Things That Go Bump In The Night

by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2249)
(Happy Birthday, Mylochka!)

Go To Part Two

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

Click The Picture!

The message glowed on several screens in cabins aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise: a bright orange jack’o’lantern against a partly cloudy, full-moon-lit night sky, a cheery flame dancing behind the cut-out eyes and mouth. Across its stem-top, in gothic, horror-movie lettering, were the words, “You’re Invited!” It had signaled its appearance not by the usual soft chime of ‘message received,’ but rather by a weird, cackling laugh, which Ruth Valley fully expected to be followed by “double double toil and trouble.”

She lifted her head from her pillow, aware that her husband and superior officer, Commander Spock, was already sitting up, one eyebrow arched curiously at the picture on the terminal’s screen.

“We are apparently invited,” he said, wryly stating the obvious.

Ruth frowned. “To what?” she asked.

Spock reached out, opening the message.

“Calling all goblins, ghouls and ghosts!
All kings and queens and fairy hosts!
All vampires, werewolves, history’s best,
Devils, heroes, and all the rest!
A Feast of the Dead is prepared for you
With tricks and treats and prizes too!
The entrance fee for this great fest
Is but a costume – make yours the best!
Meet Hallows’ Eve in the Dining Hall.
A wild time is guaranteed for all!”

“A Halloween party?” Ruth said dubiously. “This has got to be from Daffy.” She leaned over Spock, speaking to the computer. “Origin of message.”

“Unknown,” the computer responded dutifully.

“Ridiculous,” Ruth replied. “Computer, release any scrambling on message.”

“Unable to comply,” came the immediate answer. “No known scrambling parameters identified.”

“Computer,” Spock broke in. “Reveal authorization for message delivery.”

“Authorization classified.”

“Release classification, Spock, First Officer, command grade code zero one two.”

“Unable to comply. Command grade code insufficient.”

What?!” Ruth shrieked. She lunged past the Vulcan, her purple eyes blazing. “You don’t tell your father no!” she yelled at the computer, her fingers already flying to the keyboard.

As soon as she entered the first keystroke, the message disappeared, leaving only the image of the foggy, moonlit night and the words, “See you there!” Then it, too, faded, accompanied by a drawn-out scream of maniacal laughter.

With a long string of obscenities, Ruth tried in vain to get the message back, or any information about who had sent it. She continued to work at it while Spock rose and dressed for duty. When he gently reminded her that she, too, was due on the Bridge, she swore again, and quickly donned her uniform, pulling her hair back into a hasty tail at the back of her head.

“I’m not done with you!” she snarled to the computer, and followed Spock out of the cabin.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

“What is Hallows’ Eve?” Jilla Majiir asked. Her face was set in a puzzled frown as she sat on the edge of her bed. Beside her, Takeda Sulu’s expression was warring between amusement and annoyance.

“It’s a Terran holiday,” he said. “People dress up in costumes and kids go house to house asking for candy.” He tapped the computer screen. “That’s what the ‘tricks and treats’ mean. It’s the usual thing kids say, trick or treat.”

The Indiian’s frown deepened. “Why?”

Sulu shrugged. “It was a tradition that if someone didn’t give a treat, they got tricked. Kids’ pranks, practical jokes, that kind of thing.”

“It was extortion?” Jilla asked, horrified.

“No, it was all in fun,” Sulu replied, chuckling. “Part of the holiday celebration.”

Jilla looked far from convinced. “And what was the reason for the celebration?”

“I don’t really know,” the helmsman replied honestly. “It was called ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ because the next day was some kind of Christian religious day, All Hallows, or All Souls or All Saints’ Day. But I’m not Christian, so…” He shrugged again.

Jilla again stared at the screen. “Someone is holding a celebration for this holiday, then? Who?”

“Let’s find out,” Sulu said, and reached for the combination of buttons that usually revealed the sender of an intra-ship message. To his surprise, the message disappeared, leaving a ghostly image and the words, “See you there!” followed by wild laughter.

“So much for finding out that way,” he muttered. He shrugged a third time. “I’ll see what Uhura knows,” he promised, then kissed the top of Jilla’s head. “Don’t let it worry you, hon. Halloween parties are lots of fun.”

