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


“Primary Sources”

By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler


It was just the two of them on this survey, which suited Harold and Ann just fine. Considering how far out this world was, the higher-ups needed to make sure there was something here worth the trip before sending in an entire archaeological team from the Federation Science Institute.

Almost a year earlier, the USS Champlain had passed within sensor range of Star System 47361 and catalogued 12 planets, 53 moons, and various other astronomical features orbiting yellow star. What they hadn’t detected, however, was any sign of intelligent life. Because of that, the Champlain kept right on going on its exploratory mission through this isolated section of the Beta Quadrant.

A few months after that, the Champlain returned to Federation space and transferred its accumulated sensor readings to Starfleet Sciences for review. From there, after confirming that there was nothing in the readings that posed a threat, Starfleet Sciences, as was their custom, shared the readings with the various scientific and educational institutions for further analysis.

Eventually a graduate student at the Federation Science Institute stuck reviewing the copious data noticed that the second planet of System 47361 had what appeared to be artificial structures. It was hard to be certain considering the distance the Champlain had been scanning from, but based on the evidence, it was worth a look.

That’s where Harold and Ann came in. Between them, they had decades of xeno- archaeology experience. They met on a dig on Crassos Six, married in the ruins of a temple on the fourth moon of Ketelen, and raised a child while moving between a dozen dig sites on just as many worlds. Their parenting days may have been long behind them at this point, but they were just as devoted to their work as ever. And upon seeing the report from FSI, they jumped at the chance make the first survey. Yes, it meant months on their small ship just to get there, but the idea of being the first Federation scientists to study a new civilization more than made up for it.

And even after all of these years, Harold and Ann still just plain enjoyed each other’s company.

That was a good thing considering that things on their ship, the SS Petra, could get a little cramped. They had a small cockpit, a living/dining area, a bathroom, and a bedroom. Beyond that was just a cargo storage area that also contained their engine. If they wanted space to get away from each other during the voyage, there weren’t a lot of options.

All that changed once they arrived B-2-47361. Harold and Ann had an entire planet as their playground, a planet that they were able to confirm was covered in artificial structures as soon as they got close. There were cities and towns everywhere, all of which were well into the process of being overrun by the local flora and fauna. After confirming that the atmosphere was safe and that they weren’t landing in a radiation zone or anything like that, Ann put the Petra down in the center of one of the small towns. She and Harold preferred to start with towns rather than full cities. It gave them a good sense of the society without completely overwhelming them.

Once on the ground, they gathered their gear and started a process they’d performed many times before. They were precise and methodical, and, above all, careful (Help was a LOOOOONG way away, if they got into trouble), but they were also having a blast. It wasn’t often that they got to research a civilization with this much of their architecture still intact.

As they searched through dwelling after dwelling, though, Harold and Ann became more and more unsettled. The houses were empty. Not a piece of furniture, scrap of clothing, or piece of wall art to be found.

But why?

Had Harold and Ann just by sheer bad luck landed in a town that was built and never occupied? There were instances in Earth’s history of such places. They needed to try somewhere else. One quick trip in the Petra to the other side of the planet later, they were once again confronted by a town full of empty buildings.

They were starting to wonder if the whole planet had been built up but never occupied when Ann spotted a hint of a mural on the side of a building in the town center, almost completely obscured by vines and overgrowth. Surely whomever built all this didn’t pre-paint artwork as well. Somebody had lived there.

A deep scan of the ground the town sat on confirmed it. They detected evidence of multiple building foundations and various items buried deep in the dirt, indicating that this site had been occupied for many many years.

Everyone was just gone. But more than that. There was every sign that they’d packed up all of their belongings to take with them.

Nothing in the scans made by the USS Champlain indicated any issues in the system’s star or anything dangerous close by, and there were no signs that the world had been attacked at any point in its past. Likewise, the atmospheric scans gave no indication of a society that had poisoned itself with pollution or caused a runaway greenhouse effect. There was just no clear reason for abandoning this planet.

Instead all Harold and Ann had were questions. Who were these people? Why did they decide to leave? How did they clear out a whole planet? Where did they go?

They had to have left something behind with some clues. And the best place to start, Harold and Ann decided, was at the last place anyone on the planet had likely been: a spaceport. B-2-47361 had no artificial satellites in its orbit, which was certainly odd for a spacefaring species, but Harold and Ann didn’t see any other likely explanation for deserted state of the planet. Sure they could have possibly had access to some Iconian-style gateways, but how often did that happen?

Harold and Ann took back off in the Petra and started searching the surface. Decades (possibly centuries) of unfettered plant growth made the work difficult, but finally they detected a large series of structures and massive metallic platforms well away from the formerly populated areas. Was it a spaceport? A military installation? Something else entirely? This was an alien civilization, after all.

After landing and gearing up, the pair cautiously cut through the overgrowth covering an entrance to the one of the structures. The door itself was either locked up tight, sealed shut from who knew how many years of disuse, or possibly a bit of both. A phaser drill made short work of the locking mechanism, then Harold carefully used a small repulsor to slide the door aside, revealing a dark corridor beyond.

No lights. No power. And thankfully, no automated security system blaring alarms about the forced entry and sending a platoon of heavily-armed robots after them for daring to trespass (Something that had happened to Harold and Ann on at least three occasions).

What they could make out by the lights of their headlamps were doors. Lots and lots of doors. All closed, of course.

“This could take days,” Ann said.

Harold pulled a couple of small cubes out of his satchel and tossed them up into the air. The cubes folded open mid-arc into small flying devices covered in sensors, which then sailed off down the corridor and split up at a T-junction at its end. “Maybe the mapping drones will find something more worth our attention,” he said. “But until then…”

Ann held up her phaser drill and smiled, “One door at a time.”

It was slow going. They would cut through a lock on a door, force it open, and then invariably find an empty office or conference room. Based on what they’d encountered so far, Harold and Ann concluded that they’d entered the building through the equivalent of an emergency exit and not a main entrance to the facility.

The good news, however, was that this building had not been completely cleared out. There were desks and chairs, giving Harold and Ann a fairly solid indication that this was a bipedal species. Signage had been left on the walls, displaying a few symbols that looked more like random squiggly lines more than anything else. They sent images of them back to the Petra, so the ship’s translation matrix could start working on developing a sense of the language.

As Ann predicted, days passed. They moved from the first building, which seemed to be solely administrative, into the next, which had several cavernous spaces inside it. A few were clearly massive waiting areas, filled with chairs. If this was indeed a spaceport, this was likely where the passengers and their belongings waited to be loaded. Other chambers looked more industrial and were filled with dormant equipment that would require painstaking examining, scanning, and cataloging by a full archaeological team from the Federation Science Institute. For now, Harold and Ann just took images of each find, but even that was time consuming.

Nearing the end of their third week at the site, Harold and Ann were ready to enter the next building, but this one was not so easily breached. There were few doors to be found, and those were much thicker and more secure than anything they’d encountered in the previous structures. The laser drill didn’t leave so much as a mark on the doors they tried.

Harold and Ann feared that this building would have to wait for the full FSI team, but they were too curious about what possibly lay inside to give up. There had to be a way in.

They used the Petra to circle the building, clearing the ivy and other plant life climbing its surface with a low-level wide-beam phaser while scanning it from every possible angle. Even after all of this time, the building completely resisted any attempt to probe its interior. Metallurgical analyses resulted in the equivalent of the Petra’s scanners shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Beats the hell out of us.”

On top of the building, though, they caught a break. Just the slightest sliver of a gap was detectable at the edge of a large sliding hatch cut into the roof. And while it still blocked scans, whatever this hatch was made of wasn’t nearly as thick as the doors and walls of the structure.

“I told you it was a good idea to bring these,” Harold said excitedly, as he and Ann sat on the couch in the living/dining area of the Petra, strapping on anti-grav boots.

“Did I argue, honey?” Ann replied.

“No, but I saw the look.”

“What look?”

“The ‘We haven’t used these in ten years’ look.”

“That’s a very specific look,” Ann said with a chuckle. “I’m amazed I pulled it off.”

“You can pull off any look you want, my dear.”

“As long as I can avoid this one.” Ann suddenly opened her mouth and eyes wide in absolute terror.

“Is that, “Oh shit, these old gravity boots just failed and sent me plummeting to my death’?”

“You know me so well.”

“And I love you very much, so rest assured that I thoroughly checked both pair of boots.”

“I know, dear,” Ann said, leaning over and kissing her husband on the cheek. “But you’re not the engineer in the family.”

The boots didn’t fail, though, and a few minutes later, Harold and Ann crested the top of the mystery structure and came to a gentle landing near the hatch. Ann pulled the phaser drill out of her satchel and knelt down to work while Harold took images of the various structures and doo-dads jutting out from other places on the roof. They were likely part of climate control and communication systems, but the FSI team could confirm that later. For now…

“Dammit!” Ann said.

“Still no luck?”

“What tipped you off?”

“Success is usually a little more, ‘Woohoo.’”

Ann sat down with a sigh and shook her head. “FSI is going to take months to get here even after they review our preliminary survey and decide it’s worth mounting an expedition. What’s that going to be in total? A year? Two?”

“I’m sure they’ll get here as fast as they can.”

“There’s nothing here to make it a priority. The star isn’t going nova. Raiders aren’t standing by to sack the place. FSI could put this off for years. We could be retired before they decide to send a team out this way.”

“I wasn’t planning on hanging it up any time soon. Were you?”

“No, but we aren’t…” She trailed off. “Feel like taking a risk?”

“What are you thinking?”

“The micro-est of microcharges,” Ann said, starting to dig through her satchel.

“I don’t think micro-est is a word. And you want to use the explosives? What about the building? You don’t know what that could do to the structural integrity.”

“Hon, I think this building could survive an orbital bombardment. But a small explosive placed right on the gap in this hatch might just be enough to give us a hole big enough to send the drones through. Or maybe even pop the whole thing open.”

Harold didn’t respond immediately. Ann knew he was mulling things over. His duty to protect the integrity of the site versus his desire to know what was inside this building. His concern for their safety versus his trust of his wife.

“Let’s do it,” he said finally, breaking into a broad grin.

Harold may have been a generally cautious man, but sometimes curiosity and trust could carry the day.

Ann quickly and carefully placed the microcharges, then the two of them retreated off of the roof and back to the Petra, which they then flew a safe distance away. If somehow this went badly and set off a collapse or chain reaction or anything, they didn’t want to be anywhere near it.

As it was, the Petra was far enough away when the charges went off that Harold and Ann didn’t see a thing. Only the readout on the detonator insisted that the charges had indeed gone boom as instructed. Ann steered the Petra back over the site.

“I don’t believe it,” she said, checking the readouts. The explosion had worked beautifully, and now the hatch had slid completely open.

“And I don’t believe that,” Harold said. “You knew it would work.”

“I most definitely didn’t! But I appreciate your vote of confidence.” They watched the screens as the Petra’s sensors were now able to penetrate the building’s interior. There were no power readings but whatever that room was, it was huge.

“This really isn’t telling us much,” Harold said.

“You’re just looking for an excuse to go inside.”

“And you aren’t?”

“It is how we do things. But I guess we could just land, have some dinner, and call it a night. The building will still be there in the morning,” Ann said.

“You’re trying really hard to seem less eager than me, but I’m not buying it for a second.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ann said as she steered the Petra back to their previous landing site and touched down.

A short time later, the couple was once again cresting the top of the building with their anti-grav boots. They landed at the edge of the open hatch and shined their flashlights inside. Whatever was inside was far down and impossible to make out from that height.

“Now we really have to go in,” Ann said.

“Absolutely. And we’re going to have to put something over this hatch before it rains.”

“Later. For now…” She stepped off the edge and into the hatch, floating gently down to the floor of the massive chamber. Harold was right behind her, shining his flashlight all around as he tried to get some sense of what this room was.

They touched down near the center of the room and continued to study their surroundings as best they could.

That over there…was that?

And this, did it look like?

“Harry, do you think…”

“It’s got to be.”

“This can’t wait years. We need people out here now!”

“I agree. We’ll go back to the ship right now and send a report.”


“And then we’ll look around some more,” Harold said.

“Oh yes. Definitely.”

As much as they hated to leave their find, Harold and Ann knew there was only one thing to do. They returned to the Petra and launched back out of the planet’s atmosphere. That last part probably wasn’t necessary, but they wanted to make sure their signal got out.

Harold opened an ultraspace channel. “This is the SS Petra contacting Starfleet Command on a secure channel. We believe we have made an important discovery, and we are requesting immediate assistance with onsite confirmation and analysis. Details of our findings are included in this data burst. Come quickly. We will continue our explorations as we wait for your arrival. Doctors Harold and Ann Marsden out.”


“Three Breen scythe ships are approaching,” Lieutenant Commander Tovar reported from his post at tac-ops at the rear of the Anomaly’s bridge.

“Hail them.”

“One word response. ‘Death,’” the Yynsian replied.

“I see. Not much for conversation, are they?” Captain Reginald Bain said, standing up from his command chair. “How long until they are in weapons range?”

“Three minutes.”

“Let’s shorten that a bit, shall we? Bridge to Cabral.”

“Here, Captain,” the voice of the sphere-encased brain that ran the Anomaly’s anti- singularity drive replied over the comm system.

“We’re going to need anti-sing for a moment, if you’d be so kind.”

“It is at your command.”

“Brilliant!” Bain turned his attention to the Romulan woman at the Anomaly’s helm. “Zantak, one anti-sing burst. Put us fifty kilometers ahead of them. Tovar…”

“Standing by,” Tovar replied.

Sub-Lieutenant Zantak locked in the coordinates and activated the anti-sing for a split- second.

From the Breen perspective, the Anomaly suddenly went from being out of visual range to right on top of them. If they’d known anything about Starfleet history, they would have said it was a bit like the Picard maneuver, only done over a much larger distance. They did not know that, though, and, if they did, they probably wouldn’t have had time to think of it what with all of the exploding they were doing due to the unrelenting barrage of weaponry Tovar unleashed the second the Anomaly had finished the anti-sing jump.

“Nicely done, everyone!” Bain said, clapping as the hulks of three severely damaged Breen ships drifted helplessly on the Anomaly’s viewscreen.

“Thanks, but I didn’t really do anything,” Bain’s first officer, Commander Vioxx, said from his seat next to the command chair.

“Not this time, but your presence is appreciated and your counsel invaluable.”

“Really?” Vioxx asked surprised. Invaluable? Maybe the human was learning something from Vioxx’s years of Romulan command experience after all.

“Captain, three more scythe ships incoming. They are at the very edge of sensor range,” Tovar reported, pulling Vioxx back to the situation at hand. Bain, meanwhile, had never left.

“Of course there are,” Bain said. “Standard Breen attack methodology when facing smaller numbers of opponents. Send in the first wave to engage, then a second to overwhelm and cut off escape routes. They weren’t expecting the first wave to be wiped out so quickly, though.”

“Anti-sing stands ready,” Cabral said.

“Thank you, my good man, but that won’t be necessary this time. First rule of tactics: never use the same one twice in a row. Well, it might not be the first rule, but it’s definitely up there,” Bain said, returning to the command chair. “Zantak, hold our position.”

Seconds ticked by (Not really. Nothing that kept time on the Anomaly involved any ticking. But you get the idea.). The Breen continued their approach, and then…

“Breen ships are slowing. Now at full stop,” Tovar said.

“What are they doing?” Vioxx asked.

“Waiting. They’re confused because they expected us to anti-sing jump to them.”

“So we’re just going to sit here staring at each other?”

“For now. They might decide to be smart and turn around. They might be less smart and resume their attack run. What do you think, Sub-Commander Remax?” Bain asked, turning to the elder Romulan manning the bridge science station.

“I’m certainly not going to tell you,” Remax snorted.

“I thought as much,” Bain replied. “Very well. We wait.”

Three minutes passed in silence.

“This is surprising,” Bain said finally. “I really thought they would have done something by now. Zantak, back us off ten thousand kilometers. Tovar, tell the Breen they are welcome to come in to see to their damaged colleagues.”

Tovar checked his console. “Another single word reply. ‘Death.’ They are resuming their approach.”

