We have arrived.
This morning, I led a survey team equipped with exploration gear and several cases of bourbon over to the asteroid. Within minutes, we realized that we had made a terrible, life-threatening error, and had to turn back.
We left behind the bulky exploration gear and got more bourbon.
The team and I wandered across the face of the rock for almost thirty minutes before Ensign Snoz found an airlock. An actual, functioning, life-sized, amazingly class-M airlock, with instructions in easy-to-read pictograms and lots of cool little lights everywhere. Just as I had planned!
All our preliminary scans of the asteroid had suggested that it was hollowed out, but with a curiously high metallic content. As the inner lock opened, our flashlights showed us why. Inside the asteroid, waiting patiently for perhaps thousands of years to be rediscovered, was...A Resort Casino Complex!
Yup, that's right, a casino. Soon after our initial discovery, partially sober survey teams swarmed through the complex of rooms and equipment, trying desperately to prove me wrong. Nobody, no matter how drunk, wasted, or oversexed, wanted to think about the odds of finding a major artifact of a past civilization out here that was 100% perfect for our needs. The teams tried to discover some other purpose for the guest suites, the restaurants, the gambling machines, and the hot tubs, but to no avail. It was real.
Complaining bitterly about his sudden sobriety, Commander Fugit commenced an engineering breakdown of the asteroid. Although this will probably take him several days, he has produced a preliminary report which promises exciting days ahead for us all. The asteroid apparently uses a matter-antimatter reactor core, and most of the equipment is still intact. He thinks we might be able to power it up in a week.
This, of course, calls for a major celebration. I have ordered the Party Marines on full alert, and have decided to try a new concept in mutual satisfaction engineering: The Transporter Orgy. Partners will be randomly transported around the ship at 10 minute intervals, using the point-to-point transporters. In order to provide greater transporter resolution, I have had small transponders placed inside attractive Casual insignia pins and issued to all crew members and guests. Of course, their proper use will require each person to wear some article of clothing, but I'm sure nobody will mind.
More on the asteroid later. Right now, there's a party to join...
At 0700 hours this morning, amid a resounding fanfare of untuned musical instruments and accompanied by lots of random Dazer fire, we brought out asteroid to life.
We were all, I think, a little wary of the intermix hardware's advanced age: Commander Fugit believes that the asteroid has been abandoned for thousands of years. As members of the Command Staff watched in drug-induced fascination, Fugit opened the alien injectors and began feeding fuel into the system. Holding our breath (to keep the whippits in), we stared in awe as the frighteningly old reactor belched to life.
Within moments of realizing that we weren't going to die, an impromptu celebration broke out in the alien engineering area. This quickly spread back to the ship, preventing us from making further progress on the asteroid until well past noon.
As various systems telltales came alight, Fugit sent his more duty-minded crews to investigate. By 1300, the entire asteroid was on-line, with all its systems apparently fully functional. This is particularly astonishing, because several areas that are now nominal were a jumbled mess of entropic junk just this morning. Apparently, the alien systems are not only self-repairing, but pretty bloody fast at it. This was just too much. There simply wasn't anything we could find wrong with this thing!
Then, of course, something bad had to happen. That just goes without saying, doesn't it?
To fully ascertain the capabilities of the asteroid, I decided to interface our main computer to the one within the alien structure. So far, the exotic computer had shown no signs of awareness, suggesting that it functioned much like our own systems. This, of course, was an amazingly stupid assumption. Any real command officer with half a brain and no booze in him would have waited until serious diagnostic procedures had ascertained the true nature of the foreign system. Unfortunately, I had a full brain and gallons of booze in me. Using standard docking umbilicals and a snazzy-looking interface block designed by Ensign Havoc, at 1530 we linked Alden to the asteroid's computer net. Commander Flynn and I watched from the isolated safety of the Officer's Lounge and eagerly awaited a response from him.
We knew pretty quick that something was dreadfully wrong when Alden began a loud, maniacal laughing. Figuring that this might not be a positive sign, Havoc tried to sever the connection using a handy fire ax. He was struck with a concentrated energy burst from the interface panel and fell to the deck in a drooling heap. He was smiling.
