Lieutenant Mindo's Lonely Hearts Club Band
It had started as typically as most of their stories. Ignatius was sitting in his office, two needles in the side of his mouth, as he carefully sewed a stitch into a jacket pocket. Raven sat wistfully opposite with her feet on his desk, playing with her skirt listlessly. Without warning, she gave a deep sigh and looked over to her friend.
"I'm bored." She declared.
Ignatius looked down through his magnified glasses at her and raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"Paradise is right out there." Raven replied, emphatically waving out the doorway. "And we're stuck in here."
"I don't know if it's okay to go over there." Ignatius said patiently, returning to his stitch. "The Captain may not like it."
"The Captain is over there himself. Allegedly." Raven insisted, "I heard others went over, too. Including Mindo."
At this, Ignatius put down the jacket and frowned. "Well, that sounds promising. You know, maybe Terrekal would like to go over?"
It hadn't been so long ago that Ignatius had flinched at the mention of inviting Terrekal anywhere, but that was forgotten now. The way that the Fesarian had so willingly looked after Raven particularly warmed the skeptical clothier's cold heart. Now he was part of the crew, the squad, the... whatever this group was.
Raven quickly dropped her feet off the table and leaned forward, a smile forming. "Only one way to find out."
Ignatius grabbed the needles out of his mouth and placed them into his sewing kit before he placed everything back onto his desk. Turning to his computer, Ignatius sent out a message to Terrekal. "Meet us at the docking port in 30 mins."
A half hour later, Raven and Ignatius arrived at the docking port and saw that Terrekal had beaten them there. Ignatius noted he was wearing the suit Ignatius had made the small Fesarian as a thank-you for his participation in bringing him and Raven back together. Ignatius had made it with Terrekal's flamboyant personality in mind, mixing a dark magenta jacket and pants with a lime green undershirt. Ignatius had taken a risk, but was proud to see his work was dead-on. Terrekal had never looked more stylish.
Terrekal activated his hovering device, the one Lieutenant Mindo had made for him, and floated arms out toward his friends. "My do we all look good today!" he said with a smile.
"And you, too, Terrekal. You're wearing it so well." Ignatius replied, admiring the suit he had made. Ignatius was wearing a custom creation of his own, an emerald green suede tuxedo with black lining and bow tie. He received Terrekal's hug and took a step back so Raven could do likewise.
"Terry, darling, fab-u-lous." Raven cooed. She had settled for a black cocktail dress with red leather gloves with matching stilettos, and carrying a petite red purse. Her hair was a deep ebony black, styled over her right shoulder. "Thank you for coming so quickly." She enthused as she hugged her friend.
Terrekal beamed. "Are you kidding? I wouldn't miss this in a million years."
"Hi Raven," someone said behind them. All three turned to see Lieutenant Mindo hovering before them in uniform, toolkit in hand. "I came as soon as I got your... My god! You all look great! Uh... what's the emergency you spoke of?" he asked Raven.
"A boredom emergency." Raven declared emphatically. "We are bored and want to go to Paradise. Do you think it's okay?"
"Well..." said Mindo, giving it some thought. He noticed a few other officers arriving back from the station and was reminded that his shift was up in ten minutes. "I suppose you can go... but you'll need a Starfleet chaperone. Preferably one with senior status."
Ignatius smirked as he stepped forward. He had been holding a suit bag behind his back and brought it forward into view. "Such a chaperone would require a flashy new suit, don't you think?"
Within minutes, Mindo was dressed to the nines in a suit similar to his old-fashioned white one, the first one Ignatius ever made for the Chief Engineer. The jacket was a glistening silver, with a white silk shirt and a ravishing, sheen red neck tie and matching silver pants and finely-polished black shoes. The look was positively illuminating.
"I'm sparkling!" Mindo said with a wide grin. "Ignatius, you've outdone yourself... again!"
"Stunning!" Raven cooed, clapping her hands at the sight of the glittering Chief Engineer. "A show stopper. Iggy, it looks great."
"The clothes are only as good as the person wearing them." Ignatius shrugged humbly, looking between them all. "It takes gravitas to wear them so well."
"With that suit, he's the finest-looking Fesarian this side of the Expanse!" Terrekal proclaimed. "Now, who's up for some trouble in Paradise?"
