Star Traks: Boldly Gone... was created by Alan Decker and Anthony Butler. It's based on Star Traks, which in turn is based on Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry. Star Trek is owned by CBS, Paramount and Viacom. If you're offended by mildly disturbing language, situations, and the utter disregard of some of Star Trek's greatest premises, not to mention a huge jump 120 years into Star Trek's future, better hit the 'Back' button on your browser right now. If not, welcome aboard!

Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
Copyright: 2023


“Legend of the Bain”

By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler

The door to the dimly lit conference room opened, allowing in a flood of blinding light from the corridor, blocked only by the figure standing hesitantly in the doorway. The man sitting alone in the barely lit room at the head of the long conference table look up from the screen embedded in its surface toward the newcomer.

“What is it, Gregory?”

“Mister Kelly and Mrs. Hobricap have reported in from their meeting with representatives from Starfleet Command,” Gregory said, entering the room so that the doors could close behind him, once again plunging the chamber into near darkness.


“Starfleet is very upset with Captain Bain and will be putting a reprimand on his record.”

“So they aren’t actually doing anything.”

“No, sir, Mister Loomis.”

Jackson Loomis, CEO of the Dillon Consortium, leaned back in his chair and let out a long breath. “I am disappointed, Gregory. That man caused billions of credits of damage to our acquisition fleet, sent his minions in to win a large sum from our CasinoWorld complex and then destroy it, and prevented us from taking possession of the Multek Enclave, property that was rightfully ours. I would have expected more of Starfleet. A demotion at least, if not a court martial.”

“Forgive me for saying so, Mister Loomis, but I don’t believe that Starfleet likes us very much.”

“That they don’t,” Loomis sighed. “For some reason having an organization the size of ours existing in Federation space with its own fleet makes them nervous.”

“Shall I have Mister Kelly and Mrs. Hobricap lodge a protest?”

“No. What would be the point?”

“I did take the liberty of looking into some other options,” Gregory said.

“Oh really?”

“Yes, sir. I contacted several independent purveyors of military and termination services.”

“You talked to mercenaries and assassins?”

“Yes, sir. But when I told them who the target was, they all were inexplicably occupied.”

“Reginald Bain does have a certain reputation,” Loomis said.

“With all due respect, sir, the man is a legend. The Butcher of Breen. The Terror of the Tzenkethi. I suggested perhaps that they consider going after his family instead, but none of my contacts would even take that on. It turns out that almost thirty years ago, a group of rogue Orions and Cardassians planned to kidnap Bain’s wife. To a person, they all were killed under mysterious circumstances and in several unusual accidents before they were even able to put their plan in motion. As far as anyone knows, Bain wasn’t even aware that it was happening. It’s like the universe just stepped in on his side.”

“You don’t believe that, do you?”

“I didn’t until I did some research. The deaths are documented.”

“That may be so, but it still doesn’t make Reginald Bain anything more than a man. No matter what the stories about him may claim, he is not invincible. Once his weaknesses are exposed, the legend will die.”

“I did have one other idea on that front, if you will indulge me,” Gregory said.

“Of course.”

Gregory raised his arm to his mouth and spoke into his cufflink. “Please send in Ms. Burke.”

Seconds later, the doors opened, again flooding the room with light. “Wow,” Tori Burke said, straining to see. “Why are we in the dark?” She slapped the panel beside the door frame which immediately caused the room’s lights to flare to life, revealing the thin man in his 50s seated at the end of the table. He wore an ill-fitting blue suit about a century out of fashion.

“No wonder you had the lights off,” Burke said. “I’ve been in stasis for twenty years, and my clothes are more in style than that.”

“The lights were dim because I am going for an effect,” Loomis said. “Mysterious with a hint of menace. That’s harder to do in a bright room. Gregory…”

Gregory hit the light panel again, instantly returning the room back to darkness.

“Oh. I see,” Burke said. “It’s working…Mister?”

Gregory spoke up, “Ms. Tori Burke, Esquire, allow me to introduce Jackson Loomis.”

Burke choked for a moment. “Jackson Loomis!” she gasped. “I’m so sorry, sir. I didn’t mean any disrespect.”

“Of course you didn’t,” Loomis said. “Gregory, why is she here?”

“As you may recall from the briefing on the Bain incident, Ms. Burke was picked up by Bain’s crew on Edgeworld in the Multek Enclave. She was sent there twenty years ago in a stasis pod to serve as legal counsel for the Consortium team taking possession of that planet. Due to the Multeks’ disappearance, she remained in stasis until she was awakened by said members of Bain’s crew. As she is the only Dillon Consortium personnel with first-hand experience with Bain, I believe that she could be the key to winning against him on her field of battle.”

“You want to take him to court?” Burke asked.

“That was my idea,” Gregory replied.

“As much as I would love to, I don’t think we have grounds,” Burke replied. “Starfleet has jurisdiction over his actions as an officer, and our claim to lost property is very shaky since we were never officially able to take possession of the Multek Enclave before they phased it out of normal space, an action that Captain Bain had nothing to do with. Besides, I don’t know what court we could petition to pursue a claim.”

“She’s right,” Loomis said. “I also don’t think we could get away with the Bain-in-Court plot device, since it was just done with the Breen a little while ago. Is Bain’s ship still at Waystation Prime?”

“Yes, sir. They are undergoing repairs,” Gregory reported.

“Good. Ms. Burke, if you have any contacts on Bain’s crew, please return and cultivate them.”

“I will. And very I’m sorry that I couldn’t be more help on the legally crushing Bain front,” Burke said. “There are other ways, Ms. Burke. There are OTHER ways.” “Oooh. Now that sounded mysterious.”

“Thank you. I’ve been working on my delivery.”

There were starship captains who looked upon their vessels as almost extension of themselves or, even more creepily, as their spouse. Reginald Bain was not one those captains. He knew exactly where he stopped and his ship began, and, as a married man, looking on his ship as his wife was just not proper, particularly with his wife now living on board the USS Anomaly with him.

No, a ship was just a mode of transportation. A means to an end. A tool for getting the job done. It was really the crew under Bain’s command that meant something. He’d known captains who forgot that and hesitated in a critical situation because they were worried that their ship might be damaged. Bain was quite certain that Captain Barnum Dax would end up cowering in a fetal position if the paint of the Enterprise-J was so much as scratched.

Even so, Bain hated to see the Anomaly as battered and worn as it had been after their unexpected and violent breaching of the pocket dimension enveloping the Multek Enclave. It had taken the extreme resourcefulness of his Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Shelly Marsden, and an incredible display of fortitude under stress by their resident brain, Cabral, to get the Anomaly home and the Multeks back safely beyond the reach of the Dillon Consortium.

Now his wounded vessel was moored in a massive docking saucer located atop one of the saucer columns of Waystation Prime getting the attention it needed to bring everything back to ship-shape. His wife, Rosalyn, had taken the opportunity to go visit their daughter, Sophie, and her family. Bain probably should have gone as well, but he needed to oversee the work on the Anomaly. Besides, he had family here already with his adopted son, Tovar, and Tovar’s new bride, the Anomaly’s aforementioned Chief Engineer.

While Bain appreciated a bit of downtime as much as anyone, Waystation Prime was not exactly where he wanted to be for any length of time. He’d spent a couple of weeks there twenty years earlier, which was when he first met Tovar. While that was one of the best things to ever happen to him, he held no real fondness for Waystation Prime. It was just so…touristy. The saucers on the various columns were always bustling with people, and there were times that each and every one of the six decks of New Starfleet Square Mall were practically impassible. The station commander, Commodore Ted Ritter, was a good chap and a friend, but Bain wouldn’t be sad to get underway again.

With that in mind, he made his way to the Anomaly’s engineering section to get a status report from Marsden. He entered the vast complex to find her working on one of the components of the ship’s anti-singularity drive, an orange rectangular piece of alien technology made up of twisting pipes and conduits that was affectionately known as “the lasagna.”

Said lasagna normally resided in Science Lab Four, where a concave depression in its top surface served as the resting place for Cabral’s sphere and his point of interface with the rest of the Anomaly’s systems, including the anti-singularity drive. It was more intricately involved in the function of the anti-sing than that, but frankly Bain had never quite grasped it all. Something about regulating the energies of the singularity and the warp core and translating the curvature of the…bah!

The lasagna was important, and it had been moved to Engineering during the Multek bother in order to give Cabral more direct access to the Anomaly’s singularity. Now Marsden was hunched over it along with the Anomaly’s science officer, Doctor Natalia Kasyov, while the large black metallic sphere holding Cabral floated nearby.

“I don’t see any fissures,” Marsden was saying as she scanned the lasagna with her quadcorder. “I think the patch is holding.”

“That was more than a patch, Shelly. You mended that thing with everything you could,” Dr. Kasyov said.

“I’d still rather have the original parts. Frankly, we’re lucky we’ve made it this long without needed to repair the thing. I don’t suppose your people would send us a spare,” Marsden said, looking back at Cabral.

“I doubt that the Pliggeri would be so accommodating…if you could even contact them in the first place,” Cabral replied. “And I believe that your repairs will be more than sufficient. Thank you, Shelly.”


“One more down, eh, Marsie?” Bain said, walking up to the group.

“This was a big one off of the list.”

“How is that list these days?”

“Coming along. Waystation Prime had most of what we needed, and the rest arrived this morning from Starbase 219. We may still be looking at a solid couple of weeks of work to get everything back in working order.”

“I know you’re doing your best,” Bain said. “But don’t spend all of your time in here. Rosalyn would never forgive me if she thought that I was getting in the way of your honeymoon.”

“Don’t worry about it, sir,” Marsden said. “Frankly, Tovar and I hadn’t planned that far ahead.”

“There’s a shock,” Kasyov said.

“I’m sorry! Okay?” Marsden said.

“Some sort of strife here, ladies?” Bain asked.

“I believe Natalia is upset that she was not invited to the nuptials,” Cabral said.

“Ah. Well, don’t take it personally, Kassie,” Bain said. “Ros and I weren’t there either, and we’re the parents of the groom.”

“We didn’t invite anyone. It was an impulse decision!” Marsden said. “We just went to one of the station’s quickie wedding chapels, and we did it.”

“And that made you want to get married?” Kasyov asked with a glint in her eye.

“Nat!” Marsden snapped.

“Right. Well…” Bain said, fighting very hard to push Kasyov’s remark from his mind. “You both did what you did, and I couldn’t be happier for you. I’m sure Kassie feels the same.”

“She knows I do,” Kasyov said.