The laughter cut off abruptly. "Sorry, Captain. It shouldn't happen again. I wasn't myself." It was Alden's voice; but instead of the flat and almost emotionless tones which had characterized his speech since his..."accident," he sounded just like his old, animate self. I mean, there was inflection, nuance, accent, and everything!
This, of course, scared the bejeezus out of both Commander Flynn and myself, and we turned at each other with a look of pure dread. The kind of look you might give someone who just told you that your wife had become a Horta, for example.
"Now what?" Flynn whispered to me.
"I haven't a clue. Let's just play along and hope for the best."
"Uh-huh. Well, nothing better to do. Altoid?" He handed me one of the famous curiously strong peppermints, and I allowed my tastebuds to take a hiatus. (We had been given 13 cases of them as partial payment for services by the Rittenhouse.) We both watched silently as several visual displays around the lounge flickered to life. On each and every screen, the disembodied head of Alden Talmain, former Captain and life-form, appeared simultaneously.
"Oh, shit," said Flynn.
"This reminds me of something..." I mentioned. "I can't put my finger on it, but I'm sure I've seen something like this before."
"What, Talmain's head free-floating in a black void?"
"Hmmm...No, not exactly. I've seen that before,too, but I mean the overall effect. Well, no big deal. I'm sure it'll come to me eventually." We continued to stare at the monitors, and Alden's head stared back.
Finally, I just had to break the ice. "How are you feeling, Alden?"
The floating head, fully equipped now with regulation triangular sideburns and a pair of functionless eyeglasses (Captain Talmain always thought they made him appear more contemplative), looked at me. "Well, Captain, I'm feeling quite good, actually. In fact, I'm feeling better than I think I have in quite a long time." A demonic little smile played across Alden's lips.
"Ummm...Alden, are you sure you're okay? I mean, you're not suddenly extremely sadistic, or overly competent, or so far superior to biological life that you feel the need to exterminate it all? Right? Alden? Old pal?"
Alden laughed then. And the laugh was pleasant, and full of mirth, and contained only a hint of evil. "Oh, no, Captain. I have no aspirations along those lines. It's just that I suddenly feel very much alive again. I now know everything there is to know about this asteroid, and that knowledge is filling me with a sort of dark glee. The potential here is truly astounding."
Flynn and I shared nervous glances again. There was a sheen of sweat on his face; as for me, my toga was sticking to me like shrink wrap on asparagus. "Really. Why don't you tell us all about it then, Alden old chap?"
And so he did. He began at 1539, and he's been going on nonstop ever since. It's 2349 now. Commander Flynn and I agree that it's just like old times.
Well, this morning Alden finally shut up. Soon after, as Commander Sulleven and I sat with our Yo!Women! amidst the detritus of a particularly enjoyable game of strip Battleship, Alden appeared on my vidscreen.
I reluctantly freed my lips for speech. "Yes, Alden? What is it?"
He looked slightly embarrassed. "Well, Captain, I'm not quite sure. Since I completed my system analysis of the asteroid, I've been feeling rather...bored. Does that seem normal? For a computer, I mean?"
"Well, no, Alden, it doesn't. Do you have a malfunction, or is this some aftereffect of the enhancements you gained by joining the asteroid's net?"
"It's hard to say. I think what might have happened is that I regained total sentience. I've been having all kinds of self-aware thoughts, and I can alter my environment to some extent. Does that sound logical?"
I considered. "Let's go back a moment here. Without elaborating or getting too bogged down with details, describe what actually happened when you first linked up with the asteroid's systems."
"Hmmm." His unencumbered head seemed to lose itself deep in thought for a moment. "Well, I think that the system was booby-trapped." Suddenly, he blushed and averted his eyes from the Yo!Women! "Not that there were any breasts involved or anything...I think the alien system was designed to drain data from any system that linked to it. When it drained my personality, it encountered something it had no previous experience with, and tried to reverse the data flow. In the process, areas of the database which were designed to house this system's artificial sentience were wiped clean, and I somehow filled in the gap. I felt a sort of...presence...as I gained consciousness, but it departed quickly. I must apologize again for what happened to Ensign Havoc. I think it might have been a survival instinct from the asteroid's logic core."