"Let's go." Raven beamed, as she held out her hand for one of the gentlemen to take.
Ignatius was there first, Mindo and Terrekal went on either side of them, activating their boots to hover silently at regular height.
Not long after, the quartet were in a transport cube, watching out the glass windows as they looped around the station. This wasn't Raven's first time to Paradise but she was still not tired of this entrance - seeing each deck from a near 360 degree view as they passed through. A discounted female voice came through the speakers.
"Greet-ings." She said. "Please will you remain peaceful as your shipment continues. Please state your intended location.”
"Promenade," Terrekal said. The cube altered its course with smooth efficiency. If all of them had been standing with their eyes closed they would not have felt the difference.
It was a good thing they kept them open. In every direction there was a great view. Mindo enjoyed gazing at the beautiful station, the ships arriving and departing, the starscape beyond. To top it off, behind them sat the Pandora. Even with her patches of repaired hull, she was still beautiful.
Within a minute, they had arrived and the doors parted to reveal Paradise Station's huge promenade, with restaurants and shops and plenty of places in between for an endless amount of shenanigans.
"So... where do we start?" Mindo asked the group.
"Shall we see if Madam Kroll wants another duet?" Raven asked with a smug smirk.
"Please God no." Ignatius laughed. He looked to Terrekal and Mindo, "I am fairly certain Raven single-handedly ruined Kroll's career on Paradise. I would like to go to the Casino though. We never actually got onto the gaming floor."
"Yes!" Terrekal exclaimed. "Paradise Station's casino is the greatest!"
"You guys work all day in a noisy arcade and when you finally get some down time you go to a casino?" Mindo grinned. "OK, I'm in!"
"It's a different experience, Mindo." Ignatius replied, "It is less of a noisy arcade, and more a trés chic, sophisticated gambling venue. High class."
"Not as fun as Little Caesar's, though." Raven added.
"Sounds interesting," Mindo said. "I think I'm up for some trouble. Shall we?"
The gang made their way to the Casino, were scores of very well dressed people from all over the Expanse were mingling around the walkway and entrance; the venue just as popular as ever. The tall building loomed in the centre of the Entertainment district; it's unmistakable gold entryway lit up with twinkling lights. A holographic billboard advertised the week's entertainment schedule across the marquee - a variety of singers, groups, and other performers that had replaced Madam Kroll's headlining act. Once inside, they were greeted by the bustling, grand reception of the Paradise Casino. The main foyer was a circular room decorated with an abundance of gold and black. The walls were gold with black floral stencils, the furniture was gold with black cushions, the carpet was gold with the word "Paradise" written in every conceivable language in black, the valets wore black suits with gold lapels, and there was a black onyx fountain with liquid gold cascading out of it in the centre of the room. Opposite the doorway was a semi-circle bank of reception desks, around twenty in total, each with a friendly looking attendant greeting guests. Behind this was a large staircase which lead up to the main gaming floor, and this too was gold and black.
"Ahh, I remember why we almost didn't come here last time." Raven said with a smirk. "So much gold. It's like a Ferengi adolescent designed the place."
"Very apt description," Mindo said, looking around.
Terrekal nodded. "I think it would smell worse, if that were the case. What should we do first?"
Mindo pointed ahead. "Hit the bar. A Fesarian can't gamble without a lot of alcohol in his system."
Terrekal turned to Raven. "Have you ever seen a Fesarian work a Dabo table?"
"A what?" Raven said with a giggle, "I've never met a Fesarian before Lieutenant Mindo, so definitely not."
"Dabo is simple for a Fesarian," said Mindo. "The trick is, drink a lot and don't watch the board."
"I think you'd have an advantage there." Ignatius remarked.
As the crew were standing around chatting, a small Ferengi male approached hesitantly. He dipped his head and held his hands together nervously.
"Miss... Miss Raven?" He stammered out.
Raven turned to him with a smile and raised her eyebrows politely, "Hello there, darling. How can I help ya?"
"We've met before." He offered, hoping to gain some recognition from the statuesque human. "Last time you were here?"
Raven and Ignatius shared a look between them; both were far too drunk to remember specifics of their last time at Paradise. Raven sheepishly looked back and shrugged, "If you say so, darling. I hope it was a good time."
"Well you did a rack shots off my head but that's not important now." The Ferengi shrugged, "I worked for Madam Kroll, my name is Pleg. I was her Assistant."