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Noel DelMonde threw the nearest object at the computer terminal.

“Why you laughin’?” he snarled at it. “It oh-fuckin’ five hundred an’ I on second shift!”

The orange glow from the screen seemed to bore through his eyelids, and he at last cracked one bleary eye open.

“Invited?” he muttered. “To what?”

Groaning, he reached out, opening the message. The bad poetry made his foul mood worse.

“Fuckin’ Halloween,” he grumbled. “Groupie, if you t’ink I gonna celebrate that damned heathen t’ing th’ day befo’ my birthday, you outta your fuckin’ li’l mind.”

He closed the message, said “yeah, yeah, I all spooked now,” at the maniacal laughter, then pulled his pillow back over his head and tried to get back to sleep.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Jade Han tapped her finger against her lip in thoughtful evaluation at the invitation on her computer view screen. Someone – who was likely named Daffy Gollub, Uhura or both – had gone to a great deal of trouble to arrange a costume party. Assuming anyone actually showed up, it would be in interesting psychological study to see the costumes chosen. Of course, that would mean she’d have to show up herself.

She got out of bed, preparing for duty, already considering what outfit would give away the least about her own psyche.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Pavel Chekov was smiling as he approached his lover, who was seated at a mess hall table.

“Daphne, you did not have to go to such elaborate lengths to…” he began with what he hoped was more cheer than chastisement.

Daffy Gollub’s eyes snapped up at him, blazing like green fire. “Not you too!” she exploded. “Oy geveult, I am so sick of this fucking mishegahs…!”

Chekov took a step back. “Not me too?” he asked warily.

“I DIDN’T SEND THE FUCKING HALLOWEEN INVITATION!” she shouted, apparently to the entire mess hall. “I got woken up by stupid witches and pumpkins and creepy disappearing messages too! So you can all just stop flooding my terminal with farkacktah death threats or cheery little ‘why yes, thank you, Daffy, I’ll certainly come’ replies. I DIDN’T DO IT!!”

She turned her face back to her uneaten breakfast, grumbling under her breath.

Chekov sat down, well aware he was taking his life – or at least the back of his skull – into his hands. “Dafshka,” he said gently, “surely it is an honest mistake…”

Honest mistake?” she interrupted dangerously.

“Well, it was an – unusual – message,” the navigator offered, “and you are known for…”

“I am so gonna kill you now,” Daffy warned.

“… wanting to give parties,” he finished lamely.

“And do I usually make spooky, clandestine invitations without wanting an ounce of credit for my brilliant party ideas?” she countered.

“It would be in the spirit of the holiday, as I understand it,” Chekov said

Daffy stared at him. “You looked it up, didn’t you?” she stated.

“I wanted to know what I was being invited to,” he tried to explain.

“And thinking it was from me, you didn’t think to just ask me, huh?”

“I did not wish to appear uninformed…”

“You’re a putz,” Daffy muttered. “And a schmuck. And I wouldn’t go to the fershluginer party with you if you asked me.” Her eyes narrowed. “You were gonna ask me,” she added.

“Of course, of course,” the Russian responded quickly. “But, as you say, since you will not…”

“Ask me.”

Chekov took a deep breath. “Dafshka, I would be honored if you would accompany me to…”

“And choose costumes for us,” the chemist added.

Chekov gulped. “And choose costumes for us,” he agreed with hopeless capitulation.

“Damn straight,” she agreed. “And when I find out who organized this thing…”

She fell back to muttering, and Chekov breathed a sigh of relief. Under the circumstances, he’d gotten off very lightly.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

“Miss Uhura, would you be so good as to explain how I received an unattributed message directly to my cabin at 0500 hours this morning?”

Uhura turned from Communications at the captain’s stern voice. James Kirk was standing between her and the con, his hands belligerently on his hips. Uhura sighed, her eyes closing briefly before she swiveled her chair fully to him.

“I wish I could, sir,” she responded. “I’ve gotten about a dozen or so complaints of exactly that nature all morning. I’ve checked all my logs, and there’s not a trace of it anywhere.” A frown crossed her features. “I’d think there was a conspiracy to get me in trouble if I hadn’t received the same message in my cabin.”

