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?"


Chadwick nodded. "It's possible: They may have the technology to receive subspace transmissions. If that's the case, then they've known a lot more about us than they're letting on."

Chadwick looked around the studio and it's quaint, late 20th Century stylings. There was something missing in this story so far and his mind wandered into the dark, suspicious territory that had been his past experience. Suddenly, an idea came to him.

"Sam...we do have one asset that we can use to get Tinker and his colleagues to drop their guards and open up to us." Chadwick paused deliberately whilst his captain looked curious.

"Commander Ashby..." continued the doctor. "...they can't get enough of 'space girl'. Maybe she can charm the locals better than you and I can. Certainly more than Mr. DeCoursey can"


"Yes, that's exactly it." Maddox snapped his fingers, "They DO know alot about our past... Webster called it 'Comet Upsilon'! We haven't mentioned that to anyone since our arrival. How could he have known that?"

"I suppose," he thought aloud, as they were ushered through the back of the studio, presumably toward Tinker's office, "They may have learned about it via some Federation News Service?"


A Private Word

As the show ended and the studio audience dispersed, Chadwick and Maddox found themselves momentarily on their own. Chadwick leaned in towards his commander.

"Sam, there's something bothering me about this set up; it all seems friendly on the surface but they sure know a lot about our past missions and I've realised we've been made to talk about all kinds of things and yet they've given us very little in return. My worry is that this is being turned from a diplomatic mission and into a public spectacle"


Goodnight everybody!

"Well this has been a fantastic evening, and a historic one as well gang! I hate that we're all out of time." Webster said, turning to speak right into the camera that was closest to him.

"We've learned alot this evening about these people from another world, but I feel like we've learned about ourselves in the process." the host said in a quieter tone, then, "Join us tomorrow night when our guest will be, actor David Gillespie as well as a visit from the Grant Minstrel Trio. Goodnight everybody!"

The applause started up again as the stage lights died down and darkened the set.

Maddox tried his best to look pleasant, knowing the eyes of Viden might still be upon him via the cameras all over the studio, but something was wrong here.

Nick Tinker was waiting in the wings for the Endurance team when the interview was over.

"Fantastic you guys, Absolutely fantastic!" He said as he clapped.

"President Tinker, I really would like for us to have a few quiet moments where we might discuss..." Maddox was interrupted.

"Oh right, right of course captain." Tinker said, "Let's head back to my office and I can answer any and ALL additional questions you might have."

"Yes thank you. That would be great." Maddox sighed.


Getting too personal

De Coursey chuckled at Chadwick's reply - mistaking the doctor's reluctance to talk as mere camera-shyness - as the suave TV presenter posited a question in his direction.

"And tell me, just how does a sex-doctor become the first officer of a starship?"

The pockmarked Science Officer laughed out loud at this.

"Ha! Well Will, your researchers surely have done their work there - you've nailed me with that one! But, I've got to tell you folks..." he grinned, scanning the studio audience "..., they missed the good part! I wasn't just your run of the mill sex-doctor, I was an ALIEN SEX DOCTOR!"

He waved his hands, laughing.

"But don't worry Will, I'm not going to be beaming down any Bug Eyed Monsters or Green Skinned Aliens to consort with the beautiful ladies in the audience here. We left all the greenies behind when we shipped out of port."

De Coursey was enjoying being to use such terms without the Politically Correct brigade at Fleet HQ getting on his back. The BEM-phrase and the G-word were banned by Federation Code 5944 - Speciesist Language Clause.

He scanned the audience again.

"Mind you, this lady on the front row looks quite interested! She's heard that saying... oh oh! My Captain's giving me that look!" he grinned impossibly widely and made a zipping motion across his lips, but couldn't resist a final comment.

"You nearly found out how a First Officer gets demoted back to being a sex doctor!"


Getting too personal

Chadwick smiled wryly at DeCoursey being called a 'sex doctor', that should get him squirming. But Chadwick noticed something else in the questions. He'd mentioned that he cheated death but nothing about an explosion. This guy had done his research, and was probing the Endurance officers for information. Was this a harmless bit of entertainment for the masses or something more covert and ulterior?

