Disclaimer: Star Trek and all associated characters and situations are the property of CBS studios. Star Trek Online is the creation of Cryptic and Perfect World. All are here used by myself for entertainment purposes only, without permission or intent to profit.

Author's Note: Sam's prank was inspired by a Pardon My Planet cartoon, where the original Enterprise crew did this to Kirk using the "Priceless Selective Transport Option." That I think it's as funny as Sam does probably explains why I'm not allowed to own a transporter. The Tellun System was the site of the Original Series episode "Elaan of Troyius," which was itself an obvious pun on "Helen of Troy"—but still quite fun.

Melani D'ian (the Emerald Empress) is the head of the Orion Syndicate in the game, and closely allied with the Klingon Empire. Admiral Jorel Quinn and the USS Montgomery Scott are Federation NPCs. There seems to be some dispute on the STO wiki as to just when the fighting at Korvat took place, as the official timeline states the invasion of that area began in 2405, but the Montgomery Scott is elsewhere said to have been damaged defending Korvat in 2403: I went with the timeline's date. Stardates have been calculated with the help of the TNG Stardate Calculator available on TrekGuide .com and may be slightly out of sync with those used in the game's lore. Travel time was calculated using the Warp Calculator on anycalculator .com.


Grounded

USS Endurance, Captain Nathaniel Ramsey's Log, Stardate 80220.1:

Our diplomatic mission to Juete has been completed successfully, ensuring Starfleet a source of medical supplies in case the fighting in the Hromi Cluster breaks out into a full-scale war. The Juetean medical symposium went very well, despite having an…unusual start. Somehow, Ensign Hayashi managed to reprogram the transporter to beam down Doctor Lenaris-but leave his pants on the transporter pad. No harm was done, but Lenaris is furious and he has a long list of charges he wants her brought up on. Honestly, having the youngest of the famous Belo-Hayashi family aboard has been more of a curse than a blessing. If her lack of discipline doesn't improve soon, Sam is going to ruin her career before it even gets started! As her captain and her friend, I'm determined to prevent that…even if it means administering a punishment she won't appreciate at the time: tough love is for parents and captains, I guess.

"Insubordination, sabotage, assault on a superior officer, misuse of Federation equipment, dereliction of duty…," Captain Ramsey read off the list and shook his head. He set the PADD down and gave Samantha Hayashi a serious look.

The human Ensign rolled her eyes and brushed a strand of hair away from her face and back into the smooth, jet-black bob-cut that framed her Oriental features. "Quite a list he's got there," she quipped. "Did he manage to get high treason on there, too? I think it's feeling lonely."

Ramsey crossed his arms. "This is no joking matter, Sam. At the very least, I'm going to have to put you on report."

"How can this not be a joke?" Sam asked, pointing at the PADD. "Assault on a superior officer, seriously? I never even touched him. I never even threatened to touch him."

The Captain glanced back down at the PADD. "It's sexual assault, specifically," he said.

Sam made a face. "Ew, Doctor Lenaris? He's old enough to be my dad…not that some older men aren't cool and all," she added quickly, pointing at Ramsey. "But me, going after Lenaris Bekni? Nope, I'm definitely gonna plead not guilty on that one!"

"You did remove his pants," Ramsey reminded her.

"With a transporter," she said, emphasizing each word. "Like I said, no touching involved. I wouldn't even have seen the end result if he hadn't insisted on me beaming him right back up."

"You put him down in the middle of the Juetean medical symposium-"

"At his specific request," Sam pointed out, smirking.

"-without his pants," Ramsey finished, leaning across his desk. "That wasn't at all what he had in mind, and he was understandably upset, young lady."

"It's not like he wasn't wearing underwear—at least, I hope not!" She stifled a laugh. The Captain just stared at her. "What? I know you think it's funny too!"

