Boldly Gone is a story of nine chapters, posted serially by me, your sensitive host, Cheeseburger Brown.
This story isn't meant to be mean. I hope if you're a big Star Trek fan you're not out there now polishing your phaser while you pinpoint my location on Google Maps. Honestly, look for the love in my portrayals -- it's there.
Now let's get on with our tale:
It was winter in Toronto and the snowflakes flew like stars at warp speed. "Christ, Aaron!" cried Scott. "Slow to impulse power -- the roads are slippery."
"Belay that order," said Eugene from the back seat. "We're going to miss George Takei."
Aaron's green Jetta spun its wheels through a bank of heavy chop and then fishtailed diagonally across the parking lot. Aaron counter-steered deftly and then popped the handbrake, the car grinding through a half-controlled slide directly into a snowbank beside the last open spot. A minor avalanche tumbled over the windshield. Aaron yanked the keys and tripped the locks. "Everybody remember where we parked."
"I can't open my door," complained Lansing.
"Climb over Eugene," suggested Aaron blithely as he squeezed his belly past the steering wheel to climb out.
"Oof," said Eugene.
Once inside the Metro Convention Centre the four friends stuffed their parkas into lockers and rearranged their costumes with care, flattening insignias, smoothing out folds. Lansing carried a leather satchel filled with pictures he hoped to have autographed, including a framed glossy of William Shatner himself. "How much do you think his autograph costs?" wondered Lansing as they hurried toward the hall.
"Shatner's? I think you have to blow him."
"Shut up, Aaron."
They found seats at the back of the main hall. George Takei stood at the podium in front of giant picture of his younger self, preening at his silk scarf as he tried to make heads or tails of a question being mumbled at him by a blue-skinned Andorian wearing a T-shirt that said, Trekkers do it boldly.
"Um, yes," replied George in his trademark baritone. "Matt and I have chatted about doing some voice work for the movie when and if it finally happens, but nobody from Fox has officially approached me yet."
"Follow up question, Mr. Takei: will any of the Futurama characters appear in The Simpsons Movie?"
"I honestly have no idea."
"What about Bender?"
"Next question, please."
Aaron swore in Klingon and rolled his eyes. "Why don't these dipshits understand that this isn't SimpCon? Stay on topic, morons."
Scott shrugged. "George is a multi-talented actor."
"Qu'vatlh," grumbled Aaron. "This is worse than when Chekov talked about comic books for an hour."
"His comics are kind of cool, actually," said Lansing quietly.
"Man," sighed Aaron. "Where do I sign up for friends who are less lame?"
They attended a mock-Klingon luncheon where egg-noodles were done up to resemble plates of live gagh and there were Kirk-era pastel food cubes for desert. After that they split up to visit exhibits of personal interest. Aaron waddled off to a seminar on invented languages; Eugene went to check out a gallery of movie props and international versions of familiar posters. Scott and Lansing found themselves strolling through the carpeted mezzanine, their winter boots leaving little clods of melting slush in their wake. They stopped idly by a giant plexiglas case containing the actual Borg cube model used by Paramount. The lights had gone out on the model so a janitor was kneeling at the base of the display, fussing with wires.
Scott tapped him on the shoulder and politely suggested that the ground wire was loose. The janitor pressed it into place and the cube illuminated from within with an eerie green glow. "Thanks, kid," said the janitor, dusting off his pants.
Scott frowned. "I'm twenty-seven years old. I'm hardly a kid."
The janitor smirked. "You're dressed in pajamas in public, obsessing over a TV show," he said. "My mistake."
"This is a uniform," corrected Scott haughtily.
"Uh-huh," agreed the janitor, walking away.
Lansing put his hand on the taller boy's shoulder. "People are such assholes," he said sympathetically. "Forget about it: I bet that guy loves Raymond."
Scott sneered. "Why is it that people can be into whatever goofy crap they want, but it's us that end up the butt of the jokes? I mean, you can be foaming at the mouth crazy about pop singers or sports teams or Xenu, but if you like Trek you're automatically the world's biggest douche."
"People are assholes," repeated Lansing somberly.
"It's not like we're into Battlestar Galactica or something lame like that. Trek has something to say."
"You're preaching to the choir, dude."
Scott scratched at his blonde hair thoughtfully. "Actually, some things about Battlestar were sort of cool -- for the seventies."
"Yeah," agreed Lansing. "I think so too."
"Still, you see my point."
At the other end of the mezzanine was a smaller hall decked out with shiny pink banners that read, Women of Trek TorCon 1999. Scott and Lansing exchanged glances and then sidled up to the doors and peeked inside: Grace Lee Whitney was holding a tinny microphone, addressing the scattered audience on the subject of the gender gap in technology- and science-oriented university major programmes. She went on explain how everyone could gain a greater appreciation of the issue by buying a copy of her book on getting over drug addiction.