“Good. And you’ve made wonderful headway, Marsden. I appreciate your efforts, but please do get out with Tovar and enjoy yourselves. Just keep me apprised of your progress on the repairs. I’ll be more than ready to leave…not that I want you to spend all of your time here. I just said that I didn’t. Don’t be stressed. Have fun. But everything in moderation.”

“Understood, sir,” Marsden said. “I think.”

“Capital! I’ll be off then.” Bain spun on his heel and beat a retreat from Engineering, leaving Marsden, Kasyov, and Cabral behind.

“Is he okay?” Marsden asked.

“I’m sure he’s adjusting,” Kasyov said. “You’re not just his Chief Engineer anymore. You’re his daughter.”

“In-law,” Marsden said firmly. “And so what? He’s served with his son for years.”

“Yes, but they were father and son before they served together. Your relationship with Bain is reversed. That may be strange for him,” Cabral said.

“Just wait until you’re carrying his grandkid,” Kasyov said.

“And this conversation is officially over,” Marsden said.

“Bain’s right. You’re stressed,” Kasyov said.

“I wonder why.”

“Why don’t you go out with that hubby of yours tonight? Go see what the station has to offer.”

“That’s actually not a bad idea. Let’s go.”

“Wait. What do you mean ‘let’s’? I am not playing third nacelle to you two.”

“No. You, me, Tovar, and Cabral. It’ll be a double date,” Marsden said.

“That could be enjoyable,” Cabral said.

“You’d want to go?” Kasyov asked surprised.

“I believe that I just said so.”

“All right, we’re on,” Marsden said. “I’m going to get changed. One hour at the gangplank. See you there.”

“I shall wear my best hovercam,” Cabral said.

Marsden chuckled. “His jokes are getting better.”

“That’s my sweetie,” Kasyov said, patting the sphere affectionately.

Captain Bain was not the only one eager to leave Waystation Prime. But for Commander Vioxx, it had nothing to do with the station itself or any particular need to be out on a ship traveling the stars. He just couldn’t handle having to listen to Sub-Commander Remax and Centurion Nortal having so much fun with their new-found and ill-gotten wealth. Okay, he couldn’t actually say that it was truly ill-gotten. If Remax and Nortal hadn’t gambled their way into breaking the bank of the Dillon Consortium casino, the giant robot that had formed out of the casino (Now that was a tough one to explain to Romulan Imperial Command. He’s still not sure they bought it, even with the Anomaly’s logs and Bain’s word to back him up.) would not have shut down as a way to protect the Dillon Consortium’s credits.

That shut down should have been the end of it. It was designed to wipe the casino’s computer systems of all memory of the winnings, so the lucky person who did it would find themselves instead completely out of luck. Remax, however, was prepared and had programmed his quadcorder to send incremental cash outs to his and Nortal’s accounts on Romulus along the way. It was a maneuver that later Dillon Consortium casinos would prevent, but the robot made from Dillon’s CasinoWorld had been out of contact with corporate headquarters for a couple of decades and lacked those updates. Remax’s counter-trick still worked.

And now Remax and Nortal had who knows how many credits to enjoy while Vioxx got to stand there and watch them. Of course, Vioxx could have just found something else to do on Waystation Prime. It was a massive complex, but doing so rather than accepting Remax and Nortal’s invitation to join them for another afternoon of conspicuous consumption in New Starfleet Square Mall would let Remax know that the whole thing had gotten to him, and Vioxx was not about to give the elder Romulan that pleasure.

Although, considering this was the third time he’d walked along the fifth level of the mall with them, he was starting to think that this pride-saving wasn’t worth it.

“Ho!” Nortal exclaimed. “This establishment has not experienced the glory of my patronage!”

“It’s a cooking supply store,” Vioxx said. “A whole store for the freaks and weirdos who still want to prepare their own meals.”

“Toflay is not a freak nor a weirdo!” Nortal said.

“He’s the past-life of a chef living inside of Tovar. I think that makes him both,” Vioxx said.

“Normally I’d agree with you,” Remax said. “But since we’ve got the credits to burn, why not get a little something for Toflay?”

“He’s a married man now,” Vioxx said.

“Tovar may have wed, but Toflay has not,” Nortal said.

“Yeah, try explaining that distinction to Lieutenant Marsden.”

“You keep me from my commerce.”

“Okay. Let’s…” Vioxx spotted a familiar face coming toward them down the concourse. “You two go ahead. I’ll be right in,” he said.

Remax followed Vioxx’s gaze and spotted Tori Burke heading their way. “What are you, some kind of masochist?” Remax asked. “The woman hates you.”

“She hates all of us. Not me specifically. Where’s the harm in talking to her?”

“Ask me that again when she finishes kicking the nevult out of you,” Remax replied, shaking his head as he entered the store after Nortal.

Vioxx positioned himself right in the human’s path, so that she couldn’t help but see him. “Ms. Burke! I haven’t seen you around here for a while. I thought you’d returned to Consortium headquarters on Dillonia.”

“Here I am, so I guess not,” Tori Burke replied.

She hadn’t immediately walked away again, which Vioxx took as a good sign. “I wanted to apologize,” he said.

“Apologize? For what?”

“I wasn’t as understanding as I could have been about your situation. I hope that your bosses weren’t too hard on you about what happened.”

“They were more understanding than you were. But, in your defense, our robot was trying to kill you. And if it weren’t for you, I might be dead or still stuck in that stasis tube on Edgeworld. So…thank you.”

“Really?” Vioxx said surprised before catching himself. “You’re very welcome,” he continued. “Still I’d like to apologize personally. Can I buy you dinner?”

“You…you want to take me to dinner?” Burke asked even more surprised.

“Yes, I would. I know tonight might be too short of notice, so what about tomorrow evening?”

“All right. I could do that,” Burke said. “I’m staying in 37256.”

“I’ll come get you at 1800,” Vioxx said with a smile.

“See you then.” Burke returned the smile and continued on down the concourse. And here she thought that getting back in touch with Bain’s crew might be difficult. Instead, Vioxx had just asked her out. When was the last time that had happened? Even before stasis it had been a while. Now she had her in with Bain…and a date.

Back in front of Raiders of the Lost Art of Cooking, Vioxx was in shock that his conversation with Tori Burke had gone so well. He honestly expected to be curled up on the deck in extreme pain right now after taking a knee to his Imperial orbs. That hadn’t happened. Instead…

“You asked her out!” Remax exclaimed, charging out of the store.

“How did…”

“Ears!” Remax said, pointing at his…er…points. “Why would you do that?”

“She’s not a bad looking woman, and we were kind of rough on her.”

“She hates you, and you want to date her. You are a sick sick man.”

“I’m a sick man with a date tomorrow night,” Vioxx said, patting Remax on the arm before heading into the shop to check on Nortal.

“Now I’m going to be sick,” Remax muttered.

Two levels and several hundred meters away, Commander Prosak sat in one of the five food courts in New Starfleet Square Mall idly stirring the chunks around in the Z’nantz soda she’d picked up from a McBaughb’s as she tried to figure out just what she was going to do that night. The truth was that she wasn’t very good at being on leave. At least not on her own. While her Anomaly crewmates were here as well, she couldn’t help feeling that she was quite alone.

Vioxx and the other Romulans on board were no longer actively trying to kill her, but they hadn’t accepted her either. With her RommaVulc philosophies, she might as well have been an entirely different species. And spending time with Marsden and Tovar had always been a little awkward considering her past liaisons with Tovar. Now that Tovar and Marsden were married, Prosak didn’t feel that she should be looking to them for companionship.

That left…well…pretty much no one. It didn’t matter when they were all on board ship and spending all of their time together in closed circumstances. But here, everyone could go their separate ways. Perhaps she should have gone to Romulus and tried to reconnect with her father, but Rorshak had made no effort to contact her for many months now. Not that she had tried to talk to him.

Maybe it was time to…

“You are Vulcan,” a male voice said. It wasn’t a question. Merely an observation. Prosak looked up at the source of the voice. A Vulcan male dressed in a simple brown suit. He appeared to be close to her age, but with Vulcan and Romulan lifespans, it could be hard to tell. He was, however, quite handsome, with the exquisite points on his ears standing out against the jet black of his bowl haircut.

“Don’t I wish,” Prosak said.

“I am sorry. I do not understand.”

“I’m Romulan,” Prosak replied.

“Indeed? A Romulan in a Starfleet uniform. I was not aware that there was more than one.”

“I don’t think there is,” Prosak said. “Who are you thinking of?

“There is one called Prosak. My people owe her a great deal for freeing us from the influence of Sh’rak. It is said that she actively studies our ways.”

“I do,” Prosak said.

“Ah. You are Prosak. I should have deduced that by now. My apologies.”

“None are necessary,” Prosak said, struggling to keep up a flat facade when she really wanted to jump up and down screaming, “You’ve heard of me!” She was a hero on Vulcan? Who knew? Of course, Vulcans found hero worship to be illogical. Still it was nice to know that she was appreciated.

“I am Snotch. It would be an honor if I could join you.”

“The honor is mine,” Prosak replied, gesturing for Snotch to sit.

“I hope that you will not find this request forward,” Snotch said, “but hearing how you came to be interested in my culture and about your work in Starfleet would be…fascinating.”

Ooooh! A real Vulcan thought SHE was fascinating!

Her pity party was officially over!

Lieutenant Commander Tovar stood at the USS Anomaly gangway hatch where the vessel was connected to Waystation Prime via a docking sheath, a tunnel of energy running between the ship and the station. Crossing it was like traveling on a walkway made entirely of shields. It was also transparent, which provided either a great view or acute acrophobia attacks depending on your inclinations.

Tovar, however, was not considering the view. Or the docking sheath, really. Instead he was wondering just how events had gotten away from him so quickly. One moment, he was sitting in the quarters he shared with his new bride enjoying a bit of reading. The next, Marsden was rushing in and telling him to get changed because they were supposed to be heading over to Waystation Prime with Cabral and Dr. Kasyov in less than an hour.

As the appointed time loomed, the reality that it was far too little notice for Marsden to get ready set in. Tovar found himself being told that he needed to get to the gangplank, so that he could inform Cabral and Kasyov that Marsden was running a little behind.

And so he stood at the gangplank alone wondering if he’d agreed to be Marsden’s messenger boy somewhere in their vows. He didn’t believe so.

His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Cabral’s hovercam.

“Good evening, Tovar.”

“Cabral. Natalia is not with you?”

“No. She told me to let you and Shelly know that she was running a bit behind.”

Tovar chuckled. “I am here to deliver the same message.”

