Um...hi. My name's Ben. My daddy didn't have time to write the discaimer thing for Unca Antney, so I'm doing it. Star Trek isn't mine. It's a pair of mounts. (Psst...Ben, that's Paramount...and CBS...and Viacom. You know what? Don't worry about it.) Okay, Daddy! Um...what next? (That's enough, Ben.) Okay! Bye bye!

Author: Anthony Butler
Copyright: 2002

Star Traks: The Lost Years #16

“And the Children Shall Lead?”


Anthony Butler

Personal Log, Lieutenant Commander Emily Sullivan,

Stardate 54602.4. At the request of Captain Rydell, I’ve gone to Earth to take an extension course in command skills at Starfleet Academy’s Continuing Education Center. According to him, I have all the tools to make captain one day. Coming from him that is an…interesting observation. Still, I kind of like the idea of getting to boss people around, and I can’t turn down a free vacation to Earth, so…

“Bastard!” Sullivan cried as she stormed across the Academy quad. Cadets milled past her on the cris-crossing paths. She stopped in the middle of the quad and stared past the shuttle docking facility at the Golden Gate Bridge beyond. “Bastard!” she shouted again, at nobody in particular, then stormed down the trail toward the Janice Rand building, where her temporary quarters were located.

She plowed past other cadets and guests and down the hallway, keyed open her door and trudged in.

Sullivan sat down at the tiny desk that faced out onto the Academy plaza and punched several keys on her desktop terminal. Moments later, Commander Scott Baird appeared on her monitor.

“What the f*** do you want?” he asked, as officers passed behind him and the warp core thrummed in the background. It looked to be a busy day in Secondprize’s engine room.

“A report on the deuterium mix. What do you think I want? I want some freaking compassion!” Sullivan snapped back, and leaned her head on her desk.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in class?” Baird demanded, his voice softening just slightly.

“Class was just dismissed.”

“So you’re heading back?”

“I guess.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“I failed!” Sullivan leaned up and smashed her fist into her desk. “I FAILED command class!”

“Well, f*** that! Retake it!”

“Why bother? It wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. It wasn’t about making strategic decisions, or problem solving. It was a lot of reading, memorizing, and reciting. Who cares who led the assault on Grenab Four twenty years ago?”

“Commodore Carlos Zemeka, aboard the U.S.S. Tripoli,” replied Baird.

Sullivan glared at him. “Forgive me for being shocked that you actually know about something that doesn’t involve warp engines, but could you please tell me how you know that?”

“Because I passed Command Class. How do you think I became a COMMAND-er?”

“You’ve been forbidden from ever commanding a starship! You can’t even be given bridge duty!”

“And yet, somehow, I passed Command Class. That’s a f***ing riot, isn’t it?”

Sullivan covered her face. “I don’t understand.”

“So you’re not good at tests and memorization. Doesn’t mean you can’t be a good commander, right?” Before Sullivan could respond, Baird turned around and stared at something off screen. “What do you think you’re doing with that? That’s a f***ing coil spanner! If you try to patch a f***ing EPS node with it you’ll fry the whole network! Give me that, you f***ing moron, and go back to the science labs where you belong!”

“Thanks for the help,” Sullivan muttered, and punched the channel closed.

“So let me get this straight,” Sullivan muttered, as she paced in front of the desk of Vice Admiral Winnie Carlson, the Starfleet Academy Dean of Students. “I won’t be allowed to advance up the chain of command until I can pass that class.”

“There are a…few exceptions,” the older woman said, hands folded placidly atop her desk. “But generally speaking, no.”

“So I have to re-take the course.”

“That’s right.”

“Well you can forget it,” Sullivan said, turning on a heel and heading for the door. “I SO don’t need to be bothered with this crap. I’d rather be digging mines on Mercury.”

“Admiral Carlson, your 0900 appointment is here,” a voice chimed over the office loudspeakers.

“Send him in,” Carlson said with a sigh.

Just as Sullivan was heading out the large double doors into Carlson’s office, they parted to admit a slightly rotund, disheveled- looking blond guy.

“Emily!” he exclaimed, on seeing Sullivan. He patted her on the shoulders with both hands. “How’s it going? How’s life on the old Secondprize?”

Sullivan cocked her head at the goofy-looking fellow. “Um…I’m sorry. Do I know you?”

