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: 2010

STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…

“Contractual Obligations”

By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler



Despite the fact that space travel had been commonplace in the Romulan Star Empire for half a millennium, there were certain hard truths about it that no amount of “we do this sort of thing everyday” talk could gloss over. First and foremost was the simple fact that space was a deadly place. If something went seriously wrong in your ship, you were probably done for. To guard against this as much as possible, all Romulan officers were trained in the engineering equivalent of first aid. It wasn’t a popular course at the Imperial Officers Academy among the cadets on the command track, who usually felt that engineering was for engineers and beneath commanders. Vioxx was never that snooty about it, and, honestly, he didn’t have anything against his engineering course. He just didn’t have anything for it either. He was far more enamored with other things, namely his girlfriend at the time and the prospect of commanding his own ship. He didn’t need to worry about the engineering side of things because he’d have engineers under his command to handle that work.

Unless for some unknown reason he handed his one engineer over to the Breen.

Like that would ever happen.

Er….

Okay, so maybe Vioxx should have paid more attention in his engineering class, a fact that was more than evident as he struggled to properly run conduit from the Allegra’s bridge power distribution node to the helm console.

“Do you want some help?” the bridge’s one other occupant, Tori Burke, asked. Explaining why a human female was currently on the bridge, and, more importantly, handcuffed to a chair on said bridge required an unfortunate amount of exposition. A few days earlier, the Allegra and its crew had been safely ensconced on the USS Anomaly, but then an event that Vioxx had yet to understand had thrown the Anomaly into the Multek Enclave, a region of the galaxy that had vanished from normal space two decades earlier. The Anomaly had been severely damaged in the incident, so its captain, Reginald Bain, had sent Commander Vioxx and a handful of other officers out in the Allegra to look for help. Instead they had encountered an energy barrier surrounding the Enclave that shorted out the Allegra’s systems, forcing them to land on the closest habitable planet.

This planet was Edgeworld, a Multek resort world located at the edge of their space (hence the name). At least it had been a Multek resort world. Shortly before the Enclave disappeared from normal space, Edgeworld was acquired by the Dillon Consortium and scheduled for major renovations. A Dillon Consortium attorney, the aforementioned Tori Burke, had been put in stasis on Edgeworld awaiting the arrival of the contractors hired to perform the renovations. Due to the Enclave’s disappearance into its own pocket universe, Ms. Burke’s awakening was delayed…by 20 years, at which point Commander Vioxx and crew found her stasis tube in the Edgeworld lobby while there searching for supplies to repair the Allegra.

With the supplies found, Vioxx should have just left Burke to fend for herself. Sub-Commander Remax was certainly advocating that position. Or, if he wanted to be really merciful, he could have just killed her. Instead, Vioxx insisted on trying to rescue Burke, not that she was offering anything resembling gratitude preferring to threaten Vioxx and crew with various nasty lawsuits. At first, he’d assigned Centurion Nortal to watch her, but, without power, there were no secure rooms on the Allegra to hold the lawyer in. Since a Dillon Consortium employee could not be given access to a Romulan vessel, Nortal decided that stunning Burke again was the best approach. After about the seventh blast, Vioxx had had enough. He sent Nortal off to assist Remax and Lieutenant Brazzell, and Vioxx took over guarding Burke himself while he worked on the bridge systems.

“I’d love some help,” Vioxx said, responding to Burke’s offer. “But if I take those binders off of you, you’re going to hit me and make a run for it…again.”

“Could I at least get off of the floor?” Burke had been handcuffed to the armrest of an actual chair, but, as Vioxx discovered, the chairs, either due to the crash or faulty design, weren’t as well attached to their support poles as he would have hoped. The human was able to wrench the entire chair up, snap off the armrest, and then club Vioxx as he emerged from the innards of the Allegra’s science console. If Burke had been looking where she was going and not fallen into an open floor panel while trying to escape, she would have very likely made it off of the ship…

…where she would have been all alone miles from the resort on an otherwise barren planet.

Maybe Remax was right. He should have let her die.

As it was, Burke was now attached to the chair’s support pole, which was firmly bolted to the bridge deck plating, leaving her trying to find a comfortable position on the floor. If she hadn’t have hit him in the head with an armrest, Vioxx might have been more sympathetic.

Instead, he muttered. Muttered about the pain in his head. Muttered about the stupid power conduit. Muttered about being stranded. And mostly muttered about how much the universe seemed to hate him right now. Finally, he managed to connect the last bit of conduit to the helm. With that in place, at least the helm, science, and tactical consoles would be operational once Remax completed replacing the conduit from engineering to the bridge. Now it was time for the viewscreen.

He decided that he’s had enough with the running the conduit properly crap. He wasn’t fighting to run it through the ducts under the deck all the way to the front of the bridge. If everyone wanted a working screen, they’d have to step over the damn conduit.

“I was wondering when you’d stop wasting your time,” Burke said as Vioxx attached one end of the conduit to the power distribution node and began walking to the viewscreen, uncoiling it as he went.

“We have muzzles on board, you know,” Vioxx said.

“Go ahead. It’ll just be one more crime against me to add to the list.”

“You do realize that you can’t sue me.”

“The Dillon Consortium can sue whomever it wants. Just watch us.”

“Right now that ‘us’ consists of just you, and getting back to an ‘us’ depends on me and my crew. Try a little respect, human.” Vioxx reached the viewscreen, opened up the access hatch underneath, removed the old conduit, and moved to connect the new conduit when…

…he was on his back at the rear of the bridge twitching uncontrollably and suddenly very very sore. Sub-Commander Remax stepped through the doors and stood over him. “What the hell happened to you?” Remax demanded.

Vioxx’s jaw spasmed as he let out a pained gurgle.

The elder science officer rolled his eyes. “I restored the power,” Remax said, looking around the bridge’s active consoles appreciatively. His eyes fell on the dormant viewscreen. “Are you planning to hook that thing up?”

“That’s what he was doing when you turned on the power,” Tori Burke said chuckling. “The surge blasted him right across the room.”

Ah. That would explain the incredible pain Vioxx was currently experiencing.

“Huh. Sorry I missed that,” Remax said. He looked down at Vioxx again. “Are you going to act like a proper Romulan and pick yourself up, or do I need to call Nortal to look you over?”

Vioxx painfully scrambled to his feet. While Nortal was technically trained as a medic, Vioxx would much rather be handed over to the Anomaly’s human doctor, Fred Nooney, than submit to Nortal’s version of care.

Remax, meanwhile, took proper precautions (i.e. shutting down the power flow through the conduit to the viewscreen), made the final connections, and stepped back to admire his handiwork. “If you want a job done right…”

“I was doing fine!” Vioxx protested.

“Which is why you currently have smoke wafting off of you,” Remax replied as he moved to the science station and checked over his readouts. “Hmmm.”

“Hmmm? What hmmm?” Vioxx demanded. “Have we been detected? Are ships approaching?”

“The Anomaly is hailing us.”

“Really?” Vioxx said surprised.

“Yes. I assumed they were dead by now.”

“I’m starting to think that Reginald Bain may be invulnerable to conventional weapons.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Remax said. “Do you want to talk to him?”

“Oh yeah. Put him on.”


“Captain, we’re receiving a response from the Allegra,” Lieutenant Commander Tovar reported from the Anomaly’s Tac- Ops console. He looked directly at Captain Bain as he said this, actively avoiding eye contact with his birth parents, Tanta and Jimsok, who had beamed onto the Anomaly’s bridge along with Frequoq Wurlitz of the Multeks soon after the Anomaly had been surrounded by Multek ships in an effort to prevent Bain from deactivating the network of phase generators that had hidden the Multek Enclave in its own pocket universe for the last twenty years. Unfortunately for the Multeks, the Anomaly had just been a decoy, and Bain had actually sent Sub-Commander Prosak and Lieutenant Shelly Marsden in a raceabout to a different location to deactivate the network. Unfortunately for Bain, the Multeks had a very good reason for taking their Enclave out of normal space, and said reason, a Dillon Consortium fleet, was currently on its way to claim the Multek worlds, which it considered to be Dillon Consortium property.

And then there was the giant robot. Bain had a plan for that, though. He turned away from the Multek leader, who was currently attempting to control her panic as she confronted Bain about his actions, and faced the viewscreen, which soon showed a rather disheveled Commander Vioxx.

“Commander!” Bain said jovially. “It’s good to…Great Bird, man! What happened to you? You look like you’ve been sizzled.”

“He has,” Remax said, poking his head into view. “He’s fine, though.”

“Sure he is,” an unfamiliar woman’s voice said. Bain suddenly noticed that there appeared to be a woman he’d never seen before handcuffed to one of the Allegra’s bridge chairs.

“Er…Vioxx. I know you Romulans do things a bit differently, but I’m going to have to draw the line at any sort of impropriety.”

“You’re telling me,” Remax said. “I told him we should have just killed her.”

“Captain, we found this woman in stasis on the planet where we crashed,” Vioxx explained, ignoring Remax. “She’s an attorney for the Dillon Consortium.”

“Tori Burke!” the woman shouted. “And when the Consortium finishes with you…”

“Funny you should say that,” Bain said, cutting her off. “Your compatriots are on their way.”

“How?” Vioxx said. “We’re inside of some kind of bubble.”

“Not anymore,” Remax said, checking his scans. “I can read normal space.”

“We took care of that issue, but now we’ve got a bigger one,” Bain said. “A couple of bigger ones really.”

“The Dillon Consortium is coming. Yes, you mentioned that,” Vioxx said.

“Their robot is already here.”

“Their…robot?” Vioxx asked.

“Massive bugger. The entire Dillon’s CasinoWorld complex transformed into the thing and took off as soon as we were back in normal space. It says it will attack any vessels it finds.”

“So we’re safe as long as we stay here.”

“Right,” Bain said. “But you’re not staying there.”

“We’re…not?”

“You’ve got to take it on, give it a good what for, and such.”

“Err…isn’t fighting giant robots more your kind of thing?”

“I wish I could,” Bain said. “I’m honestly jealous, but we’ve got an incoming fleet to deal with.”

“Wait! Why are we even doing this?” Vioxx said. “What does the Dillon Consortium want with the Multeks anyway?”

Bain sighed and turned to Frequoq Wurlitz, “It’s a long story that I haven’t been told yet.”

“Because you never bothered to ask!” Wurlitz thundered.

“I’m asking now.”

“A bit late! Don’t you think? Oh wait, you don’t think. You just BLOW THINGS UP!”

“Are you going to calm down and talk to me like a rational person or not?”

“FINE! Here’s why, thanks to you, we are completely kerfloppled!”

“An excellent start,” Bain muttered.

