Some Fishy Buisiness

by Mylochka

(Standard Year 2247)

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“N.C.” Jeremy Paget gently shook his cabinmate’s shoulder. “You gotta wake up now, babe.”

“No, I do not.” Noel DelMonde growled and rolled as far away as the narrow confines of his bunk would allow. “I jus' closed my damned eyes. The only t'ing I need t' open them fo' is to beat your ass… which always end up bein' a lot more amusin' fo' you than fo' me...”

The Security guard gave his friend a firm smack on the thigh as he rose and headed for the replicator. “I let you get in six hours… which should be enough."

DelMonde covered his head with a pillow. “Enough fo' what?”

“Remember how you went to bed mad six hours ago because you thought the dip in power in Engineering was tied to the anomalous power reading we're gettin' from the Quionon system, not leftover damage from the ion storm?” Paget asked, punching in an order for some strong black coffee.

“An' it has done turn out that I right… yet again…” the Cajun speculated immodestly without bothering to remove the pillow.


“Well, Jer, I ‘preciate you wakin' me up so I can sit in a staff meetin' an' say 'I told you so' ever' few minutes, but I can be as big a smug bastard jus' as well after….” Del paused and then opened one eye. “Unless?”

The Security guard sat the steaming cup down on his friend’s bedside table. “Unless the power drain has gotten much worse.”

The engineer uncovered half his face. “How much worse?”

“We’re twenty minutes away from the fifth planet and running on impulse power only.”

“Aw, hell…” The Cajun groaned and hugged his pillow discontentedly. “We figure out what the power readin' was?”

“Nope.” Paget retrieved Del’s boots from his locker. “The Quionons swear that they’re as mystified as we are.”

The Cajun snorted dubiously. “What you gettin' me up fo'? To bail water?”

“The captain will want an engineer included in the landing party he takes to the planet to figure out what’s generating the power spike and draining our crystals.”

“He take Jacobs,” DelMonde predicted, rolling over on his side again.

“Will Morton Jacobs leave his engines with power levels at 20% and falling?”

“Nope,” the Cajun conceded reluctantly. “Cap’n gonna take Brandt wit' him to the planet when he goes… an' Mr. Brandt would not take me along to a dog fight let alone on a landin' party where I might do somet'ing that might get me promoted.”

“Within the next ten minutes,” Paget prognosticated, taking a clean red tunic from the ‘fresher, “Mr. Brandt is gonna be studying damage control projections that are gonna recommend that if we can’t find some way to reverse the power drain within the next two hours, we’re gonna need to abandon ship.”

Both of the engineer’s eyes opened at this pronouncement. “An' you be knowin' this ahead o' time, because…?”

"In addition to standing around and catching enemy phaser fire,” Paget cheerfully informed his friend. “Security carries out the bulk of disaster management procedures and therefore our computers do exactly the same sort of worst-case scenario modeling that the First Officer requested from my friend in Damage Control about fifteen minutes ago.”

“You jus' finished yours sooner?”

“Well…” Paget shrugged modestly. “I did start running some scenarios six hours ago after my roommate the genius engineer said the problem with our engines was probably due to an unidentified external source.”

DelMonde yawned discontentedly. “So, you t'inkin' Aronson will leave Brandt on board t' supervise herdin' ever'body into lifeboats?”

“Wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, but I favor bein' on a different planet than Klaus Brandt any time I can manage it jus' on general principles.” The Cajun frowned and stretched, still reluctant to leave his warm bed in the face of looming disaster. “If Jacobs ain’t goin' to the planet, he gonna recommend me fo' the landin' party…”

“…because you spotted the problem before anyone else did. So you’re going…”

DelMonde raised an eyebrow. “Unless?”

“Unless Aronson just turns around and picks whoever is sitting at the Engineering station.”

“An' this time o' day, that would be…?”

“Serena Kane.”

Without further objection, the Cajun sat up. “Hand me my pants, Jer.”