"Well, William" he said, answering the question. "I don't know how much you know about time travel, but we encountered a species called 'The Eternals' who...to cut a long story short...manipulated time itself so that the explosion never happened."

More interview...

Maddox felt a little uncomfortable by Webster's question to Ashby, but wasn't sure why. It just struck him wrong.

The Navigator seemed to be floundering with her answer, so the captain chimed in.

"It's a performance like that that gets you an advancement in rank and reassigned to a bigger ship." Maddox smiled, trying to mask his unease.

"And did she get an advancement in rank?" Webster asked.

"Yes she did, she advanced to Lieutenant Commander and became the chief Navigator on the Endurance."

"Wow, that's amazing Captain." Webster turned his attentions to Chadwick and de Coursey.

"Tell me Doctor Chadwick, you mentioned cheating death recently, tell us about how you avoided the explosion?"

Then Webster posed the question to de Coursey, "And tell me, just how does a sex-doctor become the first officer of a starship?"


Maybe if it was someone else....

"Oh where to start?" Leah paused thinking. "Well I made a single Nacelle starship surf a sub-space wave created by a comet that used wormholes as a method of travel." Leah laugh as she knew no one in the audience would understand any of that. "So, yeah, pretty complex stuff. And before that I was operating both the helm and navigation at the same time..."

She could tell that no one in the crowd was following her. She didn't have the flare that de Coursey did to have the crowd eating out of her hand by her words alone. They seemed to like her because of her appearance, not by her words. While her story was technically impressive it didn't really connect. She knew it was pointless to continue the story. They didn't want that type of story from the one they called "Space-Girl".


Group interview

After the last advertising break had concluded, Willam Webster looked right into the cameras again.

"I tell you gang, tonight's show has been really interesting! Getting to know people from another world right here on our stage!" Webster clapped his hands together, "Let's bring them all back out together for a few more questions huh?"

The audience roared its approval.

The entire landing party went back out on stage and sat together on the long orange sofa. Webster took the nearby matching orange chair.

"I'm very interested in learning more about you all, and so is our audience here in the studio and at home."

"Miss Ashby," Webster started out, "You mentioned when you were aboard the Hannibal helping to save the ship and Starbase 11 from Comet Upsilon... what exactly went on there? How did you accomplish that?"

"And if I may..." he continued before Ashby could respond, "Captain Maddox, did her service on the Hannibal influence her placement on the Endurance?"

Stage 243 part 4

After the Doctor had been taken off stage during a break, it was Captain Maddox's turn.

Webster greeted the captain as he had the others, they sat on the long orange sofa.

"Tell me a little about where you're from originally, and your formative, childhood years." Webster began.

"I was born on Earth in a small village in, what is referred to as the 'southern' region of the North American continent. My mother died when I was ten years old and I was raised by my father who is a spiritual leader at a house of worship near my boy-hood home."

"What occupation did you have before becoming the captain of a starship?"

"I always had a job of some sort growing up, managing the local ball field, serving at the neighborhood eatery, all fairly typical occupations for teenagers on my world."

"What prompted you to enter into this space-faring branch of the service?"

"I would be lying if I didn't say it was the romantic idea of adventure and the lure of visiting, strange and far away places. I knew when I saw my first images of a Federation Starship, I had to set foot on one."

"Tell me a little more about this Starfleet?"

Maddox still had the old speech memorized, "Starfleet is the defense, research, diplomacy, and exploration force of the United Federation of Planets. The United Federation of Planets is an interstellar nation composed of planetary governments and colonies that spans 8,000 light years and over a thousand worlds. The various members of the Federation are organized under the unifying goals of universal liberty, equality, peaceful coexistence, trade, science, exploration, and mutual defense."

"What are your goals and aspirations for your career? Where do you see yourself in five years in the service?"

"I love being the captain of the Endurance, a fine ship with a proud history. In five years? Oh well... heh, it's a funny thing time... I have this strange relationship with it. You see, oh forget it. I suspect I'll be an Admiral at some point in the future. Not that I'm certain of that mind you." Maddox adjusted his collar with some of his time-traveling misadventures in mind.

