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
Tired of synthesized food and air, the crew of the Phoenix wasted no
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 –
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
"True, but look at this stuff," Chubb enthused. "It
"You¹re 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 Brown’s 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. "It’s 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. "They’ll think they’ve 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 proprietor’s 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.
Brown’s eyes widened. "That’s 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
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 crew’s 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. "I’ve never tasted anything so good. Try a
bite." She leaned forward with a full fork toward her dinner
Dr. Jonathan Drake leaned forward and took the bite. His blue eyes
widened with surprised pleasure. "Wow, you’re right.
I think I’ll 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
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
"Taste good?" Horn wanted to know.
Stryker wiped at his mouth with a napkin. "The best I’ve
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 Horn’s plate.
Horn shrugged and put a piece in his mouth. "Not bad,"
he agreed. "Haven’t had fresh fruit in a while. The
crew will probably go nuts over this."
"Heaven knows they deserve it after what we’ve been through
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 wasn’t
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 hadn’t banked on the crew
being that hungry for fruit. He absently made plans to return to
"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 proprietor’s 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 didn’t 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 engineer’s
passionate words. She rather liked them. He was rather cute,
too. Steele moved a little closer. "You think I’m
"Oh," Yuri breathed. "Your beauty haunts my
dreams. I sometimes fear for my soul."
"I didn’t 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
"You saw me naked?" Steele asked, voice soft.
"Werry." Suddenly emboldened, Yuri leaned closer until his
lips brushed those of Captain Steele’s.
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. "You’re a very handsome man, Lieutenant,
but I don’t 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
Russian’s arms again. A small part of her mind told her
something was amiss, but she couldn’t 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
"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 ship’s
navigational beacon. You’ll 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 you’re doing. You’ll be able to take the ship with
The dark one smiled with satisfaction, taking the device. Things
were working out quite smoothly, all according to plan. "Tell
your master that I’m 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
The dark one nodded. "The Phoenix is mine. She will
leave orbit in two hours. You are certain Third Fleet will not be
The other shook his head. "We’ve 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. You’ve 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.