Four Days in the Lives of Some Science Fiction Characters

By Sam Seal

Based on characters created by:

S:AAB - Morgan and Wong (Hard Eight Pictures), 20th Century Fox

X:FILES - Chris Carter, 20th Century Fox

ST:TNG - Roddenberry, Paramount Pictures

ST:DS9 + VOY:AGER - Berman and Pillar, Paramount Pictures

BABYLON: 5 - J.M. Straczynski, PTN Consortium, Warner Brothers

A:LIENS - O' Bannon and Shusett, 20th Century Fox


BAT:MAN - Bob Kane (D.C. Comics Inc.) Warner Brothers

LOST: IN SPACE - Irwin Allen

All characters are the creation of the relevent people mentioned above. If I've got something wrong, apologies. Email me and I'll make good. No infringement is intended.

Just a little good, clean fun...

DAY 1.

"Space - the Final Frontier. . . "

(Frontier to what, we don't know yet, but this is unimportant. Indeed, some people might argue that Time is an even more Final Frontier - after all, the Human Race has been mooching around in Outer Space for some time now, whereas with Time, we are still strictly Linear.)

"These are the Voyages of the Star ship 'No Surprise' . . .


"Our on-going Mission - to Boldly Mix Science Fiction Characters No-One had Mixed Before. . . "

(Captain Picard sighed, and turned off his Audio-log in utter disgust.)

How to begin...

This was always a problem for Picard, particularly when he was introducing new members of his senior crew both to each other and to the Non-Player Characters scripted to appear in the latest adventure. He knew that this was, perhaps, going to be the toughest assignment any of them had been sent on so far - and how he managed the prologue would set the tone. As Commander Riker would have said - A Real Toughy!

But Riker wasn't here anymore. And neither was Data. Picard still could not believe the idea that his First and Second Officers had both eloped with each other. Indeed, Councillor Troi had been so distraught she'd had to go home to mother - she was that upset! He knew things would never be the same again. But as to quite how different they were going to be?

First there were a couple of points concerning his new First Officer - he was a fine officer with an outstanding Military Record (Sousa's Greatest Hits, as it happened), possibly too good. After all, Picard didn't have a Purple Heart. He'd had a pace-maker for a while until Q fixed the problem, but he didn't think that had counted as a High Military Honour. And the other thing that was making him uneasy was the Rank - didn't a Lieutenant Colonel outrank a mere Captain? He'd have to check with Data...

Or rather, with Data's new replacement. Not a Second Officer exactly, but a Science Officer, definitely. And the first thing it should analyse was itself, as far as Picard was concerned. Still, it might be worth a shot...

"Officer Kosh," he started, heroically refusing to be intimidated by the 7 foot tall vision in brown paisley that loomed before him, "Does Colonel McQueen outrank me during this mission?"

Kosh paused to consider (at least, that's what Picard hoped he was doing) before making his answer. " Bong, jingle, jingle, twangy, ping... Snack-time." Then he shuffled off in the general direction of the vending machine standing next to the turbo-lift...

"Oh, well, er, that all right, then" Picard said faintly as he looked about the briefing room for signs of, well, anything really that might make the coming meeting easier for him. Sadly, he didn't find anything half so useful, and so he resigned himself to having to work things out the hard way...

"What do you mean, he's only twenty?" Major Kira snapped angrily, angrily snapping her Kitkat into four precise fingers and passing them around the conference table. "How can a Colonel in StarCorp only be twenty years old!"

"Well, it might be twenty-one," Worf admitting as he tried not to loose count. "He's not telling, and I am not about ask... knit one...pearl one...knit two... pearl oh BLAST"

Picard sighed heavily as he munched on his choccie bourbon. "What I want to know is, where is he?"

This happened to be the question McQueen was asking himself as he gave the turbo lift another suspicious look. It was like no lift he'd ever encountered before. It wasn't the lack of fag butts on the floor that bothered him, or even the fact that no-one seemed to have taken a leak in the corner recently. The real problem was - it kept talking to him.

The last non-living thing that had spoken to him had also attempted to blow him up - and he'd found that that kind of thing really could really put a crimp on ones day. Though not as much as the crimp he'd put on the day of the silicate terrorist when he'd blown its' head off for sheer insubordination. People didn't respect authority anymore, that was the trouble. After all, he was a Colonel! He sighed. Just because he was an I.V..... still hadn't prepared him for the shock of what faced him as the lift doors finally opened. Not that the shock showed, of course. He'd been to the same Stage School that Picard had attended, and the training held true. All the same, this sort of behaviour couldn't be ignored. 80 foot tall mutant dinosaurs could not be tolerated in the corridors. Especially the ones that, from the evidence before him, were apparently not house-trained.

McQueen did what he did second-best - he graced the creature with a Cool Look. He found it usually did the trick. Where he was from, his Cool Looks were the stuff of legend. Entire fledgling Squadrons had been crushed by the tactical deployment of an Icy Stare.

But on the rare occasions it didn't do the job, he knew there was always his secret weapon.

The Intimidating Silence.

It spoke volumes... Indeed, if Thomas Hardy had just stuck to an Intimidating Silence like McQueen's, many A-Level English Literature students would have lived drunker and happier lives.

But on this occasion the Cool Look was enough. Godzilla was driven back into Wesley Crusher's old bedroom, where it sat back down on its' dog-bed and tried to figure out the dimensional problems it was currently undergoing. Being only made of cheap rubber, it didn't stand a chance.

Meanwhile, McQueen headed off once more in search of the Conference Room.

The Conference had gone pretty much as Picard had expected. Now nobody was speaking to anybody else, with the sole exception of Kira and Worf who had rapidly become bosom buddies, exchanging Martial Arts techniques and knitting patterns in equal portion - often during the same fight! But that was by no means the worst of it.

The replicator had run out of tea.

In the old days, Picard mused as he sat in his Quarters apathetically stirring his cocoa, he was the only one on the ship that liked tea. Nowadays, though, it seemed any tea bags were at a premium. Even Worf's Klingon tea was being resurrected, as it was marginally better than Bajoran tea (which was being kept locked in the cells as a security measure), but he knew things were getting desperate. He also knew that he just couldn't go on another mission until the whole tea problem had been dealt with.

The first point was demarcation - as the only Englishman (masquerading as a Frenchman) on board, all the Earl Grey should be for him. Simple. But then, other than the aforementioned Klingon and Bajoran slop, there was no other type of tea to be had.

McQueen had originally insisted on Chinese tea minus both milk and sugar, but was having to make do with recycled Earl Grey bags and a lot of mashing, which was not doing his temper any favours. Now all he would do was mooch around the lower decks like a disconsolate cat.

Picard also had his suspicions about Kosh. Who knew what a Kosh drank? Underneath all that material he might be concealing an entire bloody samovar, for all Picard knew.

Anyway, all the proto-tea had disappeared from Stores one way or another, and the current theory was that some closet tea-drinker was hoarding. That was intolerable! Something had to be done before the Earth Delegation arrived demanding refreshment, and by God something was going to be done.

Picard pressed his communicator decisively. "Colonel McQueen report to my Quarters immediately!" There was no answer. Just static. Picard repeated the command, but his communicator still just ate static.

He hung his head in a resigned fashion, finally realising what had happened. If he was right, it would also explain the small, communicator-sized scorch marks on the floor of the corridors, combined with the sudden depletion of spare communicators in Security.

"Computer, give me the whereabouts of Colonel McQueen?"

"Colonel McQueen is in the Firing Range" the computer replied silkily.

Picard stood, donning his dressing gown, murmuring quietly "Now, why am I not more surprised?"

Kira was finally getting used to the communication controls. It had only taken 20 minutes of concentrated swearing before she figured out how to stop broadcasting on all frequencies down to StarCorp Headquarters on Earth. The effect that this display of temper was simply that the people on the other end had become terribly civil, as they assumed that only a very senior commander indeed would dare address them so. Earthers exposure to Bajoran Military was still somewhat minimal.

"I said, can you tell the delegates to bring a couple of dozen crates of loose tea with them when they come! Four Earl Grey, four Chinese and four of anything else that's laying around down there." She knew there was little hope of any Bajoran tea being available - and as for Klingon tea, well, the relevant bio-hazard regulations had yet to be lifted in this particular quadrant of space...

When she'd finally finished bawling out the poor com. officer at the other end of the transmission she pulled the plug and sat back looking smug. "Who says humans are stupid? You just have to shout louder, that's all." She turned to Kosh. "You can tell the Captain to relax - the tea-supply has been secured." After a moments thought she added "Oh yes, and tell him the delegates arrive at 0800 tomorrow, that there's two of them, and that one of them requests a ready supply of sunflower seeds. Maybe he's planning on bringing a parrot or something..." She waved her right hand in a circling motion next to her right ear. "Delegates? Huh!"

" Pung! " Kosh replied shortly, loitering next to the Science Console. "Time." He drifted into the turbo lift, jingling quietly to himself...

Kira glanced across to Worf (who was doing some extensive unpicking with even more of a scowl on his face than usual), and shrugged. She'd never seen anyone try to unpluck their eye-brows before. Well, she thought to herself philosophically, as her father said as he hung from the rope, 'Life is one long Learning Curve - and then you fall over the edge'.

Picard stepped patiently around the twenty-seventh scorch mark on the carpet that he had encountered so far on his trip to the Firing Range, wincing now only slightly at the crunching sound of communicator fragments as he went. A gleam of fractured light drew his eye to the vital platinum component and he stooped to pick it up. The pockets of his dressing-gown were starting to feel rather heavy - it was like following a trail of very expensive bread crumbs...

Looking up from the floor once more, he realised that he had indeed arrived outside the Ranges, and through the closed doors he could just make out the sounds of controlled phaser fire. He diplomatically decided to wait for a break in the firing cycle before opening the doors, before suddenly remembering what McQueen tended to use as targets. He quickly pressed the door-release -

- and almost had his head blown off by the Ninja Angel lurking above the door-way. Picard scowled darkly at the vision in black as it dropped to the deck in front of him. McQueen scowled back.

After about twenty minutes of this Picard felt his eyes start to water. It was like trying to out-stare a basilisk, he realised, and might prove as dangerous as it would prove deadly. He began to smile. "Don't you think this is a little pointless?" he asked politely.

McQueen's blue eyes flickered, tactfully breaking eye contact without loosing face. "Perhaps," he answered cautiously, lowering his phaser. (The truth was, he'd nodded off almost ten minutes before - but he had discovered early in his career that being able to sleep with both eyes open was a useful talent. It unnerved subordinates when their CO never seemed to sleep. He had also recently begun practising the fine art of Having Eyes In The Back Of His Head - which was more of a challenge as he didn't wear glasses, but it gave him an interest.) "But then again, I take it you haven't seen the Galley recently. I mean, there everywhere!" He was beginning to look a little paranoid. "A Micro-chip in the kettle," he continued, "one in the coffee maker, one in the cooker - ah! And I'm afraid I've totalled the toaster again."

"What, again! Good grief - that's the third time in as many days." Picard looked traumatised. "What do I do if I fancy a bit of something in the middle of the night?"

McQueen shrugged eloquently, but decided not to answer that question - he'd heard things about the British! He decided to take a shower and go back to bed instead, and told the Captain as much. As he headed for the exit, leaving Picard bereft at the table, he vaguely wondered whether his Quarters had a bolt on the inside of the door. If not, it was going to be a long night...

DAY 2.

Major Kira was having problems with the delegates, and desperately hoped that Picard would hurry up and get there. Damn these double shifts!

To be honest, she was having a lot of problems. To begin with - they had not been on the ship five minutes before one of them had complained about the food. It was apparently unsuitable. "Look!" said Kira in exasperation, "We just thought you were bringing some kind of bird with you, that's all! I'm sure we'll be able to find something you'd like in the Galley."

Mulder stirred a finger around in the bowl of Trill, looking like he was about to cry. So much for Superior Life-Forms, he thought sadly. "it's OK," he said tremulously, "I don't want to cause a fuss..."

The second problem, Kira rapidly discovered, was the second delegate. Small and feisty, with an air of overwhelming self confidence, if not arrogance - she was trouble all right! Also, she reminded Kira of someone else, but who? Kira couldn't quite pinpoint...

Dana Scully turned to her companion in obvious concern. "Mulder... who are you talking to?"

Mulder turned to face Scully, momentarily distracted from his tragic lack of smackerels by her tone. He looked more closely. Scully's eyes were slightly unfocussed, and she was having great difficulty lifting her gaze from the floor. It was an expression he had come to recognise a long time ago. He turned to the Major and explained. "I'm sorry about my friend," he said. "It's just that she sometimes, well, often... er, that is almost always has difficulty seeing things that she refuses to believe in."

Kira looked astonished! "What! You mean to tell me she doesn't believe in me? Who does she think I am - the Tooth Fairy?"

"I doubt it," sighed Mulder forlornly. "She doesn't believe in her, either."

"And you do???"

Mulder had the grace to look slightly guilty. This was getting to be a bit too much for Dana. "Who doesn't believe in whom?" she inquired suspiciously. "And for the last time, who are you talking to?" Mulder tried to explain once more, but to no avail. "Oh God, Mulder! Not the old We've Been Abducted By Aliens routine again, surely! Look!" She turned Mulder bodily towards the Official Welcoming Party. "See? There's on-one there, Mulder, OK?"

The Official Welcoming Party stared straight back at her. At least, from what anyone could tell, they were, anyway. Worf was still trying to untangle the last couple of dozen knots in his pony-tail, and there was always the very real possibility that Science Officer Kosh had gone AWOL again, just sending it's encounter suit as a representative. It had happened before, particularly during the times after it had paid a visit to the ships' Library - it had a great weakness for Murder Mysteries (Kira and Kosh had almost come to blows over the only copy of 'Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys'.)

Kira wondered desperately just how long the Captain was planning to be...

Whilst Captain Picard was busy worrying about greeting the Earth Delegates in such a way that they would not suspect him of actually being late, his new First Officer was suffering a monochrome crisis of his own.