"How long have you served on the Endurance?"

"I transfered to the Endurance from the USS Republic two years ago."

"What are some of the highlights of your time and adventures aboard the Endurance that you can share with our audience?"

"Well, the Endurance's primary mission is patrol and exploration of the frontier... we've visited strange new worlds, contacted new life and civilisations. It's what we do.

If I could summarize our missions in the two years I've been captain, how would I do it? Let's see, we visited a planet that was being used as a covert staging ground for a Klingon invasion. We had officers taken from the ship by a race of beings and subjected to a series of tests before they could escape. The Endurance was the test-bed ship for a new type of Warp-engine. We made first contact with a planet full of women with some rather painful results. Battled Tholans. I stumbled through a portal in time and was sent to the future. We visited a world ruled over by people with god-like powers. Then we stumbled across an ancient intergalactic race between the various 'god-like' beings of the cosmos and were forced to participate, and I time traveled again about five years into the future or so.

It's been a fairly wild ride so far."


Stage 243 part 3

After Ashby, it was Dr. Chadwick's turn in the spotlight.

"Ladies and gentlemen, up next, he's the ship's surgeon on the Endurance, please welcome Doctor Clive Chadwick!" Webster announced.

And so it went...

"Tell me a little about where you're from originally, and your formative, childhood years."
"I was born in London, on the planet Earth.  My childhood years are a bit of a blur; my parents travelled around a lot when I was a child so I didn't settle down until they died in a climbing accident and I was in the care of my aunt from that point until I left school.  I was a very studios boy and would spend a lot of my time doing science experiments...and almost getting thrown out of school when one of them would go disatrously wrong."

"What occupation did you have before this one?"
"I went to medical school but I didn't think about what kind of medicine...or where I would be practicing it...whilst I was there.  In my last year I applied for about 75 jobs for when I graduated and Star Fleet were the first to respond.  Besides, I wanted to travel by that stage and get away."

"What prompted you to enter Starfleet?"
"Like I said, I applied for dozens of jobs and Star Fleet were the first to reply; it seemed as good a place as any to practice medicine and it had the benefit of travel.  I'm not like your usual gung-ho Star Fleet type; I'm not in it for the glamour, it does provide me with an excellent way to practice medicine though."

"Tell me a little more about this Starfleet... what are its purposes and ideals?" 
"Well, there's the official line...to explore strange new worlds and new civilisations but for me it's about keeping the peace and protecting its citizens.  Not everyone out there has noble intentions."

"What are your goals and aspirations for your career? Where do you see yourself in five years in the service?"
"Well, this year has been a time of change for me in the job.  I spent many years in a department back home on Earth or on one the other core worlds and viewing the Federation and Star Fleet from a lab and that creates one impression and one set of goals, now I'm on the front line and seeing new things first hand and my perspective has changed.  So I'm keen to see where this leads me.  I literally cheated death a few months ago so now I take things one bit at a time without setting long term goals."

"How long have you served on the Endurance?"
"A year.  I think I'm the 4th longest serving officer on the ship."

"What are some of the highlights of your time and adventures aboard the Endurance that you can share with our audience?"

"Hmmm, let's think.  Ah, I know, there was this planet...which I won't name because you may find yourself on it one day...and it was populated entirely by women.  At first, it looked like paradise with beautiful scenery, perfect weather and very amiable hosts but we were lucky to make it out of there alive because the women there weren't entirely honest about how they went about their society.  What made it a happy experience for me at the end was that I solved their reproductive problems...don't ask me the details...so as a scientist I was very pleased at that achievement.  Plus I made a friend there as well."


Stage 243 continued

After DeCoursey had left the stage, Webster stood and addressed the audience again.

"Ladies and Gents, our next guest created quite a sensation upon her arrival today, I hope that her short skirt fashion trend catches up to us here on Viden! The press has dubbed her 'space girl', but we know her as the Chief Navigator of the Endurance, please welcome Lieutenant Commander Leah Ashby!"

