The Needs of the Plenty, Part I
The Prometheus-class U.S.S. Phoenix-X, the twenty-fifth Phoenix-named starship in a long line of unfamous Phoenix-named ships sat out in the vast, cold harshi-harshness of harsh, cold space.
Commander Seifer woke up in his quarters, in a frightened bleak sweat: "Aaah! I just had the worst dream. It was all about horrible fan fiction writing, which is likely what this is. Let's just get that out of the way, right off the bat."
"Uh, why am I on the comm?" broadcasted Captain Cell's voice through the air. "Did you preset the computer to initiate comm traffic between us in lieu of an alarm?"
Seifer moved his legs out of bed. "Yeah, we're friends, right? Friends should be able to talk as soon as they wake up."
"No. No, that's definitely not how friends works. Anyway, get yourself up to the Bridge, immediately. You're late for your shift." He then paused in sudden realization of his efforts. "Ahhh, I see what you did there! Nice."
Later, Seifer, un-expected joined Trill, met with Captain Cell, the well-adjusted and occasional power-tripper, in his Ready Room.
Cell's desk was full of Starfleet padds of all regulation shapes and sizes. "You'd think we'd have more memory on these things by now, but, no; padd technology hasn't changed in 400 years."
"So, are we up for that three dimensional chess match we had planned? I took a regular chess set and threw away three quarters of each side's pieces."
The Captain shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. Ever since my secret went public, Starfleet Security's been hounding me with inquiries and questionnaires. I finish one, eight more are sent to me-- Finish those, and I get thirteen lawsuits."
"Well, the very idea of you being in Starfleet is absurd and irrational. Not to diminish your very existence."
Cell got up and handed over a padd. "At least I finished our report on our last Romulan aid mission. Those poor, struggling, paranoid conspiracy geniuses."
"They claimed the pyramids at Egypt were built by ancient Ferengi."
Captain Cell nodded. "They were right! Modern day archeologists found 200 bars of gold pressed latinum built into the Sphinx-- which was clearly modeled after their Blessed Exchequer."
"Bridge to Captain Cell," came Armond's voice over the comms, "We're receiving a secured communiqué from Starbase 55. Something about moving-through-space envy."
Cell headed out onto the Bridge and Seifer followed suit. Admiral Cloud's image displayed over the main viewer.
"Greetings, Phoenix-X; the only Phoenix-named ship to survive a maddening, over-zealous transwarp testing phase in which all previous Phoenix ships were destroyed in test-flights, one after the other."
The Commander held up a misplaced-prideful, pointed finger. "And, at an alarming rate, might I add."
"That's not......... That's not a thing any normal person would brag about."
Seifer frowned. "Aw."
"But the Phoenix-X does remain as my special operations ship. I mean, you already have the -X. Not like the Jenova, which I've recently demoted as to being my coffee-run ship."
Cell stepped forward. "What the hell? What's with all the exposition?? Do you have a mission for us or not?"
"Huh? Oh, yes. But before I give it to you, you should know, those of us who've helped keep your recently-exposed-secret secret are doing our best to pull the legal-wolves right off you. You saved the Federation on more than enough occasions to warrant it: The Tribble Invasions, The Moriarty Cold Wars, The Kahn Race Riots."
Seifer pondered. "To be fair, the ethnic-variety of the Kahns that came out of those riots was what was really out of control."
"Commanding and ordering the crew around is what we're all about," Cell explained. "Saving others is just an awkward by-product."
Cloud leaned in, sternly. "Anyway, thank you. Now, speaking of others, the Federation colony world of Gault was recently attacked by an alien force. Locals have reported strange, tall men, ravaging their village centers for supplies. I need you to investigate while I meet Nechayev for lunch-- I... I accidentally asked her out at a staff party and now I'm too afraid to cancel."
Later, the Phoenix-X took orbit of Gault. An Away Team of Seifer, Armond and Kayl beamed to the surface and began scanning around and interviewing locals.
"It was a large, tall, lanky man! He had arms for as far as the eye could see!" exclaimed a scared, wild-eyed local, whilst pulling their own hair.
Lieutenant Kayl, operations officer, human and genetically augmented, just looked at the local, deadpanned. "Do you need a hair dresser or something...?"
