With the release of animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks on Amazon I thought I’d share with you this short story of mine, called Committee On The Bounty. It’s about what would happen if the Red Shirts in the Star Trek Universe were to unionise. After all, no one ever asks if they want to risk life and limb for one of the command crew every week, now do they? Maybe they would have something to say on the matter, if anyone was to ever ask.
It’s not my usual steampunk affair, but it is a lot of fun, so I thought it was worth sharing. Don’t take it too seriously and you’ll be just fine.
Oooooo-WEEE-ooooh! — ‘Attention, crew of the USC Bounty. This is the captain speaking. As you know, in our recent encounter with the Volgons your ship-mate, Specialist Cantour, was captured and taken aboard a Volgon StarCruiser. That ship, as we speak, is heading deep into Volgon territory never to be seen again. Star Command have ordered us not to pursue, for fear of starting a war with the Volgons. This, I’m sure you’ll agree, is unacceptable.
‘It is my intention to pursue the Volgons and retrieve Specialist Cantour by any means necessary. Specialist Cantour is one of us, one of our own. We are a family aboard this ship, we take care of each other, and being part of a family means no one gets left behind.
‘Prepare yourselves. This could get messy. Grey, out.’
In engineering, Engineer Polk frowned up at the speaker in the corner of the room. ‘Seriously? Again?’
‘What’s that?’ asked the engineer next to him.
‘Captain Grey. He’s disobeying direct orders again.’
‘So what about last week, when he brought that alien on board and it killed those two techs in the science lab? Or the week before that when he warped the ship through an asteroid belt and bounced too close to that black hole? Duncan and Foss still have nightmares about nearly getting sucked out into space when the cargo bay seals went. If they hadn’t hung on until the pressure shield kicked in they would have too.’
‘So! Now he’s going up against the Volgons? And for Specialist Cantour, of all people! I mean, if it was a one off, maybe, but that woman is a liability. She’s always getting herself into trouble. And every time she does we all have to go in and rescue her. It’s not fair I tell you. Something needs to be done.’
‘Well, you’re with the union, aren’t you? How about, instead of just standing there moaning to me about it all day, you actually go up there do something about it, eh?’
Engineer Polk stuck out his chin and gave a decisive, if slightly hesitant, nod. ‘Alright then. I will.’
On the bridge of the USC Bounty, handsome-haired Captain Damian Grey sat placidly amidst the industrious hubbub, as his Command Crew prepared for the jump to warp. ‘Are we ready Mr Kalarr?’
The captain’s fish-headed first officer nodded inside his water-filled helmet. ‘Ready on your mark, Captain.’
‘Good. Then, make it go, Number One.’
‘Aye sir. Ensign Sully, if you please.’
The ship’s pilot tapped her control screen. Nothing happened. She tried again. Still nothing. A third attempt had the same result. ‘I’m sorry sir, but we’re not getting any power to the engines. There seems to be a problem in Engineering. The hyper-core appears to be offline.’
Captain Grey hit his communicator. ‘Engineering? This is the captain. What’s going on down there? Is there a problem with the hyper-core?’
‘Um, hello captain. Engineer Polk here. I’ve, uh, taken the hyper-core offline I’m afraid.’
‘What? Why? Is it broken? How long before it can be up and running?’
‘I’m afraid it’s not as simple as that, Captain.’
‘Not as simple? What do you mean?’
‘I’m sorry about this Captain, but as the official representative of the Union of Non-Command Personnel aboard the Bounty, I have to officially inform you that all non-command personnel are now officially on strike… sir.’
Captain Grey and Kalarr exchanged a bemused look. ‘Come again?’ said the captain.
The atmosphere is Captain Grey’s ready room was tense to say the least. The captain sat behind his desk, glaring at the pale and visibly sweaty engineer in the chair opposite him. Kalarr stood off to the side, the liquid in his breather helmet bubbling ominously.
‘Run that by me again,’ said the captain.
‘Well, sir, it’s like this. We at UNCPER feel that you – and the rest of the Bridge crew – often fail to take non-command personnel into consideration when making critical decisions.’
‘But that’s the job Mr Poke. I give the orders and you carry them out.’
‘It’s, uh, Polk sir. Engineer Polk. And as a rule sir, yes. For the most part our members are happy to carry out your orders as given. But, let’s be honest, you are in the habit of putting this ship and its entire crew at risk in a manner that some might consider to be… a little reckless.’
‘For the good of the mission,’ said Captain Grey, sitting forward. ‘Everything I do is for the good of the mission.’
Engineer Polk paled even further. ‘I understand sir. And your dedication to duty is commendable. It’s just… not what most of us signed up for.’
‘Not what you signed up for? Not what you signed up for?!’ The captain leapt to his feet. Leaning on his desk, he looming over Engineer Polk. ‘You signed up for three square meals a day and to do what you’re bloody well told, that’s what you signed up for! This isn’t a democracy, for crying out loud, this is Star Command! We follow orders. We follow orders or people die. Do you understand?’
Engineer Polk swallowed loudly. ‘Yes sir. I understand sir, But – forgive me sir – but why should we adhere to the chain of command when our captain does not?’
‘I…’ Captain Grey stared at Engineer Polk. He glanced at Kalarr who very wisely said nothing. Adjusting his tunic Captain Grey sat back down again. ‘The Volgons will most likely kill Specialist Cantour, you realise that don’t you? In fact they’re probably torturing her for information as we speak.’