Wurlitz ignored him. “The planet now occupied by Dillon’s CasinoWorld was once one of ours. After the Great Opening in the time of Our Scarlet-Haired Savior, a deal was made with the creator of the Dillon Consortium allowing them use of the world. For the next century all was well, but then the Dillon Consortium requested a meeting with my predecessor…”


“…I think you will agree that the presence of Dillon’s CasinoWorld has been a boon to the worlds of the Multek Enclave, increasing tourism to your worlds from the Federation and beyond. We have provided this added value to you for decades without compensation of any sort,” the Dillon Consortium representative, who had introduced himself as “Mister Thompkins,” said, smiling a bit too toothily as he adjusted the sleeves of his impeccably- tailored blue suit, the standard uniform of all Dillon Consortium reps.

Frequoq Yogabba frowned and glanced over at his assistant, Wurlitz, as if to say, “Is this guy for real?”

“We did give you a planet,” Wurlitz said.

“Exactly,” Frequoq Yogabba said, leaping on his assistant’s helpful reminder. “That’s a lot.”

“It was a barren world until we did something with it,” Mr. Thompkins said without a moment’s hesitation. “Frankly, providing that world to us was an investment in your own future, one that has paid substantial dividends to you. We are only looking to provide another such opportunity for you, adding even more value to your worlds.”

“What is it that you are looking for?” Wurlitz asked.

“How many visitors does your Edgeworld Resort serve in an average year?”

“A thousand. Maybe 1500,” Wurlitz said.

“Far below its potential.”

“Well, it’s not exactly the edge of anything, now is it?” Yogabba said.

“Indeed. It is a relic of another age of Multek history,” Thompkins said. “And useless to you.”

“I don’t know about useless,” Wurlitz said.

“It is surely costing you more resources to maintain it than it is worth. The Dillon Consortium is generously offering to receive it as compensation for the added value we have provided to the Multek Enclave through the presence of Dillon’s CasinoWorld. I should not be telling you this, but as we speak Corporate has been considering a very intriguing proposal from the Cardassians.”

“So if we don’t give you Edgeworld, you’ll close Dillon’s CasinoWorld?” Yogabba asked, concern evident in his voice.

“We can live with that,” Wurlitz said.

“But the added value!” Yogabba exclaimed.

“You understand us then,” Thompkins said, pulling a padd out of his black briefcase. “I have already done you the service of drawing up the necessary documents to complete the transaction. And, on behalf of the Dillon Consortium, I would like to thank you for your investment. We are certain that our profitable partnership will continue for decades to come.”


“Those slimy buggers,” Bain said.

Wurlitz nodded. “Almost as soon as Frequoq Yogabba signed the padd, we detected a Dillon Consortium ship arriving at Edgeworld. The few Multeks there were ordered to leave as the Consortium vessel unloaded supplies and, apparently, the woman your people found. It didn’t take Frequoq Yogabba long to realize the ramifications of what had transpired. Unable to deal with the responsibility, he decided that he no longer wanted to be Frequoq. As is our tradition, the position went to the next person willing to take it on: me. I immediately went to our Council of Elder Wizards for advice.”

“You have wizards!” Bain exclaimed.

“That’s what we call them, but they can’t do magic or anything. Well, Oggip knows some pretty good card tricks…the important thing is that the Council saw the same inevitability that Yogabba and I did. The Dillon Consortium would develop Edgeworld and then come back to us for more compensation, citing even more ‘added value.’ We were being slowly conquered via financial conquest. We knew the Consortium’s reputation. They would not allow us to refuse. The Council had a plan, though. During the Great Opening to the rest of the galaxy, the Council members had been unsure whether or not it was a good idea, despite the assurances of Our Scarlet-Haired Savior. While the majority of the Multek Enclave focused on creating a tourist destination, they were secretly designing and implementing a contingency plan to save the Enclave.”

“The phase generators,” Bain said.

“Precisely. We set about making preparations. The generators were taken to each of the stars of the Enclave, and an invitation was sent out to selected guests, ones who had a special relationship with the Enclave and might want to live out the rest of their lives with us. Then, when all was in place, we infiltrated Dillon’s CasinoWorld and engineered an emergency, forcing them to evacuate everyone there to Waystation. As soon as the last of the evacuation ships left our borders, we activated the phase generators and continued our lives safe from the threat of the Dillon Consortium…UNTIL YOU SHOWED UP!”

“Frightfully sorry about that,” Bain said wincing.

“And there’s nothing you can do about it!”

“I said I’d deal with the fleet,” Bain replied.

“Sir, I must point out that Starfleet Command has stated that this is between the Dillon Consortium and the Multek Enclave,” Tovar said.

“No sense going against Starfleet,” Vioxx said on the viewscreen, clearly pleased to have an excuse not to go fight the giant robot.

“I got them into this mess, and, dash it all, I’m going to get them out again!” Bain snapped.

“Of course, Captain,” Tovar said flatly.

“Don’t,” Frequoq Wurlitz said. “You’ve done enough damage. I don’t want to think about how much worse you’ll end up making things. Just get out of our space.”

“I can fix this,” Bain said.

“OUT!” Wurlitz thundered. “I am returning to Multos to warn our people. Perhaps working for the Dillon Consortium won’t be so bad…assuming they don’t just evict us all from our worlds.”

“May we have a moment to speak to Tovar?” Tanta asked.

“No,” Tovar said.

Wurlitz, however, nodded her assent. “Comm us when you are ready.” She tapped a small device on her wrist and dematerialized in the swirl of a Multek transporter beam.

“Tovar,” Tanta began.

“Captain, I have duties to attend to,” Tovar said.

Bain’s first impulse was to help his son and get these two off of his ship as quickly as possible. But Tovar was their son, too. Despite what they had done, if this was the last Tovar saw of them, he might regret it for the rest of his life.

“Talk to them lad. Use Vioxx’s office.”

“Is that an order, sir?” Tovar said.

“Do I have to make it one?”

“Very well,” Tovar said, stepping out from behind tac-ops and leading his birth parents to Vioxx’s office, which was formerly Prosak’s quarters, which was originally Bain’s never-used ready room. With the three Yynsians off of the bridge, Bain noticed Vioxx still staring at him from the viewscreen.

“Sorry to hold you up, Vioxx,” Bain said. “You must be chomping at the bit to get underway.”

“To attack the giant robot,” Vioxx said.

“Exactly.”

“To attack the giant robot…by ourselves.”

Bain thought for a moment. “Yonk and Gworos are out in a raceabout right now. I could send them your way.”

“Thanks. I’m sure that little ship will turn the tide in our favor,” Vioxx muttered.

“Glad to be of service. Good luck to you lot. Bain out.”

“Wait. Wha…”

But Bain had already closed the channel. He turned to Dr. Natalia Kasyov, who was manning her usual post at the science console. “Can you get me Marsden and Prosak?”

“Yes, but then, if we’re possibly going into battle, I need to…”

“…check on Cabral,” Bain finished. “Of course, Doctor.”

Bain barely noticed Kasyov make her escape as the image on the viewscreen shifted to the interior of Marsden and Prosak’s raceabout, where both women sat.

“Prosak here, Captain,” the Anomaly’s RommaVulc Second Officer said, her efforts to show no emotion failing miserably to cover over her excitement. “We did it!”

“Yes. Good show, both of you,” Bain said.

“It wasn’t easy, Captain,” Lieutenant Shelly Marsden said. “They had several redundancies built into the network to prevent shut down. And if anything had gone wrong when we did get it down, we could have phased back into normal space incorrectly, which probably would have killed us all instantly…or slowly and really painfully.”

“Capital capital,” Bain said. “First class job all the way.”


“Thank you, sir.”

“I need you to undo it.”

Marsden stopped and blinked. “Err…what was that?”

“Looks like we may have made the wrong move here, Marsie. There’s an incoming Dillon Consortium fleet, and I’d rather have this lot safely stowed back in their little pocket universe before the Consortium gets here.”

“But…I can’t undo it. We trashed the thing.”

“Carefully,” Prosak added. “And logically. It was a very careful and logical yet thorough…trashing.”

“I have faith in you, Marsie. You’ll make it right as rain again,” Bain said.

“There is one other issue, Captain,” Prosak said. “Two Multek ships have intercepted us and are unlikely to allow us to return to the phase generator hub.”

“Apologize and tell them that you’re going to fix the thing.”

“Do you believe that will work?”

“I hear that apologies go a long way,” Bain said. “At this point, it may be all we have to offer. Bain out.” He tapped a control on his chair, closing the channel and let out a long, un-Bain-like sigh. “I’ll be in my lounge. You have the conn, Sub-Lieutenant,” he said to the one officer remaining on the Anomaly’s bridge, Sub-Lieutenant Zantak. The Romulan spun around in her chair toward Bain, but the captain was already slipping out the rear door of the bridge toward his lounge. Had Bain remained he would have heard more words coming from his helm officer than she had ever uttered in his presence before. Of course, he would have needed expertise in Romulan profanity to understand any of them, but the point remains.


Tovar ushered his parents into Vioxx’s office and took up a position in front of the First Officer’s desk, his arms crossed in front of him. “The captain has asked that I hear you out, so I shall. Speak.”

“Tovar, please don’t be this way,” Tanta said.

“I am not aware of being any particular ‘way.’”

“We probably deserve that,” Jimsok said.

“Why?” Tovar asked. “For purposely abandoning me twenty years ago so that you could live with the Multeks? Or for betraying our plans to those very same Multeks when we took you into our confidence?”

Tanta and Jimsok looked at each other. “Well…both, I guess,” Jimsok said.

“Don’t you want to know why?” Tanta asked.

“I don’t think he does,” Jimsok said warningly.

“No, I don’t think I do,” Tovar said.

“We should tell him the truth,” Tanta said.

“Tanta…” Jimsok began.

Tanta quickly cut him off. “We never wanted you,” she said quickly. Tovar hadn’t wanted to give his parents the satisfaction of seeing any kind of reaction from him, but at these words, he couldn’t help it. He sat down on Vioxx’s desk, unable to stay on his feet.

“Way to break it to him gently, dear,” Jimsok said.

“I’m sorry, but it’s true,” Tanta said. “Your father and I were quite content together, but my parents just WOULD NOT LET UP. They wanted grandchildren and lots of them. They joked about completely draining the past-life clearing house. Finally we gave in and had you with the knowledge that your grandparents would be begging to take care of you, which they did. They loved you so much, even when you acted strangely.”

“You were a strange little boy,” Jimsok said nodding.

“I had an interloping lifeforce inside me, which was removed a few years ago,” Tovar said.

“Really? That explains that.”

“The POINT,” Tanta said, “is that things were fine until my parents just had to go on that lava skiing trip and get themselves killed. Suddenly our lives were not our own anymore.”

“I am sorry to have been such an inconvenience,” Tovar said sarcastically.

