Let's get outta here

Chadwick's leaner frame was better suited to wearing the guard's uniform than the others and in just a couple of minutes, he had put it on. Pulling the cap low over his eyes, he examined the equipment belt.

"Hmmm, some useful stuff here: Skeleton keys, useful for getting into a variety of rooms. Something that passes for a communicator...." said Chadwick, perusing the large brick shaped object that was actually a walkie talkie. "...a club and a pistol: A projectile firing weapon. For a TV network they sure like to keep their guards well armed."



Maddox reached through the bars and rifled the guard's pockets. There in the front were the keys he was searching for, and within moments, the cell doors were open and they were free.

"They'll never let us out of here looking like THIS." Captain Maddox held out the hem of his command gold uniform tunic.

"True." DeCoursey replied as he looked up and down the corridor.

"I have an idea, help me drag him into the cell." Maddox took his arms and Chadwick his legs and they swung him up onto one of the bunks.

Maddox's fingers flew at the fasteners for the guard's uniform shirt.

"What are you doing?" DeCoursey knew before he even asked.

"I'm going to put on this fellow's uniform and make it look like I'm the guard transferring you two someplace else."

"I KNEW you were going to say that." the first officer replied in a tone that said, this will NOT work.

"I'm certainly open to suggestions." Maddox said as he donned the uniform shirt and gestured for DeCoursey to remove the guard's utility belt.

It was then that the Captain made the discovery that made his heart sink. He pulled the shirt around in the front to fasten it and only to discover that his chest was too broad to make the connection. He tried several times in vain, but to no avail, the shirt was for a slimmer sort of man.

He looked up slowly at Chadwick who was slightly less broad of chest.

"Doctor, your part has just been re-cast." he said as he took off the guard's shirt, "Put this on."


A bit of improvisation.

"Me?" Said Chadwick, looking surprised and pointing to himself. "Well, it's nice to have fans..." and with that he stood upright and walked over to the guard, who was now holding out a notepad and a pen through the bars.

When Chadwick was standing right next to him, he took the notebook. "Ah, paper...a primitive technology...do you have something to write with?"

The guard held out the pen closer towards Chadwick "Here we are" he said. Chadwick went to take the pen but grabbed the guard's wrist and with one big tug, he slammed the guard into the cell railings.

"Ugh!" the guard was stunned but was gaining composure. Chadwick grabbed the man's head pulled it hard towards the railings again, this time knocking him unconscious. As the guard slumped to the ground, Chadwick held on so as to keep the body close to the cell.

"And that is the second oldest trick in the book...Right, one of you get the keys" he said, laconically.



"Ignore him?" Tinker smiled, "Oh sweetheart, I wouldn't miss an opportunity like this for the world!"

The network president patted his knee, a clear indicator for Ashby to sit, "Why don't you just have a seat here with me, and let's watch this unfold together."

Tinker adjusted the volume so they could hear...

DeCoursey caught on to what Maddox was up to and went over to the bars that led out to the hallway.

"Guard, GUARD!" he shouted down the hall toward the station where the guard sat staring at a flickering screen.

DeCoursey's cries caught the guard's attention and he started down the hall toward the cell.

"What is it?" he demanded.

"Something's wrong with the Captain here." Jan pointed over one shoulder toward Maddox writhing in faux agony on the bunk, "We need to get him to a hospital right away!"

The guard looked form DeCoursey to Maddox, then back to DeCoursey, "You're kiddin' right? That's like the oldest trick in the book, they do it on television all the time."

Maddox stopped clutching his stomach and sat up, slightly surprised.

"Hey, but while I'm here," the guard reached into his pocket for a slip of paper and a small stylus, "Do ya think I could get yer autograph for my kid?"

"Well, sure thing, I suppose..." Maddox answered, drawing closer to the bars, seeing another opportunity for escape.

"Not you." the guard shook his head, "HIM." he gestured toward Doctor Chadwick.



Leah gave a slight smile towards Tinker.

"Oh Mr. Tinker...Mr. President." Leah had a new plan. "You don't know us Earth girls that well do you?"

Leah flipped back her hair and let strands of it fall onto her face. Slowly she brushed her hand along her face clearing the blonde hair from her cheeks.

"I don't care about those three men. Lets be honest, they're holding me back. I saved millions of people on Starbase 11, in another universe I would've been promoted to captain based on that, but instead I am put on this ship. Why? I don't know but, lets be honest, I am not cut out for this work. This job isn't glamorous. Do you think this job I have is fitting of me?"