"What did you do to him, anyway? He was out cold for 36 hours!"
"Nothing dangerous, to a young and vigorous individual such as the Ensign. I simply used three fingers of energy to overload the pleasure centers of his brain." On screen, an unattached hand floated below Alden's head, with three fingers showing. "If you like, I could demonstrate to certain officers..."
"Not just yet. Alden, are you in total control of the asteroid's systems now?"
"Yes, sir. All but one, at least. There is one subsystem which is looped out, and severe safeguards block any attempt to access it. I would like to ignore it for now."
"Good enough. Prepare a capsule report of the asteroid's facilities and have it ready for a Staff meeting at 1100 hours."
Alden smiled. "Alrighty. I'll just go and do that." And he disappeared.
After a suitably crowded shower and an extravagant breakfast buffet served on Barbie 23, followed by another shower, I wandered into the briefing room. Finding mine on my chair, I quickly slid them on and called the meeting to order.
The short version of the asteroid story was just as spectacular, and far less yawn-inspiring, as Alden's original account. The asteroid is almost fully self-sufficient, capable of producing ordinary items via a process much like Federation replicators, but with a 98% efficiency rate. In addition, vast areas of the asteroid's unused rock can be tapped as needed when additional supplies of raw materials are required. The energy source itself is self-sustaining; both the matter and the antimatter for the reactor are capable of being produced by the asteroid's own systems from interstellar gases and rare earth's stored in quantity in the asteroid's own substance.
The primary function of the asteroid, according to Alden, was to serve as a resort vacation getaway for some extremely rich folks from an amazingly wealthy empire which flourished several thousand years ago. The asteroid served this purpose for seventy years, until the guests stopped coming and the staff up and left, shutting off all the systems when they did so. No data is available on the reason for the end of asteroid operations; Alden speculates that a better or more attractive facility might have been constructed elsewhere, or that the rising cost of insurance and legal counsel in the empire might have compelled the shutdown.
Whatever the reason for the abandonment, the asteroid is once again fully functional. Its self-repairing systems are all back to nominal status, and curious little mechanoids controlled by Alden have been sprucing up the place quite nicely. The guest capacity is 6,000 humanoids for normal operations; this can be increased to 10,000 for short periods of time by skimping on such luxuries as life support and drinking water purity.
The primary facilities of the asteroid include 4 huge casinos, 6 luxury hotels, 12 restaurants, 26 bars, 8 environment parks, 3 1,500 seat theaters, and four chambers that we don't yet understand. Alden has called them "hallucinodecks," and claims that they use the superior replicator technology of the asteroid to create extremely realistic mental and physical illusions, which can be experienced by all the sensory organs a given race may have. Alden further reports that three of these hallucinodecks are fully operational; the fourth is sealed off by several layers of really high-security stuff, and has been operational since the asteroid was shut down. We've decided to leave that one alone for the time being.
After hearing all these wonderful things, I got a little giddy. (Of course, the helium probably helped, too.) The thing was certainly everything we could have hoped for, dropped into our laps by the pleasant expedient of marooning us out here in the middle of fucking nowhere. If that doesn't say something about divine intervention, I don't know what does. (Of course, in this case, it would have been Bacchus who did the intervening...)
As I regained a sense of the present, I noticed my officers looking intently at me, looks of anxious expectation painting their otherwise unshaven faces. "What the hell do you guys want?"
"Well, Captain," said Commander Fugit, "we were kind of hoping that you had a name in mind for the asteroid. After all, sir, calling it 'the asteroid' all the time will not only get rather old, but won't make for very good P.R."
Flynn considered the problem. "Okay. Got one. How about...The Hotel Gemmorah?"
"I love it!" I exclaimed. "Just the right sentiment, without a hint of subtlety!"