A pasty-faced, heavily pimpled girl dressed as a crinkle-nosed Bajoran elbowed her companion and whispered, "She's just shilling her book. This is such a rip-off. I thought Captain Janeway was going to be here."
"Some of the boys are cute, though," said her wall-eyed friend, fidgeting with a brassiere strap so tight it made her back look as if she were melting.
Scott and Lansing scanned the room: the mostly female audience was interspersed with three or four creepy guys trying to covertly check out the girls with painfully obvious peripheral flicks of their eyes. They were each of them alone, and they strained to appear casual. One of them quietly switched seats to put himself closer to a skinny, hard-faced black woman dressed as a curveless version of Deanna Troi; a moment later the woman switched seats to move further away from him again.
"This is sad," whispered Scott. "It's a fine line between courting and stalking when you're socially retarded."
Lansing nodded. "That's why I just don't even try."
Scott shook his head dismissively. "You're a good looking guy, Lansing, and you're sweet. You should be more confident. Girls are really into confidence."
Lansing considered this. "You want to go talk to some of them?"
Scott's forehead became immediately shiny with perspiration. "Um, no. No, they're probably sick of being hit on all the time. I mean, I don't want to be mixed up for a guy like that, right?"
"Right," agreed Lansing, relieved.
Later in the afternoon they congregated outside the front doors so Aaron could smoke a cigarette. Eugene bummed one from him in an effort to enhance his coolness, but all he did was cough a lot. "The trick is not to inhale," Aaron pointed out, spitting on the sidewalk.
"I thought only losers smoked without inhaling," said Scott.
Aaron sneered. Lansing giggled. Traffic along Front Street thickened as an ocean of sports fans were released from some event at the SkyDome. The smoking conventioneers stepped back to make room on the sidewalk, unwilling to risk brushing shoulders with people wearing jerseys. Some of them sheepishly pulled their coats closed over their Starfleet jumpsuits. The sports fans were in a celebratory mood, and they swore and punched each other playfully, the parade swelling over the curbs and against the doors of the convention centre.
"Maybe we should go back inside," suggested Eugene, holding his cigarette aloft like a pencil.
"You're such a pussy," snorted Aaron, turning to spit.
He spat on a broad-shouldered man in a Maple Leafs sweater, the phlegmy wad dribbling down the logo. The man and his friends stopped, eyes wide. "What the hell?" he shouted. "Did you just spit on me, you fucking nerd?"
"Oh shit," said Scott quickly. "It was just an accident. Sorry, man!"
"Don't apologize for me," interrupted Aaron. "This human is fortunate I do not kill him where he stands for mocking me so."
"Let's just go inside," said Eugene again, backing toward the doors and stumbling into a garbage can.
The man in the Leafs sweater lunged at Aaron but stopped short. When Aaron flinched and fell over backwards the man and his friends guffawed and starting walking away. Scott helped Aaron to his feet. The husky Klingon shook off his friend's arm and yelled, "You are now an enemy of the Klingon Empire, foul bIHnuch!"
"Shut up, Aaron!" hissed Scott. "I don't want to die here."
The man in the Leafs sweater paused in his tracks and turned around. "What did you say, you fucking homo?"
Aaron shook his head slowly, squinting with determination. "No, Scott -- today is a good day to die!" He leaned down and scooped up a handful of snow, packed it, and lobbed it across the sidewalk. It struck the man in the Leafs sweater on the chest, wet slush splattering up into his square-jawed face.
Eugene turned pale. Lansing gasped.
There came a brief second of inaction before the four friends spun in place and scrambled over one another to pull open the glass doors and get inside. They fell onto the rubber mats in the lobby and squirmed to their feet clumsily, desperate to get away.
"Red alert, dude!" squeaked Lansing.
The doors were flung open behind them and they were collectively pelted by a volley of ice balls flung with vicious velocity. Aaron crashed into a pillar and then dove behind it. Lansing covered his head with his arms and tried to back away blindly. Scott held up his hands and cried, "Okay, you got us -- you got us guys, ha ha. You win. Can we just forget about this now?"
The man in the Leafs sweater shook his head, wound up, and launched a tight ice ball directly at Scott. Scott ducked and the ice struck Eugene in the face. His nose immediately began to bleed.
The sport fans chortled as they let the doors swing closed again. "Dorks!" they laughed, rejoining the stream of pedestrian traffic.
Scott sighed and helped Aaron to his feet again. "Happy now?" he asked darkly.
"You should know better than to interfere in Klingon affairs."
"Shut up, Aaron."
Lansing moved to attend to Eugene but someone was already there, and her appearance shocked Lansing into immobility. "Oh God, you poor thing!" she cried, fishing a tissue out of a tiny purse at her hip and dabbing tenderly at Eugene's nostrils. "Are you hurt?" she wanted to know, brushing away a lock of long auburn hair that had come loose from her bun.