“I suppose this is incontrovertible proof that Natalia and I are in a relationship. My studies of human courtship behavior have often included mentions of the male suitor waiting for the female to finish her preparations. Of course, its presence in several entertainment media may mean that it is a stereotype.”

“If my older sisters were any indication, it is a stereotype based in reality,” Tovar said. “Audrey was especially adept at taking hours in the bathroom only to come out looking like she’d thrown her outfit together in seconds.”

“Ah. I can’t say that this is something I have much familiarity with.”

“It doesn’t matter. Just accept it and move on. Do you have any idea what we’re doing tonight?”

“None. Were you and I expected to plan this?” Cabral asked.

“I certainly hope not. Still, perhaps we should have something in mind just in case.” Tovar was a tac-ops officer after all. Contingency plans were second nature. He started to run through the Waystation Prime amenities in his mind, only to lose his train of thought as a Federation Express courier stepped through the gangway hatch carrying a small package and a padd.

“May I help you?” Tovar asked.

“You’re not Bain by any chance, are you?” the courier asked.

“I am a Bain,” Tovar replied. Along with marrying Marsden, his other action upon their arrival at Waystation Prime after their experiences in the Multek Enclave had been to officially take Bain as his last name; although, everyone still just called him Tovar.

“Good enough for me. Retinal scan here please.” He offered Tovar the padd, which took a quick scan of Tovar’s eye, confirmed that he was indeed a Bain, and accepted him as an authorized recipient of the package. “Have a good evening,” the courier said, taking his padd back and handing Tovar the small box about six inches square.

“You as well,” Tovar replied.

“What’s that?” Lieutenant Marsden asked, walking up. For a moment upon seeing his wife, Tovar completely forgot about the package. She spent so much time in her uniform that Tovar always enjoyed seeing her in civilian garb, particularly considering the form fitting slacks she’d selected. All of the bending and crouching she did as a part of her work in Engineering had given her a spectacular…

“I said, what’s that?” Marsden repeated, pointing at the box.

“I don’t know. It was just delivered.”

“Probably another part for the ship. I haven’t had a chance to go through what Starbase 219 sent to make sure it was all there.”

“It is addressed to the captain.”

“All the more reason to think it’s for the ship. Who ever sends him packages?” Marsden said.

“No one. And mother would be less formal.”

“Formal about what?” Dr. Kasyov asked, walking up to the group.

“You look lovely,” Cabral said.

“Thank you, Cabral,” Kasyov said.

“You do, too,” Tovar quickly said to Marsden.

“You don’t need to say it, dear,” Marsden replied. “I saw your eyes when I walked up. Now what did they send us?” Marsden activated the package’s release, causing the end to slide open. She tilted the box, sending a small black object into her hand. Several lights on its side were blinking.

“What the hell is this?”

“That would be a genetically-encoded explosive,” Tovar said, snatching it out of Marsden’s hands.

“How do you know that?”

“It is my job.”

“He’s got you there,” Kasyov said.

“Why would someone send Bain a bomb?” Marsden asked.

“Do you really need to ask that question?” Tovar said.

“Okay. True. Who would send him a bomb?”

“Why don’t you answer that question after you get rid of it?” Kasyov asked urgently.

“I would prefer to study it,” Tovar said, turning the device over in his hands. “We could find a clue as to who sent it. And as long as Captain Bain does not come within its scanning range, we should be…”


A screen on the device flared to life as…

“Ah! And where are we all off to then?” Captain Bain asked warmly, striding up to the group.

“We’re running this way!” Marsden said, grabbing one of Bain’s arms as Kasyov grabbed the other and yanked him down the corridor with Cabral’s hovercam following close behind.

“What the devil?” Bain shouted.

“Bomb!” Tovar said.

“Bloody hell!”

“Get rid of it!” Marsden shouted.

That was easier said than done. He had maybe five seconds left. He’d never reach a transporter in time, and most of these devices had a failsafe that would automatically detonate if transporter activity was detected.. He couldn’t just throw it out of the ship into the docking sheath because he’d never get the hatch closed in time and the resulting blast might still kill him and harm Bain, Marsden, and Kasyov.

Wait. The sheath!

Tovar raced over the panel by the gangway hatch and deactivated the sheath. The tunnel of energy flashed out of existence just before Tovar threw the bomb straight down into the vast open space of the docking saucer.

Just below the Anomaly, the device detonated, sending out a shockwave that rattled the ship but otherwise did little damage.

“Hmm…” Tovar said, peering down at the explosion.

“What is it lad?” Bain asked, jogging up behind him.

“That wouldn’t have taken out the ship even if it had been on board.”

“That’s a relief.”

“You, however, would have been killed instantly.”

“And that’s less so.”

“You did say that it was specifically addressed to Captain Bain,” Cabral said.

“What was?” Bain asked.

“The package containing that bomb,” Tovar replied.

“You opened my mail?”

“And you’re upset about it?” Marsden asked.

“We thought it was a part for the ship,” Tovar explained.

“Ah. Well, still, don’t make a habit of it. Not every package will be a bomb,” Bain said.

“Yes, sir,” Marsden said.

“Right. Well, you lot have a nice evening,” Bain said, striding off down the corridor.

“Doesn’t he want to know who just tried to kill him?” Kasyov asked.

“Based on past experience, he’ll wait for the assassin to show himself,” Tovar said. “After a failure or two, they invariably do. I, however, will not be as patient.”

“Do you want to reschedule the evening?” Marsden asked.

“I would,” Kasyov said. “I don’t know if I could relax after all of that.”

“I probably should check the outer hull for damage,” Marsden said.

“Let’s postpone until tomorrow night,” Tovar said. “Whatever progress I can make will be made by then.”

“Okay. Tomorrow,” Kasyov said.

“I will accompany you to your quarters,” Cabral said, his hovercam floating beside her.

“Thanks, Cabral.”

“I’d better go change,” Marsden said to Tovar. “Shame to waste this outfit, though, don’t you think?”

“That I do,” Tovar replied, taking his wife’s hand and walking with her back to their quarters. His investigation could wait a little while.

Remax arrived at the door to the Anomaly’s briefing room at the same time as Vioxx. Neither man looked very happy to be there.

“You want to tell me why we’re having a briefing first thing in the damn morning?” Remax demanded.

“I have no idea,” Vioxx said, stifling a yawn. “We’re docked, and half the ship has been ripped apart. What could there be to brief us about?”

The pair entered the room to find that Nortal was already there along with Commander Prosak, Lieutenant Marsden, Dr. Kasyov, and, at the head of the table, Lieutenant Commander Tovar. Most of the group appeared to be equally tired, except for Prosak. She was grinning stupidly and practically bouncing in her seat.

“What’s with you?” Remax asked her as he took the seat next to Prosak.

“I met someone! He’s a Vulcan! I think he likes me!”

“I don’t know whether to be happy that she’s dropped the non-emotional crap or annoyed that she’s so damn giddy at this hour,” Remax said.

“Sorry to get everyone here so early, but I wanted to have this discussion sooner rather than later,” Tovar said. “I’ve also commed my mother, so that she can participate. Are you still there, Mum?”

“I am,” the voice of Rosalyn Bain said over the conference room speakers.

“Oh jernot,” Vioxx moaned. “We’re planning a surprise party for Captain Bain, aren’t we?”

“Please no,” Remax said.

“Say it is not so!” Nortal exclaimed. “My sleep has been interrupted!”

“It’s not so,” Tovar said. “We have a far more serious problem. As most of you are aware, Captain Bain was almost killed by a bomb last night.”

“So were we,” Marsden said.

“A bomb!” Vioxx said. “How did we not know this?”

“It was a very small bomb,” Tovar said, “delivered in a package that was specifically addressed to Captain Bain. Due to circumstances that don’t bear going into, we ended up opening it instead. While no one was harmed and nothing damaged this time, we need to take action to ensure that we find and deal with the assassin or assassins before another attempt is made.”

“If they are after Bain, why isn’t he here?” Remax said.

“Captain Bain prefers to deal with things his own way. I prefer more preemptive action,” Tovar said.

“Quite right, dear,” Rosalyn said.

“Now this is what we know. The bomb was fitted with a genetically-encoded trigger. While the explosive yield was small, the triggering device was very sophisticated and able to detect its target almost three meters away. Federation Express was hired to deliver the package containing the bomb, but they have no tracking records in their system until it turned up in their delivery facility on Waystation Prime. Their standard scans should have picked up the explosive when it was initially processed, but no one has any record of when or where it was given to them. As far as they’re concerned, it just appeared. Waystation Prime security is aware of the situation and will be thoroughly scanning the station itself, the ships docked here, and all incoming traffic for signs of explosive material.

“None of this, however, helps us find the culprit. Captain Bain has had a long career and amassed a number of enemies in that time. Fortunately for us, he killed most of those enemies before they had time to develop a grudge. As for the ones still alive…”

“They’re all accounted for, dear,” Rosalyn said. “And no word of any plots.”

“How would she know?” Remax said.

“She has…good connections,” Tovar said.

“We believe her, don’t we Prosak?” Marsden said.

“Yes. Yes, we do,” Prosak said quickly. Remax glanced over at her. Was that fear in her eyes?

“Based on this information and recent events,” Tovar said, “I think we can all agree about the most likely suspects.”

“Did I miss a logical leap somewhere along the line?” Vioxx asked.

“He means the Dillon Consortium, you moron,” Remax snapped.

“If that’s the case, what do we do?” Kasyov asked.

“We shall take the battle to them!” Nortal cried.

“In what?” Marsden said. “This ship wouldn’t make it to the next saucer column in the condition it’s in right now, much less Dillonia.”

“The galactic powers should have taken action decades ago. I would have been on them the minute the Consortium started building their own planetoid for a headquarters,” Remax said. “The damn thing probably has some kind of giant death ray hidden in it or something.”

“We are not going to have any effect on the Dillon Consortium if we try to engage them in battle,” Tovar said.

“Tovar’s right,” Rosalyn said. “Anything you do now is just going to look like a further military assault on an independent corporate entity.”

“What do you mean further?” Vioxx said.

“We did basically wipe out one of their acquisition fleets,” Rosalyn said. “Noble as it was, it was an unprovoked attack on our parts. The Dillon Consortium has a bad enough reputation that no one in the Federation seems too upset about it. Too many more incidents, though, and the Consortium might start seeming sympathetic.”

“Awww. Did the widdle babies not wike getting picked on by mean old Starfleet?” Remax said.

“If they are behind the attack on Captain Bain, we will be doing far more than picking on them,” Tovar said. “But we need proof. For now, we are going to go about our business and not let the Consortium know that we suspect them. I have discretely tightened security on the ship, so to the outside it should not appear that anything is amiss.”