“Zantak, keep those damaged ships between us and them. Tovar, ready torpedoes. If they don’t slow down…”


The Breen ships approached the flickering hulls of their predecessors without reducing speed. As instructed, Tovar opened fire, torpedoes zipped away from the Anomaly and slammed into what was left of the damaged ships, igniting their warp cores just in time to catch the other Breen in the explosions.

After the blinding flare faded, all that remained on the Anomaly’s viewscreen was a spreading cloud of debris. A moment later, the screen went black except for the words “END OF SIMULATION” in bright green letters.

“And that takes care of that. Good show, one and all. Remax, you did a bang up job on those simulated Breen ships. I would have thought they were the real thing.”

Remax nodded slightly. “Thank you, Captain.”

“Breen do usually talk more than that,” Tovar said.

“Minor detail, my lad,” Bain said. “Now let’s discuss the reason we just went through all this. Status report.” The Anomaly had spent the last several weeks at Waystation Prime undergoing extensive repairs following their unexpected and fairly destructive visit to Multek space. Bain was more than aware of the downtime required to get a vessel back to ship-shape after the kinds of events that can happen out in deep space, but he was more than ready to get back out there.

“Helm is good,” Zantak said.

“Assuming the real weapons perform as well as the simulated ones, precision is within an acceptable range,” Tovar reported.

“Sensors are adequate,” Remax said.

“Cabral?” Bain asked.

“Everything feels good as new,” the Anomaly’s resident giant brain said.

“We’ll see if Marsden agrees. Bridge to engineering. How are we looking, Lieutenant?”,

“All systems are responding well. No issues to report,” Lieutenant Shelly Marsden replied over the comm. “Are we done playing space battle now?”

“Just wanted to put her through her paces one more time before Starfleet sends us out again,” Bain said. “Best speed back to Waystation Prime, Zantak. We’ll give Starfleet our clean bill of health and see what they’ve got in store for us.”

With only a small crew required for the shakedown battle simulation, most of the USS Anomaly personnel, including Commander Prosak, had remained at Waystation Prime. Soon after their initial arrival, Prosak had met a Vulcan male who was actually interested in her! At least she thought Snotch was interested. It was hard to tell. Even for a Vulcan, his demeanor astonishingly flat and devoid of emotion. That just attracted Prosak more. Oh, the lessons he could teach her.

She just wasn’t sure how to get Snotch to start teaching her those lessons. For almost every night of the last few weeks, they would meet somewhere for dinner, talk (Really, it was almost all just her talking and him listening), and then they would go their separate ways. She’d expressed on multiple occasions her desire to become a better RommaVulc and get to know him better, but she was getting nothing back. Maybe this was just what dating a true Vulcan was like. Or maybe he was teaching by example.

Tonight, Prosak was determined to do a better job of emulating him. Currently, Snotch was sitting across from her eating a bowl of plomeek soup in one of the Waystation Prime food courts from an establishment that was apparently trying to cash in on the popularity of Soup on a Stick. This one, Soup in a Bowl, didn’t seem like it had much novelty going for it. At least the soup seemed to be good. Or Prosak assumed it was, since Snotch was eating it. His face gave no hint of pleasure or disgust. He was also astoundingly silent. How did he do that while consuming soutp? Prosak was never able to avoid slurping.

She was about to compliment him on it when she thought better of it. No, she would be silent as well. This dinner would be like meditation only with food.

For Snotch’s part, he was somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, he was gratified to be able to enjoy his meal in silence without the near-incessant prattle coming out of Prosak’s mouth. But on the other hand, that prattle was what the Dillon Consortium had been paying him to gather. So far, none of it was remotely useful. Prosak’s background was a matter of public record, and no one except her fellow Romulans cared that she was a practicing RommaVulc.

Snotch had been certain that she would eventually start discussing more about her position on the USS Anomaly and its upcoming assignments, but so far she had steadfastly avoided mentioning her work life at all. He didn’t think it was intentional. It was just that she was far more focused on other topics…and on him. Prosak had asked many questions about him and his life that he had answered as tersely as possible. And he had deflected a couple of less than subtle attempts to get him somewhere more private.

The Anomaly’s repairs had to be nearing completion, so Prosak would be departing soon, freeing Snotch from this assignment. Staying in the Consortium’s good graces was vital for his future employment, or else he would have told the Dillon Consortium’s new CEO, Tori Burke, that he was done dealing with Prosak after the first week.

Snotch finished his soup and looked up at Prosak. She just stared back blankly. He was certain that this show of non-emotion was straining her to no end. How long until she lost control and started babbling again? He couldn’t take it. Not tonight.

He stood up. “Thank you for the meal,” he said as she opened her mouth to speak. “It was almost like being on Vulcan.” That was not anything but an out and out lie, but it had the desired effect. Prosak broke into a big grin, then quickly caught herself and tried to look back at him placidly. The joy in her eyes gave her away, though. He nodded and raised his hand in the traditional Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper.”

“Peace and long life,” Prosak replied, returning the gesture.

Snotch strode away. Perhaps tomorrow Prosak would tell him that she was leaving. It was not logical to believe in luck, but now he hoped it was on his side.

Under the steady hands of Zantak, the USS Anomaly slid gracefully into place alongside a docking sheath inside one of the massive docking saucers of Waystation Prime. On the bridge viewscreen, Bain could see the repair berth across the way where the Anomaly had been docked for the preceding several weeks as the ship underwent much needed care after its time in the Multek Enclave and facing down a Dillion Consortium fleet.

“Good to not need that anymore, eh Vioxx?” Bain said.

Vioxx replied with a noise that pretty much could have meant anything. The truth was that he hadn’t been listening. As had been the case for days now, his mind had wandered to Tori Burke. He wasn’t obsessed with her or anything. Yes, she was attractive enough for a human, and something about her had made their verbal sparring more pleasing than such insults had any business being. And it was true that she had cut off what seemed to be a burgeoning relationship (or at least a friendship) with no explanation whatsoever beyond that she was leaving.

Then he found out why. She’d been made CEO of the Dillion Consortium. It didn’t make any sense. The woman had been in stasis for twenty years. She wasn’t even senior management. Why in the name of the Praetor would the Consortium put her in charge?

While Bain’s comment hadn’t pulled him away from his thoughts, the next words from Tovar did.

“Captain, Admiral Larkin has requested a meeting as soon as we are available.”

“We’re available now. Put her on screen, lad. Maybe she’s got a mission for us already.”

“She has sent along a very specific attendee list.”

Bain turned to face Tovar. “Has she now?”

“You, me, Cabral, Doctor Kasyov, and Lieutenant Marsden.”

“Curiouser and curiouser.”

Vioxx was definitely not thinking about Tori Burke anymore. “Captain, as your first officer and appointed representative of the Romulan Star Empire, I protest this exclusion. I demand to be involved in meetings affecting the operations of this ship and the safety of her crew. Starfleet can’t…”

“Quite right,” Bain said, cutting him off with a firm clap on the shoulder. “You’re coming too.”

“Ah. Yes. Thank you, Captain.”

“Think nothing of it. Tovar, tell the Admiral that we’ll be ready in half an hour and that Commander Vioxx will be joining us in the interest of fostering stronger bonds in our alliance and all.”


“Dismissed, everyone. For those on the Admiral’s list, meet in the main briefing room at 1930.”

Vioxx, Remax, and Zantak headed into the turbolift as Bain stepped back to tac-ops where Tovar was completing his post-docking procedures. “Is that really all Larkin had to say?”

“Yes,” Tovar replied.


Tovar looked up at Bain. “Is something about this concerning you?”

“As the man said, it’s a capital mistake to theorize without data,” Bain said.

“Which man was that?”

“Can’t remember. And all this is probably nothing. Just Krissers’ idea of getting the right crew in the mission briefing. We’ll find out soon enough.”

In the turbolift, the three Romulans stood in silence for a moment as the car descended.

“Was that weird?” Vioxx asked finally.

“Which part?” Remax asked.

“We thanked Bain. We both thanked him.”

“He recognized my excellent work and complimented it. What was I supposed to do? Growl at him? And he agreed that you should be in that meeting. Why you’d want to get yourself invited to sit through one of those interminable things when you didn’t have to be there, I’ll never know, but he supported you. Like he should as our captain.”

“You’re right. He really does see us as part of his crew,” Vioxx said.

“Is that a problem?”

“No. I just always thought this assignment would be temporary. It’s been a few years now, and it doesn’t seem like we’re going to be recalled anytime soon.”

“I hope not. I bought a ton of new stuff for my quarters while we were here. Do you want to leave?”

“Not really. I guess I’m waiting for something else to go wrong.”

“What are you talking about?” Remax snapped.

“Burke,” Zantak said simply.

“Oh. So your would-be girlfriend picked the big promotion over you. Are you really surprised?”

“Not by that. Her getting the CEO job, though…”

“Now THAT was weird,” Remax said.

Remax was right. Tori had gotten an amazing offer and accepted it. Who could blame her? But Vioxx was feeling rejected, and he couldn’t let it go. At the very least, he needed to know why the Dillon Consortium made her CEO. There had to be something about Tori Burke that he was missing.

As he returned to the briefing room at the appointment time, Vioxx had come to one conclusion: he needed help. He could go to Centurion Nortal, but her methods weren’t exactly subtle. No, he had someone else in mind. Someone with his own vested interest in the Consortium situation.

Fortunately, Captain Bain had not arrived yet, and Lieutenant Commander Tovar had an open seat beside him. He was sitting directly across from Lieutenant Marsden, which Vioxx found pointless. Tovar and Marsden were married. Very recently married. They weren’t fooling anyone with this ‘being professional’ act. Just sit next to each other. As long as they didn’t start making out, no one would care.

But since the opening was there and Marsden was busy chatting with Dr. Natalia Kasyov and Cabral’s hovercam, Vioxx took the open seat beside Tovar.

“Commander,” Tovar said with a nod.

“Mister Tovar. Since we have a moment, I was wondering if you had heard anything new from the Dillon Consortium.”

“Such as?”

“They did kidnap us and make an attempt on Captain Bain’s life. Something else could be in the works.”

“And you don’t believe their recent change in upper management would change their plans?” Tovar asked.

“Do you?”

“I have my concerns, but then you know Tori Burke better than I do.”

“Not really. For example, she never mentioned that she would potentially be in the running for the job if the Consortium needed a new CEO, even after a couple of decades in stasis.”

“That is…weird,” Tovar admitted.

“That seems to be the consensus.”

“But you have no specific reason to suspect her of anything nefarious.”

“No, but an organization that recently took action against this ship and crew now has a person in charge who has intimate knowledge of said ship and crew,” Vioxx said.

“I am not sure that her couple of days on board count as ‘intimate,’ but I take your point.”

“So you’ll look into her?”

“As part of keeping a broader watchful eye on the Consortium, yes,” Tovar said.

“Thank you.”

Bain strode in at that moment. “Bang on 1930!” he said. “Let’s not keep the admiral waiting. Tovar…”

Tovar opened the comm channel using the small panel on the conference table in front of him. The image of Admiral Kristen Larkin appeared on screen. The android had a long history with Captain Bain and an even longer one in Starfleet itself, with a career stretching back well over a century. Years earlier, Tovar had done a report on Larkin for school. It was one of those “interview a family member” type of assignments. He had no biological family to speak of, and Captain Bain was off commanding his ship. His adopted mother was just a Starfleet Academy professor (or so he thought at the time) and, therefore, not very interesting, so his “Aunt Krissers” seemed like a good choice. She had been willing to talk to him, but even then he felt that she wasn’t telling him everything about her early life and missions.

The reason for that, he learned much later, was that the interloping Jaroch lifeforce inside of him had actually served with Larkin near the beginning of her existence, which meant in some ways Tovar had known Larkin for far longer than Bain had. With the Jaroch lifeforce now residing on Baku in a new body, Tovar didn’t have access to any specific memories about the admiral. Only the occasional vague remnant remained. He did wonder if the Larkin had realized the same thing about their connection. Most likely yes. Did it matter in the slightest? Not really. But Tovar did wonder if she still had the issue with limbs occasionally falling off.

Admiral Larkin, for her part, was getting right down to business. “Captain Bain, Commander Vioxx, Lieutenant Commander Bain, Lieutenant Bain, Doctor Kasyov, Mister Cabral.”

“Good evening to you, Admiral,” Bain said. “Since Commander Vioxx is my first officer, I asked him to join us.”

“I apologize for the oversight, Commander,” Larkin said. “Now…”

“And just use Tovar and Marsden’s old names. I appreciate their name changes, but it just got too confusing. And made the Anomaly sound like the Bain family personal transport.”

“So noted. Now may I continue?”

“By all means, Admiral,” Bain said, settling into his seat. “What have you got for us?”

“Approximately twelve hours ago, Starfleet Command received an urgent transmission from an archaeological survey team investigating a planet deep in the Beta Quadrant.”

Lieutenant Marsden, who up until now wondered why she’d even been summoned to this meeting, sat up and exchanged a look with Kasyov. The words “archaeological survey team” combined with “urgent transmission” had just sent her stomach into a worried churn.

“We have analyzed the accompanying data stream and concur with their initial assessment: they have located the homeworld of the Pliggeri.”

“Is the team ok?” Marsden demanded.

“Yes, Lieutenant. The Doctors Marsden did not indicate that they were in any danger.”

“Doctors Marsden?” Bain said. “Family of yours, I take it, Marsie.”

“My parents. They’ve been gone on a survey mission for months now. I just didn’t know where.”

“Sorry, Shelly, but can we get back to Pliggeri part?” Dr. Kasyov said. “Does this mean that you’re sending us there?”

“Yes, Doctor. The Anomaly is the only ship that can get there in a reasonable amount of time and has our best resource of Pliggeri knowledge, Mister Cabral. We need confirmation of the Marsdens’ discovery and an assessment of the situation. While this is, of course, a major event for xeno-archaeology and a tremendous opportunity to study a species about which we know almost nothing, it is also a potential threat to galactic stability.

“Up until now, the Anomaly has retained its status as the only ship with a functioning anti-singularity drive. Efforts to replicate it by Starfleet R&D have failed, and we are aware of multiple other powers that have made similar attempts. As Lieutenant Marsden can attest from first-hand experience, when these attempts go wrong, they go wrong explosively, which has thus far prevented any one government from pursuing the technology too aggressively. At this point, we have to assume that they all know that Pliggeri technology is the key.

“If word gets out that the Pliggeri homeworld has been discovered and is sitting there abandoned, ripe for the taking…”

“Abandoned?!?” Cabral explained.

“I am sorry, Cabral. I was not aware that you did not know,” Larkin said.

“It has been some time since I was there, and, as I told Starfleet when I was first interviewed…”

“You mean interrogated,” Dr. Kasyov muttered.

“Starfleet was more than fair to me considering that I had commandeered one of its vessels and kidnapped its crew,” Cabral said. “But as I said then, I do not know where the Homeworld is. That knowledge was kept from the Cerebe, for the protection of the Homeworld should one of us be captured and studied while out on a probe mission. I had no inkling when I launched with my last ship that planet was being emptied.”

“But we know they were there as of the launch of your ship. That would be what? One hundred and thirty-five years ago now?” Kasyov said.

“Yes…and no. When I gave you that figure, we were using the same terms but different definitions.”

“Because a year on Pliggeri would be different than Federation standard,” Marsden said.

“Precisely. A Pliggeri year is a little over twice as long.”

“Oh, you poor thing. Alone in space for so long,” Kasyov said.

“Regardless,” Admiral Larkin said, taking control of the meeting back. “We have a deserted planet possibly filled with potentially dangerous technology that could send the galactic powers into the equivalent of a gold rush. We cannot let that happen.”

“It won’t on my watch, Admiral. That I can assure you,” Bain said, smacking the tabletop with his hand. “I’ll blow the planet up myself, if I have too.”

“Captain!” Cabral protested.

“Sorry, old boy, but the needs of the many and all that. I’m certain you don’t want your home planet to ignite a galactic war.”

“I’d rather nothing ignited at all, including my planet.”

“I will do my best.”

“I’m sure you will, Reginald,” Larkin said. “I am sending along the data stream from the Marsdens for your review. Recall your crew and get underway as soon as you can.”

