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

STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…


“Born to Rom”


By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler


“Second Officer’s Personal Log. Stardate 179348.2. While I have resumed my place in the command structure, I feel like I am going through the motions more than taking any pleasure or satisfaction in my duties. I know Doctor Nooney hoped that putting me through that holographic visit with Chynok would help. Instead it seems to have only brought clarity to him. Soon after, he informed Captain Bain that he was resigning from Starfleet and would be taking a position as Chief Medical Officer on one of the cruise ships sailing the seas of Pacifica.

“The captain and Mrs. Bain are taking Nooney to Pacifica themselves via raceabout before heading off on a brief vacation of their own. I must admit that I envy them to some degree. From my observations of them in the last few days, they seem to be more in love with each other than ever.

“But with Captain Bain away and Commander Vioxx in command, I find myself in the position of acting First Officer, which is not ideal for my current mindset. Fortunately, the Anomaly is currently assigned to make supply runs to some of the farther flung Federation outposts along the border of the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants, and thus far, my shifts have been uneventful.

“I am going to regret saying that, aren’t I?”


Prosak heard the bridge doors open to her rear left and glanced at the chronometer on the armrest of the command chair. 1600 hours. Tovar was prompt as always. She stood up from the chair as the Anomaly’s Yynsian Tac-Ops Officer approached.

“We are still on course to Plait Outpost at Warp H. Otherwise, all is quiet,” Prosak said. “You have the bridge.”

“Enjoy your evening,” Tovar replied, taking a seat.

“Dinner and bed are my only plans,” Prosak said. “They will be…things that I do.”

She headed back to the turbolift, where Dr. Natalia Kasyov, who had just been replaced at the science station by Lieutenant Veligerti, fell into step beside her.

“Shelly and I are heading to Twain the Keel for dinner and drinks in a little while. Why don’t you join us?” Kasyov said as the pair entered the turbolift.

“I was not looking for an invitation.”

“I know. But we’re your friends, and we haven’t seen you in ages. Come out with us.”

Prosak considered the offer. It would be something more engaging than sitting in her empty quarters and possibly more interesting than contemplating her empty existence.

“All right. I’ll come. Thank you.”

“Great! We’ll meet you there in two hours. No uniform. No Vulcan robes.”

Prosak looked at her confused. “Are they having a clothing-optional night? I know the captain is away, but I don’t think…”

“Wear casual clothes. That’s all I meant. We’re going to relax and have fun,” Kasyov said.

“I…will try.”


Hoping that the black slacks and blue top she’d selected counted as casual attire, Prosak was ready and waiting at a table in Twain the Keel. Before she had a chance to have too many second thoughts about going out for the evening, Kasyov and Marsden stepped into the Anomaly’s pub and quickly spotted her.

“Well, if it isn’t the Mistress of Cruise Ship Mayhem herself!” Marsden said with a smile as she took one of the empty chairs.

“You heard about that,” Prosak said displeased.

“I’m sorry, but everybody has heard about it,” Kasyov said. “I’ll grab us something from the bar. What are you having?”

“Pint of whatever they’ve got on tap tonight,” Marsden said.

“Water,” Prosak said.

“I will absolutely get you water,” Kasyov said. “If that is what you want. Is that what you really want?”

“No. It really isn’t,” Prosak said.

“Okay then. What’ll be?”

“A cocktail. Something fruity.”

“Little umbrella?”

“Please.”

“I’ll see what they can come up with,” Kasyov said, then made her way through the other patrons over to the bar.

“I’m glad you came out with us. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve seen you,” Marsden said.

“I know. I haven’t been spending time many places other than my quarters and the bridge.”

“We’ve missed you.”

“That’s kind of you to say.”

“I mean it. Not to make this awkward, but Tovar’s been worried about you, too.”

“Why would that be awkward…other than the previous sexual relationship that he and I shared and…that’s the awkwardness right there, isn’t it?”

“Yep.”

“I’m feeling it as well.”

“It’s ok. But I think he feels partially responsible for what happened to you,” Marsden said.

“Why? He didn’t make me throw myself at Snotch?” Prosak asked.

“He didn’t warn you ahead of time.”

“He followed the captain’s orders and was focused on the greater good. I would have done the same. The needs of the many and all. I suppose I am glad Snotch broke up with me before I could make too much of a fool of myself.”

“Drinkies!” Kasyov said, returning with a small tray of glasses. She put a pint of a dark lager in front of Marsden and then handed Prosak a massive bowl of pink liquor with five little paper umbrellas sticking out of it as well as a long curly straw.

“What is this?” Prosak asked, eyeing the bowl. “And what is floating in it?”

“I have no idea. The bartender just made it up,” Kasyov said, “but the floating things are fruit, as requested.” She sat down with her own drink, a vaguely greenish beverage that was bubbling quite vigorously. “What are we talking about?”

“Break-ups,” Marsden said.

“Oh no. She’s not trying to one-up you with that guy who stabbed her, is she?” Kasyov asked Prosak.

“No!” Marsden snapped. “I hadn’t even mentioned him!”

“Yet.”

“Nat!”

“Prosak, that Snotch guy used you. That’s all there is to be said. None of that is a reflection on you.”

“Then why do I feel so lost?” Prosak said.

“Were you that into him?” Kasyov asked.

“No. Not really. He was not much fun, but he was just so Vulcan. He was everything I’ve said I’ve been aspiring to ever since I became a RommaVulc. And he rejected me.”

“He manipulated you to get on board this ship.”

“That doesn’t make it better. Instead, I am questioning everything. Why do I want to be Vulcan? Is there a point to even trying? How was I so blind to his lack of interest? Do I even belong in Starfleet if I’m that easily tricked?”

“What are you doing with your life?” Marsden asked.

“Shelly!” Kasyov snapped.

“I’m not asking that. She is.”

“You’re right,” Prosak said. “I am.”

“It sounds like you need to talk to someone,” Marsden said.

“I am talking to both of you,” Prosak said confused.

“Yes, and we’re here for you. But I meant someone professional. Like a counselor.”

Prosak frowned. “Doctor Nooney was our counselor, wasn’t he?”

“Officially,” Kasyov said. “But most of the crew made other arrangements…for obvious reasons.”

“What are these ‘other arrangements’?”

“Therapy in the privacy of your own holopod,” Kasyov said.

“You want me to see a holographic counselor?”

“Why not?”

“I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“Have the computer pick one for you. Finding a therapist is a process. The first person you meet with might not be right for you. Earth culture alone is filled with hundreds of possibilities from history and fiction. Maybe you can find a Romulan counselor.”

Prosak pursed her lips. “For Romulans, therapy is frowned upon. It could lead to your issues being used against you. Most Romulans believe it’s preferable to keep your own counsel on these matters.”

“Yeah. I could see that,” Marsden said. “But you’re…unique, Prosak. And if you want to see a counselor, no one on this ship will stop you.”

Prosak stared into her drink. “I will give it a try.”

Kasyov nodded. “Stick with Earth. Or even Starfleet. There are a few famous names in Starfleet history that the computer can simulate. What have you got to lose if you’re already lost?”

“That is…reasonable.”

“You wanted to say ‘logical,’ didn’t you?”

“I really did.”

“Drink your drink, Prosak,” Kasyov said. “It will help.”

“Yes. Booze now. Therapy later.”

“That’s the spirit! Or probably many spirits in the case of that drink.”