“What are you skulking around here for?” Lieutenant Serena Kane finally demanded after her colleague leaned over her shoulder for the fifteenth time in as many minutes to get an update on the effects of the energy drain on the Hood’s dylithium crystals.

DelMonde entered the new numbers into his stat board with an air of self-righteous competence. “I helpin' out in a time o' crisis.”

Kane tilted her head dubiously. “You’re not on duty for another two hours.”


“Two weeks ago, I asked you to get some flux readings for me six minutes before you were supposed to go on duty and you told me that if a Klingon had set me on fire, you wouldn’t even piss on me to try to put it out for another six minutes.”

“I were bein' metaphorical,” the Cajun explained non-apologetically.

“I got that.” His fellow engineer nodded. “It was a metaphor for ‘Screw you, Serena.’”

“Well…” DelMonde double-checked to make sure the readings he was recording hadn’t changed before moving on down to the Damage Control station. “Relieved t' hear I not being misinterpreted….”

Jer’s friend Ensign Leon received the updated information eagerly. This was the first time outside of an Academy simulator that the ensign had faced the possibility of coordinating the abandonment of a starship. He was coping admirably, but there were still some subtle signs that the boy was rattled. For instance, he had not yet paused to figure out that the computer could perform the simple calculation Del had being doing for him much more quickly.

“Thanks,” Leon said breathlessly as he rushed off to deliver the updates to the spot near the Science Station where Captain Aronson and his First Officer were reviewing the available data on the Quinons.

Del was on the point of claiming the chair that the ensign had abandoned when he was halted by Jeremy Paget’s upraised finger.

“My turn,” the Security guard announced firmly, seating himself at the station and beginning to call up data.

The Engineer sighed wearily and retrieved a fresh stat board from the Engineering sub-systems checkout station. “If Aronson gonna go down to th' planet, I wish he jus' go.”

“He’s gonna go,” Paget replied confidently, not taking his eyes off the screens in front of him.

Del ran his fingers down a line of indicators, then entered a column of figures that differed only by tiny fractions of points from the ones he’d entered on the board he’d just given Leon. “I fast runnin' out o' reasons to be up here.”

“You could do some actual work,” Paget suggested quietly.

The Cajun favored him with a dubious look. “I not on duty fo' another two hours, Jer.”

“The ship is sinking, N.C.,” the Security Man reminded him.

“Well, I got outta bed, non?” the Engineer replied dryly. “What more you want?”

Paget frowned at the screen in front of him. “I want to be able to figure out what the Quinions are trying to do so I can revise my portion of this threat assessment into something more meaningful before the captain leaves…”

DelMonde snorted as he re-checked the alarmingly low numbers on the indicators in front of him. “They tryin' to earn themselves an ass-kickin' if they behind this power drain.”

“Exactly.” Paget nodded. “And although I know why I might want to do that, I don’t understand why they would. They’re at least a hundred to seventy-five years behind the Federation technologically. They’re relatively isolated in the area.”

“They Orion allies?”

“Not officially,” Paget replied. “Although what counts as 'official' for the Orions is open to interpretation. But given their technological development rating…”

“…If they pirates, they ain’t got very good at bein' pirates,” the Cajun finished for him, then shook his head. “I t'ink it gonna turn out like the story o' the tomcat an' the bulldog…”

“I don’t remember that one.”

“'Course not,” the Engineer replied with an eye roll. “You not there.”

“Oh, I thought you were talking about a fairy tale.”

“No, this is a broke-ass New Orleans tale.”

“Good,” Paget replied with a smile, still keeping his eyes on his console. “I like those even better. They always have a moral.”

“Yeah.” The Cajun punched an order for the substation to perform the same sequence of checks he’d already run five times since coming to the Bridge. “The moral is – Avoid growin' up broke in New Orleans.”

“Sound advice,” the Security man agreed.

