for them forever and we can't go looking for them and risk endangering the whole ship."

"Oh come on. You know Mike. He and Nikki are probably just goofing off. They'll be back soon enough. Come on. Come back to the bridge. It's lonely up there. Carol won't come out of engineering. I had to leave the doctor in command just to come down here."

Reed grabbed Reming's shoulder in an attempt to lead him away, but he stiffened and shrugged her off. "Forget it. I'm not going back up there if he's there."

Reed sighed and decided to try a different tact. Drastic times called for drastic measures. "If you come back to the bridge," Reed began, "I'm sure Tedmoore will scurry back behind the fridge in sickbay. Then, you know what?"

"What?" scowled Reming.

"You could pull it out," said Donna, soft and sensually into Phillip's ear.

Reming's face turned a shade of red. "Huh?"

Never dropping her soothing tones, Reed continued, now rubbing her hand along his shoulder. "You know - pull it out."

"Why Ms Reed, I never!" chucked Reming. His sour look faded. A perplexed smile crossed his face. "You mean, In front of the crew?"

"Well, sure. It's common practice, you know."

"It is?"

"Sure, just take it out - your log."

Reming turned yet another shade of red. "What?"

"You know, take out your log - the Captain's log. You know what I mean?"

"Oh, that," said Reming with an uneasy sigh, still not completely sure what Donna was really talking about.

"Yes, that. Why, what did you think I meant?"

"Oh, nothing. Nothing at all. I was confused."

"So, you wanna? You want to come back to the bridge and make a quick entry?"

It seemed everything coming out of Reed's mouth had a double meaning, or at least it did to Reming. Her dulcet tones made her true meaning even harder to discern. Clearing his throat, the fidgeting man struggled to keep the conversation professional. "Yeah, um, well, let's see."


"I just always feel a bit self-conscious, you know? Doing that on the bridge in front of everyone. You know, pulling out my log, making an entry. I always think people are judging."

"Please, Phillip. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. You don't have to do it on the bridge, you know."

"I don't?"

"Of course not. When was the last time you whipped out your log and made an entry, anyway?"

"Well, uh" Reming felt his face flush again as tiny beads of sweat sprouted along his forehead. "Well, I don't - I don't remember. It's not important. Besides, whenever I make an entry, it always seems short. Like, it should be longer, you know? Short and fast - like all my entries."

"But Phillip, you know the old saying, right?"

"What old saying?"

"Size doesn't matter."

"Are we still talking about the same thing?"

"I haven't a clue. You wanna come up on the bridge now?"

"Did you really leave Tedmoore alone up there?"

Donna cocked her head and with a smirk asked, "How dumb do you think I am?"

"Then, can we make a stop at your quarters first?"

Donna threw her arm over Phillip's shoulder as both headed for the turbo lift. "I thought you'd never ask."

* * * * *

Nicola Masters smiled nervously at the man standing before her. The man, Phillip Reming, was looking at her as if he'd never seen her before. She does spend a fair amount of time in engineering. He couldn't be expected to know everyone on his ship. And after all she wasn't all that distinctive.

The Phillip Reming standing before her asked again. "Who are you?"

"Who am I?" repeated Nicola. "Uh, sir, it's me - Nicola Masters from engineering. Mike and I seemed to have wrecked the shuttlecraft."

Phillip looked her over with wide eyes. "It's all right."

"Yes, now that you're here, I guess," she answered, rubbing the back of her neck. "Hey, how'd you find us? And where are we, anyway?"

As the moments past, Michael Parks became more agitated, complete with wild jumping and flailing hands. It was quite upset. "Nikki, I need to talk to you, please. It's important. Come away."

Nicola looked back at Phillip, then to Mike. "I'm right here, Mike. Just talk!"

"No, over here!" he said, grabbing her by the arm and dragging her away.

"Uh, excuse me, Cap, no..." Nicola shook her head briskly, "...I mean, uh - excuse me, Phillip."

The bright eyed man smiled. "Excitable boy," he said, pointing to Michael.

"You have no idea," Nicola acknowledged as she was dragged away.

Once they were a respectable distance, Mike spoke to Nicola in a hushed manner. "We should get back to the shuttle and grab a weapon or something."

Nicola twisted her face as if she had just swallowed something bitter. "What? What's wrong with you?"

"That's not our fearless leader. It's some kind of doppelganger or something."

Nicola rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on. What are you talking about?"

"Will you listen to me?" continued Mike through clenched teeth. "That guy's the picture of confidence - see? It's not him. Just look at him. I don't know who that is, but it's not Reming."

To make her own assessment, Nicola looked back at the man in question only to notice he disappeared. "Oh Hell, he's gone."

As Mike turned to look, the fake Phillip instantly re-appeared right beside Nicola and himself, sending them staggering backward in shock.

"What's up?" queried the foux Phillip, jubilantly.

The more Nicola watched, the more she realized Mike was right. He looked like Reming and sounded like Reming, but it wasn't Reming. He wasn't merely more confident. This Reming had a strange look about him - a crazy look in his eyes and a bizarre smile. The real Reming, thought Nicola, hardly ever smiled. But if his strange personality didn't convince Nicola, the man's teleportation act surely had. Squinting at the mysterious man, she asked, "You can't be Phillip Reming."