“We did the best we could, but it wasn’t working. Then we got the invitation from the Multeks. Multos had always been our favorite destination. We’d spent weeks and weeks there over the years. The thought of losing it was too much to bear. We instantly knew what we had to do.”

“Instantly? No deliberation at all? No thoughts for anyone else?” Tovar said.

“No,” Jimsok said. “We knew you would be taken care of. You were a Federation citizen after all. And we were right. Captain and Mrs. Bain seem to be very nice people.”

“NICE?” Tovar shouted. “They are far FAR more than that! You two may have given me life, but Reginald and Rosalyn Bain loved me more than you ever did. I have never felt like anything less than a flesh and blood member of that family.”

“We’re happy that’s true,” Tanta said. “And that you’ve met Shelly. You two seem wonderful together. You’ve done fine without us.”

“See. It all worked out,” Jimsok said, forcing a smile.

“Yes,” Tovar said pointedly. “Is that all?”

“I…I guess it is,” Tanta said. “We should get to our ship.”

“Yes,” Tovar repeated.

“Goodbye, Tovar,” Jimsok said. He extended his hand for Tovar to shake. Tovar just glared at him, arms crossed. “Um…have a good life.”

“We mean that,” Tanta said, activating the comm unit on her wrist. “We’re ready,” she said into it quickly.

Tovar said nothing. Moments later, his parents were gone.


This should have been a cause for celebration. Repairs were as complete as they were going to get, and the Allegra was ready to leave Edgeworld. Somehow Commander Vioxx was finding it hard to get up the urge to give the order to depart though.

It probably had something to do with the GIANT ROBOT they were supposed to engage in combat.

He could almost feel Sub-Commander Remax’s eyes boring into him, just waiting to pounce on whatever “non-Romulan” order he gave next. Looks of equal disdain were coming from Tori Burke, albeit for different reasons. She’d been moved to a position near Nortal, so the Centurion could keep an eye on her while also allowing Lieutenant Bre’zan Brazzell to take his seat at the conn without worrying about having a woman handcuffed to his chair. Just knowing that Burke had been there had caused Brazzell to expend an entire can of disinfectant on his seat and the console, all the while muttering something about Dillon Consortium germ warfare.

Vioxx knew that they were all waiting for his command. Best to just get it over with. He opened his mouth and…

“What in the jorvaal are we doing?” he exclaimed, proclaiming his actual thoughts rather than the nice calm order he had intended. Oh well. It was out there now.

“Preparing to rise forth with great majesty!” Nortal replied.

“I think somebody is starting to realize how much trouble you all are in,” Burke said smugly. “Not so anxious to tangle with the Consortium now, are you?”

“Your massive mechanical menace cows no one!” Nortal cried.

Vioxx was actually feeling a bit cowed.

“You know what we could do,” Remax said.

“Leave,” Vioxx said.

“We’re back in normal space, and this isn’t even Starfleet’s fight, much less ours. We could be watching this whole thing play out on holovision from the comfort of Waystation Prime.”

“I shall remain to do battle while you seek refuge,” Nortal said.

“See. Everybody wins,” Remax said.

Vioxx had to admit that he had a point…except for the leaving Nortal to die bit. She’d rant a bit, but he was taking her to Waystation Prime. He was just about to give the order when…

“But that would be the coward’s way out,” Remax said.

“I thought it was duplicitous. We like that sort of thing,” Vioxx countered.

“And let the Dillon Consortium believe that the Romulan Empire is scared of them? What kind of Romulan are you?”

“A confused one. Two seconds ago you wanted to go to Waystation Prime. Make up your mind!”

“Why? You’re in command!”

Yes. He was in command. Why had he decided that being an officer was such a good idea again? Oh yeah. Status, women, and glory. That had worked out so well. Now Reginald Bain was counting on him to succeed in a suicide mission when running away would be so very easy. But, as much as he might want to, he knew he wasn’t going to run away. He’d rather die than listen to Remax badger him for the rest of his life. And this way he’d get to take Remax with him.

“Take us up, Brazzell,” he said, resigning himself to his chosen course. He turned toward his science officer. “So what exactly are we up against?”

Remax began checking his console. “I’ve got the robot on long range sensors. Height…approximately 200 meters. Bolatronium hull. Weapons…unknown, but with these power levels, I’m guessing there are a lot.”

As Remax continued on, Vioxx did his best to tune him out, sorry that he’d asked the question in the first place. If they were going to be dead, why did it matter how dead they were going to be?


Reginald Bain wasn’t usually much for sitting, particularly not in a situation like this. A hostile fleet was approaching, a civilization was in danger, and he was the only one who could do something about it.

Of course, he was also the one who caused the problem in the first place.

That was the kicker.

Starfleet had ordered him to stay out of it. The Multeks just wanted him gone before he screwed something else up. And at that very moment, several officers under his command were risking their lives in a possibly-hopeless battle against a machine made out of a casino.

In the face of all of this, Bain sat in his Captain’s Lounge, scotch in hand, staring blankly ahead at the painting on the wall in front of him. It was a landscape that reminded him of his home in England. Beautiful countryside. Peaceful. And not about to be destroyed because of his actions.

The lounge doors behind him slid open quietly. Bain frowned. Who the devil would have the gall to intrude on him without so much as ringing the door chime?

He soon had his answer as Rosalyn Bain stepped into view.

“Reg?” she said.

“I’m fine, dearest. Just taking a moment.”

Rosalyn sat down in the leather armchair catty-corner to his and placed a comforting hand on his knee. Nothing was said. Not for a few moments, at least.

“I honestly don’t know why you put up with me,” Bain said finally.

His wife chuckled. “Whatever would make you say that?”

“I’m a boorish, pig-headed, blundering…”

“Reginald!” Rosalyn snapped. “You’re many things, but self-pitying isn’t one of them.”

“This isn’t pity. We’re well past that. I was so bloody certain that I knew what was I doing that I didn’t stop for one second to think! And now the Multeks are going to pay for my mistake.”

“You were trying to get your crew home.”

“At what cost? Are we worth the end of an entire civilization?”

“It’s not like the Dillon Consortium is going to come in and kill them all.”

“I almost wish they were. Then Starfleet would get off their collective arses and take action!”

“You already are. I heard Shelly is trying to fix the phase generators, and the Romulans are dealing with the robot. I doubt Starfleet would call that ‘staying out of it.’”

Bain grinned. “The Prime Directive and I never did see eye-to-eye.”

“Which is why you don’t get many first contact assignments. You can still help these people, Reg. I know that you’re going to,” Rosalyn said.

“I’ve got one banged up ship against a Dillon Consortium fleet.”

“I seem to remember an ensign who took out a Red Borg sphere in a shuttlecraft.”

“I lost that shuttle.”

“I’m betting you won’t lose the Anomaly.”

Bain took his wife’s hand and gave it a loving squeeze. “How did I do this before you came aboard?”

“You were Reginald Bain. You still are.”

“Right!” Bain said, getting to his feet. “And I’d say it’s high time I reintroduced myself to the Consortium!”


“Fire! Evasive! EVASIVE! BE MORE EVASIVE!”

“I’M TRYING!” Brazzell shouted back as Commander Vioxx gripped the armrests of his seat while the Allegra bucked under another onslaught from the robot made up of the Dillon Consortium CasinoWorld complex. Despite that fact that it was trying to kill them all, Vioxx had to admit that it was an impressive piece of engineering. It wasn’t until they got into visual range that Vioxx realized just how impressive. Somehow the casino, hotel, buffet restaurant, bars, dance clubs and gift shops had all twisted and turned to form a giant mechanized Bradley Dillon, complete with suit. The suit even had cufflinks. Granted the cufflinks were giant phaser banks, but they were there all the same. If those were the only weapons, things might not have been so bad, but every surface revealed some new horror. The eyes, ears, and fingertips launched torpedoes. Phaser arrays were in the “hair,” running down the robot’s “tie,” hidden in the back of the suit coat and all over the shoes. Getting behind it, over it, under it, or beside it was useless. No matter where the Allegra went, mecha-Bradley had something to blast them with.

“Disruptors are barely scorching the surface,” Sub-Commander Remax reported.

“Then I shall scorch and scorch until this monstrosity is no more!” Nortal said.

“We’d all die of old age first.” The bridge lurched hard to port as Brazzell narrowly managed to avoid an incoming phaser blast. “Not that it’s going to let us live that long.”

Tori Burke snorted. “You can’t stop it. You can’t even hurt it. Get out of the way before it destroys you.”

“You just don’t want to die with us,” Vioxx said.

“No! I don’t! I didn’t realize you were all so eager to get killed!”

“Getting killed isn’t the plan.”

“Really? It sure as hell seems like it!”

“Just wait.”

“Do you understand hopeless? As in what this is? Your little ship is not going to stop a Dillon Consortium secur-o-bot.”

“That thing is for security?” Remax said.

“We must protect our assets.”

The Allegra jolted again, throwing everyone forward. “I said MORE EVASIVE!” Vioxx shouted.

“Sorry!” Brazzell said. Seconds later, he screamed. “AHHHHHHHH!”

“WHAT?” everyone else cried in alarm.

“I’m dripping sweat on my console!”

“Towel off later!” Vioxx snapped. “When we’re NOT about to DIE!” He spun toward Remax. “What about torpedoes?”

Remax shook his head. “The one hit we managed to land took a little chunk off of the thing, but that’s it.”

“A chunk is a chunk,” Vioxx said. He looked at the visage of his adversary on the viewscreen. “Bring us about,” he ordered, rising from his chair and joining Nortal at tactical. “I want a tight horizontal torpedo spread right here,” he told her as he pointed at her tactical readouts. “Hit it with everything we have.”

“I shall strike true!” Nortal said.

“Go for the head, Brazzell. Full power to forward shields.”

The Allegra shot forward, blasts from the robot searing by it as Brazzell quickly closed the gap between the combatants.

“Pull up?” Brazzell asked anxiously.

“Not yet,” Vioxx said.

“Now?”

“No.”

“Now???”

“FIRE!” Vioxx said.

Nortal slammed her hand down on the firing control, sending a volley of torpedoes sailing into the neck of the mecha-Bradley. Almost instantly another volley and then another followed behind. Explosions blossomed, sending chunks of debris out on all directions.

“Brazzell!” Vioxx shouted.

Brazzell put the Allegra into a steep climb, barely clearing mecha-Bradley’s nose before cresting the head and leveling off.

“Tractor beam!” Vioxx ordered. Nortal slammed another control, latching the energy beam onto the head of the massive construct. “Full power to engines! Go, Brazzell!”

The Allegra strained as Brazzell complied with the order.

“More! Give it more!” Vioxx said.

“It’s already at full!”

“Then…”

The ship suddenly shot forward, throwing everyone back against their seats as the last bits of metal holding mecha-Bradley’s head to its neck gave way.

