Strange New Worlds IVby Dean Wesley Smith
In the fourth year of its ongoing mission, the Strange New Worlds writing competition has once again sought out exciting new voices and imaginations among Star Trek's vast galaxy of fans. After scanning countless submissions for signs of style and originality, the judges are proud to report that the universe of amazing Star Trek writers just keeps expanding.
Strange New Worlds IV features more than a dozen never-before-published stories spanning the twenty-third and twenty-fourth centuries, from the early days of James T. Kirk and his crew to the later generations of Captains Picard, Sisko, and Janeway. These memorable new tales explore and examine the past and future of Star Trek from many different perspectives.
Join Strange New Worlds in its thrilling quest to uncover the most compelling Star Trek Þction this side of the Galactic Barrier!
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From Strange New Worlds
A Little More Action
It was raining hard that Friday in the City by the Bay.
So hard, in fact, I couldn't even hear myself walk.
Their sun had taken a powder behind some pretty ugly clouds. And I was taking a beating -- a wet beating.
I flipped up the damp collar on my trusty, tan trenchcoat and pulled down the brim of my hat. It didn't help much, but I didn't care.
This case had taken me across half the quadrant and to dozens of planets. What was a little rain compared with what happened to me on Sigma Omicron VII? I could still feel the lumps on my noggin from that place.
But no matter where I went, each time he had managed to stay one jump ahead of me.
Sure, I could have tried the direct approach, but I didn't want to give myself away. My business with this guy was private. The stakes were too high and if word got out what I was doing a lot of people could get hurt -- mainly me.
My briefcase was getting heavier by the minute. But I wasn't getting paid to complain. I had business to attend to -- big business.
And the sooner I unloaded the goods, the better. I was getting five hundred a day, plus expenses. But all that money wouldn't mean much if I ended up at the bottom of a river, or on the wrong side of a shuttlebay door.
Then I saw it. The place looked like a cement flying saucer.
The rain kept most of the people away, but not me. I double-checked the heater I was packing and headed for the front door.
A couple of uniformed goons gave me the once-over -- twice.
I went up to the desk and there she was -- a hot, blond, blue-eyed number in a red uniform. She had legs all the way up to her hemline -- and then some. And I could tell there was more than hair spray between those ears.
Before I could open my mouth, an alarm went off. I reached for my piece, but the goons were too fast for me.
One of 'em grabbed my heater. But he just started laughing and handed it back to me.
"Sorry, sir. We thought you had a weapon."
What'd they think it was -- a peashooter? I put the piece back into its holster, straightened my coat, and looked back at the beautiful doll. She looked up at me with them big baby blues and said, "May I help you, sir?"
No one had called me sir in a long, long time. I took another second or two just to enjoy the view. "Yeah, honey. I'm lookin' for somebody and was wonderin' if you could do me a favor?"
Her peepers got wider and I noticed a trace of a smile on those ruby smackers of hers.
"I say something funny, sweetheart?"
It would have been cute except for the fact I knew she was laughing at me. They all laugh at me. People can be awfully cruel when they find out who you are.
And just who am I?
I'm a private detective.
An Iotian dick.
Admiral James Kirk looked out at the violent storm over the bay. The view from his new apartment was magnificent. It included not only Starfleet Headquarters, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Park, but part of the western horizon as well.
Kirk had waited two years for this apartment. It once was the home of the Betelgeusean ambassador. But when the diplomat was recalled to his home planet, Kirk used a little influence and moved right in.
In the few weeks he had been there, Kirk had already decorated the rounded and concave walls with his renowned collection of antiques -- mostly weapons and various other relics of Earth's warrior past. But among the reminders of humankind's less civilized moments were souvenirs of hope as well.
Certainly his collection of tools from the Kirk farm in Iowa were symbols of Earth's proud agricultural history. And Kirk's library contained not only the works of famous generals and war figures, but of poets and philosophers as well.
Like Kirk, his apartment was a symphony of contradictions.
Despite the inclement weather at the moment, he loved looking out the windows. As he watched the swirls of darkened clouds, his gaze stopped on the bridge and he wondered if anyone had ever been bold enough to fly a shuttle under it in a storm since he did it during his Academy days. No, not in this weather. No one would fly anywhere near the bridge in weather like this.
