The Solaris Chronicles: “More Ways to Skin a Cat, Part III”
Written by Swordtail
Published July 31, 2007
“Commander,” Lieutenant Tevarin said, “Getting a distress signal over here... it’s coming from the USS Whocares.”
Commander Ren turned to talk to him.
“I don’t care, we’re in the middle of a mission,” she said.
“Admiral Nelix was on that ship,” Tevarin told her, “He was heading back to Earth on it.”
“We’d better go check it out then,” she said, “Drop a message buoy to let the captain know where we went. Frell, lay in a–”
“We’re here,” the helmswoman said. On the viewscreen, the warp threshold gave way to a view of a heavily damaged Akira-class starship, adrift in space. Part of its hull had been vapourized and one of the nacelles had been severed from its pylon.
“Well then,” Ren said, “Start beaming people aboard.”
A few minutes later, Commander Ren walked into Solaris’ sickbay. Doctor Samson and various blue-shirts were milling around fixing up injured crewmembers from the USS Whocares. She walked over to Admiral Nelix, who was on a biobed.
“Admiral,” she addressed him, “are you okay?”
“Commander...” Nelix replied, faintly, “I don’t have much time...”
“Not according to this bioscan, you’re only about to lose consciousness.”
“A state from which I may never recover.”
“No, I’m pretty sure–”
“I just want you to know,” he said, “That out of all the ships in the Ninth Fleet, I hate yours the least.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I still hate your guts. All of your guts. And the bolts that make up your ship too.”
“That’s great sir,” Ren said.
“And if Command let me, I’d still kill you all in your sleep.”
“Permission to punch you in the face, sir?”
“I’ll take care of that,” Samson said, pushing Ren out of the way and injecting something into the high-ranking cat. He promptly fell asleep.
“So how many survivors are there?” Ren asked Samson.
“Well I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch,” he replied.
“Is that another obscure human saying that went right over my head?”
“You’d think a person with 300 years of experience would pick up on those easily,” the doctor said.
“I’m unjoined you twit!” Ren yelled in his face, “I would hope that of anyone on the ship you would at least know that!”
“As I said, I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch.”
The doctor went back to tending to Admiral Nelix while Ren walked out of sickbay.
“Man, I wish I had read the fine print when I accepted this assignment.”
Onboard the OSS Hairball, Chester’s evil flagship, the undercover Lieutenant Sa’lol was walking down an evil corridor, thinking out loud.
“...Light a man on fire...?”
She entered the bridge, where Chester, perched on a solid latinum chair, was barking orders at his henchmen.
“And you, I don’t want to hear about cracks in the dilithium matrix again,” he hissed, “just fix it!”
He turned to Sa’lol.
“Ah, Sa’lol, my completely trustworthy science officer. You missed the battle,” he told her.
“Battle?” the Vulcan asked.
“Yeah, a Federation ship got in our way. We had to disable them,” Chester said.
“Oh...” Sa’lol said, surprised that no one told her, “That’s terrible... for them.”
“Yes, it is,” the cat replied, “But that’s not why I called you up here. How much biology do you known?”
“A bit,” she answered.
“Good,” Chester continued, now practically drowning in his own ego, “I want you to develop a virus that will only kill blue-eyed Mexicans.”
Sa’lol raised an eyebrow, more shocked at what Chester had asked for than the fact he was planning on killing millions on Earth’s inhabitants.
“You want me to do what?” she asked.
“I know it sounds like underkill, but all we want to do is throw the planet into chaos long enough for my Gorn friends to arrive and destroy Starfleet Command.”
“Uh, so why just blue-eyed Mexicans?” Sa’lol asked again, “Why not kill people who are genetically inclined to resist change, thus leaving you with a pathetically lazy population who couldn’t care less about the shift in government?”
“Look,” Chester pointed a clawed paw at her, “I’ll come up with the plans, you just make the virus. Ka-peesh?”
Sa’lol rolled her eyes and went over to her station on the dark and dreary bridge. As she muttered about feline stupidity, she saw something on her monitor that made her blink a few times.
“Well hello, sensor glitch,” she whispered to herself.
On the flying box of bolts that the Solaris crew had paid fourteen slips of gold pressed latinum for, Ketrell and Adair were bored stiff. They had managed to get themselves pulled inside the OSS Hairball’s warp field, but that’s about all the excitement they had endured for the past few hours.