“Well, 'fore I started mis-spendin' my youth wit' you,” The Cajun began, dutifully recording nearly the same figures he’d gotten the last five times the computer spat them out. “I used to try to keep body an' soul together by salvagin', reconditionin', an' installin' enviro units for this ol’ boy wit' a shop in Kenner who used to pay me under table. An' one day Nick calls me in an' say, 'Miz Landry done cuss me out ‘cause that unit you put in last week not no good. An' if I have to pay a refund, it comin' out your pocket or your hide.' An' I reply, 'The hell you say?' ‘Cause I know my work is good. But he show me the numbers from the monitor they got on the unit an' -- sure enough -- it pullin' enough juice to light Metairie fo' a week an' not lowerin' the temperature no more than throwin’ an ice cube on a grease fire. An' I say, 'Somebody has knock a hole in that t'ing.' An' Nick say, 'How is that ol’ lady gonna scrunch up in the underpinnings o' her house to knock a hole in a double-plated casing?' An' I not able to answer that one, so we head off for Miz Landry’s place an' I crawl up into the underpinnings, open up the unit, an' there this big ol’ black tomcat sittin' in the middle o' the access hatch givin' me the 'An' jus' what you t'ink you doin' up in my house?' eye. An' I crawl back out an' say, 'How the hell your cat get up in there?' An' Miz Landry say, 'Oh, if KittyTom not got nowhere to hide, the neighbor’s bulldog is like to eat him.' This ninety-five-year-old biddy wit' the arthritis in both her knees has done crawl up under her house an' use a laser torch t' cut out a hole in th' side of her enviro unit so her cat can get up in there ‘cause she t'ink that better than it gettin' into her house an' leavin' hair all up on her furniture. An' me an' Nick jus' look at each other an' I say, 'Now Miz Landry, did we not ask you if they’d been a hole knocked into that unit?' an' she say, 'Well, they ain’t. Jus' that one I cut into it real careful-like.' An' I say, 'An' you not t'inkin' that that gonna ruin the containment field?' An' she puffs up an' answer, 'Well, I put a flap on it. What more you want?'

Paget smiled and shook his head. “You're really not worried about all this, are you?”

“Jeremy, this boat is sinkin',” DelMonde informed him weightily. “The main point o' Engineerin' is to see that not happen. All my systems were in perfect condition befor' all this shit started an' ever't'ing imaginable is bein' done right now t' keep them workin' as good as they can on…” He consulted his stat board. “13.7238% o' the power they need to function. So much is bein' done, in fact, that I got not'ing better t' do than to sit here tellin' you stories 'bout Miz Landry’s tomcat an' worry that I gonna have jus' enough time t' die of old age befo' the Cap’n make up his mind t' take me down to the planet where I can do somet'ing to actually solve this mess. Although if anyone had believed me around six an' a half hours ago or had made the choice to head away from th' damned unexplained power readin' instead of plungin' toward it like a lemming wit' a magnet shoved up its…”

“Mr. DelMonde,” Captain Aronson called as he stepped up to the con. “You’re up early today.”

“Yessir.” DelMonde answered with an ironic half-smile. “Jus' couldn’t stand th' thought of y’all havin' so much fun wit'out me.”

“Then I’m sure you’d be up for sampling whatever Quionon tourist industry might have to offer us today.”

“It is my fondest desire, sir,” the engineer replied sincerely, gladly handing the stat board he was working on to Leon as the ensign returned to his station.

Arsonson put his hands on his hips and tilted his head. “And if I’m going to take Frick, might as well take Frack…”

Jer mouthed a silent, but jubilant “Yes!” to the console in front of him before relinquishing it to the Damage Control officer.


“Yes sir!”

“Pick another Security guard,” the Hood’s captain ordered. “Someone with a little visual impact -- and meet us down in the Transporter Room.”

“Yes sir!” Jer replied, joyfully joining his roommate in the turbo lift.

“Good luck, sir,” was Mr. Brandt’s only comment on his captain’s landing party choices as they departed.

“Don’t worry about us, Brandt,” Aronson advised wryly as he made his way to the lift, “If nothing else, I’m sure we’re going to get a helluva poem out of it.”