Leah paused for a moment, almost giving Tinker enough time to respond before she continued.

"Oh, I know...I'm just...'acting'" Leah moves in closer to Tinker. "No, I will prove I am not 'acting'. Watch the monitors Mr. President, see how Maddox is laying? I bet, if you turned on the sound, you'd hear him moaning about sickness. That is a trick, tell your guards to ignore him."


"This morning, Tinker thought he had the biggest broadcasting coup of all time when we appeared, now we're under guard and kept out of the way. We're not exactly making the ratings whilst out of view"

"That would seem to be true..." Maddox pondered.

"How about this...we're already a ratings hit and we suspect Tinker of ordering the murder of the star of a top rated show. That would make us a prime target for another network...we need to get a message to one of them. Or maybe, the other networks are on their way to get us?"

"Surely you're not suggesting we just sit around down here and hope another company will see fit to break us out?" DeCoursey asked the doctor.

"I don't know..." the captain was thinking back a bit, "but remember what Tinker said just before the guards brought us down here? He said his audience wanted to see more of us. I wonder what that means?"

Maddox went to the bars of the cell and looked down the corridor toward the main entrance where the guard was stationed.

"I have an idea that might just get us out of here now gentlemen." Maddox smiled, "Follow my lead doctor."

The captain went over to the bunk and laid down, then, curling up into the fetal position, he began to moan loudly as he clutched at his stomach...

"Ugh, my stomach hurts, something's wrong..." he said with a wink to DeCoursey and Chadwick.


"Do you really think I could be a star?" Leah said smiling. "I mean, what girl doesn't dream of being a big famous star? Can you make that happen for me?"

"Oh very good sweetheart." Tinker laughed and gave a little clap, "That's quite a performance..."

The network president moved over to the table where the landing party's gear had been laid out after it had been confiscated. He looked the communicator over with interest, turning it over and over in his hand.

"I don't believe for one instant that you would turn on your own people so quickly." he thumbed a switch on his desktop console and the screens behind him changed to a series of various views of the cells. She could plainly see Maddox and the others in their cell.

He finally looked back up at Ashby, "I'm going to make you a star my dear, even if it kills you."



Leah resited the urge to frown. She knew this guy was infatuated with her, probably for a million reasons, and she knew she would have to use that to her advantage. She didn't know how yet.

Think Leah think her inner voice repeated.

What she really wanted to do was yell at this guy. How could he claim they weren't prisoners when he had them trapped down here? And why? For ratings? It all seemed unbelivably absurd to Leah. How could he act as if he was civilized when he acted like this?

But no, Leah had to remain in control of herself and her emotions. She was the key to the freedom of the three men. She had to accept that responsibility and make sure they were safe. Then Leah came up with an idea.

"Do you really think I could be a star?" Leah said smiling. "I mean, what girl doesn't dream of being a big famous star? Can you make that happen for me?"


Let the mountain come...

Chadwick was leaning against the cell wall, deep in thought. He started to speak, to form an idea out of the random thoughts that were criss crossing his mind.

"The governments of this world function as entertainment networks and nations. Tinker's got rivals, rivals that would want to see his network dethroned as #1..."

He noticed that the others were looking at him, trying to see where he was going with this.

"...This morning, Tinker thought he had the biggest broadcasting coup of all time when we appeared, now we're under guard and kept out of the way. We're not exactly making the ratings whilst out of view"

He stood upright and began to pace the cell.

"How about this...we're already a ratings hit and we suspect Tinker of ordering the murder of the star of a top rated show. That would make us a prime target for another network...we need to get a message to one of them. Or maybe, the other networks are on their way to get us?"



"We're going to need some tools: Even basic ones such as screwdrivers or soldering lasers...irons if they don't have them here. Someone's going to have to scrounge for some... someone with considerably better 'charm' skills"

"Hmmm," Maddox looked around the cell, "okay so, that seems out of the question. So our next option... really our only option as I see it seems to be to escape."

"But to where?" DeCoursey asked, fiddling with the television remote.

"Well, if we can get back up to Tinker's office, that's where the guards left all our equipment. We have to, at the very least, get access to our communicators again so we can contact the Endurance."

"We'll need a plan gentlemen," Maddox's mouth twisted into a mischievous grin, "any suggestions?"


Dammit, Sam...

