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Amongst the Stars

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First Officer’s Log: Stardate 2380.40
Things have been going exceptionally well today. Nothing has exploded or malfunctioned, no one has food poisoning from today’s lunch yet, and everyone reported for their shift on time. All is well and quiet in this part of the Alpha Quadrant for the crew of the
Heisei. There’s really not much to report.

A loud clanging sound echoing across the bridge interrupted Yamada Ryosuke from adding anything else to his log. To his right, Yuto jumped up out of his seat with a startled exclamation of “I wasn’t sleeping!” Yamada didn’t know who the captain was trying to fool though because he was pretty sure everyone had heard the snores.

“Security drill!” Inoo called out. Yamada turned to see the chief of security proudly banging a gong—a gong?!—at his station to get everyone’s attention.

First Officer’s Log: Supplemental
Remember to check the regulations later for protocol concerning musical instruments on the bridge.

“We don’t need a security drill,” Yamada said. “We’re busy.” Of course, he was stretching the truth a bit. They were so not busy that Hikaru had put the ship on autopilot and had been playing a handheld tetris game at the helm for the last three hours.

“But what if the ship gets invaded by a hostile life-form intent on gruesomely murdering us?” Inoo asked.

Yamada resisted the urge to roll his eyes when Yuto nodded in agreement. “I don’t want us to be gruesomely murdered,” Yuto declared. “Or any other unpleasant kind of murdering, to be honest. We’ve got time for a security drill. Everybody, man your battle stations!” Yuto commanded in his most captain-like voice while dramatically pointing in the distance like he was posing in a movie instead of captaining a Federation starship.

“…we are at battle stations,” Keito quietly said from his communications post nearby.

Inoo waved his hand as he stowed the gong away now that he had everyone’s attention. “Don’t worry about that. I have a whole scenario planned out for us. Everyone needs to be scattered around the ship.”

“I’ll be in astrometrics then,” Chinen said and then rapidly disappeared from his science station on the bridge without giving anyone a chance to argue.

Inoo just shrugged. “Keito can hang out in the mess hall and Hikaru in the transporter room,” he directed, “and I’ll play the part of the intruder. Somebody let the others know. I’ll start in engineering and see if I can work my way here. You guys have to try and stop me.” He grinned and then exited by the turbolift the same way Chinen had.

Now it was just Yuto and Yamada left on the bridge. The captain sent messages to the rest of the crew while Yamada just plopped back into his seat.

First Officer’s Log: Supplemental
I guess when you’re on a deep space exploration mission, you’ve got to find something to do on boring days.

***

When he walked into the astrometrics lab, Chinen wasn’t surprised to see Takaki Yuya sleeping with his body slumped over on top of a console. He jabbed his finger into his sleeping assistant’s shoulder who then woke up with a startled yelp.

“You’re supposed to be examining star charts,” Chinen said.

“I was!” Takaki answered. He wiped the drool off the console and then brushed a few stray strands of hair out of his face as he stood up and stretched.

“The only thing you were examining was the inside of your eyelids,” Chinen laughed. He probably should reprimand Takaki, but well, even the captain had been sleeping earlier. And besides, Chinen had come down here to escape the security drill and continue his work.

“Do me a favor and stand by the door,” Chinen directed as he sat down in Takaki’s recently vacated seat. “And if Inoo comes in, kick him.”

Takaki positioned himself in front of the doors. “Okay but why?”

Chinen quickly explained the security drill situation but ignored any further questions from Takaki. On the bridge earlier, he had noticed a weird blip on his scans but Inoo had interrupted with his security drill before he could investigate it. It could be a computer malfunction or it could be something to worry about. He wasn’t going to dismiss it until he knew for sure what it was. In the meantime, he was pretty sure Takaki could handle anything Inoo threw at him during the drill. From the corner of his eye, he could see Takaki holding a position with his legs spread wide and bent at the knees, arms stretched forward like he might tackle Inoo as soon as he walked through the door.

But Chinen could laugh about that possibility later. Right now he had to figure out that mysterious blip.

