Star Trek: Cayuga 25 - ‘The Uncanny Valley’ By Jack Elmlinger “No, Sayvok. Just… no!” Aimee Maguire dropped her PADD on the table and glanced despairingly around her cabin. The cramped space was even tighter with a dozen people sharing them. “I understand that you want to express yourself, but the program is only two hours long. And I’m not using the industrial replicators to make you ‘acoustic steel drums’. This is supposed to be a low-tech performance.” “I simply wish to create an intersection of sound and -- “ “You can make sound with two rocks. No drums are necessary,” the Chief Engineer interrupted him, picking up her PADD and looking down the list. “Now, th’Nerain… ‘Dance of Knives’?” “A form of dance that originated in the Rana House approximately six hundred years ago.” The Andorian thaan straightened up in his seat proudly. “My own daggers were dedicated to me by Dance Master sh’Emen.” “Knives,” Maguire repeated before sighing. “All right, just don’t kill anybody.” “I’ve never hurt anymore intentionally.” “I didn’t hear that. Next… Polcheny, you’re… get the hell off of my holo-album! And my bed!” Polcheny looked up from the holographic picture album. “Who’s this guy?,” she asked her, pointing. “Put that down,” Aimee snapped at her. Alice frowned back at her. “And that guy? And those guys? And that girl? And those… whoa…” “Give me that,” Maguire yelled at the helm officer, snatching the album away from her. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. “Alice, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t root through my things, please.” “Sorry,” Alice whispered, sliding off the bed to sit down on the floor. Maguire sighed again. “Now, what’s this that I hear about you and the Captain doing a song by Lennon? Wasn’t he some twentieth-century dictator or something? Killed a lot of people?” Alice’s face became twisted in thought. “Maybe, but he wrote great songs!” * * * * * * * * * * * * Gin-Sach and Gin-Sirt stood at the back of the Cayuga’s Mess Hall. they watched with one eye each. On the impromptu stage, Sayvok stood without moving at all. There was an awkward expression on his face. Beside him, there was a phonograph that blared out a happy tune: “We’re not worrying at all. We’re just waiting for his call!” Suddenly, the Vulcan came alive, throwing out his arms and lip-synching. “‘Here I come to save the day!’” “I don’t understand,” Sean Pasko said. “I’ve given up trying,” Maguire replied before she stepped up onto the stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, please give a round of applause for Sayvok and his … and his performance!” At the abrupt clapping noise, the Pajahni looked around in surprise before they began mimicking the hand slapping motion. “Next up, we have Alice Polcheny and Captain Pozach.” She slumped down into her chair next to Pasko as Polcheny and Pozach took to the stage. The captain gave the audience a slight bow before she sat down at the piano. The young helm officer followed suit and hopped her way into a curtsy. She glanced back at Jeanne and nodded before the captain’s lithe fingers began to move over the piano keys. “‘Imagine there’s no heaven,’” Polcheny began to sing. “‘It’s easy if you try…” Pasko watched her, his chest aching as her pure soprano described a world with nothing to kill or to die for. Maguire watched Pozach, smiling at the sight of her lips silently forming the words along with Polcheny. As if sensing her attention, Jeanne glanced up from the piano, trusting her fingers to hit the right keys. She looked at her crew and at the androids and the sentient tree that were enjoying the performance. For a moment, she didn’t feel like a dreamer for imagining that the world could live as one. * * * * * * * * * * * * The planet grew slowly on the main viewscreen. It was a dirty ball of grays, browns, greens, but no clouds. “Is that your homeworld?,” Pozach asked, rising from her command chair to peer over Pasko’s shoulder. From the back of the Bridge, Gin-Sach told her. “Hardly, Captain. Our homeworld was ruined, centuries ago, by internal strife. Now we live as nomads.” As the android spoke, a bizarre configuration of rectangles appeared in orbit. With hundreds of modules, each of them was large enough to house several Cayugas, and they were attached to scaffolding to form a ship. Pasko whistled at the sight. “That thing is huge.” He checked his sensors before pointing at the viewscreen. “It’s over seven hundred kilometers long.” “The Mothership is home to nearly all members of the Pajahni race,” Gin-Sach explained to them. He paused for a moment, his massive golden torso cocking over to one side. “The Cayuga is welcome to dock at the nearest module. Our people look forward to meeting you.” “It is certainly our pleasure.” Pozach tapped the pilot on his shoulder. “Mister