"Ooh. Where is that Kroll doll now? I heard she scampered." Raven said with a laugh.
"The Madame left before the uprising. Unfortunately, her shuttle was too heavy because of her extensive wardrobe. It was either me or the dresses. She chose the dresses." Pleg recalled with a sigh. "I don't blame her, they were very expensive."
"You know," said Mindo, "there is a gadget I've seen that could've fixed that. A miniature pattern buffer. It can hold an entire wardrobe and even some furniture. The thing fits in your pocket!"
The Ferengi licked his jagged teeth. “Sounds... expensive. If you were able to produce these gadgets, I could find plenty of buyers on the Outpost. I’d give you a very fair percentage for your troubles, of course.”
"That's a great idea!" Mindo said, like a liar. "Tell you what, I'll come find you tomorrow morning and we'll make that happen. I'll even buy you lunch and we can work out the details."
“I will accept your offer.” Pleg said immediately, taking the suggestion as a certified verbal contract between them.
“So what are you doing here?” Raven interrupted, keen to get moving.
“Oh, the Casino gave me employment after the Madame left.” Pleg explained, “I work in their events and booking department. People still talk about the night Raven Mattel came to the Casino. If you are here for the evening, I would be honoured if you would like a VIP experience. As our means of thanking you.”
“How much?” Ignatius asked. “If I remember, this place is not cheap.”
“Oh no, no. Entirely on the Casino.” Pleg stammered. “The Casino is not run by the Ferengi, the management allows for such experiences without charge.” He sighed heavily. "I must obey my employer's conditions."
Terrekal spoke up. "What about special treatment for her entourage?"
Mindo nodded, holding back a sly grin. "And friends of potential business partners? I'm not sure I could venture into such an arrangement if my good friends here were not given equal service!"
Terrekal nodded too. "What kind of a casino is this that would deny that?"
Ignatius smirked, "We're a package deal."
"You know," Mindo said, "I think all of Raven's friends on the Pandora are entitled to such treatment."
"Oh, well of course they are!" Terrekal said. "Isn't that right, Raven?"
"I couldn't possibly go in without my friends." Raven declared. "How frightfully dull!"
Pleg stammered, looking over the human's friends. "Well, I only really meant...." He looked at them individually, up and down, before smiling. "You know, I think I may be able to accomodate your party. But ONLY you four! I cannot invite all of the Pandora inside."
"Just us four is perfect." Ignatius nodded, gratefully.
"Then follow me." Pleg replied.
Mindo and Terrekal exchanged an excited look as they followed.
Pleg led the group over to a panel on the wall next to the reception desks that looked like all of the other walls. However, when he waved his wrist in front of the panel, it slid across and revealed a doorway. Soon the group were inside one of the back corridors of the Casino; seeing the hard work on the other side of the glitz and glamour. Workers were buzzing around in and out of rooms, urgently responding the Casino's litany of requests coming through from the gaming floors, restaurants, and hotel; some of which could be picked up by their universal translator.
"We need a clean up in Tongo, section three, north corner. Guest won a hand and blew his ink sack."
"Room 1242 is requesting a reinforced bed frame. Again."
"Can we get an empath to the Fu-ReQ tables; suspected cheated in progress."
"Restaurant Gagh needs more worms!"
"Tongo is now a level 3 clean up. LEVEL THREE!"
Pleg continued forward through the corridors, paying the staff no attention. He was used to the hustle by now. Raven tried to look into every room with quiet interest, loving the energy and pace of the crew.
As they walked through the corridor, Mindo spoke up. "Mr. Pleg, what exactly goes into the VIP 'experience?'"
"Uh well a room; a lounge really." Pleg said as he continued walking, "Food service, private tour of the auditorium, time on stage, drinks, any other services you may request."
"Not a hotel suite?" Ignatius asked from the back, only hearing parts of what was being said above the noise of the corridors.
"They are all booked, I'm afraid." Pleg shouted back. "We have a full house, everyone had come to see the Qzarn perform tonight. Hottest band in the Expanse."
Mindo grinned. "I know four officers who would disagree with that!" he said, thinking of Zo's band Warp Nine.
"Me too." Ignatius called out. "That costume party... Whoa."