Chadwick took a deep breath and said "Well, we're doctors, not engineers but.......let's see what we can do"

It wasn't that long ago that DeCoursey and Chadwick rewired an old Victorian style telegraph system to contact the Endurance...this television was more advanced but they still lacked something.

"We're going to need some tools: Even basic ones such as screwdrivers or soldering lasers...irons if they don't have them here. Someone's going to have to scrounge for some....someone with considerably better 'charm' skills"

Chadwick looked to DeCoursey but also thought that Leah would be ideal as she was everyone's favourite on this planet.



Sorry for the great pause in the episode everyone. I am completely to blame.

My heavy reenacting season kicked in, which is typically September to November or even as late as December... then the holidays. Seems like I just couldn't keep every plate spinning! :)

Hope you all are doing well and have had a great holiday season. For a look at what I've been up to in the (quasi) real world... skip on over to my OTHER blog:

"Still no answer Mr. Bryant." the red headed communications officer turned from her shiny black console, hand poised on her earpiece. She removed it briefly to speak with the new engineer who was seated in Captain Maddox's chair.

"I've been monitoring broadcast communications on the planet," she continued, "but our proximity to their satellites is causing interference. From what I can make out from their news broadcasts, I think the party's been taken prisoner."

"That would explain why they missed the last check-in." Bryant frowned.

"What can we do Mr. Bryant?" she asked.

"Keep trying Lieutenant." he swiveled in the big-chair to face the kid at the science station, "Make yourself useful and see if you can get a fix on them will you?"

"Aye sir!" the interim science officer in the yellow jersey turned and got to work.


On Viden II:

Maddox had been so engrossed for the past few moments, he hadn't heard much of what his fellow officers were saying to him. The cell was sparse, but they had been given one of the television sets that seemed so key to everything on the planet. He sat on the bunk and flipped through the channels via the small, handheld control unit.

"You've got to see this," click, "they've got," click, "a million channels on this thing." click.

Such a wide range of 'entertainments' available, it made him wonder how the people of this world got anything real accomplished. He finally turned it off and tossed the remote down beside him.

Chadwick stopped searching the room and stood up, deep in thought. "He's playing for time...but what for?"

"I'm not sure..." Maddox mused, "we've been little more than a source of entertainment for them so far, perhaps that's Tinker's angle?"

He turned his attention back to the television set.

"DeCoursey, Chadwick, do you think we might be able to rewire these sets to contact the ship?"


Maddox, DeCoursey and Chadwick were left in the holding cell. Events were now deteriorating.

"What did he mean by the Endurance experiencing 'technical difficulties'? Some kind of communications jam, perhaps?"

He'd had enough experience of being confined in cells to do a complete search of it: Looking for weak points, things to use and things to exploit if an escape opportunity presented itself. As Chadwick checked under the chairs, the back of the door and the small, slit window that was so thin no man could crawl through it, he spoke his thoughts out loud to the others.

"What I don't get is what Tinker thinks he's going to get away with. He knows we've got a well armed ship in orbit and he knows we're part of a larger organisation that won't take too kindly to its officers being held hostage so what's his game plan?"

Chadwick stopped searching the room and stood up, deep in thought. "He's playing for time...but what for?"



"Are we your prisoners?" Leah asked wanting clarification of the situation.

"Prisoner is such an unpleasant word..." Tinker smiled as if for a camera, "I'm going to have the gentlemen escorted downstairs for a bit, and you and I can continue this conversation like civilized people Lieutenant Ashby."

Maddox lurched forward and was detained by several of the guards, "You won't get away with this Tinker... my ship'll be looking for us when we don't report in."

"Yes, well..." The network president pressed a button on his desktop console, "...I suspect that by now the Endurance has discovered that they are experiencing 'technical difficulties'. Take them away."

The guards took the male Endurance officers by the arms and removed them forcibly from the office.

The doors closed behind the men, and they were alone.

"Now my dear," Tinker licked his thin lips, "What shall we discuss?"


Diplomatic Relations

Leah's eyes grew wide as she looked at the pistols. They'd already shot someone, their own citizen even, so it was clear, to her, that these barbarians wouldn't think twice about killing again. The only leverage the crew seemed to have was their popularity. If Tinker killed them, he'd be without his little ratings darlings. That had to give them advantage. She also knew that she was of particular interest in regards to these ratings. That may give her a bit more leeway than the other three officers.

"Are we your prisoners?" Leah asked wanting clarification of the situation.