“So our double date’s still on for tonight,” Kasyov said.

“Yes. I would rather be out and about on the station gathering information,” Tovar replied.

“And having fun,” Marsden said.

“That too.”

“You all are going out together?” Prosak said.

Marsden and Kasyov exchanged a glance. “Did you…want to join us?” Marsden asked hesitantly.

“No no. I have other plans,” Prosak said, swiftly resolving to find Snotch and make some other plans for tonight as quickly as possible.

“So do I,” Vioxx said.

“You can’t go out with that woman now,” Remax said. “Not after this.”

“What woman?” Tovar asked.

“That Consortium lawyer, Burke. She could be the one behind this for all we know.”

“Remax does have a point…,” Tovar said.


“…so you should definitely go out with her,” Tovar finished.

“Ha!” Vioxx exclaimed. “Wait, why?”

“Information gathering,” Tovar said.

“And if you do not survive, our suspicions will be confirmed and you will be avenged!” Nortal said.

“Great,” Vioxx said.

“Nortal and I have been getting to know the various shopkeepers in the mall,” Remax said.

“Oh, is that what you two have been doing?” Vioxx said.

“They value our business.”

“Our credits have purchased their loyalty!” Nortal said.

“We’ll see if they’ve heard anything while we’re out today.”

“Good. Then if no one has any further questions, we will adjourn,” Tovar said. “Thank you, everyone.”

The gathered officers filed out of the room except for Tovar. Seeing him stay behind, Marsden shot him a questioning look. “I wanted to talk to Mum a bit more.”

“Should I stay?”

“You’re welcome to, Shelly,” Rosalyn said. “You are part of the family now. Speaking of, Sophie is very anxious for the two of you to come visit.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” Tovar replied.

“I mean it, Tovar. It wouldn’t kill you to come visit your sister and niece and nephew.”

“Yes, Mum.”

“Oh Great Bird, I’m an aunt now, aren’t I?” Marsden said.

“Yes, you are,” Rosalyn said.

“Is that okay?” Tovar asked concerned.

“Yes! It’s great! I’m an only child, so I didn’t think I’d ever get to be somebody’s aunt. I love my aunt. She’s… This isn’t the time now, is it?”

“It’s sweet,” Tovar said.

“You can bask in your wonderful choice for a wife later,” Rosalyn said. “We need to talk about your father. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he has come to the same conclusion about the Dillon Consortium that we have. Unfortunately, that will probably just frustrate him.”

“Why?” Marsden asked. “Wouldn’t he want to know his enemy?”

“Yes, but he tends to prefer enemies that he can punch,” Rosalyn replied. “Under normal circumstances, he’d probably be right alongside Nortal ready to attack Dillonia. We’re just lucky that the Anomaly is out of commission at the moment.”

“Not so lucky for the woman who’s putting it back together,” Marsden said.

“Sorry, dear. I didn’t mean anything by that.”

“No no. You’re right,” Marsden said.

“Just try to keep him occupied. I know you all are going out tonight, so maybe Commodore Ritter could come by and chat with him.”

“It sounds like we’re getting him a babysitter.”

“It’s either that or he ends up rampaging through the Dillon’s Supply Depot in the mall in a fit of misplaced rage,” Tovar said. “We’ll take care of him, Mum.”

“I know you will, dear.”

“Give my love to Sophie and the kids.”

“I will. And good luck.”

“Thank you. Goodbye, Mother.”

“Bye, Mrs. Bain…er…Mum,” Marsden said.

“We can work on that later, Shelly,” Rosalyn said with a chuckle. “Mother out.”

Prosak was ostensibly eating breakfast in the same New Starfleet Square Mall food court where she had first met Snotch the day before, but really she was just hoping that she’d run into him again. As her plomeekal (an attempt at a plomeek-based oatmeal-like substance that might appeal to a non-Vulcan palette. I say “attempt” because it failed miserably due the simple fact that it was truly revolting.) grew cold, Prosak watched the other diners and passers-by looking for a glimpse of…

“We meet again,” Snotch’s voice said from directly behind her.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Prosak screamed, leaping up and sending her bowl of plomeekal sailing into the back of the head of a heavy-set Grazerite seated at the next table. The Grazerite scooped the mass out of his hair, peered at it for a moment, shrugged, and then started to eat it from his hand.

“My apologies,” Snotch said, moving in front of Prosak. “I did not intend to startle you. I will go.”

“No!” Prosak exclaimed. “I mean…please join me.”

“Thank you,” Snotch said with a nod of his head as the two sat.

“I am gratified to see that you are still here,” Prosak said. “I did not know when you intended to leave Waystation Prime.”

“My departure date has yet to be determined,” Snotch replied.

“So you will be here this evening?”

“I will.”

“Would you care to join me for dinner?” Prosak asked, fighting her nerves. This was the first time she’d asked anyone out in a looong time.

“That would be acceptable.”

“Then it is agreed,” Prosak said. “I was beginning to believe that I may have to go along on a shopping excursion just to have something to do tonight.”

“Shopping excursion?”

“Yes. Most of my shipboard acquaintances will be out together on a double date, if you considering three actual beings and one consciousness in a hovercam to be a double date.”

“I’m sorry. I do not follow.”

“Our ship has a disembodied brain on board, and he sends his consciousness into a hovercamera in order to travel outside his normal confines.”

“I see. Please continue,” Snotch said.

“Since they are busy, I was looking at possibly spending the evening with two of my other shipmates, who recently came into a large sum of credits and have been doing their best to divest themselves of them as quickly as possible.”

“Saving the credits would be the more logical course of action,” Snotch said.

“True; however, these are non-RommaVulc Romulans. They do not subscribe to logical actions…or sanity in the case of one of them.”

“I have heard through my business contacts that a purveyor of unique and unusual items is on board the station at the moment. If you believe your colleagues would be interested in seeing his wares, I can give you his contact information,” Snotch offered.

“They would probably enjoy that.”

“Then I will send you the information later today, and we can arrange our dinner plans then. Now I must take my leave of you. Until this evening, Prosak.”

“Snotch,” she said with a solemn nod as he rose to depart. He returned the nod, then moved off down the concourse.

She had a date with a Vulcan! A real and proper Vulcan!

But what were they going to do? What was the logical choice for dinner? And, most importantly, did any of the Waystation Prime shops carry books on how to get a Vulcan into bed?

“So what? You think because I agreed to go out with you that you get to comm me all the time now?” Tori Burke asked as she glared out of the viewscreen in Vioxx’s quarters.

“No! I just wanted to check in make sure we were still on for tonight,” Vioxx said.

“Why wouldn’t we be?”

“No reason.”

“Are you okay? You sound nervous.”

“Me? No. I’m fine. Just a busy morning dealing with the bombing and all.”

“Bombing? Did you say bombing? What bombing?” Burke demanded.

“It’s nothing. Just somebody trying to kill Captain Bain again. It happens,” Vioxx said, trying to sound casual. Why did he even say that much? Why couldn’t he stop his lips from moving and words from coming out? “It wasn’t a big bomb. Everyone’s fine here. You didn’t hear anything about it?”

“No. There wasn’t a security alert over here or anything.”

“Well…like I said. It wasn’t a big bomb. Just enough to kill Bain, which it didn’t. Honestly, we’re not even worrying about it,” Vioxx said, the words flying out of his mouth.


“So I’ll see you tonight?”


“I’m looking forward to it.”

“Me too,” Burke said flatly. “Bye.”

“Good…” But she had already closed the channel before Vioxx could finish the word.

In her quarters on Waystation Prime, Burke began to pace, growing angrier and angrier as she went. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore and opened a comm channel to the Dillon Consortium CEO’s office. Gregory’s face soon appeared on the screen. “I want to talk to Loomis,” Burke snapped.

“MISTER Loomis is not accepting comms at the moment.”

“Oh. Is he busy sending out more bombs to Reginald Bain?”

“I’ll put you through.”

The screen flashed to the Dillon Consortium logo. A few moments later, Jackson Loomis appeared on the monitor. At least Burke thought it was him. It was hard to tell considering how dark it was in his room. All she could make out was his silhouette.

“Ms. Burke. To what do I owe the honor?” Loomis asked.

“You tried to blow up Bain?” she demanded.

“I did say that we had other ways.”

“Then why did you want me to talk to his crew if you were just going to send him a bomb?”

“It’s always good to have a back-up plan. Have you been able to make contact?”

“Yes. I’m having dinner with one of Bain’s command officers tonight.”

“Tonight? Excellent work,” Loomis said. “Make sure to pass along anything you learn. Good day, Ms. Burke.”

“What about the bom…”

But Loomis had already closed the channel before Burke could finish the word.

In the hours since his conversation with Tori Burke, Vioxx had rundown every possible way that the night could go. At least the ones that he could come up with. Unfortunately, his Romulan upbringing kept dragging him back to the options that involved treachery. Burke had sworn just a couple of days earlier that she would make it her mission in life to see to it that the Consortium destroyed him.

What if Bain was just a distraction? What if Vioxx had been the target all along?

There was no way that he could be alone with that woman!

But what if he was wrong? What if she’d just been raging in the heat of the moment and there was really a chance that the two of them could have a nice dinner together…maybe even a bit more than that?

Still, it wasn’t worth risking a horrible death, so he decided to try an alternate tactic.

“Please tell me you aren’t waiting for us?” Sub-Commander Remax said as he approached the gangway hatch with Nortal.

“I’m not waiting for you,” Vioxx said.

“He speaks well!” Nortal said.

“For once,” Remax muttered. “Why are you loitering here?”

“No reason.”

“Sure,” Remax said. “I just realized that I actually don’t care.”

“Where are you two off to?” Vioxx asked.

“We’re going to investigate a unique purchasing opportunity.”

“I don’t know what that even means.”

“We shall buy things the likes of which have never been seen!” Nortal exclaimed.

“Prosak’s new boyfriend pointed us to a seller of rare merchandise more befitting our new station in life,” Remax said. “He only accepts buyers by appointment.”

“You two have fun with that,” Vioxx said.

“Oh, we will. Come on, Nortal.”

They headed off across the docking sheath just as Commander Prosak exited the turbolift across from the gangway hatch dressed in something from the Vulcan eveningwear collection, which pretty much looked like every other Vulcan clothing collection. “Commander,” she said flatly, with a nod of greeting.

“Ah, going for the full Vulcan tonight,” Vioxx said.

“If I am lucky,” Prosak replied. She paused. “May I borrow you for a moment?”