The admiral turned away from the storm to see Leonard McCoy scowling at the contents of a rather small book. "What's wrong, Bones? A big word?"
McCoy didn't acknowledge the question -- or the sarcasm. Kirk suspected it was deliberate and walked over to his friend. He noticed the title of the book -- The Big Goodbye.
"It's a detective mystery, Bones. The second in a series. Dixon Hill. Not great, but not bad if you like pulp novels."
McCoy arched an eyebrow. "What in blazes is a 'pulp' novel?"
Kirk smiled. If anyone lived in the present, it was McCoy. The past was gone and with it, many memories McCoy would just as soon leave there. "I really don't think you're here for a crash course in literature, now, are you?"
The doctor gently closed the book and took special care to return it exactly to its former spot. He knew that, while his friend might have been reckless in space, when it came to his home Jim Kirk was downright retentive about everything being in its proper place. The Kirk family farm was the cleanest, most orderly farm McCoy had ever seen.
"Where's that Vulcan?" growled McCoy. "He knows we won't start eating without him. His last night before he leaves for Vulcan and he's deliberately making me wait."
Kirk smiled. "Well, with the storm outside, it might take a while to get to a transporter."
McCoy snatched up a goodly number of hors d'oeuvres. "His father is the ambassador to Vulcan. Sarek helped start the Federation! You think Spock could just buy some bean dip and beam over here without waiting in line."
"Remember, he's a civilian now, Bones. He probably wants to explore doing things other civilians do as a civilian."
The two friends paused for a moment. They didn't know when they would again see Spock after he left Earth. The former captain was being quite private about his future plans and the doctor and the admiral had successfully avoided this topic all night. The pause seemed interminable. Mercifully, the door chime sounded. Kirk walked over to the door. "I believe the bean dip has arrived."
The doors whooshed open to reveal one extremely windblown Vulcan, slightly damp, carrying a small package. Without ceremony, he offered it to Kirk. "Your pastelike mixture of crushed bipodal seeds and other chemicals, Jim."
Kirk gestured for the civilian Spock to enter. "Thank you, Spock." The doors closed as the Vulcan entered the main room. "Spock, you're wet. What happened?"
He was oblivious of the fact that one large lock of his black cowlick was sticking straight up. "Obviously I was exposed to the rather excessive precipitation and wind velocity San Francisco is currently experiencing."
McCoy smiled at the uncharacteristic appearance of his friend. Never in his many years of knowing Spock had McCoy seen the Vulcan so completely unkempt. "You mean you got rained on, Spock."
"I believe that is what I just said, Doctor. I was in the place of purchase when the unsecured doors were blown open by the storm, allowing some wind and rain to make contact with many consumers. Myself among them."
McCoy did all he could to stifle an out-and-out guffaw. "That's a new look for you, Spock. I like it."
Kirk shot a glare at McCoy. He pointed to an inner room of the apartment. "In there, Spock. You can dry off in there."
"Thank you, Admiral. Excuse me."
And without sacrificing an ounce of dignity, Spock disappeared from view. McCoy could contain himself no longer and nearly doubled over in laughter. Kirk tried to maintain his scowl of disapproval but suddenly burst into tears himself.
"Kirk. I'm lookin' for Kirk."
From the look on the doll's face, I might as well have been speaking Orion. All them Feds were the same. They looked at me like I was from another planet -- which I was, of course. But -- heck, you know what I mean.
"Which Kirk would that be, sir?"
I didn't expect that answer. "Kirk. The Big Guy. Hangs around with a weird guy named Spocko and a doc or somethin'. Can't steer a flivver to save his life."
The corners of those luscious lips turned up into an amazing smile. "Ah, that would be Admiral James Kirk."
"Yeah. That sounds like the guy. Can I see him?"
She worked her panel like a coronet man works his horn. I didn't mind the wait, though -- not as long as she was the one I was waitin' on. She finally looked up and flashed her pearlies again.
"I'm sorry, but Admiral Kirk isn't here right now. You might try his private residence. But I'm afraid I can't give out that information without some identification, sir."
Smart. She was smart, too. I reached into my inside pocket, produced my ID, and held it out to her. "It's a lousy picture, but it's me."
Her smile disappeared for a second. "Oh. I see that you're -- Could you wait a few seconds, please?"
Was she kidding? I'd wait a week in that rain for her. "No problem."