“Andy! Andy Baxter. Captain of the Explorer.”

“Doesn’t ring a bell.”

Baxter looked heartbroken. “I can’t believe you don’t remember me. I worked in Inventory, on the Secondprize. About four years ago.”

“Still can’t say I remember you.”

Baxter rolled his eyes. “Some Borg clowns attacked the Secondprize while I was trying to inventory the bridge, and you guys stuck me in the conference room and gassed me into unconsciousness because I was bothering you.”

Sullivan’s eyes lit up. “Oh, yeah. Sleeping butthead. I remember. Funny stuff.”

“It was hilarious,” Baxter grumbled. “Anyway, nice seeing you.” He turned to Vice Admiral Carlson, who was bemusedly watching the exchange. “All right, Warden, I’m ready to go.”

“Oh, stop overdramatizing,” Carlson muttered. “We’re just asking you to show some Junior Redshirts around. Show them a thing or two about leadership and the Starfleet way. You CAN do that, can’t you?”

“Um….what are Junior Redshirts?” asked Sullivan from behind Baxter.

Baxter glanced at her. “They’re the next step after Starfleet Scouts. It’s a preparatory program for youngsters wanting to get into Starfleet Academy. Mostly kids of high-ranking Starfleet officials. I was in it for a while but…well, stuff happened.”

“Some of our finest people have come from the Junior Redshirts,” said Carlson. “They just need a little…guidance.”

A little guidance, Sullivan thought to herself. She could provide that. She could prove that she was a worthwhile commander to the top brass of Starfleet Academy, and then they’d put her on the command track.

“Admiral…” Sullivan spoke up again from behind Baxter.

“Why are you still here?” Carlson asked.

“I want to help Captain Baxter with those Junior Redshirts. To prove to you what kind of leader I can be.”

Carlson looked wearily at Baxter, then at Sullivan. “Do you know what you could be getting yourself into?”

“Not a clue. If I did have a clue, I wouldn’t be volunteering.” Sullivan folded her arms. “Well?”

“Well…get going. The Salient leaves in an hour.”


Baxter slapped Sullivan on the back. “The starship we’re commanding! Let’s get after ‘em, partner!”

“Please tell me you didn’t just call me ‘partner.’” Sullivan cringed as Baxter ushered her out of Carlson’s office. She swore she heard laughter behind Carlson’s doors as they left.

The interior lights of spacedock played across the grey- silver hull of the Defiant-class U.S.S. Salient as Baxter steered the shuttlepod toward it.

Sullivan sat next to him. “I’m a helmsman, you know.”

“My mission. I steer.”

“Don’t you mean ‘our mission’?”

Baxter nodded. “Okay. Our mission. But get this straight…” He thumbed himself in the chest. “I give the orders.”

“Whatever. Mind if I ask you a question?”

“Go ahead.”

“Why are you being forced into doing this?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“That makes it dirt I’ll dig it out of somebody later, then,” Sullivan said with a shrug.

Baxter maneuvered the shuttlepod through the hangar door at the bottom of the Salient and parked it inside the cramped shuttlebay. As he deactivated the shuttle systems, he turned to look at Sullivan. “Okeydoke. Let’s go meet the Junior Redshirts.”

They climbed out of the side hatch of the shuttlepod. “Hmm,” Baxter said, glancing around. “Nobody’s here. I guess they didn’t have time to put together a welcoming party.”

“Guess I put on my dancing shoes for nothing,” Sullivan said, as the pair walked toward the exit door.

Suddenly, Baxter stopped Sullivan and turned her to face him. “Before we meet our… crew, there’s something I should tell you.” He held up his hand, pointing to the wedding band on his finger. “I’m married. So…no funny business.”

“I’ll try to control my wanton urges,” Sullivan said flatly.

“Please do.”

“I’m married too, you know.”

“Are you suggesting some kind of…of foursome?”

Sullivan let out an annoyed breath and forged past Baxter into the Salient’s corridor.

“It was nice of Starfleet to loan us this ship,” Baxter said, running to catch up with Sullivan.

“Why do I get the feeling that this is glorified babysitting duty?” Sullivan asked as she and Baxter stepped into the turbolift.

“Bridge,” Baxter said, then looked at Sullivan. “It’s nothing of the sort. It’s a crackerjack team of young minds ready to prove themselves to us. This is a terrific opportunity.”