“Full stop. Shut down the tractor beam!” Vioxx ordered. Moment’s later, the powerless robotic cranium drifted by on the viewscreen. “HA!” Vioxx cried victoriously. He spun toward Tori Burke. “And you said we’d…”

BOOOM!

Vioxx flew out of his chair and landed painfully on the deck behind Brazzell as a blast slammed the Allegra. “What the…”

“The body! It pursues!” Nortal exclaimed.

“Get us out of here!” Vioxx said.

“Already fleeing!” Brazzell said, his fingers flying across the conn.

“You pissed it off,” Tori Burke said. “Good plan. Bravo.”

“I guess its brain wasn’t in its head,” Vioxx said, picking himself up off the floor.

“Sounds a lot like the guy running this ship.”


The wide range of practical knowledge provided by a Starfleet Academy education had generally served Commander Prosak well, allowing her to contribute in most situations. This, however, did not fall into that category. So, while Lieutenant Shelly Marsden moved at a frantic pace inside the phase generator hub near Multos’ moon, Prosak was reduced to standing around and trying to stay out of the way. She’d tried at first to at least hand Marsden tools as the engineer required them, but even then she proved to be more of a hindrance than a help. In truth, once she’d convinced the Multeks to allow her and Marsden to return to the hub, which she’d accomplished with a rather succinct bit of logic (Is it logical to prefer Dillon Consortium conquest?), Prosak had been feeling rather useless.

Her commpip chirped. Finally, something to do!

“Can you get that?” Marsden called over. Evidently, her pip was signaling as well. Prosak would have something to do and be helping out Marsden at the same time. Perfect! Er…logical!

“This is Prosak,” she said, pinching her commpip to open the channel.

“Sorry to interrupt, Commander,” the voice of Captain Bain said. “How are things there?”

Prosak glanced over at Marsden, who, at that moment, was beating something with a metal bar.

“Uncertain,” Prosak said. “To be honest, there is little assistance that I can offer Lieutenant Marsden, and she is deep in her work at the moment.”

“Marsie is tenacious when she’s got a project,” Bain said. “Since you’re unoccupied at the moment, I’d love to have you back on the bridge. We’re about to see what we can do about that incoming fleet, and I could use your input.”

“Of course, Captain,” Prosak said, controlling the excitement in her voice. Bain wanted her at his side! With Vioxx gone, it would be just like old times.

“Excellent. Be there in a jiff. Anomaly out.”

As the channel closed, Prosak cautiously approached Marsden, careful to avoid any wildly-swinging tools. “I have been recalled to the Anomaly,” she said.

“Uh huh.”

“Do you require anything before I depart?”

“Can you rebuild and realign a shattered quantum guide array and tune its power input without sending the sun into a premature supernova?”

“Er…I do not believe so.”

“Then have fun on the ship.”


Bain had to admit that he had something of an ulterior motive for getting Prosak back onto the Anomaly. Yes, he valued her counsel, but he also hoped that she’d liven up the bridge a little bit. Zantak hadn’t said a word since Bain had emerged from the Captain’s Lounge, not that that was so unusual. But Tovar had been equally silent, which concerned Bain more than a little bit. He’d known the lad long enough to recognize the pain on his face. Tanta and Jimsok had said or done something before leaving that had hurt the boy. Bain’s first impulse was to hunt Tovar’s wayward parents down and give them a good what for, but he knew that wouldn’t be what Tovar would want. Rosalyn probably wouldn’t be so pleased either, even though Bain knew that she was not a fan of Tovar’s birth parents either. On the bright side, if it could be called that, it did not appear that they would be meddling in Tovar’s life any further.

“We are entering the Multos system,” Tovar reported as the bridge turbolift doors opened and Dr. Kasyov stepped out, Cabral’s hovercam floating along beside her.

“Good,” Bain replied, giving Kasyov and Cabral’s hovercam a welcoming nod. “Get Prosak on board, and then best speed to intercept the Consortium fleet.”

“We’ve actually had some thoughts on that, Captain,” Dr. Kasyov said.

“I’m open to any ideas,” Bain said. “What have you got?”

“As you know, the anti-singularity drive cannot be fully repaired without the facilities of a starbase,” Cabral said.

“Marsie was rather clear about that one,” Bain said, nodding.

“I gather that speed would be useful right now, though.”

“We’ve got a Dillon Consortium fleet on the way. Marsie’s working as fast as she can to repair the Multeks’ phase generator network, but if the Consortium fleet makes it to Multek space before she’s ready, the game is up. We need to stop them before they enter the Enclave.”

“I see. In case that, I would like you to allow me access to the quantum singularity in engineering.”

“Hang on a moment, Cabral,” Bain said. “We had to seal that off. Until we can repair the containment systems and such, it has to stay that way. Marsden was adamant about that.”

“Captain, if Cabral can tap into it even slightly, he can give you something resembling anti-sing. It won’t be quite as fast, but it will be more than enough to cut off the Consortium before they can get here,” Kasyov said.

“What are we talking about here?”

“If my drive base can be relocated to engineering, I can move my sphere down there and use it to directly access the singularity and the warp drive systems,” Cabral explained.

“I do have to point out that Shelly will hate this idea,” Kasyov said.

“Agreed,” Tovar said.

“We’ll try not to mess up her engineering section too much,” Bain said. “Get on it and keep me informed.”

“Give us fifteen minutes and few crewmembers with anti-grav units.”

“Take everyone you need,” Bain said. Kasyov and Cabral raced toward the turbolift, almost trampling Commander Prosak as she emerged onto the bridge.

“Sorry, Prosak!” Kasyov called out just before the doors closed whisking her and Cabral’s hovercam away.

“Did I miss something?” Prosak asked.

“Just a bit of engineering talk,” Bain said. “But what about you? Tell me all about what you and Marsden have been up to.”

“There’s not really much to tell.”

“Think of something. Please,” Bain said.

“Um…okay. First we destroyed the phase generation hub.”

“Do tell!


There was honor to be found in the role of decoy. In the great songs and stories of the glorious battles of his ancestors, Lieutenant Gworos had heard of Klingon warriors sent out as decoys. Those warriors would attack the superior numbers of the enemy, expecting to die as the main Klingon force moved in from another direction.

That was the true meaning of being a decoy.

What Captain Bain had ordered him and Ensign Yonk to do had felt suspiciously like running away. They had been sent out a in a raceabout to lure away some of the Multek ships pursuing the Anomaly, and all of it was just to prevent the Multeks from realizing that the real attack on their phase generator network would be coming from another raceabout holding Commander Prosak and Lieutenant Marsden. There was no battle, no glory, not even a single phaser to fire.

But then they had received their new orders: battle a giant robot. This was the sort of struggle that songs were made of. He would have preferred that they weren’t being sent to help the Anomaly’s Romulan officers, but such was the cost of glory. And, if he was lucky, the Romulans would die, allowing him to vanquish their foe while removing their blight from his ship. Romulans had already devastated the Klingon empire. He didn’t need them running around the Anomaly.

At least there was the promise of combat to come.

For his part the diminutive (even for a Ferengi) Yonk would have been quite content to leave the robot to the Romulans while he went back to the relative comfort of the Anomaly or, even better, Waystation Prime. That way he could skip the whole Dillon Consortium battle entirely. While Ferengi society had long since given up the avaricious activities of their ancestors, groups that still engaged in commerce were looked upon with a sort of reverence among the Ferengi. No one would say it out loud, but there was the sense that if the Dillon Consortium showed up and offered the Grand Nagus a job, the entire planet would jump on board in an ear wiggle. Maybe not. The Ferengi had done a lot of good for those in need over the last century. Surely they wouldn’t throw it all away for the Consortium.

Either way, Yonk wanted to stay out of it. There was something unseemly about fighting a company that was just out to make a profit. Staying out it didn’t seem to be in the cards, though.

“I have located the Romulans’ vessel,” Gworos reported, making sure to put that extra bit of growl on the word “Romulans.”

“Adjusting course,” Yonk said, pulling the coordinates from Gworos’ tactical readouts of the star system they were entering. “They’re really moving.”

“Running for their pathetic lives,” Gworos replied as the Dillon Consortium robot came into view on his console. “Although their opponent is…large.”

“How large?”

“I would put it between very and extremely.”

“Great.”

“That would also be an accurate description. We are being hailed.”

“Okay,” Yonk said. Gworos did nothing. “Um…aren’t you going to answer it?”

“I would prefer not to speak to them.”

“Fine. I’ll do it,” Yonk said. “Put them on.”

A wild-eyed Commander Vioxx appeared on the screen. “Finally!” he shouted.

“Is that anyway to welcome the people who came to help you?” Yonk said.

Vioxx frowned. “Who…who said that?”

“I did!” Yonk snapped. “Yonk!”

“I can’t see you.”

Yonk huffed and stood up on his chair, putting himself in range of the raceabout’s camera. “Oh!” Vioxx said. “There you are.”

“Yeah. Here I am,” Yonk scowled. He took a wee bit of pleasure as Vioxx was tossed forward by some kind of weapon slamming into the Allegra. “Having some trouble?”

“This is no time to be snide! Our disruptors are useless against that thing, and we’re out of torpedoes. We’ve been trying to use the planets and moons of this system for cover, but it’s not getting us very far. Take the pressure off of us!”

The Ferengi glanced over at the Klingon beside him. “I’m guessing that you want to do this.”

“Today is a GOOD day to…”

“Don’t! Just don’t,” Yonk said. “I’m taking us in.” He increased the raceabout’s speed as Gworos reviewed the tactical readout. A feral grin spread across the Klingon’s face.

“I am sending you a new trajectory,” Gworos said.

“Okay.” Yonk looked over the information. “Why are we…Is that thing missing its head?”

“It is,” Gworos replied. “And we will replace it’s missing skull with a rain of death!”

“You’re starting to sound like Nortal.”

“If you were not flying this craft, I would…”

“…kill me where I stand. Or sit. Yeah yeah. Whatever,” Yonk said as he brought the raceabout into a tall arc and then reoriented the craft such that they were charging straight toward the remains of the mecha-Bradley’s neck. Once in range, Gworos let loose with a stream of micro-torpedoes, which plumed in a steady barrage of fiery impacts against the robot’s badly-damaged neck. As the explosions died away, it quickly became apparent that the micro-torpedoes had done little beyond removing another inch or two from the neck. Mecha-Bradley continued after the Allegra as though nothing had happened.

“I will NOT be IGNORED!” Gworos bellowed, continuing to fire phasers and micro-torpedoes at the robot as Yonk maintained pursuit. While Gworos was still unsuccessful at actually damaging mecha-Bradley, he did get its attention enough for it to fire back from the phaser and torpedo emplacements on its back. Yonk quickly veered off, narrowly avoiding several impacts.

“What are you doing?” Vioxx demanded on the viewscreen.

“Not much,” Yonk said.