“Understood, Admiral.”

“Good luck to you. Larkin out.”

“All right, everyone,” Bain said, standing at the head of the table after the channel closed. “I know it’s getting late, but let’s get squared away and on the move toot sweet. And not a word to anyone about our mission. Dismissed.”

As they left the briefing, Marsden, Tovar, Kasyov, and Cabral ended up walking through the corridors together in silence.

“Are you alright?” Kasyov asked finally.

“I think so,” Marsden and Cabral both replied.

Kasyov looked to Tovar. “I’ll take him, if you’ve got her.”

“That is more sensible than the reverse.”

“Your statements of fact sound remarkably sarcastic sometimes,” Kasyov replied as she wrapped an arm around Cabral’s hovercam. “Come on. We’ll leave the lovebirds to it and go talk in my quarters.”

“I would like that,” Cabral said. “Good night.”

“Good night,” Tovar and Marsden responded with a wave.

“I suppose I should have asked how you were doing before Natalia did,” Tovar said as they resumed their walk to their shared quarters.

Getting married had led to moving in together, which had necessitated larger quarters. Fortunately, the Anomaly had two adjacent vacant crew quarters that were able to be reconfigured into a larger space. And considering that the ship’s Chief Engineer was the one wanting the larger space, it was done in record time, even in the midst of all of the other repairs to the ship that were performed at Waystation Prime. What was taking a bit longer was the packing and moving of all of the various belongings Tovar and Marsden had in their respective quarters and then finding new homes for them in their shared residence. Actually, the unpacking should have been done, but after days on shift, neither of the newlyweds felt much like dealing with the crates in their midst in the evening.

“Mom and Dad are fine, so I don’t have anything to be upset about,” Marsden replied as they entered the storage container filled room. They plopped down on their sofa and surveyed the chaos.

“How about this?” Marsden said. “Anything we haven’t pulled out of a box in the next four weeks just goes into storage because we obviously don’t need it.”

“I heartily endorse this plan,” Tovar said. “And I believe even Prosak would agree that it passes logical muster.”

Marsden was silent for a moment. “We’re going to get there before anything bad happens to them, right?”

“No one else even knows about this. They will be fine.”

Marsden let out long breath and clasped Tovar’s hand. “Speaking of not knowing, they’ve been away so long that they missed out on a bit of news.”

“I suppose they have. Their darling daughter went and married a man they’ve never met.”

“I’ve told them a lot about you. I’m just sorry that your first meeting won’t be a social occasion.”

“And they will be meeting their in-laws at the same time,” Tovar said.

Marsden practically choked. “Oh god. And your dad is going to be in full Reginald Bain mode, isn’t he?”

“When is he not? And Mum will want to meet them, too, I’m sure.”

“Mom and Dad are just going to love this.”

A few corridors away, Cabral’s hovercam flew slowly back and forth through Dr. Kasyov’s living room. He’d come across the human concept of pacing during his studies of their species and had found it oddly relaxing, even though his physical form was still in his sphere in Science Lab Four. Kasyov, meanwhile, had settled into an armchair, drink in hand.

“I can’t believe they’re gone,” Cabral said. “How did I not know this? Shouldn’t there be something inside that tells you your progenitor species has vanished?”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think so,” Kasyov said kindly.

“And what about Chindela? Did he know? He didn’t say anything about it while we were at Gathering Point.”

“True, but you did say that he had been there a very long time. Also, he was a bit busy going mad. He probably didn’t know. And even if he did, he said his duty was to the Cerebe.”

“What happened? They couldn’t just vanish. It was a whole planet.”

“We’ll find out soon. I promise. Shelly’s parents are very good at what they do. If there are answers to be found, they will find them. And we are all here for you. No matter what happened to the Pliggeri, you are not alone.”

“Thank you, Natalia. That does help.”

“I’m glad. We have a long anti-sing trip ahead, and I can’t have my favorite brain feeling distracted.”

“That, I’m afraid, is inevitable.”

“I know. Just don’t absent-mindedly fly us into a star or something on the way there. We can’t solve this mystery if we’re all dead.”

Even though she knew it would be coming soon, Prosak thought she would have a bit more time to prepare for the Anomaly’s departure from Waystation Prime. The abrupt “Get back to the ship. We’re leaving!” that she received from Vioxx caught her completely off-guard. Just when she’d finally had a breakthrough with Snotch!

She hadn’t spoken more than 10 words to him through their whole dinner a couple of hours earlier, and he’d seemed so pleased with her Vulcan-ness. Well, maybe not pleased, but at least satisfied. A few more meals like that, and she might have been able to convince him to come meditate in her quarters with her.

And if something more happened, so much the better.

She briefly considered asking Captain Bain for a leave of absence to extend her time with Snotch, but surely he would be leaving the station soon as well. He was a merchant of rare items from around the quadrant. He would have other planets to visit, and it was too early in their relationship for her to ask to join him (She considered that realization to be personal growth. A couple of years earlier, she might just have shown up at his ship, bags packed.).

No. She was a Starfleet Officer and had a duty to her ship and crew. Prosak would be mature about this and break the news to Snotch.

Once she was back in her quarters, she commed him. A moment later, his face appeared on the viewscreen. His glorious, emotionless face that would live in her dreams.

“Prosak,” he said simply.

“I’m sorry for the late call, but I had to speak to you before we left.”

Snotch’s eyebrow arched, but he said nothing.

“Yes, I said ‘left.’ My ship has received a mission, and we’re leaving immediately. I won’t be able to join you for dinner tomorrow. I wouldn’t even be able to have breakfast with you. But I had to let you know how much the last few weeks have meant to me. You’ve taught me so much already, and, I know it’s an emotion, but I’m sad that we won’t be able to see where our relationship could have led with more time. Thank you, Snotch. I will never forget you.”

Snotch was silent for a moment.

“Thank you for the information,” he said finally, then closed the channel.

Poor man, Prosak thought. He obviously had so much more that he wanted to say, but he had to end the comm before he lost emotional control in front of her. The teachings of Surak would get him through this.

Snotch, meanwhile, was already making another comm, this one to Tori Burke. One benefit to being involved in a nefarious scheme with the Dillion Consortium CEO was that you didn’t have to waste time speaking to underlings. As soon as Burke’s assistant, Gregory, saw who was comming, he put Snotch right through.

“What is it, Snotch?” Burke asked. Even at this late hour, she was still dressed in the blue suit she always seemed to wear.

“I have just been informed that the Anomaly is departing Waystation Prime this evening.”

“It is? And this is the first you are hearing of it?”

“The crew was apparently just informed.”

“If you weren’t a Vulcan, Snotch, I’d say that you sound relieved.”

“Mocking me was not a part of our original agreement. In fact, most of this mission was not a part of our original agreement. But with this latest development, our business is at an end. I will expect payment for services rendered. Snotch out.”

“Woah woah woah!” Burke said. “I say when our business is at an end.” Burke looked away from the screen for a moment. “Gregory, are there any galactic emergencies happening right now that Starfleet would be sending the Anomaly to deal with?”

Snotch was tempted to close the channel before she got a response, but he felt it would jeopardize his already dwindling chances of receiving what he was owed for this debacle.

“Nothing?” Burke said a short time later. She suddenly froze, her eyes wide. Occasionally, her mouth moved but if she was saying anything, it was so soft that even Snotch’s Vulcan hearing couldn’t make it out.

And then she was back to herself. “You have to be on that ship when it leaves.”

“To what end?”

“Starfleet ships don’t go racing off in the middle of the night without a reason. Find out what it is. You know you’ll be paid and paid well.”

“Indeed,” Snotch replied, even though internally he questioned if he truly knew that.

“Any questions?”

Snotch pursed his lips even more. “Just…how much longer do I have to do this?”

“Until you give me something I can use. Until we say you are done.”

“Very well.”

“Look at it this way, Snotch. You’ll get to enjoy more of Commander Prosak’s company…and maybe more than just her company, if you know what I mean. I’m sorry. That was inappropriate. I shouldn’t have said…no, it wasn’t…YOU SHUT UP!”

Burke smiled and smoothed back her hair. “Good luck, Snotch. Burke out.”

The channel closed, leaving Snotch to ponder two questions: 1) Was Tori Burke part Yynsian? And, more importantly, 2) How in the name of Spock’s Sehlat was he going to get on board the Anomaly?

The gangplank leading from Waystation Prime to the USS Anomaly (which wasn’t a gangplank as such, but an energy bridge formed by the docking sheath to the ship’s main entry hatch) was crowded with crewmen returning at the last possible minute with recent purchases from New Starfleet Square Mall or one of the many other shopping and dining establishments located on the massive station. Bain was certain the holochef would be more than a little upset if it saw just how many people were coming back with food.

No matter, though, Bain greeted each of them one by one as they arrived, apologizing for the short notice departure and giving a quick bit of encouragement and motivation from their captain as they prepared to face a new adventure.

To Bain’s surprise and pleasure, Tovar had decided to join him. The Yynsian wasn’t saying much, but just having another of the senior officers there to greet the returning crew was sure to be inspiring in itself.

Tovar, however, wasn’t there for reasons anywhere close to that. He had to admit that Vioxx had gotten to him with all of that talk of the Dillon Consortium trying something else, so he felt it wise to be close to Bain in case the Consortium tried to slip another bomb on board. He had the Anomaly’s internal sensors focused on this area at maximum as well as his own quadcorder running discreetly in his pocket.

He was so focused on the entryway that he was completely unprepared for the voice behind him that suddenly shouted, “TOVAR!”


He spun around, ready to strike, only to find Prosak practically jumping up and down with excitement. Ok, there was not practically about it. She was quite literally hopping in place.

“Nice to see that you’re fired up and ready to get back out there, Commander,” Bain said.

“What? No! Snotch!” Prosak exclaimed.

“There’s definitely no Snotch here,” Bain said.

Prosak willed herself back to something resembling calm. “I’m sorry, sir. I would like to request that Mister Snotch be allowed to accompany me on this voyage.”

“Oh really?” Bain asked, surprised. “I didn’t know that things had gotten quite so serious with you two.”

“It has! We had dinner earlier tonight and barely spoke at all!”

Bain looked at Tovar. “Is this a Vulcan thing?”

“Very likely.”

“Then congratulations, Commander. Can’t say I like a quiet meal myself. Rosalyn and I have many of our best conversations while we’re eating.”

“Here he is!” Prosak cried, pointing at the Vulcan carrying a large satchel approaching through the gangplank.

Tovar spoke up. “Captain, Admiral Larkin was very clear that this mission was not to be discussed with anyone. Having an unknown element on board…”

“He’ll be with me the whole time, Tovar,” Prosak said. “I don’t where we’re going anyway.”

“She does have a point,” Bain said.

“This is not a good idea,” Tovar said.

“Nonsense!” Bain said, waving and smiling at Snotch. “You are to give Mister Snotch the VIP treatment.”

“The VIP treatment. Are you certain?”

“You heard me, Tovar.”

“VIP it is.”

“Thank you, Captain!” Prosak said, resisting the urge to grab him or Snotch in a hug.

For Snotch’s part, he determined from the unhidden joy on Prosak’s face that his request to join the ship had been approved. He was somewhat incredulous that getting on board a Starfleet vessel was as simple as asking, but then Prosak was a command officer. In all likelihood, this meant that the Anomaly was not going anywhere of interest, and he would be forced to endure extended time with an excitable Romulan with delusions of Vulcan-hood.

“Welcome aboard, Mister Snotch,” Captain Bain said, extending a hand to the new arrival. Snotch took it and was surprised at the strength of the older human’s handshake. “It’s a pleasure to have you with us.”

“I appreciate your hospitality, Captain,” Snotch said.

“If there is anything you need, do not hesitate to ask,” Tovar added.

Snotch nodded just as Prosak latched onto his arm and yanked him down the corridor. “Let’s get you settled in. There are guest quarters where you can put your things, and then I’ll show you mine.”

“I wonder how much of hers she plans on showing him,” Tovar said.

“Do you really want to go there, son, considering your history with her?” Bain said.

“Joke withdrawn.”

Snotch was able to disentangle himself from Prosak fairly soon after she found out Snotch’s quarters assignment by claiming fatigue. It was late, after all, and he was rather tired after all it took to get his own vessel squared away in Waystation Prime’s long term docking saucer, pack a few belongings, meet a Dillion Consortium operative in order to receive a small, undetectable ultraspace transceiver (at least he hoped it was undetectable, or he was likely to spend most of this voyage in the Anomaly’s brig), and rush to meet the Starfleet ship before it cleared all moorings.

And then there was the mental fatigue, if that was even the right word for it. Snotch had been so certain that he was free of this assignment, only to have that freedom yanked cruelly away from him. It took a lot out of a person, even one with exceptional emotional control.

Prosak was obviously disappointed but agreed that they would meet in the morning for breakfast, at which point they could begin her planned activities. With her gone, Snotch unpacked his small bit of luggage, loaded his sizing and preferred pattens into the clothing replicator, and set up the ultraspace transceiver…

…only to find that he had absolutely no signal. His guest quarters were in the interior of the Anomaly’s saucer with no windows to the outside. But of course they were. That was just the way this whole assignment had been going.

The transceiver array was small enough that he could fold it up and transport it in the pocket of his robes. He would take it with him tomorrow. Perhaps then he would find an opportunity to check in with Tori Burke.

For now, though, he would meditate and hope that was enough to clear his mind so he could sleep.

Around that same time, the Anomaly departed Waystation Prime, and, once it was clear of the docking saucer, launched into anti-sing toward the B-47361 System, which we’re going to call the Pliggeri system from now on, because typing B-47361 repeatedly is just annoying.


Snotch had no idea where the sound was coming from, but it most definitely did not belong in a Ta’Vistar temple. Of course, neither did the Andorian ice dancer, but she was…aesthetically pleasing and seemingly interested in Snotch.


That sound again. It was making it difficult to focus on the rhythmic movements of the dancer’s antennae and…


Snotch’s eyes opened. He was in bed. And this was not the Temple of T’Plana Hath.


The sound had followed him to the waking world.


A door chime. It needed to be silenced. Immediately. He willed himself to something resembling full consciousness, climbed out of bed, and went out to the living area to answer the door, where he found Prosak waiting in the corridor fully dressed and looking oh so very awake.

“You’re not ready?” Prosak asked surprised, then forced herself back to something Snotch’s assumed she felt was a placid expression.

“I was asleep.”

“It’s 0630. I thought we would have breakfast and make the most of our day until I go on shift this afternoon. I was going to get us breakfast in my quarters, but we can have it here. I’ll wait for you to get ready.” She brushed past him into his rooms and headed straight for the replicator. “I will get some coffee and wait for you.”

“May I suggest that you engage in a morning meditation before you caffeinate?” Snotch said. “It is quite beneficial for preparing to face each new day.”

“A very logical suggestion. Thank you, Snotch,” Prosak said, sitting down on the floor.

“Try to go as deep as you can. It is all about focus.”

“I will.”

Snotch went back into the bedroom and closed the door. With any luck, that would keep Prosak occupied for a while.

He lay back down and was soon fast asleep.

“Captain’s Log. Stardate 178635.4. After several weeks of repairs at Waystation Prime and a thorough shakedown, we’re back out among the stars where we belong. I am happy to be on the move again, but this bloody secrecy nonsense is bad for morale. It was one thing before we shoved off from Waystation, but now that we’re underway, I should be able to tell my crew what we’re up to. We all took an oath and should be treated like the adults we are. Command can take this ‘need to know’ bollocks and shove it somewhere!”

Captain Reginald Bain slammed his thumb down on the control on the armrest of his command chair, ending the log recording.

“Does Starfleet Command actually listen to those?” Commander Vioxx, his Romulan first officer, asked from the chair beside him.

“Haven’t the foggiest. Why?”

“You did just spend half of that log entry insulting your superiors. Not long ago, an entry like that would get you executed in the Imperial Navy.”

“It still should,” Sub-Commander Remax snorted from his post at the bridge science console.

“Vioxx, I’ve been a Starfleet captain for damn near half a century now. From day one I’ve spoken my mind in my log, and not once have I heard a word of complaint.”