***

Keito decided on eating some leftover soup since he had no idea how long he’d be stuck in the mess hall. He swirled the steaming mixture around with his spoon before savoring the first bite. But before the soup even had a chance to cool off, Inoo burst into the room wearing a fake mustache and carrying a deactivated phaser rifle. Keito blinked and said hi.

“You don’t say hi to an intruder,” Inoo scolded him. “I’m a hostile enemy. What do you do?”

“Uh…” Keito glanced around. “Throw hot soup on you?”

Inoo looked offended. “What? That’s a waste of good soup. I made that soup.”

“Why would the intruder have soup he made in our kitchen?”

For a moment Inoo spluttered as he realized he’d accidentally broken character. “Forget the soup. I’m taking you hostage.”

“But what if I threw the soup on you? Hypothetically,” Keito complained in a last-ditch effort to save himself, even as Inoo took the soup away.

“Too late,” Inoo answered and put the soup back in the kitchen. “As my hostage, show me how to get to the engine room.”

Keito sighed as Inoo’s fingers curled around his wrist, already dragging him in the direction of the turbolift. It was just his luck that he’d end up being the hostage, of course. He never had the opportunity to just sit down and eat soup in peace. Stubbornly, he guided Inoo towards engineering while mostly ignoring the security officer’s chastising comments about how to properly react to a hostage situation.

“I like your mustache,” Daiki said as soon as Inoo and Keito walked into the engine room. Inoo proudly patted his faux facial hair at the compliment until he abruptly frowned, remembering that he was supposed to be doing. “Hey! I have a hostage. None of you are any good at roleplaying. It’s a good thing someone isn’t actually invading the ship.”

“But what if I was trying to distract you so Keito could escape?” Daiki shot back.

Keito paused as he was trying to inch away towards the door. “Dammit,” he cursed under his breath as Inoo grabbed his arm again.

“It didn’t work,” Inoo declared loudly. “Next time tell me I have pretty eyes too and maybe you just might get lucky. Now,” he gestured towards Keito who was just frowning with resignation, “I have a hostage. What do you do?”

“Hmm…” Daiki tapped his chin. “Save the hostage? Or protect the warp core? Try to incapacitate the threat? Or just distract him? Or run away? Ugh, there are too many choices. I can’t decide.”

“Bang,” Inoo said and lazily pointed his finger at Daiki. He didn’t even bother pulling out the phaser rifle. “Too late. Now you’re dead and I have control of the engine room.” He pretended to press the console buttons to shut down the engine, all while laughing maniacally.

“How do you know the codes to shut down the warp core?” Daiki asked.

Inoo abruptly stopped laughing, and then stroked his mustache as he tried to think of a good answer. “Uh… dead bodies don’t talk so shush,” he deflected the question.

Daiki shrugged and then picked a spot on the floor to lie down. “Since I’m dead, I’ll just hang out down here until the drill is over.” He started on his back, but then rolled to his side to get more comfortable. But a second later, he rolled again to another spot. Inoo and Keito watched him with vaguely concerned looks as Daiki continued to toss and turn.

Finally Inoo just shrugged. “Take me to the bridge,” he commanded Keito.

“This isn’t teaching us anything about security at all,” Keito muttered under his breath.

***

To be honest, the only person more excited than Inoo about the security drill was Yabu because he liked a change in routine. As the emergency medical hologram, he couldn’t really go anywhere other than sickbay and when everyone was in good health, it got boring just looking at the gray walls in between his medical research. But this was exciting. He paced around sickbay while he contemplated all his possibilities.

“The probability of success is highest if I try to render him unconscious,” he muttered out loud as he passed by his stash of medical supplies. “But I won’t know how any of the drugs will affect alien physiology. Hmm… perhaps the first step is to run a quick bio-scan. Maybe I can use my psychoanalytical skills to distract him while the scan is running.” He tapped his foot as he calculated his odds of success. He didn’t need to tap his foot, but he’d programmed all sorts of human quirks into his system to better help put his patients at ease.