The stranger laughed and smiled. "You really got me."

Terrified, but trying to hide it, Michael stepped behind Nicola, using her as a human shield. "Then who or what are you?"

The man smiled. "I'm your captain."

"No you're not. What's your name?"

"Captain Jack", he said, a sly wink added for good measure.

"Okay, Jack. What is it you want?"

The man's smile broadened. "Satisfaction."

Mike, who was only observing the joust of words decided he could be a spectator no longer. "That's it," he shouted angrily, "I'm gonna go find me a phaser. Maybe then you'll start talking sense."

"Happiness is a warm gun," interjected the stranger.

"You're damn right!" said Mike as he hurried back to the overturned shuttle, leaving Nicola all alone.

Feeling naked in Mike's absence, Nicola yelled fiercely back at him. "Hey, don't leave me here!" But it was no use. Mike was already crawling under the half-open hatch. Nervously, she looked back at the duplicate Phillip Reming. He in turn looked back at her with a smile that sent shivers down Nicola's spine. "So, what is it you really want?" she asked with a voice breaking under the strain.

The strange man's smile faded as he leveled his gaze on Nicola. "I want to know what love is."

"What?" Nicola shot back. By now she was trembling all over. She looked back at the shuttle, waiting for Mike to emerge with weapon in hand. Seconds passed like hours with no sign of him. With her heart pounding though her chest, Nicola looked back at the bizarre man now slowly approaching. "Please, enough of this. What do you want from me?"

"I want you."

"Stay back!" With a voice that echoed her fears, Nicola yelled. Getting back to the shuttle was pointless. She'd never make it inside before she was captured. "I swear, if you come any closer, I'll run."

"Honey don't," said her strange stalker, pausing for a moment before continuing his slow pace toward her.

He was getting closer. Nicola looked back at the shuttle, but saw no sign of Mike. Biting her lower lip almost all the way through, she made her decision. With little hesitation, Nicola turned and ran as fast as she could into the misty white void.

At that moment Mike came rolling out from under the shuttle's hatch brandishing a hand phaser. With sweat dripping down his face he looked around frantically, "Where's Nikki?"

"She's gone," shrugged the stranger with the familiar face.

The phaser in his hand was set to kill, but its internal power was nearly gone. It mirrored the deficiencies of all the equipment aboard the shuttle. It was as if something had soaked up almost all the power. Throwing it would do more damage than trying to fire it. Still, Mike decided to try and bluff his way though his strange predicament.

"Take me to Nicola Masters right now or I'll shoot. I swear I'll shoot." For dramatic purposes, Mike pointed the weapon at his foe, his trembling finger pressed against the useless trigger. "I promise, I'll shoot you dead. What do you say to that?"

"Do you really want to hurt me?"

"I will if I have to. Your fate is in my hands. Take me to Nikki - Now!"

The mysterious man showed no emotion to nether Mike's threats nor his demands. He merely cocked his head to one side and said, "I think I'll disappear now."

True to his word the man vanished, leaving Mike all alone.

* * * * *

Back on board the Condor, life was exceedingly boring. At least it seemed so to Doctor Tedmoore, the ship's surgeon. He sat alone on the bridge, left there for an unbearable amount of time by the ship's acting Commander, Ms. Donna Reed.

In truth, Doctor Tedmoore was the only officially ranked officer on board. He could, if he wanted, stage a coup and take command of the ship. Even with a skeleton crew, such an act would be impossible by himself. And he wouldn't find help among any of the others, since the Doc was widely hated by all the crew.

Tedmoore had crossed proverbial swords with Reming on more than one occasion. In each case, whether accident or by luck, Reming had bested him. The young Phillip Reming had turned out to be a formidable foe, even for a fool.

The Doc was only happy in his lab, experimenting on lower forms of life. Oh how he wished he were back in Sickbay. Even treating a broken finger would be more fun. The bridge, even with all its blinky lights, could not excite him. Doctor Tedmoore needed a diversion.

"Computer," demanded the doctor, "entertain me."

An overly synthetic voice responded, "Shall we play a game?"

This was a little confusing to Dr. Tedmoore. He was very accustomed to the computer's normal voice. However, he assumed that it must be part of the "entertainment" subroutine and decided to continue in his trivial pursuits.

"Sounds fine. Let's try some target practice."

"Main phasers off-line. Authorization code required to bring phasers on-line," replied the computer in its usual voice. After a slight pause it added in the synthetic voice, "how about a game of chess?"

Irritated with the computer's limitations in the diversion department, Tedmoore decided to use the manual interface for the computer. This decision only added to the doctor's frustration because not a single button on the captain's chair was labeled "GAMES". So in a fit of exasperation, he began pacing across the deck of the bridge.

He paced, and fumed, and murmured under his breath. And as he turned for the umpteenth time to face the main view screen, he stopped cold. The realization hit him like a ton of bricks. He wasn't going anywhere.

The star field on the main view screen had been displaying the very same scene since the doctor arrived on the bridge. It had been that way for days. The viewer could have been replaced by an oil painting for as useful as it was.

In addition, the physical condition of Dr. Tedmoore was a shadow of his emotional, psychological, and even professional state. He was trapped in a prison, and like a caged animal he needed to escape. "Computer," he ordered, "get me out of here!"