“If you say so.”

As they got closer to the bridge, Baxter and Sullivan heard a dull thudding sound.

“What is that?” asked Sullivan.

“Could be photon torpedoes hitting the shields.”

“Which happens so often in spacedock,” muttered Sullivan.

“Then what is it? A malfunctioning power conduit?” The pair’s question was answered when the bridge doors opened up and booming noise assaulted their ears:



“They call me the crazy mind-teaser of Betazed,

I’ll fool with your thoughts and get into your head,

Cause I’m the crazy mind-teaser of Betazed!



Baxter covered his ears, stepping out onto the bridge, which was bathed in red and green alternating lights as a crowd of about fifteen teenagers bumped and grinded against one another, twisting their bodies with the music.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?” Sullivan demanded.


“COMPUTER…REDUCE LIGHTS TO…” Sullivan screamed, but then realized she didn’t have to scream anymore because, thankfully, the music had been shut off. “Normal.”

Regular lighting returned around the bridge, and Baxter and Sullivan looked around with disdain.

Food trays were scattered around the small bridge…two teens were making out on the tactical console. The helm seat was occupied by a pile of dirty clothes. And, the command chair…

There was a puddle of vomit in the command chair.

“Okay, folks, party’s over,” Baxter muttered, marching over to the tactical console and yanking the two teens in cadet jumpsuits apart. “Oh my goodness. Billy Ross!”

“Admiral Ross’ son?” Sullivan asked, aghast.

“Hey, if your dad won the Dominion War, you’d get to make out on a starship bridge, too,” the young Redshirt snapped back at her.

Sullivan glared at the girl he’d been making out with. “And who are you?”

“Tricia Wagner.”

“As in…as in THOMAS WAGNER?” she asked.

Tricia nodded, a gleam in her eye. “You’re from that ship…the Honorable Mention?”

“Secondprize,” Sullivan growled. “Tell you what. Why don’t you zip up your jumpsuit and take about half that make-up off? Then maybe you won’t look like a low-rent dabo girl.” She looked around at the other teens, who looked absolutely bummed out. “And the rest of you, get busy. I want this bridge cleaned from top to bottom in fifteen minutes. MOVE IT!”

Baxter glanced at Sullivan. “Yeah. What she said.”

“Can I see you for a minute?” Sullivan asked Baxter, who shrugged.

“Sure.” She pulled him into the turbolift and keyed the doors closed. “Do you realize what we’ve gotten ourselves into?”

“I’m becoming vaguely aware of it.”

“These kids are…are spoiled brats. They wrecked the bridge and they’ve only been aboard for…”

“According to the dockmaster, fifteen minutes.”

“This has nothing to do with leadership skills. We’ve been suckered into chaperoning the field trip from hell.”

“You don’t think that takes leadership skills? Emily, if we can whip these kids into shape, we can both get a lot of respect back. Isn’t that what we’re both here for?”

“I don’t know what you’re here for, remember. At this point, I’m not even sure that I want to know.”

“Okay, well, you probably don’t, but that’s beside the point. I think we have a chance here to really break through to these kids.”

“Oh yeah. They’ll be model cadets in no time,” Sullivan said.

“Are you being sarcastic?”

“No? Why would you think that?”

“Was THAT sarcastic?”

“Just shut up.” Suddenly the turbolift shook. “Do you feel that?” asked Sullivan.

“We’re moving,” Baxter said. “Computer, halt turbolift.”

“No way,” replied the computer.

“They got into the computer subroutines,” Sullivan said, as the turbolift accelerated.

“Uh-oh,” said Baxter, as Sullivan yanked the control panel off the wall of the turbolift and jammed her hand inside.

“I’m going to try to find the manual override.”

“We’re going way faster than we should be.”

“No kidding.”

“Wonder where we’re going.”

“Hold on a sec…”

Suddenly the turbolift ground to a halt. Sullivan twisted another control inside the wall panel and the doors sighed open…to reveal a flat bulkhead.

“Great,” muttered Baxter.

“Not to worry. Help me up.” Reluctantly, Baxter hefted Sullivan up to the roof of the turbolift, where she unscrewed the top and climbed out.

“Well?” Baxter called after her.

“We’re at the back end of the ship,” Sullivan said. “Probably somewhere near the anti-matter shunt exit valves. There’s a ladder up here. I suggest we take it.”