"Who is the Qzarn?" Raven inquired innocently. This caused Pleg to immediately stop in his tracks and for the rest of the group to almost walk straight into him.
"You don't know?!" The Ferengi accused more than asked. Luckily the group happened to have stopped in front of a playbill on the wall in the corridor. "THEY are the Qzarn." Pleg stated as he pointed at the poster. It showed four diminutive figures each dressed head to toe in a multi-coloured space suits. They were standing around a glowing white obelisk, which was like a pentagonal pyramid shape except the very top was completely flat. The aliens were pointing to the sky where the point of pyramid hung in the air, also glowing white.
"Wow." Raven pretended to be impressed. They looked like characters from a Japanese-American children show called 'Power Rangers'. She had seen all kinds of costumes and gimmicks before in her career, probably worn more than a few herself, so this didn't seem so new or interesting. "And why are they the hottest in the Expanse?" She asked.
"That instrument, in the middle, is that Qzarniac Sonic Harmoniser." Pleg explained, "When played, it releases a sonar wave that engages the pleasure centre in the brains of anyone in the near vicinity. It's like a rolling wave of dopamine, absolute bliss. Some say the pleasure can last for hours afterwards."
"Pleasure for hours?" Mindo said. "I've got to hear them!"
Terrekal stepped forward. "Ooh!" he yelled, hand outstretched. "Can we meet them? And get their autographs?"
Pleg's face dropped a moment, before he recovered. "That's not going to be possible. Come, we must keep going." He said before continuing to walk through the auditorium.
The group could hear the sounds of the crowd inside the amphitheatre getting louder as they approached; the audience still chatting and laughing before the big show.
Raven had a curious feeling about this band and why, if they weren't going to meet the Qzarn, were they in the theatre at all. "Pleg?" She called out, "How much do tickets go for? Surely they can't all be sold out?"
Pleg stopped and turned around. "You don't understand. The Qzarn only ever play one song in one show. That is it. That is all they need to do." He smiled, salivating over the income the Qzarn will bring to the Casino. "People will pay a million credits just to stand in the back row. Such is the power of the Sonic Harmoniser."
"A million!" Ignatius scoffed incredulously. "That's obscene!"
"It is pure pleasure, my hu-man friend." Pleg answered. "In fact, because of the effect it has on people, some can become addicted to it. Obsessed with it. In the beginning of the band, there were many attempts made to steal the Sonic Harmoniser from their touring crafts. From back stage. From on stage while they were performing!" Pleg shook his head, "So now, the instrument is delivered in separate parts and only assembled on stage by the band. They play the one song which sends the audience into a pleasure state - then, they destroy the Sonic Harmoniser and leave. By the time everyone recovers, they have gone. It is a necessary part of the performance."
"How are the band immune to its effects?" Mindo said, now very curious by the technology.
"They don't hear it." Pleg shrugged, "Small lobes, I pity them." He gave a short laugh, but then shook his head ruefully.
The group were now backstage of the auditorium; but there was very little activity going on behind the scenes - despite the waiting crowd audibly gathered in their seats. Crew were just standing around, chatting. Raven hadn't done many big venues like this before, but even in the smallest of clubs, there was always something going on right before a show. Here, they were just standing around scratching their heads and other parts.
"Pleg, I thought we were going to our VIP room?" Raven asked, looking around.
Pleg paused, licking his fanged teeth as he peered across the faces of his four guests. He let out a deep breath before stammering, "Here is the problem. The Qzarn can't hear the Sonic Harmoniser, but they still like to feel a lot of pleasure. So, they indulge in... contraband. Illicit contraband. Very high priced; very illegal. But they just want to feel a little bit of what their audience feels each night. They may be - well, are - addicted to narcotics."
"Sounds like that's... their business." Ignatius said wearily, "But why are you telling us this?"
"Their ship was stopped by the frax Alrakis Pact on their way to Paradise!" Pleg recounted, "The Pact have been stopping and searching everyone since that signal about your ship went out. Of course, the Qzarn had a cargo hold full of highly illegal narcotics onboard. The Qzarn tried to bribe them but it was the Tzenkethi. Have you ever tried to bribe a Tzenkethi? They are val-eff! They were all detained and now they're being held somewhere!"
"So they're not... here?" Raven asked, looking towards the curtain, the theatre full of people waiting just behind it.
