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Literary Challenge #68
STO Halloween, Part II

Captain Seifer and Captain Menchez stood in the mostly empty Prometheus-class Engineering room of the U.S.S. Phoenix-X, staring up at the unusually large transwarp coil.

"So, wait— Your series of vessels were precursors, but it took you twenty-four consecutive ship-explosions to get it right?" Menchez asked.

Seifer nodded quickly. "A lot of the hulls were made of low-grade titanium. That, and they kept putting the go button right next to the doorbells."

"Shall we return to the festival then?" Menchez suggested. "Derok gets anxious and bitey around Humans. It's the lack of ridges that spooks him."

Seifer nodded again and they both left for the corridors. "Good idea. We only have low-grade synthehol on board and its anti-debilitating effects are hit and miss."

"So, here's a question," Menchez started as they walked. "Why do you celebrate harvest and the dead in both an equally edifying way?"

The Starfleet Captain started. "Long ago, people realized celebrating things, no matter the thing, was the best way to express themselves in a collective, group, pie-filled mindset."

"That," Kugo said as she joined their walk, "And avoiding the fear of being afraid of the things."

Menchez furrowed his brow at their awkward Federation ways. "I'm just....... going to pretend you are Klingons from now on."

As they turned a corner, they instinctively averted their eyes from a couple who, from their half-cornered quick-glances, seemed to be 'making out'.

"Ugh!" Seifer covered his peripheral with his hand. "You know you're not supposed to do that on this ship. You two report to anywhere but public! Now!"

Menchez turned to Seifer as the three of them continued on. "Shouldn't you ensure they follow your orders?"

"Nah," Seifer brought down his arm in relief. "The last thing I want to see, even the remnants of, is a human side to my crew. Makes it harder to order them around in a hardcore militaristic style."

As they gained distance from the section, the two officers remained in the state they were in: One female Engineering officer biting right into a slowly slumping, passed-out male Sciences division officer.

When the female officer finished feeding, she slowly limped away.

Half paying attention, Ensign Belm walked by and flipped the fallen Science division officer a slip of latinum. "Get a job, lazy!"

Seifer, Menchez and Kugo entered the Messhall, but instead of finding the festive activities of celebratory fall-times, they were presented with a desolate sarcophagus of forsaken season.

"Just FYI, this is not a reflection of Federation autumn celebrations, which, I imagine to be completely tame in comparison to Klingon autumn celebrations— if those even exist," Seifer reassured in a questioning sort of way.

Kugo glanced around, confused. "Did the hokey gathering of uniformed personnel degenerate into the fear-themed STO Halloween occultism already?"

"And exactly what does STO stand for?" Seifer asked.

Kugo glanced at him. "Space-Time October, the month our plain of existence intersects this time of year."

"I'm certain none of that made sense," Menchez started. "Also, it appears your security is not doing their job." He pointed to a smear of blood on the floor, leading to behind an over-turned table.

Seifer and Kugo went over to see what the blood led to, followed by Menchez. They discovered a fallen officer, Lieutenant Tong, impaled by a table leg from another table on its back. But Tong was not seemingly unmoving as they would have expected: With a deathly glare at no one in particular, Tong tried, continuously and unsuccessfully, to get up.

"Tong!" Seifer called out. "You look unwell." And then, "Seifer to Sickbay. We need a medical team in the Messhall, STAT." But the commbadge chirp from his tap went flat. "Seifer to security? Seifer to anyone? Seifer to my Horta hatchling?" But there was no response. "Ah, he can't talk yet."

Kugo pulled out a tricorder from a nearby cabinet and began scanning. "It appears there is a deficient dampening field in the vicinity."

"Menchez to B'Cnah," the Klingon slapped his wrist communiqué, but he did not get a response either.

The emotional Vulcan engineer looked at him. "What did I just report?"

"Huh? Oh, sorry. To be honest, I have not paid attention to a thing you've said since you joined us."

As Seifer approached Tong, Tong became aware of his proximity and snapped at him in an animalistic way. But being restrained by the impaling, as before, he did not get up.

"He looks infected with something," Seifer observed. "I probably should've suggested this wayyyy earlier, but why aren't we all wearing breathing masks?"

Kugo continued scanning. "If it was airborne, we would've seen the effects by now, probably. I just made that up. By the way, this is curious," she began. "It appears that the dampening field is originating from Tong himself." She turned to scan through the walls. "As well, there are more people emanating dampening fields too."