Pasko, get us docked and meet me at the airlock. Mister Riker, you’re in command until I get back.” * * * * * * * * * * * * Despite the massive size of the Mothership, its interior was surprisingly small, given the large frames of the Pajahni. Captain Pozach, Lieutenant Pasko, Lieutenant Commander Maguire, and Crewman Leung followed Gin-Sach and Gin-Sirt down the twisting corridors of the ship. “Is it just me,” Pasko whispered to Leung,” or do all of the Pajahni look the same?” The Pajahni appeared to be just as fascinated with the Starfleet officers as the Starfleet officers were with them. Dozens of glowing red eyes watched them as they passed by them. “How do you manage to generate a warp bubble around something this big?,” Maguire asked, tapping on a girder. Gin-Sirt answered her. “Our vessels do not use warp drive. Instead, we have the ability to pierce the dimensional barrier and enter a realm in which the laws of physics are more convenient.” “That’s… incredible. I’d love to see your drive systems.” “In time,” Gin-Sach said. “We thought that, perhaps, you would first enjoy a retrospective of Pajahni history.” Aimee snorted at him. “Personally? No.” “We would be delighted,” Pozach said, shooting a glare at her chief engineer. “As you are a follower of the performing arts, I believe that you will appreciate this, Commander Maguire, despite your protest. Many years ago, we developed a style based on marionette puppets. This way.” The away team entered a large room. The floor dipped steeply away and it was lined with seats that were intended for the Pajahni’s back-canted legs. Leung squinted and asked,” Are those…”? On the stage were three Romulans. Thick cables rose from their skulls up into the darkness. Two of them faced off against a third, who was shouting,” And, who are you to stand against us?! We created you in our image that we might finally have an equal in this Galaxy!” “No, Father,” one of the other Romulans replied. “You do not believe it’s possible to have an equal. We know that we have no equal, either.” With their words said, the two Romulans fell on the third, and though the action was indistinct from the distance, in a moment there was enough green blood on stage to give away the general idea. “Gin-Sirt, this is abhorrent!,” Pozach spat out, turning around on her host. The Pajahni stared down at her. “The Romulans were offered a place in our society or death. They have made their choice.” “We can take them with us. They’ll never trouble you again.” “I imagine that they won’t.” Gin-Sach turned around. “Please follow me.” The Starfleet officers were shuffled uncertainly from the auditorium, trying to keep cultural relativism in mind. “As you know,” Gin-Sach continued with his monologue,” we reproduce sexually. However, we sometimes lack a certain… nurturing instinct. Assistance in this matter is often required.” The Pajahni ushered their guests into another room. This room was filled with waist-high vats of squirming gelatin. Jacqueline Yeager stood behind one of the cradles, her left hand submerged inside the gel. “Yeager?,” Pasko asked, surprised. “What the hell are you doing here?” At the sound of his voice, Yeager looked up with a smile. She stepped around the cradle, revealing the thin, mechanical legs fused to her exposed pelvic bone. The high-pitched whirring of the servos was momentarily smothered by the sound of Maguire, vomiting in a nearby corner. “Shh,” she told them, the look of wonderment never leaving her eyes,” you’ll wake up the babies.” “My God,” breathed Pasko. “What,” the captain asked, her eyes raking over the young ensign’s mutilated body,” have you done to her?” Gin-Sirt’s voice sounded pleased. “We have improved upon what nature has created. We needed a nursemaid so we took it upon ourselves to perfect Miss Yeager to serve in this task.” “Would you like to hold the baby?,” Yeager asked them. “You needed a babysitter… so you assimilated her?,” Maguire snarled, wiping the bile from her mouth with a sleeve. Gin-Sirt lashed out at her, crushing her up against the wall. “References to the Borg are both inaccurate and unappreciated. Assimilation strips the will from the subject,” the android explained, sharply, crouching over the dazed woman. Pozach interposed herself between them and hoisted the other woman to her feet. “Miss Yeager, would you care to show our guests your enhancements?,” Gin-Sach asked her. Delighted, the science officer from the Juneau turned her head to reveal the exposed brain and embedded circuitry on the left side of her head. “Thanks to our modifications, Miss Yeager, not only acts as a nursemaid, but it is simply the most enjoyable thing that she could ever conceive of doing. We are not cruel. Work should be rewarding.” “Pasko, grab Yeager,” Pozach ordered, pulling Maguire