With a batting average like Mallory's, it's no wonder he ended up as an Admiral.
At 0456 this morning, Alden awakened me in his more-or-less usual manner. The speaker above the Emperor-size bed made a little hum, and Alden's well-modulated voice inquired, "Commodore Erickson? Are you in here? I am unable to differentiate your life signs from the nine female humanoids who appear to be intertwined in a most non-Euclidean way upon your bed."
"I'm here, Alden." I carefully extricated myself from the feminine pretzel on the bed and crawled to the head. "What's the problem?'
"Sir, a Starfleet Miranda-class frigate is approaching our present position at high speed. They have not hailed us, and their approach vector is eclipsed by the Meviannos star. Our original sensor suite would not have detected their approach at all." He sounded downright smug there at the end.
"Great. Sounds like trouble. Who's on bridge duty?"
"Commander Sulleven is scheduled. However, he is presently unable to adequately perform that duty."
Hmmm. "Okay, I'll bite. What's up with Sulleven?"
"According to the medical logs, he was discovered on the Hotel with three Vulcan females, all under the influence of the Pon-Far inducing drug. He was discovered in a state of terminal exhaustion by one of the housekeeping staff; according to the report, the aforementioned females were administering mouth-to-various-other-things resuscitation. Doctor Flynn reports that Commander Sulleven will require nine days in sickbay for recuperation and reconstructive surgery."
"Unfortunately, yes. Apparently, the low oxygen levels on Vulcan have resulted in an extremely high lung capacity..."
"I get the point. Okay, sound Rum Alert and get Flynn to the bridge, pronto!" I pulled on my spiffiest robe, grabbed the half-full bottle of tequila off the nightstand, and ran for the turbolift.
And ran smack into the door of my quarters.
It wasn't the pain from the impact, first on the door and then on the deck, that caused me to cry out in pain. It was the half-bottle of Cuervo 1800 that was draining into my carpeting at an alarming rate. I managed to save a couple of shots, and made sure to prevent further spillage by placing the tequila in the most secure place available: my digestive system.
"Alden, please unsecure my door."
"Confirmed. Your door is now unsecured." As he said it, my position on the deck near the sensor caused the door to open. My position against the door itself caused me to roll into the corridor. I barely managed to roll to my feet with a calculated flourish as I noticed the two Yo!Women! coming down the corridor. After all, I do have an image to maintain!
Upon reaching the bridge, I found my XO standing at the marble railing near the Engineering station, hanging on for dear life.
"You okay, Flynn?"
He looked up slowly, and I noticed the low-profile sunglasses. "Yeah, just give me a minute. The anti-hangover pills just need a moment to hit..."
I left him standing there as the bridge crew sauntered in, their attire suggesting that I might have missed a rather interesting party in the pool. Sweeping the remains of a BLT from my chair, I assumed command.
"Alden, tactical display on main viewer, please." The screen changed from the pleasant landscape of pre-Roman Britannia to the usual dull data-laden wireframe tactical situation map. Alden had laid out the Meviannos system in foreshortened format, showing us the Hotel, ourselves, and the approaching frigate. At the moment, she was still coasting sunward at .65c, but a course change was imminent if her captain expected his crew to remain unboiled.
Flynn let out a prolonged wet-sounding belch and removed his shades. "What do you suppose they want?"
I feigned omniscience. "Oh, certainly nothing exciting. They probably just wish to disable our ship, detain us for desertion, and claim the Hotel for the Federation. No big deal, I'm sure."
He relaxed. "Well, as long as they don't want to freeload, I guess it's okay." He started looking for a rope.
Back on the viewer, I pretended to pay attention as the as-yet-unidentified frigate quickly closed the remaining distance to the Meviannos star. She had slowed to .15c. While the bridge crew and I watched, she approached minimum safe distance...and kept on going, continuing her foolish approach to the star's photosphere.
"Well, that's something you don't see every day," commented Ensign Havoc.
"Nope. Perhaps this is some new Starfleet tactic designed to achieve maximum surprise?" I pondered.
"Sure, plow your ship into the sun and melt it into slag before the enemy even has the chance to surrender! Somehow, I think they'd notice the drawbacks during the simulations." Flynn was beginning to sweat, perhaps in sympathy for the rapidly overheating frigate's crew.
At what could arguably have been the last possible moment, the frigate came hard about and began maneuvering out of the Meviannos star's gravity well. Her hull was now somewhat discolored, evidence that both her deflectors and her hull had suffered terribly from the perplexing descent. As she cleared the photosphere, her name became visible to our Really-Really-Long-Range visual sensors at about the same time that her registry was picked up by our normal IFF systems. She was the USS Ticonderoga, which had been here just two weeks ago to celebrate the retirement of her captain.
They hadn't seemed completely insane during their visit, but I've learned to never underestimate anybody's ability to go completely batshit when a crisis comes along. But why had they decided to lose their marbles here?
"Comm, open a channel to them."
"Aye, sir. Uh, sir...they're calling us."
"Well, imagine that. Put 'em through!"