“Thank goodness I’m in shape,” Baxter said, and climbed up after Sullivan.

Baxter and Sullivan emerged some time later from a side- hatch access door onto the bridge. Sullivan marched up to the command chair, where Billy Ross was sitting, reclined, staring idly at the viewscreen and drinking a long-neck beer.

“Ahh, good to see you again,” he said, swigging from the beer. “Want a pale slug ale?”

“No, but you’re on the right track. Some slugging will definitely be occurring,” Sullivan muttered, clenching her fists.

“Y-yeah,” Baxter said breathlessly, flopping out of the side hatch and onto the deck.

Tricia Wagner turned in her seat at helm and grinned. “Poor guy. All out of breath, huh?”

“Shut up,” Baxter muttered.

Sullivan glanced at the viewscreen and the stars rushing at them, momentarily forgetting her fury as she realized the ship was on the move. “Where are we?”

“Where no one has gone before…” Billy Ross said, then burst out laughing, slapping his knee. “Sure you don’t want a beer? Or maybe something…a little stronger…?”

“NO!” Sullivan cried. She turned to Tricia Wagner. “All stop.”

“No. All don’t stop,” Tricia replied with a giggle, and returned her attention to her panel. The bridge, meanwhile, was still a pig’s sty.

“Just what we need,” muttered Sullivan. “A smart-aleck helm officer.”

Baxter climbed up next to Sullivan. “There’s no other choice, Commander. We’d better abandon ship.”

“NEVER!” Sullivan shouted at Baxter. She strode over to the helm console, spun the chair around so Tricia Wagner was facing her. “Listen up, hot stuff. This is MY ship. I make the rules.” She thumbed at Baxter. “And so does that guy.”

Baxter pushed a half-eaten pizza aside so he could check the navigational sensors on one of the side consoles. “Emily…it looks like we’re heading for Sector 19842.”

“Orion space.”

“Party Central!” Billy cried, pointing his fingers in the air. “Whoo HOOO!”

“Orion space is NOT party central!” Baxter seethed, walking over to Billy Ross. “Do you have any idea what could happen to you if you run across the wrong sort of Orion pirate?”

“You get invited to the biggest party in the quadrant?”

“You get strung up by your toes, and they use you for target practice!”

“Huh-huh…cool,” came the voice of one of the other Junior Redshirts, who was sitting at the communications station.

“Shut up, Kreuger,” Billy snapped. “And, as for you two, why don’t you just get lost in a dysphoric nebula?”

Sullivan pushed up her shirtsleeves and advanced on Billy. “Why don’t YOU…”

“Now, Emily…” Baxter held her back. “It’s not worth it.”

“Errgg…” muttered Sullivan.

“Computer,” said Baxter. “Secure all bridge commands to my access code. Baxter Alpha Omicron 005.”

“F*** you,” the computer replied.

“How rude!” Baxter exclaimed.

“Get these guys down to the crew quarters,” Sullivan muttered. “I’ll fix the computers.”

Baxter nodded. “Right. Come on, you all. It’s way past your bedtimes.” He jerked Kreuger up from his place at communications, then grabbed Billy Ross by the arm and ushered them into the turbolift. Sullivan dragged Tricia Wagner along and shoved her in with Baxter.

“Good luck, Captain,” she said, as Baxter tried to maintain his grip on the struggling Redshirts.

“I’m going to need it,” mumbled Baxter, leaving Sullivan alone on the bridge. She quickly went to work at the computer access station. Maybe Baxter was right. Maybe they just could find a way to reason with these Starfleet brats.

One hour later, Sullivan found Baxter dangling two levels up from the ceiling of Engineering.

“I lost them on the crew deck,” he muttered, staring down the seven meter drop at Sullivan, who glared angrily up at him. “Then one of them got me from behind with a hypospray.”

“The requirements for making captain are a lot more lenient than I thought,” Sullivan muttered.

“Then they gave me something called a…wedgie,” Baxter moaned, oblivious of what Sullivan was saying.

“What does that mean?”

“My underwear is…”

“Never mind!” Sullivan sighed. “I’m going to beam you down, okay?” She walked over to a control panel and punched a few buttons. Moments later, Baxter dematerialized from his perch on the ceiling of engineering and rematerialized next to Sullivan.