Eugene shook his head wordlessly, eyes riveted.
The girl was costumed in the sleek, curve-hugging silver unitard of Seven of Nine, tiny clusters of mock-circuitry glued to her angelic face. Her brow was furrowed with worry, her green eyes shining as she examined Eugene's nose critically. "I don't think it's broken, do you?"
Eugene shook his head again, mouth slightly ajar.
"Hey," croaked Scott awkwardly. "Thanks. Are you okay, Eugene?"
Eugene's gaze flicked over to Scott. He blinked as if clearing away a dream. "Um, yeah, absolutely," he stuttered. "It's nothing, man. I'm cool."
"Eugene's a nice name," said Seven of Nine.
"Um, yeah," replied Eugene, turning pink.
She giggled. "I'm Melody," she said, her accent smooth and southern. "Pleasure's mine."
"Hi Melody," said the four friends in rough unison, coughing to clear the cracking from their voices.
Melody straightened and tucked the stray hair back into her bun, the effect of her outstretched arms causing the boys to avert their eyes bashfully. "I just wanted to help," she explained.
"Thank you," mumbled Eugene.
"You've got ice in your hair, Eugene," she pointed out. Eugene tried not to flinch as she reached out and tussled her fingers over his head. "What was up with those assholes, anyways?"
"Maybe they don't like Trek," suggested Scott.
Melody sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. "I guess we Trekkers have all got to stick together, huh?"
The friends nodded, their palms damp. Eugene couldn't wipe the idiotic smile from his face. "You're really pretty," he blurted suddenly. Aaron groaned and rolled his eyes.
Melody smiled back. "You're cute," she told Eugene.
Lansing forgot all about getting Shatner's autograph. In fact, he forgot about seeing Shatner speak at all. Though he couldn't understand quite how it happened, the next thing he knew they were all sitting in the food fair having fries with gravy. Eugene paid for Melody's which inspired her to give him a little kiss on the cheek. The look on his face was priceless.
"What do you guys all do?" Melody asked, sipping a Coke.
"We code," said Scott. "Well, except for Eugene -- he's in tech support."
"Second tier tech support," Eugene clarified.
"I'm writing a graphics rendering engine for a gaming company," added Lansing.
"I'm a database programmer," said Scott.
"I'm saving the world from the Y2K crisis," said Aaron. "One line of code at a time."
They talked about the convention for a while, each of them interrupting the others in order to get in his bit to define his knowledge. They feigned nonchalance, ached to appear urbane. They fell over themselves other in competition to bus her tray. "What about you?" asked Eugene, putting his elbow in a small pool of gravy. "What do you do?"
"I just moved here," said Melody. "I don't really know anyone in this city so I figured the best way to make friends would be to go hang out where the kind of people I like get together. And, well, I'm really into Trek so when I heard about this con I knew I had to go."
"Wow," said Eugene, frowning at his moist elbow.
"And it worked, see?" laughed Melody. "Here I am, my second day in Canada and I already have four friends. I'm sorry you had to take a snowball to the face in for that to happen, Eugene."
"Don't worry about it," grinned Eugene, forgetting about the gravy. "Best. Snowball. Ever."
She laughed again. Aaron shot his cuff and checked his watch. "We should get going," he said.
"What's your hurry?" asked Scott.
"There's a new Voyager tonight."
"I don't want to hold anybody up," said Melody.
"No, no no, no," protested Eugene. "You're not. Don't worry about it, Aaron. I'm totally taping it."
"I love Voyager," said Melody.
"It's awesome," agreed Eugene.
Aaron grunted. "VHS is a bane to my eyeballs."
Scott cleared his throat. "Well, why don't we all watch it together? We can go to my place."
Eugene narrowed his eyes dubiously. "My TV's bigger."
"Dude, you live in a basement," Lansing pointed out. "Let's go somewhere we won't bump our heads. Scott's is good."
"Sounds great," said Melody, cheeks dimpling as she smiled beatifically. "Did y'all drive?"
"Yes," said Scott. "We're parked in a snowbank around back, thanks to Goggles Pizano here."
"Hey," snapped Aaron, "you can't even drive, asshat."
"I choose not to drive," Scott shot back.
"That's a natural decision after failing the road test four times."
"Shut up, Aaron."
Melody giggled. "You guys are hilarious," she said, touching Scott's sleeve.
Eugene glowered. Scott blushed. "Let's go," he stammered, standing up quickly and making a show of fishing around in his pocket for the little orange locker key. He was buying time for his erection to flag.
Melody led the way out, the locomotive of a short train of boys, her bum moving beneath the silver unitard a lure in equal parts frightening and hypnotic.
"Kobayashi Maru," muttered Aaron under his breath.