by Dabin Reece
After Armed and Fabulous
After Armed and Fabulous
Dabin Reece stood confidently in the shadows off the stage. The crew and holocharacters had gathered in the library for what was to be the one of the shows of the evening. The Balderdash Cup was a tradition at the Adventurer’s Club with a few simple rules that Dabin had conveniently bent a little bit for this occasion.
The goal of the competition was to tell the crowd of a true life adventure, or at least make them believe it was true life. The applause of the crowd would determine whose tale was best, and that person would be awarded the cup. Normally the competition was limited to permanent members of the club, but since this was the holodeck, Dabin had removed that rule from the programming of the characters to allow himself to compete.
Reece peered out at his friends all seated near the front of the room, laughing and enjoying the company of their mates. Everything just felt right, like things were finally coming together for everyone.
On the stage, perpetual loser Otis T. Wren was, as always, lamenting the fact that the man who always wins the cup, Hathaway Browne, had arrived just before the midnight deadline to compete for the cup. Brown was regaling the crowd with his tale of discovering the lost city of Atlantis, while on an aid mission to deliver supplies to orphan children.
“Atlantis doesn’t exist! How can you prove you were actually there?” Wren demanded in outrage.
“I’ll show you my good man,” Brown replied, as he reached into the inner pocket of his leather bomber jacket. He handed two items to Wren.
“Oh please, you could have had these made anywhere,” Wren said while shaking his head. “Here lady, you want some worthless junk?”
Wren tossed the items, a book of matches and a cocktail napkin at Zanh Liis. The printing on them read Atlantis Bar and Grill in black lettering on the white background, with an accompanying Atlantian logo.
Reece leaned out into the light and waved his hands to get her attention. Liis was far too engrossed with examining her souvenirs to notice. Keiran nudged her with his elbow and pointed at Reece.
She finally looked up and caught his eye.
They’re real. You can take them home. He mouthed to her.
These are so freaking cool. She mouthed back.
The grin on her face made all the trouble he had gone through to replicate the items to be given out, rather then just holograms that would disappear when the program ended, worth it. He gave her a quick wink and she went back to fiddling with the matchbook. Reece just hoped she would realize the matches were as real as everything else and very much capable of burning things.
As Brown wrapped up his story, the crowd broke into applause. Normally at this point in the show Emil Bleehall, an overgrown Boy Scout from Ohio, would step in and shock the contenders by snatching the cup out from Brown’s awaiting hands, but tonight Dabin Reece planned on telling his own story.
Dabin trotted out onto the stage, shooing Brown and Wren off to the side so he could have the stage all to himself.
“Ok, listen everyone. If I’m going to win, I need you to cheer loudest for me when I’m done. Do you all understand?” The crew nodded to Reece. Basically he was asking them to let him win, and the last thing anyone wanted to do was deal with was a pouting Trill.
“Ok, so like… gosh I’m actually kind of nervous. Well, here is my story. It all began on Betazed, when we visited the planet for Counselor Tryst’s wedding. One night I could not sleep, so I took a walk alone on a rural path. This strange feeling came over me suddenly, like I was being called towards something.”
“I knew it was dangerous to wander off the path on a world I was not familiar with, and that the journey would be dangerous, but I knew it was something I had to do. So I braved the thick brush and weird crazy bugs that were big and scary, and dashed into the woods.”
Reece’s choice of such juvenile words delivered in such a dramatic and serious fashion elicited a laugh from the crowd. He gestured wildly with his hands as he continued his tale.
“The deeper in I got, the louder the call became in my mind, and Reece’s mind too. I was pulling both of us to a single point in the woods. I ran for probably two kilometers, and my arms and legs were cut and bleeding from all the thorns and stuff like that. At last, I came to a spot, and knew I had to go no farther. But nothing was there.”
Reece paused a moment for dramatic effect. “Not bad so far huh? Ok, so I was standing there, wondering what was next. When suddenly, the ground caved in below me! Betazed swallowed me whole, like Lair Kellyn on a fork full of Chinese food.”