“I can see that! Hang on, I have an idea.” Vioxx vanished as the channel closed. On their readouts, Yonk and Gworos saw the Allegra slow down.

“What is he doing?” Yonk asked.

“Facing his foe and attempting to die with something resembling honor,” Gworos replied as the robot closed in on the Allegra.


On the Allegra’s bridge, Vioxx looked back at Nortal anxiously. “Is it with us?”

“It breathes down our necks with demonic exhalations!” Nortal replied.

“I’ll take that as a yes. Go Brazzell.”

“Yes, sir,” The Mezzakkan at the conn said. Brazzell zigged and zagged, forcing the robot to work to maintain pursuit and all the way moving the Allegra closer and closer to the system’s star. The ship’s shields strained to resist the increasing heat.

“Now!” Vioxx shouted. Brazzell put the Allegra into an all-out sprint directly toward the star. Mecha-Bradley stormed after them. Warning klaxons blared across the bridge as the heat grew. Finally, just as the Allegra was brushing the star’s corona, Brazzell abruptly changed course, and the robot…

…came to an equally abrupt halt.

“So much for the ‘sending it sailing into the star’ plan,” Remax said.

“It’s not stupid,” Tori Burke said.

“I’m getting that,” Vioxx said.

“Commander, a hail arrives!” Nortal exclaimed surprised.

“Put Yonk on,” Vioxx said, wondering how much of a gloating Ferengi and Klingon he could stand.

“It is our mechanized foe!”

“The…robot is hailing?”

“It does!”

“Maybe it wants to surrender,” Burke said snickering.

Vioxx shot her a glare then refocused his attention on Nortal. “Put it on.”

“It only sends its voice!” Nortal said.

“That’s fine.”

The bridge speakers erupted with a loud synthetic voice. “Hostile vessel, close range scans have detected Dillon Consortium personnel confined aboard your craft. You will immediately transport said personnel to the coordinates we are transmitting. Failure to comply will result in your immediate destruction to assure the safety of Dillon Consortium proprietary information. You have two minutes.”

“Looks like you’ll be dying with us after all,” Vioxx said.

“You’re not going to hand me over to it?” Burke shouted.

“Let me think about it.”

“THINK FASTER!”


Captain Richard (that’s pronounced Rick-ard, not Richard, you philistine) Woseley of the Dillon Consortium Trump-Class Starship Madoff idly thumbed through the padd in his hand detailing the assets of the Multek Enclave as they were known to the Consortium at the time of the Enclave’s disappearance twenty years earlier. Frankly it wasn’t all that impressive, and he couldn’t imagine that the two decades the Multeks had spent away from the rest of galactic civilization had resulted in any major technological or scientific advances on the Multeks’ part. It was a civilization devoted entirely to leisure and tourism. That was apparently the source of Corporate’s interest. Dillon’s CasinoWorld’s original success had never been duplicated, even with the beneficial arrangement provided by the Cardassian government for the replacement site. And, while the Starfleet Suites Hotel brand continued to be synonymous with luxury, the Consortium’s efforts over the years to enter the mid-range accommodations market had all failed. The Consortium portfolio lacked any real depth in the tourism market. The acquisition of the Multek Enclave worlds would provide the Consortium with a turn-key tourist destination operation with a built-in clientele and brand name recognition. Granted, the clientele and brand-name hadn’t been factors for the last two decades, but that would probably more than offset by the curiosity created by the Multeks’ disappearance and reappearance.

The technology behind said disappearance and reappearance was of far more interest to Captain Woseley. Consortium records showed that over a century earlier some research and development was done on technology that allowed for the creation of subspace pockets. A device was even sold at Dillon’s Supply Depots that allowed a person to carry a subspace pocket with them with the capacity to hold a number of large and heavy items. It had to be taken off the market when some purchasers were sucked into faulty pockets and never seen again. If the Multeks had somehow obtained and adapted the technology for their own use, the patent infringement suit that the Consortium would slap them with would be the least of their problems. But if the Multeks had developed a different technology with similar and stable results, said technology was about to become Consortium property in the forthcoming acquisition activities.

Woseley’s attention was pulled back to the faux-wood-paneled confines of his well-apportioned bridge by the voice of his tac-ops officer, Lieutenant T’ehhd. “Sir, I am detecting a Federation Starship on approach.”

“Approach? On what vector? Starfleet was told not to interfere,” Woseley said, tensing. Negotiations were not his speciality, and he did not relish the thought of trying to deal with the righteous indignation of a Starfleet captain on his own. He quickly ran through the other captains of his fleet in his mind, trying to decide who would be best to handle things should that be the way the situation developed.

“From the direction of the Enclave, sir.”

“Time to intercept?”

“Seconds, sir. They are moving incredibly fast.”

“Are they slowing?”

“No, sir.”

Woseley relaxed. “The mission briefing said that there was a Starfleet ship in the Enclave. The Anomaly under the command of Reginald Bain. Possessor of a rather unique drive system. But that is not our concern.”

“Did you say B-B-B-B-Bain? Like the Butcher of Breen Bain?”

“That would be him. They must be clearing out so that we can proceed with our acquisition. You can wave to him as he passes by.”

Something on T’ehhd’s console caught his attention. “Sir, I’m reading…”

BOOOM! BAMMM! BAAANG! FWACKOOOM!

Woseley and his padd were tossed clear across the bridge as several impacts shuddered through the Madoff. “What in the…”

“It’s BAIN! He’s attacking us!” T’ehhd screamed in panic.

“Is he insane? We have 47 ships with us! He can’t attack us all!”

“TRY TELLING HIM THAT!”

“What could he possibly hope to accomplish?”

BOOOOOM! KAPOWWWWW!

The bridge went dark as all power on the Madoff failed.

“Oh.”


“Stay in close,” Bain ordered Sub-Lieutenant Zantak. The captain stood firmly at the center of his bridge, making no effort to brace himself as the Anomaly zigged and zagged among the ships of the Dillon Consortium fleet, bucking as phaser blasts and torpedoes seared by them. “Make them pay if they shoot at us and miss.” That part was definitely happening as the many Consortium shots that did not hit the Anomaly instead slammed into other Consortium vessels in their fleet.

Tovar was doing his part to make the Consortium pay as well. Every bit of anger and betrayal he felt toward his parents he poured into his work, slicing and dicing Consortium engine and power systems of nearby ships with the Anomaly’s compression phasers while hammering more distant vessels with precisely targeted volleys of torpedoes.

Not being used to combat situations, particularly ones in close quarters, the Dillon Consortium fleet was doing everything it could to make Tovar’s life easier. Consortium policy was to keep their ships in tight formations, all the better to impress and intimidate future clients and acquisitions. Having the Anomaly zipping in and out of their formation blasting everything in sight was a recipe for chaos, as Consortium ships returned fire and ended up hitting each other.

Bain nodded with satisfaction as a plasma plume erupted from the starboard nacelle of the Helmsley-class cruiser on the viewscreen. Lights flickered in the craft’s windows, then went out all together as the ship began to drift.

“Sir, the ships are beginning to break formation,” Tovar reported.

“I thought they might,” Bain said.

“Sir, I don’t think Starfleet is going to approve of this,” Commander Prosak said.

Bain chucked. “Swooping in and blasting these buggers? I should think not!”

“So…”

“We’ll sort it out later, Prosak. Very soon the captains on those ships are either going to start thinking for themselves, or the Consortium is going to send in new orders. Either way, our window of opportunity is limited. Hopefully it will be enough. Get Marsie on the line for a status update, would you, Tovar?”

With barely a pause in his assaults against the Consortium vessels, Tovar opened a comm channel to the Anomaly’s Chief Engineer.

“Marsden here,” came the clipped audio-only response.

“How goes the fight?” Bain asked.


On the phase generator network hub platform located near the moon of Multos, Lieutenant Shelly Marsden looked at the cobbled together series of cables and circuits surrounding her and sighed. “It…goes,” she replied. That was the honest truth. Left alone after Prosak’s departure, Marsden had hit upon a breakthrough. There was a tiny catch, though.

“Glad to hear it,” Captain Bain’s voice said over her commpip. “We’ve got these Consortium blokes distracted for a bit, but I can’t say how long they’re going to stick around. How soon can you have things up and running and get out of there?”

And there was the catch.

“I need about 10 minutes to finish the set-up.”

“Capital!” Bain exclaimed.

“The getting out of here part is more of a problem.”

“What kind of a problem?” Commander Prosak’s voice asked.

“The ‘I’m not going to be leaving’ kind,” Marsden said.


Bain was about to ask for a clarification when he was cut off by a cry of “You have to!”

He glanced back at Tovar. The Yynsian had stopped firing on the Consortium ships and was currently gripping the edges of his console for support, not because the Anomaly was shaking. He was doing enough of that on his own.

“I can’t. I have to be here to activate the phase generator,” Marsden said, her voice pained.

“Start a timer to turn it on and go!”

“It’s not that simple.”

“It IS that SIMPLE!” Tovar shouted.

“I’m creating a sub-dimension the size of several star systems using jury-rigged equipment I barely understand. The whole thing has to be monitored and tweaked as it activates to make sure the process is stable. If it fails, we’re talking about killing everyone in the Multek Enclave.”

“Someone else can do it.”

“Who? Who, Tovar?” Marsden’s voice was halfway between a shout and sob now. “Do you think I want to stay here? Do you think I want to lose you like this?”

“We’ll get her back, son,” Bain said. “We got in there once. We can do it again.”

“No. You can’t,” Marsden said. “The phase variance is going to be different this time. I can’t even begin to guess how different. It was a fluke that we fell into the Enclave the first time. It’s not going to happen again.”

“Marsie…”

“I need those ten minutes, Captain.”

Bain and Tovar exchanged another look, this one far longer. Tovar finally gave a slight nod before bowing his head to focus on his console.

“You’ll have them,” Bain said.

“Thank you, sir,” Marsden said. “Tovar?”

“I’m here,” Tovar croaked softly.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too. Anomaly…out.” He closed the channel and then started pounding his console, channeling all of his fury and loss into attacking the fleeing Consortium vessels.

“Get me Frequoq Wurlitz,” Bain said to Commander Prosak as he started to pace the command area. “If we’re losing Marsden, then I’m going to make damn sure the Multeks see to it that she’s well taken care of.”


“You have to let me go,” Tori Burke insisted as the countdown imposed by the mecha-Bradley ticked toward zero.

“How did it know she was here?” Commander Vioxx asked Remax, ignoring the human attorney.

“I was wondering the same thing,” Sub-Commander Remax said, checking the Allegra’s science console. “She’s got to be putting out some kind of signal. There. Got it. Subcutaneous transmitter behind her right ear. Very high frequency.”

“And the robot only picked it up once it had weakened our shields and got close enough to us to detect her. Can you block it?”