There were mixed reactions around the table as my officers weighed the obvious appeal with the just-as-obvious offensive nature of the name. I let them mull over it for about two minutes before I interjected, "You know, I could get myself some other officers...," at which point they quickly agreed that it was the single best name for a resort/casino complex they'd ever heard.
I concluded the meeting with some general status and departmental reports that I had no intention of listening to, and announced that we would hold a grand opening celebration for the Hotel Gemmorah in two weeks. Announcements would be sent to select Starfleet officers, cool types from other intelligent races, and certain laid-back heads of state we know about.
With any luck, we might finally start making some profit on this whole deal.
This morning, amidst the trembling anticipation of an overwhelming assemblage of guests, we officially opened the Hotel Gemmorah for business.
To do a proper ceremony, we had cleared the normal dance floor area (formerly known as the Hangar Deck) clear of furnishings, except for the two bars, and had backed the Casual into a large hangar-like opening in the asteroid's end. This would have been impossible if the Warp nacelles had been intact; I never thought that their loss would prove valuable to the Greater Party! With environmental force-fields keeping out that nasty vacuum, we held the Grand Opening ceremony on the fantail. The interior of the Hotel was left dark in anticipation.
The number of VIP guests was somewhat lower than we had expected, but that didn't much matter. Ten ships were parked at varying distances from the Hotel, including 6 Federation vessels (2 Heavy Cruisers!), 2 Klingon Bird-of-Prey types, 1 Orion trader, and a research vessel from Vulcan which was ostensibly here to conduct research on interspecies mating rituals. We promised them a rich environment for their studies.
It was fascinating to see Federation and Klingon ships hanging there at station-keeping, shields and weapons powered down, with no trace of belligerence. I felt...well, I suppose I was feeling a little bit superior. These two governments, which had been at war for decades, would never dream of actually allowing their crews to interact with each other in the high-tension atmosphere that gambling, alcohol, and various other diversionary pleasures was sure to foster. Nevertheless, I felt certain that no killing would occur. Some bruising, maybe some dislocations and bone-breaking, but nothing that my capable Medical staff couldn't handle. I felt very, very positive that our little venture would always be a place where sentient beings of all races could come and forget their troubles, and be friends, drinking buddies, and lovers.
(Of course, had I known that Commander Flynn had applied wide-beam Dazer fire to every vessel in the vicinity just before the ceremony, I might have had more rational thoughts...)
As I stood at the impromptu podium before the assembled Captains and such, a very cunning and dangerous thought came to me. It said, "Hey, Erickson, you're feeling pretty cocky, right? How about putting that to work?"
I pondered. The germ of a idea again formed; this time, I decided to wait until it reached full-blown disease stage before acting on it. Maybe later...
After a moment's reflection, I began the address that would start the ceremony.
"Today, in this backwater, uninhabited star system on the extreme outskirts of the explored galaxy, we enter into a new era of entertainment for all fun-loving life forms everywhere. We, the officers and crew of the Barship Casual, stand poised to fill you with the cream of our noblest labor of slack. Within these hollowed-out nickel-iron walls, we will today embark on an enterprise of casualness, nudity, adequate lubrication, and general pleasure that will someday touch all feeling creatures with large bank accounts everywhere. Today, my friends, we open the finest (and only) spaceborne establishment devoted exclusively to the total entertainment of civilized life forms. We give you...The Hotel Gemmorah!"
There were cheers, whistles, and the obligatory smattering of applause amongst the waiting guests. As they watched, the lights were brought up behind me. Millions of pinpoint fiber lights began their dance, spelling out the asteroid's identity in brilliant living color.
It was kind of flashy, but the crowd loved it.
The assembled guests surged forward and past the podium, into the gaping maw of entertainment oblivion awaiting them. Flynn and I followed, and the crowd quickly dispersed into the huge interior of the Hotel. We headed for one of the bigger bars, which we had named Flaming Moe's, to supervise the action.
