Shanghai Shimmer

Lieutenant Uhura walked into the officers’ workout room dressed in an immaculately pressed karate uniform, with her white belt tied neatly around her waist. The loose-fitting uniform, which Sulu had told her was called a gi, unfortunately didn’t show her figure to advantage. At least when she was in uniform she could wear a short skirt and heels, but this wretched gi didn’t display any part of her body except her bare feet. Even with a liberal application of Shanghai Shimmer polish to her toenails, she didn’t count her feet among her most attractive features.

“I still don’t understand why the captain wants me to do this,” Uhura grumbled. “There’s nothing wrong with my figure. I do step aerobics regularly and exercise with free weights. The fact is, I’m in better physical condition than most of the people on this ship. For example, there’s Scott with his whiskey gut . . .”

“Fitness isn’t the issue. The captain is well aware of the condition of your figure.” Sulu, wearing his gi and black belt, somehow managed to keep a straight face while tossing off this observation. “He’s decided that you need to improve your self-defense skills.”

What a waste of time, Uhura thought. I ought to be buffing my fingernails.

“Hikaru, I’m not trying to pick on your hobby, but it does seem rather primitive now that we have phasers. I practice target shooting just like the rest of us, and my marksmanship has always been passable.”

“Occasionally we find ourselves disarmed on hostile planets,” Sulu pointed out. “There are many situations in which a confident attitude has far more value than the ability to hit a target or two. Hence the karate lessons. They’re useful for building both mental toughness and fighting skills. And by the way, as your instructor, I will expect to be addressed as ‘Sensei.'”

Great, Uhura thought with a barely suppressed sigh, now he’s going on an authority trip. Just what I don’t need. She briefly considered walking out, but the captain had been rather insistent about this. Of course, it was all her own dumb fault for having made the mistake of admitting she was frightened while in a landing party. Like anyone in their right mind wouldn’t be frightened when they saw the entire known universe disappear around them…

“Okay, Sensei.”

“When acknowledging a command from your Sensei,” Sulu went on, “you will bow and express your respect by saying ‘Ousse.'”

“I’m supposed to say what?” Uhura grinned. “Goose?”

“Levity is not appropriate in the dojo. Now, drop and give me twenty push-ups.”

Sheesh, this was getting ridiculous, but she had the feeling Sulu wasn’t kidding. What had she done to deserve this incarnation of Sulu as a drill instructor from hell? As she completed the push-ups, Uhura devoutly hoped no one else would enter the room and witness her total humiliation.

Darn it, now she’d broken a fingernail, too.

“Ten jumping jacks next, and we’re going to count them in Japanese. Ichi . . .”

And just what good was learning how to count in another language, Uhura wondered, when universal translators could change anything into English so quickly you didn’t even notice. She obediently counted off the jumping jacks, wondering if Sulu was ever going to get around to teaching her anything useful, like how to kick an attacking Klingon.

“Conditioning is the foundation for development of all physical skills,” Sulu intoned, sounding just like a calisthenics leader at the Academy whose name she had mercifully forgotten. “Twenty sit-ups.”

After the first ten, Uhura knew she was in trouble. She hadn’t done sit-ups in years. Research had conclusively proven that they did nothing to reduce one’s waistline, so what good were they?

“Can we,” she grunted, “stop at . . . fifteen?”

Sulu’s face wasn’t at all sympathetic. “There are no quitters in my dojo. Make that forty.”


Aching in every imaginable muscle, Uhura hobbled onto the bridge and took her position at communications. Just getting dressed for duty had been an ordeal. Her hair looked dreadful, but she just hadn’t had the energy to do much with it. Beyond question, Kirk and Sulu had to be the most despicable sadists in the galaxy.

And Yeoman Rand had come down with Rigellian flu, which meant Kirk might very well decide to send one of the bridge officers for coffee, as there was no yeoman around to fetch it. Just her luck, she would get picked on for that lowly task, even though she could barely move, and even though serving coffee definitely was not one of the enumerated duties of a communications officer. Well, she would have more than one thing to say to the captain if he had the gall to…

“Lieutenant Uhura?”

As Kirk spoke, Uhura became aware that everyone on the bridge was staring at her, with the exception of Spock, who was maintaining his Vulcan dignity as always. Oh, great, now she had been caught not paying attention to some order, and the way things were going, it would be coffee duty for sure. She could just about smell the coffee already.