“That’s not much of an explanation, Lieutenant Commander,” Kirk responded.

“Don’t I know it,” Uhura murmured.

“Keep digging. I want to get to the bottom of this,” the captain ordered. As he moved to take his seat in the con, he added, “Today.”

“Aye, sir,” Uhura answered, and went back to her board. She’d already checked through all the most likely trouble-makers, and had gotten an earful, most notably from Daffy Gollub. She’d talked to all her people, thoroughly interrogated the third watch staff, and double and triple checked any incoming transmissions, however routine they appeared. She could find no trace of the ‘invitation’ anywhere. It was as if it had vanished into thin air – or into the very wires and circuits of the communications network.

She glanced up as Ruth Valley stormed onto the Bridge. “I can’t find it!” the Antari nearly shrieked. “Uhura, if you’re up to something…!”

“Miss Valley!” Kirk snapped and the lieutenant turned to him.

“I’m sorry, Captain, but this is just so…. frustrating!”

“That’s no reason for throwing accusations on my Bridge,” was the terse response.

Ruth scowled. “Sorry, Uhura,” she muttered.

Uhura waved it away. “I understand,” she said. “I’m just as stymied as you are.”

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Leonard McCoy was bouncing on his heels as Jade entered Sickbay.

“Guess what I found in my message box this morning?” he said by way of a greeting.

“A witch’s cackle, a glowing pumpkin, and an invitation to a mysterious costume party,” Jade replied.

The older doctor’s face fell. “You got one too,” he said.

Jade gave a half smile. “Disappointed, Leonard?”

“Well, no, of course not,” he replied, flustered. “I just thought…”

“It’s all right,” Jade soothed, “I still think you’re special.” And she fluttered her eyelashes for good measure. “I’ve done some checking. All the senior staff and regular Bridge crew got one.”

“All?” McCoy queried, then a grin spread over his face. “Spock, too?”

Jade nodded.

“And Ruthie’ll drag him to it, won’t she?”

“Very likely.”

“Oh, I can’t wait to see how she dresses him up!” McCoy cackled.

“Me neither,” Jade mused, and McCoy regarded her with a suddenly suspicious eye.

“Gonna do some psychoanalysis on the fly, are ya?” he speculated.

Jade smiled again, but said nothing more as she went to her office.

“I’m gonna go as a country doctor,” McCoy grumbled. “Let her make something of that.”

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Daffy Gollub was in chemistry grumbling at her microscope when Sakura Tamura nearly danced in, coming up to her and giving her a hearty kiss in the cheek.

“What a wonderful idea!” she enthused. “A costume party will be so much fun…”

“Ick,” Daffy said, wiping her face. “And don’t thank me. I didn’t do it.”

Sakura blinked, taking a step back. After a moment’s silence, she said, “Uhura?”

“She says not,” the chemist replied.

“Then who…?”

“Damned if I know,” Daffy muttered. “But I’m sure getting all the blame.”

“Blame?” the yeoman repeated. “Why blame? It’s a…”

“Wonderful idea,” Daffy repeated. “Yeah, says you.”

After another pause, Sakura said, “You are going, aren’t you?”

Gollub showed her teeth. “And I’m gonna make Pavel into James Dean.”

“Who?”

Oy, you weren’t dragged to Bwana’s Harvest, Rebel Without A Cause, East Of Eden, Giant movie marathon?”

“Ooh, that hottie was James Dean?”

“Yeah. All with the tragic rising star dying young.” She grinned evilly. “Pavel’s so gonna hate it. Serves him right for jumping to his fershlugginer conclusions.”

“And you?” Sakura wanted to know.

“I’m gonna be his motorcycle babe.”

The yeoman giggled. “I’m thinking of going as a witch.”

Daffy turned to her. “What, with the green skin and warts and hunched back?”

“Oh no. I’m going to be a sexy young siren.” Sakura swiveled her hips and gave a devastatingly sexy pout.

Daffy giggled, then said, “Save it for somebody with the right anatomy, bubee.”

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

“What do you think?”