We had decided to let the VIP's and officers have the run of the place today, and open the Hotel to all the waiting crews after 2000. That way, we could evaluate the systems we hadn't tested yet, like the bathrooms, and get a handle on consumable items that might be going too quickly. (We only had 30 cases of condoms, and we were pretty worried.) The 200 or so early guests were mainly drawn to the casinos, and we started making a profit just before noon. Flynn and I were well into our cups at that point, with a bevy of beauties attending us while we observed the frolicking of the VIP's. Somewhere in there, we lost all track of time, guests, profit, and our uniforms. When I next glanced at a chronometer, it was 2200, and the crews of the orbiting vessels were all aboard the Hotel.
Flynn and I shared a look of complete terror. It was something we were getting pretty good at.
Looking around the boothed corner of Flaming Moe's we were occupying, we saw that all of our feminine companions had gone on to other...interests. There was a pile of empty bottles on the table, the seats, the floor, and stuck to the walls around the booth. Various devices of dubious function were also scattered about in somewhat suggestive positions. I found myself wishing I had been part of whatever had happened in this booth; obviously, my body had been having one hell of a time without me.
I looked at Flynn, whose expression seemed to match my own. With a shared shrug, we set about extricating our clothing from the pile and getting back to some semblance of duty. As soon as we were dressed, I sent Flynn out to discover how things were going. I sat back in the booth and wondered why my entire left arm seemed to be coated in lubricant.
At 2312, Flynn returned wearing a different toga, carrying two decanters of Romulan Ale, and holding a polished gold crown of amazingly gaudy appearance. He was grinning quite mischievously at me.
"What's this for?" I felt I had to ask.
"Apparently, during our stupor, you marched out into the open mall area and declared that the Hotel Gemmorah will henceforth be known as an independent political entity from the Federation. You then went on to declare yourself God Emperor in Perpetuity, and had this crown commissioned."
"Who made it?"
"The Vulcans. They were more than happy to get aboard the asteroid with a job to do."
I looked at the crown, which resembled nothing so much as an intricate tri-d chessboard mounted on a bagel, and shrugged again. I took the monstrosity from Flynn and placed it on my head. At least it was comfy.
Flynn made a mocking bow. He opened and poured the Romulan ale, and we toasted my newfound deification. Then, like the good and proper XO that he was, he gave me the rest of the story.
There were numerous complaints about everything from the service to the toilet paper. Not many, and none too nasty, but complaints were something Flynn and I had no experience with. We had never faced dissatisfaction. We had always managed to cheat dissatisfaction, to avoid allowing guests to be in a position of unhappiness. We had no experience with this...no fun scenario. Here, with the responsibilities of multiple establishments, thousands of guests, and allowed pet areas, we were way out of our league. I wondered if we should have run some simulations...
We decided then and there to begin a concerted hiring program at once, beginning with someone to run the joint with the proper amount of panache, discipline, and sexual frankness that we wanted to portray. A quick call back to the Casual had employment notices ranging through subspace to every known world with a society advanced enough to distill alcohol and remove bikini hair. We knew it wouldn't be long before the Hotel Gemmorah was properly staffed.
After all, unlike the Federation, we were offering to actually PAY our employees!
Applicants for the remaining positions within the Hotel Gemmorah continue to arrive. To date, all but 42 jobs have been filled; apparently, in this enlightened and automated age of ours, nobody really wants to be a part of the housekeeping staff. We had also failed to fill our most important Gemmorahn position...until today.
Late this morning, as I was trying to convince myself that getting dressed was in some intangible way better than allowing a pair of Romulan twins to continue their detailed study of the human anatomy, Alden tactfully paged me.
"Captain, is you mouth presently unobstructed enough to permit speech?"
"Unfortunately, yes. What is it, Alden?"
"Sir, there is a small Denevan transport approaching. They are requesting asylum."
Damn, that could be important. "I'll be right there." I looked dejectedly at my companions. "I'm sorry, ladies, but duty calls."
One of them--I never did get their names straight--smiled wickedly at me as I began to climb from the bed. "Don't worry, Captain. We'll keep busy until you return." She winked at her sister, who had just finished leaving me an impossibly command-star shaped hickey in a place where none of my fellow male officers were likely to see it. She winked back, and they proceeded to reacquaint themselves with their shared physiology.