McQueen had always been a bit of a loner. It came with the territory - the Loneliness of Command and so on. He'd never really imagined the possibility of forging a close relationship with a female, it just wasn't his style, there would be too many insurmountable difficulties involved - who'd do the cooking, which side of the bed would you sleep on, could he keep his socks on all night. Those kinds of things.

And then, as if out of the blue, eyes had met across a crowded closet and all the decisions had suddenly been made for him. For them. Two days of utter blissful happiness. They'd been inseparable, it seemed nothing could come between them.

And then just as suddenly, something did. Some two things, as it happened.

"Look, I've tried to be reasonable," he said, adopting one of his more effective Stern Poses, "and I really have struggled to adapt to the situation - but things can't continue like this." He turned to glance out of the cabin window, incidentally casting his face into noble shadowy profile. "I know it's hard for you to understand," he continued steadily, resisting the temptation to gnaw at one of his thumbnails, "I'm not sure I fully understand this myself. I don't deny that our sharing my Quarters hasn't been...mutually agreeable, but I do know this - our... relationship... has got to stop, right here and now. Before you do something we'll both regret." There was a small, pathetic whimper from behind him, followed by a forlorn silence.

Followed by the sound of McQueen's left slipper slowly being digested.

Followed by a highly distinctive whiffy smell.

It seemed it was already too late, Fate - and the Forces of Nature - seemed invincibly united against him. And thus McQueen, too, was finally forced to accept the inevitable. He winced, delicately wrinkling his nose against the general fug of sulphur and smoke.

It was time to empty Godzilla's Litter Tray again.

Mulder and Scully were settling into the Ambassadorial Suite in their own unique fashions.

Mulder had just finished turfing all the scatter cushions onto the floor in a great heap and replacing them on the couch with a large pile of folders and manuals. He was already down to his skivvies and making himself comfortable in front of the view screen in time for the nightly edition of 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not' when Dana emerged from the en suite bathroom, a towelling turban perched precariously on top of her head, hairbrush and heated rollers in hand, and proceeded to unplug the monitor in order to plug in the hair-dryer.

Mulder sulked. He had once again been deprived of yet another source of vital information, just because Scully couldn't accept the fact that they were both in the bowels of a futuristic spacecraft which was, in turn, keeping close geo-stationary orbit around the Earth, which was clearly visible in all its' glory outside the view port - the one Scully had drawn the blinds down firmly over as soon as they'd first walked in!

She had then insisted they descend to the 'Cruise-Liner's' restaurant for dinner that evening, to pay their respects to the Captain, who had been unable to welcome them on board personally, due, he had explained smoothly, to 'pressures of work'.

"Isn't it about time you started getting ready for dinner?" she enquired in her most supercilious tone. "We wouldn't want to keep everyone waiting - " She was interrupted by a 'knock' at the door. She rose to her feet, opened the door and spoke a few words to the man outside before shutting the door once more, and returning to the foot of her bed to finish drying her hair. Mulder raised an eyebrow enquiringly. Scully looked a bit dazed, but rallied well. "The Cabin Boy says Dinner will be in ten minutes. You can join us in the restaurant when your dressed." She got to her feet and slipped her shoes on, picked up her clutch-bag and headed toward the door with a final reassuring glance at the dressing table mirror. "Don't forget to wash behind your ears!" she sniggered.

Mulder climbed wearily to his feet and slouched off into the bathroom - where he discovered that not only was there no hot water left, but that all the towels were soaking. Lip trembling, he braced himself for the quickest, coldest shower in the history of StarCorp, only to find Scully had also used all the shampoo. He eyed the bar of soap by the basin thoughtfully. "What the Hell," he decided, and went for it.

Worf wandered along the corridor of the Ambassadors Level, looking curiously at the piece of green paper the red haired female had just placed conspiratorially into his palm, and shrugged... Humans! Sometimes they could really mess with your head. And with a head like Worf's, that was a lot of messing.

McQueen was sat at a dimly lit and unobtrusive window seat in the Galley, fingering a large tome the Captain had lent him and looking absently down at the Earth. As he didn't wish to damage what was obviously one of Picard's favourite books McQueen had erred on the side of caution and opted not to try reading it in his Quarters. As the 'slipper' episode had clearly indicated, Godzilla seemed to be teething again. Nothing was safe. He'd already had to rescue his dressing-gown off her for the third time in as many days and, naturally enough, it was getting rather frayed. But he didn't want to get a new one yet, in case someone started to ask awkward questions. The fact was, he didn't dare tell anyone else about his new and only ('though he entertained an alarming suspicion) pet. He had a feeling Major Kira wouldn't approve - and the Klingon would probably try and eat her. Godzilla - that was - not the Major.


He sighed. He noticed he'd been doing a lot of that recently, indeed everybody had. He wondered if they were homesick - or Timesick? Exactly what was the date in this particular aspect of the Universe, anyway? He knew he was the oldest in that respect - strictly 21Century. He thought about it. Kosh was 23rd C - Picard, Kira and Worf were 24th. Oh yes, actually he wasn't the oldest on board at the moment, Mulder and Scully were late 20th C's. Come to think of it, little Godzilla was only mid 20thC - just a kid, and not even latex!

But he wasn't sure that visiting dignitaries and rubber monsters really counted. Shoulders drooping a fraction - just enough to subtly convey dejection without drawing overt attention to himself, he turned his attention back to the book.

"I have of late, and wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth," (he read)

"And, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition

That this goodly frame - The Earth -

Seems to me a Stellar Promontory."

(He peered once more down at the gently spinning Earth so far below.)

"This most excellent canopy - the Air - look you!

This brave or hanging firmament

This majestical roof - rented with gold and fire -

Why, it appears nothing to me

But a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours."

(Which reminded him, he'd have to get some more Cat Litter from somewhere without anyone knowing - a small/huge dinosaur/monster got through the stuff like nobody's business, and he intended on keeping it nobody's' business for as long as possible.)

"What a piece of work is a Man. (Particularly when genetically engineered!)

How Noble in reason.

How Infinite in faculty.

How like an Angel in Apprehension (Not any Angels HE'D ever known...)

How like a God! (Hmmm.....)

The Beauty of the World - (WHAT!!!)

Paragon of Animals... (Oh, good grief! Who wrote this stuff?)

Yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?

Man delights not me.

No, nor women neither...

McQueen closed the book firmly (now even more dubious about the Captain's night-time activities than he ever had been), and lifted his gaze just in time to make eye contact with Dana Scully, who had been watching him reading from a (not terribly) discreet distance for the last five minutes. Being a gentleman as well as an officer, he immediately got to his feet, book in hand.

There was the sound of a distant moan, and Scully swooned to the floor at his feet in an embarrassingly idolatry fashion. McQueen glanced around swiftly - and then sloped off quietly before anyone noticed. Small, foolish dinosaurs could get terribly possessive, he cautioned himself.

Come to think of it - so could little Godzilla.

"Scully... Scully!... "

The voice seemed to come to her from across a vast and shadowy distance. It seems familiar, she thought, I wonder who... " Mother..." she whispered faintly, turning over onto her right side comfortably, " Mother? Is it time to get up now..." She opened her eyes just a fraction against the brightness of the light. It all seemed rather too bright to be her childhood bedroom, she thought as she slowly surfaced from unconsciousness. Perhaps something had happened and she was in hospital or something. There was only one way to find out, she supposed.

Opening her eyes once again she came nose to nose with Fox Mulder, who had been diligently mopping her brow and trying to force water down her throat at the same time. It had not been a good idea, however - Mulder was one of those people who were totally unable to simultaneously rub their stomach with one hand while patting their head with the other, so the upshot of his bed-side manner was that Dana now had a large, grubby hanky pressed over her mouth and extremely wet hair! " Gworfff!!" she squawked, struggling to sit up and batting Mulder's hands away violently.

Mulder looked hurt - he had only been trying to help. He nervously selected a sunflower seed from his pocket and started nibbling apprehensively. Scully could be scary when aroused. He turned to The Doctor, his expression a silent warning.

A warning which The Doctor either didn't see or chose to ignore. "Well!" he said, briskly washing his hands of the whole Medical Emergency. "It seems you friend has recovered sufficiently from her little... episode... to return to her quarters and leave the rest of us in peace." He smiled blithely. "I recommend you stay in your rooms for a few hours, and keep clear of certain..." he struggled to be tactful, it wasn't easy, "...certain disturbing individuals."

Scully was outraged. " What disturbing individuals?" she cried. "What happened to me?"

The Doctor looked mildly bemused. "You mean you don't remember?"

Scully shook her head, trying to clear it. "I... I'm not sure. The last thing I remember is going down to the Dining Room to meet the Captain for Dinner... and then... "she hesitated, suddenly beginning to feel light headed again, "and then... somebody... " At this point in her recall her brain seized up in an act of self-defence. She sighed. "I don't remember."

"I do," Mulder sniffed. "You swooned! "

"I DID NOT!!!" She was gob-smacked at the whole suggestion. "I would never do such anything so... so embarrassing! I must have... just been overcome by the heat or something!"

"Your wrong, Scully. I saw you," Mulder selected another seed and grinned cheerfully down at his erstwhile companion. "I'm afraid you simply folded up like an origami penguin. You quite definitely swooned!"

Science Officer Kosh and the new ship's cook, Neelix, had eventually come to a simple understanding. Kosh had discovered that as far as ship-board food went, it was pretty much restricted to spaghetti, noodles, soup or anything else it could suck through a straw. Neelix claimed he could arrange special meals at no extra cost in return for a favour. In return for these special requirements Kosh was, on special occasions, willing to play the part of drinks trolly, shuffling from table to table, pouring drinks (no-one ever really knew how, since it didn't appear to have any arms, hands, tentacles or whatever) chosen from its' special selection carried in the cabinet built into its' chest. It seemed a fair deal.

Neelix had been having a field day trying to cater for all the specific tastes of such a diverse crew and company. Whilst he had some limited experience with Klingon, Bajoran and, of course, Earther food, Kosh had proven a real challenge.

Now Neelix hovered anxiously by the snack-bar while Kosh sampled his first semi-solid meal in almost 1,000 years (and even that had only been a pot noodle), and was relieved to find Kosh nodding in approval at the dish. " Jangle tingle bong, ping!" Kosh commented after due consideration.

Neelix beamed. "Why thank you, Mr. er... that is, Officer Kosh," he replied, full of enthusiasm at this new culinary challenge. "Tonight I will be serving a fine spinach puree laced with pieces of Arctural rattle snail and served with a side salad of new potatoes, lettuce, grated carrot and... that sprig of leafy green stuff people will insist on having, even when they don't quite know what to do with it. I hope you will give me the pleasure of your company for this veritable feast of flavours - "

" Pung!" Kosh interrupted apologetically, turning to leave.

Neelix was stunned. "What do you mean you only want liquidised hot dogs! I've been experimenting with the blender all week!"

Mulder had been walking Scully back to their Quarters, glad of a chance to do some unsupervised exploration of the ship, when another dizzy spell seemed to overcome her. She staggered slightly, clutching at the wall and looking somewhat wan in the false glare of the neon lights. "Scully, what is it?" he inquired solicitously, grabbing her arm before she fell.

Scully looked around her, puzzled. "I don't know, Mulder. It's like... I blacked out there for a moment or something..." She was peering up the corridor into the distant shadows. "I thought I saw something, just for a second."

"Saw what?" Mulder asked, also peering into the distance and vaguely aware of surreptitious noises coming from the shadows ahead - shuffling feet, a grunt of exertion and, what? A yelp? Like a small dog getting its' tail trodden on, maybe? Surely not! Even he knew of the strict ship-wide ban on pets that Major Kira had so recently instigated due to her fur allergy. It would be a brave man who would try to keep something like that secret on a ship this size...

Deep in the darkest corner of the broom closet, McQueen was keeping a look-out through the smallest possible chink in the door and thanking his lucky stars for all that Black Ops training in stealth and subterfuge. It had been hard enough lifting a 500 kilo sack of A-Grade Kitty Litter and carrying it this far without being seen, but even the toughest Black Ops course hadn't demanded that he try sneaking around under-cover whilst being dogged by a (currently) five foot long unruly lizard which had a tendency to light up like the Fourth of July every time it got over excited. Or, in this case, when it got it tail stood on by mistake.

He regarded little Godzilla coolly. "I told you to stay in our room!" he seethed, trying ineffectually to stuff her behind the litter sack for cover. "What if we'd been spotted? What then? Well, I'll tell you - lizard burgers all round with a side of fries, that's what!" He turned in profile to check the coast was clear before hoisting the sack once more to his shoulders. "Now this time - keep out from under my feet!"

DAY 3.

Captain Picard looked around the bridge of the 'No Surprise' with an air of self-satisfaction. It seemed that after a few initial teething problems (like the still unexplained tea shortage episode) things were finally beginning to settle down. People were starting to work together, learning each others limitations and valuing each others special abilities, just like a real crew should. He was also relieved to find they'd all managed to reach Chapter 6 pretty much intact, with not so much as a single NPC MIA, DOA or having wisely AMF-ed off.


Also, it was good to see that the new Navigation Officer was settling quickly. He had actually thought the ship was up to full compliment until the moment he said the all important word 'Engage' - only to find the ship still floating around in geo-stationary orbit around the Earth because no-one actually knew how to fly her! He'd hastily put in a request to StarCorp for a pilot, and had been exceedingly fortunate that a certain Navigator was at that time looking for passage back to her home world, that she was fully qualified to pilot the 'No Surprise' and that she was also broke enough to be willing to work passage on the Fleets' most infamous white elephant.

To Boldly Ferry Dignitaries Where Every ones' Been Before - he sighed. So much for the prologue. (As an afterthought, he decided it might also be a good idea if they picked up an Engineer before too long - this was the 'No Surprise', after all, ready to fail at any moment deemed vital to adding an air of suspense to the plot-line.)

He stepped over to Navigation Control. "Lieutenant Dax, set course for the Omicron system, warp six" he instructed lightly.

Dax nodded, "Of course, Captain - Omicron system... laid in, sir."

"Engage!" The finger of authority pointed dead ahead.