Monique Dubois turned in a circle before her lover, Ramon Ordona, then began a series of belly-dancing moves around him. She was wearing very little in an Arabian style, her face below her blue eyes covered by a thin veil.

Ramon stared at her, grinning, mesmerized by her beauty and her undulations. “You look captivating, mi belleza,” he said, then suddenly frowned. “But you can’t wear that at a party.”

The pretty French navigator stopped dancing. “And why not?” she asked.

“You’re barely dressed,” was the stern yet somehow plaintive response.

“So?”

“Other men will be there, corazón,” Ramon reminded.

“So?” Monique repeated, her voice a little more testy.

“So I don’t want other men to see so much of you.”

Monique scowled, pulling the veil away from her face. “And if I wish other men to see me, mon coeur?” she challenged.

Ramon’s lips thinned as he clenched his teeth, then he took a slow, careful breath. “It will break my heart, la pequeño,” he replied sadly.

She made a frustrated sound and turned, “You are the most infuriating man…”

Ramon stepped up behind her, placing his arms around her. “But you love me still, no?” He murmured, nuzzling the back of her neck.

Monique sighed, leaning back against him. “Mais naturellement, Ramon,” she agreed, “but I’m wearing this outfit to the party.”

Ramon stopped the growl in his throat. “Then I’ll just have to go as your Sultan,” he said. “Others can look but they may not touch.”

Monique turned in his arms and kissed him, then pulled away, giving him an impish smile. “Only if I want them to, cheri. Only if I want them to.”

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Even after a full day spent doing very little but attempting to trace the source of the mysterious invitation, Ruth had nothing. There was no record of it anywhere in the ship’s computer. She would have thought she and Spock had had some sort of weird joint hallucination if all her friends and half of the rest of the ship hadn’t reported receiving the same thing. And her best interrogation methods hadn’t shaken either Daffy or Uhura from their positions of innocence. M’ress had growled menacingly at her when she’d approached the Caitian, and the Third Watch Communications officer, John Holden, had likewise protested his non-involvement.

She was sitting in her cabin, drumming her fingers against the computer console when Spock entered.

“Nothing,” she announced unceremoniously. “It’s like it never existed.”

“Why are you so concerned about the origin of this invitation, my wife?” the Vulcan asked calmly. Ruth glanced up at him in sudden suspicion.

“You didn’t by chance have anything to do with it?” she asked.

His eyebrow rose. “I?” he said. “Ruth, I am hardly the type to play such a wide-spread practical joke, nor am I one to arrange a party for a Terran holiday of questionable origin.”

“Which is why no one would suspect you,” the Antari returned. “I notice you didn’t deny it.”

A slight frown crossed his features. “I deny it, my wife,” he said. “I did not create nor disseminate the invitation, nor have I planned a party without your knowledge.”

Ruth stood up from her deck, a scowl of pure frustration twisting her lips. “It’s driving me crazy!” she cried. “It’s GOT to be there, but it isn’t, and no one is fessing up!”

“Perhaps there is a solution to your dilemma,” Spock told her as he stepped to their closet to remove his uniform tunic.

“Oh? What’s that?”

“Attend the party.”

Ruth blinked at him. “You’re kidding,” she said at last.

“There is a 97.5 percent chance that whoever arranged the festivities will…”

“You’re really volunteering to wear a costume?” Ruth interrupted.

Spock turned, his face cautiously expressionless. “I said nothing about my attending, my wife.”

“You said…”

That you should attend, Ruth.”

“Oh no, I’m not going by myself,” Ruth protested. “I’m married. People would talk.”

“And there will not be such ‘talk’ if…” Spock began.

“Well, yeah, but they’ll tease you even if you don’t go,” Ruth told him. She moved closer to him, gazing up into his eyes, making her face look as vulnerable and as appealing as she could – which, Spock noted, was considerable. “You wouldn’t really make me go alone, would you, husband?”

“Ruth…”

“Please? I’ll choose costumes that are dignified.”

“Your definition of dignity is somewhat at odds with my own,” he reminded.

“Then I’ll choose ones that will completely conceal your identity,” she tried again.

“Which, of course, will be effective when I am accompanying you,” Spock pointed out.

