Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Freedom Fragments: Untitled Star Trek Story

Ron's generous gift of his Freedom BBS archives has presented me with a few surprises, including a number of poems, stories and fragments I have absolutely no recollection of writing. Most of it is pretty awful, including the following bit of Star Trek fan fiction, but there are a few turns of phrase I might steal from my past self for future projects.

The following story fragment was written in early 1992, and I present it here with post headers (my Freedom BBS handle was The Turtle in those days, after The Great and Powerful Turtle created by George R.R. Martin) and spelling mistakes intact. Aside from the purple prose I'm also a little embarrassed by the objectification of the story's lead woman character - it's pretty clumsy.

Here it is:


   92Jan29 8:14 pm from The Turtle


    His hands were shaking as they hovered above the shuttlecraft's antiquated
controls.  Only one more lightyear.  Already the viewscreen was relaying the
long-range sensor scan of his destination:  a wavering, shimmering pond of
space.  The distortion effect was hard to look at for very long, but the man
felt tears welling despite the inherent unpleasantless of the gateway.  That
was what he had come to call it; what he had called it for thirty years now,
ever since he had come through.  

    In two minutes, he would be through.  His hands fumbled for the medikit
that rested on the tattered copilot's seat.  Sweat was pouring into his eyes
as he searched for the hypospray; irritated and near panic with expectation,
he wiped the salty moisture away in a frantic, spastic motion.  His right hand
closed on the hypo, clutching it in a white-knuckled grip.  Even from this
range, he felt the effects of the Gateway begin to prey on his mind.  The
contents of the spray would protect him, however.  He pressed the injector to
his left forearm.  
    Before he could activate the device, a red warning blinker flashed
insistently.  His eyes bulged.  He dropped the hypo and slammed his hands down
onto the helm controls, initiating evasive maneuvers.  
    There was, simply, no time.  The man screamed as the shuttle lurched
violently, throwing him to the deck.  He heard the hypo slide across the
floor, heard circuts burning, felt raging heat on his back.  The lights went
out; only the viewer remained intact, the distortion growing larger, more
pronounced.  His eyes flicked up to that beckoning cloud.  Fingers seemed to
reach out to him, beckoning him to come to the other side.  

    He knew that the madness was gripping him.  He knew that it was too late to
avoid it, even if he found the hypo right away.  His heart broke as he saw the
distance readout:  1.1 AU away.  So close.  The shuttle shook again and began
to  tumble end over end, artificial gravity lost, viewscreen dimming, the only
light from flickering flames.  

    With the last glimmer of sanity, the man cursed Fate, feeling stupid and
superstitious for doing so.  

    And then he felt himself begin to fade.  He suddenly saw stars through the
shuttle walls; it was like looking through a gossamer curtain.  He saw the
cruiser that had found him, so close to his goal...

    And then the cruiser faded in turn, just as the shuttle walls turned
opaque once more.  The man felt his own body solidifying, and he knew that he
was through.  

    He began to scream.  

    And scream.

    And scream.

   92Feb04 8:43 pm from The Turtle


   "Captain's Personal Log, Stardate 10187.3.  The ship is maintaining
standard orbit around Beta Cassius II--called H'Levn by the natives--while Dr.
Sternbach and her staff attempt to discover the cause of the plauge that has
reached epidemic proportions among the H'Lev.  I find myself hoping that the
doctor is correct in proposing that the plague is not a natural occurance, but
a virus introduced deliberately by a spacefaring power.  If she is
correct--and only if--then we can act to help the H'Lev.  

   I find it ironic that in this situation I am actually depending upon the
capriciousness of the Federation's neighbours."  

                                ***

    "Henry, I said get in here, *Now!"  Cynthia Sternbach's voice was hoarse
from shouting through the howling winds and blowing sand, and she held a hand
up to muffle a cough.  Even within the shelter of the caves, the sands were
blown into clothing, hair, and eyes.  Sternbach admired the hardiness of the
indigenies.   And, she added to herself, their ability to make strangers feel
welcome.  Sternbach and her med team had come in disguise, of course--it was
standard prochedure when investigating cultures below tech level seven--and
she thought that the  supplies people had been a bit off in their costumes.
Even though the not-quite-right clothing garnered a few strange looks from the
humanoid H'Lev, no questions had been asked and shelter from the sandstorm had
been quickly offered.  

    "Coming, Doctor!"  Henry Childan called back, still huddling over the
tricorder he kept carefully hidden against his body.  The storm was playing
havoc witht the readings, and he gave in, securing the 'corder beneath his
tunic and turning to scamper into the cave.  Childan hurried over to Doctor
Sternbach's side.   The CMO led Childan over to a relatively uncrowded corner
of the cavern and pulled back the hood of her dark tan robes, revealing a lush
crown of luxuriant brown curls that Childan had wanted to bury his hands in
more than once.  

