Okay, I admit it, I loved the Animated Series. I loved Arex and M’ress. It may have had to do with being the right age when the series premiered, but I’ve never gotten over my fondness for the cartoon adventures of the USS Enterprise. Even in these days of revisionist history where we pretend they never happened, I’m not giving up.
If you share my affection for Arex and M’ress, whom we never saw again in canon Trek, you might get a smile from this story, set during Star Trek III, right as a certain Admiral was about to commit grand theft starship…
This one was published in Vault of Tomorrow #11.
Red, green and yellow telltales flashed off the reflective walls of the main communications room at Starfleet Headquarters as Captain Arex fed the computer his ID and the door slid open, satisfied with his rank and security clearance. At the board, Commander M’ress played tired but graceful hands over the many controls demanding her attention. It was the night shift, and she was the only officer on duty, having given her assistant the night off. She didn’t turn as he entered. He hadn’t expected her to.
He cleared his throat in a high-pitched voice. “Excuse me, gentlebeing, is this the officers’ sauna?”
Spinning in her chair, she meowed in surprise. “Arex! When did you get here?” She dove into his three arms, purring happily at the sight of an old friend.
“Just tonight. We took some damage in an ion storm. Looks like about three weeks repair time.”
“Three weeks?” Her eyes widened.
He nodded. “Due to the shortage of maintenance personnel. They’re all tied up in readying Excelsior for her trial runs.”
M’ress whispered a native Caitian curse. “They think she’ll outrun Enterrprrise.” Her tone was skeptical. “We’ll see.”
He chuckled. “I read Scotty’s opinions of the new drive in the last fleet journal. He seems to agree with you. I’ll give her a chance though. God knows we need new ships. My poor Yorktown’s on her last legs. She’ll probably be decommissioned soon.”
His words triggered a memory in M’ress. Her face saddened. “Did you hear?” she asked quietly. “About Spock, and the Enterprise?”
“It’s all over the Federation. I couldn’t believe it.”
“Nor I. He should have outlived us all.”
Arex shook his head. “Space deals a strange hand sometimes. Have you heard anything about the Admiral?”
“He sent us repeated requests for information on a classified project. Morrow told me to refuse them. Other than that… I’m sure he’s furious about the ship.” She hissed softly. “Not that I blame him.”
With one thin hand he gently rubbed her shoulder. “Don’t upset yourself. There’s nothing you can do for him now.”
He couldn’t tell if she had heard him or not. “He made an appointment to see Morrow,” she said distantly. “I wonder what they’ll talk about.”
“What else?” asked Arex with a three way shrug. “The Enterprise. Admiral Kirk won’t give her up until her warp engines fuse.”
She started to respond, then froze. Bringing her paw to the earpiece she wore, she listened intently. Her expression became one of shock and excitement — almost happy, but not quite.
“What is it?” he asked.
As if she had only just noticed his presence, she twisted around and flicked on the speakers. A voice filtered through, somewhat panicked, Arex thought. “This is Excelsior, powering up for pursuit. Transwarp drive engaging. Enterprise on bearing o-three-five, mark two.”
Arex whistled softly. “Enterprise? It figures.” He had no doubt who was in the command chair of the decomissioned vessel. Kirk could never take no for an answer.
“We have no response from Enterprise,” said the voice. “Her crew maintains radio silence.”
M’ress looked at him finally, and smiled. “I guess the meeting didn’t go as expected.” She punched up a picture on the small viewscreen in front of her. The main space doors of the huge complex appeared, and out of them the Enterprise emerged.
“She’s moving at impulse,” Arex noted worriedly. “I’m not even sure he’s got warp engines.”
“Damage reports indicate that herr engines are functional — barrely.”
“Still, it isn’t transwarp drive. If Captain Stiles engages full power…”
“Assuming the drive even works,” M’ress interrupted. “It’s still untested.”
“In service. It checked out fully in the lab. Even Scotty had to admit it works.” Scotty. Arex remembered when he’d heard upon arrival that their old friend had been assigned to the ship whose construction he’d so opposed — the replacement to his beloved Enterprise. If Enterprise was trying to run from the faster ship, maybe Scotty knew something about transwarp that Starfleet didn’t. He was thorough. He wouldn’t take a chance if he didn’t think the odds were unbeatable.
“Excelsior is powering up to transwarp,” the radio voice reported. “Enterprise engaging warp drive. Power levels at maximum. Transwarp is…” The man’s voice broke off in mid-sentence. His next words were those of astonishment. “Transwarp is not functional.”