She already knew the answer, but given that this was an official diplomatic mission, she wanted an official answer. She wanted to see how Tinker would respond to such a straight forward question. If anyone would be able to sweet talk Tinker it'd be her.


"He's dead, Sam" said Chadwick, standing up and looking at the guard. "That was one accurate shot" he added.

"He was trying to break his contract." The guard said looking down at the body.

Tinker stepped through the crowd that was beginning to form, several cameras had showed up.

"I'm sorry you had to see this, Maddox." Tinker shook his head, knowing how hard it would be to fill Cameron's spot on the PBN hit program. "That young man beat out 20,000 applicants for this job. A job that fed his family and gave them full health care."

Captain Maddox angrily snatched up the guard by his collar, "He was only a kid! Look at him, what is he, eighteen?"

"Show business is a business Maddox." Tinker said as the cameras looked on without pity.


"The alien Samuel Carter Maddox today railed against Viden social policies." The newscaster later announced.

"Maddox, Captain of the starship Endurance, Entered orbit earlier today, responding to Viden's PEACEFUL request for a cultural exchange with the United Federation of Planets."

"Public approval for Planetary Broadcasting Network, owner of the "Family Business" sitcom, fell FIVE points after the incident."


"Your outburst has put me in a difficult position Maddox." Tinker sat behind his desk, arms folded in thought. "The other networks are using this incident to gain political leverage with our viewers."

"That's YOUR problem, President Tinker..." Maddox pointed angrily across the desktop, "... my job was to observe conditions and file a report with the Federation about your planet's suitability for a cultural exchange."

Captain Maddox pulled out the communicator from his mission belt and flipped it open, "I've seen EVERYTHING I need."

The four guards by the office door pulled their pistols.

"Unfortunately captain," Tinker smiled, "WE have not. Our audience wants to see more of you and your crew... and we always give the audience what it wants."

I've been waiting a long time to say this...

Chadwick instinctively pushed past Maddox, Tinker and the guard and rushed to the side of the fallen Cameron. One look at the chest wound told Chadwick that the situation was grim: The bullet had gone straight through the heart.

"He's dead, Sam" said Chadwick, standing up and looking at the guard. "That was one accurate shot" he added. Chadwick gave Maddox a look that said "this could have been avoided" but said nothing more, lest he jeopardised his Captain's diplomatic mission.


"Problem?" Cameron shouted, "I'll tell you the problem... slavery, forced labor, no rights."

Tinker put up his hands, "Now Cameron..."

"Well I won't take it anymore," Cameron cried out, "It won't be the first time you've had to write a character off this show. Or will you just hijack another 'actor' to take my place?"

"Perhaps we could all sit down and talk about this..." Maddox added.

"No! No never!" Cameron staggered a bit before making a run for it.

He shouldered his way past one of the nearby guards who made a desperate attempt to latch onto the young man. It all happened in a flash, the pistol was in the guard's hand and then the report of the weapon as it went off.

Cameron clutched his chest and fell to the pavement.


Chadwick looked at Cameron and noticed the sweating, the dilated pupils and the nervous movements of the young man. He couldn't believe that someone who is trained as a performer and who is the star of a top rated entertainment show could be suffering from mere stagefright.

"What is the problem, Cameron?" was his simple question.


In the alley

Tinker and the group made their way down an alley that ran behind the studio, it seemed to be a storage area for oversized flats, large set pieces that weren't currently in use.

The rear double door had a red light next to it that shone to indicate that the show was being broadcast live from within.

"Is this it?" President Tinker asked.

Maddox looked over deCoursey's shoulder at the tricorder screen, "Yes, he's just beyond those doors."

Tinker nodded to the studio guards that had converged on the location, "Well then, I guess I ought to go in and have a little talk with him before he's missed from the show..."

The studio president didn't have a chance, the back doors burst open and the young teenaged actor ran out into the middle of the alley. When he saw the studio guards and the PBN boss, he froze, eyes wide.

"You brought the visitors?" was all the panting young actor could muster when he spotted the Endurance crew.

"They helped us find you Cameron," Tinker said in a stern, fatherly tone, "Now let's get you back on set before you botch the whole show. You'll ruin everything for everyone boy, there's more at stake here than just what YOU want."

"NO!" Cameron shouted, "I won't go back..."


Running Wild

"Probably doesn't know what's that way himself..." commented de Coursey "... looks like the poor feller's running wild!"