    "What did you find out?"  Sternbach asked quietly, mindful of the dozens
of  H'Lev surrounding them.  Most of the refugees were near death, lying in
disorganized heaps, tended to by relatives in only marginally better health.
Sternbach gave the species only a year to a year and a half to extinction if a
cure wasn't found for the disease that had already ravaged half of their one
billion lives.  
    "You were right, sir--there are soil traces of the virus.  It's all over
the place--scattered on rocks, trees, buildings, and it's still alive.  Either
this virus is incredibly resilient, or it's been genetically engineered to
wipe out  the H'Lev.  We'll have to get back to the ship to do a full
analysis, though."  

    "Dammit.  By the time we do a full scan, who knows how many more will
die...all right, Henry, well done."  Sternbach hooked a finger, beckoning the
other two members of the away team to her side.  "We're going back up."  The
others murmered assent and they moved for the cave exit.  A concerned H'Lev
rushed forward.  
    "Friends, wait--the storm is not over.  To venture forth now is certain
death!"  
    Cynthia patted the man's shoulder reassuringly.  "The Great God Lev
watches over us--we seek a cure for the blight that has passed over our
people."  Cynthia thought that it sounded a bit, well, melodramatic, but the
speech had the desired effect.  The H'Lev made a short wave with his left
hand--a salute.  "Lev watch over you," he said sincerely.  The party left the
cavern.  

    "I'm never going to get this stuff out of my clothes," Childan whined as
the raging sands blasted against them.  And then the storm sparkled and winked
out, to be replaced by the soft lights of the transporter room.  Childan
breathed a  sigh of relief and stamped his feet on the transporter pad to
shake out some of the sand.  

    "Thanks, Channey,"  Cynthia said to the sad-eyed, vaguely East
Indian-featured man standing behind the transporter console as she descended
from the raised  pad.  The medical party left the room, stamping and shaking
as they went, leaving a trail of red-gold silica behind them.  Channey sighed
and prepared dutifullt to clean up the mess.  
    "No problem," he replied, resigned, to Cynthia's retreating back.  

                         

   92Feb04 8:57 pm from The Turtle

    "I'm not saying I don't *know,"  Cynthia asserted, "I'm saying I don't
have  100% *proof."  

    The Captain leaned against a diagnostic bed, one hand running through grey
hair that was still thick after eighty years of life.  The Captain spoke in
crisp, clear British tones, worry lines creasing his forehead.  "Proof is what
I *need, Doctor.  I want to help these people, desperately, but if we cannot
make it clear to Starfleet that this crisis isn't a natural occurance, then we
can't interfere.  You know the Prime Directive as well as I do."  

    Cynthia stepped forward.  "Sir, given enough time, I can prove that
someone  did this deliberately to the H'Lev--probably the Romulans, if I read
the structure of the virus correctly.  If it was interference, then the Prime
Directive allows us to correct it."  

    Captain Carter Perry thought for a long moment.  If he gave the H'Lev
help--if he allowed Sternbach to distribute the cure she'd engineered--then he
risked  breaking the Prime Directive, should the plague be natural after all.
And if he broke the Prime Directive...he would lose his command.  High
stakes.  But the odds were still in his favour.  Doctor Sternbach and her
staff believed that the virus was in fact a biological weapon delivered by
some advanced, starfaring power.  If that was so, then the Federation had
every right to act to correct such tampering with a culture's evolution.
Besides, Sternbach wasn't wrong very often.  Under Starfleet policy, Perry
knew that he was required to be absolutely certain he wasn't breaking the
Prime Directive before acting.  But if he waited for that certaintly,
thousands of sentients would die.  

    It wasn't really a choice at all.  "Distribute your cure, Doctor,"  Perry
ordered.  Sternbach beamed and started to assemble a field kit, but Perry
raised a warning hand.  "Remember, Doctor, *full cultural protectorate
prochedures.  I want as little damage to the fabric of this society as
possible.  No Messiah or Florence Nightengale impressions, please."  

    "They won't even know who cured them, sir,"  Sternbach assured him.  Perry
smiled and took his leave, heading for the bridge.

   92Feb10 8:24 pm from The Turtle


   Doctor Sternbach beamed down alone, holding the small, delicate vial of
salvation tightly in one hand.  This time no storms raged; only a gentle
breeze caressed the veldt she had arrived at, a breeze that teased her hair
and made soft shushing sounds through the broad, crimson leaves of enormous
trees.  The two suns were high and hot on her face; a stream bubbled and
trickled a few feet away.  Cynthia walked across the short distance,
replicated moccasins swishing against lush grass, and knelt beside the
stream.  Long, tubelike 'fish' slithered with the current just below the
surface, creatures the doctor knew the H'Lev used as food.  A major
settlement--the planet's largest city, in fact, with a population of an
astounding one hundred ten thousand--lay only a few kilometers downstream.
Deliberately and with little fanfare, Cynthia uncapped the vial and let a
clear liquid spill with a  quiet tinkle into the brook.  Odd that it should be
so simple, she thought, looking down at her features rippling in the stream.
In a few hours, the antiviral agent would be present in almost all H'Lev in
the city.  Her staff were duplicating the prochedure at every population
center on the planet.  Total time for protection against the disease, from
discovery until distribution:  ten hours.  A short time in her life, of the
lives of all aboard the ship--but a short time that would mean the survival of
a species, even if that species never knew how important those few hours
were.  