“Thanks,” he said. “Just one more thing to take care of.” He walked over to the control panel and hit a few more buttons. Sullivan heard the whine of the transporters, then saw a faint glow through Baxter’s uniform pants.

“There! Wedgie all taken care of.”

“Glad you feel better,” Sullivan said.

“What’s your status?” Baxter asked, stretching the kinks in his back. He’d been hanging up there almost forty-five minutes.

“We’ve gotten computer control back. I’ve locked everyone but us out of all the major systems. I’ve also stopped us and turned us around. We’re headed toward Bolian space. Much more hospitable than the Orions.”

“I’ll say,” Baxter mumbled, rubbing his backside. It was still a little tender. “So, what next?”

“I thought this was ‘your mission.’”

“A good commander is receptive to the ideas of others,” Baxter said, damned proud of himself for sounding so official and competent.

“All right, then. I suggest we have them scout out a vacant M-class world and do individual reports on it.”

“That will certainly keep them busy.”

Sullivan nodded, thinking back to her own experiences with Command Class. “But it won’t be very fun.”

“I give a rat’s ass if they have fun at this point,” Baxter said.

“Maybe we can come up with something a bit more…interesting.”

“Like what.”

Sullivan smiled. “You’ll see.”

Three hours later, Captain Baxter ushered the reluctant group of seven cadets out onto the bridge of the Salient.

“I want to go home to my nardat ranch,” muttered T’vith, the son of the Andorian ambassador.

“Shut up,” came a voice from the command chair. The chair spun to reveal that it was, unsurprisingly, Emily Sullivan. “Welcome back to the bridge, folks. I hope, after a little time stewing in the brig, you’re ready to play by our rules.”

Billy Ross folded his arms. “Don’t count on it.”

“We think we have a fun assignment for you,” Baxter said. He pointed toward the viewscreen. “Check it out, screebs.”

“No one says ‘screebs’ anymore,” muttered Tricia Wagner. “That was SOOOOOO Stardate 54192.”

“Whatever,” said Sullivan. She thumbed a control on the command chair. “Recognize this?”

“It’s, um, a sun,” mumbled Billy Ross.

“Yes. It’s called Beta Olacron. And it’s a special kind of sun. One about to go nova. We’re going to study it.”

“How fwarking boring,” muttered T’vith.

“Watch your mouth,” Baxter said, pointing a finger angrily at T’vith.

“Was that a cuss word?” Sullivan asked.

“A very nasty Andorian one,” Baxter replied.

“I’ll have to remember to tell Scott about that one.” Sullivan rapped her fingers on the arm of the command chair. “Well, then. You all have lots of work to do. T’vith, take science. Wagner, you’re on helm. Ross, you take tactical. The rest of you, pick a station and start scanning. I want detailed reports within the hour.”


“Or we’ll beam you into the sun,” Baxter said, staring darkly at the group.

Sullivan elbowed him in the side. “We’re not going to do that. What we WILL do is strip you of your Junior Redshirt status, and then you’ll have to apply to Starfleet Academy like everyone else instead of just being ushered in.”

“You can’t do that,” Billy Ross snapped.

“Can we?” Baxter whispered to Sullivan.

“I think between the two of us we can pull some strings and do it. Isn’t your Dad an Admiral?”

“Well, yeah…wait a minute. You don’t remember anything about me, but you remember my Dad’s an Admiral.”

“I try to only remember interesting people. You understand.” Sullivan whirled back toward the group of Redshirts. “Cadets! Get to work, and I mean NOW!”

Baxter sighed and leaned against the command chair. “This is going to be one long mission.”

The Redshirts went about their work, albeit grudgingly, for the next twenty or thirty minutes.

Baxter had gone below decks to check on things in engineering, where Svok, a distant nephew of Spock, was monitoring the warp engines.

Sullivan, meanwhile, was curled in the command chair with a copy of the Federation News.

She was stirred from her reading by the blare of the Red Alert klaxon.

“Report,” she said, turning to Billy Ross.

He checked the sensors. “Son of a Breen. Our engines just got hit by some kind of subspace filament. It sent a spike all along our EPS network. Systems are blinking out left and right!”

“And…how…how long until that supernova?” Tricia asked nervously from the helm.

