Passion Fruit
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Table Of Contents

Mission 7: PASSION FRUIT

 

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 shipís Captain; however, automatic transfer of ownership to STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD FLEET is effected upon publication of this mission by the shipís 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

The USS Phoenix lazily orbited the insignificant world that rotated slowly beneath her.  Quylos V was a nondescript agrarian planet whose people enjoyed a simple life, and disdained the rigors and adventure of interstellar travel.  However, they rarely disdained a good deal, and when the Phoenix arrived to re-supply and ideas of shore leave in mind, the people of Quylos set forth to turn a fast credit or three.

Tired of synthesized food and air, the crew of the Phoenix wasted no time
enjoying the offerings of Quylos.  The main city, Durannos, had a market place that rivaled any that could be found anywhere else.  Stands of fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers abounded everywhere, and the Phoenix crew was free with their credits.  Nothing tasted as good as fresh, sun-ripened fruit, nothing smelled as sweet as fresh flowers.  Business was brisk.

Lieutenant Chubb, ever on the lookout for something new and inviting to provide the crew - he took his job as food officer quite seriously Ė was walking about with Ensign Walter Brown through the expansive marketplace. The two men rounded a stand that was selling carvings and porcelain figurines and came upon a fruit stand with boxes and baskets of its wares in tempting view.

"Come, gentlemen!" the proprietor called.  "I have fruit of the most exquisite taste and textures available to tempt any taste!  Come, have a free sample!"

"Typical sales pitch," Ensign Brown remarked, a twinkle in his brown eyes.

"True, but look at this stuff," Chubb enthused.  "It looks glorious!"

"YouĻre making yourself an easy mark, sir," Brown warned.

"Taste, my good sir, see that my words are true!"  The proprietor proffered a plateful of golden-globed fruits sliced into quarters.  The smell was heavenly, and the juices dripped from the edges of the plate.

Ignoring Brownís warning, Lieutenant Chubb picked up a sample of the dripping fruit and enthusiastically took a bite.  A burst of sweet, succulent flavor exploded on his tongue, and he rolled his eyes in ecstasy. "Taste this!" he urged, pushing the proffered plate towards Brown.  "Itís incredible!"

Brown grinned and picked up some fruit, tossing the juicy bit into his mouth.  The same flavor sensation filled his mouth, and he immediately took another.  "We gotta get some of this for the crew," he said between chews. "Theyíll think theyíve died and gone to heaven!"

"We could get the whole lot and keep it in stasis to keep it fresh," Chubb thought aloud.  "It could last us at least a couple of weeks."

The proprietorís eyes glinted with the prospects of a good sale.  If he could sell a large amount of his fruit to these two from the orbiting Phoenix, he might not have to work the rest of the summer! "I could offer you a reasonable price, sir," he coaxed.

"How much for the whole lot?" Chubb wanted to know.

The proprietor hemmed and hawed, then named a price.

Brownís eyes widened.  "Thatís entirely too much!  The captain would have our heads!"

"Calm down, Ensign," Chubb grinned, "I can handle this."  And handle it he did, with the ease of a practiced negotiator.

In less than fifteen minutes, Lieutenant Chubb had talked the proprietor down to a reasonable price, and arranged to have the fruit beamed to the ship.  Ensign Brown was impressed at the ease with which Chubb had negotiated the deal.  Obviously the captain had known what she was doing when she had put Chubb in charge of the crewís well being.

An unseen pair of eyes watched the entire proceeding.  Coldly emotionless, they calculated the number of hours it would take before he could proceed with his plans.  Things were moving rapidly toward his desired conclusion. .

 

Shane Brookstone stabbed into the fruit salad. "I wonder what kind of fruit this is?" she said as she swallowed another forkful.  "Iíve never tasted anything so good.  Try a bite."  She leaned forward with a full fork toward her dinner companion.

Dr. Jonathan Drake leaned forward and took the bite.  His blue eyes widened with surprised pleasure.  "Wow, youíre right.  I think Iíll get a plate myself." He filled his plate from the fruit bowl that sat on the dinner table. A bowl of the fresh fruit had been placed on all NEST and mess hall tables.

Two tables away, Commander Stryker and Colonel Horn sat discussing the dayís
exercises with one another.  Stryker took an absent-minded bite of the sliced fruit that lay on his plate, and was immediately struck by its flavor.  He made an inadvertent sound of pleasure in his throat.

"Taste good?" Horn wanted to know.

Stryker wiped at his mouth with a napkin.  "The best Iíve had in a while.  I think Chubb requisitioned an entire stock of fresh fruit for us.  You ought to try it."  He nodded toward the slices of similar fruit lying on Hornís plate.

Horn shrugged and put a piece in his mouth.  "Not bad," he agreed.  "Havenít had fresh fruit in a while.  The crew will probably go nuts over this."

"Heaven knows they deserve it after what weíve been through lately," Stryker
agreed, enthusiastically putting another bite in his mouth.  "They could use a treat."