She pushed a bunch of buttons on her desk and spoke real quiet like. I reached for a cigarette, but what I found in my pocket wouldn't light for days. I looked at the two goons, who were more interested in what was going on than they should be. "So, what are you lookin' at?"
That got 'em. They turned away.
The doll stood up and smiled at me. "I've been instructed by Admiral Morrow himself to give you the information you're requesting. As a matter of fact, the admiral would like to escort you personally to Admiral Kirk's residence."
Hey, now this was more like it. "He would, huh? Tell me, honey, does this Morrow guy drink? I'd like to buy him a beer when this is over. And if you're not busy later, I'd like to buy you one, too."
Hey, it was worth a shot. We don't have dames like her at home.
I left with the address and the admiral -- and without a date.
"Mr. Spock, I believe your search for food was a complete success. We could have just replicated some bean dip, you know."
The Vulcan was now back to his usual impeccable appearance. His Vulcan outer robe was as dry as his home planet, and not a single hair was out of place on his head. He crossed over to the built-in bar, where Kirk was pouring a familiar orange concoction. "Thank you, Admiral. I know of your and Dr. McCoy's fondness for nonreplicated food. So I deduced that the 'real thing' would be preferable."
McCoy smiled. "Well, that was downright courteous of you, Spock. Thank you."
Spock understood why McCoy was smiling. He was quick to deflate his friend's teasing. "May I remind you, Doctor, that courtesy is not an emotion."
It worked. McCoy frowned and went to pour himself another mint julep. "Oh. Right."
Kirk handed a short flute of room-temperature tranya to Spock.
"Thank you, Admiral."
Kirk picked up a small shot glass of Romulan ale. "Spock, this is dinner. In my new apartment. Call me Jim."
McCoy raised his glass. "To your new place, Jim. May you never see it again because you're going to return to starship duty where you belong."
"Bones, you know I'm never going back."
"Right. And I'm giving up medicine. And to you, Spock. May you find whatever it is you may be looking for that you didn't find in Starfleet. L'Chaim."
Spock nodded appreciatively. McCoy downed a large portion of his julep and relished the sweet aftertaste in his mouth.
Spock sipped his tranya and seemed quite satisfied.
Kirk started to sip his Romulan ale when his door chimed again.
Spock looked at Kirk. "That must be Admiral Morrow, Jim."
Kirk chugged the rest of his ale, let his eyes refocus, and then quickly stashed the bottle behind a panel in the bar. He tried to speak matter-of-factly. "Yes. I'll go let him in."
The admiral walked over to his front door. McCoy walked over to Spock. "I assume that Admiral Morrow does not partake of Romulan ale."
"It is illegal, Doctor. I don't think either of us would wish Admiral Kirk to be arrested -- much less in his own home."
McCoy stared into his glass and swished the remainder of the julep in it. "No, Spock. That would definitely put a damper on the party."
Kirk's door whooshed open and there stood Admiral Morrow and someone out of a history book. "Hello, Jim. Sorry I'm late. I brought someone who's been anxious to meet you. I hope you don't mind."
I was so close I could spit on him. But I didn't. I saw two more boys in the room. I recognized Spocko because of his ears. I figured the other guy must be the Doc. I held out my briefcase. This was all finally gonna be over, and not a moment too soon. No time for pleasantries. Hey, business was business.
"Kirk, the Boys sent me. I got something for -- "
"The Boys? I'm afraid I don't know any -- "
What was he -- nuts or something? "The Boys. You know -- the Syndicate?"
Spocko jumped in. "Admiral, I believe this gentleman is from Sigma Iotia. Am I correct, sir?"
No doubt as to who was the real brains in the Federation here. "Yeah. Yeah, I am."
"Oh, brother." The Doc thought I didn't see him roll his eyes, but I did. "I knew this would come back to haunt us." He headed back to what looked like the bar.
Kirk played nice at first. "Please, gentlemen, do come in. Welcome to my new home. May I offer you a drink?"
This Admiral Morrow guy (who wasn't a bad john, but a little stuffy) stepped into the fancy digs. I took a few steps, too. "Nothin' for me, thanks. I'm workin'."
Morrow joined the Doc at the bar. Kirk just kinda stood there for a minute. He looked like a confused cow or something. "Um, forgive me for being blunt, but you're a long way from home. Why do you need to see me?"