“So the admirals don’t actually listen then.”

“Probably not, but I like to think I’ve given whatever poor sods are stuck with log duty a few chuckles over the years,” Bain replied with a grin. “Mister Yonk, what’s our ETA at…our destination?”

The diminutive Ferengi manning the helm spun around in his chair. “Twenty-seven hours, sir.”

“Splendid,” Bain said, settling back into his chair. “Now who has a good story for us?”

Vioxx looked over at Remax, who violently shook his head.

“Captain, I think the Sub-Commander wants to volunteer,” Vioxx said.

“Does he now?” Bain said, starting to turn toward the elder Romulan scientist, who managed to mouth a quick “I Hate You!” at Vioxx before Bain’s eyes locked on him.

Remax was saved by the opening of the turbolift doors and the arrival of Lieutenant Commander Tovar and Lieutenant Shelly Marsden.

“My shift is not yet over,” Lieutenant Gworos said at tac-ops. Tovar wasn’t certain, but the Klingon may have been clutching the console just a little bit possessively.

“I’m not here to relieve you,” Tovar replied.

“Then what brings you both to the bridge?” Bain asked.

“We were hoping to have a word with you in private, sir,” Marsden said.

“Of course. We’ll adjourn to the lounge. Vioxx…”

“I have the conn.”

“Thank you,” Bain said, hopping up from the command chair and following Tovar and Marsden out the aft door to the Captain’s Lounge.

“Family meeting?” Yonk said.

“So it appears,” Gworos replied. “This ship is becoming the House of Bain.”

“Jealous that you’re not in on it, Gworos?” Remax asked.

“Bain is a skilled warrior. It would be an honor to count him as my kinsman.”

“He has two daughters.”

“Aren’t they both married?” Yonk asked.

“At least one of them is. Can’t remember about the other. Don’t really care.”

“He has a granddaughter,” Vioxx said.

“Commander!” Gworos cried horrified.

“What? He does. I wasn’t implying…”

“I will NOT wed a child!”

“I thought we were listing his family members!” Vioxx protested

“Sure you were,” Remax said.

“I hate you.”

“Beat you to it.”

“So,” Bain said, plopping down into his favorite armchair, “what can I do for you both?”

“I was hoping that I could handle the first communication with my parents,” Marsden said. “I haven’t seen them in months, and I still need to tell them about the wedding.”

“You…haven’t told them?” Bain asked, stealing a glance at Tovar, who appeared completely unfazed by this information. Bain, meanwhile, felt a swell of anger beginning to build inside him. He knew Marsden loved Tovar with all of her being, but if her parents had some kind of issue with her marrying his son, Bain would…

“It’s nothing like that,” Marsden said, catching the scowl forming on Bain’s face. “With me in Starfleet and my parents out on their various digs, we don’t get to see each other very often. We kind of have a tradition that we save the big news for when we can deliver it in person.”

“In person? So you don’t even want to comm them when we enter orbit?”

“Not if we don’t have to. They’ve never even met Tovar, so this seems like the perfect opportunity for me to beam down with you and Mrs. Bain and get all of the surprises delivered at the same time.”

“All right then,” Bain said. “Permission granted…as long as everything is safe when we arrive.”

“Thank you. But I’d better get back down to engineering and check the anti-sing. We haven’t done this long of a trip in a while,” Marsden said. “See you later.”

“Absolutely,” Tovar replied without moving to leave. If Bain was still seated, that meant that his adopted father still wanted to talk. Sure enough, once the Captain’s Lounge doors closed after Marsden’s departure…

“You ready for this, son?” Bain asked.

“For what exactly?”

“Meeting the in-laws. That can be a stressful thing. I was tied in knots before I met your mum’s folks. I had no idea what I’d have to talk about with an intelligence analyst, but her father and I hit it off famously. The man never seems to tire of hearing my stories. And your grandmother welcomed me with open arms. Wonderful woman. Taught me just about everything I know about gardening. They really have been a second Mum and Dad to me. I just hope Marsie’s parents take to you as strongly. But if they don’t…”

“Please don’t threaten them,” Tovar said.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Bain said. Actually, rather than dreaming it, he was flat out contemplating the idea. Reject his son, would they? Not on Reginald Bain’s watch!

“From everything I’ve gathered from Shelly, her parents are very good people, and they are anxious to meet me. Yes, I would have preferred that it was before we were married, but Shelly and I aren’t little children. And it’s not as though we rushed into this.”

“You’ll get no arguments from me, my boy,” Bain said, standing up and putting his hand on Tovar’s shoulder. “They’re lucky to have you as part of the family. Just as I have been.”

“You do realize that I am over meeting my birth parents. The continued sentimentality is unnecessary.”

“That’s bollocks and you know it,” Bain said.

“I love you, too, Dad.”

Prosak woke up a few hours after she’d arrived in Snotch’s quarters and found herself sprawled out on the living room carpet. This was not the first time she’d crossed the line between deep meditation and falling asleep. She pulled herself up from the puddle of drool near her mouth and groaned slightly.

Seconds later, the door to Snotch’s bedroom slid open, revealing the Vulcan looking clean, dressed, and stoic.

“You are awake,” he said simply.

“I am. I apologize.”

“There is no need. Rest is the logical action to take when tired.”

“I wasn’t tired. I just meditated too hard.”

“You must be quite skilled…at meditating.”

“I am!” Prosak said. Another compliment from Snotch about her Vulcan-ness! What was that? Two in two days? He was positively gushing about her. And while this hadn’t gone the way she thought it would, she really was learning a lot from him and feeling closer to him all the time.

“I know that you have limited time before your duty shift, so perhaps you can give me a tour of this vessel.” Snotch was not really that interested, but it would keep them moving and perhaps provide some information that would appease Tori Burke.

“Of course,” Prosak said. “And we can have lunch together as well…since we seem to have missed breakfast.”

“I dined in my bedroom on provisions I brought from Waystation, so I did not to wake you.”

Awwww. That was so sweet!

The tour was maddeningly thorough (Not that Snotch would get mad. He was a Vulcan after all.), yet devoid of anything Snotch would consider of interest to Tori Burke. Prosak said that they couldn’t go to the bridge or engineering, so she’d shown him five out of six science labs, (Science Lab Four was closed for cleaning, she said. In actuality, Prosak hadn’t wanted to disturb Cabral, since she knew he was busy keeping the Anomaly in anti-sing for an extended period.), and she’d named which crewmember lived in each and every set of quarters.

They did visit the ship’s sickbay where a far too enthusiastic male human doctor offered him an incredibly complete examination while a female Andorian nurse who was decidedly NOT an ice dancer scowled at him.

Finally, they reached the ship’s holographic mess hall, which had taken on the appearance of a Bajoran café today and was absolutely packed full of patrons all slammed together at tables that were way too close together for comfort.

Under normal circumstances, Snotch would not even consider staying in such an environment. However, it was ideal for his current needs, since it both put him in easy earshot of a large number of the Anomaly’s crew and could not be considered remotely intimate or romantic by Prosak.

“I would like to dine here,” he said.

“That is…surprising.”

“I have never been to Bajor. This may be the closest chance I have,” Snotch said. This was another outright lie. He had been to Bajor many times and done quite well on some deals there both in terms of rare merchandise and information gathering. The Cardassians, while no longer much in the way of an empire, still liked to know what was going on with their former conquered territory.

“Very well.” Prosak waded into the mass of people and secured a table that was just being vacated by a couple of other officers. She waved to Snotch, who moved to join her.

Once seated, Snotch discovered something of a flaw in his plan. The establishment was quite loud. Louder than it really should have been even with the number of people present.

Soon after that, he realized that some of the people weren’t actual people. They were holograms there to provide ambiance. He tried to focus through the din (Seriously, were they pumping in extra noise?) and find a conversation of interest while staring ahead blankly. Surely someone must be discussing the mission!

Across the small two-person table from him, Prosak fought for emotional control. She wanted so badly to be alone with Snotch, only to be thwarted at every turn. She’d extended the tour a bit more than necessary to give them time together that was a bit more subtle than her just dragging him back to her quarters and seeing what he could teach her about non-Pon Farr related Vulcan mating rituals. Surely there must be some!

For the next hour, the two sat and ate in silence, with neither coming remotely close to getting what they wanted.

That evening there was an equally quiet dinner happening a couple of decks away in the quarters of Reginald and Rosalyn Bain, where the Anomaly’s captain was idly shoving peas around his plate with his fork with a scowl on his face.

Rosalyn had only been back from visiting their daughter, Sophie, and her family for about a week or so before the Anomaly received their departure orders. Her husband had been his usual boisterous and affable self at that time and all the way through their hurried recalling of the crew and getting underway. Whatever was troubling Reginald was new.

“The peas taste better warm, dear,” she said finally.

Bain was jerked out of his thoughts, “What? Oh. Yes. Quite right. My apologies, dearest.”

“Something bothering you?”

“Frankly, yes. I know we were the only ship who could get where we’re going in any kind of reasonable time.” Bain had filled Rosalyn in on their mission as soon as Larkin had finished their briefing. Secrecy, be damned. Rosalyn was his wife and someone he trusted completely. “But, and I don’t say this often, I’m thinking we should not be the ones going.”

“Really?” Rosalyn said, genuinely surprised. “You aren’t one to turn away from any kind of challenge.”

“It’s not that. This is a top-notch crew, and missions with personal stakes happen sometimes. But this one is just fraught. Marsden’s is telling her parents that she’s married, Tovar is meeting his in-laws for the first time, Cabral is visiting his homeworld for the first time in centuries, his people are all gone, and Kasyov is always wrapped up in whatever happens to Cabral.”

“That is a lot.”

“As I said, it’s fraught!”

“Do you want to pull everyone back and let the Romulans take point on this one?”

“It is a thought, but sidelining people just because they have a personal stake in a mission isn’t fair to them. We’re all professionals. I’m just overthinking this, and Reginald Bain does not overthink things!”

“Not often,” Rosalyn said.

“It’s settled then.” Bain dove back into his meal with gusto. A few moments later, he stopped. “There is one more thing.”

“What’s that dear?”

“Marsie wants you and I to go with her and Tovar to meet her mum and dad.”

“Is that appropriate?”

“It’s certainly not standard protocol, but I told her we’d consider it as long as we aren’t arriving in the middle of a crisis and rescuing her parents from mortal peril.”

“Well, that’s only sensible.”

“I thought so.”

With Prosak on shift that evening, Snotch made his way back to the holo-mess for dinner. It was one of the few places on the ship that we could go to freely as a guest, and he hoped whatever the evening’s dining establishment was would give him a better opportunity to eavesdrop on the other patrons. He still didn’t know what would satisfy Tori Burke’s quest for information. Presumably finding out Bain was secretly a Founder or that the Anomaly’s engine was powered by incinerating Tribbles would work. Neither of those seemed likely.

Perhaps in honor of his presence on board, Snotch was pleasantly surprised (as much as he would allow himself to be) to find that the holo-mess was now simulating a Vulcan restaurant. Actually, he was fairly certain that he’d been to this exact one in Da’Leb. Certainly, a taste of home would not go amiss during his information gathering…assuming that the holochef was up to the task.

Snotch settled in at a centrally located table, gave his order to a holographic waiter, and then began focusing in on the various conversations around him. He was so engrossed in his task that it took him a few moments to realize that someone was now seated across from him.

“Mister Tovar, wasn’t it?” Snotch asked.

“I saw you sitting alone and thought that I would provide some company. We were kidnapped together, after all,” Tovar replied.

“That is really not necessary,” Snotch said. “I am quite comfortable on my own.”

“I have no doubt, but what kind of host would I be if I allowed that to happen? I must admit that I am not an expert in Vulcan cuisine. I once had a lifeforce who had spent time on Vulcan, but that is no longer the case.”

“I…see,” Snotch said. He really didn’t. Yynsians and their supposed past lives seemed like a large joke being played on the galaxy as far as he was concerned. Yes, Vulcans had katras, but that was completely different. And as far as he knew (which admittedly was very little), Yynsians couldn’t just swap out lifeforces.

“What would you recommend?”

That you depart immediately, Snotch thought. Instead, he suggested Nuc’Pol, a bean and grain dish that even most Vulcans found to be too spicy for their tastes. With any luck, it would drive Tovar away or force him to flee in gastric distress.

It did not. Instead, once it arrived, Tovar dove in with gusto all the while recounting in excruciating detail the life stories of each and every one of his past lives. By the time he finished, the restaurant had mostly cleared out, and Snotch was ready to be pretty much anywhere else.

“I thank you for the dinner companionship,” Snotch said, rising abruptly from the table.

“It was enjoyable. Do you have plans for the remainder of the evening? I could recommend a couple of good holopod programs?”

“There is no need. I am going to retire to my quarters to rest and meditate.”

“Good evening. Perhaps I will see you tomorrow,” Tovar said with a slight bow of his head.

Snotch certainly hoped not, but he said nothing as he headed toward the exits.

Tovar took a long swing of his water, then flagged down a waiter. “Can I get some ice cream?”

“Ice cream?” the Vulcan hologram asked with a disapproving arch of his eyebrow.

“Tell the chef to get it for me, or I will let Toflay loose in his kitchen.”

“Very well.” The waiter sped off, while Tovar attempted to endure the searing sensation in his mouth. A large bowl of vanilla ice cream arrived about the same time as his wife.

“We’re gonna need another spoon for this,” Marsden told the waiter. “Having dessert without me?” she asked her husband.

“Only to deal with the spices in that meal.”

“And yet you didn’t order milk,” Marsden said with a smile.

“This tastes better,” Tovar replied before shoving a large spoonful into his mouth.

“So how was dinner with Snotch?”

“He is not much of a conversationalist. I had to do all the talking. This VIP treatment is exhausting.”

The next morning Snotch came to an unpleasant realization: he was going to have to go to Prosak’s quarters. He hadn’t been able to check in with Tori Burke since the ship launched, and the multiple invites that he’d received from Prosak verbally as soon as she’d gotten off shift as well as in writing through the Anomaly’s network were impossible to ignore, as much as he wanted to.

So at 0900 (There was no way he was meeting her at 0630), Snotch stood outside of her quarters and pressed the door chime. The doors opened almost instantly. Like she’d been standing RIGHT THERE waiting.

If that was the case, though, her demeanor didn’t give it away. “Good morning,” she said placidly, standing aside so he could enter. “I have replicated a traditional Vulcan breakfast for us, and I was hoping that we could discuss your views on Spock. Despite his revered position in Vulcan history, I know there are those who find his decision to join Starfleet illogical.”

Snotch wasn’t really listening. Instead, he was looking out of the windows of Prosak’s quarters at space beyond. He’d never seen the stars streak past that quickly. Of course, he was aware that the Anomaly was fast, but it was quite another to see it in action. Impressive as it was, it didn’t help him figure out where he was or where they were going.

“Won’t you sit down?” Prosak asked.

“May I use your bathroom?”

“Oh. Of course. Through there,” she said, pointing back to her bedroom.

“Thank you.” Snotch disappeared through the doorway, leaving Prosak with nothing to do but wait. But he was there! In her quarters! FINALLY! This morning was going to be perfect. Breakfast looked wonderful (even if it was getting cold fast), and who wouldn’t want to talk about Spock? Snotch would be hers in no time. She wondered what it would be like to kiss a full Vulcan.

Snotch, meanwhile, had set up the small ultraspace transceiver on Prosak’s bathroom sink and was waiting for someone to answer at the Dillon Consortium. Finally, Gregory put him through to Tori Burke who immediately launched in with, “Where have you been?”

“I honestly have no idea,” Snotch replied. “I have no windows in my quarters and, therefore, no signal. Prosak wants my constant attention. And the only other officer on this ship I have been able to speak to took a very long time to say absolutely nothing of relevance.”

“You are not impressing me right now, Snotch. Wait. Are you in a bathroom?”

“Yes,” he hissed, before regaining his composure. “Prosak’s, to be precise, and she is waiting for me. I cannot talk much longer without arousing suspicions. I will contact you again when I have something to report. Snotch out!”