The computer emitted a series of electronic chirps and tones as if thinking out loud. After the seemingly endless seconds the computer determined the appropriate response, "Affirmative, emergency decompression of deck one requested. Magnetic constrictors on starboard hatch releasing in 10 seconds, 9, 8 ..."

"Wait! Wait! Wait!"

"7 ..."

"Halt!" .

"6 ..."


"5 ..."

"Abort! I really don't want to leave. Please, let me stay. Let me stay right here. I'll be good. I promise."

"Sequence aborted. Magnetic locks engaged on all exits from deck one."

Tedmoore's panic slowly abated to relief. The relief gave way to comprehension, which led to more frustration. Tedmoore hurried to the turbolift. It didn't respond. He tried the manual override to no avail.

Dejected and defeated the doctor inquired, "Computer, are you playing with me?"

"Checkmate," stated the computer in its synthetic voice. "Would you care to play again?"

"Fine!" said Tedmoore but added, "However, I will go first this time." He slowly made his way back to the captain's chair. He sat down and ordered, "Display the chessboard on the main view screen. Let's both play by the same rules, if you please."

* * * * *

Nicola wandered through the misty void for what seemed like a long time, constantly looking back for her stalker. She was shaking with fear. During her tour on board the Condor, she had experienced many heart-pounding life-threatening experiences. In all those times Nicola could not recall being so afraid as right now.

Her fearful flight had drained her strength. She could run no more. Like a house of cards, Nicola collapsed to the ground. She looked up. There high above her hung a white ball of light. It was the only source of illumination and produced enough of it to illuminate the entire barren landscape. This sun, if it was a sun, offered her no comfort, only heat. The strangeness of the situation - the outlandish misty world and the experience with the peculiar duplicate Reming - threatened to wear away her remaining sanity. As she lay there, struggling to catch her breath, Nicola found herself praying for salvation.

At that moment, a friendly voice cut the eerie silence. "Hey you."

Nicola lifted her head to look around. "Hello?" The voice she heard sounded familiar. She could see a figure approaching. Nicola's heart leapt with joy. It was Carol Smith, her friend and superior officer from Engineering. Nicola jumped to her feet, filled with utter joy to see her comrade. "Oh thank God it's you!" she said, almost laughing. So happy to see a friendly face, Nicola flung her arms open to embrace Carol.

Carol opened her arms too, ready for Nicola. "Here comes my girl," said Carol softly.

Within an instant Nicola was lost in Carol's arms. "Oh I can't believe you found me. I was hoping you'd come for me. Oh, I can't believe it's really you."

Carol gently patted the nymph-like engineer on the head. "You've got a friend."

Nicola finally felt safe, like a newborn cradled in her mother's arms. Not until this moment did she realize how much Carol Smith actually meant to her. Nicola smiled to herself, believing nothing could make the peaceful moment end. But it would end, and end badly.

But something was making Nicola's stomach turn sour. It was Carol. Her hands were sliding up and down Nicola's back in a very strange manner. She quickly backed away from Carol, a look of shock upon her face. "What are you doing?"

Carol did not answer. She merely stared back at Nicola through piercing green eyes.

"Oh no," whispered Nicola, her face twisted with grief. "You're not Carol, are you?"

The woman shook her head unsympathetically and laughed. "It ain't me, babe."

Terror washed over her like an enormous rush of water. Nicola turned to run, but she couldn't. Her feet felt like they were amerced in mud. Her head was spinning. She fell to the ground with a thud. Dazed and confused, Nicola looked back. The image of Carol was there, but no longer alone. The previous visage of Captain Reming appeared beside the duplicate Carol Smith. Through numbing lips, Nicola asked, "What have you done to me?"

"I put a spell on you," said the Reming look-alike with a smile.

Nicola tried to get up and run, but she couldn't. Her legs and arms refused to operate. She tried to scream, but before she could, the world turned black.

* * * * *

Although his adversary had disappeared and his fellow crewmate had gone as well, Mike Parks was not discouraged. The nearly drained phaser had given him an idea. Right after fake Phillip vanished, Mike scurried back into the overturned shuttle to test a theory.

He sat cross-legged inside the dark overturned shuttlecraft. Bits of dismantled phasers were piled around him. The mysterious force that had drained the shuttle of power had not done quite as good a job on the phasers. The four that equipped the shuttle were low on power, but not completely drained. That small bit of luck might be enough to accomplish his goal, however unlikely success might be.

The shuttle's warp core was still intact but not producing power. And yet there must be some power somewhere within the bowels of the tiny ship. If the fields containing the mater anti-matter pods had failed, the shuttle and both he and Nicola would have died in a beautiful display of matter annihilation long ago. The reactor seemed to be in a state of dormancy. If there were a way to prime the pump, so to speak, then maybe, just maybe, the warp core would revive. That was his plan, anyway.

He already had the floor plates removed, exposing the core assembly. Within the overturned shuttle, even that was a challenge. The equipment was ready. It was time to test his theory.

In one hand Mike held the depleted power supplies from the phasers. He had connected them together, in an attempt to consolidate the remaining power. In the other hand he held the business end of a dismantled phaser. Mike intended to use the phaser's energy refocuser as a makeshift conduit to transfer the remaining watts from the power supplies into the shuttle's warp core.