What -- did this Kirk guy go to finishing school or something? I had no idea what he just said to me. I didn't come half a quadrant to be insulted -- if that's what it was, I mean. So I figured maybe I should stand up to him and tell him what was on my mind. "What was that, Kirk?"
Spocko walked over to us and leaned into Kirk. "Perhaps, 'boss,' if you speak to the gentleman in his own vernacular."
Kirk nodded and turned to me. He hunched his shoulders and dropped the fancy accent he had been using. "Whaddaya want here?"
That was more like it. That's the Kirk I had heard about for all these years. "Hey, when no one showed up to collect your cut of the Syndicate's profits, we started gettin' worried. We didn't want ya to think we was tryin' to cut you out or anything. After what you did to us last time, we -- "
Kirk stepped forward, like he wanted to keep things on the Q.T. "Look, I'd just as soon forget about the display of technology we resorted to."
Kirk started talking normal again. "I mean, 'the way we had to get rough with ya.' "
Mr. Ears spoke up. "Fascinating. I believe the Iotians have somehow evolved from the gangster society of the nineteen-twenties to the fictional detective genre of the late nineteen-thirties and early nineteen-forties."
The Doc chimed in. "Shades of Dixon Hill."
Spocko looked at me and kept yapping. "I would be very interested, sir, to learn how you managed to leave your planet. Have your people developed a method of space travel in such a relatively short period of history?"
It took me a second to figure out the question. "Oh, no. I'm the first one to make it off the turf. I hitched a ride."
The Doc choked on his drink. "You hitched a ride? With whom?"
"Some idiots called the Pakleds. They were lost and stopped by for some directions. We made a deal. We gave 'em some maps, and they gave me a ride. Since then I've been tailin' Kirk here for two years. Let me tell you, there's a lot of weird people out there in space."
"Two years?" said Kirk. "Tell the Boys I'm flattered."
Morrow turned to the other guys. "I've never heard of these Pakleds. Have you?"
Kirk shook his head and looked at Spocko.
"Nor have I, Admiral. It would be fascinating to learn how these beings of alleged 'lower intelligence' managed to achieve warp drive."
I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn't give a damn what they were talking about. I was getting antsy and just wanted to make my delivery and vamoose. I opened the briefcase and showed 'em the goods. "Forty percent. Count it."
If Kirk's kisser had dropped any lower, I coulda drove a cab through it. Spocko was cool, though. Cool as a cucumber. The Doc just had a belt of his drink and took a few steps away. The Morrow guy was trying to hide a smile. I don't what he thought was so funny.
And this Kirk guy didn't seem so tough to me, neither -- especially after all the tons of stories I heard about him. "I'm carryin' ten years' worth here. Now, you want it or not? It's all there."
Spocko spoke. "We are certain the amount is correct. If nothing else, the Iotians are a very precise people."
Who were these guys? I was beginning to wonder if Spocko was a Sunday school teacher or something. Kirk cleared his throat and grabbed the case. Finally!
"Thank you very much. You didn't have to bring it to me in person, you know."
"I mean 'Hey, it's about time. You coulda just mailed it.' "
A lightbulb lit up. I was onto Kirk. I figured out what little game he and his boys were playing. He was checking up on me for the Feds. I mean, Kirk's boss was standing right there and everything. "No way, Kirk. I wasn't takin' any chances with this much dough. Things disappear, you know?"
Kirk mumbled something that sounded like "I wish I could." But I wasn't sure, and I didn't care. I wanted a second chance at that blonde over at the Federation's clubhouse.
I looked over at the Doc. "And you, Doc -- "
He gulped down his drink like Prohibition was coming back. "Me?"
I walked over to him and reached inside my coat. "I got a little somethin' for you, too."
He must have thought I was gonna plug him or something. He took a few steps back. "Easy, Doc. You'll like this. Here."
I offered him the paper. He looked at it like he'd never seen one before. "What is this?"
"It's a marker, Doc. Good for when you come back to my planet. I didn't wanna risk carryin' that much dough on me. You're even richer than the Feds. No offense, Kirk."
"No sweat," Kirk said.
"But what is this for? Why are you giving all this -- money -- to me?"
He didn't know. I couldn't believe he didn't know. "It's for the McCoy, Doc. You know -- the McCoy?"
