Literary Challenge #69 - Winter Wonderland Celebrations (I)
Captain Aeris entered Sickbay aboard the Sovereign-class starship U.S.S. Zephyra. On the biobeds lied two groggy, grey-skinned males, Seifer and Menchez, just barely recovering from the undead-like infection of late-type events.
"Ugggh. My head feels like ten Vaadwaur ambushes---" the nearly unrecognizable Seifer groaned. "So, a normal day."
Menchez tried sitting up but failed in his attempts. "My mighty Klingon ridges-- feel like Ferengi ear cartilage, jammed together to form some kind of money hungry forehead."
"Nice one," Seifer remarked as he and Menchez attempted to high-five, only to be defeated by the pain in their arms-- "Ugh!"
Aeris looked at them. "So, you're alive, huh? Damn that Captain's prerogative which makes us all immune to death, supposedly."
"Not--- for long," Seifer ached in his continued speech. "I have to-- reverse the 'reset' through calculations of time warp!"
Menchez shook his head, subtly. "And I must--- purchase some--- life insurance."
"Well, you can forget all those things, because you're both going to be stuck in bed for months thanks to your foolish handling of ex-Commander Avery, and the complete mess of carnage aboard both your ships," Aeris re-assured, disappointedly.
Seifer gasped in shock, "Oh no! That means we're going to miss Q's Winter Wonderland??"
"He's like the Kes of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants--- sending us 9.5 thousand light years closer to happiness," Menchez stated.
Seifer nodded in understanding, and then stopped in realization. "Too bad she's dead now?"
"--Au contraire, mon Cap-i-tans!" Suddenly, Qu appeared, perched like a bird over an unconscious Ensign Dan on a surgical bed near them.
Menchez's eyes widened, "That's what Q's say??"
"No, it's Qu. I'm a different guy. Also, it sounds the same, but it's spelled differently."
Menchez turned to Seifer, "Qu had a go at serving me a dose of hard-reality not too long ago--- As it turns out, we're all constantly re-spawning in our battles in both space and ground-- thanks to a cosmic string which is also responsible for wiping our memories of it."
"Wait, Qu, are you saying that that specific Ocampan is still alive--?" Seifer asked, instinctively dismissing the other thing.
Qu looked at him confused, "What? Oh, no; she's a goner, for sure; died of constantly merging her life energies with things. --No, 'au contraire', is just a Q way of saying hello. We inherently contradict all creatures, and prefer to warn everyone through our greetings. The real reason I am here is because I've decided I'd like to send you all into a winter wonderland of forced joy and delight!"
To that, he snapped his fingers and all three of them flashed away.
They all re-appeared in a snow-filled paradise of questionable elation. Aeris suddenly noticed that both Seifer and Menchez were now standing, their pigments returned, and they both appeared to be in full health.
"Uh, Qu, why the hell did you do that before we could react? We need to react to things, you know," Seifer insisted.
Qu furrowed his divine brow. "You mortals take too long for things!"
"By the curly hair of Admiral Kirk! You're not bed-strapped or Takaran-looking anymore??" Aeris' mouth was already dropped at the sight of the two other Captains.
Qu continued. "Indeed. It was my judgment that you would all need to be capable for winter forced-liveliness. Here's the catch. All three of you Captains, or 'mains', if you will, desire something specific." He then turned to each of them, sequentially. "Seifer, you want to murder the rest of your crew in the noble cause of rejecting something you call 'resets'. Menchez, you desire reassurance of life and to install cushions in all the duranium beds on your ship. And, Aeris, as the new one, you just want these two Captains back aboard their similarly T5U, or T6-wannabe, vessels."
"It's really more about the stench," Aeris confirmed. "Also, the skin debris coming off you guys. You're both worse than flaking-Odo as a Vidiian."
Qu opened his arms. "In the spirit of the season, who so-ever wins these winter games will get what they want! More proof of my greatness; the action of such which also serves to confirm said claim."
"Except why is some of this snow melting? And why is that gingerbread man attacking and eating that other gingerbread man?" Seifer asked, pointing.