“What for?”

“It’s just something that I need to take care of before I see Snotch.”

“What is…”

“I HAVE DATE!” Prosak suddenly screamed, grabbing Vioxx in a bear hug and jumping up and down with him. “DATE! DATE! DATE! DATE! YAY! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! AND I MIGHT EVEN GET TO HAVE SEX! WITH A REAL VULCAN! HAHAHAHAHA! WAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

She stopped abruptly and released Vioxx, her face a mask of calm. “Thank you, Commander. I needed to get that out of my system.”

“You’re welcome,” Vioxx gasped, wondering if she’d cracked a rib. Prosak skipped off across the docking sheath, stopped herself halfway, then switched to a more stately stride.

Vioxx had just recaught his breath as his true quarry, Marsden, Tovar, Kasyov, and Cabral (his hovercam, at any rate), approached the hatch.

“So headed out, huh?” he asked, trying to sound casual.

“How’d you guess?” Marsden asked, entering the docking sheath with the others without breaking her stride.

“Me too,” Vioxx said, following along. “Big date tonight.”

“Have fun,” Kasyov said.

“You know what? I just had an idea,” Vioxx said.

Tovar suddenly stopped and turned on him. “You wish to accompany us this evening, so that you are not alone with Tori Burke on the off chance that she has been sent by the Dillon Consortium to kill you.”

“Could I?” Vioxx pleaded.

“I have no objections,” Cabral said.

“You’re too nice to object,” Kasyov said.

“It does make sense from the investigative standpoint. She is our one link to the Consortium,” Tovar said.

“Dinner and an interrogation. Sounds like a blast,” Marsden said. “Like from the bomb she’ll probably be hiding in her purse that will kill us all the second she gets up to use the bathroom.”

“We can still have fun this evening,” Tovar said.

“I know. I know. I’m actually all for it. The sooner we can get this mess with the Consortium over with, the better,” Marsden said.

“Are you sure?” Kasyov said. “She was only on the ship for a little bit, and I hated her.”

“We’ll get her drunk. It’ll be fine.”

“Alcohol could make getting information out of her easier,” Tovar remarked.

“And it could help Vioxx get her out of some other things,” Kasyov said.

“It seems that we’re agreed,” Tovar said to Vioxx.

Vioxx let out a relieved sigh. “On behalf of the part of me that doesn’t want to end up dead, which is all of me, thank you!”

Captain Bain stood up, brushed the dirt from his hands onto his pants, and then arched his back. The Anomaly’s arboretum had taken a serious pounding during the Multek dust-up, and, not surprisingly, it wasn’t very high on any of the repair crews’ to-do lists. Bain wasn’t the handiest man with a spanner, but he certainly knew his way around a garden. He’d decided that the best use of his time was trying to get things back in order here. It kept him out of the engineers’ way and allowed him to get some useful work done, which was a hell of a lot better option than wandering Waystation Prime aimlessly.

He’d had his fill of space station life here two decades earlier when he’d been banished for a couple of months to help out with a Starfleet Scouts camp as punishment for destroying a top secret automated battle droid that the Federation had been developing. If it hadn’t been for meeting Tovar, the whole experience might have been interminable.

“How the hell does the captain of a starship end up on weed-pulling duty?” a familiar voice called out across the arboretum.

“You’re just jealous that I get to play in the dirt and actually go places, while you spend your days commanding several giant stacks of plates,” Bain replied as Waystation Prime’s commanding officer and his longtime friend, Commodore Theodore Ritter, approached.

“My plates and I are doing fine,” Ritter said, reaching Bain and warmly shaking his hand. “Just wanted to check in and make sure that your crew is getting all of the help they need from us.”

“The service has been smashing, Ted,” Bain said. “Actually, we did the smashing before we got here. You lot are doing a bang-up job of getting us unsmashed, though.”

“Glad to hear it,” Ritter said, looking around at the scattered leaves and uprooted plants strewn across the arboretum. “You know I do have an arboretum of my own with its own staff. I could send a couple of them your way.”

“Quite honestly, that would be brilliant,” Bain said. “I’m never going to get this place back together by myself.”

“Consider it done, then. But in return, I want something.”

“What’s that?”

“A tour. You had me to your quarters for that group dinner, but I’ve never gotten a chance to look around this technological marvel of yours.”

“I’d be delighted,” Bain said. “And afterwards we’ll adjourn to the Captain’s Lounge for a drink.”

“Or several.”

“Very likely,” Bain said with a grin. “Right! To the torpedo room!”

“Starting with a bang, huh?”

“I certainly hope not.”

Tori Burke was not at all certain what Loomis expected of her at this point. Based on the attempt on Reginald Bain’s life, plans already had been made, so what was she supposed to do during this date with Vioxx? Was information gathering enough? Depositions and discovery motions weren’t really her areas. During her days in the Consortium’s legal department two decades earlier (even though it only felt like a couple of weeks to her), she was more in the sending nasty threatening letters and filing injunctions business. Her superiors felt that she could be equally threatening in person, which was why she’d been shipped out in stasis to Edgeworld to await the arrival of the construction crews hired to transform the Multeks’ complex there into a resort that met the Dillon Consortium’s exacting standards. Of course, that crew never came.

And now her “job” was to go on a date with a Romulan. He wasn’t a bad looking Romulan, and, for the most part, he’d been decent to her after getting her out of the stasis tube. Yes, he’d had that maniac, Nortal, stun her repeatedly, but other than that, he’d been fine.

She just wasn’t sure how she was going to spend an entire evening alone with him.

Her door chime sounded.

Guess it was time to find out.

She opened the door.

Vioxx was there, but he’d brought company. Perhaps he’d had the same concerns about spending time alone with her.

“Good evening,” Vioxx said. “May I say you look wonderful.”

“Er…thanks,” Burke said.

“As some of my colleagues were also going out this evening, I thought that we might all spend our time together. I don’t know if you remember them from the brief time you spent aboard our vessel. This is Lieutenant Commander Tovar, Lieutenant Shelly Marsden, Doctor Natalia Kasyov, and the hovering device is controlled by Cabral, our ship’s brain.”

Marsden, Kasyov, and Tovar raised their hands in a half-hearted wave. “Hi,” they said unenthusiastically.

“How…nice,” Burke said. “But if you’re going to spend all night talking like you just stepped out of some Romulan community theater production of Sense and Sensibility, I’m staying here.”

“I thought it sounded romantic.”

“Maybe to Nancy Drew.”

Kasyov frowned. “Nancy Drew wasn’t in Sense and…”

“Whatever!” Burke snapped.

“Oh, I am so looking forward to tonight,” Marsden muttered as the group headed off down the corridor toward the neared turbolift. Fortunately, Waystation Prime’s lift system had been designed to hold large numbers of people. Six people…well, five and hovercam, would have been a bit cozy on the Anomaly.

As the turbolift began its decent to one of the saucers in the column with a connection to another column, the group stood in silence.

“So,” Burke said finally, “what fun and excitement is on tap for tonight?”

Tovar glanced back at Cabral’s hovercam. “Um…we have some ideas.”

“Do those plans include visiting The Gravity Well?” Kasyov asked hopefully. “That place is an institution.”

“You want to go to a dance club?” Burke said. “Is…camera guy okay with that?”

“Why wouldn’t I want to dance?” Cabral asked.

“Because you’re a hovercam.”

Cabral suddenly made the camera bop back and forth and then side to side a few times before performing a barrel roll. “I have moves,” he said.

“That you do,” Kasyov said grinning.

“Just a warning,” Tovar said to Marsden. “Cabral’s floating box dances better than I do.”

“Then we’ll suck at it together,” Marsden said. “Get enough drinks in me, though, and I won’t care.”

“A woman after my own heart,” Burke said. “What about you, Vioxx? You going to impress me with your dance floor domination.”

“Just wait until you see my Romulan Rumba,” Vioxx said.

“Really? I didn’t know that the Romulans had…”

“We don’t. I just made that up. I’ll be joining the side of those needing intoxicants to do this.”

“Oh, it’s going to be fun trying to get this group home tonight,” Kasyov said.

“Can we get dinner first?” Marsden asked. “If I drink and dance on an empty stomach, Tovar’s going to end up coated in my puke.”

“Thank you for that, dear,” Tovar said.

“Nothing’s too good for my hubby.”

“So you two are married?” Burke said.

“Newlyweds,” Vioxx said.

“Very newlyweds,” Kasyov said. “Just a couple of days now.”

“Congratulations,” Burke said.

“Thanks,” Marsden said. “Now food.”

“All right,” Tovar said. “There are many options on board. Assuming that we’re not interested in fast food…”

“No McBaughb’s!” Kasyov said firmly. “Nothing Andorian period!”

“So noted. Well then, starting with the first level of the mall, there’s…”

Tovar began running through restaurant options with each prompting discussion among the group as the turbolift moved across to the next saucer column.

Several minutes later, they had finally settled on a fairly safe Alpha-Beta-Café, which offered a broad selection of dishes from the aforementioned quadrants and promised to have something for everyone. The café wasn’t actually in New Starfleet Square and instead was housed in a small commercial district in one of the residential saucers, so with a command from Tovar, the turbolift was off again.

Once it finally came to a halt and the doors opened, the group spilled out into the corridor. Tovar immediately realized that they were not where they were supposed to be unless the restaurant was somewhere along this deserted narrow hallway lined with golden trim and golden light fixtures. He was betting that wasn’t the case, though.

“Did we make a wrong turn?” Vioxx asked.

“From a turbolift?” Kasyov said.

“Maybe it’s a computer glitch,” Burke said.

“That would be unusual,” Marsden said. “Turbolift technology isn’t exactly anything new.”

“Let’s just get out of here,” Tovar said. Something about this did not feel right. He tried to re-enter the turbolift, but the doors wouldn’t open. The car must have moved on. No wonder this didn’t feel right. It was a trap.

“Tovar!” Marsden shouted suddenly. He spun around and saw a group of seven armed figures in the dark blue uniforms of Dillon Consortium Security stalking toward them.

“They’ve got friends!” Vioxx said, as another group approached from the opposite direction, blocking any avenue of escape except for the turbolift, which Tovar was fairly certain would not be arriving.

“Out of the way,” Marsden said, diving to the turbolift doors and trying to pry them open. “The hell! It’s like they’re sealed.”

“They probably are,” Tovar said. “Please do not make any more sudden moves. I do not want you to get shot.”

“We’re not going to do anything?”

“None of us are armed. They all are. Obviously, someone arranged for us to be trapped here. It does not appear that they intend to kill us, or they would have opened fire by now. We will go with them, gather information, and wait for an opportunity.”