Command felt different when one knew they were currently the ultimate authority on the ship. With Captain Bain gone, Commander Vioxx now had the USS Anomaly under his complete control. Even better, the mission was, as the odd human expression put it, a milk run, so he could enjoy that feeling of power without any dangerous and messy life-or-death decisions to put a damper on things. He’d had plenty of that back on the Tyvek and admittedly on some other occasions when Bain was off of the Anomaly for one reason or another.

“Approaching Plait Outpost,” Ensign Yonk reported from the helm as the ship dropped out of the high-warp powered by its anti-singularity drive. The streaking stars on the viewscreen were soon replaced by a small purple-green world with a bright binary star in the distance.

Excellent. Now Vioxx would get to do some of his favorite parts of captaining. He stood up from the Anomaly’s command chair and straightened his uniform.

“Standard orbit, Mister Yonk,” he said to the Ferengi helm officer before he glanced back at the tac-ops station, where Centurion Nortal stood at the ready. Always at the ready. Vioxx had to be impressed at the woman’s endurance. She was ready to strike at a moment’s notice, even when she was off-duty. She had to sleep sometime, right?

But not now. He needed to her to respond while he was being captainly…was that a word? Anyway…

“Nortal, hail the outpost.”

“Doctor Akintola responds!” she cried a moment later.

“On screen.”

“Doctor Akintola appears!”

As promised, the image on the Anomaly’s viewscreen switched to show the human administrator of Plait Outpost.

“Greetings, Anomaly,” he said. “We are happy to see you.”

“Thank you. I am Commander Vioxx, acting captain. We have several cargo containers worth of supplies for you, which we will send down as soon as we have coordinates.”

“That is excellent to hear.”

“But if you don’t mind my asking, why do you need all of this? I find it hard to believe that the Federation sent you all the way out here without enough replicators to cover your needs.”

Akintola chuckled. “Oh, they did, but we were struck by an energy wave a couple of weeks ago that took out a number of our systems. We’re still analyzing it, but it was unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

“We’re caught in a trap!” Nortal shouted. “Ambushers lurk everywhere!”

“Calm down, Centurion,” Vioxx ordered before turning back to Dr. Akintola. “Were you attacked?”

“No no. Not at all,” Akintola replied. “The energy wave, whatever it was, came from the Gorman Nebula about 100 light years from here. I’m glad we were as far away as we were, so the effect had time to dissipate. We don’t know what caused it, but since you are here…”

“You would like us to investigate,” Vioxx finished.

“Yes indeed. I’m sure your ship’s science officers will find it interesting.”

“I’m not,” Sub-Commander Remax muttered from his seat at the Anomaly’s bridge science console.

“We will take a look,” Vioxx said, pointedly staring at the elder Romulan scientist. He sounded commanding, but inside he worried that investigating strange energy signatures was veering far too close to dangerous and messy. That was exactly what lost him the Tyvek a few years earlier.

“Thank you, Commander,” Dr. Akintola said. “But I should make you aware of one more thing: the nebula is shrinking.”

“Shrinking?” Remax asked surprised. “How is that possible?”

“Oh, so you’re interested now?” Vioxx said.

“We don’t know,” Dr. Akintola said. “However, the rate is increasing. Whatever is happening out there is happening fast.”

“Understood, Doctor. We’ll get underway immediately.”

“You will give us our deliveries first, correct?”

“Yes. Of course. We will get underway as soon as we’ve sent everything down.”

“Thank you again, Commander. We’re sending you all of the sensor readings we collected from that region before the energy wave hit.”

“We appreciate that, Doctor. Anomaly out,” Vioxx said, returning to the command chair. “Lay in a course, Mister Yonk. Let’s go see why the swirly clouds are getting smaller.”

“After we unload,” Remax said.

“Yes, after we unload!” Vioxx snapped.

“Just making sure we’re clear on your orders…Acting Captain.”

“You just had to add the ‘acting’ part, didn’t you?”

“Yes. I did.”


While all that was going on, Prosak had settled herself into the comfort of her holopod. The curved imaging plates on its surface and the noiselessness of it all was quite nice. Maybe she should just stay like this, in the pod, with no therapist. Surely that would still provide some benefit. Maybe she would emerge relaxed and refreshed, with knowledge of how to move forward with her life.

No. That wasn’t going to happen. Prosak considered herself to be a woman of action. Although, recently she’d been inactive, more often than not. It was time for her to get back to herself. She might not know if she was Romulan, RommaVulc, or Vulcan, but the woman of action part must remain.

“Computer, begin therapy program,” she said, and steeled herself for what was to come.

The blank walls around her blurred then resolve into…

…a fairly nice office. There were some windows looking out at Earth flora, a number of bookshelves, several lamps, none of which matched, and a large plush sofa. Across from the sofa, in a white armchair, sat a human woman with long blond hair. She was dressed in a suit and wore black rimmed glasses that gave her an air of intelligence and authority.

“Welcome,” she said. “Please. Sit down.” She gestured to the comfy-looking couch.

Prosak did as she was told, and quickly determined that the couch was indeed comfy.

The pair sat in silence for several moments. “Aren’t you supposed to be helping me?” Prosak asked finally.

“I’ve gotten used to Luci…my patients just launching into whatever issue is bothering them.”

“So…I should just start.”

“Please. Believe me. I’ve heard all about your kind; although, I have to admit that the ears are new to me. I like them. Very distinctive.”

“What do you mean ‘my kind’? You’ve worked with Romulans before?”

“Romulans? Is that a kind of celestial or a demon?”

“Neither. From your perspective, I supposed I would be an alien.”

“Alien? Like from outer space?”

“Exactly.”

The therapist jumped up from her chair. “Oh no! No no no! I’ve already had to deal with the existence of angels and demons and the actual Devil. I am NOT accepting aliens as well. Get out!”

“But…”

“OUT!”

“You do not have to scream at me,” Prosak huffed. “Computer, end program.”


“What do we know about this nebula?” Vioxx asked as the Anomaly sped toward its destination.

“Just the basics,” Remax replied. “The Gorman Nebula was first detected a couple of hundred years ago, but due to its remote location and relatively small size, the Federation never bothered to chart it in depth. Until a couple of weeks ago, it was an unremarkable mass of stellar clouds and dust about 28 light years in diameter. Based on the readings Dr. Akintola provided, it’s down to 7 light years and, as he said, the rate of shrinkage is increasing. We may not have much left to investigate when we get there.”

“That would be safer,” Vioxx said.

“What?”

“That would be unfortunate.”

“Uh huh,” Remax said skeptically.

“Approaching the center of the nebula now,” Yonk reported.

“The center? I didn’t say to take us in,” Vioxx said as the Anomaly dropped out of warp.

“It’s all that’s left,” Yonk replied.

Sure enough, on the viewscreen wisps of blue, red, and purple dust clouds were being sucked toward a central point.

“Remax? Any ideas?” Vioxx asked.

“Scanning now. And…I have no idea what I’m looking at. The nebula is being pulled into something, but the sensors can’t penetrate.”

“Space Vacuum!” Nortal exclaimed.

“Space is already a vacuum,” Remax said.

“A stronger space vacuum IN the vacuum OF SPACE!”

“That doesn’t make any sense at all,” Vioxx said. “Wait. Is it a space vacuum? Is it pulling on us? Are we too close?” Vioxx added alarmed.

“Negative, sir,” Yonk said. “We’re not feeling anything.”

“All right. Move us in closer but stay just outside the nebula. If anything changes, get us out of here immediately. Don’t wait for an order. Just go.”

“Aye, sir.”