They all looked over to see a blue gingerbread man eating the remains of his most recent conquest. "Hahaha!! Let's see you try council-membering me now!" his amazingly perfect high-pitched voice exclaimed in victory before he started running off to his next victim.
"Never mind that. --Begin, like the grindfest rodents you are!" Qu snapped and disappeared.
Walking along the now seemingly half-efforted Winter Wonderland, the three Captain's came upon an ice shelved section with a gate attached to its edge. They approached a Breen who was more than impartial to address them.
"The race happens 15 minutes after the hour, then again 22 minutes after the hour, and at 45 and 52 minutes after the hour," he instructed.
Seifer tapped his foot. "Uh, it's 45 after; so, what's the hold up?"
"I think I read somewhere that the 45 minute mark is hit and miss," Menchez offered. "Perhaps a reminder we should all get out and find girlfriends."
Suddenly, the Breen started talking again: "Make sure you're standing on the starting platform - the wooden area - while the countdown to the race happens."
"Well, aren't you Mr. Sunshine?" Aeris commented as the three of them moved to get into position. "He's actually not that bad; I just wanted to sound witty."
Menchez gazed at the platform, "Ice. Pure ice. Anyway, as great as it is that we have this opportunity to take part in Winter Wonderland, I intend on wiping the makeshift raceways with your sorry Federation uniforms. Seriously, who designed your Odyssey type? It's just a 2373 rehash."
Suddenly, an ominous countdown beeped and the gate dropped. Seifer, Menchez and Aeris leapt onto the icey track and ran for it, each determined to win favor with the standing record for each of their own personal reasons.
"Auuuggh!" During the run, Menchez and Seifer suddenly found themselves sliding into an inhibiting patch of spikey ice. Aeris fell into a snow bank.
Seifer tried, unsuccessfully, pushing the Klingon away from him. "I'm not letting you win, Menchez! You told me about reset, and now I'm addicted to it! This is just like the ketrecel white fixation I had last month."
"So, you intend on killing your crew?" Menchez asked rhetorically. "Give it up, Captain! Doing things just leads to other things! And things are the worst!"
As Aeris got up and carefully re-stepped back into the race, she suddenly found her foot breaking through the ice. In half a minute, the entire track cracked apart, revealing the unfrozen, unkempt river beneath. The three Captains found their legs immersed in shallow, streaming, and chopped-ice water.
"You know, the Phoenix-X has this exact same problem on Deck 8," Seifer admitted. "I suspect it's one of my Xindi-Aquatic duty officers."
The three made their way out onto destitute snow-land, disqualifying from the boundary, and confused by the end-result. "Where do we file bug reports and whiny protests? Is there a General Discussion forum somewhere?" Aeris asked.
Next, the mini-group came upon the icey shelter where Ferengi vendors and Epohh ladies lived.
"Qu is a genius!" the Ferengi said as they strolled by, "And so handsome."
Seifer eyed him, confusingly. "Why is he just offering personal information out like that? Doesn't he want to keep that to himself?"
"Don't you want an Epohh friend?" the Epohh lady asked, loudly, as they walked passed her next. "Qu loves all the little creatures; even you!"
Menchez nodded, taking that last comment in, somewhat overwhelmingly. "It is a good feeling being loved. As a Klingon, I will freely admit that."
"It's the Pie Contest Breen," Aeris observed as they approached a seemingly over-weight, cold, suited man.
The Breen spoke at their arrival, "Look at all this bounty Qu has provided. Eat the pies for his amusement! The more pies you finish, the better the rewards!"
"The reward being an early death?" Seifer asked.
As the three approached the table of pies, the countdown timer rang off, prompting them all to begin eating as many as possible. Menchez and Seifer dove in and began stuffing their faces, but Aeris hesitated. "The Humanoid stomach can only fill about 2 to 4 liters of food, and you have a Trill Symbiont."
"Yeah, but his stomach can hold up to 6 or 7," Seifer explained with a mouth-full, knowingly breaking canon and the laws of alien biology all at once. Suddenly a gag reflex caused him to involuntarily spit out his pie. "Ugghh! These are really badly made! Are these...... Are these all leola root pies??"
Aeris pointed to a nearby table. "Well, there's your answer-- a Talaxian."