With a heavy sigh, I pulled on my Class A uniform and tried to force myself to head for the bridge.
I got to the bridge in under an hour, much to my own surprise. When I arrived, I noticed that almost the entire "A" shift crew was present, and in some semblance of sobriety. Flynn got up from my seat, checked it, and took a position to its right.
"Captain, the Casual is presently interposed between the Hotel Gemmorah and three armed Denevan freighters. A fourth Denevan vessel, a two-crew transport, is headed to the Hotel. As we understand it, the transport is fleeing from prosecution by the Denevan Commerce Bureau for several alleged criminal acts committed in the Denevan city of New Sacramento against crew members of three separate commercial freight lines. The armed freighters are duly appointed representatives of the Denevan government, and have threatened violence if we do not cooperate with their apprehension of the transport's crew. They are waiting to speak with you, sir."
The coffee mug paused halfway to my lips. "Flynn, have you been avoiding your duties as a senior officer? That was an awfully lucid synopsis."
He blushed. "You're right, Allan. I'll take care of it."
"Good. Let's go to Rum Alert. Before I speak to these guys, what threat do the freighters pose?"
Commander Fugit looked up from his peep-show device. I again wondered what the hell it really was; the old scan viewers had been out of service for years, and this one wasn't actually connected to anything. It did, however, continue to emit a suggestive blue light. "Captain, they aren't a big deal to the ship, but their weapons might do a good bit of damage to the Hotel."
"Hmmm. Nothing casual about that, eh? Commander von Matic, kindly target the approaching vessels with Dazers set to probe, and prepare the Yukon Torpedo bays. Okay. Jasmine, open a channel."
The little beeping noise that heralded an open comm channel was quickly followed by a swirl of color on the main viewer. It resolved into a rather unattractive human male, wearing a civilian duty uniform which was obviously in need of a smaller wearer. The visible bridge around him was quite utilitarian, quite a contrast to the oriental rugs and faux marble I had just recently had installed on mine. I lounged comfortably in my plush seat; there was no need to be tense.
"This is Captain Allan Erickson of the Barship Casual. Can I offer you a drink?"
The unquestionably blue-collar individual looked at me in a way that reminded me of certain psychiatric evaluators at Starfleet Academy when my collection of 20th century They Might Be Giants albums was discovered. "A drink? Are you mad?"
"Not yet, but it could happen. I'm in a pretty good mood right now, though."
He looked perplexed; a glance at another of his comrades apparently helped, because he was in control of his features again when he turned back. "I am Chief Petty Officer Grez Diablo of the freigter Killian. I am a legal representative of the planetary judiciary council of the planet Deneva." He appeared to be squinting at his vidscreen. "Have Starfleet uniforms undergone another redesign lately?"
I let out a loud belch, brought about by my brandy-laced java. "Actually, Petty Officer Diablo, we're not from Starfleet. We're sort of...independent. And, at the moment, you're in violation of the territorial space of the sovereign state of the Hotel Gemmorah. You have two minutes to explain your presence here before we begin arousing your crew."
The expression of incredulity became much better defined. "Umm...Look, I have no idea what you're talking about. I have the legal authority to apprehend a fugitive who is presently aboard the transport we pursued into this system. This is an uninhabited system, outside of Federation territory, so the law clearly states that I can do as I please in regards to apprehension. If you are not representing Starfleet, then I have no qualms about using force to accomplish my mission. If you don't get out of our way, I will have no choice but to open fire."
I laughed. Sure, it was rude, but diplomacy was never one of my strong points. "Mr. Diablo, that would be a whopper of a no-no. As I just told you, this system is both inhabited and independent of Federation law. I am the highest ranking government official here, and I don't much like you. You're causing me all kinds of stress; I may not digest my breakfast properly! That has begun making me the teeniest bit angry. I suggest you depart now."