The tactical and RRLR displays were replaced by a view into the auxiliary control room of the Ticonderoga, where numerous officers in Starfleet uniform were obvious proof that even high quality wool will stain if you're scared enough. Sitting in the conn was a very attractive female officer whom I knew I should have remembered...but, alas, her name was gone. She was looking rather frazzled at the moment, and had discarded her own wool uniform jacket. Her white turtleneck was soaked with sweat, and clung to her in a way that mine had never quite managed.
I hate it when I get jealous of inanimate objects.
"Good morning, Ticonderoga. This is Commodore Erickson aboard the Casual. Can I offer you a drink?"
Well, at least she smiled at that. Perhaps they weren't as far gone as I'd thought; my opening line still worked. "Good morning, Commodore. This is Commander Lanchellsi aboard Ticonderoga. Yes, we could most certainly use a good, stiff...drink." She winked. I really hoped she'd been good. "Unfortunately, our little suaree into the sun here has caused some rather serious damage to our nacelles. It could be a while before we reach your position."
"So the Casual was, indeed, your destination? Didn't you notice that there was a rather imposing stellar furnace interposed between us?"
"Welll...it's something of a long story, Commodore. Before I can adequately explain it, I would like to inform you that I am the acting captain of the Ticonderoga. I would further like to request asylum from the Sovereign Hotel Gemmorah for this vessel and all survivors aboard." She looked rather sad as she said it, but I took it as grief.
"Hmmm. It could be pretty bad for our long-term survival, but I'll think it over. Why don't you and your remaining senior officers beam over, and we'll talk. I'll round up some...orthodox engineers to lend you a hand at your end."
"That would be fine, Commodore, but we won't be in transporter range for several days."
"Nonsense! You've been within our transporter range since you entered the system. Just get to your transporter room, and we'll take it from there." I cut communication from my armrest and turned to face Flynn. He stared up from the carpet.
"You okay?" I asked.
"Sure. Just tired."
"What do you get from all this?"
"One hell of a headache, a bad case of acidosis, and an idea."
"Think we should do it?"
"I'm not sure yet. Let's talk first, and I'll tell you my plan."
We both retired to our cabins to get into clean uniforms, and I brought us down to Beer Alert. I then had several ensigns awakened to clean the conference room, which had hosted a game of full contact strip Parcheesi the night before. I wasn't sure what was going on, but had no intention of finding out at a table coated with KY jelly and chocolate syrup.
Flynn entered my quarters wearing his finest Class A toga, the one with the special soil repellent qualities. I was still stuffing my sheets into the recently-installed laundry unit; it's not easy when they crack instead of fold.
"Okay, Flynn, what's your big plan?"
"Well, it's simple. They want asylum, right? That means that we kind of shelter them from the wrath of the Federation, but they need to stay here, with the Ticonderoga, for that to work. Kind of a waste, you know?"
"Look. Here's an almost fully operational starship, complete with crew, that wants to join us. Don't you think we could find a better use for these things than having Ticonderoga sit around, wasting away?"
"You want to use Ticonderoga? What for?"
"Who knows? Maybe we could just cruise around spreading joy, alcohol, and our slack-filled message to whomever will listen. It doesn't matter yet; we'll come up with something. I just think that we need to find a way to use her, and granting them asylum pretty much precludes that."
"I understand. Okay, I'll figure something out, buddy. Let's go hear what they have to say." I finished dressing, started the laundry unit churning, and followed Flynn out the door.
In the conference room, I was pleased to discover that the only remaining trace of the previous night's activities was a nigh-undetectable hint of pheromones in the air. Either that, or Fugit was pumping them into the life-support system again. Commander Lanchellsi had changed into a fresh uniform, and was accompanied by a lieutenant commander wearing Engineering department colors. In the corners of the room stood two of my own Insecurity staff, fidgeting and looking quite nervous. Knowing that they were on duty allowed me to ignore my own reservations about this whole affair; the Insecurity guys would be more than insecure enough for everyone in the conference room.
Alden announced my arrival to a recorded fanfare of trumpets and cheering crowds, since this was to be an official Hotel Gemmorah thing. "His most Amazingly Laid Back Magnificence, Lord of the Keg and the Tankard, Sovereign Master of the Wheel and the Chip, Infernal Lord of Lubricants, Scourge of the Celibate, and Most Exalted Purveyor of Slack, the God Emperor of the Hotel Gemmorah, Allan Cormach Erickson!" The Insecurity staffers both cringed in terror and abruptly lost control of their bladders. Anticipating this, the air handling system immediately produced a quantity of fresh-smelling lilac to cover the soon-to-be-offensive odor.
I took my place in the ludicrously decorated throne-like lawn chair that had been brought to the table for the occasion. Commander Lanchellsi and her fellow officer had an odd look on their faces. Either they were trying to keep from laughing, or they were about to lose their lunch.
"Let's get down to business, shall we? What would you like to drink?"
Lanchellsi, for having been aboard before, was still apparently unaware of the way things worked here. "Umm...we're still on duty, sir. We couldn't possibly..."
"Look, commander. You need to understand how things work aboard a Barship. First off, aboard the Casual, drinking on duty is not only expected and encouraged, it's mandated by seventeen different regulations and two dozen protocols. Not that we ever force you to imbibe...far from it! We just want you to have all the justification you could possibly need to do whatever the hell you feel like doing."