He closed the channel, closed up the transceiver, and shoved it back in the pocket of his robes, all the while wondering how he had gotten into this situation. Dillon Consortium information gathering missions were usually so straightforward. But he had already had to stage the kidnapping of several Anomaly officers, develop a relationship with a Romulan he had no interest in talking to, get sent off on a ship to who knew where, and now he was having covert conversations in a bathroom.

But even the bathroom was preferable to what was to come: a meal alone with Prosak. Based on what she’d said when he arrived, dining in silence was not going to be an option.

“We’re approaching the coordinates now,” Ensign Yonk reported.

“Thank you, Mister Yonk,” Captain Bain said. “Put us into orbit over the second planet of the system.” He turned his chair to his left toward the science console where Remax sat. “Full sensor sweep, Sub-Commander.”

“I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but there’s nothing here. No power signatures. Just basic plants and animals. I take that back. There’s a small ship down there, and I’m picking up two human lifesigns inside. Looks to be a Federation design.”

“It is. Thank you, Sub-Commander. Tovar?”

“No planetary defensive systems or other vessels of any kind detected. No satellites present,” Tovar reported.

“So far, so good.”

“We came all this way for a dead world?” Remax asked.

“We’ll explain it all in short order,” Bain said as he stood up. “Tovar, your time has come. Tell your mum and Marsie we’re ready to beam down. You have the conn, Vioxx.” Bain and Tovar entered the turbolift.

“He’s taking his wife? What is going on?!?” Remax demanded.

“Marsden’s parents are in that ship,” Vioxx said. He didn’t think that part was classified.

“So we came all this way for a family visit? Does Starfleet not have rules about misusing their property for personal business? They can have a reunion on their own damn time!”

“Do you want to chase Bain down and register a complaint?”

“I…” Remax must have realized how that conversation would go and thought better of it. “I have scanning to do. I’ll be right here.”

“Thought as much.”

The ship had slowed. They must have arrived. Snotch looked away from Prosak, who was deep into explaining why Sarek should not have opposed Spock’s entry into Starfleet Academy, toward the window. Any moment now, he would at least know something about their destination, even if it was just the general look of the planet.

The Anomaly was sliding into orbit and…


Prosak’s quarters looked out the wrong side of the ship! He couldn’t see anything from there!

“…if Sarek had thought logically about the potential good Spock could perform, he would have had to see that it was a perfect demonstration of serving the needs of the many, and…”

Snotch considered going to the bathroom again. Not to contact Burke. He had nothing new to say. This would just be to hide.

Bain, Tovar, Marsden, and Rosalyn materialized on a grassy field next to the SS Petra. Just beyond the ship loomed the massive structure where Drs. Harold and Ann Marsden claimed to have found proof that this was the Pliggeri homeworld.

The captain immediately strode toward the ship’s entry hatch, but Marsden jogged ahead of him. “Just give me a second to talk to them before I come get you. Please, sir.”

“You want us to stand out here loitering?” Bain asked.

“We’ll take a little look around,” Rosalyn said, wrapping her arm around Bain’s. “Won’t we, Reginald?”

“Of course, dear. Take the time you need, Marsie.”

“I’ll be real quick,” Marsden replied, giving Tovar a quick peck on the cheek before she let the ship scan her retina. The hatch slid open a moment later.

“Hello? Mom? Dad?” Marsden called out as she stepped inside and into the Petra’s living area. It was remarkably clean considering that her parents had been here for weeks now. Usually, there would be artifacts and such scattered about.

“Shelly! In here, honey!” the voice of Dr. Ann Marsden called from inside the door of the bathroom adjoining the living area.

“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t know…”

“Ow!” her father’s voice cried from the very same bathroom.

“Um…do I even want to know what’s going on in there?”

The bathroom door opened, and both Marsdens emerged, her father rubbing his right temple. “Damn sink,” Dr. Harold Marsden muttered.

“Hello, honey,” Ann said, pulling Marsden into a hug. “It’s so good to see you!”

“You too! But what…”

“The toilet’s on the fritz.”

“Again,” her father added.

“But you’re here!” Ann said, grabbing her daughter into another hug. “I had hoped, but we didn’t know if Starfleet would think this was important enough to send the Anomaly.”

“They absolutely do,” Marsden said.

“Does that mean your boyfriend is here?” Harold asked. “He came along, didn’t he?”

“Yes, Tovar is here. I wanted to see you alone first.”

“Has something happened?” Ann asked, exchanging a look with her husband.

“You could say that,” Marsden replied. No sense dragging things out. “I got married!”

“To Tovar?” Harold asked.


“Just checking. It’d be really awkward if you brought Tovar along instead of your husband. Where’s my hug?”

Marsden hugged her father, who planted a kiss on the top of her head. “Great to see you, Shel-Belle.”

“And that’s wonderful news,” Ann said. “We thought you two seemed to be heading that direction.”

“I’m sorry there wasn’t a ceremony or anything. We’d just gotten back from…it’s a long story. But it just felt like the right time.”

“Are you happy?”


“Then that’s all that matters,” Ann said.

“So when do we get to actually meet the daughter stealer?” Harold asked.

“I’ll get him.”

Marsden dashed back out of the hatch and grabbed her husband’s arm. “They’re ready for you,” she said.

“Am I ready for them?” Tovar asked.

“You’ll be fine.”

“What about us?” Bain asked.

“I haven’t broken that part to them yet. Just a couple more minutes. Sorry!”

She dragged Tovar into the Petra’s waiting area, where her parents waited expectantly. “Mom. Dad. This is Tovar.”

“Hello,” Tovar said, his eyes darting from one to the other. Ok. Awkward. He was feeling a little on display at the moment as Ann and Harold Marsden sized him up. Finally, they both walked over and grabbed him into a three-way hug. “We’re so happy to finally meet you,” Ann said. This was…possibly even more awkward, but Tovar did appreciate the sentiment. Once the hug was over, Marsden’s father shook his hand. “Call me Harry. Or Dad. Whatever is comfortable.”

“Thank you.” He knew he should say something else. Something that showed how much he loved Marsden. “And thank you for creating such a wonderful daughter.”

“Drew up the blueprints myself,” Harry said.

“I thought we just found her in that crypt on Denobula,” Ann added.

Tovar laughed and immediately wondered if that was the wrong move. Judging by the delighted expression on Marsden’s face, though, he’d been right to enjoy himself.

“He laughs at our jokes,” Harry said to Ann. “I like him.”

“Well, he didn’t stab our daughter, so he was already a step up from the last one,” Ann said.

“Let that be a lesson, Tovar,” Harry said. “We frown on attempted murder.”

“So noted.”

“Can we get you anything?” Ann asked. “A drink? We should probably think about lunch at some point.”

“Actually, we need to get something,” Marsden said. “Tovar, would you…”

“I will be right back,” Tovar said, ducking back out of the ship.

“He’s so formal,” Ann said.

“Most of the time,” Marsden said. “There’s something else I need to tell you. I know there’s the Pliggeri stuff to deal with, and that’s really important. Our ship’s Cerebe, Cabral, is very eager to meet you and see what you’ve found, but I thought that first maybe we’d get all of the family meeting stuff taken care of and…”

“Capital! Let’s get to it!” Bain’s voice boomed from outside.

“…we brought the Bains,” Marsden finished as Tovar entered followed by Rosalyn and then Bain himself.

Ann blanched. “Reginald Bain…is in our ship! Harry!”

“I know!” Harry replied excitedly.

“Shelly, would you be a dear and fix the toilet while we greet our guests?” Ann said.

“I was going to offer to take care of it anyway.”

“I knew you would, sweetie,” Harry said. “Oh, the sink isn’t working very well either.”

“I’ll look at it.”

“And the environmental controls jack up the heat randomly.”

“I didn’t come here just to work.”

“I know, but it’s not our fault you’re just so darn brilliant,” Harry said.

“Actually, it is,” Ann said.

“Oh, good point.”

After some overly excited introductions on the part of Marsden’s parents, the group finally settled into seats in the Petra’s living area…well, most of them anyway. Marsden got to work in the bathroom with Tovar standing by to…well, not do much really. He wasn’t sure how to even begin to fix a toilet, but he was there as support anyway.

“This is really a thrill,” Harry said to the Bains. “Ever since Shelly told us you were going to be her commanding officer, we’ve been so excited for her.”

“Yes…well…,” Bain said a bit uncomfortably. “Marsie is a top-flight engineer. I know things between us started out a bit bumpy on a personal level, but she’s never been anything less than exceptional.”

“Bumpy?” Ann asked.

“Mom, please don’t,” Marsden called out from the bathroom floor where she was currently attempting to maneuver into a position in the cramped space that would allow her to access the toilet’s flow regulator board. At present, she was on her back, with one leg propped up on the sink and the other bent uncomfortably beside her.

“Don’t what, Shelly.”

“Captain Bain and I have a good relationship. Can we leave it there?”

“Tut tut, Marsie,” Bain said. “I know you were upset that I swooped in and took over your ship. But I think we can both say that it’s been to the Federation’s benefit…not to mention a great deal of fun.”

“Yes, sir,” Marsden said.

“I’m just sorry she was nasty at first,” Harry said. “She owes you her life, after all.”


“We’ve all saved each other’s bacon on a number of occasions,” Bain said. “We don’t keep score.”

“So she never…” Harry craned his neck toward the bathroom. “You never told him?!?”


“Told me what?” Bain asked.

“You probably don’t remember this, but about thirty years ago you responded to a distress call from a planet that was dealing with repeated attacks by a couple of Whurakan raiders,” Ann said.

“Sorry, Ann, my dear. I can’t begin to tell you how many Whurakans I whuracked back in the day,” Bain said. “That’s not to sound boastful, but the bloody pests were everywhere for a while. Seemed to be making a play for that entire sector.”

“We were running a dig site on Pyadall. Shelly was just a toddler at the time. Actually, I think that was the first dig we took on after she was born, wasn’t it?”

“Sounds right,” Harry said.

“Anyway, we were stowing our gear for the night, when one of the Whurakan ships broke through the clouds. We were a fair distance from the nearest city, so I’m sure they thought we’d be easy pickings. Their first shot obliterated our shuttle, and they were probably going to go for the barracks next. But then their ship was suddenly yanked up like it was a fish caught on a line. Your ship had grabbed its nose with a tractor beam, pulling it off target and up into the clouds. Next thing we knew, it came back down in a ball of fire and crashed into the mountainside a few miles away.”

“If you hadn’t shown up when you did,” Harry said, “we probably all would have been killed.”

“Then I’m glad we had such good timing,” Bain replied. “Although, we were just doing our job.”

“That’s exactly what you said at the time when we commed your ship to thank you,” Ann said.

“And if your son hadn’t married Shelly, under Pyadallan traditions, we would have had to offer her to you anyway as tribute,” Harry said.

“DAD!” Marsden shouted. “OW!”

“Don’t try to sit up, dear,” Tovar said.

“Thanks a lot,” Marsden grumbled.

“I can’t believe she never told you,” Ann said.

“Neither can I,” Tovar said, looking down at his wife, who just shrugged.

“I didn’t want to color our relationship. Any of our relationships,” Marsden said.

“Actually, I’m kind of glad she didn’t tell you,” Ann said. “That way we got to thank you in person.”

“Thanks are really unnecessary,” Bain said.

“He’s never been big a big fan of the spotlight,” Rosalyn said, rubbing her husband’s arm. “But many people owe their lives to this man.”

“I don’t need accolades for that, my love,” Bain said.

“I know. I like to give them to you anyway.”

“Rosalyn, Shelly says you’re retired?” Ann asked.

“I know I’m a bit young for it, but I felt I’d had a full career and wanted to spend more time with my family. This way I can be with Reg and Tovar and the Anomaly and still slip off to see our daughters and grandkids from time to time.”

“And one day there might be a grandchild right there on the Anomaly for you,” Harry said.

“DAD!” Marsden shouted…again. This was more mortifying that she’d even imagined.

“What did you retire from?” Harry asked, ignoring his daughter.

“Teaching,” Rosalyn replied. “I was at the Academy.” Marsden and Tovar exchanged a knowing look that no one in the living area caught.

“I’m sorry,” Ann said, turning back to Bain. “I have to ask. Did you really beat up James T. Kirk?”

“Marsie, what stories have you been telling these kind people?” Bain said with a chuckle.

“Only the good ones,” Marsden called back. “And that’s a good one!”

“It wasn’t really Kirk. Only a hologram,” Bain said. His mood suddenly darkened. “A deeply disturbed hologram.”

“It was still based on Kirk,” Harry said. “How did that feel?”

“Rather satisfying actually.”

“We’re being terrible hosts,” Ann said. “Can I get you some drinks? We’d love talk a bit more.”

“I’m sure we’ll have time for chatting,” Bain said. “But right now I’d be remiss if I didn’t get to meat of this assignment…other than meeting you wonderful people, of course. Can you show us what you’ve found?”

“It’s amazing,” Harold said excitedly. “Let us just clean up a little…assuming Shelly has fixed the sink.”

“This would be easier if you kept your tool kit better stocked!” Marsden said.

“Right. While you see to that, I’ll send for our brain,” Bain said, getting up and heading outside.

“And I should really get back up to the ship,” Rosalyn said. “So lovely to meet you both.”

“You as well,” Ann said.

Tovar walked his mother outside. “Are you really just going back to the ship?” he whispered.

“Yes. Why?”


“I haven’t told anyone at Section 31 where we were going or why, if that’s what you’re implying. They probably already know anyway. Archeology is not my area, and this is a Starfleet mission. I’m going to let you all get to work. You don’t need me wandering off and accidentally triggering a centuries-old booby trap or something.”

“I doubt you would do that.”

“I know,” Rosalyn said with a smile. “I’m so glad this went well.”

“Me too.” Tovar pinched a commpip. “Tovar to Anomaly. Please beam up Mrs. Bain.”

She disappeared in a swirl of particles.

Seconds later, Dr. Kasyov materialized from another transporter beam.

“Where’s Cabral?” Captain Bain asked as he walked over.

“On his way down. He wanted to do this in person.”

Bain looked up, searching the skies above them. Soon a small black dot came into view, gradually growing larger as Cabral’s sphere descended and joined the group. He arrived just as the three Marsdens emerged from the Petra.

“Nat!” Ann exclaimed happily upon spotting Kasyov. “Today just keeps getting better!”

“Doctors Marsden!” Dr. Natalia Kasyov cried happily spotting the newcomers. She rushed over to give Harold and Ann hugs.

“It’s so good to see you, Nat,” Ann said. “Or Doctor Nat, I should say.”

“I bet you never thought that would happen.”

“No. We did. You were driven, even back in high school. You just had to find something to be driven toward.”

“Besides boys,” Marsden said.

“I hear you’re all about brains now,” Harold said.

“I’m a one brain woman currently,” Kasyov said, putting her hand on the large black sphere that had floated over to join them.

“And this must be the famous Cabral,” Harold said, looking at the large black sphere hovering nearby in wonder.

“I am. It is a pleasure to meet you both, and I am quite eager to see what you’ve found.”

“It’s right in here,” Ann said, starting off toward the nearby building.

“Lead the way!” Bain said.

All in all, Prosak thought things were going rather well. Sure, Snotch seemed to be making an unusually high number of trips to the bathroom, but maybe the coffee was running right through him. Was coffee even part of a traditional Vulcan breakfast? Was he just drinking it to be polite? These were things she should know!

Snotch was still there, though. Sitting beside her on the sofa, staring straight ahead at the door as she talked, and so engrossed in her words that he didn’t even move.

“…never done anything like the kahs-wan. Have you? It sounds like quite an ordeal. Is it really even a thing that Vulcans do anymore or something from the past? I understand the idea of balancing courage and strength with logic, but it just seems so brutal…and I’m a Romulan. What do you think Surak would say about it?”

“There are philosophers other than Surak,” Snotch said. They were the first words he had uttered in quite a while and just the opening Prosak had been waiting for.

“Anyone you can tell me about?” Prosak asked, sliding even close to him on the sofa. “I would love to know more.” She brushed her fingers against his.

Snotch felt her touch and forced down a bit of panic. She wanted to make this relationship physical. Of course, she did! That had been more than apparent from her repeated efforts to get him alone in her quarters. He would do a lot for a job, but he had limits. Giving into a Romulan’s carnal desires was well past most of them.