“Any idea where we are?” Adair asked, not for the first time.
“No,” Ketrell said, again, “the sensor interference that’s keeping us hidden is also keeping us blind.”
“God I’m so bored, I just with something would happen!”
As soon as the words had left his mouth, they both disappeared in a transporter beam. They materialized in a science lab of some sort. Standing in front of them, working a console, was Sa’lol.
“Oh, hi guys!” she said. Ketrell and Adair, who had been sitting when transported, fell to the floor.
“Lieutenant!” they both said in unison, “You’re alive!”
“You can’t get rid of me that easily, sirs,” she said.
“Apparently not,” Ketrell said, getting up, “What happened to the implant?”
“When you guys didn’t answer,” Sa’lol explained, “I figured you’d left, so I removed the transponder. I decided it would just be a liability, if Chester got smart.”
“So why did you remove it again,” Adair asked, grinning.
“A better question,” Ketrell said, “would be where are we and why are we going where we’re going?”
“I don’t really know,” Sa’lol said, “The Orion Syndicate doesn’t exactly keep ship’s logs like we do. We attacked a Federation starship, and we’re on our way to Earth. Chester wants me to develop a bioweapon that kills blue-eyed Mexicans.”
“Why, does he have something against Hispanics?” Adair asked.
“No clue,” the Lieutenant told him, “but you guys better hide somewhere. I doubt a human and a Bajoran would go unnoticed on this ship... despite how stupid the crew is.”
The three of them left the science lab and crept down the corridor, making sure no one was around.
“Can you believe that new barkeep gave me alcohol-free beer?” Adair said, just to make small talk.
“Is that the same ensign that keeps hitting on me?” Sa’lol asked. Adair rolled his eyes.
“Lieutenant,” he said, “do I have to quote the rule book?”
“I’m telling you she hits on me every time I order a drink!”
”Solaris ship rule #47: The waitresses are not flirting with you, they’re just doing their job!”
“She is too!”
“You’re just jealous because she never hits on you when you order a drink,” Sa’lol said.
“I am not,” Adair countered.
“Both of you shut up!” Ketrell yelled, a little too loud. They all looked around to make sure no one had heard them.
“Lieutenant, the bar girl is not hitting on you. Lieutenant-Commander, you are jealous,” he said.
“She is too!”
“I am not!”
“That wasn’t up for debate!” the captain told them. The other two officers decided to shut up, as Sa’lol pushed them into a vacant broom closet and shut the door. Inside, Adair, still fuming, turned and was about to say something when Ketrell threw up his hand.
“Ah!” he said, quickly, “Don’t make me quote the 33rd rule to you.”
“Ship rule #33,” Ketrell quoted, “Shut the fuck up.”
On the bridge of Solaris, all was quiet and peaceful, for the most part.
“Commander,” Tevarin said, “Engineering reports that the phaser banks are back online. Torpedo launchers will be operational within the next two hours.”
“Well it’s about time,” Ren said, “Now if only we had something to shoot at.”
“I might be able to help you there,” Frell said.
“Well don’t keep it to yourself, Lieutenant.”
“Lieutenant Sa’lol,” Frell said, “once mentioned something about leaving a trail of ions which are polarized to a certain frequency, or something like that... well, there’s such a trail right in front of us.”
“Oh,” Ren said, scratching her head, “how convenient...”
“Uh, I just told you that Lieutenant Sa’lol said–”
“Just follow the damn thing.”
Frell hit a few buttons on her console and Solaris changed course. However, when she pressed the button that would engage the warp engines, the ship’s engines sputtered and the lights went out.
“Okay,” Ren said, “I officially hate this ship.”
On deck 14, in Main Engineering, Lieutenant-Commander Dalarsh was yelling orders at her subordinates when Lieutenant Tevarin walked in.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” the Andorian said, picking up a fifty centimetre long lead pipe and waving it in the general direction of the warp core, “It just shut down as soon as the helm requested warp power.”
“Why did everything else shut down too?” Tevarin asked, tapping on a blank console.
“I don’t know!” Dalarsh yelled, getting frustrated at her department’s inability to diagnose a simple problem.