Dax pressed the BRB (short for Big Red Button) and they all felt the subtle lurch beneath their feet as the 'No Surprise' shot to warp six, breaking all sorts of StarCorp regulations about not entering warp until clear of the system, but looking very impressive in the special effects department. Dax also supposed she had better take a look at the inertial dampers while she was here - you were definitely not supposed to feel a surge like that during acceleration.

Pressing the security cap back down over the BRB (to avoid any unfortunate accidents when the ship was in close orbit to anything and pointing the wrong way!), she took the opportunity to assess her current situation. Here she was, well into her 5th or 6th symbiotic incarnation, the knowledge of all those previous lives stored handily in her brain, and all they had needed her skill for was to press the BRB. It was a criminal waste of resources! She headed purposefully toward the turbo-lift, pausing only to get the nod from Picard in passing and then have a quick chat with Kira, who was covering Ops with a particularly impressive patch-work bed-spread, embellished with a design of crossed daggers dripping blood and gore above the gliyptic of the Klingon's War Prayer - 'What Doesn't Kill You, Can Only Make You Stronger - So Eat It All Up.' Impressive, she decided, wondering if Klingons dreamed in colour. Very probably, she concluded, but only purples and greens.

The lift doors slid open and she stepped in.

She decided to take a reccie around the ship, now that her duties seemed to be over for the next... 22 hours and 27 minutes. The time would also be useful for catching up on some sleep, checking out Engineering and getting to know her new shipmates better. Also, she desperately needed a bath. (Trells tried to spend at least 3 hours a day immersed in water - they claimed it was vital for maintaining the health of the symbiote, but the truth was, well, Trells just loved baths.)

Fox Mulder was onto a mystery. In fact, as far as Captain Picard had been concerned during the general meeting that morning, it was the only mystery. It seemed that that very morning people had been going to the replicator for their early morning cuppa, only to discover than not 3 days out of the Terran system there was once again NO tea. Picard had selected Fox for the task, knowing his reputation for keeping an open mind and his habit of leaving no possibility unexplored.

And from the goings-on of the night before, Mulder felt that he had definitely found the place to start. By the beam of his ever-present flash-light he had discovered, in amongst the general detritus found at the back of any really useful store-cupboard, a moist, leaky and lightly chewed packet of PG tips.

And squarely placed in the middle of a large pile of ersatz tea-leaves there sat a small, but perfectly formed, foot-print. And it wasn't human. (Or Klingon, Bajoran, Koshish, Trell or whatever Neelix was. Or The Doctors', either, as a hologram allegedly doesn't leave footprints.) After a moments reflection Fox took a quick look at his own feet - no, it was OK, he still had the regulation number of toes for the average human, and his toenails were all neatly clipped.

He took a flash-photo of the print for further consideration, and departed - in search of a Dark-Room and a bigger flashlight. This was getting interesting.

Lieutenant. Col. McQueen sat at his desk, focused of nothing and shaking his head slowly from side to side, eyes tightly closed against the vision of yet another impending disaster happening with slow but deadly inevitability beneath his bunk. It was getting too dangerous, he decided. If he hadn't been alert last night, if he hadn't known where the dust-buster was kept, if he hadn't spent the last 3 hours back-tracking his route from Stores to his Quarters through mercifully empty corridors... the tea-leaf trail would have led straight to them.

He opened his eyes just long enough to allow him to pick up his mug of hot, steaming coffee. He sipped at it distastefully - he hated coffee, but that was all that was left now. Even the cocoa was running low. Tea leaves, tea leaves everywhere, and not a drop to drink, he mused ruefully.

Finally girding his not inconsiderable courage (Above And Beyond the Call of Duty, as it were) against the onslaught ahead, McQueen turned to face this latest crisis full-on. In reality, he could face it full-on only if he knelt on hands and knees and used a torch to peer into the dark recess that Little Godzilla - now no more than two feet long - had retreated to, far beneath his bunk.

Where she was busily making her bower-bird style nest out of meticulously arranged tea bags, laid on top of a wide, low mound of loose tea. She was starting to look distinctly pregnant.

All his worst fears confirmed, he returned to his chair and wondered where he was supposed to sleep from now on. Slowly selecting a notepad and pencils, McQueen started making plans for an uncertain future...

The 'No Surprise' hurtled across the cold, black reaches of space, heading with near-mindless determination toward the Omicron system - with only the faintest self-awareness of its' purpose and its' past..

When Picards' old ship, the 'Enterprise', had unexpectedly given 'birth' to an offspring of its' own, no-one had been more startled than the Captain himself. True, he had in his time encountered many strange and unfathomable forms of life, from Armus the Talking Tar Pit to Silicon Avatars to the erratic occupants of the Q Continuum - even Data had got in on the act at one point, creating his own version of a child, a female android named Lal. But when your own ship went and laid a metaphoric egg...

The Captain had been happy enough to let the new-born shipling go free into the huge and turbulent ocean if the Universe itself - but unfortunately, StarCorp had been less than impressed by Picards altruism, and sent him back to catch it again. It had not been easy, but with diligence, patience and the call of the mother-ship itself, Picard had managed to recapture the shipling and return with it, now much grown, to StarCorp for further study and intensive training.

And thus the 'No Surprise' was named - the scientists thought they knew everything worth knowing about the little ship, and had been happy to let Picard have it back when they'd finished with it. Perhaps they felt it would progress much faster with its' mother-ship to teach it the important lessons of life in StarCorp.

And so it had proven. When Commanders Riker and Data had finally managed to write off the 'Enterprise' (by letting the woman drive, thus crashing it into an inconveniently placed planet during a run-in with a mad scientist), Picard and co. had returned to StarCorp, only to find the 'No Surprise' waiting in the wings with the tiresome inevitability of yet another spin-off show.

Dax and Neelix were contemplating the proposed menu for that evenings meal. So far, all the respective orders had been reasonable - steak tatare for most of the Earthers, live Bleurgh for Worf, and Kira's particular favourite - chilled caviar on a bed of dried lug-worm, Dax had decided to go for the Telaxian salad along with Neelix. At least it was safely dead, whichever way you looked at it! And, of course, the Delegates choice that Neelix had had the most trouble with but had finally perfected to his satisfaction - burgers and fries, with two scalding coffees served in the obligatory Styrofoam cups.

It was the last order that had caused the most problems. "Tell me Dax, "Neelix said as he plunged another portion of reconstituted potato into the deep fat fryer, "as one who has had considerably more experience with Earthers than I have, perhaps you might be able to shed some light on our First Officers' eating habits? I must say, I really think fifteen pounds of raw steak, five pints of milk, two dozen eggs and a packet of digestive biscuits seems rather a lot for one meal - and room service every-day too, if you please! As if I had the time..." He shook the fryer basket agitatedly.

Dax nodded sagely, piggling a French fry and then wishing she hadn't. "I do agree it does seem a little... anti-social I suppose. But then, maybe he's just not naturally a social person - I mean we're not all as StarCorp brain-washed as Picard and the others."

"True, true," the little Telaxian replied. "Some of the things Captain Janeway used to put us through, ugh! They'd make your toes curl, trust me. There we all were, most of us lost in a distant quadrant of space with no way home and no resources but whatever yours truly could come up with, and did they play it safe? Oh no." He heaved scowled broodily at the memory. "Let's explore that anomaly and get trapped by giant amorphous blobs, why don't we? Let's start a war with a race of people who both out-number and out-gun us, rather than give them a replicator to play with. Let's go... go... oh bugger!" He regarded the somewhat over-crisped fries disparagingly, then ingeniously thought to dumped them onto Worf's plate when Dax wasn't looking. The Klingon wouldn't know, Neelix reasoned.

Dax hadn't really been paying attention for the last couple of minutes. She'd been quietly employing herself in reconsidering a number of interesting facts and suppositions she'd managed to accumulate in the last couple of days, and was coming to an interesting conclusion. "You said he ordered room-service every day?" she confirmed.

"Every day, bang on seven p.m. A creature of habit, that one, I think."

Dax smiled privately to herself. "I'm not convinced it's entirely his choice..." she murmured thoughtfully. "I'll tell you what," she said, suddenly jumping to her feet and scouting around the room for the service trolley, "as your obviously run off your feet at the moment dealing with everyone else, why don't you just let me take the meal down to Col. McQueen's Quarters. It'll save time, and I'm planning on going that way anyhow..."

Neelix grinned with relief, "Are you really? How terribly convenient!" And he proceeded to load the trolly up with the required rations.

"Isn't it just!" Dax said, and headed for the door, trolley in hand and curiosity in check.

Fox Mulder was somewhat startled to look up from his wanderings to discover a huge and heavily laden trolly thundering toward him with no apparent means of control. He dived for cover into a handy doorway, recovering only just in time to witness Lieutenant Dax shoot past him, riding shot-gun on the offending vehicle and whistling jauntily to herself.

Things were quite definitely getting far too weird, he concluded. Swooning FBI Agents, missing tea, and now a crazed Trell woman rampaging through the corridors without any hint of warning.

Mulder climbed swiftly to his feet and trotted, hot-foot, in pursuit.

Things had started to get interesting around 1900 hours.

Picard approached the view screen for a closer look. Etched against the dark backdrop of a peculiarly wobbly star-scape, there lay a small, blank 'disc'. If he hadn't known better, he might even have gone so far as to say 'saucer' - but everybody knows there's no such thing as flying saucers...

The vessel appeared to be floating dead in space, spinning very slowly on its vertical axis. Very... very... slowly... coming into sight was the name of the ship. J... U... P... I... T... E... R... 2.

And that's when all the lights came on.

"Any signs of life, Mr. Worf?" Picard enquired through the communicator to the away team. Worf looked to the Doctor (who had been conveniently projected aboard by use of cunning techo-babble for the sake of the plot). The Doctor shrugged non-committally, and went back to peering at the broken cryogen capsules in the professional manner of someone who doesn't want to admit when their beaten.

Worf then turned to Kira and Kosh, who were busy prodding buttons at random and going 'bugger' or 'bong', according to their nature. Kira looked up from the controls long enough to shake her head in negation.

"Negative, sir," the Klingon reported truthfully enough. "I believe the lights may have been activated purely automatically by some kind of Proximity Alert."

Back on the bridge of the 'No Surprise', Picard frowned with frustration. He'd really been hoping for some kind of miracle here - the Jupiter 2 was a real piece of science-fiction history. If only they could find some survivors...

"I think we may have found some survivors!" Kira's voice squawked over the com. link suddenly. "Two, sir. One humanoid... and one... er... that is... er..."

Picard brightened immediately. This was more like it! He knew there were all sorts of rules and regulations regarding the proper transportation of potentially contaminated material, but - Hell - these were survivors from a classic show. "Beam them directly to Medical, Major," he instructed them confidently. He knew that when it came to times like this, no mere health hazards were going to slow the story down.

While Picard was busy with the newest arrivals on the ship, Dax and Mulder were loitering with intent outside Col. McQueen's Quarters. Once Mulder had finished admonishing the Trell with regards to Responsible Trolley Control, the pair of them had discovered the mutual interest. They had been hob-nobbing for the last ten minutes and were becoming desperate for a resolution to their present social impasse, both horribly aware that time was running out.

The trouble was, going by the bizarre noises emanating from the inside of the room, neither one of them was overly willing to be the one to open the door.

"Look," Dax hissed desperately, "it's almost five past! He's going to start getting suspicious if we don't hurry up and make our move."

Mulder was suddenly over-come with a bout of chronic good manners. "Ladies first," he suggested brightly, showing the way forward with the sweep of an arm.

Dax scowled. She reached for the door buzzer - but her movements were quite abruptly halted mid-way by a particularly ferocious sounding snarl from the other side of the door. She swiftly withdrew in order for them to reconsider their actions. She regarded her new companion worriedly. "Mulder," she began slowly, "exactly what are you planning to do with that flash-light?"

Fox hurriedly ceased waving the torch around like a light-sabre. "Nothing!" he replied, hastily switching it off again and hiding it behind his back in a guilty fashion. (Life with Scully was definitely starting to leave him feeling repressed!) Dax looked unconvinced, to say the least, and just regarded him evenly until the offending object was grudgingly reproduced. "Look! It just makes me feel safer, OK?"

Dax was mollified. "All right, then. Whatever works for you, I suppose." She reached once more for the buzzer. It seemed a little quieter in there, she decided, but that could of course only be the calm before the storm, so to speak. Oh well, she thought resignedly, here goes nothing.

Gritting her teeth against the expected onslaught, and knowing all she had in reserve was a rabbit with a flash-light, Dax buzzed.

On the third buzz, McQueen finally completed the amazingly difficult feat of traversing the entire length of his Quarters without touching the floor (over-furnishing was not a StarCorp failing), leapt dynamically from the sofa and successfully hit the 'open' switch before tucking into a roll position and making it back onto an armchair, all in one fluid motion.

As soon as the door opened Godzilla gave up her futile attack on the Colonel's ankles and, snarling a surprisingly loud snarl for a creature barely two foot long, turned on Dax and Mulder instead.

It was only the food trolley that saved them. It was quite remarkable just how high a person can jump given the right incentive and a terror-induced surge of adrenaline. Dax crouched atop the drinks section like a scalded cat, whilst Mulder flailed wildly at the irate dinosaur with his torch, eventually succeeding in giving Godzilla a hefty whack around the back of the head.

Godzilla squealed, and shot back under the bed like a reversing torpedo. At once McQueen retaliated. "There was no need for that!" he growled, in an almost aggressive (yet still remarkably heroic) manner. Jumping lightly down to the floor he easily disarmed Mulder, clipped him neatly round the ear and then proceeded to ignore the pair of them. Carefully selecting a raw patty of beef-burger from the chill section he then ever-so-softly crept back to his bunk, got on his hands and knees and began the delicate task of teasing out a badly frightened, savagely hungry dinosaur without loosing any fingers.

Dax was impressed. "I'm impressed," she said, to prove it. "That's some pussy-cat you've got there. Er... What is it?" she added, climbing down off the trolley and making her way behind McQueen in order to get a look under the bed as well. She took Mulder's flash-light back and turned it on, careful to angle the beam away from the darkness a little so she could take a look using only the ambient light it cast, rather than the focal-point itself.