She walked closer to the doors to shift her scanning range when suddenly the lights flickered. The doors opened and two seemingly undead-like officers straggled in and collided into her. Not expecting the attack, Kugo fell and was bitten in to.

"Oh, come on. Moving near the doors was clearly a set up," Seifer criticized no one in particular. He grabbed a frying pan from the kitchen and whacked the two officers off Kugo. Menchez kicked the two out into the hallway and locked the door.

Kneeling and tending to Kugo was too late for Seifer, as Kugo fell unconscious from her wounds.

"Dammit," Seifer remarked. "She owed me, like, ten strips of latinum."

Menchez addressed him. "It is odd how we are all always owing each other money."

"Well, anyway, I assure you this is not how our fall-time gatherings typically go, but it is on-the-button on sentiments."

Not too long later, Kugo awoke in an infected gaze. She attempted to bite into Seifer, but the Captain force-palmed her head back. He and Menchez then wrestled her into a nearby food storage closet and locked its door.

"You and I work well together. Like the time I teamed up with Obisek on Brea III to defeat Hakeev," Seifer offered.

Menchez was taken aback. "What the Gre'thor? But I thought it was I that teamed up with Obisek to defeat Hakeev??"

"You know what. Let's just say we both did," Seifer compromised before he picked up a phaser from a nearby closet. They both then exited the Messhall through the back doors.

Discovering the tubolifts offline, Seifer and Menchez elected to take a jeffery's tube to the Bridge— a seemingly empty wasteland of malfunctioning consoles.

"According to what's left of these interfaces, the dampening fields are intensifying in certain areas and effecting shipboard systems," Seifer explained while hitting one of the consoles in an attempt to maintain its response.

Menchez looked around. "Is it just me, or is your Bridge bigger, and thus not to spec, than to what it's supposed to be?"

"Yeah, the devs kind of............. kind of rushed it," Seifer replied.

The Klingon changed subjects, annoyed by the constant failures. "Anyway, what is the point of all this? All you can seem to do is justify our immediate horror as being in-sentiment with your culture's Space-Time October celebration."

"Uh, yeah, we use light-hearted attitudes to face our fears. So what if Doctors call that denial? Besides, you Klingons live for this stuff."

Menchez shook his head. "There may be comfort in the danger, but there is nothing honorable about losing yourself to an infection that rips off the Borg!"

"You're lucky Seven of Nine isn't here. She loves those massively numbered cybernetic bee-like assimilators and everyone supports her in that," Seifer argued with passion.

But before they could continue, an odd moan developed from the Captain's Ready Room. "Mmmhhrruhhh......."

"I thought the Federation banned cows from starships after that Barclay incident?" Menchez said, confused.

The two slowly made their way over to the Ready Room doors, which were trying to close, repeatedly, except that the torso of a headless and armless corpse was wedging it.

In the corner was Armond on the floor, his sides being eaten into by a mindless Klingon automaton-- though his upper body appeared to be conscious.

"Armond!" Seifer blurted in shock. "Why aren't you screaming, or dead yet?"

The weak tactical officer held up a hypospray. "Uggh...... Got one of these pain relievers on my last trip to— Sickbay, where Avery died. Don't bother— going there, though; it's flooded with infected —just wandering around. Is my— speech pattern— throwing you off?"

"Yeah, a little," Seifer confirmed. "Damn. The dampening fields put the phasers offline too." He tried firing at Derok, but the weapon returned flat-chirps. "Oh, sure, but it's got enough power to make those noises."

Menchez pulled Derok off Armond and angrily moved the seemingly bland Klingon to the far wall. "Qovpatlh!!" He then impaled a tajtiq through Derok's shoulder, pinning him against the surface. Menchez stepped back to observe his own chief of security, in shock.

"—Communications are —offline as well," Armond continued. "I couldn't— get to you— so I came here, just in case—"

Seifer knelt down at him, "Great. Thanks. You knew I'd survive out of anyone else."

"Seemed— likely— since you're a... Captain—" Armond then pointed to the desktop monitor, "Inform—ation....... Infection introduced at —Calibus VII." But the action of pointing weakened him and he passed out.

The Captain closed Armond's eyes. "I hate it when people die with those open. It's like, come on, finish the job."