   A broad smile broke across the delicate, rounded curves of Cynthia's face,
a  smile that bridged the distance between 'cute' and 'beautiful' for the
doctor.   It was a smile that came when she had accomplished something
worthwhile, when  life and health had been preserved.  This place, these
people, would live and prosper, she decided as she pulled out her communicator
from beneath the heavy folds of her tunic.  The device chirped as she flipped
it open.  

   "Channey here,"  came the resigned mumble.  

   "One to beam up, Channey,"  Sternbach replied, the smile reaching her
voice, as well.  And then she was gone, replaced by a sparkle of silver-blue
light.  

    And after that disappeared, there was only the wind and the water again,
whispering softly.  

   92Feb10 8:45 pm from The Turtle


    Captain Perry had taken the doctor's news fairly noncommitally, giving her
only a curt nod and a "well done."  He'd since retired to his quarters.
Looking into the mirror now, Perry saw a face that had been through much.
Even though he was only eighty--just a few years into middle age--his hair had
already gone grey, and a chorus of wrinkles was seeping, slowly but surely,
across his forehead and cheeks, lines formed more from worry than joy.  Oh, he
was still handsome in a dignified, stodgy sort of way--like one of the British
lords of old.  But he'd grown thinner, too, over the years, thin enough to
elicit concern from the CMO.  Concern, of course, that Perry had brushed
aside, hating the attention.  Sternbach admired Perry and Perry--Perry felt
more strongly than he should for the woman.  It was only natural.  She was
young, attractive, vivacious...and she quite possibly had the finest breasts
that he'd ever--

    Perry turned from the mirror angrily, cutting off that train of thought.
Is this what I am now? he wondered.  A dirty old man, more concerned with my
own infirmity--imagined infirmity, at that--than my command?  More concerned
with thoughts of romance--hell, sex, be honest with yourself--than the welfare
of an entire civilization?  He'd barely been able to concentrate on  crucial
decisions lately because of his twin obsessions...

   Carter Perry was being unfair to himself, and some corner of his mind knew
it; it was just that his preoccupations were taking up more of his time than
he was used to.  He was giving 99 percent rather than 100.  This was, in his
mind, unacceptable.  

   He sighed and sat down heavily on the bed, plunking down next to his desk
terminal and hitting a small blue square on the touchpad set into the oak.  A
"Captain's Log:  Recording"  telltale popped up on the screen recessed into
the cabin wall.  

   "Captain's Log, Supplemental.  I have ordered Dr. Sternbach and her staff
to  implement disease control prochedures on H'Levn.  Her work has been
carried out and she reports that the population of the planet is now safe from
further devestation by the virus.  Work is now proceeding to prove
conclusively that the virus was in fact a biological weapon introduced by a
hostile spacefaring race  that wished to eliminate the H'Lev in order to
garner the considerable resources of the planet.  I have made a full report of
the mission for Starfleet and am awaiting further orders from command.
    Note also that this mission concludes our current tour of duty and that
the  ship will be reporting back to the Antares shipyards immediately for our
biannual resupply and refitting.  We shall be underway in a matter of hours.
Carter Perry, USS Enterprise."  

   92Feb10 8:58 pm from The Turtle

     The USS Enterprise--NCC-1701-B, as the letters emblazoned across the bow
proudly declared--broke orbit, arcing outwards and upwards from H'Levn, golden
starlight caressing the starboard half of the ship.  Like a swan breaking away
from the surface of a wave-swept lake, her feet and wings kicking up droplets
of pure, clear water, Enterprise peeled aside Einsteinian space, stretching
with visual Doppler effect, hesitating for the barest fraction of an instant
as if taking  in a deep breath, and then snapped back into her proper form as
she was shot  forward into hyperspace, leaving a dazzling rainbow of colour
behind.  There was scattered applause from the stars, then silence as H'Levn
continued her serene revolution.  

                          END PROLOGUE  

1 comment:

Jeff Shyluk said...

There is a proverb among the humans that states: when you point a finger, three fingers point at you.

I have to admit, the objectification of the female doctor is so far out of the ecliptic it's just about hilarious. But then, we're reading and writing this in the '90's and we're geeks in our twenties.

Think too, of Gene Roddenberry. He never let go of that carnal instinct. Mostly at every turn in his programming and in his public life he was censured and told to clean up his stories. In his private life, he allowed his libido a much freer rein.

Sometimes I wonder what science fiction would be like if he were making an R-rated Star Trek today, when an R rating means a lot different than it did back in the 1970's.

Trek does have a puritanical streak. If you read the fan fiction, some folks go pretty far out of their way to bury that sensibility. In several classic episodes, you can see where they tried to push that boundary - maybe titillation rather than objectification. Maybe that's the same. I've always thought that Trek was better when it was sexy, but not overdone. Think: HBO Trek.

The poor Captain is incredibly repressed. That seems to trickle down to the rest of the crew as well. Of course, the Captain can never use his rank to follow through romantic conquests, since the crew would mutiny in the wink of an eye. But on the other hand, I don't see the NCC-1701-B as a happy ship. I wonder what happens to them.