"That didn't really answer Iggy's question," Terrekal said, approaching Pleg. "Why are you telling us this?"
"Well I only wanted her!" Pleg cried, pointing to Raven. "But you all came along so... maybe you could all help?"
"You want us to perform?" Raven asked pointedly. "Honey, I'm good but I can't replicate a one-note pleasure machine."
"That's not what I hear." Ignatius jokingly murmured, causing Raven to stare daggers at him. He shrugged, "I'm agreeing with you."
"Pleg, this is unrealistic." Raven turned back to the Ferengi and sighed. "Surely you'll have to cancel the performance? Or delay it until the Qzarn can get here?"
"No! Our insurance won't cover any cancellations or delays." Pleg pleaded. "If we put on a performance, of similar description, the Casino won't be held liable!"
Mindo stepped away from the group like a 1930's journalist about to enter a telephone booth and put on a red cape. No one noticed him leaving as he tapped the comm badge on his left lapel. "Mindo to Crewman Zo..."
Meanwhile the discussion continued. After a few minutes, Mindo reentered the small room and announced, "I think I have your band, Mr. Pleg. The Pandora's resident rock band Warp Nine has just agreed to do a last-minute performance, under the condition that Raven perform with them. Can't much compete with a pleasure machine, but I can safely say they put on a hell of a show."
"You're serious?!" Terrekal said.
Mindo nodded. "They're transporting the instruments over now. Mr. Pleg, how much time do they have to prepare?"
"Not very." Pleg answered, looking to the curtain. "The show begins in the fourth quarter."
"Half an hour!" Ignatius cried, quickly doing the conversion, looking to Raven. "Is that enough time?"
"It'll have to do." Raven shrugged, as she pulled at her skirt to loosen up the hems. "Let's hope Zo's band knows a few cover tracks. But will this be enough to satisfy the audience?"
"It might." Pleg shrugged, "In truth, I do not know."
"You owe us more than just a VIP lounge, Pleg." Ignatius insisted. "This calls for a suite! Fully comped."
Pleg was busying himself making final arrangements. He had the slight hope that he may just pull this off without being terminated. He decided to ignore the human's request for a room upgrade.
About ten minutes later, the band arrived. They were all still in uniform and they immediately went to their instruments, which Pleg had already had sound checked. Holding his electric guitar, Zo approached Raven.
"What kinds of songs are we playing?" he asked. "We can do anything with a good beat."
Raven grabbed a PADD off one of them, looking through a song list. Thanks to Mindo's bar, Raven had a playlist of songs she liked to use. "Let me find something. You guys ever heard of a band called No Doubt?"
Zo's eyes lit up. "Of course we have! What song do you want to sing?"
"Hmm let's start with these." Raven said, pointing to her playlist.
Just then, Terrekal came backstage with a group of about fifteen to twenty Starfleet officers. "There are a bunch of off-duty officers here," he said to Pleg. "They all want to see the show."
Hearing this, the drummer yelled, "Free tickets for them or we walk!" The gathered group of officers cheered in agreement.
Mindo turned back to Pleg. "I'm sure the crew won't mind seats in the back. We wouldn't want to disappoint the people who paid good money to sit up front."
Pleg was flustered; this was getting out of hand. He looked around at the sudden large group of people, shaking his head furiously, "No... I... this is too much!" He saw a few of the newly arrived officers making themselves comfortable by leaning on some crates. "DON'T TOUCH THOSE!" He suddenly shouted.
Ignatius turned to see what Pleg was yelling about, tilting his head to read the side of the crates. "Pleg, what are those?"
The Ferengi was busy pointing and giving instructions, "This is ridiculous! We can't have all of you back here! Go! Go!"
"Pleg?" Ignatius tried again, softly. "What's in the crates?"
"What? Oh. It's the instrument from the Qzarn." Pleg answered gruffly. "The Sonic Harmoniser."
Raven overheard and frowned, "But I thought the Qzarn were detained?"
"The band were, but the instrument is sent separately." Pleg sighed. "I mentioned this before. For security reasons, it is sent in pieces and assembled on stage."
"So... we could still use it?" Ignatius asked, looking around at the others.
Zo stepped forward. "That's the Sonic Harmoniser? Wow! I tried to make one of those once, but I couldn't find the right materials to finish it! If all the items are in those crates, I could easily assemble it!"