Mike stood up and took a deep breath. If his plan worked, the shuttle would come back to life. If not, the energy backflow could knock him swiftly into oblivion. It was now or never.

With shaking hands he pieced the crude infuser together and placed it close to the warp core leads. He closed his eyes, placed his twitching hand on the trigger and pressed it.

He heard the phaser fire, loud at first, then quickly fade out. Mike opened his eyes, hoping for the best. To his profound disappointment, nothing had happened. The shuttle remained dark.

"Well," thought Mike, "it was a long shot anyway."

As Mike dropped the spent kludge of phaser parts to his feet, he heard a sound that shook him to his core. It was low and guttural, sounding like the low growl of some ferocious predator. The sound slowly grew louder. Mike felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise as his mind struggled with the long debated issue of flight or fight. Although Nikki had quickly made her choice, Mike wasn't so decisive. Before he could make up his mind, the decision became academic The eerie sound changed. It grew higher in pitch until it passed his level of hearing all together. Then, like dominoes, each computer console slowly flickered to life. To Mike's surprise, his plan had actually worked. The shuttle was powered and functioning once again. Mike almost shed tears of joy for his unlikely success.

His celebration was cut short when the shuttle's artificial gravity clicked on. Mike flew without grace up to the shuttle's overturned main deck, striking it hard.

Wincing, Mike raised himself up half-way and contemplated his next move. He wanted to get the shuttle's sensors and computer to work on the problem of where he was and how he got here.

First things first - the computer. With his fingers crossed, Mike said aloud, "Computer, please respond." Mike held his breath and waited for what seemed like an eternity for a response.

After a few clicks and beeps there finally came a response. "Awaiting your command."

Mike pumped his fists with joy. "Alright, you old bird! Good to hear a friendly voice! I only wish Nicki was here to see this." His intense concentration on the tasks at hand had pushed the thought of the missing Nicola out of his head. Now his thoughts of her had returned.

He had tried to reach Nikki via the comm. badge earlier. Like every other system, the badge's sarium krellide battery was completely drained. His only option was to go looking for her.

His rekindled concern for his missing friend tempted him to do something irrational, like take control of the capsized shuttle and fly headlong into the misty void in search for her. But that would be a bad idea. Better to be rational. Flip the shuttle. Check the systems. Perform a logical search based on good sensor data.

Although he convinced himself to do things the right way, Mike felt anxiety building inside. What if Nicola was in trouble? Where was the stranger who interrupted their journey? No, he would still do things the right way, albeit as quickly as possible.

"Computer - run a level one diagnostic on core memory."

After a few bleeps and whines, the computer responded. "There are four-point-seven terabytes of data missing from core memory."

Mike turned pale with fear. That much missing data could only mean the loss of core computer systems. But hope springs eternal. Perhaps it wasn't that serous. He'd never know unless he looked. Still struggling to rationalize the idea of walking on the floor, which was on the ceiling, but was really the floor, Mike took up the time tested mode of personal locomotion - crawling. He crawled toward the nearest display and queried the computer. "Show contents of core memory."

Without hesitation the computer obeyed his command. Mike watched as gobs of core data flew by. Everything looked in order, until a huge gap appeared on the screen. "Stop."

The computer obeyed.

"Scroll back two pages."

The computer obeyed once again, backing up the log information to the point just before the gap appeared. After studying the data for a second, Mike realized what was missing. The revelation shed some new light on the situation. One piece of the puzzle fell into place.

Mike felt confident. He got the ship working. He had solved one mystery. All he needed to do now was find Nikki and get back to the Condor. Too bad the fake Phillip had other plans. Mike didn't see his new enemy materialize behind him.

"Hey stupid", yelled fake Phillip. 'Sweet dreams."

When Mike quickly turned, he was struck by a significant bust of electricity to the head.

* * * * *

The chess game was something that Tedmoore felt he had control over. The computer was not programmed with the best moves, and Tedmoore had the upper hand from the beginning. He was just 3 moves away from winning when the turbo lift doors slid open and out strolled Mr. Reming and Ms. Reed, arm in arm.

"Finally," said the Doctor. He immediately jumped to his feet and dashed to the open and beaconing turbo lift.

Both Reed and Reming looked at him as he went past. Big sugary smiles laced on both their faces. Both looked happy - too happy for Tedmoore's taste. That gave him cause to pause. "What's wrong with you two?" the Doctor gawked. "You look as though you've just been crowned king and queen."

Reming looked at the humorless man and waved his thumb toward the turbo lift. "Out."

"Gladly" muttered the irritated doctor as he headed toward the still waiting lift. Over his shoulder, he commented, "In case you're wondering, no sign of our wayward crewmen yet."

"No matter," said Reed. She didn't want the overly protective parent persona to show up again. "I'm sure we'll find them once we begin our search."

"Indeed," agreed Phillip.

* * * * *

Nicola Masters awoke to a sea of darkness so thick she couldn't even see her own hand in front of her face. Breathless and panic stricken, she ran her hands over herself. To her relief, she was still in one piece. But where was she?