The lieutenant commander was chewing his lip. "Excuse me for asking, sir, but how do you get anything done if the entire crew is partying constantly?"
"Damn good question. We actually have no idea. One theory is that a form of spontaneous mental syzygy occurs during times of need, allowing us to function as a sort of gestalt organism to perform the tasks necessary to the survival and well-being of the whole. The other theory is that we really don't get anything done, but so much random stuff is going on all the time that things just sort of end up working out. Personally, I tend to go for the latter concept."
His mouth was sort of hanging open, so one of the Barbies who was there to handle the drink orders tossed in a maraschino cherry soaked in rum. After the startled expression passed, he began chewing with vigor. His eyes were suddenly locked into a tracking mode, with Barbie 12 as his target. I anticipated no further questions from him for a while.
"Okay, commander, what's your story?"
Lanchellsi looked around, as though someone might be waiting to pounce on her. One of the Insecurity men passed out on the spot. "It's...um, it's not something you'll enjoy."
"Why ever not, commander? We like stories." There were eager nods all around.
"It involves somebody I think you're familiar with. Admiral Adam Mallory."
We all looked at each other in that way that intelligent people do when they have nothing intelligent to say. I waited patiently for Lanchellsi to continue.
"After Captain MacMurphy's retirement party, the Ticonderoga returned to Starbase 34 to pick up his replacement, Captain Connery. None of us had served with him before, but we heard rumors that he was an extremely ambitious and enterprising officer. We picked him up, and all seemed normal until about three days ago.
"Captain Connery called a meeting of the senior officers and explained that we had new orders from Starfleet Intelligence to destroy a renegade starship. He didn't give us any details, but ordered a course change that several of us recognized. We kept quiet, however, hoping that it was simply coincidence. Quite a few of us were more than a bit disturbed by this turn of events."
Lanchellsi went on at length to describe the past three days. For the most part, it boiled down to some of the senior officers playing private dick. They discovered that Connery had received secret orders and a promise of quick promotion from an Admiral Mallory if Connery could find and eliminate the UBS Casual and claim her companion asteroid artifact as Federation property. Lanchellsi, the Ticonderoga's XO, had confronted the Captain, but he was determined to carry out his orders, no matter how friendly and fun the Casual might be. He had been seduced by Admiral Mallory (and probably the whole rank thing, too). He ordered the Ticonderoga to approach Meviannos in the Casual's blind spot, or at least what would have been the blind spot on a normal, run-of-the-mill Mark IX/A Cruiser.
As the Ticonderoga had approached, several of her officers had attempted to impress upon Captain Connery the illegal and unethical nature of the mission. Connery had ordered Security to remove the senior officers from the bridge. After a few moments of soul-searching (and some rather vivid memories of the Hotel, I'll bet), they refused. Commander Lanchellsi had cited the appropriate Starfleet articles regarding removal of the Captain from command when he attempted to violate Starfleet regulations, and the security officers escorted him to the turbolift.
Somehow, Connery managed to escape when the turbolift opened and bolted for Engineering. As the bridge crew was about to alter course away from the star, Connery destroyed the primary helm controls and damaged the intermix injectors. The Ticonderoga's engineering staff managed to stop him, but in the process Connery fell from the catwalk and broke his neck. (He apparently also broke an arm, three ribs, his left pinkie, and six teeth in the fall. Odd thing is, he landed on a pile of radiation suits...) With more pressing matters to attend to, the engineering crew couldn't spend the time to get him to sickbay; he expired as Ticonderoga entered the Meviannos' star.
Lanchellsi and the bridge crew made their way to auxiliary control as Ticonderoga's shields began to fail. Areas nearest the outer hull became first simply uninhabitable, then smoldering zones of furniture-turned-magma as the crew struggled to regain control of the starship.
Obviously, they succeeded in foiling Connery's plan to get Ticonderoga into the history books as the first Federation starship to attempt a solar landing.
Lanchellsi took a long drink from the Romulan Ale in front of her as she concluded her synopsis. Noticing that she was consuming the beverage far too quickly, I pulled another bottle from the sidebar and set it nearby.
"How badly was Ticonderoga damaged?" Flynn asked. He was getting that anxious look that usually means he's impatient with the world (although on some occasions it's just an indication that he has to find a urinal pretty quick).
"We're not sure yet. Most of our sensors were fried in the descent, and there was so much data flooding the internal monitors that most of them overloaded. We should have a preliminary report by tomorrow, though."
"No need, Commander," I said, again wanting to impress her. "We can use the Hotel's sensors to do a complete rundown for you. Alden?"
"Yes. Um, I anticipated your request and have prepared a holographic model of the damage." Above the table appeared a miniature version of Ticonderoga as she currently existed. The holo appeared so real and detailed that one of the Insecurity men moved to one side to avoid being struck by it.
As we watched, Alden peeled away layers and placed them to the side until the entire ship was lying displayed. Damaged areas began to grow complex annotation.
"That's amazing, Commodore!" Lanchellsi gasped. "Your sensors are that good?"
"Better, I assure you. Behold!" With a flourish worthy of any two-bit carny side show huckster, I touched a display control, and all the crew members visible in the holo shed their clothing. New annotation sprouted near them, giving measurements, level of arousal, a list of cosmetic surgery undergone, and natural hair color.