“Spock, we have to go!” Ruth pleaded. “I’ll die if I don’t find out who did this!”

“You are keheil,” he countered. “There is very little that will cause you to…”

“Don’t be such a yutz!” she insisted. “We can make it fun. And we’d only have to stay until the culprit revealed him or herself and had a big laugh at all of us.” She smiled engagingly. “I’d even let you leave before I killed him – or her. Or them.”

Spock sighed. “Ruth…”

“Come on, you’re supposed to be in charge of the crew’s morale, and if we don’t go, mine will be in the pits. And I’m part of the crew,” she added.

Spock stared at his wife’s huge, pleading, purple eyes and knew that, whatever good sense and sound judgment might have maintained, he was going to end up attending the Halloween party.

In costume.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

As was usual, Noel DelMonde spent as much is his shift as he could in the bowels of Engineering. The press of others’ minds and emotions was muted there, and so he was blissfully unaware of the main topic of shipwide conversation.

That is, until he went to the mess for dinner.

The words ‘invitation,’ ‘party,’ and ‘costume’ seemed to bombard him from all sides and he growled as he got his tray and chose a table as far away from the others in the mess hall as he could. He had half-convinced himself that the message that had woken him so rudely so soon after he’d gotten to sleep had been a dream, but the thoughts that were assailing him now made that more than unlikely.

“Shee-it,” he muttered to himself. It meant he was actually going to have to deal with the invitation. Not that that was particularly difficult. He’d just call it up and send a ‘No fucking way’ answer.

He was massaging his temples when a sudden nothingness invaded his awareness. Grimacing, he said, “Go away, T-Paul,” before Pavel Chekov even spoke.

“I was just wondering,” the Russian said, as impervious to the engineer’s mood as he usually was, “what you were planning on wearing to the costume party.”

“I not,” Del replied.

“The invitation specified…” the navigator countered.

“I not going,” the Cajun clarified.

“Oh, you have to go,” Chekov assured him as he sat down.

“Yeah?” Del gave him a foul look. “Somebody wit’ double stripes order it?”

“Everyone else is going,” Chekov stated.

“Like I give a shit ‘bout that?”

“Noel, I can almost guarantee you that if you do not attend, someone will come and drag you to…”

“This Daffy’s damn idea?” Del broke in harshly.

Chekov fidgeted. “She says not.”

“Then why you care if I…” the engineer began.

“I don’t,” Chekov assured quickly. “But – well – there seems to be a great deal of – interest – in discovering the source of the invitation, and – uh – certain people – might wish you to – use your so-called gifts to…”

“You gotta be shittin’ me!” Del snapped.

“It was not my idea,” the Russian confided miserably.

Del looked over his shoulder to see Daffy Gollub standing a few feet away, her arms folded, her foot tapping expectantly. His face twisted into a fierce grimace.

“Why she not pokin’ at me her own damn self?” he asked.

Chekov cleared his throat. “She said something about it being safer this way.”

“For who?” the Cajun wanted to know, then answered with the navigator, “Her, o’ course.” He sat back, trying to roll away the tension in his shoulders. He could feel the question almost as if it was hanging in the air: Who sent the invitation?

“Why she not ask Ruth to…” he began, then stopped, answering his own question. “Fuckin’ Antari ethics.”

Chekov shrugged. “Daphne really wants to know what costume you will be wearing,” he continued. “She seems to want to make certain her own will be – “ His lips turned down in a small frown. “Original.”

“I not plannin’ on goin’,” Del answered. “’Specially not t’ make your damn life easier.”

“Noel,” Chekov said, then took a deep breath. “Well, I’m not about to beg you. But do not blame me when Hallows’ Eve comes and you are forced bodily into some ridiculous attire and carried to the party.”

The Russian rose, shaking his head, and headed toward Daffy. From the look on her face, the navigator was going to have a long, not exactly pleasant night. The plea Chekov hadn’t voiced echoed in Del’s mind, and he realized that, judging by the excitement emanating from the rest of the crew, the navigator’s assessment of the situation was undoubtedly precisely accurate. And he also realized he would get even less peace than usual if he refused the invitation. He closed his eyes, sighing.