“Yes, but if we do that, we remove the one thing keeping us alive.”

“He does have a point,” Burke said.

“What about duplicating it?” Vioxx asked Remax.

“Why would we…oh no. No no no. You’re not seriously thinking about going over there.”

“Get on it. We won’t have much time,” Vioxx said before turning to Nortal. “Reopen the channel.”

“It responds!” Nortal exclaimed.

“Thanks. Consortium…thing, this is Commander Vioxx. We will comply with your demand; however, we request more time to retrieve the additional Dillon Consortium personnel from our shielded brig.”

There was silence for a few moments as the mechanoid considered this information. “You have five minutes,” it said finally.

Remax got up and grabbed Vioxx’s Romulan Imperial insignia commbadge off of his chest.

“Hey!” Vioxx protested.

“Do you want to do this or not?” Vioxx said as he set to work on the badge. “This will emit the same signal as the human. Hopefully the Consortium doesn’t give everybody their own.”

“Fine. Do yours and Nortal’s next.”

“I shall attend thee,” Nortal said, stepping away from her console to join Vioxx and Remax.

“Don’t forget our new friend over there,” Remax said, gesturing his head at Burke while he worked.

“Move, prisoner, or face destruction!” Nortal said, grabbing Burke and dragging her to the center of the Allegra’s bridge. Remax finished with Vioxx’s badge and quickly moved on to Nortal’s and his own.

Far too soon, the comm signaled an incoming message, which Nortal dove to answer.

“Your time has expired,” the mecha-Bradley announced. “Are the four Dillon Consortium personnel that you hold all that you have?”

“Yes,” Vioxx replied. “You may transport them away at will.”

Brazzell spun in his chair toward Vioxx. “Wait! If it takes all of you, I’ll be the only one here!”

“I realize that.”

“I can finally clean this place up!”

“Get away from the robot first. Odds are that it’s going to open fire as soon as we’re clear,” Vioxx said.

“Ohhh. Good point. But then I can clean?”

“Then you can clean,” Vioxx said as he felt himself being pulled apart by a transporter.

He rematerialized moments later in the middle of an array of blinding lights and painfully loud bleeps, bloops, clinks, and clanks. Vioxx slammed his eyes shut and covered his ears as he heard Nortal scream, “IT BURNS!” above the din. Struggling to get his eyes to adjust, Vioxx staggered over to the nearest large object he could find and ducked behind it for cover. After several seconds, he was able to reopen his eyes and focus a bit on his surroundings. Considering their reception, Vioxx fully expected to find themselves in a cell with weapons aimed at them from every angle. Instead they seemed to be in a…casino. Which made a certain amount of sense considering the source of the robot. He was surrounded by various gambling devices, some of which were attached to the walls and hanging from the ceiling of the room they found themselves in. The room, such as it was, had apparently been formed when the Dillon’s CasinoWorld complex folded in on itself to create the mecha-Bradley.

“Where are we?” Tori Burke asked as the group moved together in order to hear each other.

“Now there’s a good sign,” Remax said. “Even she doesn’t know where we are. Wonderful plan, Commander!”

“The robot made this room for a reason. If it thinks we’re Consortium employees, we could be in its bridge. Spread out. Check around for controls of some kind.”

“Even me?” Burke asked.

“You stay with me,” Vioxx said, grabbing Burke by her upper arm and dragging her behind a row of slot machines as Nortal and Remax headed to other ends of the room.

“Oh look. It’s a wall,” Burke remarked.

“You’re not helping.”

“That’s the general idea.”

“HA!” Nortal exclaimed from the other side of the room.

“What? What did you find?” Vioxx asked, yanking Burke back out into the open.

“This machine has surrendered one million credits to me!” Nortal exclaimed, pulling her personal credit isolinear rod out of the slot machine in front of her and holding it up victoriously.

“How did you manage that?” Remax demanded.

“We’re supposed to be searching this place!” Vioxx said.

“What’s your rush?” Remax said. “This robot isn’t attacking us. The Allegra and that raceabout are right outside. We’re fine.”

The mecha-Bradley’s harsh voice suddenly boomed through the room. “Consortium vessels are under attack. Disengaging current targets to assist.”

“Bain!” Vioxx said. “It has to be him!”


“And this thing is dragging us right into the firing line,” Remax said.

“Vioxx to Allegra,” the commander said, activating his comm. Nothing. “Allegra, respond…Brazzell?” Then after a bit more nothing. “Vioxx to Yonk. Yonk? Vioxx to Gworos.” Leading to more nothing.

“We are trapped! This cannot be! I have credits that must be spent!” Nortal said.

“Shut up and start looking,” Remax snapped scrambling toward the nearest bank of slot machines.

“Oh, NOW he wants to rush,” Vioxx said.

“Why is he so worried? We’re inside a nearly-indestructible robot,” Tori Burke said.

“You don’t know Reginald Bain.”


“We should be attacking,” Gworos said, his arms crossed and looking sullen. If Klingons could be said to pout, that was what he was doing at the moment. Most people wouldn’t say that, though, since accusing a Klingon of pouting was a good way to end up with a bat’leth sticking out of your rib cage.

“Our people are on there,” Yonk said angrily. In truth, he wasn’t so angry at Gworos’ statement. It was more the fact that Gworos got to sit there and do nothing other than making statements while Yonk frantically tried to keep the mecha-Bradley’s attention away from the Allegra while not getting their raceabout blown to bits.

“We are Starfleet. They are…Romulans. This should be our battle.”

“I bet they’ll let you fight the next giant robot that…where’s it going?” Yonk scooted up in his chair to get a closer look at his readouts. The headless mecha-Bradley had suddenly stopped chasing the Allegra and veered off onto an entirely new course. A second later, it leapt into warp.

“Brazzell to Yonk. Did you see that?” came the voice of the Allegra’s current pilot.

“Yes. It was kind of hard to miss. What just happened?”

“I don’t know, but at least I can clean this place up now.”

“What about the Romulans?” Yonk said.

“Commander Vioxx said I could clean as soon as I got away from the robot.”

“We’re chasing it. NOW!” Yonk said.

“Oh all right. Allegra out,” Brazzell said. Now you could definitely say that Brazzell was pouting. The worst that might get you was a face full of spray cleaner. Or maybe a furious dusting.

“Any idea where it’s heading?” Yonk asked Gworos once the channel was closed.

“It’s current course will take it out of the Enclave toward…the current position of the Anomaly and the Dillon Consortium fleet,” Gworos said.

“Wonderful. You’d better let the captain know that company is coming.”


“I feel like a bloody sheepdog!” Bain said, stomping his foot on the deck as Zantak swung the Anomaly around to herd yet another Consortium ship that was attempting to make a break for the Multek Enclave back toward their ravaged fleet.

“Sir, we have word from Lieutenant Gworos,” Tovar reported. “The Dillon Consortium robot is on a course to intercept us.”

“Excellent!” Bain exclaimed excitedly. Zantak looked over her shoulder at him with a disapproving glare. “Quite right, Zantak,” Bain said, composing himself. “Mustn’t get too excited about the chance to go toe-to-toe with that massive monstrosity and give it a good… I’m doing it again, aren’t I?”

Zantak just rolled her eyes.

“How soon until the robot clears the Enclave?” Bain asked.

“Eight minutes. It will reach us in thirty. Less if we continue chasing Consortium ships toward the Enclave,” Tovar replied.

“There’s the rub, eh? Unless we cripple every single ship they have, they’ll just keep pushing toward the Multeks.”

“Shelly will have the phase generators on line,” Tovar said.

“I know she will, lad. I know she will.”


She was ready.

Oh Great Bird, she was ready! Marsden had been so focused on the task at hand that she hadn’t let the true import of what she was doing sink in. Sure, she wasn’t exactly killing herself, and Multos wasn’t exactly a harsh prison. But she was still sacrificing her life as she knew it.

And Tovar.

She knew that he loved her, but to hear the pain and desperation in his voice…

They both had duties to perform. She would make sure that the Multeks were safe, and he and Captain Bain would find a way to slow down the Dillon Consortium fleet. All that remained was to take the final step.

Marsden reached for her commpip just as she heard the sound of a transporter behind her.

He’d come! They’d found a way!

She spun around, ready to pounce on Tovar, but quickly came to an abrupt and awkward halt.

That wasn’t Tovar.

That was his mother.

“Shelly…” Tanta began.

“No offense, but this really isn’t the best time,” Marsden said, turning back to the makeshift console she’d put together to control the phase shifting of the Enclave into a new pocket dimension. “We’ll have plenty to time to talk later. I’m not going anywhere.”

“So Frequoq Wurlitz told me. You can’t stay here.”

“I don’t have a lot of choice.”

“Please listen to me, Shelly. I’m trying to help.”

“Help? With what? My golf game? You dumped every responsibility you had! You dumped your own son, so you could run off and play for the rest of your lives!” Marsden shouted.

“I know we’re terrible parents. But we knew that we would be.”

“Then why…”

“It doesn’t matter now. Listen, Shelly, despite what we’ve done, I can’t begin to describe to you how happy I am to see how Tovar turned out. The Bains are wonderful people, and you two seem very much in love. After all the hurt we’ve caused him, I can’t let him be hurt anymore when I can do something about it. Get out of here. I’ll handle activating the phase network.”

“That’s a nice thought, but this isn’t a light switch,” Marsden said. “You don’t know how…”

“I helped design it,” Tanta said.

“You…what?”

“How do you think Jimsok and I got to be such special guests here? I helped develop and implement the technology the network uses. I didn’t know what the Multeks had planned for it at the first, but I am intimately familiar with its inner workings.” She looked over Marsden’s jury-rigged set-up and chuckled. “I’m going to have a hell of a time straightening this out without taking down the phase network again.”

“I was kind of pressed for time.”

“You still are. Go.”

“Are you sure you…”

“Go.”

Marsden leapt at Tanta, grabbing her in a quick hug. “Thank you!”

“GO! And tell Tovar… Tell him to be happy.”

“I will.” Marsden pinched the commpip on her collar. “Marsden to Raceabout Frinoqua. Autoretrieve me.” She quickly took off the pip and tossed it to Tanta. “I’ll comm you as soon as we’re all clear.”

“Good luck,” Tanta said as the transporter took hold of Marsden and whisked her off to her waiting raceabout.


Normally it wasn’t wise to stay in the middle of the vise clamps as they closed in on you, but in the present circumstances Captain Bain saw little choice. Despite the Anomaly’s efforts and the trail of disabled ships they were leaving in their wake, the remaining functional Dillon Consortium vessels were continuing to advance toward the border of the Multek Enclave. Normally, Bain would admire their tenacity, but right then Bain just wanted them to stop so that he could focus on the other side of the metaphorical set of vise clamps: the Dillon Consortium robot. Yonk, Gworos, and Brazzell had sent the Anomaly all of the data they had on the massive mechanical representation of Bradley Dillon, and, as eager as Bain was to take on the challenge, even he had to admit that the odds didn’t look good. Even in prime condition the Anomaly would have its hands full, but the ship, which was barely patched back together after the devastation inflected upon it when they breached the barrier into the Multek Enclave, had been jolted around badly by their battle with the Consortium’s fleet.