The next several minutes on the bridge were quiet other than the blips of the consoles and Remax muttering to himself in increasing annoyance.

“The nebula is down to 3 kilometers,” Yonk reported.

“I guess we’re going to find out what’s at the center before your sensors do,” Vioxx said. “My bet is that it’s just a tiny black hole.”

“A magical tiny black hole that only eats nebulas and not nearby starships?” Remax said.

“Dust is a lot lighter than we are.”

“But still hard to pull in from over 20 light years away without some force behind it.”

“Granted. You’ve got me there. But here comes the answer.”

Indeed the last wisps of the nebula were rapidly disappearing, and soon all that was left was…

“Vanilla pudding!” Nortal exclaimed excitedly.

Well, not exactly. But the undulating sphere sitting on the viewscreen at the center of what was until a few seconds earlier the Gorman Nebula did have the general appearance of a blob of vanilla pudding.

“Since when did you eat pudding? And Earth pudding at that?” Vioxx asked.

“It delights my mouth!”

“Ok then. Remax, is that pudding?” Vioxx would actually have been fine with a ‘yes’ to that question. Pudding was nice and non-threatening.

“No,” Remax replied.

“And? What is it?”

“It’s a sphere approximately one meter in diameter comprised of an unknown substance. Based on the movement, the substance is either a very thick liquid, or possibly gelatinous, or possibly something else entirely.”

“That’s not very helpful.”

“It’s what I’ve got.” Several readouts on Remax’s console suddenly got quite active. “It’s scanning us!”

“The blobby thing? How?” Vioxx said.

“I don’t know, but it’s looking through our systems.”

“Our deepest secrets are revealed!” Nortal shouted.

“Red alert!” Vioxx ordered. “Lock weapons and prepare to fire.”

“Just prepare?”

“Yes.”

“I am always prepared!”

“Good. Don’t shoot anything yet.”

“As you command,” Nortal said disappointed.

“It’s back to just sitting there,” Remax said.

“Did it implant a virus or activate the self-destruct or anything?”

“Not as far as I can tell. It took a look around and then stopped.”

“The pudding! It hails!” Nortal announced.

“I still don’t know how that’s possible,” Vioxx said, “but put it on.”

The speakers erupted with a deafening, “DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”

“Turn it down!” Vioxx ordered.

“The pudding is loud!” Nortal replied.

“DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy.”

Vioxx spun toward Remax. “Did you hear that?”

“It’s probably gibberish,” Remax replied.

“This is Commander Vioxx of the USS Anomaly. I…”

The sphere interrupted his speech with an excited “Daddy!”

And then it giggled.

In that moment, Vioxx experienced overwhelming terror quickly followed by absolute certainty about what he needed to do: get help.

“Vioxx to senior officers. Staff meeting. NOW!”


“I’m listening.”

Prosak leaned forward in the curved fainting couch and looked around. “This is a nice room. Where are we?”

The broad faced, balding man, with a lengthy crop of hair on the back of his head adjusted his well-manicured suit. “Seattle. Want some coffee? Everyone drinks it here. All the time,” the man said placidly, and turned to a huge espresso machine next to his desk.

“No I don’t think so,” Prosak said and sat up. “This couch feels strange.”

“Oh? Most patients enjoy lying down while they talk about their problems.”

“I’m good.” Prosak leaned forward, elbows on knees. “So…”

“I’m listening.”

“That much I got. So, what happened was, essentially, I was dating this Vulcan and…”

Just then there was a knock at the door.

“Frasier, get out here this instance!” came an officious sounding voice. “We have tickets to the orchestra tonight, and we shall not be late!”

“Just a minute, Niles, I am with a patient!” the therapist snapped.

“Oh, is this a bad time? You have a date?” Prosak asked.

Frasier sighed. “It’s my brother.”

Prosak stood. “I’ll be going. You’ve got a lot going on.”


A confused Lieutenant Commander Tovar, Lieutenant Shelly Marsden, and Dr. Natalia Kasyov were already waiting in the briefing room when Commander Vioxx arrived with Sub-Commander Remax. Vioxx had left Yonk in charge on the bridge with explicit orders to get the Anomaly out of there as quickly as possible if the pudding…he really needed to come up with a better name for it…did anything remotely hostile. But as Vioxx and Remax had left the bridge, all it was doing was cooing and giggling over the speakers.

“Where’s Prosak?” Vioxx asked, looking around the room. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t think she’d be very useful for this anyway.”

“Or ever,” Remax said, taking a seat at the table.

“What are we doing here during a red alert?” Tovar asked. “Shouldn’t we be on the bridge?”

“Yonk and Nortal can handle it for now,” Vioxx said.

“What is ‘it’?” Dr. Kasyov asked.

Remax activated the holographic display in the middle of the conference table, bringing up a view of the sphere currently floating in front of the ship.

“That’s not making things any clearer,” Kasyov said. She read the sensor readouts running alongside the image. “What the hell is that?”

“I have no idea,” Remax replied. “But it thinks Vioxx is its Daddy.”

“Congratulations, it’s a snotball. Did you have an affair with a big blob of mucous at some point and not tell us?” Marsden asked.

“No,” Vioxx snapped. “Whatever that is ate the entire Gorman Nebula and then managed to get into our systems.”

“But it’s organic,” Kasyov said. “How did it interface with us?”

“Again, I have no idea,” Remax said.

“That’s astounding!”

“You just want to see its brain, don’t you?” Marsden asked.

“Do you think it has a distinct structure? Or is it just somehow a part of the goo?” Kasyov said excitedly.

“Is it a threat to the ship?” Tovar asked, trying to refocus the meeting on more pressing matters.

“It hasn’t made any hostile moves so far,” Vioxx said. “But, as Remax said, it apparently thinks we’re its father.”

“You’re its father,” Remax corrected.

“It could be talking to the Anomaly as a whole.”

“It got into our systems and read up on us enough to talk to you through the bridge speakers. It knows you’re in charge. You’re the father.”

“Fine. It doesn’t matter. What are we going to do about it?”

“We could start by not calling it ‘it,’” Kasyov said.

“Do you have another suggestion?”

“What about Neb?” Marsden said. “It was born from a nebula after all.”

“Neb. I like that,” Kasyov said.

“Why are we naming things we should just be destroying?” Remax asked. “It ate an entire nebula and can invade starship systems. If it is actually at the level of a baby, we need to smother it in its crib before things get out of hand.”

“That is an intelligent lifeform unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Tovar said. “I agree there are risks, but we can’t just kill it.”

“Then what do we do?” Vioxx asked.

“You’re Neb’s father. Do some parenting,” Kasyov said.

“How? I’ve never raised a child.”

“And the only two people on this ship who have aren’t on board right now, so you’re going to have to figure it out.”

“I can try to talk to Neb.”

“Now you’re using the name?” Remax spat disgusted. “Why are you listening to her about this over me? Is it because she’s a woman?”

“No, it’s because you’re you,” Vioxx said. “All right. Let’s get back up there and try to…”

“Whatcha doin,’ Daddy?” a childlike voice broke in from the entrance to the briefing room. The gathered officers turned to see a small vaguely-humanoid shaped vanilla blob, about half a meter high, standing by the door. It looked like someone had tried to assemble a toddler out of cream-filled balloons but with empty gaps where the eyes and mouth should have been.

“Vioxx to bridge! Status of Neb!”

“What’s a Neb?” Yonk’s voice replied.

“The thing outside!”

“It’s still outside.”

“But it grows!” Nortal’s voice added urgently.