“I’m sorry, sir.” Her face tingled with embarrassment. “My mind must have wandered for a moment.”

“Perhaps you’ll feel more focused after you drink that cup of coffee Ensign Chekov just brought you,” Kirk suggested.

Uhura glanced down at her duty station and, sure enough, there was a cup of coffee next to her right hand. She hadn’t been imagining the coffee aroma, after all.

“And when you’re ready, Lieutenant, I’d like a report on yesterday’s installation of the software upgrade to the Ktarian language module in the universal translator.”

The coffee smelled wonderful, Uhura thought as she picked up the cup. Even better than usual.

“Certainly, sir.”


“No, bend your knees more, just as if you were sitting on horseback. That’s why it’s called the horse stance,” Sulu told her.

It’ll be a nice crisp frosty day in hell before you ever see me anywhere near a horse, Uhura thought, crouching lower into the straddle-legged stance. You really think I’d ride a large, smelly animal when we have transporters?

She began practicing her punches as she did at every regular session, alternating between one hand and the other in a now-familiar rhythm, enjoying the feel of newly acquired muscles rippling tautly in her shoulders and arms. As much as she had complained about the karate lessons to anyone who would listen, she had to admit to herself that the exercises had gotten rid of any traces of flab on her upper arms. Her legs were looking much more shapely these days, too.

Obeying another command from Sulu with the obligatory “Ousse,” she changed her stance and began a series of forward kicks, concentrating on her form. All of her moves seemed to flow much more smoothly now, and she felt a lot more fit and energetic than she had in years. The karate lessons probably had been a good idea, after all.

Not that she would ever admit it to Kirk or Sulu.


The colony world, with its bright skies and balmy breezes, was a welcome change from the emptiness of space. Kirk hadn’t taken a shore leave in almost four months, and he intended to make the most of his time here. Sitting at a table outdoors, he gave an appreciative smile to the big-bosomed waitress who brought a tall glass of a local brew that looked just like good old-fashioned Midwestern beer.

Officially this was a working mission, not a shore leave, but the upgrading of the colony’s communications equipment was a matter that Lieutenant Uhura was certainly capable of handling without assistance. Which left him free for other pursuits, such as admiring the scenery. His gaze lingered for a moment on the well-shaped rump of a blonde colonist who was wearing an extremely short miniskirt that left nothing to the imagination.

Uhura passed his table. “Captain, the satellite upgrades are complete. I’m going to start on that communications tower now.” She pointed to a dilapidated wooden structure about one hundred meters away.

Kirk nodded in approval; the job was going faster than he had expected. “Be careful, Lieutenant. I’ve been advised that there are several large and vicious animals, similar to vampire bats, roosting in the tower. Unlike bats, they’re not exclusively nocturnal. I’ll assign security personnel to protect you.”

Much to his surprise, the lieutenant gave him a calm glance. “That won’t be necessary, Captain. I’m not frightened.”

Her stride looked different, too, Kirk thought as she continued in the direction of the tower without waiting to hear any more of the captain’s objections. Definitely more forceful and confident. There was such a thing as being foolhardy, though, and it didn’t make sense for one of his best officers to take a pointless risk. Perhaps he ought to call her back or send a security officer to protect her? But then, he had encouraged her to develop more self-confidence, and he didn’t want to undermine that. He reluctantly decided to let her continue.

Reaching the tower, Uhura proceeded to climb a metal staircase attached to its exterior. She climbed most of the way without incident as Kirk and the other officers sat at their tables staring up at her. Just before she reached the top, three huge black shapes emerged from a high window. They looked like a bizarre cross between vampire bats and vultures, only larger and meaner. Without hesitation, all three of them attacked the human intruder.

On a platform between the last two fights of stairs, Uhura took up her defensive stance. She dispatched the first creature with a karate chop that sent fur and feathers flying (for some strange reason, the beast seemed to have both) and left the poor stunned creature tumbling down the stairs and lying motionless at the bottom of the flight.

She gave the second one a punch that landed squarely on its ugly snout. Kirk could hear the squeal quite clearly indeed as it fell, dazed, to flop helplessly next to the other.

At the table next to Kirk’s, Sulu watched his pupil’s performance with an expression of restrained approval. “An effective punch.”

“Vonderful,” Chekov exclaimed, looking as if he might be about to burst into applause at any moment. “And she doesn’t even need any veapons.”