After having heard Aronson ask Jer to pick someone 'visually impressive' from Security to round out the landing party, Del had no doubt that the doors of the Transporter Room would open to reveal a mountain of muscles clad in red. What he did not expect, however, was for the mountain to open his almond-shaped eyes in recognition and rumble, “Ah, Noesha!”

“Big Pavel,” he replied, amazed. “Where you at, man?”

“On ship,” the mountain answered, taking his greeting literally – as almost everyone did. “For two week. Where is captain?”

“He got to pick up his lucky rabbit’s foot,” Del answered jokingly.

“He wanted to check with Dr. Donlevy about something before we left,” Paget clarified, correctly predicting Big Pavel’s customary inability to weed through the Cajun’s sense of humor. Jer turned to Del. “I didn’t know you knew Lieutenant Otgonbayar.”

“Oh, yeah,” the Engineer replied with a smile for his old drinking buddy. “From the Academy.”

“Why didn’t you say something?” Paget asked. “I’ve been talking about him for two weeks.”

Loathe to admit that A) he didn’t always pay much attention to Jer when he talked about his department or B) he didn’t remember the big Russian’s name, Del instead made a noncommittal noise and scratched his head.

Big Pavel gave an amused snort and said something in a language that always sounded more like Chinese than Russian to Del.

The Cajun had to laugh at the mental image that went along with Siberian’s rendering of a traditional proverb that had been explained to him long ago. “He say that two yaks tryin' t' drink the same trough dry not gonna bother to exchange credentials,” the engineer translated for Paget, then admitted with a shrug, “I guess we not never know each other’s las' names.”

“When drinking as brothers,” Big Pavel said, giving him an affectionate pat on the shoulder… that might leave a bruise, “no clan names needed.”

“Tru dat,” the Cajun agreed, then explained to Paget, “I used to occasionally end up drinkin' wit' the Russian members o' the ice hockey team.”

“Noeshka is friend of teammate,” Otgonbayar added.

“Friend might be stretchin' it,” Del objected mildly. “Mortal enemy, more like.”

“You know how is Pashenka?”

“Yeah,” DelMonde was surprised he could answer. “Randomly... But I actually do. He on th' Enterprise – like he wanted. He the navigator – like he wanted. An' I jus' happen to know all this ‘cause he be sleepin' wit' one o' my ol' sometimes girlfriends.”

Ah.” The Siberian nodded sagely. “Usual.”

“Yeah, the usual…” the Cajun confirmed with a snort before clarifying to Paget, “We talkin' 'bout Daffy Gollub’s new boyfriend.”

“Oh?” Jer shook his head in wonder at this unexpected connection. “Small universe.”

“Smaller fo' some o' us than others…” Del confirmed in appreciation of his old drinking buddy’s mammoth proportions.

“All right, men, let’s…” Aronson burst into the Transporter Room at such a brisk pace he almost slammed into the newest addition to his Security Force.

“Lieutenant Otgonbayar, sir,” Paget introduced politely.

The captain looked the Siberian up from his gargantuan boots to the tip of his wide, square, bronze head. “I’m impressed,” he congratulated Paget, before motioning his assembled team up onto the transporter. “All right, Richardson. Beam us out.”


Although capable of bold action, Captain Jack Aronson tended to be a man of a cautious and even suspicious nature. One manifestation of this bent was his preference when there were clear readings of a beam down area to have his transporter chief transport him to a spot thirty or forty feet to right or left of coordinates supplied by a unfamiliar host. The difference from the specified spot would look like a slight and perhaps careless error to the host, but actually gave the landing party a few precious seconds to size up their surroundings.

“They’re armed, sir,” Paget reported sotto voce, glad this time for Aronson’s mistrustfulness.

In response to a small hand signal from their captain, the Hood team did not go for their own weapons, but took a subtly more defensive stance with the two Security Guards slightly forward of the captain and the engineer.

