Papa
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Table Of Contents


Mission 38: PAPA

 

The contents of the Ship Logs are considered to be a "compilation" under the provisions of Title 17, U.S. Code (known as the Copyright Act): that is, "A work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that is selected, coordinated or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship." As such, it is the property of the ship’s Captain; however, automatic transfer of ownership to STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD FLEET is effected upon publication of this mission by the ship’s Captain ipso facto.

As outlined in Circular 1 (Copyrighted Basics, Library of Congress, Washington DC, USGPO 1989-262-309/12), "copyrighted in each separate contribution to a periodical or other collective work is distinct from the copyright in the collective work as a whole and vests initially with the author of the contribution."

This mission may not be reproduced in any form without the express, written authorization of STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD FLEET.

Prologue

Teeth! Those teeth! Like Lewis Carroll's Cheshire cat they floated in the air, grinning, grinning, always grinning. As big as Asper Bugs on Ridnak Prime they were: white, shining, hostile--malevolent. Grinning.

She had to get away from them, distance herself from their threat, their peril, flee to safety; but there was no place to escape in the vague darkness around her where gangways, cargo containers, hatches and bulkheads were simply darker splotches in an indistinct gloom. They floated toward her from behind a dimly lit cargo container and she began to get angry.

"Go away! Leave me alone!" she shouted, but no sound escaped her lips. "Damn you to Hell!"

Then, before she could even get all the words out, it began.

The searing pain of the knife blade sinking into her body brought a sudden metallic taste to her mouth. Is it the knife or did I bite my tongue? raced aimlessly through her mind as again and again she felt the knife, somehow gleaming and bright in the dimness, plunging into her body, piercing the skin, cutting muscle, devastating organs; each time worse than the last until she could no longer separate the individual wounds and the pain became overwhelming. She fell to her knees in a pool of her own blood, the coppery smell filling her nose and sinuses, too weak to fend off the repeated blows.

The gray began to creep in from the sides of her vision, getting darker and darker as it moved toward the center of her eyes as the strength drained from her body. Those teeth! Grinning. Grinning. Always grinning.

It was a small sound at first that intruded into her pain and anger. A two-toned sound that she could almost recognize, like the faint memory of a long-lost friend. The sound intensified, slowing her descent into nothingness, adamant, aggravating; it called to her, seduced her like a moth to a flame, like a drowning person grasping at a lone piece of flotsam from a sinking ship in the middle of a boundless sea.

Suddenly her eyes snapped open and the teeth, the pain, the sensation of falling from a great height into an abject pit of nothingness vanished as she finally recognized the sound: It was her computer signaling an incoming message that had saved her from the final plunge into darkness. She fumbled with the accept button, trembling from the intensity and the reality of her nightmare.

"Captain, Bridge," the voice said. She tried desperately to understand the words but their meaning hovered just outside her reach. She fought against the chaos that was her mind, beating back the memories that held her like a prison.

"Captain?" Stronger, louder, more insistent this time and she finally recognized Commander Stryker, her First Officer.

"Yes?" she managed as a drop of sweat trickled into one eye, her surroundings finally starting to make sense, her voice quivering in spite of herself. She was in her bed, in her stateroom, aboard the heavy cruiser USS PHOENIX and all was well again--at long last. She glanced to her right with a degree of trepidation, fearing what she might see in the darkness. The teeth were gone. There was nothing there but the familiar surroundings of her sleeping quarters. She turned back to the welcome sight of her First Officer.

"Are you alright?" Stryker asked. Her disheveled, untidy appearance and wild eyes told him all he needed to know; it was not the first time, Nor, I suspect, the last, that he had seen his captain escape from the recurring nightmare of the assassination attempt. Which came far too close to success, Stryker said to himself. He waited a moment as he recognized the signs that she was "returning to the land of the living."

"Yes, Commander?" her voice was gravelly, not her own and she had to concentrate to form the words.

"You wanted to know when we reached the Desarius system. We're currently inbound to Desarius Prime, ETA one hour."

She glanced at the time and grimaced. It was 0434, four hours of sleep, if you can call that sleep, she thought and nodded wearily at the computer screen. "Give me 30 minutes to get dressed and wake up, and I'll be on the Bridge."

Stryker nodded and his image faded from the screen. T.E. had recognized the look on his face and she knew he knew what she had just experienced. She grimaced, not liking the fact that he knew, and threw the sweat-soaked covers off, her imperative destination the sonic shower. No, she decided, this time it's going to be water--hot and steamy and decadent. And a cup of hot chocolate. She glanced over her shoulder one last time, looking for a set of grinning teeth. They were gone, but Captain T. E. Lawrence knew they'd be back. Grinning. Always grinning.

USS PHOENIX (NCC-2315)
Captain's Log

PHOENIX is in orbit around the Federation colony Desarius Prime. The colony is 30 years old and seldom visited. The Desarius star system is in close proximity to the Neutral Zone and Qon'oS, and provides a valuable "buffer" in this sector to the Klingons. More importantly, large deposits of dilithium exist on the planet and Starfleet has constructed a dilithium cracking facility to take advantage of the rich veins that meander through the planet's crust. A plea for vast quantities of medical supplies was the main thrust of the latest resupply request and Starfleet has sent us here not only to deliver the supplies but also to check on the status of the colony. Contact has already been made with the orbiting dilithium cracking station and they report no anomalies--in fact, their was nothing in their report of anything except delight over the quantity and quality of the dilithium coming from the surface. Still, my intuition seems to be making small whimpering sounds in the back of my mind and I plan on sending my Chief Medical Officer to the planet with the supplies and my Chief Engineer to the cracking station--if for no other reason than to satisfy my unease.