Just as these last words came through, M’ress keyed several touchpads with quick-moving, feline paws. On the screen, the pictures of the two ships leaving spacedock faded to black. Letters appeared across the black, bright green letters reading: SIGNAL LOST. RECEIVER MALFUNCTION. PLEASE BE PATIENT.
“M’ress!” Arex demanded. “What are you doing?!”
“Blanking the signal,” said M’ress in lyrical tones, not facing him. She continued to play her board. On her immediate scanner, which held signals not transmitted out of the center for the purposes of security, she brought up a picture of Excelsior, left far behind by the small ship.
“But, without the signal, command will never know…” His words trailed off in realization.
“Never know that their super-ship is in distress? And thus not send aid?” She smiled a ferocious, predatory smile — a smile left over from the days before her people had been reknowned poets and scholars — from the days when they had been the most feared hunters in their region of space. “That’s exactly what we’re hoping, old friend.”
M’ress only nodded, continuing to play her board. A high-pitched whine filled the chamber, causing Arex to fling his hands over his ears. M’ress muted the signal and apologized. “I didn’t realize you were so sensitive. It doesn’t bother me.”
“What is it?”
“A hypersonic blanketing field.”
“To cover Excelsior’s sensor patterns.”
“And hide them from Starfleet?” Arex was thoroughly puzzled and decided to simply stop asking questions. M’ress wasn’t answering them anyway. Instead, she was flipping through a rack of tapes filed in a drawer beside her. Selecting one, she pushed it into the transmit slot and keyed the message to play.
A voice came over the speakers, one identical in every way to that which had come from the Excelsior moments earlier.
“…warp problems corrected,” it said. “Excelsior now in pursuit. Acknowledge, Starfleet.”
Another voice, a live one this time, came back. “Starfleet Operations acknowledging, Excelsior. What happened to your drive?”
M’ress quickly ejected the cassette and replaced it with another. “Minor imbalance in the proton energizing stream,” explained the voice. “Flaw compensated.”
“Very well, Excelsior,” said the voice from Operations. “Continue pursuit.”
M’ress put her tape cartridges into a slot next to her, a slot which led to an incinerator for top secret transmissions that had outlived their usefulness. There was a soft whir, and then the indicator above the slot flashed DOCUMENT DESTROYED.
“Communications, acknowledge please,” requested the Operations office.
“Communications,” M’ress answered pleasantly.
“Commander M’ress,” the officer demanded angrily, “what the hell happened to the signal just now?”
“I’m sorry,” she purred. “We werre experriencing some interference. Source unknown. I’ve been attempting to discover…”
“Never mind the damned source,” the officer replied in clipped tones. “Just keep the channels clear. This is an emergency situation.” There was a pause, and then the man asked suspiciously, “You used to serve on the Enterprise, didn’t you, Commander?”
The hackles on M’ress’s neck rose and she let out a low hiss. “If you’re insinuating something, Mister, you’d better have evidence to back it up. My superiorr you may be, but I can have you up on charges for insubordination so fast…”
“Save your threats, M’ress. I’m not making any accusations.”
“Then my record is none of your damned business!” With the slap of a paw she closed the channel, then swung around to face Arex again. Her expressions wasn’t easily read. It wasn’t asking forgiveness… understanding, perhaps?
“Well?” he prompted.
“We had our reasons.”
“‘We’ again? Who are these others?”
She gave a low, feline chuckle and turned to key up a picture on one of her screens. It was the Enterprise, speeding away from earth. “Who do you think?”
He shook his head. “They haven’t got a chance.”
“You’ll say nothing of it? Forr Enterprise?”
He hesitated — if they were discovered — his commission was new. But then, what of Jim Kirk’s? And the others? If the mission was worth so much to these old and dear friends… He nodded. “For Enterprise. And for Spock.”
M’ress took one of his hands and gently squeezed it, her claws coming out to tickle his palm. “Thank you, old friend.” She turned again and keyed a hailing frequency open. “Unit one, this is unit fourr. The waterrs are calm. The winds are favorrable to the prromised land. Good luck, Kobayashi-marru.”
Over the speaker came Kirk’s voice. “Unit one acknowledges. Thank you, unit four.”
Behind her, the sound of Arex’s high, piping laughter filled the room.
Pingback: (Blog) Hopping Down the Author Trail | Steven H. Wilson