A bright burst of like flared overhead. A tremendous rumble followed. It was a storm, or the remnants of one. An arching bolt of lightening cracked across the sky again. For an instant Nicola was able to make out her surroundings.

The world around her looked quite strange, nothing like the milky mist filled place she was before. From the quick glimpse afforded her, Nicola could see a rough terrain marred by tall trees with black twisted branches. An icy breeze blew past her, filling her nose with the scent of burning flesh. The smell sickened her. Her stomach was about to lurch when a voice seized her attention.

The voice sliced the darkness. It was a woman's voice filled with panic. "Is there anybody out there? I can't see nobody."

"Yes, I'm here!" replied Nicola excitedly. She cursed herself for answering. After all, the last two people she had met weren't all that friendly. Why should she start doling out trust now? Might she be one of the weirdoes from before? Something in Nicola's heart said no. The voice was different. She reached with both hands and settled upon something.

The voice shot back defiantly upon contact. "Get back!"

Out of reflex, Nicola yanked her hands away. "I'm not going to hurt you."

Nicola heard a sigh of relief from the other, but nothing more. She strained to see who it could be, but the darkness stymied her senses. "Where are we? Did those odd people bring me here? Who are those people?"

The voice chose to answer Nicola's last question. Still struggling to catch her breath, she replied in a tone low and filled with dread. "Captain Jack."

"Yes, met him. And the other one?"


"Captain Jack and Diane? Okay, whatever." Nicola looked around but still could see nothing. "How did I get here, anyway?"

The mournful voice forced out a sardonic laugh. "Strange magic."

Although unnoticed, Nicola shook her head in the negative. "Come on, now. You can't expect me to believe that. I'm not a dim wit. Just explain it to me. Is it some kind of alternate reality? Holographic projection? Are we on the surface of a planet? I thought I saw trees."

The voice in the darkness laughed again. "You ain't seen nothing yet."

The clouds above Nicola's head parted, unveiling a large glowing moon against a starless sky. The glow of the moon cast a thin veil of eerie light over the ground. It was as she had seen briefly before; rocky earth with scorched trees all around.

The dull shroud of light allowed Nicola to see who her new friend was. The woman was tall with a thick braid of tightly wound hair hanging down the back of her head. Nicola recognized her immediately as the statuesque Commander Donna Reed. Nicola gasped in shock, giving away her surprise.

The woman glared at Nicola with a fiery narrow stare, clearly suspicious of Nicola. "You know my name?" she said sourly.

Still on the ground, Nicola looked up at the person she thought she knew. Of course, things weren't what they seemed to be lately. Timidly she responded, "Is it Donna?"

The woman shook her head. "Lola," she said with a terse smile. Seemingly aware of Nicola's benign intentions, Lola, Reed's double, offered out a hand to help her up off the ground. The bewildered Nicola took it gratefully. With one quick tug she was back on her feet and dusting herself off.

Once again the air swelled with an awful scent. Nicola grimaced. "Ugh, what is that?"

Lola sniffed at the air. "That smell."

"Yeah," said Nicola, trying hard to hold her breath until the odor passed. "It smells like something died. Oh, it's freaking me out."

Lola waved at Nicola dismissively. "Take it easy. Relax. Don't panic!"

Nicola contorted her face in such a manner as to express the epitome of disgust. "What? What did you say?"

Lola ignored Nicola's confused yammering. She was focused on something else entirely. Nicola stepped beside her, attempting to catch a glimpse of whatever had caught the other's attention.

Lola looked down angrily at the diminutive Nicola. "Don't stand so close to me! Get back!"

Nicola stepped away, sheepishly. "Sorry. I just wanted to..." Her words trailed off. In an instant she knew what held Lola's interest. It was a sound, muted by the cold atmosphere. Nicola tried to study the sound. It sounded like yells. No, not exactly. It sounded more like barks.

Lola looked back at Nicola and let out a contempt-filled sigh. "Who let the dogs out?"

Lola's accusatory tones surprised Nicola. She was about to launch into a verbal defense when she caught sight of one of the beasts traversing a distant ridge. The sight of it froze the diminutive woman, turning her white with fright. The animal was similar to a dog, but only in the broadest sense of the word. It was all claws and teeth. When it barked, the sound made Nicola's skin crawl. "Those are dogs?"

"Dogs" nodded Lola.

"What should we do?" quivered Nicola, imagining those teeth piercing her flesh.

Lola grabbed Nicola by the hand. "Run like hell."

"Maybe we can hold them off. You have a weapon or something?"

"No time," Lola shot back.

Lola grabbed Nicola's hand and together they started running.

Nicola could feel her heart bounding in her chest as she struggled to keep in step with her partner. The ground seemed to be against them. Each awkward step hindered their chances to put a distance on the approaching beasts.

As the tense seconds passed, Nicola could feel herself loosing pace with Lola. After all, the woman had a body identical to Reed's - tall with long legs. It took Nicola nearly two strides to match one of Lola's. Still, Nicola kept moving. She had no choice.

But the rough unfamiliar terrain hindered the little woman's efforts. She slipped to one knee. When she did, Nikki caught a glimpse of two fierce beasts gaining on them. One of them, brown in color, glowered at Nicola as it arced around its prey. The other, larger coated in black fur, raced directly at them. The animals seemed to smell fear.