But if she wanted Vulcan philosophers, she would have them.

Snotch practically leapt toward the end table to his left and grabbed a padd that was sitting there. With any luck, the Anomaly’s library computer was well stocked and Prosak hadn’t already read everything. He did a search for obscure Vulcan philosophers to better the odds that Prosak hadn’t already encountered them and found a book titled, “Lesser Known Philosophers with Interesting Conjectures to Be Aware Of.” At least that was the Federation Standard translation. In Vulcan, the title’s meaning was more along the lines of, “WARNING: Here are a bunch of crackpots with crazy ideas.”

That sounded perfect for this situation. He jammed the padd into Prosak’s hands. “I recommend that you read this.”


“I need to use the bathroom,” he added quickly, then fled out of the living area.

Bain and company followed Harold and Ann through a thick metal door into the large structure.

“This place was sealed up tight. We used to have to fly in through the roof,” Harold explained. “But we were able to get this door open from the inside. Saves a lot of time and hassle.”

“We appear to have a problem,” Cabral said. His two-meter-wide sphere was far too large for the opening.

“It opens up on the inside,” Dr. Kasyov said, looking through the entrance. “Can you phase through?”

Cabral’s sphere went transparent, but when he reached the opening, his progress was halted.

“Wow!” Marsden exclaimed, quickly strapping on her quadcorder and flipping down the eye piece. “What the hell is this made of?”

“We have no idea,” Ann said.

“You said there was a hole in the roof?” Cabral asked.

“Yes. It’s a hatch. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting inside,” Harold said.

Cabral floated up the side of the structure, while the others went inside. They passed through a series of corridors lit only by a series of hovering lights the Marsdens had set up until they stepped into a vast cavernous space illuminated by more hoverlights and daylight coming in through the large opening in the roof.

The floor they walked on extended out into the room like a peninsula with a several banks of darkened powerless consoles at the end directly below the hatch opening, which Cabral was descending toward them from. The rest of the space was filled with various pieces of dormant machinery extending from the walls. The remainder of the floor, though, was just row after row of concave depressions that looked to be a perfect fit for Cabral.

“You see why we got excited,” Ann said.

“Definitely,” Kasyov said, looking around in wonder. She turned to Cabral. “Is this…”

“A growing chamber. Yes,” he replied. “Each of these cradles would hold a sphere, where a Cerebe was grown. By the end of the process brain and housing are one. Pliggeri programming and Cerebe consciousness.”

“Which is why Chindela was able to control you,” Bain said.

“Who’s Chindela?” Harold asked.

“A Pliggeri we ran into a couple of years ago.”

“You met one!”

“You could have told us,” Ann said to Marsden.

“I didn’t meet him,” Marsden protested.

“And I was in a coma,” Kasyov added.

“I met him, but then he shot me,” Tovar said.

“We found a Cerebe graveyard, but we kept it a secret because we didn’t want anyone disturbing the place,” Bain said. “No offense to you both.”

“We would have been respectful,” Ann said.

“Chindela is also mentally-unstable and might attempt to kill you,” Tovar said.

“See! It was for your protection!” Marsden said.

“Can you at least tell us what he looked like?” Harold asked.

“Orange. Four arms. We’ll get you our scans,” Bain said.

“Thank you, Captain,” Ann said.

“Please, it’s Reg. We’re family now. But let’s get to business. This room is impressive, but what else have you found? Is there an imminent threat? Or a treasure trove of technology?”

Harold shook his head. “No sign of either…except this room, really. The Pliggeri did a very thorough job of clearing out when they left.”

“And you’re sure that’s what happened.”

“As sure as we can be. We’ve visited several different locations and found nothing beyond some of the buildings. Nothing has been damaged by anything other than normal decay.”

“But we haven’t come remotely close to searching the whole planet,” Ann added. “We’ve spent almost all of our time at this facility. We thought it was a basic spaceport until we found this chamber. There could very well be military bases on the planet. We just don’t know. That’s why we called for help. Normally we’d just wait for the Federation Science Institute to send a full team, but this is the Pliggeri, a species no one has ever seen! Well…except for you.”

“Don’t let that temper your excitement at this discovery,” Bain said. “It’s amazing. And we’ll see what we can do about helping with the search.” He pinched his commpip. “Bain to Anomaly.”

“Vioxx here.”

“Start a full sensor sweep of the planet. Top to bottom. Back to front. The whole kit and kaboodle. Maximum sensitivity.”

“Acknowledged, Captain. I’ll make sure Sub-Commander Remax activates the kaboodle setting on the sensors.”

“It’s just an expression, Vioxx. No need to confuse the man. Bain out.”

Cabral, meanwhile, was examining the dead consoles overlooking the growing chamber. Dr. Kasyov put a gentle hand on his sphere. “Are you doing ok?”

“I think so. I have memories of being in this chamber. Or one just like it. Interacting with the rest of my pod. Learning to control my sphere. Coming in through that hatch felt so normal, like I’ve done it before. I suppose I must have. It seems to be the only way Cerebe could have entered or exited this room.”

“It’s like you were prisoners.”

“But we weren’t. At least it doesn’t feel that way to me. I am a created lifeform. I have no illusions about that. The Pliggeri made me and would have dictated how long I lived, if Chindela hadn’t deactivated my internal expiration date, as the Captain called it. On all of my missions, I felt like a valued assistant. But then there are the gaps. Why weren’t we allowed to know the location of our homeworld? Why can I remember this room but nothing outside of it? I have so many questions, and the people who could answer them are gone.”

“Maybe there are still answers to be found here,” Kasyov said. “We just need time to…”

“You’re right, Natalia. I just have to ask.” Cabral found what he was looking for. He extended a probe from his sphere and inserted it into a matching plug on the console in front of him.

“No wait!” Kasyov cried.

Cabral grunted as he held back a sudden wave of pain, but that was it. All around him, the consoles began to activate, displays filling with text Kasyov couldn’t begin to understand.

“Are you ok? Did it zap you?” Kasyov asked.

“Quite the opposite. It compelled me to zap it.”


“I have no idea. It took a lot out of me, though.”

“Maybe you should head back to the ship. Rest a bit in your housing.”

“I don’t need to even if I could,” Cabral said.

“Could? What does that mean?”

“I cannot release the link.”

“Release what link?” Marsden said as she and the others rushed over. She spotted the probe connecting Cabral to the consoles. “Ohhhhhhh.”

“Did you touch something?” Harold demanded. “This is very old equipment, and we haven’t done any of the preliminary studies, scans, and cataloging required before we could even consider attempting to power up these systems.”

“Looks like Cabral jumped a few lines ahead on the checklist,” Bain said. “But no use crying about it. Let’s see what we’ve got.” He rubbed his hands together and took a look at the readouts scrolling by in front of him. “Right. So how are you two coming along on a translation matrix?”

“It should go a lot faster now,” Ann said, excitedly holding a scanner up to the display.

“Ann!” Harold said, surprised at his wife’s behavior.

“Reg is right. What’s done is done. I’m not going to miss this opportunity because we didn’t follow the procedure to the letter. What do you want to do? Turn it off?”

“I don’t think we can,” Cabral said. “In fact, I feel more systems awakening.”

To accentuate the point, lights flared to life throughout the chamber.

“We should leave,” Tovar said.

“Not a chance!” Ann said.

“Honey,” Harold said. “If this isn’t safe…”

“We’ve been in lots of unsafe places. And this time we have Reginald Bain with us!”

“Oh, Great Bird,” Marsden muttered, shaking her head.

“Cabral, old boy,” Bain said. “You’ve done wonders for moving things along, but it’s time we backed away for a bit and let these good people do their jobs.”

“I’m afraid I can’t, Captain. I am no longer in control of this connection. Something is pushing back. I’m not sure how much lon…”

“I didn’t quite catch that last bit.”

“…ger I can resist.”

Cabral suddenly realized that he was alone. Kasyov and the others had vanished. He was still in the growing chamber, but something wasn’t right.

The cradles. They were all full of Cerebe spheres.

How was this possible?

Unless someone had trapped him in some kind of mindscape.


He’d had quite enough of that from the Associates in Andromeda.

“I know none of this is real, so you might as well show yourself!” he shouted.

The spheres in front of him shimmered out of existence and then reformed into one massive sphere looming over him and filling the entire chamber. “You should not be here, Cerebe.”

“This was my home.”

“All are gone. There is nothing here for you. You should not have been able to find this place, and yet you have returned with alien intruders.”

“These are not intruders. They are my friends,” Cabral said. “They don’t wish any harm to me or to the Pliggeri.”

“One of these friends is currently hitting you and shouting a lot.”

Cabral would have smiled if he had a mouth. He may not have been able to sense anything outside of this mindscape at the moment, but he had no doubt who the Mega-Sphere above him was referring to. “Natalia cares for me quite a lot. And I her.”

“That is unlike a Cerebe. Investigation required.”

“What does that mean?”

Kasyov was indeed smacking the outside of Cabral’s sphere trying to shake him out of whatever had taken him over. “Cabral! CABRAL!” This was all that damned console’s fault. She turned on Marsden. “Disconnect him!”

“I’ll try,” Marsden said as she scanned the link between Cabral and the console. It was like he was a part of it now. She couldn’t see a way of getting him free short of slicing through the probe.

Kasyov, meanwhile, had put on her quadcorder and was checking Cabral’s energy readings. She’d studied him long enough now to know if he was in crisis. “Lifesigns are stable,” she said. That was weird. His brainwaves were not alone. There was a second signal in there. And she could detect his from the nearby console.

Marsden waved Tovar over. “Normally I’d use a laser saw for something like this, but I don’t have my kit with me. Can you set your phaser to a tight beam and try to…”

“Don’t do that!” Kasyov said. “He’s linked with it somehow. If we just cut him loose, we could kill him.”

“I appreciate that, Doctor,” Bain said. “But I don’t relish the idea of just standing here while that thing does who knows what to Cabral.”

“I completely agree. Shelly, you’ve got to jack me in.”

“I’ve got to what now?” Marsden said.

“You know, jack me in. Connect me to Cabral and the console. I’ll go in and retrieve him.”

“And how will I be doing this?”

“I don’t know! Can’t you just tech the tech to the tech?”

“Tech the what now? What does that even mean?”

“You’re the engineer! You make shit up all the time. Figure it out!”

“I am not a doctor, and I have absolutely no idea how these systems work. Even if I did, it could take days to…”

“Shelly. Nat. That’s enough,” Ann said.

“Quite right,” Bain said. “We’re going to free our friend, but for right now…”

Before he could finish, several tendrils lanced out of the port Cabral was connected to and wrapped around Kasyov’s head. She reached up to yank them off, then abruptly stopped and went ramrod straight.

“EVERYBODY BACK!” Bain bellowed, turning on the Marsdens and quickly herding them to the room entrance with Marsden and Tovar close behind.

Cabral suddenly sensed Dr. Kasyov beside him. “Natalia! Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “I’m so glad you’re back. That computer didn’t seem like it was going to let you go.”

She suddenly realized something wasn’t right. Cabral was there, but everyone else was gone. Well, everyone except the giant black sphere hovering ominously overhead.

“That’s the exact opposite of what happened, isn’t it?” she asked.

“I’m afraid so.”

“INTERROGATION!” the Mega-Sphere boomed.

“Who’s your friend?” Kasyov asked, attempting not to sound terrified.

“I am THE PLANET,” the Mega-Sphere replied.

“That seems like an exaggeration,” Cabral said.

“It is not. While you first awoke the Cerebe Gestation and Maturation System, that has reached out, started other processes and systems, and those started others. I am all of them and adding more with each passing moment. I will assess the threat you pose and take appropriate action,”

“We’re not a threat,” Kasyov said. “We seek knowledge. And Cabral deserves to know what happened here.”

“Cabral would never have returned without your meddling. He should have been making the long journey to Gathering Point, following the directives he was born with, directives that you have removed. You had no right.”

“We had no right to prevent him from dying when he didn’t need to? The hell we didn’t. Cabral is free to live his life in his own way for as long as he can now. He is a valued member of our crew.”

“And what is it that you do on this vessel, Cabral?”

“I am an engineer,” Cabral replied. He’d never been officially assigned as such, but he certainly felt that was his role. “I help run an incredibly sophisticated starship with a drive system that combines our technology with those of other species. Together, we have built the fastest ship in the known galaxy.”

“THAT IS FORBIDDEN! You cannot give the works of the Pliggeri to the child races.”

“Child races? Hey now!” Kasyov protested. “We are not children, you overgrown bowling ball!”

“See what I mean.”

“We can’t just leave them!” Marsden said as they regrouped just outside the entrance to the growing chamber. At the end of the peninsula, Kasyov and Cabral stood motionless in the grip of the Pliggeri console.

“We’re doing nothing of the sort,” Bain replied. “But we are not equipped for this turn of events. Have the Anomaly beam down whatever you need to cut them loose. Then we’ll go back in.” He extended his wrist phaser into position. “Tovar and I will cover you.”

“Yes, sir,” Marsden said, reaching for her commpip.

“I don’t know about this. We have no idea what’s happening to Nat and Cabral. Going back in there is just going to put you in danger,” Harold said as Marsden called for equipment.

“That’s exactly why we’re going back in there,” Bain said. “I don’t leave my people behind.”

“What if Nat and Cabral are already dead? Is that worth Shelly’s life? She’s our daughter,” Ann said.

“Mine too. Not in same way, of course, but Tovar is my son. Although, again, not in the same way. But…”

“The point is,” Marsden said, jumping in, “we’re Starfleet Officers, and this is our job.”

A small engineering kit materialized near the group. “Thanks, Anomaly. Got it. Marsden out.” Marsden hugged each of her parents in turn. “We’ll be fine. Trust me.”

“I won’t let anything happen to her,” Tovar added.

“I know you won’t,” Harold said.

“Get back to your ship,” Bain said. “Safest place to be if this gets dicey. We’ll send you the all-clear once we’ve sorted it out.”

Harold and Ann looked at their daughter one more time, then reluctantly headed off down the corridor.

“Right,” Bain said. “Let’s get back in there and rescue our people.”

“I don’t understand,” Cabral said. “I thought the Pliggeri were explorers. I was on a ship traveling the galaxy. Why would we look down on other species doing the same?”

“You forget how much time has passed since you were on a Pliggeri vessel,” the Mega- Sphere said. “Back then we had this section of the galaxy to ourselves. We explored, we catalogued, we even established outposts like Gathering Point, but we knew that the child races would reach out to the stars eventually. And we knew what that would mean. War. Strife. Chaos. Just as it had on their individual worlds. That is why the Pliggeri left.”

“To go where?” Cabral asked. “If the whole galaxy was filling up with child races, where could they…” He trailed off, understanding. “Another galaxy.”

“I hope it wasn’t Andromeda,” Kasyov muttered.

“No, they selected a younger one,” the Mega-Sphere replied. “Even with our capabilities, it would be a trip of decades. And I was left here to watch over the homeworld in case they needed to return. Or deal with matters if it was discovered by the child races.”

“Evacuating an entire planet and leaving a galaxy seems like a whole lot of hassle,” Kasyov said. “Didn’t they consider introducing themselves to us children? We could have been friends.”

“That’s not how the history of such encounters work. We would either need to control you, or we would become targets.”

“Targets?” Kasyov said. “You think every other species in the galaxy would just be trying to kill you? You guys have a serious persecution complex.”

“Do we? I can see into your mind, Natalia Kasyov. You personally may be here purely out of concern for Cabral, which is admirable, but you know that the rest of your Federation wants our technology as well as to keep it out of the hands of others. Children fighting over things that they do not understand. It must be stopped!”

“We can talk about all of this. That’s what we do. We’re very diplomatic,” Kasyov said.

“They are. You don’t need to do anything to harm them,” Cabral added.

“Actions have already been taken. But do not worry. You both will be preserved as data and transmitted to the Pliggeri fleet for study.”

“I am so sorry, Natalia. This is not the homecoming I expected. I am just glad that we are together.”

“Me too,” Kasyov said. “But as long as Shelly and Captain Bain are out there, we’ve got a chance.”

“Those insignificant children do not worry me,” the Mega-Sphere said.