"I don't know," McQueen admitted ruefully. "She was here when I arrived, and she seems to like me, that's all." He wafted the meat around temptingly, and was rewarded by the sound of toothy sucking from below the bed. "She also seems to be pregnant," he added wearily, "and is trying to nest under my bunk. I've been sleeping on the sofa for the last 3 days."

Dax nodded sympathetically. "I'd been wondering where she'd got to," she said conversationally, grabbing a piece of meat off the trolley before resuming her position on the floor. McQueen regarded her quizzically, so she explained further. "I spent yesterday looking up some old files in the Engineering section and I found a couple of pages from one of Wesley Crusher's old exercise books." She let Godzilla take the meat gently. "She was going to be a Biology Exercise in genetics, but he couldn't get the scale right, it was unstable or something. So when he eventually went off on his own dimensional travels, I guess he just left her behind... "

"Callous little bastard," McQueen muttered shortly. By now Godzilla had progressed to eggs, and the sounds emanating from the darkness were becoming disgusting.

Mulder finally decided it might just be safe enough to get down from the trolley now - his backside was getting distinctly numb. He, too, sidled over and took a peek. He then judiciously removed himself to the sofa, where he sat with his feet up on one of the arm rests, wishing he'd thought to reclaim the torch when he had the chance. "What are you going to do with it - ah, her?" he corrected himself swiftly, aware that he was swimming in silent but dangerously deep waters here. This was the Colonel's Pet they were referring to, after all.

McQueen rose cautiously from the floor and waved a hand nonchalantly in the vague direction of a paper-strewn desk. "Don't worry," he said, with a not-very-reassuring glance at the panoply of diagrams and charts, "I have a Plan."

The Doctor was fascinated by the idea of treating a woman who had been in suspended animation for the last 300+ years. He had hoped the prolonged exposure to cryogenic suspension would have exposed her to some interesting and unusual side-effects at the very least, or some weird and wonderfully obscure mutation at best. Even a little muscular atrophy would have been a start.

But much to his disappointment there didn't really seem to be anything wrong with her. He huffed, folding away his tricorder and returning his pen to the front pocket of his medical coat. Finally he allowed the patient to sit up. "Well, Mrs. Robinson, I'm glad to say that I can find nothing untoward about your physical condition at this time," he said with practised smoothness. "As far as I'm concerned, your free to go."

Mrs. Robinson looked relieved. She was an attractive platinum blond with a fine figure and an exceedingly maternal approach to life. Not overly bright, of course, but as she had explained to Picard as they made their way from Medical to the Galley in time for lunch, all that thinking had been best left to the menfolk in her Age. It gave them something to do, she continued, and kept them out from under her feet on laundry days.

Captain Picard smiled understandingly, whilst strangely assailed by a vision of Major Kira standing over a huge barrel of hot, soapy suds, industriously at work on the grass-stained knees of a StarCorp uniform with a bar of lye-soap and a wash-board. She was singing something... something from 'South Pacific', he suspected darkly.

He was roused from his somewhat surreal musing to discover Science Officer Kosh loitering outside the Galley's entrance, seemingly awaiting them.

"Can I help you, Kosh?" Picard asked, curious at Kosh's seemingly furtive behaviour.

" Quangle Wangle Quee!" Kosh replied mystifyingly, and somehow managed to hand Mrs. Robinson a foxed and slightly battered-looking envelope without the benefit of suitable appendages. "A Message From Another," the translator unit attempted gamely, shortly before it started to smoke. Kosh exited stage right, rather swiftly, and Picard noticed that it had somehow taken a fire-extinguisher from the wall as it passed.

He turned once more to realise that Mrs. Robinson was crying a little as she regarded the envelope in one trembling hand. She was smiling, however, so Picard just put it down to nerves, exhaustion or the menopause, or any number of other secret female conditions he had managed to avoid finding out anything about. (All he knew was that at certain times of the month it had been an unwise man who had tried to get between Councillor Troi and the chocolate vending machine by the door to the Ladies on deck 8.)

Feeling vaguely uncomfortable, he took her lightly by the arm and led her to the turbo-lift doors. "Perhaps we'd better investigate this over a nice cup of Earl Grey?" he suggested soothingly. "If I can find any, that is..."

Meanwhile The Robot was getting familiar with Engineering. Worf was trying to help, but unfortunately Klingons and delicate pieces of electrical sensory equipment tended to have brief (but eventful) relationships.

Worf regarded the fractured fuel rod worriedly, as he strongly suspected he wasn't really supposed to be handling radio-active fuel rods without at least a pair of gloves on, but it had just worked out quicker to pick it up this way. That was what happened when you'd been trained with Dilithium Crystals. It had always been an anxious time when he did something untoward in Engineering during the old days. There had always been the danger of Commander Data coming out with some feeble quip or dire pun that only drew attention to the problem. He eyed The Robot expectantly.

The Robot failed to deliver anything other than vague commiseration's, however, and Worf slowly started to relax. "I'll, err.. just put this in the bin then shall I?"

"That would appear to be the approved procedure," The Robot replied blandly, waving one clawed arm toward the designated bin (labelled 'Broken or Leaky Fuel Rods Only. No Paper!') while neatly inserting a replacement rod in the slot with the other.

The Robot was trying very hard to remain calm. He realised that in the old days of Jupiter 2 he would have been ricocheting around the bridge by this point, arms akimbo and going on about impending Danger Danger ect... But that had been before he had discovered the remarkable calming effects of gin and Mogadons - in short, he was buzzing like a Bee in a blender. Now The Robot was happy, Worf was happy and the 'No Surprise' was in safe hands.

"Dear Mom,

First of all, I need to tell you how sorry I am if my disappearance caused you any distress. I admit it was the wrong way to handle the situation. It's just that, at the time, I could see no other solution to my growing dilemma. Even at the the tender age of twelve I realised I was different, that I was not like the other boys at school. I hated the rough games we had to play, I always felt uncomfortable in the showers, and the amount of hair growing all over my body frankly disgusted me.

So you see, I simply had to run away and join the Mimbari. Since doing so I have become fulfilled. I know my appearance might shock you a little, but I also know that you will come to understand and accept me for what and who I now am. Mom, growing the bony ridge on by head was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. And I promise, after a while you'll hardly notice the fishy smell...

I finish now by saying how much I look forward to seeing you once again when I Officiate at Commander Riker and Luitenent Commander Data's Wedding Ceremony. It will be my first Wedding, Mom, and I'm sure to be nervous - but I also know that you will be there rooting for me. I only wish Dad could have been there too, but having a 300 year old corpse at the Reception might not be such a good idea.

Again I send my regards to you all,


William Lennier Robinson.

Mimbari Home World

DAY 4.

The 'No Surprise' had finally reached the Omicron system. Even now it was in geo-stationary orbit around Omicron Theta, Commander Data's Homeworld and the place where the android and Commander Riker had decided to set up home. It made sense after all. There were plenty of deep caverns to inhabit, a ready-built advanced science lab. to hand for Data to play in, and lots of high rocky escarpments for Riker to climb, reminiscent of his native Alaska.

After lengthy consideration the crew had agreed (by a majority vote of everyone's 'Nays' to no 'Ayes') against allowing McQueen to go to the wedding. Picard figured that the odds on Data being absently blasted into just so much fused glass and plastic before formal introductions had been made were too high for comfort. He'd occasionally wondered where McQueen had got his extensive collection of obsidian paper weights from - now he knew.

All this bothered McQueen not one iota - although he was officially from the Anchorage Facility, he'd never 'consciously' been to Alaska and was not very interested in comparative geology. He was quite willing to leave the mountains to Riker. He had more important things to do than throw himself off a big lump of rock. (If McQueen considered anywhere as Home, it certainly wasn't Earth. Actually, Home for him was none too far from where they were now. And being the only one left on the 'No Surprise' during the ceremony was going to be a window of opportunity the Author was finding impossible to resist...)

Neelix was too hot!

At first he had simply assumed it was the effect of standing too close to the cooker, where The Wedding Cake (an edifice fully deserving the capitals) was rising to a culinary crescendo of mixed fruit, nuts and spice-dough. So the Tylexian irritably cranked the setting of the air-conditioning higher - ignored the distressed hissing sound that this created - and continued preparing the

hors d' oeuvres as if everything was normal.

But it wasn't. Giving up on the scotch eggs in a fit of gastronomic disgust he scuttled over to the air vent for a look-see. Nothing. No heat going in, no cool air coming out. Even the hissing had stopped. It appeared and well and truly broken.

Or was it? Taking a closer look, Neelix realised suddenly that the shaft behind the grill had been tightly blocked up with something. He puffed out a breath in frustration. "Not very hygienic, I must say," he muttered, rooting around in a back pocket for a tea-spoon with which he attempted to unscrew the grill.

He had managed to get the first couple of screws off before coming to the equally sudden but far more disturbing realisation that the ventilation shaft was not so much 'blocked' as 'occupied'...

Scully was in all of a tizzy. She'd suddenly found herself invited to a Very Important Wedding and she hadn't got a thing to wear. Nothing she considered suitable, anyway. She dived back into the bathroom for the umpteenth time with the umpteenth outfit to get changed once again.

Mulder tried to help, sitting at the foot of the bed, eating seeds and making encouraging noises about each of the outfits Scully presented. As far as he was concerned Scully could go to the Wedding of the Century (as he mentally billed it) in a boiler suit and a bee-keepers bonnet and she'd still look nice, er, smart... that is, intimidatingly competent in an attractive sort of way, if you like that sort of thing. Personally, Mulder preferred brunettes. Especially if they were brunettes called Dax.

Scully trotted out the last of her short-list selection. It was purple. Mulder suspected that she was testing his honesty with this particular choice. She detested purple. He knew she detested purple. She knew that he knew that she detested purple (which was why he was insisting on wearing his favourite mauve shirt to the event). He couldn't resist it.

"That's nice, Dana," he said brightly, valiantly trying to keep the smirk out of his voice. "Very... very you."

"NNNNAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!" Scully screamed by way of reply and dove at him, wielding his own flash-light, no less, as a club.

"Ow!" he complained bitterly as the torch made heavy contact with the back of his head. "Why does everyone delight in whacking me around the head every time I innocently voice an opinion."

"Because you usually deserve it, Mulder." Scully climbed off the bed and adjusted her clothes primly. "I mean, did you really think I'd wear purple with hair my colour?"

Mulder shrugged nonchalantly. "I thought you were maybe planning to make a fashion statement," he replied, rubbing his bruised ear ruefully. Then he had a bright - or possibly a not so bright - idea. "Hey, Scully, didn't Picard mention something about the former Ship's Councillor leaving most of her wardrobe behind, or something? She sounded about your size, too. Maybe we should take a look?"

Scully was taken aback by the surprising good sense of this suggestion (even though it did make her wonder when Mulder had suddenly become interested in the size of women's clothing). "That's a good idea, Mulder," she grudgingly admitted.

Mulder looked modest. "I always said I was not just a pretty face... lots of girls think I've got a pretty - "

"Just... just don't say it, Mulder!" Scully warned him dangerously. "Don't say anything!" Mulder looked mock-hurt, and Dana smiled faintly, starting to come out of her disastrous haut couture mood. After all, he had come up with a possible solution to her dilemma. But she wisely restricted herself to simply going "Hmmm...."

Dax was being furtive with Mulder. Mulder didn't mind. The idea of his being anything with Dax appealed to Fox enormously. In this particular case, being furtive with Dax meant they were huddled together in the back of a darkened closet, whispering urgently about an unforeseen glitch in The Plan. The glitch being this - Scully wouldn't let Mulder get out of accompanying her to the Famous Wedding.

Mulder had tried everything - toothache, migraine, having this bone in his leg. Even a variation on the oldest Public School excuse of all time ('Sorry I'm late, but my head fell off') had failed to convince. Dax had experienced no trouble in opting out of the celebrational excursion - she had just said that her symbiote was moulting and the others, bewildered and more than a little nauseous, had gone along with her request to remain on board the ship for the relevant period, no questions asked.

"What am I going to do?" Mulder hissed desperately, absently polishing the toe of his left shoe on the back of his right trouser-leg, leaving a nasty mark.

Dax shrugged. Her brain was already worn out from thinking down to Mulder's level - she was jolly glad she wasn't an empath. It had been difficult enough arranging things up to now as it was, making slight navigational adjustments to fit in with McQueen's cunning yet strangely elegant Plan for dealing with Godzilla and her Litter when the time arrived. She could do without having to solve anyone else's petty problems.

"Uh-oh!" Fox suddenly groaned, noticing the small shoe-polish problem amid an ocean of woe." This was my best suit too. All the rest are grey, except for - EUREKA!" he squawked, unexpectedly leaping in the air with excitement. "I've GOT it!"

"Got what, " Dax replied, inching away as far as the close confines would allow. "Whatever it is, don't give it to me!"

Mulder scowled. "What I MEAN is, I've got the answer." He indicated the offending trouser-leg gleefully. "There's no WAY Scully's going to let me go to this blasted Wedding in a dirty suit. You've no idea how fussy she is about personal grooming. Besides," he admitted with an evil grin, "it might detract from that dress she's going to wear. Or rather, not wear. There's not much of it." He glanced at Dax. Fortune favours the Brave, as the saying goes. "It might suit you though..."

Dax wasn't listening (luckily for Mulder - he'd run out of unused 'clippable' ears.). Instead she was mulling over the probability of Mulder's ruse actually working. It might, she supposed. If it were handled correctly. Things were getting critical.

Things were also, she noticed absently, getting rather warm...

Godzilla was going berserk. McQueen couldn't figure out why. She'd been fed recently, her nest was completed and reasonably clean - after a quick once-around with the vacuum cleaner - and all her favourite toys and chews were readily to hand. Or paw, in this case. But she had been unusually restless for the last couple of hours. And now this.

Godzilla was climbing the walls - literally. Her claws were starting to make a terrible mess of the paint work, he noticed worriedly, gnawing away on a thumb nail in his concern. She seemed curiously determined to get to the air-vent. He quietly sauntered over to get a better view of the goings-ons, his brows furrowed slightly (but not too much, of course) with concern.