Although they were bipedal, mammalian humanoids, the Quionons had a very fish-like look. They were relatively small and thin, but had large, round heads, with big, wide-set eyes and tentacle-like whiskers. The piscine impression was heightened by the fact that they tended to focus with one eye at a time.

A trio of bejeweled and colorfully-dressed Quionons stood in front a line of fellow citizens. The back row of natives was identically clad and each equipped with a trident-like energy weapon that they carried like a spear. All the Quionons were standing with their preferred eye fixed resolutely to the spot where they had informed the officers from the Hood that they were to land.

“They up to somet'ing,” Del confirmed softly, flipping open the top of his tricorder without removing it from his side so that he could surreptitiously consult his readings without having the action misinterpreted as an aggressive move.

“If I ask you what they’re up to,” Aronson warned, activating his communicator in the same way for the same reasons, “and you reply 'something fishy'…” “

The thought did occur,” the Cajun admitted as the Quionons finally began to break ranks and turn in their direction. “I gettin' readin's o' somet'ing very big an' very shielded 'bout forty meters below us.”

“Lord Aronson!” one of the richly dressed Quionon called out in a high, reedy voice.

Greg Halloran, the Hood’s Communications officer, had been driven nearly to distraction already by the fact that the Quionons were so ruled by their oligarchy that their language did not distinguish between military rank designations and titles usually applied only to the nobility. Despite his persistent efforts to suggest acceptable linguistic alternatives, the Quionons listened quietly then kept on doing whatever they had already decided was preferable.

“We expected you to be…” The official gestured towards their assigned beam-down coordinates.

“Apparently,” Aronson replied with a frown that indicated that after six hours of dealing with their delays and evasions, calling him “my lord” might just be the least they could do to keep him from twisting their thin necks. The captain brought his communicator up to a normal operating position. “Mr. Brandt.”


“Our hosts are honoring us with an armed honor guard,” Aronson reported with an air of convincingly regal disapproval.

“That’s very interesting,” his first officer replied.

One of the armed contingent stepped forward. “You must…!”

He was quickly stopped by one of the bejeweled Quionon leaders. “Lord Aronson,” he observed carefully. “You have not yet deactivated your communication device.”

“Nope,” the captain replied, not making a move to close the still open communicator he held by his side.

This unexpected precaution obviously threw the Quionons off their game. They buzzed among themselves for a moment before reorganizing sufficiently for the leader to speak again.

“Do you feel you need further communication with your ship?”

“Do I?” Aronson replied laconically.

"No, no, no,” several of the Quionons insisted hastily.

In response, the captain held up his communicator for all to see as he pressed a green button before closing the device.

“You will…!” the head guardsman tried again.

“Was that a signal of some sort to your ship?” one of the leaders interrupted nervously.

“Was it?” Aronson responded tersely.

This threw the Quionons into another tizzy.

“Cap’n,” Del observed. “You got a way wit' the short an' deadly reply that would make an Ancient Spartan proud.”

Aronson snorted in wry acknowledgement of the compliment, but Jer had to roll his eyes.

Jack Aronson hated and despised flattery. No one who had ever met him would be surprised to learn of this dislike. Because he was of a fairly suspicious and cautious nature, he had over the years chosen and retained individuals to serve by him who shared these characteristics or had personalities that complimented his own tendencies towards skepticism and vigilance. His senior staff, unsurprisingly, formed a protective phalanx around him, keeping troublemakers safely at arm’s length.

All this worked out very well for Captain Aronson, but this consensus of approach tended to make career advancement difficult for the average working officer on the Hood. If one called too much attention to oneself, one risked being labeled disruptive and marked for transfer to a dead-end outpost of the Federation at earliest convenience. However, if one was happy to just do their job quietly and competently, there might never be a reason for recognition and rapid promotion.

Therefore, one of the only avenues toward timely advancement was the thoughtful cultivation of one’s superiors… who hated flatterers as much as did their captain. Flattery, however, was so necessary and so common that, as Del put it, one could get labeled as an ass-kisser for smiling and saying good morning at the same time.