The reaction to the fruit was similar all over the ship.  It wasnít long before Lieutenant Chubb noticed that what was supposed to be a two-week supply had quickly dwindled to a mere few days.  He was going to have to get some more.  He hadnít banked on the crew being that hungry for fruit.  He absently made plans to return to the planet.

 

"The operation is in order?" the shadowy figure asked.

The proprietor from the fruit stand nodded.  "The lieutenant from the Phoenix was down today, and bought another two-week supply.

The shadowy figure chuckled in such a way, that cold shivers ran up and down the proprietorís spine.  "Good.  I should be able to move in another day."

"Easily, sir, I should think," the proprietor said.  "The properties of the fruit should be taking effect by now."

"You did promise that it was undetectable."  There was a warning in the voice.

The proprietor trembled.  "It is genetically enhanced, sir.  Unless they know to look in the fruit, they will not be able to detect anything. They will only know they are acting oddly, but with all affected, they may not be able to detect that for some time."

"Good," the figure said.  "On the behalf of myself and my guild, I thank you."  He raised his arm and fired an unseen weapon at the hapless proprietor.

The fruit stand operator glowed red with incandescent fire, then vanished before he could utter a surprised sound.

 

Lieutenant Yuri Andreivich was walking along the corridor from his quarters to the nearest turbolift, whistling a cheerful tune.  Every now and then, he seemed to lose his footing and stumble, but he felt so good that he barely noticed.

As he neared the turbolift, the doors slid open, and Captain Steele stepped out.  "Lieutenant," she nodded toward him.

"Kepten," he smiled.  "Ees good to see you.  Haf not seen you in very long time."

"I guess that means I should be taking a tour of engineering soon," the captain smiled back.  "I didnít realize I was so missed."

"Oh, Kepten," Yuri said with passion, "your presence ees always welcome sight to lowly engineers.  We do not get topside much.  We mees much action. The sight of your beauty ees eenspiration to us all."  He leaned closer, as if trying to absorb the sight of his captain.

Strangely, Steele was not at all bothered by the Russian engineerís passionate words.  She rather liked them.  He was rather cute, too.  Steele moved a little closer.  "You think Iím beautiful?"

"Oh," Yuri breathed.  "Your beauty haunts my dreams.  I sometimes fear for my soul."

"I didnít know," Steele suddenly giggled, then clapped a hand over her mouth wondering what was wrong with her.

"Ees true," Yuri said.  "Since I saw you on beech only vearing hair, have been theenking only of you. . . as voman, not kepten."  He moved closer until his face was mere inches from hers.

"You saw me naked?" Steele asked, voice soft.

"Werry." Suddenly emboldened, Yuri leaned closer until his lips brushed those of Captain Steeleís.

I ought to slap him and throw him in the brig, she thought lazily.  But her thoughts seemed far away, and her lips only wanted to encourage the kiss. She pressed into the Russian engineer. . .

Suddenly the two were locked in an improbable, passionate embrace there in the middle of the corridor.  Breathing hard, Steele managed to pull herself away.  "Youíre a very handsome man, Lieutenant, but I donít think we should do this."

"Ees true," Yuri moaned.  "But cannot help myself.  I love you, Kepten!"

Steele backed away even though she wanted to throw herself into the Russianís arms again.  A small part of her mind told her something was amiss, but she couldnít quite put a finger on it.  "I have to go, Yuri.  I have to."  She whirled and threw herself back into the turbolift, the doors closing behind her.  "Deck 4!" She ordered, breathing with difficulty.  What the hell had just happened?

 

"You have the appropriate coordinates?" the dark one wanted to know.

"Here," an equally sinister figure answered.  He held out a small hand held
computer.  "Touch this," he pointed to a red touch pad key, "and the coordinate feed directly into the shipís navigational beacon.  Youíll have exactly twelve minutes to beam aboard.  After you get there, the crew will be too besotted with themselves. . . or even still down here on the planet. . . to worry about what youíre doing.  Youíll be able to take the ship with ease."

The dark one smiled with satisfaction, taking the device.  Things were working out quite smoothly, all according to plan.  "Tell your master that Iím pleased."  He touched his own hand computer.  "I have transferred the required funds into his account.  I always pay my bills on time."

The other nodded.  "Of this he is quite aware, which is why he is always pleased to do business with you.  Our operative on the ship is firmly in place, and will see that the crew remains. . . out of touch with reality. You are free to implement your plans immediately."

The dark one nodded.  "The Phoenix is mine.  She will leave orbit in two hours.  You are certain Third Fleet will not be aware?"

The other shook his head.  "Weíve blanked all transmission frequencies per your order.  You will be able to travel with impunity.  By the time you arrive at your destination, the fruit will have run its course, and the crew will be dead.  No one will know, and the Phoenix will enter the books as another "lost" ship.  The Hierarchy will be pleased with such a ship in their hands. Youíve done well."

"As have you," the dark one shook the hand of his coconspirator.  "May the patriots succeed!"

"To victory!" The other grinned with relish. 

Everything was set in motion.