Lola wrenched Nicola's arm at the wrist, sending searing pain up her arm. She got the message. She stood up quickly and started running again. The beasts were getting close. Their hot breath filled the frigid air.

Out of the corner of her tear filled eyes, Nicola noticed a smooth bit of even land to Lola's right. Apparently Lola didn't see it. When Nicola went for it, her legs tangled with her tall friend's, sending both tumbling to the ground.

Fearing the beasts, Nicola got up and started running. She was only a few steps away when she realized Lola wasn't with her. She looked back to find Lola agonizing. It was her ankle. She was about to run back when she saw one of the fierce beasts closing in.

Lola waved Nicola off. "Don't stop," she yelled.

"I won't leave you behind!" cried Nicola.

The injured woman shook her head and pointed behind her to one of the animals behind them, "Black dog." She glared at Nikki fiercely. "Don't Stop. Run for your life!" Quickly reaching in a pocket, the fallen figure fished out a small device. "Call me." She shouted as she tossed it to Nicola.

Nicola felt torn. She didn't want to leave Lola behind, but she really had no choice. She hesitated long enough to watch in horror as one of the ferocious beasts sank its fangs into Lola's already injured leg. She let out a piercing scream that made Nicola's teeth rattle.

There was nothing the young engineer could do for her now. She grabbed the strange device Lola had tossed her way and started running again. Her hesitation cost her. One of the fierce dog-like predators had already circled around to cut her off. Nicola could see its glowing red eyes directly ahead.

In a panic, Nicola ran for a nearby tree and started climbing. The brittle branches cracked and snapped under her weight. She fell to the ground hard, sending burning pain though her left shoulder. It hurt like hell, but Nicola knew the pain was nothing compared to the agony of teeth tearing flesh.

As the beasts closed in, Nicola closed her eyes and awaited her painful death. She opened her eyes in time to see one of the beasts, a large behemoth, looking back at her. It was the black dog Lola had warned her about. Nikki surmised it to be lead beast - the Alpha Male. It bared its teeth at her. Nicola picked up a rock and threw it at the animal. It struck the he creature square in the head, but it wasn't deterred. It knew the score. The animal crouched for a moment, preparing to pounce with claws out and jaws open.

Nicola turned her face toward the tree and waited for the pain of her own ripping flesh. Then, just when she expected blood to spill, a strange shimmering sound filled Nicola's ears. She wouldn't realize it was the shuttle's transporter beam until her reintegration seconds later. She sighed with relief, happy to be back aboard the shuttle. Sadly, Nicola was far from safe.

* * * * *

Nicola looked up slowly. The shuttle was in the air. The voices she heard from the flight deck were vaguely familiar. There were two at the controls. Each was parking out commands to the other.

"Set the controls to the heart of the sun," said the male.

"I will," said the female, giggling. "Fat old sun."

Nicola rubbed her eyes and forced herself to focus. Indeed, there were two people piloting the shuttle. The man she recognized to be Phillip Reming. The woman looked like Carol Smith. It wasn't the Phillip she knew, of course. Phillip wasn't Phillip. Carol wasn't Carol, either.

The Carol copy glanced backward enough to catch Nicola's eye. She winked and smiled at the worn-out and wounded officer before turning her attention back to the shuttle's controls.

The fake Phillip hit a few controls and the nose of the shuttle tipped upward. The impulse engines whined. "Coming up" commented the fake Phillip.

This brought cheers and laughter from his female co-pilot. "Ride Captain, Ride!"

Nicola quickly glanced to her left. Beside her, on the opposite side of the shuttle was the body of Michael Parks. He was unconscious but breathing. She looked back at the front of the cabin. The two piloting were fully engrossed at whatever they were up to. Neither seemed interested in their weary quarry.

As quietly as she could, the Nicola crept over to her fallen crewman. "Mike?" she said in a whisper. "Mike, wake up. This isn't the best time to be dead."

Mike stirred briefly, but did not awake.

"Mike, please say something."

In a low voice, he answered. "Something."

Nicola grit her teeth and wiped a sweat from her forehead. "Say something, anything, as long as it isn't a title of a song. They must have absorbed my music files when they sucked the power from the shuttle. That's how they are communicating with us - through song titles. By the looks of them, they must have sucked up the crew manifest too.

Mike, I can't get out of this mess without you. But first I gotta know if you are who you are. Understand? Are you alright?"

"I feel fine," muttered Mike, shaking off the blast he absorbed earlier.

"That's no good, Mike," shuddered Nicola. A feeling of dread crept over her. The trembling engineer's eyes darted around her, searching for a weapon. A broken phaser lay at her feet. Its casing had been cracked, leaving a jagged edge. As a weapon it wasn't much, but it would cut flesh well enough.

Mike opened his eyes wide. The gravity of the situation fell heavy upon him like a case of Klingon holiday fruitcakes. "No, wait. It's me. Wait a sec, uh..." Mike searched for a ridiculous phrase he could use to convince Nicola he was who he was. "Uh - how 'bout this - yippee-skippy, here's my butt. Where's the phased-coil dipped in chocolate? Eh? Eh?"