The crowd burst with enthusiastic applause. Webster helped her find her seat on the end of the overstuffed couch.

"Hey welcome, thanks for joining us this evening. Tell me a little about where you're from originally, and your formative, childhood years.

"I was born in a city called Nashville on the planet Earth. The city is pretty much the typical big city on Earth. I suppose Nashville is a bit more tourist centric because it was once the capital of an old form of music called country. But beyond that I wouldn't say it was too different from any other city. Maybe a bit more human dominated than San Fransisco or Paris as we didn't have too many aliens, or I guess non human, residents. I never really interacted with any visitors."

"I have four older brothers. And because I had four older brothers I pretty much was a tomboy who wanted to be just like them. And let me tell you, my mother absolutely hated that! She finally got a daughter and her daughter turns out to be a fifth son! That didn't stop her from torturing me trying to make me into her perfect daughter!"

"But aside from that I had a pretty normal childhood I guess. Eventually I kind of grew to accept my femininity and my mother and I bonded. But I still have a love of sports that continues to this day."

"What occupation did you have before this one?"

"This is my first 'occupation' I guess. Before I went to the Academy I was just a mere high school student."

"What prompted you to enter into this space-faring branch of the service... 'Starfleet'?"

"Something different, something away from Earth I guess. As a family we didn't really take many off world vacations, we went to Vulcan once but I only remember it being really hot there. But really, most of our trips as a family consisted of staying on Earth. My parents weren't really big on space flight, and given how large our family was, that just made long trips even more difficult. So, while many of my friends got to travel to different worlds, I was stuck on Earth dreaming of seeing new places. So I pretty much decided that learning how to fly a Starship would give me the freedom to see whatever I wanted. And Starfleet training would give me the ability to fly pretty much anything."

"What are your goals and aspirations for your career? Where do you see yourself in five years in the service?"

"In five years? Oh geez," she paused a moment to laugh before she continued, "I never expected to be where I am now! I've made Lt. Commander faster than anyone in the fleet, so where will I be in five years? I have no idea! If you asked me that question five years ago I thought I'd still be an ensign helm officer! And as for long term goals? I really have no idea. That really depends on if I plan on starting a family or not."

"How long have you served on the Endurance?

"Not long. I'm one of the newer officers on the ship. So my adventures with this crew have been limited."

"What are some of the highlights of your time and adventures aboard the Endurance that you can share with our audience?"

"Since my time on the Endurance has been limited, and some things are classified, I cannot go into as much detail as you'd probably like. The greatest moment of my career, thus far, was actually on my previous assignment the USS Hannibal. Not only did I save the Hannibal but I also saved the residents of Starbase 11! I got a huge promotion because of my actions and as a result ended up on the Endurance."


A short while later:

The studio audience was abuzz with excitement as the lights went low and the applause lights began to flash. The crowd didn't need much prompting tonight, they were about to see the 'visitors from space' up close and in person!

"Live from the Ernest and Bertram Studio in sunny Planetary City, it's THE WILLAM WEBSTER SHOOOOOOOOW!" came the voice of the announcer through the building. The audience roared.

"Tonight Will brings you the very first, exclusive one-on-one interviews with the recently arrived visitors from another planet! All four of the alien visitors will be live and in person right here on the stage with Viden's favorite host..."

"WILLAM WEBSTER!" the audience shouted on cue.

Webster jogged out to the spotlight at center stage and took a bow, "Hey gang, big show for you tonight and I'm really excited about it! I know you've all heard about the visitors from space that arrived today... it's been burning up the news channels all afternoon."

The audience responded with the appropriate "Ooooh..."

"Well, with the help of our President of Programming here at PBN, we've secured the very FIRST interviews with all FOUR of the alien visitors, can you believe that?!"

The crowd went wild again. When they finally died down, he continued.

"I'm going to dispense with my monologue and get right to it folks! First up, he's the First Officer aboard the strange alien craft in orbit above our heads right now, please help me give a warm Viden welcome to COMMANDER JAN DE COURSEY!"

Webster shook de Coursey's hand and offered him a seat on the long orange couch. Once the host had taken his seat and adjusted his jacket, he went right into it.