"Unbelievable. No wonder the Federation wants your technology! With sensors like that..."
"Yes, we know. They would make hair coloring and bra padding useless, not to mention the old socks-in-the-jockstrap routine."
Lanchellsi gave me a slightly annoyed look, but it passed.
Flynn grinned. "Yeah, and I know a certain Admiral whose folliclel impairedness might make the evening news..."
The Insecurity men tittered.
Flynn spoke up again. "Commander, we don't believe that the Federation itself is responsible for your orders. We're pretty sure they're willing to leave us alone. It's Mallory who has it in for us. Still, your case presents us with an interesting opportunity..."
Here it was. Flynn had finally come up with the angle he'd been looking for. I hoped it was good, or the Federation might really start breathing down our necks.
He struck a dramatic pose (which was completely blown as his toga fell open, exposing his neon orange boxers) and laid it out. "Because those orders did officially originate within the Starfleet chain of command, they must be considered an official Federation statement of intent against the Hotel. As such, it can be argued that the Ticonderoga was officially ordered to invade our sovereign territory and begin hostilities. They failed to do so, but they are now completely at our mercy. I therefore propose that we claim the starship Ticonderoga as war booty, rename her the UBS Relax, and add her to our little fleet!"
I pondered. "If we do that, the Federation might decide that further action is cool and send someone who might not be as clueless as Connery."
"I don't think so. We'll explain to the Feds that we consider the Ticonderoga adequate reparations for this attack, claim that her crew has expressed such remorse at their actions that they wish to remain with us to run her, and invite Federation dignitaries to a giant party to celebrate the peaceful end to hostilities!" He was absolutely beaming. "I like it!" I exclaimed, and ordered Everclear alert immediately. I further ordered Alden to begin the negotiations with Starfleet, told Flynn to be ready to hold the celebration in 48 hours, and ordered Fugit and the engineering staff to sober up and begin work on the Ticonderoga. Finally, I ordered a paint and bodywork crew to prep their work bees for some major Schiebing.
Commander Lanchellsi was quite happy with the idea, especially because it meant that her crew were still more or less free individuals.
"Does this mean that we can become official residents of the Hotel Gemmorah?"
"More than that, Commander! You can become officers of Barfleet! And, because your ship is in pretty decent shape, we can use it to spread the party throughout the galaxy!"
I adjourned the meeting, even though there were still things to discuss, in order to give a thorough physical exam to Commander Lanchellsi. After all, it just wouldn't do to find out that our new officers weren't up to the Casual's demanding standards!
Repairs on the Ticonderoga (at least the really important ones) were completed by 0200 this morning. All replicators, queen-sized bunks, and heads have been restored to full functionality. Our crack hull modification teams are still at work on the new lettering; they had some problems spelling "U.B.S."
Subspace calls went out to many important dignitaries regarding the christening of our second barship today. Of course, many of the more open-minded or financially stable worlds that we told about the celebration are simply too far away to make it in that sort of time, but I'd much rather hurry up and get this done than wait until reality sets in and I realize just how stupid this whole idea is. I can't shake the uncomfortable feeling that this sort of action is rather...premature. (And as much as I hate to admit it, I do have some experience with that feeling...)
Commander Fugit and Ensign Havoc (who is well on his way to Lieutenant) have completed the preliminary weapons modifications to the Ticonderoga, but will have to wait until after the ceremony to actually start training her crew in their use. Our current schedule will allow the Ticonderoga's crew a month to get used to the new systems and protocols, as well as building up a healthy alcohol tolerance, prior to sending them out on any sort of mission or anything. Flynn and I figure that it will take at least that long to think up one or two entertaining missions anyway; after all, once you've flown into a star, what else is there to do for excitement?
We expect several less-than-distinguished guests and some obligatory representatives to arrive later this morning. Now that our continued existence is the next best thing to public knowledge within Starfleet, they can afford to send irritating toadies and brownnosing lackeyss instead of real, influential officers. Of course, because this occasion will celebrate the loss of one of their starships, I sort of expect a few semi-important types.
We have carved an enormous amphitheater into the Hotel's external surface, and Commander Hardemann has erected an environmental force field around it. This will allow us to conduct the re-christening ceremonies under the stars, as is fitting.
Well, I need to start drinking now if I'm to be properly hostlike in six hours.
Well, it's over, and I'm ready to pass out for a week or so.
The festivities really began at around 1400, when the last of the V.I.P. types transported to the Hotel. Among our distinguished guests were Doctor Lazlo Susuppi, the father of synthehol; Giilan Orduka, the reknowned Andorian poet; and Captain Max Smithwell, master of the heavy cruiser Hornet. Not exactly a who's who of Federation society, but at least a better group than the worthless lot I had expected.
We warmed up the crowd with a rousing seventy-verse rendition of "Old Time Religion," accompanied by a troupe of Orion girls performing the rare and sensual Dance of a Thousand Veils, a Necklace, and Some Pasties. Free drinks were passed around the amphitheater by Barbies dressed in luminescent bikinis, and some of the new male bimbo-types Flynn had just finished--called, of course, Kens--flirted ludicrously with several of the female guests while performing acts of staged physical prowess.