“And apparently can project part of itself in here,” Tovar said.

Neb toddled over to Vioxx. “Hi, Daddy.”

“You can’t be here,” Vioxx said.

“Why?”

“Because we’re having a meeting.”

“Why?”

“To talk about you!”

“Why?”

“Because we don’t know anything about you!”

“Why?”

“Would you all help me here?” Vioxx demanded.

The other Anomaly officers exchanged a quick glance.

“Why?” they all replied smiling.

“Very mature,” Vioxx said.

“Just trying to get into Neb’s frame of mind,” Kasyov said. “Hi, Neb. I’m Nat. Oh, we named you Neb. I hope that’s ok.”

“Neb!” Neb exclaimed happily. Neb suddenly yawned.

“Aww. Neb’s tuckered out,” Marsden said.

“Absorbing an entire nebula will take a lot out of you,” Remax muttered.

“Maybe Neb should take a nap,” Tovar suggested.

“Good idea,” Vioxx said. “Take Neb to the brig and…”

“The brig!” Marsden exclaimed. “Just put Neb down in your quarters.”

“In my bed?” Vioxx asked alarmed.

Neb yawned again then climbed up Vioxx, to the Romulan’s horror, pretty much forcing itself into Vioxx’s arms.

“It needs a nap?” Vioxx asked Kasyov.

“Yes. Put Neb in bed and sing them to sleep.”

“Fine. I’ll give Neb a nap.”

“Why?” Neb said sleepily.

“Because you’re tired.”

“Why?”

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Vioxx said, carrying Neb out of the briefing room and into the corridor.

“Why?”

“Because I’m an officer in the Romulan Imperial Fleet.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s what I always wanted to be.”

“Why?”

“Because…no. We’re stopping right there before you send me into an existential crisis like what happened to Prosak.”

“Why?”

“Because all of that RommaVulc nonsense warped her mind.”

“Why?”

“I blame her parents. If they’d only…Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Vioxx was suddenly hit with the realization of the responsibility that had been dumped on him. How was he supposed to be a parent and good example to a space blob? But if he didn’t do a good job, what was a screwed-up Neb capable of?

Vioxx had a feeling it would be a lot worse than Prosak’s ridiculous lifestyle choices.


“I am hearing depth and sorrow. Let’s go with that,” the striking woman with dark flowing hair and a smart pantsuit said, leaning in.

Prosak looked around the dimly lit room. “I don’t know about depth…” She glanced back at the door to the therapist’s office. “By the way, that’s a nice statue you have outside your office.”

“What does the statue mean to you?”

“It means you have a naked woman statue outside your office,” Prosak said.

The woman leaned forward, crossing her legs. “I see a lot of narcissistic personality disorder cases. People who get off on killing. Suffering. And then come to work through that in therapy.”

“You heard about what happened with Chynok,” Prosak said.

“I know the type,” the woman said, in a rich, scratchy voice, and then seemed to think back. “There’s something about a thug, isn’t there? Someone who prefers brute force over conversation? I mean I’d never, but…” She smiled.

“I thought this was about me?”

“Narcissistic personality disorder all right,” the woman said and began to scribble on a pad.

“You’ve got a nice office. Are you sure we are in…” Prosak referenced the program parameters on her padd. “New Jersey?”

“You’d never know this office was in a strip mall, would you?” Suddenly there was a ring from the phone on the woman’s desk. “Excuse me.” She walked over to the desk and grabbed the phone. “Yes. What? Again! This is the third time I’ve gone into hiding this month!”

She sighed and slammed the phone down. “I’m sorry, we’ll have to end it here. I have gangsters after me.”

Prosak raised an eyebrow. “Gangsters?”

“It’s a long story. I’ve already said too much. Okay, back to the Motel Six!”

“I’ll see myself out,” Prosak said.


Neb had happily curled up in Vioxx’s bed, but now the gaping holes that were ostensibly Neb’s eyes were watching Vioxx expectantly.

“What?” Vioxx asked.

“Sing.”

“Oh…that,” Vioxx said, sitting down on the bed beside Neb. Music wasn’t exactly Vioxx’s strong suit. His mind was struggling to come up with even one song that he actually knew the words to. Finally, he was able to dredge up one song. He didn’t know where it came from or why he remembered it, but he was going with it.

“Sheets of empty canvas

Untouched sheets of clay

Were laid spread out before me

As her body once did…”


Vioxx was annoyingly brought back to consciousness by someone tugging on his sleeve. When did he fall asleep? He must have nodded off after singing Neb to sleep. It didn’t matter. Vioxx was tired and wanted to go back to dreaming.

“Dad! Wake up! Play with me!”

He opened his eyes and let his vision come back into focus. Neb was standing beside the bed. “Come on, Dad!” Neb insisted.

“Weren’t you shorter?” Vioxx asked groggily. He focused on Neb again. Yes, Neb was definitely taller now. Over a meter. Maybe a meter and a half. He’d have to say something to Remax about that when he was awake. But now, more sleep.

“I’m bored!” Neb said. “I want to play!”

“I know a great game,” Vioxx said without lifting his head from his pillow. “It’s called Coma. First you lay down.”

“Ok,” Neb said, crawling up into bed and lying beside Vioxx.

“Good. Now we both have to be really quiet and still. The first one to move or speak loses.”

Things were wonderfully silent for the next few minutes, just long enough for Vioxx to fall back asleep and then…

“This is boring! I don’t want to play Coma!”

“Guhunnh.”

“DAD!”

“OK! Ok. I’m up. What do you want to play?”

“Not Coma!”

“That’s not helping.” Vioxx silently cursed Tovar, Marsden, and Kasyov for talking him into this. Wait. What time was it anyway? He and Neb had napped for a bit, but for how long?

That was one problem with living on a starship: it was always night out the windows.

One thing was certain. He was hungry.

“How about dinner?” he asked Neb.

“No! I want to play!”

“You have to eat sometime.” Vioxx thought about it for a moment. “Do you actually eat? You don’t want to eat me, do you?”

“Dad! You’re silly!”

“Just checking. So…you’re not hungry?”

“No! Full!” Neb said, shaking their head back and forth.

“Well, I need to eat.”

“NOOOO! You said you’d play with me!”

“I will, but you need to…”

“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!”

Neb collapsed to the deck, slamming their fists on the deck repeatedly.

The Anomaly was suddenly jolted, almost tossing Vioxx to the floor beside Neb. Then again. And again.

“Bridge to Commander Vioxx!” Tovar’s voice called over the comm system. “The entity outside the ship has started emitting gravitational waves. Shields are holding, but Big Neb is…undulating furiously.”

“Did you just call it ‘Big Neb’?” Vioxx asked, steadying himself as the ship rocked again.

“Dr. Kasyov came up with the name. It seemed fitting. But I commed to find out if your Neb is similarly affected.”

“It is not my Neb, but I’m pretty sure I know why Big Neb started acting up. I’ll take care of it. Vioxx out.”

He looked down at Neb, who was continuing to thrash and wail. Surely Neb couldn’t keep that up for much longer.

But it continued with no signs of stopping.

Faced with the unending noise from Neb and the ongoing jolts from Big Neb outside, Vioxx found himself dealing with a conundrum that had confounded parents for centuries. How could he distract Neb in such a way that he was also capable of getting things done, such as eating? And like many parents before him, Vioxx found his answer in an electronic device.

“Neb?” he asked kindly.

“Wwwwwhat?” the blubbering child replied, looking up at him.

“Would you like to try a holopod?”