“Time,” Bain said, watching the viewscreen as Zantak dove at another Consortium cruiser.

“Fifteen minutes until the first Consortium ship enters the Enclave. One minute until the Consortium mechanoid intercepts us,” Tovar reported just as his console alerted him to an incoming hail from Lieutenant Marsden. This was it. She was ready to activate the phase generation network, and, with the Consortium closing in, there was no other choice. He steeled himself for the inevitable. “Captain, Lieutenant Marsden is hailing,” he announced, controlling his voice as much as he could.

Bain stopped his pacing and looked back at Tovar. “Put her on please,” he said kindly.

Marsden’s excited voice suddenly burst over the speakers. “Captain! I’m on my way!”

“You’re what?” Tovar cried, leaping out from behind his console. “How?”

“Did something happen?” Bain asked.

“Yes! Tovar’s mother…”

“His mum!” Bain snapped. “If that woman bollocks up something else I’ll…”

“NO!” Marsden shouted, cutting Bain off. “She’s going to activate the network as soon as I clear the enclave. I’m in the raceabout and 35 minutes out.”

“That’s wonderful!” Bain said. He saw the stricken look on Tovar’s face. 35 minutes. “Oh.”

“Oh? Oh what?” Marsden demanded.

“There’s not enough time,” Tovar said, his voice cracking.

“He’s right, Marsie. The barbarians will be at the gate in far less time than that, and with that robot approaching…” Bain trailed off. “Marsie, keep heading toward us. Push that raceabout with everything you can! Anomaly out.”

“Captain, what are you doing?” Tovar asked as the comm channel closed.

“We’ve been thinking about this all wrong,” Bain said. “The robot is almost here, which means that nothing of the Consortium’s is in the Enclave. We just need to grab Marsden, and we’re home free.”

“But without the anti-singularity drive…”

“…we’ve still got a giant brain that makes us go bloody fast,” Bain said. “Bridge to Cabral.”

“I’m here, Captain,” Cabral’s voice replied.

“How are things going down there?””

“I would describe it as well-controlled chaos, Captain, but Lieutenant Marsden’s Engineering staff is performing with remarkable efficiency even in her absence. I just wish there was more I could do to assist.”

“Funny you should mention that,” Bain said. “I need speed, and I need it now.”

“Are we retreating?” Cabral asked surprised.

“Retreating? Poppycock! We’re going after our missing Chief Engineer, but we don’t have much time.”

Dr. Kasyov’s voice broke in, “We’ll give you all you need, sir! Engineering out!”

“Captain, the robot is moving to within range,” Tovar said.

Bain looked at the viewscreen where the headless mecha-Bradley was indeed moving closer. “It would have been quite the scuffle, but it’s not to be, eh, Tovar?” Bain said. “Zantak, intercept course for Marsden’s raceabout. Best possible speed.”


“The robot is slowing,” Gworos said, watching his console as he, Yonk, and Brazzell in the nearby Allegra continued their pursuit. “We should reach it and the Anomaly in…where are they going!”

Yonk was seeing the same thing on his scopes. The Anomaly suddenly disengaged from the Consortium fleet and leapt into high warp in the direction of the Enclave. The mecha-Bradley, not expecting the sudden flight of its quarry, continued onward for a bit before turning around and coming back at the raceabout and the Allegra, ignoring both vehicles as it went after the Anomaly.

“Brazzell to Yonk,” the Allegra’s pilot said over the comm system. “What do we do now?”

“The Romulans are on their own,” Gworos said.

“Well we’re not,” Yonk said. “Incoming Consortium ships!”

“HA!” Gworos exclaimed. “Captain Bain left us the fleet. Today IS a good day to…”

“SHUT UP! Flee to Waystation Prime! Waystation Prime!” Yonk shouted into the comm.

“Fleeing!” Brazzell said as the two small ships got the hell out of the way before they were obliterated by the suddenly unoccupied Consortium vessels.


Commander Vioxx abruptly stopped his futile efforts to rip one of the dangling slot machines out of the ceiling and looked around. “Are we turning?”

“How should I know?” Sub-Commander Remax shot back. He had the back of one of the slot machines open and was peering into it with his quadcorder. “Hmmm…”

“Did you find anything helpful?” Vioxx asked stepping over to Remax and peering over his shoulder.

“Yes. This slot machine is secretly the helm console and a magic portal back to Romulus. Want me to shove your head inside so you can see?”

Vioxx took a step back. “No. I’m fine. But that’s the helm?”

“No, it’s a slot machine!” Remax said. He ran a lead from the machine’s inner workings to his quadcorder, then, satisfied with his handiwork, slid his credit rod into the front of the slot machine.

“We could die in here and you’re going to gamble?” Vioxx demanded. “What happened to your panic from a few minutes ago? We have to shut this thing down!”

“You panic your way. I’ll panic mine,” Remax said, tapping the button to set the “wheels” on the slot machine’s screen spinning. Seconds later, it blipped and blooped indicating that Remax had won. “Ha! Now that’s more like it!” he said.

“Great crew you’ve got there,” Tori Burke remarked as Vioxx trudged back over to tug on his own slot machine some more.

Vioxx sighed. “They usually take impending doom more seriously.”


As she raced toward the border of the Multek Enclave, Lieutenant Marsden found herself thinking of Hector Arroyo, the Anomaly’s former conn officer who had gone on to…well…she really wasn’t sure other than it involved cavorting about the cosmos with some kind of higher being. In any case, he would have been good to have around in this situation. He was the best pilot she ever knew and could have been handling things in the raceabout cockpit, possibly finding some kind of shortcut she’d missed, while she tried to coerce a bit more speed out of the engines.

Instead she was on her own in an effort to not be stuck on her own…well, on her own except for all the Multeks…and Tovar’s parents…and…

HOLY SHIT THAT THING IS COMING IN FAST!

Marsden froze in shock (something else a real pilot like Arroyo probably wouldn’t have done) as a sensor contact appeared on her scope and was on her in an instant. She barely had time to register that the newcomer was the Anomaly before a tractor beam locked onto her raceabout and began dragging it quickly into the Anomaly’s docking bay. Marsden didn’t get to enjoy the ride, though. Within moments, a transporter beam locked onto her, and she soon found herself on the Anomaly’s bridge. As she’d been in a seated position in the raceabout cockpit, this resulted in her collapsing on her butt on the deck.

“Zantak!” Bain ordered. The Romulan sub-lieutenant quickly spun the Anomaly around and headed back the way they had come. Marsden was still trying to process what had just happened when Tovar was by her side helping her to her feet.

“Wha…how?” Marsden asked. “The anti-sing is trashed.”

“It still is,” Bain said. “However our dear friend Cabral was able to improvise. He and Doctor Kasyov are working their magic in Engineering as we speak.”

“Cabral is in Engineering? All of him?” Marsden asked.

“He moved his sphere down there to tie into the singularity.”

“He’s tied into my singularity!”

“Shouldn’t we worry about this at some time other than now?” Tovar said, pulling Marsden back to tac-ops.

“Quite right,” Bain said. “What’s the status of our robotic friend?”

Tovar checked his tactical readouts. “Closing, but we will intercept it before it or the Consortium ships enter Multek space.”

“Outstanding!” Bain settled back into his chair. This would definitely be a challenge, but one that he relished.


Hell of a time to have a lucky streak, Commander Vioxx thought as Remax’s slot machine once again declared him to be a winner. “Haven’t you had enough yet?” he asked.

“Just a little more,” Remax replied.

“His victory knows no bounds!” Nortal exclaimed.

“It’s bounded by this room,” Vioxx said. “None of this winning is going to matter if we get blown up in here…or end up trapped until we starve to death.”

“I shall NOT starve. I will eat the human first!”

Tori Burke stiffened. “If you get your mouth anywhere near me, you’re going to lose your teeth!”

“No one is eating anyone,” Remax said. “We’ll be fine.” The slot machine ticked off another win.

“He’s far too confident. He knows something,” Burke said.

“I might,” Remax said with a grin.

“Well?” Vioxx asked expectantly.

“The Dillon Consortium is, at its heart, a business, right?”

“Of course it is,” Burke said.

“So Dillon’s CasinoWorld, despite its trappings as an entertaining tourist destination really existed to make the Consortium a profit.”

“Is there a point to this?” Burke asked testily.

“There was always a chance that someone could get super lucky at the casino. Maybe a few people. The Dillon Consortium is not the type of organization to just allow people to break the bank. They’d have precautions in place…which they do. I found it when I was poking around in this slot machine’s programming. It’s tied into the rest of the casino. Every credit won and lost is monitored. And if the house loses too much, beeoooooow.” This last sound effect was accompanied by Remax slowly bringing his hands together.

“Beeoooooow?” Vioxx said.

“They cut the power to the whole casino. ‘Oops. We’ve had a power failure. Everything’s down and anything you won has been lost. Sorry, folks. How about a complimentary buffet to make up for it?’ Insidious.”

“Evil!” Nortal shouted.

“We have the right to protect our assets!” Burke insisted. “And you’re cheating by interfering with that machine!”

“You want interference?” Remax said. “Watch this!” He sent the slot machine’s wheels spinning again.


“Five seconds to intercept,” Tovar reported.

“Shields up! Resheathing at maximum. Lock phasers and neutron torpedoes,” Bain ordered.

“Three…two…”

“Fi…”

“Power failure!” Tovar exclaimed.

Bain’s head whipped around looking at his well-lit and very functional bridge. “Where?”

“The mechanoid has lost all power. Systems are completely dead.”

Captain Bain smacked his hand down on the armrest of his chair. “Bloody hell! Every damn time I’m about to take a shot at that blighter…”


“THE DARKNESS! IT CONSUMES US!”

“Told you it would work,” Sub-Commander Remax said, ignoring Nortal’s outburst. Normally he’d glare at her, but, considering that they were now in absolute and impenetrable darkness, he wasn’t exactly sure where Nortal was.

“That’s fantastic!” Vioxx said.

“You sabotaged Dillon Consortium property. Great,” Tori Burke said sarcastically.

“So…what’s the next part of your plan?” Vioxx asked.

“The next part?” Remax said. “I figured this out. The rest is on you. And you’d better hurry. I have no idea how much oxygen or heat we have left.”

“Thanks a lot. Um…well…I guess we could see if anyone is within comm range,” Vioxx said, activating his communicator.

“Oh yeah. That’s going to work,” Burke said. Vioxx was fairly certain she was rolling her eyes.