At 1530, Alden activated the concealed Hallucinoprojectors and replayed the sun-dappled (and ultimately -blackened) tapestry of the Ticonderoga's abortive attack. The crowd was speechless and seemed to be sweating in sympathy for the three-dimensional hallucination. (Of course, to provoke this desired response, we slowly raised the temperature in the amphitheater by 20 degrees C.) As the scarred hull of the Ticonderoga pulled free at last of the grip of the Meviannos star, those in the audience still capable of ambulatory motion rose from their increasingly warm seats in a thundering flurry of applause and throaty belches.
As the crowd began to quiet, Alden dimmed the lights and killed the projection. Then, from outside the circumference of the amphitheater, two hundred high-powered floodlights came simultaneously to life, stabbing upward to shine on the pearly-grey hull of the vessel formerly known as Ticonderoga.
I took to the central stage. I was wearing my finest dress toga, and had even spent extra time to make sure that all the stains were well hidden within the voluminous folds. I held a massive tankard of Romulan Ale in my left hand, and that hand was making vain attempts to bring the fluid into contact with my mouth. I silently and gently reproved my hand, reminding it that there was a small speech to give first.
"I am Commodore Allan Erickson, as most of you know. I want to welcome you here today as witnesses to one of the two most historic events ever to take place in the Meviannos system. The first, of course, was Ensign Havoc's invention of the Odd Sock Locator. Today, however, will be slightly more momentous. Today will be remembered as the day that the ranks of Barfleet were doubled, and as the day that more than three hundred cases of Guiness mysteriously disappeared from Starbase 34. Today is a day that you will remember to your grandchildren with joy and half-coherent speech as you wither away into old age on some forgotten SCVA retirement station.
"Today, we christen a new Barship!"
There was again a cacophony of rude and pleasurable noises, and the air handling system kicked into overdrive to try to counteract the effects of 300 simultaneous beer burps. As the crowd cheered, the ship floated down to within 10 meters of the asteroid's surface, positioning her bow near an ornate gilded scaffolding upon which perched Madame Griselda and one of her boyservants. As the assembled guests watched in gasping anticipation, she reached into her ample bosom and produced a bottle of Dom Peringon '37. She began to wind back the bottle. She swung it around.
She handed it to her boyservant, who promptly placed it into a rather suggestive position and proceeded to open it.
Griselda produced an intricate champagne flute and quickly filled it. She then took the opened bottle and held it up, like a sacrifice, to the hovering vessel. As the crowd looked on, stunned to silence, a small opening appeared in the underside of the ship, and a 15-meter crazy straw plunged down with demonic accuracy into the rather expensive beverage. With a slurp, the ship began to drink.
Griselda held her glass high and cried, "I christen thee Relax! May your voyages be ever casual, and your dangers always well-lubricated!" As the straw drained the last of the Dom, Griselda drained her flute. She then hurled the glass at the Relax, where it shattered in a cascade of prearranged pyrotechnics against the hull. As the fireworks ended, the Relax began to ascend, pausing only to unleash a tremendous, ear-shattering belch.
The crowd was cheering so loudly that I ordered the assembled Party Marines to stand down. They sulkily took their seats, waving their Dazer rifles menacingly at a few catatonic revelers.
Finally, the assembled guests were forced to quiet down as their cheering ate up all the oxygen in the small environmental bubble. I waited respectfully as several of them were roused from unconsciousness back to stupor. When I figured that enough of them were ready, I quieted them with my winningest smile and spread my arms wide.
"My friends, we have here before us the finest ship in Barfleet, although her superiority over my beloved Casual is due more to a few missing components than to any inherent qualitative assessment. Because the Relax is an almost-fully-functional starship, lacking only some of the unique modifications which will make her truly a Barship, she will be able to spread the Party far and wide throughout the explored reaches of the galaxy. Now, that means she'll need someone to command her who understands the need for Slack and the Barfleet Prime Directive pretty damn well, don't you think?"
Heads bobbed in enthusiastic assent. Some, somewhat hidden, and mainly female, continued to bob after the others had ceased...
I removed an ornate box from the folds of my toga. "My friends, there is only one officer of Barfleet with the tenacity, the adventurous spirit, and the alcohol tolerance to take command of our newest vessel. Please help me to welcome to the Hotel Gemmorah stage...Commander Michael Christopher Phineas Patrick Flynn, XO and Chief Medical Officer of the Casual!"
Again, naturally-produced bodily noises filled the amphitheater. Flynn, who had been waiting just offstage, strode into the spotlight with an air of command and confidence (which was totally deflated by a visible malfunction of his antiperspirant) and bowed deeply to the throng. In his left hand was a large sheaf of papers, bound thoughtfully into a single object by garter snaps. He positioned himself before me, taking a knee.
"Commander Flynn, you have demonstrated all the requisite qualities which are needed and sought after in a Barfleet officer. You have shown yourself to be a man of voracious sexual appetite, hearty culinary consumption, and heroic beverage intake. You have exercised your duties as Executive Officer and CMO of the Casual in a manner which, I can honestly say, have been at least slightly more than adequate. Your fellow officers view you with either dutiful respect or well-hidden contempt. The guests frequently find your jokes humorous, or at least laugh at the appropriate times. In short, you have shown me that you are ready for a broader role in Barfleet. Therefore, in recognition of your at least average performance and the guilty esteem you are held in by your fellow officers, I hereby promote you to Commodore, bypassing the annoying and less well-paying rank of Captain, and give you command of the Barship Relax!"