Uhura’s booted foot lashed out to catch the third bat with a powerful kick that lifted the unfortunate beast over the railing and sent it crashing into a thorny bush below. Although the bat could no longer be seen in the mass of greenery, Kirk noticed a branch moving feebly.

He took a long gulp of his beer, wiped the froth from his lips with the back of his hand, and then turned to face his junior officers. Chekov had started cheering as vociferously as a spectator at a sporting event. Uhura, with professional dignity, opened a door at the top of the tower and went inside without even acknowledging the applause. The prospect of more vampire bats inside the tower didn’t seem to bother her in the least.

“Mr. Sulu,” a still unbelieving Kirk summed up the incident, “I’m beginning to think that we may have created a monster.”


Pale ribbons of mist in randomly changing colors, which presumably included some hues that could not be seen by human eyes, rose from the fog machine and drifted across the packed dance floor in the nightclub. A reasonably good selection of Earth and off-world dance music blasted from the speakers in the walls, and fragments of conversation in the languages of many planets could be heard occasionally above the music.

Uhura sat at the bar with Christine Chapel, enjoying a glass of Denobulan gin, which reflected the light from the fog machine in bright, swirling patterns. The gin looked blue at the moment. Uhura glanced briefly toward the other end of the bar, where two burly Nausicaan traders had been eyeing her and Chapel for the past few minutes.

Leaning closer to her, Chapel whispered, “Those two give me the creeps. Let’s get out of here. It’s late, and we ought to be getting back to the ship, anyway.”

Almost all of her shipmates had already left, Uhura noticed. On the other side of the room, an obviously plastered Chekov was torturing the other patrons by screeching into a karaoke microphone. She hadn’t seen anyone else from the Enterprise, though, since the captain had left with that miniskirted blonde colonist he’d been eyeing for much of the day.

It probably was about time to be going, but Uhura didn’t at all care for the idea of running away from those Nausicaans. No, she’d leave when she was good and ready, and not one minute before that.

“I’d rather listen to the music for a little while more,” she declared, “and I haven’t finished my drink yet.”

Chapel responded with a shrug, setting down her empty glass. “Okay. I need to use the ladies’ room, anyway.”

Watching her friend walk away, Uhura sensed some movement nearby and turned quickly around to find one of the Nausicaan men standing very close behind her. A disturbingly wide smile covered much of his bearded and scarred face.

“You are very beautiful, Miss. Can I buy you another drink?”

When pigs fly, Uhura thought. And it doesn’t look like you and your ugly pal are sprouting any wings.

“No thanks, I’ll be leaving with my friend when I finish this one.”

Uhura picked up her glass again. The gin now had a shimmering reddish hue to it. She drained it quickly, grimacing at a sour aftertaste; perhaps the Nausicaan’s less-than-pleasant company had affected her enjoyment of the drink. She stood up, turned to walk away, and suddenly began to feel dizzy…


Not even half awake and suffering from the mother of all hangovers, Uhura wondered groggily if the planet had giant mosquitoes, as well as giant feathered bats. Something was making a horribly loud whining noise, and the bed she was lying on, which was hard and lumpy, felt like it was swaying from side to side. It also had a putrid stench that resembled a mixture of rotten cabbage and vomit. Ugh, vomit certainly was not what she wanted to be thinking about with a sour, churning stomach.

She cautiously opened her eyes, only to find them assailed by a harsh light in an unpleasantly green hue. The room was small and sparsely furnished, almost like a crewman’s quarters on the Enterprise, but plainer. There was a communication panel of some sort on the wall directly across from the bed; it didn’t look like Federation technology.

Sitting up, Uhura closed her eyes again for a few seconds as the room momentarily seemed to spin around her. When she opened them, she noticed that someone had left a bucket next to the bed. She hoped that she wouldn’t have a need for it.

The spinning subsided, and after a few moments more, standing up seemed manageable. She still could hear a whining noise and feel a vibration beneath her feet as she walked over to the communication panel. Belatedly, she identified the vibration as that of a starship in warp–a ship that was smaller and less advanced than the Enterprise. The Nausicaan symbols on the communication panel confirmed Uhura’s nasty suspicion that she had been shanghaied.

A rush of anger overcame her. How dare those filthy pirates put their stinking hands on a Starfleet officer? Could they really expect to get away with it? Surely the Enterprise was chasing them even now…

Uhura heard Nausicaan voices approaching the door. It wouldn’t be the best idea to let her kidnappers see her awake, alert, and examining their communication panel. She flung herself back down on the lumpy bed. By the time the door opened, she was lying flat, holding her head, and moaning. That was not entirely an act, as the sudden motion had in fact left her feeling dizzy.

