STAR TREK: CRITICAL MASS
"Yes, ensign, I'm not deaf."
Kirk was irritable. He was sick of three-dimensional chess. All the other ships had holosuites. He needed serious R&R on terra firma, and the tender ministrations of some eager young recruit fresh out of the Academy, not another stupid mission to save whales or whatever. And now this puke CAdet was hollering into his ear first thing in the morning.
"Captain! Request shore leave when we get to Earth, sir!" trilled the crisp young man.
"Shore leave denied, mister," snapped Kirk. "Replicate yourself a toothbrush and scrub down decks 2 through 27. And vacuum the Jeffries Tubes."
"I don't think we have Jeffries Tubes, sir!" the ensign fairly screamed.
PiCARD had Jeffries Tubes. Everyone had Jeffries Tubes. This was really too much.
"Mister, report to the airlock and eat space," ordered Kirk almost conversationally.
"Yes, sir!" the ensign shouted desperately.
One of the prime directives was to lose a few faceless crewmen on every mission to thin out the ranks. (Everyone knew this. Funny how it never hurt recruitment.) When this tiresome chore was out of the way Kirk felt somewhat cheered.
"Sulu, how long till we get home?"
"At the current warp factor, about a week, sir."
"Well, get a move on, unless you want to follow ensign whatshisface out the airlock door," said Kirk. "Capeesh?"
"The Captain is utilising a 20th century slang term meaning, 'Do you understand?'" explained Spock.
Kirk swivelled his chair around. "Ah. Mr. Pointy ears is back. Have you learned your lesson?"
"Yes, Captain. The millennium begins when you say it begins. Highly illogical, but I defer to your obvious human mental superiority."
"Damn straight. Sulu, crank it up to Warp 11."
"But Captain," complained the officer, "that will bend time and space. We may get there sooner, but there's no telling what year it would be."
"It wouldn't be the first time, mister. Make it so."
The bridge fell silent. Kirk turned red. He just couldn't catch a break. "Just do it," he spluttered, his fleeting good mood shot. He savagely jabbed the com button. "Mr. Scott!" he bellowed, pre-empting the inevitable palaver. "Any crap out of you and I'm coming down to engineering and personally stuffing your bloated carcass into the fuel intake."
"But Captain," protested Scotty, "I canna fit."
"I want solutions,
people, not problems," Kirk announced to the bridge at large. "If
anybody needs me I'll be in my quarters. Uhuru, report to my quarters."
"Bones, how they hanging?" Kirk was feeling jocular as they prepared to beam down.
"I'm a doctor, Jim, not a gigolo," sniffed his old friend.
"Captain, one of the teleportation ports isn't working," observed Spock.
Kirk was unconcerned. "Worf, you and ensign -- what's your name? -- never mind. You two share a port. Waste not want not."
The five beamed down to the planet's surface, but only four materialised.
"What the hell is that?!" shouted Bones. Worf and the ensign had merged to become a dog.
"An ugly one, too," said Kirk, not unkindly. "Might as well call it Woof. Our first order of business is to get this frisky fellow a leash. Where are we, Spock?"
The Vulcan consulted his tricorder. "Captain, we appear to be in London, England in the year 2000. We are standing on something called a 'pavement', about to be hit by a 'courier' approaching at significant velocity. I would suggest we step aside."
They looked curiously at the strange threat bearing down on them.
"Gentlemen, set phasers to 'Kill,'" said Kirk, taking careful aim and squeezing off a shot.
"Oi!" shouted the courier as the energy pulse bounced off his radio and grazed a chestnut vendor. He ran over the dog and disappeared around a corner.
"Bones, have a look at Woof," said Kirk.
"I'm a Doctor, Jim, not a vet," complained McCoy, giving the poor creature a prod with his boot.
A hostile crowd started to form. "What's their problem?" whispered Kirk, mildly edgy now.
"The 'British' are very fond of their 'pets'," said Spock the know-it-all.