“I fuckin’ hate Halloween,” he grumbled.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Sulu was arranging pieces of clothing on the bed when Jilla arrived home. She watched as he frowned, rearranged the pieces, tilted his head, pursed his lips, and did more rearranging.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

He looked up and grinned at her. “Figuring out our costumes,” he explained.

“I do not understand this costuming,” she confessed. “Why is it required to attempt to conceal our identities?”

He shrugged. “It’s part of Halloween. Something about demons not being able to find you if you were dressed differently.”

“Demons?” Jilla said apprehensively. “What have demons to do with…?”

“I don’t know, hon. Not my holiday, remember?” He pointed to the array of clothing. “What do you think?”

“It looks – somewhat primitive,” the Indiian responded.

Sulu grinned. “Yeah, it’s period clothing, from the 1800’s on the North American Terran continent. This is what the native people wore.”

Jilla’s eyes lit with understanding. “Native Americans? Mr. Walking Bear’s culture?”

The helmsman nodded.

“Why?”

Sulu looked momentarily confused. “Why what?”

“Why did you choose these – costumes?”

“Well….” He took a breath. “Native Americans in the 1800’s were called Indians… because the Europeans who first came to the continent thought they’d sailed to India,” he continued before she could ask, “and I thought it’d be cute.”

“Cute?”

“IN-dian? In-DEE-an?”

Jilla stared at him. He shrugged, then said, “It’s better than Daffy’s suggestion.”

“Daphne wished to decide our costumes?”

“Daffy likes to decide everything,” Sulu commented, then went on. “She suggested vampires.”

Jilla’s eyes went wide, her left hand clutching involuntarily. “Yeah,” Sulu agreed, knowing that she was having the same reaction he had – remembering the psychocin they and Ruth and Kevin Riley had been trapped in over a year and a half before and the frightening horror movie in which they had both been the mythical creatures of the night. He took her into his arms. “Anyway, I thought this would be much more fun.”

Jilla nodded mute agreement, and Sulu gathered up some of the articles of clothing. “Yours is there, hon,” he said. “Try them on, okay?”

She nodded again and Sulu went to the bathroom. She felt his wish to surprise her with the completed outfit, and let a small, fond smile cross her features. Her own clothing was a body wrap of soft suede-like material, with accents of beads and feathers and stones of brick red and a soft, blue-green. A band of similar stones and hanging feathers went around her neck, and there were fringed slippers for her feet.

“You should put your hair in two braids,” Sulu’s voice suggested, and even before she turned to him, she could sense the adoration and desire in his tia. When he did, his own outfit – a vest of dark blue, black feathers, and silver medallions, a colorful, beaded loin cloth and a beaded headband – was eclipsed by the fact that most of his hair was gone, and what remained was standing up in a straight line along the top of his skull.

“Your hair!” she gasped.

He grinned. “Isn’t it great?” he said.

She blinked. “No!” she finally managed.

“You don’t like it?”

She stepped up to him, hesitantly touching the bare skin above his ear. “It is… it is…” she stammered.

“Fake,” Sulu whispered, then laughed at the consternation on her face. He ran a fingertip along his forehead and the seam of the false headpiece was revealed. “See? It’s just a wig with a bald cap.” He lifted it up, allowing his own hair to show from underneath the ‘skin.’

Jilla shuddered, then frowned at him. “I am not amused,” she told him.

He looked crestfallen, and she felt his genuine contrition. “I’m sorry, hon. I thought you’d like it.”

It took her a moment to regain her composure. “It is authentic?” she asked.

“Of course,” he returned. He didn’t have to remind her that he was a history buff and would, of course strive to make their costumes as accurate as possible.

She nodded. “And the braids you suggested?”

He began smiling again. “Also authentic.”

She stared at him a while longer, then turned to the mirror to braid her hair. He came up behind her, putting his arms around her. “You look beautiful,” he told her.

“As do you,” she admitted.

He grinned. “Mohawk and all? It’s what this hairstyle was called,” he continued, knowing she was about to ask. “It was worn by members of the Mohawk Native tribe.”