I carefully bent down and removed his rank insignia. Then, opening the box, I attached the new ones, making sure to avoid his nipple in the process. It was a close thing. Flynn stayed put, his head bowed. The crowd cheered and clapped thunderously.
"Commodore Flynn, do you solemnly swear to uphold the tenets, principles, and protocols of Barfleet in all your actions, and reflect them in all command decisions?"
"I do so swear!"
"Commodore Flynn, do you also swear to spread the Barfleet message and spirit wherever you may go, with the exception of Vulcan, where we have been forbidden to approach?"
"I do so swear!"
"Commodore Flynn, do you swear to take really good care of the Relax, and to fix her up should she become broken?"
"I do so swear!"
"Finally, Commodore Flynn, do you swear to celebrate your new rank and command by getting shitfaced with several stunning females and requiring several days in which to recover?"
He grinned. "Fuckin' A, Commodore!"
"Then arise, Commodore Flynn, Captain of the UBS Relax!"
As Flynn rose and turned to the crowd, the amount of noise generated by the assemblage achieved a new decibel value. As it quieted, there were the obligatory cries of "Speech!" from people who had never heard one before. Flynn, of course, was fully prepared for this request. He stood there for a moment, apparently composing himself. Then, looking down at his notes, he began.
"Ladies and gentlemen, guests and crew, I greet you. I just want to thank a few individuals who have helped make this promotion possible. First...."
Flynn droned on for almost an hour, thanking everyone from myself all the way down to Ensign Snoz of Security, who had once ejected a phaser set on overload, sparing Flynn from an otherwise colorful vaporization. By the end, most of the crowd had left. The few who remained were either unconscious or otherwise occupied. Flynn, apparently oblivious to the lack of attentive spectators, finished his speech by throwing the papers to the stage and immolating them with a bit of Everclear. This got applause from those of us still watching.
"Ladies and gentlemen," I stated to the survivors, "this concludes the official festivities. A celebratory breakfast feast and food fight will be held aboard the Casual in the morning, including a wet toga contest and a new danger-enhanced version of Twister. Until then, please feel free to enjoy yourselves in any way you can." The dozen or so late-goers staggered to their feet and wandered back into the Hotel. As Flynn and I exchanged grins and made our way backstage, the bulldozer crew was just arriving to handle the empties.
Flynn and I then proceeded to Flaming Moe's, where several of our finest ladies and a tray of experimental drinks was awaiting us. As the day passed into night, we made sure that Flynn's last oath was followed to the letter. For good measure, I joined him. One should always lead by example, after all.
Well, Flynn and I finally got taken off life support this morning.
As the pounding in my head, neck, back, and right big toe finally separated themselves from a single anguished howl of torturous pain into a collection of individual and more manageable aches, I was again reminded of Alden's profound statement of the previous evening. "Commodore," he had asked calmly, "are you quite sure that the amount of helium you have consumed has rendered you lighter than air? My instruments..." I had missed the rest, because I had been so certain that he was wrong that I had endeavored to prove it.
Luckily, even during the most raucous party we always keep a few decent medical types sober to deal with big emergencies, like cramps, partner-induced nausea, accidental dismemberment, and the occasional free-fall related spinal fracture. Within a couple of days, our acting CMO (on loan from the USS Tripoli) assures me that I can again use a glass instead of this cursed IV for my alcohol intake.
The Relax completed final refit during Flynn's recovery from his own party injury, one which he has bribed me most heavily not to record in this log. Suffice it to say that were the Relax a sailing vessel, and were her skipper truly part of his ship, there would have been a period of time during the festivities when her mainmast was under just a bit too much sail. Fortunately, the Casual has more medical professionals dedicated to the reconstruction of...masts...than any other ship or starbase known. In fact, I believe there may have been some additional spars added...
This morning, after finally recovering enough to use a urinal, Flynn and Lanchellsi, the Relax's new XO, went into the Hotel's really cool hallucinodeck-like planetarium and picked a destination at random for their first mission. They have not yet revealed it; they're keeping it a secret until tomorrow's official sending-off ceremony. (We have decided to let them use the first mission as a shakedown, to get them as far away as possible in case anything goes horribly wrong.) Of course, that could actually mean that they picked some really awful place that will suck, but they might just be playing the game to make sure that none of our current guests try to make a run at high warp to warn their target.
The Relax will be performing a number of duties on her first mission, but none will be so important as her quest for a new home for the Casual and the Hotel. My officers and I have been talking during bouts of sobriety, and have come to the unhappy conclusion that Meviannos is just too damn far away from most of the traveled routes to be very profitable. It is also a damn boring system, and we've discovered no signs of life of any kind beyond the asteroid itself. Thus, the Relax has been tasked to find us an exciting and defensible location somewhat closer to the major spacelanes that we can use as a base for a bit. Getting us there might pose something of a problem, but we've been working on that by getting Captains of haulers and tugs to convert any of their crew's debts or losses into towing promissories. At the rate they're going, we should have enough tugs laid on to tow a planet out of orbit by next month.