"Should keep him on a leash, mate," spat a man who was now clenching his fists menacingly and staring at Spock's ears. "You a tourist?"
An old lady slapped the doctor with her cane. "Stop kicking the poor little dear!" she shrilled.
"Madam, I assure you I'm competent to pronounce this mutt D.O.A.," said McCoy.
The crowd closed in. "Set phasers to 'Stun'" ordered Kirk.
"Captain, might I suggest we get to a tube station," said Spock, accessing the A-Z facility in his tricorder. "There's one right around the corner."
They escaped underground.
"Jim, what's our mission?" asked McCoy.
"Damned if I know at this point," said Kirk. "But the natives sure aren't friendly. Spock, what was it that courier was riding?"
"A bicycle," answered the Vulcan. "One of the most ingenious vehicles ever invented. Clearly a potential watershed for humanity. Though as you have observed, it could also be a force for evil."
"That's a bit harsh," said Kirk.
"Captain, may I remind you of your order to set our phasers to 'Kill'," said Spock matter of factly.
"Yes, well, it's my job to keep us alive," said Kirk sternly. "In any case, why haven't I ever heard of these 'bicycles'?"
"Apparently 'cyclists' were hounded out of existence by the early 22nd century. 'Cars' had long since taken over. The last few cyclists were rounded up, exiled, and never heard from again. Mention of them was expunged from standard history texts."
"These people are obviously savages," exclaimed McCoy. "Let's just go."
"We can't do that," said Kirk.
"Why not?" asked the doctor.
"Because we've just found our mission, Bones. Gentlemen, it's up to us to right this wrong. To boldly put cyclists in their rightful place."
"Jim, you can't play God," said McCoy. "It would be irresponsible to change the future."
"Just watch me," said Kirk.
I've dispensed with stardates and gone native, so call it GMT 9:00:00.
We've travelled back in time to the year 2000. The Federation does not
yet exist. I do not yet exist. This is not so much a blow to my ego
as an opportunity to collect Starfleet backpay when I return to my own
time. While the crew of the Enterprise entertains itself by intercepting
and scrambling Sky TV and other dubious entertainments, Spock, Dr. McCoy
and I must devise a plan for our new mission: to alter the historical
balance of power in favour of cyclists. I don't know exactly why, but
my gut tells me it's the right thing to do. Besides, I've got to put
something on my timesheets.
"I'll take one of those," said McCoy, pointing to a soft-tail mountain bike as soon as they walked through the door.
"We're not on the third moon of Ribena, Bones," admonished Kirk. "It looks pretty flat here. Let's ask for some advice."
A salesman approached them. "Can I help you?" he asked.
Spock took a reading on him. "This man doesn't really want to help us," he announced. "Upon close analysis of his brain wave patterns, I've determined that he intends to sell us an ill-fitting bicycle and an unknown quantity of over-priced accessories."
The salesman stalked off.
"Why don't you let me handle this," said Kirk. In the end he chose a tandem for McCoy and himself and sat in front, as a Captain should. Spock opted for a recumbent. "The design is really quite log--" he started to say, but Kirk cut him off.
"Yes, we know, Spock. Give it a rest. And wear your helmet, please. We got it for a reason, you know."
"My ears are a part of my heritage," remarked Spock impassively.
"Just wear the helmet."
They rode around for awhile, accustoming themselves to the novelty of exercise. Usually they just teleported themselves whenever they had to walk more than a few yards. "Why, it's better than sex, Jim," exclaimed McCoy.
"Speak for yourself, Bones," shushed Kirk. "But you're right; it is a marvellous sensation."
Just then a taxicab turned left without signaling, forcing their tandem into the kerb and sending the two sprawling. "Are you all right, Captain?" asked Spock, fiddling with the tricorder he'd attached to his Kingcycle with a click-fix.
"Yes, I'm fine," said Kirk, brushing himself off and shaking with indignation. "Set phasers to--"
"Captain, that won't be necessary," interjected Spock. "I've just put 50 points on his license."