Indeed, these were hardly the movements - or physiological readings - of a naughty teen actor sneaking out on his duties. More like those of a terrified antelope bounding away from a pride of lions!

"Yeah, stage fright. Terrible thing." de Coursey pontificated"Even suffered it myself once. School put on Coriolanus: I was the second spearman on the right. Just the one line in the entire thing, but I was nervous as Hell on the opening..."

He looked up and realised not only that no-one was listening to him, but that the others had all started off in the direction of the fugitive.


In pursuit

Chadwick's readings backed up those of DeCoursey's. "Commander, if we synchronise our tricorders and filter out the heart readings of the audience and crew, we can track Cameron faster" he said to the first officer.

Turning to Tinker, he said "What lies in that direction? Where could Cameron be heading"


After a long pause, DeCoursey's tricorder chirped and warbled as it ran through its scan cycle. He turned his body in the direction of the studio building itself, rocking back and forth a bit in an all too familiar dance that was performed by every Starfleet officer using such a device, in an attempt to get a more accurate reading.

DeCoursey showed the screen to Maddox who called Tinker over to have a look.

"Here's a large cluster of lifeforms inside the studio..." Maddox pointed.

"That'll be the live studio audience." He answered.

"Here are two smaller groupings of lifeforms behind and in front of the audience."

"The ones behind will be the producer and director and such in the booth, those in front are the actors on the set." Tinker said pointing out the thin lines of the sets.

Tinker could also account for the handful of individual readings scattered about the studio. Guards, ushers and other assorted behind the scenes folks.

"What about that one?" Tinker pointed near the back recesses of the studio building shown in the little schematic.

DeCoursey zoomed in on the reading and focused the scan for a closer look. Maddox and Tinker watched over his shoulder.

"Elevated heart rate, erratic movements..." Maddox said looking at the readings.

"I'd bet that's Cameron!" Tinker snapped his fingers.

"Come on." Maddox ordered, walking down the alley toward the correct side of the building.


Scan in progress

Whilst DeCoursey was keeping Tinker busy, Chadwick had opened up his tricorder and began scanning the area.

He surmised a number of things. First, the actor in question was young, so his heartbeat readings would be most likely strong. Second, he was also likely to be on the run and nervous, increasing his heart rate. So Chadwick set the scan parameters for a fast moving person with an increased heart rate. With help from Endurance, there was a good chance of tracking the fugitive.


"I'm not completely unfamiliar with the concept of 3D images." Tinker said, "There was a brief flirtation with the technology about a decade ago. People didn't like wearing the big funny visors."

"AH yes, well our 'dimensional projection' will work a little differently than that. But it's the same idea." Maddox replied.

"But where is your projection equipment?" Tinker looked confused, "And don't you need some sort of screen or something?"

"Not quite Mr. Tinker," Maddox smiled then nodded to de Coursey, "Step back and let my science officer do his thing."

Use the Tricorders

De Coursey glanced at Chadwick and, nodding, replied.

"Well, yes, I guess if we triangulated with the ship we could certainly detect all the bodies and movement in the building. If this feller is either running away or hiding somewhere unusual we'd be able to spot him, maybe..."

Jan's mind tried to see what he was about to describe from Tinker's less technologically advanced mind-set.

"Say, Mr Tinker, have you boys tried playing around with 3-D technology yet? I don't mean those goofy old red and green specs that give a static 3-D illusion, I'm talking about what we call "Holl-O-Grams." They really are a true three dimensional picture. We can scan this building and produce a complete image of it - in all dimensions - with any life forms lit up for all the world to see."

He hoped the worried looking TV Boss understood his meaning.


"Cameron's never caused any trouble before. He knows what an honor it is to be selected for a live program like 'Family Business'..." Tinker answered.

Maddox bristled a bit at the word 'honor', but Tinker was up and out the door with the Endurance team hot on his heels.

They were down near studio 47 in a matter of minutes, the lot was surrounded by a dozen blue uniformed PBN security guards. Each wore a dark blue silk jacket with a shiny gold badge on the lapel and the PBN logo on a patch on the sleeve. Each door to the great building was closed, a red light next to each door indicated "FILMING IN PROGRESS".

It was not lost on the party that each guard also carried some sort of firearm in a holster on their belts. Captain Maddox knew very little about ancient combustion weapons and their history, but the weapons appeared to be fed their ammunition via a small projectile-filled cylinder. A nasty looking customer, Maddox decided.