“Hey!” Came a female Bajoran voice from the back.
“I don’t know how long or how far I fell, but when I landed, I was unconscious. When I came around, I saw it. The staff of Jimbo! The artifact belonged to the oldest recorded Emperor of the first organized civilization on Betazed. For thousands of years it was rumored to be lost, but I found it, and returned it to the people of Betazed.”
Zanh Liis looked back over her shoulder into the crowd, where she saw Vol Tryst, who was rubbing his temples with two fingers and shaking his head form side to side.
“And they were really happy, to have their staff back.”
Reece paused, and on queue, February, still reclining in her chair, yelled at the top of her lungs and clapped her hands. “Bravo! Bravo!” The rest of the crowd began to cheer along with February. Dabin sauntered over to Hathaway Browne and the trophy.
“Excuse me, I think this belongs to me,” Reece said with a smug smile, as he wrapped his hands around the trophy.
Dabin and Hathaway froze in place, and they both turned slowly towards the entrance to the library.
“There is one more contestant!” The man stepped into the light, and through the crowd towards the stage. There was a hushed murmur in the room as people tried to make out the newcomer. Dabin squinted against the lights on the stage until the man came into focus.
“Ledbetter?” Reece said. “No, I don’t think so dude. Show’s over. Good night everyone.” Reece wrapped the trophy into a protective hug.
“What’s the matter Commander Reece, afraid I’ll blow your story out of the water? Like you did my time ship?”
“No.” Reece said in the most unconvincing manner possible.
“Then set the trophy down, and step aside.” Ledbetter said with an arched eyebrow. Reece did as he was asked, standing next to Hathaway Browne, but keeping his pinkie wrapped around the handle of the trophy.
Ledbetter dragged a stool into the center of the stage. “Spotlight please.”
A single white light shown down on Ashton Ledbetter, as the rest of the room was plunged into darkness. He drew a single white cigarette from a metal case in the inner pocket of his vest, and lit it. Ledbetter took a single puff, coughed, and set his wrist on his drawn up knee, to let the trail of smoke partially obscure his face from the crowd’s as he spoke.
“Vulcan was angry that day. Not the people, but the planet itself. The sun above scorched the planet and everyone on it. Including a single human male.”
Ledbetter never actually made eye contact with the audience. He kept his eyes on the floor, as if telling the story to himself, rather than the people in the room with him.
“I had braved that burning, treacherous sun, for just one moment with the Empress. One brief, shining instant in the glow of the most beautiful woman the galaxy ever has, or ever will know.”
He moved his eyes from the floor to the ceiling, as if calling a melancholy prayer to a high power above.
“But it was not to be that day. The forces of evil used their dastardly powers to convince the Empress that her knight in shining armor was in fact the very devil itself. I loved her, but I was forbidden admittance to the Palace. So, I accepted my fate, and went on, knowing the Empress and I could never be, at least not in this life.”
“But then!” Ashton’s eyes became wide, and several people in the crowd actually gasped at his sudden change in tone. “The Beast! A hideous creature came from the shadows, to take the Empress as she held court with her faithful subjects. By then I had left the city, but her cries for help came to me on the wind from afar, carried by the power of our love. I ran to her, so fast my heart threatened to beat out of my chest.”
“When I reached her, the Empress’s personal guard lay at the feet of the Beast, struck down by his mighty blow. In one mangled paw he held the jewels of the Empress, that which gives her power to rule the people. In the other, her lifeless body was draped over his hairy and deformed arm.”
Zanh Liis rolled her eyes. “Can you believe this? At least Reece didn’t try to hide the fact he was full of it.” She whispered. Keiran did not answer, so she nudged him slightly.
“Hmm? Yes, that’s fine Liis.”
Liis could not believe her eyes, as she watched Keiran’s attention remain, unwavering, on Ashton Ledbetter.
“You’re hanging on his every word!”