“No,” she replied honestly, “but as it is not permanent…”

He laughed and kissed the top of her head.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Those who tried to enter the mess hall after 1900 hours on Hallows’ Eve found themselves confronted by a closed door and a glowing sign: the same pumpkin and misty night as in the mysterious invitation with the words “Decorating – Come Back at 2200 Hours!” Security was called, but the override codes didn’t seem to be functioning. The captain was called, and he scowled as his own override was rejected, then called Engineering. The senior officer on Second Watch hissed a long “Sheeee-it!” on arrival, then knelt down next to the door’s control panel. A string of muttered obscenities followed, along with the whirring and clicking of various tools and finally a well-aimed kick at the door itself. At which the sign issued its eerie laugh.

“Well?” Jim Kirk asked impatiently.

“It not gonna open, sir,” Del answered. “You want me t’ get a laser an’ cut through it?”

Kirk glowered at the door. “I think this has gone on long enough,” he said. “No one can commandeer parts of my ship and get away with it.” He nodded at the engineer. “Do it. And get Scotty up here.”

“Aye, sir,” Del agreed.

“Don’t be so hasty, Captain Kirk.” The voice that emanated from the intercom system was weirdly distorted, but still recognizable as that of the ship’s computer. “It’s all in the spirit of the holiday.”

“Computer, release this door!” Kirk demanded.

“Unable to comply,” came the response in a perfectly normal computer voice. “Command overrides in effect until 2200 hours.”

“Disclose derivation of command override!” Kirk barked.

“Unable to comply. That information is classified.”

“I’m the captain of this ship!”

“Acknowledged. Classification is above command grade.”

“Somebody’s taking over my ship!” Jim shouted in sheer frustration.

“That’s right, Jim,” the weird-computer voice smirked. “And to find out who, you’ll have to come back – at 2200 hours.”

Then the sign started to laugh again. Jim swore. Del made a tentative mental sweep and got a forceful push-back that made his head reel.

2200 hours, whispered in his thoughts, along with another burst of cackling laughter, and Del joined the captain in his vocal expression of displeasure.

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After his and Scotty’s best efforts failed to get through the mess hall door, the Chief Engineer told Del to take the rest of the shift to attend the party and ‘work the problem’ from the inside while he continued his efforts in Engineering. He also said he’d coordinate with Spock at the Central Computer. Since that meant the Vulcan wouldn’t be at the party, Del agreed with less reluctance that he otherwise might have.

In his cabin, Del tore through his civilian clothing, trying to piece together some kind of costume, all the while swearing at the practical joke that he was somehow certain was aimed at him personally. Halloween had always been the bane – mais, the second bane – of his existence. Those outside his family were certain he’d been born at the stroke of midnight on that evil night, despite both the birth records and his mother’s assurance that he hadn’t made his entrance into the world until All Saints’ Day. It fueled the generally held idea that he was a devil-child; some kind of demon brought straight from Hell by the thinning of the veil between the worlds that happened on Hallows’ Eve. His mother’s non-Christian relatives had held that same belief, though they, of course, didn’t think of it as an evil thing. Del was blessed, they maintained, by the touch of the loa. But whatever they thought, people always assumed that Halloween had to be special to him. And he hated it. He hated the pagan intent, hated the whole idea of devils and demons walking the earth, hated the suspicion that everyone might be right. He’d avoided the holiday his whole life, had spend the night other kids had begged for candy in his mother’s arms – usually in the pew at the back of the church. And now this – thing – had somehow invaded his adult life. Whoever – whatever was responsible for this entire mess was going to have one pissed off telepath to contend with.

Two, he corrected himself wryly. The word of Ruth’s wrath was the secondary topic of conversation on the ship, the first being, of course, the damned party. And as he didn’t share the Antari’s sense of the responsibilities of the gifted…

He found a frilled white tunic that Jeremy Paget had given him as a joke, added a thin belt and dark leggings. He fabricated a tri-cornered hat and old-fashioned boots, then, for good measure, a dark eye-patch. A glance in his mirror showed a passable pirate, and he sat at his desk, his feet, up, slowly sipping on a glass of bourbon, waiting for the bell to toll 2200.

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