The Nausicaan who had spoken to her in the nightclub looked down at her with contempt. “Get up, you, and wash off your human stink. I want to get a good price when I sell you to the Orion traders.” He gestured toward a sink on the far wall, where a grimy washcloth hung on a hook.

Uhura sat up again, glaring at her captor. “You’ll be really sorry when the Enterprise catches up with this worthless rust bucket of a ship. I’m sure Captain Kirk is chasing you already.”

Raucous laughter was the Nausicaan’s first response, followed by a gleeful smirk. “That’s just what I’m counting on.”

He was still standing in the open doorway, and the corridor behind him was now empty. Uhura mentally measured his face for a punch, or maybe that two-fingered jab at the eye sockets that Sulu had just taught her. If she could put him out of commission, maybe she could find a weapons locker, arm herself, make her way to the bridge and…

Reality intruded on this rather unlikely fantasy. The Nausicaan was at least twice her weight, tall and heavily muscled. His numerous scars made it plain that he was no novice at hand-to-hand combat, and in all likelihood, he was well versed in whatever sort of martial arts his people practiced. He might also be carrying a concealed knife–she knew that Nausicaans often did–or some other weapon. She’d better not try anything foolish. After all, that was how she had ended up in this nasty situation in the first place, by ignoring Christine Chapel’s very sensible advice to leave the nightclub.

The Nausicaan chuckled once more and turned to leave the room. The door closed behind him, no doubt locking automatically.

Uhura turned her attention back to the communications panel. She had no tools, but that metal hook next to the sink looked like it would be just the thing to pry the panel loose. A minute later, she had the panel apart and was intently examining the components.

This was an older Vulcan design, she observed, and one that was commonly found on space freighters in this part of the galaxy. She could bypass a few circuits–here, here, and here–to gain direct access to the ship’s subspace transmitter and send a message to the Enterprise.

But what kind of message?

It would have to be very short, to avoid drawing the attention of whoever was in charge of the freighter’s communications. Even then, it might be noticed. And she needed to send a warning that there was danger ahead, some sort of trap intended to capture the Enterprise, as the conversation a few minutes ago had suggested. Her kidnappers wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble just to sell one human captive to the Orions; no, they had something else planned. Probably an ambush by several Nausicaan pirate ships.

She stood there staring at the half-disassembled communications panel for several seconds before an answer came to her. Quickly rerouting the circuits, she whispered one word:


This Japanese term referred to a category of kata, or martial arts exercise, which consisted of quarter-turns followed by punches, kicks, or some combination thereof. Even in the unlikely event that the Nausicaans noticed the unauthorized transmission and had the Japanese language programmed into their universal translator, they would get only the literal translation, “four directions.” They wouldn’t understand that it implied defending oneself when surrounded by enemies. No doubt Sulu, at tactical, would grasp her meaning immediately.

She carefully restored the circuits to their previous configuration, put the panel back where it had been, and settled down to wait.


Phaser fire rocked the Nausicaan freighter. Uhura reached to steady herself against the side of the bed, only to find it vanishing beneath her fingers. A moment later, the Enterprise’s transporter room took place around her, and she saw the worried face of Dr. McCoy waving a medical tricorder in her direction.

“I’m fine, really. They didn’t hurt me.”

McCoy didn’t look at all convinced. “I’m reading some sort of alien sedative in your system. You’d better come to Sickbay.”

Despite her protests that it had all worn off and she felt okay, Uhura spent the next hour or so in Sickbay while Chapel, whose initial show of relief at seeing her friend alive and well gradually gave way to an I-told-you-so look, assisted the doctor in running several tests.

After a while, McCoy gave her a clean bill of health, and she went directly to a conference room for a debriefing on her experiences with the Nausicaan pirates. She described how she had been kidnapped from the nightclub and found herself aboard the freighter.

“Three well-armed pirate ships attacked us after we crossed into Nausicaan space,” Kirk told her. “Thanks to your warning, we had sent out a call for assistance. The pirates weren’t expecting us to arrive with reinforcements. They’re all in the brig now, pondering what they did wrong.”

“You showed quick thinking and clever strategy in sending that message,” Sulu added, in an appreciative tone.

Uhura returned the other officers’ smiles.

“I learned from a good Sensei… and a good captain.”