“How’s that?” He whispered.
Liis did not answer. She shook her head, as Ledbetter continued on stage. He was standing now, gesturing wildly as he described the battle.
“We knew only one of us would live, and one would die that day. The Beast set the Empress down, slipped the jewels over its own neck, and emitted a sickening roar. I stood my ground, raised my hands, and the Beast charged me! We grappled for hours, maybe days, maybe years. The battle raged on under the blazing Vulcan sun. There were times my flesh simply begged me to surrender from his unrelenting attack. Times when death seemed preferable to another moment of the pain that the Beast sadistically wished to inflict on me.”
Ledbetter lowered his voice, and eased himself back onto the stool.
“But I loved her. And that alone fueled every breath, and every blow from my hand to his body. Time lost all meaning as we fought. My clothes and flesh became tattered, but my will remained, steadfast and true, against the Beast, the Vulcan sun, and the pain coursing through my own body.
“When the Beast finally seemed to be weakening, I jabbed my hand towards its throat, and grabbed it by the neck. The Beast pummeled me, crushing my unprotected ribs in an attempt to escape, but I refused to release him to protect myself. I held on, not for my own life, but for hers. It did not matter if I lived or died anymore.
“The life began to drain from the Beast’s face, and his blows weakened and he struggled for air. When he finally lost consciousness, I released him, and he fell with a massive jolt that shook the very planet below. I took the jewels from around his neck, and placed them on the ground beside the Empress. Then I returned to the Beast, and with a strength I cannot even explain, lifted his lifeless body over my head! I staggered to the edge of the cliff, and threw the Beast over, consigning him to the nothingness below!
“I rushed back to the Empress, and cradled her in my arms until she awoke. Her eyes gently fluttered open, with a graceful beauty that would make the butterflies weep. I placed the jewels around her neck. I was a fool for ever doubting you, my Ashton, she said, as she touched my face. I leaned in, and kissed her. I carried her from there to her chambers, where she nursed me back to health. The rest, I am afraid, is not for a proper gentleman to discuss.
Ledbetter snuffed out the cigarette on the barstool, and the crowd burst into applause as the lights came back up in the house. Most of the crowd anyway. There were two glaring omissions, in February Grace and Zanh Liis.
“I believe that belongs to me.” Ledbetter said to a stunned Dabin Reece.
“No, but, this is mine.” Dabin protested. He wrapped one hand around a handle, and Ledbetter the other. “I replicated it and planned my whole story so I could win it.”
“Sorry lad but the rules are clear. This fellow is the winner,” Hathaway Brown said to Dabin.
“But,” Dabin’s face took on the expression of a kicked puppy. “But I already have a pedestal for it built in my quarters.”
“Here,” Ledbetter offered his free hand to Dabin. Reece reached out, and Ledbetter dropped the snuffed out cigarette butt into Dabin’s hand. “Put that on your pedestal, so you can always remember tonight.”
“But…” Ashton tugged gently on the trophy, and Dabin’s fingers sproinged one by one off the handle. “But…”
Ledbetter took the trophy into his own hands, as Reece finally released it. “Sorry boy, everything is coming up Ashton.” With a grin, he turned away from Dabin and held the trophy aloft to the crowd.
Dabin harrumphed, and tossed the cigarette over his shoulder. He stormed off the stage and over to February.
“Aww, don’t be sad. We’ll replicate you another trophy, ok?”
“It won’t be the same,” Dabin lamented. He looked at February, and saw the concern on her face, and waved the cloud of melancholy away from him. “But the good news is, I get to go home with you. You’re better than any trophy.”
At the front of the room, Zanh Liis was tucking her napkin and matchbook away into her pocket for safekeeping. Keiran still had not moved since the entire event ended.
“My God, Liis, do ya know what this means?”
“I have a feeling I don’t want to hear what you are going to say.” She said, dreading his response.
“Ledbetter slept with T’Lara.”
“That’s exactly what I was afraid of."
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012