"Calibus VII is the planet we captured Avery in orbit of," Menchez reported. "The colony was holding a Klingon 'honor of the dead' ceremony during Kot'baval and invited nearby ships."

Seifer recoiled. "Ugh. You mean your Halloween is a ceremony??? Well, I can't say I'm surprised."

"The point is it was Avery that infected your crew! Next time, we need to listen to any person that says: 'say goodbye to your ship'."

Seifer tried accessing the monitor. "Come to think of it, that really was blatant, in-your-face foreshadowing." Then there was a half-beep. "I think there's a cure on here." But the monitor blinked as he tapped at the controls. "What the hell? It's also saying the main database is failing! And I can't even log in to access local memory without it??"

"A Klingon does not try to understand how computers work— We just conquer them and hope for the best," Menchez explained. "And, you were right about my need to embrace all this," he conceded, "As such, I've come to believe this is where we must die. Dishonor is our destiny."

The monitor blinked off from the infection, "Okay, wow. Someone obviously needs jamaharan." Seifer then ejected an isolinear chip. "Anyway, this chip has the local information Armond loaded."

"What is relevant about that? Perhaps we should start over: Hi, I'm Menchez—"

Seifer lit up. "No! What I mean is: Don't you see? We have the magic reset button!" He walked in front of his desk. "Every horrible thing that ever happens to Starfleet vessels, anywhere, no matter the far-fetchy-ness, always gets a quick-turn-around master reset button— Whether it's a Krenim temporal wave, an Enterprise-D T-cell de-evolution or magic Kahn-blood— don't ask me where I got that last one from— there is always a guarantee we will to go back to the way things were!"

"That is preposterous!" Menchez countered. "We'd end up with stale repetition, enough to bore our minds into the deck plating, and don't get me started on the abnormal after effects. In fact, I once encountered Warp 10 salamander descendants. One of them was named Venice."

The Starfleet Captain opened his tricorder and was about to walk passed Menchez. "Well, I've already made up my mind, sir. Since our Sickbay is flooded, I have to get to yours and use the B'Cnah facilities to develop an antivirus. I imagine it's a lot like baking a cake."

"The answer is no," Menchez out-stretched his arm. "We die here, as it is meant to be."

After a moment to weigh the consequences, Seifer quickly knocked the arm away and force-pushed Menchez back for space. The Captain then ran out onto the Bridge, which was quickly being flooded with physically deteriorating, mindless officers.

Menchez ran out, but was too late. He did not see Seifer anywhere. "That petaQ!" He then addressed the inbound crew, quite matter-of-factly, "You are all in need of analgesic cream."

Down in Transporter room 4, Seifer struggled the doors open and bee-lined it to the control deck. With the door left half-open, slow-moving undead-like officers began to squeeze their way in.

"GGgrrrggghhh..." the infected version of Ensign Dan managed his way through, hungry for humanoid flesh. He then tripped and fell at Seifer's feet.

Seifer tapped at the controls. "Just enough juice to beam me over. As long as more of you don't enter." Ensign Dan bit into Seifer's left ankle, forcing Seifer to kick Ensign Dan away. "AAAugh! You're relieved for real this time!"

As a gold shirt officer drooled his way in to join the festive party, Menchez's d'k tahg pierced his head from behind, sending the officer to the floor and allowing the Klingon to step in, himself. "Huh. Turns out you've got to aim for the head." He then changed focus, noticing the wound on Seifer, "Captain! If you go over there you will infect my crew!"

"I disagree. The reset will negate that paradigm. Resets for everyone!" Seifer exclaimed. He then began accessing a quickly deteriorating transporter system, "--Computer, beam me out as soon as I'm on the padd."

The computer acknowledged with a half chirp.

Menchez intercepted Seifer on his way and launched a fist to which Seifer coldly stopped by snatching Menchez's forearm. Seifer returned the favor with his free hand, but Menchez leaned back and grabbed that in much the same manner. Clinging to each other in a struggle for dominance, they began to be the target of slow-moving, incoming, drooling officers.

"That's it. I'm a vegetarian from now on!" Seifer said, finally.

Menchez observed the approaching horror, which was tripping and stumbling to his boots. "Uh, I will consider such a commitment."

As he was pushed into, Seifer tripped backward over a crawling brute and Menchez lost his hold. The Klingon was taken down by grabby-infected-hands and he glimpsed Seifer falling backward onto the transporter padd.

The Starfleet Captain was beamed away.

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