"Happy Non-Denominational Holidays! Qu has charged me to discover new foods and combine bizarre spices in strange, new ways," Neelix greeted from afar.
Menchez continued eating, forcing it down. "You fools! Leola root is nothing to a Klingon! I don't care what that half-asleep engineer always said!"
"Captain, no! Many of Voyager's crew was found dead from leola root poisoning! They secretly cloned new personnel, as replacements, every season--- That's why there were more background faces than what the actual crew complement was supposed to be!"
Menchez involuntarily spat out a mouth-full, compelling him to stop in pure emotion-- "I have to win this! Don't you see? If we can't have death, as I have previously tried to force it, then we must have life-- We can't end up the way Sisko fake-died??"
"Yeah, that was weird. Then I had a dream about Kirk trying to interview him while he absent-mindedly played piano? Anyway, Captain, what I mean to say is: you're the fool. Your obsessions are turning you weak and barely even Klingon anymore!" Aeris charged.
Menchez wiped a tear from his eye, and sniffled. "That was a mean thing to say, you big meanies. I can't believe how mean you both are being. Captains are supposed to have a non-mean code."
"Uggh!" Seifer and Aeris threw up their arms in frustration before a bunch of live leola root worms started wiggling out of the pies, destroying their perfect holiday crusts.
It was all Aeris could do to keep herself from hurling-- "Oh, dude, hell no---" She pushed Seifer aside and ran out into the open snow, preparing for the worst in regurgitation.
Seifer and Menchez ran over, to catch up, when all three suddenly stopped their concerns, noticing a gingerbread veteran, nearby, eating into the blue, high-pitched gingerbread man from earlier.
"A gingerbread council member is being eatennnn!" it cried out before perishing.
The gingerbread veteran, with a nasally, stuffed-up voice emerged from his hunger-triumph and took notice of the three Captains. "Help protect us from an invasion of snowmen!"
"You just performed horrible, yet deliciously-looking cannibalism, and now you want us to take you seriously?" Seifer critiqued.
The gingerbread veteran continued his nasally panic without waiver: "Strange snowmen are trying to break into our winter wonderland and ruin everything!" He then turned to find Menchez breaking off his left arm and eating it.
"Whu't?" Menchez said with a mouth-full of gingerbread. "I nee'ded to w'ash th'e Nee'lix dow'n."
Suddenly, a group of stick-bat'leth-wielding snowmen approached from the distance, intent on overtaking the intrepid Captains of yonder time. Aeris pointed to just the left of them. "Here! A pile of conveniently formed snowballs! Put the extras in your pockets!"
All three Captains began picking up snowballs and throwing them at incoming snowmen.
Suddenly, a giant Borg sphere passed overhead, in the sky, stopping to a hover beyond the hill in the distance where the snowmen were approaching from. Moments later, the onslaught of snow enemies trickled into an onslaught of assimilated snow enemies. Their drone voices broadcasted all around, naturally: "We are the Borg. In an effort to penetrate new realms, as we do, we have entered this one. We call it, the 'jolly realm'. We were already aware it was labeled Qu's Winter Wonderland. Freezistance is futile."
"I love that the Borg are way more talkative now. Remember when they attacked the NX-01 Enterprise in the mid-22nd century and they didn't even say they were Borg, despite them being from the future where they did say that?" Seifer commented by way of run-on-ask.
Menchez looked at him while continuing his non-tiring snow-throws. "And how exactly would any of us remember events we weren't there for?"
Then, a more giant amalgamation of assimilated snow mush, called a Bursting Snow Monstrosity, approached. "We only wish to lower temperature for all species."
While frosty assimilated enemies were being taken out by highly trained Starfleet officers and a hardened Klingon warrior, the gingerbread veteran snorted: "In order to help you out, I've dug three several-kilometer-long grooves into the snow to help align the snowmen's approach!"
"That wasn't necessary," Seifer explained. "The only reason I can think you would do such a thing is because you wanted to name each of the groov---"
But the veteran just interrupted him at the then incoming approach of several Guardian Snow Monstrosities: "Snowmen are coming down Black Diamond, Crimson Cube and Blue Lozenge lanes!"