“Look,” Tevarin told her in a hushed voice, “the Commander is getting a little pissed; that’s why I volunteered to come down here when the comm failed to work. Now, I need to tell her something or else she’s likely to flip out on one of us.”
“This fucking ship just hates us!” Dalarsh practically screamed. Then, in a fit of rage, she threw the pipe at the warp core. It hit the reaction chamber with a loud clang. Oddly enough, the warp core instantly activated, the power came back on, and Solaris jumped to warp, leaving a very surprised Dalarsh, Tevarin, and some confused yellow-shirts standing around the now operational room.
“Well,” Dalarsh said, “I didn’t see that coming!”
“We’re approaching the Sol system, sire,” one of Chester’s brain-dead henchmen said to him. On the OSS Hairball’s bridge, Chester was gazing happily at Earth, which had just come onscreen. Sa’lol was rolling her eyes and trying not to throw up.
“Excellent,” Chester said, “Is the bioweapon ready?”
“Ready enough,” Sa’lol told him.
“Then fire as soon as we’re in range,” the cat ordered.
Sa’lol pressed a button and whispered into her console while everyone else was distracted.
“Sa’lol to Ketrell,” she said, “Solaris is on long range sensors, they’ll be here in a few minutes. You need to disable the Hairball’s weapons before they arrive or it will be a short battle.”
Sa’lol released the button and started the pre-launch sequence for the bioweapon. Meanwhile, Ketrell and Adair, who had received Sa’lol’s message, were sneaking around the nearly vacant corridors, looking for ways to disable the ship’s weapons. They slipped into a small control room which contained some consoles and a few wall monitors.
“Is this it?” Ketrell asked.
“Yes,” Adair answered, “Weapons control.”
“Can you disable the weapons from here?”
“Not without them noticing... but I can set up a feedback loop between the launcher subassembly and the ship-board torpedo guidance targeting array.”
“What will that do,” the Bajoran asked, confused.
“Let’s just say we won’t want to be onboard if they decide to fire a torpedo.”
On the evil bridge of the evil OSS Hairball, everyone was watching as Earth got bigger and bigger on the viewscreen.
“I wonder where Starfleet is?” one of the numerous henchmen asked.
“We won’t have to worry about Starfleet for a while,” Chester said, “The Gorn should be here any minute. Starfleet is probably still rebuilding their forces. They’ll never know what hit them.”
He turned to Sa’lol.
“Fire the bioweapon torpedo!”
Sa’lol, oblivious to Adair’s sabotage, pressed the fire button and the ship exploded around them. Beams fell from the ceiling, consoles blew into showers of sparks, killing henchmen, the lights flickered, the bridge lurched hard to aft. Chester, attached to the ceiling by his claws, let go and fell back into his chair.
“What happened!” he hissed at Sa’lol. The Vulcan, who was slightly confused, checked some readouts, and then started grinning.
“The torpedo detonated in the tube,” she said, “The virus is dispersing throughout the ship.”
“Well it’s a good thing I never hired any blue-eyed Mexicans then,” Chester noted.
“Um,” Sa’lol started, “I programmed the weapon to kill you.”
Chester, who instantly comprehended her treason, let his face drop.
“I hate when this happens,” he said, “Someone restrain her and take the science station.”
A nameless henchman pushed Sa’lol into the hands of other nameless henchmen and took her seat.
“Sire!” he yelled as he read the sensor logs, “The USS Solaris is on an intercept course! They’ll be here in—”
The ship rocked as Solaris opened fire on the damaged Hairball.
“Return fire, but don’t use torpedoes,” Chester ordered, then, “And someone execute her.”
As a henchman pulled a phaser out and aimed it at Sa’lol, the Vulcan was transported away. She materialized alongside Ketrell and Adair in Solaris’ transporter room.
“So,” Ketrell asked Sa’lol, “what happened with the bioweapon?”
“I programmed the virus to kill only Chester,” she told them as they left the transporter room.
“Where did you get that idea from?” Adair inquired.
“Some old guy said something weird and it got me thinking.”
“What did he say?” Ketrell asked her.
“He said ‘Give a man a match and he’ll be warm for a few minutes, but light a man on fire and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.’ I didn’t understand it either.”
Adair burst out laughing.
“I love that joke!” he said, doubling over, “It gets funnier every time I hear it!”