"Check this out." Lieutenant Commander Armond, human and technologically savvy, walked over with his padd. "The local I interviewed said she saw these beings change shape."
Kayl's jaw dropped. "What the hell? You got a non-yeller??"
"No, she was screaming alright. I just mapped through her patterns of transitory coherence. Took me two padds to get a complete sentence."
Seifer walked over with his results. "According to one of the Gaults... Gaultans? Gaultoids? --According to the Gaulti-Gaults, the shape changing men they were met with were looking for energy weapons. When all they could find were laser rakes and high powered polaron shovels, they reformed into one large being and shot up into the atmosphere."
"It's so weird this entire planet is farm obsessed," Armond commented. "I met a man who genetically altered his biology and planted himself into the ground. He bore kava fruit in the spring."
Kayl bit into one. "Just make sure you grab the fruit."
"From all the data we collected, it sounds like we could be dealing with Changelings," Seifer postulated. "I had the Phoenix-X start scanning the surface for protoplasm and anything gooey. So far: a ton of amino acid and protein soup pools-- like, an over-abundance of them."
Armond's tricorder suddenly started beeping. "Sir, I'm picking up low-level traces of a chroniton pitch fork outside the village center, near the mountainous range."
"Ah, yes, rocky caves; classic Away Team stomping grounds," Seifer smiled in touching reverie. "How do you want to do this: Walking? Argo buggy? Tame a giant sehlat and ride it?"
Kayl crossed her arms. "Transporters will be fine, Commander."
"Oh, sure, the lazy way. Remind me not to invite you to my Tuvok sweat drills." Seifer eyed her as he tapped his commbadge.
Seconds later, the team rematerialized next to the rugged region of the mountains: Seifer, Armond, Kayl and an addition of Lieutenant Commander Red.
"Why did you wait so long to invite the Klingon?" Red growled. "Is it because I am a Klingon?"
Seifer took out his phaser. "Uh, pretty much. You freak us out, despite you only being our helmsmen. --By the way, don't put that observation in any reports."
SKZZZT! Suddenly, the sound of a misused pitchfork beam hitting off a rock, rang through in the distance. The tool hit the ground and the being that used it went into immediate hiding.
"Over here!" Kayl called the group over to the fallen tool, nearby, but there was no trace of its user. "So which of us is going to die on this Away Mission? It's the yellow shirts in this era, isn't it?"
Seifer picked up the pitchfork and looked around. "No one's going to die, Lieutenant. Not without permission, and I only sign off on those occasionally."
"Way to ruin my day," Red replied. "I purposely did not answer any of my voicemails for this specific reason."
Eyeing the rocky surroundings at the base of the mountain, Seifer's vision caught the questionable formation of a nearby boulder. He then jabbed it with the pitchfork end, causing the rocky surface to fluctuate and form into a humanoid Changeling.
"Ah! Don't kill me; I surrender!" the shapeshifting being called out while assembling. "My name is Diggs, and I separated myself from the Traveling Link when they attacked here!"
Seifer stepped back. "Way to spill everything right out the gates. Ever heard of holding back?"
"Sorry. It's just that I get nervous really easily. As a pre-liquid entity, not being able to urinate is one of the worst forms of torture."
The Commander looked at him, sternly. "You already know that in the future no one goes to the bathroom! And don't you realize attacking people makes it impossible for those people to go about their daily routine?? Tell us why you did so, and make it snappy."
"Not until I speak to my lawyer! Also, where can I get a lawyer? Also, what's a lawyer?"
Seifer rolled his eyes. "Ugh. Never mind. At least we got you; thus enabling a really great feeling of accomplishment. You're coming with us."
"Ooh! Can we go to a Gaultan coffee house? I simply adore Gaultan coffee houses."
The Trill dropped his posture. "What? We're going back to the Phoenix-X where we can question you."
"A starship! How space-cowboy. Okay, whenever you're ready. Let's do it. How's my face formed? Good? It's probably good."
Seifer tapped his commbadge. "Away Team here. --Prepare the quantum stasis field generators and lock on to all five of us. I'm going to also need my black rubber gloves, some hair gel, and tall boots. We have some interrogating to do."
"That's a bit much, but, understood, sir," came Ensign Belm's reply over the comms. In seconds, the group dematerialized in hopes of an answer to the recent attacks.