Ramsey's lip twitched up in a smile, but he caught it. He couldn't deny that when word had reached the bridge that a certain Ensign had somehow managed to beam the ship's crabby Bajoran doctor down to the symposium without his pants, he'd had trouble keeping himself from breaking into a throaty guffaw right there in front of everyone. But unlike the Ensign, he'd had the foresight to realize her prank would have consequences. "Do you want to know what isn't funny?" he asked, tapping the PADD. "Lenaris is pressing charges."

"It was a practical joke," Sam pleaded. "I didn't mean any harm."

"And you didn't cause any, thankfully. There was a little embarrassment on the Doctor's part, but the Jueteans have a very tolerant culture, so the symposium still went off without a hitch and we were able to obtain a much needed trade agreement to provide Starfleet with extra medical supplies, in case this war with the Klingons gets worse." He sat back and ran a hand through his graying hair. "But honestly, Sam, this is the third time you've been in my Ready Room in as many weeks—and each time it's the same old story. I can't keep letting you go like this!"

Sam sat straight. "You're not going to let his charges stand, are you? I mean, they're insane! I didn't do any of those things."

"I might let him try," Ramsey threatened.

Sam's eyes darted back and forth, visibly weighing her options. Then, of course, she realized the strength of her own position, as he'd expected she would, and called his bluff. She glared right back at him, her almond-shaped eyes narrowing. "I'd like to see him try," she said. "He doesn't have a leg to stand on, and you know I can get the best legal counsel in Federation space without even asking for it."

He did know it. The Belo-Hayashi family's legal team was legendary: they had to be, caring as they did for the legal concerns of no less than five interstellar celebrities with active careers as well as the owners of the Hayashi Industrial Group, one of the six largest corporate conglomerates in the quadrant, and the only one still controlled by humans. Of course, Ramsey imagined that Sam had strained even their talents as a teenager. "You can't hide behind your family forever," he warned her. "One of these days, you're going to have to come out of their shadow and take some responsibility for your actions."

Sam didn't blink.

Ramsey sighed. "I admit, the charges are exaggerated, far out of proportion for this incident…but it is part of a pattern, and I can't allow it to continue."

"What are you saying?" Sam asked.

"I'm saying you rock the boat too much. You pull pranks and cause trouble every chance you get," said Ramsey. "Oh, you always make sure it's not too much trouble for you to handle, not something people won't forgive and forget easily enough—but you're beginning to accumulate a record. In your six months on this ship, you've been put on report nearly a dozen times. You're trouble, Sam. You may be the best damn pilot in the fleet, but if you keep this up no captain is going to want you aboard his ship. You'll ruin your career with stunts like this. You have got to learn some self-control, some discipline."

"I have discipline," Sam insisted. "I wouldn't have made it this far without discipline."

"Then exercise it!" said Ramsey. He sat back in his chair and picked up the PADD. "You didn't assault anyone, you didn't damage anything, and you obeyed orders—if not to the spirit, at least to the letter-, but you definitely stand guilty of misusing Federation equipment. Even you can't deny that."

Sam shrugged and nodded.

"Then I'm confining you to quarters until further notice," said Ramsey.

Sam shot up out of her chair. "What?! For misuse of equipment?"

"For being an idiot who's throwing away her career on childish pranks!" Ramsey slammed down the PADD. "I'm giving you this as a warning, a chance to think about what you're doing, to yourself, to your future—hell, to Starfleet itself! We are at war! The Klingons have invaded the Hromi Cluster and just last week the Montgomery Scott was severely damaged at Korvat. We need every skilled officer, every skilled pilot we can lay hands on…and we can't afford to lose any to a simple lack of personal discipline and good judgment." Ramsey met her glare measure for measure, and this time, it was Sam who looked away first, glancing down at her boots.

"Understood, sir," she murmured.

"Good," said Ramsey.

Just then, his communicator chimed. "Bridge to Ramsey," said the ever-even voice of Commander Stendos, the ship's Vulcan first-officer.

Ramsey tapped his combadge. "Ramsey here."