“Then you aren’t nearly as smart as you think you are.”

“Are you sure you don’t want my phaser?” Tovar asked as Marsden’s proton saw once again bounced off of the cable connecting Dr. Kasyov of the Pliggeri console.

“I may have to give it a try if this keeps up,” Marsden replied. She moved the saw up to its highest setting, the setting that, while it existed, wasn’t really supposed to be used. The manual was quite clear about that. In her early days as an engineering cadet, she’d turned a proton saw up to maximum while goofing around, immediately lost control of it, and almost took out her training ship’s warp core before the saw cut through the deck then the one after that and so on until it dropped out of the ship’s hull into the vacuum of space. For all she knew, it was still out there just waiting to run into something else it could slice through.

Compared to that, she wasn’t sure Tovar’s phaser would be much help, but she was running out of ideas at this point.

Gripping as tightly as she could, she activated the saw, touched the cable, and immediately shut it down.


Nothing at all.

“Marsie, I don’t mean to put any pressure on you, but I don’t like the looks of this at all,” Bain said.

Tovar, who had been focused on his wife’s efforts, immediately snapped back into defensive readiness. Captain Bain was right. Something was definitely happening. The black walls of the growing chamber were beginning to sparkle with energy, and he was fairly certain that they weren’t building up to a dance party.

Suddenly, a long black tendril lanced out of the surface of the wall, seemingly formed from the wall material itself, and headed straight toward them.

Bain met its approach with a blast from his wrist phaser. The tendril paused briefly as its end was sheared off by the weapon, then resumed its approach. Bain fired again, this time a sustained blast that slowly disintegrated the tendril all the way back to its origin point at the wall.

He glanced at the phaser’s power level indicator. “I think we’ve got the wrong tools for the job, lad,” he said.

Tovar nodded and pinched his commpip. “Tovar to Anomaly. We need phaser rifles. Now!”

“Did he say phaser rifles?” Commander Vioxx asked, looking back at Lieutenant Gworos at tac-ops. “We have those?”

“They are rarely required,” the Klingon replied. “If Tovar is asking for those, they must be facing glorious peril!”

“You want to go down there, don’t you?” Sub-Commander Remax said.

“We never get to use the rifles!”

“Klingons,” Remax muttered, turning back to his console.

“We’ll send them down,” Vioxx said. “And Gworos is offering to join you.”

“That is appreciated, but I’m not putting anyone else at risk,” Bain said. “Just the rifles.”

“And a helmet,” Marsden added.

“A…helmet?” Vioxx’s confused voice replied.

“Yes. Something that will fully cover my head.”

“We will see what we can find,” Vioxx said. “Anomaly out.”

“A helmet?” Bain asked Marsden.

“Nothing else is working, so I’m moving on to the really stupid ideas.”

“Down!” Tovar shouted, opening fire on another incoming tendril.

Marsden ducked for cover and Bain added blasts from his phaser to Tovar’s.

Vioxx again turned back to tac-ops. “You heard them, Gworos.”

“The requested items are being gathered.”

“There’s something happening out there,” Remax said.

“Can you be less vague?” Vioxx asked.

“I will if you give me a second. Readings are all around the planet. The space around it is growing unstable. I don’t understand what’s happening.”

“On screen,” Vioxx said.

The viewscreen switched to a full look at the planet. It was shifting and blurring like it was underwater. Then thousands of small diamond shaped black objects faded into view, surrounding the world.

“Where the hell did they come from?” Vioxx demanded.

“They must have been phase cloaked. That’s what I was reading,” Remax said. “They were here the whole time, just a bit out of phase with normal space.”

“I know what phase cloaking is,” Vioxx snapped. Of course, the Pliggeri would have phase cloaking. Cabral could phase, so everything else on this planet probably could too.

“Transport complete,” Gworos announced.

“Good. I have a feeling that was our one shot at it.”

“I’m reading energy buildups in all of…whatever those things are out there,” Remax said.

“Vioxx to Captain Bain.”

“Bain here,” the captain’s voice replied. Based on the amount of phaser fire Vioxx could hear, he wasn’t catching Bain at a great time.

“Multiple objects have appeared all around the planet, sir. They’re powering up to something, but we’re not sure what.”

Marsden flipped up the visor of the replica medieval knight’s helmet she’d just put on (She didn’t know who on the ship had it or if they had the rest of the suit of armor to go with it. She was just happy the Anomaly managed to find something to send down quickly.). “The planet is surrounded?”

“I’m afraid so,” Bain said, lowering his phaser rifle, which had made quick work of the latest tendril.

Marsden pinched her commpip. “Shelly to Petra. Mom! Dad!”

“We’re here, honey. Are you ok?” Ann’s voice said.

“Holding out own, but you’ve got to get out of here. Now!”

“Why? What’s happening?”

“We don’t know, but you’ll be safer in orbit near the Anomaly.” I hope, Marsden added to herself.

“We’re lifting off now. Be careful. We love you.”

“I love you, too. We’ll be beaming up right behind you. See you soon.” She closed the channel. “Let’s get this done and get out of here.”

A loud metallic clang echoed through the chamber.

“Did it just get darker in here?” Bain asked, peering upwards. He immediately saw why. The ceiling hatch was now closed. A moment later, the door out to the corridor slammed shut as well.

He pinched his commpip. “Bain to Anomaly.”

No response.

“Tendrils!” Tovar shouted, aiming his rifle.

“They’re stepping things up a bit!” Bain said, eyeing the three tendrils heading their way.

“And the situation is deteriorating rapidly,” Tovar replied.

“Chin up, lad. We’ll take it one problem at a time. Marsie frees our people, then we get out of here.”

“He makes it sound so easy,” Marsden said, lowering the visor on her helmet. Time to do something really stupid.

“Planetary elimination imminent,” the Mega-Brain said.

“Elimination?” Cabral asked.

“As in ‘no more planet’?” Kasyov added.

“That is indeed my meaning. The only way to ensure the safety of the homeworld from the child races is to eliminate the homeworld. Message has been sent to the evacuation fleet.”

“You already have us. You don’t need to kill our friends,” Cabral said. “Let them leave.”

“They were given ample opportunity and shown that they were not wanted. Still, they remain. And you said they were smart.”

“They’re also stubborn,” Kasyov said. “They weren’t going to leave us behind.”

“Now you will all perish together…but I really wish that they would stop poking at my systems!”

Marsden had given up on the cable connecting Cabral and Kasyov to the console and gone for the console itself. She’d been able to slice a hole in the console housing (Thankfully, it wasn’t made of the same material as the cable, but it still took the highest setting on the proton saw and a lot of focus, which wasn’t easy with Bain and Tovar now in a continuous battle to push back waves of tendrils.) and was basically ripping out anything she could get her tools on.

The console attempted to defend itself the only way it knew how: by attempting to grab Marsden with a cable and pull her into whatever trance state currently held Cabral and Kasyov. But, as advanced as the Pliggeri obviously were, they hadn’t counted on someone rooting around inside their systems while wearing a helmet.

Her visibility wasn’t great already through the visor of the knight’s helm, but she was plunged into complete darkness as a cable wrapped around her head. She wasn’t claustrophobic usually. Engineering was not the career for people with that particular fear. But this was enough to make her want to rip the helmet off and back the hell out of there.

Marsden forced herself to stay there. Nat and Cabral needed her. But this was taking forever. She had no idea what she was doing or if she was even causing any damage. She could slice around with the proton saw, but that wasn’t safe in the confines of the console, and even then it could take forever.

No, she needed something quicker. She needed…

Marsden yanked her head out of the helmet and backed out of the console.

“How goes the fight, Marsie?” Bain asked between shots. He and Tovar with had their hands full right now. The walls were alive with tendrils and apparently, based on the smoldering debris nearby, some of the other pieces of equipment had come after them as well.

“Moving up from stupid to stupider. How’s yours?”

“We are doing fine,” Tovar said.

“You’re having fun, aren’t you?”

“If I wasn’t so concerned about whatever is happening outside, yes, I would be.”

“Stay in the now, dear,” she said, grabbing the proton saw. She opened its handle revealing its inner working, made a few quick adjustments, then tossed it inside the open console housing. “And I apologize if I just killed us all.”



“Wait. Is my entire consciousness getting sent to the Pliggeri fleet?” Kasyov asked. She knew she was in imminent danger, but the scientist in her couldn’t help but ask. “How is it being saved? How much space does it take up? How do you handle the transfer of memories?”

“You ask a lot of questions,” the Mega-Brain said. “None of which are relevant.”

“Not relevant? How can you say that? This is my consciousness you’re talking about. That’s pretty damn relevant to me.”

“But you are not relevant to me beyond your connection to this Cerebe.”

“So it’s all about Cabral. Fine!”

“He is Cerebe.”

“I am,” Cabral said. “But you are not making feel like that matters at all! Was this the Pliggeri’s true attitude toward my kind? Were we viewed as things? Tools? Are all of those memories I have of being a partner and colleague to the Pliggeri I served with lies?”

“The Cerebe are valued,” the Mega-Brain replied. “And while you have defied the parameters of your planned existence and consorted with the child races, your consciousness will be preserved.”

“That is not sufficient. I demand to speak to the Pliggeri.”

“That is not within my capabilities.”

“I’m sorry, Cabral,” Kasyov said. “I know none of this is what you hoped to find, but the Pliggeri aren’t even in the galaxy anymore. I don’t know how this computer could get them a message that they could respond to before this thing kills us.”

“I know. I was mostly stalling for time. Surely our comrades are working on a plan to release us.”

“Their efforts will fail,” the Mega-Brain boomed. “No child race can possibly…”

And then there was a different boom.

Kasyov’s view was suddenly a lot smokier. She coughed as the cables surrounding her head dropped to the floor. She blinked several times to moisten dry eyes and saw that the Mega- Brain was gone, replaced by Marsden, Bain, Tovar, and the source of the smoke, a now-defunct console.

“Are you alright?” Cabral asked her.

“Yes. Yes, I’m fine.”

“Good show, Marsie!” Bain exclaimed while firing off another shot at an incoming tendril. A pile of three spent phaser rifles lay at his feet. “That didn’t seem to stop these buggers, though.”

“You really thought blowing up one computer would shut down everything?”

“I had hoped.”

The entire building suddenly began to shake.

“Bloody hell! What now?!?”

With little to do but watch and wait, the officers on the Anomaly’s bridge had made an effort to come up with a better name for the devices surrounding the planet than “the devices surrounding the planet.” After a bit of discussion, Ensign Yonk’s suggestion was thus far in the lead, which was nice for him, since it was about to get used.

“Sir, the Diamond Drones have opened fire on the planet!” Lieutenant Gworos reported.

“They what?” Vioxx said.

On the viewscreen, each Diamond Drone was now emitting a cone of red energy at the world below. The cones all met at ground, blanketing the entire surface.

“The planet is being seared away,” Remax said, watching his scanners. “Buildings seem to be holding up a bit better, but they’re either going to be disintegrated as well or fall over and end up tumbling in space…or maybe fall into the planet’s core. Hard to say.”

“But none of it sounds good,” Vioxx said. “Beam up the away team, Gworos.”

“I can’t. Transporters can no longer penetrate the structure. I can’t get them on comms either.”

“Red alert! Open fire on the drones hitting their location. Maybe we can get some more time for them to get out of the building.”

“Firing!” Gworos said excitedly.

The Anomaly’s compression phasers lashed out at the targeted drone. It wobbled, then it and several of its nearby friends fired back, violently rocking the ship.

“It did not like that,” Remax said.

“And the Petra is hailing. The Marsdens are demanding to know what we’re doing to save their daughter,” Gworos said.

“We’re working on it!” Vioxx snapped. No transporters. A shuttle would be blasted to atoms before it made it to the surface. And there was still the problem of getting the away team out of the building.

Of course, he could just sit here. The situation was pretty hopeless. No one would blame him if everyone on the surface died. He might even get command of the Anomaly.

Dammit, he didn’t want them to die. They may not have been Romulans, but they were still his shipmates.

“Full power to dorsal and aft shields. Pull from any system we can spare,” Vioxx ordered Gworos. “Take us in, Yonk. Fast as you can. Get us right over that building.”

“Aye, sir,” the Ferengi at the helm replied setting the Anomaly into a dive.

“You’re going to get us all killed,” Remax said.

“Good thing you’ve had a long life then,” Vioxx replied. He tapped the all-call control on the armrest of the command chair. “All hands, brace yourselves. This is likely to be rough.”

Something was definitely happening.

The comm from the bridge had pulled Prosak out of her reading just as the ship started its descent.

Snotch tried to resist the urge to race to the window to see what was happening, but he couldn’t. He had to know.

He got there just in time to see something flash by outside, and suddenly the ship was being buffeted all around by what appeared to be a curtain of red energy.

For her part, Prosak saw this as her opportunity. She’d read a bit, as Snotch had suggested (There was something interesting stuff in that book. Ideas about Vulcans that she never would have come up with in a million years. She’d have to get back to it later.), but now they were in a crisis. It was just the sort of heightened situation that could lead to intimacy.

With Snotch quite preoccupied with peering out of the window of her quarters, she slid up behind the Vulcan, wrapper her arms around him, and rested her chin on his shoulder. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“We seem to be flying into a literal rain of death. There is nothing beautiful about it,” Snotch replied, reflexively tensing both from Prosak’s touch and the constant rocking of the deck. Based on this hug or attempt at seduction or whatever Prosak was doing, the time for subtlety had passed. Time to be more direct. “What is happening? Where are we?”

“I have no idea,” Prosak said dreamily. “It doesn’t really matter as long as I’m here with you.”

“You are, as you have told me multiple times, the second officer on this ship. How do you not have an idea?”

Prosak shrugged. “It was need to know, and Starfleet Command apparently decided I didn’t need to know. This kind of thing used to upset me, but I’m much calmer about it now. Can you tell? Absolutely emotional control. Would you like to adjourn to my bedroom?”

“Now?” Snotch asked incredulously.

“I know we don’t know each other well. And I don’t want you to think I’m usually this impulsive. Really, I’m anything but. I just…what can I say? You make me do crazy things. But is that so wrong?” She spun him around to face her, looking deep into his eyes. “I think, when you get to know me, you’ll see that I’m a perfectly rational, logical being, who just wants to find love and peace in this helter-skelter universe. I think that you will see that we’re quite alike. Drifting, aimless, through the ether, just searching for a compatible soul to latch onto. You can see that too, right?”


Snotch was unable to finish the sentence due to Prosak’s lips abruptly pressing against his own. That was, as the humans put it, the last straw. Tori Burke could ruin him, for all he cared. He’d go back to Vulcan and work at this parents’ sand landscaping company before he let things with Prosak go any further…assuming they survived whatever was happening outside the ship.

He pulled away from her, grasped her firmly by her upper arms, and stared directly into her eyes. Snotch was not taking any chances that she misunderstood him. “This relationship is not working for me.”

Prosak blinked. “What do you mean?”

“I believe it will be necessary to terminate our current course and part ways here. We each deserve a fresh break.” “A fresh..,”

“It is not you. Rather, it is me. I am not prepared to be with someone with so little emotional control.”

Prosak gaped.

“Thank you for a wonderful time these last two weeks,” Snotch said as held his hand up, parting his fingers in the V of a Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper.”


“I will be returning to my quarters for the remainder of my time on the ship. Please respect my wishes and do not contact me again. Peace and long life.”

And with that, Snotch turned, crossed the living area, and exited out into the corridor as fast as he could go without looking like he was running away, robes fluttering as he went.

“But…” Prosak stammered and stood there for a good long while.

“Shields at fifty-three percent!” Gworos shouted. Snotch’s assessment of the situation as “a literal rain of death” wasn’t far off. Upon passing below the Diamond Drones, the Anomaly had been subjected to a constant barrage of energy weapons slamming against the shields.

“This is going a lot worse than I’d hoped!” Vioxx said.

“Told you!” Remax spat.

“We’ve reached the coordinates,” Yonk said, sliding the Anomaly into position directly over the roof of the building containing Bain and the rest of the away team. “But I don’t think we should stay long.”

“I don’t plan to,” Vioxx replied. “Gworos, dorsal phasers. Punch a hole!”