‘I do sir, yes. And believe me, this is not a decision I take lightly. But many more would die in a battle with the Volgons, I’m sure.’
‘And what about the fact the Specialist Cantour would gladly risk her life to save yours? Doesn’t that give you pause for thought at all?’
‘Sir, I have met Specialist Cantour exactly once during my time on this ship. She called me a Teryllian snot-monger for taking the last piece of birthday cake at a party we were having in Engineering.’
‘Well who takes the last piece of cake, Mr Polk?’
‘It was my birthday, Captain. And it was the first piece I’d had. I was late to my own party because I was busy fixing your ship, sir.’
The captain shifted in his seat. ‘Yes, well… Specialist Cantour does like her cake,’ he mumbled.
‘I’m sorry sir, but appealing to my compassion will not work. It lies firmly with my union brothers and sisters I’m afraid.’
The captain yanked open his desk drawer and grabbed the phase pistol he kept there. ‘And what if I was to shoot you for disobeying a direct order Mr Polk? How about that? Would that help change your mind at all?’
Polk’s stomach did an unwelcome back-flip as he fought to hold down his lunch. ‘Captain, please. Killing me won’t get you what you want. And besides,’ he added quickly, ‘the engineering computers are locked out, and only I know how to unlock them.’
Engineer Polk did his best to stay calm, and stay conscious, even though fainting and wetting himself were two very tempting options right now (he was ambivalent about which he would like to do first). He’d been warned there would be moments like this when he’d been elected UNCPER union rep. It was well known as a difficult and challenging position to hold. He hadn’t been warned there would be weaponry involved however. That was proving to be a most unwelcome development.
Captain Grey’s jaw worked overtime as he ground his teeth together, his pistol pointed directly at Engineer Polk’s chest. ‘If I may,’ said Mr Kalarr, stepping forward. ‘Perhaps if Engineer Polk was to tell us what he wants, we could resolve this matter sooner rather than later. Let us not forget, the more time we waste the further away Specialist Cantour becomes.’
‘Very well,’ said Captain Grey reluctantly, putting his gun away. ‘What is it the Red Shirts want? What do I have to do to make you go away?’
Engineer Polk bristled. ‘Please don’t call us that, Captain. Red Shirts is a derogatory term, and we are an officially recognised union after all.’
Squeezing his eyes shut, Captain Grey pinched the bridge of his nose. ‘What do you want, Mr Polk?’
‘Well, Captain, all UNCPER wants is to have a say in some of the more “non-standard” decision making that goes on around here. I suggest a small committee, to be consulted whenever activities that fall outside the bounds of normal operating procedure are being considered. We are not unreasonable people, but when our lives are being put at risk it would be nice to know we’ve had a say in the decision making process. I think that’s fair, don’t you?’
Captain Grey considered Engineer Polk for a very long time. He drummed his hand on the desk top, right over the drawer where he kept his pistol. He didn’t look all that inclined to agree, which was a problem, because Engineer Polk had no idea what he was meant to do if management said no? The union manual had been quite vague about that possibility. It always seemed to assume that success was inevitable.
Captain Grey let out a deep sigh. ‘Very well. I will accept having a committee of three people – no more! – to represent the non-command personnel in some decision making. But their input will be limited and their opinion will be non-binding, is that understood?’
Engineer Polk almost sighed with relief. ‘Yes sir. Of course sir.’
‘You will want to have elections no doubt, but since time is of the essence I suggest you find two colleagues willing to speak on behalf of the crew until they can be arranged. Is that acceptable, Mr Polk?’
‘Yes sir. Indeed it is sir. A very good idea sir.’
‘Good. Now, perhaps you would be so kind as to unlock the computers in Engineering so that we can continue our pursuit of Specialist Cantour? If that’s alright with you, that is?’
USC Bounty dropped out of hyper-warp above the Volgon home world. The Volgons dispatched a StarCruiser to intercept. Coming face to face with the Bounty the Volgon ship locked on all its weapons and powered up, ready to fire.
The Volgon captain opened a channel to the Bounty. ‘This is Tellos Mech, of the Volgon High Command. You are trespassing in Volgon territory. Depart at once or prepare to be boarded. Any other action will be seen as hostile and will bring about your complete annihilation. The choice is yours. You have ten of your Earth seconds to comply.’
Shutting off the communicator he awaited their response. The Bounty didn’t move, didn’t raise its shields, didn’t arm its weapons. It just sat there silently, doing nothing. After twenty seconds of this Tellos Mech opened communications again. ‘Well? Which is it to be? Will you run like cowards, or will you die like dogs?’
The Bounty opened a communication channel of its own. A lot of talking could be heard going on in the background. ‘Um, can you give us a minute,’ said Captain Grey. ‘We’re just discussing our options.’ The line went dead.
Tellos Mech turned to his First Officer, who did what passed for a shrug on Volgon. <What do we do now sir?> he said.
<I don’t know, First Of Many. Open fire, I guess?>
On the bridge of the Bounty they were still deciding what the Volgons meant by “complete” annihilation – ‘But surely they can’t mean everyone on board, can they? I mean, even the clean-up crew? It’s like, what did they do to deserve getting all annihilated and that, eh?’ – when a plasma torpedo ripped through their hyper-core, clearing the matter up for them once and for all.