Just as he was about to select a plan of action, Yabu detected a strange buzzing sound from somewhere behind him. He turned to see a mass of… what was that? It looked like a cloud full of sparking electricity. He took a step forward to get a better look, but the energy mass suddenly jolted forward and then dove into his main console, disappearing into the circuitry.

“Well that’s probably not goo—”

And that’s when Yabu’s program flickered and then deactivated.

***

It was quiet on the bridge again now that Yamada and Yuto were the only ones left. Yuto focused on Hikaru’s tetris game he’d left behind while Yamada tried to catch up on reports. But he caught himself watching Yuto’s game more often than he’d like to admit.

“Yes!” Yuto exclaimed. He clenched his fists in victory and beamed at Yamada. “Beat another level. New high score!” After a short victory dance, he offered the game to Yamada.

He refused with a shake of his head. “We’re supposed to be working,” Yamada said. “Not letting Inoo play weird roleplaying games with the crew.”

Yuto settled back down into his chair and leaned closer to Yamada, looking directly at him with suddenly serious eyes. “Yama-chan, you need to learn to loosen up sometimes. Throw caution to the wind and live a little. Laugh a lot and then we can focus on the serious stuff.” Once he was done with his speech, Yuto gave him an endearing smile that Yamada knew was only reserved for him.

The smile was almost enough for Yamada, but a nagging worry had settled into his stomach. “I understand,” he said, “but just remember that we’re on a deep-space exploration mission. We don’t have back-up to call if things go wrong. I just worry about the crew.”

“That’s what makes you the best first officer a captain could have,” Yuto said, taking the opportunity to intertwine his fingers with Yamada’s while they were alone.

Lieutenant Chinen to all crew. Intruder alert!” The familiar voice rang out over the comm system to interrupt the moment. “It’s in sickbay.

“We’re on our way,” Yuto acknowledged. He turned to Yamada. “Okay, now is the time to be serious. I don’t know what’s going on with Inoo’s security drill, but we’re going to find out.”

Yamada checked to make sure he had his weapon as he followed Yuto to the turbolift. Now he understood why he had such a bad feeling.

First Officer’s Log: Supplemental
Shit just got real.

***

Chinen and Takaki were waiting for everyone outside of the closed sickbay doors. Chinen was frowning while Takaki kept shooting worried glances at the door, like whatever was inside might try to come out.

“What’s the situation?” Yuto asked.

“Yeah, what about my security drill?” Inoo asked once he and Keito arrived. Hikaru and Daiki trailed behind just a few seconds later.

Chinen’s furrowed brow looked out of place on his normally cheerful countenance. “I’ve been tracking a mysterious reading on the scanners since we started the drill. I thought it was a malfunction in the computer at first, but actually Takaki and I figured out that it’s an energy-based life form. It just infiltrated the ship a few minutes ago and I’ve tracked it here.”

“Why sickbay?” Hikaru asked but Chinen just shrugged.

“You should have told us sooner,” Yamada said, but Yuto shook his head. There would be time for scolding later after they’d assessed the threat to the ship. Takaki unlocked the door and they all cautiously went inside, weapons drawn just in case.

“Yabu? Doc? You in here?” Yuto called out. But the hologram was nowhere to be seen. “You sure the intruder is in here?”

Chinen nodded. “It’s lurking in the computer system here according to my readings.” He gestured to his tricorder beeping with all sorts of information. Inoo stepped up to the console and tapped a few buttons to reactivate Yabu’s program.

The tall hologram materialized but instead of his usual friendly hello, he greeted them with a blank stare. His eyes also held an unnatural glow which made him look even more ominous. And the most obvious clue that something was wrong were the streaks of sparking energy rolling off of his holographic body.

“It’s in the EMH program,” Yamada said quietly, taking a subtle step forward so that he was in between the hologram and the captain. “What do we do?” They all turned to look at their security chief for guidance.

For a second, Inoo did nothing as he assessed his options and then he finally spoke. “H-hello?” He took a step forward and held his hands out in a peaceful gesture. “We don’t mean any harm. My name is Inoo Kei. Can you speak?”