Sullivan frowned. “Oh…we have a few hours at least. The first rule is that you’ve all got to be calm. We’ll get out of this. We just have to get the engines and related systems back up in time to get us out of here before we get caught in the nova’s shockwave.”

“And how long would that take, approximately?” asked T’vith.

“Oh,” Sullivan said, suppressing a smile. “I’d say a few hours at least.”

Sullivan ran across Baxter in the Salient’s corridors. “Did everything go according to plan, Captain?”

“Did it look like we got hit by a subspace filament?”


“Then everything worked according to plan.”

“You do know how to repair the EPS systems before the supernova, just in case our Redshirts can’t, right?” Sullivan asked.

“I thought you could. You’re the one married to an engineer.”

“You told me your best friend was an engineer.”

“Well, actually, he’s a better artist than an engineer.”

Sullivan nodded, taking it all in. “Okay. I guess we’re handling this ourselves then. Between the two of us, we can get the ship up and running in plenty of time to save it, right?”

Baxter nodded. “I’m sure.”

“Is that sarcasm?”

Baxter chewed one of his fingernails. “I don’t know!”

“Well, I can do one thing I learned from Scott.”

“What’s that?”


Personal Log, Lieutenant Commander Emily Sullivan,

Stardate 54603.1. Our fearless crew of Redshirts has been working feverishly for the last two hours, and we think they’re on the verge of getting the engines back up and running before Beta Olacron goes boom.

“There was probably a less dangerous way of going about this,” Sullivan muttered to Baxter as they sat in the mess hall, drinking coffee and keeping a watch on the chronometer as the Redshirts bustled about the Salient, rerouting EPS nodes and depolarizing connections.

“We could have gone into a solar system that wasn’t actually going nova.”

“Then what would they have studied, smart guy?”

Baxter shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Just let me do the thinking, okay?”

“I thought this was about us getting respect back. How can we do that if we don’t even respect each other?”

“We want respect from other people, not each other. Remember?” Sullivan said.

“Good point.”

“Do you feel that?”

“Feel what?”

Moments later, Baxter found himself sitting in the pilot’s chair of the shuttlepod that had brought him to the Salient.

“A transporter beam,” Sullivan said, and pounded the console of the shuttlepod. “God DAMN IT! They must have gotten control of the computers back while they were working on the EPS systems. We should have been watching them closer!”

“You’re the one who just had to get some coffee!” Baxter snapped.

Suddenly the shuttlepod jolted, and Sullivan and Baxter watched in silence as the grey interior of the Salient hangar gave way to the glowing orange of Beta Olacron.

Baxter glanced upward through the forward viewport to see the Salient hover overhead and slowly move away. He punched a control on the comm panel. “Salient! This is Shuttlepod Three. Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

Billy Ross appeared on the tiny screen to Baxter’s left. “Hello, Starfleet’s finest! Didn’t think we were monitoring you on ship’s security bands? Didn’t think we’d know you were plotting against us? That was pretty low, even for crew from the two biggest ships full of rejects in the entire fleet. I’m sincerely disappointed in you two.”

“Billy,” Sullivan said, leaning over Baxter, toward the screen. “Listen…you all are not cleared to operate a starship by yourselves. You could get hurt.”

“And man, wait until your dad hears about this! He’s going to be pissed!” Baxter interjected.

“Hush,” Sullivan said, then turned her attention back to Billy. “This isn’t a game anymore. Bring us back aboard, and we can work this out. You understand?”

“All I understand is that you gave us a little test and we passed it. Now it’s your turn.”

Sullivan felt the jolt of the shuttlepod moving. Slowly, Beta Olacron got larger.

“We’ve pre-programmed your pod to go into the sun. See if you can de-program it. We’ll be at the Galactapaloozical Musical Festival on Bolarus Prime when you’re finished. Drinks will be on us…if you make it. Later, scroobles!” And the Salient shot off into warp.

“Scroobles,” Baxter said to himself. “So that’s what they’re saying nowadays. Wonder if that’s plural or singular.”

“Get with the program, dumbass!” Sullivan snapped. “We’re going to die if we don’t figure a way out of this!”

“Oh, they’re probably just messing with us. The pod will probably head out of the system on its own any minute now. They may be brats, but they aren’t murderers.”

“You sure about that?”

Baxter ducked under the piloting console. “I’ll start pulling out isolinear chips.”

