Boone Trek: My Clone's Keeper
"Mingo. Doctor Yadkin. It's good to have you back."
"Thank you, Captain." Tara-Mingo (who from this point forward will be known simply as 'Mingo' to save typing that ridiculously long name) said as he stepped down from the transporter station. "The doctor and I would like to compare our findings. If you are agreeable, we will adjourn to the medical lab."
"Certainly, Mingo. The crisis is over here for now. Other than an occasional hiccup or burp, the engines are working as they should. We should be ready to break orbit in about an hour."
"Very good, sir." Mingo inclined his head and started for the transporter bay door. It opened before he got there and Yeoman Bryan entered carrying a stylus and a report, looking for the captain's signature. "Yeoman," he said as he moved past her.
"Dr. Yadkin, how did you enjoy your stay on Ceti Omicron Seventeen seventy-five? Yad?"
"Eh?" The blond-haired physician was checking his pockets and the medical pouch he wore.
"Something wrong, Yad?"
"Well, Dan'l, it seems to be. I noticed this here pouch was hanging heavy on my hip."
"What's in it?"
"Well, Dan'l, I stock this here bag with bandages and medical supplies every time Mingo and I set out. It's been," he checked his chronometer, "almost twelve hours and I ain't used any of the supplies." He shook his blond head. "Seems mighty peculiar."
Dan nodded. "I'll say. You remember anything unusual happenin' while you were down there? Perhaps someone else had an emergency kit?"
"Can't say as I do, but then I'm a doctor not a mentalist." He shrugged his shoulders. "See you later, Dan'l. Mingo's waitin' on me."
Dan nodded his head again. He took the stylus from Yeoman Bryan and signed his name and handed it back. Something was bothering him as well. Something else about Mingo that wasn't right. But he just couldn't put his finger on it.
"Captain? You seem troubled," yeoman Bryan said. "Would you like some milk and cookies?"
"No, thank you kindly, yeoman. I think I'll see if Mingo and Yad want to go to the commissary for some grub. I need to watch those two."
"Do you suspect something, Dan? Do you have a plan?"
"I'm not sure yet. When I am, you'll be the first to know. Well, maybe the second. It depends on the plan, which I probably won't have until after I've done whatever I am going to do. I- "
Rebecca put her finger against his mouth and shushed him. "Whatever it is, I know it will work. After all, you are....Captain Daniel T. Boone."
Captain Daniel T. Boone sat across the table from his friends, watching them closely. Yad was eating heartily , talking with his mouth full as usual, and trying his best to get a rise out of Mingo. His first officer seemed rather quiet and almost sullen. He had taken the plastic tray filled with Cher-o-kee delicacies-corncakes, corn mush, and corn cider with a sprig of cornsilk on the side-that the dispenser had served up for him, but sat with his food untouched.
A sure sign that something was terribly wrong.
"Mingo? You got those feathers tuned to a new frequency?" Doctor Yadkin eyed the first officer's turkey feathers. They were slightly ruffled and leaning to one side. "Or did the Cher-o-kee High Command come through with some new 'eggs-ek-i-tive' order I ain't aware of."
Mingo's brows remained firmly planted in a straight line. "Doctor," he said as he drew a deep calming breath, "you will kindly refrain from placing your nose in my personal business."
Dan's brown brows took a leap and caught the tips of his brown bangs and hung there. Mingo had said 'nose' instead of 'proboscis'. Another red flag. He took a bite of his mush and remarked, "Ain't that a mite harsh, Mingo?"
The Cher-o-kee seemed to come to himself. "Forgive me, Captain, I find myself a bit...unsettled."
"As you know some time ago a female scientist came aboard the ship, a Dr. Lorne. I am thinking of requesting shore leave to continue the work she and I began, here, on the C.S.S. Boonesborough."
"That the one that gave you that pretty shiny silver thing around your neck. I noticed it got broke."
"Yes, Doctor Yadkin." He grew silent. "Captain, you know the Cher-o-kee do not discuss issues of a private nature with off-worlders."
He nodded. "Is it that time, Mingo?"
"Yes, sir. The wo-da-dee-do-cho-ta-lee-doe", he drew a deep breath and continued, "tla-sa-dee-daa-at-ho-hee. The time of acting, as the wise man named Disney once put it, twitter-pated."
"Understood." Dan nodded as his friend rose to his feet. "I'll miss you, Mingo."
"And I, you, sir."
"What about me, Mingo?" Yadkin asked as he shoveled more cornpone and hominy grits into his mouth.
"You, I will not miss." Mingo nodded sharply. "If you will excuse me, gentlemen. I must prepare."
They fell silent as they watched him depart. A minute later Daniel shook his head. "Maybe that's what I sensed but, I don't know, Yad. Somethin' tells me there's more to this than just the over-active hormones of a Cher-o-kee on the love-path."