towards the door. “We’re leaving.” Several things seemed to happen at once. In a motion slow enough to seem almost thoughtless, Gin-Sach backhanded Crewman Leung. The blow shattered each of his ribs and pulverized his heart. Yeager’s hand closed around Pasko’s throat, cutting off his air supply. Gin-Sirt kicked Maguire, punting her across the room and into the corridor outside. “Naughty, naughty,” Yeager said, pleasantly, shoving Pasko through the doorway. He fell down in the corridor, struggling to stand as Gin-Sach and Gin-Sirt advanced on them. Clanging from both ends of the corridor heralded the approach of more Pajahni. Yeager forced Pozach into a tight hug. “Don’t worry, little one. I’ll take care of you.” “Jeanne!,” Maguire screamed, trying to stagger back up to her feet, despite her injuries. “Pasko to Cayuga! Get us out of here! Beam us out now!” The ranks of the Pajahni closed around them and the last that they saw of Jeanne Pozach was her horrified expression over the shoulder of Yeager’s embrace. * * * * * * * * * * * * “Power surges on the Mothership. It looks like weapons!,” th’Nerain reported. “I can’t get a lock on the Captain or Crewman Leung,” Mbanu said over the intercom from the transporter room. Tom Riker leaned forward in the command chair. “Get Pasko and Maguire. Polcheny, break us out of dock and get us the hell out of -- “ A weapons blast rocked the ship. Its roar was quickly replaced by the wail of decompression alarms. “Hull breach,” th’Nerain reported,” on Deck Six!” “Polcheny, why are we still here?!,” Riker demanded to know. The rear doors to the Bridge opened and a beaten Maguire stumbled in, supported by Lieutenant Pasko. “What the hell did you people do over there?” Maguire glared at the First Officer for a moment before she collapsed into the chair at the engineering station. “They’re hitting us with forced graviton packets. Our shields can’t block them.” The ship lurched again and Pasko was thrown against the helm. “Here,” he snapped at Ensign Polcheny,” let me do it.” “I’m busy,” she said through gritted teeth. The Cayuga turned her engines towards the Pajahni Mothership, scorching the massive vessel with its impulse exhaust. Graviton packets -- warbles in the fabric of space -- erupted from the Mothership, rupturing soundlessly against the hull before Polcheny pulled the ship out of the salvo. For a split second, she rocketed the ship to warp, skipping past the next fusillade before swinging the ship back towards the Mothership. “No way,” Riker gasped underneath his breath. Polcheny didn’t hear her own shout as she throttled the Cayuga forward, slipping in between the modules. At several thousand kilometers an hour, the Saber-class starship dodged in and out of the structures, reaching for open space on the far side. The instant that her bow cleared the Mothership’s scaffolding, the Cayuga accelerated to three thousand times the speed of light and she was gone. * * * * * * * * * * * * “We have to go back!” Aimee Maguire sat on the edge of a biobed, panting at the pain that her outburst had brought upon her. Doctor Moru held a steadying hand on her shoulder while he ran a bone knitter over her side. “You don’t understand! They were using Romulans as damned puppets--” Riker stood before her, his arms crossed over his chest. : I understand your loyalty, but right now, our priorities are to get to the Juneau and get the hell out of here.” “They mutilated Yeager!” “You are not encouraging me to change my mind,” he snapped back at her. “Aimee,” the Bolian physician said,” we lost thirty people to the void, not an hour ago. We can’t just charge back in.” The engineer mouthed helplessly for a moment. “Zim, they’ll do that to her!” “Commander, shut up,” Riker ordered her. “We have more important things to worry about than one more lost crew member.” He stepped over a triaged officer lying on the floor to reach the biobed where Pasko was lying. “Perhaps you can be less hysterical?” Pasko began to shake his head before wincing with pain. “She pretty much summed it all up. Gen-Sirt killed Leung so … casually.” Riker glanced back at Maguire. “I want us defended against their weapons.” “They were hitting us with miniature black holes, Riker. What the hell am I supposed to do about that?!” Maguire pushed herself to her feet, brushing Moru off of her. “I suggest you figure that out,” Riker snarled lowly. “Bridge to Riker.” Irritated, he slapped his combadge. “Captain Riker here.” There was silence on the other end of the intercom for a moment. Even Maguire shot a look at Moru. “Sir, we’ve located the Juneau in the Gamma Ceti system.” “Well, you tell Polcheny to get us over there -- “ “The signal isn’t just coming from the system, sir. It’s… it’s coming from the fifth planet. From the surface. Juneau is down.” The End….