In her own holopod, Prosak was getting impatient. The first three counselors were wholly unhealthy, and she resented whoever programmed them based on their fictional origins. Pre-Federation Earth clearly had a problem affirming the importance of mental health and well-being.

So Prosak took a different tack. Noteworthy therapists throughout time. This would work.

“So,” the aged man said, fondling his cigar as he stared at the smoke wafting from it. “You have come to dialogue about your life.” Prosak was unfamiliar with his accent, but it was quite thick.

“Yes,” Prosak said, laying back on the fainting couch. She was disappointed to see that the oddly comfortable couch was once again here in this man’s office. She was also nervous about trying another Earth therapist. Weren’t there other alien cultures that offered therapeutic regimens?

“Well, you have come to the right place. I have created quite a few famous and popular theories on how the mind works. How it processes. And how to arrive at understanding and discovery!”

Prosak leaned over and looked at the man. “Really? That’s what I am looking for!”

“So, we start where we must. With your Father. Tell me about him.”

“Oh. Well…he’s an Ambassador. He’s brave, career-focused, diligent, and well liked by all of his colleagues. He’s a consummate…”

“When did you realize that you loved him?” the man challenged, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, I’ve always loved him. I’m his Boogles.”

“Ah, a term of affection.” He jotted down notes. “And when did you find you had romantic feelings for this man?”

Prosak shot up. “That’s my Dad you’re talking about! I don’t have romantic feelings for him. He’s…he’s my dad! Why is everyone so obsessed with talking about dads?”

“I think we’ve arrived at the root of our problem,” the man said, pointing with his cigar.

“Computer end program!” Prosak snapped. She was due for her shift soon, and this was getting her nowhere.


Vioxx strolled out of the turbolift onto the bridge the next morning feeling rested and refreshed, much to the surprise of Dr. Kasyov.

“What did you do with Neb?” Kasyov demanded from the science station as Vioxx walked past her headed toward the command area, where Prosak was waiting to be relieved.

“I have to get the report from Prosak,” Vioxx said, effectively shushing her.

“There is little to report,” Prosak said. “We have observed the entity for several hours, and it has continued to grow. There have been no additional gravitational or other emissions. Doctor Kasyov can fill you in on the particulars.” Then with a curt nod of her head, Prosak brushed past him and strode into the turbolift.

“Was she in a hurry for some reason?” Vioxx asked, settling into the command chair.

Kasyov was standing in front of him a moment later. “Neb!”

“The blob kid is fine,” Vioxx replied.

“Then where is Neb?”

“My holopod. Neb was angry and crying last night, so I put the kid in there. They seem to be much happier now…I guess. Honestly, I haven’t heard a sound from Neb since then. But they’re fine! I checked the holopod before I left. It’s still reading one occupant.”

“You left Neb in that thing all night long?” Kasyov said. “You can’t do that! Neb is a child! What kind of parent are you?”

“I’m not one at all!” Vioxx snapped back. “No matter how much you call me Neb’s father, I’m not. And you’re not their mother, cool aunt, or whatever delusion you’re under. As soon as that thing appeared on board, we should have carted it off to sickbay or a lab to be studied. Instead, I let you talk me into this ridiculousness, which I only went along with because Remax was against it. Now I’ve got a dangerous being in my holopod that I’m hoping stays entertained instead of throwing a tantrum that rips the ship apart. Congratulations, Doctor. We’re both idiots. Now do you have anything of actual use to report?”

Kasyov looked stunned to be dressed down like that, but she swallowed whatever retort she was about to launch into. “Big Neb has reached a diameter of approximately twenty meters and is continuing to grow. Based on our scans, Remax and I don’t think it is from this universe.”

“Not from this universe? How did it get here?” Vioxx asked.

“We’re not certain, but we were going through the readings Plait Outpost sent, and they detected a nanoscopic tear in space/time right before the energy burst that damaged their systems. The tear, the burst, and Neb’s first appearance are all in the exact same location.”

“Interesting, but how does that help us?”

“What help do we need?”

“Getting it off of this ship, for one thing.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t just beamed Neb into space at this point,” Kasyov said.

“I guess we could. It just seems…mean.”

Kasyov smiled. “You do care about Neb!”

“I don’t want to make it angry. That’s all!” Vioxx insisted.

“Uh huh.”

“Commander!” Ensign Yonk shouted suddenly from the helm. “Big Neb is moving! It’s coming right at us!”

“Evasive!” Vioxx replied as on the viewscreen the creamy blob was indeed getting larger.

“Tendrils!” Lieutenant Bre’zan Brazzell cried from tac-ops. “They’re grabbing onto us! Ew! Ew ew ew ew ew EW!”

Kasyov, who had raced back over to the science station, checked her readouts. “Big Neb has latched onto the saucer and is coming overhead.” Almost on cue, the stars visible through the transparent dome above the bridge were eclipsed by Big Neb, who then settled down on top of the dome itself.

“It’s sitting on us!” Brazzell screamed. “I am NOT cleaning slime, ooze, or whatever that thing is made of off of our hull! I’m NOT! Oh…I’m going to throw up. Guurrggh!” Brazzell clamped his hands over his mouth and ran to the head.

“Neb’s in our systems again,” Kasyov said. “Looks like…”

The Anomaly suddenly shot forward, launching into warp.

“I’m not doing this!” Yonk said, holding his hands up in the air.

The ship made a tight turn, straining the inertial dampeners, then launched forward again, this time at anti-sing speeds.

“Cabral to bridge!” the voice of the Anomaly’s resident disembodied brain said over the comm system. “I have lost control of the anti-singularity drive. What is happening?”

“We’re being taken for a joyride,” Kasyov said.

“I am not feeling any joy,” Cabral replied.

“Me either,” Vioxx said.

“It’s an Earth thing,” Kasyov said. “Are you alright, Cabral?”

“Yes, but I am having to compensate for whatever is currently in control. It does not understand the adjustments required to keep the ship intact at these speeds. It is putting a great deal of strain on me, and if the drive is pushed much faster, I worry that I won’t be able to keep the Anomaly from disintegrating.”

“Captain Bain is going to be so mad if I destroy his ship while he’s away,” Vioxx said.

“That’s what you’re worried about?” Kasyov snapped.

“And the horrible death part!” Vioxx said.

“We’re going to take care of it, Cabral. I promise. Just keep us together until then,” Kasyov said.

“I will do everything I can, Natalia.”

“I know. Bridge out.” She turned on Vioxx.

“You don’t have to say it, Doctor,” Vioxx said. “I’m going to talk to Neb right now.”

“I’m coming with you,” Kasyov said, rushing to the turbolift with him.

“Fine. Yonk, you have the bridge.”

“Aye, sir,” Yonk said just before the turbolift doors closed. “So…since we’re not in control of anything, I’ll just sit here ordering myself to do nothing.”


“So, how’s that feel?”

Prosak had to be honest. It felt great. After the fiasco of yesterday’s attempts to find a compatible therapist, she had almost given up. But now Prosak was glad that she decided to give it another chance. She settled deeper into the plush sofa. “Much better.”

The room was decorated with soft-hued pastels, and maybe a few too many photos of the counselor and her husband, which Prosak took to mean at least she knew how to build a healthy relationship. She would make a point to ask about that later.

But what really set this counselor apart was her methods. Prosak grinned as a little Shetland sheepdog curled in her lap and leaned up to lick her face.

“His name is Barnaby Erstwhile the Third,” the raven-haired counselor said proudly, crossing her legs.