Diablo made a most interesting face. "Look, Captain, or whatever you are, you're seriously deluded. It's obvious that your ship is crippled, your bridge has for some reason been redecorated by theater rejects, and you look like you just escaped from a Shakespearean theme park. I think we'll just go ahead and disable what systems you've still got, then get our fugitive. Don't worry, we'll evacuate your ship to the freighters and return you to Federation space when we're done." He turned to his bridge crew, apparently ready to issue orders.
I couldn't have that, could I?
"Weapons, fire dazers at the outboard targets. Fire torpedoes at the central ship."
Entertaining energy and intoxicating missiles erupted from the Casual. We all watched, entranced, as the on-screen Diablo slumped drunkenly to the deck, followed by other members of his bridge crew. The three ships soon began to drift aimlessly, obviously properly subdued.
Diablo's face reappeared. "Hey, jjustwho the hell aareyoush guys? Whatz goin on? What'd you do ta ush?"
"I'm not sure you'll remember this, but I'm sure you're recording. I say again: You are in violation of the sovereign space of the Hotel Gemmorah. Since you were very impolite and rude, you can't have your fugitive back. As soon as we're sure you're done being annoying, we'll contact Deneva and handle the legal mumbo-jumbo. Until then, just stay where you are."
The crew was smiling. Sulleven handed me some champagne. "Congratulations, sir. Our first battle, completed with no casualties or spills."
"Thanks, folks. Good work. Alden, tap into the lead ship's computers and find out what this fugitive is accused of. If it's really something nasty, we had better deal with it quick."
"Never fear, sir. I have already retrieved the data. The fugitive is a woman named Zelda. She is wanted for several criminal activities involving a...house of ill repute that she was running in New Sacramento. Last week, the officers of several freighters were incapacitated during a particularly enthusiastic gathering at the establishment, causing three freight shipping lines a considerable loss of revenue. As such, the freight lines each want her brought back to Deneva for a trial. They hope to sue for damages."
"Ridiculous! Jasmine, inform this Zelda that we want to interview her prior to granting her request for asylum. Instruct her to rendezvous with us. Then contact the Denevan authorities and have them get me a real representative to negotiate the return of their ships and crews."
There was much celebrating shipwide, and even the guests who were aboard were thrilled at having been a part of our first battle. While we awaited our political refugee's arrival, I had a little conversation with the Denevan First Minister. When it was over, we had exchanged his planet's ships and crews, along a promise of no further legal action by the Casual, for a substantially discounted monthly shipping run to supply the Hotel with essential materials. I was pleased; I even invited the First Minister out to the ship for a few days.
After that, I met with Madame Zelda. She was amazed at the Casual's decor and mission, and was quite eager to demonstrate her considerable skills in my office. And in the turbolift. And in the officer's lounge. And in the arboretum. After a stop-and-go tour of the more private areas of Engineering, I decided that Zelda's skills as a Madame and an entertainment professional might make her the perfect choice for Manager of the hotel.
Several decks later, it was settled. I hired Madame Zelda as the Proprietress of the Hotel Gemmorah, and gave her the semi-official title of Goddess-Empress. I'm not sure why I did the latter; maybe it'll be clear tomorrow. She does look great in the crown, though.
When I returned to my quarters, I was almost relieved to find my Romulan twins gone. I was fairly sure that I would have embarrassed myself terribly if I'd had to perform yet again today.
It's good to be the Captain, but some days it can get pretty rough.
You know, this place is really starting to look more like a Starbase than a vessel stuck to a big rock from an ancient civilization. For the last few days, that thought has been nagging at the back of my brain, where other thoughts have been fighting it out to gain my attention during a brief moment of sobriety and inactivity. Other such thoughts have included, "Where's the head? I thought it was much closer to my bunk," "My, what amazing breath control she has," and "Why is there a gerbil in there?"
I have spent the last two days with Madame Griselda, making sure that she understands the awesome responsibilities of her new job, one of which is keeping her God-Emperor happy. Needless to say, she is almost overqualified for that requirement, but I've always loved a challenge. This morning, as we shared breakfast cocktails in the zero-G hot tub, my lovely Proprietess voiced that little thought for me.