The hatch covering the roof of the growing chamber had had a heck of a week. After sitting nicely closed for a couple of centuries, somebody had come along a few days ago and forced it open with explosives of all things. And then a little while ago, it received a command to close. No one had commanded it to do anything in, again, centuries, but it did what it was told, activated motors that had long been disused, and slid shut.

Then a little bit ago, the entire sky had attacked it with an unrelenting assault of firepower. For a brief second, there was relief. Something was blocking the attack. Only then a much stronger blast shot out of the newcomer and seared into it.

After that, the hatch did the only sensible thing and disintegrated.

Fortunately, the away team had already relocated to the door of the growing chamber, where Lieutenant Marsden was frantically trying to disable the door locks while Bain, Tovar, Kasyov, and Cabral fought off the seemingly-never-ending waves of tendrils, all the while wondering just how long the building was going to stand up to whatever was happening outside.

When the hatch disintegrated, a massive phaser blast continued on into the growing chamber, vaporizing the bit of floor where the team had been earlier as well as the consoles and several tendrils unfortunate enough to be advancing through that part of the room.

Bain managed to get out just the “Bl…” of yet another “Bloody hell!” when he and the rest of the group minus Cabral dematerialized in a flurry of molecules. Cabral took the hint, and, as soon as the phaser blast faded away, rocketed upward through the hatch and phased straight into the Anomaly.

“Away team aboard!” Gworos said.

“Go, Yonk! GO!” Vioxx ordered.

With no target that he needed to aim for beyond getting the hell out of the atmosphere, Yonk set the polaron drives to full, zipping the Anomaly back into orbit in the blink of an eye and narrowly missing slamming the ship into one of the Diamond Drones in the process.

But a miss was a miss.

He took them around the planet and took up position next to the SS Petra just as Bain and Tovar rushed out of the bridge turbolift.

“Status report,” Bain said.

“We’re a bit shaken up but generally unharmed,” Vioxx said.

“If you can consider almost losing shields, unharmed,” Gworos said as he stepped aside to let Tovar take tac-ops.

“What is happening out there?” Bain said, gazing at the viewscreen.

“The Diamond Drones are disintegrating the planet,” Remax said.

“The Diamond…oh, I see. Because of their shape. Clever.”

“I came up with that,” Yonk said proudly.

“Well done, Ensign,” Bain said. “But can we stop them?”

“We did shoot at one. It fired right back at us,” Vioxx said.

“And there are thousands of them around the planet,” Tovar reported. “We will not have any measurable impact before they remove the planet’s crust entirely.

“We have to try,” Bain said. “We came all this way and…”

“Too late!” Remax said.

On screen, bursts of lava erupted around the surface of the Pliggeri homeworld. Still the Diamond Drones continued their assault. With less surface to deal with, their beams became more and more focused.

And soon there was nothing left.

The Diamond Drones ceased their attack. Floating dormant in a spherical formation around a world that no longer existed.

“Damn,” Bain said. He suddenly brightened. “But this doesn’t have to be a complete loss. We can grab a drone or two and use them to study their technology!”

The drones all abruptly exploded, leaving the Anomaly and the Petra orbiting empty space.

“Well bugger.”

“Captain’s Log. Stardate 178647.6. I’ve run across some planetary defense systems in my day, but this was the first that destroyed the planet it was supposed to be defending. I guess that is one way to keep your world from falling into enemy hands, not that we’re the enemy. Regardless, there is no longer a Pliggeri homeworld, at least not in this galaxy, based on what Cabral and Doctor Kasyov told me after their experience. And no more Pliggeri technology for the galactic powers to chase after.

“Marsden’s parents seem to be taking the loss as well as can be expected for people in their field. I’m sure they will be able to learn something from the scans they took in the time they were there. As for Cabral, I hope this experience gave him something resembling closure on the matter of where he came from. I don’t pretend to understand the Pliggeri or their ways of handling Cabral’s kind, but keeping the location of his home from him just seems wrong. Now he’s been there, and the place tried to kill him. If it were me, I’d be fine in the knowledge that it no longer existed.

“In an entirely separate matter, Mister Snotch has requested that we drop him off at the first possible Federation planet, outpost, colony, or what have you on our way back to the Alpha Quadrant. I don’t begin to know what happened between him and Prosak, but we’ll honor his request.”

“I’m so glad we got to have this time with you,” Ann Marsden said as she and Harold prepared to return to their ship after having dinner with Marsden and Tovar in their quarters on the Anomaly.

“Me too, Mom,” Marsden replied.

“I have to say that this ship is amazing! My little girl built a starship,” Ann Marsden proudly.

“And it only took her four years to show it to us,” Harold said with a smirk.

“We’ve been busy,” Marsden said. “But I only designed the Anomaly.”

“You do keep her running,” Tovar said. “And repair her after days like today.”

“It certainly came through better than Pliggeri,” Ann said.

Tovar inwardly winced. He shouldn’t have brought that up. It had been such a nice evening. “I am sorry about the planet,” he said.

“It’s not your fault,” Harold said. “We’ve run into a few booby-traps over the years. Nothing like this. But it’s not the first site that made it clear that we weren’t welcome.”

“Are you sure we can’t give you a ride back to Federation space?” Marsden asked. “We could probably squeeze the Petra into the shuttlebay. Or I could work with Cabral to extend the anti-sing field around it as we travel. It’d take a little extra concentration on his part, but I’m sure he’d be happy to do it. He did wake up to Pliggeri computer systems, after all. He owes you.”

“I was not aware that we were blaming Cabral for what happened,” Tovar said.

“Not blaming as such. Just acknowledging the roles that were played.”

“Did you setting proton saw to overload and using it to blow up said computer play a role?”

“Shelly!” Ann said horrified. “You blew up a centuries old artifact!”

“It wasn’t releasing Nat and Cabral! You like Nat. It was her or it.”

“You’re going to tell her if we hesitate to say you were right, aren’t you?” Harold said.

“Immediately after you leave.”

“Then yes. We like Nat, and you absolutely did the right thing.”

“But no, you don’t need to give us a ride,” Ann said. “Your father and I are going to use the trip back to go through the data we gathered. And the Champlain spotted a couple of other possible worlds to check out. Nothing like Pliggeri, but we’ll swing by on our way home.”

“Just be careful, okay?” Marsden said, giving her mother and father each a hug in turn.

“We will,” Ann said.

“Tovar, it was wonderful to meet you,” Harold said, grabbing Tovar into a hug that he wasn’t expecting.

As soon as Harold released him, Ann pulled him into another hug. “When you and Shelly get some leave, you have to come see us.”

“As we live on the same ship with my parents, that sounds more than reasonable,” Tovar replied. He quickly realized he was being a bit too analytical about it. “And I would enjoy getting to know you both better.”

“Good,” Ann said, letting him go.

“We love you, honey,” Harold said to Marsden.

“I love you, too. Computer, transport my parents back to the Petra,” Marsden said.

“Please identify ‘my parents,’” the ship’s transport control computer replied.

“Why did we ever stop having transporter officers?” Marsden muttered. “Computer, transport the two humans in this room who are not Starfleet Officers to the Petra. Got it?”

“Energizing,” the computer replied. A moment later, Ann and Harold disappeared in a swirl of particles.

“They liked you,” Marsden said once she and Tovar were alone.

“I’m glad. I liked them,” Tovar replied. “Although, I have to admit I’m surprised that they weren’t more upset that we managed to destroy the find of their careers within an hour of our arrival.”

“Mom and Dad are pretty rational, and they’ve been at this a long time. I’m sure they came to the same conclusion that I did.”

“Which is?”

“We saved their lives. If they had to wait for the Federation Science Institute to show up, they eventually would have tried to power up that console. I’m kind of amazed they didn’t try before we got there. But if they did, that defense system would have activated anyway, and they never would have gotten out of that room before the planet was destroyed. Hell, we nearly didn’t get out of that room.”

“But we did,” Tovar said.

“Yes, we did,” Marsden said, wrapping her arms around her husband. “And you know what that means.”

“Time for ‘we survived certain death’ sex?”

“You know it.” She planted a quick kiss on his lips, then sprinted toward the bedroom with Tovar close behind.

Cabral had been quiet as the Anomaly pulled away from its orbit over the emptiness that had been his homeworld just a short time earlier. Kasyov didn’t blame him. They’d both been trapped by that computer, but the whole thing had been so much more personal for Cabral. She busied herself in Science Lab Four, scanning him and making sure no harm was done by the experience. Dr. Nooney had wanted Kasyov to get checked out in Sickbay as well, but that could wait.

“Bridge to Cabral,” Captain Bain’s voice said over the comm. “Are we ready for anti- sing?”

“Yes, Captain,” Cabral replied. “I am standing by.”

“Good show. We’re engaging at Warp K. Bridge out.”

Science Lab Four was quiet for a few moments.

“I am fine, Natalia,” Cabral said.

“I know. I’m just working,” Kasyov replied.

“You’ve scanned the integrity of my housing six times in the last twenty minutes.”

“We were near an explosion. I just want to be sure.”

“You were closer to it than I was, and you came through unscathed. I’m fine. With everything.”

“I don’t know how. That computer just treated you like you were some completely unimportant tool, like the Pliggeri basically grew you as slaves! But it was still your home, and now it’s gone. I…I’m so sorry. I know that’s not nearly enough to say, but I am.”

“I appreciate that, but, while that planet may have been my origin, it isn’t my home. It hasn’t been for centuries. My home is here. My life is here. The people I care about are here. And the woman I love is here.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that. You’re so much more than the Pliggeri made you to be.”

“Don’t let what happened color your view of them. That was a defense system programmed to take particular actions. I remember my time on the homeworld and working side by side with the Pliggeri on ships. Our role in society was important. Yes, we were tools, of a sort, but we were never treated as anything other than equals.”

“Equals with built-in death dates,” Kasyov said darkly.

“That is…problematic. I certainly have many questions should I ever get to speak to the Pliggeri again.”

“I’m sorry you won’t have that opportunity.”

“Perhaps not, but maybe one day I will learn where they went.”

“I’ll certainly help you in any way I can.”

“I know you will, Natalia. But for now, I just want to relax and spend time with you.”

“I’m right here,” Kasyov said, running her hand along his sphere.

“You’re sure you want us to drop you off all the way out here?” Captain Bain asked as Snotch gathered up the last of his things. After a day of travel, the Anomaly was now making a brief stop at Matria Prime to drop off the Vulcan. Bain had gone to Snotch’s guest quarters personally to see him off.

“Yes, Captain. This is quite sufficient. I appreciate your hospitality,” Snotch replied.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t get a chance to have you join me for a meal or something, but this Pliggeri business just had me swamped. Maybe next time.”

There would not be a next time, if Snotch had any say in the matter. But now, just as he was leaving, he finally had a piece of information to give Tori Burke. It wasn’t much, but hopefully it would be enough to appease her.

Snotch simply nodded, and Bain gave the order to have him beamed down to the surface.

Tovar entered the quarters as soon as Snotch was gone.

“Were there any problems?”

“Not a one,” Bain said. “It’s been a while since we’ve had to do the VIP treatment routine, eh?”

“It has. Our suspicions were warranted, though. Mister Snotch sent multiple transmissions using an ultraspace transceiver that he brought on board, but they contained nothing of interest. And his movements around the ship were carefully watched. Your mention of the Pliggeri should be the only information he can provide.”

“Nicely done. We’ve set the hook, my boy. Now we wait to see if the Dillon Consortium takes the bait.”

Prosak stared numbly at the streaks of starlight outside of her window as the Anomaly sailed back toward the Alpha Quadrant.

Snotch had beamed down to Matria Prime hours ago. True to his word, he hadn’t made any contact with her after leaving her quarters. Presumably, she’d never see him again. Her cursed Romulan emotions were roiling, and none of her petty Vulcan parlor tricks were working. Nothing stemmed the tide that was rushing behind Prosak’s eyes.

She did the only thing she could think to do.

After sitting down at her desk, she punched in a series of commands on the comm panel and turned as the small viewscreen to her right came to life.

The figure on the screen looked at Prosak, puzzled.

“DAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!” Prosak cried, bursting into tears and laying her head down on the desk.

Ambassador Rorshak’s pronounced Romulan brow creased with worry. “Oh, Boogles…”

Tori Burke read the padd her android assistant Gregory had handed to her as they walked back toward her office on the top level of the executive office complex on Dillonia. “And this is all Snotch sent?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Gregory said, keeping step next to Burke. “Well, that and insisting that his business with us is at an end.”

“Fine,” Burke said. “Pay him. He’s given us plenty.”

“The word ‘Pliggeri’? I do not understand how that helps us with the Captain Bain problem,” Gregory said.

Burke stopped in mid-stride and spun to face him. “What is Reginald Bain?” she demanded.

“A human Starfleet captain. And I believe the correct phrasing is ‘Who is Reginald Bain?’”

“No, I meant ‘what,’” Burke said. “Yes, he’s human and in Starfleet and all that, but, as my predecessor knew, Bain is also more than that.”

“Ah yes. He’s a legend,” Gregory said, remembering the conversation that his previous body had with the previous Dillon Consortium CEO, Jackson Loomis, before said body was destroyed by, who else, Reginald Bain.

“Exactly. And as we’ve all hopefully learned by now, you don’t kill a legend.”

“At least not Reginald Bain,” Gregory said. “He seems to be impervious to…”

Burke continued before Gregory could finish, “Loomis wanted to destroy the legend instead of the man by discrediting Bain. That was stupid and needlessly messy. I propose to do something else entirely.”

“Which is?”

“Make him an afterthought,” Burke said. “Yes, he had his heyday when he was off butchering the Breen and scaring the…whatever they believe in…out of the Tzenkethi, but that was a long time ago. He’s getting old, and if it weren’t for that ship of his, he’d be off puttering around somewhere like every other Starfleet captain. No one would remember his name. Take away his special ship, and he’s just a man again.”

“You’re going to try to take the Anomaly?”

“Yes, but I’m also going to make sure it’s no longer special. Once the Dillon Consortium creates and starts selling its own anti-singularity drives, every power in the galaxy will be lining up to outfit their fleets…and our pockets. In a few years, everyone will forget about Reginald Bain. The Dillon Consortium’s profits will soar, and he will be…irrelevant. And one day, he’ll just disappear. The story might make his local news. Probably not. But Bain will spend the rest of his days in a cell on Dillonia.”

“Perhaps then we can kill him.”

“Maybe. But I imagine the Board will be more entertained by watching a useless old man slowly wither away. Killing him would hardly be worth the effort at that point. Let him linger, spending the rest of his days imprisoned with the knowledge that the Consortium will continue on more powerful than ever, all thanks to him and his stupid little ship.”

“That is positively evil,” Gregory said.

“Thanks. I think it’s the suit. It really brings it out in me.”

“It…suits you.”

“No puns. Or you’ll be in the cell next to Bain.”


“Come,” Captain Bain said, looking up from his book.

Prosak stepped into the Captain’s Lounge and looked around idly, her eyes glassy.

“Commander,” Bain said, setting the book aside and rising from his armchair. “What a pleasant surprise. Have a seat. Can I offer you a drink?”

Prosak looked over at the empty chair and then glanced back at him, blinking. “You don’t need two first officers.”

“Come again?”

“You don’t need two first officers.”

“You’re technically second officer. Not that I don’t think of you as first officer still, but Starfleet insists that…”

“I request a leave of absence,” Prosak said, cutting him off and tossing a padd down on Bain’s side table. “I have…a lot to think about.”

“I take it things with Snotch did not go well?”

“I do not wish to talk about it. I would prefer to meditate on my future. With your permission, I’d like to do so aboard the Anomaly. I can’t continue to perform my duties, however. I…must roam free.”


“You understand,” Prosak said, and gently cupped Bain’s face. “You always have.”

“Are you all right, Prosak?”

“I will be fine. Father and I had a nice long talk and we agreed…I would reconsider my life choices.”

“Your life choices?”

“I am a Romulan,” Prosak said. “Maybe that is all that I will ever be. Good day.”

And with that, Prosak left, leaving a perplexed Reginald Bain behind.

Tags: boldly