"We think he's still in the area Mr. Tinker." an older gent in uniform spoke up as they approached.

"You have a man at every exit?" Tinker demanded.

"Yes sir."

The disappearance was beginning to attract lots of attention from passers by on the lot. The gathering crowd consisted of no less that four cowboys, a dozen dainty pink ballerinas, a rather self important middle aged man in a suit with white tissue around his collar and a facefull of makeup, and a man in some sort of gorilla suit with the black ape head under his arm.

"Back now please, everyone stay back." one of the guards urged.

Maddox motioned to Chadwick and de Coursey discreetly, "I know it's a longshot, but do you think we might be able to help the search with our Tricorders?"


The Star Vanishes

"Interesting" thought Chadwick, out loud. "With you and your network busy with meeting and greeting us, your star seems to have chosen this point to go missing. Either he's playing a game to get your attention or........"

Chadwick had gotten Tinker's attention. The network chief stood up from behind his desk and glared at the doctor.

"Or what, Doctor?"

"Or someone else has made him vanish to get your attention. Tell me, does he have a history of causing trouble to your network?"


Studio 47

"Explore the galaxy?" Tinker gave a little chuckle, "Cost my dear, purely cost."

"Cost?" Maddox asked.

"Yes captain, do you have any idea what missions like that cost a company like mine? Sure the technology is possible. We've even developed it to the point of being a viable technology... but the cost of training the crew, building and fueling the ships and so forth. It got to the point where we couldn't even sell ad space on the launches. My network only has SO MUCH of a budget to throw at that sort of endeavor."

"How interesting." Captain Maddox muttered almost to himself, "So your space program is driven by ad sales and viewer numbers as well?"

"Now you're starting to get it captain." Tinker looked almost pleased that the crew of the Endurance was beginning to understand.

"For the time being, our space program has been limited to the launching and maintenance of our network of orbital broadcast satellites." Tinker said, then noticing the look on Maddox's face he added, "But things have developed that I believe will change all that."

"Mr. Tinker?" came his secretary's voice over the intercom unit on his desk.

"Virginia, I told you we were not to be disturbed." Tinker scolded as he thumbed the activation key.

"Yes sir, I'm sorry, but I have Lenny on the line... there's a problem at Studio 47."

"What is it?" Tinker demanded turning to look at his great wall of screens.

"They're missing one of their actors for the 'Family Business' program. It's Cameron, the 'goofy older brother'." Virginia answered.

Tinker adjusted a few buttons and in a moment he had all screens showing Studio 47. Each screen showed the view from a different camera trained on different areas of a set that looked like the interior of a modern home. Tinker scanned the screens.

"Is there a problem Mr. Tinker?" Maddox asked.

"'Family Business' is one of our programs that goes out to the public live. One of the actors has gone missing and from the looks of it, he's not on set."

"And that's bad?"

"Yes captain, that live broadcast is about to break down in the middle of a live planet-wide program. Cameron is one of the main characters! Virginia!" Tinker shouted into the intercom, "Get all available security down to Studio 47 and comb the area. Find that boy!"

"Yes sir!" Virginia closed the line.

"I'm very sorry captain, this isn't a normal day here at PBN. I really ought to get down there and help out." Tinker stood and grabbed his jacket as he made for the door.

"I understand Mr. Tinker," Maddox stood, "Perhaps we could be of some assistance?"

"Maybe so Captain, follow me then."


One question

After a momentary pause Leah spoke up with a question.

"Why do you choose not to explore the galaxy? You've developed warp drive, wouldn't the logical conclusion be to explore? I mean, you have such an amazing amount of communication technology, right? Aren't you interesting in see other races form of entertainment?"


Tinker's Office

click on image to enlarge

After a few minutes, and a brief drive across "Planetary City", they were back near the building they had beamed down in front of. The main PBN administration building.

Tinker's office was large and lush, almost like an apartment with an office area that was backed by a bank of small viewscreens. Each screen showed a different program either being broadcast live over the airwaves, or in the process of being recorded before a live studio audience.

The studio president took a seat behind his massive desk. He pressed a button on a small device on his desk.

"Yes Mr. Tinker?" came the voice of the secretary.

"I'm in here with the alien visitors, see to it that we're not disturbed would you please?"

"Yes sir."

Tinker turned off the intercom.

"Alright," he folded his hands in front of him on the desktop, "I believe in getting right to business Captain. What questions do you and your people have for me?"