Of course, Del had nothing to worry about on that score. No one ever accused him of smiling too much or seeming too eager to please. The state of affairs between he and the captain now was in large part because the engineer had launched one of his amateur psychology experiments at Captain Aronson. Knowing the captain’s loathing of flattery and taking into account the mutual lack of affection between them after the whole Dave Calvin/Denebian Literary Guild affair, Del had purposefully started repeating true but complimentary and even somewhat obsequious things other crewmembers had said to try to win the captain’s favor days or even mere hours later. Given the Cajun’s reputation for brutal honesty and general lack of deference, the same words that Aronson had scorned from others fell sweetly on the captain’s ears when delivered unsmilingly in the Cajun’s flat, sardonic tone. Aronson had slowly turned from considering the Cajun a flighty nuisance to thinking of Del as a man’s man -- a good judge of character who did not suffer fools lightly and called things as he saw them.

Del, in turn, liked being thought of a man’s man… as opposed to being thought of as a wild, dark fairyling child, lover of fickle Dame Fortune who was as likely to shower him with outrageous gifts as she was to plunge him to the very depths of her wheel. (Del, in point of fact, did not like this fairyling child stuff at all and was apt to turn to someone who might be idly contemplating such a description – with no intention of uttering it aloud at all -- and inform them that the Denebian Literary Society was not planning to add an award category for composing goofy bullcrap if that’s what they were after.)

Jer sighed again for such unfair stifling of one’s un-awarded creative impulses as the Quionon delegation turned back to the landing party.

“Lord Aronson,” the lead Quionon began carefully. “We believe we may be able to explain the difficulties with your ship…”

The Hood’s captain nodded unsmilingly. “I’m beginning to be very certain that you can.”

“However,” the Quionon continued, “to properly facilitate explanation, you must accompany us to a certain chamber of this palace.”

“'Bout forty meters below us,” Del guessed as an aside to Jer.

“Due to both security and religious reasons…” the richly dressed individual began delicately.

“You must surrender your weapons!” the leader of the armed contingent burst out.

“Well, I’m glad he was finally able to get that out of his system,” Paget observed quietly to his comrade.

“You want our weapons?” Aronson asked, folding his arms. “Molon labe.”

The universal translator apparently couldn’t handle Ancient Greek satisfactorily, because the Quionons all turned their heads from side to side, as if they hoped switching to the opposite eye might help them understand better.

“What he said was,” Paget explained with a deadly smile, opening his hands out to his sides in a gesture that was more challenge than surrender. “Come take them.”

The Quionons all stood back and looked to the leader of the guard… who was beginning to look as if he were sorry he’d brought the whole thing up. The leader took a step towards Captain Aronson, then decided it was an appropriate time to exercise the privileges of rank and delegate the task to a subordinate.

The subordinate took three reasonably bold steps towards Aronson before withering and amending its course to head for Paget – who at least seemed to be smiling.

“Careful,” the security guard warned in a low and lethal manner when the Quionon reached for his waist. “Lots down there that you don’t want to get excited.”

The guard’s already wide eyes widened more as it quickly snatched the Security Officer’s phaser and communicator and fled back to its fellows.

The leader of the armed contingent tried in vain to shoo the guard back to retrieve the rest of the Hood’s landing party’s equipment, but the rattled Quionon melted quickly back into the ranks.

The next guard half-shoved forward kept its wide eyes carefully lowered as it darted forward and nimbly plucked Aronson’s communicator and phaser from his belt. It tried to do the same to Ensign Otgonbayar, but when the giant rumbled a warning, the guardsman looked up, and apparently dizzied by the Siberian’s height and silent malevolence, fainted dead away.

“I t'ink ya’ll done got the point now,” DelMonde observed dryly, surrendering his weapon easily to one of the panicked guardsmen who rushed forward to retrieve their fallen peer.


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