The Doc stood there like a car outta gas. I wasn't buyin' it. "As if you didn't know. Remember that little thing you 'accidentally' left behind?"
"Oh, boy." I saw the wheels tumbling in the Doc's brain. I could tell Spocko knew what I was talking about. He mumbled to Kirk. "The communicator, Admiral."
The Doc looked a little uneasy. "Look, I didn't mean to leave -- "
"Didn't mean? That's a good one, Doc. Look, after you left, there was a little scuffle over it and it kinda got bashed up. We put it back together the best we could, but we could only make it work when someone was close by with another one. It's been the hottest-sellin' toy on the whole planet for ten years!"
"Toy?!" The four guys sounded like a choir or something.
"Yeah. Can't keep 'em in the stores. And look, as a gesture of thanks and good faith from the toy company, I'm bringin' back the one you left. The museum put up a squawk, but the Boys thought you'd want it back. No hard feelings, right?"
"You have it here?" He sounded kind of excited.
The Doc smiled as I gave him the thing. He looked at it, kind of unsure. I had to convince him. "Oh, that there's the genuine article. That's the real McCoy."
Suddenly it got kind of quiet for a second.
Spocko raised an eyebrow.
Kirk shook his head.
Morrow tried hiding another smile. (What was with this guy?)
The Doc rolled his eyes again.
"Hey, I don't get it. What'd I say?"
"Nothing," said the Doc. He handed me back the marker. "Tell the toy company I'm very thankful and honored. And tell them to donate this and my future 'cut' to some charities on your planet that help out anyone who needs shelter or medical help, okay?"
Now, I'm as tough as they go, but this was one moving gesture on the Doc's part. "I will, Doc. You're all right."
I stuffed the marker back into my coat pocket. "Well, I'm gonna blow this joint. Kirk, good to meet ya. Morrow, you're a stand-up guy. Spocko, you're weird. Cool, but weird. And Doc -- you keep downin' those drinks like that and you're gonna be one of your own patients. But don't think I don't respect you for it."
Kirk patted me on the shoulder. "Are you sure you won't stay for a drink -- or a few hands of fizzbin?"
I headed for the door. "Oh, no. I heard about you and fizzbin." Even though I finished third in the Kirk Fizzbin Classic a few years ago, I wasn't dumb enough to take on the grand master. "I'm keepin' my dough in my pocket, where it belongs."
We stopped at the door and I turned to him -- eye to eye. "Oh, and Kirk -- "
"Yes? Er, 'yeah'?"
I put out my hand. "See ya next year."
Kirk shook my hand and nodded. "Check."
This guy was a little out of touch. No one had said "check" in a long, long time. "Kirk, take my advice. Get with the times. You'll live longer. Nice place." I looked over at Spocko, Morrow, and the Doc. "Gentlemen."
As the door kinda whooshed closed behind me, I thought I heard some more laughing. But I didn't care. I did my job. And word would get around, and soon I'd have more cases than I could handle.
I walked down the front steps. The rain had stopped, but the smell of the wet street was fresh -- one of the best smells on any world. Kinda musty and sweet, but like the street was new. Like the first time anyone had ever walked on it. I flipped down my collar, shoved my hands in my pockets, and walked away.
Somehow I knew it wouldn't be the last time I'd see Kirk and his boys. But I had other cases to solve, other fights to fight, other --
"Hello, again -- sir."
It was her. The leggy blonde from Club Fed. She was out of uniform and in a long, tight coat which accented her accents. And her big blue eyes were looking straight into mine.
I didn't say a word. I just offered an arm and she took it.
The other jobs could wait for a little while.
Right now, I was on my own clock.
Copyright © 2001 by Paramount Pictures
Meet the Author
Considered one of the most prolific writers working in modern fiction, USA TODAY bestselling writer, Dean Wesley Smith published far over a hundred novels in forty years, and hundreds of short stories across many genres. He currently produces novels in four major series, including the time travel Thunder Mountain novels set in the old west, the galaxy-spanning Seeders Universe series, the urban fantasy Ghost of a Chance series, and the superhero series staring Poker Boy. During his career he also wrote a couple dozen Star Trek novels, the only two original Men in Black novels, Spider-Man and X-Men novels, plus novels set in gaming and television worlds.
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