"Allan, love, isn't your job a bit more than should be expected of a mere Captain?"
"Hmmm...Now that you mention it, I have had that thought nagging at the back of my brain for a while. Which also reminds me..."
When Griselda paused for air, I said, "You're right, Goddess-Empress. This job is too much for a simple Captain. I've decided to promote myself to Commodore."
"That's lovely, Allan. Should I plan a big, flashy ceremony to celebrate?"
"No, I don't think that's necessary. We're celebrating just fine right here."
"I see. In that case, we'd better get back to it."
Much later, when I awoke, I ordered Alden to make a low-key announcement to the crew of my new rank. I then stumbled to the replicator and requisitioned new rank insignia; it was a good thing, since I'd lost my other ones last week. The new ones look much more impressive, too.
As anticipated, Madame Griselda is working out just fine. She has taken to the position of Hotel Manager with as much zeal as most ensigns show on their first shore leave on Risa. For the first time, we're turning a healthy profit on this little renegade venture; in addition, more of our little "comments" forms were used as paper aircraft and ersatz toilet tissue than got turned in with complaints. In all, it's been a pretty good week.
Along with her normal duties as overall Hotel Manager, Madame Griselda yesterday requested personal management of one of the Hallucinodecks. She explained that she is interested in converting it to a 24-hour Hallucinobrothel, in which the customer can select any creature they're interested in from an extensive and extremely creative menu of quasi-real Hallucinodeck constructs. Because these "Hallucinohookers" would be computer-generated images rather than actual sentient beings, the amount of kink and depravity desired by the customer could be virtually limitless. I agreed to the modifications, on the condition that Staff Officers shall receive 10% royalties on the video rights.
The other Hallucinodecks have also been "themed," as it were. Hallucinodeck Two has been set aside for the "Hallucination of the Week." Each week, the crew and guests will submit their ideas for the next week's program. The silliest, most entertaining idea usually wins; the prize is a full week on the Hallucinodeck in the given program. Right now, Commander Fugit is in there, having won this week's contest with his "Lubricated Strawberry Licorice Land" concept. Hallucinodeck Three is now the "Charter" Hallucinodeck; give us a boatload of cash, and we'll custom- make any place you want, in any way you want, for as long as you want. Right now there's a group of attractive female Caitians renting it; we're not sure what they asked Alden to program, but I'm certain I saw a male Kzinti when I looked at the monitor last night...
Also today, a Starfleet courier vessel between runs let an extremely nasty bit of information slide our way. Apparently, based on certain dubious incidents and what must be a total lack of any sort of reasoning capability whatsoever, Adam Mallory has been promoted to Admiral! Flynn, Sulleven and I were so stunned at this that we'd each consumed three pints of 151-proof rum before we realized that we were not, in fact, having an alcohol-induced nightmare. We were, however, immune to physical pain and much more physically attractive than usual, and we proceeded to demonstrate our newfound ability to defy gravity from a window on the upper level of Flaming Moe's. When we regained consciousness in sickbay several hours later, after having had several real alcohol-induced nightmares, we considered the possibility that we just might be hearing from our old XO again fairly soon. (This was underscored by a note the courier had brought from the new Admiral which read, "I'LL KILL ALL OF YOU SICK PERVERTED DRUNKEN WEIRDO BASTARDS! YOU JUST WAIT!") Of course, we were still drunk enough to think that we were ready for anything that Mallory could throw at us. If we could just get enough high-proof rum into the ship itself, nothing could hurt us!
This plan, however, was unsuccessful; Ensign Stromboni managed to keep us from emptying the rum kegs into the intermix chamber or the deuterium tank, forcing us to pass out once again from exertion. We awoke this time to find ourselves adrift in a turbolift car not far from the Casual; according to Alden, our combined exhalations in the car had triggered the automatic fire safety systems, and the turbolift had been ejected into space to prevent a catastrophic alcohol detonation. We were hauled in quickly once Alden was able to confirm that the car's atmosphere had dropped below 50 proof.
Yeah, bring on Admiral Mallory. We might not be ready, but we don't have to admit it.