"I know what you mean, Dan'l." Doctor Yadkin lowered his voice. "We was working in the lab and when I made some joke about his feathers looking like they'd been put through a ringer and hung out to dry, he threatened to wring my skinny neck like I was a chicken."
"Hmm. A reference to a barnyard animal, common to Earth through the twentieth-first century." Dan stroked his chin. "An unusual fact for the Mingo we know to cite."
"Well, you didn't think I was worried about the crack about wringing my neck, did you?" Doctor Yadkin leaned in close. "What'ya you think it means?"
"I'm not sure." Captain Daniel T. Boone drummed his fingers on the laminated tabletop for a moment and watched the corn products dance on the plastic tray. Then he snapped his fingers and pointed to it. "Yad, did you notice when he got his tray...."
Yad nodded slowly. "He didn't trip on the way over to the table."
"And when he sat down?"
"He didn't miss the chair or spill a single thing!" Yad slapped the table. "Or eat."
"And when Yeoman Bryan came into the transporter room for my signature...."
Yad gasped. "She didn't swoon!"
"I think, Yad, we have an imposter on our hands."
"There he is, Dan'l." Yadkin was watching the monitor. They had called Mingo to Sickbay and were waiting for him to arrive. "You sure this will work?"
"It's got to, Yad. If this isn't our Mingo, then the Mingo who is our Mingo is really down on that planet. We can't break orbit if that's the case. You know that as well as I do."
"Sure, Dan'l." Doctor Yadkin looked around the dimmed room. "Everyone is in place." He shook his head. "This had better work."
"It will, Yad. It has too."
They paused while the serious music rose to a quiet crescendo. The door to the Sickbay slid open with a whoosh, and a tall slender figure stepped in. As he did, Yadkin tripped the lights. Commander Mingo blinked. He was standing in the center of a circle of the C.S.S. Boonesborough's women that included Yeoman Bryan and Lt. Jemima. Captain Dan watched for their reaction. For some time, time stood still, and then .....
Mingo's brow went up.
Dan and Yad watched the women's faces.
Mingo turned and fixed Bryan with an icy stare.
He spoke. "Captain, what is the meaning of this?"
Dan looked at the other women.
"Jemima?" Dan called out at last.
She came to stand before him. "Yes, Captain Pa?"
"He do anything for you?"
She glanced back at Mingo. She shrugged. "Nope."
He turned to his wife. "Bryan?"
She shook her red braids. "Not a thing, sir."
Mingo frowned. "Sir, if I might....?"
"Hold on there, Mingo. What about the rest of you? Does he do it for any of you?"
One by one, each of the women shook their heads. Finally, one of them stepped forward. "It just ain't there anymore. Sir."
Yadkin slapped his hands together and jumped up and down. "There you have it, Dan'l. Proof!" He pointed at Mingo. "He's an imposter!"
Quicker than the eye could follow, the false Mingo grabbed Yeoman Bryan and placed his phaser against her hair. "If anyone moves, I'll blow her braids out."
"That's what you think, mister." Yeoman Bryan whipped her stylus out and jabbed it into his hand. As he yelped and released her, she smacked him over the head with the report and the captain's signature.
He stumbled away from her, toward the door. "You fools! You will never stop me. Even though you have revealed my scheme to impersonate my brother and take his place, thereby frustrating my plan to take over the Earth and by that, the known universe; unbeknownst to you, I have set in place a series of strategically located corncakes on the planet below." He pulled his beaded necklace off and tossed it to the floor. "Each one of these beads controls one of the corncakes. When I smash them under my foot, it will set off a chain reaction that will blow Ceti Omicron Seventeen seventy five and your precious dashedly handsome Cher-o-kee to kingdom come!" As he laughed hysterically, he raised his foot high. "Who told you you're allowed to rain on my parade!"
As the door whooshed open behind him, a phaser blast lit the room. A moment later the Mingo that wasn't their Mingo fell dead to the ground.
Captain Daniel T. Boone whirled to look at his physician friend. "Yad! You're a doctor, not a killer! Why did you shoot him?"
"I had to do it, Dan'l," the doctor said with a sad shake of his head. "He was about to break into song."
"This is where I left him, Dan'l. I'm sure of it." Doctor Yadkin walked the area where he had last seen Commander Mingo. The effects of the malefic corncake had worn off and he could now remember all he had been made to forget. "We were in that underground hole when that other Mingo came on us. I don't remember much after that, but I know our boy was strung out here like bloomers on a laundry line." He turned to his friend and paused as a melancholy strain filled the air. "Dan'l, what? What is it?"
Captain Daniel T. Boone held up a bit of rope. It appeared to have been gnawed through. On it was a deep red stain. He shook his head slowly, and then held up as well, one single bent and broken feather.
"Dear Lord," Yadkin exclaimed.
"Yes, one of the creatures that populates this beautiful but hostile environment must have chewed through the ropes and dragged him away." He held up three more pieces. "I found four of them, and there's a red stain on each. Yad, I'm afraid...."