"Starfleet Command is hailing us on subspace frequency 4," Stendos reported. "Vice Admiral Jorel Quinn is requesting to speak with you."

"I'll take it here," said Ramsey, turning to his viewer. The screen lit up with the insignia of Starfleet Command, followed a moment later by the face of the newly-promoted Trill Vice Admiral. "Admiral Quinn, it's been a while," said Ramsey.

"It certainly has, Nathan," said Quinn. "I didn't call to catch up on old times, though."

"I didn't think so," said Ramsey. "Now that our diplomatic mission is complete, I expect you'll be moving us to the front."

"Yes and no," said Quinn. "I've received word from Starfleet Intelligence that Naisa D'falas, a member of Melani D'ian's inner circle in the Orion Syndicate, is defecting with sensitive information about upcoming Klingon operations. Their plan was to meet her in the Tellun System, but her shuttle crashlanded in the Sigma Hydra system, less than fifteen light-years from your current location. You're the closest ship, and I've been asked to divert you. We need to retrieve Naisa as quickly as possible."

"Let me guess, the Emerald Empress of the Syndicate is missing her," said Ramsey.

"Something like that," the Admiral confirmed. "Starfleet Intelligence thinks the Syndicate knows she's defected, and may have alerted the Klingons to the situation as well, but so far we seem to be the only ones who know where she is."

"Is there anything else I should be aware of?"

Quinn nodded. "Naisa picked a pretty terrible spot to crash. The Sigma Hydra system is currently highly unstable."

"Militarily?" asked Ramsey. "To the point where a Sovereign-class might want backup?"

"Not that kind of unstable, I'm afraid. It's gravitationally unstable. The binary stars at the system's heart are currently undergoing a merger, and that's creating gravitational distortions and plasma storms throughout the entire system. The distortions are tricky for a starship to navigate, but it'll take a good shuttle pilot to get through them without getting caught in a plasma storm."

"Don't worry," Sam interjected, grinning in the background, "He's got the best!" Ramsey turned to glare at her, cursing himself for not dismissing her before he started talking to the Vice Admiral.

But when the Vice Admiral saw Sam waving from the corner of the image, he just smiled. "I see you have the Academy's star pupil," he said, with a touch of irony.

"I have a couple good pilots," Ramsey said. "I'll send the other one."

"Really? I was under the impression Miss Hayashi's piloting skills were legendary, at least with shuttlecraft."

"So are her pranks," said Ramsey.

"Ah," said Quinn, seeming to understand. "I see she hasn't changed a bit."

"I'll see what I can do, about her and the defector," said Ramsey.

"Good luck on both fronts," said the Admiral. "Quinn out." The screen returned to an image of the Starfleet Command insignia, and then went black.

Ramsey tapped his combadge. "Ramsey to Stendos. Have the helm lay in a course for the Sigma Hydra system, maximum warp."

"Understood, sir," said the Vulcan. There was a pause. "Course laid in. Estimated time to arrival, 7 hours, 22 minutes."

"Engage," said Ramsey. "When you're done, I want to see you and Lieutenant Tanner in my ready room for a mission briefing. Ramsey out."

He tapped the combadge off and turned to Sam. "What are you still doing here?" he demanded.

"I thought you might need help," she said, giving her best innocent smile.

Ramsey saw right through it. "You mean you thought if you could find some reason why I'd need you, you could use your talent as leverage to get yourself off the hook again?" He shook his head. "Not this time, Sam. You've got a lesson in discipline to learn, and I suggest you get to it. Like I said, you're confined to quarters until further notice."

"But, please-"

"No buts!" He glared at her. "Do I need to call security to escort you, Ensign?"

She hung her head. "No, sir."

"Good," he said. "Dismissed!"

Ensign Sam Hayashi walked slowly out of his ready room and into the corridor. Captain Ramsey sighed at her retreating back and turned to the work of organizing the defecting Orion's retrieval. This was going to be an interesting day...