"The curtain is due to go up any moment!" Pleg cried, "We don't have time."
"We'll make the time." Raven suggested, "Warp Nine featuring Raven will warm up the crowd while Lieutenant Mindo and these off-duty officers earn their keep by setting up the Sonic Harmoniser?"
"So which band uses the Sonic Harmoniser?" Terrekal asked. "Warp Nine featuring Raven, or Lieutenant Mindo and the Off-Duty Officers?"
Mindo shook his head and ignored his fellow Fesarian's attempt at humor. "I'm afraid Zo's the expert here, not me. I have no idea how this works!"
Zo approached Pleg. "I need fifteen minutes. Tell the stage crew not to raise the curtain. In fact, let the crowd get anxious, impatient... angry even. A true rock concert happens 'when it's time.' Once the music starts, depending how anxious the crowd is, they'll be even more excited than if it had started on time. Trust me on this." He sent Pleg on his way and turned back to Raven and the band, still scrambling to plan a set. "Raven, we're doing a delayed open. We're playing to a hostile crowd. We need an opening number that will bring the house to its feet and leave them there, and I think I have the perfect one." He punched it in the PADD and handed it to her.
Raven looked it over, raising her eyebrows. "You do realise that I... have... um, a biological difference to this singer?" She shrugged, "For now, at least."
Ignatius smiled at her, "You can do it."
"Those are some high notes, Iggy." Raven bit her lip nervously. "High."
He touched her arm, "You can." He said seriously, looking at her firmly.
Raven nodded and looked to Zo. "Okay then."
In fifteen minutes, Crewman Zo and the other three members of Warp Nine had assembled behind the curtain, with Raven center stage. Beyond the hidden stage, an audience consisting of nearly a thousand angry voices yelled and chanted, waiting for the show to finally begin. Behind them, Lieutenant Mindo, having been given a very brief lesson on the Sonic Harmoniser, stood glittering and ready to play the only chord necessary for the crowd to feel the effect. Zo had told him it would not be as powerful as the way it was played by the Qzarn, but the one note should suffice for the hour-long concert they had planned.
Zo turned to everyone, electric guitar ready to be set afire in holographic flames. "Chief," he said to Mindo, "give us the order."
Mindo grinned. "Warp Nine, Mr. Zo!"
The curtain shimmered into floating diamonds that filled the place like a million tiny disco balls. Zo's guitar burst into yellow and red flame as the band opened with Demi Lovato's "Confident." Standing with her back to the audience, Raven turned and smiled wide as she yelled, "Are you ready!" The roar of the crowd was deafening, and when Mindo hit the chord on the Harmoniser, a warm shiver floated into the chest of everyone in attendance. The auditorium was filled to the rafters, and the loudest cheers could be heard from the back as a hundred Starfleet officers went nuts with the rest of the crowd.
From there, Warp Nine transitioned flawlessly into No Doubt's "Just a Girl." Raven's voice hit the audience like an audible body slam. Not only did she hit the high notes, she did it with a natural precision.
Pleg stood on the sidelines of the auditorium throughout the performance, licking his teeth. Disaster had been avoided and the crowd were actually enjoying the rock show, too. Usually the Qzarn would just get on stage, set up the Harmoniser, and set it off, sending them all into a delirious state. That was it, concert over. But Warp Nine was giving them a whole show - a long medley of Earth songs that was new and interesting to them. As a result, the audience members were dancing around, trying to sing along and - importantly for Pleg - ordering drinks and food as well. The Casino was now making a decent amount of money off the top from the show, which completely thrilled Pleg's Ferengi heart.
Raven had never played to such an audience before. Clubs, a few festivals, a high school talent show. But this was on another level. She was loving the energy from the crowd and they were eating this up. She couldn't wipe the smile from her face.
They played for a full, invigorating hour and a half, bringing the performance to an end with an epic rendition of Prince's immortal "Purple Rain," with Zo switching out his guitar for the Sonic Harmoniser, which he finally played for the first time. He was sure he wasn't the only one having chills listening to Raven's untarnished, perfect voice.
As soon as Zo activated the Sonic Harmoniser, it was like an invisible wave washed over the whole auditorium. It was a wave of pure pleasure, sending the audience and those on stage into a moment of blissful joy....