“Uh,” Sa’lol said, “anyway, it got me thinking about Chester’s plans for galactic domination and I figured that he could have Earth, but I might as well set it up so he’ll rule it for the rest of his life once he steps foot there.”
“So you infected him with a virus?” Adair said, impressed.
“Well I didn’t intend for it to blow the ship half apart in the process, but yes.”
“You’re sick, Lieutenant.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The three officers stepped onto the bridge and took their seats.
“Report,” Adair said.
“Chester is hailing us,” Ren said.
Chester, looking sick, appeared onscreen.
“What did you guys do to me,” he yelled.
“Infected you with a fatal and painful disease,” Sa’lol said.
“You’ll all pay for this! Gunnery officer, open fire!”
Solaris shook under the impact.
“Shields are down to 78%,” Adair said.
“You know,” Sa’lol said, pacing around the bridge, “if you destroy us you’ll destroy the only cure there is to your predicament.”
Chester’s face dropped even more.
“You’re going to make me surrender, aren’t you?” he said.
“Yep,” Ketrell said, “Unconditionally.”
”No!” Chester yelled, “Fuck you!”
The channel cut and Solaris shook under the impact of another attack.
“Tactical,” Ren ordered, dramatically, “Target their warp core and fire.”
In space, Solaris assaulted the Sovereign-like ship with a barrage of phaser fire aimed at its engineering hull.
“Their containment field is destabilizing,” Tevarin said, “Warp core breach is imminent.”
“Back us away!” Ketrell said. The Hairball was launching escape pods when its warp core finally breached. The evil ship went up in a massive ball of flaming debris, destroying several escape pods and battering Solaris. After it was over, everyone on the Federation ship’s bridge pulled themselves from the floor.
“Any survivors?” Ketrell wondered.
“I’m picking up one escape pod off the starboard bow,” Tevarin told him, “It’s Chester.”
“Captain,” Sa’lol said, wide eyed, “Those Gorn ships that were entering the system...”
“What about them, Lieutenant?” Ren asked.
“They’ve... turned around. I guess without Chester they have no reason to risk a war.”
“Well,” Ketrell said, smiling, “That mission went well. A little more excitement that I expected but–”
“Excitement?” Adair said, “We were bored stiff half the time!”
“I sure hope this kind of thing doesn’t become a regular occurrence for us,” Ren said, “or I’m outta here.”
Inside the Earth Spacedock, Solaris came to a stop at the docking core. In an airlock, Fleet Admiral Spot waited as Ketrell, carrying a bandaged Admiral Nelix, and Commander Ren, Lieutenant Commander Adair and Dalarsh, Lieutenants Frell, Sa’lol, and Tevarin, and Doctor Samson, pulling a leashed Chester, walked off their ship.
“I assume the mission went well, then?” Spot asked, shooting a glare at Chester.
“That miserable excuse for a feline has been arrested, ma’am,” Nelix said, “Again.”
“You’ll never keep me locked up,” Chester said, chewing on his leash, “As soon as I get my strength back you’re all dead! Dead!”
“Chester,” Admiral Spot recited, “you’re charged with inciting rebellion, high treason, murder, money laundering, operating a starship without a license, organized crime, and plotting to commit genocide.”
“And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for these meddling kids and their damned Vulcan.”
“Boys, take him away,” Spot ordered. Two security officers grabbed the leash and dragged the evil cat away.
Later on, the entire crew of Solaris was at their posts on the bridge.
“Helm,” Ketrell said, “take us out.”
As Solaris backed out of the massive Spacedock, Ren turned to Ketrell.
“Do you think we’re really seen the last of Chester and the Orion Syndicate?” she asked.
“I somehow doubt it,” Ketrell said, “But hopefully we won’t be the ones to go after him next time.”
“Captain,” Dalarsh said, “All systems are back online as of right now, including torpedo launchers.”
“Well it’s about time,” Adair commented.
“We’ve cleared the station,” Frell said.
“Set a course,” Ren ordered, “bearing 143 mark 218. Warp 6.”
The Ares-class starship turned around and the sound of the warp engines powering up could be heard throughout the ship, only to be followed by the sound of them shutting down, along with everything else.
“Alright,” Dalarsh said, sitting in the dark, “where’s my lead pipe?”