I have ordered the doctors to have me fit by tomorrow morning. Before the sending off party, I have several days of drinking and...companionship to catch up on. Luckily, there's a waiting list posted outside my quarters. As soon as I get the Relax out of here and my new XO assigned, I intend to disappear for several days to let him figure things out on his own. Nothing like on-the-job-training, I always say.
The first thing I did this morning was re-learn how to walk. This was rapidly followed by refresher courses in eating solid food, drinking coffee, eating three-pepper omelets, vomiting, eating less spicy food, and finally a little course I could only audit regarding the physical similarities between humanoid females from several different races.
In all, a worthwhile educational experience.
Realizing that I will be a bit shaky for a few days, Alden had Ensign Havoc whip up a little toy for me. It's a replica of an antique ebony cane, complete with a cobra-head in silver, with a Type 3 Dazer built in. I can't wait to try it in the casino!
As my body took its sweet time remembering which of my brain's commands does what, I limped to the bridge to check up on things. As the turbolift swished open, I was a bit startled to see that it was almost spotlessly clean. (Of course, some stains are quite, quite stubborn...) Sitting in the conn was Commander Sulleven, who was the acting XO until the party. He was handling his duties remarkably well, considering that he'd been at them for more than 72 hours straight. (I wish I could remember just how many more...Oh well, I'll ask him tomorrow.) I moved to the marble railing to watch the duty crew polish the brass fittings on my wet bar.
"Morning, Alex. What's new and exciting?"
"Good morning, sir. Nothing going on, I'm afraid. We did receive a message from Starfleet several hours ago, requesting any information we might have on some missing beverages from some Starbase or other, but I pretended not to speak Standard and they gave up."
"Good work. How are the party preparations coming?"
"Without a hitch. We have the Hotel staff finishing the decorations, although they were somewhat concerned about the number of sheep required. Madame Griselda has completed programming Hallucinodeck One, and has been...evaluating the program first-hand for the past six hours. Finally, we have agreed on a price for the entire cargo manifest of the freighter Isle of Islay; we will be in debt to them for approximately seven years, but we have enough single malt scotch for the next six months."
"Seven years? What the hell do they want?"
"Well, they asked for ten years' free access to the Casual and the Hotel. I tried bargaining with them, which made the price 15 years of access with the Casual in permanent geosynchronous orbit over Scotland; at that point, Griselda and the Islay's captain went off to have a little discussion. When the medics brought him around, he agreed to seven years, Hotel access only, and our promise to put in a Haggis booth in the food court."
"Hmmm...that's not a bad idea. I'll bet Klingons love the stuff, too... What exactly has Zelda got cooked up on the Hallucinodeck?"
"She was being a bit secretive, but I believe it involves some elements from a period in Terran history known as the Spanish Imposition, or something. She kept asking if I wanted to meet her friend the Iron Maiden, and smirking..."
I stared at him. "How did you do in Terran History at the Academy, Alex?"
"I found it to be a wonderful place for a quick nap."
"Umm hmm. Well, I think you should check up on Zelda as soon as you get the chance, okay? She might need a vic...hand with something." I smiled as sweetly as possible and returned to the lift.
As I wandered the corridors en route to transporter room 2, I couldn't resist firing my cane at unsuspecting crew while they labored to make the Casual as spiffy as the new Relax still was. When there had only been one ship, pride in the ship's appearance had been on holiday; now, with competition had come a hint of shame that the Casual, flagship of our two-ship fleet, was filthier in some places than my own uniform. In fact, as the crew began to spontaneously scrub a few days before, I began to realize that my uniforms were free anyway...
So now that the Casual was getting the best cleaning and detailing job in her short history, maybe I should improve my rather spartan and predictable (if not notoriously food-enhanced) wardrobe appropriately. I made a mental note to find the ship a top-notch tailor, and my mind instantly seized on the thought and ejected it from my short-term memory into my mental circular file. Wondering what it was I had been thinking about, I arrived at the transporter room.
As I materialized in the Hotel's Reception Atrium, I realized that there was something desperately wrong. Glancing furtively about, I quickly located a waiter carrying a tray of unidentifiable drinks. Hobbling at my best speed, I intercepted him and relieved him of two of the beverages, quaffing one instantly and spending an entire second patiently waiting to down the next. I let out a sigh of relief and placed the empties back on the tray. Properly fueled, I walked out of Reception towards the waiting party.
The sending-off celebration was being held in the main ballroom of our largest casino, The Money Pit. It could hold 600, so we figured that our expected turnout of 2000 would be lots of fun. Among the anticipated guests were the officers and crew of the cruiser Potempkin, who were just returning from an extended tour of duty charting unknown areas near the edge of Federation space. This would be their first real shore leave in three years; we were prepared to make sure they would never forget it.
The ballroom was overflowing to capacity, and as I snuck in the back way I tried desperately to avoid being recognized. I wanted to let Flynn take center stage today, both because it was his ship we were sending off, and also because I felt more like a bit of roadkill than a Commodore. To ensure anonymity, I decided to hide my face for a while. Luckily, the lovely damsel I chose to assist me in this endeavor had a marked dislike for undergarments...or at least complete ones.
