Having said all their goodbyes and paid for parking (Deep Dish $9 is one of the few remaining starbases that won't validate your ticket), Captain Clerk and his crew boarded the Secondprize one last time, headed for the infamous planet Alpha Beta II.

The Alpha Beta system wasn't exactly the best neighborhood to begin with, but the second planet had a special reputation as a particularly seedy place. The black market there had became so prevalent that all the legitimate businesses went under, making the planet a favorite test case for economic theorists.

With a three days' journey to look forward to, Captain Clerk immediately started with the natural first Action Item: setting up a Senior Officers' Meeting.


Klaa'ck, Cecil, Flüshaht, Wharf and Whatsisname were already sitting around the conference table when Clerk and Yeoman Rind walked in.

"Okay, everybody, everybody," Clerk said as he sat down at the head of the table. "I am foolhardily assuming you've all read the Mission Report, or at least have some vague idea of what we're getting into."

"Some rogue merchant stirring up trouble in an already troublesome area?" Wharf responded.

"Correct. I know who this guy is and I know his general M.O. His name is Harold Oswald "Percy" Sludge, a washed-up karaoke singer from the armpit of the galaxy who somehow decided he could break into the black market. People who run into him get the unfortunate double-whammy of having to deal with both his shady business practices and his indomitable caterwaul."

"A jerk of all trades, eh?" Flüshaht interjected.

"No joke there," said Clerk. "Not only are various planetary governments out to get him, even the Intergalactic Karaoke Guild has a price on his head."

"So what is our objective here?" Klaa'ck chimed in.

Whatsisname raised his hand. "What usually happens in these cases is somebody finds him and arrests him on some charges, and he inevitably manages to weasel his way out of it, typically using bribery of some sort."

"What we've got to do is find a way to put this guy behind bars permanently," said the Captain.

"Can't we detain him?" asked Flüshaht.

"Well... technically he's out of our jurisdiction," Clerk said with a sigh. "But, if he does something bad enough, they might be willing to hand him over to us simply because he's raising enough of a stink. Kind of a passive-aggressive extradition, if you will."

"That doesn't sound like a guaranteed recipe for success."

"I know, Doctor, but every law enforcement agency in the known universe has been trying to keep this guy under lock and key for years, and nothing's worked so far. Anyways, we've got a few days to brainstorm about it, and I'm all ears on this, believe you me. If you have any strategy you think might work, just see me or Janet, or send one of us an e-mail. Meeting dismissed."

The journey was fairly uneventful, save for a small fire in the kitchen which destroyed half of the ship's meal templates. All of the ensigns got a temporary upgrade for their meal plans as a result.

The Secondprize arrived at Alpha Beta II without any of the Senior Officers having come up with a workable plan. Clerk tried hard not to worry, but seeing as how it was anxiety -- not blood -- that ran through his veins, that plan failed as well. For a brief moment, he even considered calling Lt. Ethel for an appointment.


Upon arrival, Clerk, Klaa'ck, Wharf, and a couple of Redshirt Ensigns beamed down fashionably late to the scheduled rendezvous at the Planetary Chamber of Commerce. However, Percy Sludge had gotten wind of the meeting, and showed up early, sending the local officials running.

"We meet again, eh, Captain?"

"What have you done with the--"

"They're fine," Sludge chuckled. "One look at me, and they ran away, cowering in fear!"

It wasn't because of your swagger, I'll tell you that much. "Look, Harold--"

"That's Percy to you, Clerk!"

Sigh. "Look, Percy, we know what you're up to, and we've been called upon to do something about it. I'd hoped to be able to talk to the powers that be here, but you've forced my hand. The galaxy has put up with your hijinks long enough. So, like, just come with us and leave these people be."

"Aww, Captain..." Percy mockingly replied. "That's no fun. How about a song?"

We can do without that, thanks.

"Now what shall I sing... how about..."

At that exact moment, his eyes latched onto Klaa'ck. Pulling a guitar out of nowhere, he cleared his throat and began.

"When a Vulcan loves a Klingooooonnnnn..."

In a flash, Klaa'ck leaped over and grabbed the merchant by the throat, lifting him up at least a foot off the ground.

"Klaa'ck!" Clerk shouted. "Put him down!"

"But Captain, he--"


"I can't allow this!"

"You're being illogical!"

"Illogical? My honor is at stake here!"

Wharf spoke up. "Fleet Regulation #178-B specifically forbids choking of merchants, regardless of their singing ability."

With a loud sigh, Klaa'ck dropped Percy Sludge and walked back over to the rest of the landing party.

"Well, well, well..." the merchant taunted, once he was able to speak. "We've got a sensitive one, have we? You could have at least let me finish the chorus."

Klaa'ck growled.

"Anyways, as much as I want to talk shop with you guys, I've got business to do."

"That's exactly why we're here, Mr. Sludge," Clerk said as he slowly began to step forward. "Now, if you'll just come with us, we'll discuss this... business... of yours."

"No dice, Jimbo. You're not a paying customer, so I don't have time for you."

As he spoke, he pulled a remote control out of his pocket and turned on the Chamber of Commerce's shields. Separated from the Secondprize crewmembers, he quickly entered the building and ran out of sight.