Captain T. E. Lawrence immediately disliked the disingenuously smiling countenance of Desarius' Administrator, Darwan Bolden, when it materialized on the screen in her Ready Room, just outside the Main Bridge. Commander Wolphbayne Stryker, her First Officer, sat at the table just outside the visual pickup, his hands folded neatly on the polished wood of the conference table.

"Welcome to Bolden Colony, Captain," the Administrator said cheerily. Bolden Colony, is it? Lawrence thought. How interesting that the colony's name was identical to the Administrator's.

She smiled her most diplomatic smile but not without a trace of a smile.

Bolden shook his head and his own smile, impossible as it seemed, stretched wider. "Oh, Captain, I can see your wonder at the name of our little home. My father was a retired Starfleet officer and was the driving force behind the establishment of our colony. The colonists, of course," he waved a depreciating hand, "voted on the name. I could hardly go against their wishes, now could I?" Butter would not have melted in his mouth even on a hot day.

T.E.'s eyes cut to Stryker, who had a disgusted look on his face. He rolled his eyes. Lawrence couldn't disagree with his reaction.

"Of course, Administrator, I understand completely. It must be very satisfying to you personally for the people to honor your father so publicly. At any rate, Starfleet indicates that you have need of a large amount of medical supplies. Is there a problem we need to know about? We have a very experienced and capable Sickbay on board the PHOENIX and will be more than happy to help in any way we can."

Bolden waved Lawrence's concern away with one hand, as though trying to swat a fly. "It's really nothing, Captain. But with the cracking station and the mines running so deep into the planet, it's not unexpected that we have the occasional case of dilithium poisoning."

Stryker's response was a frown and Lawrence could read his thoughts as though he had written them down: Any dilithium cracking station, not to mention the dilithium mines themselves, were required to follow strict protocols to ensure the safety of personnel. If this was not the case on Desarius Prime, then Starfleet was not getting the whole story from the Administrator. Stryker obviously didn't like that idea.

"I see, Administrator," Lawrence answered cautiously. "In that case, I'll be sending an engineering team to the cracking station and a team down to visit your mines as well as the medical supplies you requested." She mimicked his own dismissing hand wave of a few minutes ago. "No, no. I insist. We're here to help in any way we can."

Just for a fleeting moment the expression on Bolden's face slipped into what Lawrence could only describe as anger, then he recovered. "Oh, that really won't be necessary, Captain. All we need are the medical supplies. Our own engineers are quite on top of things."

"But I insist, Administrator," Lawrence said firmly. "Starfleet is fully aware of the importance of Desarius Prime not only to the area but the mines as well. We are at your service." Her tone said that the matter was not open to discussion.

Bolden leaned back in his chair and there was poorly disguised fury in his eyes. He stared at Captain Lawrence for a moment or two before he answered. "Yes, of course...." his voice trailing off. "Well, uh," he continued hesitantly, leaning forward again without meeting her eyes. "Then we will await your people with...gratitude." He seemed pleased to have found just the right word. "Will you be joining your landing party, Captain? I'd be delighted to show you around Bolden Town and," his eyes became crafty, "perhaps, dinner?"

Out of the corner of her eye she caught the emphatic shake of Stryker's head. He didn't like that idea at all and his vehemence surprised her enough that she looked at him. He shook his head again. She turned back to the monitor. "No, unfortunately I will be unable to visit you on this trip, Administrator. But," she smiled, "you and members of your staff are welcome to come aboard the PHOENIX for dinner with me and my First Officer. You'll find we have some very capable chefs aboard the ship, ones that I am very proud of. Say, 1900? We'll beam you aboard."

Bolden's voice trailed off again. "Yes, well...perhaps another time, Captain?" He reached out to terminate the exchange and his hand paused. "Oh, by the way, Captain. When your crew beams down? Please make them aware that I am addressed as "Papa." He smiled crookedly and ended the connection.

Lawrence and Stryker traded bemused looks.

"Nosey bitch," Darwan Bolden muttered to himself as he ended the conversation. Isn't that just like a woman--can't leave things alone. Always got to go stirring the pot. Well, Miss High and Mighty Captain Starfleet, there are ways to make you sorry that you didn't keep your nose where it belongs. He leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head and propped his boots on the desk.

It had been only six weeks before when Bolden had made an unexpected and highly unusual visit to the deepest vein in the dilithium mines where the engineers were about to break though another wall of rock to open yet another mine tunnel. He stood back and watched the boring machine eat the solid rock like a toddler devouring a birthday cake. The oxygen mask was uncomfortable but he was glad to have it, the clouds of dust kicked up by the huge machine would have been lethal in mere minutes. Suddenly the wall of rock collapsed and the bore operator shut it down quickly to keep it from running away as all resistance disappeared. Darwan wasn't a mining engineer but he knew enough to recognize that something unexpected and unusual had just happened.

He shouldered his way past the shift supervisor and the borer and boldly stepped through the hole left by the collapsed rock wall. What he had found made the money flowing into his personal accounts from excavating the dilithium look like pocket change and he gasped as he realized exactly what he had found.

Aboard the PHOENIX, Captain T. E. Lawrence pressed the comm button. "Bridge, Captain. Have Lieutenant Commander QaS, Lieutenant Commander MacInis, and Lieutenant Commander Sphan come to the Ready Room, please."