Immediately the little monster turned to face him, hissing violently, though making no move to attack. It was almost as if she were trying to protect him from something... He backed off again. She automatically ignored him in favour of assaulting the wall again. He approached again. She turned again. He reversed again. She ignored him for the wall again.


Salvaging his lukewarm cup of coffee (now loathsome to the power of ten), McQueen once more returned to the sofa in order to study the situation more thoroughly. He was starting to get a bad feeling about this...

Dana Scully was incandescent with rage. Though with what she was wearing, the rage bit was turning out to be wholly superfluous. "What do you mean, you can't take me? Look at me! I'm all ready to go. We're supposed to be... docking... in a couple of minutes. Our hosts are expecting us! I can't go without a proper escort!"

Dax cut in smoothly, not only salvaging the moment but actually managing to turn it to their advantage. "I've spoken with Captain Picard," she explained in her most soothing tone. "He says he would be Honoured to be your gallant escort on such a momentous occasion." Seeing Scully's suspicious glower, she began add-libbing furiously. "Indeed, he told me that he had secretly been virtually praying for the opportunity to delight in your company socially." Dax kept her fingers tightly crossed behind her back and hoped Picard would one-day forgive her for this.

But it seemed to mollify Scully. With a victorious parting glance at Mulder, she quietly made her way to the Transporter room. Dax's mind boggled at how Scully's defensive imagination was going to cope with that bit, but that wasn't her problem any more. Mulder, McQueen and a Mother-to-be were.

Sometimes she wished her distant ancestors had never left the seas.

Major Kira and Lieutenant Worf had been placed in charge of The Presents Pile. Worf had naturally considered this position of trust as a momentous honour. Kira was less impressed, however. Until the advent of Dana Scully, Kira had been under the distinct impression that she was going to be Captain Picard's companion for the afternoon. She had therefore dressed accordingly.

She couldn't quite remember where she'd obtained the pair of skin-tight faux snake-skin trousers or the rhinestone-studded bolero jacket from, but they were entirely suitable for a Wedding like this, she had decided. And they went so well with the kinky stiletto boots made from finest alligator skin. She had fully expected to be the Belle of the Ball, as it were.

And now here she was on Security Detachment with a damn great kimono-clad Klingon with a phaser in one hand and a bouquet of red roses in the other. The original idea had been that it would be Kira presenting the flowers at the appropriate moment in the proceedings. But since that was not going to be for a couple of hours yet she had chosen to delegate - the true sign of leadership - and dumped the whole fragrant bundle on Worf. It left her free to investigate the remarkably large and... suspiciously regular... pile of gifts intended for the Groom and Groom.

"Hey, Worf!" she called invisibly from behind the pile. What exactly did you get them in the end?"

Worf frowned, trying to think. (Worf tended to frown a lot.) "A toaster." He nodded with relief. He knew there could be no argument with a present like that.

Kira peered around the side of the heap. "What did you go and get them a toaster for!"

Worf considered that one carefully, before replying momentously - "To toast things with. Bread and such. I believe Humans like burnt bread."

Kira stood back and critically surveyed the pile once more. She had a very bad feeling about it. "I'm giving them a toaster too."

Worf grunted. "One each. That's... nice."

Kira then hesitated before asking the million-dollar question. "And, ah... what about everyone else?" she continued. What are they planning to give?"

Even for Worf, that one was easy. He smiled confidently.

"Toasters," he said.

Even as Picard and co. were being joyously welcomed down on the surface of Omicron Theta, the 'No Surprise' was leaving orbit on it's Secret Mission to give a family of miniature mutant monsters a new and environmentally friendly home of their very own.

Dax, Mulder and McQueen were gathered around the desk in the Conference Room, tidily arranging maps of the local stars, then relevant planets, their land masses, and ultimately a particular system of caves in descending order of immediate relevance. Mulder, being new to inter-stellar flight, was merely fascinated. Where-as Dax was utterly intrigued.

"So wear are we heading?" she asked, using yet another depressing obsidian paper-weight to pin down a curly corner of the local star map, which had been neatly labelled 'Cetus' along one edge for easy reference.

McQueen pointed. Mulder peered closer. "Omicron Draconis?" he read, mystified. "Where's that?"

Dax explained briefly. Or at least, briefly for her. "Look, you understand that there are groups of stars which form constellations, OK? For example, Betelgeuse and Rigel are in Orion, Sirius - the Dog Star - is in Canis Major, etcetera..." Mulder nodded, so far so good. "Well, we are currently travelling through the constellation of Cetus - The Whale. Now, there are a couple of other stars worth mentioning in Cetus. First there's Beta Ceti in the 'tail', and there's Alpha Ceti, which makes the 'nose'." Dax was getting into her stride now. "And as well as those there is Omicron Ceti, which is the brightest star by far," she continued. "That's the star that provides the 'Sun' for the planetary system we are now in. And around that Sun are twelve planets, Omicrons Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta - "

" - Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota - and Draconis," McQueen finished.

Dax looked puzzled. "That's not right! That's only ten! And what happened to - ?"

McQueen shrugged. "I'm afraid the Sixth Planet had an accident. It's not there any more."

Mulder looked aghast. "Your telling me this system has a whole PLANET missing?"

"Two actually," the Colonel corrected him briefly. "They managed to blow-up the Twelfth one decades ago - over mining, apparently. That's how Draconis got its' name. Being so near to the explosion knocked it out of orbit quite a bit. It's not a very nice place any more, either way too hot or freezing. Dreadful climate - we were glad enough to be below ground."

Mulder took a moment to digest this statement. "Your telling me you used to work there? You lived there?"

McQueen expression was bleak. "Worse that that," he sighed. "I was Born there."

Unbeknownst to Dax and co. there were a couple of other people onboard the 'No Surprise' as it pulsed its' way creakily toward Omicron Draconis. First there was the Doctor, who had begged off going to the Wedding, claiming that he was too busy re-calibrating all the medical scanners after Worf's last offer to 'help out' in Medical went it's fully predicted course. (Captain Picard was unwilling to prevent these little acts of altruism, however, because he was under the mistaken impression that such deeds went toward making Worf a better person. He had never really grasped the fact that Klingons were already greatly superior to Humans - and that Worf was only acting out of the equally misguided idea that Humans need all the help they can get.)

The second unknown passenger was a stow-away. It had been spending the last couple of months innocently (for it) hiding out in the Air Conditioning pipes and living quite happily off Canteen leftovers and the odd unwary NPC. It had also discovered a Mate, and had a successful breeding session. Now it was simply biding its' time, awaiting the Great Hatching...

Down on Omicron Theta meanwhile, things did not Bode Well for the Happy Couple. The unwrapping of the 1,000 odd assortment of Toasters had passed relatively uneventfully. (Data kept unwrapping them, feigning delight and then replacing each toaster back in its' box - and re-stacking them all again in his 'Useful Spares' section of the Lab.) Even the Cake had been cunningly hidden from prying eyes until after the Ceremony by Neelix - it had been disguised as a walk-in Took Box for Data to use in experiments with Cybernetics, as a sort of collective Gift from the whole Crew. There had been an anxious moment at the beginning, when Data had wanted to unwrap this present too, but he had been convinced to wait until after the Wedding by an earnest Mrs. Robinson.

Things really started going pear-shaped during the Ceremony. For a start no- one had really been able to agree on WHICH particular marriage ritual was to be adopted, in which God's name (or no-ones) they would be joined, and worst of all, who would have to wear the lacy white dress. (It had been a near thing for Kosh, but as no-one had managed to find the nerve to ask it to accept the dubious honour of being Chief Frock-Wearer the matter was quietly dropped.)

After a little trial and error in the Gents toilet, it was finally decided that Lennier would get the frock as he generally wore one anyway. (Lennier had insisted in vain that the outfit he adopted was nothing more than a Mimbari Robe of the Religious Order of En-til 'Zha - but since his mother had now become fixated with the idea of a long white frock and a veil, he concluded glumly that he couldn't really let her down a second time. Mrs. Robinson was terribly proud.)

The Marriage Ceremony was being held outside out of necessity - there were over 1,000 crew members on the 'No Surprise' and Riker and Data had solved the delicate problem of who was to be Invited to the Ceremony rather than just the Reception by simply inviting every-one to both!

As far as the Ceremony went, the only thing everyone did agree on was that under no circumstances was it going to be the Betazoid Sky-Clad Special. Picard refused to do it as it offended his sense of Personal Dignity - everyone else refused to do it on the grounds that Omicron Theta was currently doing a brilliant imitation of a faux Alaskan winter and Data's Humorous Comments outdoor thermometer (a gift from Blackpool) was currently sitting at 'If You Can Read This Thermometer - Your Probably Freezing To Death!'

Colonel McQueen wandered along the corridor, minding his own business and not thinking of killing things (or dying horribly) for a change. Indeed he was starting to feel quite positive about the way the Plan was panning out. Dax was running the Ship, Mulder was happy as a sandboy in Engineering, looking through back copies of Worf's favourite monthly magazine - 'Phasers and No Ammo', and now he was himself on his way to visit Godzilla, in order to keep her company during the Hatching.

So when the Turbo-lift door slid open to reveal a hissing, drooling Alien grinning at him toothily from its' position three foot in front of his nose, McQueen found himself quite surprisingly surprised. (He also found himself wondering briefly why hissing toothy things liked hanging around elevators, and suspected that it might be in order to prevent vandalism. He imagined it worked rather well!)

Still, this didn't go any way toward resolving his current dilemma - he wanted to use this Turbo-lift to reach his Quarters quickly. Time and Hatchlings wait for no man, after all. He started wishing he'd remembered to pack his gun, but he'd mistakenly assumed there would be no need for it on an empty ship (a mistake he would never make again - one way or another). So, it was going to be a real knife-fight instead.

Now, if only he'd thought to bring his knife...

The Alien sat in the Brig, feeling rather sorry for itself. Nobody on LV-426 had ever thought to warn him that his species had goolies too, or that the sudden forceful application of a size nine steel-toecapped flight boot in the groin dept. could be quite so disabling...

The Doctor watched his new Patient thoughtfully. He'd dealt, in his time, with a wide assortment of alien creatures suffering from one complaint or another - but this was entirely new. A chitinous fighting-machine with acid for blood and a murderous gleam in its' eyes - and a painful limp...

He sighed and turned dutifully to select the proper tools from his Medical Trolley for the job ahead. He discovered that he was feeling quite relieved he was a Hologram under this particular set of circumstances, the Alien couldn't harm him in the slightest.

Or so he'd been told...

The 'No Surprise' slid cautiously into orbit around Omicron Draconis, took the precaution of raising its' shields against any fall-out that still chose patronise the local gravitational field, and started to play 'Spot The Asteroid'. After all, if an omelette couldn't be made without the breaking of a few eggs, then it was only reasonable to deduce that the annihilation of a couple of planets in the vicinity was also bound to have a few repercussions...

Dax and Mulder loitered around the Bridge, checking the odd screen, adjusting the occasional dial and generally pacing about as they awaited News from McQueen's Quarters. So far the eggs were still an enigma wrapped inside a tea bag draped conundrum, and Godzilla was being almost deliberately coy...

Mulder checked to bouquets for the fifth time. "Are you sure she likes roses?" he asked worriedly. "you know, with the thorns and everything...?"

Dax shrugged. "She liked the ones in the Captains' Ready Room well enough to eat the vase as well... I really don't think a couple of thorns are going to bother her. And as for the Hatchlings - " she paused thoughtfully, "if they're anything like their father I'd be more worried about the integrity of the hull! You know how much babies dribble."

Mulder looked startled. "You don't think their saliva's corrosive too, do you? It'll be bad enough when they start getting nose-bleeds." He whimpered. "I mean, shouldn't we put them down on the planet now, just to be safe? God Alone knows what their diapers will be like!"

Dax looked bemused. "I don't think diapers will be an issue, do you? Unless your planning to volunteer for Changing Duty?" She frowned. "Come to think of it, maybe it IS time we tried to convince the Colonel to transport the lot of us down to the planets' surface before they start hatching, just in case..."

"Well THIS is a Fun Place!" Mulder griped as the three of them trudged up yet another rocky outcrop toward their eventual destination - the entrance to the Uranium Mines of Omicron Draconis. "I wonder if McDonalds thought to set up a Concession Stand here?"

McQueen smiled thinly. "If you want excitement I should take you on a Grand Tour of Number Three Shaft sometime. That's where we dug up the Coffinate."


"Umm..? Oh. It's an ore-baring mineral. On Earth it's about 60 percent proof. Here it's more like 68, 70 percent. Trust me," he added as they finally crested the brow of the hill, "it can be more exciting than Disney World." They paused to catch their breath and the Colonel took the opportunity to point out a couple of local landmarks, including the Mineral Processing Plant squatting half a mile to their right. "When the people who ran this place figured I was too smart to waste in the Mine Shaft itself they sent me there and let me handle some of the chemicals. Made a change from the explosives, I suppose..."

Dax let her gaze drift across to the left, toward the entrances to the other two Mines. "Are they Coffinate Shafts, too?" she asked as settled back against a handy rock and used her binoculars to get a closer look.

McQueen shook his head in negation. "No, over there we did it the hard way, using Sulphuric and Nitric Acid to dissolve Pitchblende, which contains about 2 parts per million. Once dissolved it forms Uranyl Sulphate while the Radium and other metals get precipitated out as sulphates. Incidentally," he added after a moments contemplation, "that rock your sitting on is also about 70 percent Uranium, so I think we won't hang around, don't you?"

Mulder climbed quite rapidly to his feet and looked himself up and down some- what apprehensively. "Let's go!" He suggested, heading off down the slope again at an impressive rate. The others had to trot to keep up.

Once they had regrouped about halfway down, McQueen opted to continue his dissertation. "Then," he continued as they detoured around a loosely soil-filled depression marked with a faded and paint-peeled wooden cross, "Then you add Sodium Hydroxide," he explained, not missing the beat, "and the Uranium gets precipitated out as Sodium Diurinate, better known as Yellow Oxide of Uranium, which then gets shipped back to Earth for use in war-heads, Power Stations and so forth." He paused once more to regard first the cemetery, and then his companions. He smiled mirthlessly. "Having Fun yet?" he enquired.