Doctor Yadkin put his hand out. He steadied the captain. He knew it was the hardest thing he had ever tried to say. "You don't have to, Dan'l. I'll say it for you. After all, it's in my contract." He paused dramatically. "He's dead, Dan'l."
Dan fell to his knees. "Dear God, no! Mingo, my friend. My best friend. My bud."
"He was the best first officer in the Fleet, Dan'l. Even if he was a Cher-o-kee."
For a moment silence rained....er....reigned. Then the captain's communicator chirped. Yadkin stirred. He took it from Dan's clenched fist and flipped it open, and immediately regretted it.
"IS THE CAPTAIN THERE, DOC? THIS IS MIGHTY IMPORTANT. I NEED TO TALK TO HIM RIGHT NOW!"
As Yad winced, the captain climbed wearily to his feet. It was as if the heart had gone out of him. Mingo had been, after all, of all the souls he had known, the most dashedly handsome. The world would be a sadder and less pretty place without him. "Go ahead and report, Jericho." He didn't even have the energy to turn the volume down.
"CAPTAIN, WE'RE READING LIFESIGNS CLOSE TO YOUR POSITION."
Dan shook his head again. The boy was an idiot. "It's a populated planet, Mr. Jericho. That's not really surprising."
"YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND, SIR. THE SIGNS. THEY'RE...HALF-HUMAN, HALF-CHER-O-KEE!"
"What?" The background music swelled as a ray of hope entered the captain's eye. "You mean, it's...Commander Mingo?"
"IT'S GOTTA BE HIM, CAPTAIN! AIN'T NO ONE ELSE GIVES OFF READINGS LIKE HIM."
"Where is he? Can you have Lieutenant Jemima pinpoint his position?"
"AS SOON AS SHE RECOVERS, I WILL, CAPTAIN. SHE TOOK THE NEWS OF MINGO'S POSSIBLE RESURRECTION KIND OF HARD."
"Pick her up and tie her in the science chair if you have to, mister! I want those coordinates now!"
Half an hour later the two of them found themselves winding their way down a long staircase toward what the sensors had confirmed was an elaborate laboratory buried deep beneath the surface of Ceti Omicron Seventeen seventy five. As they came to the bottom, they entered a large chamber lined with row upon row of long thin white tubes the size of photon torpedoes. The tubes were all connected by wires, and each had a panel of blinking lights at its foot.
"What do you suppose they are, Yad?"
"I'm a doctor, not an electrician." He thunked one of the tubes with his fist and made the lights blink. "How the Sam Hill would I know?"
"As always, Yad, I appreciate knowin' I can count on your expert advice."
He nodded. "Darn tootin'."
Dan's hand shot out. "Yad!"
The doctor stopped. The chamber had opened up into a circular room with a domed ceiling. From the ceiling a single ray of light shone down. Beneath it was a table, and on the table lay a man. He was covered in a white cloth. His raven-black hair shone a brilliant blue. His copper skin glowed. His turkey feathers had been laid out with especial care and he appeared to be sleeping.
Or very well-preserved.
"Mingo!" Dan exclaimed as they drew near. He started toward his friend, but an invisible barrier stopped him and held him back. He turned to ask Yadkin what he thought, and realized the doctor was not by his side. "Yad!" he called. "Where are you? Yad!"
"Dan'l." His voice was quiet. "I think there's somethin' here you need to see."
Captain Daniel T. Boone took one last look at his friend and then followed the good doctor's tremulous voice to his side. "Yad?"
"Look at this." Yad nodded toward a wall of black glass the size of the C.S.S. Boonesborough's cargo bay. "You seen one of these afore?"
Daniel shook his head. "What is it?"
"Newfangled technology. Called a Holo-projector. Conjures up a person's fantasies and makes 'em real. Damned thing, worse than a transporter. Flies in the face of everything God created." He was silent a moment, and then nodded toward a panel of winking lights. "Each of these buttons represents a different program."
"Program? Did you look at them? What are they of?"
"Mingo. Dan'l, they're all Mingo."
Yad began to push the buttons one after the other and as he did, images of their friend, or a man who looked exactly like him, filled the screen. Daniel watched. Mingo was shown walking. Then he was talking. Then he was singing, and hunting, and fishing, and dancing and.... Dan's brown brows were so amazed, they leapt above his head. "Seems someone has a mite of a compulsion where my first officer is concerned."
"You are wrong, Captain Boone. What you call 'compulsion', I call 'devotion' to my life's work." The music returned as a slender female figure appeared. "What some might call 'driven', I called 'inspired'. What some might call- "
"Now hold on," Dan said. "What might I call you?"
He glanced at Yad. "What?"
"Be careful. That's another song cue...."
She stepped into the light as the music swelled. "Call me, Dr. Lorne."