Beta Olacron was massive and hot as hell in front of Sullivan’s face as the clock ticked down toward nova time. Baxter was underneath the helm console, shouting things that would make Scott Baird blush. Sullivan, meanwhile, had given up an hour earlier, and resorted to just staring out the viewport.

“How stupid can I be,” she muttered, mopping the sweat off her brow with the back of her hand and staring into the sun. Thankfully, the viewport screened out most of the harmful rays.

“That a rhetorical question?” Baxter asked from under the cramped console.

“Who was I to think I could teach those kids a lesson about being in Starfleet? I’m not even sure I belong in Starfleet. Look at the ship I serve on. Look at the ship YOU serve on.”

“I happen to like my ship.”

“But we’re rejects. Everybody in Starfleet thinks they’re better than us. Even those bratty kids. How can we expect to get ahead?”

Baxter looked up at Sullivan, sweat streaming down his face in the hot compartment. “You want to know what I think? I LIKE operating with my back against the wall. I like being the underdog. Imagine how annoying it would be to succeed all the time. To be perfect. I’d much rather fail a lot and learn from my mistakes. Anyway, they do say ignorance is bliss, right?”

“Your brain has been baked.”

“Fate, Commander,” Baxter said, and climbed back under the console. “Protects fools, little children, and ships named…”


“I was just getting to that…”

“No!” Sullivan jerked Baxter up by the scruff of his neck and pointed out the viewscreen. “Look!” A green-black, boomerang-shaped vessel hung in space between the shuttlepod and Beta Olacron.

Baxter blinked. “Is that a heat mirage, or are we being rescued?”

Sullivan tapped at her panel. “It’s not Federation-aligned. An independently-contracted transport.”

“I’m not feeling particularly picky at the moment,” Baxter muttered, punching the comm button. “Hello, out there…would you mind terribly picking us up and saving us from a supernova, whoever you are?”

“Sure, no problem, boof,” came a young-sounding voice with a vaguely Betazoid accent. “We were just on our way to a gig, so it’s no problem.”

“Boof,” Baxter said to himself.

“Bring us aboard…PLEASE,” Sullivan cut in.

“The Betazed Boys,” Baxter mumbled to himself.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Sullivan covered her face with her hands.

The five young, tattooed boys in tight plastic clothing, with piercing black eyes stared back at Sullivan and Baxter on the bridge of the transport vessel.

“Yeah,” said the one who Baxter and Sullivan had talked to over the comm. He thumbed his chest, then gestured at the other boys. “I’m Larp. This is V.B., Berkjo, Slurnie, and Ain ‘the Brain.’ We were just on our way to perform at the Galactapaloozical Musical Festival on Bolarus Prime.”

“Don’t you guys sing ‘Crazy Mind Teaser’?” Baxter asked.

“How did you know?”

“A good guess,” Baxter said.

“You thinking what I’m thinking?” Sullivan asked Baxter.

“Probably not,” Baxter admitted. “But I’ll go along with anything you suggest.”

Sullivan looked at the Betazed Boys. “You guys up for a little Starfleet infiltration?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Larp. “But we’ll try at least anything once…”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, after a brief delay, we are about to welcome our headlining act, the Betazed Boys, to the Galactapaloozical Musical Festival!” a deep voice boomed over the P.A. system as Billy, Tricia, T’vith, Svok and the other Redshirts milled in the huge moshpit as hundreds of thousands of excited fans crowded in. Hover-platforms surrounding the stage contained even more fans, some of whom dived down into the pits below, only to be engulfed by the crowds and raised onto shoulders, then tossed into a giant tube that suctioned them up and back on the platform from whence they came.

“Isn’t this the greatest!” Tricia Wagner said, perched on Billy’s shoulders.

“Nothing could ruin this moment!” Billy chimed in.

“What other kids can say they came here in a heavily-armed starship!” T’vith said excitedly.

“Not many,” admitted Billy.

Suddenly the lights around the audience grew dim as five silhouettes emerged onto the darkened stage.

“But before the headlining act, we welcome, for the first time in this quadrant, a very special act…”

The lights came up.

And, among the Redshirts, several jaws dropped.

“The Federation Five!”

And there…there was Admiral Bill Ross, Admiral Thomas Wagner, Ambassador T’hula, and Vulcan Secretary of Agriculture, S’vick. And, finally, Captain Andy Baxter.