Back on the 'No Surprise' the Doctor was most definitely NOT having fun. The Alien shifted his grip on the Hologram's throat to his other fist, and continued to employ an electronic probe as a means of shorting out the lock mechanism on the door. As usual when the Plot demanded, the shorting-out of the lock caused the door to open. Only when it was necessary to allow the Heroes to evade capture did a lock EVER short out in Closed mode...

The Alien dropped the Doctor unceremoniously onto the floor before exiting the cell, re-locking the door again (in a manner that was never made clear in any of the previous episodes, so why worry about it now?), and stepped out into a Brave New World...

(Meanwhile, at Gotham City State Penitentiary... Commissioner Gordon was deeply involved in explaining to Batman and Robin - the Boy Wonder - the finer details of the Jokers' latest dastardly plot to take over the World... quite probably involving Mind Controlling Laser Beams transmitted from every T.V. set in the nation. Ect...Ect...Ect... Fortunately for those already involved with this story, most of these characters will never be mentioned again, so try not to worry about it...)

While back on Omicron Theta it was finally Cake Cutting Time. The Groom and the Other Groom stood back to admire the impressive dimensions of the Cake, and looked around for Neelix in order to congratulate the Cook.

But Neelix was laying low - very low - any lower and he would have been sub-terranian... The reason for this reluctance to come forward and take credit for his creation was simple - he was, simply, too scared...

At the time the discovery of the giant eggs had seemed a god-send. He had already had to call it quits vis-à-vis stuffing the Scotch Eggs because the whole concoction had offended his higher senses of culinary decency; besides which, they were far too fiddly. But the Cake had required something extra - and the advent of the Eggs had seemingly provided that Little Extra Something he'd been hoping for. Two L.E.S.'s, as it happened!

Riker and his new (and unique) Bride decided that they could wait no longer. Wrapping one hand each around the grip of the laser-cake-cutter they saluted the Toast (proposed by Picard, who knew the Form for such occasions and, being a man of tradition, refused to allow a few little biological discrepancies get in the way) and reached to cut the Cake.

"To the Groom and the er... Other Groom!" everyone cheered with a forgivable lack of co-ordination but plenty of enthusiasm.

Riker and Data cut the Cake.

Then all Hell let loose...

The Alien had finally succeeded in locating the Bridge. It regarded the Map on the wall of the corridor thoughtfully. It knew from bitter experience that the lifts on this ship didn't work in the same way that the ones on LV 624 had - with these ones it was necessary to state ones destination and the lift would do the rest. The trouble was, the Alien couldn't speak - not Human, anyway. It therefore had to find another way to get to the Bridge - one that involved no pre-requisite ability for speech. The Alien considered the whole situation to be quite unreasonably Species-ist; but, since he was in a minority of one, he very much doubted his feelings would count for much on this ship... After all, no other Minority did! (The Alien rather suspected that those responsible for the construction of this particular ship had been unfamiliar with Therroux...)

He looked about himself carefully and considered his options. Lift-shaft? Too painful in his present condition. Ventilation system? Been there, done that, bought the Souvenir Dead Rat!

Then his eyes fell to the floor - a hatch beneath his very feet that he had failed to notice before suddenly gave him a cunning, not to mention an unpleasant, idea.

Little Godzilla was feeling restless. She was also starting to feel lonely. She missed the company of her Pet Human - she had gotten quite attached to him over the last few weeks; sometimes rather more attached than he would prefer. But on the whole he seemed quite... entertaining...

And now he had Gone Away with his New Friends - and she discovered that she missed the little things about him that had made him special; the way he was able to avoid getting his fingers bitten off during Feeding Skirmishes; the way he had of looking down at her disapprovingly from a great height (usually the top of the wardrobe) whenever she had eaten one of his favourite books on Eastern Philosophy, and, most of all; that certain way he had of dynamically rolling across the floor in order to get from his bunk to the teapot, refilling his mug and then rolling back again - without spilling a drop!

Godzilla sighed. She wasn't (quite) as stupid as she often looked, and fully realised that the three of them had gone to visit a Special Planet solely for the benefit of herself and her Hatchlings. Even so, she felt instinctively that there was Something Very Wrong up here on the ship.

She regarded the Nest anxiously, only to find her instincts coming into play once again - only this time it was her Maternal Instinct. It was a deep-seated instinct, and couldn't be ignored. She began to suspect that Time might be running out...

It was at this point that a very small (1 watt) metaphorical light bulb 'pinged' on in her brain. From her vantage point beneath the bunk she had heard all about 'How To Make A Plan' from her Pet Human and his friends in the last couple of days, but was so astonished to find that she had managed to come up with such a Plan all by herself that she lit up like the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square - and nearly banged her head on the ceiling as she momentarily forgot her Dimensional self-control and shot up to a height of over 10 feet - not unlike a reptilian Alice in the White Rabbits' House...

She came to a decision. She lumbered swiftly over to the door and, adjusting her scale back down again to an appropriate size, used her nose to press the lock. The door opened. She peered cautiously around the edge of the frame - all clear in both directions - before turning to regard the trolley that The Pet's friends had left behind, considerately laden with provisions for the time they had planned to be Away. She looked back at her Nest. She looked again at the trolley. She came to a momentous decision.

Using her paws as best she could, Little Godzilla redistributed the food so that it was arranged in a heap on the top shelf. Then she returned to her Nest and very carefully started to remove some of the superfluous tea bags. When she was sure she had accumulated enough she edged the pile gently over to the trolley and proceeded to position them carefully on the lower shelf...

Picard and the others huddled behind the Toaster barricade that Data had managed to swiftly erect in front of the door to the Useful Spares room of his Laboratory. The Captain would occasionally risk a quick peek over the top of said barricade - just long enough to observe the lay of the land - before silently sinking back down again like a Boldly Burnished Bathysphere in reverse...

"Any sign of them, sir?" Riker asked sotto voce as he hunkered down beside his erstwhile Captain. Picard shook his head - negative. Riker sighed softly and returned to his position in the centre, next to Major Kira, who was busy protecting what she (quite mistakenly) believed to be the weaker members of their group; i.e. Mrs. Robinson, Neelix, Scully, Lennier and Kosh, who had recently begun to hum the theme tune from 'Scooby-Doo' to himself in a singularly irritating fashion.

Riker checked the setting on his phaser for, it seemed, the thousandth time, causing Kira to huff in exasperation. "Stop fiddling with it before it goes off!" she hissed in Kosh-induced irritation.

Riker blushed, and had the grace to look sheepish, before realising the Major had been referring to his phaser. He retreated again to join Data and Worf at the rear of the party.

'Huh! Some Party!' he thought. 'First we don't get to take our clothes off, then we get a thousand toasters, and finally we get attacked by our own Wedding Cake! It doesn't seem fair, somehow...'

Such depressed ruminations were abruptly interrupted by the sudden arrival of Captain Picard in their midst's.

"Movement!" the Captain hissed urgently. "Over to the left!"

The others peered toward the barricade and readied their collective weaponry in preparation for the expected Assault. Picard had to fight a curious desire to lead the group in a rousing chorus of 'Men Of Harlech' - but he doubted anyone else present would understand the reference, so he saved his breath...

Besides which, if they'd been singing they would never have heard the sounds of furtive scuttling coming from above their heads. They gazed collectively up at the ceiling in perplexity -

- until Scully was suddenly galvanised into action. "Quick!" she cried as she battled to fight her way forward. "Unblock the exit!"

The others gaped at her in amazement. "Are you MAD!!!" Riker demanded, trying to reach forward and grab her before she reached the barricade. "It's Hideous Death out-there!"

Scully turned on them like a cornered rat. "And it'll be an even more Hideous Tongue-lashing from ME if you don't unblock the door!" she yelled. "Haven't you seen the Movie?" They all gazed back at her blankly. Scully took a five second paused for Dramatic Effect before roaring - "They're coming through the roof!"

With this she started to feverishly pull at the barricade. "Mulder was RIGHT!" she added in sheer amazement, even as she budged over to make room for as many fellow demolition enthusiasts as she could. "For once in his pathetic, Alien-ridden life - Mulder was ACTUALLY right!"

Speaking of which, or perhaps whom, the Lone Alien aboard the 'No Surprise' had reached a bit of an impasse on his journey up to the Bridge. He had never taken the opportunity to familiarise himself with Advanced Structural Plumbing (he'd dropped that particular course at his Public School in favour of Performing Arts - his 'Othello' had been considered rather good...), and thus he now found

himself utterly perplexed by the unexpected advent of the U-Bend...

Elsewhere on the ship The Doctor had managed to successfully re-boot his Operating System and now stood, mostly intact, down in Engineering. He was currently attempting to communicate to The Robot his idea of the level of threat posed to their physical well-being by the escape of the Alien from the brig. As far as he was personally concerned, it had recently advanced up to Def-Con 4!

The Robot was experiencing some not inconsiderable difficulty in grasping the concept of Personal Danger, however. This was partly due to the fact that no robots had ever been programmed with the concept of Self-Preservation, and partly due to the fact that the Doctors' Linguistics Program was, literally as well as metaphorically speaking, All Greek To Him!

But mostly it was due to the fact that The Robot was currently completely Out Of His (poly-alloy) Skull on an intoxicating combination of whiskey and some of the more exotic chemical combinations he had recently familiarised himself with, as lifted from the Engineering Section Medical Kit.

Eventually The Doctor gave it up as a Bad Job and made do with scribbling a Readers Digest version of current events on a sunshine-yellow post-it note that he then proceeded to stick onto the front of The Robots' face-plate - figuring it would have to be the first thing The Robot would see when it finally returned to its (somewhat debatable) Senses. Even so, he had a sneaking suspicion that these was something fundamentally wrong with this Plan!

He sighed heavily (as he was wont to do in these kinds of situations) and knew the Liberation of the 'No Surprise' was probably going to be Down To Him...

Mulders' legs hurt.

Mulders' back hurt.

Mulders' head hurt.

Mulders' hair even hurt, and he gloomily suspected that this was not physically possible...

"My HAIR hurts!" he grumbled experimentally.

"That's impossible!" Dax replied blithely as she sped up a little to walk beside him. "There aren't any nerves in hair - it's just keratin." She waved her pony-tail under his nose to emphasise her point. "Don't worry - I expect your probably just hallucinating, that's all."

"Oh, that's all right then," Mulder replied despondently. "For a moment, I thought I might be in trouble..." He regarded the Trell dourly. "Aren't YOU tired?"

Dax shrugged. "Not really - I think Trell have a much more robust constitution than most Humans. Plus, we're both a lot fitter than you."

"Well - Yah-Boo! Sucks to you!" Mulder responded sarcastically.

"Oh, quit griping!" McQueen snapped, taking a couple of moments to get his barings before heading off down a side-passage that appeared to be identical to all the other side-turnings they had so-far ignored. Mulder and Dax had no real choice but to follow...

Mulder continued to trudge dutifully down this All New collection of seemingly endless tunnels, passing yet more of the seemingly identical side-turnings and regarding with low-level malevolence the back of their seemingly unstoppable Trusty Leader.

"Don't you EVER stop?" he suddenly burst out in frustration.

McQueen thought about this as he (deliberately) continued walking, trying as he did so to 'get a grip' on his Bad Mood (he was, after-all, deep in the bowels of his Least Favourite Place In All The Universe), before he eventually replied with his usual Infinite Patience "Only when we get where we're going."

"Very philosophical" Mulder sniffed, not willing to give up. "And out of interest - exactly where ARE we going?"

Without turning, McQueen answered evenly - "We'll know when we get there." ('Just think of him as one of the 58th', the Colonel cautioned himself silently. 'One of the less bright ones - well, no, actually ANY of them could have filled THAT criteria. Just think - Cooper Hawkes! They don't come any thicker than that without corn flour! So, just assume he hasn't had Proper Training, doesn't know what a Direct Order is, doesn't realise what a pain in the - ) "I know what I'm doing," he added firmly.

Mulder looked sceptical "I wish I did!" he muttered darkly.

The Colonel wisely chose to ignore this, however, causing Dax to snigger into her hair before dropping back to her position as 'Tail-end Charlie'.

Mulder glanced back at Dax, infuriated. Dax glanced back and shrugged non-commitally, still trying not to laugh - and failing miserably.

Mulder sighed. He decided to give up Authority Baiting ( a favourite hobby of his back on Earth - even if he did usually wind-up being beaten to a pulp during the follow-up), and simply go with the flow...

It was at around this point in the proceedings that Fox Mulder came to a strangely unexpected conclusion about Inter-Galactic Travel in general, and Omicron Draconis in particular. And the conclusion was this; it was, for the most part, Boring! Even watching Scully flossing her teeth had to be more interesting than this unremitting tedium. He was about to say as much when he unexpectedly found himself ploughing into McQueen's back.

Their Trusty Leader had Stopped!

Little/Medium-sized/Occasionally-Biggish Godzilla was having a bit of difficulty getting the trolley up the steps and onto the pad of the Transporter. Why they couldn't have had a ramp here was beyond her!

Suddenly she paused. Had there been the faintest of sounds from outside the door? She wasn't sure, but she backed strategically into the farthest corner of the room, atop a small pile of assorted Engineering Equipment (that some red-shirt NPC had not been bothered to put away), just in case.

Godzilla listened a while longer, but the sound wasn't repeated. She breathed out again with silent relief, then took a moment to look down from her coign of vantage in search of Inspiration.

Alas - Ensign Inspiration was currently 'On Vacation' with Wesley Crusher in Another Dimension and was of no immediate help.

But, instead of Inspiration, it just so happened (somewhat fortuitously) that Yeoman Serendipity was on Duty, and took the opportunity to discreetly point out to the little monster that she was currently perched on top of a small pile of Hover-mats...

Back on the 'No Surprise' The Robot was going cross-eyed trying to interpret The Doctor's post-it note as it hung, leech-like, in front of his 'nose'.

