Chapter 1 – The Straight Arrow
For Coach Misty Dana MacKenzie, things were going pretty well in 2379.
That is, if you didn't scratch below the surface.
She had a decent, albeit imperfect team of fifty persons of various species and body types and skill levels. She had an inner circle of four people who she already felt she could trust. She had family in the form of her second cousin, Martin Madden, who was the First Officer on the Enterprise-E. Mack had what seemed to be a boyfriend, one Major E. Kent Hoberman, who she had met when her team had played, and lost to his team, on Andoria. She even had another game lined up, on Tellar.
But beneath the surface, there were some cracks that threatened to damage the façade. Her ship was Gorn in design, with strange upgrades and modifications and half-finished inventions that no one seemed to be able to understand, not even her engineer. These upgrades included an ionization diffuser, an instrument that behaved a bit like a cloak and so was just barely on the right side of legality.
Her cousin, who she cared a great deal about, seemed to have gotten distant. Whether that was due to her new proto-relationship, or his less than idyllic working conditions, or his own loneliness, or something else, she did not know. She could not fathom it, although it did trouble her. He was all that she had.
Her people had their own issues, large and small. Andoria had been fun, almost a lark, as they kicked things off and had tried to settle together into behaving and feeling like a team. The Black Sheep were, more or less, united.
But Tellar, their next destination, felt tougher and heavier and harder. The sport was unknown, and they'd already experienced one loss. There was every possibility, with the next game being so unfamiliar, that they would lose another one.
Sitting at the Tactical Station on the Bridge of her ship, the Cookie, Mack frowned. "Are you all right, Dana?" asked the Daranaean Communications officer, a woman with fluffy white fur who was named Crita.
"Huh? Oh, just mulling."
The pilot, an Orion-Betazoid hybrid named Daniya, turned around briefly. "It's that guy."
"It is not Hobie," Mack said, referring to her proto-boyfriend.
"Then what is it?" Crita asked. "We are a ways from Tellar, yes? It is just us here on the Bridge. I do hope you feel you can confide in us, Dana."
"It just feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders right now," their captain confessed. "It's nothing, really, more exciting than that."
"My door is always open," Daniya stated. "There's a small anomaly ahead; steering around it, and then I'll put us back on course."
"Uh, thanks," Mack replied, a little distractedly.
On the Enterprise-E, things were considerably more formal. Captain Jean-Luc Picard sat in command, with Mack's cousin, Martin Madden, on duty as well. "Coming up on the Kreetassan System," announced the pilot.
"Acknowledged," Picard stated. "Kindly get the Kreetassan ambassador in communications. I shall take it in my Ready Room. Mister Madden, you have the Bridge."
"Yes, sir," Marty responded. Once the captain had gotten his call, Marty added, "Madden to Engineering."
"Go ahead," It was Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge.
"The captain's diplomatic mission is going to start with a reception here, so let's give him as smooth a ride as possible."
"Understood," LaForge replied. "I'll ask B-4 to begin passive scans of the area. We'll report on any minor anomalies in case they need to be avoided. LaForge out."
"Steady as she goes," Madden commanded. After the pilot had acknowledged the order, he surreptitiously tapped out a note on his PADD.
On the Cookie, Mack got her note, and read it to herself.
How go the wars? Let's catch up tonight.
She wrote back.
2200 hours – be there or rust. Go easy.
– The Black Sheep
That had been their younger lives, their younger selves. He was seven years older than her, but they had still spent a lot of time together, still actively sought each other's company, even when he was a bookish teen and she was still a child learning her ABCs.
It was a secret language with them. Names, words, looks, colors, whatever – it was all a private duet of sorts.
She had always referred to him as the straight arrow, for he was overly studious and driven, determined to succeed. His dream was space – first Tactical, and then Operations. He had the makings of becoming an ideal captain.
He had called her the black sheep, or she called herself that, based upon her record of minor infractions, such as joyriding. Sports were her real love, and she discovered baseball at age five. Not softball, but baseball – the kind where being hit by a pitch can knock a grown man over, and wooden bats are splintered routinely. She was good enough to play professionally, and was the shortstop, and sometimes played second, for a perpetual cellar dweller, the Titan Bluebirds.
It all came crashing down in 2360. The team had been visiting Keto-Enol, a planet with a known drug problem but also the potential for significant and sustained merchandising opportunities. Even without money in the Federation, there were plenty of places that retained capitalist economies. Keto-Enol's retention of this type of grossly outmoded economy was likely a driver of its drug problem, in some ways.
While visiting an open air market, Mack was distracted, and an article was placed into her bag. The shopkeeper contacted the authorities when he saw that she had something. She had been framed, but not as a shoplifter.
Instead, the substance found in her bag was an illicit drug known as etrotherium. It was a substance more widely known by its street name – fugu, which usually refers to a kind of sashimi made from Japanese puffer fish.
The street name was more or less accurate. Just like fugu, etrotherium required absolutely perfect preparation. Otherwise, it was fatal. It was an expensive high, and terribly addictive, sought after by the elite and near-elite of drug abusers on many worlds. And, once their financial resources dried up, and manufacturing cheaper versions became laxer, improperly prepared etrotherium was the way that many of them died. It was, in more ways than one, an expensive high.
Justice, such as it was, was swift and certain on Keto-Enol – even though it was far from just. The Enolian government wanted nothing more than to hold Mack up as an exemplar of the dangers of allowing other species onto their world. The Bluebirds organization, terrified of so much negative publicity, promptly dismissed their shortstop, the jailed Misty Dana MacKenzie.
Mack's parents sued for her back wages, but they did not live long enough to see justice truly served, either in that arena or in their daughter's criminal appeal. Instead, the pace was positively Dickensian, and she cooled her heels in Canamar for nineteen years, with no outside communications permitted, in either direction.
Upon her release, she learned of her parents' deaths, about a dozen years previously. Apart from their communications, and some missives from her overburdened and overmatched legal team, the sole correspondence she received was monthly notes from her second cousin, Martin Douglas Madden.
For Marty, the near-two decades-long hiatus had been a time to truly focus on his career, and he had risen to becoming the First Officer on the USS Talos. When the Enterprise-E's own First Officer, William T. Riker, had gotten his own command, and an android named Data had sacrificed his own existence, there was suddenly a job opening. He was transferred over as soon as the business with a Romulan sympathizer named Shinzon was over.
The Enterprise was a big, well-appointed ship, and this was supposed to be a major step up in his career, but Marty did not get off on the right foot initially. Riker played a cruel prank on him, intimating a potential level of informality with Picard. None the wiser – and not knowing Riker at all – Marty tried that tack, committed to making everything perfect. It wasn't.
His confidence deflated, Marty retreated to quiet solitude, rarely socializing with any members of the crew. Reconnecting with Mystic – they called themselves the MDM Twins – gave him joy and a purpose. Permission was granted for him to become her business partner in owning the team, but not the Cookie, as its modifications skirted legality.
It was the only way he could be her partner. He knew the reasons all too well. When she had turned eighteen, he had quietly done some digging. But Federation law – intended to curtail the number of child brides expected in some of the newer member worlds – was crystal clear on the matter.
Second cousin marriages were strictly forbidden.
Lonely, frustrated and bored, and with a dented ego, he sought refuge in hard work, as he always had. His escape was, as always, to be the best.
He would forever be the Straight Arrow.