“Did you happen to get a look at them?” asked Captain Douglas Gorrim. He leaned over his chef, a Caitian named Naurr, who was lying on a biobed in Sick Bay, with a bandage on his furry forehead.
“Wha –?” was all that the bewhiskered chef could say.
“I’ll take that as a no,” Captain Gorrim muttered.
“Captain,” said the new CMO, Dr. Bernardine Keating-Fong, “I didn’t come here from academia just to have you interrogate my patients.”
“But the war …” Douglas protested.
“And we have every indication,” insisted Dr. Keating-Fong, “that this boarding was a one-time thing.”
“Now, you don’t know that. We’ve never seen these Romulans, anyway. I don’t give a damn what that ship looked like. Maybe they’ve got a new design, or something. Who’s to say it wasn’t them?”
“B-bomb,” Naurr squeaked out.
“What?!” asked the captain. “Did they plant a bomb?”
“N-no,” the chef insisted weakly, “I did. I make bomb. Drove them out.”
“Naurr,” the doctor addressed her patient directly, “listen to me very carefully. You’re the chef on the Ariane. We’re at war with the Romulans. And I hardly think you were making bombs.”
“They hit my head. I make bomb. They gone.”
The doctor looked at the captain. “You would have gotten some indication of an explosion, right?”
“You actually think he’s not hallucinating, Doc? You believe him?”
“I’m not so sure what to believe. But maybe it is something.”
“Chef,” the captain asked, “How did you learn how to make a bomb?”
“L-lili, Lili gave me way. I make bomb.”
“If there’s a bomb – and I’m not saying I believe that there is or anything,” Douglas’s tone was a skeptical one, “then where is it?”
The Caitian’s eyes flitted from one human face to the other. “I make bomb. Put in kitchen.”
“I’ll send a MACO,” the captain vowed. He then looked at the chef, and then at the doctor. “I still say this is a hallucination.”
“Better safe than sorry,” Dr. Keating-Fong replied. She looked down at Naurr. “We’ll take care of it.”
“It is bomb. It worked,” said Naurr. “My, my English, not so good today. Head hurt.”
“It’s all right; you made yourself understood,” Dr. Keating-Fong assured him.
Douglas flipped open his communicator as a wall chronometer in Sick Bay showed the time – 1126 hours – and the date – June 3rd, 2158. “Yeah, I need an explosives specialist to go to the mess. Chef Naurr, uh, he says he drove the boarding party out with a bomb. I need someone who can defuse a bomb.” Douglas became self-conscious, aware of how absurd it all sounded. His chef, an explosives specialist?
“Sir? Sir?” It was a voice on the other end of the communicator, tinny-sounding through the device’s small speaker.
“Sir, it’s Private Tim Randall. I can take care of it, sir, but that deck should be evacuated.”
“All right. Tell your boss and let’s get this taken care of. Chef Naurr is more than a little out of it; I have no idea what kind of time we might have left.”
Tim’s commanding officer in the MACOs wasted no time in getting D Deck evacuated. “She’s all yours,” he’d said to Tim. Tim gulped as he rushed over to the mess.
He had with him a wrapped bit of cloth with what essentially looked like burglar’s tools inside it. “Yanno,” he said as he got the controls to open the door to the mess, “this job makes you talk to yourself. And I am no exception.”
His communicator chirped. “Randall here.”
“Did you find it?” It was the captain.
“I just walked in. Captain, can I make a suggestion? Let me do my thing, all right? And you’ll know, because either I’ll come out and tell you I’m done, or I’ll run out and tell everyone to hit escape pods, or you’ll hear a boom, okay?”
“All right,” the captain allowed. “But keep me informed.”
“Yes, sir. Randall out.” He closed his communicator. Absently, he scratched a little on his uniform sleeve, right by the MACO patch that said T. Randall. “Yes, sirree, Bob, I talk to myself. It’s the only way I can talk to someone who knows what the hell’s going on.” He laid his tools out on a counter top, and unwrapped the cloth. “And this here,” he paused to admire a particular article, “is the greatest defusing tool ever known to mankind. It’s your ordinary garden-variety, run-of-the-mill bobby pin. A brunette’s bobby pin, I might add. She was quite the hot tamale.”
He looked around the kitchen area of the mess. He flipped open his communicator. “Yeah, I need Sick Bay. Doctor?”
“Yes?” asked Keating-Fong.
“Did Chef say anything about where the bomb actually is? ‘Cause all I can see here are the usual pots and pans and stuff.” On another counter, there was also a round chocolate cake. It was almost lunchtime and the cake looked mighty tasty to Tim.
He could hear her voice on the other end of the line. “Chef, do you recall where you left the bomb?”
“He’s says it’s on the counter.”
“Anything else you can tell me?”
Naurr began coughing; it was so loud that Tim could hear it. “I can’t!” the doctor replied, “He needs me!” She didn’t even bother to close the communications link as she attended to her patient.
“So it’s just me,” Tim groused quietly. He stared at the cake. “It can’t be.” He addressed the communicator again. “Doc, is it in the cake?”
“What? Private Randall, not now!”
He swore under his breath. “Nobody respects the bomb guy. Why is that? I wonder.” He brandished the hot brunette’s bobby pin. “Either this will work and I’ve saved the day, or I’ll die, covered in chocolate. There are worse ways to go, eh, babe?” He smiled to himself. “I know who I’m calling when this war is over.”
He steeled himself and gritted his teeth. Shutting his eyes tightly, and saying a little prayer, he plunged the bobby pin straight into the top center of the round cake.
And found … chocolate ice cream.
He moved his fingers inside the squishy, chilly, chocolaty center. There was some sponginess, too. After about a minute, he pulled his hand out. It was covered, as expected, in dripping, melting dark chocolate ice cream. “Doc!” he yelled into the communicator again. “It’s just a damned cake! Is there anywhere else where the bomb might be?”
“Naurr,” he could hear her asking, “Where is the bomb?”
“That’s where the cake is, Chef,” insisted the doctor. “Where is the bomb?”
“L-lili said, she said it was bomb. Cake is called bomb.”
“What?” asked both Tim and the doctor.
“Cake is bomb. Bombe glacée.” The chef paused. “Boarding party; did not see them. They hit my head. I said cake is bomb. They leave. Cake is lunch dessert.”
“Uh, maybe not anymore, Chef,” Tim said from the other side of the communicator link as he licked his fingers. “Right now, uh, I won’t tell you your job, but maybe lunch dessert should be cookies, okay?”