Later in the afternoon a policeman pulled Spock over for going through a red light. "But it was a left turn and there was no traffic," the Vulcan protested evenly.
"Just because you're on a bike it doesn't mean you can break the law," said the policeman, who started to write a ticket. Spock gave the man his patented neck pinch until he went limp.
"Although I do not possess emotions," he announced to no one in particular, "that felt good."
After a long day they checked into a B&B and compared notes. "The basic problem with being on two wheels," said McCoy, "is that everybody hates us."
"The doctor is correct, Captain," allowed Spock. "Pedestrians are frightened of us, whether or not we're 'couriers', and motorists are illogically angered by our presence on the road. It does present a conundrum."
"It's obvious what needs to be done here," said McCoy, still bruised from his encounter with the cab. "Set loose a petroleum eating bacteria into the environment. Then people won't have a choice. I'm sure Spock could whip one up in no time."
"Quite," admitted the science officer.
"No," said Kirk. "That would change history a little too much. Gentlemen, we must infiltrate government at the highest level and influence policy. I will run for office. With my suave good looks, I'm sure to get the women's vote, and they're in the majority. Spock, you be my campaign manager. Bones, you keep me supplied with... well, you just make sure I stay relaxed, Capeesh?"
"Captain," interceded Spock, "my readings indicate that if the crew of the Enterprise watches any more television, mean IQ will drop significantly enough to affect future missions."
Kirk considered this news. "OK. Time is of the essence. Good point. Any other suggestions?"
"Yes, Captain. There is a phenomenon called 'Critical Mass'. And I'm not referring to Mr. Scott."
"Humour, Spock?" said Kirk, his eyebrows dancing.
"Indeed. Critical Mass is an informal gathering of cyclists who seek to 'reclaim the streets'. The goal is laudable but the execution is weak. They lack effective leadership. I believe with a proper 'Captain', as it were, and better co-ordination, it could become a force to be reckoned with." As usual, the Vulcan had done his homework.
"I like the way you think," said Kirk.
Their timing was fortuitous. Local observance of Critical Mass was the following day.
The three of them watched dismayed as a motley group of cyclists converged under Waterloo Bridge, the designated meeting place. "I haven't seen such a sorry bunch of cadets since my days at the Academy," sighed Kirk.
"Jim, they're only civilians," said McCoy.
"But this is war, Bones," rejoined Kirk with some passion. There was movement in the ranks. Before anyone had quite realised it, they were off to a lurching start.
"Wait!" yelled Kirk, flustered. "Who's in charge here?"
"No one's in charge," said a woman on a Brompton.
"That's about to change," said Kirk. "Pedal faster, Bones. We've got to get to the front. Spock, where's the front?"
The Vulcan remembered the millennium fiasco. "It is where you say it is, Captain."
"OK, right. Listen, everyone! I'm in charge. Follow Me!" A man with a smiley face on his helmet started following him, but that was all.
"I am Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, and I order you people to fall into line!"
The man swerved away.
"This is ridiculous. These cadets have no discipline. How do they expect to fight the Romulans?"
McCoy tapped Kirk on the back. "Jim, you're tired. As your doctor I'm ordering some bedrest for your own good. Or perhaps you could relax on Spock's recumbent."
Kirk tried to pedal faster, but with McCoy as his stoker it was no use. He hung his shoulders in uncharacteristic defeat.
"Maybe you're right, Bones." Kirk flipped open his communicator. "Enterprise. Four to beam up."
"But there are only three of us, Captain," said Spock.
"I can count," said Kirk. "Scotty, get a lock on my tandem. I've already got a body built for two; might as well have a bicycle to match. Kirk out."
They evaporated into thin air. Nobody noticed but the man with the smiley face. He smiled, then cycled on.
Cycling Today, May & June 2000
I'm reliably informed by an actual Trekkie that the original Enterprise did indeed have Jeffries Tubes. Makes all the difference, huh?
I'm assuming Spock was asked to wear a helmet because he was the brains of the operation. Not meant to be a comment on brains, or helmets.