“I don’t think so,” Burke said, striding toward the closest group of guards. “I’m a Consortium employee. Our turbolift dumped us in the wrong spot. No harm done. Just let us be on our way.”

“I guess she missed the ‘this is a trap’ part,” Vioxx said.

“On the bright side, unless she is an excellent actress, that means that she was not aware of the plot against us and did not betray us to her employer,” Tovar said.

“That’s definitely a positive.”

“Come with us,” one of the guards ordered.

“As you wish,” Tovar said, putting his hands in the air. The rest of the group did likewise, and they were led to a heavy set of double doors a couple of corridors away. One of the guards tapped a code into a panel at the side of the doors, causing them to slide open revealing an empty room.

Well, empty except for Nortal, Remax, Prosak, and Snotch.

“We are rescued!” Nortal exclaimed. She then spotted the guards behind Tovar and company. “We are not rescued!”

“Thanks for the update,” Remax groused as Tovar and the others were shoved into the room. The doors slid closed with a clunk, imprisoning them with their shipmates…and a Vulcan…and a lawyer. Instantly, Cabral’s hovercam dropped to the deck and lay motionless.

“Cabral!” Kasyov cried.

“He’s fine,” Marsden said.

“And we have bigger issues to discuss,” Tovar said. “What happened to you?” he asked Nortal, Remax and Prosak.

“We were going to see a merchant. Instead the turbolift dumped us out on this deck into the arms of the welcome party out there,” Remax said.

“That’s pretty much what happened to us,” Prosak said. “I met Snotch at his quarters. This is Snotch, by the way.”

“Hello,” the Vulcan said flatly.

“Nice to meet you,” Marsden said. “I’m Marsden. That’s Tovar, Kasyov, Vioxx, and…Burke? Right?” Burke nodded. “Intros are over. Go on, Prosak.”

“The rest is pretty much what Remax said. We got into a turbolift and ended up here.”

“So it’s safe to say we were all tracked somehow,” Tovar said.

“I don’t see how that helps us,” Remax said.

“It doesn’t at the moment.”

“What happened to Cabral?” Burke asked.

“This room must be shielded,” Marsden said. “The hovercam lost contact with Cabral on the Anomaly, so it shut down.”

“I believe you told me that the brain being transferred his consciousness into the hovercamera,” Snotch said to Prosak.

“He can use it to see and talk to people in other places,” Prosak said.

“But his consciousness is apparently not transferred. You should be more exactly in your phrasing.”

“Sorry,” Prosak said. A horrible thought struck her. “Wait. Why do you care? Are you behind this?”

“I am not behind this,” Snotch said.

“Okay,” Prosak said relieved. “I just had to ask.”

“Of course.”

“Before Prosak turns on the rest of us, do we have any idea what we’re going to do now?” Vioxx asked.

“I would think that would be obvious,” Tovar said.

“I don’t get it.”

Remax stormed over to Vioxx, grabbed his head, and aimed his gaze at Cabral’s fallen hovercam.

“I still don’t get it.”

“HE’S STILL ON THE ANOMALY!” Remax, Prosak, Tovar, Marsden, and Kasyov shouted.


“…wasn’t much I could do at that point, so I got ready to pull out my John Thomas and…”

“Cabral to Bain!”

“Sorry about this, Ted,” Bain said as the two men sat in the armchairs of Bain’s Captain’s Lounge. “Bain here, Cabral. Are you all right? You sound upset.”

“We’re trapped somewhere in a corridor on Waystation Prime. It doesn’t look like the other parts of the station I’ve been to. There are some people coming. Armed guards. Apparently it’s the Dillon Consortium. They’re taking us somewhere.”

“Great Bird!” Bain exclaimed, leaping up from his chair.

“Hang on a second, Reg,” Commodore Ritter said. “The Dillon Consortium does not have armed people running around my station.”

“It’s a room. Oh! Prosak, Nortal, and Remax are here, too, with a Vulcan. We’re being put inside and…” Cabral abruptly stopped talking.

“Cabral!” Bain shouted.

“I’m sorry about that, Captain. I just lost contact with my hovercam.”

“Ritter to Ops,” Ritter said, pinching his commpip.

“Ops,” a clipped female voice replied.

“Have we had any Dillon Consortium vessels docking lately?”

“No, sir.”

“Have you detected any unauthorized weapons on board?”

“No, sir.”

“What about Romulan lifesigns?” Bain asked.

“There is one aboard the USS Anomaly, but that is all.”

“That’s Zantak, my helm officer. I have three other Romulans on my crew. Where the devil are they?”

“I don’t know, Reg, but I’m going to find out,” Ritter said. “Ops, raise shields just to be safe. I’m on my way. Ritter out.”

“I’ll go with you,” Bain said.

“Let us take care of this.

“I can’t just sit here, Ted!”

“You don’t know where they are. They could have been transported to a ship.”

“Did you go through a transporter, Cabral?”

“No, Captain,” Cabral’s voice replied over the comm speaker.

“They’re still here,” Bain said. “I’m sure of it.”

“Where? It’s not like someone could come on board and build a secret area our sensors can’t penetrate without us knowing about it. Something else is going on here.”

“Then let me help.”

” I know you don’t want to hear this, Reg, but there’s nothing you can do right now. Let us do our jobs. I’ll contact you as soon as we find out anything.”

Bain started to protest, then stopped himself. “I appreciate it,” he said finally.

“They’ll be fine. I promise,” Ritter said. “I’ll be in touch soon.” And with that he rushed out of the Captain’s Lounge.

“I’m sorry, Captain,” Cabral’s voice said. “I do not like the idea of standing idly by while others search…”

“Who’s being idle?” Bain said. “We’re certainly not.”

“But Commodore Ritter…”

“Ted’s a good man. I’d trust him with my life. But Tovar and the others have trusted me with theirs, and I am NOT going to let them down. We’re going to find them. I don’t care what Ted says, somehow the Consortium got on board and managed to…” Bain trailed off.

“Cabral, that deck you were on with the others. You said it looked different. Can you describe it?”

“Wood paneled walls. Gold trim. Narrower than most of the corridors I’ve seen.”

Bain started chuckling.

“Was that humorous?” Cabral asked confused.

“Those clever bastards,” Bain said.

“I don’t understand.”

“They didn’t come in and build something. They were already here. They’ve been here the whole time.”

“I still don’t.”

“Dillon Enterprises. It started here long before it became the Consortium,” Bain said, racing over to the computer terminal on the small desk in the corner of the lounge. “The original saucers that made up Waystation are still a part of this place, but they’re a museum now. Or museums really. One of them is dedicated to the history of the Dillon Consortium and encompasses the two decks that made up Dillon Enterprises headquarters over a hundred years ago.” He pulled up a Waystation Prime directory on the terminal. “There we are. Two decks of Consortium museum and one directly above it that’s listed as being under construction for a future exhibit.”

“Is that wrong?”

“That depends,” Bain said. “Computer, give me this same directory view from five years ago.” The image on the screen quickly shifted. “Under construction for a future exhibit. Give me the same for twenty years ago. Under construction for a future exhibit. Fifty years ago. Under construction for a future exhibit. One hundred years ago. Ha! It was a third deck of the Dillon Enterprises headquarters complex!”

“And you believe it still is.”

“I’m bloody well certain of it!”

“We must tell Commodore Ritter,” Cabral said.

“No. If he raises the alarm, the Consortium might hurt our people. I’m going in alone.”

“No offense intended, Captain, but you are not known for your stealth.”

“Oh, they’ll know I’m there. But they’ll be far too busy with me to have time to do anything untoward to the others.”

“Everything went according to plan?” Jackson Loomis asked as he buttoned his blue suit coat on his way into the Dillon Consortium conference room.

“With Plan B, yes,” Gregory, who waiting there for him, replied.

“Well, I know it wasn’t Plan A, or there’d be Reginald Bain bits all over the place. Let me see them.”

Gregory activated the viewscreen on the opposite wall, which showed a view of the seven Anomaly crewmembers, two civilians, and one inert hovercam sitting around on the floor of the empty room where they were imprisoned.

“All nice and rounded up,” Loomis said. “I’m glad we won’t have to go to Plan C after all. I wasn’t at all confident that Ms. Burke would be a useful source of information, and there was always the risk that she might actually grow to like Bain’s crew.”

“So we will not be releasing her?”

“No. Nor the Vulcan. No loose ends. Activate the mood lighting and put me through to them.”

In the empty chamber where the prisoners waited, one of the bare white walls suddenly flashed to life, revealing it to be a giant viewscreen. On it was the head and shoulders of a man cloaked in shadows.

“Loomis,” Burke spat.

“Thank you for spoiling my introduction, Ms. Burke,” Loomis said.

“I’m so sorry. How inconsiderate of me after you THREW US IN HERE!”

“What do you want with us?” Tovar said, stepping forward.

“Honestly nothing,” Loomis replied. “You’re simply a means to an end. In this case, the destruction of the legendary Reginald Bain.”

“Many others have tried. The fact that we’re here will not help you kill him.”

“I don’t need to kill him. Just his legend. When tomorrow dawns, all of you will come forward and tell the galaxy how you decided to escape him en masse. How you could no longer stay on the Anomaly due to Bain’s incompetence and cruel and violent tendencies, I will have done just that.”

“Holding us overnight isn’t going to make us turn on Captain Bain,” Dr. Kasyov said.

“I am well aware of that. However, the procedures you all are about to undergo will. And after you have resigned from Starfleet because of the horrors you have suffered at the hands of Reginald Bain, we will welcome you with open arms to the employ of the Dillon Consortium acquisition fleets, where I promise that your skills will be put to good use.”

This was the point where his prisoners would probably start shouting the usual “You’ll never get away with this” or “We’re going to resist you” and so on. Loomis decided to skip that part and closed the channel, leaving his captives alone to contemplate what was about to happen to them.

“Are we ready?” he asked Gregory.

“Almost. The human and Romulan procedures have been finalized. Yynsians brains are a bit more difficult.”

“I can understand that. As soon as that is complete, take them all at once. No time for heroics on their part. Just get it all over with.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Anything?” Commodore Ritter asked impatiently as his Sci-Ops officer, Lieutenant Commander Dwasin, reviewed the readouts on his monitor.

“No, sir. I have no records of Romulans on the station at any point today.”

“Now I know that’s not right. I saw Bain’s First Officer…what’s his name…Vioxx in the mall earlier today. Run a full diagnostic on our systems. Something is not right here.”

“Aye, sir.”