'The Ship has been taken over by an Alien Creature which has Acid for blood and a nasty limp!' The Robot finally managed to translate ( - remarkably well, considering his Galaxy-sized hang-over) Nasty limp what, though? he worried. He felt compelled to read on...

'I believe it is attempting to get to the Bridge, in order to pilot the ship away from the planet below which, for some unknown reason - why doesn't anybody TELL me these things! - is NOT Omicron Theta, as I had been led to believe, but Omicron Draconis; known, I gather, amongst the Lower Ranks as the Discharge Pipe To Nowhere!'

(The Robot paused to consider - if this was the Edited Version of events, what would the Complete and Unabridged Version have looked like!)

'I shall, therefore, endeavour to gain control of the Ship myself, and then attempt to work out What The Hell Is Going On! While I am busy achieving this end, YOU will be busy apprehending our Hostile Hitch-hiker.

'In doing this I would advise you use EXTREME CAUTION - this Creature has the unusual capacity to damage Holograms, can dissolve most types of metal, and can single-handedly - '

"BUGGER THAT!!!" said The Robot aloud, reading no further. "Who does he think I am - Colonel McQueen? Sod this for a Game of Soldiers - I'M OFF!"

The concerted attempt to Break-out en masse from behind the Toasters had not proved 100% successful. Actually, it had barely scraped 80%. Data had tried to work out the exact percentages - 2 casualties out of the original 9 = ? He suspected 4.5 came into the equation somewhere along the line, but the actual Solution was quite beyond his ability to process - because the batteries had gone flat in his calculator... He returned it to his pocket with a faux sigh, the best he could come up with under the circumstances.

The Circumstances being that he currently had a giant albino Horse-shoe Crab attached to his face, trying to lay an egg in his throat. It wasn't having much luck though, because Androids don't, as a rule, have bio-cellular tracheae, so the egg found itself with nothing to attach to. The Face-Hugger then decided to give the Android's Voice Synthesiser one last try, but when all it got for its' efforts was a Terminal Renditioning of Data's (by now infamous) Toccata and Belch in D Minor (with flugelhorn counter-point). At which point it came to the dispiriting conclusion that Darwin HAD been right all along - Survival Of Species really WAS influenced by its Environment - as a direct result of which the Face-hugger promptly gave up, fell off and expired.

Captain Picard regarded his former Second Officer with some concern. "Are you all right, Data?" he asked with an air of Paternal Concern.

The Android nodded. "I appear to be functioning at Maximum Efficiency, sir."

Picard nodded with relief as he watched Data climb nimbly to his feet. Then he turned, with some trepidation, to regard Commander Riker. This was not unusual, of course, or in anyway reprehensible, but here and now their working relationship was going to be even more under strain than usual...

He looked down at the Face-Hugger enveloping Riker's head - then he turned and faced the others. "Suggestions, anyone?" he asked calmly...

Colonel McQueen was in a Cold Sweat.

He didn't like that. It unnerved him, and that wasn't an easy thing to do. He suspected he hadn't sweated like this since the Winslow's Apology Incident. Compared to that, going out later to blast Chiggy von Richtofen (the Enemy's Fighter Ace) to smithereens had been a doddle. Plus (being exceptionally Exceptional), he'd succeeded using only Conventional Weapons, too! To quote Mulder "Yah boo! Sucks to you!"

But right now he would have given a right arm, possibly his own, for his trusty Swiss Army 'Double-Barrelled Pump-Action Pulse-Laser Rifle' (with ALL the attachments, including the Ubiquitous Special Device for getting stones out of a horses' hoof - chronically useless in Deep Space).

Instead all he had was a Phaser.

He regarded said Phaser with disdain. It had initially taken him twenty minutes just to figure out how to load it, and then he'd kept mislaying the damn thing all the time - until he'd ingeniously thought to attach it to one of those Beeping Key-fobs. After that he had only to whistle to make it give away its location - usually somewhere under the bed, or at the bottom of the inside pocket of his Other Flying Jacket, or, on one singularly unpleasant occasion, the inside of one small, constipated rubber monster...

All this was of no consequence, however, when confronted with (yet another) Hideous Visage of Acid Dripping Death - only he figured this had the be the Economy Size edition, what with the triple set of dog-teeth, elegantly crested head and more arms and legs than he could currently be bothered to count, what with it being 30 foot tall and everything.

He decided to try the Phaser anyway. It couldn't hurt, he thought, and he was right. It didn't. It went 'Phussssssst' ineffectually once or twice, and then it ceased doing anything at all. (He'd once heard, via Ensign Scuttlebutt, that all Phasers had a habit of doing this when The Plot demanded it, and he was thus not terribly surprised when it happened now. He recalled upbraiding the young Ensign at the time for spreading rumours, yet it seemed, for once, that Ensign Scuttlebutt had been right all along!)

Pinning the Alien Queen with one of his best Cool Looks - whilst also rapidly re-assessed his Party's present situation - the Colonel did what he did third... or possibly forth... best. He consulted Military History. After a couple of seconds brief consultation he turned in the general direction of the position Mulder and Dax had opted to cower behind and enquired - almost casually - "I don't suppose either of you happen to have a large elastic band on you?"

The Robot was also rapidly re-assessing his situation. After five minutes or so he came to the conclusion that he, too, was 'in the poo'. Godzilla had gotten a bit over-excited when he'd arrived in the Transporter Room just as she was about to leave, and then they'd accidentally beamed it all down with them...

"I hope your not thinking of going in there," he asked worriedly as they arrived at the entrance to the Mine.

Godzilla bounced up and down a bit, rather too affirmatively for his liking, and indicated to him quite clearly that he should start pushing the Hover-mat, with its Precious Cargo, into the Tunnel's entrance.

The Robot loitered disconsolately a little longer before adding hopefully "It'll be pitch black in there - how will we ever see where we're going?"

Godzilla turned and regarded her Mechanised Muscle witheringly (not an easy thing to pull off when your only 3 foot high and badly manufactured in cheap rubber, but she managed it with remarkable aplomb - which only went to show that her time with McQueen had NOT been entirely wasted). Then, heaving a weary sigh, she ignited her Spinal Crest as brightly as Special Effects allowed, and

headed off into the darkness...

The Robot trailed along with the Trolley, concluding ruefully that he had nothing better to do with his time right now. After a few minutes he started whistling a cheery little ditty he'd once heard Worf sing down in Engineering, about a Wild Rover who'd spent all his money on Women and Beer. Worf had claimed it to be an Ancient Klingon Battle Hymn, but The Robot remained unconvinced...

The freshly liberated Alien had eventually defeated the U-bend conundrum, by the simple expediency of spitting on it until it had dissolved enough to let him out! Now it stood in the center of Captain Picard's very own Ready Loo, trying, unsuccessfully, to wash the worst of the unspeakable gunk off before IT started to dissolve instead.

After an unproductive hour or so it decided to give up and go find someone to eat...

...and that someone looked likely to be The Doctor, who had arrived on the Bridge at much the same moment as the Alien was emerging - like a New-born from Hell - out from the waste-pipe.

It would have had him too, if the smell hadn't given it away!

As it was, The Doctor had it in the cross-sights of his Holo-Phaser before the Alien was half-way across the floor. "Ah-Ha! There you are," The Doctor cried triumphantly, "you... putrescent collection on amino acids!" He raised an eye-brow imperiously. "So you thought to take over the Ship, did you? Well! I have News for you, you grotesque abomination that knows no equal - with the exception of Commander Riker first thing in the morning, but I digress -" he took a second to mentally recap the Situation So Far before continuing. "This entire Vessel is now under MY control, and once again heading AWAY from Omicron Draconis and back toward Omicron Theta - where I shall take great personal satisfaction in single-handedly rescuing Captain Picard and the rest of the Crew from the Hideous Fate you - no doubt - had intended for them!"

At this point he (mercifully) ran out of breath (not to mention metaphors), and was obliged to silent wave the Alien away from the Control panels and into the Turbo Lift - whereupon he swiftly shut the doors on the Creature and ordered the 'No Surprise' to place a Level 4 Containment Field around the entire shaft...

The Doctor mopped his brow with relief - fortunately for him the entire episode had passed so quickly that the Alien had not had time to recollect that it was, in truth, totally impervious to any and all forms of Holographic Threat. Or to notice, in the View Screen, that they were still in geo-stationary orbit around Omicron Draconis after all.

"Now, Ship!" The Doctor said brightly as he surveyed the Bridge in a Masterful fashion and prepared to exercise his Vocabulary a little more. "Kindly tell me how I am supposed to navigate us back to our quondam location!"

Those left still standing on the surface of Omicron Theta had retired to one of the complexes many spare Guest Suites for warmth. After half-an-hour or so spent recovering from the sub-zero temperatures outside, some bright spark or other had suggested that they might think about bringing Riker in, too. After they had spent another twenty minutes in doing so, they agreed (by a majority of Data and a Phaser set on Bloody Annoyed) to fetch him in out of the snow.

They had laid Commander Riker and his 'new friend' supine upon the long-table so recently laden with the trimmings of the Wedding Banquet. This meant the others could indulge themselves in demolishing little paper plates covered with sausage-rolls, canapés, cheese straws, sushi and any other finger-food they could find with a clear consciences - declaring piously that it would be a crime to let such good food go to waste! Plus it also, it gave them something vaguely diverting to do as they contemplated Riker's distressed condition.

Major Kira ambled over to regard Riker with a jaundiced eye - she never had been able to forgive him for failing to try to seduce her on the rare occasions they'd worked together. She had taken it as a personal insult - and was probably right to - when the Commander had spent most of his time instead hanging out with Dax, teaching the Ferengi how to play Poker.

"I think he looks better with it on, personally," she commented caustically to anyone who happened to be within ear-shot. "It's a vast improvement on that beard, at any rate!"

Neelix (now with two 'e's) was forced to agree. "Yes, indeed," he said, around a mouthful of vegetable quiche, "anybody who can do a thing like that to half-a-dozen perfectly innocent o-aan egg deserves everything he gets!"

"O-aan eggs?" Kira prompted, intrigued.

"Oh yes! Worf once told me how Commander Riker had prepared scrambled eggs for his friends using o-aan eggs, and prepared them so badly that only a Klingon could eat them!" He shook his head sadly as he finally managed to swallow the mouthful, "which reminds me - I MUST remind him to use chicken eggs next time he makes a quiche for general consumption - caviar is all very nice in the proper place, but its place ISN'T as the major component of a vegetable quiche!"

"Ummm... " Kira winced, "I though this tasted funny!" She scowled darkly as she wipe a hand across her mouth in disgust.

Neelix took a moment to scan Kira's plate before explaining patiently "No, I believe Klingon Haggis Pasties are SUPPOSED to taste like that!" And with this parting shot he trotted off, just as Data arrived, with Kosh and Scully in tow, to consult with Kira about the possibility of freezing the Face-Hugger off the Commanders' face by the simple expediency of bunging him outside again.

Scully's Medical Soul cried out in out-rage. "But it's minus two-hundred degrees out there right now - it would kill him!"

"True," the Major was forced to agree as she thought about the ice and snow now piled against the window by the force of the howling gales now sweeping across the surface of the Planet.

Then she thought about it even more, before adding brightly - "I'll take his feet, if you two carry his body!"

Mulder had checked every pocket, rummaged through every turn-up and even offered to help rummage through Dax's pockets, too! But alas, no elastic band was forth-coming.

And yet...

"Hey, Dax!" he hissed conspiratorially, not wanting the attract the attention of the Queen Alien away from McQueen's hypnotic gaze, "Didn't we pass some-thing back down the corridor? About 100 meters back?"

"?" Dax queried silently. Then she snapped her fingers in enlightenment (very, very quietly) and nodded. "Yes, Mulder - I think your right! Stay here, I'll go and see..." And with that she vanished back the way they had come, leaving Mulder feeling very much 'All Alone In The Dark...'

The 'No Surprise' circled Omicron Theta sulkily. That was the impression The Doctor had about its attitude, at any rate; but he was finding it all up-hill work trying to get the mile-long Starship to 'snap out of it'.

"Look," he said, addressing the otherwise empty Bridge in general, and the Ship in particular, "I realise your feeling guilty about leaving the others down on Draconis like that - actually, I don't feel too good about it myself - but I assure you that it really WAS absolutely necessary for the Safe Resolution of this Plot-line! Now, all we need to do is beam the Captain and the others back up from the

surface of the planet and we can head back to the others before anything too serious happens to them. All right?"

"WARNING - HULL BREACH IMMENENT!" the tinkley voice of the Shipboard Computer said suddenly.

The Doctor span around, much alarmed, and started frantically checking every switch and console he could find. After a couple of minutes of frenetic activity he stopped. He turned accusingly to address the room once more snapping "Ha! Ha! Very Funny, I don't think!!! I suppose you think your getting even with me for making you miss the Hatching Time. Well, that's just too bad! We're here to rescue the Wedding Party, and, by God, we're GOING to rescue the Wedding Party. Right now!"

He regarded the salient console once again, trying to fix a lock on the rest of his erstwhile companions. "Strange..." he mused to himself, "it looks like all but one of them have withdrawn inside the Habitation Structure. I wonder who they could have left out in the cold." He instructed the Ship to lock-on to the co-ordinates. The Ship just sat there. "Very well," he sighed. "Then I'll just have to figure our how to do it myself..."

Data had been unable to totally abandon his Amour to the elements, and had opted to stay with Riker out in the desolate wastes of Omicron Theta. He sat in the snow and attempted to revive the Commander with the combination of sympathetic hand-patting and the passage recital of his favourite character from 'Macbeth'.

"Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One: two: why, then 'tis time to do it. Hell is murky. Fie, my Lord, fie! A soldier, and afeared? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to accompt? Yet who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him?

"The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now? What, will these hands never been clean? NO more of that, my lord, no more of that! You mar all with this starting.

"Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh, OH! Hello Commander Riker! Are you feeling any better?"