Nicola relaxed and smiled weakly. She dropped the broken phaser and flung her arms around him. "Oh thank God it's you. Come on, get up. We have to figure a way out of this."

But as Nicola went about getting Mike off his back, their captors reemerged.

"You ain't goin' nowhere," said the Carol copy, brandishing a phaser. She waved it in Mike's face and barked out a single command. "Stand."

As Nicola helped Mike to his feet, he whispered to her, "Those phasers are useless. We can take 'em. Wait for my signal."

The Carol copy spoke up again. "Power to the people," she said, smiling brightly. From her fingers rolled sparks of electricity. The jagged snaps of energy dripped directly into the phaser's fuel cells. The weapon chirped to life. A flick of the thumb changed the setting from stun to kill.

"But what do you want?" cried Nicola, shaking her fist with rage. "Why did you do all this? Before you kill us, you can at least tell me that."

The fake Phillip smiled. "I shall be released."

The Carol copy shook her head in agreement. "Bloody well right."

"I get it," said Mike, now standing under his own wobbly legs. "You got trapped in this weird misty place. You know how to get out, but you needed a ship. You wanted our shuttle, so you can use it to escape."

"You took the words right out of my mouth," answered the fake Phillip.

"So why kill us?" demanded Mike, his anger quickly evolving into desperation. "We'll gladly help you. It's kinda what we do. Why kill us?"

Carol copy shrugged, "Killing is my business."

Crestfallen, Nicola let her eyes fall to the floor. "Oh don't you get it, Mike. No witnesses. They're not trapped simply stick here. They're prisoners."

But Mike wouldn't let up. "We won't tell anyone about you. we swear. You can have the shuttle. Let us stay back on that ...whatever that place is. We won't try to escape. You don't have to kill us."

The Carol copy leveled her weapon and aimed it at Mike. "You talk too much."

Nicola's body trembled with panic. Death stalked them both once more. She had to do something. She could see Carol copy's thumb about to press the trigger. As she watched, she felt her own hands tighten. It was at that moment she remembered the device Lola had given her. Still in her hand, she had forgotten all about it. The little object had a single button. Nicola quickly pressed it.

Bursting from the small object, a pulse of energy and a bright flash of light flooded the cabin. The wave of energy played havoc on the shuttle's systems, sending the tiny ship off course. The blinding flash and sudden change in direction sent all four passengers tumbling to the deck.

In the confusion that followed, Mike acted first. He quickly reached for the phaser on the deck by Carol copy's feet. Before he could get his hands on it, another had it. But neither foe gripped the weapon this time. The phaser now laid in the hands of Donna's double, Lola.

Mike jumped back, his muscles tense. "Ms. Reed? What the hell?"

"It's all right, Mike," said Nicola, still trying to regain her senses, "Its not Donna, but she is on our side. You just get control of the shuttle. I'll handle this."

As Mike scurried to the flight controls, the fake Phillip and Carol copy awoke, rubbing their eyes.

"Blinded by the light," winced the fake Phillip in a haze.

Carol copy, too, struggled to comprehend what had happened. She looked up and was struck dumb by the sight of her jailor standing over her. "Lola?"

The Donna double looked down, weapon in hand, and smiled. "The bitch is back."

Nicola staggered back against the bulkhead of the shuttlecraft, wincing under the throbs of pain running down her arm. She looked up at the familiar female. A few scratches and a significantly large bandage on her leg, but otherwise, she looked well enough. Somehow, obviously, she had gotten past the dogs. "Your prisoners, I presume?"

Lola nodded, "Jack and Diane."

"Is everything under control?" asked Nicola, nursing her sore shoulder.

"All right now," she answered, never taking her eyes off her chief responsibilities. "It's over."

By now both the Carol copy and fake Phillip were staggering to their feet, ready to accept defeat. Fake Phillip, although weak under the crush of failure, faked a semblance of fury. "Can't ya see? I wanna be free," he growled at the tall woman with the long braided hair.

The Donna double smiled wryly. "You can't always get what you want."

"Should we drop you off, Ms. Reed, er I mean Lola? Back to the surface?" interjected the wincing engineer.

"Show me the way," the Donna double tersely responded.

"No, it's okay. Stay right where you are. We'll transport you to the surface." Nicola glanced up to the flight deck and at the back of Mike's head. "Mike, I want to use the transporters."

"Got it," said Mike with a backward wave.

With the trouble nearly behind them, the diminutive Nikki couldn't help but let out a laugh as she wiped the muck from her face. "I can't believe I'm not dead."

The Carol copy snickered. "I'm so glad," she said, her words dripping with sarcasm.

"Oh shut up, you," barked back Nicola.

In the mysterious realm they found themselves in, the sensors couldn't accurately judge the distance to the surface. Mike had to do it the old fashioned way - look out the window. With a slow and steady descent he piloted the ship back down until it was only a few meters from the ground. Under normal circumstances, the transporters could return their passengers from much higher off the surface, but Mike wasn't taking any chances. "Okay, Nikki. You're on."

Nicola looked over at Donna's double. "So, you got these two?"

"You better you bet."

"Good. Take care yourself, Lola."

"I will. Thank you."

The fake Phillip spoke up one last time, pleading his case to the fair engineer one last time. "Don't bring me down. Set me free. I'll be your baby tonight. I want you!"