“Oh, what a nice name,” Prosak said, softly petting the wriggling pup.

“Isn’t he fluffy!”

“He is quite…fluffy…” Prosak admitted.

“I find it’s helpful with my patients to ease into conversation. And nothing helps that more than a fluffy bundle of joy.”

“It is nice,” Prosak said. She looked around. “And it’s comforting at least being on a Starship, even if it is an old-fashioned one.”

The counselor looked right past that comment and eased in. “Well, then, Prosak, tell me more about this Snotch fellow, and what’s going on there?”

Prosak curled Barnaby in her lap and bit her lip thoughtfully. “I guess I’ve always thought Vulcans were an ideal to aspire to. And Snotch was anything but that.”

“He made you question everything…even the Vulcan identity that’s part of who you are.”

“Yes, that’s it!”

The woman smiled. “We’re getting somewhere.”

Just then the behind the counselor swished open and a short, muscular Andorian appeared, grimacing. “I have finished with ‘walkies,’ Counselor Peterman,” she snorted angrily.

“Babies!” the counselor exclaimed, tossing her padd aside and turning to the door. Suddenly a trio of dogs, three cats, and a K’tarrian falcon swarmed in. The falcon swooped toward Prosak’s face.

“Computer, end program!” Prosak shouted as the claws went right for her eyes.


Vioxx ran into his quarters with Kasyov right behind him and went straight to the holopod in the corner of his living area.

“Neb! NEB!” he shouted, banging on the door. “You come out of there right now, young…” He turned to Kasyov. “This really would be easier if we had decided on a gender.”

“Neb never told us one. It may not have one. And does that really matter right now?”

“I suppose not.” He looked at the display beside the pod entrance. “What program is this? It just says ‘Live.’ I’m shutting it down.”

“Wait. You said yourself that you didn’t want to make Neb angry. Big Neb is literally right on top of us. If it sends out another burst of gravitational waves while we’re at anti-sing, we could wind up as a stream of microscopic debris stretching across half the quadrant.”

“Then I’m going in…as soon as I get my disruptor.”

“Vioxx, shooting Neb is not going to do anything about Big Neb,” Kasyov said. “And those are very close quarters in there.”

“I’m just supposed to talk to Neb?”

“It’s the Starfleet way. And being a good parent.”

“I’m pretty sure we’ve established that I’m neither,” Vioxx said.

“Do the best you can,” Kasyov said. “Just remember you’re the one keeping us all alive. Well, you and Cabral.”

“Fine. Go be with Cabral. I’ll try this talking thing.”

“Good luck, Vioxx. I’m sure you’ll be great.”

“I don’t believe you one bit, but thanks for saying it.” He took a deep breath to ready himself, then opened the holopod door and stepped inside.

He found himself in space, space that was moving past him very rapidly. Vioxx quickly realized that he was standing on top of the Anomaly’s saucer, which was more than a little disconcerting. A short distance away, standing on a platform just behind the bridge dome, was Neb, intently focused on something. As Vioxx got closer, he realized that something was a version of the Anomaly’s helm console. He also realized that Neb was a good bit taller than the last time Vioxx had seen them, now standing just a little shorter than Vioxx himself.

Vioxx made his approach slowly. He didn’t want to startle Neb and cause them to lose control of the ship. He also needed to figure out what he was going to say.

Vioxx found himself wondering what his own father would have said in this circumstance. The truth was that Vioxx never would have given the man a chance to say much of anything. He’d gotten it in his head at a young age that the only respectable path for a Romulan was the military, so he had nothing but disdain for his father, who had spent his life running the repair shop that his great-grandfather had opened a century earlier. Vioxx had no interest in fixing hovercars and transporters and never bothered to learn the first thing about it. That had left the two of them with little to talk about.

Even after Vioxx left for the Imperial Academy and discovered that the military life wasn’t exactly all that he had dreamed it would be, he was never able to have any real emotional closeness with his father. They got along fine when he went home to visit, but it all felt very surface. He loved his father because they were family, but he couldn’t say that he really knew the man. And Vioxx had never given his father a chance to get to know him.

Because of that, he really had no idea what his father would say in this situation, but he did know that he would have listened to whatever Vioxx wanted to talk about. He’d made that clear on several occasions, and Vioxx had turned him down every time. Maybe Vioxx would have better luck with Neb.

“It’s a nice view out here,” Vioxx said, stepping up onto the platform beside Neb. That was something of a lie. Being outside of the Anomaly without a spacesuit and while traveling at anti-sing just felt all kinds of wrong.

“Go away, Dad. I’m busy.” The humanoid-shaped cream-colored goo didn’t turn to look at him, not that Vioxx was certain that the empty eye-holes did anything anyway.

“I can see that. And I don’t want to mess up your concentration. Believe me. I’m very focused on you keeping us alive.”

“Everyone’s fine. I know what I’m doing.”

“OK. That’s good. Can I ask why you’re doing it at all?”

“Why do you care?” Neb snapped. Vioxx caught himself before he came back with something along the lines of, “Because you could get us all killed, you idiot!” But that would just come across like he only cared about everyone’s safety, which was true, but Vioxx had to keep this focused on Neb.

“Of course, I care. I always want to know what’s going on with you.”

“Could’ve fooled me.” Neb muttered.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re never around.”

“Never around?” Vioxx said. “We were together from the moment you showed up yesterday. And then you went into this holopod and didn’t come out.”

“Then let me stay in here. I didn’t ask you to come in.”

“And I didn’t ask you to take over this ship. You need to slow down before you get hurt.”

“Stop treating me like a child.”

“Why? You are one,” Vioxx said. “A few hours ago, I was singing you to sleep. You’re growing up fast. I get that. But I don’t think you went from that to expert starship pilot overnight.”

“You sang to me?” Neb asked, finally turning to look at Vioxx.

“Yes. It was the only way you’d take a nap…yesterday.”

“I don’t remember that. I guess because I was so little.”

“It was yesterday!”

“What else did I do?”

“Uhh…well…you didn’t like it when I wanted to sleep, so I made up a game. We could go get some lunch, and I’ll tell you about it.”

“I don’t eat.”

“Fine. You can watch me eat, but we could talk. You could tell me what you’ve been up to in the holopod. You seemed really excited when I first showed it to you.”

“You introduced me to the holopod?” Neb asked amazed. “I love the holopod!”

“Yes. Again, it was yesterday.”

Neb turned his attention back to the helm console and dropped the ship out of anti-sing. Soon they were at a full stop. “Let’s go,” Neb said.

“Alright,” Vioxx said. For a moment, he considered just leading Neb to the brig and being done with it, but then he had another idea. “Maybe I can convince the holochef to do something Romulan. I can show you some of the food I grew up eating.”

“I don’t eat.”

“I didn’t say you had to eat it.”

“Good because I’m not.”

“Come on before I change my mind and put you in the brig.”

Neb laughed. “Dad! You are so silly!”

“You’ve been telling me that your whole life,” Vioxx replied. “Which started yesterday,” he added to himself as he and Neb walked out of the holopod.


The old man was kind looking, his wrinkled eyes filled with wisdom. Prosak felt like she’d entered a sacred place, a legendary place.

And it was then she realized she had.

“This is the ‘Rays of Logic’ temple,” Prosak said, mounting the stone steps and looking out from the parapet onto the hills of Southeast Selaya below. “I’ve…I’ve heard about this place.” Earth’s therapists had failed her, so Prosak had decided to move on to Vulcan ones. She was uncertain that it was the right course of action, but standing here, she felt hopeful for the first time in a long time.