Ritter strode across Ops to his Chief of Security. “Yes, sir?” the Jem’Hadar said.

“Can you see Reginald Bain, Aka’Laka?” Ritter asked.

“His commpip signal is registering.”

“Watch him. The moment he leaves the Anomaly, I want to know about it.”

“As soon as he returns to the Anomaly, I will let you know if he leaves it again.”

“Wait. What?”

“Captain Bain is not currently on board his vessel.”

“I knew he wouldn’t stay put. Watch him! If he even looks like he’s about to get into trouble, I want to know about it.”

“Security is Life!”


The turbolift slowed to a halt on Deck 24 of the original upper saucer of what was once known simply as Waystation. A century ago, this deck was part of the headquarters of Dillon Enterprises and even the seat of the Federation presidency during Bradley Dillon’s tenure in that office. History was divided on the man himself. Some biographers portrayed him as a power-mad, cunning, and ruthless businessman, who would do anything to ensure the dominance of the company that bore his name. Others depicted him as a great leader who was able to combine his business and political acumen in order to lead the Federation through a period of peace and prosperity that laid the groundwork for the future in which Bain lived. Was he a single-minded cutthroat who was married to his company? Or a misunderstood genius who was unlucky at love? Did he care about the greater good or only himself?

Frankly, my dear reader, Bain didn’t give a damn.

His friends and family were in danger, and the entire Dillon Consortium could stand in his way right now. They certainly couldn’t hide on a deck in plain sight and pretend that it was “Under Construction.”

The turbolift doors opened revealing nothing but open space, bare metal decking, and support pillars all the way out to the saucer’s rim. Work lights had been set up on each pillar to illuminate the place, but otherwise it was completely deserted.

Forget “Under Construction.” This was “No Construction.”

At that point, Bain should have been feeling despair. His one lead had gone nowhere. He had nothing else to go on.

But he wasn’t buying that for one second.

“Clever bastards,” he said, reaching for his commpips. He received only a sad half-chirp indicating no signal. That was fine. He’d handle this himself. Bain locked his wrist phaser into firing position and leapt forward…

…right through a holographic barrier into a wood paneled corridor lined with gold trim.

“Ha!” he exclaimed just as five armed Dillon Consortium guards rounded the corner ahead of him. “AAAAH!” He opened fire, dropping the group with a fast flurry of stun blasts. He heard more voices and running footsteps coming his way, but he wasn’t about to wait for them to arrive. He had a whole deck to search, and no intentions of making life easy on the Consortium.

“Commodore Ritter,” Aka’Laka said, looking up from his console. “Bain has vanished!”

“Vanished? How? Where?”

“He was in a turbolift in the Old Quarter nearing Deck 24 and then…not. As for how, I do not know. No transporter activity or weapons fire has been detected.”

“Deck 24? What’s on Deck 24?” Ritter asked.

“Nothing. It is under construction.”

“But it’s right above the Consortium exhibit, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dammit! He was right. I want a security team there now. Send me there site-to-site.”


“What the hell does that mean?”

“The transporter cannot establish coordinates for a rematerialization site on Deck 24.”

“Then put us on 23! We’re getting in there if I have to dig a damn tunnel!”

“Mister Loomis?” Gregory said, stepping into the conference room.

“Yes, Gregory. Is everything ready?” Loomis asked.

“Not quite yet. Another situation has developed.”

“What sort of situation?”

There was suddenly a ZAAAAP and a cry from the main office suite outside the conference room.

“Reginald Bain is here,” Gregory said.

“What?” Loomis cried, leaping up from his seat just as the Brit barreled into the room.

“Nobody move!” Bain ordered, leveling his wrist phaser at Loomis. “And turn on some bloody lights!”

Gregory nodded, activated the light panel, and took up a position next to Bain. “Reginald Bain to see you, sir,” he said.

“Thank you, Gregory,” Loomis said, straightening his rumpled blue suit coat and trying to regain his composure.

“Who the devil are you, and where are my people?” Bain demanded.

“Jackson Loomis, CEO of the Dillon Consortium,” Loomis said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you finally, Captain. I’ve heard so much about you.”

“You’re the CEO? And you’re here?”

“Dillonia tends to be rather chaotic, and there’s always the risk of corporate espionage when your competitors know right where you are. For that reason, the CEO’s office and certain special projects have remained on Waystation Prime over the years.”

“Right under the nose of Starfleet.”

“We’ve been good tenants, and Starfleet has been more than happy to collect their credits for our three deck rental for more than a century now.”

“I don’t think they’ll be so pleased when they learn what you lot have been up to. Bombs. Interfering with the station’s sensors. Kidnapping. WHERE ARE MY PEOPLE?”

“They’re fine. In a matter of minutes, they will be undergoing a patented Dillon Consortium process that will introduce a small set of new memories and beliefs while keeping their overall personalities completely intact. No messy brain-washing. No nasty zombie-like behavior afterwards. And by tomorrow morning, they’ll all be absolutely certain that you are a menace to the galaxy, and that they need to tell the world, leave Starfleet, and join us. You’ll go from legend to pariah in less than a day,” Loomis said.

“You think that I’m just going to stand here and let you scramble their minds?” Bain said.

“That’s a good point,” Loomis said. “We’ve really gone through an awful lot of trouble to set this up, but, since you’re here, we can drop Plan B and go back to Plan A: getting rid of you.”

Bain aimed his wrist phaser. “I don’t think…”


Loomis assistant lashed out with astounding speed, ripped the phaser assembly right off of Bain’s wrist, and then crushed it in his bare hand.

“Bloody hell!” Bain cried, leaping back.

“I see I forgot to mention that my assistant is an android,” Loomis said. “Gregory, kill him!”

“The door is the choke point,” Tovar said as he and the others watched it nervously. “They can only come through two or three at a time, and that’s our chance. As soon as it opens, we act. Go for their weapons. If you get one, start shooting. We’ll only have a matter of seconds before they realize we’re not going to come along quietly, and they take some other sort of action.”

“They have thwarted my evening of commerce. They WILL suffer!” Nortal said.

“Positions,” Tovar ordered.

They didn’t have long to wait. The doors slid open a few moments later and…

“VENGEANCE!” Nortal cried, throwing herself at the man who had just entered the room. Said man was grey-skinned, had a head covered in bumps, and, most importantly, was wearing a Starfleet uniform.

“Nortal!” Tovar shouted as Commodore Ritter and four other security officers stormed in.

“He is mine!” Nortal screamed.

“Aka’Laka, stand down,” Ritter ordered as the Jem’Hadar grappled with the Romulan.

“Does he have to?” Nortal said as her opponent abruptly released her.

“Perhaps we can continue this battle another time,” Aka’Laka said.

“I would enjoy that immensely.”

“Are you all okay?” Ritter asked.

“We’re fine,” Tovar replied.

“But we weren’t about to be,” Marsden said. “Wait. ‘Weren’t about to be’? Whatever. They were about to brainwash us into lying about the captain and becoming their happy little minions.”

“I’ve got teams scouring the deck. I’m sorry about all this. We had no idea it was even here. Now where’s Bain?” Ritter said.

“We have not seen him,” Tovar said.

“Well, he’s here somewhere. That’s how we found you.”

“Have fun looking for him,” Burke said, heading toward the door. “I’m going to have a word with Loomis.”

“Jackson Loomis is here?” Ritter said in disbelief.

“This deck is the CEO’s office,” Burke said. “But I guess you didn’t know that either,” she added before running off down the corridor.

“We have no idea how many people are on this deck or how many of them are armed. Our sensors are useless in here,” Ritter said to Tovar. “We’ve got to get you all out. Aka’Laka, take them.”

“I’m staying,” Tovar said, looking to Marsden, who nodded.

“I had a feeling you might,” Ritter said.

“I’ll see the rest of you back on the ship,” Tovar said.

“I will not be returning to your vessel,” Snotch said.


“Did you still want to get dinner?” Prosak asked Snotch.

“Would that be appropriate under the circumstances?”

“Why not? We lived. I’m hungry. Dinner is logical.”

“Very well.”

“Leaving now,” Marsden said, pushing them toward the door. She stopped at Tovar and gave him a quick kiss. “Be careful.”

“See you soon.”

“You’d better. This is two nights in a row that I’ve gotten all dressed up, and I still haven’t gotten a decent meal out of it.” She gave Tovar one more kiss, then ran off with the others toward the exit as Ritter and Tovar headed the opposite direction.

“Now we just have to find your father,” Ritter said.

“That could be difficult. This is a large complex,” Tovar replied. The pair turned a corner and almost tripped over a small pile of unconscious Consortium guards. “But I’d say he went this way.”

Gregory turned on Bain, prepared to strike. What the android wasn’t prepared for was the human captain suddenly grabbing its head and wrenching it clean off its shoulders. Gregory’s body dropped to the deck in a heap, its neck sparking weakly.

“My apologies, sir, but I believe that I will be unable to complete your request,” Gregory’s head said before shutting down entirely. Bain tossed the head aside and advanced on Loomis.

“This was just business, Bain!” Loomis cried, backing away from the conference table. “You damaged our reputation. We had to do something.”

“You tried to kill me and brainwash my people for your bloody reputation!”

“A bad reputation can hurt sales.”

“I’m going to punch you so hard, you’re going to go back in time! Now THAT will hurt!” Bain lunged at Loomis, who screamed and ran out the conference room’s side exit.

“Oh no you don’t!” Bain said, pursuing.

Loomis barreled out of the conference room and then the executive office suite in a panic. In the corridors, he could hear the distant sounds of shouts and phaser fire. That couldn’t be good. Maybe he should have upgraded the over-a-century-old intruder repulsion systems when Gregory suggested it. Too late now. And frankly he had bigger concerns.

“GET BACK HERE, LOOMIS!” Bain bellowed, his fury echoing throughout the corridors.

Loomis ducked into the next doorway and found himself in one of the special projects labs. Bain wasn’t fooled for a second and entered almost right behind him.

“You don’t want to do this, Bain,” Loomis said, backing away from the captain. “I’ll charge you with assault. You’ll go to a rehab colony. Do you want…”


Bain’s fist slammed into Loomis’ face, knocking him back against a strange piece of equipment, which suddenly activated.

One hundred and twenty-one years earlier, Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter was attempting to fix a faulty air unit in a Dillon Enterprises employee break room and wondering how he became Federation President Bradley Dillon’s personal engineer. Didn’t Dillon Enterprises have their own technicians?

A man in a blue suit suddenly staggered into the room out of what appeared to be a rip in the very fabric of the universe. He clutched his face, seemingly in agonizing pain, then spotted Porter. Upon doing so, his eyes widened in horror.