"So, Commander de Coursey, tell me a little about where you're from originally, and your formative, childhood years."

"Well, I hail from a patch of dry veldt South East of Mbabane - that's the Middle of Nowhere, even to other Earthmen. It's hot, dry and covered in cow sh.. er.. cow pats. I grew up - or was dragged up - on that patch of scrub by a vet, that's a veterinary surgeon - you know, looks after animals. He was one half mad and the other half drunk. Went by the name of Dad. He'd beat the living *BLEEP* - can I say *BLEEP* on here? - beat the living *BLEEP* out of you for looking at him cross eyed. But, er... Greatest man that ever lived."

"What occupation did you have before this one?" Webster asked.

"I've always been a scientist - medical scientist. I've practiced as a doctor. But I've always been Fleet. That was never... there was never a time when I wasn't going to be Fleet. I guess when I was old enough to help, I helped Dad out a lot, specially when he got old, worn out, you know. You could say I was an assistant vet before I joined up."

"What prompted you to enter into this space-faring branch of the service? I believe I heard it referred to as "Starfleet'?" Webster glanced at his cue cards to ensure he was saying it correctly.

"You heard right. Fleet. Well..." de Coursey continued, "the choice between the whole Universe or a patch of scrub coved in cow pats? You work it out. It wasn't a hard choice. I had to leave the old *BLEEP*, and, I suppose. Well, I suppose it was easier for something big, you know, something... it had to be bigger than that man, and bigger than my hate for him... or my love for him. It had to be that big, big as the Universe, you know what I'm saying." de Coursey was tearing up a bit now.

"Tell me a little more about this Starfleet... what are its purposes and ideals?" Webster leaned in and really expressed interest in his guest, it was part of what made the viewers love him.

"Oh I don't know - there's a big spiel about it all in the handouts we beamed down. The Captain can give you the official line, but you know to me... it's the idea that we are all equal. I mean look at you, look at me. We're from different planets, different cultures, possibly different physiologies. But here we are, talking like this and you know I'm telling you things I never told anybody else, because you're a good interviewer, see? You're a talented interviewer, that's a talent, not everybody could do your job. You'll... you'll be getting StarFleet secrets out of me soon, you know, I'll be in big trouble up there when I go back." de Coursey rambled, getting off the point.

"What are your goals and aspirations for your career? Where do you see yourself in five years in the service?"

"Well now, I'm getting a little old for this, you know, they'll have packed me off by then. Early retirement. I'll go for the early retirement before I let them kick me upstairs to a desk job. Might come and settle here, why not? I could - you know you've got a great planet here. Great scenery, great Vid shows, yeah, great interviewers!" de Coursey gave the interviewer a Twinkly wink.

"How long have you served on the Endurance?" Webster asked.

"Too Long! I want off there and come down and settle down here, on Viden. This place is great. I'll have me some of them... what did you call them? - those green drinks with the..." de Coursey couldn't finish, the crowd erupted at the idea of having the space man settle down on their planet.

When the applause died down, Webster continued.

"What are some of the highlights of your time and adventures aboard the Endurance that you can share with our audience?"

"Well, you know Will, I can call you Will can't I? You know, we scoot round the ol' Universe in that little ship of ours doing every conceivable kind of impressive thing imaginable. We'll be having laser fights with invading Romulans and Klingons one week, we'll be searching for lost scientists the next week, then we'll be getting taken over by mind invading parasites the next. Then it's back to the Klingons. But you know, there's all that. There's all that. But about three months ago we hit on a little colony of, er, of Federation colonists. Nothing spectacular, they were just out on some rock somewhere, surviving, raising a little buckwheat, a few farm animals. And we beamed down with a few much needed tools, not much, a few supplies. And... you know? - the look on their faces! Specially this one little kid with a puppy. We were there, out in Space - there for him. For all of them. They weren't alone. I think that touched me more than anything. We are there, for millions of people, millions of beings, we are there... so they aren't alone."

De Coursey had the crowd in the palm of his hand... and was loving it.