"Hey Captain Jack, do the universe a favor and don't come around here no more," Nicola barked back. "Computer, site to site transport. Please beam these three down to the surface."

Within a blink of an eye, all three, prisoners and jailor, were gone. The petite Condor engineer nearly collapsed with exhaustion. It was finally over. Well, almost. There was still the matter of leaving the strange misty world for the more appropriate void known as outer space.

Nicola staggered to the co-pilot's seat beside Mike. "I overheard them earlier. We need to pilot the shuttle into that sun, or whatever that ball of light is."

"I don't think that's necessary," said Mike. "Look."

Through the wide window of the shuttle, both witnessed the white haze slowly fade away. In its place fell a veil of blackness dotted with shimmering stars.

An alarm sounded. Mike closed a contact and silenced the noise. "Ain't she a sweet?" ask Mike, rhetorically. He was, of course, referring to the grey-blue hull of the USS Condor backlit by a nearby star. The ugliest ship design in Starfleet suddenly never looked so good.

* * * * *

Doctor Tedmoore moved his hands with confident accuracy. Here, in Sickbay, he was in his element. He waved the small bone knitting medical device over Nicola Master's shoulder in a steady pace. Unaware of it at the time, her fall from the tree did not only snap branches. She also managed to crack her collar bone in the fall. Although awake, Nicola was feeling no pain. Upon their arrival in Sickbay the Doctor hypo'd her with his own special concoction of pain meds.

Nicola glanced to her side. There, in the bio bed to her right, laid Michael Parks. Although suffering from no obvious signs of trauma, the electro-shock he suffered sufficiently jangled his nerves, along with other stuff only doctor's could worry about. Mike, too, was awake and very relaxed.

"Are they awake, Doctor?" queried Phillip Reming, the real Phillip Reming, entering Sickbay. Donna Reed, the one native to the USS Condor, followed by his side.

"Yep," said Tedmoore, still tending to Nicola's arm. "Apart from a concussion and a little this and little that, both will recover with no lasting effects. They're telling one hell of a story, though. White mists and big dogs and doppelgangers."

"Oh my!" chirped Mike. "You were there. And so were you," he slurred, pointing to Reed then Reming respectively.

"Where's Carol?" asked Nicola, her face awash with a warm fuzzy pleasantness.

"Where she always is - down in engineering," said Reed.

"Ah, well sshe was tthere, too," mumbled Mike.

"What the hell you give them?" puzzled Reed.

"Both were very agitated when we pulled them off the shuttle," said Tedmoore in flat tones. "I had to sedate them."

"Ah, I see. You sedated them," said Reed, making sure to emphasize the operative word.

"You gave us quite a scare, young lady!" scolded Reming, wagging his finger, "I expect this from Mike, but not from you. Why didn't you call?"

"Sorry, sir," replied a mock frowning Nicola. "We tried to call, but comms were down, I think."

Reed, unable to take the suspense any longer, jumped in. "Would someone please tell me what happened?"

"We kill landed. Big misty place. Escaped prisoners wanted to crash us," explained Mike using over-exaggerated hand movements to over-dramatize the story.

"Whew! Lots of mixed up words, there," commented the doctor.

"They sspoke to us in songs sucked out from the 'puter," explained Nicola with an intoxicated giggle. "Crazy! Crazy!"

"Song titles, eh? Interesting," said Reming, truly fascinated. "If the universal translator went off line, they would have needed some common ground to communicate. That's kinda cool, actually."

"Cap, er, Phillip," interrupted Tedmoore, "I wouldn't take any of this too seriously. Much of the story makes no sense. Personally, I think the shuttle hit some sort of anomaly while these two were fooling around in the back of the shuttle, causing them to injure their heads. They probably dreamed the whole thing."

"Dreamed it? Both of them? The same dream? Show of hands. Who here wants to assume they dreamed it all and run the risk of getting caught in the very same anomaly?" ask Donna, loudly.

Still very much under the influence of the Doctor's special meds, Nicola and Mike both raised their hands without really knowing what they were voting on. In their current impaired state, both would have agreed to a nice soaking in a flooded plasma conduit. They, of course, were the only one's to vote in the affirmative.

"Good. It's settled, then. We change course," decided Reming. "Please let me know when they're ready for duty, doctor."

"Will do," Tedmoore replied blindly.

"I was just thinking," Reming said to Reed, as both acting Captain and acting First Officer started for the exit.

"What is it?"

"Ever notice how 'Dark Side of the Moon' syncs up with 'The Wizard of Oz'?"

"Nope, never did."

"Me either. You wanna to try it?"

Reed smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."



Here are all song titles used in the story....

Read more from Paradigm Shift and Christopher Filippone, Dave Hayward.
Michael Sweeney
Paradigm Shift
Borg Like Me, part deux, part two
On Site

Episode Thirteen - Deep in the Delta Quadrant the Condor crew find an exploded Borg cube. With help from The Resistance they take action to find their missing crew in Borg space! You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder why it took 10 years to write 44 pages. Second half of Story One of Three in the Delta Story Arc

Evil Must Be Opposed.
-- Vedek Yassim,

(DS9: Rocks and Shoals)
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