“Great Bird, he did it! He punched me back in time!”

A meaty fist emerged from the rift, grabbed the man by his suitcoat, and yanked him back through. Just as abruptly, the tear disappeared.

“And that’s lunch,” Porter said, putting his tools down.

Loomis was back in his own time, but Bain’s fist was there waiting for him. He buckled from a body blow delivered by the enraged captain, then was catapulted right back into Bain’s oncoming fist by the explosion of the device behind him. He hit the deck in a heap.

“Please,” Loomis gasped, trying to push himself to his knees. “No more.”

Bain stood over the fallen CEO surveying his handiwork.

“I think you’ve had enough,” Bain said. “And judging by the commotion out there, the proper authorities will be here shortly. Oh wait. I AM the proper authorities. Jackson Loomis, I am placing you under arrest until you can be handed over to Waystation Security.”

“Okay,” Loomis said, struggling to his feet. He stumbled over to a nearby lab table. “Anything. Just don’t hit me anymore.”

“I think you’d agree that you had it coming,” Bain said, heading toward the door then glancing out into the corridor to see if anyone was approaching. “Reginald Bain does not stand idly by while…”

Loomis snatched a large mass of wires, circuits, and metal off of the table, raised it above his head, and charged Bain, letting out his strained version of a battle cry as he went.


The cry turned into a wail of agony as the unfinished device activated, sending energy cascading through his body. Loomis shuddered and convulsed, then dropped to the deck, inches from Bain.

“Good lord, man!” Bain exclaimed. “What are you trying to do? Kill yourself? I’ll get help!” Bain raced out into the corridor and almost ran straight into Tori Burke.

“Where’s Loomis?” she demanded.

“In there,” Bain said. “He’s hurt badly.”

“Starfleet’s here.”

“Medic!” Bain shouted, rushing off down the corridor as Burke stalked into the special projects lab.

“Ms. Burke,” Loomis croaked.

“You were going to brainwash me, too, weren’t you?” Burke said.

“Doesn’t matter now. Has to be…you. Put on…my suit.”

“Doesn’t matter? You were going to scramble my brain!”


“Why the hell would I put that thing on? It’s old. It’s dirty.”

“For…the new CEO. If you don’t before…I die…all will be lost. Please.”

“New CEO? What new CEO?”

“You. Only one here.”

“I can’t be the CEO. The Board of Directors has to vote on that.”

“No time. Put on the suit.”

“And I’ll be CEO?”

“Yes. Suit.”

“All right. All right.” Not sure why she was doing this, Burke gingerly moved the dying man and removed his suit coat. She moved to his pants. “If you try anything, death will be the least of your problems,” she threatened, sliding them off.

“Put it on,” Loomis insisted.

“Okay,” Burke said cringing. She pulled on the pants, rolling up the cuffs to fit her shorter legs, and slid on the suitcoat.

And then she understood.

“He’s in here,” Bain said, leading Commodore Ritter, two security officers, and a field medic into the special projects lab. Loomis’ body lay immobile on the floor.

The medic checked him quickly. “He’s dead.”

“Bugger,” Bain muttered.

“Don’t blame yourself,” Ritter said. “From what you described, he’s the one to blame.”

“Yes, but it’s not…where the devil are his trousers?”

“Captain’s Log. Stardate 178561.4. It’s been almost three weeks since the business with the Dillon Consortium, and I’ve not heard word one from Commodore Ritter about the situation. Fortunately, the return of my beloved Rosalyn and continued work on the Anomaly has kept me occupied, but I’m growing tired of waiting for any kind of news on the matter. I have a feeling that today will be the day, though. Ted has invited the missus and I over for dinner, and, while I certainly wish to give Commodore Ritter a sincere thank you for his hospitality, I want the Consortium to face some sort of consequences. I’ve dealt with their ilk before, though, and I can’t say that my hopes are incredibly high.”

“Now don’t get upset, dear,” Rosalyn Bain said as she and her husband strolled down the corridor toward Commodore Ritter’s quarters.

“Nonsense, my love,” Bain said. “What could there possibly be to get upset about on a wonderful night like this? You’re back. My ship is almost fixed. All is well.”

“Reginald, I know you’re going to ask him.”

“You can’t blame me for being curious.”

“No, but I don’t want you to expect to be happy with the answer. This is the Consortium that we’re dealing with here. They have…”

“…a reputation. Yes, dear, they made that more than clear,” Bain said as he pressed Ritter’s door chime.

“Come on in!” Ritter’s cheerful voice called from inside. They entered the cabin and were immediately enveloped in an incredible aroma.

“Good evening, folks,” Ritter said. “Rosalyn, you’re looking lovely as ever.”

“Thank you, Ted.”

“Ted, that smells amazing,” Bain said, shaking his friend’s hand.

“Real Texas barbecue,” Ritter said, pointing to the large metal enclosure near his replicator. “Took the engineers a while to figure out how to vent the thing, but I insisted. There are some luxuries I cannot do without.”

“I completely understand,” Bain said.

“Can I get you a drink?”


“Pint of bitter and a sherry?”

“You know us too well.”

“I made a hell of a bartender back in my Academy days,” Ritter replied. “How go the repairs?”

“Progressing. Marsie thinks we’ll be out of your hair in another week.”

“It’s no trouble, but I know you want to get back out there.”

“That I do.” Bain said silent for a moment. “Blast it, Ted, as anxious as I am to get underway, there is one piece of business that needs to be dealt with before we can shove off.”

“I’m surprised you waited this long to bring it up. Yes, Reg, we did settle things with the Consortium,” Ritter said.

“And they have an ironclad lease, so even though they tried to kill me and kidnapped my crew, you can’t do a thing about it,” Bain finished.

“Reginald,” Rosalyn said calmingly.

“Don’t worry, dear. As you said, don’t expect a happy answer.”

“The Consortium is pinning it all on Jackson Loomis. He acted on his own, no approval from the Board of Directors, and all that,” Ritter said.

“Of course,” Bain said.

“It didn’t look like we were going to be able to do much of anything, but it turns out the lease isn’t quite as ironclad as you’d believe. A few years after the initial lease went into effect, the station commander at the time put in an addendum that Bradley Dillon signed stating that the lease would become null and void if his company was caught interfering with station systems. Considering that they hid biosigns, rerouted turbolifts, and sensor shielded an entire deck, we had a strong case of interference. The Consortium will be cleared out of here by the end of the month. And we’re going to scour the place to make absolutely certain they don’t leave anything behind.”

“Ha!” Bain said, slapping his hand on Ritter’s dining table. “That’s brilliant!”

“I’m pretty happy with it myself, but you need to watch yourself, Reg. Even if Loomis was acting alone, which I doubt, the Consortium is not going to be pleased that they lost their headquarters here, and they may decide that you’re the one to blame.”

“They’re a massive corporation. I would hope that they have bigger things to think about than me.”

“Probably, but they may also be good at multitasking. Be careful.”

“We will,” Rosalyn said. “Won’t we dear?”

“Of course, dearest,” Bain said.

Weeks without a word. Vioxx supposed that he shouldn’t be surprised. Getting kidnapped didn’t exactly make for a great first date. However, when he thought about it, he realized he was the one who should really be upset, not Tori Burke. After all, it was her employer who kidnapped them.

Still every day he tried to reach her. He commed. He visited her quarters. And nothing. She never answered. He lurked in New Starfleet Square Mall, hoping that she would happen by, but he never saw her.

Now with the Anomaly almost repaired, he would be leaving and would possibly never see Burke again. If that happened, so be it. They hadn’t even had time to establish a connection, much less lose it. Still, he would like to speak to her once more, just to clear the air about what happened.

Just as he was about to go out for another evening of wandering the mall and probably listening to Remax and Nortal go on and on about their purchases, Vioxx was startled to hear his desk terminal signal an incoming comm. “On screen,” he said.

The image of Tori Burke appeared. She was wearing an oddly fitting blue suit. It actually looked like a man’s suit. He couldn’t be sure, though. He was never one to keep track of human fashion. “Vioxx,” she said simply.

“Tori! Thank you for comming be back.”

“Considering you’ve been relentless in trying to get in touch with me, I felt I had to.”

“I’m sorry. I just didn’t want things to end like that. You ran off, and I didn’t get a chance…”

“I don’t have a lot of time, Vioxx. I really only commed to say goodbye.”

“We won’t be leaving for another week or so. I was hoping I could take you to dinner.”

“I’m leaving tonight,” Burke said. “You won’t be seeing me again.”

“Did I do something? If I did, I’d like to know what it was, so that…”

“Goodbye, Vioxx.”


She had already closed to channel.

Vioxx suddenly didn’t feel much like going out anymore.

“One more bit of business done,” Burke said as she turned away from the screen.

“Yes, Ms. Burke,” her assistant, Gregory, said. Burke wasn’t sure which version of the android this was. He’d come into the conference room shortly after her arrival, cleaned up his predecessor, and then jumped into seeing to her needs. Her first action as CEO was to stop spending all of her time in the conference room. She wasn’t sure what Loomis’ deal was, but the CEO’s office was far nicer. Besides, there was just something about being in the same office that had once been used by Bradley Dillon. “Your transport to Dillonia is ready and waiting,” Gregory continued.

“I’ll be there in a moment. Just one last thing to do.”

“Yes, Ms. Burke,” Gregory said with a slight bow before leaving her office. She activated the comm terminal again, and soon her comm was answered.

“Good evening, Ms. Burke,” Snotch said on the monitor screen.

“You are still in contact with Commander Prosak?”

“Yes. She is determined to see me as much as possible until her ship departs the station.”

“Good. I know you thought that your work would be done after you organized and executed Plan B, but, considering how that turned out, you will need continue your relationship with her.”

“I am aware of that,” Snotch said. Burke could swear she almost heard a hint of disgust in his voice. “I will see to it that you receive regular updates. I do not see how her gossip about the Anomaly will help you against Reginald Bain.”

“It may not,” Burke said. “But all information is good information. You never know what we might turn up.”

“Very well. However, if I am to continue seeing Prosak and she attempts to…escalate our relationship, I will require a substantial raise. Snotch out.”

Burke shut down the monitor and rose from her desk. It was a shame to have to leave this place behind. There was so much history here. The suit positively rebelled at the idea that it was all about the be destroyed. She calmed her mind and assured it that the complex would be disassembled careful and completely reconstructed on Dillonia. Most of the shouting in the suit subsided. Only one voice remained, screaming in unbridled fury.


Tags: boldly