Before long, I became aware of a quieting of the general murmur and moan of the crowd. Sure enough, Flynn and his officers were standing on the low stage that had been set up for the official announcement of the Relax's highly secretive destination. I grabbed more liquid and waited with the other guests for Flynn's profound oration.
"Good day, friends! As you all know, I am Commodore Michael Christopher Phineas Patrick Flynn, commanding officer of the newest Barfleet vessel, the UBS Relax!" He waited for the polite smattering of applause to quiet down. He then waited some more, pretending to brush imaginary dust from his new dust-repellent toga. Finally, with a dramatic clearing of his throat (followed quickly by a dramatic spasm of coughing), he continued.
"Good sentients, tomorrow morning my fine vessel will set out on her maiden voyage as a representative of Barfleet. We had hoped to conduct a shakedown cruise on the new systems first, but I have decided that on-the-job-training and damage control will be more entertaining in the long run. The first voyage will therefore be an amalgamation of firsts."
The crowd was mostly captivated, with the notable exception of a number of the Relax's former Starfleet personnel who were busily exchanging glances of concern and terror. Flynn continued.
"Now, the matter of a destination for this inaugural voyage presented my XO," he made a sweeping gesture at Lanchellsi, who was attired in a most sweepingly attractive manner, "and myself with a thoughtful problem. We were at first completely unable to reach a decision on what would be an appropriate mission for our first flight. The matter was made even more Gordian by Commodore Erickson, who suggested that the Relax locate a new home for the Hotel and the Casual. Faced with such a lofty goal, the very good Commander Lanchellsi and I found ourselves spending many late nights in...deep...conference. It was a sticky problem, but we believe we have arrived at an appropriate decision."
He waited patiently again until the assemblage got the idea that clapping was an appropriate response. After the did that for a bit, Flynn quieted them with a wave and went on.
"Therefore I am prepared to announce the first destination of the Uncontrolled Bar Ship Relax. We will tomorrow set out for the coordinates -132.6, -125.7, -114.3!"
There was a visible lack of response.
"Okay, okay. We will tomorrow set forth for the planet known as Gothos, a most unusual planetary body, which is located in an area known popularly as the Star Desert. Now, granted that the last Federation contact with this planet was less than positive, we understand that there may be a wee bit of danger involved. However, Alden, who has insinuated himself into the Relax's main computer, has assured us that there is no cause for alarm. Federation probes sent into the area of the planet six years ago reported that the unusual habitable area of the surface reported by Enterprise during her unscheduled visit has ceased to exist. We have every reason to believe that Gothos is just as devoid of life and Victorian musical instruments as any other planet bereft of a primary star to orbit. As such, we are going to examine the possibility of moving the Casual and the Hotel Gemmorah to orbit Gothos, in an area so devoid of stars that any approach by hostiles will be evident for many days."
As the news sank in, it was evident that there were differing views of the intended destination. At one end of the ballroom, several of the Relax's younger officers, many not long out of the Academy, began tittering hysterically and downing drinks at an alarming rate. At the other end, a small knot of older and more jaded Starfleet officers from Potempkin began singing a bawdy starship ballad from the early years of Starfleet..."I Got the Whore But She Blew My Core." They were obviously fully prepared to venture into the unknown and reportedly terminally interesting Star Desert. Unfortunately, they weren't Flynn's crew...
Personally, I was quite intrigued by their seemingly insane choice. If they made it back with favorable news (or at all), the Star Desert might turn out to be a wonderful place to hang out for a bit. It's still rather isolated, but major space lanes are at least a week closer, and its already juicy reputation amongst Starfleet officers would undoubtedly have a cascading PR effect. Of course, there was also the chance that an enormously powerful being with limitless abilities and a major ego problem was still hanging around the planet Gothos, which could present something of a sticky situation.
I really hate being upstaged.
Fearing that the Relaxís crew might become suddenly tense due to the revelation, a crack squad of Insecurity men rushed into the ballroom. As they entered, several of them passed out on the spot, allowing their comrades a unique view of the tiled floor as they tripped in drill corps unison over their fallen squadmates.
Flynn had abandoned his tenuous control over the situation and was standing before the 20 meter ice sculpture of the Relax which rested in a growing puddle in the center of the room. Lanchellsi had brought him a tall drink which I could not identify, and together they awaited a calming of the flock to continue the proceedings. This was something that I had a strong belief would never happen, a belief which I mentioned in passing to several of my nearest female companions. They were in complete agreement, and inquired as to whether or not my quarters aboard the Casual might not be better suited to continuing our dayís entertainment without the confusion and pandemonium sure to ensue in the ballroom when Flynn finally got control again and told his new crew about their odds of survival. I agreed wholeheartedly and began leading a small retinue of ladies toward the back door.
A ragged cheer was being raised by the Potempkin's crew as we snuck out. They began chanting "Gothos! Gothos!" and breaking their drinking vessels in the huge replica fireplace. This was all the more astonishing when one considers that the drinking vessels were made from transparent aluminum. Looking back to the frigid Relax replica, I caught Flynnís eye and gave him a single wink. He did not smile.
Ah, well. It was his party; I just hoped we could have his crew put back together in time for their departure.