Venetian IV is one of the lovelier planets in this part of the galaxy, which naturally makes it ideal for special gatherings, of which the ever-popular Ancestor thing is one of the better-known. It's standard practice, of course, to hold such things in the best place you can. It certainly helps with recruitment. So, year after year, everybody -- crews and family alike -- made the all-too-familiar trek.

The ensigns love it because they get better food during this period of time.

The Secondprize was now in day 3 of its week-long stay at the planet, which was half botanical gardens and half hotels. "Come for the gardens, stay at the hotels!" read the advertisements, which were everywhere. Why they spent so much time and money advertising for a place you're already at always eluded Captain Clerk.

The downside to being at such a place at such a time was that people were coming and going at a far greater rate than usual, which is a nightmare for security (as if security wasn't a nightmare already). It's all too easy to let a few people slip through the cracks. So easy, in fact, that most people, upon seeing an unfamiliar face, begin introducing themselves and the ship. It gets really embarrassing when one does that to somebody who's served on the ship for several years.


Jed Jenkins sat at his desk, tinkering with a few random parts, and probably forgetting to do something far more important. The excitement of the last few days -- or the last few weeks, really -- had exhausted him. The spacewalking trip, thrilling as it was, really threw him for a loop. So, there he sat, with a worn-out screwdriver and a stripped screw, when he heard a knock on the door.

"Oh, is the doorbell broken again? I jest fixed it last week."

"Ahem. Sorry," answered a muffled voice.

The doorbell rang.

"Come on in!"

Two masked figures entered the room and raised phasers toward Jenkins.

"Well, I tell ya. Ain't a day goes by that somebody don't need phasers recalibrated. Hand em over."

"These work just fine, Mr. Jenkins."

"Well then why are... hey, wait a minute..."


"You know I'm going to have to write this down in your permanent record," Yeoman Rind said to Captain Clerk as the two walked into the Maintenance Area.

"I know, I know... for once I'm actually volunteering to go see him. Laugh it up."

"Believe you me, I will," she said, giggling.

"Well, I'm glad one of us is amused, because I--"

Clerk stopped in his tracks. He looked around, worried.

"What's wrong, Captain?"

"Something's not right."

"Looks fine to me."

"No, no... it's too clean. I'm going into his office."

Clerk walked in to find the room unoccupied. It, too, was abnormally clean.

"Rind, get in here!"

"What is it, Captain?"

"Look around. Same cleanliness as outside."

"Bizarre. Either somebody unauthorized has been in here, or he finally got some of his redshirt ensigns to actually do some work."

"Right. We've got to find out who's been in here, and fast. If they're willing to clean up the Maintenance Area to get what they want, they could be up to almost anything."

"Yes, sir... but shouldn't we look for Jenkins first?"

Touché. "Computer?"


"Where is Lieutenant Jed Jenkins?"

"Beats me. He's nowhere on the ship."

"Since when?"

"About a half-hour ago, last I checked."

"Did you see what happened?"

"Sorry, sir, I didn't. I nodded off for a second."

What? How do-- sigh, better not ask. "Has anybody else been in here recently?"

"Yeah, a couple of guys. Nobody I knew, though. They were wearing masks anyways, so it's not like I could tell by looking at them."

Just when the Captain was faced with an already inexplicable situation, now it was made even more so. Who in the universe would want to kidnap Jed Jenkins? Clerk didn't have long to ponder it, however, as the intercom came on.

"Bridge to Captain Clerk."

"Clerk here." I miss Ensign Tolstoy already.

"Urgent incoming message for you on the main screen."

"I'm on my way."

Clerk and Rind arrived on the Bridge to be greeted by a trio of masked figures on the screen: one front and center, the apparent leader, plus two standing in the back.

These must be the guys crazy enough to kidnap Jenkins. And look at those masks. Eek.

"Captain Clerk, I presume?" the main masked man asked.

"You'd like to think so. And to whom am I speaking?"

"Yeah, um... that's not something I'm giving away."

"Well, could you remove your mask, then? I'd like to at least see who I'm talking to."

The apparent villain started to remove it, but then realized what he was doing, and quickly stopped. "No dice, Captain. You're not going to get to me that easily!"

"Looks like you have me at a disadvantage."

"That's the general idea."

"So, I'm assuming you're after something. When are we going to get down to business? I'm a busy man."

"Whenever you're ready, Captain Clerk."