“Leave,” it demanded harshly in a voice modulated a bit lower than Yabu’s usual one. “Get off my lawn, you meddling kids.”

“…did it really just say…?” Hikaru asked with a scowl. “Is this a joke?”

They turned to their communications officer for an answer. “I think,” Keito began, “maybe the life form is pulling phrases from our databases to communicate. I don’t know why it’s picking phrases a grumpy old man would say, but I guess it’s the best way to make his point.”

“We’re just travelling through here,” Yuto explained slowly. “We didn’t mean to disturb you. Can we have our doctor back?”

“No,” the voice answered harshly. “Leave. You cause problems.”

Inoo turned to Yuto and quietly explained that Yabu’s program was probably the only way the alien had to communicate with them, but he didn’t know how to get it to listen. Before they could say anything else, Hikaru stepped up the console and quickly tried to type in some code to expel the creature. But he was hit with a large electrical shock that sent him flying backwards. He winced in pain while Daiki rushed to see if he was okay.

“You kids cause problems. Get off our lawn. Leave,” the alien demanded while still wearing Yabu’s face. It was downright eerie to watch.

“Explain these problems,” Chinen spoke up to take charge of the situation. “Or we can’t help you.”

Yabu’s head tilted to the side as if he was thinking of the best way to explain. In reality, the alien was probably searching the databases to figure out how to communicate better. The whole crew waited to see what he’d say.

“Engines,” it finally spoke. “Your warp engines cause… interference. And… pain.”

“Oh,” Yuto nodded. “That’s why you want us to leave. If that’s the case, we will happily shut down the warp core and travel on thrusters only. We really didn’t mean to cause any harm. Please accept our apologies.” He bowed deeply towards the alien to show his sincerity, but the alien didn’t seem to fully understand the gesture. Instead it was silent as it contemplated the offer.

“Acceptable,” it answered.

Yuto nodded. “Okay then, guys, let’s get to work. Daiki, go shut the warp core down. Inoo, take care of Hikaru. Chinen, I’m going to need you to plot a course out of this area, and Yamada, you’ll fly the ship.” He turned back to the alien. “We’ll leave a warning beacon behind so that anyone else passing through will know not to bother you.”

The alien nodded with Yabu’s head which still looked rather creepy. The crew scattered as they went to work and it wasn’t long before they were far enough away from the alien’s “lawn.” Once they were distant enough, Yabu’s program deactivated again and the mass of energy rose up from the console and then shot out through the wall, disappearing from sight.

“Is it gone?” Takaki asked.

“Yep,” Chinen said, checking the scans again. “It’s left the ship and is heading back home now.” He tapped the console to bring Yabu back again while the rest of the crew gathered back in sickbay again to talk.

Yabu materialized with his usual bright smile. “Hello? How can I help you?” The smile slipped away as soon as he noticed that Hikaru was hurt. He grabbed his medical supplies to treat the electrical burns. “What did I miss?”

“You don’t remember being held hostage?” Keito asked.

“No, but it sounds exciting,” Yabu looked unconcerned about the hostage ordeal. “Did I miss the whole security drill?”

Yamada scowled. “Well it’s not like it did us much good,” he said and looked at Inoo.

The security officer was unapologetic as always. “It’s best to be prepared for any situation. You never know what will happen. You guys all suck at security drills anyway.” He took off his fake mustache and stuck it in his pocket. “We’ll practice again next week maybe.”

“By the way, Hikaru,” Yuto began, “I beat your high score in tetris.”

“You what?!” Hikaru tried to get up but Yabu forced him to lie back down as he continued treatment. “Captain, you’re the worst.”

“I know,” Yuto grinned and disappeared out the door to head back to the bridge.

Yamada massaged his temples as a headache started to form. “Get back to work,” he commanded, shooing them all away.

First Officer’s Log: Supplemental
We made it through the invasion and hostage situation just fine, although Inoo’s security drill was mostly ineffectual. But there’s no point in dwelling on that. I guess the lesson I learned today is to never say there’s nothing interesting to report…