“All you people, gather round gather round,” Baxter sang into the microphone. “These Federation Dads have a really cool sound!”

“Noooooooooooooooooooo!” Billy Ross cried.

“People can’t ya see, we love our kids,” Admiral Bill Ross sang.

“And THAAAAAAAT makes them really cool dads!” sang Baxter.

“Though they get in big trouble, we’ll still be their dads!” chimed T’hula.

“Lookin’ in the crowd, we can see our kids out there, c’mon!” sang Wagner. Suddenly, spotlights fell on Billy and the others. Tricia screamed.

“Knowing you’re behaving keeps us proud!” S’vick monotoned.

“All of our time spent raising you is worthwhile!” Ross sang, bringing it home.

“All you people, can’t ya see, can’t ya see, how we love our kids unconditionally!” Wagner called out, bopping his head to the music.

“Every time they’re bad, we will make it right!” cried T’hula.

“And that makes them really cool dads!” Baxter moaned into his microphone. As the music died down, the Federation Five bowed, and Baxter spoke into the mike. “Later, scroobles! Sullivan…energize!”

When Billy, Tricia, V’sith, Svok and the others materialized in the Salient brig, they found Lieutenant Commander Sullivan smiling at them from the other side of the forcefield.

Tricia was sobbing into Billy’s shoulder. V’sith was searching his uniform pockets for his ritual blade. Svok stared into the corner and mumbled some kind of Vulcan meditation.

“Hope you guys enjoyed the show,” Sullivan said, folding her arms.

“How did you…how…how?” moaned Billy.

“Stupid, foolish, luck,” Sullivan said. “And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

“Where are our fathers?”

Sullivan glanced at a monitor next to the brig. “Looks like they’re performing an encore.”

“I can never be seen in the Alpha Quadrant again,” sobbed Tricia.

“Logic is the essence of control. I am in control,” intoned Svok.

“Someone stab me with this. Please!” V’sith begged.

“You’ll all get what’s coming to you soon enough,” Sullivan said. “But luckily, none of that is my problem. We’re returning you to Starfleet Academy, where you can be someone else’s problem.”

“I have to know,” grumbled Billy. “How did you get here?”

“Oh, we hitched a ride with the Betazed Boys,” Sullivan said, matter-of-factly. “They were nice enough to let us round up your dads, who, once they heard what you all did, were more than happy to help us embarrass the hell out of you. And the Betazed Boys were even nice enough to let us have our little performance before they went on stage. Yes…there they go now, and they’re opening up with ‘Crazy Mind-Teaser.’”

Tricia sighed. “My favorite song! Oooh…and there’s Larp! He’s SO hot!”

“Screen off,” Sullivan said, and headed toward the brig door. “I’m sure it’ll be a nice concert though. Sweet dreams, kids.”

“Creative solutions are an important part of leadership, Commander,” Vice Admiral Carlson said, staring across her desk at Sullivan and Baxter. The Salient had put into port, and, after a thorough cleaning, was being put back into service. “With that in mind, and…the excessive trouble you went through…we’re going to credit you with a passing grade in Command Class.”

Sullivan grinned. “I figured we could work something out.”

Baxter grinned too. “Yep. It’s nice how everything works out in the end, huh, Emily?”

“Not for you.” Carlson grimaced. “Your job was to supervise those Redshirts through a successful mission. You didn’t manage to do that, and your prison sentence demands that, as a community service, you assist a troop of Redshirts in preparing for Starfleet life. They’ll be waiting for you aboard the U.S.S. Republic. They’ve got less of a chance of escaping aboard that scrapheap.” She narrowed her eyes at Baxter. “And so do you. See you in two weeks.”

Baxter gritted his teeth and turned around, marching out of the office. “Yeah. See you in two weeks, boof.”

“What did he call me?”

“I think it was an Andorian compliment,” Sullivan said, and followed Baxter out. “Prison sentence?” she asked as they cleared Carlson’s office.

“Don’t ask. Man…I can’t believe that. The nerve of her, making me start all over again with that bunch, without you to help me give them any kind of regimented structure.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” Sullivan said, as the pair walked down the corridor that lead out of Starfleet Academy’s administrative offices.

“I don’t suppose I could convince you to help me with them?”

“Hell no. Leadership is all about knowing when to quit.”

“Tell me about it.”