Commander Riker slowly propped himself into a semi-sitting position and took a slow, thoughtful look around. The Face-hugger slid resignedly into the snow and perished in a gloom of Shakespearean melodrama. (The Android's recitals had been known to cause premature dementia in certain members of the Crew before now, which was why Picard had banned all such exhibitions until there was a delegation present from a Hostile Society, and plenty of ear-plugs for the favoured amongst the audience...)

"What the Hell is that?" Riker demanded agitatedly as he poked the corpse of his deceased symbiote experimentally. "And is it edible?"

Data clapped his hands with glee. "Oh! Frabjous day! Calloo! Callay! Your back to normal, my sweetling!" And he leant across to plant a smacker on one hirsute cheek.

Picard and the others had come out of the sheltering building just in time to witness this touching Reunion of Souls, but, mercifully, The Doctor managed to get a fix on the Guests and swiftly transport them all back aboard the 'No Surprise' just in time for them to miss the Consummation of Mutual Undying Love.

Picard reviewed his Bridge Crew critically, before turning to face The Doctor. "Excellent timing," he commented, before reclining gratefully into the Captain's Seat of command. "Anything interesting happen while we were away?"

The Doctor considered this momentarily, before replying "Nothing too out of the ordinary, Captain. Though, if I might suggest you refrain from employing the services of the Turbo Lift until Lieutenant Worf has had an opportunity to re-confine a certain... visitor... back in the Brig."

Picard raised an eyebrow in surprise. "What? Not the damn Romulans again!"

The Doctor shook his head in negation. "No sir, I am referring to a fully grown Alien, sir. I have it contained in the elevator shaft, sir. And incidentally..." he shuffled his feet uncomfortably, "about two hours ago the Ship started to intercept Communicator transmissions from Lieutenant Dax, who is presently deep under the surface of Omicron Draconis, with Agent Mulder and Colonel McQueen, and - I gathered from a quick reference to the Ship's complement - The Robot from Lost In Space. And, according to one of her more recent

transmissions, they seem to have encountered some considerable resistance and are in critical need of one large elastic band."

"We're not going to make it," Mulder whimpered forlornly from behind his rock, his lower tip trembling tremulously. "It's going to tear us all limb from limb, and then we'll die!"

"That's what usually happens when you get torn limb from limb," McQueen replied with the Voice Of Experience, trying desperately not to blink. He'd been using The Cool Look for years now, and was quite an expert at it - but even so... "Tell me, Agent Mulder, exactly how long have I been doing this?" he inquired in a conversational tone as he strove to keep Mulder from bolting altogether.

Mulder consulted his watch, counted on his fingers, and replied "A smidgen over two and a half hours."

McQueen frowned. "How long EXACTLY!"

Fox sighed heavily and recalculated, adding his toes to the equation, before coming up with a rather more accurate "Two hours, thirty-seven minutes and... do you want the seconds?"


"Oh, um... forty seconds... NOW."

McQueen scowled Heroically. (He wasn't sure if that was technically possible, but it had never stopped him before...) "You supposed to say 'Ready...Ready... Hack'," he corrected automatically.



"Well In that case it's going to be um... oh hell! Hang on! Um... Two hours, thirty-eight minutes and thirty, Ready... Ready... Hack!"

"Hmm... That's a Personal Best," the Colonel mused, chewing introspectively on a hang-nail before adding mildly "No sign of the Leiutenent, yet?"

Mulder peered down the corridor with optimism, but there was nothing to see. "No," he admitted, being an Honest Soul. He reversed quietly and sat back behind his defensive rock again. After a moments hesitation he knew he just had to ask "Why?"

"Because she might have discovered something useful," McQueen answered with a commendable amount patience, considering their circumstances.

Mulder frowned. "No, I meant, why 'Hack'?"

The Colonel had long been dreading that question. "I don't know!" he answered in an aggrieved voice. "You just DO, all right?"

"Oh." Fox Mulder slumped back against a convenient wall to put his socks back on. After a while he had a Happy Thought, rummaged once again and, offering to pass the bag, said brightly "Would anyone like a sun-flower seed?"

"They're not going to make it, are they?" Major Kira sighed sadly as she lean across to flick the 'off' switch on the Communications station. "We'll never get there in time now!"

She sat and pondered Dax's last communication. From the description of the situation in the depths of Omicron Draconis it very much sounded like Curtains for the four Crew stranded down there. (She was also vaguely puzzled by the ability of Dax's Communicator transmissions to punch through a mile or so of solid, mostly radio-active rock and then successfully travel across the vast emptiness of Space in order reach the 'No Surprise' with no sign of any signal degradation what-so-ever - when everybody knew that during the normal course of things a StarCorps Communicator couldn't punch its way through a greasy chip bag...)

She was going to raise this very point with the others, but when she turned she found herself confronted with a scene of almost Biblical proportions, with Kosh, Worf, Lennier and Scully in a huddle around Captain Picard like The Three Wise Beings (and Token Politically Correct Female) around the Infant King, or whatever... So, instead, she climbed to her feet and sauntered, with a certain studied casualness, over to eves-drop on whatever it was they were all planning to hatch - seemingly without her input - but arrived a fraction too late to catch any of the finer details.

However, she noticed Picard looking positively thunderstruck as he turned to her and gave the order "Set a parabolic course around the nearest star - and then sound 'General Quarters'." Kira obeyed dutifully. "Good!" the Captain continued as he surveyed his domain with proprietary glee Now, Major, put the peddle to the metal! Crank her up to Warp Ten!"

Now it was Kira's turn to look flabbergasted. "Warp Ten?" she cried out, "but isn't that...?"

"That's right, Major," Picard answered cheerfully, "Time Warp!"

The 'No Surprise' had brightened up considerably upon hearing the latest News from the Bridge. 'At last,' it thought gleefully kicking into warp, 'back to the realms of PROPER techno-babble...'

Little Godzilla held up a paw to signal a halt in their progress down the tunnel. The Robot brought the trolley to a halt and rolled forward silently to stand next to his small rubber companion, wishing for the four-hundred-and-fifty-third time that he had stayed on board the Ship and taken the Option One instead.

Upon reflection that particular Option didn't appeal to him all that much either, and he concluded ruefully that he had been a lot happier when he'd be drifting alone in space on board the Jupiter 2. If only that had been Option Three...

He watched as Godzilla raised her snout in the air and sniffed cautiously, then turned a little and sniffed again. After a few minutes repetition she began to bounce up and down jubilantly and finally bounced herself off down the tunnel once more.

The Robot grabbed the trolley and shifted into third in a bid to keep up. " I wish I'd thought to bring my Stash with me," he grumbled.

Dax was pretty certain that she had reached to spot Mulder had been referring to with regard to the suspected whereabouts of the Vital Elastic Band. Turning on her torch she scanned the floor fastidiously. The beam of light illuminated some discarded seed-cases, a dented hard hat, a variety of loose chippings, a rusting Geologists 'sample' hammer, and a rusting Geologist, who had been trying to read his map upside-down when he expired. Not a very promising scenario.

She turned back toward the Cavern where she had left the others, and was just about to switch off the torch again when its light chanced upon something quite unexpected...

"Good-afternoon, Leiutenent," Captain Picard said pleasantly, stepping out of the shadows. He was holding out one large elastic band toward her. "Looking for this?"

Little Godzilla had to stifle a squeak of excitement. She knew from the weird blend of aromas wafting up the passage toward her that there was terrible danger ahead, but also... HE was very close now... She turned and motioned to The Robot that he had to be very quiet now. She didn't want The Others to know she was there... Not yet...

Little Godzilla slowly tip-toed forwards once more...

Mulder chewed his final mouthful of seeds ruminatively. He knew he was most likely going to die very soon, so he was determined to enjoy the last snack of his life if he possibly could. He checked his watch again - almost three hours had elapsed since they had encountered the massive Alien Queen, and things were beginning to look hopeless.

He started suddenly, smothering a scream of horror as he felt something small and acrid-smelling slither past his legs, brushing briefly against him before it disappeared into the enveloping darkness ahead.

He'd barely recovered from the experience before he felt something drop lightly onto his right shoulder. Almost paralysed with terror, he reached up slowly in anticipation of... he wasn't sure what, but he knew it was going to be horrible.

And it was.

Initially. It wasn't until he heard Dax's whisper of reassurance in his right ear that he finally realised what it was he was now grasping.

Colonel McQueen had known he was going to die very soon. Several times, in point of fact, and yet here he was again, his Life flashing before his eyes in the Traditional Manner... It turned out to be brief but eventful. Got born, got sent here - got irradiated; joined the Marine Corps - got blown-up, got shot-down, got grounded, got re-instated, got blown up again... Got to be torn limb from limb by an acid-drooling Alien...

"C'est la vie!" he muttered.

Mulder inched his way slowly and cautiously across to there McQueen and the Alien were busily engaged in their little tête-à-tête, and passed the Colonel the elastic band with much trepidation, tempered by honest curiosity.

"???" he asked, nervously.

McQueen smiled.

Mulder retreated, by no means reassured - knowing from experience that when the Colonel smiled like that, Justifiable Xenomorphicide generally followed...

It wasn't until he had made it halfway back to his position of alleged safely that Mulder finally noticed the way in which the walls around the Cavern all seemed to be... writhing...

He sighed, knowing that he would have to go back and tell the Colonel about this recent development. Retracing his steps back to the centre of the room, he whispered conspiratorially "I hate to rain on your parade, sir, but..."

"One thing at a time, Agent Mulder," McQueen replied serenely, as he allowed his right hand to drift down to his waist, patting a small scaly head en route, and liberate the defunct phaser that he had returned to his pocket all that time ago. "After all," he continued, stringing the elastic band between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand and tensing it experimentally, "Isn't it you who's forever telling us that 'We are not alone'?"

Mulder gulped, finally realising what McQueen had planned to do all along. He wracked his brains trying to think of something Inspirational to say - but finally settled for "I'll be going now..." and beat a hasty retreat.

McQueen ignored him. Ignored everything but the job in hand. Literally. He slowly nestled the phaser into position, used his right hand to pull back the middle of the elastic band, then let fly!


The phaser smacked the Queen Alien squarely between the eyes!

She hissed...

She drooled...

She blinked...

She keeled over onto her side with a sound like the falling of a Giant Redwood, and continued to lay on the ground, motionless.

"Hoo-Yah!" said McQueen, very, very quietly.

Then, unsurprisingly, All Hell Let Loose.


The Alien Hosts attacked them from all directions - a seething tornado of Acid- Dripping Death - only to be confronted by the sudden advent of a thirty-foot high, equally aggrieved Godzilla, venting fire and making certain that it was SHE who would be doing the 'tearing of bodies limb from limb' - and no-one else!

Even more astounding was the appearance of The Robot from Lost In Space, sporting green camouflage face-paint and a red bandanna, trundling into the melee with a triumphant shout of "INCOMING!" and proceeding to lob a fluid, lethal stream of Godzillas' unhatched eggs at any Alien too slow or too stupid to get out of the way.

The effect of this was incredible - upon impact the shell of the egg would burst apart - each to reveal one fully developed, irate and exceeding hungry baby Godzilla, which automatically shot up to a height of about fifteen feet and tried to eat the first thing it could lay its paws on - namely the Unfortunate Alien it had all too recently impacted.

All this, combined with some selective phaser-fire from Picard and co. - who had arrived 'just in the nick of Time' due to their timely manipulation of Time - made the entire glorious spectacle of the Battle of Omicron Draconis one that Industrial Light and Magic would have had to bankrupt themselves to recreate!

And possibly will...

Mulder and McQueen sat on Mulder's Rock at the back of the Cavern, dodging the occasional dismembered limb, and trying to brush all the dust and grime off of their respective outfits - one with rather more success than the other, it must be said!

After half an hour or so the action at the centre of the Cavern seemed to be slacking off a little, and Mulder took the opportunity to have a quick look round for signs of Agent Scully. He was relieved to see her still deeply involved in the Thick of it all, cheerfully zapping Aliens with a phaser in each hand, and so he returned, circumspectly, to his Rock, where he found the Colonel leaning against the wall, watching the Battle with a speculative eye...

"Thinking of getting them all to Enlist, Colonel?" Agent Mulder enquired as he clambered higher up the Rock for an improved view.

McQueen adopted an 'innocent' expression. "I'm thinking of getting myself a cat," he replied instead, discretely pocketing an as-yet unhatched egg that had 'accidentally' found its way across them from The Robot's Ammo Dump. "What do you think?"

Mulder was still formulating a printable reply when Picard arrived, with Kosh and Major Kira in tow, and asked McQueen what he planned to do with the Alien Queen, who had slumbered peacefully through the entire Campaign, but was beginning to show signs of recovering consciousness.

McQueen shrugged non-commitally. "Why?"

Picard indicated the looming form of Kosh. "Science Officer Kosh is curious about the creature - and would like to take a closer look," he explained.

"Be my guest!" the Colonel replied.

"You see," the Captain continued, as they all stumbled their way across to where Kosh and The Robot had managed to haul the Queen into a slightly more up-right position, "as we were on our way over here to rescue you, Kosh revealed to us his True Identity. The truth of the matter is that he is, in fact, none other than - "

"Scooby-Doo!" Everyone chorused in amazement. "And Fred... Thelma... Shaggy and... and the other one!"

"Daphne," said 'Kosh', removing the head of his Encounter Suit with a flourish. "We've been on the trail of this Queen Alien for weeks!" Fred explained. "We managed to track her down here, but we couldn't reveal the Man Behind The Mask until now."

And with that, the erstwhile Science Officer wrenched off the head of the Alien Queen to reveal it was none other than -

"Commissioner Gordon!"

"Yeah!" Commissioner Gordon snarled, stepping out of his Costume and allowing Worf to triumphantly slap on the handcuffs. The Commissioner glared at them all furiously. "I wanted this Planet for myself, so that I could re-open the Mining Operation and undercut Inter-Galactic Trade Prices by employing all that cheap, Alien labour."

Mulder frowned. "What do you think they are - deaf Mexicans?" he demanded.

"Who cares WHAT they are!" the Commissioner snarled. "I would have been Rich! RICH - do you hear me? And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for all you Meddling Science-Fiction Characters..."