She turned to the man, who sat atop a pile of big, broad, sand-colored pillows. The portly fellow nodded and stretched his arms expansively.

“You are now one with the rays. How may I make your life make more sense today, my child?”

“You were…you are…”

“I am Telvin,” he said simply.

“I’ve read all about you,” Prosak said, pulling up a pillow to sit across from the logic master. She tipped left and right as she tried to get her balance. “How you started out in private practice, joined Starfleet, how your brother…”

“I don’t like to talk about my brother. He…was misguided,” Telvin said simply.

“How could you obtain such enlightenment from such modest beginnings?” Prosak asked, for a moment forgetting why she’d even come to this place.

“Patience,” Telvin said. “Life is long, Prosak. It is filled with uncertainty and chaos. And then, once you free your mind, you come to a place where you understand and accept who you are. I did not found Rays of Logic until I was one hundred and fifty years old. And then it did not become what you see now until I was over two hundred. By the time I died, thousands of Vulcans had come through this place, seeking enlightenment. Seeking a better way.”

“You’re talking my language,” Prosak said. “But…but I turned away from the Vulcan philosophy. I…I don’t really know what I want.”

“You sought therapy,” Telvin said. “That’s why you came here? My origins were in the therapeutic arts.”

“Romulans don’t believe in therapy,” Prosak said, looking down at her feet.

Telvin leaned in. “Yes. But Vulcans do. And in some part of your heart, even now, when you are filled with doubt, lies a core of Vulcan logic.”

“So I should become more Vulcan? Try and shed all of my Romulan beliefs?”

“Why are you looking to me for that answer?” Telvin asked.

“Because I don’t have any of the answers myself.”

“I can only tell you what was true for me, Prosak. That when I stopped pretending to be someone I wasn’t, and when I focused on who I really was…on the logical, brilliant Vulcan who lived deep inside of me…only then did I find true enlightenment. Only then did I become satisfied with my life.”

Prosak’s eyes widened. “So I should become…more Romulan!”

“That’s not what I’m…” Telvin said with a stammer.

“Yes, more Romulan!” Prosak shot up, kicking her big pillow aside. “I shall be the most Romulan Romulan who ever Romulaned!”

“I’m not sure I got through to you,” Telvin said thoughtfully.

“Oh, you did better than that. You told me what to do!” Prosak leaned in and kissed Telvin on the cheek. “Thank you, logic master, for pointing the way!”

“I really didn’t!”

“Computer, end…”

“Make sure you sign the guest book before you leave!”


It took a bit of convincing (including not-veiled-threats about disabling the holo-emitters in the mess hall and erasing the chef’s program), but Vioxx was able to get the holochef to turn the mess into a street café on Romulus that Vioxx remembered from his childhood.

What happened next would make for a wonderful and touching montage sequence if this were a television show or movie. Alas, this is prose, so we’re just going to have to tell you about it. Vioxx and Neb talked, Vioxx told Neb about his childhood on Romulus, other crewmembers came by to say hello, Lieutenant Commander Tovar and Lieutenant Shelly Marsden sat with them for a bit, as did Dr. Kasyov. Upon hearing that the holomess was serving their homeworld’s cuisine for the day, Sub-Commander Remax, Centurion Nortal, and Sub-Lieutenant Zantak came in to eat. They weren’t exactly friendly, but Zantak did nod in acknowledgement of Neb’s presence while Remax and Nortal eyed them warily.

Vioxx felt like Neb was growing up before his eyes…because they were. By the time evening hit, Neb was a good five centimeters taller than Vioxx and just looked leaner than they had before…or as lean as a being composed of goo-filled segments could be.

Finally, Neb said that they were tired and needed to sleep. Vioxx took Neb to a set of guest quarters.

“This isn’t where you live,” Neb said confused.

“No, but I thought it’s time that you had your own space. My quarters only has the one bed,” Vioxx said. “But there’s also a holopod in there if you can’t sleep.”

“I think I’ll sleep just fine. Thank you, Dad. I had a great time.”

“I did too…once the threat of instant death went away.”

“You’re never going to let that go, are you?”

“It was less than twelve hours ago. Give me a little time.”

Neb chuckled. “You are so weird. Good night, Dad.” Neb stepped into the guest quarters, leaving Vioxx alone in the corridor. For reasons he couldn’t quite figure out, Vioxx was feeling quite pleased with himself. Sure, he’d talked Neb into giving control of the ship back, but it was something more than that. He absolutely wasn’t a parent, but he did pretty well today. He’d take that as a win.


Vioxx stepped out of the turbolift the next morning to start his shift and could immediately tell something was amiss. The entire mood on the bridge was wrong. And there was also some kind of screeching and rhythmic banging playing over the speakers.

“Oh, thank the Great Bird,” Kasyov said upon spotting him.

“You have literally never been that happy to see me,” Vioxx said as he headed past the science station down to the command area.

“My ears have never needed relief this badly,” Kasyov replied.

“You didn’t like it?” Commander Prosak asked. Vioxx locked eyes on his fellow Romulan and just about stumbled straight into her in shock. Prosak had discarded her usual Vulcan bob hairstyle in favor of a short, spiked up arrangement that made Vioxx think of stalagmites. A black, bird of prey face tattoo was one of many markings that now adorned her body, along with a twisting array of Romulan crests up her forearms, which were bare due to her sleeveless metallic tunic that she’d somehow still managed to make vaguely look like a uniform, complete with a Starfleet delta insignia badge. Knee high leather boots with metal studs and shimmering black tights completed the ensemble.

“Sorry, Prosak,” Kasyov said. “It’s just not doing anything for me.”

“The music or her outfit?” Vioxx asked. “What have you done to yourself?”

“I am embracing my Romulan heritage,” Prosak said.

“Does your heritage include a Mhiessan street gang?”

“I’ll have you know that this look was very popular when I was younger.”

“I…don’t care. Just give me the status report, so you can leave the bridge.”

“And can we stop the music?” Kasyov asked. “Please? Again, I’m sorry, Prosak. It’s just too early.”

“Computer, end playback,” Prosak said. “It wasn’t meant for human ears, apparently.”

“Guess not,” Kasyov said.

“Status!” Vioxx snapped annoyed.

“We are on course to rendezvous with Captain Bain’s raceabout. Big Neb is still attached to us and has grown another ten meters, but it has not made any further attempts to take control of the Anomaly. Additionally, I am not plotting to secretly poison you to take back my position as First Officer.”

“I appreciate the warning, Prosak, but the whole point of deception is to not let your target know what is coming.”

“Which is precisely why I told you,” Prosak said. “I am not planning anything, so there is no need to deceive you.” She smiled in the way a shark might upon encountering its next meal, if sharks were capable of such a thing outside of a cartoon. “Unless that is the deception.”

“You’re relieved,” Vioxx said. “Go do…something Romulan.”

“I will,” Prosak said, making her way toward the turbolift. “And I was not kidding about the deception.”

“Which part?” Vioxx asked.

But the turbolift doors had already closed, cutting her off from the bridge before she could answer.

Vioxx pushed Prosak’s current lunacy out of his head and settled into the command chair. He was going to have to explain Big Neb’s presence on top of the ship, something that Captain Bain was unlikely to be pleased about. Bain was all for meeting new lifeforms, but Vioxx assumed he would draw the line at one of them camping out on his hull.

Before he could get too deep into planning what he would say to the captain when he returned, Vioxx heard the turbolift doors open again.

“Dad?”