“This is Commander Vioxx of the Romulan Star Empire to…anyone. Please respond.”

“USS Anomaly here,” a familiar voice said over the commline.

“Tovar! HA! It worked! Take that, Burke!”

“I’ll be damned,” Burke said.

“Do you require assistance?” Tovar asked.

“YES!” Vioxx, Remax, and Nortal screamed.


“Sir, I have Commander Vioxx. He and several others are aboard the robot and requesting rescue,” Tovar said.

“Right right. Bring them aboard,” Bain said with an annoyed wave of his hand.

“Do you want to shoot at it anyway, sir?” Marsden asked.

Bain crossed his arms and let out a huff. “No. What’s the point?”

“If it’s any consolation, we still have to save the Multeks before the Consortium fleet arrives,” Tovar said.

“Yes, but there’s not much shooting involved in that one. Best get on with it, though. Marsden?”

“On it,” Marsden said.

“This is Tanta. I read you,” the voice of Tovar’s mother said over the bridge speakers a moment later.

“Reginald Bain here, Tanta. We’re all set on this end.”

“Then Shelly made it. Good. I’ll start the phasing sequence.”

“Good show. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate this, Tanta,” Bain said.

“I think I know. Starting now. Goodbye, Tovar.”

“Goodbye,” Tovar said. “Oh, Mother?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome. But call me Tanta. I think we both know who your true mother and father have been.” Her last words were almost eaten by the growing static as the phase generator network activated.

“It’s gone,” Tovar reported a few moments later.

“Again,” Bain said.

“Sir, the Consortium ships have stopped.”

Bain chuckled. “I’m sure they have. Time to call home for new instructions. But are you all right after all of this, lad?” He looked back at Tovar, who was at that moment locking lips with Lieutenant Marsden in an uncharacteristic breach of bridge protocol. Apparently Tovar was holding up nicely.


“Captain’s Log. Stardate 178547.2. The Anomaly has docked at Waystation Prime for repairs and to drop off the Dillon Consortium guest that Commander Vioxx rescued from Edgeworld…if it can be said to be a rescue when she didn’t want to go. Unpleasant woman, really. I tried making conversation, but all she wanted to talk about was how much trouble we were in with the Consortium. As much as I hate to admit it, she’s probably correct. I was expressly ordered to stay out of the situation between the Consortium and the Multeks, and I didn’t. I couldn’t. Even if it hadn’t been my fault that they were in danger, I wouldn’t have been able to stand by and watch the Consortium take them over. The Multeks are safe now, and if Starfleet wants to drum me out of the service for that, so be it. Reginald Bain has no regrets.”


This felt more than a little bit like being called to the Headmaster’s office, something that had happened more than once during Bain’s childhood days. As it was, he was sitting outside the Waystation Prime station commander’s office in Operations. Inside, his fate was being discussed on a conference comm between Admiral Kristen Larkin, who had arrived at the station shortly after the Anomaly, several other admirals, representatives of the Dillon Consortium, and Commodore Theodore Ritter, the station commander. If they threw in his mum and dad, the effect would be complete.

Waiting gave Bain some time to consider his actions over the last few days. He’d said in his log entry that he had no regrets, but…well…no. He still didn’t have any regrets. Even pulling the Multeks back into normal space for a bit had worked out okay. He was able to get his ship out of the mess they were in, and it gave Tovar’s parents a chance to redeem themselves for being unbelievable gits.

Finally the office door opened, and Commodore Ritter poked his head out. “Comm’s over. We’re ready for you, Reg.”

“Thanks, Ted,” Bain said, getting up from his chair and clapping his friend on the shoulder as he stepped into the office where Admiral Larkin was standing stiffly in front of Ritter’s desk. Despite over a century of runtime, she never had mastered the art of looking casual. Not that she was probably trying now. These were not casual circumstances.

“Krissers,” Bain said, with a nod of his head.

“Reginald,” Larkin replied curtly.

“Right! Let’s get to it,” Bain said, clapping his hands together. “What’s it going to be? Court-martial? Are we throwing in a stint in a rehab colony? Indentured servitude to the Dillon Consortium? Do what you will because I’d do what I did again and again. Every blasted time. It was the RIGHT thing to do!”

“Please calm down, Reginald,” Admiral Larkin said. “And approach me.”

Bain frowned, confused, but did as his long-time friend ordered. Larkin took his forearm, raising it a bit before smacking his wrist gently with her other hand. “I hope you have learned your lesson,” she said flatly.

“I…what…” Bain started laughing as the realization struck him. “A slap on the wrist? Really, Krissers? You really had me going there for a bit.”

“You had yourself going, I believe,” Larkin replied.

“Would either of you fine people like to tell me what in the name of the Great Bird went on in here?”

“About what you’d expect,” Commodore Ritter said. “The Consortium demanded that you be severely punished, Starfleet agreed, and then, once the Consortium got off the comm, the Starfleet folks decided that we didn’t like the Consortium or their demands very much. Although, officially, we’re very upset with you, Reg.”

“And I am appropriately chastened and remorseful,” Bain said, breaking into a wide grin.

“I bet you are,” Ritter said. “I think this calls for a drink. Scotch, Reg?”

“Capital idea, Ted. You still have any of that 2268 left?”

“After what happened the last time you were here?” Ritter asked.

“Ah. Fair enough.”

“I bought three more bottles.”

“Brilliant! Care to lube the old gears, Krissers?”

“I do not have gears, Reginald, but, yes, I will imbibe. And, may I say that, despite the Federation Council’s directive not to intervene, I am pleased that you did.”

“You also solved one hell of a mystery,” Ritter said, handing Bain his drink. “Maybe those damn Multek hunters and conspiracy freaks will stop coming here now. For that alone, I owe you big time!”

Bain took a long swig of scotch. “A few more of these, and we’ll call it even,” he said smiling.


“Hey! You! Stop!”

For some reason, Vioxx just knew that the “You” being commanded to halt as he walked the concourse of New Starfleet Square, Waystation Prime’s mall, was him. He was also, unfortunately, well aware of who was doing the commanding. He turned around to see Tori Burke storming toward him.

“You’ve got a damn lot of nerve showing your pointy ears around here,” she said as she came up to him.

“Last I knew this was a Starfleet facility. I’m well within my rights to be here,” Vioxx said, bristling.

“Then I’m leaving!” Burke snapped, turning on her heel to go.

“Um…okay. You have fun with that.”

Burke spun back around so quickly she almost went into a full 360 degree turn. “Do you have any idea the hell you’ve caused me?”

“Do I care?” Vioxx replied. Obviously, she wasn’t going to actually leave him alone, so he decided he’d be the one to move on. He started off down the concourse, but Burke fell in step beside him.

“I’m twenty years behind on Consortium activities and regulations. I thought having seniority would be great, but reading the memos alone is going to take months! And guess who’s been selected as the Consortium scapegoat for the whole Multek mess?”

“Captain Bain?”

“ME!”

Vioxx was about to offer something resembling a “why are you telling me this?” when he spotted Centurion Nortal emerging from a store up ahead laughing maniacally and carrying what appeared to be the store’s entire stock.

“Commander!” Nortal said, laying eyes on Vioxx almost immediately. “I was victorious in my quest!”

“Er…great?” Vioxx said.

“And plenty of credits remain from my gains on that foul robot to purchase much much more!”

“Hey! Those are the Consortium’s credits!” Burke said.

“Were. Now they are mine! And that kind shopkeeper’s. Onward!” Nortal exclaimed, battering her way through the crowds to her next destination.

“They’re going to blame me for her, too. I just know it,” Burke said.

“Probably,” Vioxx said. “And she didn’t win anywhere near what Remax got. He’s probably bought a moon by now.”

“I’m going to make it my mission to see to it that the Consortium destroys you. Do you understand me, Vioxx? My mission!” And with that, she (finally) marched away.

“That’s no way to thank someone for rescuing you!” he called after her.

She replied with a human hand gesture that didn’t strike him as being full of thanks either. Chuckling, he headed off to find Nortal. With a bit of luck, he could talk her into using some of those winnings to buy him lunch.


Perhaps it wasn’t the height of decorum after his “dressing down” by the Admiralty, but Captain Bain was in the mood for a celebration. Commodore Ritter and Admiral Larkin had accepted his invitation to dine on the Anomaly with Bain and Rosalyn, but there were still two guests missing: Tovar and Marsden. Bain completely understood, though. After finding his parents, losing his parents again, and almost losing the woman he loved, Tovar had every right to want some time to himself…or with Marsden.

Instead, Bain enjoyed himself with Rosalyn, Ted, and Krissers, swapping stories and reminiscing, as people who have been friends as long as they all had tended to do when they got together. Bain had almost pushed Tovar completely from his mind (almost because he couldn’t help worrying about the lad) when the door chime to the Captain’s mess sounded.

“Enter,” Bain called after choking down a bit of sausage. The doors opened, allowing Tovar and Marsden to enter hand-in- hand. Tovar’s other hand held a padd.

“Tovar!” Ritter said warmly, getting up to shake Tovar’s hand. “Still keeping Reg alive, I see.”

“I think we’re just along for the ride most of the time,” Marsden said.

“I’d believe it,” Ritter said, shaking her hand. “Ted Ritter.”

“Lieutenant Shelly Marsden, sir.”

“Just Ted tonight. No rank stuff.”

Tovar stepped over to the table and gave Larkin a hug. “Hi, Auntie Kris.”

“Auntie Kris?” Larkin said. “You have not addressed me that way in years.”

“Do you mind?”

“No. Not at all.”

Tovar moved on to hug Rosalyn. “Mum.”

“Come and join us,” Rosalyn said.

“We’re not too late?” Marsden asked.

“Late? Nonsense!” Bain said.

“Get your butts to the table before I do pull rank,” Ritter said, retaking his seat.

“I’ll get you some plates,” Bain said.

“First, father, I had something I wanted to ask of Commodore Ritter.”

“Okay. Sure,” Ritter said, putting his fork back down. “What can I do for you?”

“As station commander you have certain powers, and I was hoping that you could approve this request.”

Tovar handed the padd to Ritter, who read it and started to smile. “Yeah. I think I can approve this,” Ritter said, typing in the appropriate authorization. He handed the padd to Bain. “You’re going to want to see this. Both of you.”

Bain and Rosalyn looked at the text, then at each other.

“Tovar Bain?” Bain said.

“It’s official now,” Ritter said.

“Taking the family name seemed appropriate,” Tovar said. “You are my parents.”

“You’re sure about this?” Rosalyn asked. “Tanta and Jimsok…”

“Meeting them made one thing very clear.”

“And what’s that?” his adopted father asked.

“I AM a Bain.”

Marsden then held up her left hand, which was now sporting a ring. “And so am I!”


END OF SERIES NINE



Tags: boldly