Just then, the Borg Snow Queen, the tallest snow mash-up of them all, emerged in the distance and threw a giant snow ball at the group. Seifer and Menchez dodged it as it hit Aeris and took her down. "Ugh! This is pointless!" the Human Captain gritted in snow-plastered frustration. "Of course you two are able to ease into reminiscings of any kind, while I have to deal with being the new one with no memorable adventure-like experiences to back me up!-- Entries, if you will. It's almost as if we only get one per month now??"
Seifer looked at her, confused.
"Oh, please; like you've never been jealous of a non-tangible thing."
The Trill Starfleet officer tapped his chin. "Well, there is that whole Vulcan katra mumbo-jumbo, which is way more mystical than our zhian'tara woozle-wozzle. Both, of course, I assume are ghost-based."
The two then glanced over to see Menchez handing over several items to a Ferengi Holiday Item Vendor: Targ ear muffs, Bolian candles, Andorian sleigh bells and much, much more. He was rewarded with a Freezing Mist ground-based weapon-- to which he immediately used to blast the Borg Snow Queen to pieces.
"Definitely feeling aggressive tendencies, sirs!"
Aeris got up with Seifer's help. "Thanks for telling us?"
"--Ahh! What are you mortal meat-bags doing??" Qu suddenly flashed in with arms pre-open. "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: Don't provoke the Borg!"
Seifer crossed his arms, "You never told us that. In fact, we asked you specifically if there was a group we shouldn't provoke and you replied with 'Don't bother me now; I'm picking out my Q hat'."
"Yes, that's right! Big surprise, the Q likes head-wear! I made this Winter 'Wonderland' because I thought it could lead me to be worthy of even more Q top-warmers."
Aeris looked at him, with judgmental glee. "It's clear you just copied Q's Winter Wonderland from previous years. Melting race tracks? Leola worm pies? Gingerbread cannibals?"
"Let's not forget the epohh breeding baskets. People are literally just putting epohhs in baskets and placing bets," Seifer reported.
Qu put the oddly-formed epohh he was petting down. "Uggh. They're just serving as a reminder of the Borg epidemic now. All I was doing was trying to follow the gold example?? Old-faced Q thinks he's so perfect."
"---I'm Q-Junior, the less copyrighted Q!" Q-Junior said as he flashed in. "I'm the one who's been running the Winter Wonderlands; not my father."
Qu looked at him in momentary shock, "Oh! I guess I forgot to check. Plus your look, behavior and dialogue are similar? Well, anyway, it's not like people really need to know the truth. I suppose I don't feel as bad now."
"Wait! Who won out of the three of us?" Menchez reached out. "The Klingon, right? It's usually the Klingon."
Qu shook his head, "I don't have time for games!? My wonderland is destabilizing thanks to this Delta incursion! Do the players love it? Do they really??"
"Well, pick one of us. We went through hell and back for this holiday season; just... horrible, utter hell," Aeris stated.
Qu glanced over. "Huh? Oh. You..... since you're the one closest to me right now-- Your wish of everyone back on their ships, in some measure of health, is granted. But, you should know, Captain, even the action of being sent is itself memorable." Before snapping, he paused-- "Please note, every Q transport erases two weeks of childhood memory." At that, Seifer, Menchez and Aeris all disappeared in a flurry flash.
"I like what you've involuntarily endured with the Borg snowmen," Q-Junior said, walking over. "I think I'll add it to my Wonderland; the lanes as well." He glanced at the gingerbread veteran. "You're coming with me, too. The catch being you thinking this was all my idea."
Qu tilted his head, "But your Wonderland has been going on since the beginning of the month? You're adding this in so late in the game?"
"I'll go into the past and add it, you nit-wit! Ugh. You are literally the worst Q that ever existed," he said before preparing to leave. "Now, if you'll excuse me, but I have to sit in a chair on Earth Spacedock, Qo'noS and New Romulus all at once. They make me shift my consciousness between each body and it's quite dizzying."
After he and the gingerbread veteran flashed away, Qu took one last holiday prideful look at his melting ice shelter moments before half of it collapsed in on its sad, tired and depressed vendors. Luckily, despite being copies, they were all granted immortality, so they were probably fine. Happy Holidays!