Vioxx leapt out of the command chair. “Neb?” It sounded like Neb, but the voice was deeper. Yes, it was Neb, but they looked different yet again. Neb’s height was about the same, but their shoulders had filled out…or filled up with more of that off-white goop that made up Neb’s being. “What are you doing up here?”

“I know I’m not supposed to be on the bridge, but I needed to see you. And I can still access every system on the Anomaly.”

“Don’t remind me,” Vioxx said. That was something else that Captain Bain was going to be displeased about. “What did you need?”

“Honestly, I need to go. It’s time.”

“Go? Go where?”

“Come on, Dad. I’ve remained on board too long as it is. I need to get out and live my own life. I can’t just stay here with you.”

“I didn’t say you should. I’m just surprised that you’re suddenly leaving.”

“I guess you did too good of a job raising me to be independent,” Neb said with a smile.

“Did I?”

“Are you sure?” Dr. Kasyov asked. “It’s a really big galaxy out there.”

“I’ll be fine, Auntie Nat,” Neb said.

“When did you become their aunt?” Vioxx asked.

“Lunch yesterday, I think,” Kasyov said with a shrug.

“But she’s right. It’s a big galaxy. Do you know where you’re going?” Vioxx said.

“I have all of your star charts memorized,” Neb said.

“Good. But no going near the Klingons. They’ll shoot you on sight.”

“Hey!” Lieutenant Gworos protested from tac-ops.

“Am I wrong?”

“No.”

“Exactly. And stay out of BorgSpace! Those assimilating bastards would just love to get their hands on your biological distinctiveness. Not a single one of their factions are to be trusted. Understand me?”

“Yes, Dad,” Neb said. If Neb actually had eyes, they would have been rolling at this point.

“All right. Just be safe. And comm me…if you want.”

“I will.” Neb pulled Vioxx into a hug. It was so warm and squishy. Comforting, though. “Thank you. For everything.”

“You’re welcome. But I didn’t do that much. You were barely here forty-eight hours.”

Neb laughed. “I am going to miss how silly you are!”

“I’m being serious.”

Neb chuckled once more. “Bye, Dad.”

And then Neb was gone. Vanished in an instant from the bridge. Above their heads, Big Neb lifted off from the transparent dome and moved off, revealing empty space above them.

“Should we stay with it?” Ensign Yonk asked from the helm.

“No. Let them go,” Vioxx said, returning to the command chair. “Neb doesn’t need us looking over their shoulder.”

“You did good,” Dr. Kasyov said.

“It doesn’t feel like it,” Vioxx said. “I’m just glad you’re up here now instead of Remax. He would have been mercilessly mocking me by now.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m actually going to miss that weird blobby kid.”


“Captain’s Log. Stardate 179355.7. Rosalyn and I have returned to the Anomaly after our much-needed holiday and found the ship no worse for wear, not that I expected there to be any issues under Vioxx’s watchful eye along with more than capable assists from Commander Prosak and Lieutenant Commander Tovar.

“It does sound like we missed a little bit of excitement between the emergence of an entirely new form of life into this galaxy and…whatever is going on with Prosak. I have to admit that her new appearance is startling, and I worry that Doctor Nooney’s departure couldn’t have come at a less opportune time. Of course, there’s an argument to be made that he had a role to play in getting her where she is now. Still, I hope she finds some kind of peace soon.

“For now, though, I will try to be accommodating. Although, the boots have to go. She accidentally stepped on Ensign Yonk’s foot this morning and broke it in sixteen places. The poor lad had to spend the day with Nurse Ih’vik and a bone knitter.

“As for me, I’m rested and ready for whatever mission Starfleet has in store for us next.”


Captain Reginald Bain ended his log entry and settled back into his favorite armchair in his captain’s lounge, scotch in hand. The trip with Rosalyn had been wonderful, and he felt that their marriage had entered a new phase of openness and intimacy between them. Even after all these years, he loved her as much as he did on that day decades earlier when he stood watching her walk down the aisle and was practically vibrating with excitement at the prospect of becoming her husband.

The door chime sounded, pulling him out of his thoughts.

“Come in,” he called.

Vioxx walked in hesitantly. Despite being the Anomaly’s First Officer, he hadn’t spent much time in the Captain’s Lounge. He tended to keep things with Bain more professional.

“Commander!” Bain exclaimed. “This is a pleasant surprise. Have a seat. Can I offer you a drink?”

“Thank you, sir. But I don’t want to make you get up.”

“Nonsense,” Bain said, popping up from his chair. “I’m always happy to entertain guests. I was having scotch, but I can get you whatever you’d like.”

“What you’re having is fine,” Vioxx said. He really had no idea. He hadn’t made much of a study of Earth beverages, but he imagined that there was likely some Romulan equivalent. How many ways could there possibly be to produce alcohol?

Bain poured him a drink out of an actual bottle, handed it to Vioxx, and waved him to the nearby armchair as Bain settled back into his own. “You’re of course welcome to drop by any time, Vioxx, but I’m guessing this isn’t strictly a social call. What can I do for you?”

“You are correct,” Vioxx said uncomfortably as he looked around the room rather than meeting Bain’s gaze. What was it with humans and covering their belongings in animal hides? The chair, several of the hats Bain had on display, and even several of the books were all encased in the stuff. “I need to ask you for a favor.”

“I’ll certainly help if I can,” Bain said.

“I was hoping you could ask Starfleet to keep a look out for Neb. I know Neb thinks they are ready to run off across the cosmos, but you’ve been out here a long time, Captain. You know the dangers Neb could run into.”

Bain chuckled and leaned back into his chair. “Letting them go is hard, isn’t it, Vioxx? Every parent has been there.”

“I’m not Neb’s father.”

“I think everyone would disagree with you there. Including you, if you were really honest with yourself.”

“Neb was on board barely two days.”

“I read the reports. That…whatever it was, took to you, and you did your best under the circumstances. It may have been brief, but that doesn’t make it meaningless.”

“I just have no idea if I got Neb ready for whatever their life is going to be.”

“None of us do. I felt I did my job as a parent if in the end my kids were fully-functioning adults. By that measure, I suppose I did all right. Although, Rosalyn deserves the lion’s share of the credit. I missed so much of Sophie and Audrey’s childhoods. And I don’t how Rosalyn was around as much as she was considering her job with…never mind. The point is that I sure as hell have my regrets and things I worried about with the girls, just as you do with Neb. At least I knew I was going to be a father. You had it sprung on you and still rose to the occasion.”

“You weren’t expecting Tovar, correct? You still were a father for him.”

Bain smiled. “Trying to make me feel better now, Vioxx?”

“No, sir. I…”

“It’s all right. Tovar was different. He was through those rough early years. He just didn’t have actual parents. Fortunately, the man I am matched up well with the kind of father he needed.”

“And he stayed with you.”

“Yes, but I’d say he’s his own man. Just as Neb is now their own…blob. I’m sorry. Doctor Kasyov’s notes weren’t very helpful in identifying what exactly Neb is. But it doesn’t matter. The point is that you were there when Neb needed you, and you gave Neb a caring home on this ship until they were ready to venture out on their own. You are their father in every way that matters, and as far as I’m concerned, you did a fine job.”

Vioxx let out a deep breath. “Thank you, Captain. So now I can stop worrying.”

The Captain laughed. Loudly. “No. Not even a little bit.”

“Seriously? It won’t stop? Ever?”

Bain reached over and clinked his glass against Vioxx’s. “Welcome to parenthood.”



Tags: boldly